Time's Person of the Year: Pope Francis

[Content Note: Christian Supremacy; misogyny; disablism; clergy abuse; class warfare; homophobia; war on agency.]

Time has chosen Pope Francis as their 2013 Person of the Year. A few thoughts:

One: Time has not selected an individual woman as its "X of the Year" since then-president of the Philippines Corazon Aquino was named Woman of the Year in 1986. In 1999, Time changed the annual year-end honorific, which had almost exclusively been a "Man of the Year" since its inception, to "Person of the Year," but it merely created an illusion of parity. Still no individual women.

"Person of the Year," my ass. If Time doesn't believe there's been a single individual woman deserving of the title in 27 years, then the least they could do is be honest and go back to calling it what it really is: "Man of the Year."

Because the message being sent by having not found a single woman deserving of the cover in longer than a girl child could be born, attend grammar school and junior high, graduate from high school, graduate from college, get her Master's degree, and settle in at her first job, is not that she could be their "Person of the Year" someday.

It's that she shouldn't waste a dime of her 79-cent-on-the-dollar salary on their garbage magazine.

Two: The failure to find a woman worthy of the title again is objectively bad in any case—but to choose a man who is the figurehead of a colossal international organization that is institutionally misogynistic, a man who said only weeks ago that the male-only priesthood "is not a question open to discussion," a man who oversees the most powerfully influential lobby to deny women access to reproductive healthcare and our very bodily autonomy, a man who refuses to engage with the women in his organization who disagree with him, is an epic affront atop their contemptuous disregard for women.

Three: Last month, the world went wild when Pope Francis touched a man with facial tumors as the result of neurofibromatosis. It's my estimation that not treating someone with a disease like a monster is the most basic sort of human decency, not particularly warranting an international media maelstrom.

This story is emblematic of a larger narrative around Pope Francis that I find deeply objectionable. Which, to be abundantly clear, is not a criticism of the Pope himself, but about the media's regard for him. This is, after all, a post about a major media outlet making him their Person Man of the Year.

Essentially, the narrative boils down to this: Pope Francis is not as overtly heinous as most popes, therefore he is AMAZING.

When Pope Francis says that atheists aren't undiluted evil (which was quietly reversed almost immediately), he's heralded as some sort of beacon of tolerance, even though it's the bare minimum of decency to say that atheists have the capacity for goodness.

When Pope Francis says that the Roman Catholic church has become "obsessed" with abortion, same-sex marriage, and contraception, he's celebrated as a radical reformist, even though the actual content of his message was essentially advising the Church to adjust its messaging on its still homophobic and misogynist doctrine.

When Pope Francis makes it abundantly clear that he is definitely anti-choice, well, that doesn't fit the narrative about how he's a Brand New Pope of Hope and Change, so that doesn't get the same sort of media coverage.

When Pope Francis challenges unfettered capitalism and the exploitation and neglect of the world's poor, he is baked all the cookies forever for being such a progressive pontiff, with nary a peep about the vast wealth of the Catholic Church he oversees, nor their doctrine that encourages even poor people to tithe, i.e. donate 1/10th of their income to the Church, with the tacit promise of eternal life in exchange, nor their policy against contraception which admonishes even poor families to have as many children as "god wills," which more deeply entrenches poverty.

Et cetera.

Sure, Pope Francis seems rather a more decent fellow than most of the popes I've known (we're all besties!) in my lifetime, but this entire narrative balances atop the crumbling edifice of the most paltry expectations of decency for the Catholic leadership. Which is well-deserved, considering, for example, that another thing for which Pope Francis has been widely praised is criminalizing child abuse in the Vatican—something he had to do because it wasn't already illegal.

The problem with over-celebrating Pope Francis for showing evidence of basic decency, especially when the radicalism of many of his positions are overstated, is that is restores credibility to the Catholic Church undeservedly, at a time when the Church continues to resist meaningful accountability for institutional sex abuse and resulting cover-ups, and at a time when the Bishops Conference is meddling in healthcare in the US, and elsewhere, in ways that mean women will fucking die.

I'm sure Pope Francis is a fine dude. Whatever. But let's be clear that he's getting this honor because he is a symbol of the Catholic Church showing the most cursory evidence of decency. I have a problem with the media's investment in that narrative.

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