Features

The enforcer

"The enforcer" Continued...

Issue: "Rick Santorum: Penn Station," April 30, 2005

The new pope may speak 10 languages, but he is the son of a Bavarian police officer, came of age in Nazi Germany, and served as a priest in Cologne.

Long-time UPI Religious Affairs editor Uwe Siemon-Netto, also Bavarian-born but a Lutheran and Reformation scholar, told WORLD that if the German prelate is Panzer-like on doctrine, as the German press claims, it might be the thrust needed.

WORLD: What's significant about a German pope?

SIEMON-NETTO: Since 1968 the neo-Marxist left has infiltrated every facet of European life, including church life. But recent opinion polls show an increased spiritual yearning among Germans, especially in the east where now 24 percent-few enough!-describe their faith as "very important" compared with only 14 percent in 1993.

We are now in a situation that is very analogous to the 16th century, where you had pockets of healthy community, but in reality the wide countryside was paganized. You have to start ex nihilo. You have to rebuild Europe altogether.

WORLD: Why not choose a prelate from the global south, where churches are growing?

SIEMON-NETTO: The pope is not supposed to reflect the population but to reflect the will of God. The church is growing in Latin America and Asia without a Latin American or Asian pope, thank you very much.

WORLD: What's a good Lutheran to make of a German pope?

SIEMON-NETTO: This good Lutheran is highly aware of the fruitful alliance between confessional Lutherans (Dietrich Bonhoeffer comes to mind) and conservative Catholics in their struggle against first the Nazi tyranny, then against communism, and now against what Ratzinger calls "the dictatorship of relativism."

You could do worse than have a first-rate Catholic theologian who is also familiar with Reformation theology and an Augustine scholar. I believe he is too straight and Germanic to make the ecumenical mistakes made by John Paul II, such as praying in a mosque.

His family was very much like mine. His father was a low-ranking village cop who moved to avoid being promoted and thereby corrupted by the Nazi regime. Before my 10th birthday I was notified to report to the Hitler Youth Party. There was no escaping unless you took enormous chances. He had the audacity to excuse himself from the Youth Party. He deserted from the army. He experienced national socialism as evil. And he has watched the decline of Christianity as a result of the relativism that followed.

-Mindy Belz

Gene Edward Veith
Gene Edward Veith

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