Having grown up Catholic, I was really hopeful that the next pope chosen would be of a more liberal bent on women’s issues than JP II. Unfortunately, Ratzinger – now Pope Benedict the XVI – was Pope JP II’s ‘hardliner’ on women’s issues.
He’s written things like this:
A second tendency emerges in the wake of the first. In order to avoid the domination of one sex or the other, their differences tend to be denied, viewed as mere effects of historical and cultural conditioning. In this perspective, physical difference, termed sex, is minimized, while the purely cultural element, termed gender, is emphasized to the maximum and held to be primary. The obscuring of the difference or duality of the sexes has enormous consequences on a variety of levels. This theory of the human person, intended to promote prospects for equality of women through liberation from biological determinism, has in reality inspired ideologies which, for example, call into question the family, in its natural two-parent structure of mother and father, and make homosexuality and heterosexuality virtually equivalent, in a new model of polymorphous sexuality.
3. While the immediate roots of this second tendency are found in the context of reflection on women’s roles, its deeper motivation must be sought in the human attempt to be freed from one’s biological conditioning.2 According to this perspective, human nature in itself does not possess characteristics in an absolute manner: all persons can and ought to constitute themselves as they like, since they are free from every predetermination linked to their essential constitution.
This perspective has many consequences. Above all it strengthens the idea that the liberation of women entails criticism of Sacred Scripture, which would be seen as handing on a patriarchal conception of God nourished by an essentially male-dominated culture. Second, this tendency would consider as lacking in importance and relevance the fact that the Son of God assumed human nature in its male form.
It’s not good news for women or GLBT people – in fact, it’s really bad news. You can read the whole of the Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church On the Collaboration of Men and Women, if you’d like.
Matt Foreman of the Gay and Lesbian Task Force wrote:
“Today, the princes of the Roman Catholic Church elected as Pope a man whose record has been one of unrelenting, venomous hatred for gay people, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger. In fact, during the reign of John Paul II, Cardinal Ratzinger was the driving force behind a long string of pronouncements using the term ‘evil’ to describe gay people, homosexuality, and marriage equality. As a long-time Catholic from a staunchly Catholic family, I know that the history of the church is full of shameful, centuries-long chapters involving vilification, persecution, and violence against others. Someday, the church will apologize to gay people as it has to others it has oppressed in the past. I very much doubt that this day will come during this Pope’s reign. In fact, it seems inevitable that this Pope will cause even more pain and give his successors even more for which to seek atonement.”
All told, this is not a Pope that will deal with pressing issues of the Church in any kind of enlightened way: no ordainment for women, no marriage for priests, no rational understanding of the natural existence of homosexuality, or the new family, or even changing roles for women. He may only be a “caretaker” pope, but depending on how long he lives – there may be a lot for the next pope to undo. Another religion moves toward fundamentalism, which is about the last thing we needed.
I’m calling him Pope Maledict, myself.