Since the days in which he served in the Hitler Youth and Nazi army in Germany (apparently against his will, but nevertheless apparently absorbing the deep patriarchal and authoritarian structure that the fascists fostered in youth), to his role as leader of the forces that suppressed the liberatory aspects of Vatican II and purged the church of its most creative leadership, to the present moment in which he is recognized as the leader most identified with the forces of reaction and suppression of dissent within the Catholic Church, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger has distinguished himself as a man who can be counted on to side with the most anti-humane and repressive forces, in opposition to those who seek to give primacy to a world of peace and justice.

Although normally Jews would welcome the choice of new leadership by a sister religion, we have particular reason to comment on the election of Ratzinger as Pope Benedict XVI.

Jews have a powerful stake and commitment in ending global poverty and oppression. We understand well that in a world filled with painand cruelty, the resulting anger is often channeled in racist, sexist,anti-Semitic, and homophobic directions. Both as a matter of principle,based on our commitment to a prophetic vision, and as a matter ofself-interest, Jews have disproportionately supported liberal andprogressive social change movements seeking to end war and poverty.

So it was with great distress that we watched as Cardinal Ratzinger ledthe Vatican in the past twenty-five years on a path that opposedproviding birth control information to the poor of the world, therebyensuring that AIDS would spread and kill millions in Africa.

And we watched with even greater distress as this Cardinal supportedefforts to involve the church in distancing itself from politicalcandidates or leaders who did not agree with the church's teachings onabortion and gay rights, prioritizing these issues over whether thatcandidate agreed with the church on issues of peace and social justice.As a result, Cardinal Ratzinger has led the church away from its naturalalliance with Jews in fighting for peace and social justice and toward astance which in effect allies the church with the most reactionarypoliticians whose policies are militaristic and offer a preferentialoption for the rich.

We can't help noticing that under Cardinal Ratzinger's tutelage, thechurch began moves to elevate the infamous Pope Pius XII to the statusof saint. Instead of repenting for the failure of the church to unequivocally tell all Catholics that they not receive communion if they collaborated or cooperated in any waywith Nazi rule, or failed to hide and protect Jews who were markedfor extermination, Ratzinger has sought to whitewash this disgracefulmoment in church history. Many Jews are outraged at a church that deniescommunion to those who have remarried or those who oppose makingabortion illegal but did not similarly deny communion to those whoparticipate in crimes against humanity.

In fact, Cardinal Ratzinger publicly praised the fascist movement inthe church known as Opus Dei and supported canonization of JosemariaEscriva, the founder of Opus Dei, an open fascist who served in thegovernment of Spain's dictator Franco, and who publicly praised Hitler.

While many of us agree with Ratzinger's critique of moral relativism,he extends that critique in illegitimate and dangerous ways, equatingsecularism with moral relativism and suggesting that secularism represses religion. Since many Jews are secular, we have muchconcern about the way that this assault can quickly turn in anti-Semiticdirections. Some of us remember the Nazi-supporting priest FatherCoughlin of the 1930s whose US radio show always insisted that he wasonly against the secular Jews and hence wasn't "really" anti-Semitic.But whether or not he turns against Jews, those of us who are religiousJews or people of faith in other religions should rally against theattempt to demean all secular people and blame on them the problems ofselfishness actually rooted in the dynamics of the global capitalistmarket.

Ratzinger also publicly critiques all those inside the church who aretolerant enough to think that other religions may have equal validity asa path to God. This is a slippery slope toward anti-Semitism and areturn to the chauvinistic and triumphalist views that led the church,when it had the power to do so, to develop its infamous crusades andinquisitions.

In 1997 Ratzinger said that Europeans attracted to Buddhism wereactually seeking an "autoerotic spirituality" that offers "transcendencewithout imposing concrete religious obligations." Hindusim, he said,offers "false hope," in that it guarantees "purification" based on a"morally cruel" concept of reincarnation resembling "a continuous circleof hell." At the time, Cardinal Ratzinger predicted that Buddhism wouldreplace Marxism as the Catholic church's main enemy.