Never one to avoid turbulence if it means gaining access to the cat-food larder, Babe assertively applies the Think System yesterday atop the late-afternoon kitchen counter during the countdown to supper.
"The visit should be seen and interpreted in the spirit with which the pope himself comes to the United States, and not be instrumentalized. It's always a sign of weakness to instrumentalize someone else," papal nuncio (ambassador) Archbishop Pietro Sambi -- organizer of the Pope's imminent US visit to DC and NYC April 15-20 -- told National Catholic Reporter's John Allen recently in a wide-ranging interview published yesterday:
It means that you don't have a clear purpose or vision, and so you have to manipulate others for your own interests.
The Most Reverend Archbishop had put his finger on the very essence of our national "debate" in this extended and contentious campaign season Stateside in order to separate the purposes of Benedetto's forthcoming apostolic journey to these shores from the cacophony of voices who will be trying to spin the Pope's every carefully chosen word and gesture to their own advantage. We loved the advice of American Catholic "rock-star" blogger Rocco Palmo, whose wildly popular blog "Whispers in the Loggia" is said to have "made three quarters of a million readers smile and/or wince and thousands return obsessively every day for the inside dope on the Church":
To repeat an earlier word of advice, given the emergence of this Every-One-a-Vaticanologist climate in advance of the trip, the insights of the visit's lead planner and spokesman-in-chief -- who formally announced the event at last November's plenary of the US bishops -- are worth considerably more than anything else you've seen out there.
"A second element of context is Benedict's admiration for the US separation of church and state," wrote Spengler two years back, noting that "Benedict makes the remarkable (for a pope) statement that the US model is what the early church really had in mind." (Tony Gentile/Reuters photo from Time Mag's "The American Pope," an interesting read.)
Self-styled Vaticanologist that we are, we couldn't agree more. The Allen interview is chock full of meaty questions and answers. Be sure to check out Rocco Palmo's excellent selection of "money quotes," and then head over to the National Catholic Register to read the whole thing. But first, a couple of our personal favorites:
National Catholic Register: The pope will be meeting with leaders of other faiths at a time of some turbulence in a couple of Catholicism's relationships with other religious. Some Jews have protested the Good Friday prayer for the conversion of Jews in the old Latin liturgy, while some Muslims have criticized Benedict's decision to baptize a convert from Islam and fierce critic of Islamic fundamentalism during the Easter Vigil Mass. Are you worried that this turbulence will cast a shadow over the visit?
Archbishop Pietro Sambi: I travel quite a bit, and I've learned that turbulence is part of the travel experience. If you want to avoid turbulence, you have to stay at home. Turbulence, in other words, is part of what it means to move forward towards greater understanding and collaboration, both in the ecumenical and inter-religious field.
NCR: Some people have asked if there will be 'another Regensburg' on this trip, meaning another phrase in one of the pope's speeches which is open to misinterpretation. Will we see a more careful choice of words?
Sambi: First of all, misinterpretation doesn't depend primarily upon the one who is speaking. It depends upon the good will, or the bad will, of those who are listening. I think the pope will do whatever he can to be clear, and not to be misunderstood. His first obedience, however, is to the truth.
"Amen, amen, I say to you, he's the coolest dude. Love that guy to death," emails MB of Miss Kelly -- who's hoarding a coveted ticket to Yankee Stadium under her mattress -- re the man of the hour. " I LOVE him," imails our good Christian sis. Of the three of us, only MB is a Roman Catholic. "What did I tell you, he's going to draw you into the fold," emails our other RC best buddy, Jill of The Business of Life. Our standard reply still stands, Oriana Fallaci's soul-searing "When an atheist and a pope think the same things, there must be something true." (Unattributed photo from The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life's "The Pope Comes to America")
"But I think the dominant note probably -- and this may be a surprise for some people -- I suspect the dominant note will be deep appreciation for the religious vitality of American society," NCRs John Allen said in another context, a Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life speech last week:
And this reflects something of a sea change that I have witnessed in Vatican attitudes toward the United States over the last decade. When I first started reporting on the Vatican 10 years ago or so, at that stage I think the mainstream view of the United States was still a bit ambivalent in the Vatican. A lot of people over there would regard the United States as basically a Protestant culture -- that is, one shaped under the impress of Protestantism and particularly Calvinism -- would see it as sort of a cowboy culture with a certain recklessness and so on. And also some concerns about what was seen as the rambunctiousness and independent-mindedness of the Catholic Church in this country.
While all of those concerns, in a way, are still there, I think what has come to be the much more dominant note in terms of what Vatican people see when they look across the water these days is a real fondness and appreciation for what they see as the religious health of American culture in comparison with contemporary Europe. And I think the critical ingredient here is not that anything particularly has changed in the United States; it’s more what has happened in Europe in the last 10 years.
"Cowboy culture with a certain recklessness and so on"? Mr. Allen should take another look at his Sambi interview notes:
Turbulence, in other words, is part of what it means to move forward towards greater understanding and collaboration, both in the ecumenical and inter-religious field.
Ride 'em, cowboy!
Update: Lots more recklessness and so on at Dr. Sanity's Carnival of the Insanities.
Update II: Amar and Luna of CatSynth.com host a furful 212th Carnival of the Cats.
Update III: Miss Kelly links:
I think Sissie is as excited about the Pope's visit to the U.S. as I am, which is MUCHO MUCHO MUCHO.
We look forward to our friend's dispatches from the front when she joins fellow fans for the Mass at Yankee Stadium April 20.
Update IV: The Anchoress links:
Sissy Willis has a terrific round-up on the visit; she gives you all the best links.
We aim to please.