Thursday, May 1, 2008

The medium and the message are one in Christ

During his recent whirlwind tour of the United States a number of media commentators noted the obvious differences between the more reserved, scholastic Pope Benedict XVI and his gregarious, camera-hugging predecesor, John Paul II.

John Paul II was a media superstar who could bedazzle and work a crowd as well if not better than any secular pop star could ever hope to.

Yet beneath the charming facade was a conservative who strongly discouraged dissent from the official party line. His more liberal-thinking bishops sometimes learned this fact the hard way after he added a punitive provision to the 1983 Code of Cannon Law so that those who disagreed with even nondefinitive Church teachings could be penalized.

Of course Benedict XVI's reputation as a razor-sharp intellectual and formal 'papal enforcer' preceded his American visit. He also has the uneviable task of following in the daunting footsteps and filling the shoes of the flamboyant fisherman from Poland.

Regardless of the 'medium' or Pope who fills the role as spiritual leader of the Holy See, their human flaws, for example, encouraging freedom of religion while at the same time limiting freedom of thought, will always result in an inevitable tension between the medium and the message.

Perhaps the late Canadian media guru and Catholic convert Marshall McLuhan should have the last word:

“In Jesus Christ there is no distance or separation between the medium and the message. It’s the one case where we can say the medium and the message are in complete unison.”

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