First published in National Catholic Reporter, April 16, 1999, this article offers a view of the now Pope Benedict XVI …Interesting dualisms, potentialities, possibilities – I’m ever the optimist. 

Cardinal Joseph Alois Ratzinger was born
in rural Bavaria on April 16, 1927. Perhaps it is fate that the day was
Holy Saturday and his parents were Joseph and Mary — eerie
foreshadowing for a child who would grow up to become a stark sign of
contradiction in the world’s largest Christian church.

Like so much else about Ratzinger, how far to press that biblical
parallel is contested. Some say his 18 years as prefect of the
Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the church’s guardian of
orthodoxy, have been the intellectual salvation of Roman Catholicism in
a time of confusion and compromise.

Others believe Ratzinger will be remembered as the architect of John Paul’s internal Kulturkampf,
intimidating and punishing thinkers in order to restore a model of
church — clerical, dogmatic and rule-bound — many hoped had been
swept away by the Second Vatican Council, the 1962-65 assembly of
bishops that sought to renew Catholicism and open it to the world.
Ratzinger’s campaign bears comparison to the anti-modernist drive in
the early part of the century or Pius XII’s crackdown in the 1950s,
critics say, but is even more disheartening because it followed a
moment of such optimism and new life.

Read the rest here.