Cardinal Ratzinger, Dr. Fox, and the Holy Office of the Inquisition


Cardinal Ratzinger

Cardinal Ratzinger, Dr. Fox, and the Holy Office of the Inquisition

By Paula: Humfrey

Twenty-one years ago I was baptized as a Lutheran in a ceremony at home alongside my infant son, who was also baptized. This was a transcendent experience for me. I say that just to put things in context. I’ve always had genuine reverence for the ceremonies and rituals of worship. At their best, these are symbols of the ineffable grace of the Creator. However, for me,  one real difficulty with institutional religion remains: we the people long ago handed over control of our individual rights to worship. We handed that control to political entities who, it emerges, did not have our best interests in mind. In historical terms, these political entities promoted themselves as religious authorities; they simply claimed ownership of doctrine and started telling us all how to live our lives, spiritually and practically.

Accordingly, I’ve long admired the renegades of light who ‘take back the night’ from dogmatic ecclesiastical hierarchies. One such renegade is Dr. Matthew Fox, a Dominican priest. I bought Fox’s book, Original Blessing, on a trip to Vancouver for a friend’s wedding in 1988. Reading it on the five-hour flight home changed my life more than a little. Fox’s theology asserts that “[e]veryone is a mystic or artist until our culture, religion or education drives this out of us.” What Fox calls the Original Blessing “leads us back to our own creativity and that deep, ecstatic center which resides beneath any fear of death.” Who could object to such a message of self-empowerment? Ratzinger, that’s who.

As I read in a just-published article by Carol Ann Ciocco [1]:

In 1981, when he was still called Cardinal Ratzinger, Pope Benedict was named Prefect of what until 1965 had been called the Holy Office of the Inquisition, making him successor to the Grand Inquisitor. As Ciocco notes, Ratzinger’s job in this capacity was to rout out heretics and bring them to task. She writes:

“most notably in my opinion, Ratzinger went after Dr. Matthew Fox, a Dominican priest who in 1976 founded the Institute in Culture and Creation Spirituality (ICCS) – described as a school ‘based in ancient Judeo-Christian tradition, supported by leading-edge science, and bearing witness for social, environmental, and gender justice.’ For a decade, Cardinal Ratzinger as Chief Inquisitor tried to shut Dr. Fox’s program down. Ratzinger silenced Dr. Fox for one year in 1989 and forced him to step down as director. Three years later he expelled Fox from the Dominican Order and shortly after the program was terminated at Holy Names College.” 

If prompted, I’ll write a separate post on the horror show that was the historical institution of the Inquisition with its panels and its racks and its more portable torture devices, but reading it won’t be a 5D experience. It’s always amazed me that the modern Vatican never ditched that office. In this light, what are we to make of Ratzinger’s crusade against Fox?

By way of addressing that question, let’s let Matthew Fox speak for himself. Here are the highlights from a paragraph of Fox’s book, Original Blessing, followed Kauilapele-style by the full text with footnotes for technically minded readers. I arrived at this paragraph by noting a page I marked back in 1988.

Highlights:

• But what does it mean to be a prophet? Who is a prophet? A prophet is one who carries on the Dabhar, that is the creative energy or word of God, when it has been stymied or stifled by injustice or laziness or too much belief in the immorality of what already is.

• The prophet in each of us is our social conscience, our heartfelt concern about the loved ones of God who suffer needlessly.

• “Prophetic inspiration… is for the sake, for the benefit of a third party. It is not a private affair between the prophet and God; its purpose is the illumination of the people rather than the illumination of the prophet.”

• The prophet in us says, “NO! This is not the way the Creator wanted the universe to respond to the blessing that creation is. We can—we must— do things differently.”

• Jeremiah talks of “tearing up and knocking down”—a Via Negative that must precede the “building up and planting” that creative transformation is about.

• The interference and therefore the discontinuity that are the prophet’s concern are most evidently an interference in unjust situations and a break with the continuous injustice that is rained on, for example, women or artists, the earth or animals, native Americans or Third World peoples.

• The prophet does not hesitate to break with the recent past in order to regain an older past when the just harmony and order ruled the cosmos.

• • •

Excerpt from Matthew Fox’s Original Blessing [2]:

“But what does it mean to be a prophet? Who is a prophet? A prophet is one who carries on the Dabhar, that is the creative energy or word of God, when it has been stymied or stifled by injustice or laziness or too much belief in the immorality of what already is.

The prophet in each of us is our social conscience, our heartfelt concern about the loved ones of God who suffer needlessly. ‘Prophetic inspiration,’ Rabbi Heschel writes, ‘is for the sake, for the benefit of a third party. It is not a private affair between the prophet and God; its purpose is the illumination of the people rather than the illumination of the prophet.’ The prophet in us says, ‘NO! This is not the way the Creator wanted the universe to respond to the blessing that creation is. We can—we must—do things differently.’

Heschel says that “The major activity of the prophet was interference. To interfere with the way things are going, whether in terms of militarism among nations, sexism in churches, racism in education, or dualism in self or society—the prophet criticizes and places himself or herself in opposition and therefore in a position of interfering with what is happening.

Jeremiah talks of ‘tearing up and knocking down’—a Via Negative that must precede the ‘building up and planting’ that creative transformation is about.

Brueggemann interprets this to mean that the prophet is sensitive to the discontinuity of history: how things need to break and be broken if New Creation is to emerge.

The interference and therefore the discontinuity that are the prophet’s concern are most evidently an interference in unjust situations and a break with the continuous injustice that is rained on, for example, women or artists, the earth or animals, native Americans or Third World peoples. The prophet does not hesitate to break with the recent past in order to regain an older past when the just harmony and order ruled the cosmos.”

[1]     Shift Frequency: Carol Ann Ciocco ~ The Pope Resigns
http://shiftfrequency.com/carol-ann-ciocco-the-pope-resigns/

[2]     Matthew Fox, Original Blessing: a Primer in Creation Spirituality (Santa Fe: Bear & Company, 1983), p. 260

Poignantly enough in light of the events described above, I just noticed Dr. Fox’s dedication in the frontispiece of Original Blessing:

“To students, staff and faculty at ICSS, past and present, in gratitude for us all being students and in hope that the adventure never ceases.”

Article Link:   http://colleenrich.com/cardinal-ratzinger-dr-fox-holy-office-inquisition/

 

 

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