Denver, Colo., Sep 4, 2015 / 03:45 am (CNA).- If you’re a Catholic on Facebook, or the internet in general, chances are Samer Noam has made you laugh. Or he’s made you angry.
If he’s done his job the way he wants, he’s done both.
Noam is the man, the myth, the legend behind the Catholic satire site, Eye of the Tiber. Catholic News Agency had a chance to sit down with the Californian writer and professional smart aleck to talk inspiration, excommunication (well, his nightmares of it), and of course all those people who think it’s actual news.
1: What first inspired you to start writing Eye of the Tiber?
I've loved satire for as long as I can remember. Unfortunately, anyone who loves the Church can recognizes that satire, like most everything else that's good in this world, like literature, poetry, music, the sciences and so on has been secularized. Heck, even Judeo-Christian symbols like the rainbow and the thunderbolt were taken by those typically most hostile to the Church. The rainbow, of course, represents God's covenant with Noah. The world now sees it as a symbol representing man's covenant with another man. The thunderbolt, I understand, never really represented anything for the Church, but I kinda wish it did, because thunderbolts are pretty awesome, and I'd love an excuse to get one of them tattooed on me.
Where the heck was I? Ah yes, what inspired me? Love for the Church and love for good satire. The Onion is wonderful. Their ability to poke fun and to reveal truths with sometimes subtle, sometimes absurd headlines is breathtaking. But there was so many times I thought, and still do think, that they could tone down the sacrilege a notch or ten. And so, cue light bulb, and the idea of a Catholic satire site was born.
2: What is your goal for Eye of the Tiber?
To piss off every Catholic at least once. If you're not happy with that answer, please delete and insert this: to shed light on the absurdity of some of the things going on in the Church while giving people an opportunity to laugh at themselves. And also not getting excommunicated. You think the last part's a joke, but it's not. I've literally had nightmares of being excommunicated because of an article. But the nightmare's always followed by a happy dream about me being handcuffed and led to a tribunal during the Spanish Inquisition, and realizing that Toquemada is the Grand Inquisitor for my case, and he sets me free because Torqumada wasn't as bad as he's been made out to be.
Anyhow, that's my goal for EOTT. Not the weird dream part per se, but letting readers know about random Catholic facts that I find interesting, while poking fun on important things like liturgical dancing and the other 7 Deadly Sins.
3: Are you a one-man team? Do you take submissions?
I've written most of the articles on the site. I've had a couple submissions from readers, and about ten to fifteen from friends. I don't really accept articles from readers anymore because I found it difficult to deny someone when I didn't think their article was a good fit for the site. It always made me feel bad to say no. It especially made me feel bad when that one guy I denied told me to shove it. I didn't want to shove it, that's the thing. I wasn't telling him that it wasn't funny...just that it simply wasn't a good fit. I remember that I had had a long work week, and I was tired and had so many things going on, and shoving it was seriously the last thing on my mind. So I didn't. I just decided that I'd no longer take submissions.
4. Where does your inspiration for articles come from?
5. When you're not running EOTT, what do you do?
I love hanging out with my family. I love reading, writing, praying, and working out. That last part was a lie. I hate working out. I have no idea what I was trying to pull off with that lie.
6. What has been the most popular EOTT article?
'Peter Jackson Announces Plans For 72-Part Movie Series of the Silmarillion' is the most popular EOTT article written. It got like 100k+ Facebook likes, 600+ Twitter reposts or whatever you call them, and a bunch of other relatively impressive stats as well. Actually, there was a while there where if you googled "Silmarillion" it was the top post in Google News. That was kinda awesome.
Best part about the article, though, is that it wasn't even written by me. It was written by a priest friend, Fr. Andy Younan (Twitter: @Jonah_3001). The thing with many of these articles, as Fr. Andy (Twitter: @Jonah_3001) would agree with is that the ones you think are gold will typically suck and the ones you think will suck, will typically turn gold. It's an odd thing that neither I (Twitter: @SCNaoum), nor Fr. Andy (Twitter: @Jonah_3001) can figure out. So if you ever see an article that just absolutely sucks, it's because I (Twitter: @SCNaoum) thought it was genius. Don't be frustrated. It was an honest mistake.
7. Which EOTT article has cause the most controversy?
I can't remember exactly which article caused the most controversy, but I know that the ones written about the Mass typically get the most heated. If I write an article titled, 'Report: Some 2nd Century Roman Christians Hated Latin Mass Because It Was Said In The Vernacular,' I know I'm gonna piss off liturgical traditionalists. If I write one titled, 'Clown At Circus Mass Reprimanded For Honking Sanctus Horn At Wrong Part Of Consecration,' I know it's gonna piss off whatever the complete opposite of a liturgical traditionalist is. I think they're called Protestants, actually.
8. How often do people think EOTT is a real news source?
Very often. [Awkward silence]. Is there a follow up to the question?
9. How can satire speak truth in ways that news sources or other media cannot?
Satire is an interesting art form. It's not only the greatest form of passive aggression there is, but it is, at the same time, the most direct form of criticism and examination. While proper journalism takes the issue at hand and attempts to reveal the fact of the matter, proper satire takes that very same matter assumed to be factual, beats it to a pulp, dissects it, finds the inaccuracy in what the media is reporting, siphons off the inaccuracy, beats it to a pulp once more just for good measure, waterboards it to make sure it has all the details, and represents it in a way so that the average reader can truly understand the fact of the matter without the spin. It's in this way that satire is passive aggressive and at the same time direct. It takes a round about way of delivering direct truths. You know what I'm saying? Good, cause I sure as heck don't.
10. What is your favorite liturgical dance?
My top three are The Catholic Carlton, Walk Like an Egyptian Coptic, and of course The Cha Cha Slide, Stand, Sit, Stand, Kneel.
Vatican City, Sep 4, 2015 / 12:03 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis held an audience with Israeli president Reuven Rivlin on Thursday, where they exchanged gifts and discussed efforts to secure peace and to address the plight of Middle East Christians.
Pope Francis gave the Israeli president a new bronze medal at the Sept. 3 audience. On the medal was a depiction of a rock split into two parts, but joined by an olive tree. The medal bore the words: “Search for what unites. Overcome what divides.”
When the Pope gave the gift to Rivlin, he winked at the president. “There is some division, but the challenge is to unite,” Pope Francis said.
The audience focused on the political and social situation in the Middle East, giving “special attention” to the condition of Christians and other minorities, the Holy See press office reported.
“In this respect the importance of interreligious dialogue was recognized, along with the responsibility of religious leaders in promoting reconciliation and peace,” said the press office, which described the discussions as cordial.
The meeting also highlighted the need to promote a climate of trust between Israelis and Palestinians. It focused on the resumption of direct negotiations that aimed at “an agreement respecting the legitimate aspirations of the two populations, as a fundamental contribution to peace and stability in the region,” the press office said.
The Holy See and Israel have disagreed over the status of Palestine; Israel has objected to the Holy See’s recognition of the State of Palestine in its negotiations with Palestinian leaders.
When Pope Francis greeted the president, he spoke in English: “Pray for me.”
The president responded: "I will see you in Israel.”
Rivlin gave the Pope a replica of the earliest mention of King David’s dynasty outside of the Bible. The words were carved on a basalt stone dating back to the eighth or ninth century B.C. The original is in the Museum of Israel.
“I think it is right that His Holiness has this gift to remember the common roots between Judaism and Christianity,” the Israeli president said when he presented the gift.
He also gave a plate with the inscription: “Pray for the Peace of Jerusalem.”
The Pope also gave the Israeli president a copy of his encyclical on the care of creation, Laudato Si'. He also presented him with his 2013 apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, explaining: “This is for all Christians, but there is a chapter dedicated to dialogue with the Jews.”
The official Israeli delegation included the president’s wife. The Pope gave everyone in the delegation a medal for the third year of his pontificate, marking the 500th anniversary of St. Theresa of Avila’s birth.
Rivlin also met with the Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin, who was accompanied by Archbishop Paul Gallagher, the Secretary for Relations with States.
Other topics at the meeting included the relations between the Holy See and Israel, and between Israeli authorities and local Catholic communities. Both parties at the audience voiced hope for a prompt conclusion to the drafting of a bilateral agreement. They also hoped for an adequate solution for other matters of common interest, such as the situation of Christian schools in Israel.