With much of the church having succumbed to the heresy of modernism, it needs an Athanasius. ~Pat Buchanan, April 8

With the selection of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, the hopes of traditionalist Catholics the world over, expressed by Mr. Buchanan’s article over a week ago, were realised as fully as they could have been. He asked for an Athanasios, and, while I suspect Pope Benedict would not presume to compare himself to the great patriarch and saint, Catholics have received someone who does fit the mould in many respects. The election of someone who is especially a theologian by training as Pope, fairly described as dogmatic (and what else should a bishop be but dogmatic, since his is a teaching office?), is encouraging for the general quality of theology in the Western world and in Western confessions. Without wanting to ignore the very important pastoral or liturgical work of a bishop, ours is surely an age in which there cannot be too much sound doctrine.

Naturally, I would not agree with Pope Benedict on everything, because we do not confess the same creed or belong to the same church, but I am profoundly encouraged by the fact that there is a Pope in Rome who is willing to express boldly that same view about meaningful, real distinctions and divisions between Christian confessions and who is also able to explain the reasons for it. The sharp, clear lines of division that do exist must first be seen and understood if they are ever to be removed some day. After the increasing muddle of Christian ecumenism over the past forty years especially, though I do not expect immediate or radical changes, some clarity will be greatly appreciated by this outside observer of the Catholic church.

Politically, Pope Benedict’s firm Catholic orthodoxy has already infuriated everyone for whom the Catholic church is a grand social project that must be guided in a “progressive” way (and this includes both the predictable Marxists and the neocon warmongers) and not a body of worshipping Christians seeking salvation. Pope Benedict XVI does represent the last practical hope of western Christendom in Europe for this generation: it may succumb to the flood of Muslim immigrants, the self-hating, enervating suicidal tendencies of leftism and the hollow, anti-Christian Europeanism of Brussels, or it may hold the line and slowly recover. The general Germanophobic, Christophobic reaction of many of the major European dailies to the Pope’s election shows he has quite a struggle, and one far more difficult than awakening people to seeing the spiritual and physical death inherent in communism. He has to confront a culture of death that assumes many pleasant shapes and hides under the masks of supposed human freedom and dignity.

Oddly enough, Andrew Sullivan’s representative comments of the absurd left (which is what Sullivan represents) could not have summed up better why I am encouraged by Pope Benedict’s election: “This new Pope has no pastoral experience as such. He is a creature of theological discourse, a man of books and treatises and arguments. He proclaims his version of the truth as God-given and therefore unalterable and undebatable.” Again, without denigrating pastoral work, it is high time that there was a Pope who is a man of books and treatises (provided they are the right kind, of course), because this reflects a mind interested in upholding Tradition, at least as his church understands it, and that is surely the most important kind of continuity Catholics could have hoped to have. This is not to say that others before him were unlearned, necessarily bad theologians as such or exactly “untraditional,” but someone who has particularly dedicated his life to upholding right doctrine views the lies of “progress” and modernism with special understanding and clarity and understands the importance of language and how it can be used to edify or destroy in ways that relatively few people can.