This week's guest editors

openDemocracy writers assess the legacy of the Polish pope, Karol Wojtyła, and ask whether the world's most powerful religious institution can be made more democratic.

Pope Francis: a theology for change

Pope Francis's fresh, informal style has been met with popular acclaim during his first year in office. But his planned reforms will be hard for many in the Catholic Church to accept, says Michael Walsh.

The Vatican on trial

The trial of the pope's former butler and the letter of a senior archbishop are but two episodes revealing the deep dysfunction at the heart of Pope Benedict's city-state, says Michael Walsh.

The Vatican and Ireland

A series of abuse and cover-up scandals within the Catholic church has alienated many in in one of its historic heartlands. But the Vatican remains in denial, says Michael Walsh.

Pope Benedict: the faith of authority

A delicate papal visit to Britain was in the end a diplomatic success. All the more reason to examine the ideas it advanced, says Michael Walsh.

Pope Benedict's divisions

The current form of governance of the Catholic church and the Vatican City State raises fundamental questions about these institutions - and their titular head, says Michael Walsh.

The Catholic church’s scandal: modern crisis, ancient roots

The sexual violation of young people within the Catholic church is the poisonous legacy of a long tradition of contempt for human sexuality in an institution which has privileged secrecy and unaccountable power over transparency and participation. But the silence and darkness revealed by the scandal must not be allowed to define the majority of Catholics who are the living church, says Tina Beattie.

The Vatican’s fix: abuse and renewal

The burgeoning international scandal involving the abuse of children by Catholic clergy is the biggest crisis for the church since the 16th-century reformation, says Michael Walsh.

The Vatican’s debacle

For Pope Benedict XVI it has been a disaster. On 21 January 2009, the very day a decree was signed revoking the excommunication of four bishops, Swedish television broadcast an interview it had recorded in November 2008 with one of them, Richard Williamson.

The pope’s mixed signals

A minor feature of Pope Benedict XVI's trip to the United States on 15-20 April 2008 was to highlight the awkwardness of George W Bush. The embattled president had already defied protocol by meeting the pontiff at the airport on his arrival, and then compounded embarrassment by hosting a party to celebrate Benedict's 81st birthday, only to find that the pope was otherwise engaged (though several Vatican functionaries turned up to represent him, thus to some degree saving Bush's face).

Pope Benedict XVI: forward to the past

Just in case then point had not been picked up, Pope Benedict XVI repeated it on 12 September 2007 at his customary Wednesday general audience in Rome. He reflected on his trip to Austria on 7-9 September, the ostensible purpose of which being a visit to the ancient Marian shrine of Mariazell, and spoke of meeting in Vienna representatives of the diplomatic corps.

Michael Walsh is a writer and broadcaster. He was librarian at Heythrop College from 1972 to 2001. Among his books are The Secret World of Opus Dei (HarperCollins, 2004) and The Conclave: A Sometimes Secret and Occasionally Bloody History (Canterbury Press, 2003 )

Also by Michael Walsh in openDemocracy:

"Cutting the Vatican down to size" (5 April 2005)

"From Joseph Ratzinger to Pope Benedict XVI" (20 April 2005)

"The Regensburg address: reason amid certainty" (20 September 2006)

"The Pope and the Patriarch" (4 December 2006)

Benedict XVI in Brazil: raising the Catholic flag

The shifting religious landscape of Brazil presents a major challenge of policy and empathy to the visiting conservative pope, says Rodrigo de Almeida.

The Pope and the Patriarch

Pope Benedict XVI's visit to Turkey was as important for Catholic-Orthodox dialogue as for European-Turkish, says Michael Walsh. But in healing one breach did it open another?

Poland's past and future pope

One year after the death of Pope John Paul II, Adam Szostkiewicz links Poland’s preparations for the visit of his successor Benedict XVI to concerns over the future of a Catholic media empire.

Who rules Italy?

The Vatican’s boycott campaign helped turn Italians’ passionate debate over fertility treatment and embryo research into a referendum flop. Sarah Pozzoli assesses the democratic fallout.

From Joseph Ratzinger to Pope Benedict XVI

The cardinals’ choice of new pope reflects the Catholic church’s crisis of modernity, says Michael Walsh.

Cardinal Chernenko?

Joseph Ratzinger, the new Pope Benedict XVI, could represent the long withdrawing roar of a sclerotic Kremlin-like empire, says Andrew Brown.

The Catholic church is not a democracy

The heartbeat of the Catholic church is in the poor south, and it pulses for fundamental truths not liberal nostrums, says Joanna Bogle.

Catholics, Iraq, women, and modernity

Pope John Paul II’s failure of political nerve and imagination leaves the Catholic church facing a decisive choice, says Rabbi Arthur Waskow.

The Catholic church and democracy: a reply to Neal Ascherson

Pope John Pauls II’s death leaves Catholics worldwide needing to grow spaces of dialogue where appropriate forms of democracy become possible, says Timothy Radcliffe.

The Vatican, the Kremlin and the Feminine

Women are leading the challenge of renewal to the 21st-century Catholic church, says Lavinia Byrne.

The five minutes of Pope John Paul II

As millions gather to witness the Polish pope’s Rome burial, Ariel Dorfman recalls the five minutes in Chile that define his life’s paradox.

Cardinal Arns of Brazil on Pope John Paul II, the Vatican and the poor

The retired archbishop of São Paulo reveals to Laura Greenhalgh the Polish pope’s unexpected sympathy for “liberation theology” and frustrations with his Vatican advisers.

Cutting the Vatican down to size

Can democratic reform of the Catholic church escape the stifling influence of the Vatican? Michael Walsh of Heythrop College proposes creative ways forward.

Through the Vatican white smoke

Pope John Paul II's successor will be chosen by a secretive, top-down process. Austen Ivereigh, press secretary to one of the cardinals involved, calls for reform in the way the church is governed.

Through the Vatican white smoke

Pope John Paul II's successor will be chosen by a secretive, top-down process. Austen Ivereigh, press secretary to one of the cardinals involved, calls for reform in the way the church is governed.

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