During the Cold War, both sides saw the so-called "Third World" as a battleground for hearts and minds. More and more, the same thing is true in today's ideological struggles over secularism, and this summer has brought some important changes to the strategic map:
All Things Catholic
It may be a measure of how somnambulant Rome becomes during the ferragosto vacation period that the big Vatican story this week was actually something that didn't happen. It turns out that two Irish bishops implicated in that country's sexual abuse crisis, Dublin auxiliaries Eamonn Walsh and Raymond Field, won't be resigning after all, because Pope Benedict XVI wants them to stay on.
Elevating another American to a senior Vatican position, Pope Benedict XVI on Monday named Redemptorist Fr. Joseph Tobin as the new secretary of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, colloquially known as the "Congregation for Religious." It’s the office with lead responsibility for some 190,000 religious priests and brothers, and roughly 750,000 sisters, worldwide.
The Superior General of the Redemptorists from 1997 to 2009, Tobin, 58, becomes an archbishop by virtue of the appointment.
Next Wednesday, Kenyans head to the polls to vote on a new national constitution. It’s intended to ease the political and tribal tensions which erupted in violence in early 2008, leaving more than 1,000 Kenyans dead and some 300,000 displaced. The referendum is being closely followed all across Africa, since Kenya has long been a beacon of hope -- an African society that’s well-educated, economically advanced, and, until recently, stable.
I happen to be a baseball guy, but fans of any sport will readily recognize two points: One, the pleasure that comes from talking about the game with someone who really knows their stuff; two, the agony of being trapped with a blowhard who doesn't know the infield fly rule from the designated hitter, but who nevertheless feels compelled to broadcast his or her opinions -- why the Yankees' payroll is unjust, why Manny Ramirez is overrated, and so on.
A July 9 editorial in The New York Times called upon Pope Benedict XVI to make the American bishops’ “zero tolerance” approach to sexual abuse binding on the worldwide Catholic church. In principle that’s a perfectly reasonable idea, especially since Vatican spokespersons routinely invoke the pope’s defense of the tough American rules as proof that he gets it.
Tomorrow marks the one-year anniversary of the first, and, to date, only meeting between Pope Benedict XVI and U.S. President Barack Obama. Fireworks probably won’t mark the occasion on either side of the Atlantic, given that hopes for a “grand partnership” between the two leaders so far have fizzled.
It’s customary for the Vatican to empty its pipeline of pending business before the pope heads for his annual summer retreat in Castel Gandolfo, which Benedict will do after his general audience next Wednesday. In itself, that usually makes for a flurry of news in late June, which was turbo-charged this year by dramatic events breaking in on the Vatican from the outside.
Especially in the wake of the sexual abuse crisis, many Catholics in Europe and the States have come to see the push for good government in the church, featuring greater accountability and transparency, in roughly the same way that Catholics in the late 1960s saw aggiornamento -- something obviously to be desired, even if no two people define it quite the same way.
Psychology 101 tells us that traumatized people are often brittle, overreacting to stress and struggling to keep things in perspective. That’s an insight worth bearing in mind as the U.S. bishops and the leaders of Catholic health care in America work to overcome the rift that opened up during the recent national debate over health care reform.
Generally speaking, I’m as skeptical as anybody else when journalists attempt to put whole groups of people on the couch. Nonetheless, somebody needs to say out loud that two mammoth recent traumas are lurking, like elephants in the living room, in the background of the Catholic health care debate: The sexual abuse crisis, and the Vatican-sponsored investigation of American nuns.
Read the Allen's full column here: Elephants in the room of the Catholic health care debate