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Life Arts    H4'ed 6/25/11

Matthew Fox's Critique of the Roman Catholic Church

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Duluth, Minnesota (OpEdNews) June 24, 2011: In THE POPE'S WAR: WHY RATZINGER'S SECRET CRUSADE HAS IMPERILED THE CHURCH AND HOW IT CAN BE SAVED (2011), Matthew Fox has written a thorough and mostly temperate critique of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger/Pope Benedict XVI. Even though some of the cases highlighted by Fox do not involve Americans, other cases do, including of course Fox's own case. In any event, liberal Americans who are concerned about the Christian right in the United States may want to read Fox's book, even if they are not Catholics. It's a very readable book.


Fox (born 1940) was silenced for one year in 1988 by then-Cardinal Ratzinger (born 1927). Three years later, Ratzinger expelled Fox from the Dominican religious order. But Fox was welcomed into the Anglican communion and has served as an Episcopal priest since 1994.


Fox is the prolific author of twenty-eight books. His books have been translated into forty-two languages and have sold in total more than 1.5 million copies. He was the first person to translate into English the work of the twelfth-century Benedictine abbess and mystic Hildegard von Bingen. Fox also translated into English a generous selection of the writings of Meister Eckhart, the fourteenth-century Dominican priest, preacher, and mystic, which has been reissued recently as PASSION FOR CREATION: THE EARTH-HONORING SPIRITUALITY OF MEISTER ECKHART (2000; originally published in 1980 as BREAKTHROUGH). In his 550-page book titled SHEER JOY: CONVERSATIONS WITH THOMAS AQUINAS ON CREATION SPIRITUALITY (1992), Fox has imaginatively constructed conversations between the famous thirteenth-century Dominican theologian Thomas Aquinas and himself, featuring of course selections from Aquinas's writings organized into back-and-forth conversations with Fox. By doing this, Fox brings out how one of the heavyweights of Catholic theology thought thoughts that are similar to the thoughts that Fox himself has been setting forth as creation spirituality.


For Ratzinger/Benedict's long-time critics, Fox's new book about Ratzinger/Benedict will probably not offer them much new information about Ratzinger/Benedict. Nevertheless, Fox has done a good job of enumerating and explaining clearly Ratzinger/Benedict's many misguided mistakes. Unfortunately, conservative American Catholics actually admire Ratzinger/Benedict. As a result, they will probably not be interested in Fox's critique of Ratzinger/Benedict.


One of the greatest strengths of Fox's lucid book about Ratzinger/Benedict is his discussion of grief in the last chapter. Fox lists more than a dozen items that have led many Catholics in the United States and elsewhere in the world today to feel betrayed by the actions of Ratzinger/Benedict and by Pope John-Paul II. (Cardinal Ratzinger was the henchman for Pope John-Paul II before he himself became the next pope.) Fox wisely urges people who have felt such betrayal to pay attention to their grief, rather than trying to disregard it.


As a result of their feelings of betrayal, I would suggest that they are feeling abandonment feelings such as the abandonment feelings that Susan Anderson insightfully discusses in her fine book THE JOURNEY FROM ABANDONMENT TO HEALING (2000).


However, in the spirit of giving credit where credit is due, I want to give credit to Pope John-Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI for NOT carrying on a crusade against evolutionary theory, as we have seen certain Protestant fundamentalists in the United States carry on to this day. If you are willing to give up the so-called literal interpretation of the two accounts of creation in Genesis, then you could adopt a metaphorical interpretation of those two accounts. Using a metaphorical interpretation of those two accounts, you could then say that the monotheistic God is the God of evolution.


I should also mention that Matthew Fox is most famous for promoting what he terms creation spirituality, in which he stresses the state of original blessing in the Garden of Eden, instead of stressing the story of the Fall of Adam and Eve and the Christian interpretation of so-called original sin. Centuries before St. Paul and St. Augustine conspired to construct the doctrine of original sin, Plato and Aristotle and other ancient Greeks did not think we humans were born virtuous. On the contrary, they thought we needed to work to cultivate being virtuous. Which doesn't sound as dismal as the doctrine of original sin sounds. But the positive imagery of original blessing in Genesis that Fox stresses in creation spirituality arguably goes beyond anything that the ancient Greeks imagined.


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Thomas James Farrell is professor emeritus of writing studies at the University of Minnesota Duluth (UMD). He started teaching at UMD in Fall 1987, and he retired from UMD at the end of May 2009. He was born in 1944. He holds three degrees from Saint Louis University (SLU): B.A. in English, 1966; M.A.(T) in English 1968; Ph.D.in higher education, 1974. On May 16, 1969, the editors of the SLU student newspaper named him Man of the Year, an honor customarily conferred on an administrator or a faculty member, not on a graduate student -- nor on a woman up to that time. He is the proud author of the book (more...)

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