Speaking to the clergy of Rome in one of his last speeches as pope, Benedict XVI acknowledged the ruinous influence that the media has exercised over the Church for decades. He referred to the spurious spirit of Vatican II as the “council of the media.”
What he didn’t mention was that plenty of clergy enthusiastically conformed to the council of the media and even drove most of its themes and mythologies. The beast of the bad council had two heads, one from outside the Church and one from inside her. This beast is still on the prowl, as evident in the mischievous coverage and machinations of the papal conclave.
The openly heretical National Catholic Reporter continues to supply information to many bishops and even cardinals, which is one of many signs that the council of which Benedict spoke is still unfolding. The two-headed beast also resides within chanceries and Catholic schools and colleges, where the ideas of that council have taken the deepest root.
“[T]here was the council of the Fathers—the true council—but there was also the council of the media. It was almost a council in and of itself, and the world perceived the council through them, through the media. So the council that immediately, effectively, got through to the people was that of the media, not that of the Fathers,” said Benedict. “[It] did not, naturally, take place within the world of faith but within the categories of the media of today, that is outside of the faith, with different hermeneutics. It was a hermeneutic of politics.”
The papal conclave has largely been viewed through the prism of that “hermeneutics of politics.” Dissenting priests like Jesuit Father Thomas Reese have popped up on talk shows to pronounce on this or that quality the next pope needs. They never mention orthodoxy. Telling the liberal elite of the West what it wants to hear appears to be the chief qualification for the papacy, judging by their remarks about the new “tone” or “style” the next pope should adopt.
Implicit in all their buzzwords about the “management” and “communications skills” a modern pope needs is a worldly conception of the papacy in which doctrine is diluted.
It took a self-described atheist magician on CNN to inform the “Catholic” host, Piers Morgan, that his prattle about the need for a modernizing pope made him sound like a liberal Protestant, not a Catholic. “Well, I think I may be somebody who believes in the Pope’s position more than most Catholics,” Penn Jillette said to Morgan. “I really take people at their word. And it seems like all of the cynicism and all of the—who are we going to get in, modernizing—there’s not supposed to be modernizing. It’s supposed to be the word of God.”
The “council of the media” has wreaked tremendous havoc within the Church. To it, Benedict traced “so many problems, so much misery, in reality: seminaries closed, convents closed, the liturgy was trivialized.” He noted that the “virtual council was stronger than the real council.”
The leadership ability of Pope Francis will determine whether or not that virtual council disappears or persists. It was clear that the Father Reeses were rooting for a “moderate” pope to jumpstart that council. In 2011, the National Catholic Reporter let slip that dissenting theologians were biding their time until Benedict passed from the scene.
“One need only talk to a sampling of theology departments to know that in many places theologians are lying low. Our seminaries will certainly be playing it safe for the foreseeable future,” it said in an editorial. “Moral theology of the sort that might raise substantial questions or handle difficult sexual or other life issues is being left to those who regurgitate the party line,” it continued. “More adventuresome and sophisticated theologians are out there, but they’re not going to raise their heads too far above the barricades.”
In recent days and weeks, it has served the interests of this group to make the issue of “reform” a driving theme of the conclave coverage, as if the Church’s deepest problem is the organization of the Vatican bank or curial offices. This has diverted attention from the far more dangerous disease of heterodoxy, of which those lesser problems are just symptoms. If anything, this group is pleased to hear that a reported cabal of cardinals “united by sexual orientation” exist within the walls of the Vatican and would like to augment their numbers. Yet it is unclear whether this group, if it does exist, has any real influence.
Bringing the corruption of the world into the Church was the whole point of the “council of the media.” Journalists and their ecclesiastical enablers wanted seminary standards lowered, homosexuals ordained, and the sexual revolution sanctioned. They got their wish. The “windows of the Church” were opened and the “smoke of Satan,” as Pope Paul VI put it, wafted in. Only by rejecting the bad council of the media will Pope Francis be able to extinguish it.