The tensions and scandals that surrounded Benedict XVI

From Rome

Joseph RatzingerPope Emeritus Benedict XVI, who passed away this Saturday at the age of 95, was a recognized theologian, did not seek power and was modest, according to one of his biographers. But despite everything he had to face not a few serious issues in the Vatican during his papacy and before, at the level of the Vatican finances, sexual abuse by members of the Church and Liberation Theology born in Latin America.

Benedict XVI “has never sought power. He withdrew from the game of intrigue within the Vatican. He always led a modest life. Luxury was far from him and an environment with comforts superior to what was strictly necessary was completely indifferent to him”, wrote the biographer of the Pope emeritus Peter Seewald, who spent many hours talking with him. He was “a radical thinker, a radical believer who, despite the radicalness of his faith, did not take up the sword but another, more powerful weapon: the strength of humility, of simplicity, of loveSeewald said.

When he was elected Pope in 2005, as a great theologian who was considered after 24 years of work in the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, it was sometimes difficult for journalists to be able to reproduce his speeches or his messages, written more for experts than for the public of common people who followed him. But soon after he and his team realized it and the language changed but not the contents, always of a high theological and philosophical level.

and being dad He had to face numerous problems within the Church. One of them, perhaps the most serious, was that of the child sexual abuse. Especially since he had been the highest authority of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith since 1981, appointed by John Paul II. And complaints of sexual abuse reached that congregation, provided they managed to pass the barrier of the parish of origin, the local Bishopric and the national Episcopal Conference, or else that the person concerned had the possibility of sending them directly to Rome. Many complaints, however, came to nothing, bogged down in some of these rugged passages.. Often, the bishop transferred the priest accused of abuse to another parish or city, where he, however, continued with the same practice until he was transferred again. This is what happened with many priests and in particular was the case of a priest from the American city of Boston, Paul Shanley, whose story caused the pedophilia scandal in the Church to explode worldwide in 2002, during the papacy of John Paul II. Years later, the Vatican gave the episcopates a series of measures to follow, including presenting cases before the civil courts of each country and not hindering their task.

Some accused Benedict of being one of those responsible, such as a group of people who suffered abuses by religious and who in 2011 presented documentation to the International Criminal Court asking that the Pope and three other high-ranking Vatican prelates be prosecuted for crimes against humanity. They were accused of having covered up all these abuses. But until now, an eventual process has come to nothing. And the accusations referred to when he had been archbishop of Munich and Freising, in Germany (1977-1981) and when he had been prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (1981-2005) while already a cardinal.

other scandals

Notwithstanding all this, during Benedict’s papacy some cases that were prosecuted by the Vatican courts came to light, such as that of Mexican priest Marcial Maciel Degollado, founder and leader of the conservative Catholic organization Los Legionarios de Cristo. The organization had been founded in 1941 in Mexico. Maciel was sentenced by Pope Benedict XVI in 2006 with an “a divinis” suspension that prohibited all his religious activity. Maciel died in New York in 2008. The process made it possible to discover not only that he had raped some 60 underage seminarians, but also that he had at least two wives and four children.

Other scandals touched Benedict in his final years of pontificate, such as that of May 2012, when Ettore Gotti Tedeschia personal friend of Benedict XVI and president since 2009 of the IOR (Institute for the Works of Religion) or Vatican Bank, was forced to retire from his position for irregularities in its management. For a year he had been under investigation by the Italian courts, along with other members of the IOR, for not complying with the new anti-recycling regulations in force in Europe.

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He was also strongly affected by the call Vatileaks which revealed the existence of major conflicts within the Holy See. Vatileaks came to light when on May 25, 2012, Benedict’s butler, Paolo Gabriele, was arrested and later prosecuted for having stolen internal documents and letters from the Pope and given them to the journalist Gianluigi Nuzzi, who published them in a book entitled “His Your Holiness, the secret letters of Benedict XVI”.

Possibly tired of all these scandals or because he felt abandoned or manipulated, Benedict XVI made an unusual decision: he resigned to his position in February 2013, at the age of 86, a fact that had not been repeated in the Church since 1415, when Gregory XII resigned from the papacy.

Before being Pontiff: the Theology of Liberation

Because he had a considerable ecclesiastical career and was an expert theologian who had taught theology for several years at various universities in Germany, Ratzinger was appointed prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith — today called the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith and known in past centuries as the Holy Office or Holy Inquisition– by Pope John Paul II in 1981. The Congregation is considered the main Vatican entity in religious and theological matters since it controls the orientation that the Church is taking.

The Latin American world particularly remembers Ratzinger’s period because he decided, with the consent of Pope John Paul II, to put barriers to the so-called Liberation Theologya progressive movement of theologians, bishops and priests that tried in Latin America to bring the church closer to the poor.

In the 1970-1980 decade, Liberation Theology was accused by members of the Latin American Church but also by the Latin American dictatorships, which then reigned in many countries, of being associated with the guerrillas, the communists and for this reason they decided to fight it. especially persecuting the religious who defended it and had created movements such as the Third World Priests or the Villeros Priests. This is how several of them were massacred, such as Father Carlos Mugica, assassinated in Buenos Aires by the clandestine organization Triple A in 1974, and Bishop Enrique Angelelli of La Rioja, assassinated by the dictatorship in 1976 in an alleged car accident.

And this red alert set off by the dictators also had its repercussions in the Vatican. Thus it was that in 1984 and then in 1986 two “Instructions” of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, “Some Aspects of Liberation Theology” and “Christian Liberty and Liberation” made reference to Latin American theology, condemning several of its concepts. And the condemnation even reached who – along with the Peruvian Gustavo Gutiérrez – is considered one of the founders of Liberation Theology, the former Franciscan friar and Brazilian theologian Leonardo Boff.

Emerged shortly after the progressive Second Vatican Council (1962-1965), in the times of John XXIII and Paul VI, Liberation Theology left a deep mark on Latin American Christians who began to feel more accompanied by the Church and by the Vatican who considered the poor as important characters. Boff, who according to some sources had been a student of Ratzinger when he studied theology at a German university, was summoned to the Vatican in 1985, interrogated by Ratzinger and sentenced to a year of silence, losing all his editorial and academic posts in the religious field because of its theological principles. Years later Boff left the Franciscan order.

Liberation Theology is hardly spoken of now, although with Pope Francis, the poor, the homeless, those who live on the street, the handicapped, the elderly, children, war victims, immigrants, began to to be once again at the center of attention of the Pontiff and part of the Church.

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