I read (and hear) around that the secular Press will distort the message of the Pope be emphasising only the parts that are useful to them; and for this reason, one should avoid criticising the Pope as “too liberal” in order to avoid, in a way, unwittingly helping them to do their evil work.
I am unsure whether the thinking is entirely correct.
On the one hand, the Press can certainly influence reality, but it can never create it. If anything, I have the persistent suspicion the mass media are far less influential than they think they are. Berlusconi is living evidence of that, but everyone living in England knows decades of raving lunatics at the BBC have had a limited influence on the Country at large (the country has changed of course; but certainly not because of the BBC, the collapse of the so-called CoE certainly playing a far bigger role).
The consequence of this is that whilst the media can try to smuggle the narrative of the “liberal Pope”, they'll never succeed unless the Pope agrees. Let this Pope consistently thunder against the evil of our times (not the easy ones that find everyone in agreement, like consumerism; but the difficult ones that divide societies in two, like abortion) and see the liberal Media drown in ridicule trying to ignore him or, far more probably, attack him all right.
Then there is, of course, the question of the Pope himself. Like the professional media, Catholic bloggers do not create reality, they merely report or comment on it. The reason why so many bloggers and commenters are afraid that this Pope might not be orthodox is not that they have decided to abandon themselves to a collective bout of hysteria, but rather the fact that his past behaviour and his first actions as Pope have given them more than sufficient reason to be afraid of it. We cannot ignore this reality and hope the liberal press will not notice it. They have, in fact, noticed so well they lavish praise on him; and whilst I am sure their cockiness will soon make place for more sobering thoughts, it is certainly not a cockiness coming from nowhere or the fruit of mere wishful thinking.
The Pope is the only one who can shape his Papacy and the way it will be perceived, and there is no way the mass media will ever manage to silence his message: the Catholic audience is far too vast, the professional media far too diverse in their political orientation, and the private blog and forum activity far too atomised and interconnected to make this even thinkable.
The real question is here not how we react to Pope Francis, but what kind of Pope Francis will choose to be. If he is an orthodox Pope, no power on earth will prevent the message from being spread. If he is an heterodox one (certainly not the first, and something very much in the cards in Catholicism, particularly in these troubled times; but you can delve in the past and find Popes like John XXII, too) there is, again, no chance on earth the news will spread like wildfire all over the Catholic planet. There are simply too many God-fearing and properly instructed Catholics around for any “South American” antic to go unnoticed, and even in this sense the barrage of criticism because of the Mozzetta is certainly to be welcomed.
In modern, pluralistic societies the media can never change the perception of reality to the point of shaping a new one: there is no Dr Goebbels around, and as long as we have pluralistic, free societies (imperfect as they obviously are) there will never be.
Pope Francis already got a first taste of the way Catholics can be vigilant whilst they are obedient. It is said he is one able to listen, so let him listen. Whilst I have very factual reasons to fear he might be a bad Pope, I think he is an intelligent man and hope he will – helped by the special Grace afforded to the position – understand the old Cardinal will have to make place for the new Pope. Still, he is the one in charge and he is the one who will, with his actions, determine the reactions. The mass media will, ultimately, not be able to change a iota in that.
Now that the four day-marathon has ended and the Holy Father has come back to his warmer and less aggressively atheist climates, it is perhaps fitting to compare what has happened with the exaggerated fears preceding the visit.
For months we have heard dire predictions about arrests and disorders. Once again, I must point out to the fact that the uncritical reading of whatever the press says leads to a vision of things which has not much in common with reality.
Foreign Head of States are not arrested when they visit a country. Not even in Zimbabwe, let alone in the United Kingdom. Adequate security is precondition to every State Visit. The idea that the man sitting in the pew be so concerned about the security of the Holy Father, but the vast security apparatus in charge of these visits has forgotten to adequately deal with the matter is just plain ridiculous.
What has, once again, happened is that the media – always desperate for the next bout of collective hysteria, because it sells – have given vast publicity to the deluded rants of spoiled children and that as a result millions have believed that these fantasies had a basis in reality. Peter Tatchell’s threat of arresting the Pope has never been more credible than the tantrums of a small child in need of physical correction. It was, in fact, just a matter of courtesy from the police to invite Tatchell beforehand and to make clear to him that every “attempt” would be a serious criminal offence; but I suppose that you try to be patient with small children.
Summa Summarum, the fact that the visit has not been plagued by any security concern whatever (the episode with the road sweepers was more a confirmation of the efficiency of the measures and the excellent work done by them than any indication of inefficiency or threat) should lead us to be, in future, more cynical as regard to various claims made by the press and expected to be swallowed by the readers/viewers without posing questions.
There has never been a security “threat”. This is not a tin-pot African country. It is even possible to organise an absolutely safe Football World Championship in one of the most corrupt, criminality-plagued countries of the world, how can it be difficult to organise a safe visit of the Pope in England.
Don’t believe what the press says. Not even half of it.
What the press publishes has no bearing with reality, but merely with the possibility to cause sensation.