Friday, February 28, 2014

Two Anniversaries, Two Different Men, One Real Evangelizer

There was never a completely bad day in Mr Roger's neighborhood.
There were just way too many bad days in Pope Benedict's neighborhood.

Yesterday was the 11th anniversary of the death of Fred Rogers.  No one, and I mean no one, had more impact on the formation of my daughter's early view of the world than Fred Rogers.  She would sit riveted during his show, a firm believer in Mr Roger's neighborhood, a firm believer in treating all people just like Mr Rogers treated all people.  He truly evangelized her into being the person she is today, and I am truly proud of her.  I suspect this is true for a lot of her generation, that Mr Rogers had more to do with their outlook than any other early life influence.  Whatever one may think about the millennials, one has to admit they have a pretty welcoming concept of neighborhood.

Today marks the 1st anniversary of the resignation of Pope Benedict.  He had virtually no impact on my daughter's formation as a human being, except as a lightening rod for how the Roman Catholic Church did not function at all like Mr Roger's neighborhood.  He was not one of her evangelizers.  His was not a friendly inviting neighborhood and in the US, Catholicism is still not a very friendly neighborhood for a lot of people.
Pope Benedict was a lot of things but he did not have an ounce of the evangelizing impact of Fred Rogers. 
Pope Benedict's resignation did finally result in what appears to be the election of Catholicism's version of Fred Rogers.  One could say Benedict did lay the groundwork for cleaning up the neighborhood.  I sure hope Pope Francis has his share of cardigan sweaters. 

Pope Francis seems to have taken a lesson in evangelization from the same source as Fred Rogers....the teachings of Jesus, not the teachings of Augustine.


  1. I loved watching with my daughter what she referred to as Neighborhood. I can have trouble being around or in the neighborhood of Joseph Ratzinger. He has denied the validity of so many of his fellow theologians and refused to listen to the lessons of science. Mr. Rogers was all about was all about validating others particularly so that our children would learn this trait. Who was more saintly??

  2. Truly said Dennis. Who was more saintly? You can make easy guess who my daughter thinks was more saintly.

  3. I bet it is the same one that my daughter thinks more saintly. Anyway in this day of cheapening the ideas of what saints stands for and who are saints, I bet Ratzinger has a better chance to be declared a saint than so many other validating people!!!

  4. sylvesterpatsteffenFebruary 28, 2014 at 9:01 PM

    Oh, I like that! Our six daughters grew up in Mr. Roger's Neighborhood too. Stop to think of it, he probably taught as much or more religion than many preachers. And better than most church preachers he taught about nature and love for nature's creatures.

  5. Did you know that the sweaters Fred Rodgers wore were ALL knitted by his mother? Every one of them. I think of the tunic Jesus wore, woven from one piece.

  6. I think this is the best comment on the catholic church I have seen in a long time.
    When the leader of the catholic church has less to offer then a show on television it is time for change, big change!

    Fred Rogers was ordained as a Presbyterian minister. What a difference one man can make.

  7. Kathleen SchatzbergMarch 1, 2014 at 9:21 AM

    I loved your post so much that I re-posted it at my group at Monasteries of the Heart (an online lay monastic movement created by the Benedictine Sisters of Erie, PA -- ) … The site has several thousand members (most of it free), but within the site, groups can be formed and mine is a group of 18 women who share spirituality through the lens of our stories. I gave my group info on how to find you, so more people can enjoy your wonderful and insightful blog. Thank you!

  8. BaptizedBabyBoomerMarch 1, 2014 at 3:55 PM

    I can remember when my son was little and putting on Mr. Rogers for him to watch. I'm pretty sure that my son has more regard & a positive experience from watching Mr. Rogers than any Pope who has held the position since he was born in the early 1980's. My son could really care less what any Pope has to say. The Popes look silly & scary compared to Mr. Rogers who was so down to earth.

    I think that the Popes are anti-American at heart. America has been about trying to create a neighborhood of many different kinds of people & people being open to others. The Popes neighborhood in Rome is a very poor example of the leadership in the RCC. The RCC neighborhood is so bigoted and yet they will deny it as much as Eichmann excused himself even at the foot of the gallows.

  9. I was a little too old for Mr. Rodgers, but I loved watching him anyway. Unlike Sesame Street or The Electric Company, his Neighborhood sure better appealed to me. Calming. Easy-going. Inviting. No flash. Maybe not much for those kids that needed excitement and movement, but still full of learning possibilities.

    As for Benedict: Did anyone else see the episode of Frontline [on PBS] last week that focused on the Vatican? Eye-opening even for a person who loosely follows the politics of the hierarchy. What really caught my attention were the statements to the effect that Benedict knew about the scandals in the church especially with regard to the sexual molestation charges. But he just did not know what to do about it or couldn't act even if he knew. He didn't have the skills/background to know what to do. But he was such a nice guy, kind, humble, prayerful, loving. I just can't reconcile the 2 sides here given how the pope is supposed to be the ultimate authority in all matters Catholic. Does knowing too much paralyze him?

  10. I am going to write on the Front Line piece. I just don't have the energy to write much after coming home from work. I have two minds about Benedict on this issue. I actually agree that he didn't know how to deal with it without admitting the priesthood and the upper echelons with in it had serious serious blind spots. I also think, he is and was, far more concerned about the place of his own theology in the history of Catholicism than he was being Pope. Being Pope was just the last step in cementing his place in Catholic theology. In reality, I think his papacy will have the exact opposite effect.

  11. sylvesterpatsteffenMarch 4, 2014 at 5:01 AM

    Being in my eighties, I can imagine myself in Benedict's place, (not really!) having gone along with the status quo, and now suddenly facing the real threat of an explosive (sex parties) release of information to the public.(Wikileaks). I don't blame him for saying "I'm outta here!"
    Though I don't exculpate him for his knowing complicity.

  12. Sylvester the one thing I don't know that I will ever accept about Benedict is that he ignored so much rot going on around him when he headed the CDF and was so busy making a career out of silencing other theologians and being JPII"s Court Theologian. He must have somehow compartmentalized his mind so strongly he could completely ignore the shenanigans of the Secretariat of State under Cardinal Sodano. His was a classic case of the right hand intentionally no knowing what the left hand was doing. It's no wonder the left hand made the intentionally clueless right hand the next Pope.

  13. The vapid, simpering primness alone marked him out as Mainline Protestant. A human Quaalude.

  14. Wow-and here I am thinking all the Know-Nothings had died out! And I'm an atheist!