Pope Benedict XVI and World Affairs
Pew Research Center Washington, D.C.
On April 19, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger of Germany became Benedict XVI, the 265th pontiff. Under the leadership of his predecessor, John Paul II, the Catholic Church gained remarkable global influence. From his role in the downfall of Communism to his ecumenical overtures to the Muslim world, John Paul II positioned the Church as a leading global actor. His extraordinary legacy has left many to wonder how Benedict XVI will now define the Church’s role in world affairs on the world stage. How will Benedict XVI relate to his home continent of Europe, with its deepening secularization? Will he continue John Paul’s ecumenical approach to other religions or adopt a less accommodating stance, particularly with Islam? With nearly half of the world’s one billion Catholics living in Latin America and rapid church growth in Africa and Asia, how much will the new pope’s leadership reflect the concerns of the developing world? How will the new pope relate to the United States and to American foreign policy priorities, such as combating terrorism and promoting democracy in the Arab world?
Distinguished analysts J. Bryan Hehir, Raymond L. Flynn and Kenneth L. Woodward discussed these issues and their implications for Catholicism’s role in world affairs.
J. Bryan Hehir, Parker Montgomery Professor of the Practice of Religion and Public Life, Harvard University John F. Kennedy School of Government; President, Catholic Charities in the Archdiocese of Boston
Raymond L. Flynn, Former U.S. Ambassador to the Vatican; author of John Paul II, A Personal Portrait of the Pope and the Man
Kenneth L. Woodward, Contributing Editor on Religion and Society, Newsweek
Luis Lugo, Director, Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life
LUIS LUGO: Good morning and thank you all for coming. My name is Luis Lugo and I’m the director of the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life. As many of you know, we are a project of the Pew Research Center, and as a project of the Center, we are nonpartisan and do not take positions on policy debates. We didn’t even take a position on who should be elected pope.
I am pleased to welcome you to a discussion on Pope Benedict XVI and world affairs. I imagine that many people may be a bit pooped with of all the pope stories right about now. Issues surrounding the papacy have been in the headlines of every newspaper and discussed at length on talk shows for the past few weeks.
We’ve convened this meeting after the initial burst of excitement has died down to take a more dispassionate look at what the selection of Cardinal Ratzinger as pope might mean for the future role of the Catholic Church in world affairs.
It is widely agreed that the Catholic Church gained remarkable global influence under the leadership of John Paul II. I don’t think it’s a controversial statement to say that John Paul II was not only a church leader but a world leader as well. Many, therefore, wonder how Benedict XVI will now define the church’s role in world affairs. And I already have a question for the panelists.
Did the name that Cardinal Ratzinger chose as pope provide us any clues on this? Benedict, as we all know from reading Ken Woodward’s columns, honors the patron saint of Europe as well as Pope Benedict XV, who was a strong advocate for peace around the time of World War I. So will the spiritual and moral renewal of Europe and the promotion of world peace become the central themes of this papacy? As you will recall, in his homily on the eve of the conclave, Cardinal Ratzinger lamented the secular ideological currents of his native Europe, and denounced what he called “the dictatorship of relativism.” For this longtime overseer of Catholic orthodoxy, the affirmation of objective truth and morality appears to be essential not only for the health of the Catholic Church but for society in general.
So I pose the question on the Europe front: How will Benedict contribute to the growing debate in Europe concerning Europe’s own identity, which has been prompted in no small measure by the challenges posed by the integration of Muslim immigrants and Turkey’s accession to the European Union?
Speaking of Muslims, another major issue on everyone’s mind is the Catholic Church’s response to the world’s second-largest religion, Islam. In the past Cardinal Ratzinger has emphasized the uniqueness of the Christian message, and he is on record as being opposed to Turkey’s accession to the European Union. But earlier this week he reached out to Muslims and expressed a strong desire for increased dialogue between Muslims and Christians.
So I have a second question: Might Pope Benedict see a deepening of the Muslim-Christian dialogue started by his predecessor as perhaps his greatest contribution to avoiding the clash of civilizations, and thus promoting world peace?
Now, to help us explore the possible trajectory of the new pope’s leadership in world affairs, including, of course, U.S.-Vatican relations, we have with us today three distinguished experts. We’ve asked them to limit their opening remarks to 10 minutes or so each, so that we have plenty of time for questions and comments.
You have a copy of their bios in your packets, so I am going to be very brief in my introduction. First, we will hear from Ray Flynn, who is the president of the American Catholic Alliance and the host of a daily, nationally syndicated political talk show. He served as U.S. ambassador to the Vatican during the first Clinton administration and as the mayor of Boston from 1984 to 1993. He has written a biography of Pope John Paul II as well as a novel about a rather unorthodox conclave decision after the death of John Paul II. In it the cardinals elect a married American fisherman as the new pope, so that’s a very interesting plot line. Since last week’s conclave decision turned out rather differently from what he imagined, we wanted to give Ambassador Flynn another chance to make waves – (laughter) – on the question of papal succession.
RAYMOND FLYNN: The first pope was married and he was a fisherman, so two out of three’s not bad. (Laughter.)
MR. LUGO: That’s good.
Our second panelist, like Ambassador Flynn, has just returned from Rome. J. Bryan Hehir is the Parker Gilbert Montgomery Professor of the Practice of Religion and Public Life at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. He is also secretary for social services and president of Catholic Charities in the Archdiocese of Boston. Father Hehir’s research and writing have focused on the role of ethics and religion in foreign policy, world politics and American society.
Finally, we will hear from Ken Woodward, who has not just come back from Rome (but has been there often). He is a senior and very prolific writer on religion and society at Newsweek magazine, where he has been responsible for the religion section since – and this has got to be a typo, Ken – since 1964, could that be right?
KENNETH WOODWARD: I was 12 at the time. (Laughter.)
MR. LUGO: Ken has received numerous journalism awards and honorary degrees. He is the author of “Making Saints,” a study of the canonization process, and also “The Book of Miracles: The Meaning of the Miracle Stories in Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism and Islam.”
Now, before we begin, let me mention that this discussion is on the record, and we will be posting the transcript on the Forum’s Web site. Again, thank you so much for joining us today. We look forward to comments from our panelists and to your questions.
MR. FLYNN: Thank you Luis, thank you all for being with us today. Thanks to the Pew Forum. Let me make one comment about one of the books that I wrote, “The Accidental Pope.” I wanted the American people particularly to understand the conclave, because when I was U.S. ambassador, I spoke to a number of Catholic college students from across the United States and was amazed at how little information they had about how the conclave worked or about the internal politics of the Vatican. So I didn’t want to write a book about the conclave itself, per se – many books have been written about the conclave and the Vatican. Rather, I wanted to write an insight of how I saw the next conclave shaping up, which is the conclave we just had.
I wrote it about five, six or seven years ago – more correctly, I started writing it five or seven years ago. If you look at the book, you will see that I tried to anticipate what would likely be the most important issues facing the Catholic Church and global society with the next pope. It was very obvious to me when I was studying the conclave of 1978 – and I’ve known Karol Wojtyla since September 1969 – that the issue facing the church in the world at that time was the dictatorship of communism, or rather, the tyranny of communism – the oppression of Catholic faith across the world, particularly in Eastern Europe.
If I were a cardinal elector in 1978 and I’d been in politics for 40 years, I would say that I would have voted for Wojtyla because he would have been the one person who would be able to deal effectively with this extraordinary problem that oppressed the Catholic Church – certainly in Poland, Eastern Europe and other parts of the world. So he would be the likely choice, and the cardinal electors certainly made that decision.
Well, the rest of it is history in that they were proven to be right. He was the most important person they could have voted for; he didn’t let them down, and he dealt with that issue of communist oppression. I tried to anticipate how in the book I would inform young people in particular about how the college electors vote and what the issues are. Instead of trying to figure out “who,” I tried to answer the question “why.” And, in doing so, I came up with this fictitious American laicized priest from E.J.’s area down in New Bedford. (Laughter.) It wasn’t E.J. (Laughter.) And he became a symbol of telling the story of the entire conclave of the Catholic Church and a lot of the issues that lay Catholics face every day. He was a laicized priest, he married, he had children – the same issues that we deal with all the time, he had to deal with. His wife died and so forth.
Well, I wrote the book because I wanted to answer some of those questions. And in answering the all-important question – “what are the issues?” – I also addressed what were likely to be the issues that the next conclave would have to face. Well, we just went through this conclave; I was in Rome for almost six weeks. I said at that time the issue would be religious extremism. Specifically, I said it would be Islamic fundamentalism. I further stated that perhaps some people, my old colleagues and friends down at the State Department included, have got to take their heads out of the sand in understanding the important role that religion plays in world affairs.
Whether in my role as mayor or as ambassador of the United States, I was always fascinated with how governments functioned throughout the world. I was in the city of San Francisco when Dianne Feinstein was the mayor and she came up with the very first linkage program. I brought linkage concepts back to Boston, and Boston became the second city in the country to have linkage. That meant for every square foot of economic development in downtown, you shared that with the poor, particularly in the neighborhoods of Boston. As a result, we built more affordable housing than any other city in the country. You get ideas traveling, going to different places.
Well, when I would go to various cities – whether it was Yerevan in Armenia or Istanbul in Turkey or Dublin in Ireland – I would notice that there were certain cultures that particular governments would adhere to. Some people use to stop for tea in the middle of their deliberations and that would be the tea break. I was in England and they all adjourned to go across the street to the pub and have a jar of beer. In Italy or in some parts of Spain, they would stop for a siesta, to take a nap, and this is the culture. When I was in Muslim countries, they would stop to pray, often frequently if the meeting went longer. Well, I said, “This is an interesting dynamic. Why is it that there’s so much of an emphasis on prayer and religion in these countries?”
I started asking questions at the State Department and found very few people with answers. The common response was that basically this was not an issue that the United States government dealt with because of the strict adherence to the separation of church and state. They certainly didn’t want to get themselves involved in religion.
As I became more and more curious about it, and studied it, I talked to some of the top officials at the Vatican, including Joseph Ratzinger, Cardinal Martini from Milan, John Paul II, himself, and Jean-Louis Tauran, one of the great intellects of all time as far as I’m concerned. He’s now a cardinal, but at that time he was my counterpart as the representative of the Holy Father to the diplomatic court throughout the world.
We talked about that at length, and he was so very clear that the United States had so very little understanding – and that’s the right word, it’s not arrogance, it’s understanding – of the various cultures of the world. And as a result of this lack of understanding, the United States, in regard to its relationships with various countries, has only understood one side of the coin. I recall this one day that I spoke to the president of the United States and I told him, “I’m writing an article entitled “Peacemakers’ Forgotten Ally: Religion.” Now this was before my old friend Sam Huntington wrote his book, “The Clash of Civilizations.”
I wrote this about two years before Sam did his book on the clash of civilizations, and what I pointed out was that here we are, as U.S. diplomats and officials, discouraged from even getting involved in and understanding, being aware of and talking about, other peoples’ cultures or religions. Indeed, I found that it was taboo in the United States in many, many quarters. Not here, but for the most part – take my word for it – it is extremely discouraged in political circles. Well, I brought this to the president’s attention. He thought it was very interesting, and he was very, very concerned. He said, “Well, I’ll be interested to read your article.” That was the end of my conversation with Bill Clinton.
By then I had brought my article to the attention of the secretary of state’s office and documented the importance of understanding the role of religion in various cultures throughout the world. I found myself discouraged with that, so I submitted the article to Foreign Affairs magazine. They sent me back a very nice letter stating, “Sorry, but we don’t necessarily agree with you. We can’t use your long, detailed article.” I spoke to the secretary of state and various State Department officials and recommended a few things. I recommended that the president appoint a member of the senior staff to deal directly with this issue – the relationship between culture and religion in American foreign policy. That never happened. But I then brought it to the State Department, and I said, “I think you should have an assistant secretary of state that deals with this, so when you’re making these decisions about countries such as Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, etc., you would have a better understanding of their culture,” and that didn’t go anywhere. It was only after I was on a couple of radio talk shows, maybe a TV program, that members of Congress finally introduced a proposal to have an assistant secretary of state for religious affairs.
The point being, where do we go from here at this time with the Vatican and with Benedict XVI? What kind of role will he play with the United States in foreign policy, as Luis talked about? Well, it should be a very important role as far as the United States government is concerned. That doesn’t necessarily mean that we have to adhere to their religion, which I do, and many of their principles, which I am proud to say that I do. But that doesn’t mean that our government has to, but, my heavens, we should at least understand what other cultures are thinking. Now, as I said, I wrote this book – made this article available two or three years before 9/11.
What is going to happen with the church at this time with Benedict XVI is extraordinarily important, and I don’t think it should be discouraged by the United States, its foreign policy, its president or its people. I think the United States should be encouraged to work closely with the Vatican and not discourage that relationship because of the fact that the Holy See is perceived and associated with religion. I was the ambassador to the Holy See; I was not the ambassador to the Vatican. I was the ambassador to the Holy See, which is the official government of the worldwide Catholic Church. They have a far greater intellectual and diplomatic understanding of world events than our State Department.
When the United States was trying to deal with the issue of civil war in Mozambique, they had a few people on the ground in Mozambique dealing with that situation. The Catholic Church, however, had literally thousands of people that had been missionaries in Mozambique and had an awareness and understanding of the conflict, as well as a track record with the people. They’d been there, built the missions, the schools and the hospitals. They’ve been there for other people as well, when their governments haven’t. So there is this strong, personal, good, warm connection that exists between the Catholic Church and many of these underdeveloped countries, many of which are destabilized and need support.
I would say that it would be very, very important at this time – Ken Woodward and Father Bryan would certainly know better than I would. I’ll bet you Pope Benedict XVI, the leader of the Roman Catholic Church’s 1.1 billion people, is the most qualified person that has ever assumed that office in the history of the modern papacy.
That’s not to say that the other popes didn’t bring extraordinary talent. Maybe Pope Pius XII would be about the only other one I can think of in my study and my research. And I say that because of the fact that Joseph Ratzinger has been at the Vatican for such a long period of time, and he’s an intellect. He’s a man of extraordinary ability. He’s a great listener. I would just caution people, particularly as we listen to this man being described in the world media.
How this man is currently being defined is very unfair. For the first 48 hours while I was in Rome I tried to follow all the news accounts of the results of the conclave. I would see this on television. I was watching the BBC; I was watching Sky; I was watching two Muslim Arab stations. I saw four or five Italian stations, which I understood very well, and I watched CNN International. Almost invariably the television would focus on Joseph Ratzinger, Benedict XVI, appearing at St. Peter’s Basilica and then his brief comments when he was first announced as the leader of the Roman Catholic Church. The camera would then focus on a picture of Adolf Hitler reviewing the Hitler Youth marching by.
And this is what you would see on television all across the world for at least 48 hours. Now, I was viewing national television at 2:00 in the morning, 3:00 in the morning, and 10:00 in the morning; so, I was watching as much television as I could. The next picture you would see was Joseph Ratzinger as a young boy in Bavaria in the same Hitler’s Youth uniform – which was compulsory for young people. He was taken out of the seminary when he was 12 years of age, forced to join Hitler’s Youth at 14. And they would show a picture of him, so you would immediately get the connection. If you were just a casual observer watching television, you would automatically conclude that he was a member – an ardent supporter – of Hitler’s Youth. And then they would show Hitler patting these young kids on the head and scenes of a wonderful future for Germany and the Nazi Party and on and on.
Now, I have to tell you one little story, then I’ll end. The last day I was in the United States ready to go to Italy, I met with Bill Clinton at the White House and Warren Christopher, who was the secretary of state then. They handed me what they call a Letter of Credence, a letter that you pass on to the leader of the state, Pope John Paul II in this particular case, a letter of accreditation. The president listed a number of key policy objectives that the U.S. government wanted the ambassador to deal with. One of the issues high on the president’s list was peace in the Middle East. They saw peace between Israel and Palestine as a very important policy objective. They said they believed that the Catholic Church could play a very important role in bringing these two groups together because the Catholic Church had great credibility with Jews, with the state of Israel, and with Palestinians as well.
Well, I brought the letter to Rome. I met with the Holy Father at Castel Gondolfo. As I said, I’d known him for a long period of time, so it wasn’t just a professional relationship; it’s been a personal relationship. We discussed that very issue for a long time. We were there for well over an hour talking about it. It was a hot summer day, and he wasn’t burdened by his schedule. He then said to me, “By the way, Raymond, what you want to do is talk to Jean-Louis Tauran, Archbishop Tauran from Bordeaux, France. He’s the head of Vatican city-state relations, and his assistant is Monsignor Celli – you’ll be dealing with both of those people.” I said, “Fine, I understand.” He said, “But Raymond, if you run into any kind of problem, you’ll want to talk to Ratzinger.” He didn’t say Cardinal Ratzinger. “Ratzinger is very committed. Ratzinger is very interested in this issue. He wants to see this happen.”
Now, this is not the same Joseph Ratzinger that I saw on television when he was appointed. Extemporaneously, out of the clear blue sky, John Paul II said, “If you have any problem, you’ll want to talk to Ratzinger because he’s the guy who is really concerned about this issue.”
I just wish that we could begin to understand the importance of religion, culture and people’s personal values and beliefs – whether you agree with them or disagree with them. I think if the United States government does that, they’ll have a better opportunity of perhaps staving off some of these problems that we find ourselves involved in now – a war in Iraq and the war on terrorism.
MR. LUGO: Thank you, Mr. Ambassador.
J. BRYAN HEHIR: Thank you. As I understand our topic today, it has three factors. Of the three factors, we have an immense amount of data on two of them and a fair amount of speculation on the third.
The first factor is the world as it confronts the Roman Catholic Church. The second factor is the impact John Paul II had on the world in his diplomatic role. The third factor is what Benedict XVI will do. It is the first two of which we have an enormous amount of empirical, analyzable data. In regard to the third, we have a good deal of speculation without a lot of footnotes. So let me just mention my sense of the three.
First, the world as it was then and as it is now – that is to say, the world that confronted John Paul II in 1978 and the world that confronts Benedict XVI in 2005. Without explaining but just identifying what has happened, there has been this shift of course from the Cold War to the post-Cold War, from a clearly defined structure of international politics – bipolar in structure, East-West in focus, nuclear in its primacy – to a world that is even difficult to describe in terms of its structure today. That is to say, if the world is not bipolar, is it unipolar, multipolar or a mix of the two? There is not agreement on that question.
Secondly, the focus of East-West relations collapsed with the end of the Cold War and now there exists a much more pluralistic framework. Furthermore, we are in the 9/11 era, a defining event in this already fluid international arena.
Thirdly, it is not unimportant to note that in the last 10 years we have confronted the fact of genocide and done nothing about it. So the lessons learned in the 1930s were quickly unlearned.
Fourthly, between 1979 and 2005, we moved from interdependence to globalization, which is a much deeper, more integrated, more complicated form of what was called interdependence when John Paul II was elected.
In regard to John Paul II’s impact on the world, there were two existing forces that were emerging when he was elected to the papacy. He grasped both of them and helped push them forward. I would not say he originated them. I would not say he was uniquely the author of them, but he grasped them for certain qualitatively.
The first was the emergence of human rights as a factor in world politics. Human rights, defined in 1948 and in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, lay fallow as an aspect of world politics from 1948 until the mid-’70s. The concern for human rights, highlighted in this country by Jimmy Carter but reflected more broadly in the world, had begun to emerge as one of those factors that cut across state boundaries and intersected international politics in a non-classical way. John Paul II defined human rights as the theme of his pontificate in church-world relations in his 1979 address to the United Nations, and he carried that forward in a series of both intellectual efforts and, as Sam Huntington highlighted, by showing up in full papal garb at key moments and situations where human rights were at stake.
The second force was the emergence of religion as a factor in world politics. It is true that from the 17th century on through the middle of the 20th century, the conceptual framework for understanding world politics was deeply, powerfully, explicitly secularist. That is understandable if you understood the history of the religious wars in Europe in the 17th century, where a third of the population of Europe was killed. One might pine for a secularist conception of world politics, to take religion out of the factors that created war. The difficulty with this secularist conception is that it failed to respond to other dimensions of religion. Religion didn’t just create war; it also held the potential for peace and change.
And so the emergence of religion intellectually and politically over the last 25 years is a factor that had to be confronted in world politics, whether you are talking about Bishop Tutu in South Africa and peaceful transition, or about the Lutherans in Berlin, a Polish pope, or the church in Latin America. A purely secularist conception of world politics failed to grasp a powerful moving force in world affairs. John Paul II grasped this notion and pushed it forward qualitatively.
There also was with John Paul II a deep powerful conviction – we are told by people who know him that his ascension to the papacy was in fact a providential move. He was convinced of this and that Europe was the focus of what he had to address. Europe in two senses: Europe as a divided continent – the stake in the Cold War – and Europe as a culturally specific Christian entity that he believed needed to be reinvigorated. He then moved from that fact to a strategy of engaging himself in addressing both of those factors.
In conclusion, he also addressed a multiplicity of other issues. He reshaped an ancient actor in world politics. It is true that the Roman Catholic Church as an institution is perhaps the oldest standing institution in the Western world dealing with these questions. But there was a style for dealing with them, and the style would be represented by both Pius XII and Paul VI. There was a traditional Vatican style for dealing with world politics. John Paul II often ran counter to that style in tactics, in his addressing of issues, and he often found himself in conflict with his own State Department. And, as you might guess, he won. Well that kind of framework changed an ancient actor up to a point. He also reshaped Catholic teaching on issues such as human rights, war and peace, and international economic justice. By reshaping, he did not contradict earlier teaching there, but he pushed it further.
Benedict XVI inherits this legacy and this changed world. So if we try to assess where he is, he stands at the intersection of a world that is changed in detail much more powerfully then I have even hinted at, but I think I have captured major factors. He also inherits the legacy of the most activist pope we have had and an almost nontraditional style of Vatican diplomacy. So the question is: what will he do?
I would argue that the data on this question is not deep. That is to say, if you look for the footnotes on this, I’m not quite sure how you would build your case. There are many footnotes on Benedict XVI. He is an academic of 40 years, and, like most of us who have written and spoken a lot, the record is clear for everyone to see and you don’t get to change it retrospectively. So there is a good deal of data on him intellectually. And I think it’s fair to say that there will be an enormous amount of continuity at the intellectual level, both because most of what gets written in the Vatican is a collaborative effort and he surely was a part of it, and secondly, we know what his intellectual views were and are.
The intellect is the leading edge by which the world has come to interpret him, and that, I think, is a positive reality. Not every pope was known for his intellect. We have had popes who were holy but not known for their intellects. Given the complexity of the world today, I think it is a good thing that most people know him because of his intellect.
Secondly, while there’s continuity at the intellectual level, there are two things I would argue we do not know about him. We do not know what his pastoral style will be, and we do not know what his public persona will be.
Pastoral style is how he deals with the community of the church. We know very little about this because he has done very little of this. I would disregard the last two weeks as things that obviously we can look at, but it is hard to draw thematic ideas from it. He has not been a highly visible pastoral person in the style of John Paul II, and, therefore, we will have to watch how he deals with the church pastorally.
His public persona is precisely the diplomatic dimension of his life. And, again, he has not been publicly, visibly, openly engaged in these issues. And so to turn to Luis’ question, my thematic idea would be that at the level of the public persona in the beginning, you might say the internal will triumph over the external, but that may not be the case over the long term.
For example, if you think of Islam it seems to me he has been deeply immersed in the question of the Islam as a great religious faith. He has looked at the relationship of Christianity and Islam, Catholicism and Islam, and he comes at the question that way. That way is not the way I think the Vatican diplomatic corps first goes at Islam. They go at it as a public reality: a major faith with a public face and public role that has to be engaged. So I think the intellectual, internal issues are there to be documented with Cardinal Ratzinger, now Benedict XVI. The question how that will translate diplomatically seems to be an open question.
Secondly, Europe. He has been demonstrably interested in what I call the internal issues of Europe. That is to say how you live faith in a modern, secular, postindustrial society. His comments on relativism are not new; he has articulated them at some length, but once again these are internal issues about how you live the faith in Europe. A strategic vision of Europe’s political future and its role in the world, to my knowledge, has not been a focus of his writing or attention.
Thirdly, there is the existing structure of Vatican diplomacy in its traditional lines, which clearly were not canceled out by John Paul II and the modifications John Paul II introduced. What he will do with that mix of tradition and innovation seems to me, again, to be an open question.
So, in terms of Luis’s question, as I say, I think the internal will triumph over the external in the beginning in how they will deal with Europe and Islam. In terms of the significance of his name, it seems to me he has talked more often about St. Benedict than he has about Benedict XV. And St. Benedict for him, again, corresponds to John Paul II’s concern about Europe as a cultural, religious entity. John Paul II in fact used that theme – he gave it a major address on these questions, on St. Benedict and Europe, and I think that will carry forward. That’s my final point; if there’s any office in the world where the office shapes the person, it is this office. So while he might have been primarily interested in the internal, he will have to be interested in the external. How that will work I think we’ll know a bit more about it when Pew runs another forum on this given a little more time to put some data on the record.
MR. LUGO: Thank you, Father Hehir, for those interesting comments.
Ken, journalists aren’t burdened with the imperative of footnotes, so I think you can range a bit further on the speculative side, can’t you?
MR. WOODWARD: I always wanted to be a footnote – (laughter) -, and I really think my comments are footnotes to what Bryan’s had to say – the sweep and the themes that he brought up.
I mean, I agree with Bryan, if you’re going to talk on this subject, what Benedict XVI might do, you’ve got to look at what John Paul II did do. I focused, as I thought about this, on those funeral scenes with the president of the United States there and other world leaders from France, Germany and all the rest. I mean it was an extraordinary tribute, and I’m sure that had some kind of impact – we’ll learn later – on the cardinals and the conclave. But were they there because of this extraordinary man who had just died, who had traveled the world? In other words, how much was their presence due to the fact that it’s the Vatican and the papacy and you ought to go?
I don’t know, but I hope I was right in saying in Newsweek that under John Paul II the Holy See gained more political clout and diplomatic recognition than it had since perhaps the Renaissance. The number of nations of formal representatives – and that’s why I’m saying this as a footnote – tripled since 1939. Under John Paul II, we saw the United States upgrade its formal relationships with Britain, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Russia, Mexico, Israel, Jordan and most of the former communist countries of Eastern Europe. This is quite extraordinary, it seems to me.
Another point that comes to mind very specifically in thinking of the three countries that John Paul II was barred from visiting – North Korea, China, Russia – I don’t see any changes with North Korea – there aren’t many Christians there, if I understand it correctly – nor do I see any change with Russia. It seems to me that according to remarks made by Alexei, the patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church, the Orthodox Church is not ready to receive a Roman pontiff there. My feeling is that they’re still repairing their own image of how they were comprised under the communist regime, and, of course, there are other reasons they didn’t want a Polish Pope there. A Polish pope is associated with Orthodox-Catholic tensions in the Ukraine, but I don’t think the fact that the new pope is from Germany is really going to make an awful lot of difference. He might rein in some of the Fatima followers, the people who are still praying for the conversion of Russia, without realizing that Russia has had Christianity there for a millennium already.
As for China, there might be some movement there. There’s talk that the Holy See might withdraw diplomatic ties with Taiwan as a part of a new modus vivendi with China. The new pope might even allow some kind of arrangement whereby China gains some form of approval – concurrent approval over Catholic bishops. This has been done before. Twenty-five years ago, at least when I visited China, there was a real distinction between the government-controlled patriotic church and the underground church. Visitors there tell me now that there’s quite a congruency, that the bishops in the above-ground church are, most of them, fully aligned with the Vatican and with those in the underground church. But it seems to me that should be a focus of the next papacy.
Now, as for Europe, I suspect that Benedict XVI may well not change his attitude toward the acceptance of Turkey into the European Union. And I say that because there are a lot of political leaders in Western Europe who are very ambivalent about bringing a Muslim country in. And they ask themselves, rightly, what do we get out of it? And as long as that division is there it seems to me this pope can feel somewhat comfortable in the position that he’s taken. Now, obviously these political leaders are not saying, well, we don’t want them here because historically Western Europe has been Christian. That may be Benedict’s view, but it’s not the political view. Nonetheless, I can see where as long as there is a split, he won’t feel as if he’s out on his own.
Obviously relations with Islam are a major concern for the new pope. Obviously, from what he has said so far, he’ll try to encourage increased contact and better relations. One of the problems, quite obviously, whenever the papacy deals with another religion, is that there are no other popes out there. And in Islam, they really don’t know where to look. They can’t even look to the – I forgot the name of it – the university in Cairo. And that’s one of the problems with Islam; there are so few authoritative figures. But even so, there’s just nobody on his level, and I can sympathize with the difficulty of trying to establish relationships. You have to deal with so many people.
We can expect that Benedict will continue to use the United Nations as a forum, especially for papal speeches on peace and justice. Frankly, I’ve always felt that the Holy See has overestimated the United Nations, possibly because the U.N., like the Roman Catholic Church, is a global institution. I recall when John XXIII published “Pacem in Terris.” Nobody – and I’ve researched this – nobody from The New York Times to Newsweek to Time to all the rest could quite make out what he was talking about there in terms of a world organization. Some thought it was the U.N., and some thought it was something else new. He called for a world body to ensure peace. And I think that from that point on there’s been more reliance on the U.N. then perhaps the U.N. itself merits.
Certainly, we can expect the Holy See to continue efforts through the United Nations’ agencies and conferences, like the ones on population and the status of women, to oppose efforts to make abortion universally recognized as a human right. And if in the next election the Democrats are returned to power, and if they push the same kind of abortion agenda as the Clinton administration did at the 1994 Cairo Conference on Population and Development, something Ambassador Flynn knows about, there will again be fireworks between the Holy See and the United States government.
Less predictable, I think, is what Benedict XVI might do about the question of condoms as AIDS prevention in Africa and elsewhere, and this has been brought up a lot lately. I’m not sure that he is as intractable on this issue as his predecessor was. Much will depend on what the African bishops tell him, and we hear that he is a good listener.
A more interesting question perhaps is what the new pope will say about globalization and its effects on the poorer and richer nations. On this subject I haven’t a clue, but we might keep in mind that for the last two decades or more Benedict XVI has not busied himself with geopolitical issues. His concerns have been more narrowly theological. Besides, geopolitics was a specialty of the pope he served. Much will depend on how long he keeps the same cardinals in office. And I haven’t puzzled this out myself, especially Cardinal Angelo Sodano as secretary of state. But when I think that he began his public notice with this phrase we’ve already heard quoted, “the dictatorship of relativism,” that’s a sort of theologian talking. Suppose he had said, “the relativity of dictatorships.” That would have been a geopolitical pope speaking.
Finally, there’s much talk, loose talk in my estimation, about this pope being a new St. Benedict called to begin the re-Christianization of Europe, or at least roll back the tide of secularization there. George Weigel, his biographer, in particular, has been rather romantic in this regard. I think if the last pope with all his gifts – with his appeal to the young, with his pilgrimages and so forth – could not do much to change the highly secular character and drift of Europe, how is this rather shyer and more retiring fellow to do it?
It seems to me that in any case – and this is part of papal interregnum journalism – this effort to look to one man to do this and that and everything else, first of all, conveys an improper and distorted image of the Catholic Church, and secondly, burdens this one person, pope though he may be, with rather more than one person can do. And I think it has also represented an unfortunate tendency under the previous pope to emphasize the papacy and distort it all out of proportion to the other dimensions of the church. It’s one of the things I said in his obituary. He personalized the papacy in ways that we couldn’t imagine. I think it’s time to back off on that; it would be a great help.
It’s not going to be done in Europe if there aren’t bishops to do it; if there aren’t any priests to do it, who is going to roll back the tide? I do hope he doesn’t take the tact – and I’d love to hear a conversation about this – of how much greater clarity do we need? We got a catechism out of the last pope after all. I don’t know what else people want. (Laughter.)
So I tend to side with Timothy Garton Ash, who takes a very dim view. He says, from Benedict to Benedict, Christianity in Europe RIP, in a very tough piece in the Manchester Guardian. And I think those who think that this is going to be a new St. Benedict are going to have to deal with all the issues that Timothy Garton Ash raises there. I’m going to leave it at that point, and thank you very much.
MR. LUGO: Thank you for those very interesting comments. Although some people do claim, Ken, that secularism in Europe is being challenged-not by the Vatican’s role, but by waves of immigrants, both Muslim and Christian. This is a sociological reality rather than a theological challenge to secularism.
OK, now it’s time for you folks. We know there’s at least one other person in the room who has covered the Vatican. So, E.J., did you want to get in at this point?
E.J. DIONNE: Thank you.
First of all, I want to thank Ambassador Flynn – Mayor Flynn as I still think of him – for his reflections, I would say to you -
MR. LUGO: Is that a higher office for you -
MR. DIONNE: In Massachusetts it is. (Laughter.) No, I was thinking when he was talking about stopping a meeting, and in our part of the world they’d stop a meeting both to pray and to have the jar of beer, I think. (Laughter.)
I wanted to put three questions out there, and maybe you can leave the others for later. One of the few areas I can think of where there was something of a public difference between Benedict, Cardinal Ratzinger, and John Paul was when John Paul brought together that extraordinary group of world religious leaders and they all prayed simultaneously. They didn’t pray together, but they prayed simultaneously. And I’ve forgotten the exact quote, but Cardinal Ratzinger was on the record saying, this is not how I would do this. And you have a sense that John Paul believed in a kind of united front of the spiritual all over the world – it was very striking the way he talked about that, for example, when he visited India. Whereas Cardinal Ratzinger seems somewhat more concerned with defining the primacy of the Catholic understanding of Christ, and that it’s a more specific view of his mission as pope, so I’d be curious about that.
The second question, Jody Bottum, the editor now of First Things, made an interesting observation recently where he said if you look at Cardinal Ratzinger’s writings, he was somewhat more skeptical of capitalism than John Paul was in his later writings, so not necessarily his earlier writings. So I’m curious what you make of that. I did not see that myself, but I think Jody spent a lot of time with the Ratzinger documents. He may be right about that. I’m curious.
And then the last point is – and it goes to Ken’s point on who is going to re-Christianize Europe – I’m very curious of your views of the role of some of the newer groups in the church, particularly Opus Dei and the Legionaries of Christ, which were close to John Paul in certain ways. I’m curious how you see their role under this papacy.
And thank you all for coming.
MR. LUGO: Thank you, E.J., for those very interesting questions.
Ken, why don’t we begin with the last one since it was addressed to you specifically? Opus Dei, Legionaries of Christ, etc. – newer groups within the Roman Catholic Church.
MR. WOODWARD: Let me say this. All across the board I’ve observed since the 1970s in the United States, churches, and synagogues too, have failed to pass on their own traditions, and the reasons are different for Catholics than for Protestants. The reports that I get from places you would think were otherwise – Notre Dame, I was just out there recently – how little these students understand their own faith when they come in. It’s pretty scary. Thus, I have not been surprised that these groups that E.J. mentions have thrived because they give people group identity, definition, clarity, which seems to be the word of the past two weeks, and all the rest, the kinds of things that in my generation Catholics got by being part of a Catholic community. This is a major theme with me. So it seems to me, not only is there a place for these groups, but it’s understandable why they are on the scene.
The negative tendency is to narrow the idea of Catholicism itself. Certainly abortion politics – and I think the Democrats by their actions are as responsible for this as any group is. Therefore the abortion issue in the United States has come to be seen as a litmus test issue, and there’s a sense that we’re countercultural, and we want to be, and so on – sectarian, in other words. And I don’t think the Catholic Church wants to be sectarian, but on the other hand they’ve so neglected, in the United States as well, this formation that they are going to have to find some way of reforming the young and the young are going to have to understand that they have to live in tension with the world like any other decent Christian has to, and not simply accommodate to it. That’s probably a long-winded answer, but that’s what I see as the major issue facing the church worldwide.
MR. LUGO: Thank you.
Father Hehir, if I could ask you to comment on E.J.’s second question. As many of you know, Father Hehir was a top adviser to the U.S. Catholic bishops in drafting their pastoral letter on the U.S. economy. So, Father Hehir, could you comment on this question of whether there’s any distance on the question of capitalism as between John Paul II and Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict.
MR. HEHIR: There may be, but I am hesitant when I can’t document it. What I can document is the first part – that is to say John Paul II’s view of capitalism. And I think it is fair to say that if you think of capitalism primarily as a market economy, John Paul II had more-positive things to say about the market than any of his predecessors did. I hasten to add that having identified the positive aspects of the market, he also clearly identified the limitations of the market. So for him, the market economy preserved a sphere of freedom within which people could function, carried forward a basic kind of rational allocation of resources up to a point, and, as he pointed out more than once, provided an opportunity for ingenuity and innovation.
The limitations of the market, in his view, were that while the market might function efficiently, it didn’t necessarily function justly. And he made three criticisms. One, if you didn’t have any resources, it didn’t matter how well the market functioned; you couldn’t get in it. Secondly, the market didn’t know how to distinguish among goods. You can draw a supply-and-demand chart for Oldsmobiles, and you can draw a supply-and-demand chart for health care. The point is those are two different kinds of goods. And so his third point always was that in order to let the market do its appropriate work, but to address its inadequacies, you needed a larger social policy to fill in the gaps of the market.
I do not know Cardinal Ratzinger’s writings on the market in any detail. It may well be that another theme John Paul II had about Western society, and that is that the dynamic of such an economy created a certain kind of consumer drive, if you will, which eroded, or potentially eroded, spirituality. I wouldn’t be surprised if Cardinal Ratzinger was taken by that theme. But in fact, until I see the details, I hesitate to describe them.
MR. LUGO: And if I’m not mistaken, Father Hehir, in the encyclical Centesimus Annus where John Paul II, I assume with Ratzinger’s assistance, had that famous passage where he says, “if by capitalism is meant,” and then describes what you meant -
MR. HEHIR: What do you mean?
MR. LUGO: You know, in your first comments, then basically he affirms it. If however, “by capitalism is meant” – and then he describes the second part of it, and then he says that Catholics have problems with it. So, I mean it is that interesting tension.
MR. FLYNN: Let me add to that point if I could, just as a -
MR. DIONNE: Please, I was going to ask you on the third question -
MR. HEHIR: Yeah, I’ll get to the third one. The first actually, the first question.
MR. LUGO: The first question, then.
MR. HEHIR: Yeah. But this is an interesting point here. The church really needs clarity. I recall sitting in a room about this size when John Paul II issued his encyclical on the death penalty. And it was very, very clear to me what he said. It couldn’t have been clearer. And he’s against the death penalty. And that evening I’m at the North American College, and there’s a function up there for Cardinal Hickey, and a number of prominent theologians, friends of Republicans, conservatives, whatever you want to call them, were interpreting John Paul II’s comments about the death penalty. Well, you would have thought that John Paul II just said the death penalty should be permissible in many cases. That’s not what he said at all. I wasn’t satisfied with that because I knew that they were going back to the United States, and they were putting their spin on it. And there was no clarity at all by the U.S. Conference of Bishops whatsoever. Nobody spoke about it.
And then I spoke to Dr. Joachim Navarro Valls, and I said ‘I’m telling you what the American press is writing.’ And he had to go back and issue another statement in saying that only in extraordinary circumstances would the death penalty be permitted. They asked John Paul II what that extraordinary circumstance would be. They asked Ratzinger, what would that be? He said he couldn’t think of one. It’s frustrating as heck to hear the Holy Father, or the Vatican or whomever, say something and then by the time you pick up the morning newspaper you get an entirely different spin based on who’s telling the story. If they’d only quote the Holy Father, I think we’d be much better off, or the person who is issuing the statement.
E.J., the first question about those religious leaders in Assisi. I was there at the time. And that was the time that the Holy Father – it was because of the war in Bosnia or Herzegovina – and they brought together these religious leaders to issue this statement of peace, and Ratzinger’s only concern I think at that time, as I understood it, was should John Paul II be on the same level with the others, or rather, should they be put on the same level as him. I didn’t really get any idea that there was a difference of opinion or whether it was a good idea.
I think John Paul II felt in the latter part of his life that it was strength in numbers, that it was very important to the Catholic Church to bring together so many people of religious backgrounds. The first time the archbishop of Canterbury ever attended a papal inauguration was the other day. I think John Paul II really did an outstanding job trying to bring together these various religious people. I think Ratzinger and other Vatican sources felt that maybe they shouldn’t do that. The pope should speak for himself, not speak with a whole series of people with him, including other religious leaders.
My last point – I’d be very disappointed if we all left here and I didn’t mention this – the issue about politics in Catholics, in Democrats, in Republicans, in liberals, in conservatives. You know, there’s a whole load of us out there that don’t call ourselves conservatives, and we don’t call ourselves liberals, and we don’t call ourselves Democrats, and we don’t call ourselves Republicans. We’re Catholic. You know, I used to say, not so facetiously, I’m a John Paul II Democrat. I’m pro-life and I’m pro-poor. Now, that doesn’t necessarily go over well with The Washington Post or The Washington Times, but that’s who we are. And there are a lot of us out there. We’re unrepresented and we’re uncategorized. And that’s the teaching of the Catholic Church as far as I’m concerned. I don’t give a damn who the president is or whether he’s a conservative or a liberal; I’m interested in social justice, in Catholic faith, in a just, peaceful society. That’s the teaching of Jesus Christ, and that’s what the pope is going to continue to maintain and carry on, not some political agenda of the right or the left.
MR. WOODWARD: Can I say something?
MR. LUGO: Yes, please.
MR. WOODWARD: A footnote on Assisi. If you look at the pictures of Assisi you see the two people whose titles are Your Holiness were sitting together – that is to say the Pope and the Dalai Lama. So I think they paid some attention to titles there.
Now, if I recall correctly, the first among equals in the Orthodox Church, the Patriarch of Constantinople or Istanbul, was not there, which would have created a problem because his title is “Your All Holiness.” (Laughter.)
MR. HEHIR: Only you would have known that. (Laughter.)
MR. WOODWARD: I love titles.
MR. HEHIR: The rest of us would have swum along with the tide.
MR. WOODWARD: But I also was going to play symbolism with saints, as in Benedict. This is also Assisi, and this is the most acceptable Catholic saint, not only among Catholics, but among everybody else, and birds and birdbaths and the rest. (Laughter.) So it was about as stretched out as you possibly could be. So that’s all I wanted to add by way of footnote.
MR. LUGO: Yes, please.
MR. HEHIR: Well, I would like to go back to the groups again, the new groups, and Europe, and I find myself at some difference from Ken about why you would stress the significance of one person. It seems to me that however pluralist your interpretation of the Roman Catholic Church is and role of the local church and all that, this is just an office that inherently attracts attention. And it does make a difference.
Now, from what I can gather from Benedict XVI, he is going to put some energy, a lot of energy, into this question of how you live the faith in a highly secular, religiously pluralist society. I think he’s going to have to attend to a lot of other things beside that because Europe, and to some degree the United States which I think is different, is secular in its public orientation; it is much more pervasively religious – I think he will pay attention to this. Whether or not he can succeed or not is another question, but I don’t have much doubt that he thinks this is important and will do it.
That brings up the second question about the groups. If you’re going to address this question in societies like ours – and one of the people who is challenging the secularist paradigm of Europe is Andy Greeley, who originally challenged the secularist thesis in sociology, and as is the case with Andy, he’s got a whole new book out on secular Europe, and I think is running against the tide of opinion. So you need to keep that in mind. But I think that the question of dealing with postindustrial society is both a question of how you live the faith and how you address publicly issues in the society. My sense is these groups are very powerful in their kind of almost charismatic capability to attract young people to the living of the faith. I’m not at all sure they have much capacity for addressing the public policy issues of a secular postindustrial society, and so the pope can’t afford not to address that. And therefore the groups may have strength in a certain area with a certain group. I’m not positive they’re the answer to that larger question.
MR. LUGO: Yes, sir. There’s a microphone coming.
VIRENDRA PRAKASH: I am a Hindu from India, and not a very deep kind of Hindu, but a good Hindu. (Laughter.)
MR. HEHIR: We have a lot of Catholics like that. (Laughter.) Not deep, but good.
MR. PRAKASH: Those are the ones that attracted me here today. (Laughter.)
MR. LUGO: Would you state your name, please?
MR. PRAKASH: My name is Virendra Prakash. I am a retired civil servant now. I’m an admirer of Gandhi as well as a critic of him. And I want to bring him up here because I think there has been a lot of talk about globalization. So what I see happening is globalization of capitalism of the American type or maybe the Republican type. There is also globalization of culture. And what I sometimes object to in my mind is the use of culture and religion as if they were synonymous, and I think there is a great difference. The culture that has been globalized is the secular, or even, let us say, irreligious culture.
Now, is there anything that the previous pope did or the future pope will do that will globalize religion in the sense of spirituality? Will he do? Did he do? Can he do? These are the questions: globalization of religion in the sense that religion is a spiritual force, not as a denominational separatist agenda. That is what I thought Gandhi was trying to do, though he was entirely preoccupied with India’s freedom struggle – that was his broader concept of religion.
When the pope went to India, there were those fanatic groups who said that he had come to Christianize the whole of India and things like that. But overall, their response to the pope was of the kind that E.J. mentioned. He was received as a spiritual man in the spirit of Gandhi.
So my question, sir, is: The pope has a very high office, but does he have real influence within the Catholic faith, because I don’t see the differences in the Catholic faith getting reduced or a certain clarity like the one that you mentioned. Is Catholicism getting clarity among its 1.1 billion followers? This 1 billion Hindus, 1.1 billion Catholics, 1.2 billion Muslims – these figures, are they significant? So I’m basically addressing the issue of globalization, religion as a spirituality the way Gandhi saw it, No. 1.
Real Hindus don’t have a pope, as you said – Muslims don’t have one either – but those religions have prosperity. And the most important thing is that a religion that is totally, totally decentralized, like Buddhism, I think is making more impact, though it has not been better.
Thank you. Thank you for giving me so much time.
MR. LUGO: Thank you. This again raises the united front of the spiritual, I think, was the term E.J. used, but now in the context specifically of globalization and the spread of secular values that many religious traditions feel to be antithetical to their own. Will that provide enough of an incentive in your view to keep the inter-religious dialogue going at a significant clip? I mean, do each of these traditions internally feel threatened enough by those forces that they will see the wisdom, as it were, of forging inter-religious partnerships against it? It’s a big question, Father Hehir, but you address big questions. (Laughter.)
MR. HEHIR: Right. Not always insightfully, but – (laughter). Well, I think you have to make some distinctions. First of all, the first thing that John Paul II recognized was that globalization was a global process and it wasn’t going to go away. So there are some religious reactions to globalization that create what is often described as a fundamentalist reaction; that is to say, you’re faced with the force of this powerful reality and what you do is simply react against it. He did not do that. He wanted to shape globalization. His dominant theme was how do you humanize globalization? That is to say, how do you take this process and make sure it works for the good of not just some human beings, but all human beings?
Secondly, your point is very well taken. One of his criticisms of globalization was that it was seen as a purely economic force and the danger of that is that the economic force would simply overwhelm local cultures and cultural and spiritual values. So he was trying to preserve a space for the spiritual and the cultural in the face of this positive, powerful force.
Thirdly, in terms of the ability to create a common front on this, it is one thing to create a common front on what you might call spiritual values; that is to say, life is not purely economic, life is not simply about the market. It is another thing to create space for a culture, ideas and customs, the modification of the power of globalization, slow it down in some places so that it doesn’t do harm. It is a third thing to then confront the internal driving forces of what makes globalization the power that it is.
So, for example, Catholicism has a lot of teaching about just wage, the appropriate role of the government in the market, things like that. When you ask me, what’s in Catholic teaching about whether we ought to liberalize international financial markets, which is a major factor of globalization? Should you open those up? Should you let capital run free? There is scarce little in Roman Catholic teaching about how to guide the internationalization of global markets. But that’s the kind of question. And when you then say, well, let’s talk to a Buddhist and a Catholic about it, you may simply compound the silence. (Laughter.)
MR. LUGO: Very good.
MR. WOODWARD: Can I -
MR. LUGO: Yes, go ahead -
MR. WOODWARD: I would like to sort of change E.J.’s image – not a united front but how about a “United Colors of Benetton” spirituality – (laughter) – is what comes to my mind. It seems to me that we do have, under the broad umbrella of U.N. organizations and NGOs, the religious groups getting together, and you also have the Parliament of World Religions – Hans Kung wrote something for that that’s interesting. The anti-pope sorts get involved in bringing these religions together.
If I may say so, sir, the Hindu model accommodates a lot of people – many different paths leading to God. But the Hindu model, while it’s very accommodating, is not the same model as other religions. And on this point I would like to cite the Dalai Lama himself. Once, when I was interviewing him in Dharamsala, I asked him a question. I said, is Christianity as valid a dharma for Christians as Buddhism is for Buddhists – thinking I had him cornered and trapped. (Laughter.) And he simply said, very quickly and wisely, they aim at different things.
I have always, in my writings on world religions, been far more interested in the differences between religions than I have ever been in the sameness because the differences, well, they’re just more interesting. Those things are there. So there’s a limit. It seems like world peace, justice, preserving relics and whatever, that different religions can get together on, but they really do aim at different things.
MR. LUGO: Yes. Mark Noll.
MARK NOLL: Looking at Catholic things across the Protestant-Catholic divide, which is thankfully a lot more porous than it used to be, it seems to me from that perspective that the countries in the world where there are the most practicing Catholics today are the Philippines and Brazil, with Nigeria not too far behind, China coming up very fast, and even India as well. Indeed, there are more practicing Catholics in India than in maybe any country of Europe. These happen to be the places in the world also where the new forms of Protestantism are exploding. These are the places in the world where the agenda of pressing realities is very different than the agenda pressing on Western Europe and North America. The opportunities and grave difficulties of globalization have been mentioned -the HIV/AIDS crisis, the tremendous disruption when people are severed from kin and hereditary land – these serve to enhance the tremendous attraction of the Christian faith when they’re presented as an act of God in either Catholic or non-Catholic forms.
So my questions are about the possibilities you see for Catholic attitudes toward sectarian Christian movements that are often called Protestant, but they’re really in many ways post-Protestant – Pentecostal, extremely charismatic. The possibility for attitudes to improve toward these groups, particularly in Latin America, but even more for the possibilities of cooperation, especially in these parts of the world within the broader Christian community.
MR. LUGO: It’s a very interesting question, and especially if you could address the question of context because it seems to me that’s very vital there. If they are confronting a common enemy, let’s say a militant secularism or a militant Islam, it strikes me that Protestants and Catholics, including post-Protestants like Pentecostals and other evangelicals, seem to find common ground. If it’s a question, like in Latin America, where it seems to be that a common enemy is less of a factor, I think the differences tend to be accentuated. So if you could comment on that, Catholicism in relationship to other Christian communities, which after all constitute roughly half of worldwide Christianity. And if somebody could address Eastern Orthodoxy as part of the response, it would be great, but first Protestant evangelicals.
MR. WOODWARD: Well, can I express a little skepticism in that regard because of what I’ve seen on visits to the Third World – I’m principally talking about Africa, but folks from Latin America tell me the same thing – that the form of Christianity that is thriving, that is developing the fastest, is Pentecostalism. Having sat in at these churches, I’ve seen that the Pentecostalism being practiced tends to mimic the tribal religions and to replace theology, therefore, with exorcisms – divine powers will help me get a job, help me become fecund, help me find a husband, help me find a wife – and these practices are backed by Pentecostal groups in the United States. I was struck how powerful this network in Africa was, so that when you go to some of these churches and you look to see where the material comes from, it comes from the United States.
Now, I don’t know how comfortable Catholicism can be with that style of religion and that understanding of Christianity, so I want to add that caveat because it makes a big difference.
MR. HEHIR: I think it may depend a lot on the locale and how it comes together and what version of the various forms their practice takes – I feel like I’m talking to the pope of the evangelicals here in the Unites States. (Laughter.) This is the way this man is regarded, the Ratzinger of the evangelicals, so I want to be careful about this. But I can tell you that in the 1970s and1980s, when I worked at the Bishops Conference, one of the themes that would come up fairly regularly in meetings with Latin American Bishops was a grave fear that the driving force of the evangelicals was their connection with the CIA. That’s the way it was interpreted. And you had instances, in Guatemala, for example, with former military dictator Rios Montt, regarded by many as a kind of fresh product out of an Evangelical church in California who allegedly had strong ties to the CIA.
So there was that theme. I always thought it was overplayed, to be honest. But if that is the way it seemed, that is to say it’s a marriage of American power, then that’s one thing. But if these post-Protestant movements were viewed more positively, as you understand evangelical Christianity, that would be another question entirely. And then of course when you go to Europe, the evangelical reality means a wholly different kind of thing with classical Protestantism in Germany and other places. So I think the locale will have a lot to do with how it’s dealt with.
LUIS: Very interesting. Mr. Ambassador, could you just comment briefly from your time at the Vatican to what extent Vatican diplomacy took into account these various religious traditions. For instance, on this whole question of Europe and secularism, to what extent does the Vatican see its theological outreach to Eastern Orthodoxy, as part of its broader strategy with respect to Western Europe? Are those things factored into the equation? I’m very curious in terms of how the theological and the diplomatic bleed into each other in an institution that is both a religious institution and also a political entity.
MR. FLYNN: Well, as you know, the Vatican has diplomatic relations – I think Ken or Father Bryan made reference to this – with about 165 countries throughout the world – a full formal diplomatic relationship. That’s what I was talking about originally when I went to the Vatican first in 1993. The Vatican, what we see, did not have diplomatic relations with Israel, and there was this antagonistic relationship that existed for 2,000 years. The United States government felt that it was in the policy interest of the United States government to bring about these diplomatic relations because it would put another player on the stage who is a strong advocate for world peace.
So the Vatican takes that seriously. They have some of the most capable, sensitive people, many of whom later became pope, who came out of the diplomatic corps. Take my life, for example. I’m a grandfather, I’m babysitting one day, I’m a mayor another day, I’m playing professional basketball another day. But these fellows here, they’re 14 years old, they’re becoming priests, they’re in Turkey, they’re in whatever, they’re all over the world. And this is their life. They do this all their life. They know the world community that I know about for a short period of time in my career. But these people are the most knowledgeable, capable people you’d ever want to meet in your life. So yeah, the diplomatic angle is taken very, very seriously by the Vatican, and they have huge success.
I don’t think American officials understand the importance of the impact that the Vatican can have in bringing together people of different religions, people of different politics, people of different cultures. The Vatican works with these people. They’ve worked with these people for centuries, and it’s a built-in opportunity for American officials to utilize that. And I’m afraid we don’t do that in the United States. We just kind of ignore that because it – what, it has a religious component? Therefore we’re not interested in it? If the Vatican had thousands of troops and it was an economic power, then we’d pay more attention to it? But that’s not the way it is in many of these countries. They don’t care how many troops you have. They don’t care how much money you have. They’re interested in who is going to speak to their concerns. And I think that’s the growth of the evangelicals across the world.
And my last point on that is, I don’t think it’s about a pope or the pope. We might be putting too much emphasis – in fact, John Paul II wrote this. I think we’re putting too much emphasis on a person, as important as the pope is. I think we ought to be concerned about Mrs. O’Malley, this faithful Catholic. She’s the church. That’s the church. Those are the people we want to bring together. We should listen more to them, rather than just focusing on the Vatican for every point of wisdom that is injected among Catholics. I think there are a lot of Catholics who want to see a strong Catholic Church and will go back to the church, but they want it more focused on Jesus Christ, more so than they want it on a particular person, as important as a pope is.
MR. LUGO: Thank you.
MR. WOODWARD: Mrs. Gomez, you meant. (Laughter.)
MR. LUGO: That’s right, that’s right. Increasingly, Mrs. Gomez, that’s right. Katherine Marshall, the World Bank.
KATHERINE MARSHALL: I’d be interested in your thoughts on some of the issues around relations with women – there are a whole host of them within the church, but primarily women as an issue in globalization, global poverty and equity. The hypothesis that I’m starting with, and this comes out of various dialogues we’ve had between the world of development and the world of religion, is that the perceptions, and I think the realities, of the positions the Catholic Church has taken on women have had a much greater negative impact on crossing the divide between the worlds of development and religion than as imagined. What has come out in a number of meetings is that the perception is that the Catholic Church is against condoms and against women period. Whereas, within the development community, if there’s one area in which there’s a powerful consensus, it is that changing the roles of women – educating girls, etc. – is one of the major issues in opening up a path.
So I think the first question I’d have is, do you see this sort of logjam on dialogue changing? What kind of dynamic? Do you see any possibility of revisiting or at least engaging in some kind of a dialogue so that the role of the Catholic Church, for example in health – the broader issue of the role of the church in AIDS policy – can at least be brought to the table in a more constructive way?
MR. LUGO: Thank you, very thoughtful. Some of the same issues that tend to bring the Catholic Church closer to other communities, let’s say Muslims, on issues like that may indeed drive a wedge with established international institutions that operate on very different values. So, how do you bridge both gaps simultaneously?
MR. HEHIR: It’s a very important question, and it gets into this question of the internal life of Catholicism and its external relations. If you look at Catholic teaching on women, I think you have to distinguish three different issues that are going to keep coming up. One is, you might say, Catholic social teaching and how society ought to be structured to honor the equal dignity of men and women and the dignity of every person – wages for work, working conditions, those kinds of things. I think there Catholic teaching is pretty strong, if you keep it at that level.
I think there’s a second level of the question that gets more complicated, and that’s what we would call in this country gender roles and understanding those roles. There you’re going to get a combination of both maintaining the social teaching – everybody ought to have equal dignity, equal rights – but you’re going to get very definite views about gender roles. And when you think of the dialogue of Catholicism, you have to think of it in two different ways. There’s the dialogue of Catholicism in other major religions, and there I’m not terribly sure there’s an enormous amount of difference if you look at Islam, if you look at Hinduism or Buddhism. I’m no expert in that, but if you look at the dialogue of Catholicism and what I would call in a good sense of the term liberalism, and particularly liberalism as it’s embodied in its modern sense in international political lexicon, there’s a big difference when you get to the gender roles.
The third question you’re going to get into in Catholicism is about sexual ethics. And that’s where the questions that you raise come up. There, I think, there will be a fair amount of difference between Catholicism and most other religious traditions, and a huge difference between Catholicism and what I will generally call liberalism. So I think you can’t sort this out without a kind of multidimensional grid of how Catholicism interacts. Take AIDS. As you probably know, Catholic Relief Services has the largest program in Africa taking care of people with AIDS. That doesn’t get at the question at all about prevention. And when you get to the question of prevention, you’re going to run up against the teaching. So it’s a mixed and complicated reality that’s at stake. Who’s dialoging with whom? And what are you going to dialogue about? And I fully admit that is not a package that easily comes together.
MR. LUGO: Right up front here.
PAT ZAPOR: Thanks. Pat Zapor with Catholic News Service. Much has been made here, and in the reporting of the last few weeks, of how much John Paul II changed the prominence of the church, its role in international – take your pick, anything. How much of that had to do with that person? How much of it will continue if this pope is much more of a stay-at-home, think-about-things, have-people-come-on-over-and-talk-it-over guy? That seems to be more his personality. How much of the increased stature of the Holy See in all these different ways is permanent?
MR. LUGO: Very interesting. How do you account for personality here in terms of trying to explain John Paul II’s transition from being merely a church leader to being a world leader? How much does the personality factor play into that? Is that charisma?
MR. WOODWARD: Yeah, I think insofar as charisma is the thing that has drawn certain kinds of Catholics to the late pope, to the point where they call themselves John Paul II Catholics. To the extent that that’s happening, I think that’s a worrisome kind of thing. Perhaps though, among all of these people there is immense relief to see the late pope’s right-hand man, because they see him as a continuation of the person himself. It reminds me of the shock that I got when I discovered that the Dalai Lama kept in his private residence the embalmed body of his favorite teacher. (Laughter.) At one point you got to let go, folks. (Laughter.)
The other point that I would like to make is that I would like to see a stay-at-home pope, and I would like to see if he really does know how to listen. I would like to think there were cardinals, beginning in America, who actually had something to say that was worth listening to because they’re going to have – whether it’s the United States or anyplace else – they’re going to have to do the work. So part of that staying at home is I would hope to encourage a show of more initiative among the various hierarchies, and that gets to collegiality and the rest of those questions.
So I think it’s possible to hope for these kinds of things from this man. And this was the, in quotes, “liberal hope,” going into the conclave.
MR. LUGO: Very good, thank you. Yes, right here.
SCOTT WALTER: Well, I have a question for Ambassador Flynn about the Middle East, which -
MR. LUGO: Would you just -
MR. WALTER: I’m sorry, I’m Scott Walter. But first, just a very quick footnote: I wish that Father Hehir had mentioned that in Africa the most successful work on AIDS was not done with secular, liberal, condom-based programs, but rather with a Christian-based program in Uganda. But anyway, to get to -
MR. HEHIR: My point was not to contrast them, it was to describe them.
MR. WALTER: No, I know. But you made it sound like perhaps there’s some inadequacy here.
MR. HEHIR: No. It’s a description of a debate. And that’s what I would hold to.
MR. WALTER: Oh. Ambassador Flynn, you talked about Ratzinger as a cardinal being well-known for his concern about the Middle East. I’ve said that I was surprised after the election of Benedict that the ADL, for instance, put out a gushing release in praise of Cardinal Ratzinger, The Jerusalem Post ran several extremely laudatory articles, and the Jewish Telegraphic Agency did as well. And yet, as far as I know – maybe Mr. Woodward can correct me – I haven’t seen any of those things mentioned in any of the standard major media, even though they all happened right at the time of the election and there was all this controversy with him about Hitler Youth and the rest. But I wonder if you could tell us a bit more about what is known about Cardinal Ratzinger’s – now pope Benedict’s – views on the Middle East situation.
MR. FLYNN: Well, you’re absolutely right, and I think it needs to be underscored because this is a message. I wasn’t here, I’ve been away for the longest period of time in Rome. I haven’t reviewed all the newspapers and the articles and so forth, so I don’t know really what they said. I am trying to collect as many as I can.
But it was just very distressing to see this description of Cardinal Ratzinger by the world press. I thought they did an extraordinary injustice to this man. The worst part about it, however, was that there was nobody to defend him. You know, you’re in a transition period here. Everybody loses his position when the pope dies. There’s no secretary of defense or secretary of labor or secretary of anything, and so people are kind of just waiting to see what happens at the conclave. I was on “Meet the Press” and I was the only one, basically, that was really talking about what he’s done, what he’s trying to do, what the Catholic Church represents. But it was like the clergy sex abuse scandal in Boston: You couldn’t get anybody out front talking about it, defending the church. Not that you’d defend pedophile priests, but defending the values and the traditions of the Catholic Church. There was nobody there to do that.
Well, what has he done? What do I see in him? The only example I have is this one personal example when I spoke to the Holy Father about it. But I do know that he’s got people around him who have been very, very committed to peace. I think he’s going to be the pope of peace. I really believe that. If there’s one legacy that this man – I’m thinking politically now – is going to accomplish, it’s not going to be the unification of Europe and all this other stuff that they’re talking about in the press. There are so many conflicts out there that are just extraordinary, not just Iraq and terrorism and Afghanistan. Potentially, there are so many other areas of the world that could unravel. The whole world could be at war if this thing isn’t settled one way or the other. I think this is his biggest challenge.
I think the Catholic Church can play an extraordinary role bringing together other religious leaders so that they step over the political leaders. Political leaders can’t do this. They haven’t done this. They’ve torn us apart. They’ve divided this world. I think you need religious leaders of all religions, and I would hope that Ratzinger, Benedict XVI now, would be that person, that catalyst. I think he can do it. I think he wants to do it. He’s coming from a similar background that John Paul II came from. He saw communism, he saw Nazism, and he saw oppression in his own life, his church, his own community. He’s got personal experiences of wanting to do something about that, so I think he’s going to focus on that as his No. 1 priority. I hope that he does.
And, also, in the Middle East he’s got some really capable people around him that have in the past demonstrated an interest in doing that. They’ve been concerned about that. And I told you what John Paul II said: Ratzinger is concerned and interested in this issue.
So I feel pretty good about a stay-at-home pope – that’s not a bad term. I hope he focuses more on the day-to-day functions, the administrative functions of the church, rather than being the frequent flier that John Paul II was. As important and as productive as that was, I think this is a different time. That he can collect and unify the Catholic Church and unify religious leaders around peace in the world, that’s what I hope his priority is.
MR. LUGO: Thank you. If we can dwell for just one second on media coverage of this because I have to say in terms of my – and I’m very print-media oriented – I came away with a different impression than you, Mr. Ambassador. And also, with Ken I’ve talked privately about this. I’ve sensed that the coverage was much more balanced. Again, print media – I can’t address the other because I’m very print-oriented.
On the broader question though of broadcast media, where a lot of people are getting their news, the poll that was released this week by The Washington Post/ABC News had American Catholics approving of the selection of Cardinal Ratzinger by 81 percent, and the majority of those doing so enthusiastically. They’re reading print as well as what you were mentioning, or they’re just not paying much attention to the media regardless of what messages are coming through. I don’t know how else to explain that very high degree of support for the election of Cardinal Ratzinger. So I’m not sure how you square that.
MR. FLYNN: Well, I’ll tell you, the first two days, the first 48 hours, I would totally disagree with that. But maybe after that they became more balanced. I was doing NBC, and one person actually said – one reporter, one prominent reporter said – “Well, look, we gave John Paul II such great coverage. We wanted to balance it off now a little bit with the new pope.” Balance it off? I mean, who’s talking about balance? We’re talking about just reporting the story, telling the truth.
I think after the 48 hours, I would agree that there was a sudden shift. By then Cardinal Ratzinger, Benedict XVI, had started doing certain things that ingratiated him. He met with the press on Saturday morning at the audience hall, 4,000 journalists from across the world, and he spoke very directly and candidly. It was only 15 minutes, but he still sent the message that he wanted to open up dialogue with them. They have a responsibility. And he then opened up about Islam, other religions and more embracing kinds of issues. But he had to do that. On their own, they were going to take him down another street entirely. And he had to return to this over the next five or six days, and he did – I think he did a good job. I think he was able to salvage something out of it the first two or three days. That’s probably why you’re seeing more favorable news.
MR. LUGO: For the record, this poll was conducted April 21st through the 24th. Ken?
MR. WOODWARD: Did the same poll ask, “Do you know who Cardinal Ratzinger was?” (Laughter.) “Do you know who Benedict XVI is?” I’d be very surprised that they even know who this guy is. And if it said, “Do you like the new pope?” “Yeah, I like the new pope. Who is he?” So I’m skeptical of it, especially the cheaper polls – (laughter) -, 125 people – (laughter) -, and out of those, 25 percent were Catholics, and of those, 20 percent hadn’t been to church since they were confirmed or bar mitzvahed or whatever it was they got.
MR. LUGO: All right. OK, – (laughter) -not that I’m defending the Post/ABC News poll. This was randomly selected, 1,007, and then they did an additional 75 Catholics for a total of 284. 284 Catholics were the set for these answers here, so -
MR. WOODWARD: Well, if Andy were here, he’d defend the random sampling and all that. (Laughter.) I got called as soon as the white smoke went up, from The Wall Street Journal saying, would you write us something in two hours on the new pope? And I said, I need a little more time, besides, nobody knows who he is yet. (Laughter.) So, lots of folks were stuck with having to say something right off the bat. Now, if it had been some of these other folks from Argentina or wherever, I don’t know if I could have written that story without cribbing entirely from John and Al, just as the reporters in Rome cribbed from Marco Politi about the 40 votes that Ratzinger won the conclave with.
I’m with you, Luis, I didn’t see all of this. I didn’t see the German papers. I guess they were particularly nasty, and I guess the British papers were particularly nasty, and after all, the man does come with a record and, in the views of lots of people, baggage – real baggage. Now, I was lucky enough to have met him on one occasion and found him benign in the way that he was later described, but I don’t fault those people in the beginning for saying, hey, wait a minute, here’s what he said about Turkey, and hey, he’s been an enforcer. What I wrote, for what it’s worth, in The Wall Street Journal is he’s going to have to change mentalities when he becomes pope. These are really very different jobs. But he was a known quantity, and if it wasn’t the warmest of receptions, I think it was understandable. It takes a while to figure out who this guy is.
MR. FLYNN: What about the word “hardliner,” Ken? The very first statements that came out about him becoming pope labeled him as “a Vatican hardliner.”
MR. WOODWARD: Yeah, well, I’m calling him the enforcer. I found this was a thuggish image that I never liked even when he had the job. I thought it was unfair.
I’m switching to another kind of thing. I just got thinking about how in some cases I felt Ratzinger and his office were off base and how in other places they were on base, and how thankless that task is, and that’s what you get. You get to be called a hardliner. That’s why he came out with the soft line that he did. And the cardinals came out and said what a nice guy this guy is if you only get to know him. That’s just part of the realities of journalism at that point.
MR. FLYNN: What about the difference in jobs? One job he’s the enforcer, the other one he’s the Vicar of Christ on earth. He’s a pastor. He has a very entirely different job. He’s not this secretary of defense -
MR. WOODWARD: Well, that’s what I said, you know.
MR. FLYNN: – he’s the director of the Peace Corps. (Laughter.)
MR. HEHIR: I think it’s a little more complicated than either of those things. (Laughter.) I don’t think either of those models is going to get you very far. (Laughter.) He’s all one; he’s all another. This is a very complicated institution. It’s a far more complicated institution than the U.S. executive, judiciary and legislative. So let’s give it its complexity.
MR. FLYNN: But you have to put it in terms that people understand.
MR. HEHIR: You have to put it in terms, but before you get it in terms they understand, let’s make sure we understand what we’re putting in terms.
MR. FLYNN: Well, that the hard line -
MR. HEHIR: The fact of the matter is you can put a lot of things in terms, but that’s the -
MR. FLYNN: Well, that’s the image that’s out there. I’ve read this all day.
MR. HEHIR: I know you’ve read it. But my point is don’t foster it.
MR. FLYNN: What do we do? Nothing? Just let them run it?
MR. HEHIR: No, you think – hard. (Laughter.)
MR. FLYNN: You think? Yeah, and everybody’s -
MR. HEHIR: You think hard, and you think crazy.
MR. FLYNN: – opinion has been formed by the time you’re thinking, while you’re thinking.
MR. HEHIR: Well, no. Well, that’s the point. If you think the first two weeks in the pontificate are going to be the pontificate, then that is a very simple view of the Roman pontificate.
MR. FLYNN: His (inaudible) is the most important -
MR. HEHIR: No, it isn’t. Over the long term, it isn’t.
MR. FLYNN: Sure it is.
MR. LUGO: OK, I hate to get in the middle of a fight, particularly when an Irishman is involved. (Laughter.) This is wonderful. Thank you so much for your contributions. This has been very enlightening and also just a lot of fun. So thank you all for coming.
MR. HEHIR: We’ll be back.
MR. FLYNN: Appreciate it.