Tuesday, April 19, 2005


What's In a Name: Pope Benedict --
Crossposted to Daily Kos

John XXIII, who opened a window and let fresh air into the Roman Catholic Church, was widely expected to take the name Pius, signalling a conservative continuation of past policy. Instead, his choice of the name John was was the first notice that his tenure would be different.

So, what does it mean that Joseph Ratzinger has chosen to be called Benedict XVI?

Let us first consider the last Pope Benedict. Benedict XV was pope during World War I. Elected in 1914, he wrote a letter the belligerent parties which, some say, included many points that were incorporated into Woodrow Wilson's Fourteen Points.

Benedict XIV is best known for rejecting the Jesuit attempt to incorporate Chinese rites into Catholicism.

Benedict XII and XIII were reformist popes who tried to end the luxurious lifestyles of the clergy.

Benedict XI is suspected of being poisoned and after his pontificate, the Babylonian Captivity began.

St. Benedict of Nursia founded an ideal of monasticism.

Based on this, I expect this pope, to be very concerned with foreign policy and war with views similar to John Paul II (perhaps influenced by being drafted into service by the Nazis). I expect him to continue his predecessor's distaste for Western materialism. I expect him to address Catholicism in the context of democracy (earlier, he wrote that Catholics could vote for pro-abortion candidates so long as they weren't voting because of abortion and if there existed proportionate other reasons to favor the candidate, although he did not define what was proportionate). I also would not be surprised if his legacy becomes an honest addressing of priestly abuse scandals, now that it has come out that problems are more prevalent than he intially believed.

In all, I think that one should take a wait-and-see approach before rushing to judgement on what exactly the papacy of Benedict XVI will entail, although I will predict that conservatives and liberals alike will be surprised on at least some issues.
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