Ann Rodgers, The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette‘s smart religion reporter, wrote yesterday that Pope Benedict XVI is proving less conservative than expected. But the main evidence, as we read it, is that the new pope, famed for his reserve, is patting little children on the head. That’s nice. Meanwhile, Rev. Thomas Reese, the former editor of the Jesuit magazine America hounded out of his job by the former Cardinal Ratzinger, is still out of a job. Rodgers cites an anonymous “informed source,” who says that Reese was “the last casualty of Ratzinger rather than the first casualty of Benedict XVI.” Maybe so. Benedict’s subsequent emphasis on ecumenism and pragmatic approach to Italian politics suggests that despite all his speeches on absolute “truth,” he may be amenable to compromise. Still, failure to promptly deliver the red meat demanded by the Church’s far right does not a liberal make. Fortunately for Benedict, though, it plays well in an American media disposed to declare him a centrist, after all.