Slap-Happy Pontiff? by Charles Coulombe

Daily Reading & Meditation: Thursday (January 9)
January 9, 2020
Saint of the Day for January 9: St. Adrian of Canterbury (d. Jan. 9, 710)
January 9, 2020

By Charles Coulombe, Crisis Magazine, January 9, 2020

Charles A. Coulombe is a contributing editor at Crisis and the magazine’s European correspondent. He previously served as a columnist for the Catholic Herald of London and a film critic for the National Catholic Register. A celebrated historian, his books include Puritan’s Empire and Star-Spangled Crown. He resides in Vienna, Austria and Los Angeles, California.


Charles CoulombeNow billed as “The Slap Seen ’round the World,” the video footage of the Holy Father’s encounter with an apparently over-zealous admirer at St. Peter’s Square on New Year’s Eve has gone viral. In a pontificate that has seen the Catholic world become deeply polarized over the style, personality, and actions of the Church’s current visible head, the video has ignited quite an ocean of invective.

For those who dislike this pope, his angry, petulant reaction reveals the face of the man they feel they have known since his accession to office—nasty, cruel, and hypocritical. Despite all his words about love and accompaniment, his angry slapping of the woman’s hand and his subsequent expression call to mind the shredding of the Franciscans of the Immaculate, the deposition of the Grand Master of the “Sovereign” Order of Malta, the defense of the perverts and criminals in his entourage, the steady drone of insults, and so on. In other words, for such folk, the video reveals to the world the face of the man whom they know, as opposed to the ever-smiling visage created by his spin doctors.

For his defenders, the Pope’s reaction was the extremely natural one of an elderly and infirm man suddenly and forcefully grabbed from behind. They point out that just prior to this event there is footage of him helping a child up, smiling at him, and giving him a rosary. To these folk, the interpretation of the video by the Pope’s opponents is at best horribly unfair. Moreover, they point out, the pontiff very publicly apologized for his action. Some blamed his security detail for allowing the incident to happen.  …

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