Vatican watcher Weigel (The Truth of Catholicism, 2001, etc.) considers the course of the church under the previous pope and the possible changes that the new one will bring.
Joseph Ratzinger, elected pope by the College of Cardinals on April 19, 2005, is said to have been a less-than-willing candidate, feeling himself unfit “by reason of age and temperament.” Certainly many cardinals shared his reservations, though for complex reasons: Writes Weigel, there were those who wished to see greater engagement with globalization and human-rights issues, extending the concerns of John Paul II through the appointment of a Latin American pope; those who opposed Ratzinger because of his conservatism (and who promoted an apparently unfair Ratzinger-as-Nazi trope); and those who, as true hardcore clerical conservatives, wished to see the papacy restored to an Italian pope after a long turn in the hands of Karol Wojtyla of Poland. Weigel is at his best when documenting, in diary-like form, the ins and outs of Vatican politics and the inside deals that are struck in order to produce a puff of white smoke; his account here joins very nicely with recent intramural books, such as John L. Allen’s Conclave (2002) and John-Peter Pham’s Heirs of the Fisherman (2005). Less effective is his exposition of the problems now facing the church, some of which, as one of the faithful, he is presumably reticent to discuss at much length; one thinks of priestly marriage, women in the priesthood, the rooting out of sexually abusive clerics and the church’s stance on contraception. Nonetheless, Weigel looks squarely at plenty of difficult issues and offers a few prescriptions, including one by which the ecumenical Catholic Church would more actively help “those courageous Islamic scholars and religious leaders who want to challenge Islamist radicals and extremists.”
A lucid account of Ratzinger’s long theological career and likely manner of leadership in the future; of particular interest to reform-minded Catholics.