By Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Tuesday, February 12, 2013
Planning for papal retirement
When a parish priest retires he’s supposed to head for the hills. His successor doesn’t want him hanging around the parish undermining the new regime.
It’s much the same with the handover of power in any organization. The one leaving is supposed to do just that. When you step down you should lay low and let the new guy strut his stuff.
But what happens when a pontiff exchanges the white soutane for an old black cassock? What happens when he puts aside the miter and crozier for an old felt hat and a walking stick? What’s to do when he swaps the throne of Peter for an easy chair?
We’ve never seen anything like it. A pope retires. First he’s headed off to the papal mountain retreat Castel Gandolfo. Then we’re told that he will live in monastic type setting within the Vatican. He will revert to his previous status as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger.
Then what? What must it be like for a new vicar of Christ to have the former head of a billion Catholics living on his doorstep? Won’t it be a strain to have Joseph Ratzinger around? Will he slip into a side door of St Peter’s to say Mass every morning? Will he worship at the high altar with the other bishops? Will he sit in the consistory to vote for his successor? Won’t he be looking over the shoulder of his successor every chance he gets?
I don’t think so. Knowing the man as we have come to know him, we have seen a truly humble and gentle person. Joseph Ratzinger is essentially a shy and retiring scholar. He’s a musician and yet the quintessential quiet man. (Source: Washington Post)
Letter to the Editor:
We subscribe to The Hamilton Spectator and a national daily newspaper. The treatment of the resignation of Pope Benedict was treated quite differently.
The Spec introduced the story at the bottom of the front page. The other paper treated it as the main story on the front page, followed by two full pages inside.
The Spec editorial cartoon pictured the Pope being pushed into a coffee shop on a small, wheeled platform toward a table with three seniors, one of whom declares “Better shove over and make room for Mister Infallible.” The other paper pictured St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. A hand reaching from the clouds above posted a sign “Help Wanted.”
It should be noted that although I am retired, nobody told me Pope Benedict made even one infallible statement or decision in his almost eight years of leading the Catholic Church.
(Rev.) R. Cote, Hamilton
N. Winslow, Beamsville
M. Ronney, Hamilton
The Cartoon in Tuesday’s Spectator portraying Pope Benedict in an unflattering way was in my opinion, unfair and disrespectful to a Pope who has served his Church and the world well. I cannot understand what the Spectator thought they would achieve by printing that cartoon. Pope Benedict deserves better. My first reaction was to say “enough is enough”…time to cancel my subscription to the Spectator, and to encourage many others to do the same.
Why Sir did you and your colleagues permit this cartoon to appear?
Michael Ronney, Hamilton
In response, from Spectator Editor-in-Chief:
First, thank you for letting us know your thoughts on this cartoon. To be sure, it was not to everyone’s liking, and we apologize for upsetting your sensibilities. The cartoon was meant to be playful and humorous, but I accept that you (and others) did not find it funny. Personally, I saw the cartoon not as disrespectful, but as humanizing the Pope, in a way that many of our readers can relate to. Like most newspapers, we give editorial cartoonists wide latitude to comment on news events.
Thank you again for letting us know your thoughts. We appreciate it.
Apparently, we demonstrate this regularly in our coverage of everything from high school sports to homosexuality to condom use.
The last straw for some came this week with an editorial cartoon by The Spectator’s Graeme MacKay marking the surprise resignation of Pope Benedict XVI.
It may have been the biggest news of the week, and so was predictably the focus of many editorial cartoons around the world.
Some readers I spoke with on the phone and corresponded with this week were less than impressed with The Spectator’s offering, to say the least.
MacKay’s cartoon, which you can view at thespec.com, imagined the Pope joining one of those ubiquitous coffee klatches where retirees gather at a diner to catch up, reminisce, discuss various ailments and gently poke fun at each other.
I have attended many such gatherings (as an observer or guest” and probably soon as a regular participant) and always find them heartwarming and fun in a mischievous way.
Indeed, I found the cartoon, in which the gang dubs their newest member “Mr. Infallible,” heartwarming, and as I said to outraged readers, I thought it humanized the Pope.
Admittedly, I am not Catholic, and some with whom I spoke did not agree.
Instead, they used words such as “disgusting,” “unfair,” “unflattering” “mocking,” “denigrating,” “disrespectful,” “mean-spirited” “derogatory,” “unacceptable,” “unprovoked,” “hate speech” “Catholic-bashing,” “petty,” “small-minded” …
It was not our intention to offend, but some wondered if we would have poked fun at other religious leaders in a similar way.
We asked ourselves that very question. The problem is, there isn’t exactly an equivalent of the Pope in other religions.
I suspect the Dalai Lama might have found the cartoon both funny and humanizing if he was featured, though I can’t say how Tibetan Buddhists would have reacted.
It’s not often a pope retires, but editors would have been comfortable if a cartoon had poked similar fun at the Archbishop of Canterbury.
It’s true, for all kinds of complex reasons, we do not depict Mohammed in cartoons. Nor, says cartoonist MacKay, would he have made fun of Jesus Christ.
That said, MacKay has had at least one of his pope cartoons in the past rejected by The Spectator, while others invariably cause reaction. And for the record, in past cartoons he has featured also the Dalai Lama, Islamic clerics, Muslims, Hindu gods and at least one Anglican archbishop, not always in a flattering way.
Meanwhile, there were many other cartoons this week marking the Pope’s unprecedented decision to resign.
Some were polite, but made no comment; they were merely illustrations marking a news event. That is not the point of an editorial cartoon.
Others were more critical indeed, though I won’t go into any details.
Meanwhile, this particular Pope has been subject to what can only be described as vicious attacks from cartoonists around the world over the years. Ironically, many of the most vicious come from cartoonists working for publications in predominantly Catholic countries.
I shudder to think what the editors faced following their publication there.
Paul Berton is editor-in-chief of The Hamilton Spectator and thespec.com. You can reach him at 905-526-3482 or firstname.lastname@example.org.