The Ratzinger Youth

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The Ratzinger Youth

Pope Benedict captivates a younger generation.

We’ve been watching Joseph Ratzinger for almost two decades. Our attention was originally drawn to him via a 1991 bbc documentary on the Vatican ratlines. This documentary exposed the Vatican’s direct involvement in the network of safe houses and escape routes sponsored by Rome under the leadership of Pope Pius xii. It also exposed a young seminarian, an ex-Hitler Youth member by the name of Joseph Ratzinger, as being closely involved with that Nazi underground escape system.

We continued to watch the Bavarian prince of the church in his role as Pope John Paul ii’s enforcer, as he worked tenaciously to rout liberalism from the priesthood as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the modern name for the old Vatican Office of the Holy Inquisition. In particular we have watched his steady progress in his crusading agenda since gaining the papal throne over six years ago. It’s highly likely that no pope in recent times has been misunderstood by the press and mass media to the extent that Joseph Ratzinger, Pope Benedict xvi, has.

The chattering classes who have railed against this pope in the wake of the great priestly pedophile scandals tend to forget that he publicly nailed his colors to the mast on this and other issues of major concern during a 2005 mass just one month before becoming pope. In a declarative statement about the moral decline in the condition of the Catholic Church resulting from the impact of “liberation theology,” Ratzinger exclaimed, “How much filth there is in the church, even among those who, in the priesthood, should belong entirely to Him. How much pride, how much self-sufficiency!” This was an early hint of what was to come in the initial term of his papacy when Ratzinger began to come to grips with the deep-seated homosexuality and resultant pedophilia that had become rampant during the liberal decades following Vatican ii. Ratzinger is currently addressing the last vestiges of overt liberalism in the priesthood as he moves to eradicate the remaining cells of secularism in the church.

Even before these projects of the first half decade of his papacy are concluded, Benedict is already gearing for a mighty crusading pushback against the tide of both secularism and pan-Islamism that have penetrated the traditional bastion of Rome’s global strength, Catholic Europe. At the forefront of his crusading recruitment program is his drive to captivate the minds of the young.

Having witnessed the powerful influence of Nazi propaganda during his days as a member of the Hitler Youth, Pope Benedict xvi is well aware of the power potential of effective mass communication and its effect on that most idealist of mindsets, that of youth.

Publicity and mass communication are so important to the Vatican that it has a high-profile department specifically devoted to its effective exploitation, the Pontifical Council for Social Communications. The council has been active in recent times exploiting that latest psychological youth drug, social media.

In addition to Vatican Radio, the Vatican’s dedicated website and its news service zenit, Rome floated the Catholic Church’s own online television station, H20, a few years ago. To add to this, the pope’s messages are now easily accessible via YouTube and Twitter.

In advance of the 2007 plenary session of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, “the pope took note of the important changes in the media industry, including the rising power of the electronic media and the waning influence of print. He pointed to … the spread of the Internet, which ‘has opened up a world of knowledge and learning that previously for many could only be accessed with difficulty, if at all’” (cwn, March 8, 2007). The pope is very aware that the most plugged in of all generations to “the power of the electronic media” is that of the young.

Using the latest of mass media tools, it is to the younger generation in particular that Benedict is turning to lead the way in his crusade for revival of the religion of Rome, which he views as the bastion of true civilization. To this end he has fully exploited the gala event of World Youth Day.

Referring to the 2008 Youth Day Down Under, the pope declared, “Australia had never seen so many people coming from all continents, not even during the Olympics, as it did during World Youth Day.”

This year it had been estimated that 1 million youths would attend the Catholic youth festival in August held in Madrid. In fact, twice that number turned out to greet their pontifical hero in the old Spanish city.

In his farewell message to the youth gathered in Madrid from all continents and “In the presence of King Juan Carlos and Queen Sophia of Spain, the pope said the Catholic Church is the answer to a question that often arises today.

“‘There are many people today who feel attracted by the figure of Christ and want to know Him better,’ realizing that ‘He is the answer to so many of our deepest concerns. But who is He really? How can someone who lived on this Earth so long ago have anything in common with me today?’

“The answer, said the pope, was Christ’s presence continuing through history in the Catholic Church” (cna/ewtn News, August 21).

In that one statement, Benedict affirmed his stance that through the Catholic Church alone is salvation available to mankind. This is the fundamental tenet of his global crusade and his potent message to Catholic youth of today.

As author David N. Samuel so aptly put it (European Union and the Roman Catholic Influence in Britain),

The church of Rome is in fact founded upon a political dogma. It claims that the pope is a ruler, or more precisely, the supreme ruler of the world. Cardinal [Robert] Bellarmine put it quite starkly: “The pontifical supremacy is the fundamental article of the Christian religion.”In other words, the Christian religion is founded upon this, that the pope is the first authority, ruler and monarch on Earth. Nothing of this has been revoked or rescinded. Both the spiritual and the temporal supremacy of the pope are still fundamental dogmas of Roman Catholic teaching.

It is to the youth of the church, in particular, that Pope Benedict is directing this dogma that they can only find real meaning to life through the Catholic Church. And it is methods that clearly appeal to youth that he is cleverly using to peddle that message—social media and the atmosphere of the rock festival, translated into the festival atmosphere of World Youth Day. In using such methods to promote his crusading message, Benedict is simply exploiting Catholic youth in an effort to develop an active vanguard for his crusading efforts.

Witnessing the denigrating effect of the media-driven attack on the morals of Western society, in particular its youth, Benedict has taken up the challenge by using the very same mass media tools to present global youth with an alternative.

In his book The Spirit of the Liturgy, published in 2000, he declared that “‘Rock’ [music] … is the expression of elemental passions, and at rock festivals it assumes a cultic character, a form of worship, in fact, in opposition to Christian worship. People are, so to speak, released from themselves by the experience of being part of a crowd and by the emotional shock of rhythm, noise and special lighting effects. However, in the ecstasy of having all their defenses torn down, the participants sink, as it were, beneath the elemental force of the universe.”

If one looks closely at the organization of World Youth Day and the festivities that make up its annual program, it can be seen that Benedict has simply taken the same methods used by secular forces at rock festivals and translated them into a vehicle for projecting his own message to global youth. Indeed even forces within the Vatican have voiced concern over this. Yet it’s clearly a method that works.

In the past, under John Paul ii, hundreds of thousands of youth turned out at the Roman Catholic youth festivals, the number steadily growing with each World Youth Day. With Benedict it is now reaching into the millions! To this pope, herein lies the church’s future. He is highly geared in his efforts to captivate and hold the minds of the most energetic of generations—and through the Catholic youth movement, assure the future of Roman Catholicism.

From the time of the record-breaking audiences that tuned in to see Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger conduct Pope John Paul ii’s funeral, to the massive media coverage of his investiture as Pope Benedict xvi, to the 2 million recently gathered in Madrid and the multiple millions tuned in to that event globally via the mass media, the small, slight figure of this Bavarian pope has become the most recognizable of personalities across the globe.

By the second year of his papacy, Pope Benedict xvi already enjoyed total audiences greater than the annual audiences of any single previous pope, and far greater than any other single religious leader in history! That trend has not diminished. In fact, courtesy of the plethora of social media outlets currently extant, and the judicious use of these by the Vatican under Benedict’s direction, it is increasing exponentially. The trend is most marked among the younger generation. With so many of the baby boomer generation secularized to the point of perhaps being beyond redemption in Rome’s view, the Vatican is seeking fresh talent to increase its pastorate among the idealism of youth.

What makes the Vatican’s prominence in the use of mass media most intriguing is where it is all leading.

Benedict is currently marshaling his forces—in particular Catholic youth—under the power of a right-wing curia, for a front-line offensive against secularism and pan-Islamism. The dramatic increase in response to World Youth Day is but a harbinger of more to come. But the first priority of this pope is to garner back all of Europe into the Catholic fold. This has been Rome’s passion since the fall of Napoleon and the secularization of Europe that followed in the wake of two world wars.

“A project is being mooted, which, if carried into effect, will have far-reaching consequences indeed …. It is nothing less than to erect a European council with the pope as president. This will be found a great stride towards grasping anew that temporal supremacy of Christendom which the pontiff wielded in the Middle Ages” (Dr. J.A. Wylie, Which Sovereign—Queen Victoria or the Pope?, circa 1880).

In the same vein, Edmond Paris gives the example of a Roman Catholic French patriot of World War ii experience commenting, “The church seeks not virtue but herself …. Her true concern is the constant swelling of her ranks, the strengthening of her power” (The Vatican Against Europe).

Judging by the success of the World Youth Day phenomenon, efforts to swell the church’s ranks is today working quite demonstrably with a younger generation.