The pope and academia: Recapping this week’s misunderstandings

Students from Rome's Sapienza University display a banner that reads, 'If Benedict doesn't come to La Sapienza, La Sapienza goes to Benedict' and 'Students with the pope,' during Pope Benedict XVI's weekly general audience in the Paul VI hall at the Vatican Jan. 16. (CNS/Reuters)Much has been written this week about the protests against — and subsequent cancellation of — Pope Benedict XVI’s speech at a Rome university on the importance of seeking truth, with much of the commentary aimed at the irony of a community which preaches academic freedom not wanting to hear from someone who members may disagree with.

If you’re still trying to figure this episode out, you shouldn’t miss today’s Vatican Letter by Rome bureau chief John Thavis, who points out that even academics are not immune from acting on misinformation. As John notes:

But as the commentary flowed in the wake of the pope’s university cancellation, it became apparent that many of the protesting professors had very little knowledge of what the pope has actually said or written.

John also notes that, even though students came to the pope’s Wednesday general audience to show their support and the Diocese of Rome organized a show of support in St. Peter’s Square, this week’s episode “suggests that Pope Benedict’s message about reason and faith is missing much of its target audience” even though “it’s a key issue in his pontificate.”

But in the long term, the pope wants to reach the people who are not in the square.

Read on for more of John’s analysis.

PHOTO: Students from Rome’s Sapienza University display a banner that reads, “If Benedict doesn’t come to La Sapienza, La Sapienza goes to Benedict” and “Students with the pope,” during Pope Benedict XVI’s weekly general audience in the Paul VI hall at the Vatican Jan. 16. (CNS/Reuters)

‘Young adults seek heavenly plan at’

An interesting look at, the Paulist Fathers’ Web site aimed at reaching out to young adults, is in this week’s edition of the Catholic Explorer in the Diocese of Joliet, Ill.

More stories timed for Supreme Court anniversary

It would be too hard for me to list all the stories in the Catholic press this week timed to next Tuesday’s anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision. But here are some examples that have come across my desk:

The Catholic Spirit in St. Paul, Minn., offers one of the best stories I’ve seen about sidewalk counseling at an abortion clinic. Covering that story also almost got the paper’s staff photographer in trouble, as detailed here in a great first-person account. There’s also an interesting story about a former abortion clinic guard whose change of heart put him on the other side of the fence.

— Speaking of change of hearts, the story of a couple who felt pressured to have the woman’s tubes tied after the birth of their sixth child, but then decided to have the operation reversed so they could have a seventh, is lovingly detailed by The Georgia Bulletin in Atlanta.