As if their motives needed further corroboration, some of the media’s most influential reporters continue to prove that their pouty jockeying with the Church is little more than a game. After demanding a personal apology from Pope Benedict, the press seemed to be holding its collective breath, hoping the pontiff would pull a Jimmy Swaggart, though, clearly, that glove wouldn’t have fit. Now that those demanding a public apology have gotten one—infused with inspiring pastoral theology, I might add—they now claim the pope’s words are merely symbolic, and declare his promise of remedial action unsatisfying. With time, some of that dissatisfaction may abate. But what seems unquenchable is the impulse on the part of religion journalists to downplay or ignore the apology on account of its lack of melodrama.
After registering his rejection of the pope’s apology, one writer featured by CNN couldn’t quite put into words his additional demands for the pope, except for his hope that diocesan websites would post mug shots of offending ex-priests. He went on to describe the successor of Peter as a sort of spiritual dictator. Others complained the pope’s homily lacked sufficient detail on the Church’s policy toward sexual abuse claims, which, one might conclude, stems from their misapprehension of what a homily is. CNN’s Kyra Phillips strangely denied the pope had offered any form of apology at all, citing a distinction without a difference: “there are two simple words we haven’t heard: I’m sorry.” MSNBC’s Savannah Guthrie was barely able to acknowledge the pope’s words, steering her remarks away from the pope’s obvious sincerity towards voices critical of the Church.
Something tells me that, instead of the rather unassailable, “Pope begs forgiveness” headline, these people would rather see a title page reading, “Pope begs forgiveness, seeks settlement with faithful by declaring Sunday Mass optional.” Or something like that.