Pope Benedict, One Year Later A year ago, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger became Pope Benedict XVI. What does his first year indicate about the future of the Catholic Church?
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Pope Benedict, One Year Later

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Pope Benedict, One Year Later

Pope Benedict, One Year Later

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This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Michel Martin in Washington. Neal Conan is away.

A year ago today, tens of thousands of pilgrims flocked to Saint Peter's Square in Rome waiting for a new pope. Late in the afternoon, black, then gray and finally white smoke floated above the Sistine Chapel. Soon after, the bells of Saint Peter's Basilica rang, confirming the conclave's selection of a new leader. Later that evening, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger of Germany emerged on the Vatican balcony as Pope Benedict XVI. In the early days of his papacy, the new pope was described as strict, conservative, controversial. As Cardinal Ratzinger, he'd been known for his traditional views on morality, homosexuality, and women's roles in the church.

With his choice as the new supreme pontiff, conservative Catholics breathed a sign of relief, and liberal Catholics held their breath, but a year on, has Pope Benedict lived up to the early predictions? Today, we'll sift through the first 365 days of his papacy, look at his papal writings, his pronouncements, his changes to the Vatican hierarchy, and what they all might imply for the future of the Catholic church.

We'll also try to get a better picture of the man who is famous for wearing red Prada shoes but hardly wears out his soles the way his predecessor did. What are your feelings about Pope Benedict's pontificate so far? Has he fulfilled your expectations or not? Are you encouraged or disappointed with his decisions? Join the conversation. Our number here in Washington is 800-989-8255. That's 800-989-TALK. Our e-mail address is talk@npr.org.

Later in the program, we'll talk with Jim Towey, the outgoing director of the White House's Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, and we'll have the director of the U.S. Holocaust Museum to discuss Germany's decision to open one of the largest holocaust archives, but first, Pope Benedict XVI.

Our first guest is John Allen, the Vatican correspondent for the National Catholic Reporter. He is also the author of THE RISE OF BENEDICT XVI: THE INSIDE STORY OF HOW THE POPE WAS ELECTED AND WHERE HE WILL TAKE THE CATHOLIC CHURCH. He joins us now from the BBC studio in Rome. Welcome.

Mr. JOHN ALLEN (The National Catholic Reporter): Hi, Michel.

MARTIN: You wrote that the biggest story of Pope Benedict's first year is what has not happened. Why is that?

Mr. ALLEN: Well, for the reason that you set up, actually, in your introduction to our conversation, which is that when Cardinal Ratzinger was elected a year ago, there were some rather feverish expectations that there would be some kind of dramatic lurch to the right on his watch, that is that we would see arch conservatives being appointed bishops, there would be earthquakes in the church's teachings and its liturgical practice, that is its rights and rituals. That there would be a kind of, you know, systematic purging of dissenters and liberals and so on.

And, you know, the scorecard at the end of year one is that almost none of that has happened. Pope Benedict has proved to be a much more modest, a much more centrist and a much more consultative figure than that early read, which was always a caricature of the real man, but in any event, those early expectations simply, by and large, have not been fulfilled.

MARTIN: Horrors. You mean, the journalists were wrong.

Mr. ALLEN: Yeah, as shocking a concept --

MARTIN: How could that be?

Mr. ALLEN: -- as that may be, I think that's where we are, yeah.

MARTIN: Are popes expected to do much in their first year, or is it typically a time of transition?

Mr. ALLEN: Well, you know, it very much depends on the man. I mean, John Paul II certainly hit the ground running when he was elected on October 16, 1978. You know, he was, of course, an extraordinarily dynamic and charismatic figure, and that was clear to the world by the end of year one. Over the course of that first year, John Paul gave something like 570 speeches. He took three trips. He presided over 70 major events in Saint Peter's Square and so on.

Now, part of that, of course, is because he was 58 years old and had a kind of capacity to engage that level of activity that a 78-year-old man doesn't. If you compare Benedict's activity over the first year, he's given only 291 speeches, which, of course, is still a lot--that's an average of almost one a day, and presided over 31 celebrations, so clearly, there was a slower pace under Benedict XVI.

I think one of the characteristics of this pope is that he has deliberately pared back a lot of what he would consider to be optional papal activity to focus on what is most important to him, and what is most important to him is teaching, that is preparing his texts, preparing his homilies, preparing his audiences, and I think the result of that has been that while the pope has been a less cinematic figure, I think, most people who pay attention to papal teaching have by and large been bowled over by the quality of it.

MARTIN: What about you? What has stood out for you in the first year? Were you, I mean, given, I think there were commentators who noted that given this pope's age, even though he does seem, you know, healthy, but that they didn't expect that he would be as, traveling as much and so forth, but is there anything that stood out for you in the course of this first year? Is there anything that you found surprising that didn't conform to expectations that you may have had?

Mr. ALLEN: Well, a couple of things. One is how well Benedict XVI has done in the public stage. I mean, anybody who knew Cardinal Ratzinger knew that he was not particularly comfortable with being a kind of media figure or a pop culture icon and that he didn't like large crowds. He was much more comfortable in a, you know, in his office or in graduate seminar, you know, batting around ideas, you know, with fellow theologians and so on.

And yet, you know, I think what we saw, of course, during the transition period, that is after John Paul died, before the new pope was elected, we saw a surprising capacity in Joseph Ratzinger to perform well in these kind of mass settings in Saint Peter's Square and so on, and I think what we've seen is a gradual warming of Ratzinger to that environment, that is he has come off as much more comfortable, much more at home, warmer and more positive than I think that many of us had expected.

I think the other thing, just at the level of substance, is I think many of us had believed that somewhere within the course of the first year, there would be a major reorganization, a major restructuring of the Roman Curia, that's the papal bureaucracy here in Rome.

Ratzinger had long been on record saying that he felt that the church had too much bureaucracy, and further, that he was not always convinced that the right people got appointed to the right jobs in the Vatican and so on, and I think that had created, certainly, and I would say especially in the Curia, had created an expectation of major change that to date simply has not been realized.

And all of that, I think, is part of a deeper point about Benedict XVI, which is that he does not understand himself as a president or prime minister who was elected to pursue, you know, ideological agenda with a kind of dramatic first hundred days. He sees himself as the carrier of a 2,000-year-old tradition and as the pastor of a very complex, 1.1-billion-strong global Catholic community, and given that, he's simply going a lot slower and a lot more carefully, listening to a lot more people than I think some of us had believed he might.

MARTIN: Let's go to a caller in Detroit, Michigan, and John. John, what's your question?

JOHN (Caller): My question is this. Could we rephrase the whole issue and say is the pope a problem-solver, and he's not. It's obvious that he has not dealt with the priest shortage which was an issue at the synod and no one really took the lead. You know, some raised the question, but he could have interjected. He could have pushed the idea of ordaining married men. Secondly, the church attendance is down in Europe and the United States. How is he solving these problems, and I feel that we aren't really addressing these issues. Thanks.

MARTIN: Thank you, John. Thank you for calling.

Mr. ALLEN: Well, that certainly is, I think, a valid question. Now, you know, one could make the argument that if John Paul II didn't solve either of those two problems over the course of 26 years, it might be somewhat unrealistic to expect Benedict to have done so in his first 12 months.

I think on the question of church attendance, particularly in the West, that of course is a symptom of deeper crisis, which is the crisis of secularization and what some might call an almost post-Christian cultural atmosphere in Europe. And, you know, it seemed to me that going into the conclave, there were basically two options as to what the church should do about that. One was the option the caller was suggesting, which was let's change our rules on things like celibacy. Let's loosen up on some other things and basically make ourselves more like secular culture, so that we can be a credible dialogue partner with it. The other option was that what we need is a kind of return to the basics, and we need to become much more bold and much more clear in proclaiming core Christian truths.

And between those options, the cardinals obviously chose for the latter, in the form of Joseph Ratzinger, now Benedict XVI. I think, you know, the jury is out, obviously, in terms of whether or not he's going to be able to resurrect Christianity on a mass scale in the West, or whether that's even possible.

The other bit of context we probably shouldn't forget is that to focus on declining mass attendance rates and declining vocations in Europe and in North America sort of leaves out of the picture that 80 percent of the Roman Catholics in the world day live in the global south, that is Africa, Asia, and Latin America. And in many of those parts of the world, vocations are booming and mass attendance rates are at an all-time high. So it's not an entirely bleak picture, if you try to put it in that global context.

MARTIN: All right, I would like ask you to address one thing that has been a significant issue in the United States, and that is the issue of the sexual abuse of children. And in February, when the pope named 15 new cardinals, one of those he included was Archbishop Sean O'Malley, who is known for reaching a multimillion dollar agreement with hundreds of sex abuse victims, people who were victimized by, who were deemed to have been, who were found to have been victimized by clergy in Boston.

How did, how was this decision received? And do you think that this is problematic? I mean, certainly there's no implication that Archbishop O'Malley was himself, or Cardinal O'Malley now, was himself implicated in this, but he's, he, like many American Catholics in the hierarchy, is viewed by many Catholics, grassroots Catholics, to not have been effective in combating this problem. Not to have addressed it early enough and aggressively enough.

Mr. ALLEN: Yeah, well I think, seen from the pope's point of view, this was an attempt to kind of send a signal of solidarity with the Catholics in Boston. I mean, the bit of context that you need about the recent creation of new cardinals is that going into that, the pope made it clear that he didn't want to exceed the limit of 120 cardinals under 80 who are eligible to vote for the pope, which meant he could only create 15. And it was considered virtually impossible that there could be two Americans in that group, and, in fact, there were, Cardinal William Levada, formerly of San Francisco, who is now here in Rome, holding the job vacated by Pope Benedict, as head of the doctrinal office, and Cardinal Sean O'Malley in Boston.

In that, the reason that was seen as impossible is because if you look around at the rest of the world, the three most populous Catholic nations on earth, which would be Brazil, Mexico, and the Philippines, that's a block of about 330 million Catholics, together have fewer cardinals than the United States does. We have 15 and they have 11. And the fact that Benedict sort of defied that bit of geopolitical, you know, calculation, and went ahead and named O'Malley anyway, I think clearly was understood by him as a way of trying to say to the Catholics in Boston, I haven't forgotten about you and my heart is with you.

MARTIN: Okay. We need to take a short break. We're talking about the first year of Pope Benedict XVI. Has he met your expectations or not? We're taking your calls at 800-989-TALK. You can send us e-mail. The address is talk@npr.org. I'm Michel Martin. It's TALK OF THE NATION, from NPR News.

This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Michel Martin in Washington. One year ago today, white smoke poured from the Sistine Chapel, announcing the election of a new pope. Over the last twelve months, Pope Benedict XVI has defied many of the initial expectations for his papacy. Our guest is John Allen, the Vatican correspondent for the National Catholic Reporter. He is also the author of THE RISE OF BENEDICT XVI: THE INSIDE STORY OF HOW THE POPE WAS ELECTED AND WHERE HE WILL TAKE THE CATHOLIC CHURCH.

How do you feel about Pope Benedict's first year in Rome? Give us a call at 800-989-TALK. Our e-mail address is talk@npr.org.

And let's go to, is it Yulee, Florida, I think. Ulee, Florida, and Rick, what's on your mind?

No, I'm sorry, first of all I'm mispronouncing the name of your place, it's Ulee, right?

RICK (Caller): Well, I'm in Ulee, Florida.


RICK: Rick in Ulee. Michel, how are you to day? John, how are you?

MARTIN: Very well, thank you.

Mr. ALLEN: Good.

MARTIN: What's your question, Rick?

RICK: Well, isn't so much a question as the fact that I'm kind of astounded at the pundancy (ph) that comes up of how it is a year later and how this has all changed, because I remember very clearly John Paul's election and ascension. John Paul II. And a good Polish friend of mind saying that we're going to be in for an interesting and bumpy ride. And I said, why? Because I knew nothing about him, about Karol Wojtyla, and I know a little bit more about Cardinal Ratzinger and we have Pope Benedict is a very brilliant theologian who was doing one job as God's rottweiler, as many people were fond of saying. But when you take it with the bark of St. Peter, this is an entirely different thing.

And there is a change. I mean there is a complete change, and we are seeing a very pastoral, wonderful man leading us Catholics, and I think that he is going to surprise many, many of us, and that if people knew a little more about him, that there wouldn't be this much surprise.

MARTIN: Are you pleased, Rick, with what you see so far?

RICK: Well, you see, I'm not going to put myself in saying whether I'm pleased or displeased with the pope. You know, I don't have, I didn't have a choice on that. And I'm just a pay, pray and obey Catholic.

MARTIN: But I think your broader point is that people when they take on that role, something happens, and that they grow to that position. Is that about it? Is that about right, Rick?

RICK: Well, they don't call it the Crying Room for no reason at all where you're brought after you're elected, because this is phenomenal job that you have been chosen for. And whether people believe it or not, the Holy Spirit, or that it is Divine Providence on this, I can't think of a tougher job absolutely anywhere with more responsibility than this. So, yes --

Mr. ALLEN: Oh, I think that's absolutely right. Rick, if I can - Michelle, if you don't mind.


Mr. ALLEN: Rick, I think you've made two very important points. I'd like to pick up on, actually. You know, the first is, I said earlier that those of us who knew Cardinal Ratzinger personally, always knew that this caricature of him as a kind of, you know, boogeyman of the Catholic imagination, you know, was always, you know, rang false. I mean, in private you would never find a kinder or gentler soul. Which, of course, doesn't mean that you have to agree with every decision he makes, but at the level of who he is, I mean, this was always just a kind of myth.

And I think what the papacy has done is allow those other aspects of his personality to come into full public view. And I think he's just, he's a hard person not to like at that level. Now he's also a very thoughtful and a very incisive theologian, and not everyone accepts the conclusions he would draw on particular questions. But he is, I think, pastoral is a very good word for where his heart is.

Now the other point is, you know, you said if people would pay attention, you know, they would not be so surprised. Well, I think, in a way, that's exactly the point. That, one of the observations I've had about the first year of Benedict, if you compare it to the first year of John Paul, is that John Paul was this dynamo who sort of grabbed at the world by the scruff of its neck and made it pay attention, just by the force of his personality.

Benedict is not that kind of charismatic figure, which means that at the end of John Paul's first year, I think, that the main division was between people who liked what they were hearing from the pope, and people who didn't. I think the main division at the end of Benedict's first year is between those who are paying attention and those who aren't.

Because the reality is that my sense, having just come back from a nine-city and 14-day speaking tour of the States, my sense is that if you stopped the average Catholic, to say nothing of the average American, and asked them, you know, what do you know about the new pope? They might be able to tell you he put out a document on gay priests somewhere along the line. They probably would say something about his Prada shoes. And that's really about it.

I mean, he, the force of the pope's personality is no longer sufficient to guarantee that an accurate sense of what he's about is going to register on the radar screen. I think that creates a whole new communications challenge for the Catholic Church that the people around here are just now trying to get their hands around.

MARTIN: Okay, Rick, thank you so much for calling.

RICK: Thank you very much.

MARTIN: What about that document on gay priests, John Allen? What was the force of that? I mean that, the, we really haven't heard that much about it since. And --

Mr. ALLEN: Well, you know, that's the striking thing. I mean, it's one of these classic Vatican, you know, interventions that, in a way, has satisfied no one. You know, on the one hand, there was, of course, an enormous buildup to it. It was finally released on November 29th. And what it said, the gist of it was that men with deep-seated homosexual tendencies should not be admitted to seminaries and therefore should not be ordained as priests. Now, and this, of course, had a long history. The document had been in the works since 1994. It was, in its origins, a response to the perception that the priesthood in the United States and elsewhere was becoming a disproportionately gay profession, and it was, of course, then exacerbated by the sexual abuse crisis and other factors.

And so the issuance of the document, I think, was a great source of disappointment and heartache to those in the Catholic community that believe the church ought to be more tolerant to homosexuals. On the other hand, the follow-up to the document, which has been largely nonexistent, has been a great source of disappointment to Catholic conservatives who feel this is a critically important defining issue for the church.

That is, when it came out, there was a great deal of comment and interpretation and spin, and a number of people, including some bishops, said, this really doesn't mean no to homosexuals. It means no to practicing homosexuals, and so on. So there were widely divergent interpretations. And there has been no clarification and no crackdown and no new system of implementation from Rome. So, you've got on the one hand, people who are disappointed with the document, and on the other hand, people who are disappointed that the document has not been implemented as thoroughly as they would like to see it.

MARTIN: Let's bring in another voice now. We're joined by Monsignor Kevin Irwin, the Dean of the School of Theology and Religious Studies at the Catholic University of America. He joins us from his office at Catholic University here in Washington. Welcome, Monsignor.

Monsignor KEVIN IRWIN (University of America): Good afternoon, Michel.

MARTIN: A year ago you were kind enough to help NPR cover the first hours of Pope Benedict's papacy. What has struck you about his first year?

Msgr. IRWIN: Well, I would say that it's probably been a quieter, gentler papacy than a number had predicted, given what your caller from Florida just said in terms of his reputation. And the second thing I think I'd like to dovetail with what John was just talking about in terms of implementation of documents. I think what you're seeing with this Holy Father is certainly not the globe-trotting, frequent-flyer pope who's going to speak in lots of places, but you're seeing a gentleman who is going to set a tone and leave interpretation to local bishops and of different diocese and to let bishops do what bishops do. So, in that sense, I think that his own personality is one thing, but also his notion of church is another, respecting local bishops to implement things as they see fit.

MARTIN: You've met him?

Msgr. IRWIN: I have.

MARTIN: What's, talk about the personality. A number of people who've met him say that they are just shocked by the divergence between how he really is in private and how he was depicted prior to becoming pope, but what's he like?

Msgr. IRWIN: A gracious, urbane, European gentleman with sparkling eyes and a very, very self-effacing manner. A gracious manner. But, then again, this is where I come down on some things, because of my avocation as a professor. He's a professor. He's a very, very clear thinker. He makes very clear distinctions, and in conversation he's inviting and asks more questions than gives answers.

MARTIN: Now, John Allen, I know you have to go --

Mr. ALLEN: Michel, if you don't mind, can I just add to that.

MARTIN: You certainly can.

Mr. ALLEN: One other quality, which is, I think, another unacknowledged quality, which is that he has a very impish sense of humor. And I'll give you one concrete example of that.

When my book, THE RISE OF BENEDICT, came out, which was about the conclave and then my projections for where the papacy would go, I inscribed a copy for Benedict, and I gave it to his spokesperson, Joaquin Navarro Valls, who said he would give it to Benedict when they were on vacation in the north of Italy.

And a few weeks later, Navarro called me on my cell phone and told me that the pope had come down to breakfast that morning with my book in his hands and had asked him to call me and give me his thanks for having written the book. Especially the third section on the future of his papacy, because it had saved him the trouble of thinking about it for himself.

You know, that's the kind of just dry wit for which Benedict is legendary.

MARTIN: Do you see more of changes in his second year? John Allen?

Mr. ALLEN: Well, you know, I think --

MARTIN: Briefly.

Mr. ALLEN: I don't think it is the case he's been sitting on a laundry list of changes and just waiting for the calendar to turn a page before he makes them. I think we will get largely more of the same kind of cautious, gradual, thoughtful, tone-setting approach that Monsignor Irwin rightly described.

MARTIN: John Allen is the Vatican correspondent for the National Catholic Reporter. He's also the author of THE RISE OF BENEDICT XVI: THE INSIDE STORY OF HOW THE POPE WAS ELECTED AND WHERE HE WILL TAKE THE CATHOLIC CHURCH. He joined us from the BBC studio in Rome.

Thank you, John Allen.

Mr. ALLEN: You're very welcome.

MARTIN: And Monsignor, stay with us. You...Talk a little bit about the Pope's first encyclical. He wrote it about love. What message was he trying to give?

Msgr. IRWIN: The encyclical was dated Christmas in his first year as a pontificate and that's the feast we celebrate the incarnation of God's love to his son, and that's why that was written and dated that day. It's an encyclical reminding us of the classic overwhelming love of God to reconcile us, to make us union with him. And it's also a challenging encyclical. The second part speaks about, then therefore our love for neighbor and what that ought to be.

And so, it really sets out a very general, but a very important reminder that behind all kinds of other documents about body and about sexuality, he's talking about the value of erotic love, the value of self-giving love, self-transcending love, and it's just a reminder that in a world that sometimes can make those things fairly ephemeral, he wants to make sure that the heart of the matter is recalled again and again. That of God's overwhelming love for us and then our response to each other.

MARTIN: Let's go to Naples, Florida and Katherine. Katherine, what's on your mind?

KATHERINE (Caller): Hi, I really just wanted to say that as a Catholic who, I'm young and I'm definitely considered more of a, I hate this term, but a radical Catholic.

While, you know, I can't say I'm thrilled with everything that our pope has done, I'm definitely much less skeptical of the direction he'll take the Church. And I can honestly, you know, say that I really do feel he has a genuine love for the people of the church. And for all people. And I think that's such a vital thing that really needs to be carried on from Pope John Paul.

And really, I just, like I said, I wanted to say that I'm really very positive about Pope Benedict's actions and words so far. And I'm really looking forward to seeing the direction he brings us and that's all I wanted to say.

MARTIN: Thank you, Katherine.


MARTIN: And you're listening to TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

Monsignor, interesting point about the caller who just phoned in. I'm interested in why she feels sort of so much more comforted, but I'm also interested in the fact that she is a young woman, and this was one of the things that Pope John Paul was famous for, his connection to young people. I can't even describe it. It was almost as if that, there was a relationship there from the very beginning with young Catholics. And I wondered, first of all, why do you think that is? And is Pope Benedict, does Pope Benedict to this point seem to have that kind of connection with any particular group?

Msgr. IRWIN: Well, I think with John Paul II, you saw a gentleman who enjoyed the stage. He enjoyed being a bit of a personality to the young people. In an era that's looking for heroes and looking for personality cults, I think that he satisfied that need for some of the younger generation.

But I have to also say that I think that Pope Benedict, we all drink from our own wells. We do it our own way. And he's not going to do the exact same game book and I think he appeals to the more thoughtful, dare I say theological, Catholic of all ages. And my sense is that he's going to be respectful of trying to win by argument as much as by personality.

MARTIN: Tell me a little bit more about him, if you would. What is his routine? What does he like to do?

Msgr. IRWIN: Well, it's, we've gone from a very, very extroverted pope in John Paul II who had lunches and dinners with lots of folks and did all kinds of things to a very, very, very quiet gentleman who rises fairly early, says mass quietly, is with his staff early in the morning. Does his own writing and researching, meets a number of people but not nearly the volume of John Paul II. Rarely takes meals with outside guests. It's a very, very disciplined household. And at 4 o'clock takes a walk everyday.

I mean, this is a German professor who has a new job.

MARTIN: Is it true that he moved 20,000 books into the papal apartment?

Msgr. IRWIN: I think he supervised the moving of 20,000 books into the papal apartments. That's, I think that's probably correct. And he probably knows where all of them are. And he's just a very, very modest, intelligent, fiercely intelligent, but a highly disciplined man.

MARTIN: Let's go to Tulsa, Oklahoma and Marcus. Marcus, what's on your mind?

MARCUS (Caller): Well, as a Protestant clergyman, I am very impressed with Cardinal Ratzinger and his theology. He is, in my opinion, probably setting the stage for the postmodern era in their church as well as many of us are watching how he does it. I've been very impressed with his steadfastness, if you will, and the future that I think he sees and this quiet intellect gives me hope that there'll be much more dialogue throughout the world with Christians of various faiths.

MARTIN: Anything in particular that sent you that signal, sir?

MARCUS: As many of the previous callers have said, a lot of people expected him to be sort of God's rottweiler, and he's turned out to be extremely pastoral and very loving gentleman. I know one of the things I saw the other evening on the news was he stopped, as he exited the area where he was saying mass and leaned across the barrier and hugged two small children. It's not something, I think, many people would have expected.

MARTIN: Okay. Thank you, sir. Thank you for calling.

MARCUS: Thank you for the opportunity. God bless.

MARTIN: Monsignor, does that gentleman's observation kind of square with yours that this is a person who is more open to interfaith dialogue than, perhaps, people were expecting? Setting a tone as a cultural figure, because really, frankly, Pope John Paul II is a, was a cultural figure as well as a religious figure.

Msgr. IRWIN: Exactly correct. But I, from the beginning I thought that this papacy would be very in tune to ecumenical affairs and that has turned out to be quite correct.

Again, when you look at his joy in doctrine of the faith, he was involved in a number of dialogues and evaluating the results of dialogues and evaluating the countless tones that had been written since Vatican II of dialogue partners across denominational lines. And he's been very involved in that kind of dialogue. So, that didn't surprise me.

The same time, he's a gentleman who wants to be very clear. What is it that we bring to the table as we dialogue? And therefore, in the positions he took as Cardinal Ratzinger in clarifying certain positions of the church, he wanted to make sure that we knew where we stood and why we stood for certain things and how to save them in a way that would be invitational but also not stray from what we believe --

MARTIN: I am so sorry to cut you off, Monsignor. Thank you so much.

Msgr. IRWIN: Sure.

MARTIN: Monsignor Kevin Irwin is the Dean of the School of Theology and Religious Studies at the Catholic University School of America. He joined us from his office at Catholic University here in Washington. Thank you so much.

And when we come back, the head of President Bush's Office of Faith-Based Initiatives announced his resignation. We'll talk to him next.

I'm Michel Martin. It's TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

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