I made that joke to a friend yesterday and without taking time to get it and laugh he launched right into the hours old conventional wisdom that the Catholic Church is going backwards, they've elected a Nazi, what the Hail Mary could they be thinking! This, mind you, from a non-practicing Jew who pays about as much attention to Catholic dogma as I do to American Idol. I mean, I know the election of a pope is a pretty big deal politically, so there's interest beyond the church, but since when did every American take the iPod off shuffle and start obsessing over who's going to bless the tourists in St. Peter's square (I don't mean people who were listening to this on their iPods, of course. They were probably already interested). Is this really MTV material? Well, since many people disagree with Catholic doctrine vis a vis what people do with their private parts and who they do it around, and MTV and its viewers are fixated on people's private parts, I guess it's understandable. But I can't understand their surprise at the choice. Even the folks in The Corner were freaking out, though in a different way than, say, Andrew Sullivan. I'm with James Lileks on this one:
I’m still astonished that some can see a conservative elevated to the papacy and think: a man of tradition? As Pope? How could this be? As if there this was some golden moment that would usher in the age of married priests who shuttle between blessing third-trimester abortions and giving last rites to someone who’s about to have the chemical pillow put over his face. At the risk of sounding sacreligious: it’s the Catholic Church, for Christ’s sake! You’re not going to get someone who wants to strip off all the Baroque ornamentation of St. Peter’s and replace them with IKEA wine racks, okay?
I'm sure a lot of people wanted to see a more liberal pope, at least many in the West. Better luck next time I guess. But to those, like Sullivan, who insist the Church must come to them on their particular issues, I'd say you may want to start shopping around for other religions. Sorry.