Would it not have been far more fiendishly clever and cunning for Pope Francis and his inner circle to have followed a different pattern of behaviour, a different trajectory to that which has been chosen?
For instance, if the Kasper proposal that was to quickly become the Bergoglio proposal had been introduced by stealth instead of in a brazen manner that would inevitably create a noisy opposition, might things have been a little different in the Church today? If Pope Francis and his inner circle hadn't spent four years cultivating his image as 'a Pope like no other' might not Francis be taken more seriously? Might not people take more seriously someone who appeared to all external testing to be a traditional Pope, but who underneath it, wanted to radically reform the Church in such a way as he has made so very plain?
From the moment that Francis was said to have turned down the mozzetta and sniffed at the red papal shoes, from the moment that Francis asked the St Peter's Square crowd to call down God's blessing on him, introducing himself with a simple 'Good evening', from the moment Pope Francis went out of his way to make himself look and to behave in a manner that was so strikingly different to his immediate predecessor and all those who came before him, a clear trajectory was taken that forms part of an image cultivated to make Francis the Pope as different to the traditional understanding of 'the Pope' as possible.
But he didn't do that. He did the complete opposite and I cannot help thinking - just from a 'strategic point of view' that this was a huge mistake for him personally. The fact is that Francis has been Francis the whirlwind. Francis the unique. Francis the incredible. Francis the 'one off'. Francis the innovator. Francis the lawbreaker. Francis the lawless. Francis the rupture with the past. Francis the socially liberal. Francis the political animal. Francis the Pope who discusses copraphagia in public. Francis the 'so very un-Pope-like that it's hard to believe he's even a Pope.'
Francis has been in such a huge and blatant rush to be so completely and utterly 'different to a normal Pope' and 'not quite like any other Pope we have seen' that it is rather silly of him and his circle - and rather silly of Austen Ivereigh - to expect the Church simply to accept what he says in Amoris Laetitia and to expect someone who has cast himself quite uniquely as a 'revolutionary', someone unique in the history of the Church from the very beginning of his pontificate up to the present to be taken at face value based solely on the authority that he wields 'because he's the Pope'. The credibility of the Pope comes from fulfilling the Office of Peter and stepping into the 'shoes of the fisherman'. It doesn't come from his personality. His authority relies not on being himself but on being 'the Pope', not the first of many, but the latest in a line, not the key-cutter but the keeper of the keys, not on being 'completely different' but in being 'the same as' or at least 'similar to'. If your remaking of the papacy involves not a small amount of destruction, don't be surprised if people can't recognise what 'the all-new pope in the all-new papacy' is and whether he should be taken terribly seriously.
|Now where did I put my keys?|
There's something very silly about smashing up your Office so badly only to be surprised the phone or your printer doesn't work anymore, that you can't even find your keys, or even locate a footnote to a document you signed, let alone your credibility as a Pope. Of course, the incorruptibles such as Cardinal Burke and Bishop Athanasius Schneider would still have eventually cottoned on that they had been deceived, after such a convincing act that fostered the image that Francis was 'a traditional conservative' with a 'pastoral heart' but the deception would have been far more successful and far more wickedly clever and they would find it harder to convince the believing masses that it was possible that his document contained serious errors that needed to be addressed.
|Small consolation for many.|
|Remind you of anyone?|
If a man wants to be taken seriously 'as a Pope', take the role of being a Pope seriously, seriously enough for people not to have asked, even just a year into a pontificate, whether the Pope is, indeed, Catholic, leaving vast areas of the Church only with the small fragment of consolation that at least bears still use woodland areas as lavatories and that some things, at least, do not change. The next Pope should aim to make himself appear deeply respectful and courteous and behave like a gentleman. He should say the things Popes say and do, rather than the eccentric things Latin American Jesuits might say or do. He'd be wise to make it apparent that he is a 'normal' Pope, a 'conservative', since Popes are by the nature of the Office they inhabit 'conservative', rather than radically re-making the papacy in his own image, stamping his personal opinions all over the Church and trampling under foot his supposed 'enemies' while denouncing his opponents and generally making himself look rather silly. In his conduct, he should be considered wise, rather than, as some have suggested, unhinged.
Yes. the next Pope, be he a blessing upon the Church and Her faithful children or a further and deeper chastisement upon them would be wise to wear the red shoes. I don't think Catholics, including many Cardinals will trust a Pope wearing black shoes for a long, long time.