So the Pope has passed the barrier of 1.3 million followers on Twitter, and he appears destined to break every record before long. Still, I am unable to see any great positive aspect in the news.
I have already written about why I think that it does not befit a Pope to descend, as it were, among the people. It also appears only today the slowest have discovered the Pope doesn’t really read his Twitter account (you don’t say? Astonishing…).
Still, it can’t be denied Twitter does have its own use. As I see it, twitter is well suited for the short exchange, the one-two, the close combat. Twitter can’t be used to convey complex concepts, but it can certainly be used to convey short truths in a very punchy way. This kind of short, politically incorrect, shocking message would be wonderfully suited to Twitter, and the huge following of the Pope would help this message to spread around like wildfire.
Let us make some example: short but orthodox tweets could be Q & A from the Penny Catechism; they would mostly have to be divided, but no one would have any difficulty in following them.
Shorter and grittier messages would also be thinkable, like “if you support abortion you are at grave risk of damnation”, “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom”, “there is a time for peace and a time for war”, “today is the anniversary of the great day of Lepanto”, “pray the rosary every day” and countless others.
Imagine what impact would have on the entire Catholic world a Pope authorising one or two of these salvos every day. It would spread literally everywhere, and even the tidal wave of insults and abuse occasioned by them would be extremely useful in attracting the attention on the snippets of Truth daily distributed through Twitter. It would in my eyes be a big instrument of evangelisation, because short statements about real issues coming from such a source would cause the entire planet to take notice and the short, punchy style for which Twitter is so well suited would do the rest.
Not so today, I must say. The Pope’s tweets rival those of the Dalai Lama in innocuousness and, whilst obviously far more useful than those of the latter, are truly nothing to write home about. Catholic afternoon tea talk, rather than a Cyber Crusade.
The situation being what it is, the twitter exercise and the huge following of the Pope remind me of the crowds waiting for the Pope at the airport: a huge kermesse skilfully hiding behind a compact wall of people the immense superficiality of modern, V II Catholicism.
With the new Pope’s twitter account, everyone can follow and feel, in a way, as if he were there at the airport; and this is, I am afraid, the reason why most people follow. To be there, to be part of it, to express an innocuous “approval” rather than being committed to the rather hard truths of Catholicism, this is the real meaning of this big number of followers: a bit like being at the airport without the queues, the security and the waiting. As for the crowds at the airport, easy words rather than hard truths will be administered.
Hard truths of which, you can bet your pint, the Holy Father won’t tweet very many.
Those of you who tweet will have probably noticed the news: the Holy father has his own “personal” Twitter address. Of course he already had one (@BenedictXVI, or the like), but the “Benedict” one was rather a PR outlet than a “proper” tweet.
So, will this be a proper “tweet” address? I cannot imagine it, but let’s hope not and let us see why:
1) Last time I looked (= two seconds ago) the Holy Father was following a grand total of 7 people. This won’t make for a great excitement when reading the timeline.
2) The public’s answer is enthusiastic, with more than 450,000 followers in a matter of very few days; but one wonders how many follow the Holy Father purely to show the Catholic flag (as I do; I doubt I’ll ever read anything worth the reading from there) and how many follow him merely to spit insults at him every time he posts a tweet, or perhaps even without waiting for that. Cue all the abortionists and sodomites launching themselves in rants against pedophile priests so that they may appear virtuous.
3) I imagine the process of the Pope writing on twitter like that: he decides to write something; then he takes a sheet of paper and writes it by hand; the first secretary reads it and thinks it’s fine; he gives it to the second secretary who notices it’s more than 140 characters; the “tweet” goes back to the Holy Father who writes a shorter version as requested; the first secretary still thinks it’s fine; the second secretary tips it on Twitter and sends it; a huge load of abuse follows.
4) Nor would I imagine (or want) the Pope in front of his computer/IPad/whatever thinking “let me log in on Twitter”, reading the amount of abuse directed at him, and “engaging” with the readers. Firstly I am sure he has more important things to do (no, I am not talking of writing books), secondly it is not fitting for a Pope that he “engages”. Which leads us neatly to
5) If you ask me, a Pope is supposed to be above things, not in their middle. He is supposed to hover over the cares of humanity and to lead the faithful with a firm hand. He must be the general on the hilltop, not the corporal in the close-quarters bayonet fight. The Pope cannot sink to the level or the common people, because the Pope is supposed to be above the level of the common people; to think otherwise is democratic drunkenness, not defence of the Pope.
What is next, the Pope as judge on the X-factor? Or in some strange island?
Summa Summarum, this twitter thing might well turn out to be a rather sterile exercise, used either to write easy sounding platitudes in Dalai Lama style (ok, the Holy Father’s platitudes would certainly be less flat; which by the astonishing stupidity of the Dalai Lama ones isn’t difficult anyway) or to send to the world link to the Pope’s activity, which the other Twitter address already did. One struggles to see the use, and wonders why a Pope should “get among the people” in such a way. Can’t imagine Pope Pius XII walking down the pub and saying: “Hi folks, I’m the Pope: what’s on your mind?”. Caring for the people doesn’t mean mixing with them; and if some great Popes did so (Sixtus V, apparently; and Pius XII, certainly) they did so incognito, and never meant it as an exercise in popularity and “democracy”.
Of course, evangelising means to be among the people; but the role of a Pope is in selecting good evangelisers (the bishops) able to inspire other evangelisers (the priests, friars, and even the laity), not in descending from his throne and mix with the tweeting mob to show he is one of us.
Methinks, this must be an idea of Father Lombardi.