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Since IgnatiusInsight.com is an online magazine and since Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger is the IgnatiusInsight.com Featured Author for the month of November, we thought it made good sense to interview the folks behind www.RatzingerFanClub.com.

Founded in August 2000 by Christopher Blosser, a young man who converted to Catholicism in 1997, the site is dedicated to the work and writings of the current Prefect for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, one of the finest theological minds of the past fifty years.

The Ratzinger Fan Club site contains links to nearly everything available online in English about or by Cardinal Ratzinger, as well as links to the writings of like-minded Catholic theologians and thinkers. It is also home to the "Against the Grain" web log, which contains semi-regular posts about Cardinal Ratzinger and the life of the Church.

IgnatiusInsight.com: What is your background? When did you first learn about Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger? What inspired the Ratzinger Fan Club and how did it come into being?

Christopher: I was raised Protestant, although that needs elaborating: Dutch Reformed, (Christian Reformed Churchon my mother's side, Swiss Mennonite on my father's. My grandparents on both side were missionaries to China and Japan. I spent my early childhood in Pennsylvania, where I recall attending a Presbyterian church. When my father accepted a job teaching in North Carolina, my brothers and I attended a Southern Baptist church blessed with a very strong youth group. I went on to major in religion and philosophy at a Lutheran institution (Lenoir-Rhyne College), so you could say I'm versed in many forms of Protestant Christianity.

I was received into the Catholic Church in 1997 – the chief influences in my conversion being the writings of Dorothy Day, Thomas Merton, Walker Percy and Thomas Howard.

I became aware of Cardinal Ratzinger during my junior/senior year of college, although I did not actually read him until a year or two after my conversion. My father (who converted several years before me) praised The Ratzinger Report and held the Cardinal in high regard, so it was inevitable that I would look into his works. If I recall correctly, the first book I read was Called to Communion (1996), followed by Introduction to Christianity and his book-length interviews. After that, I was hooked.

The ‘Ratzinger Fan Club’ website was originally launched around the same time Dominus Iesus was released in August 2000. Dominus Iesus provoked heavy criticism from progressive Catholics and non-Catholic Christians around the world, who bristled at its traditional recognition of Jesus Christ as the essential and necessary source of salvation, its reassertion that the Church of Christ subsists in the Catholic Church, and its clarification concerning the relationship of non-Catholic churches and ecclesial communities to the Catholic Church.

There was really nothing in Dominus Iesus that had not been said before – it was thoroughly rooted in Vatican II and was "close to the heart of" the Holy Father – and yet, I was surprised by the amount of criticism it received. The public furor over Dominis Iesus prompted me to take notice of the sheer animosity many people had towards Cardinal Ratzinger – the tendency of "progressive Catholics" to paint him as a Grand Inquisitor of Dostoyevskian proportions, a modern day Torquemada.

It was in response to this malicious caricature that I founded the 'Ratzinger Fan Club' — after all, the best way one can respond to the absurdity of such attacks was with a little bit of humor, and what’s more comical than a fan club for the Grand Inquisitor, together with t-shirts and merchandise?

At the same time, the Ratzinger Fan Club became a means to express gratitude and appreciation for the Cardinal — by those who actually read and enjoyed his works, and whose common experience in reading him was to encounter a man of integrity, clarity and truth whose love for Christ and service to his Church is transparent.

It has also become for many a useful resource, as I try to keep it updated with all of Ratzinger’s works online (in English; there is a good Italian website as well: http://www.ratzinger.it/ ; some have asked me about providing resources in other languages, though lacking proficiency in anything but English I must pass the torch to somebody else).

IgnatiusInsight.com: On your web site, you note that Cardinal Ratzinger "has received somewhat of a notorious reputation among the liberal media and 'enlightened' intellegensia of pseudo-Catholic universities." Why do think this is the case?

Christopher: Criticism of Cardinal Ratzinger really began in earnest after 1981, when Ratzinger accepted Pope John Paul II's invitation to take over as Prefect for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith — and began to carry out the duties of his office, "to promote and safeguard the doctrine on the faith and morals throughout the Catholic world" (John Paul II).

The Congregation has on occasion had to carry out its duties by the enforcement of disciplinary measures, such as the issuing of notifications or the "silencing" of theologians it judges to be a danger to the faith. These may seem ‘mild’ in comparison to the tactics of the Inquisition of old, but they are nonetheless condemned by proponents of "academic freedom" on college campuses, especially those who harbor a grudge against "patriarchal authority", "institutionalized religion,," and "traditional morality."

To understand why Cardinal Ratzinger opposes the things he does, it is helpful to take a look at his early years. (I found that John Allen Jr.’s factual biography The Vatican Enforcer of the Faith is helpful in this regard).

In the late 1960's Ratzinger witnessed firsthand the wave of student uprisings that swept across Europe – fueled by Marxism, these uprisings often took the form of anti-Christian protests. As Ratzinger testified in Salt of the Earth:

". . . here was an instrumentalization by ideologies that were tyrannical, brutal, and cruel. That experience made it clear to me that the abuse of faith had to be resisted precisely if one wanted to uphold the will of the Council."

Ratzinger is also known for his persistent criticism of relativism in all its forms – whether moral (as in the denial of moral absolutes and the teaching authority of the magisterium) or philosophical and theological (as in that which reduces Christianity to one religion among others, with no exclusive claim to truth or salvific power).

When one reads Ratzinger one encounters a man who is extremely sensitive to (and critical of) the manifold ways in which the selfish pursuit of power can subvert the gospel's call to sacrificial love. The Cardinal’s resistance to relativism and ideology in all its forms is manifested in his opposition to liberation theology, militant feminism, atheistic materialism and consumerism, and "New Age" Gnosticism. Of course, given the degree to which our present culture and society is infected by relativism, this puts the Cardinal at odds with a considerable number of people — even a large number of those who describe themselves as "progressive" or "liberal" Catholics.

At the same time, it should be recognized that Cardinal Ratzinger, along with Pope John Paul II, are themselves perceived as dangers to the traditional Catholic faith due to their seeking to bring about a true implementation of the Second Vatican Council — hence the criticism from "traditionalist" Catholic groups like Society for Saint Pius X. In recent years I’ve seen Cardinal Ratzinger and the Pope vehemently criticized by the far right fringe for their solidarity with the Jewish people and his work to reconcile Jews and Christians. The degree to which anti-semitism has infected traditionalist Catholic sects is disturbing, but that’s another topic altogether.

So, in the end, you have Cardinal Ratzinger coming under heavy attack by the radical left and right — to the former, he’s an iron-fisted totalitarian monster out to crush whatever progress was made by Vatican II; to the latter, he’s just another post Vatican-II liberal and threat to Catholic tradition. As I understand it, this would place him somewhere in the center, which honestly is not a bad place to be.

Read Part Two of "A Cardinal Ratzinger Fan–and Proud of It!"


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