Flooding the papal coverage zone

Flooding the papal coverage zone March 15, 2013

We’ve certainly seen some abysmally bad religion news coverage ever since Pope Benedict XVI announced he was stepping down. But we’ve also seen some absolutely fantastic coverage. (Before we continue, please note the wording on this image — “Specializes in pastoral work, an important skill as Pope.” Funny, no?)

I sit in awe — every day — at the wonderful work done by John Allen, Jr. If you are likewise impressed with this man, you may want to read this Time profile of his work.

Anyway, I also rather liked the Washington Post’s serious coverage. Just in the last few days, we’ve seen extensive live coverage, and multiple angles for exploring the new pope. You can read about “Jorge Mario Bergoglio, now Pope Francis, known for simplicity and conservatism,” for instance. And there’s been great local coverage from a variety of viewpoints — as you can read in “D.C. area Catholics embrace symbolism of the election of first Latin American pope.”

There was a nice look at the significance of the name chosen by the new pope in “Pope Francis: His name reflects ‘his ministry for the poor’.”

And there were even some fun, lighthearted blogs:

What name will the new pope choose? Some clues in this infographic

New pope, Jorge Mario Bergoglio, rode the bus because he gave up his limo


Sorry, Jorge Mario Bergoglio is not the first non-European pope

Maybe it’s that I’m hopped up on painkillers but I just want to thank the editors and reporters for all their hard work covering this story from around the world. It paid off.

As for problems, the only ones I saw were that last blog item, which I think displays some minor confusion about the papacy (such as whether the modern papacy is equivalent to the old bishops of Rome) and an error of missing at least one non-European pope we have discussed (Gelasius).

There was also the oddly hostile piece headlined “Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina elected pope, takes name Pope Francis.” It began:

VATICAN CITY — The cardinals of the Roman Catholic Church broke Europe’s millennium-long stranglehold on the papacy and astonished the Catholic world Wednesday, electing Jesuit Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglioof Argentina as the 266th pope.

The choice, on the second day of deliberations in a papal conclave, opened a direct connection to the Southern Hemisphere at a critical juncture when secularism and competing faiths are depleting the church’s ranks around the globe and dysfunction is eroding its authority in Rome.

Heh. Stranglehold. I think that sometimes you need to fluff up the words to make things sound exciting and sometimes you have enough drama and criticism to just let things be said without getting melodramatic. Less melodrama might have been in order here.

One last note. E.J. Dionne finished his lovely column on the new pope by saying:

For many Catholics, a great deal of hope rests on the new pontiff’s choice of the name Francis, the saint who disdained formal authority, devoted himself to a simple life, cared passionately about the marginalized and saw actions as counting far more than proclamations.

It is said that Saint Francis once declared, “Preach the Gospel always. If necessary, use words.” For a pope, it’s a challenging approach.

It is said that St. Francis said this — but it’s not true that Francis ever said this. And so we should stop saying that he said this.

One of the many reasons we should stop spreading this quote is that Francis was a powerful preacher who believed in the power of preaching. In that sense, the name is fitting. As Pope Francis said in his first homily yesterday:

“[W]we can walk as much we want, we can build many things, but if we do not confess Jesus Christ, nothing will avail.  We will become a pitiful NGO, but not the Church, the Bride of Christ. . . . When one does not profess Jesus Christ, one professes the worldliness of the devil.”

Anyway, I know that much of the coverage has been bad, but it’s also true that we’re getting to see some great work from Godbeat professionals all over.

Browse Our Archives

What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment

8 responses to “Flooding the papal coverage zone”

  1. Love the quote about “if we do not confess Jesus Christ, nothing will avail. We will become a pitiful NGO, but not the Church, the Bride of Christ…” That is the most succinct way of explaining the difference between how secularism & Christianity face the world’s problems that I have seen.

  2. It is said that Saint Francis once declared, “Preach the Gospel always. If necessary, use words.” For a pope, it’s a challenging approach.

    It is said that St. Francis said this — but it’s not true that Francis ever said this. And so we should stop saying that he said this.

    Accurate quoting in the media can be an issue. Sometimes, as in this case, I think it’s because the quote fits so well. And beyond that, there is an actual quote which is close to that.

    In this case, the real origin of that sentence is not known per https://en.wikiquote.org /wiki/List_of_misquotations And, even more important, St. Francis did say something close to that

    …love one another, as the Lord says: “This is My commandment, that you love one another, as I have loved you.” And let them show their love by the works they do for each other, according as the Apostle says: “let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth.” …

    Francis of Assisi, Rule of 1221, Rule 11 http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Francis_of_Assisi#Preach_the_gospel.2C_and_if_necessary.2C_use_words

    I’m not arguing that accuracy does not count. It does. So it would have been better if either the real quote had been used or the Biblical quote. But I’m more forgiving of the “it is said” than you are.

  3. From the Time article: Allen came by his objectivity the hard way, he has said. Hired by the NCR in 1997, his first book was a bitter portrait of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger—the future Pope Benedict XVI. When it was published in 2000, supporters of the conservative Ratzinger complained about the obvious bias … and upon reflection, Allen decided they were right. He determined to play fair with all sides in his future work.

    I think John’s objectivity came about from his disbelief at Ratzinger being elected. He was opining on CNN that he couldn’t possibly be elcted and ended up with egg on his face right there on international cable. Kind of like Saul getting knocked off his horse by a bolt of lightening. That’s a pretty difficult way to learn, but he turned lemons into wonderful lemonade. He has such a global viewpoint now, probably as a result of discovering how unhelpful it is to only talk with the folks in your own back yard who agree with you. He really does present all sides, including a reminder to US Catholics that our preoccupations aren’t all that important in other parts of the world. It seems he has taken on a mission to explain different tribes of Catholics to each other. Kudos.

  4. About that Washington Post article: The article was almost all about his growing up in Buenos Aires (including quotes from people who knew him when he was a kid) and his career in Argentina. It clearly seemed designed to convince readers that it was written by people on the scene in Argentina. But then I saw the bylines at the very end of the piece. It was written by reporters in Rome, West Virginia, Berlin, and London. Maybe that is why so many stories I have seen seem to be derived from the same sources.
    Does that mean no stringers or reporters in Buenos Aires or Argentina from the American media?? I guess the new pope was right when he commented about the cardinals picking someone from the end of the earth–an end too far away for the Washington Post and many others apparently.

  5. “someone fromt the end of the earth”

    I’m afraid most US people today don’t know enough geography to understand how far away Argentina is. The country includes lands not far from the South Pole.

    It’s time for TCM to re-play “Evita” with Madona singing “Don’t Cry for Me, Argentina” and a view of the milieu from which this Pope sprang. That was not a placid environment.

  6. Actually, he said he was from “the end of the world,” which was a play on both “the ends of the earth” and all that “Peter the Roman/last pope” stuff from the Pseudo-Malachy pseudo-prophecy.

    But yeah, maybe it’s just as well that the English-speaking world didn’t get it. For the peace of mind of the conspiracy guys, poor things, who are already having to deal with the Pope being a Jesuit.

Close Ad