James Martin, Jesuit priest, associate editor of America magazine and author of “In Good Company”
While I trust that the Holy Spirit will be helping Pope Benedict XVI over the next few years, I would be lying if I didn’t say how disappointed I was by the cardinals’ selection of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger as pope. To my mind, there were many other candidates who had more pastoral experience, who have been more open to dialogue with other religions, and who have demonstrated more sensitivity to the thoughtful questioning that has always characterized Christian theology. But the cardinals quickly settled on a man who would forcefully continue John Paul’s approach to governing the church. I can only pray that Pope Benedict proves to be more tolerant and open-minded than Cardinal Ratzinger was. But stranger things have happened in the Catholic Church, and I am hoping that the God of Surprises will surprise all of us.
And that’s not the most strident anti-Ratzinger Catholic voice.
Here’s Amy Sullivan, Salon contributor and editor for Washington Monthly:
As tears of joy filled the eyes of Catholic nuns standing in St. Peter’s Square on Tuesday with the announcement of Joseph Ratzinger’s election to the papacy, tears of anger and frustration stung the eyes of progressive Catholics around the world. Both conservative and progressive Catholics care deeply about the crises facing their church, but they have very different ideas about the solutions. 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.
The never-cautious Frances Kissling, president of Catholics for a Free Choice, says:
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.
Paul Lakeland, professor of Catholic studies at Fairfield University, wrote:
Every time a new pope is chosen, whoever the predecessor, it is a moment of hope for the Church, a chance to grow and move forward. Today the cardinals of the Catholic Church dashed those hopes by electing a man who, however talented, is a figure who looks backwards to the past rather than forward to the future.
The cardinals lost their nerve and settled for continuity. Faced with the challenges of Islam in Africa, Protestant evangelicalism in Latin America, hunger around the world, declining numbers of priests and churchgoers in Europe and North America, and calls for flexibility in teaching and adaptabilty in the search of new ways to preach the gospel, they chose a man who just lectured them on secularism, materialism and hedonism, who thinks the solution for the European church is to settle for a smaller and more faithful community, and who was and is a hardline centralizer. Benedict XVI was the closest thing they could find to a clone of John Paul II– without the charisma. It was John Paul’s charisma that let people forgive him for many of his authoritarian ways. But Joseph Ratzinger is a very clever man, and there is always hope for conversion.
Many of the contributors expressed concern about Cardinal Ratzinger while hoping that past would not be prelude to his papacy. Rev. James T. Bretzke, associate professor and co-chair of the Department of Theology and Religious Studies at the University of San Francisco, expressed the sentiment most eloquently, observing that
as another old pope, John XXIII, showed the world with Vatican II, quite unexpected things can happen when the Holy Spirit gets hold of a man. Ratzinger is a careful, nuanced and firm theologian, and I believe those three qualities will mark his pontificate, whether it be long or short. I join all Catholics in praying as I know he himself would wish: namely that the he would be open to God’s Spirit in the world.
For now, all we can do is pray that the spirit guiding the papal mind is more accepting than the spirit which guided the cardinal.