the pope is dead. long live the pope. sigh.

After just a few days of what were, I’m sure, intense deliberations, we have a new pope, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, or Pope Benedict XVI.

Pope’s choose their papal names, generally to show their intention to carry on the work of a previous pontiff or otherwise define the tone of their papacy. the name Benedict in papal lore is meant to signal a pope of peace, but all indications so far contradict that image. In addition to holding fast to JohnPual II’s archconservative views against birth control, and about the role of women in the church, the new pope takes conservative to an even more frustrating level.

Ratzinger was a member of the Hitler Youth, though a self-proclaimed reluctant one, and served in the Nazi military. He has stated that, while the church deplores violence, violence against gays and lesbians is a result of their own nerve in being who they are. He is also on record as saying that Buddhism would “replace Marxism as the Catholic Church’s main enemy this century.”

I’ve described myself as a “recovering Catholic” for years now, one that acknowledges the ridiculous abuses of the church and it’s hypocrasies, but can’t quite let go of everything. Mainly, those strings that still tether me to the church I was raised in are made of my belief in the tenets of Christ’s teachings–that peace, tolerance, compassion, and understanding are the basis of Chirstianity–and that the church, as a creation of human beings was inevitably fallible. What other strings there were have had to do with nostalgia–with the smell of Our Lady of Sorrows at Christmas Eve Mass, of the ties to my Irish, Italian, and Polish forebears.

But those ties have for years been made of very thin strings. The church may have been right in opposing Bush and Co’s rush to war, but they were absolutely wrong in opposing birth control or women’s ordination or the rights of priests to marry. For every positive I could find in church doctrine, there were multiple other disturbing policies. And John Paul II, as conservative as he was, as disagreeable to my modern, liberal, American viewpoint, as he was, was undeniably a man who did reach out to the poor, and who seemed genuinely to care about the fate of the least of Christ’s brethren.

Benedict XVI, on the other hand, emits no such peace. He was a Nazi, has excused violence against gays, and talks about other systems of belief as enemies of his church. With his election as our new pope, I see very little good coming from the church, and much as I was disappointed in the people of my country for choosing such a divisive and cruel leader in November’s election, so am I disappointed in the Catholic establishment for choosing such a man as their “infallible leader.”

As of today, I no longer consider myself a recovering Catholic. I am an ex-Catholic.