Pope Benedict XVI announces retirement, Twitter explodes with hate, death wishes

Pope Benedict XVI waves to the crowd during one of his weekly general audiences in St. Peter?s Square at the Vatican in 2007.
Pope Benedict XVI waves to the crowd during one of his weekly general audiences in St. Peter?s Square at the Vatican in 2007.

On Monday Pope Benedict XVI announced that he would retire at the end of February, citing his advanced age and failing strength.

As soon as the announcement was made, the social media site Twitter exploded with hateful, often profane messages, many of them calling for the aging pontiff's death.

“Hey, @Pontifex: why don't you die like every guy before you,” one person tweeted. “Pontifex” is the pope's user name on Twitter, established last December.

“'Oh he didn't die' – Billions of disappointed people,” added another person.

“Hahahaha yes @pontifex, congrats on the retirement, now DIE,” said “Kieran Morris.”

“Resignation via slitting your wrists in a bathtub please @Pontifex,” said “Internet Female.”

Most of the tweets posted by Twitchy are far too profane to be reproduced here, but many called the pope a Nazi while others called him a pedophile.

BBC actor and Scottish comedian Frank Boyle weighed in, saying the pope would soon be laughing with “Hitler in Hell.”

Boyle wasn't finished, however.

“There'll be a resignation ceremony for the Pope, where he fires electrical rays from his fingers as Darth Vader throws him down a lift shaft,” he said later.

Later Monday, Twitchy said that actor Joe Rogan joined the online hatefest.

“Question #2: what's it like to run a gigantic ridiculous cult right out In the open and have the support of mainstream governments & media?” he asked in one of the few tweets fit to print.

“What the morally bankrupt and hate-filled don’t understand is that the pope will pray for them and hold them in his heart,” the Twitchy staff wrote on Monday.

Ed Morrissey wrote at the conservative blog Hot Air that the last time a pope resigned, “Gutenberg hadn’t yet invented the printing press.”  He went on to call Pope Benedict “one of the Church’s greatest living theologians,” saying he “has been a highly-respected leader of faith in his pontificate.”


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  1. Welcome to the Internet. Enjoy your stay! It’s a grand place, isn’t it? http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/12/17/take-that-nigger-off-tv-racist-tweets-obama_n_2317185.html

    Please remember to wake me when the RCC answers for decades of cover-up for child sex abuse. What some anonymous person feebly says on the internet really doesn’t bother me, compared to that.

  2. Disturbing, yes. But surprising? Hardly.

    This man embodies the utter failure of the RCC to protect its children from its own clergy.

  3. A lot of it on the ‘net, especially Twitter. I’ve documented literally hundreds of these incidents. Here’s one: http://www.examiner.com/article/media-silent-as-liberals-on-twitter-call-for-ann-romney-s-death

    And, BTW, here’s something from someone recognized as an “anti-bullying” activist: http://www.examiner.com/article/gay-sex-columnist-to-bill-maher-i-wish-all-republicans-were-f-g-dead

    And another: http://www.examiner.com/article/mia-love-wikipedia-page-vandalized-with-misogynistic-racial-slurs-media-silent

    And yet another: http://www.examiner.com/article/black-radio-host-disrespects-tn-gop-candidate-with-profanity-and-racism

    Anybody want more? Trust me, I can supply hundreds more like this. I have a library of over 3,200 articles to choose from.

    As for the RCC’s image vis a vis the child abuse issue, I personally don’t think anything the pontiff could do, up to and including self-immolation in public, would make any difference IMHO.

  4. Joe, I’ve got to ask: Why the heck are you always posting stories about Twitter death threats? They are as common as dirt, and so far none of them have amounted to anyone being assassinated. Combine internet anonymity + people blowing off steam and you get a bunch of foulmouthed d-bags. So what else is new? Water is wet, sky is blue, film at 11. Very nearly everyone has done it at some point in their time online, even if they don’t admit it. As far as “bad things that people do” go, it seems mostly harmless.

    Meanwhile we have actual paper documentation that Ratzinger was involved in covering up pedophilia. Maybe you’re right that there wasn’t much he could do (who knows?) but at least we unquestionably know that he had full knowledge of what was going on, and yet made not even a mention of addressing and fixing the problem.

  5. If you have actual evidence that shows Ratzinger was involved in covering it up, let’s see it.

    As for the death threats, it’s not just Twitter.

    There’s this for example: http://www.examiner.com/article/woman-admits-writing-and-sending-death-threat-to-gop-lawmakers-not-arrested

    And this: http://www.examiner.com/article/email-to-wisconsin-republicans-you-will-die

    And it’s not just miscreants on Twitter: http://www.examiner.com/article/democratic-congressman-says-it-s-time-for-unions-to-get-bloody

    And this: http://www.examiner.com/article/california-couple-allegedly-receive-death-threats-over-romney-sign-media-silent

    And this: http://www.examiner.com/article/media-silent-as-facebook-removes-page-calling-for-murder-of-mitt-romney

    And don’t forget the Democratic delegate who expressed her desire to kill Romney on video: http://www.examiner.com/article/dnc-delegate-on-video-i-would-like-to-kill-mitt-romney

    I do have more if you’re really interested.

    And, BTW, just curious, are you suggesting that the tweets about the pope are justified because someone used a racial slur against Obama? (Which, BTW, I abhor).

    As for my writing about it, I do so because very few others do.

    And BTW, it’s not only a violation of Twitter and Facebook TOS, these threats also violate federal law…

  6. Here, with sources: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joseph_Ratzinger_as_Prefect_of_the_Congregation_for_the_Doctrine_of_the_Faith#Response_to_sex_abuse_scandal

    I don’t think any of the hateful words on Twitter are justified, and it’s douchebag behavior. But the internet can turn otherwise normal, nice people into douchebags because it’s easy to hide behind a Twitter screen name. Obviously, “both sides” do it. (I don’t really strongly identify with either party, and I think it’s misleading to say there are only two sides in American politics.)

    I’m just curious why you always bring it up like it’s something remarkable and important. I’ve been an Internet user since 1992 (I was born in ’84) and its user base has possessed exactly the same standard of behavior since then. I guess it’s unremarkable to me since I’ve grown up around it and learned to distinguish between hot air and serious demagoguery. Peace.

  7. (And yeah, the links are tenuous between Benedict and sex abuse, but as an institution, the RCC has a lot of reparative and reconciliatory work ahead of it, regardless of who the next pope is. I think that’s the take-home.)

  8. You’re right, Sam, they’re tenuous. For starters, there’s this line: “Before given this charge, Cardinal Ratzinger was theoretically privy to all sexual abuse cases within the Church.” the operative word here is “theoretically.” Also, I tend to shy away from wikipedia since anyone can edit these posts… No question, the RCC has a lot of work to do, but that STILL does not justify these messages.

    And like I said before, it’s not JUST the stuff on Twitter. It’s everywhere, but it still isn’t right. Nothing justifies this kind of behavior, no matter where it comes from.

  9. I do like that you’re passionate about holding public folks accountable for what they say. I do agree that more of that will benefit society.

  10. Thanks, Sam, and I appreciate the civil discussion here. We need much more of that and a lot less vitriol from all sides IMHO.

  11. Those tweets are reprehensible. as are these:

    Unfortunately, Joe, human’s being sinners, those in all political positions of conservative, liberal, libertarian, pragmatic and moderate can match nasty tweets stories after tweet stories with each other. Hate is a bipartisan issue with nuts driven by hate throughout the political spectrum. I hope that these small people of blind hate do not represent any but their own silly hate. I think we have lost a sense of decorum where we see the other as evil. Westboro Baptist being an extreme case. –

    I hope you don’t spend to much time cataloging these small minded people. There is too much to do in terms of constructive work. And many just long for the attention.

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