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Pope Benedict the liberal?

There’s a moment in Keith Richards’ recent memoir when he pauses his tale of addiction and debauchery to reflect that, once a certain number of stories about his excesses had been told and retold in public, his reputation became fixed. No countervailing or complicating evidence of moderation could change it. “Image is like a long shadow,” he writes. “Even when the sun goes down, you can see it.” In this, and most likely nothing else, the Rolling Stones’ guitarist is a bit like Pope Benedict XVI.

When Benedict delivered last year’s address to the Vatican diplomatic corps, it was reported by Reuters under the headline “Gay marriage a threat to humanity’s future: Pope.” Never mind that the lengthy speech contained no reference to gay marriage, and only one reference to opposite-sex marriage. (The speech noted that “policies which undermine the family threaten human dignity and the future of humanity itself.” This may imply same-sex marriage, but the “policies” he explicitly identified—prenatal sex selection and the patenting of human embryonic stem cells—were denied top billing in the press.)

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