Pope writes a disappointing first encyclical

Tony Cox

Pope Benedict XVI, formerly known as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, publicly released his first encyclical letter this week. After much speculation about what the topic might be, there came forth a lengthy rumination on the role of love in the Church and in society entitled Deus Caritas Est – Latin for “God is love.”

Wowzers! The pope thinks God loves us, and human beings should love each other? What bold, new ideas this man has!

Don’t get me wrong, it’s a fine encyclical, and there’s nothing in it to which any Catholic would object – after all, God is love, and we should love one another. And there are some noteworthy points, such as the part where he attempts to clarify the Church’s position on sexuality, and how limits on it serve not to restrict us from joy, rather, they help us achieve true sexual fulfillment.

But can you blame me for being slightly disappointed? More than anything else, the Catholic Church needs bold leadership, someone committed to strength and reform, someone to reaffirm the teachings that are under attack from the secular realm. Many were hoping Benedict would be that leader, and the best he can do is “God is love”?

Make no mistake. I’m a huge fan of Benedict. I won’t lie – when I heard the words “Dominum Josephum Sanctae Romanae Ecclesiae Cardinalem Ratzinger” in April from the balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica, I gave a couple fist-pumps, because I knew with Joey Ratz at the helm, the Church was sure to be in good hands. Here was a man renowned the world over for his steadfast dedication to even the most “reactionary” moral teachings; who, in the homily of the final Mass before the papal conclave, gave the sternest and boldest condemnation of modernism that had come from the Vatican in many years.

Deus Caritas Est, however, is devoid of such condemnations when they seem to be needed most.

I suppose my greatest fear is Pope Benedict XVI will follow too closely in the footsteps of his predecessor, John Paul II, who was not the stalwart conservative many made him out to be. Sure, he opposed communism and abortion, but so what? Any pope worthy of his miter would do those things. I liked John Paul II, but if you ask me, he was more about politics than anything. The old globetrotter was more worried about remaking the Church’s image than about revitalizing the Church itself. He did relatively little to stem the tide of liturgical abuses that continued in the wake of the Second Vatican Council, and he was heartbreakingly slow to respond to the sex abuse scandal. His agenda seemed more concerned with holding rock concert-style youth festivals, promoting bogus multiculturalism and holding “interfaith dialogue” with religious leaders who would love nothing more than to see Rome burn.

Having said that, I don’t have a reason to worry yet. I am hopeful Benedict XVI has a long way to go, and it’s unlikely he will stray too far from the path of orthodoxy he has been traveling for most of his life. But if he wishes to be remembered as more than a “transitional” pope, he’s going to have to get tough again – and the sooner he does so, the better.

Tony Cox is a senior philosophy major and columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected]