Wow!! If I had to lay odds on who would be selected Pope, Cardinal Ratzinger would not have been at the top of the list, on the list, but not the top. I would have thought a Latin American would have been a key choice.
Yet, viewing Pope Benedict in light of his immediate predecessors, his selection is not surprising. Despite cries from American Catholics that the Church is too conservative, even reactionary, (including my own thoughts), looking at the seleciton with as much neutrality as I can, I can see why this Pope was chosen.
As a nation, despite the relatively conservative nature of the United States, we have come to accept and acknowledge certain fundamental beliefs that run counter, to a certain extent, Catholic Doctrine. We see no issue in individual equality, thus we call for the admission of women into the priesthood. I always thought the reason the Church didn't move in this direction is a culture of misogeny. But now as I have aged, I think that the Church holds on to certain traditions not as a sexist stance, but rather as a tradition, the Church seeks to change slowly.
I don't believe the Church cannot accept the piety of a woman being equal to that of a man.
In a world of massive and rapid change, the Church has an amazing sense of its place in the world. Pope Benedict called Catholicism an adult faith. Adult are secure in their beliefs and their place in the world. This is not to say that adults don't change and evolve, merely that they do so slowly, only after being convinced that small changes can make a difference. I don't recall Vatican II as it occured when I was very young. But had I gone to Mass as a youth and the whole thing was in Latin, I would have not continued beyond parental mandate to attend Mass. But delivering Mass in native languages ensures accessibility of the Church. From histories I have read, it took decades to convince church leadership that the change was good.
I believe the Church will evolve in certain manners, but I think the world needs a stable, slow institution with knowledge of is place in the world, if only to serve as a sea anchor in the maelstrom of modern life.