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Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, 19 years before becoming Pope Benedict

The Story

Before he was Pope Benedict XVI, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger played the role of chief enforcer of doctrine in the Roman Catholic Church for over 20 years. In that capacity, the man sometimes referred to by critics as God's Rottweiler spent five days in Toronto in April, 1986, speaking to the faithful and taking questions on all manner of theological dogma. Although renowned for his conservative stances, in this clip, Ratzinger offers a more flexible view on at least one matter of life and death.

Medium: Radio
Broadcast Date: Apr. 20, 1986
Program: Open House
Host: Peter Meggs
Guest(s): Carol Leary, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger
Duration: 7:01

Did You know?

• More than 5,000 people gathered in Varsity Arena on April 14, 1986 to hear Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger's lecture, hosted by St. Michael's College at the University of Toronto. He broke with Vatican tradition by taking questions from the audience, and earlier in the week, hosting a press conference.
• Fifteen members of the Canadian Catholics for the Ordination of Women protested outside the gathering. They were met with mixed reactions from the waiting crowd.

• Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger's official title on this trip was Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. The watchdog body is a direct descendant of the Holy Office of the Inquisition set up in the 13th century to root out heresy.

• Charles Curran's case, mentioned in this clip, was settled later that year when he was deemed no longer "suitable or eligible" to teach as a Catholic theologian at The Catholic University of America. Curran, who remains a leading Catholic dissenter, challenged the church's official positions on several controversial matters, including contraception, homosexuality and divorce. He currently (2007) teaches at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas.

• Joseph Alois Ratzinger was born April 16, 1927 at Marktl am Inn, Bavaria in Germany. He was ordained in 1951, appointed Archbishop of Munich and Freising in 1977, and elevated to Cardinal later that year. He was elected pope on April 19, 2005, after the death of Pope John Paul II on April 2, 2005. He was chosen in near-record time, on the forth ballot, after the papal conclave had met for just one day.

• A controversial choice for pope due to his strict conservative stances, the Enforcer chose the name Benedict to signal that he wanted to "place my ministry in the service of reconciliation and harmony between peoples." Benedict means blessing in Latin, and recalls Pope Benedict XV who was known for his efforts to bring about peace before and during the First World War.



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