Different River

”You can never step in the same river twice.” –Heraclitus

April 19, 2005

New NASA Administrator Confirmed

Filed under: — Different River @ 11:59 pm

OK, so this isn’t quite a big story as the new pope, but it updates a previous post.

Dr. Michael Griffin has been confirmed by the Senate and sworn in as NASA administrator. The official NASA announcement is here. My previous comments are here. Mark R. Whittington has some interesting (and more detailed) thoughts here. And The Eternal Golden Braid has some more links here.

The New Pope

Filed under: — Different River @ 9:12 pm

It seems nearly every news source in the world is reporting the news — the new pope has been chosen, and it is (former?) Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger. He will now be known as Pope Benedict XVI.

I’m shocked — not at the choice, but at how quickly it was made. To elect a pope, they need a two-thirds majority, which in this case means 77 of the 115 cardinals in attendence. With no predetermined list of candidates, they got the two-thirds majority on the fourth or fifth vote. (They had one vote yesterday, after which they announced the non-election by black smoke. After that, they were to have two votes each morning and afternoon, but only have the smoke-announcement once each morning and afternoon. The announcement was this afternoon, which means he was elected on the fourth or fifth vote.)

I think that’s pretty amazing. I’m not old enough to remember details of past papal elections, but I have the impression they normally take longer. Reuters reports that this is this is “only the third time in a century that a pope had been chosen on the second day of a conclave” — but according to this list there have been only eight conclaves in that century.

Despite all the “controversy” that the secular press reports about the Catholic Church, there must have been an amazing degree of unity to make a selection so quickly, especially with no pre-set list of candidates. Of course, the media immediately proceeded to get this
wrong, too.

  • Reuters headline: “Controversial German Cardinal Elected Pope.”
      How controversial could he be to get a two-thirds vote so quickly?
  • New York Times: “His well-known stands include the assertion that Catholicism is the ‘truth’ and other religions are ‘deficient.’”
      I mean, really — if he’s a Catholic, then by definition doesn’t he believe those things? Doesn’t everyone believe their own religion is the “truth”? And if he didn’t believe that other religions were “deficient” — say, in the ways in which they disagree with Catholicism, wouldn’t he go join one of them?
  • Los Angeles Times: “Ratzinger is a divisive figure, and many cardinals are uncomfortable with his orthodoxy.”
      Obviously not that many are too uncomfortable.

And even some Catholics got it wrong:

The Rev. Richard P. McBrien, a theologian at the University of Notre Dame, said [prior to the election] Ratzinger’s homily [immediately prior to the conclave] indicated that he believes the pope’s role is to “protect the sheep from the prowling wolves of unorthodoxy and relativism. He wants to defend the fact that truth is absolute and the church must speak the truth and be faithful to it.”

McBrien added, “If Cardinal Ratzinger were really campaigning for pope, he would have given a far more conciliatory homily designed to appeal to the moderates as well as to the hard-liners among the cardinals.”

“I think this homily shows he realizes he’s not going to be elected. He’s too much of a polarizing figure,” McBrien said. “If he were elected, thousands upon thousands of Catholics in Europe and the United States would roll their eyes and retreat to the margins of the church.”

Then there is the age issue. The new pope just turned 78 this past Saturday (nice birthday present, eh?), which means he is only five and a half years younger than the late pope. If he were to serve as pope for the same length of time as John Paul II, he would be 104 years old at the end. There were several rather morbid interpretations of this fact, such as this one from the Associated Press:

Ratzinger turned 78 on Saturday. His age clearly was a factor among cardinals who favored a “transitional” pope who could skillfully lead the church as it absorbs John Paul II’s legacy, rather than a younger cardinal who could wind up with another long pontificate.

However, (later in the same article)

Pope John XXIII was 77 when he was elected pope in 1958 and viewed as a transitional figure, but he called the Second Vatican Council that revolutionized the church from within and opened up its dialogue with non-Catholics.

And there was this over at Andrew Sullivan’s blog, quoting an e-mail from one of Andrew’s readers:

The guy’s 78 years old. I give this papacy 3-5 years tops, given that guys like him don’t exactly jog 3 miles a day and stick to a low cholesterol diet. His election was for a classic “stay the course” place-holder to give the church a few years to take stock of where it wants to go in the long term.

And Wikipedia, the free, online, anyone-can-enter-anything-in-there encyclopedia already (as I write this, Tuesday evening) has him on the List of 10 shortest-reigning popes:

This is a list of the 10 shortest-reigning popes.

1. Benedict XVI (19 April 2005–): reigned, so far, under 1 day
2. Urban VII (September 15 – September 27, 1590): reigned for 13 calendar days
3. Boniface VI (April, 896): reigned for 16 calendar days

(I’m sure that page will be updated tomorrow, at least; and perhaps every day until he drops off the list, assuming he lives until May 23, when he will have been pope longer than John Paul I.)

The guy has not even been pope for six hours, and they are already starting the death watch … sick.

And the sad thing is, if they keep repeating that prediction enough, it will eventually come true.

Other stuff:

Interesting article here. Professor Bainbridge responds directly — very directly — to Andrew Sullivan here. Hyscience has a biography and quotes from the new pope. And, other bloggers comment: Glittering Eye, Tim Blair, Michelle Malkin, Thrown Back, PowerLine, Hugh Hewitt, Jane Galt, Professor Bainbridge, Captain’s Quarters, Brendan Loy, and Catholicity.

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