The lighter side of Pope Benedict’s retirement-A A +A
Wednesday, March 6, 2013
ON THE last day of February, I was glued to the TV coverage of Pope Benedict’s retirement. I stayed up till the wee hours of the next day so as not to miss anything of the historic event.
I switched channels from EWTN to CNN to ANC, then stuck to CNN because its superior media equipment could document the minutest detail of the pope’s departure.
Also, even though I knew from past TV viewing experience that CNN is virulently anti-Catholic, I was amused by the flippant running commentaries of its anchor persons. Most of the media persons in this particular coverage struck me as Catholics, but of the nominal variety --- which made their comments all the more funny: Their “Catholic pronouncements” sounded like the welding of poor catechesis with shallow trivia of the sort you encounter in Hollywood News. Here are some tidbits:
Why does a pope wear red shoes? According to an anchor, who spoke authoritatively, the red shoes signified the dripping blood of the martyrs. Oops, one of the two priest consultants planted in the broadcast corrected: The tradition originated in the time of Emperor Constantine when emperors wore red shoes. Constantine gave the pope red shoes as a symbolic statement that the office of pope was as high as an emperor’s.
A commentator noted: “Pope Benedict is finally leaving. He looks relieved.”
CNN’s Becky Anderson added: “He now has time to enjoy his cats.”
A young female commentator rattled off some names of cardinals who were supposed to be most likely to be elected pope. She included in her list a cardinal whose picture and age, 80, were shown even as she was saying that cardinals of that age were not eligible as electors or pope. No correction was made by CNN.
But when the same commentator said that the Catholic population in the USA has risen 70 percent since the 1950s, the mistake was immediately rectified. The correct figure was 60 percent, “and only because of immigrants.”
Fifty-eight percent of Catholics want priests to marry, Christian Amanpour said to her interviewee, Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, USA. In case he got elected pope, would he change the rule on priestly celibacy?
Cardinal Dolan explained that the pope is not like the CEO of a corporation who says upon taking over, “Now, what changes do I make in this business?” Instead of change, a pope is tasked to keep the teachings which were handed down by Jesus to the apostles and to their successors down through the ages. A pope can only update the packaging of the church’s teachings without tampering with its content.
The issue, Dolan said, is actually the same as the issue of staying faithful to the marital vow. To this Amanpour and the entire media had, uncharacteristically, nothing to say.
But Amanpour quickly recovered her fighting spirit and brought up for the nth time the sex scandal problem of the church. Dolan reacted to the point:
1. It was Pope Benedict’s investigation that brought the scandal to light.
2. Other churches, schools, the armed forces, the police, other institutions and families also have problems related to sexuality.
3. Christianity is not a one-shot deal of faith and perfection. We see this in the Acts of the Apostles and in the Epistles where sex and other problems are discussed. They continue even as the church continues to fight them.
Again, as though on cue, a female anchor wondered why the church only teaches but does not “do something.” A priest consultant had to remind her that the church is not a totalitarian government with a police force.
She then presented an Episcopalian priest. She said, here is a former Roman Catholic priest. He met a beautiful woman and fell in love with her. He could not marry and still remain a priest. So he changed his collar; he became an Episcopalian priest who may marry.
“You see, there is a way out!” the anchor said triumphantly with a toothy smile. Her partner added excitedly that allowing Roman Catholic priests to marry would solve the problem of priestly vocation shortage, and would stop priests from leaving the church.
Their brilliant nuggets of wisdom, however, were dashed when a priest consultant mentioned that other churches which allow their priests or ministers to marry are also suffering from vocation shortage. This made the media persons pout like cats whose preys got away one by one.
So they hauled in another “prey,” a nun who was not dressed in a habit but in “lay attire.” They asked her opinion on the issue of ordaining women priests. I think they were hoping the nun had the mindset of the Episcopalian priest. But she replied that men and women are equal in dignity yet have different gifts. The anchors didn’t like her answer, so they clarified: Did she not want to have a “real participation” in the “power of the church”? The nun repeated her line, and this caused the anchors to look irritated and frustrated.
So they played their last card: the “real reason” why Pope Benedict resigned. Without citing a single source, one of the anchors hinted that a lobbying group in the Roman Curia put pressure on Pope Benedict.
Intriguing! I turned to EWTN the next day. This vague speculation was clarified by the Catholic TV network: Without any source to back them, media was making “triangulations” to come up with the story that homosexuals in the Curia were lobbying for same-sex marriage!
This was supposed to be the straw that broke Pope Benedict’s back – which is ridiculous, because priestly celibacy may be debatable in the church, but not the nature of marriage.
Then it was time for Pope Benedict to leave the Vatican and move to Castel Gandolfo. He was taken to this town by helicopter. Media followed the ten minute flight, and as the cameras documented this milestone, they caught the breathtaking vistas and historical monuments below.
At one point the dying rays of the sun got reflected on the glass window of the helicopter and spread out to a golden brilliance, a few moments after the helicopter passed by the coliseum, the place where early Christians were martyred. Was it coincidental?
Suddenly, the bells of Rome which had began tolling to honor Pope Benedict the moment the helicopter lifted from the ground, took on a deeper meaning: The bells were honoring the church, the oldest living institution which has survived all the attacks from within and without, as guaranteed by Jesus himself in Matthew 16: 18-20.
I broke down. The “coincidence” could only be the hand of Jesus.
As I was sobbing, the commentators spoke with wavering voices – including Christian Amanpour. They had a hard time holding back their tears.
As the helicopter neared its destination, the female anchor who made comments like she was a Hollywood News reporter became completely quiet. I remembered what she had said at the start of the coverage: that although she was not a practicing Catholic, whenever she entered a Catholic church she’d sense something big in there that she could not find anywhere else.
I guess the world had that mysterious sense when Benedict resigned; otherwise, why was there such a big hullabaloo in the secular media when he left the Vatican?
Published in the Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro newspaper on March 06, 2013.