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Ratzinger under pressure

By Diogenes (articles ) | Apr 22, 2005

The on-line German news-magazine Der Spiegel aims some well-deserved contempt at the contention of the British tabloids that the young Ratzinger was a Nazi, and includes this moving testimonial about his service as a 16-year-old conscript:

"What you find in the British press is complete rubbish", says Munich resident Walter Fried, 78. In 1943, he served together with Ratzinger in the same anti-aircraft battery at Obergrashof near Munich. His memories of the current Pope are rather dim, because the boy from Traunstein was a "very reserved, fairly inconspicuous figure." But one occurrence Fried still remembers exactly: One time a high-ranking officer conducted an inspection. One after the other each lad had to say what he wished to become. Many mentioned becoming pilots as career aspirations, and after an answer of that sort there were no further questions asked. "When it came to Ratzinger's turn, he said that he would like to become a parish priest. That caused great laughter. But at the time, of course, to give such an answer took courage."

Hemingway defined guts as "grace under pressure." There are occasions when truth under pressure requires considerably more from a man. Even the ordinary force of social pressures on teenage boys in undramatic everyday circumstances are enough to cause them to dissemble or keep silent about their faith. The young Ratzinger, in his own quiet way, was bearing witness to Christ by confessing his desire to serve him as a priest. He does not mention this incident in his autobiography, and perhaps did not remember it himself -- but it made enough of an impression to be remembered by another man more than 60 years after the event. In this respect Ratzinger is a kind of John Kerry-in-reverse, understating rathering than exaggerating his pluck. Thereupon his forgotten comrades, far from shredding his accounts of personal heroism, testify to the guts that didn't feel the need for self-advertisement.

Ratzinger Age 16

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Show 6 Comments? (Hidden)Hide Comments
  • Posted by: - Apr. 24, 2005 10:14 PM ET USA

    BostonBlackey, my sentiments exactly. With all that has gone wrong with the church in America, there is still hope. The fact that the cardinals had the courage to vote for a "conservative" who they knew would be hammered in the press almost immediately, and the fact that he is German, is enough to also restore my faith in the direction of the church. The leftover ideologues of the sixties still trying to push their agenda will soon fade into retirement, thank God.

  • Posted by: BostonBlackey - Apr. 23, 2005 11:49 AM ET USA

    We are indeed fortunate that one heroic young man became Pope JP II then another heroic young man has become Pope Benedict XVI. Just when I am on the verge of giving up hope, the Holy Spirit reminds me that God's wisdom is still leading the Church.

  • Posted by: benedictusoblatus - Apr. 23, 2005 12:13 AM ET USA

    It is relatively easy to be "nice" to people, especially when you are the Vicar of Christ. It is much more difficult to rule over them and discipline them, especially if they are friends. We live in wondrous strange times when the supreme pontiff cannot take for granted the loyalty of his subjects - even the princes of the Church. Certain of these subjects need to be brought under control. Should they refuse to change, they need to be summarily fired for the good of the Church.

  • Posted by: Fr. William - Apr. 22, 2005 5:05 PM ET USA

    Once again, thank you, Diogenes.

  • Posted by: - Apr. 22, 2005 3:47 PM ET USA

    This commentary might be even more momentous. Der Spiegel has been in the vanguard of supporting national socialism and the German neoconservatives, just not the NaionalSocialismus of Hitler, since WWII. They have been less inclined to speak out for non-ideological truth and decency than the New York Times. They have been a cornerstone in Germany of the dictatorship of relativism.

  • Posted by: Pseudodionysius - Apr. 22, 2005 3:11 PM ET USA

    This is simply a way for the "we pray the next conclave is around the corner" crowd to wish that Pope Benedict XVI was already dead and had passed away almost 70 years ago. Saying "I really wish you had entered the gas chambers 70 years ago" is considered a little tacky these days, so its always nice to dress up a "worst wishes" telegram with a bit of morally vacuous Pius XII level slander to throw the houndogs off the sent of the moral bankruptcy of the sender.

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