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Cardinal Paradox

By John Allen

At a time of an ailing Pope, the voice of Joseph Ratzinger is increasingly heard as that of the Vatican. And yet, the Church's enforcer is also a singular freethinker. From American politicians, to women, and Turkey, his views have dominated the headlines this year.

Ratzinger, the Catholic Church's doctrinal tsar, is generally spoken well of around the water coolers of the Vatican, and not just out of fear of the legendary Panzer-kardinal. It is also because Ratzinger is seen as personally gracious and modest, someone who does not go out of his way to build empires, or to involve himself in other people's business.

John L. Allen Jr. is the Vatican correspondent for the National Catholic Reporter and the author of a biography of Joseph Ratzinger. His latest book is All the Pope's Men: the inside story of how the Vatican really thinks (Doubleday, 2004).

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