Okay, yes, John Paul II was a very conservative pope, but as conservatives go he wasn't unreasonable. Not any more so than any other conservative, and considerable less so than most. And let's face it, with regard to religion there's an extent to which you have to be unreasonable, because faith is often disparate from reason (which can be both positive and negative). Yes, I disagree with some of the decisions he made, especially towards the end, but...okay, I don't know where I was going with this, sorry.
But anyway, I was talking to my brother (who followed the papal elections very closely) about it, and his theory is that Pope Benedict isn't going to be that much different from John Paul II. He may clarify or expand on some decisions, but he's not going to do anything radically different or go back on any of John Paul's decisions. And he is probably only going to be pope for ten years, tops.
I've said this before, and I'll say it again: I have two main issues with the Catholic Church--that women can't be priests and that gays can't marry. It annoys me that an organization like ours, so devoted to social justice and human dignity, can maintain these flagrant examples of vestigial discrimination. It's inconsistent. But you know what? The Church KNOWS it's being inconsistent. We KNOW it's hypocritical. We KNOW it's discrimination, and we KNOW it's wrong. Most of us aren't in a position to do much about it, but we do what we can. Some of us might be lying to ourselves that it's not discrimination, but we know it. I believe the Church officials know it. It's possible that our new pope is lying to himself about it, but it's hard to tell because they report all these hurtful and misguided things he has said, but they never say WHEN he said them. People have been known to change their minds on occasion.
Anyway, we Catholics know there's no good reason why women can't be priests, that the only reason we don't allow it is that it's never been done (in our church). They know there's no good reason why gays can't marry, especially since they decided that sex between married couples doesn't have to be for the sole purpose of procreation. The question is, why don't the people in charge do anything about it, and I don't know the answer. It might be because, at this time, they all are sexist and homophobic and set in their ways because they're old, but I doubt it. Some probably are, but not all of them. Sadly, not all younger priests are immune to the sexism and homophobia. Still, tomorrow's pope will be raised by the Catholic parents of today, and conservative priests notwithstanding, many if not most of them will teach their children acceptance first.
I would be ecstatic if these discriminations were abolished tomorrow. In fact, if they were, I would look into going into seminary. However, I am generally thankful that the church moves slowly in these matters; I think it helps us to keep sight of what really matters (Christ and our relationship with him) and to avoid corruption. (Yes, I'll admit that there is some corruption already with the pedophilia and all that, but that corruption isn't anywhere near as widespread as our critics would like people to believe.)
So change is coming, I've no doubt about that. It may not happen during my lifetime, but there's no doubt in my mind that my daughters and granddaughters will be allowed to enter seminary and my gay sons and grandsons will be allowed to marry the men they love.