Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Habemus Papam!

We welcome Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger as Pope Benedict XVI, the most important religious leader in the world. Now, some background from the BBC:

Cardinal Ratzinger has been head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith - formerly known as the Holy Office of the Inquisition - since 1981.

One of his first campaigns was against liberation theology, which had gained ground among priests in Latin America and elsewhere as a means of involving the Church in social activism and human rights issues.

He has described homosexuality as a "tendency" towards an "intrinsic moral evil". During the US election campaign, he called for pro-choice politicians to be denied Communion.

He has also argued that Turkey should not be admitted into the European Union.

The eighth German to become Pope, he speaks 10 languages and is said to be an accomplished pianist with a preference for Beethoven.

I've previously expressed conflict on the issue of Turkey joining the EU, but I most certainly agree with his view as a European. Could Benedict XVI save Europe? We'll see if the Europeans let him.

Some reaction has been predictably ignorant, possibly due to frustration at the failure to impose affirmative action on the papacy:

(AP) "It's Ratzinger," French pilgrim Silvie Genthial, 52, barked into her cellular phone before hanging up.

"We were all hoping for a different pope - a Latin American perhaps - but not an ultraconservative like this," she said.

Or perhaps a Protestant? Or a Muslim? Anyone but a Catholic who doesn't want to turn the Catholic Church into the Unitarian Universalists?

(NY Times) R. Scott Appleby, a historian on American Catholicism at the University of Notre Dame, said many Catholics were dismayed, stunned and depressed at the selection of Cardinal Ratzinger.

"This is their worst nightmare come true," said Professor Appleby, who predicted that the selection could lead to a "winnowing" of the American church.

"There is an idea associated with Cardinal Ratzinger and some American cardinals and bishops," Professor Appleby said, "that if we face a choice as Catholics between a pure, doctrinally orthodox church on the one hand and the current situation, which as they see it is a wide range of practice and belief and a moral laxity, they would choose a smaller, purer, more doctrinally orthodox church."

What's wrong with this? I'm reminded of the debate over how big the GOP tent should be, but the Catholic Church doesn't have to concern itself with winning elections. The Catholic Church survived the Reformation and centuries of devastating religious wars. It should be able to survive John Kerry and Tom Daschle.

On a side note, I feel some small connection to the new Pope:

(AP) He deserted in April 1945 and returned home to Traunstein. It was a risky move, since deserters were shot or hanged. But the Third Reich was collapsing.

"The Americans finally arrived in our village," he wrote. "Even though our house lacked all comfort, they chose it as their headquarters."

Ratzinger was identified as a deserter and placed in prisoner of war camp near Ulm in southern Germany. He wrote that he could see the spires of the city's cathedral in the distance.

"It was, for me, like a consoling proclamation of the indescribable humaneness of faith," he wrote.

I visited Ulm in 2003 to see and climb to the top of the world's tallest cathedral. It really is quite a sight.

Update, Apr. 20: New Sisyphus explains the media reaction well:
In the United States, there seems to be widespread anger and revulsion at the selection of Cardinal Ratzinger because he appears to be Catholic. Not only that, but he also appears to take the central tenants of that faith seriously.


April said...

The Catholics at the federal government offices seem to be upset over his name. Turns out the real issue is that he isn't black and will make their lives somehow harder by asking them to be actual Catholics.

Paul said...

By nature the office of the Pope is can't expect someone to come in there and make "sweeping reforms", they have to work with doctrine and stuff that is already there.

Liberal Catholics piss me off.

Paul said...

An article in Maxim said that Innsbruck had some of the best hiking trails in the world. (Probably because of the Alps).

Nick said...

There are definitely some great views. I hiked up to the Alpenzoo one day and came back down some trails. I heard of better hikes but didn't really feel like going on one alone (I'd rather wander about a town than out in a foreign wood). Probably should have invited someone... Oh well. Wandering can be fun.