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.)
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.
And I'll close with this:
Best pope comment on Facebook: "I did Nazi that coming!"— JoeMyGod (@JoeMyGod) February 11, 2013