I know this may sound too crazy to be true, ladies and gentlemen, but some university professors had their doubts about the cultural revolution of the 1960s. Try to wrap your head around this: Some adult Roman Catholics who had earned degrees and were paid to teach young people held on to the quaint notions that moral and theological truth flow from a transcendent source; that sex outside of marriage is a moral wrong and will harm people spiritually and, often, physically; that shouting down your professor is boorish and anti-democratic; and that, while the church favors democracy in secular governments, the church’s dogmas are not subject to a popular vote.
One such adult who believed these things was a theology professor named Joseph Ratzinger. Later he became a bishop. Then he became a cardinal. Then he oversaw the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, where colleagues came to know “a patient listener with an orderly mind” who “keeps a clean desk.”
The New York Times tells this backstory about Pope Benedict XVI, which of course is almost too fantastic for the wildest satirical film directed by Robert Altman. And here’s another amazing thing: The Times tells this breathtaking tale thoroughly, in a way that may even depict the new pope sympathetically — at least to people open to the idea that the student protests of 1968 in the “quaint, gingerbready town” of TÃ¼bingen, Germany, got many things wrong.