Matthew Fox was a Catholic priest and theologian who now serves as an Episcopal priest. As a Catholic, Fox wrote many books popular among Catholics interested in a mystical, ecological and social just faith. His is a theology based on creation, not the fall. Fox was prevented from teaching liberation theology, creation spirituality and feminist thought by Cardinal Ratzinger who later became Pope Benedict. After 34 years of service he was eventually expelled from the Catholic priesthood.
Matthew Fox was recently interviewed by Democracy Now. Fox contends that Pope Benedict essentially re-established the office of the inquisition in the Catholic Church to fight against the changes brought about by the Second Vatican Council. In addition to Fox’s work, the new inquisition banned over 100 other books exploring new theologies or issues of justice. In the interview, Fox was asked to describe his impression of the the current state of the Catholic Church. Understandibly, he was less than impressed:
“It’s become a viper’s nest there, obviously—the Vatican is.”
Fox contends that the former pope know about the cover up of pedophile priests.
And you can see it everywhere: Cardinal Mahony in Los Angeles; this cardinal in Scotland; Cardinal Law, who was elevated after he left Boston, given a promotion, running a fourth century basilica in Rome; and this pope himself, the recent documentary that came out a year—a week or two ago from HBO about how the buck stopped with him. We’re hearing these horrible things that went on at a school for the deaf in Milwaukee, where over 200 boys, deaf boys, were abused by a priest, and Ratzinger knew it. There’s Father Maciel, who was so close to the previous pope that he took him on plane rides with him, abused 20 seminarians, and he had two wives on the side and abused four of his own children, and Ratzinger knew about this man for 10 years. That document was on his desk, and he did nothing until the year 2005.
Fox also expressed his believe that repressive agents of the church and repressive elements of government conspired to crush liberation theology in South America.
I think all of Christianity can get back more to the teachings of Jesus, a revolutionary around love and justice. That’s what it’s about. And that’s why there’s been such fierce resistance all along from the right wing. The CIA has been involved in, especially with Pope John Paul II, the decimation of liberation theology all over South America, the replacing of these heroic leaders, including bishops and cardinals, with Opus Dei cardinals and bishops, who are—well, frankly, it’s a fascist organization, Opus Dei is. It’s all about obedience. It’s not about ideas or theology. They haven’t produced one theologian in 40 years. They produce canon lawyers and people who infiltrate where the power is, whether it’s the media, the Supreme Court or the FBI, the CIA, and finance, especially in Europe.
Fox believes that the true nature of the Catholic Church was expressed by Vatican Two.
Pope John XXIII called the council in the early ’60s, and it brought together all the bishops of the world and all the theologians, many of whom had been under fire under the previous papacy, Pope Pius XII. And it definitely was a reform movement, and it gave inspiration to the poor, especially in South America. And after the council, the movement of liberation theology, which had a principle of preferential option for the poor, this really took off, and it created base communities, which was a new way of doing church where everyone had a voice, not just the person at the altar.
And this non-hierarchical, this far more horizontal and circular approach to Christianity and to worship was a big threat, of course, to certain people in Rome, but it was even a bigger threat to the CIA. When Reagan was elected, two months later there was a meeting of his National Security Council in Santa Fe, New Mexico, to discuss one thing: How can we destroy liberation theology in Latin America? And they concluded: We can’t destroy it, but we can divide the church. And so they went after the pope. They gave him lots and lots of cash for solidarity in Poland. And in exchange, they got the permission, if you will, the commitment on the part of the papacy, to destroy liberation theology.
It is clear that Matthew Fox has not given up on the Catholic Church. He recognizes the Cardinals now gathered to select the next Pope, were themselves selected by the last two Popes, and so will probably choose another reactionary Pope in the same mold as Pope Benedict. But Fox would argue that the real Catholic Church is the one that produced liberation theology. He believes the real Catholic Church is the one that produced the feminist “nuns on a bus.” He would argue that it was the real Catholic Church which produced Matthew Fox, himself. So while the immediate future appears bleak, faithful Catholics now in living in captivity to the Vatican should remember a cardinal rule of church history: it is the heretic and martyr of one generation that becomes the saint and foundation of the next.