by Desmond O'Grady in Rome
CARDINAL Joseph Ratzinger and Fr Leonardo Hoff had a quiet meeting in a fraternal atmosphere in the Vatican last Friday but the Doctrinal Congregation still disapproves of Fr Boff's book Church, Charisma and Power. This is the meaning of the communique • issued by mutual agreement after the Boff-Ratzinger meeting.
Before the meeting the Vatican announced that, on May 5, Cardinal Ratzinger, head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith criticised the book which the Congregation considers "dangerous to the faith". Fr Boff wanted to discuss the Cardinal's letter but for various reasons the appointment was postponed.
Consequently the Doctrinal Congregation issued a statement that it considered the book dangerous, although without publishing Cardinal Ratzinger's detailed letter.
Although considered odd that the Vatican should make its position known before the meeting, its judgement is not on Fr Boff personally but on the book.
Fr Boff planned to arrive at the Doctrinal Congregation on foot accompanied by the Brazilian Cardinals who had been refused permission to be present at the meeting with Cardinal Ratzinger„
Reportedly the Secretary of State, Cardinal Agostino Casaroli, found a compromise: the two Cardinals would be admitted after the RatzingerBoff meeting but Fr Boff would have to be driven to the Doctrinal Congregation.
Fr Boll was picked up at the Franciscan headquarters by Cardinal Ratzinger's secretary, Fr Joseph Clemens, who was driving a black Volkswagen with a Vatican number plate. It stopped at a secondary Doctrinal Congregation entrance, and the Cardinal, accompanied by Mgr Jorge Maija, an Argentinian member of the Secretariat for Christian Unity, received Fr Boff in a small room.
The Cardinal, the Monsignor and the Friar sat around a small table and Fr Boff began to read in Portuguese his 50-page response to the Cardinal's sixpage letter.
He went ahead for some hours until they agreed he stop. Cardinal Ratzinger took the text and said he would submit it to the Congregation. They then spoke of the forthcoming Doctrinal Congregation document on the positive aspects of liberation theology until the two Brazilian Cardinals were admitted to prepare the communique.
They seemed satisfied when they left. Fr Hoff was driven back to the Franciscan headquarters where he told journalists that a Doctrinal Congregation official informed him he should hear something more by the beginning of 1985.
The Doctrinal Congregation will now decide whether to add to Cardinal Ratzinger's letter, whose publlication has been promised, because of Fr Boff's 50-page defence.