Friday, July 29, 2005

The return of 'God's Rottweiler'?

An opinion piece by Claus Christian Malzahn at Spiegel Online takes aim at Benedict XVI. The attention-getter/summary at the beginning of the piece pretty much sets the tone for what is to follow:

The argument between the Vatican and Israel is a nasty step back to the days of animosity between Judaism and Christianity. All the trust between the religions which John Paul II spent two decades building up, is now being shattered by his successor.

Malzahn begins by proclaiming that rather than following in the steps of his predecessor, the new pontiff "is a reactionary who is leading his church into a spiritual fortress, rather than sending it confidently out into the field." Malzahn then goes on to the ongoing affair with Israel, making the obligatory reference in that "Benedict XVI refuses to say that terrorism against Israel is actually terrorism, proves that he is following in the spiritual tradition of Pius XII more than that of John Paul II. Pius was also a pope who acted according to the rule book and viewed dogma as more important than true life and political reality."

In contrast to the alleged flaws of Benedict's first 100 days, Malzahn holds up John Paul II as the model of papal leadership both in the Church and without. After recounting John Paul's standing up to totalitarianism, he goes on to describe his ecumenical streak:

No pope before him has ever done so much for dialogue and conciliation between the world's major religions. And this he achieved without ever opting for a spiritual relativism which would compromise the Church's true principles. Principles which included taking a critical view of Catholicism's past.

Malzahn then recounts the late pontiff's accomplishments in building a relationshipm withe the Jews, including visiting a synagogue and punishing members of the clergy who supported anti-Semitic positions. But these accomplishments are being undone.

This is mainly because Benedict XVI has barely needed 100 days to trample over the infant seedling of trust between Jews and Christians that John Paul II planted.
Ratzinger's politics, on the other hand, are over the top. And he's not just risking a return to a kind of cold war with Israel and the Jews.

Malzahn then elaborates with a reference to the late invitation of the Protestants of Germany to the World Youth Day, which did not take place until after complains were lodged. The author then concludes:

Such bull-in-a-china-shop tactics cannot be considered dialogue. But then, Ratzinger doesn't want dialogue. The German pope wants to be right. His predecessor, on the other hand, battled for faith, and was successful. What a difference.

Is the Jewish/Vatican relationship destroyed over this? I think Mr. Malzahn has some kind of ax to grind and personally I'm disappointed in Spiegel Online. It usually is a bit more moderate in its opinions.

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