Long-time followers will know that it has been months since I posted in this space. As they also know, I am on sabbatical, and have been traveling the world, lecturing, observing, reflecting…mostly on issues of media and religion.

I am now in Brazil, starting my second month. Brazil is an unparalleled context for observing the mediation of religion, or as they call it here, “mediatic religion.” By they mean the actions of religious groups, individuals, and organizations, to actively engage in the media sphere.

As you also probably realize, I think that such action is only part of the story. Aggressive use of media by religion is only one category among several that constitute relations between religion and media. Two other prominent ones are the category where popular (what we once called “secular”) media serve religious or spiritual functions, and the category where the media turn their lenses and their pens, and their digits on religion: framing it in various ways and in various contexts.

Brazil has also been a fascinating context from which to witness the recent Papal Succession. These events have unleashed an unprecendented frenzy of conversation online and in the press about the public face of Catholicism and its prospects. I’m intending to write about several related topics in the coming days in this space.

First, a reflection on that last category of meida and religion: the coverage of religion by the media. A fascinating case study presented itself here in Brazil, one that I’d invite readers to help me understand.

Second, Benedict’s own reflections on his reign as he left town provide a sterling opportunity to think about how he and other authorities in the Church have thought about its relations to the wider culture.

Finally, a series of columns by the New York Times’s Ross Douthat, who has positioned himself as a kind of voice of Catholic traditionalism in the midst of all of this. I’ve found his writings intriguing–if misguided in many ways, and I hope to comment on them.