That is, the nation, not the magazine. David Van Biema and Jeff Israely, two of the most insightful religion journalists working today, ask that question in an extremely provocative and counterintuive cover story in Time this week. "The American Pope" Their argument is that the American brand of Catholicism--strong, clearheaded, in many places a minority denomination, and, overall, flourishing in a multireligious environment--provides an excellent model for the rest of the Catholic church. As Van Biema and Israely write: "The most rapt expression of the Pope’s enthusiasm for the U.S. came in a high-minded 2004 dialogue with the president of the Italian Senate, Marcello Pera, published as the book ’Without Roots.’ It bemoans the European Union’s refusal to acknowledge Christianity in a draft constitution, and Pera wonders about bringing back some kind of multidenominational "Christian civil religion." In response, Ratzinger cites Alexis de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America and makes the case that America’s Founding Fathers were pious men of different denominations who wrote the First Amendment prohibiting state establishment (that is, sponsorship) of religion precisely because sponsorship would stifle all non-established creeds--which they hoped would achieve full and varied flower." As I said, provocative and well-argued. But does Benedict love the Catholic Church in the United States enough to love its often maddening diversity? After all, that would include loving a church wherein exists dissent, or at the very least disagreement, with the Vatican on both the right (e.g., the Iraq War) and the left (e.g., women’s ordination) not to mention altar girls, gay and lesbian parish ministries and a family of Catholic colleges and universities where intellectual freedom is the norm. To quote Walt Whitman American church not only contradicts itself, but "contains multitudes." To what extent does Benedict love the American church in all its complexity? We’re sure to get a better understanding of that during his visit. James Martin, SJ
Does the Pope Love America?