So...Ratzinger started out as a progressive as a young priest...what happened?
Originally, the future Pope Benedict was an intellectual disciple of Hans Kung. He was a big supporter of Vatican II.
Then, at some point, he switched over to the side of reaction and fear.
Under John Paul II, he silenced Hans Kung(which was ingratitude if nothing else). He drove Ernesto Cardenal out of the priesthood for doing the only thing you could do to help the poor in Nicaragua and supporting the Sandinistas.
He essentially crushed all vestiges of "liberation theology" and, by doing, effectively restored the medieval "Will of God" social values the church used to crush the hope of the non-wealthy for hundreds of years.
Now, he persecutes nuns for refusing to be sanctimonious, finger-wagging scolds rather than doing what Christ most wants his brides to do and helping those who have nothing.
How did he end up becoming "God's Rottweiler"?...and why is he so obsessed with rooting out every last vestige of what John XXIII and Paul VI did?
What was it that so frightened him about openness, collegiality, freedom of intellectual activity, and discussion?
What was it that made him become so obsessed with oppressing gays and denying equality to women in the church(which, after all, is what his opposition to women as priests is about, since that opposition has no real scriptural basis and is derived solely from the fact that the composition of the closest advisors to Jesus was based simply on the gender roles prevalent in 1st Century C.E. Israel?
Why, while he is crushing the progressive wing of the church, is Benedict negotiating the return of the fascist and antisemtic Society of Pius X crowd?
And is there any hope of a future Catholicism that isn't going to base its agenda on a relentless campaign to drive us all back to the 12th Century?
...he was a "liberal" by the standards of pre-Vatican II Rome. As was JPII. The problem is the assumption that this would make them liberals in the post-Vatican II era. The RCC back then was traditionalist enough that even conservatives were liberal by comparison.
Think of it a little like Barry Goldwater -- by the time he left office, he was ripping his own Republican party for radicalism, but that doesn't mean he was a closet liberal Democrat, or that he didn't mean all those things from the 1964 campaign. Sometimes, one's onw status is perceived as more about where you are compared to your environment. When other people start off far-right and keep on moving to the left, those who stay where they were might wind up perceived as going from the left to the far-right.
He didn't change that much, it was the Church that changed.
I am old enough to remember Vatican II, which started when I was a sophomore in high school. It was a time when many of us were filled with idealism and hope. As Wordsworth said about the time of the French Revolution, "Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive, But to be young was very heaven!" Now, I know what happened to the ideals of the French Revolution -- the red terror, the white terror, the Gironde, etc. The idealism, the hope of that revolution was lost; and the idealism, the hope of the late 60s, early 70s was lost also. I will not speak of the political reasons for losses for people like me -- Viet Nam, Kent State, Watergate; but our idealism and hope was also in our Church.
We felt a spirit saying "Behold! I make all things new!" -- and yes, some of us went overboard. I have never been to a Mass where beer and pretzels were consecrated (we all heard about such things, but no one AFAIK ever actually saw one) but I have been to a Mass concelebrated by a Catholic priest and an Episcopalian priest, and we were expecting full reunion between Rome and Canterbury because each Church would recognise the other as sisters in Christ. "Strive for peace with everyone, and for that holiness without which no one will see the Lord. See that no one be deprived of the grace of God" (Hebrews 11:14-15) Perhaps we were foolish to think such things -- no, not perhaps, we were foolish. We believed that centuries of tradition (note, I am using tradition with a small "t" , decades of disdain for "lesser breeds without the law", and reams of polemics could be overcome in a fortnight. Not to mention a thoroughly entrenched Church bureaucracy, which fought tooth and nail for its vision of the Church.
So, what happened? Well, a lot of things, starting with Humanae Vitae
and its repercussions.
I think I was thinking he was related to the guy who played "Cliff" on CHEERS.