John L. Allen, Jr.

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John L. Allen, Jr.

John L. Allen, Jr. (born 1965) is an American journalist serving as associate editor of The Boston Globe and of its website Crux: Covering all things Catholic, specializing in news about the Catholic Church. Before moving to the Globe in 2014, he worked for 16 years in Rome as a Vatican watcher, covering news about the Holy See and the Pope. During that time he was senior correspondent for the National Catholic Reporter and an analyst of Vatican affairs for CNN and NPR. He has been called "America’s leading Vaticanist."[1]

Allen is also the author of several books about the Catholic Church. He has written two biographies of Pope Benedict XVI, the first one published in 2000 when the Pope was still a cardinal and later the first biography of him in English.


Allen grew up in Kansas. Both his grade school and his high school, Thomas More Prep-Marian, were in Hays, Kansas, and run by the Capuchin Franciscans. Allen graduated from high school in 1983.[2] He received a bachelor's degree in philosophy from Fort Hays State University and a master's degree in religious studies from the University of Kansas. For several years, Allen taught journalism and oversaw the student-run newspaper, The Knight, at Notre Dame High School in Sherman Oaks, California. On November 5, 2011, the University of St. Michael's College in Toronto, Ontario. awarded him an honorary degree of Doctor of Sacred Letters (D.S.Litt.).

During the coverage of the death of Pope John Paul II, Allen frequently appeared on CNN. He then became the Vatican analyst for CNN and NPR. He also delivers lectures discussing Vatican issues and his latest works.

In 2014, Allen took up a position as associate editor with the Boston Globe, and helped to launch its new website, Crux (website).[3]

Allen's former paper, the National Catholic Reporter, is associated with "liberal" or dissident authors writing about the Catholic Church, although the neoconservative George Weigel has also praised him.[4]

Allen and his wife Shannon live in Denver, Colorado.


Allen writes regularly for Crux, and also writes a weekly column for the Boston Globe called "All Things Catholic". That was also the name of his column at the National Catholic Reporter. Before the middle of 2006, it was known as "The Word from Rome".

In addition to this column and occasional other pieces for NCR, Allen's work as a journalist has been appeared in the New York Times, CNN, NPR, The Tablet, Jesus, Second Opinion, The Nation, the Miami Herald, Die Furche, and the Irish Examiner.

Allen is the author of several books, including one about Opus Dei, Opus Dei: An Objective Look Behind the Myths and Reality of the Most Controversial Force in the Catholic Church and two about Pope Benedict XVI. The first was written before Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger became pope, the other after his election to the papacy. They were all published by Doubleday Random House.

In 2000, Allen published Cardinal Ratzinger: The Vatican's Enforcer of the Faith, a biography. Several reviewers criticized as biased against Ratzinger. Joseph Komonchak called it "Manichaean journalism."[5] After some examination, Allen concluded that these criticisms were valid.[6] In his next biography of Ratzinger, The Rise of Benedict XVI: The Inside Story of How the Pope Was Elected and Where He Will Take the Catholic Church (2005), Allen tried to be fair to all sides and viewpoints. Allen acknowledged that his first book was "unbalanced" because it was his first book and was written, he wrote, "before I arrived in Rome and before I really knew a lot about the universal church." He said his second biography "gives prominent voice to criticisms of Ratzinger; it does not give equally prominent voice to how he himself would see some of these issues."[7]

John L. Allen, Jr. with Pope Benedict XVI

Kenneth L. Woodward, former religion editor for Newsweek, wrote in 2005: "Outside of the North Korean government in Pyongyang, no bureaucracy is harder for a journalist to crack than the Vatican's. And no one does it better than John L. Allen Jr. ... In just three years, Allen has become the journalist other reporters—and not a few cardinals—look to for the inside story on how all the pope's men direct the world's largest church."[8] According to the London Tablet, Allen is "the most authoritative Vatican writer in the English language."[citation needed]

Allen was critical of how the Vatican communicated the decision to lift the excommunications of the bishops of the Society of Saint Pius X.[9]

Allen said that one of his reasons for writing his study of Opus Dei was that he felt that liberal and conservative Catholics were too often shouting at each other, and he hoped that a book that tried to be fair to all sides would lead to civilized discussion. According to John Romanowsky of Godspy, Allen's ability to report without revealing his personal opinion has been called "maddening".[10]


  1. ^ White, Hillary (March 5, 2015). "The attack on Cardinal Pell: is someone trying to silence his voice for orthodoxy?". LifeSite News. Retrieved March 5, 2015. 
  2. ^ "Capuchins elect brother to Rome post". National Catholic Reporter. September 8, 2006. Retrieved August 8, 2009. 
  3. ^ Coday, Dennis (January 7, 2014). "John Allen to cover Catholicism, the Vatican for Boston Globe". National Catholic Reporter. Retrieved January 10, 2014. 
  4. ^ e.g., Stern, Amy (April 1, 2008). "The Pope Comes to America". The Pew Forum on Religion & Public life. Retrieved April 9, 2008. 
  5. ^ Joseph Komonchak, book review, in Commonweal, 2000.
  6. ^ Allen, John (June 25, 2004). "Catholic Common Ground Lecture". National Catholic Reporter. Retrieved March 12, 2009. 
  7. ^ "What to Expect from Benedict XVI". Beliefnet. April 2005. Retrieved March 13, 2009. 
  8. ^ Woodward, Kenneth L. (January 18, 2004). "An All-Seeing Outsider". Newsweek. Retrieved January 10, 2014. 
  9. ^ "The Lefebvrite case: What was the Vatican thinking?". National Catholic Reporter. January 30, 2009. Retrieved February 19, 2009. 
  10. ^ Romanowsky, John (December 22, 2005). "Unveiling Opus Dei: An Interview with John L. Allen". GodSpy. Retrieved January 10, 2014. 


Books by John Allen:

  • Cardinal Ratzinger: The Vatican's Enforcer of the Faith. NY: Continuum, 2000. ISBN 0-8264-1265-3.
  • Conclave: The Politics, Personalities, and Process of the Next Papal Election. New York: Doubleday/Image, 2002, revised 2004. ISBN 0-385-50453-5.
  • All the Pope's Men: The Inside Story of How the Vatican Really Thinks. (Hardcover) New York: Doubleday, 2004. ISBN 0-385-50966-9. (Trade Paperback) New York: Doubleday/Image October 2006. ISBN 0-385-50967-7.
  • Pope Benedict XVI: A Biography of Joseph Ratzinger. NY: Continuum International Publishing Group, 2005. ISBN 0-8264-1786-8. This is a reprint of Allen's 2000 book Cardinal Ratzinger, reprinted under a new title without Allen's permission.
  • The Rise of Benedict XVI: The Inside Story of How the Pope Was Elected and Where He Will Take the Catholic Church. (Hardcover) NY: Doubleday, 2005. ISBN 0-385-51320-8. (Trade Paperback) New York: Doubleday/Image October 2006. ISBN 0-385-51321-6.
  • Opus Dei: An Objective Look Behind the Myths and Reality of the Most Controversial Force in the Catholic Church. NY: Doubleday, 2005. ISBN 0-385-51449-2.
  • The Future Church: How Ten Trends are Revolutionizing the Catholic Church. NY: Doubleday, 2009. ISBN 0-385-52038-7.
  • A People of Hope: Archbishop Timothy Dolan in Conversation with John L. Allen Jr, 2011
  • The Catholic Church: What Everyone Needs to Know 2013
  • The Global War on Christians: Dispatches from the Front Lines of Anti-Christian Persecution, 2013
  • Crux articles – Archive of John Allen's articles on "Crux: Covering all things Catholic
  • Boston Globe articles – Archive of John Allen's column in the Boston Globe
  • All Things Catholic – Archive of John Allen's column in the National Catholic Reporter
  • The Scoop on the Pope – article about Allen by Kenneth Woodward
  • Interview with Allen in which he discusses his Opus Dei book and his views on "liberal/conservative" issues
  • John L. Allen in Lecturalia (Spanish)

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