They elected Joseph Ratzinger, the head of the Inquisition, to be the next Pope. I'm not a Catholic (or even a Christian) but I do follow the politics of various churches, because, obviously, religion is important in society. However, I was not enough of a hardcore church follower to have an opinion about the candidates for Pope. I knew next to nothing about most of the suggested front-runners. Except one. Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger of the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith, a body formerly called the Holy Inquisition. I knew I didn't want him.
For years the Republican Party has been courting Catholics through social wedge issues. Many American Catholic voters would probably have been surprised to learn that the entire republican platform was NOT an article of faith and a prerequisite for receiving communion. They would have been very confused to find out just how much the last Pope disagreed with George Bush and his handlers. John-Paul Opposed the death penalty, opposed the war in Iraq, frequently criticized the excesses of capitalism, and endorsed evolutionary biology.
If one of the Latin American Cardinals had been elected, there would have been a good chance that a new emphasis on the social gospel might have led at least some American Catholics to reconsider their friends. That's not going to happen now. As BBC tells us:
Cardinal Ratzinger has been head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith - formerly known as the Holy Office of the Inquisition - since 1981.
One of his first campaigns was against liberation theology, which had gained ground among priests in Latin America and elsewhere as a means of involving the Church in social activism and human rights issues.
He has described homosexuality as a "tendency" towards an "intrinsic moral evil". During the US election campaign, he called for pro-choice politicians to be denied Communion.
He has also argued that Turkey should not be admitted into the European Union.
Ratzinger's election is sure to be an encouragement to the culture warriors. Whether he lives up to their expectations and down to mine only time will tell.
Update:Added better background quote. Still trying to figure out the significance of the name Benedict.