The Mystery of Benedict

Posted by Censor Librorum on Apr 18, 2008 | Categories: Dissent, Lesbians & Gays

Sister Jeannine Gramick of New Ways Ministry once told me the story about a chance meeting with Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger during a flight to Germany. He had an empty seat next to his, and Sr. Jeannine, ever bold and resourceful, seized the opportunity and sat down next to him. She introduced herself, and he said with a smile and twinkle in his eye, “Oh, sister, I have known you for 20 years.” “I’m sure he was referring,” Jeannine said, “to the length of time my file in the Vatican had been accumulating.”jeannine.jpg

Jeannine was surprised by the man. He was gracious and gentle-spoken, and listened to whay she had to say. He asked questions. But Jeannine felt as she was speaking to him that Cardinal Ratzinger had already made up his mind about lesbian and gay Catholics and ministry to us. He wasn’t open to change about what he believed to be true and necessary.

In an April 17, 2008 article in Newsday, Sr. Jeannine told senior editor Carol Eisenberg that her impression of Pope Benedict is that “he comes from a worldview that sees truth as fixed and unchanging, and nothing you can say or do will change that truth.”

“The world that he and other members of the Vatican most fear is change. They cannot accept a dynamic worldview that sees truth as something we search for and something the Spirit is constantly revealing to us if we would just open our hearts and minds.”

Cardinal Ratzinger as head of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith–the Vatican’s chief theological enforcer–had some pretty fixed ideas on how to handle dissent and alternative ways of thinking.   He cracked down.

Much of the debate on homosexuality and women’s ordination became “secular” because discussion and theological exploration and exchange wasn’t permitted in church venues. It’s ironic the Vatican decries a secularization it helped to create!

The discussion of gay and lesbian issues in the Church has always been faith-based. Some Catholics hear “Church teaching” as the starting and ending point of this topic. Other groups of Catholics focus more on Jesus’ example of challenge to religious authorities.

I guess if I had five minutes with Pope Benedict,   I would ask him–as a scholar–does he believe in the limit of knowledge? What is the relationship between faith and knowledge?  And then, with my minute or two left, I would ask him–as a Catholic–does he believe the Holy Spirit works in the mystery of the human heart?  

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