Russell Shorto

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Monthly Archives: May 2015

The Two Popes

Friday, May 15, 2015

Sandro Magister is the most astute Italian journalist covering the Vatican. He has a better read on its inner workings than anyone else. He has just written a remarkable piece in which he peels away the media hype surrounding Pope Francis and shows what is actually happening in Francis’ pontificate. Magister says that while in the media Francis is a revolutionary who is sweeping out the old guard and old ways and instilling a new focus on the poor and, much to the consternation of conservatives, calling for change in the way the Vatican looks at homosexuality, divorce and climate change, the reality is quite different. The central power in the Vatican is the Curia, and, Magister notes, there has been no change in it: The Curia “is still there and completely intact. Nothing has been dismantled or replaced.” The Vatican’s career diplomats, he goes on to say, “are more firmly in power than ever.” As for the big issues of homosexuality and divorce, the Pope talked publicly about them, and made a huge stir with his “Who am I to judge?” comment. But Magister notes that since Francis encountered hostility to change from the inner circle he has largely … Continue reading


PEN and Charlie Hebdo

Saturday, May 2, 2015

For the few people who may be interested in the thinking behind my decision to put my name with 144 other writers in speaking out against the decision by PEN to give its Freedom of Expression Courage Award to the French magazine “Charlie Hebdo,” here is a brief outline. I fully agreed with the “Je Suis Charlie” wave of support in the aftermath of the attack in Paris. I am an advocate of unfettered free speech. I abhor violent efforts to restrict it. Further, I am no fan of religion, of any sort. The PEN issue, however, is somewhat different. It is an award. An award ought to go to the best exponent of whatever it is honoring. While I support Charlie Hebdo’s right to speak and criticize, and found that it certainly took courage to do what they did, I concluded that, in terms of the larger effort to reduce the influence of religion on humanity, which is what I view the magazine’s purpose to be, and which is laudable in my mind, it was muddled. Its writers and artists may not be racist at all, but in my estimation the overall effect of the magazine has been to … Continue reading