Buddhism is "a sort of spiritual autoeroticism", according to Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. The remark was made in an interview for the French magazine L'Express (20-26 March).
"If Buddhism seduces", he maintained, "it is because it appears as a way of being in touch with the infinite and with a happiness which has no concrete religious obligations. A spiritual auto-eroticism, of a sort. Someone had rightly predicted, in the 1950s, that the challenge for the Church in the twentieth century would not be Marxism but Buddhism."
Cardinal Ratzinger was asked about Vatican II, liberation theology and the dismissed Bishop Jacques Gaillot. The council, he said, had been subject from the start to "two contradictory interpretations". One, which he clearly favoured, was "reformist" — "renewing the Church but in fidelity to history". The other, he said, was "a revolutionary interpretation — condemning the past and calling the Church to commit herself to the creation of a new world of brotherhood and peace. These promises of a new world evidently fascinated the young people of 1968."
The cardinal was asked to justify the severe • treatment of left-wing liberation theologians compared with the gentler treatment of the right-wing Lefebvrist schismatics. He replied: "The politicisation of theology and the theologisation of politics are dangerous and unacceptable tendencies. I have always been surprised that the defenders of secularity do not protest more against the pretension of liberation theology to dominate political life."
In the case of Lefebvrism, he explained, it was necessary "to distinguish a hard core, which is fundamentally hostile to the council, from the faithful who have a nostalgia for a more contemplative liturgy".
On Bishop Gaillot, who was dismissed from his diocese of Evreux, Cardinal Ratzinger said that his "freedom of speech" held a fascination, "especially when it comes from a bishop who is opposed to authority". Bishop Gaillot's aim "of being a witness of the Gospel among the marginalised is positive. But a pastor of the Church should above all have the humility to be present for his flock in his diocese .. .. He himself recognised that he did not have this charism, and that justified the decision of the Holy See."
The L'Express interview, which ran under the heading "The testament of the PanzerCardinal", was published as part of the publicity for a forthcoming book of interviews with Cardinal Ratzinger entitled The Salt of the Earth.