Celebrity or Popularity, Front Porch Perspective

Matthew Schmitz on papal celebrity here. I am sure Mr Schmitz is partly right, partly wrong about his six talking points.

1. Personalities tend to be more popular than institutions.

I think the First Things commentator has indulged a bit of bait-and-switch. I thought we were talking about celebrity. Not every celebrity is popular. I find that people tend to lay down their lives (literally and long-term) for people they love, or for institutions (for the lack of a better word) such as the Church, the poor, their employer. And that laying down is distinct from laboring sixty, eighty hours a week out of a sense of compliance or obligation or just-need-the-money.

2. Francis’s appeal is based largely on his anti-institutional image.

Not quite. I think Mr Schmitz’s ideological allies are anti-anti-institutional. As a parish liturgist, I’m not looking to throw out the book on rubrics, or have someone do it for me. I’m just looking for less interference so I can work with people less encumbered by silliness. Let’s face two things: Pope Francis has been part of an institution since he joined the Society of Jesus, and Eddie Haskell is an arrogant so-and-so even when he has the institutional stamp of approval. Pope Francis makes no room for Eddie.

3. Celebrity is fleeting.

Ah! So we were talking about celebrity.

4. The media love affair with Francis, just like that with John Paul II, will come to an end.

It seems like the people who criticize the media the most are the ones most concerned about what the media says.

5. It will end in part because he is Catholic and in part because Francis has a penchant for upsetting particular groups—not just conservatives but transgender people, Chileans, etc.

Still steamed about that fatted calf meal, eh?

5 (sic). When it does, the people most attached to Catholic doctrines and institutions will be the ones most attached to the man

If so, Pope Francis would probably point to Jesus and say, “Attach to him, not me.”

I think there are a lot of people who don’t get Pope Francis. Some of them used to be on the inside looking out on the barbarians, as they saw it. That is no longer the case.

For many of my sister and brother Catholics, Pope Francis is suggesting we are all human, we are all sinners, and no close identification with doctrines and institutions can merit some special quality of “orthodoxy” or “faithfulness.” It simply doesn’t work that way. No matter how much we try. Should be an interesting few days, eh?

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in the Pacific Northwest, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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