There's an old story about Lyndon Johnson. Upon hearing Walter Cronkite's infamous 'mired in stalemate' report regarding the Tet Offensive, Johnson quipped 'I've lost Cronkite, I've lost middle America.' Or something like it.
Well, Pope Francis is beginning to lose his base in the media. He already raised their ire this year by reaffirming what everyone with a brain knows: he won't - in fact he can't - change Church teaching where sacred leftist cows like abortion and gay sex are concerned. It's noteworthy that he made a couple clear statements this year to that effect, and it's this year that the abuse scandal has once again become round the clock, headline news.
Not that there isn't reason it should be news. But the press has done little about following up on scandal stories over the last few years, preferring to focus on the eternal awesomeness of Pope Francis. So when the story broke that Pope Francis himself might have been part of the big CYA part of the Catholic scandal, it was obvious that the press wasn't sure what to do.
It is worth taking a moment to note that this time the scandal is different. When it first broke almost 20 years ago, secularism already had spent generations weaning Europeans and Americans away from Christianity and the Christian West. Nonetheless, the Faith in general, and Catholicism in particular, still held a certain 'cultural' place of respect for your average Joe and Jane. But over the last decade or more, the secular moved to the radical Left, and more and more have been taught to despise Christianity, along with whites, the European tradition and America itself, above all things.
So as the scandal re-erupts, this time it is in the context of open hostility toward the Faith and its Gospel. When news came that Pope Francis could have been nothing less than a major player in the worst elements of the scandal, the press wavered. He's been their guy to trash traditional Catholicism, Christianity and the Christian West. Do we throw him under the bus? Do we circle the wagons?
Progressive and left leaning Catholics immediately dropped focus on the victims and declared jihad against any accusers of Francis, resorting to baseless accusations, name calling (homophobes being my favorite), character assassination, and all the tricks of the modernist trade. Nonetheless, Archbishop Vigano has patiently, and methodically, answered the worst charges against him in a way that appears to be gaining traction. He's done this while Pope Francis has refused to respond, and his supporters have tried to play the 'but Global Warming liberal policies are what matters!' card. Meanwhile, more and more people are remembering that even according to his most ardent supporters, Pope Francis has made questionable decisions relating to the scandal over the years.
And now you hear Archbishop Vigano being referred to as 'whistleblower' (a label of endearment in our modern times), and CNN has penned an editorial suggesting its time for Pope Francis to resign. What this means, I don't know. After several days of fanatical defense of Pope Francis and double barrel attacks aimed at whipping up hatred against the accusers, Mark Shea has backed off with an 'I'm hurting, let's just love' post.
What does it all mean? Is there handwriting on the wall they are beginning to see? What will it portend? Has the press decided it hates Christianity more than it loves Pope Francis, and is willing to throw him under the bus if it means a victory over its great enemy? Are 'let's just love' posts simply being led by the Spirit or are they due to other signs of the times? I don't know. I just know the Catholic Church has taken a beating, and it's a beating that has hurt the entire Gospel witness at a time when the Faith is under direct attack. Those who have tried to insist all Christians are as bad as the worst of the Catholic scandal have only hurt, not helped. When the world is using a scandal to justify hatred of the Faith, jumping up and saying all Christians are as just as bad takes a special level of dumb, or certainly a special level of something.
Again, the original scandal broke when Christianity was being pushed out of the public forum, but still held a place in the West's heart. The last decades have seen open antagonism and attacks and hatred aimed exclusively at the Christian Faith and its traditions beyond any other belief system in the world. Entire generations have been raised to think Christianity and the civilization it built are alone the only forces of evil in the world. This latest scandal, no doubt, merely affirms what they have been taught all along.
So we'll see. It's as ugly as you get right now. I can't help but think part of it is how many Christians have been willing to bow before the great heresy of the age and attempt to compromise with something wholly antithetical and hostile to the Faith. But that's just me.
UPDATE: Apparently Mark has deleted a comment on his call for healing. The comment was from one of his regulars, someone he often agrees with. Yet the individual is foaming at the mouth radical partisan left, declaring any and all to the right of center (including evangelical converts) to be all the leftist movement says they are. The last couple days have seen her post multiple 'Francis or no church, it's the vile non-liberals like ETWN that must be eradicated!'. Her first comment on Mark's call for healing was a similar 'evil all conservatives' screed. And it's been deleted. As have all of her comments from the previous post about the accusations against Pope Francis. In the spirit of judging the best possible motives, I'll go with Mark being serious about healing. If he so quickly deletes a person who has long been on his side of the debate for obviously bringing partisanship to a call for unity, then we must assume the best of intentions. And offer prayers for healing ourselves.
UPDATE II: Alas. It looks like the removed posts are due to a larger issue, like the individual canceled her disqus account or something like that. It certainly wouldn't be because disqus banned her, given what disqus allows in other quarters. But it wasn't Mark trying to keep it unified. In fact, it's the usual 'thank you for your wonderful blog (what do we care about any personal attacks or false accusations), and of course 'thank you for going after those conservative types who are the real threat to the pure Church'. Sigh. I don't know if I'll go back there, or to any blog on Pathoes. Why bother?