From discussing America I decided to move on to Rome, or at least to Bavaria and the threshold of Rome. With that in mind, I just read Milestones, then-Cardinal Ratzinger’s 1998 memoir of his life until he became a bishop. It’s not a major work, but it does give a vivid impression of the man: strongly attached to home, family, Church and the academic life; deeply concerned with ideas as such; remarkably simple and humble for one who has risen so high.
Like other accounts it creates the impression that small towns and villages in Catholic Germany were wonderful places to grow up in the old days. Think of the pleasant images associated with a small town childhood in an older America, and add to them classical education and a more rooted society with a network of connections to various cultural and historical glories.
Like most accounts written by people who aren’t crazed trads, it implicitly presents the upheavals after Vatican II as something odd that couldn’t have been predicted and even now can’t really be understood. I suppose we’ll have to wait a while for the Church as a whole to attain more perspective on those events so they can seem more a natural development of what came before. Very likely the question “why modenity in the Church” has the same aswer as the question “why modernity”—whatever that is.