As cardinals from around the world begin arriving in Rome for a conclave to elect a successor to Pope Benedict XVI, new shadows have fallen over the delicate transition, which the Vatican fears might influence the vote and with it the direction of the Roman Catholic Church.Shadows have fallen... dying days of a troubled papacy. It seems painfully obvious to me that the New York Times reporters and editorial staff has no sympathy with, and indeed actively dislikes, Catholics. They are bigots, as even the most casual substitution exercise immediately shows -- you can't imagine any similar article ever being written or published about any non-Christian religion.
In recent days, often speculative reports in the Italian news media — some even alleging gay sex scandals in the Vatican, others focusing on particular cardinals stung by the child sexual abuse crisis — have dominated headlines, suggesting fierce internal struggles as prelates scramble to consolidate power and attack their rivals in the dying days of a troubled papacy.
But, putting that aside, what strikes me is how extremely bad (meaning: stupid) and narrow this is as news reporting. The only prism through which this reporter sees the world is the prism of politics and scandal and sex and power. That is not missing the forest for the trees, that is missing the forest by focusing on a single small shrub. The vastness and importance of what actually goes on among a billion Catholics every day and all around the world -- prayer, communion, confession, penance, salvation -- is completely absent from this reporter's world-view, making her reportage trivial and insipid. The Times would not assign a person who knows nothing about sports to report on the Super Bowl, or someone who knows nothing about movies to report on the Oscars, or someone who knows nothing about science to report on the Nobel Prize in Physics. But apparently it's OK to assign someone with patently no interest in or sympathy for the religious life to report on the selection of a new Pope.
Meanwhile, compare the tenor of the New York Times with that of the Pope himself, giving his last Angelus sermon today on the Second Sunday of Lent:
A great man. God Bless him and grant him peace in his last days.Dear brothers and sisters. During the service on the second Lent Sunday, the Gospel of the Transfiguration of the Lord is always presented.Luke, the evangelist, has highlighted the fact that Jesus transfigured while he prayed. His is a deep, profound experience of relationship with the Father during a sort of spiritual retreat that Jesus lives on a high mount accompanied by Peter, James and John, the three disciples who were always present during the moments of the divine manifestation of the Master.The Lord, who not long ago had proclaimed his death and resurrection, offers the disciples an anticipation of his glory.And in both the transfiguration and the baptism, the voice of the heavenly Father echoes: "This is my son, the chosen one, listen to him!"The presence of Moses and Elias later on, representing the laws and the prophets of the ancient covenant, is far more important: All the story of the covenant is oriented towards Him, the Christ, who fulfills a new exodus not towards the promised land as during the times of Moses but towards Heaven.St. Peter's intervention: "Master, it is beautiful for us to be here" represents the impossible attempt to stop such mystical experience.St. Augustine has commented: "St. Peter... on the Mount... Christ's only food was the soul. Because he must have descended to return to exhaustion and pain, while above, he was filled with feelings of sacred love towards God, which thus inspired him to a sacred path."Pondering over this fragment of the Gospel, we can draw a very important lesson: First of all, the supremacy of prayer, without which all the apostolate endeavors, and that of charity, will be reduced to activism.During Lent, let us learn to give the right time to prayer, both personal and community prayer, which breathes air into our spiritual life.However, praying does not mean isolating oneself from the world and its contradictions, as St. Peter would have liked to have done on Mount Tabor, but prayer leads us back to the path, to action.Christian existence -- I have written in the Message for this Lent -- means to continuously climb up the mount for our encounter with God, so that afterward we can descend again filled with his love and strength to serve our brothers and sisters with the very love of God.Dear Brothers and sisters, this Word of God I feel in a particular way towards me, at this moment in my life.The Lord is calling me to "climb the mount," and to devote myself to meditation, reflection and prayer.However, this does not mean abandoning the Church, but rather, if God has requested this of me, it is so that I can continue to serve the Church with the same dedication and the same love with which I have done up until now, but in a way adapted to my age and my strength.Let us invoke Virgin Mary's intercession: Let her guide all of you to follow the Lord Jesus always, in prayer as well as in laborious charity.