Popewatch: Here Comes the 'Enforcer'!

The smoke was white, and so is the winner: Contrary to weeks of speculation, the princes of the Catholic Church didn't pick an African or Latin American to head their billion-plus congregants. Nor did they choose a moderate, as some pope watchers had suggested. Instead, on only their second day of voting, the cardinals selected Joseph Ratzinger to be the next pontiff.

Ratzinger apparently rallied the scarlet-robed voters with his sermon Monday, before the first vote, in which he scorched the secular world. "Adult faith is not one that follows tides of trends and the latest novelties," Ratzinger said, according to the Daily News. He added: "Relativism, which is letting oneself be tossed and swept along by every wind of teaching, looks like the only attitude acceptable by today's standards."

Tough talk from a tough man. For years Ratzinger has been known as the "Enforcer" for his crusade against Church dissidents, including those who flauted the Church's rules on ordination of women. And as head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith, Ratzinger has enacted John Paul II's conservative interpretation of Catholic doctrine for more than 20 years.

It's not a news flash that the Catholic Church is not a big fan of homos. But as Sister Miriam at St. Francis of Assissi Middle School used to say, it's not just what you say, but how you say it. And in his 1986 "Letter To The Bishops Of The Catholic Church On The Pastoral Care Of Homosexual Persons," Ratzinger said it like this:

    Although the particular inclination of the homosexual person is not a sin, it is a more or less strong tendency ordered toward an intrinsic moral evil; and thus the inclination itself must be seen as an objective disorder.

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Hey, they kill evils, don't they? No! That's bad. "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 wherever it occurs," Ratzinger wrote, sounding very reasonable.

"But," he continued, "the proper reaction to crimes committed against homosexual persons should not be to claim that the homosexual condition is not disordered. When such a claim is made and when homosexual activity is consequently condoned, or when civil legislation is introduced to protect behavior to which no one has any conceivable right, neither the Church nor society at large should be surprised when other distorted notions and practices gain ground, and irrational and violent reactions increase."

Yikes. But 1986 is ancient history, back when the Red Sox were losing instead of winning World Series. Perhaps Ratzinger mellowed with age.

Uh, no. In a 2004 memo to clergy called "Worthiness to Receive Holy Communion," he wrote:

    Regarding the grave sin of abortion or euthanasia, when a person's formal cooperation becomes manifest—understood, in the case of a Catholic politician, as his consistently campaigning and voting for permissive abortion and euthanasia laws—his Pastor should meet with him, instructing him about the Church's teaching, informing him that he is not to present himself for Holy Communion until he brings to an end the objective situation of sin, and warning him that he will otherwise be denied the Eucharist.

Well, that's harsh, but at least the Church is consistent on the killing thing: It's bad, be it a fetus, a brain-damaged invalid, a convicted killer or an enemy in war. Right?

Wrong. "Not all moral issues have the same moral weight as abortion and euthanasia," Ratzinger wrote. "For example, if a Catholic were to be at odds with the Holy Father on the application of capital punishment or on the decision to wage war, he would not for that reason be considered unworthy to present himself to receive Holy Communion."

He continued: "There may be a legitimate diversity of opinion even among Catholics about waging war and applying the death penalty, but not however with regard to abortion and euthanasia."

So there you have it: Homosexuality is an inherent evil, war is debatable, and Joey "the Stinger" Ratzinger is the new pope. Alleluia, alleluia.


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