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Letters: May 23, 2005

8 minute read

Inside the Mind of the Pope

Readers responded to our stories on the new Pontiff, some with celebration, some with disillusionment. Conservative Catholics rejoiced in the selection of a man known as John Paul II’s strong right hand. Progressives expressed a feeling that any hope for a reformist papacy will have to wait

“Let Benedict XVI begin his papacy tabula rasa, unhindered by his reputation. Give him a chance to show himself as our shepherd.”


TIME’s cover stories on the election of Pope Benedict XVI and about his religious philosophy were excellent [May 2]. I believe he was chosen by the Holy Spirit. It’s fine to talk of worldly politics, but in the end, the Pope, Christ’s vicar on earth, is elected simply because it is the will of God. I have absolutely no doubt that Benedict is the right man to lead the church.

BILL SULLIVAN — Colorado Springs, Colo.

Thank you for your coverage of the election of our new Pope. We Catholics cannot explain in mere human terms the joy of having chosen a Pope. But as the whole world has seen, we certainly can express that joy. As free and responsible persons, we follow the Pope, the vicar of Christ on earth, not out of fear but out of love. We know by faith that when we listen to the Pope, we follow Christ.


You revealed the new Pope to be an uncompromising old man who will not respond to American Catholics’ disenchantment with the church’s antiquated edicts. Doctrinal disagreements in the past have caused groups to split from the Catholic Church and go their own way. When will a new generation of Catholics refuse to tolerate the frustration they feel about church dogma that they do not follow anyway? Can they find a new Martin Luther to break with the power-hungry old men in Rome? In a new church in synch with current values, vacant pulpits could be filled by married men and by women. The “cafeteria Catholics,” who choose among the church teachings they wish to follow and whom the Pope disdains, would return to their pews on Sundays. Enlightened views on contraception, stem-cell research, sexual discrimination and abortion could be accepted. The question is not if but when such a break will occur. The new Pope may be the catalyst for that sorely needed change.

DICK DECKER — Seaside, Calif.

It was a great day for all Catholics when Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger was elected Pope. He will maintain Roman Catholic tradition as he teaches the world about the truth of Jesus Christ. As for the so-called liberal Catholics, who have been pushing for social change in the church, they should not expect this Pope to take up their cause.

BILL PETRUSKY JR. — Montville, N.J.

As a Catholic woman, I was very disappointed to see that your chart “Spheres of Influence,” about the historical and contemporary figures who have shaped Benedict XVI’s traditional brand of thinking, included no women. That does not bode well for Catholic women.

EVELYN S. HLABSE — Richmond Heights, Ohio

One must question the wisdom of electing as the new Pope a 78-year-old man who will probably serve only a few years before dying of old age. Why would the Catholic Cardinals elect someone of advanced age to lead their church? As a former Catholic, I must point out that this practice leaves the church firmly rooted in the past–vehemently opposing contraception, denying women the right to become priests and prohibiting priests from sharing their life and love with a spouse. It makes no sense for the Catholic Church to elect a Pope who is almost 80 years old and is still relying on the ideals of the 1950s.

ELIZABETH WOODS — Niagara Falls, N.Y.

Rules Are Rules

Andrew Sullivan, in his viewpoint “The Vicar of Orthodoxy” [May 2], seems frustrated that the Catholic Church won’t be swayed by those who want it to break with 2,000 years of consistent doctrine. The church, seen theologically as the spouse of Christ, has done what a good mother should do: teach us and guide us on the narrow path. She reminds us the church family is not a democracy and that it is not her job to be our friend. She is our mother–consistent, a little old-fashioned–and she instructs us and gives us shelter on the road to heaven.

CATHERINE BARON — Morrisville, N.C.

The U.S. has become a moral wasteland in no small measure because we Catholics have done a bad job of forming our conscience and then living in accordance with it. Abortion, embryonic-stem-cell research, pornography and morally offensive “alternative” lifestyles would not have become so entrenched if we gave a hoot about living our faith.

PAUL BUCKLEY — Bennington, Vt.

As a woman, I take exception to Sullivan’s hopelessness for the inclusion of Catholic females in the modern church. I have a fulfilling high-profile job, and I also have a rewarding role in the church. I speak to our parish from the pulpit; I assist each week in serving the Holy Eucharist. Much precious energy is wasted by women fighting to become a priest. They could, instead, use that same energy to do most of the things that a priest does. What is wrong with a few positions in the world belonging exclusively to one sex? Only women give birth to children. Surely that is at least equal to a priestly vocation.

JOANNE BALSHI — Gwynedd, Pa.

I have been frustrated with the church many times and considered leaving, but I am inspired by the gay parishioners at my church. They are fellow Catholics who have more reason to be angry than I do but whose faith is so important, who love their church so much, that they stay. The new Pope is not going to drive me out. Progressive Catholics need to stay in the church and work harder than ever for change.

CAROL ECKERT — Tempe, Ariz.

Pressing Tony Blair

I was pleased that columnist Joe Klein mentioned BBC interviewer Jeremy Paxman in his article on Tony Blair’s election campaign [May 2]. Paxman’s pointed questioning of Blair about the Iraq war is exactly the kind of journalism that politicians hate: relentless pressure for direct answers. Over the years several interviewees have actually walked out of sessions because of Paxman’s rigorous approach–the kind of tough-style journalism that the U.S. media need to adopt. They are far too deferential to U.S. politicians and let them get away with misleading answers. It would be a joy to see Paxman grill President Bush and others in his Administration.

NIGEL POND — Wilmington, Del.

Give Greenspan a Break

Your story about the rocky economy and tough criticism faced by Federal Reserve Board Chairman Alan Greenspan was titled “Greenspan’s Deficits” [May 2]. That’s unfair and misleading. It’s like calling the Indian Ocean catastrophe “Bush’s tsunami.” Notwithstanding some bumps along the road, Greenspan has presided over a period of great prosperity. Today’s massive deficits stem from a bipartisan band of congressional spendthrifts and our purportedly conservative President. Greenspan sets banking and monetary policy. He has no control over the insatiable thirst of elected officials to spend, spend, spend.

OREN M. SPIEGLER — Upper St. Clair, Pa.

Bolton’s Image Problem

Re your story on the controversy surrounding John Bolton, Bush’s choice as ambassador to the U.N. [May 2]: Does the U.S. really want a contender for worst boss to represent it to the rest of the world? A former colleague called him a “kiss-up, kickdown sort of guy.” Too many of us know the type. All of us should feel the injustice every time that sort of person is rewarded. The U.S. has an image problem in much of the world. We’re seen as out of control, arrogant and a bully. Yet the Administration wants a guy at the U.N. who is out of control, arrogant and a bully.

STEVE LINSEY — San Francisco

A Dangerous Game?

Charles Krauthammer’s essay “Did Chess Make Him Crazy?” [May 2] unfortunately looked at only the negative aspects of the Bobby Fischer saga. Krauthammer should know that there’s a fine line between genius and madness. He wrote that Fischer “fell off a psychic cliff,” but that’s not generally how the game of chess affects people. I have been playing chess since I was in elementary school. It helped me tremendously with concentration, analytical skills, organizing and prioritizing. It made me what I am today: an engineer and International Chess Master. The experiences of the majority of chess players are positive, and we will pass on the values of the activity to the younger generation.


When Disaster Strikes

Thank you for the helpful advice on how to avoid dangerous and even deadly situations presented in “How to Get Out Alive” [May 2]. Because of reading it, I will be more likely to notice evacuation diagrams, especially on airplanes and in other places that are not familiar to me.

SARAH FONTAINE — Somers, Conn.

“How To Get Out Alive” contained the best advice I have read in years. As a frequent business and personal traveler, I found the information on how to survive a fire or wreck to be of paramount importance. I passed it around the office for my co-workers to read.

JUDY CORONA-KARPOWICZ — Woolwich Township, N.J.

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