Comes now the disharmonious chorus to sing of the elevation of German Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger to the papacy as Benedict XVI.
Some, most, sing with soaring, rapturous hosannas. Others, in key sophisticated and solipsistic circles, rejoice with all the enthusiasm of a boy told to kiss his sister.
The latter group, largely European and to a lesser extent American, is citing Ratzinger's brief compelled membership in the Hitler Youth as an indicator he is a secret Nazi sympathizer - "God's rottweiler."
German theologian Hans Kung, censured by the Vatican when the former cardinal was John Paul's principal doctrinal dialectician, launches the assault on Ratzinger from another angle: "His ideology is a medieval, anti-Reformation, anti-modern paradigm of the church and the papacy." The editor of an Italian Catholic lay newsletter echoes Kung, contending that - together - John Paul and Ratzinger created a "medieval atmosphere" hopelessly out of touch with contemporary reality.
The clear implication is that thanks largely to Ratzinger, with the late pope's by-your-leave, everything in the Vatican is about as up-to-date as it was in the Kansas City heralded in "Oklahoma!" The argument implicitly extends to the entire House of Cardinals, which in about 24 hours mustered a two-thirds vote for Ratzinger - who at 78, seemingly senile in this global hour of the young, becomes the oldest pope elected in two centuries.
(Perhaps those complaining that the House of Cardinals does not know what it is doing, should be asked to weigh its assembled opinion against the oh-so-distinguished, and ever-so-with-it United States Senate. There, senators find themselves unable to demonstrate their ability to mount a two-thirds - or even a majority - vote for certain nominations to the federal bench because they cannot wrest those nominations from a covetous committee.)
What is it about Ratzinger? He harbors the same views as the late John Paul. He intends his papacy as an extension of John Paul's.
The day before his election, Ratzinger delivered a homily to the conclave wherein he warned against deviation from traditional Catholic teaching. He said:
"(The church has been shaken by) numerous ideological currents. The boat has been unanchored by these waves, thrown from one extreme to the other: from Marxism to liberalism, up to libertinism; from collectivism to radical individualism; from atheism to a vague religious mysticism; from agnosticism to syncretism, and on and on. An adult faith does not follow the waves of fashion and the latest novelty."
Ross Mackenzie lives with his wife and Labrador retriever in the woods west of Richmond, Virginia. They have two grown sons, both Naval officers.
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