Well ladies and gents, looks like we have a new Pope. German frontrunner Joseph Ratzinger was chosen today, taking the name Benedict XVI. So who is he? Well we've got this profile from the Washington Post, which says:
He wrote a letter of advice to U.S. bishops on denying communion to politicians who support abortion rights, which some observers viewed as a slam at Democratic presidential candidate John F. Kerry. He publicly cautioned Europe against admitting Turkey to the European Union and wrote a letter to bishops around the world justifying that stand on the grounds that the continent is essentially Christian in nature. In another letter to bishops worldwide, he decried a sort of feminism that makes women "adversaries" of men.
He is a lightning rod for church liberals who see the hierarchy as reactionary. Ratzinger was active in stamping out liberation theology, with its emphasis on grass-roots activism to fight poverty and its association with Marxist movements.
He once called homosexuality a tendency toward "intrinsic moral evil" and dismissed the uproar over priestly pedophilia in the United States as a "planned campaign" against the church.
The apparent rationale for choosing the 78-year old Ratzinger is that he can act as a short-lived (literally) transitional pope, consolidating John Paul's gains while not creating an radical upheavals of his own. That view's backed up by Erica Walter's TNR piece arguing for his ascendance on the grounds that he's humble. I found her piece unconvincing, but your mileage may vary. In any case, this isn't exactly the guy I'd like to see get the job, indeed, I fear he'll just continue the rightward politicization of the Vatican. But then, nobody asked me, and I'm not even a Catholic, so my thoughts on the matter don't much count.
Update: EJ Dionne has some thoughts, Andy Sullivan is markedly unhappy, The Corner is typing so fast that the magazine is going to be sidelined with a staff-wide case of carpal tunnel, Giblets doesn't much like his new Pope costume, Ed Kilgore thinks the "conservative" label is misplaced, and Sam Rosenfeld asks the operative question: Where's Gary Wills?