Macleans magazine has an article up to mark the big 6th anniversary of Pope Benedict. It is called Is the Pope Catholic? From evolution to safe sex, a surprisingly activist Pope is remaking the Church as we know it.
The article in my view is both good and somewhat well misleading but it hits an overall right theme.
He starts out by saying:
It wasn’t supposed to be this way, not according to confounded Vatican watchers. Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was already 78 years old when he became Pope Benedict XVI in 2005. He was widely seen as the arch-conservative doctrinal enforcer, the sharp spear point wielded by his charismatic rock star predecessor—Joshua to Pope John Paul II’s Moses, in the words of one Jewish scholar. The consensus opinion was that Benedict would provide a quiet, business-as-usual continuance of John Paul’s 27-year reign and, given his age, a brief pontificate that would allow the 1.1 billion-strong Roman Catholic Church time to catch its breath and consider its future options.
No one, it seems, asked Benedict what he thought of the caretaker idea.
I am not sure that is correct at all. It should be recalled that John Paul the II's long reign was marked at the end by a very long time of declining health. In other words the Vatican powers that be were on death watch. This meant that well things slowed to a crawl for obvious reasons. It is not like the Pope was powerless but perhaps certain things he would want to do would be very slowed down. There are actually good "policy" reasons for why this happens.
It is apparent the American Bishops that were impressed with how Ratzinger was their advocate in reforming the process involving i sexual abuse scandals were not looking for a "caretaker Pope". Further it seemed as to the laity on the ground in various factions all had a feeling that this would be an active pontificate. For whatever Vatican watchers thought this would be a caretaker period there were quite a few that suspected something different.
The writer of the piece to his credit does go on at length on how Benedict has been a very big plus on the dealing with the sexual abuse crisis.
He then goes on correctly to talk about the Pope's concerns for Europe and the Benedict's view of the need of an infusion of a Catholic ID. I think the reform of the the reform (which includes more than the Latin Mass) should deserve more ink but he is on the right track.
The author then goes into statements that Pope Benedict has made in two recent books. One is the now the famous set of interviews he gave to a German Journalist and also in his own recent book just released. What is missing here is of course while these remarks are important they are not part of the official office of the Church as Pope Benedict makes so clear. He first talks about the Pope's statements on condoms. I am not sure first line is not really apt:
The absence from Coren’s book of this particular instance of Benedict backing away from absolutist thinking marks the author as more Catholic than the Pope. Coren’s entire book is a line in the sand separating true Catholicism from everything else, including other branches of Christianity and cultural Catholicism—the practices and beliefs of those raised Catholic and still (occasionally) attending mass, but not following Church doctrine. Among orthodox traditionalists, Benedict’s reputation for doctrinal conservatism serves him as well as it condemns him in among their liberal co-religionists, while ultra-conservatives think he flirts with liberal heresy. In short, Benedict is in a relatively strong Nixon-goes-to-China position to open leftwards. But his room to do so is far from infinite: pontiffs, clearly, have right as well as left flanks to consider.
As the author of this piece noted Catholic teaching was not really altered. Further I am not sure the Pope would think that those that disagreed with him were thinking themselves as "more Catholic than the Pope". However the writer does get that in the Catholic Church there are different schools of thought on issues and doctrine many within in the realm of Orthodoxy. He also gets that while on paper the Vatican State might be a monarchy in reality the truth is more complicated. Further under Catholic doctrine the Bishops ,as the Catechism points out, are not just some agents of their CEO Pope who reigns at the corporate headquarters in Rome.
The writer then goes into what I call rather old news. That is Pope Benedict's view on evolution and the issues concerning the Jews. Anyone who has read Benedict's past writings know that his views on evolution are not new. In fact none of this is really new to the Catholic Church as a whole. Yet one gets a sense from reading this piece that Benedict has broken some new ground.
Further as to Pope Benedict's statement on if the Jews are to blame for Christ's death that is nothing new either. See Vatican II for documentation of that. It is not mentioned in this piece but the real interesting comments about the Jews and conversions. See on that POPE: Don't Evangelize Jews! Really? . Now bearing in mind that Pope Benedict's says people are quite free to disagree with as to various things in his book those passages to have that kept in mind. Still it is significant. Benedict is trying to open up a conversation here.
As to the other statements on the Jews the writer is correct that this did have a good effect as to Catholic Jewish relations.
On the whole a good piece with some caveats. One thing huge item is missing for some reason is the fact that Pope Benedict because of pure timing alone is having a huge influence on the College of Bishops and the College of Cardinals!! For those that thought this would be caretaker Pope , the fact that this could occurs within the Pontificate of Pope Benedict could not be unforseen. Read the amazing stats that are developing as to that in this piece . Benedict is on the verge of doing what took Pope John Paul the II a whole pontificate to do as molding the Leadership AKA Bishops and his future successor in the Church
The Pope is a man in a hurry. He realizes he will not live forever. In fact I suspect he knows because he has observed it that if his helth starts failing his directives will be much more slowing implemented. As long as his health holds up I think we can expect more from this "activist" post.