Rolling Stone Magazine hit the newsstands this morning with the picture of Pope Francis on the cover. The lead article by Mark Binelli entitled Pope Francis:The Times They Are A-Changing has caused such a stir that the magazine has raised eyebrows - and may actually make a profit. Of course, the writer hoped it would reinforce the absurd thesis he thinks he can support in this silly, poorly researched article. He thinks the times they are a-changing means the Catholic Church and her message is changing.He is wrong, but all Press is good press in this new missionary age.
WASHINGTON, DC (Catholic Online) - Rolling Stone Magazine hit the newsstands this morning with the picture of Pope Francis on the cover. The lead article by Mark Binelli entitled Pope Francis:The Times They Are A-Changing has caused such a stir that the magazine has raised eyebrows - and may actually make a profit.
Of course to an aging boomer like me, the use of the title of a counter-cultural anthem on the 1964 album by Bob Dylan of the same name was obvious. It did what so many songs can do, called the lyrics right back to my mind. The first verse says enough:
Come gather 'round people
Wherever you roam
And admit that the waters
Around you have grown
And accept it that soon
You'll be drenched to the bone
If your time to you
Is worth savin'
Then you better start swimmin'
Or you'll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changin'
Of course, the writer hoped it would reinforce the absurd thesis he thinks he can support in this silly, poorly researched article. He thinks the times they are a-changing means the Catholic Church and her message is changing.
You have heard it in all of its various iterations in many other media sources. In short, that this Pope named Francis is not like the other old pointy-headed popes who did not see the light of the agenda which calls itself progressive these days.
Further, that somehow Francis is going to be the one who changes the Catholic Church to conform to the vision of the liberated western culture as championed by those who seek to jettison the Natural Moral Law. He will be the one to discard the Catholic insistence on the Right of the child in the womb to be born rather than aborted.
Further, that he will throw off the old claims concerning the normative nature of the two parent heterosexual, monogamous marriage as the foundation of family and society. Finally, that he will be the one who jettisons the myriad of other unchangeable moral teachings of the Catholic Church and the Bible and the unbroken tradition upon which she stands.
It was also laced throughout with the effort to disparage Pope Benedict XVI in a shameful way by painting a caricature of that holy, humble, gentle and professorial Pope as autocratic and enamored with the trappings of his office, implying he lived in some kind of nest of luxury.
Nothing could be farther from the truth. It is not only nonsense; it is the cut from the same old anti-catholic screed we have had to deal with many other times in American history.
Then, there is the effort to set up a straw man, to contrast Benedict and Francis - when the two are friends and Francis regularly cites his predecessor with admiration and esteem. It is equally frustrating.
Any reporter who actually took the time to read Francis, in his encyclical letter Lumen Fidei (The Light of Faith) or his Apostolic Exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel) would not make such a patently false assertion.
Francis continues in his teaching and papal writings the trajectory which Benedict offered during his own service in the Chair of Peter. Both continued the trajectory of Blessed John Paul II and the Second Vatican Council, rightly understood.
Benedict taught what Francis continues to teach. He also bore witness to the beauty of that teaching, only in a quiet, professorial and different way. That is before, in the final act of the humility which characterized his pontificate, Benedict stepped aside to spend his final years living as a monk and praying for Francis and the Church - and following the Savior they both love.
I could go on, but you get the point. I think this article was awful. Fortunately, the Vatican spoke out immediately. The best summary of the reaction of Fr. Federico Lombardi SJ, the head of the Press Office of the Holy See, was offered in this formal, public release on Vatican Radio:
The lengthy cover piece dedicated to Pope Francis in the February 13 edition of the popular Rolling Stone magazine has made its way around the world. The Director of the Press Office of the Holy See, Fr. Federico Lombardi SJ, praises the article's appearance, saying, "[The piece] is a sign of the attention that the novelties of Pope Francis attract from many different quarters."
Fr Lombardi SJ goes on to say, "Unfortunately, the article disqualifies itself, falling into the usual mistake of a superficial journalism, which, in order to shed light on the positive aspects of Pope Francis, thinks it needs to describe the pontificate of Pope Benedict in a negative way, and does so with a surprising crudeness." Fr Lombardi SJ adds, "This is not the way to do a good service even to Pope Francis, who knows very well what the Church owes to his predecessor."
What Fr Lombardi politely called "superficial journalism" has been practiced in many other media circles, including certain Catholic media sources. However, the worst violators are those who seek to use the fresh, warm and engaging manner and message of Pope Francis to promote their own agendas which many times are diametrically opposed to his message and mission.
I think that the efforts of many of these opportunists are finally being exposed. Hopefully the tired old song of many in the media is being exposed for what it is. I particularly hope that catholic and other Christian sources in particular will stop playing the tune.
There is no doubt that Francis and Benedict have different manners, emphases and styles. From the very beginning, the twelve whom the Lord Jesus chose to carry forward in time His redemptive mission until His return, were also quite different.
What unified them then was the Lord Jesus - and the message which he delivered in his words, his way of life and His death and Resurrection. That is what unifies not only Benedict and Francis but the entire Catholic Church. And, it will not change. Instead, the ever fresh message changes times and entire Nations.
The song by Bob Dylan which became the title of the Rolling Stone piece was not the only song which the cover story brought to this aging boomer. I also remembered the song "Cover of the Rolling Stone". It was first recorded by Dr Hook and released in 1972.
That song was an irreverent mockery of the prominence being placed by some of simply being on the cover held in the mind of many back then. "Gonna see my picture on the cover, gonna buy five copies for my mother", Dr. Hook sang out in that sarcastic song.
Well, this issue of Rolling Stone is actually worth keeping, but only for the cover. The content of the story is trite, factually incorrect and reflects very superficial journalism indeed. I would be a lot less charitable than Fr. Lombardi. In fact, I could not print the words I would use.
To call the years of service of Pope Emeritus Benedict a "disastrous papacy" and refer to that brilliant theologian and humble, diminutive professorial Pope as a "a staunch traditionalist who looked like he should be wearing a striped shirt with knife-fingered gloves and menacing teenagers in their nightmares" was reprehensible!
Shame on you Mark Binelli, shame on you!
However, even given the rottenness of the content of the article, I maintain that it is absolutely WONDERFUL that Pope Francis is on the cover of the Rolling Stone. Just add it to the choice of Francis as the "Person of the Year" and the amazing way in which so many are enamored with the marvelous man who stands as the Francis of Assisi for this hour. It is a blessing.
Why, because people are beginning to listen to the message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ as it is proclaimed in word and deed in the life of this joyful and refreshingly simple man of God. That message is the truly progressive message that they hunger for.
That message, the Christian message, is the only message which will truly liberate the men and women of this age as it has the men and women of every age - for two thousand years. And that is the goal of Pope Francis, to point people to Jesus Christ. Once that happens, he knows that the Lord does the rest.
And, all press is good press. Let me explain what I mean with a closing story.
When I was a young lawyer I started my first Law Firm. Many members of the Bar were angry. However, I received some helpful advice from an elderly, controversial lawyer in the City in which I lived. He had a thriving practice and was, at times, quite controversial. He was one of the few members of the Bar who encouraged me in a City which had too many lawyers competing for the same client base.
My law partner and I knew that our approach to law practice was unique, especially given the role that we hoped our faith would play in the way we served our clients and the causes we pursued. However, this older lawyer did not understand any of that. He just saw in me the eagerness and enthusiasm of his youth and it delighted him. He took me under his wing and tried to coach me on how to build a law practice and a client base.
One day, he was arguing so effectively for his client in a courtroom trial that he became quite animated and boisterous. The Judge turned angry and warned him from the bench that if he continued to pursue the line of questioning he was pursuing in a cross examination he would hold him in contempt of court. He did not heed the judicial direction.
I ended up visiting my mentor in jail the next morning.
The controversy caused quite a local stir and made headlines in the City paper. He was thrilled. As we talked, he smiled and told me not to worry about his well being. He said it had happened before and he would be just fine. Then, he decided to give me some advice on how to grow my nascent law practice. He said "Keith, in our line of business, there is no bad press. All Press is good Press."
In this new missionary age of the Catholic Church, I say the same. All Press is good press. For the times really are a changing. But not in the way Mark Binelli thinks.
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