It’s been interesting to follow the reactions of both individuals and news outlets to Pope Francis’ Rolling Stone article and in its aftermath.
Zenit reported on Federico Lombardi’s talk in Spain in which he described the strengths of the three popes he’s worked with.
If you just went on the link from Britain’s Catholic Herald, you might get a different idea about the news bit. Luke Coppen titled it “Vatican spokesman Fr Federico Lombardi has hailed Benedict XVI as ‘a master of communication’.” With the “crude” pounding B16 took in the counterculturemedia this week, maybe he needs a lift. Or his fanfolk need it. The pope emeritus himself? I’m sure he’s doing well without having read the article.
Unfortunately, the article disqualifies itself, falling into the usual mistake of a superficial journalism, which, in order to shed light on the positive aspects of Pope Francis, thinks it needs to describe the pontificate of Pope Benedict in a negative way, and does so with a surprising crudeness. This is not the way to do a good service even to Pope Francis, who knows very well what the Church owes to his predecessor.
Crude? I’d say “crude” is accurate. Rolling Stone may be many things, but superficial in its feature stories, I would say not. It’s probably enough to say that that media outlet is known for being opinionated about anything. They can gush with the best fangirls and boys in the world and they can eviscerate with a twisting word that cuts deeper than a knife. Their treatment of B16 wasn’t out of character. If anything, it might have been relatively gentle.
Cardinal O’Malley cited the article favorably here.
That trumps Time Magazine.
Some Catholic bloggers have ignored it. The news outlet Pewsitter collected a small suite of commentary on it.
No question: the counterculture readership is certainly at the boundaries.
Meanwhile, the CMAA commentariat wrings hands over a simple virtue: joy. The Holy Father, preaching on Tuesday’s Lectionary:
I wonder sometimes how many times we despise good people in our hearts, good people who praise the Lord as it comes to them, so spontaneously, because they are not cultured, because they do not follow the formalities? I mean really despise them? The Bible says that, because of this, Michal remained sterile for the rest of her life. What does the Word of God mean, here? It means that joy, that the prayer of praise makes us fruitful! Sarah danced in the great moment of her fecundity – at the age of ninety! The fruitfulness that praise of the Lord gives us, the gratuity of praising the Lord: that man or that woman who praises the Lord, who prays praising the Lord, who, when praying the Gloria is filled with joy at doing so, and who, when singing the Sanctus in the Mass rejoices in singing it, is a fruitful person.
The frowny-face commentary was predictable: “I have my days when I am sure the cardinals elected Joe Biden as pope … Some of his statements, however, are poorly thought out and not clearly delivered.”
Everything like this has a context. Sadly, it is true that some musicians bring an exact rendering of notes on a page, and there is no heart behind the sound. It is also true that the quality of joy is part of Ignatian spirituality, something that I see nearly daily in the homilies and talks of Pope Francis.
If one is accustomed to looking for small bits of text to support one’s viewpoint, then I suspect the Pope Francis texts that are getting media coverage will disappoint some Catholics. A believer is obliged to go deeper. To reflect. And not to treat homilies like political statements from an American vice-president.