Homeboy Blake axed me yesterday what I, as a Catholic, thought of the new pope. And like baby sis, I'm still not sure. I know I'm not thrilled that Joseph Ratzinger was one of the primary people trying to convince American priests to play Pin The Apostasy On John Kerry with him last year (though he did relent somewhat and say it was OK for American Catholics to vote for Democrats -- gee, thanks). Nor am I going to get particularly excited about a guy who appears poised to continue, if not strengthen, the church's opposition to stuff like birth control.
At the same time, though, I told Blake that the semi-outraged reactions from American Catholics in particular were just kind of silly. I mean, the Catholic Church has been around for nearly two millenia now, and for good and for ill, it has resisted all sorts of change during that time. Did these "liberal Catholics" honestly think that, just because of the passing of John Paul II, the church was going to turn on a dime and suddenly say "female priests would totally rock"? Hell, even birth control -- the Catholic church has opposed birth control ever since there was such a thing, and whatever the wisdom of birth control might be for other reasons, they're not going to suddenly do an about-face on that issue just because we libertine American Catholics want to bang our wives/girlfriends/mistresses without having to worry about a baby nine months down the road.
(By the way, this is getting a little off the subject but in his sex-advice column last week, Dan Savage had a really great bit about how American Catholics will fall in lock step anytime the pope says something about gays being evil or deviant or whatever, but when the same pope comes out against birth control or extramarital sex or whatever, those same American Catholics are like, "Pope who? With the what now?" Scroll down past the letter from the guy with a zombie fetish and read it, it's totally spot-on.)
But anyway, I'm not too worried that this new pope, for all his theological conservatism, is going to usher in some horrible new era of repression, because I'm not convinced that he was elected to be anything more than a place-holder. I've heard reports from people saying that the College of Cardinals typically tries to elect a new pope who is a contrast to the previous one, and in this case they were trying to select someone who was a contrast to John Paul II, who had served longer than just about any pope since St. Peter and as such had left his mark on the church in a huge way. So the papacy of Benedict XVI -- he's 78 years old, guys, so it's not likely to last too terribly long -- may be simply a chance for the church to do some post-JPII regrouping, to decide which direction they want to take the church in next. And the next guy after Benedict will be a JPII-style leader who really has a lasting effect. (That doesn't mean I'd sit around waiting for the next guy to completely reform the church's stance on birth control or married priests, either, but you never know.)
Anyway. Whatever you think of the new guy -- thumbs up, thumbs down, or like me, aren't sure what you think of him yet -- I sincerely hope (and Daily Kos beat me to this, the bastard) that you lefties out there will refrain from calling him a Nazi. Yes, full disclosure, he was a member of the Hitler Youth as a teenager, but that was during a time when membership was mandatory in Germany, and his father was, in fact, a staunch anti-Nazi by all reports. At any rate, calling someone a Nazi -- whether it's Bush, Clinton, whoever -- for doing anything other than wearing a swastika armband and calling for the execution of Jews is pretty f$#!ing retarded. So howsabout we just excise the word "Nazi" from our arsenal of political epithets and move on. I think our collective image would be improved if we just never allowed that word to escape our lips again.