Top Vatican correspondent, FHSU alumnus John L. Allen returns to campus Oct. 11

National Catholic Reporter correspondent, CNN analyst
to explore cultural gap between Vatican, America

9/24/04 kb

HAYS, KS -- When John L. Allen graduated from Fort Hays State University in 1989 with a degree in philosophy, he did not set out to be a reporter covering one of the biggest, most important news beats in the world.

But that's what he is, covering the Vatican for the National Catholic Reporter, a major, independent Catholic news weekly with an international circulation of more than 120,000. He is sought by broadcast networks around the world for his knowledge and insight into the Vatican.

And he is returning to the FHSU campus, at 7:30 p.m. Monday, Oct. 11, to deliver a speech in the Beach/Schmidt Performing Arts Center titled "Top Five Myths About the Vatican: Exploring the Cultural Gap Between Rome and America."

This presentation is based on his most recent book, All the Pope?s Men: The Inside Story of How the Vatican Really Thinks, published this past July by Doubleday. The publisher describes his book as a "lucid, in-depth guide to the sometimes puzzling, often incomprehensive inner workings of the Vatican" and it "sheds light on how the Vatican perceives the Catholic church in the United States."

Allen's visit to Hays coincides with a nationwide book tour that will take him to Boston, San Antonio, San Francisco and other large cities throughout the country.

After his 45-minute presentation in Beach/Schmidt, Allen will field questions from the audience and participate in a book signing. The event is free and open to the public. All are welcome.

He planned to take his philosophy degree from FHSU to seminary, with the intention of becoming a priest. But, he said in an interview for FHSU Magazine last year, he discovered during his year at seminary that the priesthood was not for him. Instead, he earned a master of arts with an emphasis in Scripture from the University of Kansas. The plan then was to earn a Ph.D. and teach at a college or university.

Real life intervened and Allen took a job teaching at a Catholic high school to support himself and his wife, Shannon. That particular school had a school newspaper but no regular faculty sponsor because no one wanted the job, Allen said, and it had become a sort of tradition that the new guy got it.

Allen, being the new guy, decided that he should learn something about newspapers, reporting, editing, interviewing and so forth.

" In the process," he told FHSU Magazine, "I sort of became seduced by journalism."

Free-lance work brought him to the attention of the Reporter, which hired him full time as an opinion editor in 1997. He opened the paper's Vatican bureau in 2000.

In addition to his work for the Reporter, Allen is a CNN analyst on Vatican affairs, appears on National Public Radio, and is a frequent commentator in other media around the world, including the BBC, Irish Radio and the Australian Broadcasting Corp. He is a regular guest on the Vatican Radio program "The Paper Chase."

Allen has another recent book, Conclave: The Politics, Personalities and Process of the Next Papal Election (also from Doubleday), which is regarded as an indispensable guide to the selection of the next pope.

" The Office of the Provost, the American Democracy Project and the College of Arts and Sciences take great pride in carving out this space for public discussion to give FHSU students, faculty, staff and the surrounding citizenry an evening to hear and converse with the person the Atlantic Monthly has called 'one of the most influential men in Rome,' " said Dr. Larry Gould, FHSU Provost and one of Allen's professors during his time at FHSU.

More information is available from Casey Rackaway, FHSU academic marketing specialist, at (785) 628-4090 or

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