Source: The University of Chicago Martin Marty Center
Pope Benedict XVI's U.S. visit next week during an election year will find him cast, willy nilly, in a political role. The chiding of Catholic voters, bishops and priests, and politicians who do not make enough of churchly anti-abortion positions will occur, but most concur in the view that such is "old news," unlikely to do much swaying of "undecideds," however valid debate on the subject might be. Other positions will be noted.
This first chance to size up the pope up close in America finds him to be a dialectical and complex thinker. One day he articulates long-held Catholic positions concerning other Christians and other religions with a hard, sometimes offensive (to "the others") line, and the next day he treats them more friendlily. Those who wanted to reduce him to being only an enforcer of Catholic sexual moral dicta now perceive a wider agenda. He also comes on as the theologian he is, in encyclicals on "love" and "hope."