Video: Morning Joe mulls the politics of pontifical resignations

posted at 2:41 pm on February 11, 2013 by Ed Morrissey

Via the Corner, I’m using Morning Joe as just a representative sample of what the media will discuss in the wake of Benedict XVI’s resignation — and how they will miss the point.  That’s not a sign of disrespect or intentional demeaning of the role of the Pope; Mike Barnicle asks questions that many in the media will ask, and he does so politely. But the panel manages to get a few things wrong, and doesn’t demonstrate much understanding of the role of the Pope, the Cardinals, or the Church itself:

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First, let me start with the panelist who declares that the cardinals face a “snap election” and that the College of Cardinals are “totally unprepared” to make the choice, and now must “make decisions on the fly.”  Just about every one of those claims is either nonsense or a description of normality.  It’s true that Benedict XVI’s resignation is almost unprecedented, but the process of choosing a new Pope is the same regardless.  It’s not a “snap election”; in fact, as I wrote earlier (and is easy to research, by the way), the seat must remain vacant (sede vacante) for at least 15 days before the conclave can even begin considering Benedict XVI’s successor.  They can take as long as they need to make that choice, as the Vatican will enter into a regency of the cardinals during sede vacante.  They don’t make “decisions on the fly”; they make decisions as a body, which as anyone who has worked in a large committee knows, is about the antithesis of “on the fly.”

As for being “totally unprepared,” that’s true of every transition to a certain extent, but is probably a lot less true when the Pope is 85 years old.  The one transition that the cardinals may have been “truly unprepared” to handle in my lifetime was probably the death of John Paul I after 30 days in office.  And let’s not forget that Benedict XVI gave them almost three week’s notice, which is more than the cardinals get with some papal deaths, as in 1978.

Barnicle then mulls over the politics of the event might play out:

With news of Pope Benedict XVI stepping down still emerging, the Morning Joe panel was quick to politicize the resignation and his successor. “It’s going to be a watershed moment for the Catholic Church. Where do they go?” asked Mike Barnicle. “Do they go right? The pope took the church even more to the right. Or do they come back toward the middle with the American church in their minds?”

I hate to break it to the panel, but the Catholic Church probably won’t be taking American politics into account when electing the next Pope.  The US Conference of Catholic Bishops deals with those issues themselves, as part of their stewardship of individual dioceses in the country.  The issue for the College of Cardinals won’t be whether to move the Church Left or Right; it’s how best to maintain doctrinal integrity and evangelize for the faith, consistent with the Holy Spirit’s will for the Body of Christ on Earth.  It was Benedict XVI’s theological work that made him a good candidate for Pope, not his relative position on the American political spectrum.

The New York Times falls into the same trap:

Born on April 16, 1927, in Marktl am Inn, in Bavaria, he grew up the son of a police officer. He was ordained in 1951, at age 24, and began his career as a liberal academic and theological adviser at the Second Vatican Council, supporting many efforts to make the church more open.

But he moved theologically and politically to the right. Pope Paul VI named him bishop of Munich in 1977 and appointed him a cardinal within three months. Taking the chief doctrinal job at the Vatican in 1981, he moved with vigor to quash liberation theology in Latin America, cracked down on liberal theologians and in 2000 wrote the Vatican document “Dominus Jesus,” asserting the truth of Catholic belief over others. …

The announcement plunged the Roman Catholic world into intense speculation about who will succeed him, and seemed likely to inspire many contrasting evaluations of a papacy that was seen as both conservative and contentious — though perhaps not so confrontational as many had feared of the man they called “God’s Rottweiler” for his tenacious defense of church doctrine. …

When he took office, Pope Benedict’s well known stands included the assertion that Catholicism is “true” and other religions are “deficient”; that the modern, secular world, especially in Europe, is spiritually weak; and that Catholicism is in competition with Islam. He had also strongly opposed homosexuality, the ordination of female priests and stem cell research.

All true — and all related to Catholic doctrine.  If the NYT expects the next Pope to endorse embryonic stem-cell research (the Church only opposes hEsc research) or ecumenical relativism, they’re going to be very, very disappointed.  Popes evangelize the doctrinal faith; they’re not negotiating for popularity contests.  The Church already teaches that all people deserve to be treated with respect and love regardless of sexual orientation, but they’re also never going to endorse same-sex marriage.  Popes defend doctrines — they don’t rewrite them.  Truth doesn’t change with fashion.

That’s the point that many media outlets will miss in the next few weeks — not out of malice necessarily, but just from unfamiliarity and a constricted context.  The Catholic faith is much broader than politics or culture, and attempting to see this transition through a narrow lens will only confuse and frustrate reporters, readers, and viewers alike.


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meh. you lost me at “Morning Joe”….

Drunk Report on February 11, 2013 at 2:45 PM

White smoke! Pope Petre or Roma!

The End.

LoganSix on February 11, 2013 at 2:47 PM

Ed’s red-Pope-thread is on Drudge now.

Schadenfreude on February 11, 2013 at 2:48 PM

“of” not “or”

Oh well.

LoganSix on February 11, 2013 at 2:48 PM

On an offtopic but still related note: Considering Islam’s push into Africa, wouldn’t it make sense for them to appoint an African? Imagine a pro life black Pope.

Daemonocracy on February 11, 2013 at 2:48 PM

Sorry, mistaken

Ed’s red-Pope-thread McDermott thread is on Drudge now.

Schadenfreude on February 11, 2013 at 2:48 PM

Schadenfreude on February 11, 2013 at 2:50 PM

What stupid people – why would the Cardinals be less prepared for this selection than they are when a Pope dies?

If Pelosi, Biden, & the Kennedy family are prime examples of American Catholicism the RCC definitely shouldn’t pay attention to American possibilities. Given the state of American Catholics it is doubtful they’d want to inflict an American Pope on the world.

Only liberals would see this as an opportunity for the Church to go all PC.

katiejane on February 11, 2013 at 2:54 PM

The Catholic faith is much broader than politics or culture, and attempting to see this transition through a narrow lens will only confuse and frustrate reporters, readers, and viewers alike.

The liberal media has never so much as tried to grasp Church Doctrine, and it won’t ever make an effort. Can you imagine a priest being invited on Chris Matthews’s show and being allowed five uninterrupted minutes to not only state the Church’s core values but why those values exist?

This resignation by the Pope is going to be fodder for the media Left; already Piers Morgan has weighed in with a comment basically calling the Pope’s stated reason as suspect. Oh–and with a disclaimer that he’s Catholic, too–as if to give himself some imaginary and self-serving ‘credibility’.

The Church has and does little in the way of politics per se, but the Left always seeks to force the Church into its oppressive and always-demanding purview.

Liam on February 11, 2013 at 2:54 PM

On an offtopic but still related note: Considering Islam’s push into Africa, wouldn’t it make sense for them to appoint an African? Imagine a pro life black Pope.

Daemonocracy on February 11, 2013 at 2:48 PM

It would take three years to clean up the mess from all those liberal heads that exploded.

Liam on February 11, 2013 at 2:56 PM

As for being “totally unprepared,” that’s true of every transition to a certain extent

Of course! Nobody expects it!

LoganSix on February 11, 2013 at 2:58 PM

The issue for the College of Cardinals won’t be whether to move the Church Left or Right; it’s how best to maintain doctrinal integrity and evangelize for the faith, consistent with the Holy Spirit’s will for the Body of Christ on Earth.

And Morning Joe’s panel of “intellectuals” will be wondering how the college manages to get around Title IX funding even if it doesn’t have a football program.

Happy Nomad on February 11, 2013 at 2:59 PM

It would take three years to clean up the mess from all those liberal heads that exploded.

Liam on February 11, 2013 at 2:56 PM

May it be God’s will.

nobar on February 11, 2013 at 3:00 PM

May it be God’s will.

nobar on February 11, 2013 at 3:00 PM

In my experience, the Almighty does have a bent for subtle comedic irony. It’s often up to mere Man to get the point.

Liam on February 11, 2013 at 3:03 PM

God laughs at peoples ability to think his work gets done on our time table, instead of his.

portlandon on February 11, 2013 at 3:04 PM

Meh, they called E.J. Dionne “a great reporter”.

Schadenfreude on February 11, 2013 at 3:05 PM

“It’s going to be a watershed moment for the Catholic Church. Where do they go?” asked Mike Barnicle. “Do they go right? The pope took the church even more to the right. Or do they come back toward the middle with the American church in their minds?”

I hate to break it to the panel, but the Catholic Church probably won’t be taking American politics into account when electing the next Pope

Catholics are 17 percent of the entire world population. It’s arrogant to assume that the decision would be based around one political system.

thebrokenrattle on February 11, 2013 at 3:10 PM

That’s not a sign of disrespect or intentional demeaning of the role of the Pope

.

No,of course not,Ed.
.
*sigh*
.
Forever assigning benign intentions and motives to the people who are out to destroy you.

Dr. Carlo Lombardi on February 11, 2013 at 3:11 PM

I’m surprised none the liberal talking heads haven’t yet asked, “How will this affect Obama?”

But I’m sure the question will be raised.

Liam on February 11, 2013 at 3:16 PM

This is the problem with the 24/7 news channels…you’ve got people constantly trying to find angles in things that simple don’t exist, to fill up airtime, and this segment is the very definition of that. Actually, Morning Joe itself and MSNBC overall are, too, but I digress.

changer1701 on February 11, 2013 at 3:17 PM

As usual the media misses the crux of the news in their continuous push to view everything through their advancement of the leftist mindset. It isn’t about whether the next Pope will be another “stodgy conservative” (likely, Angelo Scola) or the relatively young black guy that they hope will be the next Obama that brings the church hard to the left and somehow bankrupts all of its wealth.

The news here is that there is a potential precedent set for Papal resignation due to advancing lifespans and declining health. Past resignations were political measures. Gregory XII resigned in 1415 as part of the compromise to reunite the split church under Martin V in the wake of the Western Schism. Celestine V’s resignation was considered the “Great Refusal” by Dante, of a man who pretty much told the world he wasn’t up to the task.

Today we have a Pope that took on the challenge, succeeded, but understands Celestine’s humility though without the cowardice in deferring the responsibilities to one more physically able. It’s a precedent that makes such an act not a refusal, or political compromise, but a practical decision based on the travel-heavy nature of the office since John Paul II.

If the media or any honest historian wants to understand the development of the Papacy as related to this resignation, then there is the place to look… When it comes to the Papacy, legacies and actions interact and establish themselves on a timeframe of decades, showing the overall narrative of centuries. Alas all that doesn’t necessarily advocate leftist policy as much as wishcasting for a Pope Obama does, so fat chance they’ll open their eyes and see.

As for who does come next, Benedict XVI was/is a great man and Pope. I very much admire him and sincerely hope that another in his mold is chosen.

Gingotts on February 11, 2013 at 3:22 PM

Video: Morning Joe mulls the politics of pontifical resignations

Credentialed not educated, seeing the world as they want it to be, not as it is.

Why do we pay them any attention?

Dusty on February 11, 2013 at 3:22 PM

I’m just surprised the very first two words that did not come flying of Morning Schmo’s big fat loud mouth this morning was BLAME BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOSSSSSSSSSHHHHHH!!!!

pilamaye on February 11, 2013 at 3:24 PM

I’m no longer Catholic, so I personally really don’t care that much.
BUT – you have to respect someone in a position with that much power who’s willing to say “I’m stepping down because I’m no longer capable of doing the job properly”.

If only we had a President with that much integrity and humility to be able to admit he can’t handle the job……

dentarthurdent on February 11, 2013 at 3:26 PM

The issue for the College of Cardinals won’t be whether to move the Church Left or Right;

I wonder if God is right or left?

BL@KBIRD on February 11, 2013 at 3:27 PM

I learned back in 2005 to go to EWTN–not MSNBC–for intelligent commentary on papal transitions.

JimLennon on February 11, 2013 at 3:31 PM

I can’t wait to find out what Toure thinks!

myiq2xu on February 11, 2013 at 3:39 PM

Not a lot of Catholics in the lsm i see

cmsinaz on February 11, 2013 at 3:41 PM

Aren’t all Conclaves essentially “snap decisions”? I mean, you do it after the Pope kicks it, usually, which can be sudden anyhow. From what I understand, part of why they elect a guy who’s already as elderly as Popes generally are is so no one gets too comfortable with him as Pope. He’s on the way out anyway, and just holding the place until the Almighty returns anyway, right?

Sgt Steve on February 11, 2013 at 3:42 PM

I can’t wait to find out what Toure thinks!

myiq2xu on February 11, 2013 at 3:39 PM

OK, I laughed.

Ed Morrissey on February 11, 2013 at 3:43 PM

Not a lot of Catholics in the lsm i see

cmsinaz on February 11, 2013 at 3:41 PM

Don’t you know? They’re ALL Catholics (just ask them). So, they have the cover to be able to pontificate above the Pope.

Liam on February 11, 2013 at 3:43 PM

Sgt Steve on February 11, 2013 at 3:42 PM

Usually they’re known for how long they drag out before we see the puff of white smoke.

Ed Morrissey on February 11, 2013 at 3:44 PM

Newest evidence of Global Warming: First Pope to resign in 600 years.

BobMbx on February 11, 2013 at 3:46 PM

On an offtopic but still related note: Considering Islam’s push into Africa, wouldn’t it make sense for them to appoint an African? Imagine a pro life black Pope.

Daemonocracy on February 11, 2013 at 2:48 PM

Sure, if it can be a lesbian handicapped selection too. Hope that u just forgot /

katy the mean old lady on February 11, 2013 at 4:08 PM

His resignation right in the middle of the Lenten-soon to be-Easter season.. He must really not being doing that well physically.

Static21 on February 11, 2013 at 4:27 PM

Popes defend doctrines — they don’t rewrite them. Truth doesn’t change with fashion.

That’s the point that many media outlets will miss in the next few weeks — not out of malice necessarily, but just from unfamiliarity and a constricted context.

That’s the same point that eludes so-called “progressives” on any faith: the fundamental truth of nearly any religion is that the religion is true. That’s not something that changes to fit a cultural shift or the recommendations of a panel of commentators.

Sockpuppet Politic on February 11, 2013 at 4:58 PM

Morning Schmoe

TarheelBen on February 11, 2013 at 5:11 PM

His resignation right in the middle of the Lenten-soon to be-Easter season.. He must really not being doing that well physically.

Static21 on February 11, 2013 at 4:27 PM

He may believe it’s more mental. Yes, Maudy Thursday to Easter Sunday is very physically demanding for an 85 year old Pontiff. However, my view of how Benedict XVI views his duty as Pope is that his physical health can be offered as a sacrifice. If not physically being up for the job was his only consideration, especially during the Lenten season, I believe he would push on. This is why I believe his view of his ill health is more mental than physical.

On an offtopic but still related note: Considering Islam’s push into Africa, wouldn’t it make sense for them to appoint an African? Imagine a pro life black Pope.

Daemonocracy on February 11, 2013 at 2:48 PM

Cardinal Peter Turkson of Ghana – very pro life, even more he is quite alarmed at Islam in Europe, I can just hear msm talking heads discussing that rationally. He is only 64, quite young – well before the mandatory retirement age for a priest of 72.

Cardinal Francis Arinze of Nigeria – also quite pro life — possible even more conservative (to the American medias way of looking at Cardinals) then Joseph Ratzinger was at his elevation. His big drawback is that he is 80 years old.

talking_mouse on February 11, 2013 at 5:12 PM

Usually they’re known for how long they drag out before we see the puff of white smoke.

Ed Morrissey on February 11, 2013 at 3:44 PM

I hate smokers who take deep drags.

unclesmrgol on February 11, 2013 at 5:49 PM

“It’s going to be a watershed moment for the Catholic Church. Where do they go?” asked Mike Barnicle. “Do they go right? The pope took the church even more to the right. Or do they come back toward the middle with the American church in their minds?”

It’s like listening to New Yorkers talk about the ascendant presidential prospects of their Governors, Senators, and Mayors.

HitNRun on February 11, 2013 at 5:56 PM

“It’s going to be a watershed moment for the Catholic Church. Where do they go?” asked Mike Barnicle. “Do they go right? The pope took the church even more to the right. Or do they come back toward the middle with the American church in their minds?”

The problem with Barnicle and the others is that the majority of church going Catholics, not Catholics in name only, are far more conservative and orthodox than he is willing to admit. To the degree that there are still left leaning clergy and parishoners they are Barnicle’s age and older and are dying off quickly. Even if the selection of the new Pope were somehow predicated on appeasing the American Church, which it is not, the proper choice would be a carbon copy of B16.

ironmarshal on February 11, 2013 at 7:40 PM

Newest evidence of Global Warming: First Pope to resign in 600 years.

BobMbx on February 11, 2013 at 3:46 PM

First, the asteroids…and now this!

Damn globull warming!

Solaratov on February 11, 2013 at 10:00 PM