The HyperTexts

BENEDICT XVI: LIGHT OF THE WORLD!
(or did the publishers somehow miss the "B" in "BLIGHT"?)

a book review compiled from various sources by Michael R. Burch

Light of the World: The Pope, The Church, and the Signs of the Times

Introduction

I believe I have just encountered the most self-aggrandizing, hubristic book title that I am ever likely to see in this life: BENEDICT XVI: LIGHT OF THE WORLD. Amazon lists Pope Benedict XVI as a co-author of the book, so it seems Pope Benedict has nominated himself as (or at least to be seen as) the "Light of the World."

To be fair, Benedict did wonder, at least momentarily, whether it is right "to allow oneself to be regarded as a star" before unilaterally declaring himself to be the "Light of the World." The rest, one supposes, is "His Story," if not entirely accurate history.

But how can we mere mortals be absolutely, positively sure that Benedict is, in fact, the "Light of the World," as he claims to be? I, for one, remain a bit skeptical, even though he assures us that he is who he says he is, invoking the "I am that I am" self-definition of Yahweh/Jehovah: "I simply told myself that I am who I am. I don't try to be someone else. What I can give I give, and what I can't give I don't try to give, either. I don't try to make myself into something I am not."

But rather than relying on notoriously undependable self-serving blurbs, let's see just how much light Pope Benedict is able to shed on our world, by examining excerpts from his book. I hope you don't mind if I nominate myself to play Devil's Advocate. (I must warn you that, like Popeye, "I yam what I yam," a cynic, especially when people claim to be great, wise thinkers when in reality they have hordes of black bats flapping around blindly in their belfries.)

The book's genesis and purpose

The genesis of the book is explained by one reviewer, who says: "Since his election as Pope Benedict XVI in April 2005, [the former Cardinal Joseph] Ratzinger has shied away from almost any contact with the media beyond tightly-scripted answers to pre-screened questions aboard the papal plane. But as Benedict's papacy has lurched from crisis to crisis, many of them self-inflicted public relations missteps, he has been sharply criticized as out of touch and aloof, even by some of his strongest supporters. Light of the World, especially with its extensive discussion of the sex abuse crisis, is an effort to enlist one of the only journalists Benedict trusts in order to change that dynamic, and throughout the 185 pages of back-and-forth Seewald is an accommodating, at times fawning questioner. (After his first collaboration with Ratzinger, Seewald was so impressed that he returned to practicing the Catholic faith he had abandoned.) In the book, Seewald effusively praises the pope, who tends to look humble with his more modest responses, and he often sets up straw men arguments that Benedict then hedges with a more measured answer."

However, I believe I can easily demonstrate that the self-proclaimed "Light of the World" fails to deliver the goods in the form of answers that make any sense whatsoever. Did the publishers accidentally leave out the "B" in "Blight"?

According to one more ecstatic reviewer, "Never has a pope, in a book-length interview, dealt so directly with such wide-ranging and controversial issues as Pope Benedict XVI does in Light of the World. Taken from a week-long series of interviews with veteran journalist Peter Seewald, this history-making book tackles head-on some of the greatest issues facing the world of our time. Benedict XVI is candid about the problems and the solutions. Twice before these two men held wide-ranging discussions, which became the best-selling books Salt of the Earth and God and the World. Then, Seewald's discussion partner was Joseph Ratzinger, head of the Vatican's chief doctrinal office [i.e., the euphemistically renamed office of the Grand Inquisitor]. Now, Joseph Ratzinger is Pope Benedict XVI, the spiritual leader of the world's [more than] one billion Catholics. Though Seewald now interviews the Pope himself, the journalist "pulls no punches," posing some of the thorniest questions any pope has had to address. Believers and unbelievers will be fascinated to hear Benedict's thoughtful, straightforward, and thought-provoking replies. This is no stern sermon or ponderous theological tract, but a lively, fast-paced, challenging, even entertaining exchange."

Well, one does like to be entertained while whiling away the hours to a religion-imposed Doomsday, so let's crack open the book and see what we can make of the "Light of the World" and his "infallible" wisdom ...

Condoms and life for male prostitutes, terrible diseases and death for faithful wives?

Here's an excerpt from the book I found under "Wacky, Tacky and True" on PerezHilton.com:

[Journalist Peter Seewald had just asked Ratzinger/Benedict if it wasn't "madness" for the Vatican to forbid people at a high risk from AIDS to use condoms.]

Ratzinger/Benedict: "There may be a basis in the case of some individuals, as perhaps when a male prostitute uses a condom, where this can be a first step in the direction of a moralization, a first assumption of responsibility. It's a first step in a movement toward a different way, a more human way of living sexuality." [Because "prostitute" is a masculine noun in German, it is unclear whether Benedict actually meant a male prostitute. In the Italian version of the book the noun is feminine, so the correct translation may simply be "prostitute." But the gender and sexual orientation of the prostitute shouldn't matter unless one is a bigot: the really burning question is why Ratzinger/Benedict continues to condemn innocent women and children to an earthly hell of terrible diseases and death, by maintaining that condoms should only be used in "exceptional" cases, when obviously they should be used regularly by large numbers of people, not just prostitutes.]

The pope's comments on condoms were "among the most controversial" in the excerpts printed by the Vatican daily, Osservatore Romano, and drew the most interest. One reviewer said, "It's a stunning comment for a pontiff who has blamed condoms for making the AIDS crisis worse."

Well, yes it is stunning in a ghastly way that the pope is now condemning only 99% of the earth's population to the possibility of hellish diseases and death, assuming that 1% or less of the earth's population consists of prostitutes.

For people who have been living on Mars or watching too many "reality" shows, please allow me to point out that Ratzinger/Benedict created an international uproar in 2009 when he told reporters that the scourge of AIDS sweeping Africa could not be resolved by distributing condoms. "On the contrary, they increase the problem," he said at the time. That remark touched off a firestorm of furious commentary; it seemed Ratzinger/Benedict had elevated the church's teaching against artificial contraception over the lives of Africans, including those of faithful wives with infected husbands and of children who might choose not to practice safe sex due to the pope's "advice" [emphasis on "vice"].

Benedict's responses to the resulting uproar were murky, at best, and did little or nothing to soothe the ruffled feathers his remarks had raised. And the Vatican didn't help his cause when it became known that church officials had massaged the official translation to make the pontiff's comments seem less "stark."

Regarding the Africa uproar, Benedict said: "I was not making a general statement about the condom issue, but merely said—and this is what caused such great offense—that we cannot solve the problem by distributing condoms."

But of course that's not what he said. What he said was that using condoms caused the problems associated with AIDS to increase, perhaps like adding fuel to a fire. Has any scientist or anyone with a functional heart and brain suggested that more people will die of AIDS if more people use condoms regularly? Has anyone in his or her right mind suggested that sex is more dangerous if condoms are used, than if they're not? Obviously, there is a big difference between saying that condoms are not a panacea, and saying the distribution of condoms increases the problems associated with AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases.

Cardinal Elio Sgreccia, the Vatican's top dog on matters of bioethics and sexuality, elaborated on the pontiff's comments, stressing that it was imperative to "make certain that this is the only way to save a life." Sgreccia told the Italian news agency ANSA that this is why the pope "dealt with [the use of condoms] in the realm of the exceptional."

The highly dubious "logic" here is that condoms are only acceptable for "exceptional" events, such as prostitutes having sex with clients. Granted, such encounters are risky and condoms are advisable. But of course condoms are also highly advisable for many other less "exceptional" sexual encounters. After all, how many people know beyond a shadow of a doubt that their sexual partners have never been exposed to AIDS or other STDs?

I call Ratzinger/Benedict and his cronies "evil morons" because they keep handing out death sentences to anyone gullible enough to heed their adVICE. How many people have they killed already, or caused to suffer terrible pain? Since the Roman Catholic Church has repeatedly verified that Ratzinger/Benedict has not given Christians the green light to use condoms to protect themselves from sexually-transmitted diseases like AIDS, the "light" here leaves a lot to be desired.

According to another reviewer, "Pope Benedict XVI has said that in special cases, such as that of prostitutes trying to prevent HIV infection, condoms could be justified under Catholic ethical thinking, especially if their use leads to an awareness that engaging in such a 'banalization of sexuality' is morally harmful."

Now let me see if this makes any sense whatsoever: it's "ethically" justifiable for prostitutes to prevent the transmission of HIV, but faithful wives whose husbands are having unprotected sex with other partners should just plan on contracting AIDS and possibly dying, when they haven't done anything wrong? How is that wise, fair or just? How can the Catholic church hand out death sentences to innocent women whose husbands have been cheating on them? Sorry, Mr. "Light of the World," but I'm not stupid enough to buy your hellish "advice."

According to one pope enthusiast, "... Benedict was actually articulating longstanding Catholic tradition on the morality of preventing HIV and was not approving condoms for birth control. But his remarks were important for the extent of their explanation of this complex matter—and because they come from the pope, which makes them more authoritative than other church proclamations."

But why, in the name of all that's holy, should we find the words of evil morons "authoritative"?

Ratzinger/Benedict continues to sentence people gullible enough to obey his moronic edits to suffer and die ... for what? For the sake of the highly dubious "morality" of ancient nomadic goatherds who thought sex was "evil" unless it was sanctioned by marriage? Well, according to the Bible they regularly practiced slavery, sex slavery, ethnic cleansing, infanticide, matricide and genocide "in the name of God." With "morals" like that, why should we pay any attention at all to other things they said, such as extramarital sex being a "sin"? 

Here's the most realistic assessment of Benedict's book that I've read to date: "it reads like a brief for the defense of Benedict's gaffe-prone reign—a defense that seems to be the main goal of the project."

If this is the best "defense" the evil moron can mount, I say it's time to start the trials for crimes against humanity!

The one sure cure for HIV

Ratzinger/Benedict insists that the 1968 Catholic encyclical Humanae vitae, in which Pope Paul VI explained the church's opposition to artificial contraception, still holds, saying: "the basic lines of Humanae vitae are still correct."

He also champions the "rhythm method," calling it "not just a method but a way of life."

A "way of life"? But then of course the Bible contains verses which command the murder of rape victims (Deuteronomy 22), fathers selling their daughters as sex slaves with the option to buy them back if they're not "pleasing" to their new masters (Exodus 21), and the slaughter of captured women and children (Numbers 31) ... so perhaps a primitive method of birth control might be considered progress toward a way of life, by people mired in Stone Age religious texts who have never been honest about the source of their "wisdom."

Ratzinger/Benedict added, "And that [rhythm method] is something fundamentally different from when I take the pill without binding myself interiorly to another person, so that I can jump into bed with a random acquaintance."

Obviously, one should always consult septuagenarian virgins on matters of sex, marriage and birth control!

Ratzinger/Benedict also reiterated the church's position that abstinence and marital fidelity are the only sure ways to prevent HIV.

Duh, but so what? Obviously everyone on the planet is not going to abstain from sex until marriage, then find the perfect spouse on the first try and never have sex with anyone else. What percentage of American Christians have  had sex with only one person, whom they ended up marrying "till death do them part"? Most Americans are sexually liberated, and so are people in many other countries. Why pretend that abstinence and marital fidelity can solve the problem, when obviously they can't because very few modern human beings are willing to limit themselves to a single sexual partner?

Priests should lie, rather than be honest!

Here's another less-than-golden nugget of the pope's infallible wisdom: "In the book, the pope also confirms that gay men, even if chaste, cannot be priests and says they should not reveal their sexual orientation if they have already been ordained."

Now, let's get this straight. According to the "Light of the World," priests should lie about their sexual orientation if they have already been ordained, but tell the truth if they haven't? Aren't Christians supposed to tell the truth? Ah, but the reason for the duplicity is rather obvious to anyone who has studied recent Roman Catholic Church history: the Vatican is amazingly reluctant to defrock priests, even if they're serial child molestors. [Please understand that I am not making any connection between sexual orientation and pedophilia, or implying that homosexuality is in any way "wrong."  I personally believe that we should allow consenting adults to have sex as they please, and protect children from all pedophiles. My arguments here are strictly in response to the illogic of what Ratzinger/Benedict and legions of other evil morons have said on such matters and should be taken in that context.] What's the point of worrying about priests who lie to their congregations about their sexuality, if serial pedophiles are going to be employed for life? And of course Ratzinger/Benedict and many popes before him have obviously lied about being able to speak "infallibly," so why pick on their underlings who lie?

Here, as elsewhere, Ratzinger/Benedict makes no sense whatsoever. If he's not going to fire gay priests, why force them to lie about their sexuality? Is it better to be a dishonest gay priest than an honest gay priest? Is this the wisdom of the "Light of the World"that it's better to lie than be honest about who you are?

Ratzinger/Benedict takes a hard line against homosexuals, saying they cannot be ordained even if they are chaste because gay men do not "sacrifice" marriage as straight men do." He also says that persons who are "affected" with homosexuality "must at least try not to express this inclination actively, in order to remain true to the intrinsic mission of their office." It seems the "Light of the World" is a heartless, insensitive bigot who fails to comprehend that celibate gay priests can feel just as lonely as celibate heterosexual priests.

Ratzinger/Benedict calls the presence of homosexuals in holy orders "one of the disturbing problems" of the church—a phrase originally translated as "one of miseries of the Church." The U.S. publisher of Light of the World, Ignatius Press, says the wording will be changed from "miseries" to "disturbing things" in subsequent editions.

Is that the wisdom of the "Light of the World"to call one's fellow employees "miseries" for being the way God made them? Does calling them (or their presence) "disturbing things" really help, in any understandable way?

It seems the book was rushed into print—perhaps "a sign of the Vatican's anxiety to begin deflecting the pope's bad press." Ignatius reportedly had "just a few weeks to translate and print the volume from the original German."

Is it really wise to rush such moronic "wisdom" to press?

Sexual discrimination is not sexual discrimination, when it's practiced by evil morons!

Ratzinger/Benedict continues to ban the ordination of women as priests—which he says is not discrimination but the way Jesus wanted the church to be set up. But of course Jesus never said anything about the organization of the church, did he? So perhaps we shouldn't believe everything the "Light of the World" tells us. After all, morons have been known to get all sorts of things wrong. It's their claim to fame.

Et tu, Brute?

Ratzinger/Benedict also says divorced and remarried Catholics should resign themselves to the fact that they cannot receive communion.

But hold on just a pea-pickin' second: isn't receiving the sacraments required for salvation, according to Catholic theology? Is Ratzinger/Benedict in effect condemning people to hell for divorcing and remarrying? Et tu, Brute?

Yet another nugget of eternal wisdom from the "Light of the World"

Ratzinger/Benedict also reiterates the church's ban on artificial birth control, explaining how it differs from natural birth control, which the church allows.

Ah, yes! The nigh-infallible "rhythm" and "pull-out" methods. Did Yahweh or Jesus actually say that "natural" birth control is "better" than artificial birth control, or did evil morons come up with that bit of sage advice on their own?

Ratzinger/Benedict muses: "How many children are killed who might one day have been geniuses, who could have given humanity something new, who could have given us a new Mozart or some new technical discovery?"

What he fails to ask is how many unwanted and/or disadvantaged children have committed suicide or grown up to become rapists, child abusers and murderers. Furthermore, geniuses have frequently pointed out that earthly life is no bed of roses. Mark Twain and Albert Einstein both opined that no wise man would ever choose to live another life on earth. Why not be honest, and admit that many children are desperately unhappy with life, and that many people chose to end their lives prematurely?  

The only duty of a priest is ... ta-da! ... to recognize the authority of the pope!

Ratzinger/Benedict also defends his decision to lift the excommunications of four right-wing bishops, one of whom—Richard Williamson—is a Holocaust-denier. Benedict now regrets pardoning Williamson. "Unfortunately," he says, "none of us went on the Internet to find out what sort of person we were dealing with."

Egad, is this the wisdom of the "Light of the World"? Ten-year-olds use Google, so why can't the brainiacs in charge of the Vatican?

Ratzinger/Benedict "defends the decision to lift the excommunications, saying that whatever their views on a range of topics he had no choice under canon law but to rehabilitate them since the bishops wrote him a letter formally recognizing his authority—the issue that had originally led to their expulsion."

Egad, such hubris! Who cares if priests are serial pedophiles or Holocaust deniers, as long as they recognize the "authority" of evil morons (er, popes)! Such is the amazing wisdom of the "Light of the World"!

The media is at fault, for reporting what Ratzinger/Benedict failed to do!

According to Ratzinger/Benedict, the media was at fault for its "readiness for aggression" which led to his recent public relations debacles. Quite obviously, the problem wasn't that he failed to fire serial pedophiles and hand them over to the authorities, but that the media did its job and reported what he failed to do!

And of course society is also to blame!

According to one reviewer, "In general, Benedict sticks to a favorite conservative talking point that blames a relaxation of societal mores in the 1960s and 1970s as the root cause of the abuses."

Let's see if this makes any sense whatsoever: the sexual abuse of children, and the cover-ups of those abuses, which occurred within the highly conservative Catholic Church, were the fault of a liberal, secular society? Thus, priests who molest children and the higher-ups who protect them should not be criticized? Is this the wisdom of the "Light of the World," or a crock of shit? Shouldn't the Catholic Church set an example for secular society, rather than the other way around? How many billion-dollar corporations other than the Roman Catholic Church protect and continue to employ and pay pedophiles? Perhaps the Vatican should consider adopting Google's motto: Don't be evil!

More casting rather than accepting blame, from the "Light of the World"!

According to another reviewer, Ratzinger/Benedict "rips into some of his usual bogey men, such as liberation theology and liberal believers in the West who are agitating for reforms. Pope Benedict says of these people with functional hearts and brains: "It is sad that there are what you might call professional Catholics who make a living on their Catholicism, but in whom the spring of faith flows only faintly, in a few scattered drops."

In other words, unless a Catholic is a chauvinistic, bigoted, gay-bashing troglodyte, "the spring of faith flows only faintly" in him.

Yet another attempt at casting blame ... at the very people who elected the "Light of the World"!

According to Ratzinger/Benedict: "I am the person who happens to have been chosen—the cardinals are also to blame for that—and I do what I can."

I assume he means that he does what he can to destroy human happiness.

Cults should continue their founders' work, even when they were child molesters and embezzlers!

Ratzinger/Benedict also tells Seewald that the Legion of Christ, an ultra-conservative, cult-like order whose founder, Father Marcial Maciel Degollado, was exposed as a notorious molester and embezzler, "is sound" and says its members should continue Degollado's mission.

That sounds suspiciously like "business as usual" to me. But in this case let's give Ratzinger/Benedict the benefit of the doubt.

Is it a Divine Law that evil morons must never resign?

Ratzinger/Benedict opined that if a pope is no longer physically, mentally or spiritually capable of doing his job, he has the "right, and under some circumstances, also an obligation to resign." Benedict's mental faculties have obviously failed him repeatedly, so what's he waiting for? But of course no pope has retired in the last 600 years and popes are notorious liars, so we shouldn't take him seriously, much less at his word. How can anyone believe popes are being truthful about their super-power, infallibility, considering how frequently and dramatically they have changed their tunes? Popes say they are capable of speaking infallibly and that the Church in its teachings is infallible. But ...

As late as 1866 popes like Pius IX were saying that slavery was not wrong according to either natural or divine law.
As late as 1854 a succession of popes had clearly stated that only Roman Catholics could be saved.
As late as 1830 a succession of popes had clearly taught that charging interest on loans was a sin. 
But the church's teachings about slavery, salvation and usury changed radically. What was legal (slavery) became an abomination. What was illegal (usury) became legal (the Vatican has its own bank). Even the Church's teaching about its main function (salvation) changed radically.
So obviously the church's teachings earlier teachings were fallible, or its current teachings must be.

Here are some other highly dubious "infallible" teachings of the Church, which are likely to change, hopefully soon:

The use of contraceptives is a "sin." (The Bible says virtually nothing about contraception, other than warning a man not to "spill their seed" when having sex with his deceased brother's widow; the idea being that the living brother should make sure his dead brother's line didn't die out.)
Unbaptized babies go to "hell" or "limbo." (Jesus, Paul and the apostles never mentioned the need for infant baptism, or anything about babies being in danger of "hell" or "limbo.")
Priests cannot marry. (The first pope, Peter, was married.)
Pope John Paul II declared that the ban on woman priests had been "set forth infallibly." (And yet the New Testament clearly says that a woman named Junia was "foremost among the apostles.")

Is the Dark Side of the Force with Pope Benedict?

The 83-year-old pope says he feels as if his "forces are diminishing" but in my professional estimation [I'm an editor and publisher of Holocaust poetry] the Dark Side of the Force seems not only to be with him, but to be continually gathering strength.

Even evil morons must have strict dress codes!

Ratzinger/Benedict "expresses regret that he must always wear a white cassock, even in the privacy of his apartment" because he was told that Pope John Paul II "always wore a cassock, and so must you," by one of John Paul's aides when he became pope in April 2005. So it seems the "Light of the World" is a slave to fashion and conformity.

Popes are human too, along with being "infallible" and the "Light of the World"

Ratzinger/Benedict also defends himself over the "first great controversy of his papacy," a Sept. 12, 2006 address in which he "seemed to equate Islam with violence and fanaticism and thereby prompted violent reactions from some Muslims."

"I had conceived and delivered the lecture as a strictly academic address"—Benedict, a career theologian says—"without realizing that people don't read papal lectures as academic presentations, but as political statements."

It seems Papal infallibility isn't all it's cracked up to be! Oh, if only the Holy Spirit knew when enough was enough . . .

The real problem explained by the "Light of the World"

Ratzinger/Benedict also contends that the real "battle lines" today are not between Christianity and Islam but between "radical secularism ... and the question of God, in its various forms."

Well, if the Vicar of Christ is yet another evil moron, in a long line of evil morons, that does raise valid questions about the "God" he claims to represent, doesn't it?

Should evil morons speak more, or less?

Ratzinger/Benedict expressed surprise at the scale of clerical sex abuse and acknowledged that the Vatican could have better communicated its responses, saying: "One can always wonder whether the pope should not speak more often."

I believe that by now it's abundantly clear that the "Light of the World" should speak far less often, or preferably, never.

Amen

The HyperTexts