Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Wow, Was I Wrong!

Along with many other analysts of the proceedings, I had predicted Dionigi Tettamanzi of Italy or Francis Arinze of Nigeria to be the choice for the next pope. The conclave instead chose a cardinal that I had specifically eliminated as unlikely based on his conservative views.

The new pope is Joseph Ratzinger. Ratzinger, former Dean of the College of Cardinals and Prefect for the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, was formerly responsible for keeping the purity of the RC faith intact. He is known as a hard-line conservative among Roman Catholics. Oddly, the papal name he chose is Benedict XVI. Everyone expected that the next pope would name himself after John Paul II if he planned to carry on JP II’s initiatives. Instead he named himself after Benedict XV (1914), who is known for his moderate reforms after the traditionalist papacy of Pius IX, but who nevertheless condemned the errors in modern philosophical systems his first encyclical. The significance of Ratzinger taking that name is unclear. It is doubtful that Ratzinger would become even more moderate than JP II, who propagated a universalism unlike any of his predecessors. What it may mean instead is that in the same way Benedict XV “moderated” (swung away from) the initiatives of his predecessor, so also Ratzinger will “moderate” (i..e., swing away from) the initiatives of JP II and lead Roman Catholicism down a more conservative path. In any case, this choice is likely to thrill the conservative and traditionalist wing of Roman Catholicism.