New pope new hope?

When Pope John Paul II died at the Vatican on April 2, the world mourned. He was a beloved man who endeared himself to millions with his integrity, courage and charismatic personality. He was a philosopher and an actor who was versed in many languages. He provided spiritual solace to millions of Catholics world wide. His death has left an enormous void in the hearts of many.

When the Vatican announced on April 19 that Joseph Ratzinger, a cardinal from Germany had been elected as the 265---th pontiff, who took the name Pope Benedict XVI, the world reaction was mixed with a myriad of conflicting emotions. Many are overjoyed that he has a history of upholding church teachings against militant secularism of modern culture. While others, especially American Catholics are a little more reluctant to warm up to him. Nearly 60 percent of American Catholics who were surveyed told researchers they don't know enough to have a positive or negative opinion of the new Pope.

Liberals note that Ratzinger has taken a hard line against gay relationships and has warned voters they would be "cooperating in evil" by backing a politician who supported abortion rights.

Ratzinger delivered a rousing sermon last week before the cardinals and congregation packed into St. Peter's Basilica. "To have clear faith according to the church's creed is today often labeled fundamentalism. While relativism, letting ourselves be carried away by any wind of doctrine, appears as the only appropriate attitude for today's times. A dictatorship of relativism is established recognizes nothing as definite and leaves only one's own ego and one's own desires as the final measure."

Gay rights groups are outraged by what they perceive as rampant anti-gay rhetoric teachings by Ratzinger. "Athough the particular inclination of the homosexual person is not a sin, it is more or less a strong tendency ordered to an intrinsic moral evil, and thus the inclination itself must be seen as an objective disorder," Ratzinger said. He also condemns violence towards homosexuals, in his doctrine he wrote, "It is deplorable that homosexual persons have been and are the object of violent malice in speech or in action. Such treatment deserves condemnation from the church's pastors whenever it occurs."

Eric Diaz, a gay rights activist in West Hollywood who calls himself "a recovering Catholic," had this to say. "The new pope contradicts himself, on one hand he stated that homosexuality is sinful and evil, but then he says that he has great respect for queers and finds gay bashing to be deplorable. His teachings perpetuate gay bashing."

Perhaps the greatest controversy to befall on Pope Benedict XVI was his involvement in The Hitler Youth as a young boy in Germany, which he has apologized profusely for. Jewish groups for the most part acknowledge the fact that Ratzinger who was Pope John Paul II's closest confidant is said to share the late Pope's affinity for Jews. It will be expected that somehow this bookish theologian will find a way to touch people as his predecessor did. The legacy of Pope John Paul II is enormously hard to follow, but let's give our new pope the benefit of the doubt.