Everybody leads with the new pope, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, or as he now prefers, Benedict XVI. “After the great Pope John Paul II, the cardinals have elected me, a simple, humble worker in the Lord’s vineyard,” said Benedict, a 78-year-old German, who was Pope John Paul II’s enforcer for ideology.
Benedict has long inveighed against what he sees as lax standards on morality, doctrine, and the primacy of Catholicism. He’s disciplined priests who’ve pushed for reform, in the 1980s purging liberation theologists; in a letter he issued in 2000, titled Dominus Jesus, he dubbed other faiths “gravely deficient”; and as the Los Angeles Timeseditorial page details, he wrote that pro-choice politicians should be denied communion.
As the New York Timesputs it, Ratzinger was “briefly and unenthusiastically” a member of the Hitler Youth. Membership was mandatory. He was later drafted into the army and eventually deserted. Meanwhile, Jewish groups praised the new pope, who apparently was at the forefront of the Vatican’s recent efforts to make nice with Jewish leaders.
Ratzinger’s views are widely considered to have been shaped by his experience with Nazism and later by the student revolts of the 1960s. As one biography of him, quoted in the NYT, put it: “Having seen fascism in action, Ratzinger today believes that the best antidote to political totalitarianism is ecclesiastical totalitarianism.”
Regarding the priest abuse scandal, Benedict said in 2002: “I am personally convinced that the constant presence in the press of sins of Catholic priests, especially in the United States, is a planned campaign, as the percentage of these offences among priests is not higher than in other categories, and perhaps it is even lower.”
The crowd hanging in the Vatican gave a mixed response once Ratzinger was named. One teacher jumped onto a plastic chair and screamed, “This is the gravest error!”
Slate’s Jack Miles has a similar reaction. Meanwhile, Andrew Sullivan did a kind of intellectual history of Ratzinger in 1988, concluding: “His bleakness, while theologically a way in which the extremity of grace can be radically described, is—once in power—a recipe for authoritarianism.”
Despite his hard-line positions, many describe Ratzinger as kind of a softie in person. “A simple guy, with almost a simple smile on his face, as if he’s scared to hurt anybody,” said one priest in the LAT.
An Op-Ed in the NYT, by an AEI theologian, argues that Ratzinger has been widely misunderstood: “He may be much more willing to let go of institutions he considers only tepidly Catholic than people expect. And more serious about the life of the soul.”
Ratzinger also opposes the death penalty.
The NYT, Washington Post, and LATallfront yesterday’s shocker in the Senate, as a committee postponed its vote on the nomination of John Bolton after a previously silent Republican defected. The vote will be delayed at least three weeks, and there’s a solid chance it will never happen, at least for Bolton.
The nomination was nearly home free after committee chairman Sen. Lugar cut off debate and as LAT puts it, tried to “muscle a vote through.” Then Sen. George Voinovich, a Republican from Ohio—who had been AWOL during the hearings—suddenly announced that he would not “feel comfortable” voting for Bolton just yet. That meant that if the vote went forward, Bolton’s nomination would die. Suddenly, Republicans agreed a delay would be wise.
“My conscience got me,” Voinovich explains in the NYT.
Two other Republican senators on the committee, Chafee and Hagel, seemed to smile on the change of events. “I think the charges are serious enough that they demand, or cry out, for further examination,” said Hagel. Chafee added, “The dynamic has changed. It’s a new day.” Neither announced they’re changing their committee votes.
The LAT quotes a GOP strategist saying Voinovich’s move is a sign of things to come. Republican moderates are “starting to stand up and be counted—and to rebel,” said the operative. “They are tired of being strong-armed.”
The Wall Street Journal mentions that an organization dedicated to “getting the U.N. out of the USA” has said it will start running anti-Voinovich ads.
About a dozen Iraqis were killed in insurgent attacks, most by a suicide bomber around Baghdad.
The NYTfronts and others cover a big government study concluding that, well, the government vastly overestimated the number of deaths caused by obesity. The latest study figures that obesity is the seventh-largest cause of death in the U.S.; the government had previously pegged it at No. 2. The last study also found that people who are just plain overweight don’t actually have a higher risk of death, and, as the NYT gets very excited about, a bit of chunk seems to actually decrease morbidity.
Vital Capitalization Projection … The Post’s Al Kamen notices the following memo from the Joint Chiefs of Staff:
Effective immediately, the terms Soldier, Sailor, Airman and Marine will be capitalized in all correspondence. This change is in keeping with the Services’ recently announced decisions to capitalize the terms denoting their importance and emphasis on the person, especially in light of the War on Terrorism.