In honor of Benedict’s anniversary, here’s an oft-overlooked tidbit from the pope’s biography: He’s actually not the first celebrated priest from the Ratzinger clan. That honor belongs instead to his great-uncle Georg, a towering figure in 19th century Bavarian history. (He’s not to be confused with the pope’s brother).
In light of Benedict’s career, there are four aspects of his great-uncle’s legacy which are especially interesting:
- He was a rarity in the 19th century, a priest was who voluntarily laicized — not for reason of scandal, but because he wanted to pursue a career in politics.
- He was a disciple of the progressive German theologian Johann Ignaz von Döllinger, excommunicated in 1871 for his opposition to papal infallibility.
- He was co-founder of a populist “Farmer’s Party”, defending the poor against 19th century robber barons.
- He reflected the anti-Semitic attitudes of his times, lending biographical subtext to Benedict’s approach to Catholic/Jewish relations.
Prete ridotto al secolo, anti-conciliare (di orientamento Vecchio cattolico), populista e un filo anti-giudaico. Una miscela bizzarra ed esplosiva di modernismo e sedevacantismo impera tra i geni teologici del pontefice felicemente regnante.
Se a questo si aggiunge la dose di progressismo respirata da questi negli anni di perito al Concilio (come appoggio a Frings, e avendo compagni di merende Rahner, Kung & Co), possiamo solo stupirci del coraggio con cui cerca di trainare la Chiesa verso forme più tradizionali. Di riforma in riforma.
Auguri, Santo Padre.