However tragic the story of what Pope Benedict XVI might have known, and when he might have known it, the fact is that the current pope has a GREAT face for caricature! Also, his personality and, thus far, his papacy, are a blessing for editorial cartoonists the world over. Regardless of religious persuasion, or lack thereof.
As a member of the ruthless news media that a Vatican spokesman recently described as persecuting Pope Benedict and the Catholic priesthood like the Nazis persecuted the Jews, I, for one, admit to piling on. Pope Benedict, you see, is just too tempting a target.
For starters, Benedict XVI looks like a ghoul! There, I said it. It’s a nasty observation to make, and not entirely accurate. But the current pope looks as though he’d fit as snugly in Dracula’s cape as in his own papal vestments. The Pope as Nosferatu, but with a dense thatch of white hair! And Benedict’s eyes — always the secret to caricature — are deep-set but fiery, framed by a prominent brow above, and wrinkly, brown tea bags of flesh below.
Benedict XVI does not resemble other popes of the modern era. His smile seems a bit creepy, even fiendish, rather than benign. He looks neither stoic nor heroic like his immediate predecessor, John Paul II. Rather, Benedict, though 82-years-old, appears intense and intellectually sharp as a tack, ready to pounce on his philosophical adversaries.
And, again, there’s that shock of white hair. Pope John XXIII and Pope Paul VI were mostly bald. Pius XII, John Paul I ( the “smiling pope,” who reigned for a mere 33 days) and John Paul II had thinning hair. Baldness or thinning hair are something I associate with popes, the papal caps fitting neatly against their skulls. But Benedict surely needs a pin to keep his beanie, or zucchetto, in place. His hair, though dense, is fine and silky — almost akin to egret feathers on the sides of his head.
…Yet poking out from that hair are ears placed low on his head. They protrude noticeably, and end in a pointy tip. “God’s Rottweiler,” the pope’s nickname when he was Cardinal Ratzinger, seems apt. Though quick to flash a smile, he could be mistaken for snarling. One can imagine Pope Benedict, in times of crisis for the Roman Catholic church, like today, howling in frustration at the moon!
Finally, there are Pope Benedict’s shoes. His entire wardrobe is ornate, even by papal standards, but the bright red slippers, gleaming like fine rubies, all add to the endearing notion that Benedict is not exactly the “people’s pope.”
Of course, not a word I’ve written here is the least bit fair, and I may burn in Hell for this column. But my point is about appearances, not politics or theology. In fact, when Pope Benedict XVI visited the United States, in 2008, I was moved by his personal, heartfelt apologies made directly to victims of the pedophile scandals in the Boston archdiocese and elsewhere. At the time, his words of comfort seemed more powerful and salutary than all the monetary settlements that have been awarded by courts before or since. Now, however, as new revelations come to light regarding Benedict’s own actions, or inaction, regarding pedophile priests during his long tenure as archbishop and cardinal around Munich, Germany, serve only to portray the man in caricature — at its most grotesque.
In that regard, Pope Benedict has given editorial cartoonists ample opportunity to engage in sins of commission. Forgive us, Lord, for we know not what we do! Mostly.
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