The other day I was chatting with a friend about how the reality of Pope Benedict the XVI been nothing like the “petrifying” whip-cracking reactionary that so many talking heads had predicted back in 2005. Yes, E.J. Dionne had actually said he was “petrified” over what the dreaded Joseph Ratzinger–the caricature of the media’s own creation–would do to the Church.
That made me go look up and dust off a link-heavy piece where I’d looked back at some of those paranoid predictions of 2005. Since it wasn’t much seen, I’ve dusted it off, updated it a little bit and racked it up over at Patheos.com:
In 2005, while awaiting the peal of bells and the white smoke signifying the election of the successor to Pope John Paul II, chattering gasbags of the pundit class killed time by analyzing the strengths and weaknesses of the “papabile frontrunners.” The news media and their analysts seemed to agree on one point: the election of Joseph Ratzinger — who as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith had been characterized for years in the press as the “ruthless enforcer” of Catholic orthodoxy — would be a catastrophe. Ratzinger’s “ruthlessness” consisted mostly of discouraging the “liberation theology” that too-often runs hand-in-hand with socialist enterprises, and insisting that Catholic theologians — particularly those teaching at Vatican-sponsored Catholic colleges and universities — either present the faith as something more than a relativistic intellectual playground, or (as in the case of Hans Küng) give up the title of “professor.” Or teach somewhere else.
To some it might seem reasonable that a man of the church would expect those teaching it to do so with a measure of fidelity.
For the chatty media, however, the idea of “God’s Rottweiler” as pope meant the continuation of the seemingly objectionable notion (insisted upon by his stubborn predecessor) that a pope might uphold actual Church teachings on abortion, euthanasia, divorce, etc. Presumably none of the cardinals entering the papal conclave would have — upon ascending the Chair of Peter — simply declared that “everything we taught before is canceled” and signed on with the progressives, but for sure, Ratzinger would not be the man to do it.
You can read the rest here.