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.
All Things Catholic
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.
Perhaps it's a measure of how badly the image of American Catholicism has been tarnished as a result of the sexual abuse crisis that so many bishops, meeting in Baltimore Nov. 12-15, could seem relieved at the news that the church's record on the abuse of minors is actually no better, but also no worse, than anybody else's.
[Editor's note: John Allen will be filing daily reports during the Nov. 12-15 fall meeting of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in Baltimore, Maryland. The reports will be available beginning Monday here: http://ncrcafe.org/blog/2682.]
When President Nicanor Duarte of Paraguay arrived at the Vatican on Monday for a meeting with Pope Benedict XVI, he planned to present the pontiff with a multi-colored poncho as a symbol of Latin America -- home to almost half the world's 1.1 billion Catholics, and a region dubbed by Pope John Paul II as "the Continent of Hope."
A perennial temptation with saints, whether of the formally canonized variety or not, is to reduce their lives to bumper stickers. Thus Mother Teresa becomes a feel-good symbol for care of the poor and sick, Oscar Romero an icon of liberation theology, and Josemar'a Escrivá the face of traditional, militant Catholicism. While each of those sound-bites may capture something, none does justice to the complex figures to whom they have become attached.
In naming 23 new cardinals on Wednesday, Pope Benedict XVI chose to acknowledge one bit of demographic reality, but largely ignored a much bigger one.
Americans have noted, and rightly so, that the nomination of Archbishop Daniel DiNardo in Houston accurately reflects a shift in Catholic population in the United States away from the East Coast, towards the South and Southwest. From a global point of view, however, the new crop of cardinals is remarkably unrepresentative of where Catholics are today.