Pope Benedict XVI's 30-year campaign to reassert conservative Catholicism
Some believe Pope Benedict XVI is 'the greatest scholar to rule the church since [Pope] Innocent III," in the 13th century. Child-abuse scandals have marred his tenure.
(Page 3 of 3)
The student protest marches at Tubingen in the '60s were a watershed for Ratzinger, moving him toward conservatism. He departed to a quiet Bavarian college. He wrote against democracy in the church, berated the influence of Marxism, and criticized what he called "the dictatorship of relativism." He disliked the language of individualism, of crisis of faith, the search for freedom and meaning, and existential moments. "He saw it as individuals separated from the collective institution of church, where salvation and meaning are found. In service to the true church, one found a new life," says Professor Kuschel.Skip to next paragraph
In Pictures Pope Benedict XVI
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
In 1977, Ratzinger became archbishop of Munich and Freising. Former Jesuit Paul Imhoff remembers Ratzinger as absorbed in medieval Catholicism. Mr. Imhoff, who was ordained by Ratzinger before leaving the church to marry a theology student, went to a "professors' carnival" with him. "We had jokes, dancing, harmless fun ... Ratzinger was charming. But the whole time he spoke about restoring the old Europe ... where the church takes precedence over the state."
Pedophilia not on his radar
Pedophilia cases started mounting in Vatican files in the 1980s. But now, as head of church discipline, Ratzinger was primarily focused on silencing priests or liberation theologians, such as the Brazilian Leonardo Boff, who tried to empower farmers and peasants. The 1990s brought strictures against abortion, gay rights, same-sex marriage, contraception, and promotion of abstinence and celibacy – just as US bishops were reporting hundreds of child abuse cases, but getting little clarity on how to handle them.
Most heads of the church's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) serve two terms, or 10 years. Ratzinger served 24, then became pope.
In recent years, a Vatican focus on ecumenical outreach has given way to evangelical outreach. In June, a new pontifical office to "evangelize" areas of the world that have suffered "an eclipse of the sense of God" was announced. The church has rebuffed Protestants and drawn sharp lines on Islam. But Rome has improved ties to Eastern Orthodox churches.
On July 21, Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill praised the pope for holding firm against women priests and not succumbing to "sinful elements of the world" that have entered Protestant churches via gays and female clergy, and offered to work with the pope on world issues.
Today, after his 30-year quest to reshape the church, the sex scandal may be a sizable legacy. It is unclear where the pope is headed. In the past month, there's been some shift in tone and attention. In late July the church extended to 20 years the period that victims' claims can be investigated. But the key question of whether offending priests should be reported to civil authorities is undecided in Rome.
Beyond his few pronouncements, the pope's views on the sex scandal are an enigma. Vatican sources say the pontiff spends time writing books and only sees two church officials regularly. "Even bishops now wait two weeks or more for a meeting," says a church official who is concerned about the pope's isolation.