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Rolling Stone? Don't bother

By Phil Lawler (bio - articles - email) | Jan 28, 2014

Have you seen the new issue of Rolling Stone, with a picture of Pope Francis on the cover? If you have, then you’ve already derived every possible benefit from the magazine’s profile of the Holy Father.

The picture is accurate. That really is a shot of Pope Francis.

The article by Mark Binelli is not. He seems unacquainted with the Vatican, and with Catholic affairs generally, and his portrait is dull and simplistic. There are good guys (liberal or gay or both) and bad guys (“ultratraditionalists” and—a new one to me—“controversial hypertraditionalists”) and discussing the Eucharist is “wonky” but criticizing capitalism is cool and Pope Francis is humble and Pope Benedict was rigid and the Pope before that was—here’s a hot inside scoop!— known around the Vatican as “JPII.”

”Open dissent, of course, is a rare thing in an organization as hierarchical as the Catholic Church,” Binelli tells us, and I suppose readers who have never heard of an openly dissenting Catholic—that is, readers who have never read an article about the Catholic Church before—will nod solemnly. But then what do those readers do when Binelli introduces one of his favorite sources, Father Tom Reese, the former editor of America magazine, and happily notes that the flagship Jesuit publication was routinely engaged in dissent:

Reese was forced to resign in 2005 after the Vatican – specifically, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, just before he became Pope Benedict – repeatedly complained about articles challenging church orthodoxy on issues like stem cell research, gay marriage and ecumenicalism.

Ecumenicalism? You can find that word in dictionaries, but you don’t often hear it used by Catholic Church officials. “Ecumenism” is the common term. “Ecumenicalism” isn’t wrong, but it’s jarring. It’s a sign that the writer is on unfamiliar territory.

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  • Posted by: Ave Maria - Jan. 29, 2014 12:24 AM ET USA

    Went to the actual article at Rolling Stone mag. Pope Francis is referred to as "Cool Pope Francis". Apparently previous popes like Benedict & John Paul II as well as lay Catholics who actually adhere to Church teaching "just don't get it." I think Binelli "doesn't get it." But considering who he's writing to, that is par for the course. I do think however that if it's going to create buzz about our Faith than so be it. I used the Rolling Stone links to post to Twitter & Facebook. Be ready! <><

  • Posted by: Mike in Toronto - Jan. 28, 2014 8:59 PM ET USA

    Fr. Thomas Reese now writes for the National Catholic Reporter. Gee, what a surprise.

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