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Hijacking or setting him free, Benedict loves Newman

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By JOHN L. ALLEN JR.
London

tIn the final act of his four-day trip to the United Kingdom, Benedict XVI travelled today to Birmingham to formally beatify the great English theologian and apologist Cardinal John Henry Newman, praising him as an apostle of “the vital place of revealed religion in civilized society.”

tWhile Benedict's enthuasiam for Newman was obvious, with whom the pope shares a passion for the life of the mind, critics charged that the pontiff has tamed Newman, obscuring his critique of papal authority and his openness to change.

Benedict finds unlikely ally in British PM

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By JOHN L. ALLEN JR.
London

tIn Rome, Pope Benedict XVI has not always been the luckiest of pontiffs. Just as he seemed to have put a controversy with Jews over a Good Friday prayer for conversion behind him, a cause célèbre over a Holocaust-denying bishop broke out; just as he seemed to be coming to grips with a mushrooming sex abuse crisis in Ireland, a fresh one in Germany exploded.

tOn the road, however, Benedict’s fortunes often improve dramatically.

Polarized opinion on pope fills London streets

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By JOHN L. ALLEN JR.
London

tThe papacy has always been a polarizing force around the world, but you rarely get as clear a physical demonstration of that fact of life as the streets of London offered today.

At roughly the same time that some 80,000 pumped-up youth thronged Hyde Park for a prayer vigil with Benedict XVI, an estimated 10,000 to 15,000 secularists and atheists, gay rights activists, victims of sex abuse and others marched through the city for a “Protest the Pope!” rally.

Trying to solve the church's communications problem

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By JOHN L. ALLEN JR.
London

tComplaining about the church’s PR operation is a favorite Catholic indoor sport, but the U.K. is home to one of the more creative recent efforts to do something about it. “Catholic Voices” was launched in the run-up to the papal visit in order to offer a stable of informed young lay Catholics to media outlets, ready and eager to comment on all things Catholic.

The group’s tongue-in-cheek motto is that “we’re media-friendly, studio-ready and ego-free,” meaning no one will get upset if an interview has to be cancelled or cut short because the news has moved on.

Pope meets sex abuse victims

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By JOHN L. ALLEN JR.
London

This afternoon in London, Pope Benedict XVI held a private meeting with five victims of priestly sexual abuse, who were not identified. It was the fifth time Benedict met victims, after previous encounters during trips to the United States, Australia and Malta, and a meeting with Canadian "first nations" victims in Rome.

The following is a Vatican statement released after the meeting.

Drones on trial, and a judge listens

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Drones have raised to a new level the detachment with which modern warfare can be conducted. Operated remotely from great distances away, drones are lifeless, indiscriminate killing machines. They’ve been responsible for countless civilian deaths and a concomitant rising tide of anger against the United States in Pakistan. What follows is an intriguing account of the recent trial of 14 activists who trespassed at an Air Force Base in Nevada protesting the use of drones.

Benedict's in a box in talking about the crisis

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By JOHN L. ALLEN JR.
London

By now, declarations of papal contrition for the sex abuse crisis, such as that uttered by Benedict XVI this morning in Westminster Cathedral on day three of his Sept. 16-19 trip to the United Kingdom, have become almost routine.

As always, it seems, familiarity breeds contempt. The pope’s critics are becoming increasingly acerbic in denouncing these words as hollow, while some of his friends are openly questioning the value of endless apologies.

The dilemma Benedict XVI will have to face is whether to keep talking about the crisis every time he travels, and if he does, how to do it in a way that’s constructive.

Pope apologizes for 'unspeakable crimes' of sex abuse

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By JOHN L. ALLEN JR.
London

tOn day three of Pope Benedict XVI’s four-day visit to the United Kingdom, the pontiff has once again used strong language on the sexual abuse crisis, expressing “deep sorrow to the innocent victims of these unspeakable crimes.”

The pontiff said he feels "shame and humiliation" because of the scandals, and called upon Catholics to express "concern for the victims and solidarity with your priests."

Is there a Catholic position on taxes?

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"The fierce debate over whether to extend Bush-era tax cuts has become front-page news and provoked a steady stream of punditry as the midterm elections approach," writes John Gehring of Faith in Public Life.

Gehring says, "There is some pretty specific language in Catholic social teaching about 'reasonable and fair application of taxes.' "

He is urging Catholic leaders to speak up in the debate.

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