This post has been updated
Roman Catholics across the globe are reacting to the announcement that Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger of Germany has been elevated to become Pope Benedict XVI. The National Catholic Reporter states this evening in an online article:
He is a hero to the conservative wing of the Catholic Church, a man who had the toughness to articulate the traditional truths of the faith in a time of dissent and doubt. To Catholic liberals, on the other hand, he is something of a Darth Vader figure, someone who looms as a formidable opponent of many of the reforms of which they have long dreamed.
It was Ratzinger, for example, who in the mid-1980s led the Vatican crackdown on liberation theology, a movement in Latin America that sought to align the Roman Catholic Church with progressive movements for social change. Ratzinger saw liberation theology as a European export that amounted to Marxism in another guise, and brought the full force of Vatican authority to stopping it in its tracks. He sought to redefine the nature of bishops’ conferences around the world, insisting that they lack teaching authority. That campaign resulted in a 1998 document, Apostolos Suos, that some saw as an attack on powerful conferences such as those in the United States and Germany that to some extent acted as counterweights to the Vatican.
It was Ratzinger who in a famous 1986 document defined homosexuality as “a more or less strong tendency ordered toward an intrinsic moral evil.” In the 1990s, Ratzinger led a campaign against the theology of religious pluralism, insisting that the traditional teaching of Christ as the lone and unique savior of humanity not be compromised. This effort culminated in the 2001 document Dominus Iesus, which asserted that non-Christians are in a “gravely deficient situation” with respect to Christians.
These are perhaps the best-known, but hardly the only controversial declarations of Ratzinger over the years. He once called Buddhism an “auto-erotic spirituality,” and inveighed against rock music as a “vehicle of anti-religion.”
Click here to read the full article.
The new Pope is seen as the principal author of the most virulently anti-gay, anti-GLBT rhetoric in the last papacy. The elevation of Cardinal Ratzinger is being seen by many GLBT Catholics as a profound betrayal by the leaders of the Roman Catholic Church and betrayal of one of the most fundamental teachings of Jesus Christ as the loving Good Shepherd who reached out to the ones separated from the flock.
The pro-choice group Catholics for a Free Choice also weighed in:
Catholics for a Free Choice is deeply concerned that the election of Cardinal Josef Ratzinger as pope is a strong indication of continued dissension within the church. The cardinal’s historic role as a disciplinarian means the tradition of the punitive father is maintained within the Roman Catholic church.
As we move into a new era for the church, we look to the election of a new pope as a starting point for the critical work that must be done to make this church a home for all Catholics, particularly those divided from the church during the last quarter century.
Today, Pope Benedict XVI has both an opportunity and a mandate to set a tone for the future of his papacy and to redress wrongs done in the name of the Vatican. Simultaneously, he must span the divide widened during the last papacy between clergy and laity, men and women, north and south, right and left, gay and straight. As Pope John Paul II exemplified the spirit of reconciliation and relationship when he sat face to face with the man who shot him, the new pope should extend the same courtesies, coupled with a genuine spirit of invitation, to those who have been most hurt by church policies over the last years.
You can read the full press release on their web site. A direct link is not available.
Reuters reports that there is concern over the selection from many.
"Ratzinger is a polarizing figure to many, who seems to prefer combativeness to compromise and compassion," Mary Grant of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests said in a statement. "It's ... crucial that the new pope follow the words and views of John Paul II who said 'there is no place in the priesthood for anyone who would harm the young."'
Another quote from the article reads:
Sister Donna Quinn of the National Coalition of American Nuns said her group hopes the new pope will work for the participation and partnership of women in the church.
In a 2004 document, Ratzinger denounced "radical feminism" as undermining the family and natural differences between men and women.
Asked if there was anything in his background that gave her hope that Ratzinger would build a stronger partnership with women in the church, Quinn said: "We always hope for miracles."
There will certainly be more reaction in the days and weeks ahead that will be worth considering.
Related Post: Not All Roman Catholics Are The Same
Update: CNN released a poll on Wednesday conducted with US Roman Catholics. 74% of Roman Catholics questioned said they would leave decisions about major moral issues (such as birth control and abortion) up to their own conscience and not the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church and/or the new pope. Click here for the full story.
Update: Sister Joan Chittister, writing this week from Rome for the National Catholic Reporter, has an article published on Wednesday in which she says there may be some hope for this pope.
The questions may be difficult but the answers are even more unsettling. They read like an inquisition–and a conviction-- of their own. Is there any possible hope to be had here?
Did anyone really think such an election could happen at a time when the church is apparently more in need of openness than intransigent resistance in the face of so much new information and emerging new questions? Answer: No.
Does anyone know why the Cardinals of the church elected as Pope one of its most polarizing personalities? Answer: No.
Is anyone sure what will happen to church unity now if the oppression of thinkers and the suppression of questions becomes a papal norm? Answer: No.
Is it possible for a disciplinarian of the church to become its universal pastor? Answer: God willing.
And therein lies my hope.
Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI is said to have taken the name ‘Benedict’ to indicate that the model of his papacy would be the great Patron of Europe, Benedict of Nursia. If that’s really the case, I can’t think of anything more hopeful for the church.
Click here to find out why.