`God’s Rottweiler’ paves own path

first_img AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREOregon Ducks football players get stuck on Disney ride during Rose Bowl event160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! VATICAN CITY – Pope John Paul II’s death a year ago – April 2, 2005 – left many Roman Catholics expecting that their church would take an even harder, more conservative line if the College of Cardinals picked early favorite Joseph Ratzinger as the next pontiff. They got Ratzinger – now Pope Benedict XVI. Yet the Vatican’s German-born chief orthodoxy watchdog has hardly acted like the man saddled with the nickname “God’s Rottweiler.” Instead, the faithful got a pope who rode around in St. Peter’s Square in traditional papal headgear that resembled a Santa Claus hat. The man described as a “dour Bavarian” wrote his first encyclical on love. That’s not to say that Benedict has changed his doctrinal tune. On the contrary, he has reaffirmed church teaching on everything from sexuality to the sanctity of life. But in his first year as pope, Benedict has confounded left and right through a handful of small yet significant changes that defy easy interpretation. He is very much his own, unpredictable man. Take for example that first encyclical, “God is Love,” an exploration of love and charity that focused on the different types of love – erotic and unconditional – that Benedict said were joined in marriage between man and woman. “What other pope in history made his major encyclical on erotic love?” asked the Rev. Joseph Fessio, a conservative Jesuit who has known Benedict since the 1970s. “Now we have the `panzer cardinal,’ the `dour Bavarian,’ `God’s Rottweiler’ defending love!” Fessio said. “What a paradox!” Indeed, ever since his April 19 election, Benedict has been anything but boring. He has shown a pastoral and populist side unfamiliar to many, humbly joking that he felt like a guillotine was falling on him when he realized he would be pope, and then making the popular decision of placing John Paul on the fast track to possible sainthood. He made some surprising choices in naming his first batch of cardinals, promoting an outspoken critic of China, Hong Kong bishop Joseph Zen, despite the Vatican’s new push to re-establish diplomatic relations with Beijing. And he shocked Catholics across the theological spectrum by meeting with his harshest liberal critic, Hans Kueng, as well as the excommunicated ultraconservative Bishop Bernard Fellay. “When he was elected, the left was very worried and the right was delighted, and both of them expected him to come in like a gangbuster and start an attack cleaning up the church, coming in like the Grand Inquisitor,” said the Rev. Thomas Reese, a Jesuit who resigned last year under Vatican pressure as editor of America magazine. “Of course he totally surprised people that way because his personality, which is quite charming, came through as a charming Bavarian rather than an authoritarian Prussian.” Aside from his public persona, Benedict’s few yet decisive moves have also surprised observers of the church hierarchy. In one of his few bureaucratic changes, Benedict removed the Vatican’s top expert on Islam, Archbishop Michael Fitzgerald, as head of the Vatican’s office for relations with Muslims and other religions, and sent him to Egypt as papal envoy.Analysts like Fessio said Fitzgerald was probably removed because he was seen as being too soft on Islam. v provoked “widespread puzzlement” among conservatives, the Rev. Richard John Neuhaus, editor of the conservative magazine First Things, wrote last month. last_img

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