Are you ready for Pope Benedict’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.

For more news on the Pope’s visit to the UK, see and day-by-day roundups courtesy of the Pope Benedict Fan Club.

8 Responses to Are you ready for Pope Benedict’s next gig?

  1. I see it as condescending to the press

    And? The press has thought that the pope wore green to show his support for environmental causes. People attacking the papal visit team forget the endless bounds of stupidity and ignorance shown by the press. While “gig” & “headline act” might be a stretch, it’s not unthinkable and the rest of the terms I believe I’ve seen used before in previous coverage of catholic events.

  2. Michael,

    The press has displayed abominable ignorance at times. There’s no denying it. But this should be seen as an opportunity to lift up and educate. Instead of providing a brief-but-substantial dictionary of Catholic terminology, the Bishops’ take the opposite approach by ‘dumbing down’ the language.

    Treating the readership as if they were in elementary school only encourages this ignorance. An elementary paper like USA Today could have done a better job.

  3. RL says:

    Yeah, this is tough. Probably better off having said nothing. The real scandal in my mind is that too many Catholics seem to think of the sacred items in the list like the “similar terms”.

  4. Jake says:

    I hope he is “taken care of”….so to speak.

  5. Jake says:

    And by taken care of, I mean given great accomodations!!!

  6. mundabor says:

    “it’s hard to see how this type of glossary can be received as anything other than an insult to the reader”.

    I don’t find it hard at all: this is an insult to the Eucharist and to the Mass. This is not an “explaining” of anything to anyone, this is a willed banalisation of the sacred for the sake of appearing “hip” and “connected”.

    I also suspect that those who have thought this genial initiative have no clear idea of what a Mass or what the Eucharist is. If they had had it, they would have never dared to make such comparisons.


  7. Apparently, we’re wrong. It’s not to the press, it’s the people producing the Papal Event-people for whom “gig” and “headline act” are common usages. This appears to be a hatchet job.

    See Thomas Peters who has a statement from the Papal Visit team and the document in full:

  8. mundabor says:

    I still can’t see your argument, Denton.

    The last page of the document is delirious even following the pages of the documents.

    No one in his right mind would ever dare to make any comparison whatever between a Mass and a “Gig”, and say that for a non-catholic the one may have the merest resemblance to the other.

    No one has ever tought or said that the last page is everything there is in the document, it is not about that.

    As for the affirmation that there is no intention of being patronising, this is more than risible. The explanations made in the previous pages make the last page even more offensive for a journalist, not less.

    The last page could have been cut out entirely, and no one would have missed it. But no, the “see, my Mass is a kind of gig” part had to be inserted.


%d bloggers like this: