Friday, April 08, 2005

Pope Media Saturation and Anti-Catholicism: The Downside of Coverage

I think the untold story about the recent events and all the media coverage is the Christian Right and anti-Catholic sentiment. The blatant display of raw Catholicism over the past few days and the total media saturation of Pope news has stirred up latent anti-Catholic feelings that political alliances had repressed.

I just had a conversation with a friend who has a small business and is a regular Chruch goer. She's not political but I think is a born again Christian. We were talking about the Pope's death and I was surprised at how agitated the whole thing made her. So much so that she refuses to offer any products that display or refer to the Pope.

I think she's being exposed, for the first time, to Catholic veneration in its most enthusiastic and raw form: the acclamations for sainthood, talk of relics, etc. She complained that Catholics were treating John Paul II like Jesus. "There is only one Jesus," she noted.

I remember in my anti-Catholic days, I worked at a nursing home and was assisting a resident. This was during one of the pope's visits. I remember getting her all set to watch the Pope deliver his homily and she was so overwhelmed by the whole thing. I was uninterested in the Pope, aka the anti-Christ, and was mildly irritated that his visit had hijacked the airwaves. So I know how it feels to watch Catholics make an idol out of a human being.

In the past few days, I've watched different stations in their coverage of the events, CNN, MSNBC, some Fox and EWTN. Everytime I ckick on EWTN, I then go down one notch on the dial to TBN, Trinity Broadcasting Network. The absense of anything Papal, even a mere mention, has been staggering. Of course, I haven't watched much of TBN in the last few days so maybe there have been some tributes, I don't know. What I do know is that the past week on TBN has been about their fundraising drive and how if you give to them, God will give back to you, "good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over."

I can't help but feel that there is an undercurrent of resentment and anti-Catholicism lurking . . . and it bothers me. I don't know why. My friends anger bothered me and I'm not sure why. I used to be on the other side of the fence when it comes to Catholicism, so I understand what they are feeling. But maybe that's it. I feel that the legitimacy of Catholicism, understood in a broad sense, is obvious and clear, so maybe I'm irritated by the uninformed bigotry (tautology? "wet water"?). Or ultimately, I think it is that we hate cold water being thrown on that which we are enthused about. If you don't like what is going on, at least do not criticize it, just be silent . . . for now. Religion is so personal that it is hard to separate the creed from the believer. To attack one's belief is as close as you can come to attacking the person.

On the other hand, are we as Catholics overplaying this whole thing? No. We didn't ask the media to cover it. We didn't ask three presidents to kneel by the body of the Pope. As I mentioned in an earlier post, this is one time that the economics of the situation and market forces have tipped in our favor. If the media can bombard us with OJ and Kato Kalin, Michael Jackson and his boy-loving antics, then damn it, we are entitled to some Pope coverage, don't you think?

So while we celebrate this life that has passed beyond, I think we need to keep in mind that it is not all love and happiness with everyone. Many sympathize with us and many don't. We have pushed them to endure this coverage, I just wonder if and when they'll push back.


Blogger Ambrose said...

I never thought I would in all my life watch so much EWTN as I have this week. It just felt safer.

10:44 PM  
Blogger Ono said...

Their picture quality is attrocious though.

I have to confess, I watch an average of one hour a week. Mostly snipets of different shows.

11:22 PM  
Blogger Steve Bogner said...

I've made it all the way with EWTN ;) I don't know what it is about religious broadcasting, but it's a big turn-off for me.

7:54 AM  
Blogger Ono said...

My problem with them, beside poor picture quality, was that they just wouldn't shut up.

My wife really wanted me to see the end of the Mass where the pall bearers picked up the coffin and then turned to give JPII one last look. She had told me how the place erupted in applause and waves. Well, as I was watching EWTN and waiting, Raymond Arroyo and Fr Neuhaus talked all through that moment so I couldn't get a feel for what was going on.

I then had to watch CNN's coverage about an hour later and they did the right and smart thing, they were silent and I got to hear the crowd and the bells and it was worth it.

EWTN has some catching up to do. They've been in this business long enough to make such dumb rookie mistakes.

9:59 AM  

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