I Need a New Shirt . . .
So much for my predictions:
"Therefore, if I were to place bets, I'd bet on yet another antimodern pope, this one arising from Africa or Asia, where Catholicism is growing, competing with Evangelicalism, and confronting Islam. I'd probably lose my shirt, but why not go for broke?"
I got it half right: an antimodern pope, but from neither Africa nor Asia. The new pope is Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, from Bavaria, Germany, who has taken the title Pope Benedict XVI.
I've never met Rat . . . uh, Benedict, but I did meet an old friend of his, Hans Kung, because I took Kung's ecumenical seminar for about three years (ca. 1992-95) when I was living in Tuebingen. If you don't know the story of those two, here's a brief synopsis. Both Kung and Ratzinger were part of Vatican II, which opened up the Catholic Church to what it had previously castigated as "Modernism." They were close friends, and Kung helped Ratzinger obtain a position at Tuebingen. Ratzinger, however, reacted against the radical student movement of the 60s, perhaps because of some negative experiences as a professor in Tuebingen, and this may have been partly responsible for turning him in a conservative direction in the Catholic Church (to the extent that he became an opponent of his old friend). Kung certainly thinks so. It's possible that this could have happened. Roger Scruton explicitly attributes his own conservatism as stemming from his reaction against what he saw as the wanton destruction of property during the 1968 riots in Paris.
If so, then Ratzinger, for all his intellect, is not just intellectually but also viscerally antimodern.
He has previously taken a hard line against both Evangelicalism and Islam, much more so than Pope John Paul II, and we should expect that to continue. But Ratzinger is 78 and won't be a long-term pope. The next papal conclave will have occur within a few years. We'll see what happens then. Meanwhile . . .