Traditionalist former pope Benedict XVI accuses opponents of wanting to “silence” him, while associating gay marriage with “the Antichrist” and attacking “humanist ideologies,” in a new authorized biography published Monday in Germany.
The 93-year-old, whose original name is Joseph Ratzinger, claims in “Benedict XVI – A Life” that he has fallen victim to a “malignant distortion of reality” in reactions to his interventions in theological debates.
“The spectacle of reactions coming from German theology is so misguided and ill-willed that I would prefer not to speak of it,” he says.
The former pope — who dramatically resigned in 2013 — was especially criticized for a 2018 text that was seen as critical of the Jewish faith.
“I would rather not analyze the actual reasons why people want to silence my voice,” Benedict says.
In a controversial 2018 essay published in Communio, an international theological quarterly he helped found in 1972, Benedict denied that the Catholic Church had ever embraced “supersessionism,” the belief that Christianity was to replace Judaism, saying instead it came to supplant just some of its rituals. At the same time, he also argued the Christian interpretation of the Old Testament, the foundation text of Judaism, is the only correct one.
His views were criticized as providing a platform for anti-Semitism, with Rabbi Walter Homolka, executive director of the School of Jewish Theology at Potsdam University in Germany saying, “Whoever describes the role of Judaism like this is building the foundation for a new anti-Semitism on a Christian basis,” USA Today reported at the time.
The German branch of the Catholic Church has for years been led by clergy more disposed to reform than the stringent traditionalism associated with Ratzinger.
In office from 2005 to 2013, Benedict has frequently been criticized for his attitudes toward Islam and social questions, and is accused of attempting to undermine the modernization drive of his successor Pope Francis.
Ratzinger attempts to counter such claims in the biography, saying his “personal friendship with Pope Francis has not only endured, but grown.”
In February, Benedict was drawn into a Vatican intrigue when his private secretary was removed from Francis’ entourage.
Some observers had accused the former pope of backseat-driving when a book defending the hot topic of priestly celibacy appeared, bearing his name alongside that of arch-conservative Guinean cardinal Robert Sarah.
After 48 hours of controversy, Benedict asked that his name be removed from the book’s cover, introduction and jointly signed conclusion.
But he has not given up intervening in social debates, offering a fresh blast against gay marriage in the new biography.
“A century ago, anyone would have thought it absurd to talk about homosexual marriage. Today, those who oppose it are excommunicated from society,” Benedict says.
“It’s the same thing with abortion and creating human life in the laboratory,” he says, adding that it’s “only natural” for people to “fear the spiritual power of the Antichrist” — an evil force seeking to supplant Jesus Christ.
“The real threat to the Church… is in the global dictatorship of purportedly humanist ideologies,” he warns.