Papal apologies and real life soap tragedies

Matt Gardner - Online Columnist

Each week, starting from now, I'm attempting to reflect on stories in the news that many may not have picked up  by the mainstream media  and cast my own spin on them. If there's anything The-Latest.comers would like to comment on or ask me to discuss in my next column, please let me know.

So, Pope Benedict XVI landed in America as part of a six-day visit. I'm still not too sure why he chose the United States for his first international trip, although I see it as no coincidence that he celebrated his 81st birthday inside the White House. Perhaps it's a holiday destination of choice. Bling, bling French President Nicolas Sarkozy vacations there (though not yet with his ex-supermodel bride, Carla Bruni).

The one thing that does make me wonder, however, is the fact that the Pope has spoken for the fourth time in five days about the problems surrounding the vast amount of Catholic priests - more than 4,000 since 1950 - that have been accused of sexual abuse towards children.

It seems that Catholicism isn't having a crisis of faith under pressure from a rapidly modernising world, but a crisis of image. I think it speaks volumes that in recent years - at least with the last two Papal appointments - the Catholic Church has looked outside of Italy for their human-based God hotline. Given a lot of this image problem lies in the Western world, it seems that the US may have been the best base for a religious push. Complete with fulsome apologies about the vice among the priesthood about which previous Popes would not speak its name.

I still believe the Catholic Church has yet to break from the old routine. Being subject to such a rigid prepositional approach to the Bible, their beliefs aren't going to change. It wasn't until 1992 that the Pope admitted to imprisoning Galileo Galilei for proving that the Earth was not stationary (and as such that the Universe was not anthropocentric as the Bible decreed).

Still, the image is flexible. The Pope could do with being younger, for one.Perhaps with age comes the innate ability to remain conservative with ethics, which is the balance I assume Catholicism is trying to uphold. I'm just glad that Ratzinger's appointment forewent the need to give the post to someone with every illness that God could throw at him, as with Pope John Paul II, who died so rapidly ater taking office.

Back at home, I've mainly been taken by the circumstances surrounding the death of former CBBC presenter Mark Speight and his fianceé Natasha Collins. You hear of plenty of celebrity deaths happening, but this has a whole romantic tragedy element to it - a modern Romeo and Juliet twist, one may say.

She was young and attractive and met a grim death through a drugs-based heart attack in a scolding bathtub, getting 60 per cent burns to her body. Days later, Speight was accused of supplying her with hard drugs drugs and murder. It turned out to be a misplaced police theory. But to see a man like Mark Speight - one of the most energetic and friendly presenters around - take such a staggering free-fall in such a short space of time is not easy to ignore.

Speight was found hanging from a secluded rooftop, metres away from thousands of daily commuters at Paddington Station in London. It accentuated the loneliness that Mark  descended into  after Natasha's death. It is not often that I am affected by widely-publicised tragedy - what with the news media circus surrounding any such event - but I feel sorry for all people involved.

Speaking of media circuses, a little-read story surrounded Tuesday's seismic activity in Colombia. The Nevado del Huila, Colombia's third-highest peak, was spewing smoke and ash, forcing the evacuation and relocation of thousands of locals.

Now call me old fashioned, but you can't beat a good old natural disaster to spark up a boring news channel. Not that I'm wishing death on those unfortunate enough to be near by - far from it - but volcanoes are spectacular, and as we've seen from the evacuations in South America, it would probably have been relatively trouble free.

As a journalist and a consumer, it is almost as if you can put your feet up for a while because the stories write themselves and the videos are gripping. I still remember the pictures from the Italian Mount Etna eruption in 1992. I don't want another Armero tragedy - just a few pictures of lava, and the usual "look how hot it is!" journalist with a frying pan, cracking an egg over the molten rock and seeing it reduced to cinders in seconds. Even if the Daily Express disagrees, it sure beats six hours of a trained camera on the McCann's hotel in Praia da Luz, Spain.

And  I was taken aback by the advert on BBC One for Bianca's return to EastEnders. It was marked by Bianca and her illegitimate children singing ABC by the Jackson 5 (get it? Her last name  is Jackson. Sigh), which is possibly the most light-hearted thing that Eastenders writers have produced in their lives. We were soon brought back down to Earth in the first re-entry episode, which depicted Bianca crying herself to sleep while her kids slept soundly in a bus shelter. It didn't remind me of Dancing Machine, that was for sure. I don't think the Jackson 5 was the correct choice of music to accompany her promotional shoot. Maybe Radiohead.

It's the tragedy known as original programming. Without EastEnders and similar soaps, most channels would be redundant.


1 Response to "Papal apologies and real life soap tragedies"

chris's picture


Tue, 04/22/2008 - 09:42
<p><strong><u>Chris Gaynor</u></strong></p><p>Great idea mate - the best journalism in my opinion is comment and analysis!</p><p>Loved LITTLEJOHN&#39;s piece in the Daily Mail today about Prescott&#39;s Bulimia.</p><p>I thought the Eastender advert was a little tacky - but greatly illustrates the problem the UK have.</p><p>People having too many kids and not being able to afford to look after them!</p><p>As for the Pope story, I can&#39;t say I&#39;m a fan of him - </p>