Thursday, February 03, 2005

Three Taps of a Mallet

First off, all apologies as I haven't posted in a good while. A lot of small-bore stuff's been going on, and somebody had to handle it. Then I turned 22 and took a week off to celebrate -- fortunately it was a slow news week... And then Tuesday rolled around.

No, the pope is not dead... yet. But the world's press has converged on Policlinico Gemelli with all the fury of the Italian travel agents screaming into their cellphone earpieces who flurry about Fiumicino airport all day.

Is this the end of John Paul II? Probably not, but it's just another sign that the inevitable is drawing nearer and nearer.... As Dziwisz has said on multiple occasions, "The pope has outlived many of those who have predicted his imminent death." But a scare of this sort speaks to something which, until Tuesday, wasn't big news: that the complications of the pope's Parkinson's, and not the disease itself, would be the final straw -- its toll on his posture, bone structure and respiratory system is the area of weakness to be focused upon.

The coverage -- albeit apocalyptic in nature, at times (the Big Three leading their evening newscasts with live dispatches from Rome) -- has been comprehensive and sound, so no need rehashing here. But there are some interesting nuggets to be found:

  • When asked for a Bush statement on the "papal illness event," Scott MacLellan replied that the president's prayers "are with the Holy Father." This White House -- filled as it is with the spiritual descendants of those who saw Rome as the Great Satan -- has never used the term "Holy Father"; kudos to The Mahareshi Mahesh John Allen for noting that, in prior meetings with JPII, Bush 43 and Colin Powell addressed the pope as "Sir." But the use of "Holy Father" indicates the place conservative American Catholics -- a.k.a. the Petrine Rockettes -- hold in Rove's vision of the permanent Republica majority.
  • A colleague and I spoke last evening of the possibility of a DNR (do not resuscitate) situation, and what the plans would be. In prior times, the advisers would huddle behind the walls, safe from the attention of a waiting world learning every detail instantaneously. But if it came to the point where the question of heroic measures arose -- and I'm not saying we're at that point, but just as a hypothetical (the last thing I need is Phil Lawler, George Weigel ("VEEEE-gil," as a curalist would have it) and their sycophants jumping down my throat) -- I'm firmly convinced that the decision rests in the hands of Stanislaw Dziwisz, who Wojtyla has trusted his life with for almost four decades. No one knows this pope's mind, heart and soul like Dziwisz, and there's no real blood family gathered around. How the seeming change in teaching on life support these last few years might affect that is anyone's guess.
  • I've been doing a lot of talking these last few days, and one point I keep hitting is that John Paul saw everything after 6 January 2001 as something akin to "bonus time." He saw his mission as Wyszynski told him at his election, "God has called you to lead the church into the Third Millennium." At a late 2000 interdicasterial meeting on priorities and plans in the coming months, the focus turned to '01 and the pope lifted his hands and said "That is another's business." Since the end of the Jubilee, as I've been telling around, Wojtyla basically took one hand off the wheel -- not so much looking down at the papers on the desk as looking up.
So that is what is, for now -- stay tuned.



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