Religion, Revolution and Counter-Revolution

From the March-April 2013 issue of News & Letters:

Religion, Revolution and Counter-Revolution

I’d rejoice at the Pope’s retirement except he and John Paul II stacked the deck of cardinals so thoroughly that whoever replaces him will just be his clone or worse.

Disgusted
Midwest

***

Ratzinger’s resignation surprised me; I thought popes had to die in office. The press started interviewing people, saying how wonderful he is. I don’t think so. He didn’t do anything about pedophile priests, nothing for women except keep them down, helped destroy liberation theology and any opposition views, and appointed right-wing cardinals like himself. German Chancellor Angela Merkel said he was not so bad. What an apologist! Ratzinger was in the Hitler Youth. Lots of excuses were made for that, but other young people at the time stood up and said no.

Erica Rae
Illinois

***

Christianity has often inspired revolutionary mass movements among the poor. During the 17th-Century English revolution, the Levelers preached radical social equality and the Diggers took over the land, while Anabaptists established a utopian commune. In the 19th Century, the radically egalitarian Taipings took over half of China and held it against the Emperor for over a decade in the name of a Christian Utopia. In 20th-Century Latin America, Liberation Theology-inspired clergy and Christian base communities among the poor courageously resisted wealthy oligarchies backed by U.S. imperialism, in 1979 successfully overthrowing the Somoza dictatorship in Nicaragua as part of the Sandinista coalition.

Is there any hope for Catholic renewal? Any perspective of a revival of the Liberation Theology movement of the 1960s and ’70s? Is there any scenario that one could imagine, wherein a rebellion of mainly female base Catholics and lower clergy succeeds in unseating the hierarchy?

Last August, 900 U.S. nuns gathered in St. Louis to prepare their reply to the Vatican’s crude attempt to stifle their self-governing orders. Catholics across the country were stunned and outraged by the Vatican’s attempt to threaten the women who have been the backbone of this church for centuries. Thousands of faithful Catholics have held vigils across the country, and more than 57,000 people have signed a petition organized by the Nun Justice Project in support of the nuns. Catholics have made clear that they stand in solidarity with the sisters and their good works among the poor and marginalized.

Richard Greeman
New York City

***

I know, I should be nice to the guy, because he is an 85-year-old man, I haven’t walked in his shoes, blah, blah, blah. First of all, I am just some lapsed Catholic who could never touch a hair on the head of the German clergyman, nor would I want to. Second of all, Ratzinger didn’t show any mercy when he closed down schools of liberation theologians fighting for the rights of the oppressed and the downtrodden. He didn’t show mercy when he silenced priests, defamed works of good theologians who wrote on the side of the poor, and didn’t have any pity on Fr. Roy Bourgeois, for example, who dissents from the Church’s position on female ordination. He had no consideration for the consequences of “keeping up orthodoxy,” so I don’t find it inappropriate to call him the viper that he is now. If you are too nice to be angry at him, I got you covered.

Abe Cabrera
Louisiana

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