Frank Bruni’s column in today’s New York Times (“The Papal Conclave's Fixed Ways”) generated some interesting comments, including this one: “Why is the choosing of a new pope at the top of the news on all our media?”
I posted this comment in reply (edited slightly):
Simple. The fascination has to do with:
1 - The Show - The pagentry, pomp, and all those fancy dresses. And big fancy buildings and gilded things. And Michaelangelo. Oh, and the red shoes.
2 - The Secret - If someone said to you, “I've got a secret,” don't you instinctively wonder what it is? The news media shares, and seeks to satisfy, our curiosity about The Secret. The news media loves secrets.
3 - The Long-tail Effect - Like it or not (and I do NOT), the RCC and its policies (oops, I mean doctrines) affect civiliations all over the world. Until we come to our senses and remove all religious influence from poilitics and governance, we must, unfortunately, pay attention to the benighted RCC and its benighted leadership.
4 - The Technology - Technology makes it easy to bring this Pope Opera to the the world, in every medium. It's cheap entertainment and the advertisers in the news media are probably making a bundle.
5 - The Weirdness - Come on, admit it - the whole thing is weird. A global corporation, one of the richest in the world, with branch offices in nearly every town, relies on a medieval custom to choose its next CEO, then gives him a pair of red loafers. (No wonder they can't manage themselves.) The spectacle is bizarre, yet we find ourselves watching in fascination (with varying reactions, depending on faith, or lack thereof.) We're simply rubbernecking.