A TV frenzy over the archbishop’s health

Of course, no one expected any different media reaction to the poor health of Archbishop Christodoulos: Both state and private channels – which rarely balk at any subject – predictably fell upon such a sensitive issue. The archbishop was subject to the same ruthless analysis (albeit presented in an ostensibly respectful tone) that is dished out to all public figures when it comes to their private lives, health or death. The logic is quite simple – suffering boosts viewer ratings. Seen from this point of view, the stations merely did their job. The archbishop will always sell as a subject so it was no surprise that there was such public interest following the news of his deteriorating health. This development gave TV channels the pretext to analyze the issue in greater depth, rather than covering it as another topic on the news agenda, to consider the impact on the Church in general and to investigate whether someone might be to blame for the unfortunate development. Again, one might say, the stations were just doing their job. The big question is why so many doctors, professors and big names agreed to «play the game» as scientists have done in the past after catastrophic earthquakes and other natural disasters, allowing themselves to fall to the level of self-styled experts, astrologers and celebrities dying for five minutes of TV fame. The television debates have been dominated by the commentaries of experts criticizing the diagnoses and therapeutic methods of fellow medics, and by the conceit and condescending tone of specialists doubting the competence of colleagues involved in an operation in June to remove a tumor from Christodoulos’s intestine. Accusations have been flying on televized news debates about how that operation should have been conducted, whether it took too long, and whether all Greek doctors are of questionable competence. But perhaps the most worrying revelation of all is that that several bishops, as well as former Education and Religious Affairs Minister Marietta Giannakou, were in the operating theater when the archbishop underwent surgery. It is quite serious when you see a senior cleric ranting on TV, condemning Greek and foreign doctors for allegedly choosing the wrong methods, and hinting that certain individuals had wanted to «influence» the development of the archbishop’s health. It was the same cleric who called for a discussion regarding the possible succession of Christodoulos. And not one person in all these debates pointed out the importance of hope when a fellow human being is in ill health.

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