The motivations behind the media’s coverage of the papal conclave vary. For some outlets, it is just the “ecclesiastical Oscars,” as the New York Times puts it. Like the British monarchy, the papacy is good for ratings and its long and colorful history makes coverage easy. But the more serious motivation is ideological: the liberal media wants a liberal pope.
Desiring a Church that is at once lax and “reformed,” journalists have eagerly floated the names of candidates who are primarily known for their fecklessness and dysfunctional dioceses. Prelates who can’t even keep heretics and frauds out of their own chanceries are confidently described as the cure for corruption in Rome. What “managerial expertise” and “firm governance” could they possibly bring to the curia if controlling their local Catholic college is too much for them?
Bishops who preside over seminaries that look like ghost towns are said to be “dynamic” communicators. What exactly are they communicating? Despite their Twitter accounts and six-figure-salaried “communication specialists” to monitor their “social media,” they have never had less to say. Some of them, harboring a religious relativism, don’t even think the faith should be communicated. So who cares if they are on Facebook?
The truth is that the media, which is pushing all of this prattle, wants more corruption, not less, more miscommunications, not greater clarity. Their ideal Vatican would operate like a left-wing, trendy, vaguely “spiritual” denomination that mirrors the low morals of the world and voices the bogus pieties of political correctness.
Entrust the direction of the faith to those who believe in it and practice it the least. That is the media’s constant advice to a “troubled” church. “Most U.S. Catholics favor changes to modernize church,” read a Washington Post headline this week, as if that is an important consideration for the cardinals at the conclave.
For the media, the wisdom of Catholics grows in proportion to their infidelity. The failures of American Catholicism are somehow in the media’s eyes a great advertisement for the ostensible American candidates in the race and offer a lesson in what the next pope should do. According to the media, he will need to “listen” to these good folks in the pews. But, wait, they are not in the pews. They left a long time ago, not because of doctrinal conservatism, but because of liberal Catholicism, for which lapsing is the logical terminus.
The self-appointed reformers of the Vatican seem to understand that the next pope can’t formally change official teaching. But they do hope that he ignores it, or, as they euphemistically put it, changes the “style” of the papacy, which just means pandering to the world.
Boston Cardinal Sean O’Malley seems to meet with their approval as a potential pope they could push around. He wears sandals, talks about chic causes, attended Teddy Kennedy’s funeral, and employs the brother of a chief Obama aide. What could possibly go wrong? They wouldn’t mind Cardinal Dolan of New York that much either, seeing him basically as a charming and harmless fellow with whom they could chat on the Today Show couch or at an Al Smith roast.
Looking abroad, they like, among other candidates, Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, an “intellectual who quotes Amy Winehouse,” as the Associated Press put it. They could also live with Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn, who “overruled one of his priests and allowed a gay Catholic to serve on a parish council,” noted the Washington Post. They seem to have cooled a bit on the idea of an African pope, maybe since Cardinal Turkson of Ghana told Christine Amanpour of CNN that the abuse scandal didn’t hit there because homosexuality is not “countenanced” by African society. That’s not their idea of hope and change.
The key to the chattering class is that the pope be politically liberal and “non-confrontational,” qualities they discern in O’Malley. They see in him a community organizing pope to go along with a community organizing president.
For them, the papacy is not a rock but a rug, on which these “ecclesiastical Oscars” can be rolled out. Compatibility with a worldly elite, however, was not one of the qualities Jesus Christ had in mind for Peter, whose fate was to be crucified upside down by them.