Today the Vatican; tomorrow Poland. Ah hem - only joking, sort of. By all accounts the new pontiff is pretty much like the previous one, with the doctrinal conservatism but without John Paul's warmth or charisma. My sympathies are with those reformist Catholics who are dismayed by this appointment and specifically with Hans Kung who, despite having fallen foul of Ratzinger's theological conservatism, appears unwilling to give way to pessimism.
However, while this pontiff seems unlikely to be a unifying candidate, I'm wondering if it's right to suggest that the adoption of a more liberal theology - while desirable from a socially liberal perspective - will help stem the decline in Catholic congregations world wide because evidence for this seems rather scant: theological liberalism hasn't done either the Church of England or the Church of Scotland much good, whereas those brances of religion that have been relatively inflexible theologically appear to be experiencing considerable growth in various parts of the world. After all, Islam is the world's fastest-growing religion and in Latin America, the Catholic church has been plugging away with a liberation theology approach - only to have been outstripped by the huge growth in Evangelical protestantism. It's a little reported fact that the congregation growth in that part of the world is the largest expansion in protestantism since the Reformation. It seems that doctrinal conservatism, combined with modern techniques in evangelism, is the key to success here.