Monday, April 04, 2005

Thoughts on the Pope

The death of Pope John Paul II reminded me that I had named him Man of the Century back in December of 1999, in the print version of Ideas Hatched. I also had dished out some other honorariums, reproduced below for your enjoyment. You'll also see Ronald Reagan listed as the American of the Century. The two survived the assassins bullet within 1 year of each other, and now have met their maker within 1 year of each other - both felt that they were spared death for a purpose, and indeed they were. But before launching into the entry, I found this on Powerline - it is the NYT coverage of the Pope's death on their website, later corrected, but not before the guys at Powerline caught this:

Even as his own voice faded away, his views on the sanctity of all human life echoed unambiguously among Catholics and Christian evangelicals in the United States on issues from abortion to the end of life.

need some quote from supporter

John Paul II's admirers were as passionate as his detractors, for whom his long illness served as a symbol for what they said was a decrepit, tradition-bound papacy in need of rejuvenation and a bolder connection with modern life.

"The situation in the Catholic church is serious," Hans Kung, the eminent Swiss theologian, who was barred by from teaching in Catholic schools because of his liberal views, wrote last week. "The pope is gravely ill and deserves every compassion. But the Church has to live. ...
In my opinion, he is not the greatest pope but the most contradictory of the 20th century. A pope of many, great gifts, and of many bad decisions!"

Among liberal Catholics, he was criticized for his strong opposition to abortion, homosexuality and contraception, as well as the ordination of women and married men. Though he was never known as a strong administrator of the dense Vatican bureaucracy, he kept a centralizing hand on the selection of bishops around the world and enforced a rigid adherence to many basic church teachings among the clergy and Catholic theologians.

Classic - three paragraphs of criticism, and a reminder to themselves to find a quote from someone who supports him - but not any from a supporter who might address the complaints of the minority of Catholics who read the NYT and had big issues with the Pope. The last paragraph, apparently a complaint about his centralizing dogmatic governance strikes me as the funniest - I heard it echoed by Andrew Sullivan on TV this weekend - why not allow the bishops more autonomy, goes the argument. My guess is that the primary critics of the Pope are American Catholics - and now all of a sudden people are arguing that the American Catholic Church bishops should have more autonomy? It seems to me that most of them could do with a lot less. The last thing the papacy needs is a "bolder connection to modern life."

Athlete of the Century:

Here, the honor goes to Carl Lewis, for a number of reasons. The longevity of his dominance in the long jump and his contention as one of the world’s best in the sprints is extraordinary for his sport – he was world class for about 14 years, when other great sprinters are lucky to be around for 8 years. He also benefits from competing in a sport where there is no team dependency: it is hard to measure the feats of someone like Joe Montana separate from Jerry Rice, or Michael Jordan separate from Scottie Pippen. Mohammid Ali, despite being the most known, lost three times, and one of those losses was to Leon Spinks, who would probably lose to Carl Lewis in a fight. There is an argument for Babe Ruth, but I could never choose a Yankee.

Man of the Century:
Pope John Paul II. He was instrumental, along with Ronald Reagan, in freeing millions from the oppressive grip of communism, especially in his home country, Poland. He has revitalized the Catholic Church, while at the same making great strides in improving relations between Catholics, Jews, and other Christians. He has employed his extraordinary intellect, compassion, and spirituality in the service of God and His Church, and his witness provides hope to a world emerging from its most brutal century in history.

American of the Century:

Ronald Reagan – Ended the Cold War, revitalized the economy, energized a nation that had lost its moral confidence in foreign affairs, and began, if not the rollback, at least the restraining of the growth of pernicious liberal social programs that have ravaged our cities and undermined the family. FDR goes down as the myth of the century. His economic policies, which were at the time credited with ending the Depression (and still are by most Democrats), probably prolonged the Depression by many years. Social Security, one of his great “achievements”, is an intergenerational Ponzi scheme that is about to run its course. He gave away half of Europe to Stalin because of naivete with respect to Communism. And finally, he ran for President for his fourth term knowing full well he’d be dead in little more than a year, concealing that information from the public in a manner most undemocratic.

Woman of the Century:

Mother Theresa. Any head to head comparison that some might make in suggesting Princess Diana would be laughable, though no doubt it will happen. “Whatever you do for the least of my brothers, you do for me.” Everything she did was for the most impoverished of India (where, in contrast to poor people in the US, the poor do not own an average of 2 TVs).

Greatest Generation of Americans:

The WWII generation. Enough has been said about this generation that nothing more can be added by me. One thing that troubles me, however, is the fact that Tom Brokaw has recently dubbed it the greatest in American history, which is enough to make me rethink my choice. But the only knock against them that I can think of is that they went on to raise…

The Worst Generation of Americans:

The Sixties generation. They would not be my pick if they had followed Timothy Leary’s order to “tune in, turn on (i.e. take LSD), and drop out,” but at some point in time they traded in their tie dies for ties, managed to fake their urine sample, and began to be elected to positions of power. This cannot be what Leary meant by dropping out, though I am sure he took solace in the fact that they wield their power as if they are still turning on. Their kids, invariably raised in broken homes, are left to try to clean up the mess they created. The recent swing music craze, which harkens back to the WWII generation, provides hope that this generation knows where to look for its example.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

The fact The Giant was named neither Athlete of the Century or American of the Century is a crime against humanity.

6:57 AM  
Blogger pbryon said...

Your comment on Mother Teresa is very interesting. I know its a little different, but I occasionally get into these conversations as to who the "most recognizable" living man and woman on Earth are. Until this weekend, I would have said that the MR man was John Paul II. I'm not sure who it is now--Bush, Dalai Lama, Ali? For the MR woman, since Mother Teresa and Princess Diana died, its been really difficult to name one. Could it be, dare I say it, Madonna?

7:20 AM  
Anonymous Jim O said...

Anonymous had it right - Andre the Giant was the best. Not only was he incredibly entertaining when wrestling 12 midgets (sorry - "little people"), but he had almost all of the best lines in The Princess Bride.
Did the Pope ever impersonate the Dread Pirate Roberts in order to infiltrate a castle to stop a wedding? I don't think so.
The defense rests.

7:26 AM  
Blogger Professor Vic said...

In defense of the NYT, I would like to relate a story from my days as an instructor at the University of Minnesota. On several occasions I filled in for Hatch when he could not teach his class, presumably because he was too hung-over to teach. His students were delighted to have competent teaching for a change. In addition, the one time I proctored an exam for Hatch, the students particularly enjoyed the extra credit question I added to the test, "When Prof. Hatch chose a nickname for himself as a child, what nickname did he select?" Extra credit on the blog for coming up with the correct answer. (Mind you this is not the nickname he received, since nicknames are general chosen by others not by the bearer of the moniker himself.)

Anyway, while teaching for Hatch, he provided me with his complete notes detailing some mathematical derivation. Midway in the middle of one problem, he wrote in, "Tell some sort of joke here," apparently reminding himself that economics can, at times, get a bit dry. I, of course, told the class that I was directed to tell a joke at that point and proceded with the joke about the Irish drinker and his two brothers. (I figured it was an appropriate joke given the fact that Hatch, at that moment, was likely skipping lecture due to being intoxicated.)

So, we all write notes to ourselves to help us with our presentations. True, it is better to erase those notes before sending it out to the public. (And at least the NYT didn't write something like, "Find quote from some idiot who actually supports this guy.")

7:33 AM  
Blogger Incredible Dirigible said...

"Need some quote from supporter."

The use of the word "some" strikes me as having a different implication than if it read "Need a quote from supporter." The use of "some" quote seems to marginalize the "pro-Pope" quote amidst the "anti-Pope" rhetoric that drives the article. As if any old quote will do, so long as it provides "balance" (LOL) to the article.

Also, I don't think Andre the Giant could be American of the Century; I'm pretty sure he was French. But he could drink pretty much any man under the table, & he made a great Bigfoot on "The Six Million Dollar Man".

12:51 PM  
Anonymous lime said...

I must admit I'm a bit uncomfortable with prof vic's posting. Being both of Irish ancestry and a practicing Catholic, he seems to imply that the former are a bunch of drunks and the latter were led by an "idiot". Should I e-mail his dean?

10:50 PM  
Blogger Professor Vic said...

Ok, re-reading my post, I can understand the possible discomfort. I certainly will not retract my "drunk Irish" comment as that assertion was based on empirical observation (of a small sample size including only Hatch, of course, but empirical nonetheless).

As far as the "some idiot" comment goes, I put that comment in quotes to suggest that I was speaking as if I were a member of the NYT, not as I truly feel. I certainly don't think that John Paul II was an idiot or that any of his supporters were idiots. I apologize for any confusion that I may have caused, and my choice of words certainly contributed significantly to any confusion.

There are certainly many areas in which one can be critical of the Catholic church in general and John Paul II specifically, but calling someone or one of his supporters an "idiot" is really not my style. As previously suggested, I strongly prefer the term "ringt-wing nutjob," which further supports my contention that I was speaking as if I were someone else when I used the term "idiot."

In response to Mr. Incredible, I would suggest that the term "some" only means that the reporter doesn't have a good idea of who to use in this slot, yet. It definitely shows some level of personal tendency that the writer already has his critic picked out and has to search for a supporter, but I don't read it as particularly insidious.

Again, sorry if you supporters of the Pope thought I was calling you an idiot, but I was actually making fun of the NYT instead. See, I guess I better stick with being a liberal because I don't seem to make a very good conservative.

7:40 AM  

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