The Perils of a German Pope

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by Paul Gottfried by Paul Gottfried

The elevation of Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger to the papacy testifies to the value of the College of Cardinals as an electoral instrument, particularly in comparison to the periodic circuses by which the "democracies" now choose their titular heads. Next to this dignified, multilingual, and immensely learned German churchman, who will be henceforth known as Benedict XVI, our current "democratic" leaders, exemplified by the tongue-tied W and his English lap dog Tony Blair, look almost infantile. One needs the pen of an H.L. Mencken to depict this staggering contrast, which seems particularly striking at a time when we are launching wars to make the rest of the world resemble the "democratic" West. Perhaps Joseph de Maistre was close to the mark when he recommended a papal directorship of European countries, to insure peace. At the very least the College of Cardinals may be able to impose controls on our capricious court system and rampaging bureaucracy. Such a body might give us judges like Ratzinger instead of Baader-Ginsburg.

On a related note, I am struck by the grotesque charge that the new pope was a Nazi, despite the fact that a noted liberal maven, Abe Foxman, is sure (New York Post, April 20) that Ratzinger has "spent his life atoning for his limited Nazi link." Except for a forced membership in the Hitlerjugend and a minor role protecting German cities against the Allied bombing of German civilians, Ratzinger had no links to the Third Reich. Before the War’s end, he surrendered to American forces, which allowed him to return to a Catholic seminary. He and his brother Georg, who also became a priest, came from a staunchly anti-Nazi Bavarian family, which made only the smallest necessary compromises to survive in a regime they plainly disliked. By what right should anyone accuse the new pope of having a Nazi past or expect him to atone for one?

The answer is simple. We now live in a PC society, in which no white Christian male can ever be entirely free of the suspicion of harboring "fascist" thoughts or impulses. The only way someone who falls into this category can escape the effect of his original sin is by providing constant evidence of atonement for one’s inherited history, particularly as a German or Southerner, and by actively supporting multicultural initiatives. It is in the second area that Benedict XVI has been found deficient. As a Christian traditionalist, he is not about to support gay and feminist agendas. He also advised the late pope to withhold communion from politicians, like John Kerry, who endorse, as my academic colleagues would say, a "woman’s right to choose," including a late-term abortion. Not surprisingly, Benedict XVI has already been subject to windy invectives from Catholic liberals and from all of the other usual suspects for his residual Nazi proclivities, which are supposedly apparent from his not signing on to gay unions and the feminization of the clergy.

Last week I was thinking that if traditionalists wished to minimize this predictable torrent of abuse, they should have elected as pope the Nigerian contender, Francis Arinze, who is young, conservative, and black. There is no way that the victimological, multicultural gang would have gotten around the fact that the new pope, who would be endorsing gender roles and traditional marriage and denouncing abortion, was a black African. (On Arinze’s considerable claims as a traditionalist, see the Washington Times, April 6, 2005). Although lacking the seniority and intellectual qualifications of that longtime defender of dogmatic orthodoxy now raised to his deserved honor, Arinze has a built-in immunity to certain charges. Is there anyone who fits the designated victim label, except possibly for a Muslim lesbian, better than this black native of a post-colonial African country? Although he might eventually take his lumps from the chattering class and their yuppie captives, Arinze would start off with good will that is not available to Ratzinger. And he might revive the Roman Inquisition and drag before it some visiting leftist dignitary, whom a black pope could claim had violated "human rights." (Why should this right to seize and try foreign visitors for human rights violations be limited to Spanish Socialists?)

But Benedict XVI may still be able to reconcile his sworn enemies, even those in PC Germany, where the opposition to his election has been greater than the popular support, if he decides to turn over a new leaf. He can do this by consecrating gay unions and by beatifying the Rosenbergs as righteous victims of McCarthyism. Perhaps he can also assign exclusive blame for the First World War to the Central Powers, which one of his website critics (Hillary Lobby) accused him of avoiding, by taking the name Benedict XVI. It seems the previous Benedict, mistakenly praised as a "man of peace," should have called for all-out war against the Germans in 1915 instead of trying to end the conflict. That only shows the deviousness of this Bavarian churchman, who has taken the name of an apparent papal mediator, to get the Germans and Austrians off the hook for World War One.

April 23, 2005

Paul Gottfried [send him mail] is Horace Raffensperger Professor of Humanities at Elizabethtown College and author of, most recently, Multiculturalism and the Politics of Guilt.

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