March 16, 2013
There’s an old saying that goes something like, “Everyone has two businesses, his own and show business.” I think something similar could be said about the Catholic Church. Everyone who cares about Christianity — perhaps everyone who cares about western religion at all — feels he has a stake in it. A Catholic would say this is because his is the one true church, but it’s probably just because for so many centuries the history of the Catholic Church and the history of the west were fully intertwined.
In any case, when someone wants to talk about Christianity as oppressive or backward, they immediately begin a learned discussion about how the pope killed and devoured Galileo. If a screenwriter needs a character to battle the devil, he brings in a Catholic priest. (If you just want to make the devil laugh, you call an Episcopalian.) And when a new pope is chosen, everyone seems to take an interest and everyone seems to have an opinion. This remains true even if the person with an opinion doesn’t know a single thing about the Catholic Church or religion or history or anything — by which I mean, he’s an American journalist.
I was in L.A. when the announcement was made — which is to say I was stuck in my car listening to the whole thing on the radio. And the coverage by our friends in the media was genuinely hilarious — really laugh-out-loud, wipe-your-eyes funny. The going theory seemed to be that there had been some sort of tension in the conclave between choosing a new pope who would adhere to the 2,000-year-old teachings of Catholicism or choosing one who would lighten up and finally begin to accept the deeper truth of the journalist’s trendy opinions. To the media, it was clearly a disappointing surprise when church doctrine won out.
My friends at the Media Research Center caught the tenor of the coverage by linking to this NBC.Com “To Do List,” for the new pope, which included this gem:
6. Modernization. Majorities of Catholics in the United States have said in surveys that they want the pope to lead the church in a more liberal direction. A New York Times/CBS News poll of Catholics last week found that six in 10 support gay marriage, and seven in 10 want the church to allow birth control. Three-quarters supported abortion in at least some circumstances. In Argentina, then-Cardinal Bergoglio clashed with the president over a 2010 law allowing gay marriage. “It is a move by the father of lies to confuse and deceive the children of God,” he said.
Here’s my “To Do List,” for NBC.com:
1. Get a Clue. Guess whose job it isn’t to bring the church in line with public opinion? If you answered, “The Pope,” you are correct. Knuckleheads.
Much more on the next page.
Another good one, still via MRC, was this exchange between NBC’s Matt Lauer and Cardinal Dolan of New York:
LAUER: I think when he stepped out on to the Loggia yesterday, there was some stunned silence for a second. I think some had expected a younger man, he’s 76. Some had expected someone who at least visually seemed to epitomized a more modern Church. When you looked at that image of the new pope standing with some members of the Church hierarchy, visually, Cardinal Dolan, it didn’t exactly scream a modern Church.DOLAN: Oh, why don’t you go soak your head, you superficial clown!
Okay, I made the Dolan part up. The cardinal, in fact, exhibited his usual patience, politeness, and skill in turning aside the presumption, dishonesty, and stupidity of Lauer’s question. How did Lauer know what the crowd was thinking? As far as I could tell, they were screaming like bobby-soxers for Elvis.[Sinatra, I meant! ]Why not just phrase the question honestly:
LAUER: For myself, who hasn’t been inside a church since I sold my soul to get this job, this whole thing has been a massive disappointment. I was hoping for a younger man. Or a woman even. Maybe a lesbian. Black. Someone who would symbolize and even incarnate my hope that the church would so meld with modern concerns and prejudices that there would finally be no way of distinguishing the wisdom of the centuries from the leftist fad of the moment. Then Catholicism could disappear just like Episcopalianism has and for exactly the same reasons. That would’ve made my job a lot easier, let me tell you. SAY YOU LOVE SATAN, CARDINAL! SAY IT! SAAAAAAY IT!!!!DOLAN: Oh, why don’t you go soak your head, you superficial clown!
My own first impression is that the new pope is clearly a boon for actor Jonathan Pryce, who should be able to dine out for free on separated-at-birth jokes for the next few months.
More seriously, he seems to be a good dude, who takes his Jesus seriously and has shown humility in the modest way he has lived and courage in the way he’s faced down the leftists who run Argentina. I hope he’s brought along his official Jesus-in-the-Temple knotted rope. He’s going to need it to clean out the corruption, abuse, and ignorance that has riddled the institution.
And after he’s done with NBC News, he can move on to cleaning out the Vatican.