Ratzinger for Pope?

A recent flurry of speculation in Europe suggests that Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the controversial prefect for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, has emerged as “an important late entry for the papacy” (London Daily Telegraph) in the event of the death of John Paul II. Ratziner has long been thought to be too combative and, at seventy-seven, too old, but the Barvarian cardinal’s age is now seen as a possible advantage. The conventional wisdom is that few cardinals, regardless of their ideological allegiances, want to install another young pope who might serve for twenty or more years. John Paul II’s reign has been heroic, even epoch-making, but as Cardinal Newman remarked, even a good pope shouldn’t rule for too long.

Ratzinger made headlines in November when, in the aftermath of the European Union’s rejection of the inclusion of any reference to Christianity in its constitution, he expressed forcefully his views that an “aggressive secularism” had become a threat to religious freedom in Western Europe. In an interview in La Repubblica, he went on to reiterate the church’s opposition to the legalization of same-sex marriage, and more generally to allege that modern secularism “is imposed through politics and does not give public space to the Catholic or Christian vision.”

After the recent presidential election, Americans may find it hard to credit the idea...

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