Monday, September 13, 2010

Are you ready for the Pope's next gig?

Preparing for Pope Benedict's journey to England and Scotland later this week, Catholic bishops have likened the Pope to the headline act at a series of gigs in a ‘cringe-worthy’ guide, exposing the Church to new heights of ridicule.

The Daily Mail reports (September 12, 2010):
In a list of ‘useful terms’ in the official booklet, the three open-air Papal masses – the most solemn occasions of the historic trip – are referred to as ‘shows’ or ‘gigs’, terms normally associated with rock concerts.

The document also compares the clergy who organise services – known as liturgists – to ‘performers’ or ‘artists’ ...

The unusual glossary raises fresh questions over the handling of Pope Benedict XVI’s four-day visit, which starts on Thursday and has already been mired in controversy.

The Church is distributing thousands of copies of the glossy, eight-page booklet produced by the Papal Visit Team, overseen by Archbishop of Westminster Vincent Nichols. Its cover carries the official slogan of the visit – the first to Britain since 1982 – Heart Speaks Unto Heart.

Insiders said the pamphlet is aimed at workers from companies arranging events, police officers, broadcasters and journalists who may not be Catholics and are unsure about the Church’s rituals and beliefs.

Thomas Peters (The American Papist) puts the Bishop's phrasing in the most charitable light:
I read the glossary differently: I think the UK Visit Team is trying their best to educate media about what the proper terminology is to describe these things. For instance, reporters will often (mistakenly) describe the Eucharist as “Bread and Wine”, while the UK Visit Team is telling the media that it should actually be described as “Blessed Sacrament [or] Holy Communion.”

In other words, the right column is listing words and phrases that reporters might be tempted to use, but the left column is telling them what words and phrases they should use if they want to be accurate. Certainly, reporters often make basic mistakes when trying to describe what they are seeing at a Catholic Mass or event, and its understandable that the UK papal visit team is trying to avoid these mistakes if possible.

Matthew Archbold (Creative Minority Report) disagrees:
While I believe their heart may have been in the right place, what the folks working for the papal visit produced is, I believe, silly. And on top of silly I see it as condescending to the press.
And the Telegraph's Andrew M. Brown remarks: "It baffles me how anyone could have thought publishing this was a good idea: it makes the Church, or its public relations department, look weird and disconnected from real life."

For the record, I lean toward Matthew Archbold -- sure, the press is capable of botching its reporting on religious matters. (The blog Get Religion provides an ongoing corrective to their mistakes). At the same time, it's hard to see how this type of glossary can be received as anything other than an insult to the reader.

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