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Perceptions of the Popes -- Writer's Poke #431

I’ve been thinking about two ideas: “Honeymoon period” and “Lame duck.” Strange concepts, both, but both quite psychologically real.

Take the position of the Pope, for example. The new Pope is in a honeymoon period. Almost every day, it seems, a new story comes out about the Pope, and most people seem to like what this new guy’s about. He makes his own telephone calls, he pays his own hotel bills, and he washes the feet of inmates at a youth prison. He says he wants to be the “People’s Pope.”

Anyway, people love this guy. Catholics and non-Catholics alike think he’s great. Some call him a “step in the right direction,” and others call him “a breath of fresh air.” Question: Are his policies all that much different from the old Pope? It doesn’t seem to matter if they are or not. He is, after all, in the Honeymoon phase of his reign, and people aren’t focused on his policies. They certainly aren’t concerned about his “legacy.”

The lame duck, however, does have a legacy to worry about, and even if he isn’t the one fixated on how he will be remembered, others are doing the fixating for him. Do you recall any good stories about the old pope? I don’t, and certainly I don’t recall any good stories coming out on a daily basis. Instead, it's more about what he didn’t accomplished; it's more about the problems with the Church he didn't correct and that sort of thing.

What, really, is significantly different about these two men? They’re roughly the same age, and they roughly have the same beliefs. Will the protection of the Honeymoon phase eventually fade, or is it possible that the new Pope is all that people hope that he is?

Have you ever been in a “honeymoon phase”? Or, have you ever felt like a “lame duck”? If so, describe the experience. Did you really “change,” or was it someone else’s perception of you that changed?

“There is no truth. There is only perception.” – Gustave Flaubert


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