I saw the CNS piece detailing a 1988 letter of Cardinal Ratzinger urging a greased-up process to eject badly misbehaving clergy from Holy Orders. What does it mean? And why did it take people months to dig up this note, which might have been more helpful to burnish the reputation of the former Archbishop of München earlier this year.
Jimmy Mac’s comment at dotCommonweal:
Will this become a current story version of Pius XII and what he/didn’t do for Jews?
Indeed. Throw enough questions into an already-complex matter, and either side can claim the matter is more in dispute than it really might be.
Due process is an important value in any organization. And yet we all know how easily it can be circumvented when church employees can be fired for no greater crime than having been hired by the previous pastor. While I realize the inner workings of the curia are far more entrenched than a parish staff, I find it hard to muster much sympathy for Joseph Ratzinger, Frustrated Reformer.
That said, I have no doubt this letter is genuine. Given his distaste for certain theologians, and his attack-dog reputation, if we had a 1989 letter, and a 1990 note, and a 1991, a ’92, a ’93, and so on, I might be inclined to say, “CDF did their best; they were thwarted by the bureaucracy. But JPII’s CDF head could be very tenacious, vicious, and disrespectful of due process when he wanted to be. So let’s not forget that, in his eyes, liberation theology was a far greater threat to the Catholic Church than sex predators in the clergy. Take a poll of conservative Catholics alone, and see which problem they see as more grave: a misguided theologian or a priest having sex with children. You tell me what the results would be. Even back in 1988.
It’s very likely that in future decades the merits of this papacy and its predecessor will be judged in a contentious public forum not unlike the discussion of Pius XII and the Nazis and Jews. Maybe there’s enough good stuff for people to plant their flag on their hero’s hill and cheer. But even for supporters, there has to be enough doubt to tarnish reputations, even if such dismay is kept to oneself.