Ratzinger, Rome and the Bible

Before he was elected to rule over the Roman Catholic Church and, though never mentioned, all the world, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was in charge of the agency commonly referred to as the Holy Office. This agency was the first very first congregation of the Romish Curia. When you see mention of the Holy Office, think of it as a kinder and more gentle manifestation of the infamous Inquisition – at least for the time being.

Holy Office. The Roman Congregation established in connection with the Inquisition in 1542 to deal with heresy internationally. In 1965 it became the 'Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith' and was charged with the positive function of promoting as well as safeguarding sound doctrine. Since 1988 its title has been the 'Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith'. - E. A. LIVINGSTONE. "Holy Office." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, 2000. Retrieved January 28, 2011 from Encyclopedia.com

Nearly a millennium ago and right up to the late 19th century, I reckon people trembled with fear when the Inquisitors came to their towns and villages. Should a citizen be denounced as a heretic or wrongdoer, he ran a very good risk of being tortured and forcefully interrogated, with possible consequences being the loss of property or even death (by secular authority). Since the collapse of the Holy Roman Empire, or perhaps a bit earlier, someone got the idea that such behavior by priests and religious cast Mother Church in a bad light. Yielding to popular and political pressure, the Inquisition gradually suffered what I believe to be a temporary loss of power.

Historians distinguish four different manifestations of the Inquisition:

1. the Medieval Inquisition (1184–1230s)
4 the Spanish Inquisition (1478–1834)
5 the Portuguese Inquisition (1536–1821)
6 the Roman Inquisition (1542 – c. 1860 )

Because of its objective — combating heresy — the Inquisition had jurisdiction only over baptised members of the Church (which, however, encompassed the vast majority of the population in Catholic countries). Secular courts could still try non-Christians for blasphemy. (Most witch trials went through secular courts.) - Inquisition, Wikipedia

Not everyone viewed the Inquisition as a threat, or so historians tell us.

With the sharpening of debate and of conflict between the Protestant Reformation and the Catholic Counter-reformation, Protestant societies came to see/use the Inquisition as a terrifying "Other" trope, while staunch Roman Catholics regarded the Holy Office as a necessary bulwark against the spread of reprehensible heresies. - Ibid.

I do not doubt that over time the very mention of the Inquisition might have wakened a dreadful image in the minds of many in Europe and the European colonies around the world. This likely had a negative effect on people's willingness to put on chains that bound them to the not-so-tender mercies of the Catholic Church. How to counter the Protestant Reformation and put a happy face on the suffocating power of the Catholic Church? Why not put halters on the Inquisitors and give the Inquisition a newer, more gentler name?

In 1908 the name of the Congregation became "The Sacred Congregation of the Holy Office", which in 1965 further changed to "Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith", as retained to the present day[update]. - Ibid.

Did you know that Ratzinger was once suspected to be heretic?

On 28 April 1969, Paul VI announced the foundation of the International Theological Commission, an organ intended to be parallel to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

On that occasion, the serious French magazine Informations Catholiques Internationales (n. 336 - May 15, 1969, p. 9), reported the story and gave the list of the 30 theologians chosen for the Commission (below in French). Among them, we translate this description:

Joseph RATZINGER: German, age 45, dogmatic theology, ecumenism; previously suspect [of heresy] by the Holy Office; member of the Faith and Ecumenism Commission; outstanding work in collaboration with Karl Rahner: Primacy and Episcopate- Ratzinger under Suspicion of Heresy, Progressivist Document of the Week, by Tradition In Action

Do you reckon those allegations had any merit? Or could it be that a decision was made to forget the allegations? Whatever happened, Ratzinger survived them and, in 1981, Pope John Paul II named Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger to the post of Cardinal-Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, formerly known as the Holy Office and before that as the Roman Inquisition. One would think, at least I do, that the head of the congregation charged with keeping Catholic doctrine and practice in conformity to whatever Mama Church wants would be a constant and faithful Catholic. This gives reason to wonder just how faithful to Catholic doctrine and practice was then Cardinal-Prefect Jospeh Ratzinger or is now Pope Benedict XVI.

Fr. Ratzinger: The Bible is not objective

In his book Faith and the Future, published in 1970 in Germany, Fr. Joseph Ratzinger discusses how the Catholic Faith should face the challenges of modern science. When Ratzinger poses the objections, it becomes clear that he endorses much of the revolutionary criticism of science regarding the Bible.

Let us look at the critic's points in broad lines. The difficulty already begins with the first page of the Bible. The idea of the world's origin developed there is in evident contradiction with everything we know today about the origin of the cosmos. Even if we say that those pages are not a manual of natural history and, therefore, should not be understood as a literal description of the cosmos' origin, a bad feeling remains. ... On almost every page of the Bible such questions persist.

The figure formed of clay that in God's hand becomes man is largely incomprehensible to us, as well as what happens right afterward with the woman, taken from his side while he sleeps and recognized by him as the flesh of his own flesh, that is, as a response to the question of his solitude.

Perhaps today we have to re-learn how to understand these images as profound symbolic expressions regarding man. ... In the next chapter (the history of the fall) new questions rise. How can we reconcile them with the concept that man, as demonstrated by natural science, did not begin from above, but from below? He did not fall, but little by little ascended, increasingly becoming a man from an animal. And what about Paradise? Suffering and death already existed in the world long before man existed. . .

Let us continue to examine these questions and contradictions that distress the general conscience in order to appraise with all necessary harshness the problem behind the words faith and knowledge.

After the report of the fall, the Bible continues with its image of history, where Adam is described to us in a cultural period situated around 4000 BC. This date agrees with the biblical counting of time, resulting that around 4000 years have passed from the beginning until Christ. But today all of us know that before this event, a period of hundreds of thousands of years of life and human efforts had already passed, a time not taken into consideration in the biblical image of history, which was restricted to the Eastern understanding of that time.

With this we touch the next point: the Bible, which faith venerates as the word of God, became clear to us in its entire human character through the historical-critical method of investigation. It not only follows the literary forms of its ambience, but also is influenced by the world in which it originated. This influence marked its way of thinking and its religious character itself.

Can we still believe in the God who calls Moses in the burning bush? The God who kills the firstborn sons of Egypt and leads His people to war against the inhabitants of Canaan? Who makes Oza fall dead because he touched the sacred ark? Or were all these things nothing but an expression of the old East, interesting, yes; perhaps even significant as a level of the human conscience; but not the expression of the divine word? - Joseph Ratzinger, Fé e Futuro, São Paulo: Vozes, 1971, pp. 11-13, quoted as the Fr. Ratzinger: The Bible is not objective, Progressivist Document of the Week, by Tradition In Action

Gee! Now we know why Catholics need help to understand what God really meant to tell us when He inspired ancient writers to pen what we know as the canonical Scriptures.

I prefer to be taught by the Holy Spirit.

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