One of the interesting things about Pope Benedict XVI’s pontificate is that he is not afraid to act in cases that ruffle the feathers of some bishops.
As both a theologian and Pope he has spoken about the role of the bishop in his diocese as spiritual father and shepherd and the supreme importance of this role. He has contrasted this with organizations of bishops and how the singular role of the diocesan bishop is not secondary to this in any way.
The Pope though also has a thorough understanding of his own role and the good of the Church. Two of the major things he has done were done in part because of the hesitancy of diocesan bishops as a whole to respond.
Pope John Paul II created the Indult for the Extraordinary form of the Mass to allow Bishops to give permission for this within their diocese. This was not exactly something responded to with much generosity and a result Pope Benedict XVI issued his Papal Bull Summorum Pontificum.
The Bishops of England have for years been involved in a form of Ecumenism with the Anglican Church that was more about the Status Quo than it was about actual dialog. They seemed to have no interest as swim coaches in helping Anglicans to swim the Tiber. There seemed to be more worried about perception of fishing in somebody else’s pond than in actually helping those Anglicans who had come to realized the truth of the Catholic church and were seeking unity. Pope Benedict responded with the Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum Coetibus.
This is not to say the Pope will run roughshod over the bishops. There are many changes the Pope would like to see, but he is very slow and deliberate in his actions. Liturgically he is willing to lead by example rather than to introduce scores of changes in liturgical law. The mistakes in the aftermath of Vatican II were rapid implementations of changes not only not mandated by the Council, but often at odds with what the documents of the Council actually said. These rapid changes caused much confusion in the Church and even rapid changes that are liturgically sound can also lead to confusion. In the many years I have been blogging I have followed the new English translation of the Liturgy and of course have been impatient in seeing it’s implementation – but really slow and steady is much more sound even for those of us who want action now. The Pope to my mind seems to be conscious of this and while quite willing to take decisive action in some areas is more prudentially patient in others – a good balance.