"Yes, the pope is a Catholic. Yet that unsurprising result has clearly shaken many secular liberals--and more than a few liberal Catholics--who feel that they have been somehow cheated of an opportunity. Their vindictive snarls have been prominently featured in the coverage of the new pope's election. Benedict XVI has been characterized not merely as a 'conservative' but as an 'ultraconservative.' Words such as 'rigid' and 'stern' are ubiquitous. "
A nice bleat on Opinion Journal analyzing the analysis of Benedict XVI with the delightful headline: Is the Pope Catholic?
It is remarkable how many people thought that contraception would be deemed unsinful now that a new pope is installed.
The amazing irony I find is this:
Most of the people looking to find some liberalization in doctrine from the Vatican are protestants belonging to a more liberal denomination of Christianity. They may be Episcopalian or congregationalist or what have you. But one of their major beefs with Catholicism involves Rome and the Papacy. "Why should some old man in a robe dictate what we are to believe or not believe"
Of course, the irony is that the old man in the robe is actually adhering directly to Christ's own teaching. Any Christian waiting for Rome to announce a re-thinking of important doctrine such as contraception or abortion or the importance of reconciliation is wasting his time. These are matters of faith as passed down from the early days of the Church and aren't negotiable.
I was in a social setting tonight with some loving and deeply believing protestants. One of them asked me "Do you agree with the choice of Ratzinger for Pope?" Clearly, this person does not frequent OC Chronicle so I told her: "It's an interesting question. As a Catholic, I believe that the Cardinals are guided by the Holy Spirit in their choice since whomever occupies the throne of St. Peter must speak from a position of infallibility. Given this belief, it would be impossible for me to disagree with the choice that I consider to be divinely inspired."
Needless to say, this stopped the witty banter in its tracks.
Ah the perils of being a serious Catholic at a cocktail party!
UPDATE: 4/22/05, 9:42 AM
I wrote the above post at 2AM and upon further review, parts are incoherent. The irony I was trying to point out is that those protestants who are most ant-Rome and anti-Catholic magesterium and authority are the first ones waiting for a pope to come along and make up new rules and dogmas. If they are truly against the idea of the authority of the Vatican, why are they so keen on a pope using his authority in a way they could agree with?
The truly Catholic understanding of the pope's role is, of course, that he can no sooner alter the Church's views on birth control than he could alter the Church's understanding of the divinity of Christ, or the truth of His resurrection or any other dogma that ALL Christians agree upon. Pope's just don't do this. They don't decide what we believe at any given time. They re-enforce what we have ALWAYS believed since the birth of the Church as instituted by Christ.
If a "liberal" pope came in and began changing the Church's understandings of the sinfulness of abortion or pre-marital sex, then he would be doing exactly what anti-papists accuse him of: Dictating non-biblical teachings from Rome making the Church not "authentically" Christian.