- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 21, 2005

The new Roman Catholic Pope, Benedict XVI, the former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger of Germany, has written and spoken extensively against many modern ideas and beliefs dear to some Americans.

He sees a “dictatorship of relativism” in many societies. What is relativism? Relativism is the belief two people who completely disagree on moral and social issues can both be equally right. In effect, relativists believe not in right and wrong but in accepting all beliefs, lifestyles and moral systems.

Does this sound a little like the American rage of “tolerance”? The pope thinks so. In fact, the new pope has attacked a host of American social engineering efforts in the name of leading a sanctified, standards-based and moral lifestyle. This might turn off a lot of Americans but here are the new pope’s ideas as reported in the press and through his own actions and words:

• In 1984, Cardinal Ratzinger ordered revoked the imprimatur on “Sexual Morality” by the Rev. Philip S. Keane, published in 1977 by Paulist Press. Father Keane argued homosexual conduct could not be seen as “absolutely immoral.”

• In 1992, in a letter to North American bishops, Cardinal Ratzinger wrote, “It is not unjust discrimination to take sexual orientation into account.” He condemned homosexuality as “immoral behavior” as he had many times before.

• In 1998, Ratzinger, other curial officials and a group of Australian bishops issued a document citing problems in the Australian church due to a “worldwide crisis of faith.” Among other deviations, the document cited a moral view in which “heterosexuality and homosexuality come to be seen as simply two morally equivalent variations.” In other words, homosexuality and its acceptance are essential relativism.

• “The church teaches that abortion or euthanasia is a grave sin,” Cardinal Ratzinger wrote. “The Encyclical Letter Evangelium vitae, with reference to judicial decisions or civil laws that authorize or promote abortion or euthanasia, states that there is a ‘grave and clear obligation to oppose them by conscientious objection.’” Would Cardinal Ratzinger have supported the untimely death of Terry Schiavo? Definitely not.

• In a letter to Catholic Bishop titled, “Worthiness to Receive Holy Communion — General Principles,” Cardinal Ratzinger said unambiguously: “The minister of Holy Communion must refuse to distribute it” when warning and counsel given to the manifest sinner “have not had their effect.” Cardinal Ratzinger didn’t tell the bishops to deny John Kerry and other American Catholic politicians Communion if they supported abortion, but he did instruct them on church doctrine.

• Cardinal Ratzinger, speaking in California, said: “As you see with a medical faculty, you have complete academic freedom, but the discipline is such that the obligation of what medicine is determines the exercise of this freedom. As a medical person, you cannot do what you will. You are in the service of life.”

These statements and actions only highlight the new pope’s positions on the Catholic Church’s “sanctity of life” issues. But the new pope, in his years as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, discussed almost every issue important to moral life.

• In a letter last year, Cardinal Ratzinger attacked radical feminism. He said men and women are not warring factions but partners in “active collaboration, [and] in recognition of [their] difference.” Part of this condemnation of feminism spilled over into an attack of all sorts of self-absorbed conduct.

The pope’s extensive writing and unflagging positions have already got him into trouble with many liberal Catholics. They attack him as homophobic, antiwoman and much more. The New York Times, citing his service in the German Army during World War II (he was drafted after being forced into the Hitler Youth) indicates the new pope embraces Adolf Hitler and Nazism. Nothing could be further from the truth, and as Cardinal Ratzinger, he attacked Nazism often.

Like it or not, Pope Benedict XVI is a tough, hard-line moralist who dismisses many things Americans support, among them: abortion, homosexuality, birth control, euthanasia, feminism and capital punishment.

While some American politicians ardently wave the flag of “tolerance,” and seem to support all conducts in all walks of life, the new pope doesn’t buy it. To the new pope it doesn’t matter what your definition of “is” is. There is a clear standard of right and wrong that must be respected and obeyed.

John E. Carey, a lifelong Catholic, is a writer in Falls Church.

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