Hey pope, go hide somewhere

For years, our missing co-founder Douglas LeBlanc was the GetReligionista who was officially in charge of posting "hathos" alerts linked to mainstream media coverage of religion news. He's still out there, lurking, and he sent us an alert this morning for the first hathos alert of 2010 and it is a goodie. But first, for those on the outside, what is "hathos"?

Many people have taken shots at defining this term rooted in our media-overload era, but here is one of the definitive references:

hathos (hay'thos) n., pl. double hathos -- A pleasurable sense of loathing, or a loathing sense of pleasure, aroused by certain schlocky, schmaltzy or just- plain-bad show-business personalities: "Hearing the audience applaud when Dr. Joyce Brothers told Merv Griffin that, aside from being a brilliant comedienne, Charo is a 'genius on the classical guitar' filled me with hathos." [American: hate/happy pathos lachrymose (?)] -- ha-thot-ic adj.

-- Alex Heard, "Beyond Hate: The Giddy Thrill of Hathos," The Washington Post, May 17, 1987

So, with that in mind, let's turn to the following Agence France-Presse story following up on recent events in Rome. I had totally missed the crucial link between the recent attacks on public figures there. How about you? Click here for the story.

Assaults on Pope Benedict XVI and Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi within two weeks show the danger of ostentatious displays of power and risk triggering copycat attacks, experts said.

Psychoanalyst Rosella Candella told AFP she saw a link between the two assaults, saying with both figures "we are seeing a very strong display of power." She called for people wielding such high levels of authority to be "more discreet, less exhibitionist," in order to lessen the danger of future attacks.

The comments came after a woman launched a Christmas Eve assault on Pope Benedict XVI. Susanna Miaolo, 25, leapt over a security barrier and knocked the pope to the ground at midnight mass in Saint Peter's Basilica. The pope came through the incident apparently unscathed and was able to celebrate the mass as planned.

Wait! There's more.

Psychoanalyst Candella told AFP that the assaults did not reflect a "public order problem," despite the media debate they triggered over security issues. And both the pope and Berlusconi were robust in their responses -- they refused to be cowed by the attacks and vowed to continue meeting the public.

Yes, Pope Benedict XVI has bravely decided to continue serving as celebrant in Masses that are held right out there in the open -- even at the Vatican, in St. Peter's Basilica.

He is the pope. Celebrating Mass is probably an important part of his ostentatious, macho, patriarchal work.

Honestly, what was the point of this story? And I don't know about you, but this is when I really miss the wit of the late Father Richard John Neuhaus, who died a year ago. I would love to read his response to this one.

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