In my rough calculation, within 15 minutes of Benedict XVI announcing his historic departure from the papacy, the liberal commentary took on a tired refrain. Here was the ''authoritarian'' Pope, ''God's Rottweiler'', the ''inquisitor'', beaten down by scandals that had, finally, driven him from office, writes Andrew West in the Sydney Morning Herald.
Let's acknowledge two things straight up. First, Benedict shares in the collective culpability of the worldwide Catholic Church for its failure to purge itself of clerical sex abusers.
It did not remove sex offenders from ministry early enough and it did not insist that local bishops co-operate fully with civil authorities to investigate crimes. And it did not act compassionately in dealing with all the victims. On this matter, case closed.
Second, Benedict ticks all the boxes for being a ''conservative'' - the better word is orthodox - Catholic: opposed to abortion, contraception, married and female priests, and same-sex marriage.
But so what? Such values are probably shared by a slight majority of Catholics, if you include the growth areas in Africa, Asia and Latin America.
These are delicate issues for all people of faith. The ban on artificial contraception cries out for reform in the overpopulated, environmentally fragile ''global south''.
Meanwhile, the realistic objective of all faith communities should be to swiftly and dramatically reduce the abortion rate by being as pro-life after a child is born as they are while the child is in the womb.
This means pressuring governments to support public healthcare, child care, education, and - increasingly - gun control, all of which help families remain intact and safe.
For liberal and largely middle-class Catholics, who favour same-sex marriage and female clergy, this will be a continuing battleground. They might ultimately have to find another Christian denomination.
But on the biggest issue facing today's world - the shape of our economic order - Benedict was a radical. The Jesuit magazine America said Benedict's 2009 encyclical Caritas in Veritate (Charity in Truth) ''may be the most radical since John XXIII's Pacem in Terris [Peace on Earth] 50 years ago''.
FULL STORY Pope deserves recognition for radical views on ethical economics (SMH)