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TIME's Person of the Year Exemplifies Open Closure

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(Article changed on December 12, 2013 at 18:26)

Duluth, Minnesota (OpEdNews) December 12, 2013: The folks at Time Magazine have named Pope Francis their Person of the Year in 2013. According to them, this recognition is based on their judgment of a person's impact. Impact here seems to mean impact on our awareness as we follow media coverage.

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This recognition in turn has triggered a number of news stories about it, which in turn will contribute to his further impact on our awareness as we follow media coverage.

But will the impact on our awareness that Pope Francis is admittedly having make a significant difference on anything other than his favorability rating? For example, will his impact on our awareness help temper the religious zealotry of anti-abortion Catholics? Or will it help temper the anti-religious zealotry that certain Americans feel toward Christianity and Christians?


In 1962, Pope John XXIII (born 1881; reigned 1958-1963) received this recognition from Time; and in 1994, Pope John-Paul II (born 1920; reigned 1978-2005) also received this recognition.

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But each of them had worked his way up to this recognition over a period of years. In contrast with each of them, Pope Francis (born 1936) has been fast-tracked to this recognition in the first year of his reign as pope -- thanks in large measure to the media coverage he has received since he was elected pope earlier this year.

Over the last nine months or so since he became the pope, Pope Francis has received enormous amount of favorable media coverage -- the best publicity of anybody on the planet.

Now, for years, conservatives have complained that the mainstream media are liberal. So does the alleged liberal bias of the mainstream media explain why Pope Francis has received so much media coverage? In other words, are the allegedly liberal media conspiring to make Pope Francis well known? Ah, that would be a vast liberal mainstream-media conspiracy, eh?

But wait. Certain U.S. Catholic bishops have complained that the mainstream media are anti-Catholic. Their charge is not necessarily inconsistent with the conservatives' charge that the mainstream media have a liberal bias.

But why would the supposedly anti-Catholic and supposedly liberal mainstream media devote so much attention to publicizing Pope Francis? Doesn't this show that a conspiracy is afoot?

To understand why Pope Francis has received so much media coverage, I would suggest that we should consider an analogy. President Barack Obama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2009. Arguably, he had done little to deserve this prestigious award. However, his predecessor, President George W. Bush had started wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, thereby arousing great concern around the world about American power. As a result, President Obama appeared to be a refreshing change from his predecessor.

In a similar way, Pope Francis appears to be a refreshing change from his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI (born 1927; reigned 2005-2013).

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Just as Pope Francis was known as Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina before he was elected pope in 2013, so too Pope Benedict XVI was known as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger of Germany before he was elected pope in 2005. For years, Cardinal Ratzinger has served as Pope John-Paul II's right-hand man.

Cardinal Ratzinger and Pope John-Paul II conspired together to silence views in the Roman Catholic Church that drove them crazy.

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Thomas James Farrell is professor emeritus of writing studies at the University of Minnesota Duluth (UMD). He started teaching at UMD in Fall 1987, and he retired from UMD at the end of May 2009. He was born in 1944. He holds three degrees from Saint Louis University (SLU): B.A. in English, 1966; M.A.(T) in English 1968; higher education, 1974. On May 16, 1969, the editors of the SLU student newspaper named him Man of the Year, an honor customarily conferred on an administrator or a faculty member, not on a graduate student -- nor on a woman up to that time. He is the proud author of the book (more...)

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