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Pope Benedict XVI/Pre-papal career

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Pope Benedict XVI
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Pope Benedict XVI.
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Pre-papal career

Academic career: 1951–77

Ratzinger became a professor at the University of Bonn in 1959; his inaugural lecture was on "The God of Faith and the God of Philosophy." In 1963, he moved to the University of Münster.

During this period, Ratzinger participated in the Second Vatican Council (1962–65). Ratzinger served as a peritus (theological consultant) to Josef Cardinal Frings of Cologne. He was viewed during the time of the Council as a reformer, cooperating with radical Modernist theologians like Hans Küng and Edward Schillebeeckx. Ratzinger became an admirer of Karl Rahner, a well-known academic theologian of the Nouvelle Théologie and a proponent of church reform.

In 1966, Joseph Ratzinger was appointed to a chair in dogmatic theology at the University of Tübingen, where he was a colleague of Hans Küng. In his 1968 book Introduction to Christianity, he wrote that the pope has a duty to hear differing voices within the Church before making a decision, and he downplayed the centrality of the papacy. During this time, he distanced himself from the atmosphere of Tübingen and the Marxist leanings of the student movement of the 1960s that quickly radicalized, in the years 1967 and 1968, culminating in a series of disturbances and riots in April and May 1968. Ratzinger came increasingly to see these and associated developments (such as decreasing respect for authority among his students) as connected to a departure from traditional Catholic teachings.[1] Despite his reformist bent, his views increasingly came to contrast with the liberal ideas gaining currency in theological circles.[2]

Some voices, among them Hans Küng, deem this a turn towards Conservatism, while Ratzinger himself said in a 1993 interview, "I see no break in my views as a theologian [over the years]".[3] Ratzinger has continued to defend the work of the Second Vatican Council, including Nostra Aetate, the document on respect of other religions, ecumenism and the declaration of the right to freedom of religion. Later, as the Prefect for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Ratzinger most clearly spelled out the Catholic Church's position on other religions in the 2000 document Dominus Iesus which also talks about the Roman Catholic way to engage in ecumenical dialogue.

During his years at Tübingen University, Ratzinger publicized articles in the reformist theological journal Concilium, though he increasingly chose less reformist themes than other contributors to the magazine such as Hans Küng and Edward Schillebeeckx.

In 1969, he returned to Bavaria, to the University of Regensburg. He founded the theological journal Communio, with Hans Urs von Balthasar, Henri de Lubac, Walter Kasper and others, in 1972. Communio, now published in seventeen languages, including German, English and Spanish, has become a prominent journal of contemporary Catholic theological thought. Until his election as Pope, he remained one of the journal's most prolific contributors. In 1976, he suggested that the Augsburg Confession might be possible to recognise as a Catholic statement of faith. This however did not happen due to differences in theology on justification.[4][5]

Archbishop of Munich and Freising: 1977–82

Palais Holnstein Munich

Palais Holnstein in Munich, the residence of Benedict as Archbishop of Munich and Freising

On 24 March 1977, Ratzinger was appointed Archbishop of Munich and Freising. He took as his episcopal motto Cooperatores Veritatis (Co-workers of the Truth) from 3 John 8, a choice he comments upon in his autobiographical work, Milestones. In the consistory of the following 27 June, he was named Cardinal Priest of Santa Maria Consolatrice al Tiburtino by Pope Paul VI. By the time of the 2005 Conclave, he was one of only 14 remaining cardinals appointed by Paul VI, and one of only three of those under the age of 80. Of these, only he and William Wakefield Baum took part in the conclave.[6]

Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith: 1981–2005

File:Ratzinger Szczepanow 2003 6.jpg

On 25 November 1981, Pope John Paul II named Ratzinger Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, formerly known as the Holy Office, the historical Inquisition. Consequently, he resigned his post at Munich in early 1982. He was promoted within the College of Cardinals to become Cardinal Bishop of Velletri-Segni in 1993, was made the College's vice-dean in 1998 and dean in 2002.

In office, Ratzinger fulfilled his institutional role, defending and reaffirming Catholic doctrine, including teaching on topics such as birth control, homosexuality, and inter-religious dialogue. Leonardo Boff, for example, was suspended, while others were censured. Other issues also prompted condemnations or revocations of rights to teach: for instance, some posthumous writings of Jesuit priest Anthony de Mello were the subject of a notification. Ratzinger and the Congregation viewed many of them, particularly the later works, as having an element of religious indifferentism (i.e., Christ was "one master alongside others").

The Congregation is best known for its authority over the teaching of Church doctrine, but it also has jurisdiction over other matters, including cases involving the seal of the confessional, clerical sexual misconduct and other matters, in its function as what amounts to a court. In his capacity as Prefect, Ratzinger's 2001 letter “Crimen Sollicitationis” which clarified the confidentiality of internal Church investigations into accusations made against priests of certain crimes, including sexual abuse, became a target of controversy during the sex abuse scandal.[7] While bishops hold the secrecy pertained only internally, and did not preclude investigation by civil law enforcement, the letter was often seen as promoting a coverup.[8] The Pope was accused in a lawsuit of conspiring to cover up the molestation of three boys in Texas, but sought and obtained diplomatic immunity from prosecution.[9]

On 12 March 1983, Ratzinger as prefect and cardinal notified the lay faithful and the clergy that archbishop Pierre Martin Ngo Dinh Thuc had incurred the excommunication latae sententiae for illicit episcopal consecrations without the apostolic mandate.



  1. Van Biema, David (2005-04-24). "The Turning Point". Time (Time Warner). http://www.time.com/time/covers/1101050502/sobenedict.html. Retrieved 2009-07-10. 
  2. Wakin, Daniel J (2005-04-24). "Turbulence on Campus in 60's Hardened Views of Future Pope". New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2005/04/24/international/worldspecial2/24ratzinger.html?position=&incamp=article_popular_5&pagewanted=print&position=. Retrieved 2005-06-08. 
  3. Ostling, Richard N.; Moody, John; Morris, Nomi (1993-12-06). "Keeper of the Straight and Narrow". Time (Time Warner). http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,979775-1,00.html. Retrieved 2009-07-10. 
  4. Dulles, s.j., Avery (October 1983). "The Catholicity of the Augsburg Confession". The Journal of Religion 63 (4): 337–354. doi:10.1086/487060. http://www.jstor.org/pss/1203403. 
  5. Fahlbusch, Erwin; Bromiley, Geoffrey William; Barrett, David B. (1999). "Evangelical Catholicity". The Encyclopedia of Christianity. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing. ISBN 9004116958. 
  6. Thavis, John; Wooden, Cindy (2005-04-19). "Cardinal Ratzinger, guardian of church doctrine, elected 265th pope". Catholic News Service. http://www.catholicnews.com/data/stories/cns/0502405.htm. Retrieved 2009-07-17. 
  7. Doward, Jamie (2005-04-24). "Pope 'obstructed' sex abuse inquiry". The Observer. http://observer.guardian.co.uk/international/story/0,6903,1469055,00.html. Retrieved 2007-07-14. 
  8. "UK Bishops Angered by BBC Attack on Pope". EWTN. Catholic News Agency. 2006-10-02. http://www.ewtn.com/vnews/getstory.asp?number=71831. Retrieved 2008-04-14. 
  9. "Pope seeks immunity in Texas abuse case", Chicago Sun-Times, August 17, 2005.

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