The day before Roman Catholic Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger became Pope Benedict XVI, he declared in a public Mass that a "dictatorship of relativism" threatens the absolute truth claims of the church.

That statement could easily have been made by conservative evangelical leaders in the United States. Despite theological differences, they're cheering the choice of a pontiff who seems to speak the same moral language they do.

"Relativism, pluralism and naturalism are the three main foes of evangelicalism today and they're the main foes of conservative Roman Catholics," said Norman Geisler, president of Southern Evangelical Seminary in Charlotte, N.C., and co-author of Roman Catholics and Evangelicals: Agreements and Differences.

"We rejoice in the choice because he's going to hold the line and he's not going to allow the liberal element in the Catholic Church to reverse any of those things."

Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, said Ratzinger will be an ally of U.S. religious conservatives on a litany of moral issues such as abortion, gay rights, cloning and physician-assisted suicide.

"This is a reaffirmation of … Pope John Paul II's policies in all those areas," said Land, who described Ratzinger as "a known quantity."

The Southern Baptist leader said he isn't bothered "in the least" by Ratzinger's writing in the 2000 document Dominus Iesus, which calls non-Catholic churches "gravely deficient" and says Catholics alone have the "fullness of the means of salvation." That document was prepared by the Vatican Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, which Ratzinger headed.

"His views have no authority over us and I realize that it's an official opinion in Catholicism, ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.