Yesterday, the Catholic world got the new Pope Benedict XVI. Joseph Ratzinger, the “Enforcer”, the “Inquisitor”, the “Panzerkardinal”, the “God’s Rottweiler”, the “Cardinal No”, the “Grand Inquisitor”, the “Big Bad Wolf of the New Inquisition”, “Dart Vader of the Catholic Liberals” got elected 265th Pope. Radical Conservativism of the new Pope indicates that his role will most likely be extremely divisive for the Catholic Church and possibly harmful for its historical mission. Yet, Benedict XVI got elected after only 2 days of the Conclave and reportedly 4 ballots, obtaining 2/3 majority of the College of Cardinals. Is the fact that he manage to acquire more than 2/3 of the College of Cardinals to suggest, that the new pope will be less extreme than feared? Can the Pope Benedict XVI forget the conservativism of Cardinal Ratzniger?
Spiritual names chosen by the Popes are not random and usually indicate the nature of the future Pontificate. The fact that Ratzinger chose, the name of Benedict XVI may indicate two things. First, Benedict XV reined during the years of the WW I, and is usually perceived as the Pope of Peace, simultaneously, however, he was a stringent defender of the last great Catholic Empire, the Habsburg Monarchy and a rather bitter enemy of the Orthodox Churches. Second, Benedict II is considered the Patron Saint of Europe. Many believe that Ratzinger wishes to continue this legacy and concentrate on “saving” the European Continent for the Catholic Church.
For a long time, Ratzinger has been the right hand of John Paul II. According to many, Ratzinger represented the “dark”, conservative side of Woytila’s Pontificate. His rigid, almost insulting views of Ecumenism, regarding the Catholic Church being the “mother”, not “sister” as Wojtila claimed, of other Christian Churches, had certainly alienated the Protestant and Orthodox Churches from the inter-religious dialogue, and made highly unlikely that Benedict XVI will fulfill John Paul II’s dream to visit Russia and Serbia for example. Ratzinger is not only a conservative in the doctrinal sense of the word, but, unlike John Paul II who at least courted with progressivist left wing social justice movements, a bitter foe of movements within and outside of the Church preaching social equality, more distributive economic policies etc. As John Allen Jr., correspondent of the National Catholic Reporter from Vatican, in his new book “The Conclave” claims, Ratzinger heads the so-called “Border Patrol” informal Church Party as far as internal matters of the Church are concerned, and is closer to the “Integralist” informal Church Party, rather than to the “Social Justice” Party, as far as worldly matters.
Benedict XVI will not simply represent the continuity of John Paul II’s reign. If he were to embark on this route he would have chosen the name John Paul III not a different one, as he did.
There are two strategies in which different actors within the Catholic Church aim at expanding their influence in the world, arguably, using the EU terminology, one of enlargement and one of deepening. John Paul II was the representative of enlargement, rapid, evangelization, compromise with secular ideologies and regional cultures. Ratzinger is the representative of deepening strategy. He is a “rigorous defender of the Catholic identity”, relying on Christ’s parable of mustard seed, “great things will eventually grow from the tiniest seed…Christianity may need to become smaller and less culturally significant to remain faithful.” In this way, with a strong identity, it will raise in its full splendor some time in the future. One just needs to be patient and Ratzinger seemingly is.
How is this strategy to be interpreted in the case of the EU? Many fear that Ratzinger, a proclaimed enemy of EU’s enlargement into Turkey and a fighter for “re-Chrisitanization” of Europe will use the possible failure of ratification of the EU Constitution to mount a violent “integralist” campaign for a more explicit insertion of Christian (Catholic) values in the EU Constitution and that he will exert the pressure of the Catholic Church on the EU’s politicians to abort the project of enlarging into Turkey.
This is, however, not necessarily true, we are maybe to face an extremely “shy” pontificate externally and a rigid doctrinal “police state pontificate internally”. One thing is certain, Ratzinger, Benedict XVI broke the rule that “who comes in as Pope goes out as a Cardinal.”