Benedict's aim, like that of John Paul II, was to ensure the centre held
Pope Benedict XVI leading a Mass in the Vatican. As dean of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, he was John Paul II's doctrinal enforcer. photograph: stefano rellandini/reuters
Analysis:The pope became known as “God’s Rottweiler” with good reason
And thus endeth the longest papacy in history. With a surprise. It featured two popes, John Paul II and Benedict XVI, and began in October 1978, over 34 years ago.
This papacy of two men was united around one aim – ensuring that the centre held. It was about ending what some would describe as confusion following the Second Vatican Council, sustained through the uncertain papacy of Pope Paul VI. It ended in 1978.
John Paul II was the communicator, the people person, the front-of-house man who sold restriction and orthodoxy with empathy and charm.
As dean of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) from 1981 to 2005, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was the enforcer.
He supplied much of the intellectual clarity that underlined the theological orthodoxy which very soon became a major feature of John Paul’s papacy.
Ratzinger brooked no dissent, whatever its source. It extended even to former colleagues such as Hans Küng.
In 1966, at Küng’s instigation, the Catholic faculty at Germany’s Tübingen university appointed the then Fr Ratzinger professor of dogmatics.
In 1979, Küng was stripped of his licence to teach because he challenged the dogma of papal infallibility.
In 1981, when Ratzinger became dean of the CDF, he upheld that decision.
In 1986 he stopped US priest Fr Charles Curran from teaching because of his views on sexuality and ethics. A Brazilian, Fr Leonardo Boff, was silenced twice by him, in 1985 and in 1991 because of his “liberation theology”.
In 1986 Ratzinger denounced homosexuality as a “strong tendency ordered towards an intrinsic moral evil; and thus the inclination itself must be seen as an objective disorder”.
In 1995, Sri Lankan theologian Fr Tissa Belasuriya was excommunicated by him over writings on Mary, original sin and the divinity of Christ. And there were those five Irish priests silenced last year.
In his infamous Dominus Iesus document of 2000, Ratzinger dismissed all reformed churches as not churches “in the proper sense”. They were merely “ecclesial communities”.
Other faiths were “gravely deficient”.
In 1997 he described Buddhism as an “auto-erotic spirituality”. Hinduism was based, he said, on a concept of reincarnation resembling “a continuous circle of hell”.
In a 2004 document he denounced “radical feminism” sternly as an ideology that undermined the family and obscured the natural differences between men and women.
And he made suggestions that the banning of women from the priesthood could be a dogma of the church.