The obituary reel of the past days was laced with criticism of the late Roman Catholic pope Benedict XVI, née Joseph Ratzinger. Other public figures also meet media criticism on the day of their death, but – let’s be real – the news casters have announced the death of dictators with less emphasise on the darker sides of the deceased.
This is a little bit hidden under the shroud of balance. Some lame praises about his intellect or charisma are the run up to the big “but” that introduces what the news room actually wants to talk about. And this is tactically necessary because the pope didn’t annoy the masses on a day-to-day basis. Politicians and journalists do. So they have to buckle down to his popularity like a creepy, resentful butler stooge in a horror movie.
I don’t want to repeat bromides like that the media only scorns what they see as an obstruction of left-wing interests. The left is not an organisation with a military command line for their thoughts and narratives. They are a swarm with a certain group think. And to understand where their resentment comes from – outside of their strategic interest of replacing Catholicism with their own fanaticism – one’s got to understand who they are criticizing and what fuels their emotions.
On the face value they say that they obsess over the pedophilia scandal and its supposed cover-up. After Jeffrey Epstein, the UK grooming gangs scandal, the lack of interest in child marriages and the “family-friendly drag shows”, it is safe to assume that this is not what enrages them. This is what angers normal people. And none of the scorn obituaries give any details as to what Joseph Ratzinger supposedly did to cover up any crime. What exactly did he do that stopped the police from doing their work? Is it the job of employers to punish employees in addition to the sentences of the legal system? If a convict continues to be a threat to children, isn’t it the job of the courts to issue a professional ban for vulnerable occupations? Do those journalists want the church to take a government function? It is fair to assume that they are not clamouring for an end of secularism in favour of a church intervention scheme. They just try to throw mud.
A second criticism they offer is that Joseph Ratzinger stood for a church that does not change, that were too conservative. Again this is something that sounds like we all would agree on, but don’t. Their criticism of the Catholic church has three pillars. The first is that they want all Christian churches to waffle even more about climate change, open borders and other talking points to advance the political left. The second is that women cannot become priests and the third circles around homosexuals and their suggested priesthood. A minor variation of the third which has got its little extension for straight people is the wailing about sins. This one should make up the better part of psychological research at this point since it makes absolutely no sense to freak out over the mentioning of sinfulness if one ostensibly isn’t very religious anyways. Either you are comfortable with your lack of religion and you don’t care or you scream like a madmen whenever somebody mentions a potential sin because you are tense. Another combination that holds is that you are relaxed with your pick-and-choose religion and you are thus relaxed about your level of sinfulness as well (and no matter what people say, they all pick and choose). What does not hold water is the standard left-wing identity of not caring about religion while making a huge fuss over each proposal of what should be considered as sinful.
None of these typical points of criticism ring with normal people. Former news anchor Peter Hahne who also served in the leading council of the German Lutheran Church summed it up as ‘The mess is too much news show.’ He was referring to the Lutheran counterpart, of course, but most normal people, independent of their faith, don’t want to hear zeitgeist hogwash when they go to their temple. Normal people don’t think that being a priest is a terribly attractive job that women must have access to in order to be complete. Normal people don’t care about gay marriage at all. What most people find inhumane about the Catholic church is the celibacy. But that point, the only relevant point, is completely absent from the typical diatribe.
And this brings me to the person who made me aware of the man Joseph Ratzinger at first, his former student colleague Uta Ranke-Heinemann URH. She was the daughter of former German president Gustav Heinemann who was also at other times a member of the leading council of the Lutheran Church. After her marriage to a Catholic and a near complete university degree in Lutheran theology she converted. Lucky for her she aced academically and chased through the exams of Catholic theology in no time. Eventually she found herself in the same doctorate seminar with Josef Ratzinger. They would regularly meet and translate ancient Greek texts into German together.
After she became the first female professor of Catholic theology she realised the cruelty of the celibacy and began a vendetta against the sex obsession of the ‘bachelors’ as she liked to mock them. Lucky for her she was good ammunition for the left who saw the church only as some nasty competition. The story a superficial observer would be told by the media is that Josef Ratzinger represented the backwards and Uta Ranke-Heinemann the modern side of the church.
In her last years Uta Ranke-Heinemann fell out of favour, too. It was a silent, creeping disaffection. Her last media appearances could be found on fringe communist newspapers. She did not want to introduce more left-wing agenda points into the church or obsess over sin, gay marriage, women priests and CO2. She had her own mind and that mind was concerned about lonely or morally compromised priests whose basic human instincts had been denied by the grotesque celibacy regime of their employer. The political left lost its patience with her like they lost their interest in all working rights concerns.
In 2006 Ratzinger shocked with a speech in which he dared to tacitly describe Islam as violent. Back in those days I was also foolish enough to point to the history of Catholicism to wash away concerns over Islam. Since then Jihad has gained considerable momentum and today it strikes normal people as absurd that there was an outrage circus around this observation. At this point we all go by the Russian saying, ‘We know that they are lying. They know that we know that they are lying. We know that they know that we know that they are lying, but it continues anyway.’
For Josef Ratzinger there was also too much ‘news show in the mess’, too much focus on the institution, and too little contemplation of the faith. He also called for change, but he distinguished between the changes of the painting of the house and a change of substance. In his words the church had become ‘too worldly.’ It is the spirit of the zeitgeist, the news room, that spoils the church. He asked for the church not only be seen as an institution, but as the individuals, the community of the believers, who should change and turn to their creator.
So in the end both Uta Ranke-Heinemann and Josef Ratzingers were rebels. And they both shared the same opponent. Ranke-Heinemann being (informally, but effectively) excommunicated comparably early in her life, wielded the sharper tongue. And she made it perfectly clear that her issue was mostly with the dull and intellectually blunt mediocrity in prestigious robes. People who confused their social status with their smarts argued that Mary remained a virgin when she gave birth to the descendant of King David through her husband Josef ‘because we say so.’
But did the student friends Uta Ranke-Heinemann and Josef Ratzinger win? Yes and no. The perpetual ‘there was also criticism’ remark following concessions to the late pope’s strengths reveal that the dull, spineless creeps know that it is at least not them who have won over everyone just yet. Those who had an affinity to Josef Ratzinger and what he actually represented are still around. By the end of her life Uta Ranke-Heinemann believed that she had failed and not changed anything at all. And, yes, celibacy is still in place, but her rampage started a reflection on the church and an exodus of government membership registrations (in Germany church membership gets registered with local government authorities). And most people do not leave their formal, institutional status to leave the church. In the sense of Josef Ratzing they are the church and always will be. They leave the worldly, the zeitgeistly and the corrupt. The winner takes it all. Rest in peace!