Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger of Germany has been selected by the Roman Catholic church as the new pope ... Ratzinger, who took the name Benedict XVI, appeared on the balcony of the Vatican Basilica to greet the people and deliver his first papal blessing.... I couldn't help but recall the recent opinions voiced by supposed experts and insiders. Some had dismissed Ratzinger as a clone of John Paul II, saying that even though the late pontiff was beloved by the cardinals, they wanted the next pope to be more than a predictable sequel to John Paul II.
Others pointed to Ratzinger's age as a possible impediment. Nine days ago, the New York Times wrote:
Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger [has] worked closely with John Paul for 24 years as the chief overseer of church theology and is deeply respected for his learning and decisiveness ... But age may hurt. Cardinal Ratzinger turns 78 on [April 16].And in this morning's Washington Post:
One [papal] candidate, the influential Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger of Germany, delivered a hard-hitting sermon at a pre-conclave Mass ... launch[ing] a passionate defense of strict orthodoxy.In the category of statements one might wish he could retract, McBrien's very next sentence was this:
... The Rev. Richard P. McBrien, a theologian at the University of Notre Dame, said Ratzinger's homily indicated that he believes the pope's role is to "protect the sheep from the prowling wolves of unorthodoxy and relativism. He wants to defend the fact that truth is absolute and the church must speak the truth and be faithful to it."
McBrien added, "If Cardinal Ratzinger were really campaigning for pope, he would have given a far more conciliatory homily designed to appeal to the moderates as well as to the hard-liners among the cardinals."
"I think this homily shows he realizes he's not going to be elected. He's too much of a polarizing figure," McBrien said.
"If [Ratzinger] were elected, thousands upon thousands of Catholics in Europe and the United States would roll their eyes and retreat to the margins of the church."