Monday, February 11, 2013

REMIND ME AGAIN: WHY IS THIS THE BIGGEST NEWS STORY IN AMERICA?

The pope is resigning, as I'm sure you know. I caught a bit of the weekly Cokie Roberts segment on NPR this morning, and the lead-in said that, well, the conversation was going to be about tomorrow night's State of the Union address, but then the pope resigned, and obviously that's a much, much bigger story....

Really? To American audiences? Why?

Even though I grew up Catholic, I don't understand why Catholicism continues to get so much play in the American news media. I have a couple of theories: First, the Catholic leadership is the British monarchy for semi-smart people, a glossy group of royals to fantasize about. Second, U.S. news organizations are stuck in the 1940s, when America was in the process of being remade by an influx of FDR-loving immigrants and their descendants, many of them Catholic. And Europe, still the center of the universe at the time, was obviously full of Catholics.

But Europe is now full of empty Catholic churches and non-believing descendants of those churches' former parishioners, while America is full of cafeteria Catholics who favor Democratic presidential candidates even though the Church has aligned itself with Republicans. The conflicts that keep world leaders awake at night largely involve Muslims, economic power is shifting to China and India ... and yet serious journalists obsess over the pope the way People magazine obsesses over the British royals. It's peculiar. (And it's offensive that we ascribe moral weight to the Church on any issue after so many revelations of covered-up abuses.)

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I've looked at a number of articles speculating on who might be the next pope. Hmmm, who's your favorite? The potential next pope who thinks gay marriage and assisted fertilization are "shocking" and an "earthquake" undermining families? Or the one who called abortion "terrorism with a human face" and called gay marriage "evil"? Or the one who says, "In many parts of the world, the family is under siege. It is opposed by an anti-life mentality as is seen in contraception, abortion, infanticide and euthanasia. It is scorned and banalized by pornography, desecrated by fornication and adultery, mocked by homosexuality, sabotaged by irregular unions and cut in two by divorce"? Or maybe the one who has consistently refused to apologize for priestly pedophilia, even as his own brother -- not a priest -- went to prison for having sex with a 13-year-old and a 15-year-old, then took out a newspaper ad saying his mistake was succumbing to their "advances"? (That's the story of Cardinal Marc Ouellet of Quebec, whom many seem to consider the front-runner.)

The "earthquake" guy, Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, might at least be moderately good copy -- he peppers his public statements with cultural allusions (Claude Levi-Strauss, Oscar Wilde) and says he regrets he never got to talk to Christopher Hitchens about atheism. He's also affirmed the Church's endorsement of evolution and (to the horror of Jim Hoft at Gateway Pundit) denounced the killing of civilians in Gaza (though he's said that those who accused him of calling the Israelis"baby-killers" were misquoting him). But the Catholic Church often parts company with the right on foreign policy (the Vatican was never fond of the Iraq War), and here in America, right-wingers shrug that off, while using Catholic anger on sex issues to beat liberals with.

So we'll see what happens. In any event, the Church will almost certainly stay exactly where it is on culture-war issues; the only question is who the figurehead will be.

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And I'll close with this:

8 comments:

Victor said...

Me?
As a person baptised in the Russian Orthodox Church, and an Agnostic bordering on Atheism, I could give a sh*t.

Oh, but yes, soon, SOON, the College of Cardinals With Carnal Knowledge will get together, and the child-feckers will decide who their new Chief Rat-fecker is going to be.

And until the new Pope, God's infallible messenger on Earth is chosen, and smoke comes out of the same chimney that St. Nick crawled down a little over a month ago, we'll all be saturated by the MSM with "All Pope - All Of The Time!!!"

Otherwise known, as "Papal View," my friends.

They can't pick the next grifting child-fecker fast enough to suit my taste

And after JPII and BeneDICK, I don't suspect there's any Liberal left to be chosen, so get that out of your pretty little heads, ladies and gentlemen.

No "peace and love."
Just more lady-parts and h*mo's.

I'm pretty sure that the guy who replaces BeneDICK will tell the world, that for all of the great things BeneDICK did, and JPII before him, they weren't "CONSERVATIVE ENOUGH!!"

And soon, evil assclowns like Bill Donohue will making appearances on FOX's new 'WBC' channel:
'WBC,' being short for Fox's 'Witch Burning Channel.'

Philo Vaihinger said...

The Catholic Church is the strongest remaining bastion of supernatural and anti-liberal Christian faith and morals within Western Civilization.

A genuinely liberal pope would make John XXIII look like the medieval relic he actually was and would seriously undermine religious, moral, and political conservatism everywhere in the New World.

Think of a Catholic Church open to contraception, abortion, gay marriage, ordination of women, and married clergy.

Philo Vaihinger said...

oh, you predict,

"In any event, the Church will almost certainly stay exactly where it is on culture-war issues; the only question is who the figurehead will be."

90 to 95% confidence, I would say.

Maybe 98 or 99.

aimai said...

If the Pope were as unglamorous, say, as the Dalai Lama in exile we wouldn't hear anything about him. But he's head of his own state and dresses in gucci and prada and he has very loyal followers everywhere--quite high up--who insist that we care about what he does and says. In addition I think that the US press, specifically, has yet to grasp how very "over" catholicism is in Western Europe. They just don't follow the declericalisation of europe as a thing in its own right. To the extent that they report on religion in Europe they compartamentalize it into "islamicization" and "atheism" (scare stories) and assume a background of "normal" which includes the happy priest and his flock everywhere else (cute fuzzy stories).

The steady drumbeat of scandal, financial drama, sex, abuse, etc... all seem to happen for reporters in discrete boxes. For outsiders the obvious link ("Catholicism") seems clear. For the media there's pomp and circumstance--literally hours can be spent on the whole "white smoke" thing--and then there's the nitty gritty of reporting on what has really become a massive international criminal syndicate. Naturally they prefer to report on the feely goody part (Bing Crosby style) and hope nobody bring up the bodies.

Ten Bears said...

Let's see... the Pope is the antichrist and the princess is is pregnant and who is it exactly that is ripping me off for forty-seven years social security? Seriously folk, let us treat this shit the way we've treated the gorilla from wasilla these past couple of years: ignore it. It's worthless pile of dog shit and if you don't pay attention to it it will go away.

Examinator said...

WTF?
[" First, the Catholic leadership is the British monarchy for semi-smart people, a glossy group of royals to fantasize about".]
Ever head of King Henry VIII
and the purges that formed the Church of England of which the Queen of England is the nominal head of ?
In the US they're the Episcopalians.
I think you'll find it has something to with France's(a catholic country) support in the War of Independence . the US was founded by religious outcasts read anti English C of E prejudices against Catholics who were subject to the pope(France's claims on England)
One could add to that the migrations of Irish Catholics during and after the potato plague (millions) then the Italian migrants Also Catholic.

Both Parties have their royal Dynasties The 'Kenedys' for Dems and the 'Bush' for the Republicans. The religious connotations are there too.
They typify the two camps one East coast elites the other southern capitalists.
The Rump of both parties want a savior of sorts so they don't have to bother.

Sarah C. said...

I admit that being a recovering Catholic myself, I've been reading all the Pope stories this week with interest, even if I have no real hope that the next Pope will be even a "moderate" in any real sense.

But as to why the American media covers the papacy and this news so much, it is a fact that the Pope is, in his role, another world leader and is also the head of the single largest religious denomination in America. A lot of American Catholics may not follow the Pope's lead in everything but that doesn't mean he's not an important figure. To say nothing of the fact that the Catholic Church has outsize influence in politics-- has for a while now-- which is arguably a bad thing (I, for one, don't like it) but bad or good, it is a fact. Just look at the trouble the Catholic bishops of America have caused over Obamacare and contraception, echoed in all the coverage about which politicians are Catholic and the fact that a majority of the Supreme Court Justices are Catholic. Like it or not, the Catholic Church has a lot of influence in this country and that makes a change in its leadership important. That aside, all the pageantry and the history involved in the papacy undoubtedly helps.

No, the Catholic Church is not going to wake up any time in the next year and reverse its positions on homosexuality or women in the church or a host of other issues, but the identity of the Pope matters, if only because change-- especially in an organization like the Catholic Church-- happens (very) incrementally. A new Pope who's even a subtle shade to the left of JPII or is, at least, more interested in poverty/income inequality issues than in sexual morality will make a difference just because of the change in focus. (As a concrete example, such a Pope who cares more about poverty is unlikely to have condemned the American nuns for having a "radical feminist" agenda, the way Benedict did.)

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