It was only a year ago I felt very out-of-place among my secular journalist friends. They found it painful to hear of my affection for Benedict and were very critical of him.
Now, Pope Francis has spent one year in office. Amazingly, I find myself on the same page as writers in the mainstream media. But if I’m brutally honest, fondness for Francis is the only thing that an unfashionable writer like me and more liberal writers have in common. For one thing, my peers are in a state of total disbelief when they hear His Holiness will not allow women to become priests. They say something to the effect that, “Pope Francis is so open-minded – he’ll change Church teaching utterly!” Then they point out stories from a media powerhouse that supports their claims.
Most people see Pope Francis solely through the prism of the mainstream media reportage and I believe this is the origin of the conundrum, “is Francis all style and no substance?” It’s not for a second that Francis lacks substance, but much of the mainstream media coverage of Francis is high on praise and low on substance, and thus people’s perception of him is shallow. You won’t find a left-wing editorial offering apologetics to support Pope Francis’ statement, “the reservation of the priesthood to males, as a sign of Christ the Spouse who gives himself in the Eucharist, is not a question open to discussion”.
Here’s where Catholic journalists, bloggers and broadcasters must come in. We need to go into more theological and spiritual depth when discussing the Pope’s words and his gestures. For starters, what about more analysis of His Holiness’ quotes that are completely ignored by the mainstream? Instead of just repeating the well-known stories, we need to go into more detail on the Pope’s biography and on his role as the Vicar of Christ. When we explain why Pope Francis is not dismantling the Church’s teachings, we need to provide relevant apologetics that will make sense to people living hard lives and who feel the Church’s teachings are above them.
Francis’s immense popularity translates as credibility and for the first time we have a worldwide audience of Francis fans who are willing to listen to what Catholicism has to offer. We may risk getting frowns from our more trendy friends in the media, but the greater risk is losing this golden opportunity to be taken seriously as Catholic writers and to change the perception of Mother Church, one word at a time.