Home > Culture > The Pope’s war: why Ratzinger’s crusade has imperiled the Church and how it can be saved

The Pope’s war: why Ratzinger’s crusade has imperiled the Church and how it can be saved

Sterling Ethos

2011, RRP $14.95

Reviewed by Noel Preston

I first encountered Matthew Fox in the early 1990s when I read The Coming of the Cosmic Christ.

He was then a priest within the Catholic Dominican Order, and already a prolific theologian whose special interest was named "Creation Spirituality" (an amalgam of mysticism, liberation theology and eco-theology).

Personally, I was greatly enriched by his writings.

Matthew Fox is well placed to critique "the war" which has raged within Roman Catholicism under the past two popes. Fox's teachings drew the ire of the Vatican, in particular, Cardinal Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict) who was then head of the Congregation of Faith and Doctrine. I followed closely the saga which led to Fox's silencing by Rome and eventual expulsion from his Order.

He is now an Episcopalian priest, though essentially non-denominational.

Published attacks on organised religion are not uncommon. Rightly or wrongly, the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church, in particular, has been a target.

The Pope's war by Matthew Fox adds significantly to the case that the Vatican bureaucracy, under the papacies of John Paul II and Benedict XVI, has reversed the reforms of the Second Vatican Council (first convened by John XXIII) and thereby entrenched an anachronistic medieval institution.

Moreover, he demonstrates how, in the process of defending the Roman Curia's version of orthodoxy, the present pope and his predecessor have failed to deal with the institutional disease of sexual abuse of children perpetrated in the ranks of the celibate clergy, while at the same time corrupting the church by supporting what many allege are secretive organisations within the church (e.g. Opus Dei).

At the same time, says Fox, these popes have waged war against prophetic and progressive voices by officially silencing scores of theologians and pastoral leaders.

As always, the author's passion is inspiring, especially as it rightly honours those many "saints", living and from the past, who have been formed in the crucible of a truly catholic (diverse and inclusive) Christianity whose priority is justice for the most disadvantaged.