Despite Pope Benedict's adherence to Catholic doctrine and being trapped in the 13th century (yes, I'm being sarcastic), the pontiff's popularity continues to grow, writes Sandro Magister for Chiesa:
But the impression gathered from looking at the big numbers is different. On his voyages, Benedict XVI has always demonstrated levels of popularity beyond expectations. Not only in Africa, but also in difficult venues like the United States or France. In Rome, at the Angelus on Sunday at noon, St. Peter's Square is more packed, every time, than during the years of John Paul II.
This does not mean that these same crowds consistently accept and practice the teachings of the pope and of the Church. Countless surveys show that on marriage, sexuality, abortion, euthanasia, contraception, the views of a large number of people are more or less distant from the Catholic magisterium.
At the same time, however, many of these same people demonstrate a deeply rooted respect for the figure of the pope and the authority of the Church.
Italy is a case in point. On March 25, in "la Repubblica" – the leading progressive newspaper, and very caustic in criticizing Benedict XVI – the sociologist Ilvo Diamanti provided yet another confirmation of the high levels of confidence that Italians continue to show toward the Church and the pope, in spite of widespread disagreement on various points of their teaching.
For example, when asked to say whether they are for or against the pope's statement that condoms "do not resolve the problem of AIDS, but aggravate it," three out of four say they are against.
But the same respondents, when asked whether they trust the Church, respond "greatly" or "very much," to the tune of 58.1 percent. And confidence in Benedict XVI is also very high, at 54.9 percent.
At the risk of sounding glib or revealing what I sometimes watch on television, I think this reflects what I'll call the "The Corollary of Cowell." This is, simply put, that despite being the most disliked and supposedly unfair of the "American Idol" judges, Simon Cowell is clearly the judge whose opinion matters the most to contestants. This corollary follows from the more basic and well-established theorem that can be titled "Truth Attracts." In a piece I wrote back in 2002, I stated: