Popular culture is full of misconceptions about Rome, but here are two of the most persistent: That the Vatican is exclusively defined by its worst days, and that Catholic life in Rome is exclusively defined by the Vatican.
As for the Vatican, the working assumption is that unless CNN or the Google news ticker has an item, nothing’s really happening. In truth, most mainstream news outlets are interested in the Vatican only if there’s a meltdown -- if a Holocaust-denying bishop has been rehabilitated, for instance, or if a new document suggesting the pope dropped the ball on the sex abuse crisis has come to light.
Such developments do merit attention, but they hardly tell the whole story. If you want to understand what the institution is all about, you have to cast a wider net.