John L. Allen Jr.

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Sobra decir que de todas las tramas posibles que podrían surgir antes de la elección del nuevo Papa, la posibilidad de un "lobby gay", cuya influencia oculta podría haber motivado la renuncia de Benedicto XVI, sería la que menos desearía el Vaticano.

La prueba de la irritación del Vaticano llegó este sábado con un duro comunicado en el que se queja de "informes de prensa no verificados, no verificables o completamente falsos", insinuando incluso que los medios están tratando de influir en la elección del Pontífice.

Hay dos preguntas básicas al respecto. La primera es si existe realmente un dossier secreto sobre una red de personas dentro del Vaticano vinculadas por su orientación sexual como denuncian algunos periódicos italianos.…  Seguir leyendo »

In light of recent revelations, Pope Benedict XVI now seems to symbolize the tremendous failure by the Catholic Church to crack down on the sexual abuse of children. Both the pope’s brief stint as a bishop in Germany 30 years ago and his quarter-century as a top Vatican official are being scoured for records of abusive priests whom he failed to stop, and each case seems to strengthen the indictment.

For example, considerable skepticism surrounds the Vatican’s insistence that in 1980 the pope, then Archbishop Joseph Ratzinger of Munich, was unaware of a decision to transfer a known pedophile priest to his diocese and give him duties in a parish.…  Seguir leyendo »

Symbolic gestures are the tools of any leader’s trade, but nowhere do they spell the difference between life and death quite like the Middle East. For example, the visit in 2000 by Ariel Sharon, the former Israeli prime minister, to Temple Mount in Jerusalem, the site of two Islamic shrines, helped set off the second intifada.

Thus when Pope Benedict XVI visits Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian territories starting on Friday, the world may be excused for holding its breath. In his four years on the job, this pope has not always demonstrated a deft symbolic touch. If he simply manages to get back to Rome without starting a war, some might declare the trip a success.…  Seguir leyendo »

The roughly 67 million Catholics in the United States make up nearly one-quarter of the American population, but just 6 percent of the global Catholic total of 1.1 billion. Ninety-four percent of the Catholics in the world, in other words, are not Americans, which may help explain why the pope and his lieutenants are not always think American thoughts when they get out of bed in the morning.

That’s a useful bit of context to bear in mind in light of a tough new Vatican document on bioethics, released one week ago, that ratchets up the church’s condemnations of embryonic stem cell research, in vitro fertilization, the “morning-after pill” and a host of other techniques it regards as violations of human dignity.…  Seguir leyendo »

Forty years ago last week, Pope Paul VI provoked the greatest uproar against a papal edict in the long history of the Roman Catholic Church when he reiterated the church’s ban on artificial birth control by issuing the encyclical “Humanae Vitae.” At the time, commentators predicted that not only would the teaching collapse under its own weight, but it might well bring the “monarchical papacy” down with it.

Those forecasts badly underestimated the capacity of the Catholic Church to resist change and to stand its ground.

Down the centuries, Catholics have frequently groused about papal rulings. Usually they channeled that dissent into blithe disobedience, though occasionally a Roman mob would run the Successor of Peter out of town on a rail just to make a point.…  Seguir leyendo »

Pope Benedict XVI has offered a couple of recent previews of what’s likely to be his core message to the United Nations next April, the projected highlight of his first visit to the United States. Last Tuesday, the pontiff released the text of his annual statement for the Vatican’s World Day of Peace, raising typical papal concerns like poverty and disarmament, but also a defense of the family based on heterosexual marriage and, in the section reflecting Benedict’s budding environmentalism, a reminder of human supremacy over the animal kingdom.

Ten days earlier in Rome, Pope Benedict offered a more targeted message in a meeting with Catholic nongovernmental groups that work with the United Nations, delivering a stern warning against the “bitter fruits” of “relativistic logic” and a “refusal to admit the truth about man and his dignity.”…  Seguir leyendo »

A senior Vatican official has confirmed that sometime soon Pope Benedict XVI will expand permission for use of what’s popularly known as the Latin Mass, the service that was standard before the Second Vatican Council. Though some details remain vague, one point seems all too clear: When the decision officially comes down, its importance will be hyped beyond all recognition, because doing so serves the purposes of both conservatives and liberals within the church, as well as the press.

Pope Benedict’s intent, according to Vatican authorities, is to make the pre-1960s Mass optional, leaving Catholics free to choose which Mass they want to attend.…  Seguir leyendo »