Catholic Culture News
Catholic Culture News

Popular misconceptions IV

By Phil Lawler ( bio - articles - email ) | Mar 05, 2013

Today’s most popular misconception, repeated in dozens of media reports, is that the cardinals have not been able to set a date for the conclave because not all cardinal-electors have arrived in Rome. That’s not true. The conclave can’t begin until all the cardinal-electors are present. But the cardinals certainly could have scheduled the opening of the conclave, confident in the knowledge that all the cardinal-electors would be in town by tomorrow (Wednesday). So the decision not to set a firm date reflects the cardinals’ conscious choice. Apparently they want to hash out some questions (about the Vatileaks scandal?) before they focus on the task of choosing a new Pope.

Among other unfortunate developments in the media coverage of the sede vacante period:

  • The New York Times continued providing op-ed space to “anti-Catholic Catholics”—that is, critics of the Church who identify themselves as Catholics. First it was the irrepressible Hans Küng, who professed his astonishment that the last two Pontiffs have wanted bishops to affirm the teachings of the Catholic Church, rather than the theories of Hans Küng. Since Küng unabashedly judges Pontiffs according to their sympathy for his ideas, his reflection on the pontificate of Benedict XVI was probably predictable:
    In 2005, in one of Benedict’s few bold actions, he held an amicable four-hour conversation with me at his summer residence in Castel Gandolfo in Rome.
    Imagine the gall of someone who thinks it is a daring move for the Vicar of Christ to have lunch with him! But consider, Hans, Jesus ate with sinners…
  • Next the Times gave its space to Paul Elie, who made the insouciant suggestion: “So if the pope can resign, we can, too. We should give up Catholicism en masse, if only for a time.” Elie announced that he will worship somewhere else—with Quakers, or Episcopalians, or Buddhists, or Jews, or Muslims—to show his dissatisfaction with Catholic teaching. If the Church changes, he will return.
  • Closer to the reality of Catholicism—but unfortunately not much closer to reality otherwise—Cardinal Julian Herranz, who chaired the special commission of cardinals investigating the ‘Vatileaks’ scandal, told a Spanish daily that reports of corruption within the Vatican have been exaggerated. That comment might have sounded more convincing if he had not proceeded into the realm of hyperbole, saying that the Roman Curia constitutes “the least corrupt and most transparent government there is.” Reasonable people might disagree about the level of corruption within the Curia, but the “most transparent government,” it’s not.
  • Back to the New York Times, which took a fairly neutral position in a report on the gambling sites that are taking bets about the identity of the next Pontiff. However, the betting lines indicate that the oddsmakers—and most of the bettors—don’t understand what’s going on in Rome.
  • Fox News offered its unique perspective on the coming conclave, with a report entitled What kind of new pope would America's Catholics like to see? I don’t know about you, but I’d be more interested in knowing: “What kind of American Catholics would the new Pope like to see?”

Phil Lawler has been a Catholic journalist for more than 30 years. He has edited several Catholic magazines and written eight books. Founder of Catholic World News, he is the news director and lead analyst at See full bio.

Sound Off! supporters weigh in.

All comments are moderated. To lighten our editing burden, only current donors are allowed to Sound Off. If you are a current donor, log in to see the comment form; otherwise please support our work, and Sound Off!

  • Posted by: koinonia - Dec. 23, 2016 5:14 PM ET USA

    Thank you, Father, for this candid discussion. The importance of these considerations can't be overstated. "The millennial generation is seeking a holistic, honest, yet mysterious truth that their current churches cannot provide. Where they search will have large implications for the future of Christianity."- "Why Millenials Long for Liturgy" American Conservative 2014. We haven't had the necessary fortitude. But all is not lost, we might "accompany" these millenials- they're onto something.

  • Posted by: - Mar. 06, 2013 1:48 PM ET USA

    I have decided to resign from Gravity. That will make losing the weight - fortunately he did not say mass - my physician recommended incredibly easy. Who wants to join me? (My limited understanding of betting leads me to believe that "odds" are established based on bettor behavior so as to maximize the "bookies" income, not on how the oddsmakers believe events will actually turn out.

  • Posted by: Defender - Mar. 05, 2013 10:23 PM ET USA

    You forgot to say that Paul Elie is at Georgetown...maybe covering up a cross or two there (if they exist) would satisfy him.