Arguably the most influential sports book of the decade, and almost certainly the most controversial, was 2003's Moneyball by Michael Lewis. It exposed a dirty little secret that baseball's best minds already understood: the categories that shape judgments about the game are often badly flawed.
All Things Catholic
John L. Allen Jr., NCR senior correspondent, writes weekly on the goings-on in Vatican and in the church around the world.
Americans who have spent any time in Catholic circles in Europe have likely been subjected to some clucking about our alleged political myopia. Even the most doctrinally conservative European Catholics often lament what they see as an obsession in America with abortion, and an over-identification of the American church with the political right.
Case in point: Archbishop Reinhard Marx of Munich, an old friend of Benedict XVI who was tapped in 2007 to lead the pontiff’s former archdiocese, recently gave an interview to the Italian magazine 30 Giorni in which he complained that American neo-cons may be strong on the life issues, but they too often end up, in his words, “reducing Christianity to a religious ideology propping up the market economy.”
Much has been made lately of Pope Benedict XVI's apparent lenience for "cafeteria Catholicism" on the right. Two developments have fed the perception: talks between the Vatican and the Society of St. Pius X, the "Lefebvrites," who broke with Rome in protest of liberalizing currents after the Second Vatican Council (1962-65); and new structures to allow Anglicans to become Catholic while preserving their heritage, with the most likely takers being conservative Anglicans opposed to homosexuality and women's ordination.
Despite the ennui of too much time in airports and hotel rooms, I usually try to accept whenever I'm invited to give a talk someplace. That's partly because I get paid, but there's also a less mercenary motive. Like a stand-up comic, I've learned that there's simply no substitute for a live audience. It hard-wires me into what real people are thinking -- what stirs their curiosity, what their hopes and fears are, what leaves them cold or makes their blood boil.
This week's big Vatican story is obviously the decision to create special structures, called "personal ordinariates", to welcome Anglicans seeking to join the Catholic church. In some reports, the move was touted as a bold gambit to end the schism that began with the English Reformation in the 16th century -- a dubious bit of spin, given that the actual number of Anglicans likely to sign up for one of these ordinariates will almost certainly be quite small.
When the dust settles, the centuries-long breach between Rome and Canterbury will remain intact.
Read the full story here: What the Vatican's welcome of Anglicans means
Writing from Rome this week, NCR senior correspondent John L Allen Jr. asks what does the Synod for Africa, which is two-thirds complete, means to the larger Catholic community; reports that Obama and the Vatican have joined forces on HIV/AIDS; and reviews Cardinal Walter Kasper's book on ecumenism.
Read the full column here: A roundup of this week's events in Rome
Rome certainly has its own rhythms, which can be either charming or annoying depending upon your point of view. On the ecclesiastical scene, periods of relative calm alternate with occasional bursts of near-frenzy. This week is one of those peak moments, as even a partial run-down of what's going on will illustrate:
On Sunday morning, Pope Benedict XVI will celebrate the opening Mass of the Synod for Africa, which meets in the Vatican Oct. 4-25. It's one of those events in the life of the church which ought to be enormously important, though whether it will actually live up to its potential remains to be seen.
I'm in Rome to cover the synod. I'll be posting regular reports on the NCR Today blog, and will try to offer a more analytical perspective in this column.
Read my full column here: Synod for Africa opens to high hopes, but realism
- A day to honor 'Good King Wenceslas' Monday, September 28, 2009
- UK trip, Newman beatification in 2010 a 'good hypothesis' Sunday, September 27, 2009
- Trip to UK, beatification of Newman in 2010 a 'good hypothesis' Sunday, September 27, 2009
- A professor pope wields some rhetorical jiu-jitsu Sunday, September 27, 2009
- Benedict XVI confronts the ghost of Jan Hus Sunday, September 27, 2009
- The Hapsburgs were smiling from Heaven today Sunday, September 27, 2009
- Interview with Benedict XVI aboard the papal plane Sunday, September 27, 2009
- Czechs object to authority, not religion, sociologist says Saturday, September 26, 2009
- In Prague, Benedict XVI offers Erasmus for the 21st Century Saturday, September 26, 2009
- Pope delivers upbeat message in ambivalent spot Saturday, September 26, 2009
- Religion key to a 'healthy society,' pope tells secular Czechs Saturday, September 26, 2009
- Czech believers find islands of hope in a secular sea Saturday, September 26, 2009
- Church history through the eyes of a catacombs priest Friday, September 25, 2009
- The German shepherd bids farewell to a 'wolf in winter' Friday, September 25, 2009
Pope Benedict XVI is visiting the Czech Republic Sept. 26-28, traveling to Prague, Brno, and Stará Boleslav. It's the pope's first visit to the country and his second to a former Soviet satellite state, after Poland in 2006.
John Allen will be in the Czech Republic covering the trip. Allen's "curtain-raiser" for the trip is here: The German shepherd bids farewell to a 'wolf in winter'.
Watch the NCR Today group blog pages through the weekend for more of Allen's reports.