Monday, March 31, 2008

Focus on "Public Spotlight"

Another Catholic-Islam eruption happened after the Easter Vigil baptism in Rome of Magdi Allam by Pope Benedict. Mr. John L. Allen Jr. led his column of last week with a vignette of Mr. Allam and insight about Rome's choice to baptize him at the Easter Vigil.

Mr. Allen offered this reply to the question of many:
...why did Benedict do it? At least three points come to mind:

* For a pope committed to reawakening a strong missionary spirit in Catholicism, receiving a high-profile convert during the Easter Vigil is a symbolic way of making the point. In effect, Benedict is saying that the church shouldn't shrink from receiving anyone who knocks on its door, even if there's a political price to be paid.
* Allam's baptism can also be read as a statement of solidarity with Muslim converts to Christianity around the world, many of whom suffer in various ways on account of that decision.
* Finally, the episode illustrates an important wrinkle to Benedict's personality -- stubborn indifference to the canons of political correctness. Benedict is a gracious figure, but he also refuses to sanitize what he regards as important matters of belief or practice in order to avoid PR headaches. Whether that amounts to moral courage or tone-deafness to public reaction is a matter of opinion, but the pattern is clear.
Read Mr. Allen's entire column to appreciate better his three reasons.

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