On Secularism | On Other Religions | On the Sex Abuse Scandal | On Women in the Church | On Sexuality and Marriage | On Homosexuality | On Celibacy | On Abortion and Euthanasia | On Pope John Paul II | On Faith | On Islam | On Judaism | On Moral Common Ground | On the Global Crisis of Values
"We have moved from a Christian culture to aggressive and sometimes intolerant secularism," Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger said in November 2004 in an interview with the Italian daily La Repubblica. "A society from which God is completely absent self-destructs. We saw that in the major totalitarian regimes of the last century."
Pope Benedict XVI has repeatedly condemned "religious pluralism" and relativism — the idea that other religions can hold the way to salvation — and has been instrumental in blocking the advance of priests who support such views. The 2000 Vatican document "Dominus Jesus," behind which Cardinal Ratzinger was the driving force, called for a new Catholic evangelism. "This truth of faith does not lessen the sincere respect which the Church has for the religions of the world," the document said, "but at the same time, it rules out, in a radical way, that mentality of indifferentism characterized by a religious relativism which leads to the belief that 'one religion is as good as another.' "
Benedict XVI has often denounced immorality within the church. In his 2005 Good Friday meditations, the pontiff condemned "filth" in the church. He has been scathing, however, about news coverage of the scandal. In December 2002, the ZENIT news agency quoted him as saying that fewer than 1 percent of priests were abusers and that American news coverage was a campaign against the Catholic Church. "One comes to the conclusion that it is intentional, manipulated, that there is a desire to discredit the church," he told ZENIT. "In the Church, priests also are sinners. But I am personally convinced that the constant presence in the press of the sins of Catholic priests, especially in the United States, is a planned campaign, as the percentage of these offenses among priests is not higher than in other categories, and perhaps it is even lower.”
Cardinal Ratzinger wrote the church statement in August 2004 that repeated the prohibition against women as priests and criticized feminism as ignoring biological differences. It also called on governments to "manage conditions so that women do not need to neglect their families if they want to pursue a job."
Pope Benedict XVI has been a leading voice in the church for enforcing traditional doctrine on homosexuality, extramarital sex, and artificial birth control, writing a letter to American bishops in 1988, for example, criticizing their acceptance of condoms to stop the spread of AIDS, saying the American view supported "the classical principle of tolerance of the lesser evil."
He has also condemned efforts to legalize same-sex marriage as "destructive for the family and for society" and as a dangerous precedent for the separation of sexuality and fertility. A church statement in July 2003, "Considerations Regarding Proposals to Give Legal Recognition to Unions Between Homosexual Persons," in which he was listed as principal author, read: "There are absolutely no grounds for considering homosexual unions to be in any way similar or even remotely analogous to God's plan for marriage and family. Marriage is holy, while homosexual acts go against the natural moral law."
"Although the particular inclination of the homosexual person is not a sin, it is a more or less strong tendency ordered to an intrinsic moral evil, and thus the inclination itself must be seen as an objective disorder,” from Cardinal Ratzinger's "Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons," 1986.
"It is deplorable that homosexual persons have been and are the object of violent malice in speech or in action. Such treatment deserves condemnation from the church's pastors wherever it occurs. “The intrinsic dignity of each person must always be respected in work, in action and in law,” from Cardinal Ratzinger's "Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons," 1986.
"Above all, we must have great respect for these people who also suffer and who want to find their own way of correct living. On the other hand, to create a legal form of a kind of homosexual marriage, in reality, does not help these people,” Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger told the Italian daily La Repubblica during a November 2004 interview.
"The renunciation of marriage and family is thus to be understood in terms of this vision: I renounce what, humanly speaking, is not only the most normal but also the most important thing. I forgo bringing forth further life on the tree of life, and I live in the faith that my land is really God — and so I make it easier for others, also, to believe that there is a kingdom of heaven. I bear witness to Jesus Christ, to the Gospel, not only with words, but also with this specific mode of existence, and I place my life in this form at his disposal," Cardinal Ratzinger wrote in Salt of the Earth: Christianity and the Catholic Church at the end of the Millennium: An interview with Peter Seewald. ”Celibacy is not a matter of compulsion. Someone is accepted as a priest only when he does it of his own accord."
Pope Benedict XVI has consistently spoken out against abortion, euthanasia, stem-cell research, and cloning. In his book "God and the World," published in October 2000, he painted a grim picture of the results of genetic research, writing: "There is a last boundary that we cannot cross without becoming the destroyers of creation itself."
In July 2004, the Italian magazine L'Espresso released part of an unissued memorandum to American bishops in which Cardinal Ratzinger spelled out guidelines for denying Communion to politicians who supported abortion rights.
Benedict XVI said in May 2007 that "such excommunication is laid down in the Code, it is not arbitrary, it is simply written in the Code of Canon Law,” according to the Vatican Information Service. “The death of an innocent, of an unborn child, is inconceivable. It is not arbitrary, and the Church express appreciation for life and for the individuality of life from the first moment of conception."
"Nobody is entitled to grant or take away another's right to life. Whoever is a human being has this right from within himself, not from another. Without this basic insight, there can be no human rights, and no human dignity," Cardinal Ratzinger said during a 1993 interview with FOX News Executive Vice President John Moody
"We can be sure our beloved pope is standing today at the window of the father's house, that he sees us and blesses us," Cardinal Ratzinger said at Pope John Paul II’s funeral on April 8, 2005. "Today we bury his remains in the earth as a seed of immortality. Our hearts are full of sadness, yet at the same time (full) of joyful hope and profound gratitude."
"Having a clear faith, based on the creed of the church, is often labeled today as a fundamentalism. ... Whereas relativism, which is letting oneself be tossed and 'swept along by every wind of teaching,' looks like the only attitude acceptable to today's standards,” Cardinal Ratzinger said in April 2005 in remarks before the beginning of the conclave that would elect him pope. "We are moving toward a dictatorship of relativism which does not recognize anything as for certain and which has as its highest goal one's own ego and one's own desires."
"It is true that the Muslim world is not totally mistaken when it reproaches the West of Christian tradition of moral decadence and the manipulation of human life. ... Islam has also had moments of great splendor and decadence in the course of its history," Cardinal Ratzinger is quoted by Catholic News as saying in March 2002.
Excerpts from the Pope's controversial 2006 speech at the University of Regensburg, entitled "Faith, Reason and the University: Memories and Reflections" :
"I read... of part of the dialogue carried on — perhaps in 1391 in the winter barracks near Ankara — by the erudite Byzantine Emperor Manuel II Paleologus and an educated Persian on the subject of Christianity and Islam, and the truth of both. In the seventh conversation...the emperor touches on the theme of the holy war. Without descending to details, such as the difference in treatment accorded to those who have the 'Book' and the 'infidels,' he addresses his interlocutor with a startling brusqueness on the central question about the relationship between religion and violence in general, saying: 'Show me just what Muhammad brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached.' The emperor, after having expressed himself so forcefully, goes on to explain in detail the reasons why spreading the faith through violence is something unreasonable. Violence is incompatible with the nature of God and the nature of the soul. 'God,' he says, 'is not pleased by blood — and not acting reasonably is contrary to God's nature. Faith is born of the soul, not the body. Whoever would lead someone to faith needs the ability to speak well and to reason properly, without violence and threats.'"
"The decisive statement in this argument against violent conversion is this: not to act in accordance with reason is contrary to God's nature. The editor, Theodore Khoury, observes: For the emperor, as a Byzantine shaped by Greek philosophy, this statement is self-evident. But for Muslim teaching, God is absolutely transcendent. His will is not bound up with any of our categories, even that of rationality. At this point, as far as understanding of God and thus the concrete practice of religion is concerned, we are faced with an unavoidable dilemma. Is the conviction that acting unreasonably contradicts God's nature merely a Greek idea, or is it always and intrinsically true?"
"That the Jews are connected with God in a special way and that God does not allow that bond to fail is entirely obvious. We wait for the instant in which Israel will say ‘yes’ to Christ, but we know that it has a special mission in history now ... which is significant for the world,” Cardinal Ratzinger wrote in his book, "God and the World," published in October 2000. "Our Christian conviction is that Christ is also the messiah of Israel. Certainly it is in the hands of God how and when the unification of Jews and Christians into the people of God will take place."
"I think that in order for people to be able to live together, it is essential to have common ground that can be attested to in moral and religious matters. The act of faith is more than an expression of a feeling for the infinite. It is the entering into a common ground of content in which people can understand each other, give meaning to their lives and build unity over and above the limitations of the individual,” Cardinal Ratzinger said during a 1993 interview with FOX News Executive Vice President John Moody.
"It is evident today that all the great civilizations are suffering in varying ways from the crisis of values and ideas which in some parts of the world assume dangerous forms. It is not hard to find examples of this. Take for instance, the internal crisis of the peoples of the former Soviet Union. Look at the large parts of Africa and Latin America, at the different Asian cultures, at trends in the societies of Europe and North America,” Cardinal Ratzinger told FOX News Executive Vice President John Moody during a 1993 interview.