April 24, 2005

Pope Benedict XVI: an excellent choice

Telegram & Gazette

Robert Z. Nemeth

Reading media reports and commentaries last week could have given the impression that, instead of choosing one of their own, the cardinals of the Roman Catholic Church elected the clerical equivalent of someone like Newt Gingrich or Tom DeLay.

Pope Benedict XVI, the former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, has been described as a “right-wing ideologue,” “evangelizer on the right,” “authoritarian,” “rigid,” “neoconservative,” “a polarizing influence,” “watchdog,” “enforcer of church orthodoxy” and a “doctrinal hardliner.”

We were told he lacks charisma, has not been very popular in his native Bavaria and was a member of the Hitler Youth as a teen-ager. He was said to be intolerant toward other religions and insensitive to charges of sexual abuse by priests. We were told the Church has lost a unique opportunity to redeem itself by failing to choose a pope from Africa, Latin America or Asia. We heard “experts” say the conclave had picked a “divider” rather than a “unifier.” As a silver lining, it was suggested he is “transitional,” meaning he was too old to live long.

As reporters fanned out to collect negative reaction, rather startling comments emerged. Here is one quote from a Telegram & Gazette article last Wednesday: “The new pope is a disaster. It is a throwback to the Middle Ages.” Here is another: “I’m very sad about the situation with child molestation and how it was treated by the Vatican. There is a generation of children that have been lost because of these priests.” One T&G reporter even contacted a representative of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, who happened to be in Rome. ...

I was fortunate to spend eight formative years of my upbringing at a St. Benedict prep school in Budapest. That experience has shaped my life permanently, and for that I am grateful. I would like to add that during those eight years of being with Catholic priests, I have never been subjected to sexual abuse and did not know anybody who was.

Posted by kshaw at April 24, 2005 05:44 PM