Joseph Ratzinger as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith

Joseph Ratzinger as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith

On November 25, 1981, Pope John Paul II named Joseph Ratzinger Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, formerly known as the Holy Office, the historical Roman Inquisition. Consequently, he resigned his post at Munich in early 1982. He was promoted within the College of Cardinals to become Cardinal Bishop of Velletri-Segni in 1993, was made the College's vice-dean in 1998 and dean in 2002.

In office, Ratzinger fulfilled his institutional role, defending and reaffirming official Catholic doctrine, including teaching on topics such as birth control, homosexuality, and inter-religious dialogue. During his period in office, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith took disciplinary measures against some outspoken liberation theologians in Latin America in the 1980s and Jesuit priest Anthony de Mello. The Congregation condemned liberation theology twice (in 1984 and 1986), accusing it of Marxist tendencies and of inciting hate and violence. Leonardo Boff, for example, was suspended, while others were reputedly reduced to silence.

On another side entirely, Ratzinger planned and oversaw the opening of the long-sealed Inquisition archives which became fully available up to the death of Pope Leo XIII at the beginning of 1998. The fact that other Vatican archives were at that point open up to the death of Pope Benedict XV and have, since Ratzinger became Pope himself, been opened up to the death of Pope Pius XI has led to some criticism from secular commentators. It is still unclear what the Vatican's plan for future accessibility to post-1903 Holy Office archives is, for nothing has been said since 1998 regarding whether and when they will be made available to scholars.

Dominus Iesus

In 2000, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith published a document entitled "Dominus Iesus", which reaffirmed the historic doctrine and mission of the Church to proclaim the Gospel.

The document, on paragraph 4, pointed out the danger to the Church of "relativistic theories which seek to justify religious pluralism" by denying that God has revealed truth to humanity.

On paragraph 22, addressing the question that one religion is as good as another (syncretism or indifferentism), it states, ". . . followers of other religions can receive divine grace, it is also certain that "objectively speaking" they are in a gravely deficient situation in comparison with those who, in the Church, have the fullness of the means of salvation."

The deliberate omission of the "filioque" clause ("and the Son") in the first paragraph [cite web | title= the official Latin text | url= | accessdate= July 7 | accessyear= 2005 ] is seen as an outreach to the Greek Orthodox Church which has been in conflict with the Latin Catholic Church over its addition to the Nicene Creed for about one thousand years. [" [ The Filioque: A Church-dividing Issue? An agreed statement of the North American Orthodox-Catholic Theological Consultation] ", "North American Orthodox-Catholic Theological Consultation", October 25 2003.]

Ratzinger and Fatima

Until her death, Lúcia dos Santos, the last surviving of the three Fatima visionaries, was forbidden to discuss the Fatima revelations publicly unless given leave by Cardinal Ratzinger. He was one of seven people known to have read the actual "Third Message" put into writing in 1944, and is the author of the "Theological Commentary on the Third Message", published with the message itself in 2000.

In 1984, an interview with Ratzinger was published in the Pauline Sisters newsletter which stated that the message deals with "dangers threatening the faith and the life of the Christian and therefore of the world", while stating that it marks the beginning of the end-times. A year later, the interview was re-published in "The Ratzinger Report", although several statements were omitted.

In October 1987 he stated that "the things contained in [the] Third Secret correspond to what has been announced in Scripture and has been said again and again in many other Marian apparitions; first of all, that of Fatima in what is already known of what its message contains, conversion and penitence are the essential conditions for salvation".

In 1997, Ratzinger and Capovilla publicly denied a rumor that the Third Message was being withheld for fears it would condemn the changes of the Vatican II council.

On June 26 2000, following the release of the text of the prophecy, Ratzinger issued a statement that the third and final chapter of Mary's prophecy had been fulfilled in 1981 in a failed attempt on Pope John Paul's life. He was quoted in the media as stating, "No great mystery is revealed; nor is the future unveiled. A careful reading of the text will probably prove disappointing." Some Catholics, however, continue to hold the opinion that unpleasant content was deliberately kept away from the public in the June 2000 release of the text.

Response to sex abuse scandal

As Cardinal Ratzinger was Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), the sexual abuse of minors by priests was his responsibility to investigate from 2001, when that charge was given to the CDF by Pope John Paul II. [Jamie Doward, " [,6903,1469005,00.html The Pope, the letter and the child sex claim] ," "The Guardian", April 24 2005.]

As part of the implementation of the norms enacted and promulgated on April 30 2001 by Pope John Paul II, [" [ Sacramentorum sanctitatis tutela] ", The Vatican, April 30 2001.] on May 18, 2001 Ratzinger sent a letter to every bishop in the Catholic Church. [" [ Epistula ad totius Catholicae Ecclesiae Episcopos aliosque Ordinarios et Hierarchas interesse habentes de delictis gravioribus eidem Congregationi pro Doctrina Fidei reservatis] ", The Vatican, May 18 2001.] This letter reminded them of the strict penalties facing those who revealed confidential details concerning enquiries into allegations against priests of certain grave ecclesiastical crimes, including sexual abuse, which were reserved to the jurisdiction of the Congregation. The letter extended the prescription or statute of limitations for these crimes to ten years. However, when the crime is sexual abuse of a minor, the "prescription begins to run from the day on that which the minor completes the eighteenth year of age." [ [] Unofficial translation of "Sacramentorum sanctitatis tutela" by the USCCB and a translation of the Norms by Gregory Ingels, both revised by Joseph R. Punderson and Charles J. Scicluna. The new norms (like the American norms) consider a minor to be anyone under the age of 18—a wider definition than in the Code of Canon Law, where minors are below the age of 16.] Lawyers acting for two alleged victims of abuse in Texas claim that by sending the letter the cardinal conspired to obstruct justice. [Jamie Doward, " [,6903,1469055,00.html Pope 'obstructed' sex abuse inquiry] ," "The Guardian", April 24 2005.] The letter did not, in fact, discourage victims from reporting the abuse itself to the police; the secrecy related rather to the internal investigation of the alleged crime, forbidding all parties to divulge what took place during the Church trial. The Catholic News Service reported that "the letter said the new norms reflected the CDF's traditional "exclusive competence" regarding "delicta graviora"—Latin for "graver offenses". According to Canon Law experts in Rome, reserving cases of clerical sexual abuse of minors to the CDF is something new. In past eras, some serious crimes by priests against sexual morality, including pedophilia, were handled by that congregation or its predecessor, the Holy Office, but this has not been true in recent years."" [ Signs of the Times: Doctrinal Congregation Takes Over Priestly Pedophilia Cases] ", "Catholic News Service", December 17 2001.] The promulgation of the norms by Pope John Paul II and the subsequent letter by the then Prefect of the CDF were published in 2001 in "Acta Apostolicae Sedis" ["Acta Apostolicae Sedis" 93 (2001): 737–39, 785–88.] which is the Holy See's official journal, in accordance with the Code of Canon Law, [ [ Code of Canon Law: Canon 8, §1] , The Vatican.] and is disseminated monthly to thousands of libraries and offices around the world. [ [] , April 29 2005 update to "Much Ado About Nothing" by Dr Edward Peters, JCD, JD]

In 2002, Ratzinger told the Catholic News Service that "less than one percent of priests are guilty of acts of this type." [" [ Cardinal Ratzinger ... Sees Agenda Behind the Reporting in U.S.] ," "Zenit News Agency", December 3 2002.] Opponents saw this as ignoring the crimes of those who committed the abuse; others saw it as merely pointing out that this should not taint other priests who live respectable lives. [ [ Vatican Transcript of Meditation on the Ninth Station of the Cross] , The Vatican.] Ratzinger's Good Friday reflections in 2005 were interpreted as strongly condemning and regretting the abuse scandals, which largely put to rest the speculation of indifference. Shortly after his election, he told Francis Cardinal George, the Archbishop of Chicago, that he would attend to the matter.

ee also

*Theology of Pope Benedict XVI


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