NEW POPE’s SIMPLER, LESS PRETENTIOUS, MORE HUMBLE STYLE CONNECTS WITH A WORLD JADED BY AND WORN OUT FROM CONSUMERISM … FRANCIS REACHES OUT TO NON-BELIEVERS, OTHER RELIGIONS … HOW MUCH OF THIS WILL MAKE A DIFFERENCE, ULTIMATELY, FOR THE CHURCH? … plus … GET THEM BOUNCING, JIGGLING BALL GIRLS DA HECK OFF THE FIELD
By DAN VALENTI
PLANET VALENTI News and Commentary
(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, FRIDAY, MARCH 22, 2013) — He paid his own hotel tab and carried his own luggage to the bus that he rode along with his other colleagues, even though they had a Mercedes limo waiting expressly for his private service. He told those who elected him, “May God forgive you” for what you have done, evoking gales of laughter from a groups that wouldn’t rank high on your “fun to party” list. He wades into crowds by himself, vexing his bodyguards. He made a phone call, dialing the number himself. The receiver thought it was a prank. He eschewed the ridiculous ruby-red Dorothy loafers of his regal predecessors to keep his beat up black sneakers.
Meet Francis, the new Pope.
A Fast Start in an Allegorical Office
Jorge Bergoglio has gotten out of the gates fast. The first days of an office as laden with symbol as the Roman Catholic papacy establish a permanent image that tends to become allegorical. The surface actions can be interpreted to reveal an underlying core meaning that eventually become a “theme.”
Pope Francis has come off as a humble man in touch with the streets, the possessor of a common touch and a rare penchant to act on an impulse, as when he went crowd diving, much to the consternation of his bodyguard.
Francis is the first Jesuit elected to the papacy and the first Holy Father to hail from anywhere except Europe in 1,300 years. He will conduct Holy Thursday Mass in a youth correction facility and not at overwrought basilicas St. Peter’s or the Lateran across town. Francis is also cutting American nus some slack.
You’ll recall that Pope Benedict XVI and John Paul II before him didn’t like the way these “uppity females” were spending too much time on social justice and not enough time on abortion and homosexuality. For Francis, social justice wins out. God bless activist nuns. It is a welcome breath of fresh air, a refreshing elixir not emanating from the Church since 1963 and the papacy of Vatican II architect Pope John XIII.
Unlike the remote, high-pitched Benedict, Francis seems to possess a persona that connects with people on a human and not professorial basis. Unlike the pinched Polish prelate JPII, Francis, while he seems aware of the world stage, isn’t in love with it. His first homilies and speeches have been talks and conversations rather than lectures or performances. Unlike his predecessors, he talks on and off the cuff and doesn’t have to stage manage every blasted syllable into a gold-and-white microphone.
Francis seems like a guy who can tell a good joke and the type who laughs as hard as you do at it. The Vatican hasn’t seen this many smiles from a Holy Father since one day in the life of John XXIII, and that includes the entire terms of John Paul II and Benedict, two popes who presided over some of the most God-awful scandals one could dredge up from under the Edenic rock. At the forefront of these is the child abuse pandemic, plus the others revealed in “Vaticanleaks.”
While Francis is reportedly “conservative” with respect to doctrine, he appears to be “liberal” with respect to action. Whereas his predecessors tried to bring the Church backward into 1958, Francis — though it’s too soon the tell — seems willing to acknowledge that the world is round. Welcome, Roman Catholic Church, to 2013.
An Inclusionary Touch
THE PLANET also loved Francis’ meeting with representatives of non-Catholic Christian religions (Orthodox, Anglicans, Lutherans, and Methodists), Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, and Hindus on Wednesday. That a new pope would set a day for that type of ecumenical gathering so early into his pontificate adds to the allegory and the back story, suggesting the underlying tale might mean a more open view from Rome of the other approaches to God.
Pope Francis did not leave out atheists, either. He called people of no religion “precious allies” in the search for truth, adding that the world can and should unite to defend justice, work for peace, and strive always to protect the environment. [ED. NOTE: Spare us the lecture pointing out that “atheists” and “people of no religion” are two different groups. We are aware of that].
He also nailed it when he decried the endemic materialism that has reduced human value to what a person produces and what he consumes. He called this “one-dimensional view of the human person … one of the most dangerous snares of our times.” Bravo.
The Cautionary However: Another Point of View
There is another side, of course, and a looming cautionary “however” in all this. Norman Birnbaum, in an essay titled “New Pope, Old Papacy,” published in The Nation, wrote, brings it to the front:
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A Jesuit colleague reminded me, wearily and warily, that Pope Francis is “very conservative.” He is very unlikely to reconsider clerical celibacy, allow women a larger and more independent role in the church or encourage more autonomy at the base. He has been conducting fierce political conflict with the present Argentinian government over its policies on abortion and same-sex marriage.
A previous Argentinian president termed him the leader of the opposition to the government now in place, successor to the civilian regimes that, after the military dictatorship of 1976–83, restored democracy and human rights to the nation. The Argentine admirals and generals who murdered and tortured thousands (and abducted some of their children) were ideological siblings of European authoritarian movements like those of Franco and Pétain, which gave the Catholic Church sovereignty in culture and education. They were equally close to the Catholics who served Hitler and Mussolini in a common front against liberalism, secular modernity and “Communism.” The pope will be haunted by his relationship, as senior Jesuit in Argentina, with its former rulers. When appointed archbishop in 1998, he apologized for the failure of the church to oppose the dictatorship.
Birnbaum goes on to take an unflinching look at the Curia, the body of senior Church officials who control the day-to-day operations of the Vatican heirarchy.
The pope has never served at the Vatican, which may command the portals to heaven but is situated on earth. It is saturated with corruption, hypocrisy and nepotism, which have recently become so evident that the churchmen situated in Rome have had to confront the criticism, even revulsion, of the faithful. Demands for “reform” are loud in the church. The cardinals and senior clerics commanding the Vatican’s utterly untransparent jumble of commissions, courts, directorates and offices are effective heirs to a centuries old tradition of delaying or blunting or negating “reform.”
They are, above all, interested in retaining their privileges and powers—which are inseparable from the papal absolutism the reformers contest. They could not install one of their own as successor to the exhausted octogenarian who has left behind him a church in crisis. They chose a septuagenarian with obvious political skills, a pleasing public persona, one lung—and no obvious passion for transforming the church.
It is quite unclear what Francis will do when, in God’s slow time, he succeeds in deciphering the Vatican’s table of organization. It is even more unclear, on the uncertain supposition that he sympathizes with the divided and dispersed party of reform, what he can do. What we have experienced in the first days of the pontificate is Baroque street theater. After the play, the characters withdraw, put on their customary garb, and life goes on as before.
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Obviously, any story as complex as this will not reveal the fullness of its lessons until the final page is read, and the story of Pope Francis has just begun. There will no doubt be an allegorical meaning to what we see on the surface, and we can’t possibly fathom what that will be. For now, we must observe with patience and interpret with hope. He’s just one man, but he is the Pope.
BUSTY, INEPT BALL GIRLS: THE PERFECT SYMBOL FOR TODAY’S DUMBED DOWN VERSION OF MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL
THE PLANET has spent many a day in spring training baseball camps, particularly in the decade from 1980 to 1990. We’ve seen the game change from the relatively Spartan and sparse nature of of spring training 30 years ago to today’s over-produced “amusement park” extravaganzas. Frankly, baseball’s “new” version, which aims to dumb down the game and provide distractions for those who aren’t fans at all but who want to be at The Event, leaves us disappointed and, at this point, unable to tell the difference in roster or in heart between the Boston Red Sox, the New York Yankees, and any third MLB team you care to mention.
Perhaps no greater symbol exists than ball girls. These little girls tend to be cute, perky, somewhat busty, often blond, bimbo types whose prowess with a baseball glove makes Dick “Dr. Strangeglove” Stuart look like Brooks “The Human Vacuum Cleaner” Robinson. Not only can’t they field, but some possess enough air between their pretty ears not to realize that a game is in progress or that a play might be getting dangerously close to them. One wonders: Do they even know the basic rules of baseball, or is it all crickets to them?
Check out this piece from Yahoo! Sports.
Incoming! Hooters ball girl has embarrassing encounter with foul ball (again)
It’s been a rough couple of weeks for the Hooters ball girls who patrol the foul lines at Philadelphia Phillies spring games. Apparently, these ladies are drawn to embarrassment and danger like men are drawn to hot pants and chicken wings.
Surely you recall the gal from last week who picked up a live ball and tossed it into the crowd. Today comes this: An un-alert ball girl doesn’t move quickly enough when a ball flies her way and almost gets hit by the ball and bowled over by a New York Yankees player. Oops.
It turns out Tuesday was an especially blunder-filled day in the lives of Hooters ball girls. On the other side of the field, a Hooters girl totally Buckner’d two grounders and then got booed by the fans at Bright House Field at Clearwater, Fla.
These even happened in the same inning. Let’s all facepalm in the unison, OK?
The spring’s almost over so allow the Hooters girls to continue embarrassing themselves at Phillies games. But can we suggest something? Before trotting out these ladies again next year, someone at Hooters should invest in a couple Tom Emanski videos.
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Yes, there are girls and women who can handle a glove, but ladies and gentlemen, please a few suggestions:
1.) Baseball would be better off without any ball girls, boys, or people. Let a foul ball be a foul ball, to enter into the stands of its own will and not into (or out of) the glove of unnecessary personnel.
2.) If baseball insists on these unneeded spare parts, then at least employ those who know the game, will pay attention to the game, and be able to make the play.
Have a great weekend, everybody!
“The crowd at the ball game / is moved uniformly / by a spirit of uselessness / which delights them” — William Carlos Williams.
“OPEN THE WINDOW, AUNT MILLIE.”
LOVE TO ALL.