Precinct 333

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Religious Freedom -- Saudi Style

In the West, Muslims practice their religion freely and with complete legal protection. This is fully in keeping witht he ideas that spring from the Enlightenment, that religious tolerance is necessary to a free society. But what of non-Muslims in Muslim countries? I think this example from Saudi Arabia says it all.



Stewart Unrepentant

I didn't think I could get any angrier than I was when I originally posted on this last night. I was wrong. The San Francisco Chronicle has run a "news story" (actually a thinly disguised advocacy piece) about Lynne Stewart, the convicted terrorist supporter who admits that she passed operational information on behalf of the blind sheik Omar Abdel-Rahman. Not only did this violate federal law, it violated special administrative measures (SAM) imposed by the Justice Department to prevent the terrorist leader from continuing to direct his folowers from a federal prison.



The Hate Speech Of Howard Dean

When he became head of the Democrat National Committee, Howard Dean said he was going to change the tone of politics in America, talking about what is right with the Democrats rather than defining the Democrats as the anti-Bush party. Well, let's take a look at how he has done.



Latin Lives!

When I was about 14 or so, the chaplain at Naval Training Center -- Great Lakes, Fr. R. Conway O'Connor (may he rest in peace) got approval to offer a Saturday evening Mass in Latin. No, not the Tridentine Mass, but the current liturgy promulgated by Pope Paul VI following the Second Vatican Council. I got to serve mass, along with my brother and a couple of buddies. I was entranced by a language that I didn't understand, didn't recognize, but knew carried with it a weightiness and sense of the sacred that was missing in the regular vernacular mass that I was used to. Years later, while a seminarian, I was one of the guys who struggled to learn Latin from Sister Dorothy in the afternoons, though I soon dropped out of the class because it conflicted with choir practice. Looking back, i would have done better to drop choir.



Friday, April 22, 2005

Muslims Threaten Swedish Preacher With Death

Oh, those ever so tolerant Muslims! Their "holy" book is filled with anti-Semitism and negative comments about Christians. Their religious law calls for the death of those who dare to speak against their religion or their prophet. So it should be no surprise that well-known Swedish minister is in police protective custody following a provocative sermon.



Convicted Terrorist Supporter Given Freedom To Travel

If this does not make your blood boil, nothing will. Lynne Stewart, convicted of knowingly and intentionally giving assistance to and communicating messages for the terrorist mastermind of the World Trade Center bombing, is being allowed to go on a public speaking tour!



When Will Turks Admit To The Armenian Genocide?

It has been 90 years since the Muslim Turks began their genocide of 1.5 million Christian Armenians, but the Turkish government still will not admit to that crime.



Pre-Dynastic Necropolis Found

Wouldn’t this be neat to see? A 5000-year-old tomb, the largest pre-dynastic funerary structure ever discovered, containing 7 bodies – including four who appear to have been human sacrifices.



Frivolous Lawsuit Slapped Down

Are cows happy? The California Milk Producers Advisory Board has run a series of commercials making the claim that "Great cheese comes from happy cows. Happy cows come from California." PETA filed suit in 2002, claiming that the ads were false and that cows live miserable lives, repeatedly being milked and impregnated before being killed.



Wrong Headline Deceives Readers

10th Grader Shot and Killed

There is only one conclusion to be drawn. The story must be about some school shooting.

And then you read the actual story.



It’s Sorta Hard To Feel Any Sympathy

When someone dies before their time, I tend to view that as a tragedy. But you know what, I can’t muster up a whole lot of sympathy in this case.



Thursday, April 21, 2005

Turley On The Senate Filibuster

Yesterday I commented on Mort Kondracke’s column on the filibuster of nominees to the appellate courts. I mentioned the views of Jonathan Turley, a liberal scholar of the law and judiciary, which Kondracke himself had referenced. Well, what should appear in my local paper this morning but a column on the subject by Turley himself?



The New York Times – Hitler’s Paper?

The New York Times – the former “paper of record” for important news in the United States – has long accused Pope Pius XII of being silent in the face of the Holocaust, and of being “Hitler’s Pope”. The fact that it contradicts the evidence contained in its own pages – in one instance the paper called Pius “a lonely voice in the silence and darkness enveloping Europe”, and in another “a lonely voice crying out of the silence of a continent.” Yet recent scholarship has examined the New York Times response to the Holocaust.



Excuse Me, Senator

The Democrats keep telling us that religion based attacks on political opponents are unacceptable and run contrary to the values of the Constitution. If that is truly the case, what is Senator Ken Salazar doing making these comments?



Let’s Hope They Soak Him For It All

Imagine this – you and a group of co-workers regularly buy lottery tickets as part of a pool. The drawing is held and the guy who buys the tickets announces that he has a winning ticket – but that it isn’t one that belongs to the group, but is instead one that he bought for himself. You and the rest of the group are out of luck.



Didn’t Ratzinger Silence Him?

One of the many “crimes” for which Pope Benedict XVI is often chastised is the “silencing” of heterodox theologians. In reality, all that actually happened was that their licenses to call themselves Catholic theologians were revoked. Want proof? Here is one of the silenced theologians, Father Charles Curran, offering his critique of the new pope's election and the continued push for Catholic orthodoxy, from his tenure-secured job teaching at Southern Methodist University.



Why Don’t They Pop?

One of my buddies grew up in Ridgway, Illinois – the Popcorn Capitol. One of the questions he could never answer for me was why some kernels didn’t pop.

Well, the latest scientific research from the Popcorn Board out of Chicago gives us a potential answer.



Email The Pope

What a world we live in! The faithful (and the faithless, for that matter) are invited to write to Pope Benedict XVI at his new email address.



Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Filth Or Freedom

Is loving one's vagina grounds for being suspended or expelled from school? Apparently it is in Winona, Minnesota. It seems that two students at Winona High School saw The Vagina Monologues, and wore buttons to school that read "I [heart] My Vagina".



Is The Pope Catholic?

Yes – and that seems to be the problem for some folks.

The election of Benedict XVI seems to have put a quick end to the love-feast that we have witnessed in the three weeks since the illness of his beloved predecessor, Pope John Paul the Great. Having been a lightning rod for criticism as head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, it was inevitable the new pope would be controversial. Yet when it comes down to it, the real complaint seems to be that Pope Benedict XVI is just plain too Catholic.



Wouldn’t A Tune-Up Have Been More Useful?

I’ve had vehicles that I’ve not been pleased with, but never to quite this degree of hostility.

John McGivney had enough.



Hey, Dems – Prove It!

Columnist Mort Kondracke makes a persuasive argument in his recent column on judicial filibusters. The Democrats may have a case for trying to stop some of the Bush appellate nominees, but...



Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Habemus Papam!

God has given us Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger as the new Pope Benedict XVI.

He was elected in only four ballots, which tells me that the Cardinals are pretty firmly united behind him. I also cannot help but suspect that this is the man who John Paul the Great would have chosen as his successor.

As I expected, Joseph Ratzinger did not choose to be called John Paul III. I had a funny feeling that Benedict would be the choice, and have said so repeatedly over the last few days. Many are linking him to the shy Pope Benedict XV, who tried so hard to end World War I. I think another model to consider would be Benedict XIV, who was concerned about the accommodation of Christian truth to the practices of non-Christian cultures.

I find the new pontiff’s words to the faithful inspiring and appropriate. Pope Benedict, for all his gigantic intellect, remains a humble man of deep spirituality.

"Dear brothers and sisters, after our great pope, John Paul II, the cardinals have elected me, a simple, humble worker in God's vineyard.

I am consoled by the fact that the Lord knows how to work and how to act, even with insufficient tools, and I especially trust in your prayers.

In the joy of the resurrected Lord, trustful of his permanent help, we go ahead, sure that God will help, and Mary, his most beloved mother, stands on our side.

Thank you."

We shall see how this papacy will develop. Will he be a pope in the image of John Paul the Great? Or will he be something completely different?

Update: I commented on the London Times piece on Pope Benedict’s youth in Nazi Germany. His detractor’s are already making scurrilous comments about him in relation to his brief – and legally mandated – membership in the Hitler Youth and military service. The Jerusalem Post provides some excellent insight into the issue – and also the important work of this pope in his predecessor’s reconciliation with the Jewish faith.


A Non-Latin Rite Pope?

NOTE: I finished this as white smoke rose over the Vatican. The election of the new Pope Benedict XVI is a great blessing to the Church, and to the world. I hope that the new pontiff will follow the path of ecumenical contact with the churches of the East, and will strive to honor the Eastern Rite Catholics and their heritage of faith.

* * *

As a kid, I first heard the term “uniate” used to describe the Maronite Christians of Lebanon. Later, I heard the term describe Ukrainian Catholics. I didn’t understand what the term meant at the time, but later study – especially during my seminary years at Mundelein – brought me to a deep appreciation of those in the Catholic Church who follow the rituals of Eastern Christianity while being in union with Rome. By extension, I also learned to appreciate the rich spiritual history of the Orthodox churches of the East. To this day, I wonder if they might serve as a bridge between the two halves of Christianity split asunder in 1054.

Joseph P. Duggan raises the same issue in a column on the possibility (however unlikely) of the election of an Eastern Rite pope. Two cardinals in the current conclave are of the Eastern Rite leaders, not Latin Rite. It is not inconceivable – though highly improbable – that one of them could appear on the balcony overlooking St. Peter’s Square, clad in white. It would be a magnificent step towards full equality and respect for the Eastern Rites within the Catholic Church, and towards reunion between the oldest extant strains of Christianity. It would also be in keeping with one of Pope John Paul the Great’s fondest desires and most precious dreams.

John Paul visited numerous countries where the Orthodox Church is dominant and spoke of the Catholic and Orthodox Churches as equals, expressing hope that Christianity once again may "breathe with both lungs." He implored Orthodox Christians to forgive and set aside the schisms of the second Christian millennium and take inspiration from the first millennium, when the Churches of East and West were united. John Paul's encyclical letter Ut Unum Sint ("That All May Be One,") offered a bold invitation to all Christians for their ideas on how the papacy might be transformed to be more effective in promoting Christian unity. Even before Pope John Paul, some four decades ago, Orthodox and Catholic prelates rescinded their mutual excommunications, and the churches recognize the full validity of one another's ordinations and sacraments.

Duggan, of course, notes that one of the great changes that would necessarily be wrought by such an election would be the rethinking of mandatory clerical celibacy. While forbidden in the Latin Rite (and in the United States by a wrong-headed papal decree sought by American bishops n the nineteenth century), the Eastern Rites ordain married men as priests. It is hard to imagine that a pope from among the non-Latin Catholics would long retain the mandatory celibacy that dates back a millennium. Priests would not be able to marry, but married men could become priests. Precedent exists for this in the early history of the Church, and in the special dispensation granted to some Anglican and Lutheran converts over the last couple of decades. When one considers that the church historically has had a father and son serve as popes (in the sixth century – St. Hormisdas, the 52nd Bishop of Rome, and St. Silverius, the 58th), not to mention the married Simon Peter who is reckoned the first, this would be a return to tradition rather than a departure from it.

The election of an Eastern Rite pontiff would be a significant step for the Catholic Church, one that reaffirms its catholicity every bit as much as the election of a Polish cardinal to that office did in 1978. Duggan envisions a pope celebrating a liturgy using the vestments and rituals of the Byzantine or Syriac Church. And yet, there is nothing to stop that from happening now – and a strong argument for encouraging the practice no matter who the next pope is. After all, a pope leads a church which claims the hallmark of catholicity – universality – and as such he is called to be a shepherd to those who worship in the styles of the East every bit as much as those whose rituals are those of the West. Such actions would serve as a healing gesture of fraternal love for Eastern Catholics and Eastern Orthodox. May we live to see the day when the seeds planted four decades ago by Popes John XXIII and Paul VI and Patriarch Athenagoras in Jerusalem, seeds tenderly watered and nurtured by Pope John Paul the Great during his papacy, bring forth a harvest of unity for the glory of the Risen Savior.


Day Two -- Morning Session -- Black Smoke In Rome

Two ballots have (presumably) been taken, and black smoke has been seen over the Sistine Chapel. No pope has been elected as of this time.


Monday, April 18, 2005

Schumer Calls Filibuster Opponent “Un-American”

Many of us have noticed that the Democrats have been particularly hard on people of faith during the confirmation process. Nowhere has this been more evident than in the judicial filibusters that have been going on. Over the last year or so, many have called the Democrats on what appears to be a religious test for public office. Now you can agree or disagree with that analysis and still be a person of good will, in my opinion. Unfortunately, it seems some of the Democrats no longer see it that way.

Now Senator Charles Schumer has responded to the charge with an epithet of his own. He has attacked Dr. Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council with a particularly troubling charge.

The conservative group's president, Tony Perkins, "stepped over the line," Mr. Schumer said. "He said it's people of faith versus Democrats."

"That is so un-American. The founding fathers put down their plows and took up muskets to combat views like that - that one faith or one view of faith should determine what our politics should be," Mr. Schumer said on the ABC News program "This Week."

Sorry, Senator, but your party has been relentlessly hostile to Christians and other believers over the last decade or so. In the wake of the recent election, your leadership even acknowledged that the Democrat Party has lost touch with typical Americans who believe in God and go to church. Why then is it “un-American” for Dr. Perkins to note the same trend?

Sorry, Senator, you stepped over the line by telling a religious leader that he is un-American for speaking out about his view of the great issues of our day. And dare I suggest that such an attempt to silence your religious Americans with such an epithet is, in and of itself, un-American.


Black Smoke -- No Pope

To no one's particular surprise, the Conclave has not elected a new pope. Black smoke was seen in Rome following the first vote taken by the cardinals. By tradition, the first vote is one in which cardinals cast votes for friends, esteemed colleagues, or a favorite son candidate from their own country or region. In 1978, for example, Cardinal Karol Wojtyla cast his first ballot votes for his beloved mentor, Polish Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński, in both 1978 conclaves. Serious voting will begin tomorrow.

Black smoke streamed from the Sistine Chapel's chimney today to signal that cardinals failed to select a new pope in their first round of voting, held just hours after they began their historic task: finding a leader capable of building on John Paul II's spiritual energy while keeping modern rifts from tearing deeper into the church.

"It seems white. ... No, no, it's black!" reported Vatican Radio as the first pale wisps slipped out from the narrow pipe and then quickly darkened.

As millions around the world watched on television, at least 40,000 people waited in St. Peter's Square with all eyes on the chimney, where smoke from the burned ballots would give the first word of the conclave: white meaning a new pontiff, black showing that the secret gathering will continue Tuesday.

In the last moments of twilight, the pilgrims began to point and gasp. "What is it? White? Black?" hundreds cried out. In a few seconds — at about 8:05 p.m. — it was clear the 115 cardinals from six continents could not find the two-thirds majority needed to elect the new leader for the world's 1.1 billion Roman Catholics. Only one vote was scheduled for today.

Few expected a quick decision. The cardinals have a staggering range of issues to juggle. In the West, they must deal with the fallout from priest sex-abuse scandals and a chronic shortage of priests and nuns. Elsewhere, the church is facing calls for sharper activism against poverty and an easing of its ban on condoms to help combat AIDS.

The next pontiff also must maintain the global ministry of John Paul, who took 104 international trips in his 26-year papacy and is already being hailed as a saint by many faithful.


Sunday, April 17, 2005

Giving The Watcher His Due

As you may or may not already be aware, members of the Watcher's Council hold a vote every week on what they consider to be the most link-worthy pieces of writing around... per the Watcher's instructions, I am submitting one of my own posts for consideration in the upcoming nominations process.

Here is the most recent winning council post, here is the most recent winning non-council post, here is the list of results for the latest vote, and here is the initial posting of all the nominees that were voted on.


School Teaches Wrong Lesson -- Censors Students

Students do not shed their rights at the schoolhouse gate, according to the Supreme Court of the United States. However, student speech which disrupts the educational process may be suppressed by administrators in the interest of preserving the mission of the school. That is why this situation in Connecticut concerns me.

Four South Windsor high school students were sent home Friday after T-shirts they wore bearing anti-gay slogans caused disturbances, students and school officials said.

The boys, who wore white T-shirts with the statement, "Adam and Eve, Not Adam and Steve," say their constitutional right to free speech was violated.

"We were just voicing our opinions," said Steven Vendetta, who made the T-shirts with his friends, Kyle Shinfield, David Grimaldi and another student who was not identified by the Journal Inquirer of Manchester. "We didn't tell other people to think what we're thinking. We just told them what we think."

Hold it here -- THE SHIRTS caused the disturbance? How did the articles of apparel cause a disturbance? It must have been the words on the shirts that were the problem, the message that they conveyed. But how did they cause a disruption? Obviously, they did not -- it must have been the response to the shirts.

Other students say they felt threatened by the shirts, which also quoted Bible verses pertaining to homosexuality.

"I didn't feel safe at this school today," said Diana Rosen, who is co-president of the school's Gay-Straight Alliance.

You don't feel safe at school because of the words? They contained no threat. They expressed an opinion. Do you mean, Diana, that you feel unsafe when others are permitted to publicly disagree with you? How, pray tell (and I don't care if you are offended by my use of the word "pray") does the expression of an alternative religious, political, or social view make you unsafe? How do you expect to survive in American society, with its robust protection of free speech, if the expression of a contrary view reduces you to a tearful quivering mass of gelatin?

There is, of course more to the story, as this article makes clear.

Vendetta said the impetus for the T-shirts came earlier in the week, when students at the high school took part in the annual Day of Silence, a project orchestrated by the national Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network. On the Day of Silence, students across the country do not speak, as a reminder of the discrimination and harassment experienced by homosexuals.

Students at the high school also wore signs showing their support for legislation that would recognize civil unions for same-sex couples in Connecticut, Vendetta said.

Vendetta and his friends, who oppose civil unions, wanted to make their feelings known.

"We felt if they could voice their opinions for it, we could voice our opinion against it," he said. "There is another side to this debate, and we're representing it."

So, after showing respect and tolerance for the views of the pro-homosexuality/pro-civil union students, who seem to have gone through the day unmolested, they decided to exercise the same rights, and expected the same courtesy. After all, the school clearly had created something of an open forum by allowing (perhaps promoting?) the earlier event. That made what these boys did fair game -- and it should have been expected.

Instead of tolerance, what the boys got from Ms. Rosen and her fellow students was something different. What they got from the administration was a threat of censorship, and the promise of a heckler's veto.

Almost immediately, the shirts drew comment and debate from other students, Vendetta said.

"I walked down the hall, and people were either cheering me on, yelling at me, or just sneering," he said. "It was the most intense experience."

Teachers brought the situation to the attention of high school Principal John DiIorio, who said Friday that the law protects students' freedom of speech, as long as that speech doesn't disrupt the educational process.

He told the boys they could continue to wear the shirts as long as they didn't become a distraction to others.

The students returned to class. But heated arguments and altercations ensued almost immediately, with some students becoming "very emotional," said student Sam Etter.

Rosen said that when she first saw the shirts, she "almost didn't believe it." She became very upset, crying and spending most of the day in administrators' and guidance counselor's offices. She also got into several arguments, she said.

"I saw a large crowd gathered during one of our lunch waves," said senior William "B.J." Haun. "A large debate was going on. It involved a lot of people. By the end of the day, everyone was talking about it and giving their two cents."

Eventually, DiIorio called the boys into the office and told them that other students were becoming "emotionally distraught," Shinfield said. He then asked the boys to remove the shirts. They refused and were sent home.

Gee, imagine that. The shirts promoted discussion. Where I come from, that is called learning, and perhaps even citizenship. Some of the discussions became heated and may have threatened to become physical. That should have resulted in the punishment of those who were fighting, not the censorship of the message. And poor, overly-sensitive Ms. Rosen seems to have spent the day lobbying for that censorship, when she was not confronting students and actively creating the disruption. Unfortunately, the spineless Principal DiIorio gave into those who wanted to make sure that the anti-homosexual/anti-civil union message was suppressed.

When all is said and done, I have three observations.

Steven Vendetta, Kyle Shinfield, David Grimaldi and unnamed friend, while the message on your shirts may have been a bit more juvenile than I would have liked, I applaud you for being willing to voice your beliefs even in the face of an administrator who was wishy-washy about protecting your civil rights. I wish there were more like you. I hope that you and your supporters continue to press for your rights to be respected -- and demand that either you be allowed to wear your shirts or that the Gay-Straight Alliance be shut down as incompatible with the policies of the school, which forbid free and open discussion of homosexuality.

Diana Rosen, you should be ashamed of yourself. If you had any principles, you would have been out there defending the rights of your classmates to voice their beliefs, even when (especially when) you disagree. You are more than willing to make use of the First Amendment when it suits your purposes, but your actions that day showed that you are a censor and a dictator at heart. And since you are head of the group that conducted the Day of Silence, I suggest that you do not plan on holding one again. You have supplied your opponents with the weapon they need to shut you down by asserting that your fear and emotional weakness are grounds for silencing those with whom you disagree. All they have to do now is claim that your group and its message frighten and anger them. You may as well disband the group now, because you have made it impossible for your message of "tolerance" to ever be taken seriously.

Principal DiIorio, you are a failure as an educator. You had the opportunity to teach citizenship and respect. What you taught was censorship. Your actions were fundamentally wrong, and betrayed the very values your school is supposed to be teaching. At the first sign of a problem, you should have been on the PA system reminding the students of the values contained in the First Amendment, their obligation to tolerate messages with which they disagree, and the school's obligation to protect the rights of every student. You didn't. Instead you let the situation get out of control, and then silenced the victims. What you have taught is that hurt feelings and offended ideologies matter more than the US Constitution. In other words, you have undermined one of the very things your school is responsible for teaching. More to the point, you would NEVER have shut down the Day of Silence because students were angry, offended or "scared" by the message it communicated. You are simply a PC weenie who set these boys up to take a fall. You have no legitimate place in education.


Conclave Schedule

As I type, we are less that 8 hours away from the beginning of the Mass for the Election of a Supreme Pontiff, which begins the Conclave for the election of a successor to Pope John Paul II. The Cardinal Electors and their staff have already taken up residence in the Domus Sanctae Marthae, where they will live until they have completed their task.

The schedule for the Conclave will be as follows. All times are local time in Rome, which is GMT+2.

At 4.30 p.m. on Monday, the procession of cardinal electors will leave the Hall of Blessings for the Sistine Chapel. This ritual will be transmitted live on television.

Once in the Sistine Chapel, all the cardinal electors will swear the oath. The cardinal dean will read the formula of the oath, after which each cardinal, stating his name and placing his hand on the Gospel, will pronounce the words: 'I promise, pledge and swear.' Over these days, there has been frequent talk of the bond of secrecy concerning the election of the Pope. However, I would like to reiterate that this is just part of the oath. First of all, an oath is made to observe the prescriptions of the Apostolic Constitution Universi Dominici Gregis; then another oath is made that - and I quote - 'whichever of us by divine disposition is elected Roman Pontiff will commit himself faithfully to carrying out the munus Petrinum of Pastor of the Universal Church.’

After the oath, the master of Liturgical Celebrations of the Supreme Pontiff pronounces the 'extra omnes,' and all those who do not participate in the conclave leave the Sistine Chapel. Only the master of Liturgical Celebrations and Cardinal Tomas Spidlik remain for the meditation, once that has finished they too leave the Sistine Chapel.

During the conclave, the cardinals will have the following timetable:

At 7.30 a.m., the celebration or concelebration of Mass will take place in the Domus Sanctae

Marthae. By 9 a.m., they will be in the Sistine Chapel. There they will recite the Lauds of the Liturgy of the Hours and, immediately afterwards, voting will take place according to the prescribed ritual (two votes in the morning, and two votes in the afternoon). In the afternoon, voting will begin at 4 p.m. At the end of the second vote will be Vespers.

After the two votes of the morning and the two of the afternoon respectively, the ballots and any notes the cardinals have made will be burnt in a stove located inside the Sistine Chapel.

Purely as an indication then, the smoke signals could appear at around 12 noon and at about 7 p.m. (unless the new Pope is elected either in the first vote of the morning or the first vote of the afternoon, in which case the smoke signal will be earlier). In any case it is expected that, along with the white smoke, the bells of St Peter will sound to mark a successful election.

According to Apostolic Constitution Universi Dominici Gregis, after three days without the selection of a new pope there will be a day taken for prayer and reflection. The voting will resume for seven ballots, then break for another such period if no new pope has been elected. This pattern will continue until a new pope is chosen. After the 33rd or 34th ballot, the Cardinal Electors may choose to reduce the margin from the initial 2/3 vote to a simple majority, or may limit themselves to only the top two candidates (or, I presume, both).

The identity and regnal name of the new pontiff will not be announced to anyone outside of the Conclave until the new pope is brought out to the balcony overlooking St. Peter's Square. There will be no special notification of the press, as was done when on the death of Pope John Paul II.


Ratzinger Smear

I'm not necessarily a supporter of the election of Cardinal Ratzinger as pope (I wouldn't oppose it, either), but I do object to this smear in the London Times.

THE wartime past of a leading German contender to succeed John Paul II may return to haunt him as cardinals begin voting in the Sistine Chapel tomorrow to choose a new leader for 1 billion Catholics.

Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, whose strong defence of Catholic orthodoxy has earned him a variety of sobriquets — including “the enforcer”, “the panzer cardinal” and “God’s rottweiler” — is expected to poll around 40 votes in the first ballot as conservatives rally behind him.

Although far short of the requisite two-thirds majority of the 115 votes, this would almost certainly give Ratzinger, 78 yesterday, an early lead in the voting. Liberals have yet to settle on a rival candidate who could come close to his tally.

Unknown to many members of the church, however, Ratzinger’s past includes brief membership of the Hitler Youth movement and wartime service with a German army anti- aircraft unit.

Although there is no suggestion that he was involved in any atrocities, his service may be contrasted by opponents with the attitude of John Paul II, who took part in anti-Nazi theatre performances in his native Poland and in 1986 became the first pope to visit Rome’s synagogue.

“John Paul was hugely appreciated for what he did for and with the Jewish people,” said Lord Janner, head of the Holocaust Education Trust, who is due to attend ceremonies today to mark the 60th anniversary of the liberation of the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp.

“If they were to appoint someone who was on the other side in the war, he would start at a disadvantage, although it wouldn’t mean in the long run he wouldn’t be equally understanding of the concerns of the Jewish world.”

Now hold on for just a minute. The Ratzinger family was anti-Nazi, but the 14-year-old Josef Ratzinger was required by a 1941 law to be a member of the Hitler Youth until he could get an exemption because of his seminary studies -- all school children were. And yes, he served in an anti-aircraft battery, but he was drafted into that service at a time when the German Army was taking 15 & 16-year-olds and putting them on the front lines. Those who refused to serve were shot. Ratzinger himself deserted when he became aware of the slaughter of the Jews in the death camps, and was briefly held as in Allied POW camp.

You cannot make a Nazi or a war criminal out of a guy who was only six when Hitler came to power in 1933. It seems quite unreasonable to complain that a 16-year-old lacked the courage to place himself in mortal danger in the midst of the horrors that existed in wartime Nazi Germany. What is this really about?

It is about Ratzinger's theology, of course. He is one of the more conservative, orthodox wing of the College of Cardinals, and was the Pope's close associate and doctrinal point-man during much of John Paul II's pontificate. The two had been friends and colleagues since the Second Vatican Council, when they first met and worked together. Today they are frightened by the prospect of the man they have reviled for over two decades being mentioned prominently as a possible pope. And that is why some would do anything to keep him out of the Shoes of the Fisherman, even defame him and raise the spectre of Hitler and the Holocaust to tar a good and holy man.

His condemnations are legion — of women priests, married priests, dissident theologians and homosexuals, whom he has declared to be suffering from an “objective disorder”.

He upset many Jews with a statement in 1987 that Jewish history and scripture reach fulfillment only in Christ — a position denounced by critics as “theological anti-semitism”. He made more enemies among other religions in 2000, when he signed a document, Dominus Jesus, in which he argued: “Only in the Catholic church is there eternal salvation”.

In other words, his detractors are gravely concerned that Ratzinger is the one thing they cannot tolerate -- a believing Catholic, loyal to the historic teachings of the Catholic Church, and cut from the same cloth as the Pope he worked with for nearly a quarter century.

By this time next week there will almost certainly be a new pope. And soon thereafter, I expect we will begin to hear the true story of what happened in the Conclave. The question is -- will it be a story of Ratzinger's ascent to the Chair of Saint peter, or of the making of some other pope, probably with his support?


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