One man’s view of the pope and the press:
The press is lazy. There’s not a great deal of depth or historical context there. Also, the press needs to sell newspapers and click throughs. To do this, it is best to have a narrative. Everything that happens has to fit into the narrative. The narrative begins in the first hours of the papacy and it tends to stick. (It’s not just Catholic news that is treated this way; this is how the so-called news works in every sector.)
The narrative of Benedict XVI was that he was a closed-minded reactionary dedicated to cracking down and turning back the clock. After that, nothing else mattered. It didn’t matter how much he reached out, how much he liberalized the ritual, how much he displayed openness, praised religious freedom, called for social justice and the like. The narrative stuck.
So it has been with Francis. The press decided early on that he is humble, spontaneous, liberal, broad, pro-poor, tolerant, and ready to revise doctrine. After that, the fix was in. Everything he does is interpreted in that light. Every headline presumes that underlying template. It’s the only story. Everything that contradicts that is thrown out, and every utterance is framed in that preset context.
So, remember this, my friends. There is a lens. It is manufactured by the industry that writes that story. It probably will not change for the duration. That’s why this is going to be such a long and bumpy ride.
The only way to fight back against this is to think independently. Don’t let the press control your understanding and interpretation of this papacy. Look for context, full quotes, mitigating factors, hidden details, accurate translations, and the like. I know this sounds like a slog and it is. But it is essential if we are to see what is true.
In many ways, I feel bad for Pope Francis. He is no more allowed to escape this spin that we are. Just remember that he doesn’t write the stories, and he didn’t set out to design this template for himself. It’s not even clear that he knows that this is happening or what he could do about it if he did.