The world watched as Benedict XVI was inaugerated on the 24th of April. Many cheered and applauded the new pope, while others mourned. Liberal Catholics, women’s rights groups, gay rights groups and feminists were amongst the latter. A myriad of nuns prayed to God that the substitute to John Paul II would be someone more lenient on women’s rights. Their prayers were not answered, they said, appearing with tear-streaked faces on the evening news. Benedict XVI, formerly known as Cardinal Josef Ratzinger, is a staunch conservatist, even more so than his predecessor. The new pope is against various women’s rights issues, such as women priests, abortion and the use of contraceptives. Catholic feminist organizations are deeply alarmed at Ratzinger’s election. The Executive Director of Women’s Ordination Conference, Joy Barnes, said: “This is another example of of the hierarchy is out of touch with Catholics in the pews. Recent polls show over two-thirds of U.S. Catholics support women’s ordination”. The Women-Church Convergence go even further by stating that “…this selection reflects a reactionary-right-wing succession plan, perhaps a coup, by an all-male patriarchal, clerical church”.
Less than a year before becoming the most powerful religious leader in the world, Ratzinger wrote a statement that repeated the prohibition of women as priests and attacked feminism as “ignoring biological differences”. His career as a cardinal dates back to the year 1977, and since then, Ratzinger has demonstrated in more ways than one his conservative beliefs. He sent chills down the spine of many a Catholic liberal when he attacked and publicly humiliated Seattle Archbishop Raymond Hunthausen in 1985. Among Hunthausen’s many sins, which got him temporarily relieved of his authority, was allowing women at the altar.
The Bible preaches many things. For example, it says that parents shall stone their disobedient children and women mustn’t prepare food while having their period. Bearing in mind that parts of the Bible aren’t exactly aging with grace, it needs to be reinterpreted to fit modern laws and ethics. However, Ratzinger dismissed the reinterpretation of the Bible by feminists, saying “They are no longer interested in ascertaining the truth, but only whatever will serve their own particular agendas”. Ratzinger also claimed that feminists turn men and women into enemies. Feminists argue that stagnant gender roles and stereotypes, both of which they claim there’s plenty of in the Bible, is what’s really turning the sexes into enemies.
Ratzinger’s stand on abortion is very clear. In the last year’s US presidential election, the cardinal stated that voters would be “cooperating in evil” if they voted for a political candidate because of their pro-abortion platform. Furthermore, he ordered bishops to deny communion to pro-choice supporters, including presidential candidate John Kerry. Catholic doctrine says that “Holy Communion is morally necessary for salvation”. To a practising Catholic, being denied something that’s “morally necessary for salvation” is obviously serious business.
On the brighter side, Benedict XVI will continue to condemn armed conflict and to work toward easing the lot of the downtrodden, like his predecessor. Although he has condemned rock’n’roll music as “the expression of elemental passions”, there are many who bind their hopes to him as the transitional pope who will lead Catholics worldwide into the 21st century. That is, as long as you’re not a pro-choice, homosexual, a rock’n’roll fan, a feminist, a supporter of condoms to prevent HIV infections or unwanted pregnancies, divorced, or a woman whose dream it is to become a priest. In that case, you’re on your own.