Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Habemus Papem

It's Ratzinger.

Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, since 1981 has been the prefect for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (once known as "the Inquisition").

Growing up in Nazi Germany, he was at age 14 required by law to join the Hitlerjugend, and at age 16, in 1943, was drafted into the Nazi Wehrmacht. He deserted in 1944.

In a 1999 cover story on Ratzinger, the National Catholic Reporter noted some of the highlights (or, if you prefer, lowlights) of Ratzinger's record as prefect for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith:
  • Theologians disciplined, such as Fr. Charles Curran, an American moral theologian who advocates a right to public dissent from official church teaching; Fr. Matthew Fox, an American known for his work on creation spirituality; Sr. Ivone Gebara, a Brazilian whose thinking blends liberation theology with environmental concerns; and Fr. Tissa Balasuriya, a Sri Lankan interested in how Christianity can be expressed through Eastern concepts;
  • Movements blocked, such as liberation theology and, more recently, religious pluralism (the drive to affirm other religions on their own terms);
  • Progressive bishops hobbled, including Archbishop Raymond Hunthausen of Seattle, reproached by Rome for his tolerance of ministry to homosexuals and his involvement in progressive political causes, and Bishop Dom Pedro Casaldáliga of Sao Félix, Brazil, criticized for his political engagement beyond the borders of his own diocese;
  • Episcopal conferences brought to heel on issues such as inclusive language and their own teaching authority;
  • The borders of infallibility expanded, to include such disparate points as the ban on women’s ordination and the invalidity of ordinations in the Anglican church.
As Bendict XVI, Ratzinger will likely continue to interject Catholic doctrine (or some form of Catholic doctrine) into secular politics. He will likely continue to pressure Catholic politicians--and to coerce them through threat of excommunication--to oppose abortion, as he did in the US presidential election of 2004. He will likely continue to influence national foreign policy, as he did in cautioning Europe against admitting Turkey into the European Union--because Turkey is an Islamic nation.

As Benedict XVI, Ratzinger will likely continue to lead the Catholic Church away from the path of post-Vatican II reform. He will likely continue to stress the unchanging truth of the Gospel. But he will also likely continue to try to shore up hoary traditions which are peripheral to Christian faith. Don't look for any changes in the Church's stand on celibacy, contraception, homosexuality, divorce, or the inferior role of women in the Church. Don't expect decentralization of authority to parishes and faith communities. Don't expect any admission that the Holy Spirit works through the body of Christ, if, by the body of Christ, you mean the entire community of the faithful.

Welcome to the neo-Counter-Reformation.

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