VATICAN, April 19, 2005 ( – The newly elected Pope Benedict XVI, unlike his predecessor John Paul II prior to his election, comes to lead the Catholic Church after spending the last 24 years in the public eye as the head of the most important office in the Church – the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF). As such, his teachings on the most pressing issues facing the Church today have been readily available. In his writings he has touched on the so-called controversial issues, noting pro-abortion Catholic politicians should be denied Holy Communion, and that Catholic legislators may never vote in favour of laws allowing homosexual civil unions – let alone same-sex ‘marriage’.

In a 2003 CDF Doctrinal Note, then Cardinal Ratzinger spelled out formally that Catholic politicians have a “grave and clear obligation to oppose any law that attacks human life,” and that “For (Catholic politicians), as for every Catholic, it is impossible to promote such laws or to vote for them.” (see that full document here) The current pope also entered into the debate among US bishops regarding pro-abortion Catholic politicians receiving communion.

While Washington Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, the head of the US Bishops’ task force looking into the question, was personally opposed to denying communion to unrepentant pro-abortion Catholic politicians, Cardinal Ratzinger’s suggested otherwise. Ratzinger intervention titled “Worthiness to Receive Communion” was intended as a private message to the US bishops but after being leaked to the media, Cardinal Ratzinger confirmed the document was his.

In the letter, Cardinal Ratzinger cited established church teaching leading to the inevitable conclusion that pro-abortion politicians, who will not alter their stand or abstain from communion after being instructed by church leaders, “must” be refused communion. (see the document here)

The current controversy over same-sex marriage was also addressed recently by the newly elected Pontiff, not only in formal CDF documents but also in personal interviews. Formally, the 2003 CDF document on “Considerations Regarding Proposals To Give Legal Recognition To Unions Between Homosexual Persons” states: “When legislation in favour of the recognition of homosexual unions is proposed for the first time in a legislative assembly, the Catholic law-maker has a moral duty to express his opposition clearly and publicly and to vote against it. To vote in favour of a law so harmful to the common good is gravely immoral.” (see that document here)

In an interview in an Italian newspaper last year, the then-Cardinal explained why the Catholic Church opposes not only homosexual ‘marriage’ but any kind of legal recognition of homosexual spouses. Speaking of recognition of spousal agreements between homosexuals, the Cardinal said, “But to institutionalize an agreement of this type – whether the lawmaker wants it or not – would necessarily appear in public opinion like another type of marriage that would inevitably assume a relative value.” Concluding the point, Cardinal Ratzinger said, “Let us not forget that with these choices, to which Europe tends today – shall we say – in decline, we make a break from all the great cultures of humanity that have always recognized the very meaning of sexuality: that is, that men and the women were created to be jointly the guarantee of the future of the humanity. Not only a physical guarantee but also a moral one.” (see coverage)

As the head of the doctrinal arm of the Church, the current Pope was also called on to comment on human cloning and experimentation with human embryos and unborn children. Unapologetically and emphatically, Cardinal Ratzinger accepted the challenge putting the Church’s teaching in terms readily understood by the common man. During an address in 2001 at the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris, he noted that the burgeoning industry of experimentation with the human fetus leads to hell. “When, as today, there is a market in human organs, when fetuses are produced to make spare organs available, or to make progress in research and preventive medicine, many regard the human content of these practices as implicit. But the contempt for man that underlies it, when man is used and abused, leads—like it or not—to a descent into hell,” he said.

Specifying the Church’s teaching on the myriad of issues around such experimentation, the CDF published, already in 1987, the “Instruction On Respect For Human Life In Its Origin And On The Dignity Of Procreation Replies To Certain Questions Of The Day.” (available here)

The new Pope is also not afraid to take on the aggressive worldview that seeks to relegate Christianity to the back of the bus in public discourse. In an interview published last year in the Italian newspaper “La Reppublica” and re-distributed world-wide via the Vatican Information Service, Ratzinger, issued a serious warning to Christians to defend against, “an aggressive secular ideology.”

He recalled, “In Sweden, a Protestant pastor who had preached about homosexuality, based on a line from Scriptures, went to jail for one month.” He noted that the state should “not impose religion,” but “allows these religions to be factors in building up society”. However some states are now giving way to “an ideology which is imposed through politics and which does not give public space to the Catholic or Christian vision.”

Urging Christians to fight the dangerous trend, he said: “In this sense, a struggle exists and we must defend religious freedom against the imposition of an ideology which is presented as if it were the only voice of rationality, when it is only the expression of a ‘certain’ rationalism.”

Ratzinger did not shy away from fighting such trends even when they were promoted by great powers such as the United Nations. Writing in the Italian newspaper Avvenire in 2000, he denounced the UN vision of a “new world order.” Ratzinger noted that “at the base of this New World Order” is the ideology of “women’s empowerment,” which erroneously sees “the principal obstacles to [a woman’s] fulfillment [as] the family and maternity.” The cardinal advised that “at this stage of the development of the new image of the new world, Christians – and not just them, but in any case they even more than others – have the duty to protest.” (see the coverage)