April 19, 2005
Habemus PapamJoseph Cardinal Ratzinger isn't called the Enforcer for nothing.
This polemicist who favors adherence to stringent dogma has ruffled feathers of Catholics in his native Germany and elsewhere due to his hardline stance on many issues confronting the Church.
In various encyclicals, he has condemned homosexuality and gay marriage, denounced birth control and abortion, decried "radical feminism" and affirmed the supremacy of the Catholic Church over other Christian churches.
In short, he is John Paul II without the charisma.
In the sermon before the conclave that elected him he said, "Having a clear faith, based on the creed of the church, is often labeled today as a fundamentalism. Whereas relativism, which is letting oneself be tossed and swept along by every wind of teaching, looks like the only attitude acceptable to today's standards."
As someone born and raised Catholic, this is personally deflating for me. My hopes for a progressive pontiff were dashed again. I shouldn't have expected differently, considering the conclave was populated with John Paul II appointees, but hoped the Church would at least listen to the real world concerns of its flock.
There is nothing in the history of this new pope to suggest he will do that, much less favor meaningful reforms. I'm guardedly giving him the benefit of the doubt, but it's more likely he will stay true to form and continue to marginalize the Church and make it more irrelevant in the lives of today's Catholics.
The speed and decisive majority with which he was chosen shows the Catholic Church has made its choice, and that choice was in favor of strict orthodoxy.
The London News Review sums up my sentiments best:
The job of the Pope is not to protect the Church against the world. It is to lead the Church in its engagement with the world. Just because the Church has a vast and intricate history of dogma, doesn’t mean it should retreat into it. But that's what the Catholic Church has chosen to do with the election of Ratzinger: it has chosen to retreat.
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