But at the same time, I was aware that, precisely because the media’s portrayals of Pope Benedict were so unrealistic, there was a danger that even the people who were delighted with his election were delighted for unrealistic reasons as well.
The more I listened to Internet chatter, the more it seemed to me that many of his fans assumed he would apply the full might of the papal office to the task of rooting out all the bad Catholics and sending them packing. Depending on their theological perspective, Catholics were filled with hope or fear that he was at long last going to inaugurate the show trials, purges and excommunications.
The Church was about to pass through the Great Benedictine Cleansing Fire!
This seemed to me as wildly unrealistic as the hysterical notions that Benedict was the enemy of democracy who wanted homosexuals stoned to death, women barefoot and pregnant, and Protestants burned at the stake. As the gleeful hope for The Purge continued to rise on one side, I made a prediction on an Internet forum to the effect that, within six months, many of those cheering Benedict’s election would be complaining about his failure to be Der PanzerPapa.
I was wrong. It only took about two weeks.
Internet critics whose sense of failure, doom and despair sustains them through moments of hope and happiness soon began to sniff that, “Many of us have greatly lowered our expectations of this Pope.”
Now as I posted on the day of his election that I was jumping up and down in my living room as I first heard the word Joseph announced. Though I had no expectations of some great purge with massive condemnations, excommunication, and interdicts occurring. Despite the cries of some progressives about the coming inquisition I realized that this was quite silly. I am by no means an expert of then-Cardinal Ratzinger, but I had read many of his books and judging by his leadership as head of the CDF I saw that these nasty stereotypes of him were just plain false. Only after adequate deliberations and plenty of time and in very few circumstances were there people disciplined by the Vatican. The National Catholic Reporter previously published this really short list of of theologians disciplined in the 26 years the Cardinal Ratzinger was the the head of the CDF. It is not that now he is Pope Benedict XVI that he is starting to act more pastorally. The truth is that he has always acted pastorally by both investigating and giving adequate time and opportunity to those being investigated to respond. It would not be very difficult to compile a very large list of of just U.S. theologians. who have wondered into outright heresy.
G.K. Chesterton said "The reformer is always right about what is wrong. He is generally wrong about what is right." I think that Pope Benedict XVI is the rarest of people in that not only does he know what is wrong, he is also right about what needs to be done. Now I am not saying that I know all that needs to be done, I just suspect that he does. He was intimately involved in Vatican II and saw the aftermath of changes made just for change sake (which had nothing to do with the Council) and the effects that they had. I suspect that there are many things liturgically that he would like to change, yet he is not going to make the mistake of rapid change that will further disrupt the liturgy. Even positive changes made all at once can be disruptive and even damaging. Previously reading The Spirit of the Liturgy I read that he favored a return to Ad Orientum, though I would be really surprised (though happily) if he made this change any time soon. He has previously spoken of a reform of the reform and not of a rapid reform of the reform. As a papa he knows his children can only take so much change at a time and will prepare us and prudentially make those changes. The changes will be way to slow for the impatient ones (such as myself), but we must realize that we are not a Church of individuals to be satisfied but the Mystical Body of Christ that must be shepherded to as to lead the whole flock.