WASHINGTON – Pope Benedict XVI, 85, is resigning just as the biblical family is under assault, the willingness to kill the unborn is at an all-time high and President Obama has launched a number of efforts that limit the free exercise of religion.
Catholics around the world were stunned to hear the news that Benedict will resign his pontificate Feb. 28. The pontiff said he chose to resign because of his advanced age and worry about his ability to lead the 1-billion member church.
Elected April 19, 2005, to succeed the highly regarded John Paul II, Benedict was the oldest man to be elected pope in nearly 300 years.
Benedict saw evil first-hand as a young boy.
Born Joseph Aloisius Ratzinger April 16, 1927, in Bavaria, he lived through the Great Depression in Germany and the horror of the National Socialist regime. In 1939 he, like all German 14-year-olds, was conscripted into the Hitler Youth.
He refused to attend meetings. Later he was conscripted as a child soldier; his elder brother Georg had been conscripted earlier. He risked his life in 1945 when he deserted and returned home.
He was interned as a POW by American forces who used his family’s home as a headquarters. He was released in June 1945. After his elder brother was released in July, the family joined together and sang “Mighty God, We Praise You.”
After the defeat of Nazi Germany in World War II, he and Georg were free to attend seminary. They were ordained together in 1951. The future pope was consecrated archbishop of Munich and Freising in 1977.
WND reported when Benedict called for the protection of the traditional family because it is “the authentic setting in which to hand on the blueprint of human existence.”
His position conflicts directly with Obama’s campaign for same-sex marriage, benefits for same-sex partners, open homosexuality in the U.S. military ranks and other similar efforts.
In his Christmas speech at the Vatican, Catholic News Service reported, Benedict said the same-sex “marriage” movement is based on false ideas of human nature that equate freedom with selfishness and present God-given sexual identities as a matter of individual choice to the profound detriment of human dignity.
“When freedom to be creative becomes the freedom to create oneself, then necessarily the Maker himself is denied and ultimately man too is stripped of his dignity as a creature of God,” he said at the time.
He even appeared to suggest that Catholics should work with members of other faiths to protect marriage.
Regarding Obama’s health care plan, the Vatican authorized Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone to warn: “Concerted efforts are being made to redefine and restrict the exercise of the right to religious freedom.”
Benedict had told American bishops repeatedly that the plan’s compulsory provision for contraception, including abortifacients, threatens religious freedoms.
In what only could have been a bold rebuke of the Obama administration in advance of the 2012 election, the Catholics Called to Witness released a video that explains what it considers the fundamental issues in the coming election: marriage, life and freedom.
The presentation mentioned no politician and called for no specific action but clearly targeted the policies of Obama, citing his Department of Health and Human Services. The campaign cited Benedict’s statements on life and liberty.
On its website, the group called out the DHHS for the implementation of Obamacare, because of a rule “stating that the full range of FDA-approved contraceptives are mandatory preventative services for women in all health plans.”
“This rule included a narrow religious exemption; however, the vast majority of faith-based organizations do not meet the criteria for this exemption. Catholic hospitals, schools, universities, and charitable organizations, for example, do not qualify. Neither do individuals.”
The organization said the reaction of Christians was “swift and united” but the Obama administration’s “accommodation” falls far short, because no written changes were made to the law.
Cardinal Timothy Dolan said at the time, “We did not ask for this fight, but we will not run from it.”
The video explained the church always has counted on the faithful to “stand up and protect her sacred rights and duties.”
Now, this generation of Catholics “must do the same.”
See the video:
The website notes it draws the "three non-negotiable principles" from instructions from Benedict.
Benedict also took on anti-Semitism, stating that Jews are not responsible for the death of Jesus.
In excerpts released then from his book "Jesus of Nazareth. Holy Week: From the Entrance Into Jerusalem to the Resurrection," the pontiff completely exonerated the Jewish people of any culpability of the death of Jesus.
"Now we must ask: Who exactly were Jesus' accusers? Who insisted that he be condemned to death?" the pope writes.
"We must take note of the different answers that the gospels give to this question. According to John it was simply 'the Jews.' But John's use of this expression does not in any way indicate – as the modern reader might suppose – the people of Israel in general, even less is it 'racist' in character. After all, John himself was ethnically a Jew, as were Jesus and all his followers.
"The entire early Christian community was made up of Jews. In John's Gospel this word has a precise and clearly defined meaning: he is referring to the Temple aristocracy. So the circle of accusers who instigate Jesus' death is precisely indicated in the Fourth Gospel and clearly limited: it is the Temple aristocracy – and not without certain exceptions, as the reference to Nicodemus (7:50–52) shows."
Benedict also has been concerned that faith in the public square is being squelched in modern society.
"I cannot but voice my concern at the increasing marginalization of religion, particularly of Christianity, that is taking place in some quarters," he said, "even in nations which place a great emphasis on tolerance.
"There are those who would advocate that the voice of religion be silenced, or at least relegated to the purely private sphere. There are those who argue that the public celebration of festivals such as Christmas should be discouraged, in the questionable belief that it might somehow offend those of other religions or none. And there are those who argue – paradoxically with the intention of eliminating discrimination – that Christians in public roles should be required at times to act against their conscience.
"These are worrying signs of a failure to appreciate not only the rights of believers to freedom of conscience and freedom of religion, but also the legitimate role of religion in the public square," he said.
WND columnist Les Kinsolving blasted a media headline that defamed the pope. The headline said "Pope describes touching boys: I went too far" even though the article had nothing to do with the pope.
He also criticized the White House for not calling out such behavior.
Benedict also was caught up in a controversy when he downplayed the effectiveness of condoms – only to have his opinion confirmed by science.
It was a senior Harvard research scientist who confirmed that Benedict, who endured heavy criticism for declaring that condom distribution programs worsen the AIDS epidemic in Africa, was correct.
Dr. Edward C. Green, director of the AIDS Prevention Research Project at the Harvard Center for Population and Development Studies, told National Review Online that despite AIDS activists and media outlets pounding the pope for downplaying the effectiveness of condoms, the science supports the Catholic leader's claim.
"The pope is correct," Green told NRO, "or put it a better way, the best evidence we have supports the pope's comments."
"There is," Green added, "a consistent association shown by our best studies, including the U.S.-funded 'Demographic Health Surveys,' between greater availability and use of condoms and higher (not lower) HIV-infection rates. This may be due in part to a phenomenon known as risk compensation, meaning that when one uses a risk-reduction 'technology' such as condoms, one often loses the benefit (reduction in risk) by 'compensating' or taking greater chances than one would take without the risk-reduction technology."
Aboard a plane traveling to Yaounde, Cameroon, a French reporter told Benedict that the Catholic approach to combating AIDS – encouraging monogamy within marriage and abstinence before – was often considered unrealistic and ineffective.
According to transcripts released by the Vatican, Benedict responded: "This problem of AIDS cannot be overcome merely with money, necessary though it is. If there is no human dimension, if Africans do not help [by responsible behavior], the problem cannot be overcome by the distribution of prophylactics: on the contrary, they increase it."
WND also reported when Benedict told ex-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, an ardent abortion advocate, that lawmakers need to protect life from conception to death.
The Vatican said Pelosi, a professing Catholic, and the pope met briefly in private and Benedict shared with the Democrat the church's teaching "on the dignity of human life from conception to natural death."
The Vatican's statement about the meeting confirmed Benedict told Pelosi that Catholics – and specifically political leaders – need to work toward a "just system of laws capable of protecting human life at all stages."
WND reported Pelosi's appearance on NBC's "Meet the Press" in which she spoke about the beginning of life:
I would say that as an ardent, practicing Catholic, this is an issue that I have studied for a long time. And what I know is over the centuries, the doctors of the church have not been able to make that definition … St. Augustine said at three months. We don't know. The point is, is that it shouldn't have an impact on the woman's right to choose.
Analysts conclude Benedict's tenure will be regarded as a period in which orthodox doctrine was enforced and outreaches to Protestant Christians were advanced.