Papal Offense

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Just days after a Vatican official came out with an incredibly offensive endorsement of the bogus “palestinian right of return,” we now have to be subjected to more offensiveness from Pope Benedict XVI (aka Joseph Alois Ratzinger, not to be confused with that guy from Cheers).

Pope Benedict XVI strongly criticized atheism in a major document released Friday, saying it had led to some of the “greatest forms of cruelty and violations of justice” ever known.

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In the 76-page document, Benedict elaborated on how the Christian understanding of hope had changed in the modern age, when man sought to relieve the suffering and injustice in the world. Benedict points to two historical upheavals: the French Revolution and the proletarian revolution instigated by Karl Marx.

Benedict sharply criticizes Marx and the 19th and 20th century atheism spawned by his revolution, although he acknowledges that both were responding to the deep injustices of the time.

“A world marked by so much injustice, innocent suffering and cynicism of power cannot be the work of a good God,” he wrote. But he said the idea that mankind can do what God cannot by creating a new salvation on Earth was “both presumptuous and intrinsically false.”

“It is no accident that this idea has led to the greatest forms of cruelty and violations of justice,” he wrote. “A world which has to create its own justice is a world without hope.

He specifically cited Vladimir Lenin, the founder of the Soviet Union, and the “intermediate phase” of dictatorship that Marx saw as necessary in the revolution.

“This ‘intermediate phase’ we know all too well, and we also know how it then developed, not ushering in a perfect world, but leaving behind a trail of appalling destruction,” Benedict wrote.

“The pope’s concern is that you have secularizing forces that are trying to eliminate religion from public and private life,” said Monsignor Robert Wister, professor of church history at Seton Hall University in the United States.

“In most countries, political Marxism is dead (but) philosophical Marxism is very much alive and it fuels the secularizing philosophy often seen in Europe and North America,” Wister said.

Now don’t get me wrong. I believe wholeheartedly in one G-d. And I agree that supplanting the belief in a just G-d with a man-made ideology can have devastating consequences. However, it does not automatically follow – there are plenty of decent atheists in the world. Furthermore, I find it highly offensive that the Pope would single out atheism as leading to some of the “greatest forms of cruelty and violations of justice,” without acknowledging that the dogma of some monotheistic religions – his included – has also led to such cruelty and violations of justice, including anti-Semitism, the Crusades, and the Inquisition.

What makes this all the more galling is the fact that the Pope did see the need to be self-critical, yet only came up with this:



At the same time, Benedict also looks critically at the way modern Christianity had responded to the times, saying such a “self-critique” was also necessary.

“We must acknowledge that modern Christianity, faced with the successes of science in progressively structuring the world, has to a large extent restricted its attention to the individual and his salvation,” he wrote. “In doing so, it has limited the horizon of its hope and has failed to recognize sufficiently the greatness of its task.”

The Christian concept of hope and salvation, he says, was not always so individual-centric.

There’s a huge elephant in the room, but the Pope seems to have his hunting rifle handy.

Either that, or he’s just being forgetful again.

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An Aussie immigrant to Israel, David Lange is founder and managing editor of Israellycool. He is a happy family man, and a lover of steak, Australian sports and single malt whisky.