Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Pope Francis in the News: Media Memes and Informed Commentary (There's a Difference)

Perhaps you haven't noticed, but Pope Francis has been in the news lately. A lot. Headlines yesterday about his scolding of the Vatican Curia ranged from "Francis Gives Roman Curia Officials Coal for Christmas" (Robert Mickens, National Catholic Reporter), to "In Curia: Merry Christmas, You Power-Hungry Hypocrites" (Josephine McKenna, Religion News Service), to "Pope Francis Says the Vatican Curia Is Sick with Power and Greed" (Philip Pullella, Reuters), to "Pope Francis Denounces the Vatican Elite's 'Spiritual Alzheimer's'" (Barbie Latza Nadeau, Daily Beast). I especially like Charles Pierce's wry summary of Francis's come-to-Jesus meeting with the Curia:

Spiritual Alzheimer's? 
A mark, that will surely leave. 
I'm sure that, within a few weeks, a Senior Vatican Official, or Ross Cardinal Douthat, will explain that the pope really was talking about birth control. 
But, still, wow.

As I say, the pope's in the news. And here's more good commentary about Francis and his papacy I'd like to recommend to readers today, as you follow the media statements about his remarks to the Curia:

Jason Berry, "How Pope Francis Became the World's BFF":

Neither book [i.e., Austen Ivereigh, The Great Reformer and Elizabeth Piqué, Pope Francis: Life and Revolution] gives any coverage to Bergoglio’s handling of clergy sex abuse cases as a bishop and cardinal. The website BishopAccountability.org has posted an extensive file of media reports and documents on scandals in Argentina to suggest that Bergoglio was not a healing pastor to abuse victims. And while as pope he has removed several bishops for child abuse, several prominent cardinals in the Vatican who were grossly negligent in concealing pedophiles, notably the former Secretary of State Cardinal Angelo Sodano, have suffered no loss of status. Conversely, Francis has stiffened internal Vatican laws governing child abuse accusations; he has appointed an advisory committee that includes a prominent Irish abuse survivor to develop a policy. The central issue is de facto immunity traditionally given to bishops and cardinals.

Frank Cocozzelli, "And Yet Finn Remains a Bishop":

The new pontiff has been a breath of fresh air in many ways.  But when it comes to removing Bishop Finn as head of the diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph Missouri the air around the pontiff has gotten stale.  . . .  
His inaction is eroding his credibility. It suggests he is a leader who says the right thing, but doesn't do the right thing.  Finn is a darkening stain on his this papacy. It is long past time to remove it.

Gerald Slevin, "Pope Shows That Church Needs Democracy Again":

Aging Pope Francis cannot clean up the Catholic Church "mess" and its rigged leadership transition process, unless he moves now to restore the Church's consensual management structure with its democratic accountability. It is basic "Management 101". Changing fundamentally the dysfunctional and obsolete top down monarchical management structure, and curtailing the resulting and continuing priest child abuse and financial scandals, among others, cannot be avoided any longer! It appears to be "now or never" for Pope Francis and the Vatican.

Betty Clermont, "Duped by the Media on Pope Francis, Progressives Wonder How Republicans Get Elected": 

Almost all analogies are imperfect, but the pope's "pastoral" approach of saying nice stuff while consulting with the plutocracy and strengthening the U.S. Religious Right can be considered as similar to the GOP’s new "populist" model while continuing their efforts to economically enslave the 99%. 
The following illustrates the appalling power of the corporate media to create a world leader and will hopefully generate a conversation, using this example, about how to overcome its lies and omissions. Information about Pope Francis withheld by the corporate media comes after the popular headline.  

 Mary Hunt, "American Nuns and the Vatican: More Pain Than Promise":

First, there is the essentialism. Women’s "feminine genius" is a patriarchal fiction. Yet, it is trotted out time and again by Pope Francis and those who would curry his favor. In this report, "competent women religious will be actively involved in ecclesial dialogue regarding ‘the possible role of women in decision-making in different areas of the Church’s life.'" (EG, 104) 
Any feminist genius will say that such nuancing is no substitute for a full-throated affirmation of human equality uttered with sleeves rolled up to create egalitarian civil and ecclesial structures. Anything less is bogus. Every time such code language is used, feminist geniuses will be happy to flag it for what it is.

There's the media and the memes of the media. And then there's informed commentary, by people who know what they're talking about and who challenge us to look beyond the surface. To think — something that media meme-making precludes.

I recommend the commentary amidst the meme-making — especially for those who care about real reform of the Catholic church, and about its future.

(N.B. I'm not seeking to imply that the journalists I cite in the opening paragraph of this posting, many of whom are religion [and politics] commentators I admire, are media meme-makers.)

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