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BY Matthew Archbold
Remember when the Church was irrelevant?
In March, CNN ran a piece by a Boston University Professor entitled, "My Take: The pope is irrelevant."
The New York Book Review ran a piece around the same time by author Gary Wills, which led off by saying, "The next pope should be increasingly irrelevant, like the last two."
Salon.com ran a piece last year entitled, No One's Listening to the Pope.
It's a funny thought. But if everyone's talking at the same time about how irrelevant something is, isn't it relevant?
The funny thing though is that right after the media declared the papacy irrelevant they focused thousands of cameras on a tiny chimney for days to cover the irrelevance? And the coverage hasn't let up one bit since. In fact, it's only increased. Is there any car in the world getting more attention than Pope Francis' 1984 Renault? Who doesn't know that he opted to live in a small-ish apartment? Everyone is hanging on every word coming out of Pope Francis' mouth for various reasons. But everyone's listening. Hey, when was the last time that happened?
There's no doubt that every time I hear Pope Francis gave another interview I rush to read it. I'm interested in what he's saying. But there's a part of me that rushes to read it because I feel like he's doing a high-wire act with these long-form interviews. I worry about any slip-up that people will use against Catholics or confuse others. But it's what he does and I guess I'd better get used to it.
But while the pope makes me a little nervous at times, he makes others very nervous. British atheist Kate Smurthwaite wrote recently that she's concerned that Pope Francis is a wolf in pope's clothing. That's actually the headline. That sounds a bit like panic, doesn't it? She essentially accuses Pope Francis of faking his compassion (because we all know atheists corner the market on compassion.) She even thinks he might even be as bad as Pope Benedict XVI but is just "a better spin doctor than his predecessor?"
She is just realizing that she doesn't think the Church is going to change its mind on things like gay marriage, women priests, and abortion. Horror of horrors.
The thing is, many desperately want the papacy and the Church to be irrelevant. But the truth is that the pope is a dangerous man. Dangerous to the status quo, dangerous to the prevalent culture of death, and dangerous to materialistic views. The papacy is relevant. It always was. The pope is feared by many. So they call him irrelevant.