Monday, March 18, 2013
Vatican Shocker: New pope is old, Catholic
I will have to say that the best two hours of comedy I have heard in years I experienced while driving to South Carolina last Wednesday, when the decision was announced. The secular commentary on the BBC was truly amusing.
You had three or four liberal journalists (what's the opposite of an oxymoron?) trying to figure out the doings of this ancient institution and the only way they could make sense of it was to impose their own assumptions and expectations on it, which, of course, completely obscured the nature of the thing they were trying to understand.
Thousands were gathered in St. Peter's Square waiting for the announcement by the College of Cardinals there in conclave. Coverage began when white smoke began coming from the chimney, the traditional sign that the selection had been made. For any other institution to announce an important decision this way would seem utterly preposterous, but it is the entire allure of the Church that it not only is an ancient institution, but that it acts like one.
And yet, despite the antique grandeur that was the only reason hundreds, perhaps thousands, of journalists descended on Vatican City from all over the world, they spent half their time talking about how the Church needed to "modernize" itself.
For the World to ask the Church to modernize itself is nothing terribly remarkable. But to do it at the very moment at which it is mesmerized by the very fact that it isn't modern is positively farcical.
The World is always demanding that the Church become more like itself. It's the one way to ensure the Church's irrelevance. The more the Church becomes like the World, the less necessary it is to the World. You already have the World.What need is there for something else that acts exactly like it?
The only reason the World pays any attention to the Church at all is precisely because it is not the World.
The minute the Church ditches the smoke in favor of Twitter is the minute everyone stops paying attention. No microphones. No cameras. No network coverage. And no more 150,000 people showing up, some traveling from the other side of world to see the event.
I'm trying to remember the last time hundreds of journalists were camped out in front of the Unitarian Universalist Church headquarters waiting for the announcement of their new leader.
And this is true not only of the manner in which the Church conducts Herself: It is also true of the message it transmits in such a traditional way.
The BBC commentators talked on and on of the need for the Church to modify its beliefs on everything from marriage to contraception to priestly celibacy. It's the sex thing. That's all the World really cares about. It has sex on the brain, which, as Malcolm Muggeridge once pointed out, is a very uncomfortable place to have it.
And when the announcement was made that it was Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, there was a noticeable groan. "Well," said one of the reporters, "this is a surprise." "This, of course, will come as a disappointment to progressives." And "He is an older man."
Really? This is the first thing to say when they announce a new pope? That he's too old and too Catholic?