Vatican watchers have been trying to detect clues and patterns in the previous work of Joseph Ratzinger that might reveal the nature of his papacy as Benedict XVI. But they may need to look no further than the controversial document he penned in 2000, with Pope John Paul II’s approval, called Dominus Iesus. Writing in the National Catholic Register (July 16-22), Raymond J. de Souza notes that several significant papal appointments and actions all hark back to the declaration, which largely restated Catholic teaching on Jesus’ role as the world’s only savior, and the unique status of the Catholic Church.
The document was widely criticized for its ecumenical and interfaith insensitivity. But since then, the main Vatican body which criticized the document, the Pontifical Council for Inter–Religious Dialogue has been placed under “quasi-suppression,” and its president Michael Fitzgerald sent to Egypt. Another critic, Cardinal Walter Kasper of the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity, has since modified if not reversed his dissent, recently warning the Anglicans of the dire ecumenical consequences of ordaining female bishops.
Ratzinger’s principal aide in drafting Dominus Iesus, Archbishop Tarcisio Bertone, was appointed Vatican Secretary of State. Archbishop Ivan Dias of Bombay, one of the most articulate defenders of the document, was recently named Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, meaning he will oversee the church’s mission work. De Souza concludes that although a few more critical appointments are to be made, it can be assumed that the central premise of Dominus Iesus, “namely that the church can only engage the world and other Christians if she is first confident of her own identity, will shape both the church’s central bureaucracy and her missionary activity.”
(National Catholic Register, 432 Washington Ave., North Haven, CT 06473)