What is this thing we call the Vatican?

John Allen gives an indepth look at the issues and implications raised by a lawsuit in Kentucky that is trying to sort out the legal relationship between the Pope and Vatican and the bishops and diocese of the local church. Read John's story, The autonomy of bishops, and suing the Vatican, slowly; it has many subtle points.

Are the pope and the Vatican CEO and corporate office and bishops the managers of the local affiliates? Or are the bishops more like independent operators of locally owned franchises?

A good companion piece comes from the Vatican correspondent for Religion News Service, Francis X. Rocca, who offers up some reactions to the arguments in the lawsuit: Vatican, courts wrestle over who controls bishops

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