The selection of a German to succeed a Pole put the kybosh on the growing narrative in Media-ville that the Catholic Church would turn toward the growing regions of Africa, Asia or Latin America to find the new pope and the next leader of the world’s 1.1 billion Catholics. The cardinals picked the most conservative, traditional guy they could find from the Old World – a German, to boot – to lead the faith.
To make the move more emphatic, Cardinal Ratzinger as dean of the College of Cardinals and head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, gave the equivalent of the convocation’s key note speech Monday that stunned Vatican watchers in its vigorous and straightforward defense of the righteousness of the faith. It was such an in-your-face defense of the conservative teachings of Pope John Paul II that even the Cardinals themselves had a hard time showing any enthusiasm – in public. Of course, much of the Media-ville commentary will be about how strict a Catholic Ratzinger has been; as if these observers were expecting the cardinals to select some kind of hippy priest, or perhaps even a Protestant, to succeed Pope John Paul II!
Quillnews suggests that all who wonder what Pope Benedict XVI's tenure will mean start by reading the sermon then-Cardinal Ratzinger gave Monday. Here is an account of the speech and the cardinals' reactions from the DN, and a nuanced interpretation Michael Novak in NRO. This WP column by EJ Dionne is good. The core resource on Ratzinger, of course, is the Catechism of the Catholic Church, widely recognized as one of the most significant products of Pope John Paul II's tenure, and which was supervised by Ratzinger in the first revision to the core text in four centuries. Money excerpts from the WP account of his sermon Monday:
Ratzinger said: “To have a clear faith according to the church's creed is today often labeled fundamentalism, while relativism, letting ourselves be carried away by any wind of doctrine, appears as the only appropriate attitude for the today's times. A dictatorship of relativism is established that recognizes nothing definite and leaves only one's own ego and one's own desires as the final measure." The church has been shaken by "numerous ideological currents," Ratzinger said. "The boat has been unanchored by these waves, thrown from one extreme to the other: from Marxism to liberalism, up to libertinism; from collectivism to radical individualism; from atheism to a vague religious mysticism; from agnosticism to syncretism, and on and on… An adult faith does not follow the waves of fashion and the latest novelty.”
Media-ville will no doubt focus on what this means to American and European Catholics who were looking for a moderating voice to emerge after Pope John Paul II to heal some of the dissention with the late pontiff's my-way-or-the-high-way approach to doctrine. Quillnews thinks this is off the mark. Of greater importance is how Pope Benedict XVI’s view of the faith will inform church policy and actions in confronting the two greatest challenges to the civilized, God-fearing world: 1) the threat posed by an intolerant Islamist faith (WP, BBC, LGF, LGF2, LGF3), and 2) the emergence on the world’s stage of China, ruled by a communist tyranny which denies 20% of humanity the freedom to worship God (Quillnews, BBC). Stay tuned...