Benedictions: The Pope in America
DAVID GIBSON is an award-winning religion journalist, author, filmmaker, and a convert to Catholicism. He came by all those vocations by accident, or Providence, during a longer-than-expected sojourn in Rome in the 1980s.
Gibson began his journalistic career as a walk-on sports editor and columnist at The International Courier, a small daily in Rome serving Italy's English-language community. He then found a job as a newscaster and writer across the Tiber at the English Programme at Vatican Radio, an entity he describes as a cross between NPR and Armed Forces Radio for the pope. The Jesuits who ran the radio were charitable enough to hire Gibson even though he had no radio background, could not pronounce the name "Karol Wojtyla," and wasn't Catholic. Time and experience overcame all those challenges, and Gibson went on to cover dozens of John Paul II's overseas trips, including papal visits to Africa, Europe, Latin America and the United States.
When Gibson returned to the United States in 1990 he returned to print journalism to cover the religion beat in his native New Jersey for two dailies. He worked first for The Record of Hackensack, and then for The Star-Ledger of New Jersey, winning the nation's top awards in religion writing at both places. In 1999 he won the Supple Religion Writer of the Year contest, and in 2000 he was chosen as the Templeton Religion Reporter of the Year. Gibson is a longtime board member of the Religion Newswriters Association and he is a contributor to ReligionLink, a service of the Religion Newswriters Foundation.
Since 2003, David Gibson has been an independent writer specializing in Catholicism, religion in contemporary America, and early Christian history. His work has appeared in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Fortune, Boston Magazine, Commonweal, America, The New York Observer, Beliefnet and Religion News Service. He has produced documentaries on early Christianity for CNN and other networks and has traveled on assignment to dozens of countries, with an emphasis on reporting from Europe and the Middle East. He is a frequent television commentator and has appeared on the major cable and broadcast networks. He is also a regular speaker at conferences and seminars on Catholicism, religion in America, and journalism.
Gibson's first book, The Coming Catholic Church: How the Faithful are Shaping a New American Catholicism (HarperSanFrancisco), was published in 2003 and deals with the church-wide crisis revealed by the clergy sexual abuse crisis. The book was widely hailed as a "powerful" and "first-rate" treatment of the crisis from "an academically informed journalist of the highest caliber."
His second book, The Rule of Benedict: Pope Benedict XVI and His Battle with the Modern World (HarperSanFrancisco), came out in 2006 and is the first full-scale treatment of the Ratzinger papacy--how it happened, who he is, and what it means for the Catholic Church. The Rule of Benedict has been praised as "an exceptionally interesting and illuminating book" from "a master storyeller."
Born and raised in New Jersey, David Gibson studied European history at Furman University in South Carolina and spent a year working on Capitol Hill before moving to Italy. He lives in Brooklyn with his wife and daughter and is working on a book about conversion, and on several film and television projects.
Denver’s Archbishop Charles Chaput combines an intellectual’s depth with the doughty persona of a politicker, which is what he used to be–he worked for the RFK campaign and later, even as a priest, was a campaign volunteer for Jimmy Carter. […]
The elaborate courtship of Texas televangelist John Hagee–who is covering McCain’s evangelical flank–and the Catholic League’s Bill Donohue, who accused Hagee of anti-Catholicism for his “Great Whore” sermonizing and other standard anti-papist barbs, always seemed to hold about as much […]
An item in the current edition of The Tablet of London hints at a possible opening for divorced and remarried Catholics to receive communion–even though many do, obviously, their ban from the altar under church law remains one of the […]
It is summed up in a response recounted by Father Jim Martin, a Jesuit and author who posts (and edits) at America magazine’s blog. Father Martin has a post on “Three Unreported Papal Stories” from last month’s visit. The third […]
It seems that the former Reagan adviser and Catholic conservative legal scholar from Pepperdine, Doug Kmiec–heretofore a man with impeccable judicial and pro-life credentials–has been barred from communion for his support for Barack Obama. In a posting yesterday, Kmiec did […]
A story in today’s New York Times about a Buddhist couple–he’s a monk–who have vowed never to have sex, but also never to be more than 15 feet from each other: “It forces you to deal with your own emotions […]
Exactly a month after wrapping himself in Pope Benedict XVI’s copious mantle by welcoming the pontiff with a star-spangled White House gala, George W. Bush seems to have forgotten his catechism. In Israel today, Bush used the ocassion of the […]
Well, I may not make it to paradise (at least judging by some comments) but there’s a chance you’ll see E.T. there. Or those weird little guys from Area 51 who can finally solve the mystery for you. Yes, according […]
Michael Paulson had an in-depth article in yesterday’s Globe about the apparent victory of Catholic bishops and alums and advocacy groups who have been pushing Catholic universities to bar Catholic commencement speakers with questionable public views, usually on the flashpoint […]
The evil geniuses at Slate have come up with a series of cellphone rings that will leave those around you with no doubt about your political views. They include Hillary’s laugh (I’d use other descriptors), John McCain calling a young […]
Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City has said that Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius–a Democrat, Catholic, and abortion rights supporter whose name has been mentioned as a possible Obama running mate–should stop receiving communion. The action, outlined in Naumann’s May 9 […]
Former GOP presidential candidate and exemplar of everything Mormon, Mitt Romney, last night received the 12th Annual Canterbury medal from the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, a law firm that (admirably) takes on cases of religious freedom on behalf of […]
Bishop William Murphy of the Diocese of Rockville Center on Long Island released a pastoral letter today [PDF file] ending the fairly common practice of communion services in the absence of a priest–an “extraordinary” form that came into being because […]
While John McCain is arguing that Barack Obama is a friend of Hamas (I guess Hamas has signed on to McCain’s political team to give him advice?), and while Hillary continues to play the race card to bolster her campaign, […]
A week after the Catholic League’s resident megaphone–a.k.a. Bill Donohue–blasted Obama’s blue-ribbon Catholic advisory panel as a bunch of “dissidents” whose presence offends “practicing Catholics” (not to mention making them out to be Catholic versions of Jeremiah Wright) the panel […]
Doug Kmiec, the widely-respected conservative legal scholar and pro-life Catholic, made waves back in March when he wrote a piece in Slate endorsing Obama. Now he is back to reaffirm his endorsement and again explain his position. In short, he […]
Want to know why Obama hasn’t put away the nomination already? One word: Catholics. (Or, for those of you with more ultramontanist sensibilities, two words: Roman Catholics.) We’ve expended lots of bytes debating it here, and it will surely figure […]
Bill Donohue of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights–basically a Catholic version of the Anti-Defamation League, or a wannabe, some would say–is often over the top in denunciations of anti-Catholicism, real or perceived, and of other Cathoilics who […]
I am somewhat reluctant to respond to Deal Hudson’s rejoinder if only because he has such a great walkaway: “Catholics in the GOP may be step children, but not orphans.” I wish I’d thought of it. But I can find […]
The Rev. Jeremiah Wright is not likely to fade into the woodwork anytime soon, but while we’re in the midst of l’affaire Wright and its toll on Barack Obama, it is worth considering another unsettling lesson in all of this: […]
Steve Waldman and Deal Hudson are having a debate about why Clinton is winning the Catholic vote and Obama is not–an interesting development given that the two candidates share most social justice views that might appeal to Catholics, as well […]
Rudy is at it again. Anyone watching the papal mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral on April 19 must have been surprised to see Giuliani–twice-divorced (once annulled), thrice-married, pro-gay rights, pro-abortion rights–take communion. Rudy hadn’t done this before, in my experience–neither […]
The Rev. Jeremiah Wright is back in the news, delivering some fiery (the indispensible adjective with the Rev. Wright) rhetoric yesterday at the close of a meeting of the NAACP’s Detroit branch. Wright’s unrepentant talk and prophetic style are likely […]
Great headline on a Catholic World News report citing a German study linking religiosity and the number of children: “Women of faith found more fertile” Think of all the money you could save on IVF, huh? Well, actually, CWNews is […]
Can’t get enough of Benedict? Or was il papa not your taste? You might try this curiosity–a pope made out of pizza dough. Prudence Emma Staite is a British (did I have to add that?) experimental food artist (don’t ask […]
They are the majority of worshipers every Sunday (and through the week), and they make up some 80 percent of the more than 30,000 lay ministers (and growing fast) serving in the nation’s 19,000 parishes. There are more of them […]
Two refrains often lost amid the accolades for the papal visit is that the trip itself was, as Pope Benedict said, a chance for a new beginning, a first step, not the end of a process. The second refrain was […]
Tim Reidy at America magazine, the flagship Jesuit weekly and a must-read for serious Catholics, had me over for a podcast about the pope’s trip, and it is now on-line at the magazine’s website. Whether it is a “must hear” […]
Q: Did a pope really condemn Galileo for saying the Earth revolves around the Sun? Read more from the papal answer man, Chris Bellitto and his new book, 101 Questions on Popes and the Papacy.
Pontius Pilate famously asked that question and the Gospel of John provides the answer, as did Pope Benedict XVI in recent days, most notably in his talk to young people at St. Joseph’s Seminary in Dunwoodie in New York: “In […]
The homily that sums up the visit, as the Mass was itself the capstone…
Yes, the pope is gone back to Rome. But now is the time to process and learn. So let’s continue with a few more papacy-related quizzes, this time about married popes. Huh? Yes, we’re pretty sure Benedict XVI isn’t married. […]
There are a host of online galleries of papal visit images. Here are a few, with updates to come: America magazine. The New York Times gallery. The Washington Post here and here.
Yes, Kelly Clarkson sang “Ave Maria”, and the Pope nearly forgot to read his text in Spanish. But a good time was had by all. And maybe later everyone will go back and read the text of his talk–very meaty, […]
Q: How many popes are saints? Read more from the papal answer man, Chris Bellitto and his new book, 101 Questions on Popes and the Papacy.
At a news briefing just ended, Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi sought to quell speculation in news reports (including yesterday’s posting here) that Rome was considering changes in the canonical statute of limitations to make it easier to laicize future […]
But Benedict, an avowed animal lover, would surely be pleased by this story from FOX News (via the American Papist) that a young beaver was rescued from the East River during an NYPD security sweep ahead of yesterday’s UN visit. […]
Benedict’s homily (text below) at the mass with priests and seminarians this morning at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York (the first papal mass ever at the great church) was a heartfelt and often lyrical call for American priests to […]
Benedict XVI has earned headlines and goodwill on this, his first visit as pope to the United States, by speaking out repeatedly about his anguish over the clergy sexual abuse scandal and yesterday meeting with a small group of abuse […]
Below is the text of the pope’s speech to the U.N. just concluded. As expected, he’s a “natural” lawyer, and made the case very well. Also check out the CNS story.
In today’s Wall Street Journal I have a column on a thread that is increasingly emerging from the pope’s talks during this visit–namely, the need to recreate a new kind of Catholic culture, while at the same time not creating […]
I saw this shot in Christianity Today recently, and couldn’t pass up a chance to post it. Yes, this blog is about Catholicism. But the pontiff took time out to say “Good yontif,” so we should as well. It’s a […]
It’s been a busy day, so let’s relax with some really useful trivia: Q: I’m confused when I hear “the Vatican,” “the Holy See,” and “Vatican City.” Are they all the same thing? Read more from the papal answer man, […]
So the pope’s surprise meeting with victims capped, and likely dominates, an intense and productive day for Benedict–and those following the visit. Interestingly, the expected priorities (or at least mine, and those of many others observers) did not pan out […]
Here is Benedict’s address to representatives of other religions:
Here is the Pope’s message to the Jewish community on the eve of Passover:
Check out Michael Paulson’s piece in the Boston Globe.
Here is the statement from SNAP (Survivors Network for those Abused by Priests)…SNAP is the engine whose efforts led to this pass, but they also remain on the outside of this meeting, and pushing for more. The meeting between the […]
In a move that could truly be described as a breakthrough after more than six years of crisis for the church in the United States and decades of agony for victims, Pope Benedict XVI this afternoon met with several victims […]
Read the text of Pope Benedict’s homily at Nationals Park this morning:
In a post yesterday on the roots of Benedict’s “conversion” on the issue of sexual abuse by priests–and the enabling behavior of many bishops–I recounted the story of Anne Burke, a widely-respected Illinois jurist and former head of the National […]
No, not the pope. He won’t arrive for a couple hours yet. But they just interviewed the other great ballplayer, er, Catholic, in the house, Mike Piazza. Broadcast on the stadium Jumbotron. Couldn’t hear anything, but no matter. Check out […]
I’d never had breakfast at a ballpark, until today. And I’d never been to the new Nationals Stadium, until we entered early this ayem through the security checkpoints and pre-dawn darkness. A gentle way to start the day, this first […]
If this visit has proved one thing beyond a doubt, it is that Benedict can go the distance–with speech-making, that is. The morning event at the White House was just a throat-clearing for what was to come tonight. Although President […]
While Pope Benedict voiced his revulsion at the sexual abuse scandal for the first time yesterday, it is important to understand that the genesis of his statements went back to a meeting that took place more than four years ago, […]
The indefatigable American Papist, to whom the papal presence is what caffeine is to the rest of us, has a very cool entry on the history of meetings between American presidents and Roman pontiffs, including great photos like this one […]
Yesterday’s strong and welcome words by Benedict XVI to reporters on the papal plane saying he was “deeply ashamed” at the clergy sexual abuse scandal set the tone for his visit–first impressions are important, and those words did a great […]
Yeah, so at the media hotel this morning there they were, on the buffet table (a.k.a. the feeding trough), eggs benedict. I steered clear. At my age, c’mon. They didn’t look like these at the right, but I was convinced […]
(Yes, I’m a day behind, but please forgive.) Today’s question regards the debate over whether there was once a woman pope–a story that has had a longer life than even “The Da Vinci Code”… Q: Was there really a Pope […]
EWTN, Mother Angelica’s legendary Catholic (I won’t put in any controversial modifers) TV station, scored an interview with President Bush about the Pope’s visit…No surprise. Bush and anchor Raymond Arroyo played softball–or perhaps volley ball, as Arroyo mainly set up […]
Over on the Commonweal magazine blog where I occasionally contribute, Sister Mary Wood points out, apropos of my papal fashion story, that the pope has “snubbed” (their words Down Under) the organizers of this July’s World Youth Day in Sydney, […]
This it it: I have tried to maintain a certain degree of poise and charity despite the fact that Pope Benedict XVI is celebrating Mass on Sunday at Yankee Stadium (altar mock-up at right) and ignoring Shea. Full disclosure: I […]
Today’s topic is one of the most controversial–and misunderstood, for Catholics as well as non-Catholics: papal infallibility… QUESTION: Do I have to believe every word the pope says? Read more from the papal answer man, Chris Bellitto and his new […]
Benedict’s vintage vesture has been a topic of much blog-babble and tongue-wagging. No, not just the Prada shoes (knockoffs, actually). Vestments of greater import, including the news that the pope has commissioned a set of 30 new vestments modeled on […]
Dan Burke of RNS poses the question in today’s Washington Post. It’s an interesting question. Bush appoints Catholic justices and talks about “the culture of life.” But…this does not a Catholic make.
Rather than dissipating ahead of Benedict’s visit to New York and Washington, Catholic-Jewish relations appear to be growing more problematic by the day. There is a history here, not just of the past 2,000 years, but also over the past […]
Catholic World News relays news of Polish church officials as saying they would like the heart of the late John Paul brought to his old Wawel cathedral in Krakow as a relic (seriously first class) if–er, when–the Polish pope is […]
A papal visit like next week’s trip to the U.S. by Benedict XVI is an opportunity not only to check out the current occupant of the Chair of St. Peter, but also to learn more about the 2,000-year history of […]
Surely one of the most spiritually and visually powerful moments of the papal visit will be Benedict’s stop at Ground Zero on Sunday morning, April 20, the final day of the visit. The pontiff will not give an address, but […]
In March 2006, Benedict XVI visited the offices of Radio Vaticana at the end of Via della Conciliazione, the wide boulevard in front of St. Peter’s, and went home with an iPod nano, courtesy of the radio staff. The 2-gig […]
Actually, that phrase should be a contradiction in terms. But it’s up to you to decide if a “Christ Our Hope” slim-fit ladies t-shirt is in better taste than the Pope Bobblehead (see post below) that did not please the […]
The pope is very green–as in eco-minded–but his zucchetto, or skullcap, has to be white. That’s one lesson the Washington metro authority learned, the hard way, when it had to yank a YouTube promo video encouraging people to take the […]
With the price tag on the Washington end of the papal trip topping $3 million, I guess everyone has to pitch in…Well, this gem is actually by way of Thomas Peters, aka the American Papist, and a friend who sent […]
Yes, he do. The Vatican has released both a statement and a video message to the United States ahead of Benedict’s trip next week–the latter has been posted on YouTube. It’s not exactly great theater. One can see that English […]
Following on a previous post about a U.S.-based petition to convince Pope Benedict to ban smoking in the Vatican (yeah, right), Vatican Radio did a bit of snooping around the Eternal City and discovered that in the nineteenth century, Pope […]
The obituaries for Charlton Heston tend to play up his larger-than-life roles, such as the fearsome, bearded Moses or the powerful, bare-chested Ben-Hur, or the noble, doomed El Cid. I always think of him as the passionate, difficult genius Michelangelo, […]
The Vatican has issued a clarification of its revision of the old Good Friday prayer that was re-authorized by Pope Benedict as part of his effort to re-introduce the old Latin Mass. Confused? You’re not alone. The Vatican today tried […]
Media mogul and self-professed Big Mouth, Ted Turner, has done a 180 on Christianity, which he once famously described as “a religion for losers.” (Actually, the phrase has a certain theological validity, though I don’t think that’s what Ted meant.) […]
In a development sure to be welcomed by the Jewish community, Pope Benedict has added a stop during his New York leg and will visit the Park East synagogue, long headed by Rabbi Arthur Schneier, a Holocaust survivor and champion […]
Pope John Paul II was the spiritual force behind the Solidarity labor movement that helped bring Soviet-led communism to its knees in the 1980s, but bishops have struggled with unions operating within the walls of the Catholic Church, especially as […]
<!––> Wednesday marks the third anniversary of the death of John Paul II, a passing that provoked such an enormous outpouring that the world—and even the College of Cardinals who gathered with the unenviable task of choosing his successor—was transfixed […]
The pre-papal spinning is picking up speed, though it seems largely in the form of pre-emptive whirling by those who fear Benedict won’t get the fair shake he deserves. I wonder if some of the spinning is so out of […]
Several readers, including the sharp-eyed Thomas Peters and his posse over at American Papist, noticed that one of the questions in our survey–the one on possible roles for women–did not allow for an alternative to the role of “priest” (“priestess”?) […]
Interest groups are cranking up campaigns to take advantage of the publicity attending Benedict’s visit, and among them is one of the more novel approaches I’ve seen: According to a CNS story, Physicians and Nurses Against Tobacco, a U.S.-based group, […]
For those of you who may not know already, if you really want to start a knock down, drag out, mud-slinging dust-up among Catholics, start a debate about LITURGY. Nothing draws attention or raises hackles as quickly, and nothing is […]
As CNS reports, the Popemobile is on its way! I can’t wait till the Magliozzi brothers on “Car Talk” get hold of this one. Popes have almost always used Mercedes (though you’d think the Bavarian Benedict might like a BMW, […]
Actually, that may be “suo.” Is “blog” masculine? I trust this blog is. Perhaps Reggie Foster, the pope’s inimitable Latinist, can help out here. I don’t have enough Latin to know. And it’s not because I am a convert to […]
Yet another papal paradox: The Pope who was expected to create such a stir among Catholics after his election has instead found his greatest controversies centering on his relations with Islam. First he met–in secret, until the word leaked out–with […]
So the popular Build-a-Bear company is getting in on the papal memorabilia craze, having won rights to market, yes, an official Benedict “Christ Our Hope” teddy bear t-shirt. Here’s the catch: The company is only selling the t-shirt in its […]
Don’t let all the talk (much of it mine) of a Gregorian chant-loving, Latin Mass-celebrating, professor-pope turning the April 15-20 visit into a five-day Vespers service. It’s impossible to quell the Jamboree atmosphere surrounding any pope’s visit to America, and […]
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