The Catholic Church today has two popes. In itself, this is not without precedent. There have been numerous antipopes throughout history, most infamously at the end of the period known as the Avignon Papacy. What is unique about our antipope today is that he is a fictional character who exists only in the fevered imaginations of far-left liberal journalists and disaffected small-c “catholics.” We have the Real Pope Francis who is sometimes vague or confounding, but always faithful to Catholic teaching, and then the Media Pope Francis who is distorted, mistranslated, or in the recent kerfuffle over whether animals go to heaven, entirely fabricated. The latter creature was once again on full display on Sunday night’s special episode of “60 Minutes: Inside the Vatican” on CBS.Pope Francis and his Doppelgänger
The title alone gives one pause. For a program that styles itself a “weekly television news magazine,” you would think they could interview somebody actually inside the Vatican who is close to Pope Francis on a daily basis and actually knows what he or she is talking about instead of presenting a half-hour of worthless speculation, baseless rumors, dubious hearsay, and outright fantasy. Given the salacious headline, at least the program was not as bad as the conspiracy theories of the “History” channel, but this is only because Scott Pelley didn’t mention how the Catholic Church is secretly controlled by space aliens and the Knights Templar.
Instead, CBS filled most of the airtime with the fanciful musings of a certain Robert Mickens, who has the dubious distinction of having been fired from the thoroughly heterodox Tablet for some nasty comments about Pope-emeritus Benedict which was evidently a bridge too far even for them. That aside, this raises the question, if a journalist interviews another journalist, is that even news? Mickens and some of the other guests shared some indirect anecdotes about other people who had spoken to Pope Francis personally, but otherwise, the only words from Pope Francis’ own lips shown on the program were some of his past public statements which are already well known and have been discussed at length here at CatholicVote and elsewhere and are certainly not newsworthy at this late date. Perhaps most astonishingly, the program included an interview with President Obama who has been [mis]quoting scripture a lot recently in his speeches, so apparently he’s suddenly an expert on the Catholic Church now as well.
In all this, CBS has the clear aim to present a pseudo-portrait of a Pope Francis who is going to radically reform a Catholic Church which is deeply corrupt and institutionally flawed. This is a dangerous misunderstanding of what the Catholic Church is and what the Pope can do. There will be no radical departures from what the Church has always taught. For instance, Scott Pelley and his pal Robert Mickens conveniently forgot to mention the results of the Extraordinary Synod on the Family that concluded a few months ago in which the radical agenda was roundly rejected. The Pope can promulgate infallible dogmas as he pleases, but he does not get to choose his successor. The doctrine of Papal Infallibility rests on the assumption that popes will not use this magisterial authority to either contradict earlier teaching or enter into active controversies.
More deeply, this caricature of Pope Francis as a mere politician more concerned with the daily vicissitudes of public opinion polls rather than timeless principles is supremely offensive to a proper understanding of what the Catholic Church itself is. As members of the Catholic Church, from the Pope to the janitor at your local parish, we are all human beings who go to the bathroom, suffer illness, and share in our fallen nature of concupiscence. Even the “60 Minutes” report mentions that Pope Francis often refers to himself as a sinner. This is not new. This is an immutable reality of our existence. However, although we are all sinners, the Catholic Church as a whole was instituted by Christ himself. That is, as an institution, it cannot be corrupted or flawed, because Christ is God. Indeed, given the sordid history of so many of the men entrusted with the care of the bride of Christ across the centuries, it can only be attributed to divine intervention that the Church endures to this very day.
This type of yellow journalism then is not only dishonest and scandalous, but also an attack on faithful Catholics everywhere, for any injury to our Church is an injury to each and all of us. When confronted with these devious distortions, we cannot remain silent. If we do, we will continue to allow the Catholic Church to be defined in public opinion by the voices of her enemies. It is tiresome and frustrating to hear the same heresies parroted in the media over and over again, but they will not stop unless we raise our voices in opposition. If anything, Pope Francis has made clear that we must be more active in our evangelization to share with the world what the Catholic Church is really about and indeed, it is a message of great joy which transcends the petty politics and personalities of small-c “catholic” journalism. As faithful Catholics, we also have an obligation to defend our Church, but it is an easy burden, for the truth will always prevail in the end.