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Thursday, February 20, 2014

"The Vicar of Snark"

GetReligion has a droll piece on Pope Francis, arguing that the press has wrongly painted him as a nice guy, when in fact he sometimes says mean things.  In contrast, the piece argues, Benedict actually was a nice guy.

The lede is sheer genius.  It offers this example of Papa F. denouncing journalists:

Sometimes negative news does come out, but it is often exaggerated and manipulated to spread scandal. Journalists sometimes risk becoming ill from coprophilia and thus fomenting coprophagia, which is a sin that taints all men and women, that is, the tendency to focus on the negative rather than the positive aspects.

"Oh, my, my," shouts GR in the voice of the SNL Church Lady. " Did the Pope just call journalists a bunch of shit-loving shit-eaters?  Or was it somebody else?  Like maybe ... Satan?"

They go on to argue that Bergoglio is really just a meanie who says these terrible things, unlike that kindly old Dr. Ratzinger.  But the argument fails from the outset, because GR misses the obvious fact, which its article then goes on to prove with further examples:  Francis is a funny man.

Acerbic, sure.  But funny.  The Week, from which our title is borrowed, says he is "practically an insult comic," and offers some jolly examples.  When annoyed, Francis has referred to people as "querulous and disillusioned pessimists," "museum mummies," "priest-tycoons".  They don't mention the most famous, the reference in Evangelii Gaudium to "self-absorbed promethean neopelagianism."  (Zuhlsdorf will sell you a mug with those words printed on it.) Best of all, Francis has called the Vatican hierarchy "the leprosy of the papacy."

No, it's not vintage Don Rickles.  But in context, it's all pretty good.

Perhaps it is because we spend so much time reading Reformation-era polemical writing.  Or perhaps it is that we secretly prefer Dorothy Parker to Dorothy Day.  But we find this sort of stuff refreshing.

Of course, we also thought that Benedict's much-derided Regensburg lecture on the use of force in religion was a delightful, if poorly timed, example of donnish provocation.  Maybe we're just soft on popes in general.

Anyway, GR is trying to counteract what it perceives as a lefty effort to soften Bergoglio's image, by arguing that he says unkind things about people he doesn't like -- including (heaven forbid!) journalists.  Because the article insists on contrasting him to his predecessor, this winds up looking like a gentler form of the Bergoglio-bashing we have already seen from Rorate Caeli & Co.  This misses the point somewhat.

We will be greatly relieved when people on both sides stop treating these two elderly celibate men, chosen as leaders of the same organization by basically the same group of their own friends and associates, as though they stood in radical opposition to one another.  They don't.  While they may have differences of personal style and even some theological substance, they are both self-evidently committed to the perpetuation and prolongation of  the same institution.  It's just that one is funnier than the other.  There's nothing to be gained, and much to be lost, by acting as though they were enemies, or opposites, or whatever.

So grow up, people.  Relax and enjoy the show.  He'll be here all week, and we hear the veal is good.

1 comment:

mark said...

"self-absorbed promethean neopelagianism" is that as practiced in Missouri?