I was a bit stunned today when I heard that Cardinal Ratzinger was made Pope.
When I heard commentary on BBC World News from a theologian at Georgetown that Ratzinger's main concern as Pope is the state of European Catholicism, I had to agree with this observation. There are many things that we in American do not understand about what is going on in Europe--a rising secularism that is nothing like what we have here, coupled with what was referred to as an "Islamicization."
I don't know if y'all will get what's meant by "Islamicization" and what all the hubub might be about, but, here's my take on it: there is a growing movement of Islam in Europe--and not just from more Muslims moving in. It is Europeans that are converting. This isn't all that good. These are mostly Europeans who are what would be called "unchurched"--meaning they have no understanding of religion or of faith at all.
While many of us here would say, "what's the problem with that?"...think about it a bit. The problem is that many who are unchurched suffer from a malaise of spirit which then leads them to accept belief systems that are counter to any progress that has been made.(yeah, go ahead, bitch at me about the language, but this is what it is)
People will accept a radical, reactionary form of Islam because it seems to hold the answers and promise them certainty on moral issues.
Kind of what born-again Christianity does in this country.
So, I understand where the "Islamicization" of Europe could be troubling--it's not that Muslim immigrants are the problem, but that troubled, unchurched Europeans are. And this becomes the answer to why Europe might need Ratzinger now.
But, Ratzinger is also a "fundamentalist" Catholic. Which could lead to problems for us over here.
Fundamentalist Catholisim is NOT (and I cannot stress this enough) anything like or even near Fundamentalist Protestant Christianity. We tend to think the two are the same--that's a result of the rising "protestantization" of Catholicims in this country.
Catholics here have allowed a level of "protestantization" so that we might be accepted by mainstream protestants...so that we might not be considered "demons" or "living under sufferage" here (as F.D.R once said) and be considered fully American. And, because of this, Catholics have been able to make strange bedfellows with some Fundies.
Oh, very bad move there.
Fundamentalist Christians don't necessarily like Mainstream Protestants (who the American Catholics have been trying to ape all these years)...And Mainstream Protestants don't necessarily like Ratzinger because of his support of
Opus Dei, an ultra-right Catholic lay movement (that Mel Gibson happens to be very much a part of).
Given that the main religious persuasion of this country is Protestant (with a down and dirty Fundie headding it) and since Fundamentalist Catholism is nothing like Fundamentalist Christianity, and the Fundies really don't like the Mainstreamers, and since the Mainstreamser hate Opus Dei (which Ratzinger has a fond apprecation of) I can only conculde that we Catholics could be seriously screwed in the near future (if things in this country keep moving towards the Fundie side).
The worst-case scenario: be prepared for some cross burnings on the lawns of the local Catholic church and a rise in pre-Kennedy discrimination.
I'm keeping my fingers crossed and saying a few good prayers.
(and before some of y'all bitch at me further and start kvetching about the whole separation-of-church-and-state thing, read my blog entry on Ten Little Known Points About American Religious History)