Without a doubt, the push for robust assertion of traditional Catholic identity is the most consequential mega-trend in the life of the church today, and it is also the core of Benedict XVI's agenda as pope. Emboldened by the election of John Paul II in 1978, the identity wave hit the arena of liturgy first, then went on to engulf Catholic education, Catholic media, priestly identity and formation, religious orders, and virtually every other sphere of ecclesiastical life.
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.
Today brings to a close the annual Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, and I'm in Rome watching an all-star ecumenical cast mark the occasion. Although there's been no historic breakthrough on the path to reunion, collectively the week's events have offered a more hopeful counter-point to perceptions of an ecumenical "big chill."
I was in Saint Augustine, Fla., this week, speaking at a national “Cathedral Ministry Conference.” For American Catholics, Saint Augustine is, in a sense, where it all began; it was here on Sept. 8, 1565, that a Spanish missionary priest celebrated the first Mass in what would eventually become the United States.
College football fans probably felt a bit deflated this Tuesday, since the Bowl Championship Series, always their favorite time of year, came to a close Monday night. For Vatican devotees, Tuesday likewise brought a twinge of melancholy, and for much the same reason: the annual "bowl championship series" of papal teaching, which begins in mid-December with a message for the World Day of Peace, ended Monday with the pope's address to the diplomatic corps accredited to the Holy See.
Kenya's current slide into ethnic violence, which so far has generated 100,000 refugees and left more than 300 dead, ought to be a subject of grave concern for global Christianity, and not just for the obvious humanitarian and geostrategic reasons. In a real sense, nothing less than the destiny of Christianity in the 21st century is at stake.
It would probably be pushing things a bit far to suggest that Tuesday's vote in the General Assembly of the United Nations in favor of a global moratorium on the death penalty is a victory for the Catholic church. It is, however, a result difficult to imagine without the Catholic contribution.
When I’m on the lecture circuit, there’s a story I like to tell to illustrate the sometimes surprising diversity inside the Vatican. It’s set in the summer of 2002, when Pope John Paul II was in Mexico City to canonize Juan Diego, the Aztec visionary in the Our Lady of Guadalupe devotion.
The problem with ecumenists -- who are almost universally good-hearted and dedicated souls -- is that they don't know how to manage expectations. It's a lesson anyone who has ever organized a public event should have learned: if you expect 100 people, put out chairs for 75, so the result feels like a triumph rather than a disappointment.
Note: John Allen posted two stories this morning to the NCR web site about Pope Benedict XVI newest encyclical: Spe Salvi, or "Saved in Hope." The stories are:
Benedict XVI offers the second in a possible triptych of encyclicals: 'Saved by Hope'
Spe Salvi a 'Greatest Hits' collection of core Ratzinger ideas
Baseball manager Leo Durocher may not have meant the phrase "nice guys finish last" in quite the sense it's usually understood, but it nonetheless captures the reality that cut-throat tactics are often a more direct route to advancement than humility and kindness. While things are supposed to be different in the church, that's not always the case, which is perhaps what makes the elevation of Archbishop John Foley to the College of Cardinals this Saturday especially satisfying.