As Pope Benedict XVI marked his seventh anniversary as pope on Thursday (April 19), many Catholics were wondering if the pontiff is finally becoming the papal enforcer that some feared â€” and others hoped â€” he would be when he was elected to lead the church in 2005.
The questions were prompted by this weekâ€™s announcement that Benedict had signed off on a crackdown on the organization representing most of the 57,000 nuns in the United States, saying that the group was not speaking out strongly enough against gay marriage, abortion and womenâ€™s ordination.
But does this latest move indicate that the man once known as the Grand Inquisitor is returning to form, or that a new wave of dissent is emerging?
The investigation of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious was launched by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Vatican agency charged with overseeing orthodoxy, and the department that Benedict â€” then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger â€” led for nearly a quarter century before his election.
During his time there, and as a top aide to the late Pope John Paul II, Ratzinger oversaw a range of investigations into priests, theologians, nuns and church groups perceived as straying too far left for Romeâ€™s conservative tastes. That earned Ratzinger, a German theologian, a host of epithets, such as the â€œPanzerkardinalâ€ and â€œGodâ€™s Rottweilerâ€ â€” harsh nicknames that Ratzingerâ€™s fans considered badges of honor.
In the years after his election, however, there was almost a sense of disappointment among some on the Catholic right that Benedict was not moving swiftly and sharply to crack down on liberal dissidents. [More]