November 6, 2012. 5:26 pm • Section: The Search
Bishop emeritus Remi de Roo in the late 1980s, when he was called to meet then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger. When the man who who was to become pope straightened De Roo out about the possibility of female priests, De Roo recalled: "I was not alone in finding it galling to be treated like an errant schoolboy."
The former bishop of Victoria, Remi De Roo, recounts two difficult conversations with two popes in his significant new memoirs, Remi De Roo: Chronicles of a Vatican II Bishop (Novalis).
The testy exchanges with one pope, and the powerful prelate who later become Pope Benedict, took place when De Roo showed support for married Catholic priests and, later, the possibility of female clergy.
The book was released to coincide with the 50th anniversary of De Roo’s ordination as bishop — and the beginning of the ecumenical reforms of Vatican II begun by Pope John XXIII. De Roo was a major player in those adventurous times. Montreal Cardinal Jean-Claude Turcotte writes the forward to the book, with Mary Jo Leddy also offering praise.
This book by the 88-year-old bishop emeritus does not dwell on the exchanges with Pope John Paul and then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who in 2005 was elected pope and named himself Benedict XVI. De Roo also makes clear he bears no animosity toward them in a chapter he titled “Adversities and Loves.”
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Still, the two book excerpts about De Roo’s meetings with the popes are the ones attracting the Catholic media’s attention. They were not what De Roo would call excellent examples of church “dialogue.”
In a general way, De Roo could be called a “progressive” and “liberal” bishop, while it’s customary to refer to John Paul and Benedict as “conservative” leaders, certainly on most issues of theology, ethics and church protocol. Through his life De Roo has been a strong supporter of liberation movements, labour unions, spiritual practices such as the enneagram, government social programs and womens’ empowerment.
De Roo’s disagreements with John Paul II and Ratzinger are significant, given that observers have concluded many of the liberalizing changes that began with Vatican II in 1962 have been largely withdrawn under John Paul and Benedict. De Roo, who has remained active as a speaker during his 80s, is seen as one of the few bishops trying to keep alive the open spirit of Vatican II. Montreal theologian Gregory Baum is also counted among Vatican II’s leaders.
Here’s an excerpt about De Roo’s autobiography from the Catholic newspaper, The Prairie Messenger:
MEETINGS WITH RATZINGER AND JOHN PAUL II
… Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict, once called De Roo to Rome to admonish him for speaking on the ordination of women in Washington, D.C., in 1986.
“This was not to be a joyous encounter,” De Roo recalled. “I was not alone in finding it galling to be treated like an errant schoolboy on what was supposed to be my ‘home turf.’”
Years later, during a luncheon, De Roo said Pope John Paul II purposely ignored his request to speak about the ordination of mature married men in areas deprived of priests.
As De Roo insisted, the pope turned and glared at him, “then banged deliberately on the table with his right fist holding the knife handle. In a loud and emphatic tone of voice he declared, ‘Deus providebit!’ (God will provide!). That was, sadly, the end of the exchange.”
Here is the page in the book in which De Roo describes his lunch in 1994 with Pope John Paul (click on it to expand):
Excerpt from Remi De Roo autobiography