"Pope Benedict XVI". I like the sound of it. He invokes the patron of Europe,
and establishes that he is a man of tradition, of roots. But what is that sound?
From the shrinking camps of the Catholic modernists there is wailing and
gnashing of teeth. There are cheers on the Right, though I doubt that will last,
at least among those for whom Republican politics and Catholic orthodoxy seem a
neat fit: Joseph Ratzinger has been, if anything, a more strident critic of
capitalism than Pope John Paul II. He has questioned whether modern warfare can
ever be justified [Benedict XV, whose name he has taken, was a near-pacifist],
he has criticized American cultural dominance, and has even noted the negative
influence of modern technology on the religious imagination.
I suspect the Catholic neocons are even now heading for the high ground,
and discussing tactics for influencing the selection of the next pope.
Not that one would expect criticism; they changed tactics in the early 80s to
flattery and subterfuge, which have served them well.
John Paul II was loved and admired, even by many who took issue with his
teachings; and there were few who did not find something to take issue with, as
the late Pope refused to be bound by the human categories of Left and
I doubt, though, that Pope Benedict XVI will be so loved He already is
despised by many [barely] within the Church. Indeed, while I expect a strong
pontificate that will continue the Reform of the Catholic Church begun by his
predecessor, I also expect that he will be widely vilified, even hated. By all
accounts a soft-spoken, scholarly man, lacking the raw charisma of John Paul
II, and I fear he will suffer much. From his youth in World War II Germany to
his association with the successor to the Inquisition, he will be easy to
caricaturize. Brace yourselves, and hold on for what will undoubtably be a
controversial, and splendid pontificate.