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The death of a pope and selection of his successor will always be a big news story. Media reporting on the illness and death of John Paul II, and the choice of his successor was more than big. The story was at first ghoulish, then monotonous and unenlightening, and finally went on endlessly without analysis when it was most needed.

The pope has a fever. No, his fever has broken. Look, he’s waving to the crowd. No, he’s just sitting there. He passed. No, he is still alive.

When everyone could agree that he was in fact dead, throngs descended on the Vatican to see his body. Bush pere, fils and other killers (world leaders) lined up too, pretending to be righteous. When they left town the media fun began anew with the choice of a successor. Was the smoke black or was it white? Was it closer to gray? Is gray the new black for the papacy? Just when it seemed that our media friends couldn’t sink any lower, they did.

We have a pope! – Fox News

Who is “we?” Only Catholics have a pope. Did the non-Catholic world convert overnight or is Fox saying that the pope belongs to them and their ideological brethren? The use of quotation marks would have prevented any confusion, but the statement was not just a grammatical or journalistic oversight.

Amidst all of the nonsense, Fox News did everyone a favor and told an uncomfortable truth. The right wing are claiming Pope Benedict XVI as their own. A seal of approval from Fox and friends is a very bad sign indeed.

John Paul II came to power when liberation theology was a growing force. A Polish pope seemed a curious choice at first glance, but he did the job of asserting authority against Soviet power in Europe and leftist politics anywhere else in the world.

El Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero truly believed the words of Jesus Christ. As the least among us are treated, Jesus himself is treated. The government of that ironically named nation frowned upon equal treatment for the least among us. Priests and nuns who worked to help the poor fight against oppression and murder were themselves killed by death squads. The hopeful archbishop met with John Paul and brought photographic evidence of the persecution that targeted the church.

John Paul did nothing to help him or the persecuted Salvadoran people. Romero was told to go home and make nice with the killers.

"Look," Romero said, "that the Holy Father says that the archbishopric must get along well with the government, that we must enter into a dialogue. And I was trying to let the Holy Father understand that the government attacks the people. And if I am the pastor of the people, I cannot enter into good understanding with this government."

On March 25, 1980 Archbishop Oscar Romero was shot to death as he said mass. The killers didn’t want to make nice with him.

Liberation theology, like Romero, died too. The choice of Benedict XVI insures that it will stay that way. As Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, he headed the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith. Until 1908 that Congregation was known as the Sacred Congregation of the Universal Inquisition.

In defending the faith, Ratzinger saw to it that Catholics toed the pontiff’s line. In a June 2004 letter to American bishops he declared that Catholic politicians in favor of abortion rights should not receive communion. That letter put Ratzinger and the Catholic Church on the side of George W. Bush and against John Kerry, a pro-choice Catholic.

When John F. Kennedy ran for president he assured voters that he would not be subservient to Rome. Now we have an evangelical Protestant president who assures voters that he will be subservient to Rome.

The selection of Benedict XVI raises other very serious questions. None of those questions came up in the unending coverage provided by the useless corporate media.

Pope Benedict was born in Germany 1927 and came of age during the rule of Adolf Hitler. Like millions of other Germans he joined the Hitler Youth and served in the German army. As soon as those words come out of an anchorman’s mouth he hastens to add that Hitler Youth membership was compulsory and Ratzinger was drafted into the army and his family didn’t like the Nazis and his father moved the family a lot to stay out of the Gestapo’s sight.

Brian Williams, Peter Jennings and Bob Schieffer can’t possibly know if this often repeated scenario is in fact true. We don’t know if the Ratzingers told their son to join up and keep the family out of trouble or if they were proud of his membership.

The facts of the new pope’s biography are terribly inconvenient. So inconvenient that the media suits have decided they are off limits. 

The pope during World War II, Pius XII, never spoke out against the Nazi regime. The debate about his degree of culpability in Nazi atrocities rages on but apparently not within the church. The cardinals weren’t embarrassed to choose a pope who wore the uniform of the German army. Even worse, the media aren’t embarrassed enough to discuss the issue in any depth.

It is terrible that the new pope influenced an American presidential campaign. It is terrible that no one will say that he did so or give him the condemnation he deserves. It is becoming clearer and clearer. Fox News does have a new pope.

Margaret Kimberley’s Freedom Rider column appears weekly in . Ms. Kimberley is a freelance writer living in New York City.  She can be reached via e-Mail at [email protected]. You can read more of Ms. Kimberley's writings at

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April 28 2005
Issue 136

is published every Thursday.

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