The Right Coast

April 17, 2005
Pope time
By Tom Smith

The cardinals are off to conclave tomorrow, which is Catholic for pick a new pope.

The liberals' least favorite candidate is probably Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, who heads the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, the institutional successor of the Holy Office of the Inquisition, a part of the church that, as my high school church history text book put it, has been greatly misunderstood. No, I am not really going to defend the Inquisition.

Catholic News Service reports

"I'm not the Grand Inquisitor," Cardinal Ratzinger once said in an interview. But to the outside world, he has been known as the Vatican's enforcer. He made the biggest headlines when his congregation silenced or excommunicated theologians, withdrew church approval of certain books, helped rewrite liturgical translations, set boundaries on ecumenical dialogues, took over the handling of clergy sex abuse cases against minors, curbed the role of bishops' conferences and pressured religious orders to suspend wayward members.

In 2003, Cardinal Ratzinger's congregation issued an important document that said Catholic politicians must not ignore essential church teachings, particularly on human life. That set the stage for a long debate during the 2004 U.S. election campaign on whether Democratic Sen. John F. Kerry, a Catholic who supports legalized abortion, should be given Communion.

Cardinal Ratzinger's congregation also published a document asking Catholic lawmakers to fight a growing movement to legalize same-sex marriage.

Any time you have to say "I'm not the Grand Inquisitor," you've probably got PR issues. I would sort of like to see Ratzinger picked just to hear the wailing and gnashing of teeth that would ensue, but I have my doubts as to how well the Holy Spirit speaks through me. Here are the betting lines at tradesports. Ratzinger is the favorite, with odds of twenty some percent, but cumulatively someone besides him obviously has the advantage. Ratzinger is German, from a modest upbringing in Bavaria.

But I bought this book about Ratzinger's views, and it's actually pretty good. It doesn't seem radically conservative to me, but what do I know.