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No papal critics on Roman streetsImage: AP

"The Great Inquisitor" and His Critics

DW staff / AFP (tt)
April 21, 2005

While millions of Catholics around the globe were celebrating the election of their new leader, critics started voicing their concerns over the new pope as a harsh champion of staunch conservative values.


Pope Benedict XVI is no stranger to controversy. Following is a selection from his writings and interviews along with the statements from activists critical of some of his more conservative beliefs.

On women, children and reproductive rights

Benedict XVI:

"One of the fundamental values associated with the concrete life of a woman which ought to be mentioned is her 'capacity for the other.' Despite the fact that a certain feminist current promotes claims 'woman for herself,' women possess the profound intuition that the best part of their life consists in acting for the well-being of the other, for their growth and protection."

Zwei Nonnen machen eine Pause
Nuns at the ecumenical conference in Berlin in 2003Image: AP

"What is needed is a just evaluation of the work which the woman performs in the family. Women who wish to do so should be able to dedicate their whole time to household duties without being socially stigmatized or economically penalized. Those women who wish to have other kinds of employment as well could do it with an appropriate work rhythm without having to either give up their family life or be exposed to continuous stress, which is not beneficial to their personal balance or the harmony in the family." -- from the writings of the Catholic Faith Congregation for the Co-operation of Man and Woman in the Church and the World, Frankfurter Rundschau (Aug. 5, 2004)

"The pill has detached sexuality from reproduction and in this way fundamentally changed the concept of human life. The sexual act has lost its original purpose and goal, which was always obvious and indisputable. Consequently, all kinds of sexual acts became equal. This revolution was above all followed by the approximation of homosexuality to heterosexuality." -- Die Welt (Nov. 24, 2004)

"There is in Europe a peculiar disinclination toward the future. This is most clearly seen in the fact that children are considered a threat of the present; they are felt not as hope but as a limitation of the present. " -- Süddeutsche Zeitung (April 13, 2005)

Others have said:

"I fear the worst." -- Joelle Battestini, associate national convenor of the Ordination of Women, an Australian group

Frau mit Bügeleisen und Bügelbrett
Image: BilderBox

"One of the major changes I would have hoped for in a new pope was an openness to women." -- Sister Maureen Fiedler of We Are Church, a global movement of Catholics committed to renewal

"The history of this pope's understanding of women is a limited one." -- Benedictine Sister Joan Chittister

"We are surprised. Cardinal Ratzinger is a divisive person in the Church when we really needed someone to heal the Church." -- Joy Barnes of the Women's Ordination Conference

On homosexuality

Benedict XVI:

"Above all we have to show great respect for those people who also suffer and search for the right way of life that is appropriate to them. On the other hand, those people will not really be helped if we legalize a kind of homosexual marriage." -- "Die Welt" (Nov. 24, 2004)

Others have said:

Ehe von Homosexuellen
A gay couple getting married in Germany in 2001Image: dpa

"Ratzinger is more disdainful of homosexuality than John Paul II, with none of the late pope's expressed concern about harassment of, and violence against, homosexual people." -- Rodney Croome, spokesman for the Tasmanian Gay and Lesbian Rights Group

"This (new) pope has been violently homophobic. We are very worried." -- Gay Italian left-wing lawmaker Franco Grillini

"When I heard this morning that Ratzinger became pope, I was downhearted." -- Armando "Gino"' Ramos, co-chairman of the San Francisco branch of the US gay Catholic group DignityUSA

"This pope has already taken more rigid positions than John Paul II" -- Sergio Lo Giudice, president of the gay rights group Arcigay

"It looks like this particular cardinal will continue with the line on contraception, condoms, and HIV prevention that Pope John Paul II had. It's regrettable because that will impact so terribly on the lives of millions of people, particularly in the developing world." -- Tony Kerrigan, spokesman for London-based Marie Stopes International

On Islam and Europe

Benedict XVI:

Moschee in Kreuzberg
Muslims praying in a mosque in BerlinImage: AP

"Islam is very diverse and cannot be only reduced to those who are terrorists or those who are moderates. (…) The strong faith in God among the Muslims is a positive challenge for us: their awareness that we are subjects to divine judgement, along with their maintenance of moral assets and observation of norms, which shows the degree to which faith needs common ways of expression in order to survive. We have lost a little bit of that." -- Die Welt (Nov. 24, 2004)

Others have said:

"In his homily, he only talked about the problems of the Western world." -- German Jesuit Wolfgang Seibel

"It has to be disappointing to the Asians and Latin Americans and Africans in the Church." -- Progressive Vatican critic Paul Lakeland, a professor at the Jesuit Fairfield University in the northeastern US state of Connecticut

On the war on terror

"In all these cases, it is important that no single power appears as the protector of the law. It is all too easy to mix one's own interests with one's actions and blur the view of justice." -- Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (June 11, 2004)

On Hitler and the concept of "just war"

Benedict XVI:

"A criminal and his party followers in Germany managed to appropriate the power of the state (…) which is why the entire world had to interfere in order to break up the circle of crime and restore freedom and justice. (…) More than at any point in history, it is evident here that the intervention of the allied forces was a case of "bellum iustum" (just war), which ultimately also benefited those against whose land the war was being fought." -- Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (June 6, 2004)

On the new pope's conservative doctrine

Others have said:

Papst Benedikt im Petersdom
Benedict XVI at his first public appearance on TuesdayImage: AP

"In his record as head of the congregation responsible for doctrine, the new pope was clearly someone who held very, very strongly to a rigid line that most people have found to be a conservative line. And we hope, we hope, we hope very, very much that sitting on the papal throne will have the effect of easing the rigidities" -- South African Nobel Peace laureate Desmond Tutu

"He's a very conservative pope, the Church will turn in on itself." -- former Portuguese president Mario Soares

Benedict XVI is "ultra-orthodox," "the great inquisitor" and "what the Church needed the least at the moment." -- Uruguayan historian Gerardo Caetano

"Internal discipline in the Church will be even more stringent, while doctrine will be probably more rigid because the new pope believes the Church is the sole possessor of the truth, and civil society, governments and the entire world must simply follow it" -- former priest Javier Solis, from Costa Rica

"We expected exactly the opposite... the opening of the Church to the non-Catholic world, to other religions, other ideologies." -- Portuguese sociologist Moises Espirito Santo

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