Coffee House

Why Time’s Person of the Year should be Pope … Benedict

11 December 2013

It seems that everyone agrees Pope Francis should be Time’s ‘Person of the Year 2013′. Better him than Miley Cyrus, at any rate, or Bashar al-Assad, and Francis deserves it, too. This year he has — forgive the media-speak — changed the narrative about Christianity in the liberal world. He’s spreading the Good News, not just reacting to the bad.

But Catholics have mixed feelings about all this acclaim for their new Pope. Peggy Noonan put her finger on the key point in the Wall Street Journal yesterday, when she suggested that Time would choose Francis because he is different ‘in ways Time’s editors and reporters find congenial’.

It was telling that, in their blurb about the nominees, Time announced that ‘the first Jesuit Pontiff won hearts and minds with his common touch and rejection of church dogma’. Of course Pope Francis has not rejected Church dogma at all. Time were quick to correct themselves, yet their mistake revealed again the liberal bias against Catholicism: Catholics are only praised if they are seen to rebel against their Church. This attitude makes Catholics distinctly uneasy. It can only be a matter of time before the journalists who now laud Francis turn on him. They will say he has disappointed them when he does not embrace all gay rights, condoms, and women popes.


Which is why my person of the year, for what it’s worth, is not Pope Francis, but Pope Benedict XVI. Because he had the humility to realise he could no longer carry on leading the Church. Because he had the guts to resign, against all modern precedent, and make way for a more dynamic successor.

Because Pope Francis is in fact enjoying many of the fruits of his predecessor’s work. Benedict was not some right-wing pitbull: just like Francis, he continually stressed the importance of divine love, as well as the dangers of global capitalism, and he did not obsess over sexual matters. Benedict also did an enormous amount to bring about Christian unity by reaching out to the Orthodox, disgruntled traditionalists and Anglicans, and other denominations.

Because the secular media could never understand him.

But most had all because Benedict has had the astonishing grace to stay silent as the media falls in love with Pope Francis. He has not reacted — in public anyway — as the world decided that Francis’s humility and warmth was a sharp contrast to him and everybody  insinuated that, unlike the adorable Francis, Benedict was some sort of reactionary ego-maniac, when in fact he is the opposite.

So — Pope Benedict, man of the year 2013, for removing himself from the public eye and for keeping his mouth shut.

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  • lavallette

    The late great US broadcaster of the 1950’s and 60’s, Archbishop Fulton Sheen, declared that “there are millions of people who hate the Catholic Church for what they think it is but less than a handful for what it really is”. Sixty years later, we have “Time” magazine selecting Pope Francis as Man of the Year: “For what they think and hope he is, and not for what he really is”. .:

  • Jackthesmilingblack

    Pope Benny
    You mean paedo priests best friend?

  • TulsaTerry

    Whatever you do, make sure your religion of faith in the Right Wing is more important than your faith in God, and keep reinforcing that Right Wing faith with everything you see and everything you write.

  • The_Aged_P

    Please, you speccie sixth formers….I come here from the Telegraph to escape all the RC agitprop and find it alive and well in this school magazine. I wager that outside the fashionable North London RC dinner party circuit most people in England couldn’t care less about what any pope says or does – just as most English Catholics appear to conveniently “forget” the thundering strictures about birth control…

    But then I recall that the speccie is in the same stable as the Telegraph so we must expect the odd genuflection to Rome. However it might be nice if, now and then, some recognition was given in these pages to the very lively and active world of Evangelical Protestantism….just sayin’….

    • PhilipWallace

      I think your wager is a winning one. Even Telegraph and Spectator readers, such as myself and (it seems) yourself, are sick to the back teeth of the way their otherwise sane (and healthily sceptical) publications whip themselves into a hysterical lather of sycophancy towards Rome (while simultaneously claiming to want LESS subservience to Europe). God only knows what the rest of the public think.

      I would, though, quibble with your use of the word “fashionable”. I realise you’re using it tongue-in-cheek, but even in jest I’m not sure I can get my head round the notion that weird, obsessive fiftysomethings like Damian Thompson could ever be regarded as fashionable.

      • The_Aged_P

        True…I have this frightening vision of Thompson, Odone and Howse seated around the table with Dan Brown hidden underneath taking notes for his next novel…..

      • the viceroy’s gin

        Good point. There should be laws against hysterical latherings of sycophancy over the RC religion.

        • PhilipWallace

          I think that, back in the day, there were such laws!

          • the viceroy’s gin

            Yes, and what a glorious, edifying day that was.

  • JohannesHibernicus

    The Catholic Church has been blessed by the Popes it has had at least since Pius XI and I include in this list Pius XII who was an enormous force for good during and after WWII. John XXIII showed the humanity of the Church and launched the Second Vatican Council. John Paul II, assisted by Cardinal Ratzinger, saved the Church from erroneous interpretations of the Council by various heretical movements within Catholicism (e.g. Hans Kung), and Benedict XVI restored a sense of dignity to the liturgy as well as using his penetrating intellect to puncture most of the bombast that passes for thought in contemporary Western society. Francis is living off the fruits of the papacies of these great men. He is showing a more informal and easy-going attitude to relations with the world. My only criticism of him is that he is perhaps somewhat naive in thinking that the world (at least the western media) will respond in a similar civilized and thoughtful manner.

  • FF42

    I agree. Resigning was the best thing Benedict did. My respect for that decision is genuine. But the fact he didn’t have any other successes is telling. A pope is a political figure and that is the context in which he would be judged for a Time magazine Man of the Year award.As a leader he was a failure

  • Eddie

    Yes, I agree – he is my bloke of the year too.

  • Katalina

    I agree to the extent that if it were not for him stepping down there would be no Francis mania Francis effect whatever. The truth of the matter is he already made the cover of the Time edition from February 25. He did not and still does not care what other people think about him. He is not affected by any human respect. BTW The polls released today on this matter are very telling. Most of the People in favor of Francis are either Democrats Liberals Progressives and the college educated and those over thirty years of age. That just goes to show you why he is so popular. He is one of them. He says what they want to hear and they feel emotional sentimentality.

  • Persuasive

    Well explored analysis to which I agree to a significant degree. Time is trying to return to the good graces of people of faith. Portraying themselves as intellectually above petty disagreements. It will reveal itself as you indicate. My work is on the web at – courage to laugh – followed by .com.

  • PhilipWallace

    Could someone who managed to finish the above article tell me whether the writer was being serious when he said, “Benedict also did an enormous amount to bring about Christian unity by reaching out to the Orthodox … Anglicans, and other denominations.”

    • the viceroy’s gin

      It’s hard to tell with this kid. He rambles on and on, and the popes are one of his favorite topics to ramble on. Wait ’til he gets goin’ on the “new evangelical fervor” that he’s convinced is taking over today, led by the AoC toff and the new pope. You’ll get a kick out of that one. I think this stuff is pretty much just stream of consciousness with this guy, or maybe it’s unconsciousness.

      • PhilipWallace

        Good point. Give him some of your gin and tell him to get a life.

  • Stanislav Romanov

    No.Only prayer oneself Pope and to be great opportunist a mind’s.Time to be famous for candidates or become wait a legat pope’s.

  • Frank

    Who cares who Time’s person of the year is? This is supposed to be The Spectator?
    Next you will be having an argument about who the Dallas Times selects for its person of the year.

  • Mark Robert B Baldo

    This is heartfelt, esp for someone who has more of an intellectual bent and therefore admires PEBXVI.

  • WatTylersGhost

    Being CEO of an organisation with such a wicked past should exclude any pope, present or future from any awards. The Vatican should open its accounts and its correspondence to public scrutiny, and then we can judge them as they are.

    • Mark Bailey

      Well, after you. Let’s have a look at your accounts and correspondence. Or is that a silly idea? Yes it is, but it matches the sixth form debating level of argument you proffer.

  • Span Ows

    Does he twerk?

    • Juan José Rivera Díaz

      No, but your momma does! and she’s amazing! XD

  • swatnan

    As long as the citation reads for ‘keeping a low ptofile, living a life of simplicity and penitence’. And for not pocketing a huge fortune whilst in Office. But, the Pope was only appointed by just 500 Cardinals, and God. And he’s not even British. So he should not be Man of the Year.
    Lets give it to another forgotten man Leveson.

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