It should surprise no one to hear that I was not overjoyed to hear that Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger had been chosen as the new pope when John Paul II died. Cardinal Ratzinger was pretty tough on gay and lesbian Catholics, and by extension (since Catholic doctrine has far-reaching impact) on gay and lesbian people all over the world.
But I must say that Pope Benedict XVI was pretty stunning in his first visit to the homeland this week. The New York Times has quite the spread on the visit, for those who haven't seen all of the details.
Given that I know and deeply love a Catholic or two, I paid attention to the Pope's visit. I was rather surprised when he addressed the abuse scandal before even deplaning. I was even more surprised when he granted an unrestricted audience to three abuse victims. These two gestures surely did more to bring a bit of healing to these deep, deep wounds than anything that has been done in the past decade. I think it took personal courage and deep faith for him to so clearly take on an issue that has been swept under a series of rugs for as far back as anyone knows.
Part of me does feel kind of bad that all CNN wanted to talk about was clergy sexual abuse while the pontiff was here, but he did bring it up, and of course the media were going to go there.
So--a great moment for the Roman Catholic Church, and a great moment of grace and hospitality for the man who (rather aptly, it turns out) named himself Benedict.