John Allen Speaks
John Allen today did his best Billy Flynn tapdance on Fresh Air to plug his new book, The Rise of Benedict XVI, out today from Doubleday. (I've spent hours calling every B&N within 40 miles and can't find it anywhere.)
Allen did me the favor of speaking about Ingrid Stampa (you're welcome, John), and it's a great interview -- JLA being just folks from Kansas...
As Dorothy was taken to Oz, so was John to Rome. Good witches, wicked witches and a Wizard -- oh, my!
The interview can be heard here. I particularly enjoyed the following exchange:
Gross: Pope Benedict... was head of Pope John Paul's doctrinal office. What can we learn about Pope Benedict to see who he's chosen to fill that position?
Allen: Oh, I think it's actually fascinating. Pope Benedict has named as his successor Archbishop William Levada of San Francisco. This is is the only really significant personnel move he's made to date. [Editor's Note: Allen probably doesn't see Dziwisz to Krakow as a significant move because he didn't break it. Well, he didn't break Levada's appointment, either. I had the first report on both.]
And I think it is very telling, because I think that some of the expectations about Pope Benedict -- both on the Catholic right and the Catholic left -- were that, because he had been for 24 years the 'top cop' of the Catholic church -- that is, the great "Enforcer," the great "bruiser" in Catholic affairs, that once he took over the top job, there would be this "night of the long knives" that would follow, and that there would be this great purge of dissent. And, to date... none of that has materialized. And I think, in the Levada appointment, what you have is clearly a man who is a doctrinal conservative as you would expect... But by no means does he have a reputation as a headhunter. Quite the opposite. He is seen a somebody who is very clear in his principles but very flexible in his application of those principles, who is always seeking to defuse conflict rather than to allow it to fester.
And, interestingly, when his appointment was rumored and then announced, the most ferocious early criticism of it came actually from the Catholic right in the United States, that felt Levada should have been tougher against the gay culture in San Francisco, and they pointed especially to [the 1997 accord].... It looked like the church might lose $6 million in public funding, that went largely to care for HIV/AIDS patients and other charitable activities... At the end, what Archbishop
Levada proposed was a solution that basically shifted the focus from homosexuality to health care.... 'And that way we're expanding health care'... The conflict was avoided.
So, bottom line, I think, by putting Archbishop Levada in this job, Pope Benedict has opted for someone who clearly will safeguard the teaching of the church, but is not going to be looking to create conflict if he can avoid it, who is actually a very adept administrator and a very creative administrator, and therefore this does not augur the "great crackdown," or "great purge" that I think some people have been expecting.
If only he saw it coming on May 3. Hey, gotta get my plugs in....