Not Saussure

September 16, 2006

A visit to see the Bedlamites

Filed under: Catholicism, Iraq, press, UK, usa — notsaussure @ 7:33 pm

I sometimes I really enjoy reading The Guardian’s Talk is Cheap Comment is Free; it frequently affords the sort of pleasure that I imagine people in a less enlightened age took in visiting Bedlam, only without the smells or the admission charge. Discussing an article by Dr Giles Fraser, the vicar of Putney (which moved one contributor to splutter ‘This article is on a par with the drivel that its author occasionsally pours out on Radio 4’s ‘Thought for the day’. Hasn’t he any sick or housebound parishioners that need visiting?), one Momax opines Hogarth, The Rake's Progress

As a socialist and an atheist, I find nothing more enjoyable than seeing two feudal and reactionary ideologies at loggerheads. Both Catholicism and Islam have untold blood on their hands throughout history and are barriers to progress and mankind’s self liberation.

Errm, I’m sure I’ve met socialists and atheists who can find considerably more enjoyable things than that to do, even without people having to remove their clothes, but, anyway, remind me again about the attitude to religion and political ideologies of countries such as the People’s Repubic of China under Mao, ‘Democratic Kampuchea’ under Pol Pot, and the old USSR. Untold blood on their hands? Barriers to liberation?

Isn’t that ‘the banana calling the custard yellow’, as a painfully liberal friend of mine is trying to pursuade her children to say (actually, I think it’s rather sweet)?

Meanwhile, someone called ‘gingerwaster‘ tells us that Pope John Paul II

was a die-hard opponent of Bush’s Middle East policies – but Ratzinger is clearly on another side.
Do you remember when John Paul II died, how Bush praised the appointment of cardinal Ratzinger ? How Ratzinger indirectly supported Bush’s election campaign by threatening excommunication on any “Catholic Politician” (implicitly John Kerry) who consistently defended pro-choice or euthenasia ? (Bush got an increase of 6% of the Catholic vote).

Hmm. In his previous job, as prefect of the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal Ratzinger said

“the United Nations is the [institution] that should make the final decision.”

“It is necessary that the community of nations makes the decision, not a particular power,” the cardinal said, after receiving the 2002 Trieste Liberal Award. His statements were published Saturday in the Italian newspaper Avvenire.

“The fact that the United Nations is seeking the way to avoid war, seems to me to demonstrate with enough evidence that the damage would be greater than the values one hopes to save,” the cardinal said.

He said that “the U.N. can be criticized” from several points of view, but “it is the instrument created after the war for the coordination — including moral — of politics.”

The “concept of a ‘preventive war’ does not appear in the Catechism of the Catholic Church,” Cardinal Ratzinger noted.

“One cannot simply say that the catechism does not legitimize the war,” he continued. “But it is true that the catechism has developed a doctrine that, on one hand, does not exclude the fact that there are values and peoples that must be defended in some circumstances; on the other hand, it offers a very precise doctrine on the limits of these possibilities.”

and, when asked in May 2003,

Q: Eminence, a topical question that in a certain sense is inherent to the Catechism: Does the Anglo-American war against Iraq fit the canons of a “just war”?

Cardinal Ratzinger: The Pope expressed his thought with great clarity, not only as his individual thought but as the thought of a man who is knowledgeable in the highest functions of the Catholic Church. Of course, he did not impose this position as doctrine of the Church but as the appeal of a conscience enlightened by faith.

The Holy Father’s judgment is also convincing from the rational point of view: There were not sufficient reasons to unleash a war against Iraq. To say nothing of the fact that, given the new weapons that make possible destructions that go beyond the combatant groups, today we should be asking ourselves if it is still licit to admit the very existence of a “just war.”

Indeed, as The American Conservative regretfully concluded about a year ago,

where hot wars are concerned, many of Ratzinger’s most ardent admirers—Catholic neoconservatives especially—find themselves diametrically at odds with the pope […] between what commonly passes for conservatism today, as represented by the president’s Iraq policy, and the vision of the pope there is an unbridgeable gap, on one side or the other of which American Catholics will have to take a stand

And, while one may well disagree with the Catholic Church’s view on abortion, it seems a flight of fancy too far to think the Church holds that view primarily in order to give aid and comfort to American conservatives.

‘Do you remember when John Paul II died, how Bush praised the appointment of cardinal Ratzinger?’

Well, what else does ‘gingerwaster’ expect him to to have done, for heaven’s sake? Told the College of Cardinals he was very disappointed at their choice of pope, whoever it was?

‘We are not talking conspiracy theory here’, he reassures us. No, I suppose not; ‘bollocks’ might be the appropriate term, though,



  1. Dear Not Saussure

    I see you posted my comment on your blogsite, basically trashing what I said about Ratzinger. Just two comments :
    1) Your example shows a painstakingly convoluted attempt by Ratzinger to stay in line with JPII’s forthright condemnation of the Irak war. He was after all at the time the Pope’s mothpiece and was obliged to defend the Pope’s position. To me he seems more embarrassed than convinced.
    2) Now please take a look at this link from timesonline, showing that The Cardinal does not believe a reconciliation between Islam and democracy is possible :,,3-2359816,00.html

    Here’s an extract from the article :

    “The Pope has a history of criticism of Islam. According to another leading Catholic who took part in a secret meeting with him on the subject last September at the Pope’s summer residence in Italy, Benedict XVI believes that Islam cannot be reformed and is therefore incompatible with democracy.

    Earlier this year Father Joseph Fessio, provost of Ave Maria University in Naples and founder of the publishing house Ignatius Press, said the Pope believes that reform of Islam is impossible “because it’s against the very nature of the Koran, as it’s understood by Muslims.”

    So never mind the bollocks, look at the facts old boy.

    Comment by gingerwaster — September 18, 2006 @ 4:05 am

  2. I don’t see what you find so convoluted about him saying, in effect,

    ‘I can’t speak on behalf of the Church on political matters — for that you’ll have to ask my colleague the Vatican Secretary of State — but if you want my personal view, I think the war can only be justified if it’s supported by the UN.

    ‘However, I can tell you, speaking in my official capacity of prefect of the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Church’s view on matters of Doctrine, and we don’t recognise this concept of “preventative war” that President Bush is invoking. Draw your own conclusions.’

    Seems pretty straightforward to me.

    As to his views on Islam and democracy, I’m afraid I don’t ever place much weight on what ‘unnamed sources’ reckon someone may or may not have said in a ‘secret meeting’ (i.e. one that may not even have taken place) about anything, not even if it appears in a newspaper owned by Rupert Murdoch. Perhaps you consider this unduly cynical of me.

    I’m afraid I’ve not studied the Pope’s views on Islam in general enough to comment on what Fr Fessio says, and I don’t know the context of Fr Fessio’s remarks. If he was talking about Islam’s views on theological matters — the divinity of Christ, the nature of the Trinity and so forth — which do matter rather a lot to Catholic priests (including the Pope) then he’s got a point.

    It’s hardly news that the Catholic Church doesn’t like the ‘sola scriptura’ tradition of interpreting holy books, but it doesn’t necessarily follow from this that the Pope’s view is that evangelical Christianity is incompatible with democracy.

    Comment by notsaussure — September 18, 2006 @ 8:26 am

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