Interview published in il manifesto 2013.04.13 - 06 SOCIETÀ

INTERVIEWER - Eleonora Martini

Matthew Fox, American theologian and author of the book “The Pope's War” about “Ratzinger's secret crusade”. The Vatican will fall like the Berlin's wall. And perhaps Francis I will save the Church.

“It will fall just like the Berlin's Wall”. Matthew Fox formulated his prophecy on the Vatican more than two years ago in his book “The Pope's War. Why Ratzinger's Secret Crusade Has Imperiled the Church”, published in the USA in 2012. Today, as he is here in Rome to present the Italian edition published by Fazi (406 pages, 15 Euros), Fox has visited us in our Roman …  of the Manifesto. He says he is “unfazed yet happy” about Benedict XVI's resignation. “Some people in America say that he resigned because of my book, but humility demands that I do not take upon myself such burden”.

What pushed Joseph Ratzinger to resign, in your opinion?

I think he was tired. I would be tired as well if I had spent part of my career persecuting the free-thinkers within the Church, in fact re-establishing the Inquisition, destroying and persecuting the Theology of Liberation movement in South America, the more Christ-like movement that has sprung up in the last 500 years. Ratzinger has persecuted the Liberation Theology movement in order to substitute it with fascist and fundamentalist movements such as Opus Dei, Comunione e Liberazione, the Legionaries of Christ. At the end of my book there is a list of 105 theologians who have been silenced by Ratzinger's Inquisition, people who have lost their job and had their life wrecked because they were part of that popular movement. The Church imagined by Ratzinger is a system of obedience. Inside there are only yes-men without a conscience or intellect. It is obvious that the youth run away from churches.

In your book you describe Ratzinger's conversion after the year 1968, when he turned in fact into an opponent of the Second Vatican Council after having been one of its supporters. You say that Ratzinger's  theological route was motivated by his desire for power. What convinced then Ratzinger to give up? How much was his decision influenced by the scandals around the Vatican Bank, Vaticanleaks or the pedophile priests?

These things have contributed to his exhaustion, making possible for dark forces within the Curia to erupt. I think of father Marcian Maciel, the founder of the Legion of Christ, one of the favorite orders of John Paul II and cardinal Ratzinger. Thanks to several investigations, today we know that he raped 27 seminarians, had two wives, and that Ratzinger covered up for him for at least 10 years. In the US, people talk a lot about another scandal as well, that regarding a priest from Milwaukee who raped 200 kids living in an institute for the deaf. There is a documentary about this, and its main character is Ratzinger, who knew everything and covered up everything. This movie came out just before Benedict's resignation, and it should not be ruled out a link between the two. It is known as well that Ratzinger has commissioned three cardinals to investigate on the exploitation of male prostitutes within the Curia. According to what has been published on American newspapers about a month ago, he resigned six hours after having received such report. What truly surprises me, however, is the hypocrisy of such characters. Take the Scottish cardinal, for example, who has been prohibited to vote at the Conclave because he has been accused of sexual harassment by three priests, and yet he was a vehement opponent of gay marriage.

As a theologian, can you say that Ratzinger's pontificate failed in its attempt at bringing back the Church to doctrinal dogmas?

Ratzinger was elected to bring order back into the Church and clear out all differences in thinking which had developed after the Vatican II. Where there is creativity there is chaos as well, although it is interesting to observe that chaos has been often associated to the feminine dimension. Benedict XVI has repressed all creativity in the Church: this is the real scandal! As a theologian I could say that the last two popes have been a gift from the Holy Spirit in order to destroy the Church as we know it, thus favoring the rebirth of a new Church, one that has life and life's basic values such as justice and love as its own fundamentals.

In your book you say that Ratzinger's favorite enemies are Boff, Haring, Casaldaliga, and all the representatives of Liberation Theology, which cardinal Ratzinger called “a new kind of heresy”. How much the North-American cardinals in the Roman curia have influenced this war against Liberation Theology, which has been waged by the last two popes?

I think that, rather than cardinals, the main influence on John Paul II has been the CIA directly. Two months after the election of Reagan there was a meeting of the National Security Council (USA) just to discuss how to kill the Liberation Theology movement. After a week, they resolved that the only way was severing the Catholic Church and push the Vatican to destroy such Latin-American movement. We know that William Casey, who was then the head of CIA, visited John Paul II for 29 times. He was carrying bags full of cash, officially to support Solidarnosc, but asking in return that Liberation Theology would be contrasted. On the contrary, may bishops in the USA were pacifists and they supported Liberation Theology. For this reason they have been persecuted by the Vatican.

Since then things have changed. The last two popes have removed the Curia's top officials and they have placed right-wing extremists everywhere. There are no more progressive [bishops] around, neither in North America nor in South America. For example, Raztinger has placed two bishops of the Opus Dei in the biggest dioceses of the USA, Los Angeles and San Francisco. This is one of those neo-fascist religious movements well introduced in the American financial system, such as also the Legionaries of Christ, who are financed among others by William Casey and his wife.

Is Francis I the pope who, as you hope, will “destroy the Church as we know it” in order to rebuild it?

I hope that he wil measure up to the name that he has chosen, that he will be able to embody the values of justice and ecology which were those of St.Francis. And I hope that Bergoglio will be conscious, just as Francis was, of the importance of the balance between the two genders in the Church. I hope that he will have the courage to nominate women to the Curia, cleaning it from corruption, and especially that he will have the courage to eliminate the Inquisition completely. For this reason all of us, and especially the media, should be breathing down his neck all the time.

 Cardinal Jose Mario Bergoglio was also an opponent of Liberation Theology?

 Yes, he was. One has to understand, however, that while in Brasil and in Chile many bishops oppend the dictatoriship, Argentina was an exception. The majority of cardinals and bishops in Argentina, with few exceptions, did not oppose the colonels completely or in public. Surely Bergoglio did not. But the past is the past, what matters is whether he will be able to turn the page.

 Do you believe he will?

I hope. We will wait and see. But to set one's hopes too much on the pope is a serious mistake. We are the Church, we must free ourselves from repressive schemes. I am comforted to learn that Bergoglio was very close to the Jewish community in Argentina and that he defended the Anglican priests when Ratzinger tried to absorb them in the Roman Church, while asking in return that they take homophobic and sexist stances.

According to some Reuters news, a few days ago Francis I was musing about closing down the Vatican bank...

Saint Francis could only approve such a choice. What has the Church to do with a bank? But the main scandals with which he should wrestle are three: the financial, the sexual (for which he should make priestly celibacy optional as well as open to women), and then there is the theological problem. With the repression that has been enacted, in fact, the Church has no more free thinkers. Therefore, only with the elimination of the Inquisition it is truly possible to turn the page.

Yet Ratzinger is not dead and has not retired into a convent. At least for now, he lives in Rome. Do you think that his presence will influence the new pontificate?

A theory very much favored in the USA asserts that Ratzinger will stay within the Vatican's walls because he is at risk of being arrested.

Arrested? By whom?

In many different places in the world there are attempts at pressing charges against him for having induced many bishops and cardinals not to denounce cases [lit: “scandals”] of pedophilia, and that is a very serious crime in some countries. Obviously when you have two popes in the Vatican may create a difficult situation. The main danger is that the new pope might start serious reforms but then the supporters of the status quo could group around Ratzinger and he could help them create a coalition to resist the attempts at reform. That said, Ratzinger is old and tired, and does not have the pontifical power, while Bergoglio is a politician, a great communicator, and has a strong personality which is able to move around very nicely. So if Francis will make the right reforms Ratzinger will inevitably find himself at the margin.

Only a few days ago Bergoglio has made clear that in the fight against pedophilia he will follow Ratzinger's line. If this is true, following your reasoning, there will be no discontinuity with the cover-up strategy on sexual scandal that you deem it was adopted during Benedict's papacy...

It is difficult to say, as it depends on how you read Bergoglio's remark. In this case, as always, what counts are actions rather than words. The question is: will he entrust the pedophilia issue to somebody which puts the vulnerability of children above the “image of the institutional Church”, which anyway has been irremediably obscured by the sexual scandals?

Much has changed in recent times, yet a punitive policy for those bishops who ignore the pedophilia issue or help covering it up has not been instituted. The line taken by Benedict XVI has in no way helped to solve the problem, although he was taking the right direction towards the end of his pontificate, by comparison with his beginnings as a pope. To understand how mystifying is policy has been, I would like to remind that he covered up for years both Maciel and the pedophile priest from Milwaukee. Not only, but Benedict XVI designated card. Tarcisio Bertone as Secretary of State, who has been very close to the Mexican founder of the Legionaries of Christ, to the point that when he was entrusted with putting together a commission to study the Maciel case, that did not yield anything, but compelled the commissioners to keep in silence. For this Ratzinger made him cardinal and then Secretary of State.