As I was driving home from work today, one of my favorite radio talkers was pre-empted by ABC radio coverage of the election of a new Pope,Benedict XVI. At the time I was driving, the announcement hadn’t been made. (No, I don’t keep what used to be known as "banker’s hours"; my wife and I trade off on Tuesdays and Thursdays so that she can meet her classes; I take over the home-schooling, and then work from home while the kids play with friends.) So there was lots of speculation as to the identity of the new Pope.
This brief snippet of coverage (together with a short burst of NPR a couple of days ago) gave me some sense of what to expect from the mainstream media over the next few days.
First, there’ll be all sorts of speculation as to the politics of the conclave. An ABC reporter cornered an Australian bishop in St. Peter’s Square and asked him who he favored. She wouldn’t accept his answer that his voice didn’t count, since the Holy Spirit was actually working through the conclave to select the new Pope. We all have votes, she only half-jokingly cajoled. (Finally, he allowed as to how he’d always favored Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger.) In other words, the MSM will work really hard to find a Machiavellian explanation for a process that has roots in the Middle Ages and is shrouded in secrecy. With (we hope) little hard news to go on, there will no end to the scenarios of how Pope John Paul II’s right-hand man (his "enforcer") rounded up the votes to succeed him.
Second, we’ll hear from a parade of liberal Catholics telling us how this choice will simply grease the skids for the Catholic Church in Western Europe and North America. That, indeed, was the substance of the NPR report I endured. Liberal German Catholic after liberal German Catholic told the reporter how alienated they were from the current Church and how the only way to bring the back into the fold was for the Church to embrace modernity in all of its aspects--ordaining female priests, permitting contraception (at least, if not more), and accepting differences in sexual orientation. In other words, if the Church becomes indistinguishable from the secular world around it, lapsed Catholics will unlapse, so to speak. That this has not been the experience of the mainline Protestant churches that have been on the cutting edges of modernism will not cross the minds of the reporters who predict further doom for the Roman Catholic Church as a result of the election of Pope Benedict XVI.
And then there’s E.J. Dionne, Jr., who thinks that Cardinal Ratzinger’s "culture war" focus is largely irrelevant to Third World Catholics. I guess that’s why virtually all the Third World Anglican bishops criticized the elevation of V. Gene Robinson to bishop by the American Episcopal Church.
Let’s just say that I’ll probably tune out a lot of the MSM coverage and treat the following sources as a kind of filter: Mere Comments, which offers a spirited and ecumenical defense of orthodoxy; Fr. Richard John Neuhaus’ Rome Diary; NRO’s The Corner, and Get Religion, for critical commentary (with links) on journalistic treatment of religion.