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February 11, 2013

Benedict Moves On: The Pope Without a Face

Pope Benedict gust of wind

If advanced age is the manifest reason, two things doomed this Pope, especially how those factors “intertwined.”

From the get-go, this cold and severe man was unable to connect with the camera or the broader public, perhaps a more fatal liability in this media and telegenic era. (And, it didn’t help as the follow-up act to Pope John Paul II, who could move you thusly). Add in the stonewalling and denial surrounding the Church’s sexual abuse scandals and the visual media just picked Benedict’s bones.

I posted the following two pictures and the text in between back on March 30, 2010:

Pope Benedict Palm Sunday

Why has this photo been in so many media galleries over the past few days?

Taking editorial matters into its own hands, the visual media suggests Benedict can’t look the public in the eye and can’t hide behind Palm Sunday when it comes to the Vatican’s sexual abuse cover up.

Update 3/31/10. More extreme variation on same theme:

Pope Benedict El Espectador

The photo leading the post, from a routine public audience in St. Peter’s Square in 2012, also didn’t just fly up out of nowhere. It circulated with the news of a Vatican leak scandal involving the Pope’s former butler. Still, it was not at all a surprise to see visual pot shots of Christ’s lead ambassador in photo galleries at different times.

You don’t have to be as charismatic and attractive as Barack Obama or Aung San Suu Kyi to lend more credit and attention to your mission or institution. At the same time, in taking himself off the stage, I imagine that Benedict is relieved and the Vatican (if not publicly) is also relieved.

(photo  1 & 2: Franco Origlia/Getty Images. caption 1: A gust of wind blows Pope Benedict XVI’s cloak into his face as he attends his weekly audience in St. Peter’s Square on September 26, 2012 in Vatican City, Vatican. The opening of the trial of pope’s former butler Paolo Gabriele, accused of passing private documents from Benedict XVI to journalists, will start next saturday September 29. caption 2: Pope Benedict XVI attends Palm Sunday Mass on March 28, 2010 in Vatican City, Vatican. The Pope is now facing pressure over abuse allegations which involved the German, the American and the Irish Catholic Church.)

  • bks3bks
  • LanceThruster

    Marilyn Monroe he ain’t.

  • bks3bks
  • black_dog_barking

    Been a long time, decades it seems, since the Catholic Church has received any good press in these parts. Used to be they had a mission, to help us meet the our trials as we traverse this vale of tears. My mother spent most of her working life as a nurse in a Catholic hospital — the main community source of health care in the smallish town I grew up in. Catholics had schools, a church, and a hospital in those days.

    Now the when a shutter catches a gust of wind giving the Pope a ghoulish appearance it gets published for all to see. Without objection. They’ve taken their institution down a steep narrow path from pillar of the community to pariah, from ministers of God to ghouls from the middle ages.

    The first image makes me think of the House of Harkonnen from the Frank Herbert book and David Lynch film. Creepy.

  • Thomas Gokey

    You might find it interesting that facelessness is actually an important concept in Pope Benedict’s theology. I can’t seem to find the original source at the moment (I remember reading it years ago) but here is something from von Balthasar about it:

    “A totally different question is that of to what extent the concept ‘person’ can still be applied to the satanic being. For being a person always presupposes a positive relation to some fellow person, a form of sympathy or at least natural inclination and involvement. Precisely this, however, would no longer be predicable of a being that had, in its entirety, made a radical decision against God, or absolute love: thus, we would have to join J. Ratzinger in speaking of an ‘un-person,’ of the ‘decomposition, the disintegration of being a person,’ for which reason it is characteristic of the devil ‘that he appears without a face, that unrecognizableness is his real strength.’” -Hans Urs von Balthasar, “Dare We Hope That All Men Be Saved?,” 146.

    It’s a bit of a cheap shot, I know.

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