Hey pope, go hide somewhere

For years, our missing co-founder Douglas LeBlanc was the GetReligionista who was officially in charge of posting “hathos” alerts linked to mainstream media coverage of religion news. He’s still out there, lurking, and he sent us an alert this morning for the first hathos alert of 2010 and it is a goodie.

But first, for those on the outside, what is “hathos”?

Many people have taken shots at defining this term rooted in our media-overload era, but here is one of the definitive references:

hathos (hay’thos) n., pl. double hathos — A pleasurable sense of loathing, or a loathing sense of pleasure, aroused by certain schlocky, schmaltzy or just- plain-bad show-business personalities: “Hearing the audience applaud when Dr. Joyce Brothers told Merv Griffin that, aside from being a brilliant comedienne, Charo is a ‘genius on the classical guitar’ filled me with hathos.” [American: hate/happy pathos lachrymose (?)] — ha-thot-ic adj.

– Alex Heard, “Beyond Hate: The Giddy Thrill of Hathos,” The Washington Post, May 17, 1987

So, with that in mind, let’s turn to the following Agence France-Presse story following up on recent events in Rome. I had totally missed the crucial link between the recent attacks on public figures there. How about you? Click here for the story.

Assaults on Pope Benedict XVI and Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi within two weeks show the danger of ostentatious displays of power and risk triggering copycat attacks, experts said.

Psychoanalyst Rosella Candella told AFP she saw a link between the two assaults, saying with both figures “we are seeing a very strong display of power.” She called for people wielding such high levels of authority to be “more discreet, less exhibitionist,” in order to lessen the danger of future attacks.

The comments came after a woman launched a Christmas Eve assault on Pope Benedict XVI. Susanna Miaolo, 25, leapt over a security barrier and knocked the pope to the ground at midnight mass in Saint Peter’s Basilica. The pope came through the incident apparently unscathed and was able to celebrate the mass as planned.

Wait! There’s more.

Psychoanalyst Candella told AFP that the assaults did not reflect a “public order problem,” despite the media debate they triggered over security issues. And both the pope and Berlusconi were robust in their responses — they refused to be cowed by the attacks and vowed to continue meeting the public.

Yes, Pope Benedict XVI has bravely decided to continue serving as celebrant in Masses that are held right out there in the open — even at the Vatican, in St. Peter’s Basilica.

He is the pope. Celebrating Mass is probably an important part of his ostentatious, macho, patriarchal work.

Honestly, what was the point of this story? And I don’t know about you, but this is when I really miss the wit of the late Father Richard John Neuhaus, who died a year ago. I would love to read his response to this one.

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About tmatt

Terry Mattingly directs the Washington Journalism Center at the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities. He writes a weekly column for the Universal Syndicate.

  • http://vagantepriest.blogspot.com/ FrGregACCA

    Fr. Neuhaus?

    Somebody needs to contact Fr. Guido Sarducchi for comment on this one.

  • Dave

    The coincidence of the two attacks was not lost on me, but I wrote it off to over-wrought individuals in a time of economic calamity.

    But what are we doing analyzing an AFP story? I thought the point of this blog was to examine the adherence by American journalism to an American, as opposed to European, standard of non-partisan coverage, where that adherence is compromised in the area of religion?

  • Jerry

    My response to this story is to look around for a poop bag in order to gather it up and put it in the trash bin. But maybe I’m just not discreet enough to hide how I feel.

  • kristy

    Perhaps Psychoanalyst Rosella Candella is really the person looking for attention, here. Apparently she found it.

  • Deacon John M. Bresnahan

    Sometimes I think psychobabble foghorns are the ones with the scrambled brains.

  • http://www.freikirchen.at Wolf Paul

    Apart from everything else the characterization of Signorina Miaola as an attack seems to ignore what is known. Apparently the poor woman simply has an irrepressible desire to touch the pope, and he got knocked over un the melee of security people trying to keep her away after she leapt the barrier. No comparison to what happened to Berlusconi.

  • http://www.freikirchen.at Wolf Paul

    Of course that should have read, “as an attackER” …

  • Martha

    It would seem that this same woman did the exact same thing last year:



    The Pope was unhurt, thank goodness, but poor Cardinal Roger Etchegaray suffered a broken hip in the scuffle:


  • Martha

    I might agree with the “ostentatious display” thing about Berlusconi, but part of that could be because Silvio has been getting away with murder (metaphorically) for ages, and I think it’s more to do with ‘member of the Italian public fed up to the back teeth with sleazebag politico’ :-)

  • Chris Bolinger

    Rosella Candella and Roseanne Roseannadanna: separated at birth?

  • str

    The point was quite simply blaming and belittling the victim while exculpating the perpetrators and society.

  • http://www.tmatt.net tmatt


    AFP is a global wire service, not an advocacy publication.

  • http://ww.ecben.net Will

    I am not sure what the point is. But someone or other said: “Any well-dressed man who is willing to sacrifice his life can kill the President”.