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Commentary :: Human Rights
God is Infinitely Greater than Any "Church"
17 Jun 2007
The problem is the Roman papacy, not the new pope. People may not and cannot be made absolute. Otherwise everything is wrong. This church cannot be measured by Jesus' message; it itself is the measure. Rome must become evangelical to be Christian.

Is the choice of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger as pope good for the Catholic Church?

By Eugen Drewermann

[This essay published in “aus Basel”, 4/22/2005 is translated from the German on the World Wide Web.]

The problem is the Roman papacy, not the new pope. Since the 11thcentury, the inheritance has been of the Roman Caesars as God’s representation on earth covered with divine infallibility, not of Christ. Does God need representatives? Doesn’t God speak in the human heart? Isn’t all piety of mysticism based on this immediacy to God and introspection?


Jesus didn’t want any patriarchal representative of God. “Call no man your father, on earth,” he said (Matt 23,9), “for you have one father who is in heaven.” Must not “holy father” in the eyes and ears of the Jew from Nazareth sound like a blasphemy? With the words “Holy Father,” the Jesus of the Gospel of John addresses God in prayer (Joh 17,11). People may not and cannot be made absolute. Otherwise everything is wrong.

But the Roman papacy does just that. It forces a billion people to ask day in and day out: Who will be the pope? What does the pope say? These are sheer pseudo-questions in the status of estrangement. Finally one asks: Who am I? How do I decide? What does Jesus want? “Catholicism makes God into a thing,” the philosopher G.W.F. Hegel said 180 years ago. “What is that?”…

This church pretends to be “the living Christ.” This church cannot be measured by Jesus’ message; it itself is the measure. After 500 years of refused reformation, can a pope ever declare to people: “I am only a person, mistaken and wrong like you and underway with you seeking a truth that I don’t already possess”? Can he gain the simple insight that no confession or church can contain God, that every encounter with god must be liberated from the initial conditions of every religion because God is infinitely greater than any “church”?


Rome must very literally become “evangelical” to be Christian. Then it must free itself from the structures described by Sigmund Freud in 1921 in his “Mass Psychology and Ego-Analysis.” As in the military, the “believer” is homogenized like an archaic mob in relation to the command-giving headquarters, obedient to authority, identifying in the superego with the “father” equal to God. The developmental powers of the person – the love, trust and daring of the subject – are oppressed according to norm and uniform. “Guard yourselves from those in long robes!” For Soren Kierkegaard, this saying from Jesus’ mouth was a measure for the two-facedness of all “official” blasphemy.

We must be just. Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger did not conceive the Roman church. However as prefect of the “Congregation of Faith,” he absorbed it in a monumental way. He inaugurated and indoctrinated all the decrees of his predecessor out of conviction.


Pope Benedict XVI really believes the unbelievable. Given the 25 million HIV-sufferers in Africa, the use of condoms is a “grave sin,” a birth control program with artificial contraception is sin with 50 million dying of hunger yearly and with an exponential growth of the species of Homo sapiens. Celibacy is undiscussable. Protestants are “deficient” Christians because they are not catholic. A mean community with them is only possible if they return to the Church of Rome. A special edition of this journal would be necessary to list all the errors committed by the infallible teaching office of the Roman church under Pope John Paul II with Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger in charge. One cannot assume that the same man as pope will now retract what he did as prefect of “faith.” He would have to reform his own counter-reformation. That seems impossible.

From an inner church perspective, the march of the extreme right-wing forced by the secret alliance of the Opus Dei is scandalous in that democratic states tolerate it. The horizontal schism that already existed is deepened.


Is there no hope? Perhaps there is. The name Benedict XVI could promise something different than the last sermon before the conclave: war against modernism, struggle against relativism, and struggle against individualism. Benedict XV, a pope who called to peace in the time of the 1st World War (while his bishops confused God with their patriotic war rage). He called the Treaty of Versailles a war treaty. If one had listened to this man, Europe and the whole world would have been spared massive destruction.

Perhaps Pope Benedict XVI could follow this example: War on the fatal war readiness of the Bush administration, war on capitalism that devastates the countries of the third world and widens the gap between the poor and rich in the countries of the first world. A pope Benedict XVI has more to say than the prefect of the “Congregation of Faith.” Still one cannot “liberate” the world with a coercive system of unfree persons. There is no substitute for the reform of the churches of the Reformation that has now been refused for half a millennium.
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