For years, it has been possible to draw a picture of a typical bishop. He is a graduate of the English College in Rome who is moderately bright but intellectually lazy. If his political allegiance has shifted since the 1960s, it will only have been from Labour to the Lib Dems (because they are more reliably anti-American). There is a good chance that he will have worked in Eccleston Square, the bishops' HQ, where lay ideologues promote naïve multiculturalism. Once he has become a bishop, he will form his own mini-curia, issuing hand-wringing press releases about being nice to Muslims.
No wonder the Poles are not impressed by their new spiritual home. They have petitioned the bishops to provide them with more Masses in their own language. The answer, as often as not, has been no: you must "integrate". Nothing illustrates more clearly the bishops' ignorance of the secrets of church growth. London's mushrooming Pentecostal congregations are falling over themselves to provide immigrants with tailored services.
Meanwhile, in a sadly muddle-headed decision, Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor has announced that three of the most evocative weekday feasts of the calendar - Epiphany, Ascension and Corpus Christi - will be absorbed into ordinary Sunday worship "in order to foster the celebration of the rhythm of the liturgical year", whatever that means. Loyal priests and lay people, by no means all traditionalists, are furious at this impoverishment of the liturgy. It is finally dawning on them that it is time for root-and-branch reform.
Only one man can set that process in motion: Benedict XVI, the greatest theologian to hold the papal office for centuries. We must hope that the special quality of Benedict's thought - its emphasis on the role of beauty in the purification of worship - colours his choice of a successor to Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor; for he would then have to look outside the magic circle.