Organised by the Catholic Church, World Youth Day brings together young people from around the globe to celebrate and learn about their faith on a more regular basis.
And, presiding over the event, Pope Benedict XVI, aka Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, former apprentice of the Nazi regime. I won't revisit the issue of whether Ratzinger was a Nazi or exactly what his connections to Nazi youth movements was. To make a serious dent in those issues takes more scholarship than I have time or resources for. I'll confine myself to what Ratzinger himself stipulates: membership of the Hitlerjugend and service as a Luftwaffe auxiliary in an anti-aircraft capacity.
I can't condemn any junior teenager for not having the nerve to tell Hitler to go to Hell. I know that in such circumstances I wouldn't have had the nerve and my "resistance" efforts would at most have been covert disobedience. And, after all, there were tens of millions of legal adults who, from fear more than enthusiasm, went along with the programmes of despotic regimes in Europe through the 1920's, 30's and 40's.
What I shall dispute is whether an unremarkable conformist is fit to be the lieutenant of Jesus of Nazareth. Such a person should be an extraordinary moral exemplar, not a sheep. You don't have to be a Roman Catholic, you don't have to be religious at all, to see something wrong in this picture.
And what topics will the catechistic studies of World Youth Day, conducted under Ratzinger's auspices, focus upon? I'll wager with confidence that the teachings pursuant to family life and procreation will receive a good airing. The old enemy, masturbation, will be subjected to pejorative analysis in working groups, as will the perils of extra-marital sex, the sacredness of the sexual act in marriage, the repulsiveness of homosexuality and the abominableness of contraception and abortion.
I doubt that urging young people to become conscientious objectors to war will be a major feature of proceedings. The Popes know better than Jesus; they preach that there are just wars. They sanction clergymen acting as mentors and comforters to warriors. They won't argue for a just system of taxation or for the thwarting of big business in its despoliation of the environment.
Well, here's a quick theological quiz that won't be featured in this event:
Question 1. Which of these is the greatest anathema?
A. Bending your arm to play with your genitalia.
B. Stiffening your arm to do homage to Adolf Hitler.
Question 2. Which is the greater injustice?
A. Using contraception to prevent the joining together of non-sentient zygotes and the transmission of disease.
B. Creating unwanted children and spreading disease.
Question 3. Which is the greatest abuse of human rights?
A. Allowing the progeny of rape/incest to be aborted.
B. Forcing a victim of rape/incest to carry and give birth to a rapist's spawn.
I know this much: Benny Sixteen will tick the "A" on all of them. And the last one in particular? Well, you'd have to be a sick bastard indeed to "support" abortion. I call it a form of homicide, without hesitation. I also allow that there are justifiable homicides. Benny thinks so, too, or he'd tell people to refuse to be police officers or to join the military. And discretionary abortion for "lifestyle" reasons and so forth? I detest it, but it is, ultimately, on the consciences of the procurers and performers of the deed. If there is a God, let them answer to Him for it; the state should not coerce women to give birth to children they don't want. The possible consequences to those children should be considered; there are worse fates than a quick trip to Paradise directly from the womb. The newspapers are full of them every day. For example, I saw a horrific report on the failings of child welfare in New South Wales which purported that one fifth of children there are in some degree of domestic peril.
One thing is manifest to me. A man of such ordinary moral fibre as Ratzinger should be more selfconscious of his limitations. The laying down of hard and cruel rules to others is arrogant enough without having the added provocation of hearing it from a veteran of the Hitler Youth. When the College of Cardinals offered the Papacy, he should have let that cup pass.
(* "Bashing the Bishop" is apparently British slang for male masturbation. The "bishop" reference is derived from the shape of the corona of the penis being similar to that of a bishop's mitre. I am indebted for this fine piece of etymology to the works of "Andy McNab" of Bravo Two Zero fame. )