When Pope Benedict XVI travelled to Cuba two weeks ago, he was acting within a long tradition. Popes, after all, are not only spiritual leaders, they are representatives of the oldest continuous absolute monarchy in the world, which traces back to the Apostle Peter two millennia ago: The Holy See has been engaging in diplomacy far longer than any modern state has been in existence.
On September 3, 2000, Pope John Paul II, the Vicar of Christ beloved even by Jews, beatified Pius IX, one of his predecessors who reigned from 1846-1878. He was a nasty anti-Semite who re-established the ghetto in Rome and was instrumental in the kidnapping of a six-year old Jew boy who had been forcibly converted to Catholicism and whom the church itself kept in the Vatican away from his parents. These are not the least of his sins; nor are they the worst. But they contribute richly to his biography as a Jew-hater.
I’m not a big fan of political speeches in general, but I thought President Obama’s Nobel acceptance speech today was unusually good. (If I were a speech-y kind of writer, like Rick Hertzberg, I’d have used a better adjective in the last sentence than “good.”) After again acknowledging that he doesn’t really deserve the award--“I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge the considerable controversy that your generous decision has generated. In part, this is because I am at the beginning, and not the end, of my labors on the world stage.
Left and right found plenty to disagree about in Pope Benedict XVI's September address at the University of Regensburg in Germany, but,on one point, there was virtual unanimity: that the Pope was out to defend the West against the Muslim world.
MANY CATHODE-ILLUMINATED years have passed since the term "infotainment" settled into reality and started appearing without quotation marks. The devolution of the evening news into a hybrid sort of entertainment is an old tale. In its original form, it simply meant that hard news stories would still be broadcast, but that there would be fewer of them, and more segments about lifestyle issues, celebrity shenanigans, and the like. How quaint it all was.