Uninformed Opinions Run Wild

So there’s a new pope. Long live Benedict XVI, even though actuarially speaking, he’s due any minute now. I don’t have a whole lot to say on the subject of the new pope. Aside from the fact that he’s been head of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith approximately forever, I know next to nothing about the guy. Of course, that fact alone is enough to give a lot of people the creepy-crawlies. For the uninitiated, the old name of the Congregation was the Sacred Congregation of the Universal Inquisition. That changed in 1908, but memory in this case is longer than truth. The idea that the guy who heads the organization that almost a hundred years ago was called the Inquisition is enough to disturb some people’s equilibrium.

I really find it funny that everybody and their dog is crawling out of the wood work with opinions on what this means for the Catholic Church and railing against and/or praising the Conclave’s choice for the papacy. Honestly, did any of these people know who the hell Cardinal Ratzinger was a month ago? I knew vaguely who he was. I didn’t much care. I have some idea what the Congregation does these days. (Hint: it doesn’t involve torturing heretics or burning witches, despite what you might be led to believe) Seeing as how I’m not going around promulgating my opinions as to what Catholic doctrine is, the odds of the Congregation ever having anything to do with me are zero.

Now, it seems like every dweeb with an Internet connection that can run a Google search has decided what this means for the church. Most of these opinions seem to be based on little more than the one fact I mentioned above. He’s German! He headed the Congregation! He’s 'God’s Rottweiler'! He’s going to burn heretics! The end of the church as we know it is coming! I’m betting most of the people spouting opinions now knew less about him than I did when this started. I also don’t think there’s been enough time for anybody who wasn’t already deeply immersed in the issue to have read enough to be able to form anything more than a half-baked assessment. I mean, seriously, people, he was head of the Congregation for 24 years. That portion of his career alone would take some time to get up to speed on. You’re going to form a coherent opinion of the guy based on 20 minutes research?

Whatever. Given how quickly he was elected, I don’t think there’s any great disagreements in the College of Cardinals about the guy. Most actual practicing Catholics, as opposed to the A&Ps or the cafeteria Catholics, think he’s a great choice. You know what else? Nobody in the Catholic Church really gives a damn what anybody outside of it thinks about the new pope. All the bloviating is especially pointless, since there’s nothing anybody can do to change it now. The only way to figure out what he’ll do is to sit back and watch.


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