Freedom Rider: Pope Benedict Go Home
by BAR editor and senior columnist Margaret Kimberley
"Benedict has proven himself to be among the worst, most retrograde popes in modern times."
Why would American media, politicians and average citizens welcome a Hitler Youth member who personally worked to insure Bush's re-election and who openly praised the genocide conducted against American Indians? If the man in question becomes pope, it obviously doesn't matter what he says or does. Otherwise sensible people suddenly act like illiterate medieval peasants and fight to kiss his ring.
Benedict XVI will make his first visit to America as pope next week. Since his elevation in 2005, Benedict has proven himself to be among the worst, most retrograde popes in modern times. Worse even than his predecessor, John Paul II. John Paul's iconic "pope mobile" and international visits gave him the appearance of a warm and cuddly spiritual leader. Yet he was every inch a politician, and a right wing one at that.
John Paul personally and forcefully opposed the liberation theology movement that swept Latin America in the 1970s and 1980s. Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Benedict XVI, was just like his boss. As head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which used to be called the Inquisition, Ratzinger crushed all efforts to question church authority or promote leftist political activity. Known as "God's Rottweiler," Ratzinger forced Fr. Leonardo Boff, the father of liberation theology, to retire to a monastery and shut up about liberating oppressed people.
"Ratzinger crushed all efforts to question church authority or promote leftist political activity."
Ratzinger didn't confine his politics to Latin America. In 2004 George W. Bush asked the Vatican for help in his election campaign. "Not all of the American bishops are with me," he whined. Bush's wish was Ratzinger's command. Ratzinger wrote a letter to American bishops and instructed them to deny communion to politicians who supported abortion rights. This letter was written in 2004, when John Kerry, a pro-choice Catholic, ran against George W. Bush. The communion controversy was just one of the ways in which the Kerry campaign was weakened by the Bush administration's successful mobilization of conservative white Christians.
It is certain that no pundit or politician will bring up this disgraceful activity when Pope Benedict visits Washington and New York. If a foreign religious leader can work to keep a favored American president in power and never be reproached, then he is free to deliver words of hate.
Since he became pope, Benedict has heaped insults on American Indians, and on Muslims all over the world. He said that Christianity was not imposed on Indians because they "secretly longed" for it. Rubbing salt into the gaping wound, Benedict added that worship of traditional Indian religions would be "a step backward."
"Benedict has heaped insults on American Indians and on Muslims all over the world."
Not content to insult the Indians who survived the holocaust inflicted upon them by Europeans, Benedict proved himself to be just as bigoted towards Muslims. He quoted a 14th century Byzantine emperor who said that the prophet Muhammad brought only "evil and inhuman" things to the world. Despite his blatant bigotry, Benedict is still treated with respect and admiration. It certainly is good to be the pope.
While European nations were killing Indians, they also began the enslavement of millions of Africans. The church put the full force of its authority behind slavery from the earliest days of European incursions around the world. In 1455, Pope Nicholas V gave permission to ". . . invade, search out, capture, vanquish, and subdue all Saracens and pagans whatsoever . . . and to reduce their persons to perpetual slavery..." The church didn't stray from that point of view for centuries. As late as 1866 the church said, "It is not contrary to the natural and divine law for a slave to be sold, bought, exchanged or given."
When Benedict visits Washington, D.C. and New York City he will say mass before huge crowds, and politicians will sharpen elbows and call in favors in order to be seen with him. No one has asked him to apologize for the church's past support of these genocides or for his own hate speech. Unlike Jeremiah Wright, who spoke truthful words, Benedict will be lionized for telling lies, and justifying centuries of atrocities because the perpetrators look like him.
"Unlike Jeremiah Wright, who spoke truthful words, Benedict will be lionized for telling lies."
Catholics are not the only Christian denomination who justified genocide and enslavement. America's true national religion, manifest destiny and white privilege, has very old and very deep roots. They start with the premise that Europeans had the right to claim foreign lands as their own, and kill, buy and sell human beings. Most Americans, regardless of denomination or religious affiliation, see nothing wrong with Pope Benedict's racism. That is why he will be welcomed with open arms. The German born ruler of the Vatican may be very American after all.
Margaret Kimberley's Freedom Rider column appears weekly in BAR. Ms. Kimberley lives in New York City, and can be reached via e-Mail at Margaret.Kimberley(at)BlackAgandaReport.Com. Ms. Kimberley maintains an edifying and frequently updated blog at freedomrider.blogspot.com. More of her work is also available at her Black Agenda Report archive page.