Dom Alcuin Reid has an excellent essay, "We are lucky this Pope is 'ecclesiastically incorrect'", in the May 22, 2009, edition of The Catholic Herald (ht: the excellent blog, New Liturgical Movement). He writes:
But these matters of management are not the root cause of the discontent. When Pope Benedict freed the older liturgical rites from legal restrictions in July 2007, one Catholic commentator stated that "this is the strongest indication so far that the theological conservatism of Cardinal Ratzinger... is still in place in the papacy of Benedict XVI". Until then it was hoped that it was not. "A secret liberal at heart he is not," they lamented.
Indeed. That much ought to have been clear from his seminal and apparently programmatic address of December 2005 in which he distinguished an acceptable "hermeneutic of reform in continuity" from the unacceptable "hermeneutic of rupture" espoused By many following the Second Vatican Council. What Cardinal Ratzinger had been arguing for years was proposed by the Pope.
If we understand this - that the Pope is concerned that all aspects of the Church's life are in (or, where necessary, are restored to) clear continuity with her Tradition, without excluding legitimate development that does not break from her past - we can see why he acted so decisively on the older liturgy, why he does not fear to re-assert the Church's unpopular but life-giving teaching on human sexuality, why he did not hesitate to show real paternal mercy to the SSPX bishops in the hope of reconciliation and why he does not shrink from substantial dialogue with other faiths, even when he may be misunderstood.
We also need to understand that the Pope has a pretty clear understanding of his role. As Cardinal Ratzinger he observed that "the Successor of Peter is the rock which guarantees a rigorous fidelity to the Word of God against arbitrariness and conformism: hence the martyrological nature of his primacy". Pope Benedict is prepared to suffer the price of misinterpretation and even ridicule in his battle against relativism. That's his job.
Dom Reid is a Benedictine monk of St. Michael's Abbey in Farnborough, England, and the author of The Organic
Development of the Liturgy (Ignatius Press, 2005), which has a foreword written by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger. The foreword can be read on Ignatius Insight. It contains this remark, which is quite interesting in light of Benedict's pontificate and the comments by Reid:
It is important, in this connection, to interpret the "substantial continuity" correctly. The author expressly warns us against the wrong path up which we might be led by a Neoscholastic sacramental theology that is disconnected from the living form of the Liturgy. On that basis, people might reduce the "substance" to the matter and form of the sacrament and say: Bread and wine are the matter of the sacrament; the words of institution are its form. Only these two things are really necessary; everything else is changeable. At this point modernists and traditionalists are in agreement: As long as the material gifts are there, and the words of institution are spoken, then everything else is freely disposable. Many priests today, unfortunately, act in accordance with this motto; and the theories of many liturgists are unfortunately moving in the same direction. They want to overcome the limits of the rite, as being something fixed and immovable, and construct the products of their fantasy, which are supposedly "pastoral", around this remnant, this core that has been spared and that is thus either relegated to the realm of magic or loses any meaning whatever. The Liturgical Movement had in fact been attempting to overcome this reductionism, the product of an abstract sacramental theology, and to teach us to understand the Liturgy as a living network of Tradition that had taken concrete form, that cannot be torn apart into little pieces but that has to be seen and experienced as a living whole. Anyone who, like me, was moved by this perception at the time of the Liturgical Movement on the eve of the Second Vatican Council can only stand, deeply sorrowing, before the ruins of the very things they were concerned for.
Read the entire preface by then-Cardinal Ratzinger.