Indeed, it appears to be exactly the kind of left-handed spear toss that this pope has been practicing for decades, at least since his time as Grand Inquisitor of the Roman Catholic Church (yes, he headed the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which until 1965 had the name, 'Holy Office of the Inquisition.') Of course, this spear has three points, and only the first strikes at Rowan Williams. The second tine jabs at all Anglicans who cherish the reforms that occurred in the 16th and 17th centuries, including our restoration of early catholic models of authority in which the bishops of the church were collegial brethren, and the other orders of the church had a degree of shared authority in their representation at church councils. ('Conciliarism') And the third barb cuts back upon at those in the Roman Catholic Church who actually appreciated the movements developed at the Second Vatican Council, and have lamented the backward-movement of the Roman Catholic Church's leadership under the influence of then Inquisitor, now Pope Benedict.
This is the same Pope, who just two years ago on his own initiative (motu proprio) issued a decree allowing the Latin Mass to be used by any priest who wants to do so, following a minimum of criteria. The purported motivation behind the decision was the pope's desire to reconcile with those traditionalist Roman Catholics who did not approve of the changes to the liturgy and theology of the church coming about in Vatican II. This was the same purported motivation behind the pope's decision earlier this year to restore to communion to several extremely conservative Roman bishops -- including Richard Williamson. Williamson, for those who don't remember, has actively denied the Holocaust. These chaps had originally been excommunicated for their involvement with Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, the founder of the Society of Pius X, a rabid critic of Vatican II and its changes in Roman Catholicism. Lefebvre was also, by the way, a supporter of the Nazi-friendly Vichy government, and the fascist regimes of Franco and Pinochet.
The pope's decision to allow the Tridentine mass and the reinstatement of the leading figures of anti-Vatican II Roman Catholicism back into the fold may also be seen to be theologically and ecclesiologically connected to his decision to receive disgruntled Anglican clergy and laity into the Roman Catholic Church via the creation of personal ordinariates. The connection consists of Benedict's long-held antipathy for the conciliar/collegial vision of authority pointed to by Vatican II -- and his long-held preference for the supremacy of papal authority. Benedict is the chief architect of the re-emphasis of central papal authority.
The debate between Cardinal Kasper and then Cardinal Ratzinger over the relationship between local and universal church -- between local bishop and pope -- which occurred some ten years ago -- has clearly been decided in the election of Ratzinger to the throne. He is simply enforcing his top-down, centralized model of imperial authority for the papacy that Kasper and Vatican II opposed. Father Hans Kung, the famous Swiss Roman Catholic theologian and professor who openly repudiated papal infallibility in 1971, and was stripped of his authority to teach doctrine by the Vatican in 1979, writes in the Guardian (UK):
Pope Benedict is set upon restoring the Roman imperium. He makes no concessions to the Anglican communion. On the contrary, he wants to preserve the medieval, centralistic Roman system for all ages – even if this makes impossible the reconciliation of the Christian churches in fundamental questions.The relationship between the authority of the papacy to the authority of the bishop's of local churches shared by Pope Benedict XVI is as follows: The Fullness of Church Authority reside in the Pope; the province/archdiocese/diocese is under the authority of the Pope; the province/archdiocese/diocese's own particulars are far less important than the universals of the whole church; therefore the Pope should tell the local churches what and how to do; their input is of minimal importance.
Of course all of this goes quite against what Anglicanism is essentially all about -- which is to say collegiality, subsidiarity, and conciliarism. In this model, the authority of Jesus Christ resides in all the members of His Body, but each order within the body is called to different ministries -- some with a greater degree of oversight than others, but none with supreme authority. Conciliarism holds that church councils (sometimes called conventions, synods, or even vestries in a sense) share the authority of God by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit when we meet together as representative leaders of the Body of Christ. Roman church imperialism says, no, the authority of God in Christ has been given to the pope.
Indeed, the best thing about the recent actions from the Vatican is that it reminds me how glad I am that the English Church experienced the Reformation in the 1500s, and that bad old Henry VIII may have done us a favor.