The Popes–outgoing, incoming and the candidates in between–are big news these days. Journalists are pouring into Rome and seldom does a newscast pass without some sort of sound bite on the whole event.
But, I have a suggestion. If you want the straight scoop, if you want to really know what’s going on, go to the horse’s mouth. Don’t rely on the secular media, most of whom are a little bemused by the whole thing and many of whom just don’t “get it.” Go to the Catholic media.
That’s not to say the secular media shouldn’t be covering this event.
They should. It’s news. It affects the lives of huge numbers of their listeners, watchers and readers. But as someone said to me the other day, “It’s just another CEO getting replaced.” No, it’s not, and those who think that way don’t get it. Members of the media who think that way don’t get it, either–and unfortunately, there are a lot of them out there.
For one thing, the Pope is the spiritual leader of 1.6 billion people around the world, of all races, tongues, political beliefs and economic classes. He’s even looked up to by many non-Catholic religions. You won’t find a CEO or even government leader who is responsible for more people than the Pope.
But it’s not about numbers. It’s about who that person becomes once he’s chosen as Pope. He’s not just another duly elected leader. He’s the Vicar of Christ on earth. He’s the one carrying on the line that began with Peter, to whom Jesus said, “You are Peter, and upon this Rock I will build my Church.” He also said, “I give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth is bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth, is loosed in heaven.” (Matthew 16:13 and following) The Pope acts with the rest of the bishops (successors of the apostles) but in the end, the buck stops with him.
You don’t believe that? Well, faithful Catholics do. They believe that if the cardinals are listening to the promptings of the Holy Spirit, the man God wants chosen will be chosen, and God will be with that man to guide God’s Church. The Cardinals talk to each other, and put forward, the men they believe will best do that job. It’s not the pick-me politicking the secular media likes to insinuate.
What faithful Catholics don’t believe is that the new Pope is going to suddenly change all the rules. Faithful Catholics don’t even speculate about it. Disciplines can change, yes, but doctrine can’t.
Ashley McGuire, senior fellow with the Catholic Association, wrote this in the Washington Post:
“Sorry to be a wet blanket, but the Catholic Church is not going to change its teaching on any of the fun stuff (contraception, female “ordination,” homosexuality, abortion, etc.) with the next pope…
“In layman’s terms: What the church’s critics, especially those now giddily wondering if Pope Benedict’s successor will shake things up, just don’t seem to understand, is that church teachings on these issues are unchangeable.
“Even if we entertain the human possibility of a rogue pope, the reality is such a thing is currently sociologically impossible. About half of the current College of Cardinals (the men who will select the next pope) were appointed by Blessed Pope John Paul II. The other half were put there by Pope Benedict XVI. As you can imagine, they are all orthodox, or faithful to church teaching. On everything.
“While most editorial pages have spent the last eight years harping on Catholic social teaching and running hit pieces on bishops and the pope, Benedict has been filling the ranks with shepherds who will continue the church’s 2,000-plus year tradition of holding firm on the most important social issues.
“And not only will the church remain orthodox with Pope Benedict’s successor, it should.”
But the secular media usually doesn’t get that, and they usually head straight for the supposedly controversial, divisive issues–and often, unfortunately, get their quotes from the Catholic lunatic fringe, the dissenters, and not those who actually follow the Church’s teachings.
Sr. Mary Ann Walsh, a blogger for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops web site, gets her share of those questions. In a recent blog, she said, “I did an interview with CNN on women in the church and pointed out there are many forms of leadership: moral, elected, etc. Everybody knows about Catherine of Siena and Teresa of Avila, for example, but few know who was pope when they were alive.”
Of course, the sexual abuse case scandal always rears its head. The secular media likes the titillating subjects. Sr. Walsh fielded those kinds of questions, too:
“The issue of sexual abuse was raised and Cardinal George spoke eloquently. He noted that while new cases are practically nil, there are still victims and the hurt is still in their hearts and minds. As long as it’s with them, it’s with us and that’s going to last for a long time, he said.”
In an earlier blog, she said, “The U.S. church has an impressive record on addressing the problem through extensive prevention programs and has seen new cases of abuse plummet. Over two million volunteers and employees, 52,000 clerics and 6,205 candidates for ordination have had their background evaluated. Sexual abuse is a horrific problem but the church addresses it responsibly. Sadly we’re stuck with the reality that never have so few people done so much harm.”
It’s the kind of well-reasoned comment we’re not as apt to see in the secular media. The secular media also doesn’t talk about the small, sometimes mundane, details Catholics like to read, like the report about how Pope Benedict XVI spent his first day back being plain old Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger. (Sorry, can’t remember where I read that one.)
Besides the USCCB web site, good Catholic sources of information include Catholic News Service, the Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN) and Relevant Radio, which can be streamed live. For people in northeastern Wisconsin, there’s “The Compass,” the official newspaper for the Green Bay Catholic Diocese, by subscription or online.
If you’re Catholic, or even if you’re not Catholic but you want these stories told by the people who really understand the process, the issues, the doctrines and the spirituality, check out these sites. Get it from the horse’s mouth.