The Pope's War: Why Ratzinger's Secret Crusade has imperiled the church and How it can be saved
The Pope’s War offers a provocative look at three decades of corruption in the Catholic Church, focusing on Joseph Ratzinger, Pope Benedict XVI, and how the devastation the past two papacies has wrought can be a blessing in disguise to reinvent Christianity for a third millennium.
An internationally acclaimed theologian who was a member of the Dominican Order for thirty-four years, Matthew Fox was forbidden to teach theology by the then-cardinal in 1988 and was later dismissed from the order. Now he presents insights from his twelve-year, up-close-and-personal battle with Ratzinger, tracing the historical roots of degradation in the Church and offering a new way to understand why Benedict XVI is mired in crisis as pope.
Fox begins with Ratzinger’s life story as a youth and as an upcoming theologian at the Second Vatican Council as well as his “conversion” from progressive thinker to ecclesial climber and chief inquisitor. Also covered are eight of the 110 theologians that Ratzinger silenced and denounced. He next turns to Ratzinger’s allies—Opus Dei, the Legion of Christ, and Communion and Liberation—three of the special groups that he praised and protected for years while attacking theologians and spiritual movements that did not fit his criteria of über right-wing politics and religiosity. He also explores what has created the priestly pedophilia crisis in the Church and examines Ratzinger’s role in its cover-up. Finally, Fox delivers his vision for a new Catholicism—one that is not Vatican-based but truly universal, celebrating critical thinking, diversity, and justice.
Both analytical and hopeful, The Pope’s War not only presents insights into the state of the Catholic Church today, but also provides inspiration for the dawn of a new spiritual era.
Endorsements of The Pope's War
“Matthew Fox's new book The Pope's War is a magnificent and searing indictment of the current Pope and the corrupt craziness of the Vatican. This book should be read by everybody, not only for its ferocious courage, but also for its vision for what needs to be saved from the destructive forces that threaten authentic Christianity. Matt Fox is in my opinion, the most important prophetic Christian voice and is someone I have learnt greatly from and admire deeply. Please read this book and watch Matt's excellent YouTube presentations.”
— Dr. Andrew Harvey, author of Teachings of Rumi,
The Hope, and many more books.
“This book could be the match that ignites a fiery reawakening within the Catholic Church.”
— Brian Thomas Swimme, cosmologist and author of
The Universe is a Green Dragon and The Heart of the Universe
“Prophecy involves confronting pain and encountering beauty, both for the prophet and whoever listens attentively. For forty years, Matthew Fox has been America’s principal prophet to the Roman Catholic Church….Fox is not merely a pundit, content to analyze the gravity of our predicament. As a prophet he sees the way forward and articulates that way. What has been repressed, after all, by the Vatican’s bureaucracy is not merely a political alternative to its rule by denial, but the movement of Spirit through men and women who have willingly paid the price for speaking and acting on behalf of their vision of a genuinely apostolic Christianity, where care for the poor and embracing diversity are once again virtues.
Cardinal Ratzinger wanted to silence Matthew Fox. He failed. All such efforts will fail in the long run, because part of the beauty of prophecy is that, through all the pain it endures, its resources lie much deeper than human pretensions to power.”
— Bruce Chilton, author of Rabbi Jesus, Rabbi Paul,
Mary Magdalene: A Biography, The Way of Jesus
"The presence of Matthew Fox in our world today is a blessing on many counts: his indefatigable scholarship, his creative response to the needs of our time, his love of life and passion for justice.
All of these are evident in The Pope's War; but as I reread this clear-eyed report on the plight of the Catholic Church, what strikes me as the greatest gift of all is Matt's sheer courage in telling the truth.
The book blazes with the necessity and power of truth-speaking. And it shines all the brighter in our current political climate, which grows daily more befogged by deception. We are reminded once again that no healing or redemption can happen unless we dare to open our eyes and see where we are. "
— Joanna Macy, author, Active Hope: How to Face the Mess We're in Without Going Crazy
“In the gripping The Pope’s War, Matthew Fox takes an unwavering look at the layers of corruption in the Catholic Church, holding moral truth against power.”
— Jason Berry, author of Vows of Silence: The Abuse of Power in the Papacy of John Paul II
Press Coverage of the Italian Edition
The Italian edition of The Pope's War was released in March 2012; reviews will be posted shortly. Following are the advance interviews accompanying its release:
Il teologo che sogna la Chiesa del Concilio . Francesco Pacifico, La Repubblica, May 2012 (interview on the Italian edition of The Pope’s War, with a link to purchase the book)
The Theologian Who Dreams Of The Church Of The Council English version of the published La Repubblica interview (full text of the interview here)
Reviews from the German Edition
The following reviews were published upon the release of the German edition of The Pope's War in September 2011
Clarification and Truth About Ratzinger
For a long time I have critically studied the history of the church and vigilantly watched the scandalous ideas and activities from Ratzinger that have nothing to do with the teachings of Jesus. Of all the publications dealing with these problems, the outstanding book “Ratzinger und sein Kreuzzug”(in English, “The Pope’s War”) by Matthew Fox is particularly worth reading.
It contains very interesting information about the current pope including some that is to this point unknown and appalling – for example information concerning Opus Dei and the Legion of Christ. Such an extraordinary and thrilling book as this, that serves the purpose of clarification and truth, should be warmly recommended like hardly any other! It most definitely deserves a much larger dissemination.
Bernd Wagenbach Director of Studies (retired), Helga Simon-Wagenbach
Pope Benedict XVI– A Man of War and a “Murderer”of Theology?
The American theologian and former Dominican Monk Matthew Fox, who is known worldwide, describes with brilliant clarity Ratzinger’s thirty year long dictatorship in the Vatican and his part in the cover-up of pedophile scandals and inquisition-like crusades against a large number of theologians and spiritual teachers who don’t conform to his political views and his course back into the religious Dark Ages.
It is obvious that Joseph Ratzinger has exchanged his soul for power. Matthew Fox refers to Pope Benedict XVI as a “murderer of theology” and a “man of war.” The current book of the now 71 year old professor of Creation Spirituality is appalling and illustrates how fraudulent and far from Christ the institution of the Roman-Catholic “faith corporation” has been steered.
Roland R. Ropers, Philosopher of religion and publicist
Much Truth and Insights into Ratzinger’s Style of Leadership This book is a must-read for every Catholic and interested Christian because it points out Ratzinger’s schemings and his way of fraudulently concealing facts in clear and factual language without becoming spiteful or biased. (My compliments to the translator for the excellent translation.)
The book explains a “theology of obedience” that affects our every day lives. A theology that conceals crimes against children and teenagers, deliberately keeps them secret and even shields, protects and promotes the bishops and cardinals involved. Ratzinger argues for compassion where openness and justice should be called for. Is this an “intact theology.” one that can reach people and is open and willing to reform?
This book, that I highly recommend to every interested and questioning person, raises serious concerns in me and stirs me up. As a former member of the Roman Catholic Church, I too belong to those Christians who lament the deterioration of a society that with this behavior sees itself deprived of another one of its supports. The great amount of people leaving this institution point the same way.
Here and all over the world we find many examples showing how the Vatican operates--Ratzinger has silenced good theologians who had been teaching inspiring, stimulating messages – for instance in the issue of women’s rights - that could bring change. This has been done by dismissing them from the church against their own will. This book explains the background and mechanisms involved in these cases. Matthew Fox, for whom I wish many readers for his book, belongs to this group of theologians compromised by the Vatican.
Perhaps this book will lead to an enhanced exchange between its readers, so that together we can focus on these grievances! That would be desirable! As always change can only be brought about when we ourselves as members of our society become active and express ourselves!
A Meaningful Contribution to an Essential and Necessary Turning Point in History
At the end of his diagnosis Matthew Fox, among other things, points out 25 tangible steps for the revitalization of Christian communities. Everyone who still relies on Pope Benedict and the cardinals, bishops and priests enslaved by him should very attentively read this book. It is about the urgently needed revolution of spirituality.
Matthew Fox is not only touching on raw nerves, he is also offering ways for healing. His main concept for this is what he calls creation spirituality. He sees it as the antithesis to the original sin model, which traditional clerics have used to exercise control and power through suggestively assigning guilt and awakening shame. It is a hubris, which Fox counters with spirituality, and is based on four pillars: joy and reverence, letting go and suffering, creativity, justice and compassion. He refers to Christian mystics, like Meister Eckhart, Hildegard of Bingen and Thomas Aquinas.
Why is the book from Matthew Fox also so important for non-Catholics? It is important because like Alan Posener did in 2009, Fox points out the inner encrustation of an apparatus of power that is deciding on the benchmarks for the salvation of a billion people. Fox describes the pontificate of Benedict XVI as a disastrous succession of harassment, paternalism and oppression of homosexuals, children, women and critical theologians. One can only highly recommend his book as it is a plea for true spirituality and is a meaningful contribution to an essential and necessary turning point in history!
Rating: five stars – excellent!
Reviews for the English Edition
The Pope's War: why Ratzinger's crusade has imperiled the Church and how it can be saved - Noel Preston's review is published in Journey, Journal of the Uniting Church of Australia, Queensland Synod
The distinguished theologian, Matthew Fox, holds nothing back about his views of the Catholic Church, in particular with the Vatican and the Pope. Once a Dominican priest, Father Fox has been a victim of silencing, along with a number of other Catholic theologians. Silent no longer, the author describes how the Roman Church has subverted the works of Vatican II, and returns the Church to the pre-Vatican character of authoritarianism. The book is a fascinating read about the detailed and docomented events that occurred among church leaders from the time of Liberation Theology to the present.
In this gripping book Matthew Fox puts a viewfinder on corruption in the Catholic Church, intellectual and otherwise. With an unwavering lens, Fox probes the linkage between Vatican theological injustice to church scholars, and bishops who concealed child molesting priests yet evaded punishment for dereliction of duty. As he goes deeper, holding moral truth against power, Fox carries a fire of idealism, the kind worth lighting every day.
-- Jason Berry author of Render Unto Rome: The Secret Life of Money in the Catholic Church and Vows of Silence: The Abuse of Power in the Papacy of John Paul II (with Gerald Renner)
A fascinating and "right-on-target" book that fearlessly goes where many fear to tread....right to the heart of the matter. Fox carefully and accurately documents the campaign of Josef Ratzinger, now Benedict XVI, to re-shape the global church into how he believes it should act, think and look. This is not an angry harangue or an emotional diatribe made up of assertions and accusations that lack foundation. Matt Fox provides detailed stories of the key campaigns by Ratzinger to shut down anyone or anything that does not fit into his vision of Church….Matt takes a critical and shocking look at the Opus Dei, Legion of Christ and Communion and Liberation, comparing their cult-like, oppressive modus operandi to basic Christianity.
The section on change is invaluable as a detailed summary in one place of how a spiritual entity grounded in Christian compassion can come back to life. Twenty years ago Matt's thinking on spirituality, creation theology and living liturgy may have seemed radical to many but today it comes through as a massive breath of air, not just fresh air but air.....a commodity not much in evidence in the present-day institution which appears every day to be choking more and more on its own self-created vacuum. The book is well thought out and very well-written. It doesn't use a lot of "church" language that most people don't understand. Matt shoots straight and gets the point across clearly and without equivocation. The first section on the Ratzinger campaign may appear depressing, which in itself it is, but the proposed solution is filled with light, life and hope.
--Father Thomas P. Doyle, O.P., author of Sex, Priests and Secret Codes: The Catholic Church's 2,000 year Paper Trail of Sexual Abuse expert witness for over 20 years on priestly sexual abuse cases, winner of the “Priest of Integrity” award from Voice of the Faithful
A thorough and mostly temperate critique of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger/Pope Benedict XVI.
One of the greatest strengths of Fox's lucid book is his discussion of grief in the last chapter. He lists more than a dozen items that have led many Catholics in the United States and elsewhere in the world today to feel betrayed by the actions of Ratzinger/Benedict and by Pope John-Paul II. Fox correctly urges people who have felt such betrayal to pay attention to their grief.
--Thomas J. Farrell author of Walter Ong's Contributions to Cultural Studies: The Phenomenology of the Word and I-Thou Connections
If you have wondered why the institutional Church places more emphasis on dogma than on the teachings of Jesus, this book will be enlightening. If you wonder why the holy principles of Vatican II seem to have been forsaken, Matthew Fox will explain why. If you have been unnerved and unsettled by conservative groups like Opus Dei, The Legion of Christ, and Communion and Liberation, the author will make the hair on your arms stand on end in his account of how they function and receive inside support.
The book is lucidly written, thoroughly documented, and terribly moving. Matthew Fox is impressive for not succumbing to easy anger and crippling bitterness about how he has been mistreated, but uses the painful experience of being silenced and rejected as motivation to articulate a vision of how the Church can and must serve the principles of Jesus if it is to remain relevant to the spiritual lives of people today
Many readers, like this one, will find in Matthew Fox the champion and ally for which they have been searching, a prophet and seer they did not know was in their midst.
--Norbert Krapf Indiana Poet Laureate author of Bloodroot; The Ripest Moments: Invisible Presence; Sweet Sister Moon; Blue-Eyes Grass: Poems of Germany; Bittersweet Along the Expressway
Ratzinger's connection to Right Wing groups like Opus Dei, his rejection of progressive theology such as Fox's Creation Spirituality movement and the Liberation Theology movement in Latin America, has led to a massive and systematic repression of anyone working for the poor, for the rights of women and homosexuals, and for truly creative and dynamic theology.
Seduced by the flawless public image of John Paul II and American cold war propaganda that equated Liberation Theology with the USSR, the media said little as Liberation Theology in Latin America was crushed. One by one, theologians and priests who had stood by the poor against often-violent oppression--with US complicity--were silenced. ….The result, years later, has been two-fold: The work the Catholic church had been doing to seek a more just society has been curtailed, leading leftists and intellectuals to abandon religion altogether; second, fundamentalist sects--and it is no coincidence that these have been supported by the same Right Wing North Americans who fought Liberation Theology--have gained a strong foothold in Latin America as people seek more vibrant forms of worship.
So why should those of us not in the Church care? First, Ratzinger and his ilk promote a total rejection--again, regressing to the pre-Vatican II days--of other faiths. He has rehabilitated open Holocaust deniers and openly criticized Islam. Such an approach makes interfaith spirituality impossible. The Catholic tradition--for all its baggage--has much to teach the world. Unfortunately, a pathological emphasis on orthodoxy, a false unity that, as Fox points out, lacks the diversity that authentic unity requires, has resulted in much of its truth being obscured.
Second, Ratzinger's "crusade" is political as well as theological. He has supported groups with open Right Wing agendas. The impact of his policies in the Catholic world is felt by all, Catholic and non-Catholic.
Third, the lack of rigor in our media when it comes to the Pope--even in today's anti-intellectual climate, it is shocking--allows people like John Paul II to become heroes. This is how his ideas can affect not only the Church, but also other institutions.
Finally, Ratzinger's theology has left the Catholic Church on the sidelines of the pursuit of what Fox calls a post-modern spirituality, a spirituality than can give birth to a worldview capable of dealing with myriad problems humanity faces. How can a body-denying, Earth-despising, sexually repressed spirituality deal with such issues as climate change? How can a spirituality that won't speak of justice and sentimentalizes the poor deal with global poverty?
Fox's book, while exposing many of the problems with Ratzinger's Papacy, ultimately focuses on the work that got Fox silenced in the first place--reimagining religion in the post-modern context. As Fox points out, there is a role for religion, for Christianity, and for Catholicism in this work--what Thomas Berry calls "The Great Work"--a role that secularism has not entirely filled. Regardless of one's religion, or lack thereof, The Pope's War is worth reading.
-- Theodore Richards author of Cosmosophia: Cosmology, Mysticism, and the Birth of a New Myth
An insightful perspective from the most read Catholic theologian in North America and how there is an attempt by our hierarchy to move our faith closer to Fundamentalism. Want to know why our children are not interested in church and why they feel it does not meet their spiritual needs? This man definitely offers a piece to the puzzle.
Not for the light of heart or those inclined to blind obedience….A great read for those who want theologians to have the freedom of thought to explore spirituality in a more true sense of Catholic tradition without the threat of harassment and coercion.
What happened to Liberation Theology, the message of Vatican II? Fox is connecting all the dots for me; why we find ourselves where we are today as Catholics, but more important, he points the way to where we need to go and "what we need to save from the burning building". This is a must read for every thinking Catholic and especially for every Catholic woman!!! Not just Catholics, but anyone who seeks an inside view of the Vatican and how it operates in the world….Fox's list of those silenced by the Vatican will astound you. Maybe if these brave voices had been allowed to speak we would not find ourselves in the dysfunction of today's Vatican.
--Ellen Kennedy, a 61 year old Catholic woman, catechist, mother and grandmother
This book is a must-read for Catholics who are willing to learn what has been and is going on in the Catholic Church.
Fox makes the argument, and I believe validates the argument, that John Paul and Ratzinger, in tandem, narrowed the diversity of Roman Catholicism, silenced talk of real ecumenism, and, with their leadership selections, assured that such Popes as John XXIII and Paul VI never appear again.
Fox, in my mind, makes some very compelling points. The Roman Catholic Church has lost a great deal of theological credibility by silencing, in many cases, its most brilliant theological minds, and has very much lost its moral credibility in terms of sexuality. Their silence, John Paul's and Ratzinger's ignoring of the many sexual abuses coming to them for a very long time, and `rescue' of Bernard Law from Boston authorities when it was becoming painfully obvious that Law would be justifiably charged with a criminal cover up, are, in and of themselves criminal. Additionally, groups like Opus Dei and the Legion of Christ, raising money for the `poor' and using it for political influence is obscene.
--John E. Manzo
This book by Matthew Fox on the current denial in the Church is important for non-Catholics too as the takeover by the Right reflects the dynamics of the greater society.
Matthew Fox takes this denial head on. While denial seems to be winning--as it has in the society as a whole--one day it will end. Change will come as the young succeed the old. And as it does, the assessment will be that the papacies of JP II and Benedict were a dark time in the Church, and this record compiled by Matthew Fox and others will prevail.
--Charles M. Marsteller
Fox's prophetic sight in this book is set on the Vatican, but as a Protestant pastor, I am all too aware of our willingness to compromise for the sake of institutional survival. As always, Fox is speaking for an audience which transcends our worn out labels. You don't have to be a Catholic or even a Christian to find this an important read.
In this book Fox is modeling once again for us a way that leads to life. Denial and sentimentality will not get us to transformed systems. Mystical and prophetic practice will. This is what Jesus showed us and what Fox is trying to show us too.
His chapters on myths that Catholics need to surrender (such as celibate, male clergy only) and on treasures from the burning building which Catholicism has to offer are truly visionary. Something wonderful among us is longing to be born, and few people are engendering this birth with more depth and wisdom than Matthew Fox.
--John Monroe Protestant Pastor
Very informative and easy reading. It should be read by all Catholics whether they are active in church or not. It will give all people a better understanding of the reasons for the problems in the church. It will educate many Catholics on Vatican II intent and on the facts of many happenings of the past thirty years.
--R M O'Connell
The Catholic Church is in crisis. Millions have left its ranks. The credibility of its leadership has been severely damaged. The cover-up by its bishops of the worldwide sexual abuse and the mismanagement of its financial resources are the two main self-inflicted wounds that have left it bleeding in the streets.
The Pope's War provides historical background and an insightful analysis to the development of these crises. In light of consistent and vigorous papal efforts to reverse the teaching of Vatican II, Fox considers the last two papacies of John Paul II and Benedict XVI to be in schism; this is perhaps the most controversial of his assertions and one with far-reaching consequences. Logically, one of those consequences is the resignation of all those prelates appointed by the two popes.
The Pope's War is by no means a negative diatribe, as Fox recognizes the many positive values of the Church which he elaborates in his chapter of taking "treasures from the burning building" and in his final chapters on post-Vatican II Catholicism, and "twenty five concrete steps to take Christianity into the future." The Pope's War…is well worth careful reading and serious discussion.
--Michael J. Stephen