Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Obama and the Pope

Over the last few months there have been many media outlets treating the pope unfairly. Blaming him for any bad act by any priest ever. Lots of blogs have come to his defense. Pointed out that the connections between him and the incidents in question are very remote. They bemoan how so many big name news organizations do so little thinking and so little research. They are right. News today has gotten quick but they often get their facts wrong and even more often mess up their analysis.

But then we get the story of the BP oil spill. Guess who these same bloggers blame? Obama. I think the connection between Obama and an offshore drilling accident is about as strong as the connection between Pope Benedict and a pedophile priest in Milwaukee. Both men happened to be in charge when the mess was discovered. Both are blamed for two reasons. One is a pre-existing hatred that people both in the media and the population as a whole have for the person. Secondly, there is a desire to blame somebody and they happen to be the most visible person connected.

People love to blame big institutions. Big oil, the US government, the catholic church. The reality is that serious problems can happen because of a few isolated issues and not a systemic failure. But people want to see heads roll. That is almost never the prudent thing to do. Do we want prudent leaders? We do and we don't. There are times when we get impatient for action.

The Catholic church has done a lot to clean up the problems of sex abuse among priests. They will continue to do more. Certainly in Ireland the process will run for quite some time. But the process has worked. The church is stronger because of it. It will take some time before people understand the new reality but holiness is its own reward. If the priesthood is purer, and I think it is, then the primary reward will flow from the fact that this is pleasing to God. The secondary reward of repairing the church's damaged reputation will be slow in coming.

The oil spill can be the same. I live in an oil town so maybe I am not a cynical about oil compnies as most people. But I do think we will see better behaviour from oil companies over time. Yes, it will be base don shareholders worrying their stock will take the BP plunge but good things will come of it. It will take a few years.

Will people see the bigger picture and realize they are too dependent on oil? I doubt it. But there might be some baby steps along that front as well.


  1. I don't disagree entirely, but certainly partially. I think Obama is mostly treated with kid gloves by the mainstream media, whereas the Pope is often unfairly maligned right from the get-go (the recent sex abuse reporting was little more than yellow journalism.) It is true that there are bloggers who will jump on any opportunity to criticize Obama, but to compare that to Pope's treatment...I don't know. I think its a stretch, frankly. For the longest time I gave a pass to the President for the reasons you mentioned. Accidents happen. But once I found out that he refused to enact the government plan to burn the oil, and refused help from foreign nations to capture the oil, and refused to use booms and refused Jindal's plan to keep it off the coast, and so forth, it seems that he is deserving of criticism. The Pope is deserving of criticism as well, if it is deserved. Its just that, at this point I have seen little evidence of that. Various bishops are to blame for a number of things, and probably JPII and the curia are to blame for dithering, but to me there seems to be little evidence that Benedict has been fairly criticized at this point. Just my $.02.

  2. I agree that the MSM like Obama and dislikes the Pope. But then there are other commenters that are the opposite. I guess my point is that I don't see anybody being objective. People engage in the same unfair critque that they were disgusted by when their man was the target.

    You say Obama should have done A, B, and C. I think people have said the same about the pope. The assumption is that A, B, and C would have worked flawlessly. I doubt he made any of those choices. He likely let his technical people make the call. I have no idea if they were right or not.