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once a catholic....

I'm surprised by how genuinely upset the appointment of Ratzinger (I can't bear to call him Benedict XVI) makes me. I've noticed that a lot of you seem to feel the same way. I'm not sure why the appointment of a leader of a Church that very few of us still consider ourselves part of affects us so much, but it does. I don't think that it's because we thought we'd go back to the Church some day, but maybe it's because somewhere we still feel a cultural identification with the idea of liberal Catholicism, with liberation theology and radical nuns, with the power of beautiful ritual and Latin hymns. Maybe that's why the appointment of Ratzinger feels like a slap in the face. Now, if there were any doubts, we know we can't ever go back.

Luckily, lots of others feel the same way. Here's the wonderful Frances Kissling, in an excellent Salon piece.
The good news is that Ratzinger is not John Paul II. No world leader owes him thanks for his role in the downfall of communism. It will take years for his papacy to achieve any potential political cache. The bad news is that he is Pope, and he was elected by two thirds or more of the princes of the church, who knew what they were doing.

I can no longer delude myself about these princes’ almost total lack of interest in healing the divide in the Church, in showing compassion for or even in listening to the voices of the suffering. The time for nuance is over. Let the unholy war begin.

And here's Salon writer Amy Sullivan:
The election of Ratzinger signals a decision to stick with the failed policies that have led millions of Catholics in the developing world to leave the church for Pentecostalism, and millions of western Catholics to simply leave religion altogether. The choice Ratzinger has posed -- between the tyranny of relativism or the triumph of orthodoxy -- is false. The church will continue to suffer for his lack of imagination.

I don't usually agree with Andrew Sullivan (no relation to the aforementioned Amy - I think), but I'm with him on this one:
Benedict has no pastoral experience, scant knowledge of the developing world, a terrible reputation in Europe as a full-bore reactionary, and no real comfort as an actor on the world stage. In other words, he offers all the drawbacks of JPII and none of the advantages. He does have an interesting mind. But the more deeply you read, the scarier it gets: He even backs a pre-modern view of the conscience, which holds that you can only have a good conscience if you agree with him.

I'd like to write more about Ratzinger and his particularly selective form of moral absolutism, but with typical erudition rozk (yet another former Catholic - why are there so many of us round here?) said it better than I could here. And l'll let the final word go to Jesuit writer James Martin:
I can only pray that Pope Benedict proves to be more tolerant and open-minded than Cardinal Ratzinger was.



( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
Apr. 20th, 2005 01:18 pm (UTC)
To pinch a phrase from Babylon 5: "The church is mother, the church is father".

However far those of us who were raised in the Catholic faith stray from it, we have now seen our mother actively reject us and those we love who are still an integral part of the church.

My most-loved uncle is a priest. He's the single most-loved person in the family - everyone makes a beeline for him from kids to grandparents (he'd have made a fantastic dad and is a good illustration of how cruel the celibacy of the clergy can be). He's frighteningly smart - he was the bright kid in the seminary who was sent to Rome to train, he was junior dean at Maynooth in the early 70s, he will argue theology and many other subjects with you and he will always teach you something. (And will also acknowledge that he has learned something too.) He has a vocation. And his vocation is pastoral. I've heard him grumble that being a parish priest means too much paperwork - and I know he's dodged a couple of dioceses in his time.

One of my mother's best friends is a priest. He's a frighteningly talented man, a musician, an artist, director of one of the best amateur operatic societies in the country and a mathematician on top of it all.

I was educated by nuns. They were human beings. Some I didn't like, some I loved. I was never taught by the ones that I loved that my life was limited because of my gender - I was taught to make my own choices and strive to do the best I absolutely could. My first primary school head nun nearly burst a gut laughing when my mother ran into her and told her about my ride around England - her comment was "I'm not in the least surprised."

With people like this behind us (interestingly, the worst Catholic bigotry I've ever encountered has been from lay people), how can we not love and respect at least some aspects of the church?

And now the head of that church is someone who is telling these people that they are wrong, that they are in error and they should just shut up and pass down the decrees of Big Brother.

Damn, yes I *am* upset.
Apr. 20th, 2005 02:27 pm (UTC)
It's no surprise, though, really. After Karol Wotyja, there was definitely going to be a conservative pope. After Ratzenbergerer, or possibly after one more conservative pope after him (depends on how long he lives), we might get a more liberal guy.

Of course, I'm all for YOU for pope.
Apr. 20th, 2005 08:55 pm (UTC)
Amen to the last. I wish I had more hope.
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )


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