Have you seen the satirical article in the The Onion about Pope Francis? The headline reads: “Pope Francis Pursues Sinner Across Vatican City Rooftops.” There’s a photo-shopped picture of the pope chasing a man in a hoodie and both of them appear to be running over Vatican City rooftops. The supposedly humorous article describes Pope Francis pursuing the criminal atop the Sistine Chapel, scaling walls, and leaping across 30-foot gaps before finally tackling the bad guy and sending both of them crashing through a fifteenth-century stained-glass window directly into a confessional.
If you read it, did you like the article? Did you think it was funny? The piece is all over Facebook and most of the commenters think the article is hilarious. There are comments about our “SuperPope” and the cleverness of The Onion.
Permit me to be a poor sport but I didn’t think the article or the photo was witty at all. Make-believe cartoon superheroes scale walls. Fictional blockbuster movie characters crash through windows. The pope is neither a cartoon character nor a box office crime fighter.
It’s disturbing how, from the first day of Pope Francis’ pontificate, the secular media and some of the so-called Catholic media have set out to portray him in an overly familiar way—as if he’s one of the guys or the next door neighbour with whom you can shoot the breeze and have a couple of beers or worse, as a comic book vigilante character. Granted, some of that is fuelled by the pope’s actions but would the media dare portray Martin Luther King, the Dalai Lama, Billy Graham, Nelson Mandela, or Mohammad in that way? Of course not.
What’s even worse is that some Catholics seem to think this portrayal of the pope is cute and clever. Well, fellow Catholics, it’s not funny. This overly familiar way of viewing Pope Francis undermines his authority. It’s hard to take someone seriously when he’s seen as a make-believe vigilante. And if the pope isn’t taken seriously then neither is the Church of which he is the visible head on Earth. Undermine the pope, undermine the Catholic Church.
My somewhat suspicious nature thinks that characterizing Pope Francis in this way is really a subversive attack on the Catholic Church. If the media is successful in painting Pope Francis as a cartoon caricature, his authority will be weakened and by extension, the authority of the Catholic Church. And Catholics won’t see it coming because we’ll be too busy chuckling and sharing all those cute memes, articles, and photos of our Superhero Pope.
Pope Francis is the Pontiff, the visible head of the Church on Earth, the successor to Peter, and the authority figure of the Catholic Church. It is up to faithful Catholics to demand due respect from the media. Stop liking, linking, and sharing all items that deviously make fun of our Pope and our Church. The secular as well as the questionably Catholic media are doing a fine job of attacking the Catholic Church. Let’s not give them any help.