It is useless and distracting

Vatican-watching is a hobby that anyone can spend as much time on as they want. There are so many press releases, so many statements, so many figures, so many meetings and rumors of meetings, so many offhand comments by the pope and others—in general, so many goings-on the devotee may turn his attention to. It is all very exciting. One can get lost in feverish speculation about what the latest statement from Synod Group A means for the direction of the synod, and maybe the Church as a whole. Others might prefer to do the same thing, except with reference to the Viganò letter … or anything else relating to what might be happening in Rome.

Novice Vatican-watchers will find themselves aided by a vast network aimed at pumping out the latest news from the Vatican to other Vatican-watchers. In the world of the 24/7 news cycle, they can get the latest news about something Vatican-related at any time (and if there is no news, there are certainly rumors). This media infrastructure ensures that Vatican-watchers can have a steady flow of content to excite, thrall, and appall them.

There are several different kinds of Vatican-watchers, but the vast majority share one common motivation: they want to see their team win and the other team lose. The Vatican-watcher has no shortage of teams to root for. One can root for the conservatives, the liberals, the trads, the reformers, the people who want married priests, the people who do not, the people who want all of Church teaching to be changed, the people who do not, the people who think that Mass is improved with hip-hop music, and the people who think it is not. If the latest news indicates that one’s team is winning, one rejoices. And if the news indicates that one’s team is losing, one weeps, and weeps copiously. “Perhaps the gates of hell might have overpowered?” people even begin to fear.

It goes without saying that all of this is completely out of the control of the average Vatican-watcher. Whatever power one feels one has by complaining, either in real life or online, is only imagined — although complaining does provide a feeling of power. Far more useful is prayer — and although what God thinks of prayers for some synod to reaches some specific conclusion is unknown, He no doubt heeds prayers for the Church. And so Vatican-watchers, one suspects, could do far better if they were to give up complaining about minutiae and instead pray broad and unassuming prayers for the state of the Church.

That said, Vatican-watching, when it comes down to it, is an interesting new variation on sports fandom. The support for one’s own team and disdain for its rivals, the massive emotional investment in events completely beyond one’s control, the ecstasy of victory and the agony of defeat, the hope that this free-agent pitcher or this new defensive coordinator will finally enable one’s side to win the long-sought victory, and the desire to feel like one belongs to the team despite being completely unknown to the players, among other things, are all there. But all the joys and thrills of sports are gone. Instead, the Vatican watcher finds excitement in endless procedural back-and-forth. And the despair of one’s beloved sports team losing finds a darker equivalent in fears that one’s Church team losing means that the Church is now on the wrong track, with no end in sight.

So, Vatican-watchers, I invite you to give up your habit. Pray that everything works itself out as well as it can: the Holy Ghost will make sure it all works out. And watch some sports. College football is pretty interesting this year.

Steve Larkin is a sophomore from Maine majoring in mathematics and classics. The only thing he loves more than scratching out his opinions is the Smiths. Steve can be contacted at