Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Zoe Ryan on Legacy of Benedict as "God's Rottweiler": "Silenced Many"

I'm just now seeing Zoe Ryan's latest article at National Catholic Reporter: "'God's Rottweiler' Silenced Many As Head of Doctrinal Congregation." Since what Ryan says in the article dovetails perfectly with what I said in my first posting this morning, I want to draw readers' attention to it.

Its opening statements:

Although recent portrayals of Benedict XVI play on his white-haired grandfatherliness and his desire to fade into a quiet retirement of books and music, many Catholics with long memories have images in their minds of "God's Rottweiler." 
During his time at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (1981-2005), the office became one of the most controversial Vatican agencies. He decried secularization, liberation theology, radical feminism, homosexuality, religious pluralism and bioethics. 
Numerous Catholics found themselves in hot ecclesial water: Fr. Hans Küng; Jesuit Fr. Karl Rahner; Seattle Archbishop Raymond Hunthausen; Leonardo Boff; Fr. Charles Curran; Fr. Tissa Balasuriya; Jesuit Fr. Roger Haight; Fr. Matthew Fox; Loretto Sr. Jeannine Gramick and Salvatorian Fr. Robert Nugent; Dominican Fr. Gustavo Gutiérrez; and Jesuit Fr. Jacques Dupuis, among others.

As Ryan notes, in addition to going after liberation theologians, as head of the CDF Ratzinger focused almost obsessively on curbing any attempts of Catholic theologians, bishops, or ministry groups to fashion a welcoming attitude towards those who are gay and lesbian. He ruthlessly punished Archbishop Raymond Hunthausen for permitting a Mass for Dignity in the Seattle cathedral. His attack dog in that instance, now-Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington, D.C., will be attending the papal conclave that elects Benedict's successor.

He silenced Father Charles Curran for raising questions as a moral theologian about the church's sexual teachings, including its teachings on homosexuality. He removed Bishop Jacques Gaillot as bishop of Evreux, France, for the same reason. He barred Sister Jeannine Gramick and Father Robert Nugent from ministry to the gay community, and sought to coerce them to make a public renunciation of their views. 

These names are only the tip of the iceberg. Under the last two papacies, there has been a strong chill in Catholic institutions which makes theologians fearful of opening their mouths and doing their work as theologians. I know many theologians who have walked away and left the church because they cannot tolerate the duplicity, the call to pretense in the exercise of the theological vocation required by the last two popes. I know gay and lesbian faculty and staff members at Catholic colleges and universities who have lost their jobs for no credible reason--solely because of their sexual orientations--under John Paul and Benedict.

I have heard a very credible story of a Canadian priest-theologian who raised questions about the church's treatment of homosexuality and who was, his colleague telling me this story informs me, literally hounded to death by Ratzinger as head of the CDF. My own dissertation director is in the list of theologians silenced by the current pope when he headed the CDF, though his silencing was for his christological work and not anything he has written about sexual ethics.

And so, as I remember this legacy, I have to wonder very seriously about all the paeans of praise being placed at Benedict's feet now by many Catholic journalists and scholars who should know better. Who do know better. Are all of us brother and sister Catholics who have been made gay by God simply invisible to these journalists and scholars?

Or do they imagine we have deserved the treatment dished out to us--being defined by Benedict in his 1986 document on "pastoral" care of homosexuals as "intrinsically disordered" in our very constitution as human beings?

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