The Turning Point

How the upheavals of 1968 turned a Vatican II reformer into an ardent conservative

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During his tenure as enforcer of the faith, his office took on hundreds of investigations, with dozens of different resolutions and shades of resolution: in some ways Ratzinger could be quite subtle. But most conclusions, in one way or another, recapitulated his favorite theme (that there is only one revelation and only one church that represents it fully) and hinted at a familiar fear: that to accommodate too fully any other system--whether Islam or Anglicanism, the web of rights that support gay-partnership laws or any non-Catholic political effort--is to risk being of the world rather than of the church, with all the consequences that entails.

Benedict XVI seemed to suggest a new openness last week. Reporting on his homily the day after his election, the media focused on an interfaith vocabulary that they had rarely heard him use before: "Concrete gestures are required to [encourage] everyone to that interior conversion which is the basis for all progress on the road of ecumenism." But one listener was more interested in the part of the talk in which Ratzinger promised to ask "help and advice" from his bishops and invoked an old word: collegial.

"First signals are important," says Hans Küng, glancing up to the old book of essays. Perhaps, he says, "the papacy is such a challenge that it can even change Joseph Ratzinger." --Reported by William Boston/ Tübingen, Jeff Israely/Rome and Regine Wosnitza/ Berlin

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