Apr 252005
Authors: Tyler Wittman

In case any of you have been sleeping in a cave for the past week (which I can sympathize with – bears make for good pillows), there's a new pope in Rome. Joseph Ratzinger, a cardinal from Germany, became the 265th leader of the Roman Catholic Church Tuesday.

He is considered a very conservative theologian and a strict traditionalist. The announcement was met with tons of praise and cheering in St. Peter's Square Tuesday, but it has drawn a few moans and groans since.

There are several well-founded concerns being expressed about his age and durability because he's 78. It's interesting to note that in 1922, Pope Benedict XV passed away after only eight years in the office. This makes Benedict XVI's name choice all the more interesting; perhaps he is the first to admit that his reign will be a short one.

Then there are the concerns being expressed from several regions, such as Central America, that the new pope will not care about their more pressing needs. They're basically upset with the fact that they don't have a local holding the office.

Now let me say first of all that I am not Catholic. That being said, from an outsider's view, this whole process sounds more like the NFL Draft than a suffering church looking for its supposed one true leader appointed by God. Speaking of which, Dallas, Baltimore and Kansas City really helped themselves this weekend while the Broncos, Jets and Jaguars shot themselves in the feet.

Back to the topic at hand, isn't the pope supposed to be Christ's one representative here on Earth as chosen by God? Ignoring the extreme theological problems with this belief (from a Biblical perspective), wouldn't that make the pope's selection an infallible process? So why all the complaining from Catholics across the globe?

Benedict XVI does face a litany of issues within the church that beg to be addressed properly, and chief among them are the molestation charges. None has been more publicized and argued about than this scandal, which has practically brought the church to its knees. While this may seem like a tough issue to deal with, it boils down to the issue of celibacy and the priesthood.

The Catholics should take a cue from Protestants, and the Bible for that matter, on this one and let their clergy marry. The Bible states nothing about ministers being required to stay celibate, and if anything they should be encouraged to get married. This is where Benedict XVI's traditionalism might hinder the church, but overall, he's not going to last long enough to see significant changes take place.

Benedict XVI is largely an interim pope meant to be the bridge between the next pope and the wildly popular John Paul II. The pundits have been talking about how hard John Paul II's shoes will be to fill, and the Roman Catholic hierarchy recognizes this. Catholics need to recognize that the pope is just a man; he is not infallible.

John Paul II made his mistakes and Benedict XVI is likely to make his. I seriously doubt that the new pope is going to jump headfirst into sweeping reforms and instantly cure the ailing church that he now presides over. He likely doesn't have the time to do this, so his detractors, and supporters for that matter, should recognize the selection of the current pope for what it is and stop all the complaining.

He was the closest of the cardinals to John Paul II and will serve as an extension of the late pontiff for the next few years while a better-suited, long-term solution climbs the ranks.

Tyler Wittman is a junior speech communications major. His column runs every Tuesday in the Collegian.

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