I will admit that I was not hoping for a Ratzinger papacy. I've always had a soft spot for the underrepresented and the underdog (of course these two are usually the same). As such, I really wanted to see a new pope from Africa or Latin America. After all, once you have seen the voracious faith practiced in these lands, is it possible to imagine a world in which the Catholic world is ruled by another European???
Despite my hope for one of the burgeoning centers of catholicism to gain a pope that could evoke feelings of both religious and cultural pride, I am even more dismayed by the fact that Europeans have such a feeling of entitlement to the pope and the Catholic Church. After all, Europe, as much as I adore it, is becoming more agnostic by the day. Cardinal Ratzinger's admonitions against relativism fit Europe like a glove. So why are we hearing a repetive chorus that the election of Pope Benedict XVI will fail to "re-convert" Europe's catholics? Of course he will, so the question that remains is "Who cares?".
Obviously, religious leadership is not designed to preach to the choir, but the complaints that the new pope will not satisfy Europe sound like the cries of a spoiled child. Europe has held the papacy for many, many centuries. Sadly, inertia and proximity to the Vatican leave it in a position of unjustifiable power. Instead of appreciating this power, it appears that Europeans would prefer the Pope change his religious views in order to placate them.
I have no desire for a conservative or liberal pontiff. I do, however, believe that the Catholic Church is capable of making its moral judgments without the benefit of public polls or public pressure. I do not believe the pope, nor any other religious leader, EVER speaks with infallibility, but I DO believe that the Church would benefit much more by listening more to its audiences in Latin America and Africa than its spoiled believers in both the U.S. and Europe.