The Vatican and Osho: A Study in Hypocrisy

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The recent resignation of Pope Benedict XVI has inspired many claims about the relationship between the Vatican and Osho, many of them unsupported.


Osho apparently thought that John Paul II had met with Reagan in 1985, shortly before Osho was arrested, but this was an error. According to online records Reagan met with John Paul II in 1982 and 1987.

Reagan, a fundamentalist Christian, would ordinarily have been the natural enemy of the pope in the politics of American Christianity, but the two men shared a common passion: a hatred of communism. Carl Bernstein reported in the June 24, 2001 issue of Time that the two men met for 50 minutes in 1982, supposedly to discuss Israel’s invasion of Lebanon. In fact, they spent most of their time talking about two other topics dear to their hearts. The first was the recent suppression of the Solidarity labor movement in Poland, and the second was the assassination attempts they had both experienced in 1981. They agreed they had both been divinely spared for missions from God.

The Reagan administration believed Poland was key to the downfall of the Soviet Union and that John Paul II, as a highly influential Pole, could be tremendously useful. Bernstein revealed that the US provided clandestine aid to Solidarity, supplied the pope with top-secret information on a regular basis, and William Casey, head of the CIA and a conservative Catholic, made regular secret visits to the Vatican. The Nation reported on April 17, 1989 that in his turn John Paul II ordered all priests to resign posts in the Sandinista government in Nicaragua, which the Regan administration opposed.

This was definitely a “you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours” relationship. They were willing to do each other favors to get to their shared goal. John Paul II seems to have been obsessed with the idea of freeing Poland from communism and is reported to have talked of little else with US officials, even when they had a different purpose, like discussing disarmament. He had appointed someone else to deal with “religious threats,” while he focused on the political. His “enforcer of the faith” was German Joseph Ratzinger, who later became Pope Benedict XVI.

John Paul II2 Ronald-Reagan3 BenedictOsho

Joseph Ratzinger was the Archbishop of Munich and Freiling from 1977 to 1982, during a time when Stern and Der Spiegel were publishing articles with lots of pictures of naked people in groups in Pune and when centers in Munich, Cologne, and other areas of Germany were booming. Ratzinger was apparently worried that the appeal of Eastern mysticism would lure people away from the Church.

Ratzinger was appointed head of the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Catholic Church’s modern version of the Inquisition, in 1981. He soon became the second most powerful man in the Vatican and was elevated to cardinal in 1993. In Rome he focused much of his efforts on stopping what he called pluralism, or the seeking of truth and grace in religions other than Christianity. He claimed pluralism or “relativism” was a threat to true faith from the Third World. In a 1997 interview published in the March 21 issue of the French L’Express, Ratzinger called Buddhism an “auto-erotic spirituality” and said: “In the 1950s someone said that the undoing of the Catholic Church in the twentieth century wouldn’t come from Marxism, but from Buddhism. They were right.” Ratzinger spoke of the ”seductions” of Buddhism and other Eastern traditions. According to John L. Allen, Jr., author of Cardinal Ratzinger: The Vatican’s Enforcer of the Faith, [1] Ratzinger’s statements were so offensive that a group of American priests issued an apology to Buddhists.

Ratzinger used his inquisition to censure Catholics who supported pluralism; Allen reports that Ratzinger went so far as to excommunicate a priest in Sri Lanka. In 2000 Ratzinger’s office created a statement of doctrine later signed by John Paul II called Dominus Iesus [2]. It held that non-Catholic Christian traditions were “defective,” but non-Christian were “gravely deficient” in terms of salvation.

So, what was Ratzinger’s relationship with Osho and sannyasins? Though he was often suspected of working behind the scenes in things like German legal disputes and Italian visa applications, nothing could be proved. The October 11, 1985 National Catholic Reporter stated: “The cardinal, who ‘daily receives top secret information from every continent,’ does his best to take daily top-secret action on the basis of this information.”

The only assertion of a direct connection came from Ashok Row Kavi, former columnist for the Bombay Sunday Mail. On December 24, 1989 he reported that someone “very close” to Ratzinger had revealed that Ratzinger “is known to have operated behind the scenes in the expulsion of Rajneesh from America.” In early February 1990, Kavi reported in a column that Ratzinger had said in 1981: “All sorts of Satanic cults by oriental godmen are out to seduce the faithful away from Christ.” Kavi claimed that Osho was the “object of these controversial statements.”

Considering the quid-pro-quo relationship between the Reagan administration and the Vatican, the belief that Ratzinger was instrumental in having Osho thrown out of the US is plausible, but given the Reagan administration’s longstanding opposition to Osho, it’s unclear if they needed any encouragement. At the very least, there is evidence that Ratzinger felt justified in lobbying to have Osho removed from the US.

After becoming Benedict XVI in 2005, Ratzinger soon met with enormous scandal. Ongoing investigations of sexual abuse of children revealed Church cover-ups that led to Ratzinger’s door in the Vatican. As head of the Congregation he was directly responsible for investigating such misbehavior, and in 2000 he had ordered his office to take oversight control of all investigations. Yet virtually nothing was done to stop the abuse. Several Catholic dioceses, including the one in Portland, Oregon, have had to file bankruptcy to avoid millions of dollars of damages for abuse and cover-up. Ratzinger’s supporters have claimed that this inaction was the fault of John Paul II, but in the eight years of Ratzinger’s tenure as pope, he apologized profusely for the child abuse, while doing little to stop it. Two cardinals from the US and Ireland have been implicated in widespread abuse cover-ups, but the cardinals are still in office and joined the conclave to vote for Benedict’s successor.

Meanwhile, back in Rome, Benedict’s butler was among Vatican watchers who were appalled by the allegations of misbehavior against Benedict’s own second in command, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone. The butler stole stacks of correspondence documenting sexual misbehavior and financial corruption in the Vatican and blew the whistle, allowing much of the correspondence to be published. Benedict had no choice but to order an investigation. The report of the investigation came in less than two months before Benedict announced his resignation.

The Italian press published information about the report, with screaming headlines about gay factions in the Vatican, which is hardly groundbreaking news, and downplayed the other issue mentioned: misuse of funds and a financial scandal that may involve the Vatican Bank. This brings to mind the story of John Paul I, who died suddenly after 33 days in office, when he, among other things, indicated a willingness to allow an investigation of a Vatican Bank scandal. Since Vatican protocol does not allow autopsies of popes, the dispute over the cause of his death continues. The case was written up in the book In God’s Name, which Osho spoke about (One Seed Makes the Whole Earth Green, Ch 3; The Rebel, Ch 13) [see related articles below].

Benedict and/or his conservative supporters recognized that he lacked the courage, vitality, and credibility to deal with the latest Vatican corruption scandal, so he’s off to a quiet retirement, while the attempt to save face and save the necks of many influential people in Europe falls on his successor, Pope Francis. Francis, another conservative, was reportedly the second runner up in the last conclave. He was elected in a conclave where well over half of the members had been selected by Benedict.

The irony of Benedict’s belief that the very flawed institution of the Catholic Church (child abuse, sexual perversion, blackmail, theft, and possibly murder) is the only agency of God on Earth and that Benedict has been justified in his self-righteous attacks on “deficient” non-Christian traditions that threaten its supremacy – like Osho, Buddhism, Hinduism – is hard to miss. But Joseph Ratzinger has apparently missed it completely. The insight and integrity of Pope Francis remain to be seen.

Footnote [1] This and some other references are quoted in the new, revised version of Max Brecher’s A Passage to America, available as an ebook on his website,
Footnote [2]

Related discourse excerpts:
Osho about In God’s Name
Sannyas a Training for Rebellion

This article was first published in the May/June 2013 issue of Viha Connection – reproduced with permission

Featured image by Caleb Miller on Unsplash

SangeetMa Prem Sangeet (Sangeet Duchane) was trained as an attorney and was the city attorney for Rajneeshpuram and Antelope during the Ranch days, and Osho’s legal representative and researcher in Pune Two. She was also a writer and editor for the Rajneesh/Osho Times. She became involved in the case challenging Osho trademarks in the US in 2000 and worked on the case until it was resolved in 2009. She now lives in northern California, where she works as a writer and editor.

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