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". . . 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."
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
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 whats 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 Ratzingers 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
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:
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
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 Cardinals
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 Ive
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 thats
another topic altogether.
So, in the end, you have Cardinal Ratzinger coming under heavy attack
by the radical left and right to the former, hes an
iron-fisted totalitarian monster out to crush whatever progress was made
by Vatican II; to the latter, hes 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 Fanand Proud of It!"
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