Illustration: John Shakespeare
When Joan Kunze (Letters, February 13) suggested Joseph Ratzinger might spend some of his time in retirement reflecting on the concept of the zeitgeist, it got me wondering if she had a particular zeitgeist in mind.
He has experienced many: that of the gangster rule of Nazi Germany and of the apogee of the murderous communist regimes and their eventual fall, the zeitgeist of the sexual revolution of the '60s and its fallout, and that of the drift from modernism to largely nihilistic postmodernism.
If Ms Kunze reads his addresses to French intellectuals, the German Bundestag and the British Houses of Parliament during his time as Benedict XVI, she will see there is a good argument there are fewer people on the planet at the moment who have a better grasp of the zeitgeist than Joseph Ratzinger.
It seems what Ms Kunze really means is: ''Why doesn't he get with the times?'' What annoys people is that Ratzinger/Benedict critiques the zeitgeist and does not just flow with it.
Martin Fitzgerald Chatswood
You would have to say a cell in a Vatican monastery is the most modest retirement/termination package for a chief executive we have heard about in a very long time (''A quiet life, an important neighbour'', February 13).
Colin Booth Narrabeen
The time has come, Tim Fischer, to recognise the Pope's surprise resignation is not about ''a very conservative Pope providing a modern method of departure'' (''Graceful exit is conservative's modernising legacy to church'', February 13). It is about the church finding a means to extricate itself in response to some of the most troubling questions facing humanity today.
Eurocentric conservatism, under the guise that white men know better, no longer serves a world where the need for equality and inclusiveness are the paramount issues of our time. With the re-election of the first black president of the United States, the church now stands poised to elect its first black Pope, namely, Cardinal Peter Turkson from Ghana, who is the frontrunner.
Changing the face of those who occupy these age-old offices will testify to the greatest ideals upon which the gospel teaching of Jesus Christ and democracy itself are founded: that all people are created equal.
Reverend Dr Vincent Zankin Rivett (ACT)
Just wondering. To whom does the Pope hand his letter of resignation?
Greg Partington Quakers Hill
I am betting a resignation with such short notice will not attract a reference from the boss.
Terry Killick Leichhardt
Claire Hill's lucky escape from a bus accident was just that - lucky (''Crash survivor counts her blessings'', February 13). It was not a result of being kissed by the Pope in 2008. That is no more true that Sue Hill's claim that ''the ambulances came really slow because they thought there was no chance''. The NSW Ambulance service does not operate that way.
What we know, we know through science. Claims of causality or other effects have to be repeatable, testable and able to be verified independently. Throw that away and we are back in the Middle Ages, full of demons, curses and fear.
If the elderly German man in question, or anyone else, could perform verifiable miracles, such as restoring a lost limb or reversing a spinal injury, I'd be a convert tomorrow. But no such thing has ever happened. Thousands of ill or injured Catholics visit Lourdes and Rome each year. No wheelchair or prosthetic limb has ever been discarded.
Alex Kemeny Wahroonga
Where, one might ask, is the Pope's blessing for the countless children in sub-Saharan Africa brought into the world only to die horribly of malnutrition and disease because His Holiness enforces Vatican dogma denying parents contraception.
Those children don't make it. They are sacrificed on the altar of irrationality.
Peter Thomas Rose Bay
An old man has resigned. His successor will be an old man elected by old men (no women). What other organisation could survive like this in the 21st century and be relevant?
Richard Harman Moss Vale
The Catholic Church does wonderful work educating people, helping the poor and bringing peace to many. The church's numbers are exploding in Africa, Asia and South America. Critics of the church will always be there, but the silent majority are grateful to Benedict XVI and look forward to the leadership the new Pope will bring.
Stephen McAuley Cherrybrook
Sophie York (Letters, February 13) recommends ''the Pope's message of love, forgiveness, and respect for human dignity''. Does that then imply that all gay men vilified by that pontiff on numerous occasions (''a concept of human nature that has proven defective'', ''an intrinsic moral evil'', ''insidious and dangerous'' etc) must be less than human?
I wonder who or what informs and gives licence to those men who hunt gays like Scott Johnson for sport (''Gays hunted for sport, says dead man's family'', February 13)? I doubt gay men will miss Benedict XVI's malice of the chalice.
Shayne Chester Potts Point
You can rest assured Cardinal Pell will not have a hope in Hades of taking over the top job. The Vatican is only too well aware of the stench that is going to arise from the royal commission on child abuse. It would prefer Australia had remained the great unknown south land.
Robin Martin Byron Bay
Miners' tax win means society is the loser
As they congratulate themselves on their tax avoidance success in our country, it would be salutary were the big mining companies to reflect that in part because of them we have disability carers with no funds, we have 30 or more kids in a classroom, we have lengthy waiting times in hospital emergency departments and we have thousands sleeping on our streets at night (''Miners hoard credits to avoid resources tax'', February 13).
Is this really commercial or moral responsibility? Perhaps our elected politicians could take this message to them - in monosyllabic terms.
Richard Pocock Elizabeth Bay
The miners who negotiated with Gillard and Swan would have been absolute idiots to have signed up to a deal in which they could be screwed by royalties and the minerals resource rent tax, and they are not idiots.
Profits are not easy to achieve, even in the mining industry, in which - surprise, surprise - there is still competition.
John Grundy Chiswick
I am embarrassed and angered by the gloating of some over the MRRT not bringing in much tax revenue so far.
This tax is an attempt by the government to extract from our natural resources more benefits for all Australian citizens so that it is not just the mining magnates, cashed-up chief executives and shareholders (many residing overseas) who reap the most.
And for those journalists, commentators, members of the opposition and ''others'' on the constant lookout to agitate via nonsense talk of Kevin Rudd's restoration, using the redesigned MRRT as another reason for this is foolish and ignorant (''Rudd digs mining tax hole for PM'', February 13). Had the MRRT remained under the design it was conceived under Rudd and Swan's original proposal, the mining industry would have continued pouring millions of dollars into a campaign to undermine the government, and there is a chance Labor would not even be in power now - Rudd or no Rudd.
The tax took in $126 million at a time when commodity prices fluctuated massively, the world economy was still shaky, and some of the Coalition state governments increased their royalty take. Regardless, there is still $126 million more value that Australians had from their resources than we would have had under a Coalition government. Think on that.
Paul Bugeja Edgecliff
Put back 'public' into public parks
Hands off the tall poppies (Letters, February 13). Public parks, of any size, in any location, should be available for the exclusive use of public individuals whenever they choose and, more importantly, need to use them. They are not there for commercialisation at times convenient to elected representatives or bureaucrats.
Kevin Eadie Drummoyne
What is needed is a walking track from McKell Park to Double Bay across the pristine lawns, boat ramps etc. Bring on the peasant revolution!
Josephine Piper Miranda
Call it hypocrisy
So, President Barack Obama reckons that North Korea's nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs constitute a threat to US national security and to international peace and security (''North Korea nuclear test alarms the neighbours,'' February 13)?
With its usual boundless cant and hypocrisy, the US would have the world forget the fact that it has conducted more than 1100 such tests over nearly half a century, after it became the first and only country to commit the unpardonable crime of using nuclear weapons against civilian populations.
Meanwhile, Australia doesn't hesitate to support India's nuclear weapons program by selling it uranium, while we have nothing to say about Israel's ''secret'' nuclear weapons stash, estimated to run to more than 400 devices.
John Richardson Wallagoot
Each to their own
Several years ago, during one of the anti-smoking lobby's putsches to make smoking more socially unacceptable, I wrote a letter to the Herald stating that once the anti-smoking lobby got as much as it could reasonably hope to get from the government it would turn its attention to alcohol and food restrictions. And so it comes to pass (''Profits before health, say experts'', February 13).
The purpose behind these wowsers is to make our society in their image and so conformist that we are restricted in everything we do.
I say: ''So what if someone drinks Coca Cola until they die. That is their choice.'' Take a step backwards, wowsers, and leave me to my life.
Ross Fyfe Lane Cove
It takes two
I am amazed at how quickly people rush to abolish things they disagree with or do not understand (Letters, February 13). Most democracies have an upper house. Membership is usually constituted on a different basis from the lower house. This is to ensure that the upper house is not a replica of the lower, thereby providing a wider variety of opinions on the issues of the day.
To label the Senate or Legislative Council as ''unrepresentative swill'' misses the point entirely. Having an upper chamber might obstruct ''progress'' - whatever that is - but if you want the proverbial trains to run on time, perhaps democracy is not for you.
Richard Hallam Coelho Randwick
I have yet to see the legislation, but it seems as if the Prime Minister intends to recognise Aboriginal people as the original inhabitants of Australia (''Nation's 'wound' closer to being healed'', smh.com.au, February 13).
It is not as if there is any doubt about the matter. Who could deny that Aboriginal people were here before the European invasion? Why, then, make such a fuss about a redundant acknowledgement that could not possibly change anything?
Recognising Aboriginal people as inhabitants is yet another way of avoiding recognising them as owners - and ultimately, on that basis, as sovereigns.
There is nothing new about the proposed act of recognition. It simply refurbishes the same old tired denial for the present - and makes it sneakier.
Patrick Wolfe Healesville (VIC)
Doubts over Croatian Six case
I was very distressed to see the report of Justice Barr's decision in the matter of the Croatian Six, as I had hoped there might at last be some redress in a case which is a disgrace to the Australian legal system (''Bid for review of Croatian Six terrorist convictions again fails'', February 11).
I have no personal links with the Croatian community, but at the time of the trial I was working for the then ethnic affairs commission as a translation-editor/interpreter (Spanish). My late friend and colleague Alex Petosevich was an interpreter on duty throughout the trial, and he told me at the time that he was convinced the defendants had been framed, at the behest of the Yugoslav government.
He also had a good deal to say about the conduct of the trial and the behaviour of the police in the court - those giving evidence and those merely present. Since Alex was a Serb, my feeling was that if he thought those people had been framed it was probably true.
While I had no personal contact with the case, I can say that those of us who were working as court interpreters in NSW in the early 80s had very good reason to disbelieve police evidence, whether coming from Roger Rogerson or from his colleagues.
Kate Johnson Canley Vale
ICAC crew's ditty laundry revealed
Poor Ian Macdonald having to eke out his parliamentary pension by ''doing cleaning'' ('' 'You're a crook', Macdonald told'', February 13). Here's a tip , Ian - have lunch at home.
Robert Clayton Mallanganee
Seems to me Moses Obeid is eminently qualified for the papal vacancy, given the revelations last week about his relationship with the Good Lord and His surveyors on high.
Stephen Driscoll Carlingford
Continuing Paul Haege's ditty (Letters, February 13): … with an Obeid here and an Obeid there, here a trust, there a trust, we all had to earn a crust, Old Macdonald had a farm, How were we to know?
Toby Ehinger Marrickville
Mr Obeid and Mr Macdonald prompt some tweaking of a Churchillian observation: Never have so many felt such contempt for so few.
Jane Edwards Peterhead
I note with some interest the article concerning the shortage of ethics teachers in our schools, and limited funding for the service (''No places for children in ethics classes'', February 13). No small wonder, I suppose, as both the government and its predecessor were and are so busy with promoting the ethos of greed being good.
No small wonder, either, that ICAC is so busy investigating the ''products'' of that ethos, with grinning ''crockery'' everywhere characterising the ''virtues'' of that ethos.
We really do not want our children growing up with a sense of balance, fair play and ethics to guide their way in life, do we?
Frank McQuade Kogarah
''That one may smile, and smile, and be a villain.''
Hamlet Act I, Scene V
Roy Horrocks Umina Beach
The Gittins effect
An economist with a conscience (''More to life than going along with big bosses'', February 13). Ross Gittins, will you marry me?
Janine Burdeu Mona Vale
Strange, Greg McCarry (Letters, February 13), that we count our age from our birth date and not our date of conception.
Margaret Dunlop Bonny Hills
Engineer on song
For the first time since 1974, an Australian musician has won record of the year. A big congratulations to Wally de Backer. But for the first time ever, an Australian mastering engineer has also won the Grammy for record of the year. The mastering engineer for Gotye's single, and his Grammy award-winning album Making Mirrors, is Sydneysider William Bowden, my husband, who was up on stage with Wally on the night.
Peta Lee Stanmore
Cruise no help
If my business or my marriage were failing, the last person I would want to see hanging round the corner would be Tom Cruise, Jenny Stephenson (Letters, February 13). It was at that precise point of the interview I felt most sympathy for Mr Packer.
Rosemary O'Brien Georges Hall