Blogging Priests And The Pope
I always admired the quiet style and soft diplomacy of blogging priests, a feat of which I am entirely incapable. I actually suspect in seminary they are trained to face confrontations or thorny issues in a fitting way, as I seem to recognise a certain “style” through the board; as if there were rules they all follow, though they don’t write about them.
In the last three months, the traumatic transition from one Papacy to the other has put blogging priests in front of huge challenges because of the (now) conflicting duties between loyalty to the Pope – which is clearly more pronounced in a priest than in a layman, as it should be – and the loyalty to sound – at times, basic – Catholicism, both of them slapped in the face by the present Pontiff everytime the fancy takes him to say something he thinks smart, or pleasing to his audience.
Speaking here only of the blogs I like, up to now I have recognised three styles of reaction. They all have in common a soft, diplomatic, conciliatory approach, but differ visibly in the way they do it. In my eyes, they are the following.
1. Ignore the scandals. Whenever the Pope blunders, the blogging priest of type 1 just does not write on the matter, at all. “Bishop XYZ appointed to the archdiocese of ABC”, or “Conference on TLM in ABC” are the likely blog post issues. They seem to say – without saying it – “what is a poor blogging priest to do in a situation like this…”. My sympathy goes out to them.
2. Amplify the good news. This type of blogger will insist in wanting that we see Francis as a continuation of Benedict, and exhibit in a triple salto mortale to persuade us Francis is a perfectly suited Pope, if we just care to look at things from the right angle. Not bad, merely different. Again, I appreciate the spirit and admire the good will. As I see it, though, the problem with this approach is firstly that, if you allow the metaphor, a peasant has succeeded a professor, and the difference is so brutally evident no amount of good will can ever bridge it; secondly, that the new Pontiff talks nonsense with such alarming frequency – and, which is worse, with such indifference towards his own blunders; clearly the fruit of humility – that every comparison with his extremely guarded predecessor has been untenable for the last, erm, three months. Summa summarum, I would call strategy Nr 2 a very nice try, that would have great success if Pope Francis were not so … Pope Francis.
3. Criticise brutally with nice words. This third – and by far littlest – group will word the criticism in such a way that it is still clearly within the boundaries allowed to a blogging priest, but does not hide much of everything that is going wrong. Again, I have found only very few of these blogs, but when I do they are worth the reading. They find the way to make the messages very clear, but so nicely wrapped.
It will be interesting to see how this situation evolves as this Papacy unfolds. I find it very difficult to believe Francis will want to make his reign more similar to Pope Benedict’s as time goes by; actually, I suspect the contrary will be the case, with the new Pope introducing more and more his own style (or lack thereof) in the years to come, particularly after the not improbable death of the Pontiff Emeritus (may he have a long and happy retirement) during Pope Francis’ pontificate.
We shall see. Please cut some slack to your favourite blogging priests, whose situation is rather different from the one of a layman, and not easy at all.