News Release

The New Pope and “Dictatorship of Relativism”

ROBERT ELLSBERG
Available for a limited number of interviews, Ellsberg is editor in chief of Orbis Books, the publishing arm of the Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers. He is author of a number of books, most recently The Saints’ Guide to Happiness. He said today: “This would indicate that the cardinals viewed doctrinal orthodoxy as a high priority. In the afterglow of John Paul II, they seem to want to pick someone who might symbolize the late Pope’s legacy. But the new Pope symbolizes only one aspect of the papacy of John Paul II — the most divisive. It seems rather unlikely that he would be able to unify the church. I think generally it is risky to pick a theologian as pope, as opposed to someone who has a pastoral background.”
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ANGELA BONAVOGLIA
Bonavoglia is author of the recently-released book Good Catholic Girls: How Women Are Leading the Fight to Change the Church. She said today: “Despite his doctrinal conservatism, Pope Benedict XVI will not be able to escape the Church’s very modern problems — from a crushing priest shortage to the crying need to ordain women and married men, from controversy over Church sexual teachings to the deep damage done by clergy sexual abuse to demands from both the laity and the world’s bishops for a real voice in Church affairs.”
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JOE NANGLE
Nangle is a priest with the Franciscan Missionary Service.

JEFFERSON MORLEY
Morley writes the “World Opinion Roundup” column for washingtonpost.com. He wrote the recent piece “Hopes for a Third World Pope,” available at the above web page, and is currently working on a column about the global reaction to the election of the new Pope.
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G. SIMON HARAK
A Jesuit priest and author of the books Virtuous Passions and Nonviolence for the Third Millennium, Harak is anti-militarism coordinator of the War Resisters League. Shortly before the cardinals began their conclave just yesterday, Cardinal Ratzinger gave a speech condemning “a dictatorship of relativism.” Harak said today: “I am puzzled by this statement. First, it seems to be a logical contradiction: How can relativism be dictatorial? But then I’m compelled to ask, ‘What do you mean by “relativism?”‘ The Catholic hierarchy seems to take certain values — like the injunction against abortion — very seriously. But other values they seem to be quite relativistic about. As for example when Jesus says, ‘Love your enemies.’ With the U.S. Catholic bishops supporting the insupportable invasion of Afghanistan, and being largely silent about the 100,000 Iraqis killed as a result of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, ‘Love your enemies’ has been rendered so relativistic as to be at best meaningless.”

Harak added: “A case in point is Bishop Raymond L. Burke. When he was bishop of LaCrosse diocese in Wisconsin, he told the diocese that the Pope’s really strong condemnation of the invasion of Iraq did not carry enough weight to be binding on their consciences. He did, however, say that politicians who supported abortion should be refused communion. His reward for relativizing the Pope — not to mention contravening Jesus — was to be made archbishop of St. Louis. That sounds relativistic to me, and the kind of relativism that leads perhaps to dictatorship, but more likely to anarchy.”
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For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy:
Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020; or David Zupan, (541) 484-9167