Wow, check out this reaction to the election of Benedict XVI in the German newsmagazine Der Spiegel. I mean, the editors might as well have assigned a heavily sedated Matthew Fox to write the piece on the election of the first German pope since 1048. The long subhead reads:
Joseph Ratzinger has spent his entire life trying to ignore real life. He has been more successful at doing this in Rome than at home in Germany. Now the world’s Catholics hope that this rigid guardian of the faith will transform himself into a good shepherd.
The portraiture of the pope in his previous life is so shaded that it often veers into caricature. We read about Ratzinger the borderline autistic worker:
Every day at precisely the same time, Joseph Ratzinger would leave the apartment, carrying his briefcase in his left hand, and walk diagonally across St. Peter’s Square to his office . . .
Ratzinger the monomaniac:
“He could write as if possessed, spending 12 or 13 hours without eating,” says a [quasi-anonymous] priest . . . “The sisters would put sandwiches on his desks, only to find hours later that they hadn’t been touched.”
Ratzinger the German out of step with the march of his fellow countrymen:
There was apparently only one German cardinal who voted for Ratzinger in the first round of the election: Joachim Meisner, the ultraconservative Archbishop of Cologne, unpopular with many in his diocese.
Ratzinger the young theological radical:
He was called the “teen-ager” of the [Second Vatican] Council.
Ratzinger the wimpy neoconservative:
At some point he heard his own students utter the scandalous words: “Jesus be damned.” Horrified, he left Tuebingen for a position at the more conservative and tranquil University of Regensburg. . . .
He has inherited St. Augustine’s theological pessimism, his conviction that there is no real future when it comes to earthly matters. In this world view, neither history nor nature can offer any hope or expectation, and nothing good can be expected to transpire in the world beyond the walls of the Church and the Vatican, especially when that world is represented by shabbily dressed, unshaven students calling for revolution in the name of Karl Marx and Jesus Christ.
And, finally, Ratzinger the preacher to whom grace has become a foreign concept:
Even his last sermon before the conclave was harsh and didactic. As in the past, man is delegated to the sidelines in Ratzinger’s perspective. And as he had done so many times before — and perhaps for the last time? — he claimed that Jesus died for the truth, not for our sins. Indeed, one of the Church’s main functions is to continue repeating this message, always in a fresh and timely manner. (Emphasis added.)
I hardly know where to start here, but in the interest of brevity, I’ll stick to the claim highlighted in the last paragraph as a great example of how the Der Spiegel writers fail to . . . get religion.
In his final homily before Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger became Pope Benedict XVI, he said, in part,
Saint Peter says: “He himself bore our sins in His body upon the cross.” And Saint Paul writes in his letter to the Galatians: “Christ ransomed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written, ‘Cursed be everyone who hangs on a tree,’ that the blessing of Abraham might be extended to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.”