Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Benedict XVI: Against The Secular Dictatorship in the EU?

Yesterday, the Catholic world got the new Pope Benedict XVI. Joseph Ratzinger, the “Enforcer”, the “Inquisitor”, the “Panzerkardinal”, the “God’s Rottweiler”, the “Cardinal No”, the “Grand Inquisitor”, the “Big Bad Wolf of the New Inquisition”, “Dart Vader of the Catholic Liberals” got elected 265th Pope. Radical Conservativism of the new Pope indicates that his role will most likely be extremely divisive for the Catholic Church and possibly harmful for its historical mission. Yet, Benedict XVI got elected after only 2 days of the Conclave and reportedly 4 ballots, obtaining 2/3 majority of the College of Cardinals. Is the fact that he manage to acquire more than 2/3 of the College of Cardinals to suggest, that the new pope will be less extreme than feared? Can the Pope Benedict XVI forget the conservativism of Cardinal Ratzniger?

Spiritual names chosen by the Popes are not random and usually indicate the nature of the future Pontificate. The fact that Ratzinger chose, the name of Benedict XVI may indicate two things. First, Benedict XV reined during the years of the WW I, and is usually perceived as the Pope of Peace, simultaneously, however, he was a stringent defender of the last great Catholic Empire, the Habsburg Monarchy and a rather bitter enemy of the Orthodox Churches. Second, Benedict II is considered the Patron Saint of Europe. Many believe that Ratzinger wishes to continue this legacy and concentrate on “saving” the European Continent for the Catholic Church.

For a long time, Ratzinger has been the right hand of John Paul II. According to many, Ratzinger represented the “dark”, conservative side of Woytila’s Pontificate. His rigid, almost insulting views of Ecumenism, regarding the Catholic Church being the “mother”, not “sister” as Wojtila claimed, of other Christian Churches, had certainly alienated the Protestant and Orthodox Churches from the inter-religious dialogue, and made highly unlikely that Benedict XVI will fulfill John Paul II’s dream to visit Russia and Serbia for example. Ratzinger is not only a conservative in the doctrinal sense of the word, but, unlike John Paul II who at least courted with progressivist left wing social justice movements, a bitter foe of movements within and outside of the Church preaching social equality, more distributive economic policies etc. As John Allen Jr., correspondent of the National Catholic Reporter from Vatican, in his new book “The Conclave” claims, Ratzinger heads the so-called “Border Patrol” informal Church Party as far as internal matters of the Church are concerned, and is closer to the “Integralist” informal Church Party, rather than to the “Social Justice” Party, as far as worldly matters.

Benedict XVI will not simply represent the continuity of John Paul II’s reign. If he were to embark on this route he would have chosen the name John Paul III not a different one, as he did.

There are two strategies in which different actors within the Catholic Church aim at expanding their influence in the world, arguably, using the EU terminology, one of enlargement and one of deepening. John Paul II was the representative of enlargement, rapid, evangelization, compromise with secular ideologies and regional cultures. Ratzinger is the representative of deepening strategy. He is a “rigorous defender of the Catholic identity”, relying on Christ’s parable of mustard seed, “great things will eventually grow from the tiniest seed…Christianity may need to become smaller and less culturally significant to remain faithful.” In this way, with a strong identity, it will raise in its full splendor some time in the future. One just needs to be patient and Ratzinger seemingly is.

How is this strategy to be interpreted in the case of the EU? Many fear that Ratzinger, a proclaimed enemy of EU’s enlargement into Turkey and a fighter for “re-Chrisitanization” of Europe will use the possible failure of ratification of the EU Constitution to mount a violent “integralist” campaign for a more explicit insertion of Christian (Catholic) values in the EU Constitution and that he will exert the pressure of the Catholic Church on the EU’s politicians to abort the project of enlarging into Turkey.

This is, however, not necessarily true, we are maybe to face an extremely “shy” pontificate externally and a rigid doctrinal “police state pontificate internally”. One thing is certain, Ratzinger, Benedict XVI broke the rule that “who comes in as Pope goes out as a Cardinal.”


Lorenzo Zucca said...

Thanks for this post Srdjan. It actually made me think of another point in favour of the present Constitution. Some comprimises therein are maybe weak, but I still think that the stance against the insertion of christian values was a good one. I wouldn't welcome at all a re-opening of the debate on this issue. The only way forward is a new reconceptualisation of the secular state. Europe and its institution showed for the moment a healthy commitment to a new form of secularism, which led them to reject Rocco Buttiglione.

schweizerjausn said...

What intrigues me with the whole media fuss surrounding the last pope's late life and death, and the new pope's election, and now the figure of the new pope (and it this vain i count your article, and also this comment of course), is that there is such a fuss being made. After all, the Catholic church has been heavily losing ground, and keeps losing ground, in Europe, over the last hundred years. Current state-hood in Europe is built upon the principle of separation of State and Church. Now I know that this is not very clearcut, and neither am I a defender of 'laicité' as a counter-model to religion, and thus religion itself. I rather think that the separation of State and Church follows as a necessity from the principle of tolerance in multi-cultural societies, as our present societies undeniably are, although to a bigger or lesser extent (compare ex. France and Finland). Now it does take some time (maybe several generations) for the principle of separation of state and church to trickle in, to get through to the minds of at least the leading politicians which shape the present and future of Europe. But a certain tradition of laicité there is. Reading your article now, I get the impression that you actually do consider that the Vatican is still this powerful force it used to be, capable of influencing, above all things, the contents of the European Constitution (present or future if this round of ratification will not go through), or that is is becoming powerful again, the path paved by John Paul II. and the conservative ideas behind now to be executed by Benedict XVI. Watching the news during the last weeks, and reading the newspaper commments on the new pope, one might get the impression that you are right. One could think that Benedict XVI. will be the spearhead that will encourage the willy-nilly closet catholics amongst the European politicians to come out. Maybe you are right. As far as I am concerned, this would be a sad future for Europe.
But isn't this seeming omnipresence and wide influence of the Vatican just soap bubble created by the media, a hype that beats it's highest pitch now and that will disappear as fast as it has built up? We shall see.
In any case, what strikes me is that the media, as well as you in your comment, as well as I in my comment, seem to see the old men in the Vatican, and the whole church (the Catholic one, to be precise) as being amongst us, as a 'we' rather then a 'them'. Also a thorough critique is one that still moans something that, altough we have distanced ourself from it a long time ago, is somewhat diffusely still in a forgotten corner of our presence or conscience. Are we still touched by it? It might very well be, this certainly explains the media hype, the media functioning as a magnifying glass, and of course shaping our perception of the event of the election, status and power of the bishop of Rome. The private realm of many Europeans might be in sync with, and comforted by the events in the Vatican. I for myself wish that politicians on a European level will see the difference between private belief and their public responsibility in shaping a Europe for all. Let them be 'them'!

On two small formal points: You write: 'Benedict XVI will not simply represent the continuity of John Paul II’s reign. If he were to embark on this route he would have chosen the name John Paul III not a different one, as he did.' I do not think so. This is giving very little credit to the cardinals' intelligence.
You write: 'One thing is certain, Ratzinger, Benedict XVI broke the rule that “who comes in as Pope goes out as a Cardinal.”' As far as I know this is not a rule, but a saying. Twice in the 20th century the favourites walked out as popes.

Srdjan Cvijic said...

Thanks for your comments. Both of you in some sense raise valid arguments. Lorenzo, that the election of Ratzinger raises fears of the Catholic onslaught on the secular Europe and Georg that the role of the Church might be exaggerated. Let me reply to Georg's closing remarks. You are absolutely right, Pius XII already broke this "rule", when I say rule I did not intend to say "formal rule" but a prevailing tendency. As far as Ratzinger being intelligent there is no doubt about that, but I would think that Pope's do not bluff, or usually do not bluff when they pick their names. Or am I wrong? Anyways, it is an interesting remark that you made.