On a top 10 list that somehow included twerker Miley Cyrus, Time Magazine has opted to recognize someone as Person of the Year who has captured the attention and in many cases won the hearts of people all over the world — regardless of their religion: Pope Frances.
But given how our political culture is now All Politics all the time, Time is now under fire for not choosing document leaker Edward Snowden over the Pope (and one criticism without flat out saying it comes from Snowden’s colleague in the reports, Glenn Greenwald.)
Here are a few excerpts from its article, which needs to be read in full:
But what makes this Pope so important is the speed with which he has captured the imaginations of millions who had given up on hoping for the church at all. People weary of the endless parsing of sexual ethics, the buck-passing infighting over lines of authority when all the while (to borrow from Milton), “the hungry Sheep look up, and are not fed.” In a matter of months, Francis has elevated the healing mission of the church—the church as servant and comforter of hurting people in an often harsh world—above the doctrinal police work so important to his recent predecessors. John Paul II and Benedict XVI were professors of theology. Francis is a former janitor, nightclub bouncer, chemical technician and literature teacher.
And behind his self-effacing facade, he is a very canny operator. He makes masterly use of 21st century tools to perform his 1st century office. He is photographed washing the feet of female convicts, posing for selfies with young visitors to the Vatican, embracing a man with a deformed face. He is quoted saying of women who consider abortion because of poverty or rape, “Who can remain unmoved before such painful situations?” Of gay people: “If a homosexual person is of good will and is in search of God, I am no one to judge.” To divorced and remarried Catholics who are, by rule, forbidden from taking Communion, he says that this crucial rite “is not a prize for the perfect but a powerful medicine and nourishment for the weak.”
Through these conscious and skillful evocations of moments in the ministry of Jesus, as recounted in the Gospels, this new Pope may have found a way out of the 20th century culture wars, which have left the church moribund in much of Western Europe and on the defensive from Dublin to Los Angeles. But the paradox of the papacy is that each new man’s success is burdened by the astonishing successes of Popes past. The weight of history, of doctrines and dogmas woven intricately century by century, genius by genius, is both the source and the limitation of papal power. It radiates from every statue, crypt and hand-painted vellum text in Rome—and in churches, libraries, hospitals, universities and museums around the globe. A Pope sets his own course only if he can conform it to paths already chosen.
And so Francis signals great change while giving the same answers to the uncomfortable questions. On the question of female priests: “We need to work harder to develop a profound theology of the woman.” Which means: no. No to abortion, because an individual life begins at conception. No to gay marriage, because the male-female bond is established by God. “The teaching of the church … is clear,” he has said, “and I am a son of the church, but”—and here he adds his prayer for himself—“it is not necessary to talk about those issues all the time.”
VIDEO on why Time chose him:
—National Review’s Kathryn Jean Lopez:
Pope Francis may, in part, be Time’s “Person of the Year” (Can I say “Man of the Year” now since he, well, is one?) because people think they are drawn to him. But it’s Christ he sees in the disfigured man and the drug addict and every man and woman he encounters. That’s what he’s clearly called to model to the world at this time. And that’s why things like religious freedom actually do matter to people beyond believers. Christians serve others not to be nice people but because you see Christ in another if you truly know Christ. It’s about the love of God.
I know there are skeptics about this pope. And I know there are people overjoyed because they see things they like, and believe it’s a papal endorsement of a way of life or political platform or radical change to come. I’d beg you: Listen closer. He is the first person to talk about the importance of politics – what politics needs is people who know the radical demands of the Gospel and so never settle for indifference. They have prudential calls to make but are always seeking to serve as stewards of human life and the full flourishing of freedom – which at its root for a Christian is the freedom to surrender to the will of God, to listen to the Holy Spirit. You know, what Pope Benedict did!
I sometimes joke that I got yelled at by Pope Benedict a year ago. I was in Rome this week and he admonished Catholic leaders there from the Americas to be for real, to not be talking about evangelization, but being truly ablaze with the Holy Spirit, living lives that witness to the Trinitarian reality we profess. I don’t think we convinced him we were hearing it, and so he stepped aside. The world isn’t always being overwhelmed by the mercy of those who profess to be Christian. And so now, maybe a little more, maybe if Pope Francis keeps literally pleading with people, as he does in his homilies and yes, exhortation, to know Divine Mercy.
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Gibbs wrote that Francis has placed himself at the center of discourse on “wealth and poverty, fairness and justice, transparency, modernity, globalization, the role of women, the nature of marriage, the temptations of power.”
She defended the decision from critics who argue that Pope Francis has only embraced friendlier rhetoric and not created actual change.
“Tone and temperament matter in a church built on the substance of symbols — bread and wine, body and blood — so it is a mistake to dismiss any Pope’s symbolic choices as gestures empty of the force of law.”
She also praised the stylistic changes and humility he has brought to the papacy: “He has retired the papal Mercedes in favor of a scuffed-up Ford Focus. No red shoes, no gilded cross, just an iron one around his neck.”
Pope Francis was chosen by Time over four other finalists: NSA-leaker Edward Snowden, LGBT-activist Edith Windsor, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz. Time had also considered Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, pop star Miley Cyrus, President Obama, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, and Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius.
This is the third time that the magazine has chosen a pope for its annual honor. It named Pope John Paul II in 1994 and Pope John XXIII in 1962.
NSA leaker Edward Snowden was named as runner-up, followed by gay rights activist Edith Windsor and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Miley Cyrus, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and Barack Obama were also among the final ten contenders for the title, which acknowledges a person’s influence in shaping the news and history in the outgoing year.
Cyrus might have had higher hopes of becoming the most talked about topic on Facebook, but the Pope has beaten her to that title too. Even the birth of the Royal baby, Prince George, was forced into third place on the top ten global list released by the social networking site earlier this week.
‘Election’ was the second most mentioned term, with high-profile national polls in India, Kenya, Iran and Italy.
The Pope, who also has more than three million followers on Twitter, was described as “a social media phenomenon” by The Independent. “Whether he was making friendly overtures to other faiths or embracing a man severely disfigured by disease – Francis drove more conversation than anyone else in 2013,” says the newspaper.
Meanwhile, Pietro Valsecchi, the Italian director behind popular comedies Sun in Buckets (Sole a catinelle) and What a Beautiful Day (Che bella giornata) – the two highest grossing Italian films ever – has said he is eyeing up Antonio Banderas to star as a young Pope Francis in his new biopic, reports The Guardian.
I respect what Pope Francis has done in the very short time he’s been in the papacy. The people have taken a liking to him as well. What he’s done for the Catholic faithful is nothing less than give them faith in the church they love and believe in, with the wider public approving as well, which is some feat after the church scandals.
What remains true about TIME magazine’s Person of the Year, however, is that it remains a safe, inconsequential marketing tool. In a lot of ways that really is why Pope Francis is the perfect choice. When you look at what still lies at the foundation of the Catholic Church doctrine, Pope Francis represents a kinder gentler image, because absolutely nothing has changed below.
We’ll have to wait to see what happens after Pope Francis to really know if his papacy has shifted the Vatican to understanding where their focus should remain, or if the current pope is nothing more than window dressing.
Forgive me if I am a bit skeptical of Time’s choice for Pope Francis as being their ‘Person of the Year” for 2013, but I am. Not that Pope Francis is not a good man or deserving of this award, but TIME made the choice not because of his religious virtue and certainly not because they believe in Catholicism or the message it spreads. Doesn’t it feel like it was yesterday they were doing stories on the coverups of sexual predator Catholic priests? Let’s face it, the reason why they chose him is because Pope Francis criticized “modern capitalism” ,in an attack on “the idolatry of money.”
Like I said, Pope Francis is an easy and justifiable choice, it is the reasons why he was picked that are suspect. In any other year Edward Snowden, the NSA whistle-blower would have won this hands down. He exposed the spying ways of the NSA and will continue to do so for months and years to come. Snowden’s exposing of the NSA has even made US lawmakers and foreign leaders question what this spy organization is doing.
Nonetheless, in the days approaching today’s announcement, I speculated that the distinction would go to former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. After all, if you go by what Time claims the criteria for “Person Of The Year actually are, then its hard to think of anyone else who the fits. As it has been described, the distinction is meant to profile a person, group, idea or object that “for better or for worse, …has done the most to influence the events of the year.” Who has done that more than Snowden? Domestically his actions have set of a debate on privacy, 4th Amendment rights, the limits that should be placed on government surveillance, and the policies that have been enacted as part of the War On Terror. They have also set off a debate on the proper role of journalists and, indeed, who is and isn’t a journalist. Internationally, it has had an undeniable impact on relationships between the United States and many nations around the world, including some of our closest allies. With all due respect to Pope Francis, it is still very early in his Papacy and it remains unclear what impact he will have on the world. Indeed, it’s worth noting that Pope John Paul II wasn’t named Person Of The Year until 1994, some 16 years after he had been elevated to the Papacy, and John XXIII was not put on Time’s cover as Person Of The Year until some four years after he became Pope. As it turned out, Snowden ended up coming in second place in the judgment of Time’s editors.
…. In the end, though, I’m not sure it matters. Time Magazine is hardly the bellwether publication it once was and, outside of the publicity this announcement gets each December, it hardly seems to be a big player in the media world anymore.
Kinda nice for Time that they had a newsmaking Pope. Puts a plausible veneer on refusing the obvious pick: Snowden. http://t.co/d3OoiTylIl
— Jay Rosen (@jayrosen_nyu) December 11, 2013
— WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) December 11, 2013
HOW CAN IT NOT BE THE POPE? THIS GUY ROCKED EVERYONE'S CONCEPT OF PAPACY Time's Person of the Year short list http://t.co/z6M6zuHvrG
— Barry Ritholtz (@ritholtz) December 9, 2013
I know this is a rhetorical question at this point, but…does Glenn Greenwald have any shame? ANY??? http://t.co/GLhnnmuLVs
— Malcolm Johnson (@admiralmpj) December 11, 2013
A voice of compassion, and a great choice for Time's Person of the Year — Pope Francis, The Choice http://t.co/amHUtDIZxY
— Gavin Newsom (@GavinNewsom) December 11, 2013
— Talking Points Memo (@TPM) December 11, 2013
— The Daily Edge (@TheDailyEdge) December 11, 2013
I like Pope Francis. But Time choosing him as Person of the Year ahead of Edward Snowden is ludicrous and cowardly. http://t.co/0s7zt02cZD
— Mike Taylor (@MikeTaylor) December 11, 2013
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Joe Gandelman is a former fulltime journalist who freelanced in India, Spain, Bangladesh and Cypress writing for publications such as the Christian Science Monitor and Newsweek. He also did radio reports from Madrid for NPR’s All Things Considered. He has worked on two U.S. newspapers and quit the news biz in 1990 to go into entertainment. He also has written for The Week and several online publications, did a column for Cagle Cartoons Syndicate and has appeared on CNN.