Popes visit to the US and His choice words.

As soon as Pope Benedict starts speaking publicly on American soil, all those interested, Catholics or not, should pay attention to the three possible layers of his message.

His message’s first layer will be obvious and predictable. The pope will repeat the church’s teachings on all the “controversial” issues: the beginning and the end of life, marriage, family, celibate priesthood and Catholic education. After all, the pope is, of course, Catholic, so do not expect surprise announcements about lay people electing bishops or women becoming priests.

A second aspect of Pope Benedict that might appear in his addresses — the second layer — is the fact that “political correctness” is not in his dictionary. His straightforward approach is evident in the surprising and controversial statements he has made in places like Regensburg and Aparecida, Brazil. This Pope is a creative, independent thinker, and he is more used to intellectual honesty than to crowd-pleasing.

But I believe the “meat” of his visit will be delivered in “Ratzingerian” — the third layer of his message that, I am afraid, most of the press will miss.

This meaty but mostly stealthy part of his message will not come in the form of catchy phrases that are easy to quote or to show on TV. To get to this layer, some of his phrases, though abstruse at first sight, will have to be reread with two crucial keys of interpretation:


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