Free the cardinals!

Yesterday tmatt asked readers to submit links to papal coverage that was particularly good or bad. I’m going to go ahead and put my responses in a separate post.

It begins, as all our best material does, with a comment thread from last week:

Julia says:

Can’t find it now, but there was an article on MSNBC.com (I think) that said JPII, in the 1990s, changed the ancient conclave rules so that the Cardinals could be let out of the Sistine Chapel now and then to sleep and eat, if necessary. I’m not kidding.

And it said that in the new hotel/residence on the grounds, the Cardinals are locked into their rooms!!! Where do the get this stuff? There are plenty of reliable sources, people and authoritative websites with the basic information.

And then there was this:

Thomas A. Szyszkiewicz says:

I couldn’t quite believe what you were saying, Julia, so I went looking — and you were right!It’s the last paragraph. Yikes!

Here it is, and it’s actually from NBC:

The conclave process, in which cardinals are locked into their rooms until reaching a decision, was a tradition that began in 1271 following frustration at the failure of the church to agree on a replacement for Pope Clement IV, who died in 1268. Eventually, cardinals were locked inside the papal palace in Viterbo by exasperated magistrates.

Pope John Paul II changed the conclave rules in 1996, allowing cardinals to leave the Sistine Chapel during conclaves to eat and sleep if necessary.

Wow is that quite the collection of Dan Brown-level conspiracy thinking and attention to historical detail.

Do these people think cardinals didn’t sleep or eat for years in previous conclaves? Or do they think they all just took a pew, had a three-year stockpile of food in the loft, and went at it?

But it might be this Vanity Fair piece “What the Pope Should Have Written for His Final Tweet” that wins the week’s record for most errors per word:

As we mentioned earlier today, the Pope, now about an hour away from officially commencing his post-papacy retirement, announced he would put up a farewell tweet around 11 a.m. Eastern Standard Time. That tweet is as follows: “Thank you for your love and support. May you always experience the joy that comes from putting Christ at the centre of your lives.” Eh!

Despite our own mixed reviews, digitally savvy Catholics just love it, as the message has already been retweeted more than 23,000 times. As a matter of comparison, note that Harry Styles’s January 29 communiqué “Time to sleeeeeeeeeeeep” has four times as many retweets. However, just one of these tweets is, according to Scripture, to be interpreted by the faithful as the words of God himself—and it’s not the tweet you think it is. (It is exactly the tweet you think it is.)

It’s not that there’s anything wrong with the Pope’s final tweet—there’s that papal infallibility again!—it’s just that we wished he’d have gone out with more of a bang.

Now, I know that Vanity Fair, which has so much courage in going after Roman Catholics, will be doing its own funny mockery of Islam any day now. Any day. Any day. Can’t wait. It has to be coming very soon. But when they do, I sure hope they have fewer errors. “According to Scripture”? “Interpreted by the faithful as the words of God himself”? Where do they get this stuff?

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  • Patrick

    I think that’s a joke – I mean, right?

    Nobody is actually this stupid, right?

    I think one reason nobody makes fun of Islam is its modern association with very sad things. Talking about how old the Pope is may feel like a benign distraction when Islam so regularly is the source of stories about car bombs and gunmen.

  • FW Ken

    Who is Harry Styles?

    • Martha

      “Vanity Fair” – well-named indeed, from its inspiration in “The Pilgrim’s Progress”:

      “And moreover, at this fair there is at all times to be deceivers, cheats, games, plays, fools, apes, knaves, and rogues and that of every kind. ”

      I haven’t heard of the particular Scripture passage which says “Thou must take the Papal Tweets to be the very word of God (Selah)” – I must have been home sick the day that was read out at Mass.

  • Martha

    Okay, I visited the “Vanity Fair” site to read that piece, and a survey popped up, and I could not resist taking it.

    I had to laugh at Q.14:”How likely are you to use this site as your primary resource for information on current affairs?”

    Um – if this is a sample of your writers’ accuracy? Take a wild guess!

    Though I thought this fell under “humorous content” (and filled in the survey question accordingly) but no – according to the blog of the writer, Ms. Juli Weiner, she “write(s) about politics and culture a few times a day for VF.com”.

    Now, either she’s bigging up what she really does: “Yes, I totally write heavy political and cultural pieces, not x words-limit jokey bits about a topic in the news!”

    Or she does think this constitutes writing on politics and culture, in which case, God help us all if that’s as accurate as she can get about how budgets are created, how legislation is passed, the Brutalist architectural style, or who is the current President.

  • Julia

    That photo of a Cardinals’ confab on the mound was getting “shared” on FaceBook by legions of fans in the St Louis area. Clever. Glad you used it, too. Bit of trivia: the color and the bird of that color were named after the garments of the Pope’s top advisors and not vice versa. It’s the color of bright, red blood signifying the Cardinals’ serious committment to the Pope. If any reporters are looking for space to fill, they could check out what Wikipedia says about the color.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cardinal_(color)

  • Thomas A. Szyszkiewicz

    Looking at the NBC piece a little more closely and it’s obvious that some editor or writer or both can’t quite a sense of where people are. “The conclave process, in which cardinals are locked into their rooms until reaching a decision…Pope John Paul II changed the conclave rules in 1996, allowing cardinals to leave the Sistine Chapel during conclaves to eat and sleep if necessary.” OK, so are they locked in their rooms (which makes voting kinda difficult) or are they locked in the Sistine Chapel? Or do they make the Chapel into a makeshift dorm?

    “’According to Scripture’? ‘Interpreted by the faithful as the words of God himself’? Where do they get this stuff?” The same place the Christian Science Monitor got stuff like this: http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Global-News/2013/0211/Pope-Benedict-s-legacy-More-influential-than-Pope-John-Paul-II To me this is the worst example of the really bad stuff that’s out there.

  • Thomas A. Szyszkiewicz

    And the eminent canon lawyer Ed Peters offers this insight: http://canonlawblog.wordpress.com/2013/03/05/absent-cardinals-are-not-late/
    More where it came from here: http://canonlawblog.wordpress.com/

  • Julia

    I don’t know if the Daily Beast still considers itself a legitimate news source, but it sure looks like it’s venturing into gossip and snark here.

    http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2013/03/04/pope-fever-grips-rome.html

    “Over the weekend, NBC’s Anne Thompson read the liturgy for a private mass held by Cardinal Dolan inside St. Peter’s basilica.”

    What is the Daily Beast reporter talking about? If it was a private Mass Anne Thompson wouldn’t have been there. And I don’t think Anne Thompson “read the liturgy” for the Mass. Maybe she did some Scripture readings, like the Old Testament, Psalms or epistles, but not the entire liturgy – that is reserved for the priest. The reporter probably got her information from somebody who was “raised Catholic”.

    The Daily Beast notes that the reporter got her expertise on all things Italian by covering the Amanda Knox case.

    • Tyson

      The quote about Anne Thompson links to a New York Times article, which much more reasonably says she “was a reader during the liturgy.” Obviously the Daily Beast writer knows little about Catholicism and in attempting to paraphrase said something different and quite bizarre.

      The NYT article also gives some details about the private Mass, to which apparently largely journalists were invited, including Thompson and presumably the article’s author, since he gives details of Dolan’s homily. (Also, the article links to a biography of Thompson, which notes she is an alumna of Notre Dame and is on their Board of Trustees. So I’d imagine her Catholic credentials were strong enough enough to get her the invite.)


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