By JOHN L. ALLEN JR.
tMore than four years into the papacy of Benedict XVI, analysts have repeatedly pulled his track record apart and put it back together again, raising provocative questions about where the pope comes from and where he might be going. In that vast forensic exercise, however, one question often seems to loom above the rest.
Has Ratzinger changed his spots?
tThat is to say, has the lion of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the infamous “Panzer Kardinal” who polarized opinion like few other Catholic figures for the better part of 20 years, really metamorphosed into the lamb of Benedict XVI – seemingly a kinder, gentler, more optimistic figure? Or is such talk an illusion?
tTypically, those who answer “yes” mean it in terms of the categories of secular politics – that Ratzinger the archconservative has given way to Benedict the moderate. Today, however, one senior church official offered a version of the case for “yes,” but from a very different angle.
In the sphere of spookdom, nothing compares to "666" as a creepy portent, but today's date, 9-9-09, ain't too shabby. Futurists and apocalypticists are no doubt conjuring such matters even as I type. As in, how might it portend the nature of Obama's speech?
The President has many tasks in his speech tonight. But, the most obvious is that he must finally articulate his own plan for reforming health care. For much the past few months, people have spoken about “the President’s plan” and “Obamacare” when, in fact, what was being debated were a variety of bills being drafted by different committees in both the House and the Senate. Tonight, the President must make a compelling case for those parts of the reform effort upon which he is willing to stake the prestige and power of his office.
In an earlier blog on this site today I posted some questions sent in from a reader, taken from the working paper, or "Instumentum Laboris" of the Apostolic Visitation. Those questions and others are to be answered by U.S. women religious as part of phase two of the Visitation process. As an aid to readers I thought it would be helpful to see the entire list of questions, all taken from the working paper. The questions follow a brief introduction:
My gratitude to Tom Fox for fetching those questions from the list of those being used to investigate American sisters. They undermine any pretense of neutrality. They are loaded with unsubstantiated, prejudicial assumptions that further highlight a punitive agenda. On a related note, the whole purgative purpose seems to me to violate the meaning of "Visitation" in Catholic tradition.
Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting (F.A.I.R.), the Washington-based media watchdog group has written a report generally critical of U.S. media coverage of the Honduras coup some weeks back. However in the report, FAIR singled out NCR's coverage as an exception. Here is what FAIR said:
You can read the full report here:
This from a reader........
The following list of questions is taken from the Vatican's working paper on the U.S. Women Religious Apostolic Visitation:
2D. In what way are non-members, including “associates,”
involved in the governance of the institute?
(Who said associates are non-members?)
By JOHN L. ALLEN JR.
tI’m in Brazil this week, speaking at a seminar on the always-volatile relationship between the church and the media at a couple of seminars sponsored by the International Institute for Social Sciences in São Paulo. Though we’re just one day into the event, there are already a couple of nuggets worth recording.
tYesterday, a veteran Italian writer on Vatican affairs floated an intriguing hypothesis about a recent mystery surrounding the release of Pope Benedict XVI’s social encyclical Caritas in Veritate. In effect, he argued that anonymous leaks of the encyclical a few days before it came out in early July represented the first stirrings of a new “dynamic communications strategy” in the Vatican.