So I was wrong about who the next pope would be. But not by much. As I said before, if it wasn't Ratzinger or Arinze, progressives should count it a win.
Okay, they lost.
I really thought it would be Arinze because he was both very conservative on the social and sexual issues but progressive on economic justice concerns, like Pope John Paul II. And the fact that he was an African might have soften some of the criticism of him from U.S. liberals who are loathe to attack somebody of color from the third world.
I gave the cardinals too much credit . It seems they aren't that subtle or crafty. Instead they chose a sledgehammer whom nobody is going to mind attacking. Andrew Sullivan, over at Beliefnet and in his Daily Dish blog is already mourning the end of Vatican II Catholicism and predicting a civil war in the Church.
He's probably not wrong. Pope Benedict XVI, as Ratzinger will now be known, silenced over 100 theologians while he was head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the politically correct name for the Inquisition. In fact, Sullivan referred to him as "the Grand Inquisitor." I fear he is right.
In addition to silencing theologians, the new Pope was responsible for authoring Domine Ieusus a couple of years ago. In this papal document, he declared that salvation was solely through the Catholic Church and called other Christian denominations "defective." That statement set off a storm of protests from Protestants. He also wrote a recent declaration criticizing "radical femininism" and affirming traditional gender roles.
Not only is he going to be very hardline on Church doctrine, but this is not a tactful man that will earn the goodwill that the late Pope garnered among other religions. And unlike Cardinal Arinze, who was seen as somebody who could promote dialogue and better relations with the Muslim world, Ratzinger also distinguished himself by opposing the admission of Turkey into the European Union, which he considers "Christian Europe." Even many conservatives, however, favor admitting Turkey because they see it as the best example of a pro-western moderate Muslim democracy. This is precisely the type of nation you would want to encourage to participate on the world stage and whose success you would want to hold up to failed Islamic states in the Middle East as an example of what they could become if they moderated their own extremism. In this regard, Turkey is a far better example of western style democracy than Iraq right now.
Ratzinger, however, is a clunker with a political tin ear. Defending pre-Vatican II doctrine was far more important to him than encouraging interfaith dialogue with the Islamic world even at a critical time for world peace.
While I don't share the despair of Sullivan and other progressive Catholics because, unlike them, I've already left the Church, I predict that Pope Benedict will probably be responsible for the diminishment of respect for Catholicism in the non-Christian world and great dissension among Christians.
He will pull up the drawbridge to the moat and send the knights out on a crusade against the modern world That's never worked in the past.