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April 19, 2005

Benedict XVI

Joseph Ratzinger is no more. Mary is on our side.

When I first heard of Ratzinger, I figured he had a very good chance, and as I have been thinking, the idea of a conservative Catholic Church is a good one.

I am watching him live on CNN. And within just a few moments as he now reads in Latin from this large book, you can see him descend into ritual. In the moment before as the crowd yelled at the announcement, I was thinking that this pope is standing on the edge of the world's largest moshpit. And then he begins the traditional blessing, and all such ideas are banished - immediately it became Church.

Benedict XVI has been in the Vatican for 24 years. It will be fascinating to see how he comes out of that ivory tower to be Pope.

He is a humble man says Rev. David O'Connell, and considers himself an imperfect instrument working in the vineyards of Christ. This suggests to me that he is subdued to the doctrine. I like this.

I like this pope’s orientation. He certainly seems to be one who will handily answer his critics, but more importantly, I think he’ll give the faithful a rudder against the 70-foot rogue waves of reactionary criticism.

I think many Americans are taking his conservatism to be of the same variety of the politically activist Christian Right, but they are by and large mistaken. Benedict is, apparently, a theologian’s theologian and has no reason, given his prior and current influence over Church doctrine, to get into the kind of evangelical shouting matches we Yanks take to be discussion. I noticed that the tone of the discussion at CNN as the last of the cardinals left the balconies over St. Peters was a kind of astonishment that someone ‘conservative’ might also be humble and personable.

As I have noted, there is a lovely paper trail on Benedict which has been followed up nicely by a gent by the name of Nathaniel Avignon who has written some interesting reviews over at Amazon. It is much more interesting to find out what manner of thought comprises his conservatism and why such individuals such as Avignon and I would be attracted to him. It is not because of any such idea akin to fundamentalism. In fact, part of the appeal of Catholicism to me is its lack of frenzied evangelicalism. There are all kinds of sects of Christianity that appeal to relativism, and Americans of the ‘faith dome’ persuasion ought to know better than anyone. But it is is the contrast provided by the orthodoxy of the Roman Catholics that puts evangelical fundamentalism in bright relief. This is an old, old faith that understands itself very well, and Benedict will be one to set that tone - that there is indeed enduring Truth in the purposefully deliberate pace of the Catholic Church.

Here is a man of calm who in no way evinces the paranoiac fury of religious fundamentalists. I think as Americans come to understand, they will respect that aspect of his conservatism. I question the motives of those who feel that the pope’s only responsibility is to reform aspects of the Catholic Church that they feel is out of step with the liberties they have taken in their lives. It is not the job of the church to conform to the will of the people, and thus it is no surprise that those who call for it make a fetish of collective bargaining. This pope understands that is not the deal and there is no new deal to be had. He speaks for the enduring verities of Christianity, and I for one, welcome that.

Posted by mbowen at April 19, 2005 09:51 AM

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Tracked on April 19, 2005 02:28 PM