When Pope Benedict XVI visited Africa last March, he made countless pleas on behalf of the poor and the war-weary. Yet the words that got the most attention were spoken on the papal plane when he said condoms are part of the problem, not the solution to Africa’s HIV/AIDS pandemic.
And so it was in the year of religion in 2009, when well-intended gestures of goodwill and reconciliation erupted into firestorms of controversy. Even the best-laid plans often carry unforeseen consequences.
“People can have good motives toward a middle position and cooperation and all of that, but it just turns out to be extremely difficult to do because our divisions are so deep-seated,” said John Green, director of the Bliss Institute of Applied Politics at the University of Akron.
Many of the controversies revolved around a president and a pope, both of whom spark strong personal reactions.