In its original meaning, laicism is a way of organizing the society which guarantees individual freedom of conscience and civil peace excluding personal convictions from the political debate. Political leaders are free, as everybody else, of publicly manifesting their faith, but can not take their particular convictions as the basis of the public policies that include the society as a whole. Joseph Ratzinger fought this philosophy when he was the prefect of the Doctrine of the Faith (as the Holy Office has been called since 1966, also called the Holy Inquisition). Ratzinger stigmatized the secular philosophy of “laicism” and devoted himself to redefining the concept of “laicism.” In an interview granted a year ago to Le Figaro which was published again after his election as Pope, Ratzinger considered a “profanity” the separation of the private sphere (personal convictions) and the public sphere (political life), the foundation of the Declaration of the Right of Man and of the Citizen. According to him, faith is the light of reason, and therefore, it is the faith and not the reason what must lead the political debate.

Joseph Ratzinger was the organizer of the lobby in the European institutions so that the Bill of Rights and the Constitutional Treaty would not form the European Union on the basis of a political contract between nation-States or between citizens but on the basis of catholic references. He did not success completely, as he admitted in the interview. At the end, the Europeans adopted the Anglo-Saxon point of view and not that of the Holy See. The European Union rejected the political contract between nation-states to adopt that of “common values” but refused to define them as a “catholic” heritage or in its wider sense as “Christian.” Thus, the European Union recognizes France and Portugal’s secular character and haven’t ruled out the possibility of including Turkey in the Union, which is a real monster for the Bavarian theologian for Turkey is a secular state with a Muslim population. Then, Ratzinger expressed his opposition to the inclusion of Turkey in the Union, something he explained later in the Giornale del popolo (September 20, 2004). Nowadays, Ratzinger wants to turn the construction of a Christian Europe as the priority of his pontificate, as can be evidenced in the name he has chosen, Benedict XVI, in a clear reference to the patron saint of Europe.

But the international press seems to ignore the prelate’s political activities during the years he spent in the Roman curia. Only the Latin-American media have mentioned his responsibility in the systematic murder of the liberation theologians carried out by the catholic dictatorships. However, the Sunday Times issued on April 17 mentioned his links with the Nazi and his affiliation to Hitler Youth when he was an adolescent. The accusation is strong enough to make the Jerusalem Post publish an editorial written by Sam Seer absolving Ratzinger of all suspicions. And the thing is that the new pope is an indispensable element in the Tel Aviv-Washington Axis. Likewise, Cardinal Jean-Marie Lustiger, who represents the links between Israel and the Holy See, absolved him too in an article published by Le Figaro.

The Los Angeles Times reproduced also the famous letter of Cardinal Ratzinger to the President of the American Episcopal Conference, a document so appropriately “leaked” during the presidential campaign. In the said letter, the Cardinal recalled the pontifical condemnation of abortion and suggested catholic electors not to vote for John Kerry.

Theologian Michael Novak, who established the links between the American intelligence services and the Holy See two decades ago, opposed in the New York Times the characterization of Joseph Ratzinger as a neoconservative. As all commentators, who welcomed his election, Novak focused the debate on the new pope’s moral intransigence.

At the same time, in Der Standard, Monsignor Helmut Schüller calmed down the concerns of his flock. He guaranteed that the new pope, no matter how rigorous he might be, wouldn’t outstandingly change the internal balance of the Church and would continue the work of his predecessor.

In general, the message of the Vatican’s communicators is that Benedict XVI is a rigorous and severe personality, required virtues to be a pope. This image lessens the political dimension of the character to favor his moral behavior, something that has nothing to do with reality. The new pope does not have to reconstruct a Church after years of laxness. But that does not matter, for anything must be done to conceal the Pope’s counterrevolutionary nature with that of the neoconservatives that support him in Washington. Ronald Reagan counted on John Paul II to destabilize Poland. George W. Bush counts on Benedict XVI to add Europe to the “clash of civilizations” though a new “look” must be given to the “Panzer Kardinal.”

Apart from this controversy, Die Presse gave the floor to Austrian priest Anton Faber who wondered about the designation of cardinal-archbishop of Vienna, Christophe Schönborn, as the successor of cardinal Ratzinger as the prefect of the Doctrine of the Faith. The same journal also published an article by geneticist Markus Hengstschlager on the incoherencies of Joseph Ratzinger who opposes stem cell research in the name of the respect for life, while authorizes the death penalty in the name of the protection of society.