In today’s Times of London, William Rees-Mogg writes about the Vatican and its apparent rejection of intelligent design.

Rees-Mogg also makes this provocative claim about Pope Benedict and some possible surprises from this new pontificate:

His critics had expected him to be more conservative than his predecessor. I tended to share this expectation myself, but refrained from expressing it because new leaders always surprise one; they move in directions no one had previously foreseen. We should have been more conscious of differences between the national traditions of the Catholic Church in Poland and in Germany. The Polish Church, which trained John-Paul II, had always combined conservative theology with support for the national claims to liberty. The German Church has always been challenged by the modernism of German theology.

In the 16th century Germany was the region where the Reformation happened. German theologians on the Roman Catholic side had to understand the arguments of the Reformers if they were to reply to them. In the 18th century Germans were fully exposed to the French Enlightenment. In the 19th century they were exposed to German philosophers such as Hegel, and to the challenge of German biblical scholarship. Modernism itself in the late 19th century had a great influence on German Catholic opinion.

Martin Heidegger

Anyone who has spent some time around theology or philosophy faculties in Rome can attest to this influence, but it hasn’t always been a positive one for the Church. (I’ve met Heideggerian priests!)

It should make for an exciting first encyclical, which some media reports say will be published December 8.