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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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Pope Benedict XVI: Relativism the central problem for the church

Commentary about who Pope Benedict XVI is — and will be — diverged sharply following his April 19 election. But one concern — relativism — consistently emerged as an enduring concern.

As prefect of the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith for a quarter century, then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger developed an authoritarian reputation as "God's Rottweiler" as he enforced conformity with church doctrine, policing the thought of Catholic theologians and bishops alike.

The Jesuit journal America estimates more than 100 Catholic theologians were silenced or reprimanded by the congregation in recent years, suggesting that "too many issues have been taken off the discussion table."

But to use such images to predict how the pope will act is "completely ludicrous," says Augustine Di Noia, Ratzinger's undersecretary at the congregation, who engaged in dialogue with ELCA Presiding Bishop Mark S. Hanson during a 2003 visit to the Vatican. Di Noia describes the new pope as a "soft-spoken, self-effacing professor ... a saintly and spiritual man ... [who is] decisive, fearless."


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