Sunday, April 24, 2005

Black Tuesday on the Tiber

15 April 2005, few days before the conclave started I wrote the following post. I was a little reluctant to post it for fear it was a touch abrasive. But in light of the fact it seems to have proved prophetic, I will put it up. Liberal friends will be asked to try to contain the weeping and gnashing of teeth.


24 October 1929--the day the stock market crashed--went into American history as Black Tuesday: according to legend, busted stockbrokers hurled themselves out of Wall Street windows. Winston Churchill, in New York the day after, wrote of waking up to the commotion caused by a stockbroker taking a fifteen-storey swan dive into the pavement below.

These stories are worth remembering: for, if current reports prove true, on this coming Tuesday 19 April 2005 Cardinal Ratzinger of Germany will become the next pope--and liberal Catholic theologians will be throwing themselves out of ivory tower windows in every university in the world. Black Tuesday on the Tiber.

For Cardinal Ratzinger has a reputation: the Panzer Cardinal. God's Rottweiler. The Vatican's Terminator. The Vatican's Enforcer. The Robocop of Roman Catholicism.

You might think that Catholic theologians would be glad to get a pope who stoutly defends the religion they swear they believe.

You might think that.

But you'd think wrong.

Since Vatican II, defending the faith has fallen out of fashion--at least among Catholic theologians. Since the 1960s, the hot word has been Weltoffenheit. It's German for "openness to the world." It's a word that Cardinal Ratzinger thinks has been badly abused, a word that allowed the Spirit of Jesus Christ to be confused with the Zeitgeist.

Of course, Ratzinger may not win. He is only one of a number of excellent cardinals who will get consideration: Arinze of Nigeria, Lustiger of France, Martini of Italy, and others.

But if he becomes pope, 19 April 2005 will live forever in liberal theological history: Black Tuesday on the Tiber.

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