For a rigid backward looking conservative, Pope Benedict XVI sure does some progressive things.
The most recent surpise from His Holiness is a change to the Synod of Bishops.
Originally the Synod, called to meet occasionally to discuss questions put to them by the Pope, could before only offer observations and statements. Pope Benedict has now given them deliberative power concerning certain precise questions.
The new edition of the Acta Apostolicae Sedis indicates the changes in new statutes for the Synod.
The Synod will be able to vote on issues, but the vote must be ratified by the Pope. Thus, in certain specific questions, it seems the Synod will become a kind of micro-Council.
This move brings the Synod perhaps more in line with the way ancient Synods worked. It also resonates with the way the Orthodox bishops deliberate, though clearly they don’t have the Petrine dimension excercized by the Pope.
So, this Pope seems to be bent on loosening the vice clamping around some dimensions of the Church’s life since Pope Paul VI. He is exploiting the provisions in Canon Law about the Synod and relaxing artifical and harmful restrictions imposed on the Church’s liturgical life.