VATICAN CITY - The sense of impenetrability begins at the Vatican gate just beyond St. Peter's Square.
Swiss Guards wearing the colors of the Medici flank the portals of the thick, cappuccino-colored walls and lift their pikes to allow passage only after receiving orders. Farther inside, a gatekeeper checks his list before giving a reluctant nod for a visitor to enter a 12-foot door reinforced with steel and iron spikes to repel invaders. It swings open to allow a visitor into the inner courtyard of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
The Congregation is the theological nerve center of the Vatican and a central arbiter in the handling of priest sex-abuse scandals in the United States and elsewhere.
Inside the fortress-like building, an air of secrecy and monarchical power wafts through elegant, marble halls like a thick plume of incense. A high-level official here began a recent ...