Saint Mary's Professors Analyze Choice of Ratzinger as New Pope for U.S. Catholics

Saint Mary's College professors Tom Poundstone and Brother Charles Hilken were interviewed for an article in the Contra Costa Times about whether the new pope will respond to the concerns of American Catholics.

The article, headlined "New leader unlikely to act on U.S. hopes," read in part:

Ratzinger's selection seems at odds with what Americans really hoped for, said Tom Poundstone, a Saint Mary's College religion professor.

"This was not the American selection," Poundstone said. "He's certainly not the Bay Area candidate."

Benedict's views on sexuality issues, from homosexuality to contraception, runs up against more criticism here, he said.

Poundstone studied under Charles Curran, an American theologian whom Ratzinger dismissed in 1986 from the Catholic University of America. Curran had been critical of many church teachings.

The German-born pontiff's hard-line positions have led some to view him as a doctrinal enforcer.

"He wants to have a very clear faith based on the creeds," Poundstone said.

Some observers noted, however, that the new pope may end up taking unexpected actions.

Consider history and Pope John XXIII, suggests Brother Charles Hilken, an associate professor of history at Saint Mary's.

That "very old man" surprised and upset many by choosing to revise the 1917 Code of Canon Law. The precedent-setting move led to Vatican II, one of the modern church's most significant if controversial events. It updated church laws and gave laity a more active role. No one expected that pope to do that.

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