Monday, April 04, 2005

The Economics of Papal Coverage

Most people I know are enjoying the Papal coverage, even non-Catholics and former Catholics. But of course there are miserable ones who detest the focus and are complaining. "Why should we care?"

But this is one time that economics and capitalism works quite well for Catholics. There are 60 million + U.S. Catholics. I think we can safely say that 30 million or more are very interested in everything that's going on and will watch whatever coverage of the Pope they can get their eyeballs on.

MSNBC and CNN had been getting their butts kicked by the mindless propaganda of Fox News on a regular basis. On a good day, the most popular MSNBC show may get 200,000 views, CNN gets about 100,000 more (they were all giddy about Nancy Grace getting 604,000 viewers). Fox gets more, but that's because it is propaganda and a sham.

Now of the 30 million Catholics watching the coverage, let's say 15 million are on the Right and so predictably tune in to Fox news which proudly features our friend Deal Hudson and Raymond Arroyo of EWTN. That leaves the scraps of 15 million a piece to CNN and MSNBC. Now, there are no combination of possible scenarios, save live footage of the Rapture, in which CNN and MSNBC could ever hope for 15 million eyeballs glued to their channels. These are superbowl numbers for a cable news channel. Besides, they are guaranteed similar numbers for the next month as we move towards the Conclave and new pope.

There is absolutely no economic incentive to decrease coverage, which is a win-win situation for Catholics and others who want to watch as much coverage as possible.


There is a priest who appears on all talk shows and I never catch his name. He has a British accent and was a Papal aide for a while and teaches at Seton Hall now. I saw him one show brandishing the blood of Padre Pio. (I concluded that there was something gross and absurd about relics after I viewed the hand of a little child martyr at the Franciscan monastery in DC. That, coupled with reports of tongue and tooth relics is enough for me to swear off saints for a while.) Anyway, our priest friend was watching a clip of JPII and afterwards remarked, "Watching that gave me goose pimples."

I think Chris Matthews is doing great. He is Catholic and not afraid of the fact. It is clear that he knows more and is more comfortable with Catholicism than many of the other anchors. BTW, Chris Matthews had on Msgr John Strynkowski as an analyst. Msgr was the chief doctrine enforcer at the USCCB for a short while (3 years). I remember being in a meeting in which he was present along with a Southern African Bishop and some South African church officials. The issue of condom use vis-a-vis the HIV prevention thing was talked about. My distinct sense was that there was no one there who was against it. The problem was more about the politics of making fine subtle distinctions to the faithful. All people want to know is, can we use condoms or not? And not that it is acceptable in some cases but not in others, etc. BTW, a few years ago there was the interesting case in the Philipines where young men engaged in pre marital sexual activity were refusing to use condoms because it was against the teachings of the Catholic Church. Back to Msgr: I also remember a brown bag lunch session he had on Vatican II in which he questioned the wisdom of all these episcopal political-type statements, noting that this is probably not what Gaudium et Spes had in mind.

One thing that baffles me is that quality or lack thereof of the on-air translators. Come on, this is italian not Japanese. It shouldn't be hard at all to find people fluent in both languages who can capture the nuances and accents of either. Or maybe it is--I suppose those people are all diplomats and Bishops.

Finally, why would anyone in their right mind want to be part of the 4 million person funeral? How crass of me, you say. Well, I've got one word for you, bathroom issues. Good luck pressing through that crowd. Let's just say the woman in Luke with the sickness who pressed through the crowd in faith to touch Christ's garment would have given up in this crowd. But I suppose that's it--it is not about being in your right mind. The charisma of the deceased Light is powerful enough to draw us beyond the comfortable limits of rationality to the discomfort and absurdity of faith devotion and that's never a bad thing.


Blogger Talmida said...

I read somewhere yesterday that the streets surrounding the plaza had been closed to traffic and were now lined with porta-potties. Just what you want sitting outside your little trattoria!


7:52 AM  

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