The Vague Pope Francis Myth

We present a particularly stunning example of journalistic buffoonery.

One can read a translation of our Holy Father’s talk of yesterday in less time than it takes to watch this.

An impression that I have gotten from reading the contemporary version of the newspapers is: dear Pope Francis does a lot of scolding.

Now, I think that, perhaps, he does scold from time to time. In a way that disturbs my English blue-blood sensibilities.

But His Holiness certainly does not scold anywhere near as much as his breathless (supposed) advocates in the press would have us believe.

The Fix

At one point in the interview above, Ms. Ifill asks the ‘expert,’ “So what’s the fix?”

That is: The ‘fix’ for what? Being the evil Catholic Church? The journos of today seem to have the idea that the doctrines contained in the Catechism come from the ‘entrenched Italian Curia.’

Traestevere home of some Curial offices
Traestevere home of some Curial offices
As any checker of facts could tell you, the Curia is by no means ruled by Italians (other than the Italo-American who does, in fact, rule it.)

But the idea that the poor souls who sit at desks in places like the Palazzo San Callisto could, if they wanted to, announce that it’s okay to perform acts of sodomy, marry someone married to someone else, fall into Onanism, etc.–the idea that such a thing is even possible? Anyone who has ever attended Mass, like, once could understand, I think, that it does not work that way. Is this what the reporters mean when they speak vaguely of Pope Francis’ ‘reform?’ I think it is. But nowhere in any of Holy Father’s scoldings do we find real evidence for this.

But the irony of Ms. Ifill’s question goes oh, so much deeper. “The fix?” Holy Father’s talk, as he expressly declares at the beginning of it, proposes an examination of conscience to prepare for a Christmas-Eve Confession. Mr. Eckstrom refers above to the importance of our Holy Father’s being a Jesuit. Indeed. Jesuits have, since the days of St. Ignatius himself, taken upon themselves the duty of helping us sinners examine our consciences so we can make good confessions. Papa Francesco is about as old-fashioned a Jesuit as you are gong to find. He makes the hardass American Jesuit who brought me into the Catholic Church (may he rest in peace) seem like a lame pussycat by comparison. If that’s the Francis Reform, bring it on!

(I also think that Mr. Eckstrom’s insistence that the new Archbishop of Chicago could never! be characterized as a careerist or climber–I think a few people might want to pull us back from the brink of such a kneejerk canonization. I point that out even though I am by all means a Cupich man, having quoted him repeatedly on the subject of immigration reform.)

But anyway: The Fix. The fix, dear friend, for our sins: To repent of them and seek the mercy of Christ.

Why waste more time, brothers and sisters of the press, treating holy Mother Church as if she were some kind of Fortune 500 company? 1978 and -79 saw many similar breathless storylines, chased by reporters with no understanding of their subject matter. This time, the whole thing sounds even stupider.

Best Streetmap


Perhaps it will not surprise you to learn that I had a “tortured hipster” phase approximately two decades ago.

You could have found me one night at 2 a.m., at the counter in a diner on York Avenue on the Upper East Side, drinking my sixth cup of coffee and writing a poem.

The poem narrated how a group of Manhattan Indians would have landed their canoes down the hill from where I sat, long before York Avenue, or FDR Drive, or 72nd Street were even thought of, when there were mountain lions in what became Central Park.

nyc-skylineThe idea of the poem was supposed to be: the streetmap we think we have for life does not in fact give us the true lay of the land.

Basically, my nineteen-year-old self was whining about not having been given a more comprehensive “blueprint” for life during my upbringing. I felt like I needed a better, a deeper, a more truly realistic existential map.

Then I crumpled up the paper in disgust. Because I realized: that was exactly the type of thing that my father would think.

Continue reading “Best Streetmap”