“And now let us begin this journey, the Bishop and people, this journey of the Church of Rome, which presides in charity over all the Churches, a journey of brotherhood in love, of mutual trust. Let us always pray for one another. Let us pray for the whole world that there might be a great sense of brotherhood.”
Among the billions of people around the world who are not Catholics, many look upon the papal pomp and circumstance with a certain measure of curiosity ranging from the benign to the banal to the belligerent. The personality cult surrounding the pontiff is a strange enough, given the bland personalities required for such a storied and bound office, but even those who see nothing more than a bunch of old men playing dress-up might take a note about reverence. In tumultuous times that often seem devoid of solemn respect—well, that is the question, is it not?
Modern perceptions of religion are sharply caricaturized. One need not give over to religious belief in order to acknowledge that cynicism toward mystical fantasy need not include derision of ideas like sanctity and veneration. Perhaps this is a classic first world problem, a contrast that stands out clearly amid American affluence; we have the luxury of such discussions.
But the world needs next Medici pope only slightly less than the next Honey Boo Boo; there is only so much modernization critics of the Catholic Church can reasonably demand. Imagine Rick Santorum as pope.
That guy. With a public relations team like the Church has. Nothing like bringing the institution squarely up to … about the 1950s. With a gaffe diva. Reality television would never be the same. The cable news networks would never recover.
That said, a man in his middle seventies tasked with what will ultimately be an exceedingly stressful agenda—systemic repair, public relations rebuilding, and the eternal mission of regulating a diverse church community in which growth brings concomitant destabilization—might raise eyebrows. Clearly, we are looking at a ten-year papacy, or perhaps less. Pope Francis is facing prodigious immediate demands. One can only wish him the best.
Meanwhile, editorial cartoonists are enjoying their latest addition to the repertoire. But, ouch. The ones that stand out have a lot to say. Milt Priggee (above) leaves no doubt about the foremost challenge facing the new pontiff. Pierre Ballouhey, though, raises a curious conclave context. I can imagine that I get it, but that’s only imagination. If someone wishes to bring me up to date, I wouldn’t object.