Vatican politics

Milo Winter. The Ass & His Driver. Illustration for The Aesop for Children (1919).

Those old sayings stay with us for good reason. Our bones absorb them in childhood; we can never outgrow them. Later, as adults, we find ourselves forever surprised by the truth of them. No small part of our initial moral education is owed to Aesop. His bestiary brought warnings against all kinds of vanity, thick-headed mischief, and unkindness. His dictums came to us together with our first prayers. Let us not fret here over his status as an historical figure or, as some surmise, a legendary one. Continue Reading
"I Don't Do Nice"

In 2008, the Pontifical Council for Culture invited to the Vatican five hundred of its favorite international brands in the arts. Cardinal Ravasi drew up the guest list and emceed the program. Pope Benedict was enlisted, like the speaker at a communion breakfast, to address the gathering. Among the trademarked “custodians of beauty” flattered by the summons was Zaha Hadid, London-based, Iraqi-born starchitect. She is as much a phenomenon as an architect, winning conspicuous commissions all over the globe. Her stated intention is to “rewrite the script for architecture.” Continue Reading
The Church Suffering

This past November, Cardinal Ravasi posed in New Statesman as the Vatican’s impresario of contemporary art. At the same time, a continent away, Bishop Johnson Mutek Akio of South Sudan stood with his people under genocidal assault by the al-Bashir regime. The cardinal’s ambition to get the Church back into the contemporary art business was hailed as “a bold move.” Silence greeted the bishop’s valor in risking his life to sustain a persecuted diocese. Heroic endurance in the face of Islamic terror does not conform to the sensibility—or insensibility—that understands culture as a kind of sauce poured like hollandaise over daily living, over thought and action. Continue Reading
A Good Priest

The press is filled with more eloquent and informed voices than my own. It would be presumptuous of me to add to them. At the same time, this stunning and gracious election requires acknowledgment. I can do it best by observing it in silence while I reread George Bernanos’ Diary of a Country Priest . Francis stood on the balcony and asked us to pray for him. If ever a work of fiction can be called an act of prayer, it is this one. Continue Reading

A lively and curious-minded reader of First Things just forwarded a link to an article on CNET News broadcasting the fact that Benedict XVI’s postings to Twitter ended today, the last day of his tenure as pope. The article is here . The writer, Chris Matyszczyk, displays a bit of disappointment: “It’s hard not to think that the decision to remove Pope Benedict’s tweets was taken by a vacant seat, an apparatchik of absolutism.” It is equally feasible to think that the removal of the tweets was done at Benedict’s own request. Continue Reading