Benedict XVI Besieged

Interview With Author of «Attack on Ratzinger»

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Share this Entry

By Antonio Gaspari

ROME, SEPT. 14, 2010 ( From Regensburg to the sexual abuse crisis, the international press has hammered away at Benedict XVI since the beginning of his pontificate.

That is the topic of «Attacco a Ratzinger: accuse scandali, profezie e complotti contro Benedetto XVI» (Attack on Ratzinger: scandalous accusations, prophecies and plots against Benedict XVI), written by noted Vatican watchers Paolo Rodari and Andrea Tornielli (published in Italian by Piemme).

Rodari writes for the Italian newspaper Il Foglio, and Tornielli writes for the Italian newspaper Il Giornale.

Tornielli sat down with ZENIT to discusse how the book reconstructs in great detail and with original and unpublished research the accusations leveled at the Pontiff, and the motivations that led to them.

Tornielli has published numerous successful books, among which the most recent are: «Pio XII: Un uomo sul trono di Pietro» («Pius XII: A man on the throne of Peter») (Mondatori, 2007) and «Paolo VI: L’audacia di un Papa» («Paul VI: A Pope’s audacity») (Mondatori, 2009).

ZENIT: Who is interested in criticizing the Pope?

Tornielli: I believe that, although an organized plot does not exist nor a single direction, there are groups, lobbies, political and/or economic powers that have an interest in weakening the power of the Church’s voice, reducing its international authority and hold on populations for the most disparate ends.

ZENIT: Why do they attack him? Why did they stop him from speaking at La Sapienza University of Rome? What is it that secular power fears from the pontificate of Benedict XVI?

Tornielli: Certain media campaigns are determined by a negative view, by a consolidated prejudice that does not at all correspond to reality, which previously portrayed Cardinal Ratzinger and then Benedict XVI as a retrograde, illiberal and anti-democratic conservative.

The Sapienza case is exemplary because not only did some small groups of ideologue students «judge» Ratzinger on the basis of a mistaken citation taken from Wikipedia, but so did researchers and professors (which should also tell us something about the state of our universities).

Secularized power fears the proclamation of an irreducible truth. There are lobbies and groups with power who are irritated by Christian morality and the Church’s ethical teaching, but also her positions on war, globalization, and the protection of creation. In certain situations the Church’s voice remains the sole bulwark against an anesthetized conscience.

ZENIT: During his flight to Portugal on May 11, Benedict XVI said: «Today we see in a terrifying way that the greatest persecution of the Church comes from the inside, from the sins that are within the Church herself, and not from external enemies.» What are the sins that the Pope is referring to, and who are the groups and the persons who oppose him in the Church?

Tornielli: The question was formulated with an explicit reference to the pedophile scandal that involves some of the clergy. The Pope’s answer was dramatic. Benedict XVI explained that the strongest attack comes from within; it is sin in the Church. At bottom, history has taught us that the Church has always emerged strengthened from external attacks, perhaps after long periods of difficulty, if not persecution. It is the attack from within that destroys.

Now, there are not only the major, «terrifying» episodes of the abominable crime of pedophilia. There is also the advance of non-Catholic thought within the Catholic Church: a reality that was denounced with extreme lucidity already by the great Pope Paul VI, and which unfortunately persists today. I was struck, for example, by certain strong reactions against Benedict XVI’s decision to liberalize the traditional Mass. There were public reactions, even by bishops. But there would be many examples.

ZENIT: The Pontiff, in the homily of the Mass that concluded the Year for Priests on June 11, spoke very explicitly of heresies and of the necessity of using the rod («bastone») against the wolves who want to destroy the flock. To whom was he referring? Who are the wolves who want to destroy the flock? What are the modern heresies at work in the Church?

Tornielli: In our book we analyze the crises of the first five years of the pontificate of Benedict XVI; we do not make a list of heresies. I would like, however, to recall that unfortunately ideas and interpretations are spreading, in a more or less subterranean way, that end up threatening the faith of the average Catholic, and more generally the Catholic faith, not in regard to some consequence — where perhaps a debate and the coexistence of different interpretations would be understandable — but precisely in regard to the essentials of the faith.

In this sense, as the then Cardinal Ratzinger explained at the beginning of his service as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the magisterium has the task of protecting the faith of the average Catholic, of those who do not write for the newspapers and go on TV. In this sense the magisterium has a «democratic» task, he said. I believe that one radical change that the Pope asks of everyone is that of being aware that the Church is not «made» by us, it cannot be thought of like we think of a company, everything cannot be reduced to claims about functions and ministries; the Church’s life cannot be planned only by pastoral strategies. If we were to learn from this constant appeal of the Pope, then maybe many of the open and secret members of the opposition would understand that the Pope is not an absolute monarch, but that he too obeys Jesus Christ in transmitting the «depositum fidei.»

ZENIT: According to the Archbishop Giampaolo Crepaldi of Trieste, there exists a parallel magisterium among ecclesiastics, professors of theology in the seminaries, priests and laypeople who «muffle Benedict XVI’s teachings, do not read the documents of his magisterium, write and speak arguing exactly the opposite of what he says, launch pastoral and cultural initiatives, on the terrain of bioethics or in ecumenical dialogue, for example, in open divergence with what he teaches.» Is this true or is Archbishop Crepaldi mistaken?

Tornielli: I believe that Archbishop Crepaldi is right. It is obvious — just take a look at many parishes, participate at conferences, cultural gatherings, etc., and you will see how Benedict XVI’s magisterium (but this happened before too, with other Popes) is not transmitted to the faithful, but is instead sometimes openly contradicted.

ZENIT: The book that you wrote with Paolo Rodari, «Attack on Ratzinger,» claims that through journalistic polemics there is an attempt to confuse the faithful, hiding the true meaning of the words and actions of Benedict XVI, presenting the Pontiff as an elderly conservative, traditionalist, anti-modern, out of touch with history. And yet this Pontiff is accomplishing wonders, such as, for example, the recovery of faith by secularized people, the good relations with the other Christian confessions, above all with the Anglicans and Russian Orthodox, the renewal in the obedience and fidelity of the clergy, the practice of the new evangelization. In sum, they attack him because he is revitalizing the Catholic Church for the better. Is this not what is happening?

Tornielli: This is part of what is happening, but it is not just this. They attack him because he reasserts certain teachings about bioethics, but also because he speaks about poverty and globalization. They attack him because of the deep-rooted cliché, but also because, unfortunately, sometimes the media is not prepared to present certain messages or to interpret them in the right context. They attack him because on more than one occasion — I hate to say it but it is true, and I believe that we have documented it in the book — even those who are nearest to Benedict XVI could help him most to avoid the springing up of unnec
essary polemics or to eliminate them as soon as they arise.

[Translation by ZENIT]

— — —

On the Net:

Tornielli’s blog (in Italian): Sacri palazzi (

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Share this Entry


Support ZENIT

If you liked this article, support ZENIT now with a donation