JACKSON, Tenn. – April 19, 2005– German Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger is a “masterful thinker” who may be the most brilliant Catholic theologian alive today, Union University President David S. Dockery said April 19 following Ratzinger’s election as the new Roman Catholic pope.
“We are all surprised at the speed with which the cardinals were able to come to a consensus regarding the next pope of the Roman Catholic Church,” Dockery said. “Cardinal Ratzinger has been a stalwart for theological orthodoxy within the Catholic tradition. His commitment to theological and ethical faithfulness in a day characterized by postmodern relativism will serve the church well in coming years.”
The 78-year-old Ratzinger announced he would assume the name Pope Benedict XVI. Dockery said his election means the dialogue between Catholics and Protestants encouraged by Pope John Paul II will most likely not be the same.
“His focus will be on maintaining orthodoxy and advancing the Catholic tradition while seeking to build up Catholic churches around the world,” Dockery said.
Greg Thornbury, assistant professor of philosophy and theology at Union and director of the Carl F.H. Henry Center for Christian Leadership, said in an age that increasingly threatens human dignity, the new pope is a “proven defender of life.”
“He opposes abortion, embryonic stem cell research, cloning and euthanasia,” Thornbury said. “As Cardinal Ratzinger reminded the world at the funeral mass of Pope John Paul II, ‘The truth is not relative.’”
Thornbury also said evangelicals should take special notice of the Catholic Church’s selection of a senior theologian and defender of their tradition.
“Protestants need not approve of the papal office to learn a lesson from this,” Thornbury said. “If we are to recover our part in this time of world history, it must be back to the animating principles of our evangelical heritage: Scripture supreme above all, salvation in Christ along by grace through faith alone and lives of conviction and action that give honor to the glory of God alone.”
Dockery added that he was somewhat surprised by the new pope’s election, especially because of his age. He also thought the Catholic Church might look outside of Europe to either Latin America or Africa for a new leader.
Dockery described Ratzinger as “articulate and convictional” and expects those convictions to come through forcefully during Ratzinger’s tenure as pope. “Cardinal Ratzinger is not afraid of confrontation and will be a source of strength for many who are looking to champion the great Catholic tradition,” Dockery said. “For those looking for change, it will not likely come.”