Tuesday, April 19

Of... "baggage"

As was well-documented, the biggest obsticle to Ratziner's election was his public perception as a the "panzerkardinal," or the dogmatic enforcer. Those who only know the name "Ratzinger" in connection with the enforcement of doctrinal orthodoxy are under this impression exactly because the public has only known him as the enforcer of orthodoxy: his sole occupation the last 25 years has been as the head of the congregation for the doctrine of the faith. For 25 years, he was often called to play "bad cop" to the John Paul the Great's "good cop," as far as the public eye was concerned. His image was his job.

This public perception of Ratzinger is unbalanced. Ratzinger was at the head of the Vatican's meaningful reaction to the child-abuse scandal. Ratzinger has done a lot of very fruitful work both with Christian-Jewish dialogs but also with Protestant-Catholic theological dialog and Eastern-Western reunification talks. He is a concert pianist and a university profesor. A theologian in his own right, Ratzinger's work does not simply re-hash centuries of papal condemnations; as head of the Congregation for Doctrine, that may have been his job, but as a theologian he is often quite original.

As Pope, these many other attributes, skills, concerns, nuances, and charisms will come into play. Further, I firmly believe that Benedict XVI was elected for his strong desire to pass on the faith in a compelling way to Europe, which is currently committing continental apostasy. Ratzinger-as-enforcer-of-doctrine served the Church beautifully, and for that service we are greatful. But I would venture to suggest that Benedict XVI is more aptly regarded Ratzinger-as-evangelizer-of-Europe.

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