On the eve of the Pope's visit to America, I have a little bit of advice for Catholic Americans, especially those who might be contacted by the media for their opinions or reactions to the papal visit. I don't expect this advice to be heeded in the least; nonetheless, I'd like to offer some suggestions. Maybe ten. Nah, maybe just five.
1. Thou shalt not tell the New York Times, "When I look around at our mass (sic), I do see the youths dwindling in size." Come now, sir! Catholic youths aren't getting smaller. Catholic education, however, has obviously declined. In a previous generation a kindly nun would have made sure that you knew the difference between "dwindling in size" and "dwindling in number." She would also have told you that the latter phrase was redundant in the context of your sentence, and that the word "dwindling" is synonymous with "decreasing." If you mean that there are fewer Catholic youths at the Mass you are attending, say so.
2. Thou shalt not represent thyself as a "Catholic" if thou disagreest with the Church on the following: artificial birth control, female ordination, sexual morality/gay marriage, and so forth. You especially shouldn't be responding to polls like this one and claiming to be an average Catholic who just happens to hate what the Church is, teaches, proclaims, etc. And if in addition to these major areas of disagreement you also fail to attend Mass every Sunday without any serious impediment, the proper term for you is "lapsed Catholic." Help the media get this right, please.
3. Thou shalt steer clear of media questioners who want to discuss the Scandal. There's a time and place for everything; plenty of Catholics have had problems with the Church in regards to the Scandal, and I sincerely respect that and pray for them all. But the media doesn't really care about the Scandal except as it allows them to prefill the media template that says "Pope Visits Scandal Rocked Teetering Outdated Out of Touch On the Verge of Collapsing Really We're Not Kidding Church." The media wants riots and demonstrations, and isn't above encouraging them to flower by asking incendiary questions.
4. Thou shalt not freak out over harmless and slightly cute subway ads, giving the media the chance to dust off their old "Traditional Catholics Are a Bunch of Humorless Nuts" articles. Let's save the indignation for the real Catholic-bashing that will doubtlessly occur during the Pope's visit; and let's not fall into that other media trap, the opinion journalist's favorite false comparison ("Catholics Protest Insult to Pope by Writing Letters, Which is Exactly the Same as the Muslim Cartoon Riots").
5. If thou must buy official Papal Visit merchandise, and if thou must buy this bumper sticker, please put it on a Chevy truck, where there will be a cute tie-in to Chevy's "Like a Rock" advertising campaign. Okay, I'm kidding. But only on this one.
Fellow Catholic Americans, now's the time to welcome our dear Holy Father to our shores, to pray for his safe and fruitful visit, to rejoice that the Vicar of Christ has come to be with us for this brief but exciting time. As we offer up our joyful prayers, let us remember that the news media will have their own way of spinning the papal visit, to magnify the voices of dissent and minimize the voices of faithful love for Christ, for His Church, and for the shepherd He has chosen to lead and guide His flock at this hour of history. After all, if Christ Himself were to appear in glory among us today, and there was still a functioning newsroom left in America, the headline would read: Christ Returns for Second Coming; Not All Christians Pleased.