It was a stunning video, one full of historical and modern analogies all pointing to back to the man (Pope Benedict XVI) and the institution he ran (the Catholic Church.) The helicopter ride Pope Benedict XVI took from the Vatican to Castel Gandolfo flying over modern Rome and the ancient landmarks known the world over, such as the Coliseum and the Apian Way made for a breath taking array of images. For faithful Catholics one of the illuminating high points of watching papal transitions is the fact that the mainstream media is not always in control.
The historic images speak for themselves which must be somewhat maddening to those who have to throw their digs into the Church that Christ Himself started via Peter. NBC News anchor Brian Williams made the mainstream media’s point Friday on the lead off segment of the NBC Nightly News when he stated the Catholic Church does images well, but there is scandal behind the images we see. One could say the exact same thing about the mainstream media’s coverage of the White House and yet nary a word of that sort is heard.
Perhaps the helicopter ride of the Holy Father made many of the media’s gatekeepers cringe because those historical landmarks (the Coliseum, the Apian Way) were like many modern secular government’s landmarks, supposedly everlasting. If someone would have told the Roman power structure in Diocletian’s time that within 100 years Rome would be Christian and the empire would be gone, howls of laughter would have echoed through the Pantheon. Modern secular leaders and the often militant secular scholars whom they follow, view traditional Christianity much in the same way those in the seats of power in Rome once did, something that should have no influence or bearing on the affairs of its citizens.
Though a towering intellectual giant, Pope Benedict XVI is a simple man who never wanted to be Pope and pleaded that Pope John Paul II let him go back to Bavaria and write when then Cardinal Ratzinger reached the age of 75. His gentleness was seen in the Conclave when it was said he won many of the Third World Cardinal’s votes. It is said that he did so because he showed a kind father or grandfatherly hand when other princes of the Church were perhaps not so welcoming upon the Third World’s prelates arrival in Rome. This sort of gentleness coupled with a refusal to water down the truth made the man from Bavaria a towering figure in the history of the Church. Often the stature of towering figures grow with time, unlike our pop culture heroes whose legacy becomes all too often faded and forgotten.
Sadly, the whims of our modern world often make even the best and brightest sound silly. On the ABC Sunday Morning Show with George Stephanopolous, a panel featuring many Catholics discussed the upcoming Papal Conclave. When James Carville sounds the most orthodox of the lot, one has to wonder. In addition to Carville, Catholics on the panel included Cokie Roberts and Matthew Dowd. The consensus of Roberts and Dowd was the Church needs to change to reflect the modern, western, secular world. No mention of respecting the more conservative views of the Third World. This shows a complete lack of faith, one can’t change the teachings of the Church. Even liberal James Carville said as much. Yet, the supposedly more conservative Matthew Dowd didn’t get it.
Some might argue how could the thesis of new book The Catholic Tide Continues to Turn possibly be right in light of this sort of thinking. However, what the critics don’t realize is that the last Papal Conclave still had cardinals who supported these views, and so did the Conclave before that and the one before that and so on. This is probably the most orthodox Conclave in any of our living memories. The sort of distorted thinking that tries to make Jesus fit into society instead of vice versa goes back far beyond this century. Pope Pius IX warned of the disasters of Modernism in the 1800’s which had its influences from the French Revolution of 1793. One would think a revolution, one of whose ideas was to extinguish the role of religion in society should have no use in any church and yet both Catholicism and Protestantism became ensnared with this virus.
Fortunately, we have men like Pope Benedict XVI to thank for cleansing the Church of this virus. Though there is much work to do in the Church, let alone society, it was because of his actions that we see light at the end of the tunnel. Sadly, the taunts and the vicious name calling take their toll. Perhaps there are two simple things we can do for the man from Bavaria; thank him and pray for him. In gratitude it is the least we can do. Governments and their monuments come and go, but great men are not forgotten. We should feel fortunte to say that we lived in the time of Pope Benedict XVI.