When Ratzinger Met ACT-UP

A revealing anecdote from theocon Rabbi David Novak:

The one and only time I met Pope Benedict XVI was when he was Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger. The time was 1988, and the place was St. Peter’s Lutheran Church in New York. The occasion was a lecture by the cardinal arranged by Fr. (then Lutheran Pastor) Richard John Neuhaus. The occasion was memorable less for what the cardinal had to say (though it was typically learned, intelligent, and politically astute) than for the disruption of the lecture by a militant gay group, “Act-Up.” They were protesting what they claimed was the Catholic Church’s fault for the AIDS crisis by its designation of homoerotic acts as morally disordered. (Their “logic” then and now escapes me, since if most of those who have contracted AIDS followed the prohibition of homoerotic acts in the Hebrew Scriptures, which the Church accepted in its refusal to totally break with Judaism, there wouldn’t be an AIDS crisis at all.)

While most of the people at this lecture were too dumbfounded by this sacrilegious break-in to do or say anything, Cardinal Ratzinger “kept his cool” and (as I recall) he said (in perfect English like the lecture itself) in a clear, firm voice (and as one might say in his native German: mit brennender Sorge, i.e., “with burning concern,” the title of Pope Pius XI’s famous anti-Nazi encyclical of 1937): “We have now heard your voice; now listen to mine!” That, plus the quick arrival of NYPD, enabled us to hear the rest of the lecture. I greatly admired the way he stood up to these enemies of the Judeo-Christian moral tradition.