Anyone hoping for a really controversial papal visit (and some were) would have to be disappointed last week. Pope Benedict XVI didn't publicly decry the Iraqi war and he praised American generosity, vitality and faith. Still, he wasn't afraid to tackle some difficult topics.
He addressed the problem of pedophile priests, chiding US bishops for mishandling the problem but also laying some of the blame on society at large: "What does it mean to speak of child protection when pornography and violence can be viewed in so many homes through media widely available today?"
And while he may not have taken George Bush to the "papal woodshed" for the Iraqi war, Pope Benedict did urge "patient diplomacy to resolve conflicts" and promised before he came to privately discuss immigration and the war.
The pope's immigrant comments raised the ire of anti-immigration Rep. Tom Tancredo. Pope Benedict told U.S. Bishops to help immigrants:
I want to encourage you and your communities to continue to welcome the immigrants who join your ranks today, to share their joys and hopes, to support them in their sorrows and trials, and to help them flourish in their new home. This, indeed, is what your fellow countrymen have done for generations. From the beginning, they have opened their doors to the tired, the poor, the "huddled masses yearning to breathe free."
Tancredo said the pope was inappropriately engaging in American politics and speculated that the pope was promoting immigration to prop up the Church's waning numbers. Another immigrant activist echoed Tancredo, and CNN's Lou Dobbs was miffed, too. National Review's Kathryn Jean Lopez told Tancredo to calm down, noting that the pope made no such specific policy statements. Wall Street Journal editors agreed: "You know the restrictionists have gone head-first into the fever swamps when they denounce a Christian religious leader for sounding like a Christian."
The pope also made an attempt to diffuse recent tension with the Jewish community after he reinstated a prayer for Jewish conversion in the Latin Mass. Pope Benedict XVI met privately with Jewish leaders and became the first pope to visit a Jewish synagogue in the United States.
In an intriguing SFGate column, Kathleen Parker says she may not agree with the pope, but she takes an comfort in seeing him take a stand:
Even for non-Catholics like me, there's something comforting about a stubborn pope in a world of moral relativity. Like a strong father, he ignores his children's pleas for leniency, knowing that his rules, though tough, serve a higher purpose.