I’ve heard, and Margaret has reported, a high degree of dismay that Cardinal Ratzinger was elected pope. For clarity’s sake, I should say that he was very far from being my favorite candidate, and the decision to elevate to the pontificate the cardinal who was Rome’s point man relative to the priest-pedophilia scandal in the U.S. strikes me as an indicator of the Vatican’s characteristic deafness on this issue.
On the other hand, I’m a little perplexed that anyone feels shocked at this turn of events. The Vatican is not a hotbed of liberalism, and the cardinals whom John Paul II appointed reflect his characteristic conservatism (if not his personal magnetism). If the world honored John Paul II with weeks of attention and veneration, in what respect do we anticipate that Benedict XVI — a personal friend and theological soul mate to John Paul II — will be any less praiseworthy? I’m with Hans Küng, who has as much reason as anyone to mistrust the new pontiff: “he compared it to an American presidential election and said people ‘should allow the pope 100 days to learn’.”