A leading religion journalist presents a behind the scenes look at the first year of Pope Benedict XVI and what this papacy means for the future of the Roman Catholic Church.
There was no neutral response to the announcement that the "enforcer" - Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger - was to be the next pope of the Roman Catholic Church. In the analysis that immediately followed, sweeping generalizations declared a victory for "John Paul II conservatives" and a blow to those pressing for change. And yet, this promises to be a very different papacy from that of John Paul II, with potentially widely felt, long term consequences for the future of Catholicism here in America and around the world.
Award-winning religion journalist David Gibson presents a much-needed, nuanced look at Pope Benedict XVI and how a "war of ideas" will be the defining feature of this new papacy. Gibson persuasively argues that by tackling the modern world head-on Benedict is gambling that he can make traditional Catholicism the savior of contemporary society. But if the elderly Benedict fails in his battle with modernity, will Catholicism wind up as the "smaller-but-purer" church that some conservatives want? Will the cardinals choose a different path next time? Some say Benedict is willing to change to achieve his goals. But how far? Married priests? Decentralized authority? And what of the role of women? The Catholic Church is always changing, but today the need for immediate reform is more urgent than ever if the Church is to remain vital to American life and faithful to its authentic mission of following Jesus.