Ratzinger selected as new pope; promises to end “reign of tolerance”
VATICAN CITY, April 19—Cardinals of the Roman Catholic Church elected Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger of Germany Tuesday as the new pope to succeed John Paul II, reaching an early agreement on the second day of voting.
He took the name of Benedict XVI.
A cardinal from Chile, Jorge Medina Estevez, the Senior Cardinal Deacon, made the announcement before thousands of cheering spectators.
The balloting followed a day of stately ritual. Ratzinger delivered a hard-hitting sermon at a pre-conclave Mass attended by the cardinals. A close associate of John Paul and the dean of the College of Cardinals, Ratzinger launched a passionate defense of strict orthodoxy.
“To have a clear faith according to the church’s creed is today often labeled fundamentalism,” he told the cardinals and the congregation packed into St. Peter’s Basilica. “While relativism, letting ourselves be carried away by any wind of doctrine, appears as the only appropriate attitude for the today’s times. A dictatorship of relativism is established that recognizes nothing definite and leaves only one’s own ego and one’s own desires as the final measure.”
Ratzinger’s speech expounded one side of an argument that framed the conclave of the College of Cardinals. Opponents say that Ratzinger and other Vatican-based prelates are stifling Catholic debate on religious and ethical subjects.
“Stifling debate is not necessarily a bad thing,” said one source close to the new Pope. “It invigorated the Church during the Counter-Reformation, and it could really revitalize us now. Today’s young people, especially, are looking for a Church that will not give in to the dictatorship of relativism, but will remind them, by means of both spiritual and corporeal discipline, that the Holy Father knows best. We’re expecting a stampede to the youth groups.”
Church historian Thomas A. Becket pointed out that Cardinal Ratzinger took the name Benedict not as a reference to Benedict XV, whose Papal Peace proposal of 1917 sought to end the First World War, but to Benedict XII, the fourteenth-century Pope who, as Bishop Jacques Fournier of Pamiers, “pursued a rigorous witch hunt for heretics, which won him plaudits from the Vatican.”
“We take that as a hopeful sign of a new era of restoration,” said Becket. “And as a long-overdue warning to today’s witches and heretics that their days in the Church are numbered. John Paul II was rigorous in matters of doctrine, it’s true, but you’ll notice—if you check the records—that we’ve had remarkably few burnings and excommunications over the past 27 years. Well, now it’s no more Mr. Nice Supreme Pontiff. Benedict XVI is in the house, and it’s time for people to wake up and smell the boiling oil.”
I thought you were joking.Posted by on 04/19 at 01:26 PM
"He took the name of Benedict XVI.”
He’ll always be Adolph I in my heart.Posted by on 04/19 at 01:27 PM
Not a good time to weigh the same as a duck. Or to hold on to that Trojan stock. At least now maybe my position as “Minister of Deep Fried Crunchy Goodness” will be more than symbolic. “Kungdogs, get your red hot Hans Kungdogs here.”Posted by corndog on 04/19 at 01:45 PM
You know, at first glance I thought I knew where your stuff starter, but after I looked at it again I realized it really started a paragraph earlier.
They find it disturbing if you bang your head against the wall here at work.Posted by julia on 04/19 at 01:49 PM
Time to secede, folks.Posted by on 04/19 at 02:24 PM
Pope Ratzi already has plenty of experience with excommunication. He has been the grand inquisitor, after all.Posted by on 04/19 at 02:28 PM
Does anyone else think the new Pope is scary-looking? He has those sort of “dead” eyes that people in cults have. I expect them to start twirling any second.Posted by on 04/19 at 02:29 PM
grandma blue: He reminds me of a hobbit. Not just any hobbit, but a hobbit who becomes psycho evil looking when he sees the ring.
I was pulling for a Latin American pope, but in reality I was just hoping for a pope that would end the church’s insane position on contraceptives. Instead we get a far right pope, former member of the Hitler Youth. I’ve also heard that he’s said some stuff that is decidely anti-arab, but I can’t find any information on that right now.Posted by on 04/19 at 02:49 PM
Here I thought I would be married by lesbian preistess to Joan.Posted by on 04/19 at 02:53 PM
Ratzinger is to John Paul II as Dick Cheney is to Eisenhower.Posted by Steinn on 04/19 at 02:56 PM
I hope those Vatican nuns still have the recipe for the “special” Pope tea.Posted by Roxanne on 04/19 at 03:06 PM
Remember the “Rat” in “Ratzinger”. I guess this is the Catholic “Year of the Rat”.Posted by on 04/19 at 03:12 PM
I know you say it as a joke, but my generation appears to be moving very far right. The new, dark and semi-occultist Opus Dei might really appeal to them.Posted by on 04/19 at 03:20 PM
Anthony! Scram before Ralph Luker sees you here!
Besides, Opus Dei has its good side. You’ll see.Posted by Michael on 04/19 at 03:25 PM
Opus Dei has it’s good side? Please, do tell.Posted by Roxanne on 04/19 at 03:33 PM
The thing about a shark is he’s got lifeless eyes. Black eyes. Like a doll’s eyes.Posted by on 04/19 at 03:33 PM
One word, Roxanne. Incense.Posted by Michael on 04/19 at 03:45 PM
Michael, and all the other faithful readers of your blog, as a result of today’s announcement from the Vatican, I’m going to have to lay low for a while. I can be reached at though. I’m looking at some actuarial tables right now, and it shouldn’t be too long. Wanna bet on when the first shocking news of who the new Pope hung out with from 1939-1945 reaches the press?Posted by on 04/19 at 04:09 PM
Ugh. That incense gets me every time.
Ah, the memory of ruler beatings, Latin mass, veiled women ... it all comes back with the mention of that word.Posted by Roxanne on 04/19 at 04:15 PM
Chris, it already has. Ratzinger was Hitler youth. He also was part of an anti-aircraft unit that protected a factory making aircraft engines. The workforce included slave labor from the concentration camp at Dachau.Posted by on 04/19 at 05:29 PM
All jokes aside (I know I shouldn’t be commenting to this most venerable and supremely ‘humble’ blog),) I just want to point out the most outragious ‘humility’ of the first public appearance of this new pope: There are good reasons why there hasn’t been a german pope for something like a thousand years, but today’s performance added a most significant one as far as I am concerned (no, really, I do like today’s germans a lot). What we have before us looks like a true zealot (I did look up the word in my trusty distionary).
As a staunch Catholic and explicit conservative (in a European sense, if you understand; thus very left-wing and very, very, anti-liberal - and this not only in the European sense - ... boy, do things tend to get complicated when communicating to the ‘natives’ european or otherwise...etc.)the only way to become a pope these past few decades seems to be that a) don’t be a catholic (question of basic dogma), b) be a liberal(question of being just so offensive and no more, and c) be as far right wing as you can possibly (seem to) be (see b.).
But B16 is supposed to be - because of age - a transitory pope, someone to consolidate something or another and disappear rather quickly. The point being that JP-II was precisely a transitory pope: he didn’t signify much of anything either religiously or politically (his relevance for the downfall of the soviet empire is next to nothing, all things considered).
“The Ratz” was effectively the pope for close to five years already. So, it’s something like a transition between Clinton and Bush jr. at first sight: same difference as far as the rest of the world is concerned. As long as the “catholic pope” does not allow for reasonable policies towards abortion, anti-conception and other “life” issues (Sciavo and such) he is neither catholic nor even conservative, above all he would be merely liberal
(again not only in the anglo-sense of the word). He will be tolerant on a lot of things and very strict on some, none of which need to be based on any reference to any reason or any dogma or authority.
The funny thing in all this is of course that not only is the catholic church the longest surviving political/religious institution ever (by far), it just keeps on growing world-wide and will eventually, easily - with slight of hand - smite those pesky prostestant/methodist (those un-christians if the word means anything) idiots running amok in the US (or so let us hope, I guess...)
That just to say (also) I was somewhat upset with your previous post, where it becomes obvious that we do live on very different planets.
As that may be the case, I do very highly appreciate your sincere opinions and verbal skills, look into them on a daily basis… etc. Dear Mr Michael, thank you for being there (or was it ‘here’?).
Just to say, things such as time and place play out very differently for different people and situations, especially for very arcane institutions such as the papacy. I very much sympathise/identify with the fervently ‘liberal’ position you and your primary fans take, only the basis on which we find sympathy and identification appear to be very different. As I suggested before, “Europe” (and much more so “Belgium") is an open invitation and competition is a form of cooperation as well. The world is a very complicated event in any case…
With greatest gratitude to your all-too-humble blog,
belgianPosted by on 04/19 at 05:56 PM
The results of the conclave: Many are called, Fuhrer chosen.Posted by on 04/19 at 06:09 PM
"but you’ll notice—if you check the records—that we’ve had remarkably few burnings and excommunications over the past 27 years.”
whoa, ‘remarkably few” surely is a relative term. if you read the list of names of those whose tongues have been nailed to the pillar in the last two dozen years.Posted by on 04/19 at 06:11 PM
"Remarkably few” is indeed a relative term, spyder. But just you wait ‘til Bennie XVI starts to party like it’s 1499. Then we’ll have no more relativism, and no more relative terms.Posted by Michael on 04/19 at 06:24 PM
Yeah, well, all that other stuff aside, what’s really scary about Ratzinger is that he looks like Zell Miller!Posted by on 04/19 at 06:46 PM
Take that, “dictatorship of relativism”! You American liberals think you know how to run a dictatorship? <cue maniacal laughter> Ha ha ha! I’ll show you a dictatorship, you nancy-boys! I grew up under a real dictatorship!Posted by on 04/19 at 08:09 PM
Shame on you, Michael Berube. I was such a huge fan of your blog and have been a long time reader. But, I think that this lack of understanding you have shown in judging and attacking something you obviously have a serious lack of understanding about will result in the end of my reading…
As you stand on your soapbox and pass judgement on a religion and a man you probably do not entirely understand, perhaps you should step off of it and ask some of the Catholic authorities in State College about Ratzinger and the Church’s views...I think you would find yourself misguided.
And for your readers to equate Ratizinger with a Nazi or Hitler? Shame on them. Shame on them.Posted by on 04/19 at 08:18 PM
Ok. But if we stop with the Nazi stuff can we still call him Pope Ratzi I.Posted by on 04/19 at 08:56 PM
Why? The man has been pope less than 12 hours and we’ve all judged him. The media has condemned him as someone who “will not answer the needs of American Catholics” (Paula Zahn, about 10 minutes ago).
Can we give him a little bit of time before we all decide he’s a horrible human being and burn him at the stake?Posted by on 04/19 at 09:01 PM
As to the Rat as Nazi, the JPOST has a good piece on it:
(you’ll need to register to read it, but registration is free...still, I’ll post an excerpt… I apologize for its length)
from that article: “As the Sunday Times article admits, Ratzinger’s membership in the Hitler Youth was not voluntary but compulsory; also admitted are the facts that the cardinal – only a teenager during the period in question – was the son of an anti-Nazi policeman, that he was given a dispensation from Hitler Youth activities because of his religious studies, and that he deserted the German army.
Ratzinger has several times gone on record on his supposedly “problematic” past. In the 1997 book Salt of the Earth, Ratzinger is asked whether he was ever in the Hitler Youth.
“At first we weren’t,” he says, speaking of himself and his older brother, “but when the compulsory Hitler Youth was introduced in 1941, my brother was obliged to join. I was still too young, but later as a seminarian, I was registered in the Hitler Youth. As soon as I was out of the seminary, I never went back. And that was difficult because the tuition reduction, which I really needed, was tied to proof of attendance at the Hitler Youth.
“Thank goodness there was a very understanding mathematics professor. He himself was a Nazi, but an honest man, and said to me, ‘Just go once to get the document so we have it...’ When he saw that I simply didn’t want to, he said, ‘I understand, I’ll take care of it’ and so I was able to stay free of it.”
Ratzinger says this again in his own memoirs, printed in 1998. In his 2002 biography of the cardinal, John Allen, Jr. of the National Catholic Reporter wrote in detail about those events.
The only significant complaint that the Times makes against Ratzinger’s wartime conduct is that he resisted quietly and passively, rather than having done something drastic enough to earn him a trip to a concentration camp. Of course, whenever it is said that a German failed the exceptional-resistance-to-the-Nazis test, it would behoove us all to recognize that too many Jews failed it, as well.
If he were truly a Nazi sympathizer, then it would undoubtedly have become evident during the past 60 years. Yet throughout his service in the church, Ratzinger has distinguished himself in the field of Jewish-Catholic relations.
As prefect of the Doctrine of the Faith, Ratzinger played an instrumental role in the Vatican’s revolutionary reconciliation with the Jews under John Paul II. He personally prepared Memory and Reconciliation, the 2000 document outlining the church’s historical “errors” in its treatment of Jews. And as president of the Pontifical Biblical Commission, Ratzinger oversaw the preparation of The Jewish People and Their Sacred Scriptures in the Christian Bible, a milestone theological explanation for the Jews’ rejection of Jesus.
If that’s theological anti-Semitism, then we should only be so lucky to “suffer” more of the same.
As for the Hitler Youth issue, not even Yad Vashem has considered it worthy of further investigation. Why should we?”Posted by on 04/19 at 09:15 PM
Ah, the shame-mongers like the Flash. How I’ve missed them. I guess by NOT equating B16 with a Nazi, but joking about his own words ("dictatorship of relativism"), and calling attention to the authoritarianism he’s displayed so well in the 25 years since he’s been a world figure (so much for Flash’s 12 hours bit), as well as throwing in an allusion to Arnold with the “nancy-boy” business, I’ll next be called a self-hating Catholic.Posted by on 04/19 at 09:27 PM
Flash, many of, um, us Catholics don’t consider Cardinal Ratzinger’s brand of Catholicism to be in the best tradition of Christ.
I think he’s been a bad influence on the Church in the past and I think it’s a horribly sad thing that he’s been made Pope as a reward.
I was hoping for someone from Latin America or Africa, who knew that there were genuine and immediate concerns in the world other than those that present themselves as central to isolated, elderly celibates who work in a Palace amongst people who are forbidden to disagree with them.
Your mileage may vary. On the other hand, you don’t speak for the Church any more than I do.Posted by julia on 04/19 at 09:32 PM
"Can we give him a little bit of time before we all decide he’s a horrible human being and burn him at the stake?”
Surely you jest. But I’m willing to petend that he’s a fuzzy little kitten for 2-3 days, out of respect for you personally.
Bishop Fournier, later Benedict XII, finished up the Albigensian Crusade a bit after 1300. It was not him, however (and not Marlon Brando or Mr Kurtz either) who coined the phrase “Kill them all, God will know his own”—but rather the Papal legate Arnaud Aumary, about a century earlier. So rest easy.
Benedict XII only had real heretics burned at the stake and was not into mass murder.Posted by John Emerson on 04/19 at 09:33 PM
Of course, whenever it is said that a German failed the exceptional-resistance-to-the-Nazis test, it would behoove us all to recognize that too many Jews failed it, as well.
Either you put that in a highly unfortunate way or it was a really ugly thing to say.Posted by julia on 04/19 at 09:34 PM
Julia, That’s a quote from the Jerusalem Post article; it’s the author’s remark, not mine.Posted by on 04/19 at 09:55 PM
well, it *is* fair to call him Papa Ratzi
(papa being Italian for pope).Posted by on 04/19 at 10:17 PM
Either he put that in a highly unfortunate way or it was a really ugly thing to say.Posted by julia on 04/19 at 10:28 PM
Shame on you, Michael Berube. I was such a huge fan of your blog and have been a long time reader. But, I think that this lack of understanding you have shown in judging and attacking something you obviously have a serious lack of understanding about will result in the end of my reading. . . . Can we give him a little bit of time before we all decide he’s a horrible human being and burn him at the stake?
Flash, this blog stands firm against burning anyone at the stake, including Pope Benedict XVI. And there is no shame on me, none at all: I know my catechism, I know my Nicea and Chalcedon, I’m even familiar with (and fond of!) a couple of the major heresies against which the early Church set itself. (Not Docetism, though. That one I don’t like.) I didn’t go to a Jesuit high school for nuthin. So no, I’m not taking ignorant pot shots at a religion I don’t understand. I’m taking informed pot shots at a radical wing of the Catholic Church that is determined to roll back Vatican II and enforce a truly medieval line of thinking on contraception, sexuality more generally, and the place of women in the world even more generally. If I’ve lost you as a reader as a result, I understand.Posted by Michael on 04/19 at 11:17 PM
Can we give him a little bit of time before we all decide he’s a horrible human being and burn him at the stake?
Is there some reason to we shouldn’t consider his past record as a predictor of future performance? It’s not as if they elected someone with no history.Posted by Dan Holzman on 04/20 at 12:13 AM
Opus Dei has it’s good side? Please, do tell.
One word, Roxanne. Incense.
Don’t forget the hairshirts and cilices!
Sometimes Love don’t feel like it should
You make it hurt so goodPosted by on 04/20 at 08:35 AM
You know, at first glance I thought I knew where your stuff starter, but after I looked at it again I realized it really started a paragraph earlier.
Been there, Julia. At least you figured it out before posting, unlike me.
Becket? The best you could come up with was Thomas Becket? The contents of a catacomb in Canterbury are now spinning.Posted by on 04/20 at 09:34 AM
There were bells on Rome’s hill
But I never heard them ringing
No I never heard them at all
‘Cause I’m a Jew
There’s white smoke in the sky
But I never smelled it singeing
No I never smelled it at all
‘Cause I’m a Jew
Then there was music and cardinals in robes
They tell me in sweet melodic chants
There he is above the crowd
In his bright white new beanie
I can see him mitre and all
Though I’m a JewPosted by on 04/20 at 10:07 AM
Jesuits! Well, that’s your problem right there, Michael.Posted by Roxanne on 04/20 at 10:23 AM
Michael, you’ve already addressed Flash’s comments better than I possibly could, but I couldn’t let this comment go unremarked upon:
“Why? The man has been pope less than 12 hours and we’ve all judged him.”
He hasn’t existed in a vacuum before now. There’s plenty there to judge him on. Try reading “On the Collaboration of Men and Women in the Church and the World”. Anyone who could write:
“A first tendency is to emphasize strongly conditions of subordination in order to give rise to antagonism: women, in order to be themselves, must make themselves the adversaries of men. Faced with the abuse of power, the answer for women is to seek power. This process leads to opposition between men and women, in which the identity and role of one are emphasized to the disadvantage of the other, leading to harmful confusion regarding the human person, which has its most immediate and lethal effects in the structure of the family.”
has already judged a great number of people himself. You’re welcome to defend the new pope if you want, but there’s too much information out there about him (much of it written by the man himself) to act like no one can take a pretty good guess what his attitude towards things will be.
And oh yeah, Rebekah, I can sort of see the Zell Miller thing, but he’s missing that raving lunatic quality that seems to be the essence of Zell. I couldn’t help but think of Anthony Hopkins when I saw him. Hannibal Lecter, anyone?Posted by on 04/20 at 10:58 AM
Marita, some have seen a physical analogy to Senator Palpatine. Though I’m not particularly a Star Wars fan, my first reaction yesterday afternoon was to think of Princess Leia’s line that “the more you tighten your grip, the more star systems [Catholics] will slip through your fingers...”
Especially as this papacy seems to be aimed at reclaiming Europe, which is refighting a long campaign that the Catholic Church has already lost. It is estimated that no less than five centuries of wars have been fought in dispute with those who would not submit to break their eggs at the smaller end, and most Europeans seem finally to have gotten sick of it. (Since this seems to be a quote-and-paraphrase comment.)Posted by on 04/20 at 11:37 AM
Nobody expects the [Spanish/German?] inquisition.Posted by on 04/20 at 01:58 PM
"Dictatorship of relativism” - does that mean that I’m not allowed to demand that everyone else agree that I’m always right? Oh, I do so hope that the new Pope can save me from such a dire fate!
Judging from his past record, I do believe he’s gonna get Medieval on our asses!Posted by on 04/20 at 02:13 PM
anyone else have that song by The Fall stuck in their heads? Hey Luciani?
And all the cowls are black
On an inquisition rack
The future’s here today
The future’s here to stay
Luciani-i said a Hey! Hey!
Luciani!Posted by on 04/20 at 02:46 PM
I’m taking informed pot shots at a radical wing of the Catholic Church that is determined to roll back Vatican II and enforce a truly medieval line of thinking on contraception, sexuality more generally, and the place of women in the world even more generally. If I’ve lost you as a reader as a result, I understand.
I don’t think you’re as informed as you think, considering Ratzinger is a strong proponent of Vatican II’s reforms and most of his writings are intended to reinforce (or earlier to create) those very ideas. For one thing, you speak of “a truly medieval line of thinking on contraception” when the church’s position on contraception is a relatively new one (1800s), and has only gotten stronger as time goes by - which is progression if not progressive by society’s standards.
Another element ignored in these comments is the fact that Ratzinger’s previous position with the church was to safeguard tradition, which he did intelligently and competently (and from which guardianship the criticisms invariably come). As Pope, he has a different task and a broader aim, so don’t be surprised to find he changes to fit his new mold.
It’s astonishing how it can be said in the same breath by so many here and in the media that he both was a close adviser of JP2 and will be a savage destroyer of all JP2 did.
I’m still undecided on Ratzinger as a Pope (and as a Catholic I recognize that it’s not really mine to judge) but the number of unfair and uninformed attacks, usually by those who consider themselves to be the intellectuals of the world, are only pushing me further into his supporters’ camp.Posted by on 04/21 at 10:40 PM
We may see more excommunications in the future. Back in 2004, future Pope Bendict tried to get US bishops to threaten not John Kerry himself but all Catholic John Kerry voters with excommunication (because of Kerry’s pro-life stance.) The bishops ignored him, but in 2008 Benedict might still be alive…
Speaking of the Presidential campaigns, it is interesting to note the similarity in the Vatican’s electoral system and ours--- i.e., both the 2004 and 2005 elections were marked by total confusion at the end. (Here in the US we had the Ohio thing, in the Vatican they had the grey smoke which was neither black nor white.) But the differences are more striking.
1. The Vatican wrapped the whole thing in two weeks. We’re getting to the point where the election cycle takes more than the theoretical maximum of 4 years. (Although no one is talking about the 2012 election yet, we were looking ahead to 2008 BEFORE the 2004 general election.)
2. In the USA, even the slightest irregularity in your personal history is treated as a major scandal. Ironically, the Vatican is far more forgiving than the US: they actually went ahead and elected someone who fought in Hitler’s army. (True, he was by all accounts a lousy soldier, and he was 16 years old, but it’s still a bit scandalous...)Posted by Tim Horrigan on 04/23 at 07:03 PM
What I wonder is, When will the witches fight back?
It is astounding to me that The Catholic Church has gotten away with so much, for so long, and still retains credibility!
-Women have no voice and no vote in the church, and yet there are still half a billion women supporting it.
-The church burned and tortured over a million innocent women. Local herbaists and healers that the pope pronounced as “Witches” and they got away with it! (It is as bad as what Hitler did to the Jews- It was a holocaust...yet we do nothing.
-The ancient Essene sect of Jesus honored women. These priestessess wore red robes and preached. (This is where we get the red robes of the cardinals) but the church began a propoganda campaign against women, and now, “The Woman in Red” has a whole new meaning.
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