Catholics React to the New Pope

German Inquisition meister. Prince of the New Dark Ages. Torquemada of the 21st century. God's Rottweiler. And pope.

For a couple decades now, liberals taking shots at the Vatican would telegraph their disgust with one word--


. That sour puss German Inquisition meister. Prince of the New Dark Ages. Torquemada of the 21st century. God's Rottweiler.

Today, however, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger is Pope Benedict XVI. Divided throughout John Paul II's papacy, Catholics worldwide seem to be on the verge of flat-out polarization.

Since 1981, Ratzinger has served as head of the

Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith


-the Vatican department once called the Office of Inquisition. In that job Ratzinger maintained strict discipline on church doctrine, excommunicating and silencing dissenters. He's been the driving force behind the Vatican's crackdowns on liberation theology, religious pluralism, challenges to traditional moral teachings on issues such as homosexuality, and dissent on women's ordination.

Conservatives are thrilled. "I share the elation and profound encouragement of untold millions of other Catholics around the world today at the news of the election of Pope Benedict XVI," says Patrick Madrid, editor of the Catholic journal



, and host of four Eternal Word Television Network series. "This decision by the cardinals, and coming so quickly, is a clear and decisive message that absolute truth is real and it matters and the Church's duty is to uphold and proclaim it."

Yet the the idea of a "Papa Ratzinger" makes many other American Catholics cringe, particularly liberals who see a Ratzinger papacy in apocalyptic terms. "What this says to American Catholics is quite striking: it's not just a disagreement, it's a full-scale assault," writes

Andrew Sullivan

. "There is simply no other figure more extreme than the new Pope on the issues that divide the Church. No one."

Beliefnet members also weighed in. "I, for one, am overjoyed with this selection," wrote member Morah. "Maybe he isn't as charismatic as Pope John Paul the Great, but he is definitely as Orthodox." Member sildeguru had the opposite reaction: "I am so terrified for the future of the church. I'll just have to wait and see with the rest, but this makes me as black as can be."

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