The Catholic Thing
Viva il papa! – and TCT Print E-mail
By Robert Royal   
Thursday, 12 December 2013

As you’ve no doubt heard, yesterday TIME magazine named Pope Francis 2013 Person of the Year. POTY is an odd category, sometimes a person not the most admirable – indeed, quite the opposite – but chosen because he or she seems to TIME to have been the most “influential” person that year. This has led to a few monstrous figures receiving a lot of free publicity – Miley Cyrus and President Assad of Syria were Francis’ competition, and Edward Snowden seems to have been runner-up. But TIME did the right thing, for once – and even provided a largely good rationale for this year’s choice.

If you are a regular reader of The Catholic Thing, you know that we’ve praised, been puzzled by, and sometimes questioned certain things Pope Francis has done. The writers on this site speak in their own voices and we have no official view – of anything. (I myself tried to sort out some of the reactions to the pope over the past year on PBS Newshour last night [see the video at the bottom of this page] – and I will rejoin my colleagues from the EWTN Conclave team tonight on Raymond Arroyo’s The World Over to talk about related subjects.) But I think – I haven’t polled our contributors – that we are all quite impressed with the ways that Francis has brought Catholicism to global attention from his very first gestures as pope.

If you watch the Newshour segment below, you’ll see immediately that even some of the most liberal and secular elements in our media – which are often clueless about Catholicism – have had to come to grips with the sheer spiritual force that is Pope Francis. And the TIME article, for once, gives a fair appraisal of the pope and the reactions to him. But they perpetually want to measure the Faith by secular liberal categories. So it’s important that some of us are there to push back and to re-frame a phenomenon like Francis in less political, more properly Catholic terms.

Such opportunities do not arise by accident. It’s partly because of the work we do – on this site in English, and in several other languages with our foreign partners – that we are able to enter into the larger debate in the Church and the secular world. And if you have supported The Catholic Thing via your donations or prayers, you’ve played a role yourself into making sure that authentic Catholic voices do not disappear from the public square.

It’s that time of the year when I have to ask you once again to do as much as you can for our efforts. We had over 1,000,000 visits last year (another record) and, as you can see we now attract some significant advertising. But advertisers only cover about 10 percent of our operating costs. We have some larger donors, of course, but the last 20 percent, a crucial 20 percent, comes from you – our readers. Just think of what you would be missing if fully one-fifth of these columns simply never saw the light of day, or TCT itself was no longer there.

I don’t think I’ve ever sufficiently given credit to our staff at The Catholic Thing, who mostly operate behind the scenes. You all know our Senior Editor Brad Miner for his writerly gifts and his careful attention to keeping us going in the Comments Section, on Facebook, and via other tech means well beyond my own competence. Brad, as I’ve told him myself, is a real adult. And we all depend on him in ways too many to count.

Then there are the two Hannahs – actually, Hannah the Elder and Hanna (note variant) the Younger. Hannah Russo has worked with us for several years and makes the business side run more smoothly than we could reasonably expect. And she’s been doing it flawlessly this past month, even though she’s now only weeks away from having her fourth child. Hanna Deschler came on board earlier this year to help us with uploading our materials – a process more complicated than you might think, which involves selecting and sizing images, handling embedded videos, keeping track of linked stories, and other invisible but essential duties.

And then there are our writers. They, as well as the administrative staff work for peanuts. No. Probably have to beg for peanuts given what we can afford to provide them. They and the administrative team could easily make much more working at more lucrative operations, which is to say almost anything else. But they/we are here every day because we believe in the mission of The Catholic Thing in preserving and defending the Catholic thing.

But I’m betting you already know this if you’re a regular reader. And I want to ask you to act now. We all get many requests for support at the end of the year. But look into your heart, as Pope Francis might say, and decide what The Catholic Thing means to you – and what you think it means to the Church and the world. Can you afford $50, $100, $500, more? If everyone now reading this gave $50 towards the cause, we could be sure of bringing you the very best Catholic commentary we can again in 2014. But since we know not everyone can contribute at that level, we need many of you to make up for less fortunate brother and sisters with multiples – including large multiples of that amount.

So if you want to see the work of this site continue and help us as we seek to have greater reach into debates within the Church and outside in the secular sphere, please, do your part. Support TCT by check or via an online payment. Today.

P.S. We still have some copies left of the anthology of pieces from the first five years of The Catholic Thing. You can get a free, signed copy for a donation of $100 or more while they last (be sure to include your mailing address with your donation.)


Robert Royal
 is editor-in-chief of The Catholic Thing, and president of the Faith & Reason Institute in Washington, D.C. His most recent book is 
The God That Did Not Fail: How Religion Built and Sustains the Westnow available in paperback from Encounter Books.
The Catholic Thing is a forum for intelligent Catholic commentary. Opinions expressed by writers are solely their own.

Rules for Commenting

The Catholic Thing welcomes comments, which should reflect a sense of brevity and a spirit of Christian civility, and which, as discretion indicates, we reserve the right to publish or not. And, please, do not include links to other websites; we simply haven't time to check them all.

Comments (8)Add Comment
written by william manley, December 11, 2013
Mr. Royal, I thought you and the woman from Trinity College did an excellent job of putting the Pope's words into the proper context. Thank you.
written by Manfred, December 12, 2013
Robert: Forty-seven years ago, when my wife and I married and we were beginning our family, we were cautioned by well meaning Catholic friends that the Church would soon change its teaching on contraception. This led to sometimes heated discussions and loss of friends, but my wife and I, trained in Catholic colleges while they were still Catholic, brought seven children into this world.
Looking back after fifty years, our friends were indeed correct. The Church had, de facto, changed its teaching on contraception by its SILENCE IMPLYING CONSENT. When it admits that 85% of Catholics today in the West are contracepting, contraception has become the norm.
Gwen Ifil was spot on with her questions of you and the lady from Trinity. The two of you were doing damage control during the entire interview in attempting to defend statements from the Pope himself. Francis's pontificate to date has been one long suggestion that change was coming. When pinned down, he scurries back into some orthodox position, but the sense that he endorses real change is still in the air. I was reminded of two parents trying to tell their child that Santa Claus really exists when the child, and they, know it is a fiction. Catholics number some sixty million Americans. Many will buy this TIME magazine if for no other reason than to have the cover scotch taped to their refrigerator door.
On Tuesday the story was Mandela (whom the Pope thought fit to praise!). Yesterday the story was Francis. BTW, Hitler was TIME's Man of the Year in the 1930s.
written by grump, December 12, 2013
Does anyone read TIME any more? The rag, once taken fairly seriously, is a slimmed-down version of People, filled with colorful "info-bubbles" aimed at luring dumb and dumber.

No longer relevant, TIME puts the Pope in the company of a young slut and a bloody Mideast dictator and passes up on the most deserving of the lot, Ed Snowden, who embarrassed the US government by exposing how tyrannical it has become.

TIME's "award" is about as meaningful as the Nobel Peace Prize going to an evil narcissistic tyrant who for five years has promoted and carried out the policies of death and destruction of millions of innocents, in and out of the womb.

If I have anything left after Christmas shopping and filling the ubiquitous Salvation Army red kettles, I'll try to drop something in the TCT hat next year.

written by debby, December 12, 2013
i love all of you, those "seen and unseen" (since none of you are invisible, i refer to the less accurate translation).

with all my heart, i offer you all to our Lady of Guadalupe, She Who crushes the head of the serpent.
She holds you and all you hold in your hearts in Her most tender gaze, in Her motherly arms. She has no stress on Her face- only peace. the Peace of Union with the Most Holy Trinity, the Peace we are offered at each Mass. Within this Holy Peace and with alacrity, She steps over the "thing that frightened you, that thing that disturbed you..." and crushes the head of the one who is behind the evil that would try to beset Her child.
with Her steady and confident voice She declares through St Juan Diego to each one of us:
"Let Nothing disturb you. Let Nothing frighten you. It is Nothing. Am I not the Source of your Joy? Are you not in the crossing of My arms? Am I not here, I who am your Mother? Is there anything more you need...."

Supporting you, my dear family, in faith and with my daily prayers. Let us await with Her the coming of our King.

p.s. and if it is ok, i will mail you my offering. (i would LOVE a book if there are enough.) i want to make it in thanksgiving for our new german shepherd puppy - Lady Francesca. "Fresca" was born on 8/22 (hence, "Lady") to a Franciscan contemplative convent mommy dog who i had met 2 years ago when she was a pup. i wanted to name her for our German Shepherd, Pope Benedict (no male pups were born). God covered all these bases-she is named for both, honoring Pope Francis' and Pope Benedict's brotherly union. Fresca is a delightful girl, a Search and Rescue line of fitting!
written by kristinajohannes, December 12, 2013
Robert, I agree with William Manley. Bravo!
One of the great hopes that I have for the papacy of Pope Francis is that it will be instrumental in healing the divisions within the Church.
written by Manfred, December 12, 2013
Post script: I sincerely do not wish to beat this subject to death, Robert, but in your October 19(?) column this year I recall your mentioning one particular gaffe by Pope Francis which resulted in his receiving a "thank you" from NARAL (the National Abortion Rights Action League)which signalled that a "miscommunication" had been given by Francis. Do I have that correctly? I don't believe that a statement by Pius IX, Pius X, Pius XI (Casti Connubii) or Pius XII could have been similarly misconstrued.
My wife and I pray a decade of the Rosary each day for THE Pope (whichever one is current), but especially this one, as we hope he can gather his wits enough that he does not share the fate of John Paul I ("God our mother") who died after serving thirty days in the papacy.
written by Brad Miner, December 12, 2013
@Manfred: I must say I think your post script is off-base. That NARAL twisted the pope's words to suit its nefarious purposes is on NARAL not Francis. And your assertions concerning the Piuses is wrong. Had NARAL been around then, some part of any of the popes' messages might as surely been exploited in the way the words of Francis were. The Prince of Lies effectively teaches his minions to do his will. As it happens, the "gaffe" you mention was addressed by the pope, as I'm sure you know, in a talk he gave to Catholic physicians in which he made clear his orthodoxy in the matter of abortion. We're all in agreement about praying for the pope, and - I trust - about following him as well. BTW, as far as I know, Pope Francis is in very good health.
written by Robert Royal, December 12, 2013
It's true that NARAL misconstrued words by Francis that, taken in isolation, gave them that opporunity. Since then, I believe Francis has learned that such a danger exists. But even back then, he explained that the moral questions were "secondary" - in time, not importance. Which is to say, we really first come to belief in and love of God - and then we see why the Church's moral teaching is true. It's true that he used unfortunate language like "obsessing" and "insisting" on isolated moral questions. That remains to be corrected as well. But there's no indication whatever that Pope Francis is ambivalent -- in anything other than unfortunate language -- about settled matters of faith and morals . In fact, his behavior in Argentina suggests quite the opposite.

Write comment
smaller | bigger

security code
Write the displayed characters


Other Articles By This Author