12th February 2013
This pope has left a record of hundreds upon hundreds of thousands of words and it is astounding how many liberal Catholics have read none of them. For a so-called Catholic pundit to talk about the pope and his place in history without having read a single word of the more than 50 books the Holy Father has written is like someone covering the Washington Nationals and not knowing Bryce Harper’s stats.
This is why, for the next few weeks of media attention on Rome, the progressive, leaning forward Catholic left will offer the most juvenile and reactionary coverage. There are basically three requirements to writing liberals columns and books about the Catholic Church:
1) Don’t know your subject. It is especially important that liberal Catholic intellectuals not read any of Pope Benedict’s writings. His books, particularly the popular Jesus of Nazareth series, are much more accessible than the works of John Paul II, which could get bogged down in academic jargon. He has also written tens of volumes about the liturgy, theology, Church history, and his own life. And in the unfortunate event that you do read some of his work, make sure you misquote it or use deceptive ellipses — see Wills, Gary.
2) Bring the snark. “The pope, following Sarah Palin’s lead, resigns.” So tweeted Chris Cillizza of the Washington Post shortly after the news broke of Pope Benedict’s abdication. I call this the Ana Marie Coxing of journalism. In order to debase the pope, it’s necessary to drag him into your pop culture frame of reference — even if doing so results in a joke that is neither insightful nor funny. The low end of this is, of course, Andrew Sullivan, who jokes about the pope wearing a “dress” and nice shoes.
3) Bring straw men. Lots of them. Throw a party. The pope hates women and gays. He’s turned his back on the Second Vatican Council. He doesn’t understand the modern world. Crucial to this step is a firm grounding in step #1.
Equally important is the iron insistence that the western world has not moved to the left in the last 50 years. To ignore the liberal shift means that one can simply say that gay marriage, the welfare state, and sexual “freedom” are simple facts of life, and that to be against them is like standing against the tides.
Hey — why treat the Pope with any more respect than they treat the average Republican? One must maintain standards, you know, and being a Voice of the Crust is a challenging (but deeply superficial) career.