Yesterday, The Monk noted the reactions just on CBS's Habemus Papem coverage: Ratzinger is a "hard-liner". He's a "conservative" and "doctrinaire". He does not brook dissent among the bishops. He adheres to the "strict" teachings of the Bible. He is unlikely to "modernize" the church. He is a "polarizing" figure whose election is somewhat surprising given his "conservative" views.
What a pile of offal. Only the ignorant Western media viewing the Catholic election through the prism of its liberalism and solipsism would believe that the new Pope is an upset winner, out of the mainstream or under some nebulous duty to modernize the church to fit Western elite views on abortion, contraception and homosexuality. The Reuters lead paragraph exemplifies the Western liberal outlook: "German Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the strict defender of Catholic orthodoxy for the past 23 years, was elected Pope on Tuesday despite a widespread assumption he was too old and divisive to win election."
Whose assumptions? The liberal Western media's. After all Pope John XXIII was 77 when he was elected in 1958 and had long exceeded his "life expectancy". He had some impact in his less than five-year long papacy because he "convoked the Roman Synod, established the Commission for the Revision of the Code of Canon Law and summoned the Second Vatican Council."
And Ratzinger is divisive primarily to the Western liberal Catholics, not the College of Cardinals that had to elect him with a supermajority (67%), and from whom the Pope had already obtained assurances of at least 60 votes prior to the conclave that elected him. As a Catholic Church following commentator noted on CBS yesterday, after his homily (and before his election), the Cardinals gravitated toward Josef Ratzinger as if they wished to receive his blessing. That doesn't sound divisive from here.
As I said a couple of weeks ago about John Paul II:
The Pope treated the Catholic Canon, to which he was an enormous contributor, with respect and to a large degree the force of law. He did not seek wiggle room, did not alter the law to match the morality of the times, and did not seek to accommodate the wavering Catholic. Instead, he did what he should have done: stated the moral and theological position of the Church and said it is the duty of Catholics to conform to it, not the Church's duty to conform to them. Whether you agree or not, the Pope was entirely correct to hold to those principles of his faith despite the changing times. Those who were disappointed that the Church did not modify morality to meet modernity have only themselves to blame.
And this principle is no less true of the new Pope: he MUST and he SHOULD proclaim the position of the church in a forceful manner and ensure that the morality of the church remains strong. The Pope has no duty to change the Church's views to suit gay Catholics like Andrew Sullivan or Western commenters like Rema Rahman. The notion that adhering to the same 2,000+ year-old teachings on homosexuality, conception, value of life and marriage that form many of the underpinnings of Christendom means that the Pope is "doctrinaire" or "hardline" says more about the person who utters such nonsense than it does about the Pope or the Church. Similarly, complaining that the Pope does not tolerate dissent is pure foolishness: the Catholic Church is not a democracy and is not designed to be one. Jonah Goldberg delineates the universe of these asinine solipsists too narrowly when he claims that these reactions are a product of American left-wing media foolishness.
Instead, as Anne Applebaum notes, the Pope's greatest challenges will come from postmodern, postdemocratic and Christophobic Europe:
Within hours of his election a BBC profile had already speculated that the new pope had honed his rhetorical skills in Nazi Germany (he deserted the Wehrmacht at age 15) while some on the German left were describing his election as a "catastrophe." I expect we'll hear far worse insults in the next few days.
The Catholic scholar George Weigel calls this phenomenon "Christophobia" (a phrase he borrowed from the South African-born American legal scholar J.H.H. Weiler, who happens to be Jewish). Weigel began investigating the phenomenon after being struck by the European Union's fierce resistance to any mention of the continent's Christian origins in the draft versions of the new, and still unratified, European constitution. In his recent book, "The Cube and the Cathedral," Weigel lists the many sources of this very powerful, very profound and very European -- as opposed to American -- antipathy[:] . . . the experience of the Holocaust, which many European intellectuals concluded was the logical outcome of Christian bigotry through the centuries; the disappointment still felt among European leftists over the collapse of European communism, which many "blame" in part on the church; the legacy of the 1968 rebellions, which, there as here, opposed traditional authority of all kinds; and Europeans' tendency to associate the church with the "right" in general and Christian Democratic political parties in particular. To this I would add one more: Europe's present associations of "religiosity" with "America," and in particular with George W. Bush, who still scores reliably high negatives in opinion polls across the continent.
Simply stated, the real hard-liners are the left-wingers who cry wolf at the deviation of any public persona from their standard viewpoints. The fact that the Catholic Church did not elect a postmodernist liberal who would allow abortion, homosexuality and gay marriage is not a problem for the Church -- it is being true to what it sees as a higher authority than the caprice of modern man.