top of page

Father Tom Reese, S.J.: “I forgive Pope Benedict.” I will never do so

Father Thomas Reese, S.J., who voice was silenced by Ratzinger and JPII

... He and his ilk drove me from the Catholic Church

One of my favorite voices in the Catholic Church has been Father Thomas Reese, S.J., who is a gifted writer and communicator along with being a great intellect.

The Jesuit has been at odds with the official Catholic Church teaching on a number of subjects, but he is at heart a true Catholic. He loves the church and loves what Jesus represents. He is a strong advocate of Pope Francis and his leadership of the church.

As he approaches the age of 77, Father is now feeling some compassion for someone who did some reprehensible things to him and to the church. Nevertheless, he forgives Joseph Ratzinger, who served as Pope Benedict before resigning under pressure in 2013.

I respect what Father Reese says, and he is truly following the words of Jesus Christ. However, when it comes to Benedict. I feel no compassion, respect, or reverence toward him.

Here is why.

Ratzinger silenced Reese’s voice

Father Reese outlined how the cardinal known as John Paul II’s Rottweiler effectively had him fired as editor of the prestigious magazine, America, though the Vatican and the Jesuits denied it at the time,

My own difficulties with Ratzinger began shortly after I became editor of America Magazine, a journal of opinion published by U.S. Jesuits …

Over my seven years as editor, I tried to get writers who would represent different views in the church. I published every submission from a bishop (except one). When Cardinal Walter Kasper submitted an article critical of Ratzinger's ecclesiology, I immediately requested and got a response for publication from him.

I even invited Raymond Burke, then archbishop of St. Louis, to explain his position on denying Communion to pro-choice politicians. But I also published responses from a prominent canon lawyer and the Catholic representative he had targeted.

We also published numerous articles on the sex abuse crisis.

Within a couple of years, Ratzinger, through the Jesuit superior general in Rome, was signaling his unhappiness with the magazine. It became clear that in Rome's view a Catholic journal of opinion should only express one opinion — the Vatican's. Every document and word from the Vatican should be greeted with uncritical enthusiasm.

Thomas Reese, “I forgive Pope Benedict. I hope others

can too,” Religion News Service, February 22, 2022

In effect, Ratzinger was acting just as the Nazis did back when he was a member of their youth corps in Germany. Silence any views that are antithetical to your institution’s.

Ratzinger and JPII hired the bishops who protected criminal priests

The problem that I have with both Ratzinger and JPII are that they presided over the period in which the Catholic Church suffered the most grievous damage to its moral authority and reputation because of the sexual abuse scandals in the U.S. and throughout the world. Those hierarchy like Law in Boston were the ilk who led to the current loss of Catholic reputation in the U.S.

Right now, the Catholic Churches are closing, and they are essentially empty on Sundays — and not because of Covid. That is because of the inaction of those two popes.

That is the reason I no longer practice the Catholic faith — and there are tens of thousands — maybe hundreds — like me. Almost 18 percent of Americans are fallen-away Catholics.


The reasons are varied, but the corruption in the church and the willingness to put the institution above the words of Jesus Christ is one of the major reasons.

The Rottweiler

Reese talked of an interview he had with Ratzinger years ago,

But I also knew I was in the presence of a man who, as head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, had done irreparable harm to theological discussion in the church. There were scores of theologians who had been investigated and silenced by his congregation during the papacy of John Paul II. Articles and books had been censored. Professors had been removed from their jobs. Even more had practiced self-censorship to avoid harassment.

Those targeted included liberation theologians in Latin America, moral theologians in the United States and Europe, and anyone writing about the priesthood.

Some of them were my close friends. I lived with two Jesuits who spent most of their sabbatical defending themselves from attacks by Rome. These were not minor figures. One, Michael Buckley, had worked as the chief staff person for the U.S. bishops' committee on doctrine; the other, David Hollenbach, had helped the bishops write their pastoral letter on the economy.

Ratzinger's problem was that he treated theologians like they were his graduate students who needed correction and guidance.

Thomas Reese, S.J., Religion News Service, February 22, 2022

In short, Ratzinger was a nasty person, certainly not one who should have ever been elevated to pope.

Reese’s conclusion

I disagree strongly with Father Reese’s conclusion, and again, he is a man whom I admired greatly,

In short, I see Benedict as a holy but flawed individual who did the best he was capable of. For all of us, that is the best we can say, so we should forgive as we would want to be forgiven. In the end, as he said, "finally, only our Lord can judge."

Thomas Reese, S.J., Religion News Service, February 22, 2022

The part that is flawed in his reasoning is that of a “flawed individual who did the best he was capable of.” He was a very intelligent man who knew very well how evil he was in his actions. He was a horrible leader for the church.

I do not have to forgive him, though Jesus says I should. No one else should forgive him either.

I am not sure that God could ever forgive those two popes for the damage that they have done to the church.

503 views0 comments


bottom of page