Vatican Notes & Quotes

Panzerkardinal or ‘Engaging Theologian and Pastor’?

THE PILOT, Jan. 15—Boston's archdiocesan Catholic newspaper in mid-January carried a nationally syndicated column by George Weigel offered “pundits and scribes” a possible new year's resolution: “Give Cardinal Ratzinger a break in 1999.”

Weigel criticized a recent Catholic News Service story about Cardinal Ratzinger, who heads the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Weigel said the story depicted the cardinal as “a curial busybody who constantly injects himself into others' business.”

Weigel also noted that a writer for the London Tablet in a recent story “could not resist a dig at Ratzinger,” calling him the “present-day ‘Grand Inquisitor.’”

For an accurate picture of Cardinal Ratzinger, Weigel suggested Salt of the Earth, a book-length interview with the German-born cardinal. Weigel said the book caused a “mild sensation” when it first appeared in Germany because the cardinal came off as an engaging, generous, charming, modest, insightful theologian and pastor,” instead of appearing to be the “fierce, repressive, censurious Panzerkardinal” of the pundits' creation.

Weigel also recommended Ratzinger's recently published memoir, Milestones, and an essay by Father Richard John Neuhaus entitled “Christ's Donkey.” Father Neuhaus is quoted saying that Cardinal Ratzinger “has encouraged students beyond number in rekindling the lights of theological inquiry in service to Christ and his Church and therefore in service to the world.”