As a lifelong, practicing Roman Catholic, there are few things I find more enjoyable than a papal conclave. Love us or hate us, we do ritual and pageantry better than anyone. As a conservative who writes often about media bias, I knew there would be some ridiculous coverage of this one, especially in the social-media era.
It began with the conclave in 2005, the first in the 24/7 cable news era. Then and now, the MSM weighed in with what it thought the Church needed to do to be more like a modern church, which, thankfully, the cardinals blissfully paid no attention to whatsoever. Listening to and reading the media coverage of this current conclave in the days leading up to it made it seem to me as if the average American journalist thought the pope would be chosen from a fraternity during rush week and not the College of Cardinals.
Because it’s the MSM and it can’t help itself, identity politics also had to come into play.
Immediately after Pope Francis gave his first blessing, even Matthew Dowd, a former Bush-Cheney consultant, wandered far afield by unequivocally stating that by choosing the name “Francis” this pope would be all about social justice. At that point it hadn’t even been made clear whether Francis Xavier or Francis of Assisi had been the inspiration for the historical choice. This was lazy not only for that reason, but also for the fact that “social justice” as the Church means it is very different from the American interpretation, as stated by one of the most talked-about favorites of this conclave, Cardinal Peter Turkson.
The press reaction was mind-numbingly awful, full of “reporting” that the man chosen to lead more than a billion Roman Catholics was–SHOCKER!–against abortion and same-sex marriage (here is a link to the Google results for “new pope abortion same sex marriage”). It’s as if they’re living in an alternate reality where, because they really, really want it to happen, they think the pontiff of their dreams will appear on the balcony and declare that his first order of business will be to invalidate Canon law, all the while tossing condoms to the crowd.
The Church endures because the Church isn’t whimsical or a slave to the social quirks of a given era. This frustrates many. Yes, it has had some less-than-savory episodes in its history, most recently with the pedophile-priest scandal. It survives the darker periods because it will often make institutional adjustments to address serious issues like that. It doesn’t, however, take the pulse of those in society who have largely forsaken God to find out what it needs to do to be more popular.
And that is why it will be here long after the New York Times and its ilk are forgotten.