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The Hard Line on Ratzinger

That didn't take long . . . Update: The editorialists weigh in!

3:00 PM, Apr 19, 2005 • By JONATHAN V. LAST
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THE MEDIA clichés are already hardening around Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, just hours after becoming Pope Benedict XVI. Will they brook any dissent from the caricature they're drawing?

"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."


"Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger of Germany, the church's leading hard-liner, was elected the new pope Tuesday evening in the first conclave of the new millennium."

--William J. Kole, Associated Press

"Thanks for your emails both sympathizing and telling me to leave the Church entirely. But I am still in shock. This was not an act of continuity. There is simply no other figure more extreme than the new Pope on the issues that divide the Church. No one. He raised the stakes even further by his extraordinarily bold homily at the beginning of the conclave, where he all but declared a war on modernity, liberalism (meaning modern liberal democracy of all stripes) and freedom of thought and conscience. . . . His views on the subordinate role of women in the Church and society, the marginalization of homosexuals (he once argued that violence against them was predictable if they kept pushing for rights), the impermissibility of any sexual act that does not involve the depositing of semen in a fertile uterus, and the inadmissability of any open discourse with other faiths reveal him as even more hardline than the previous pope."

--Andrew Sullivan

"And what is the creed of the Church? That is for the Grand Inquisitor to decide."

--Andrew Sullivan

"And so the Catholic church accelerates its turn toward authoritarianism, hostility to modernity, assertion of papal supremacy and quashing of internal debate and dissent. We are back to the nineteenth century."

--Andrew Sullivan

" A man of deep personal faith who choked up as he delivered the homily at Pope John Paul II's funeral, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger also has alienated some Roman Catholics with his zeal in enforcing church orthodoxy."

--Melissa Eddy, Associated Press

"Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, a hard-line doctrinal watchdog, was elected by Roman Catholic cardinals in Vatican City today as the successor to the enormously popular John Paul II as pope for the world's one billion Catholics. . . . The Catholic Church is hugely divided and many of its members are seriously disaffected."

--Daryl Strickland, Los Angeles Times

"In the Vatican, he has been the driving force behind crackdowns on liberation theology, religious pluralism, challenges to traditional moral teachings on issues such as homosexuality, and dissent on such issues as women's ordination."


" Joseph Ratzinger, the newly elected Pope Benedict XVI, turned 78 last Saturday and is widely expected to maintain John Paul II's deeply conservative line."

--London Telegraph

"Hardline Catholics got their man Tuesday, when the College of Cardinals elected its dean, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, as the 265th pope. . . . Ratzinger is generally considered to have been a driving force behind several of the Catholic Church's strictest and most social divisive moves in recent years. In particular, he has held the line on homosexuality, women's ordination, and the vein of progressive thinking known as liberation theology. Going into the secret conclave, many observers wondered whether the cardinals would seek a kind of compromise figure, but that was not to be."

--Rema Rahman, Village Voice

"Hard-liner Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was elected the leader of the world's one billion Roman Catholics after the conclave of 115 Cardinals ended Tuesday evening."


"Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger of Germany, a hard-line guardian of conservative doctrine, was elected the new pope Tuesday evening in the first conclave of the new millennium."


"Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger of Germany, a strict doctrinal conservative who believes the church should hold fiercely to its fundamental beliefs against the pressures of secularism, emerged from St. Peter's Basilica as Pope Benedict XVI today."

--Ken Dilanian and Matthew Schofeld, Knight Ridder

Update, 4/20/05: "Some analysts describe Ratzinger as the leader of the neoconservative faction."

--Sylvia Poggioli, National Public Radio (April 15, 2005)

"Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the new Pope Benedict XVI, worked in close partnership with his predecessor and shared a belief in staunchly defending orthodox Catholic doctrine. There is no reason to expect any change, of course, for the church when it comes to matters like birth control, priestly celibacy or homosexuality. Those are issues of faith, properly left to the faithful. On matters of public policy, however, all of us have reason to be concerned about the opinions of the leader of more than one billion Catholics."

--Editorial, New York Times

"Roman Catholic cardinals reached to the church's conservative wing on Tuesday and chose as the 265th pope Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, a seasoned and hard-line German theologian who served as John Paul II's defender of the faith."

--Ian Fisher, New York Times

"His experience under the Nazis--he was 18 when the war ended--was formative in his view of the function of the church, [John L. Allen Jr.] said. 'Having seen fascism in action, Ratzinger today believes that the best antidote to political totalitarianism is ecclesiastical totalitarianism,' he wrote. 'In other words, he believes the Catholic Church serves the cause of human freedom by restricting freedom in its internal life, thereby remaining clear about what it teaches and believes.' Totalitarianism, indeed, critics might say."

--Daniel J. Wakin, New York Times

"Some liberal Catholics and interest groups criticized the choice as a lost opportunity to move the church in a less doctrinaire direction because the new pope, a conservative German who was close to the late John Paul II, has long held hard-line positions on many divisive issues, including birth control, homosexuality and the ordination of women."

--Dean E. Murphy, New York Times

"But as the international reaction to the death of Pope John Paul II demonstrated . . . the leader of the Catholic Church has extraordinary political and moral influence around the world. There are areas in which the new pope could have a tremendous impact, on both Catholics and non-Catholics, in this country and everywhere else, for better or for worse."

--Editorial, Washington Post

"The quick election of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger speaks quiet volumes about what cardinals seek from the new pope: a stable interregnum after 26 years under the charismatic Pope John Paul II. Benedict XVI will hold to the late pope's theologically conservative line, but he won't do it all that long, giving the church a breather in which to plan its future. . . . The church is sadly putting off a change in worldview and retaining its Eurocentric focus. By failing to pick a pope from Latin America or elsewhere in the developing world, the church reinforces the impression that it is a colonial enterprise, run in Europe by Europeans who see themselves as uniquely qualified to serve as God's interlocutor."

--Editorial, Los Angeles Times

"Sadness for Gay Catholics"

--Headline, San Francisco Chronicle

"Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, a rigid enforcer of Catholic doctrine over the past two decades and a close personal friend of the late Pope John Paul II, was chosen Tuesday as the 265th leader of the Roman Catholic Church. He took the name Pope Benedict XVI. The unusually rapid election of Ratzinger, who turned 78 on Saturday and starts his papacy as the oldest pope in more than a century, appears to signal a desire by the church to continue the strict conservative policies of John Paul II and provide its leaders with a transitional reign before taking on the daunting issues of the 21st century."

--Don Lattin, San Francisco Chronicle

"Ratzinger, a 78-year-old prelate who is one of the most controversial figures in the Catholic Church because of his hard-line stances against what he views as dissidence in the church, then appeared in his new papal white robes covered by a red cape. He beamed and waved his clasped hands."

--Michael Paulson, Boston Globe

"Cardinal Ratzinger's choice was sure to be controversial because of his unbending orthodoxy on fundamental doctrinal issues as well as his World War II record as a member although mandatory and unenthusiastic of the Hitler Youth."

--John Phillips, Washington Times

Jonathan V. Last is online editor of The Weekly Standard and a contributor to the blog Galley Slaves.