@Pontifix…that's a lot for one mind to process, is it not? I thought to myself, "Myself," said I. "This is a decidedly unusual combination. Twitter and the Vatican? I mean, how's that going to work?" Because I just couldn't visualize the Pope taking time out of his busy schedule to blast out 140 character messages from his smart phone to his Tweeps…of which there are now over half a million and counting. What in the world would he say? And then what would he do after that? Would he grab a half-caf mocha latte and get in a few rounds of Where's My Water before hearing confessions?
It just doesn't jibe. Complete incongruity. It's like my worlds are colliding.
Look, I'm not trying to dis Twitter by any stretch of the imagination, but it is what it is. Twitter's not necessarily the forum for philosophical profundity. There just isn't enough room for that. I know that most of the Tweets that I've received and sent effectively add to the white noise that is the Twitter experience, but they aren't exactly the kind of musings that are worth quoting or repeating or remembering which I believe is completely antithetical to the purpose of a pope. We all expect certain things from our world leaders but frivolity isn't one of them.
You know what I mean. You get those Tweets from congressmen and aspiring congressmen…your occasional presidential candidate. "We must move forward and win! #woohoo2016." "As your congressman, I will legislate! #legislate." "I am for the American people! #upwithpeople." It's the kind of linguistic hokum that would have Thomas Jefferson weeping for the death of true political discourse. I can't stomach the trite, five-word pep talks that our politicians spew in the name of connectivity. I imagine it would only be ten times worse coming from the leader of the Catholic Church.
And, of course, this is all rhetorical to the point that the pope probably has peeps that will do the official Vatican Tweeting anyway – what with him being the pope and all. Some kind of canonical posse or such. Still, I couldn't help myself. Being that I'm a Catholic, I felt like I needed to see what the deal-e-o was…grin…so I followed him. Then I did a quick scan of the discussion thread to get a feel for what @Pontifix was going to be about. And all I can say is "Wow. #holeecow."
Pope Benedict went live on Twitter and blam-o! It was like suddenly the ground opened and an eternal, sweltering hiss from the depths of Hell set loose upon his account with an almost preternatural voracity – the likes of which this world has not witnessed since Milton put pen to paper and offered for all posterity his version of Paradise Lost.
The mind is its own place, and in itself
Can make a heav'n of hell, a hell of heav'n
And don't let's forget that. I'm being mildly hyperbolic, of course, because it suits my mood today, but "Wow. #holeecow" barely scratches the surface of the hate and filth that was flung through cyberspace to accost this man of God.
So I began asking some my friends and acquaintances what they thought of the obscene treatment of Pope Benedict – if it was appropriate to speak to the leader of the Catholic Church or any kind of a leader or any kind of non-leader in such a way…even if it's only in a virtual, "no one's ever going to read this stuff anyway" sense.
One of my CINO friends…that's "Catholics in name only" summed up the defense of this rough treatment pretty well, I guess. Almost verbatim and in concert with the anti-pope Tweets but thankfully with none of the vulgarity, my friend gave me the following excuses for why it's okay to Tweet to Pope Benedict so viciously:
"He had it coming to him because of his treatment of women and homosexuals."
I wasn't sure. One can never be too careful these days. I thought perhaps that I missed some important information that would clarify her position so I asked, "My goodness! What did he do to them?"
"He won't let women be priests and he won't let gay people get married."
I paused. Just long enough to underscore the point. And then I added to her treatise with great joviality, "…and he won't let women kill their babies either. Let's burn him at the stake."
"What about that priest scandal? You can't possibly be defending him on that."
I'm still not sure what I'm supposed to make of that statement because I don't feel like I'm defending the abuse of children by priests…or ministers…or rabbis…or teachers…or scout leaders…or congressmen…or coaches…or college administrators…or daycare workers…or police officers…or the checkout clerks at your local grocery store…these are sickening acts of violence committed against human innocence. They are indefensible.
But let's be clear. Abuse doesn't happen with a greater frequency in the priesthood. That's a fallacy. There's exactly the same rate of abuse within the priesthood as there is in all the other occupations that I mentioned. We perceive that the abuse by priests occurs at a higher rate because it is a priest's job to be good. We expect – nay, demand – that they will be better than the rest of us and we are bitterly disappointed when they fail to live up to their calling.
I'm with my friend on this point though. I actually do want my spiritual leaders to be better than everyone else and there's nothing wrong with setting high expectations for them. But they are not without sin and as much as Church critics would like it to be, it is just not a form of hypocrisy for a faith run by sinners to ask people to avoid sin. Sorry.
"So what about the cover-up?"
Now that I think of it, I'm actually not sure if my friend will be calling me again.
Cover-ups are bad. No doubt about it and that kind of misdirection and subterfuge should never be tolerated by any kind of official – Church or otherwise. Fast and Furious, for instance, was a cover-up that led to the deaths of hundreds of Mexican nationals and an American border control agent. Benghazi was a cover-up that misled Americans about the death of our American ambassador to Libya. Given those cover-ups, I still can't imagine Tweeting vulgarities to @whitehouse over my disapproval of their handling of these life and death situations because, as dissatisfied as I am with Barack Obama and his administration, he is the president.
I wonder how many of the people who had no problem hurling obscenities at Pope Benedict because of his supposed double standards actually voted to reelect Barack Obama in spite of his. My-my-my, it is good to be king.
This discussion is ancillary, I suppose, to the point I'm trying to make. As of the writing of this post, Pope Benedict has yet to Tweet anything out to the world, and there's no telling if he actually ever would. Just as a sidebar – It's pretty funny to me how many people are offended that he hasn't followed them back yet. Maybe this self-aggrandizement on the part of select members of the Twitter community gives us insight as to why having people like Pope Benedict around is a good thing? It puts everything #inperspective.
You know, this whole situation kind of reminds me of something that happened once when my children were just toddlers. I walked into the kitchen one day to find Child One standing tippy-toed on a chair and straining to reach an upper cabinet which coincidentally was the home of our Oreo cookie stash. And we can blather on about the Michelle Obama school of food management if that's what you would like to take from this discussion, but that would be quite a waste of time because Oreos are yummy and I like having them around.
So I said to Child One, "Excuse me? What are you doing?"
"Nothing. Go away."
I don't know why. Even way back then, that reply brought a smile to my face. Cheeky, yes. But funny.
"I don't want to go away. I want to know what you are doing."
Child One offered no further response and seemed content to stand there and simply wait me out. So I sat down at the kitchen table with the hope of witnessing what Child One would decide to do. After finally cluing in to the fact that I most certainly was not going to go away, Child One scrambled down off the chair and toddled to another room in search of some other mischief.
It makes me wonder. Maybe that's what this entire exercise in futility has been about. Maybe it isn't futility at all. Maybe Pope Benedict was simply, quietly trying to add a modicum of conscience into the Twitter mix.