On Tuesday's "Good Morning America," news anchor Chris Cuomo used the upcoming visit of Pope Benedict XVI to label the pontiff as uncompromising and assert that the Catholic Church sees the visit as "an opportunity for the Pope to come here and reinforce hard-line doctrine." Earlier in the segment, Cuomo described Benedict as "a hard-liner charged with protecting Catholic orthodoxy."
Cuomo also went on to claim that the Pope's goal is to strike a balance "between placating conservative followers and giving hope to liberals who seek social reform." The ABC journalist went on to mention the pontiff's background and note, "Born in Germany, Benedict's seminary studies were interrupted by World War II when, reluctantly, he says, he became a member of the Hitler youth and the Nazi army..." Cuomo provided no elaboration on that statement, but, as a New York Times AP report stated in April of 2005, then-Joseph Ratzinger was indeed reluctant about Germany's war:
TRAUNSTEIN, Germany (AP) -- Blinds drawn, windows closed, Joseph Ratzinger huddled with his father and older brother around a radio and listened to Allied radio broadcasts, volume on low.
It was a small and risky act of defiance in this conservative Bavarian village deep inside Adolf Hitler's Germany. But the father wanted his sons to know the truth about the Nazis and World War II, says Georg Ratzinger, who like his brother drew strength from the Catholic Church.
A transcript of the segment, which aired at 7:14am on April 15, follows:
ROBIN ROBERTS: Now to the Pope's visit to America. He'll be arriving in Washington, D.C. later this afternoon. Thousands expected to greet him at the White House. Quite an opportunity for the Pope to introduce himself to an American audience. Chris has been following the story for us.
CHRIS CUOMO: Benedict XVI has been pontiff for three years but for many Americans he's still best known for the Pope who followed John Paul II.
FATHER JOHN WAUK (Pontifical University of the Holy Cross): I think that American opinion is still undecided about the Pope. The jury is still out.
CUOMO: His predecessor was something of a rock star among Catholics who managed to chip away at the iron curtain and win over the hearts of Catholic youth with his very public warmth. Benedict is a decidedly different pope. As Cardinal John Ratzinger, he served John Paul as defender the faith, a hard-liner charged with protecting Catholic orthodoxy. His passions, books cats, Mozart. Interestingly, he didn't take his cat to live with him in the Vatican but he did bring his piano.
WAUK: But what people say, they came to see John Paul II, and come to hear Benedict XVI.
CUOMO: Born in Germany, Benedict's seminary studies were interrupted by World War II when, reluctantly, he says, he became a member of the Hitler youth and the Nazi army, before being taken as an American prisoner of war. Here in the U.S., Benedict is perhaps remembered as the cardinal in charge of dealing with the church sex abuse scandal, who seemed at times defending the priests accused of wrongdoing.
JOSEPH RATZINGER: Always the temptation of human beings are present also for the priest. Always we have to accept it.
CUOMO: And controversy has followed Benedict in his role as pope. In 2006, the Pope set off a fire storm after making a speech in which he quoted a description of 14th century Islam as evil. He later apologized. But coming to the U.S. may present the biggest challenge yet for Pope Benedict. His goal, to unite a splintered American Catholic Church, striking a balance between placating conservative followers and giving hope to liberals who seek social reform.
FATHER KEITH PECKLERS (Pontifical Liturgical Institute): The American church is extremely important to this pope, and I think his trip to the United States will win people over.
CUOMO: It's interesting to hear "will win people over." It's not believed that the Pope is coming here to charm anyone. You know, it's interesting, for all of the talk about scandal here, the American church, the Catholic Church is actually growing. So, they see this as an opportunity for the Pope to come here and reinforce hard-line doctrine.