Saturday, 16 March 2013

Claiming Francis

"Say, Bobby, is that you? What brings you round these parts?"

One disgraced Cardinal and one journalist lacking a certain grace have praised highly Pope Francis, now reigning gloriously.

Cardinal Mahony of LA, who presided over great scandal within his own Diocese has taken time to praise the Pope for what His Eminence believes will be a new era of Papal ceremonies in a 'LOW and humble Church' devoid of 'lace and ermine'. With the deepest respect to Pope Francis's predecessor, Cardinal Mahony tweeted:

"So long fancy ermine and papal lace! Welcome, simple cassock, and hopefully, ordinary black shoes! St Francis must be overjoyed!!"

Obviously, for certain liberals kindness and respect do not go hand in hand with humility, that most praiseworthy of virtues. Others have already commented that it would be ironic if Cardinal Mahony was in future to be ordered by the Pope to a penitential life somewhere for bringing the Bride of Christ into disrepute and failing the Church's little ones.

Meanwhile, Bobby Mickens, for whom this papacy, he imagines, will be a 'revolution' for the Church, took time out of his busy schedule of associating with lepers, feeding the poor, the 'down and outs' and outcasts of Rome as Tablet correspondent to share this:

"This is a pope who’s going to take an axe to all the pomp and circumstance at the Vatican; the old guard with their fur and silk robes are quaking. This is a revolution in the church.”

Okay, Bobby, we get the hint. I shall not go so far as to say, 'this is your hour', since for all the divisions in the Church, let us at least rejoice we both find something loveable and praiseworthy in our beloved new Pope. It will surprise Bobby little to hear that he and I will be coming at this papacy from different angles. Let me explain why.

Pope Francis, the triumph of Tabletism? You must be taking the Mickens...
Firstly, while it is true to say that Pope Francis may be a Pope that expends less energy on restoring a 'hermeneutic of continuity' to the papal liturgy (though let's wait and see on this one), it is also true to say that it is really very unlikely that the efforts of Pope Emeritus Benedict will be to no avail. I'll explain why in a second.

Secondly, I don't believe, though I cannot, of course, see into his heart, that Bobby has genuine love for Pope Francis, even if he has admiration for him. Like so many of Bobby's friends, Bobby sees Pope Francis's election as Successor of St Peter as an opportunity that he hopes will see the abasement or even debasement, or even destruction of the Office of the Papacy. You will notice, readers, how much store liberals set by who is Pope. Why is this? Every Pope sets out a vision of the Church which is different and new, but every Pope holds, defends and teaches the Deposit of Faith and guards it with his very life. Bobby goes on...
'But he warned those expecting policy changes on issues such as rights for gays and divorcees (i.e. himself and his friends) should not hold their breath. “He’s a hard-nosed, conservative Catholic bishop,” he said.'

Charming! Is that any way to talk of 'your' Pope!? Would you say that to His Holiness's face? If not, why then would you say it to The Independent? Don't 'hold your breath' fifth columnists! Perhaps the next Pope or the one after that will destroy the Church!

The sad truth is that for Mickens, the Office of the Papacy is only as useful as the person wearing the red shoes is prepared to kick off the red shoes and bring about the 'democratisation' of the Church. Yet, where I see a Holy Father riding a bus with Cardinals because His Holiness is a Father in God even to the Cardinals, Bobby sees the Pope saying, 'Hey, I'm just a regular guy!' But the Pope is not 'just a regular guy', he is the Pope, the Successor of St Peter, Prince of the Apostles and Vicar of Christ on Earth. Where I see a Pope paying his own hotel fee because he is humble and kind and self-effacing as a person, Bobby sees a 'revolution' in the making.

This is ridiculous and here is why. Bobby, here is the thing about revolutions. Revolutions are, though I'll grant that history shows this is not always the case, movements brought about from below - that is to say - from the grassroots upwards. Revolutions need an entire army of people, 'terrible as an army set in array' indeed. Be they 'uprisings' or 'springs' or 'movements', particularly from the younger spectrum of society or the Church, revolutions are meant to be 'bottom up' not 'top down'.

Now, Bobby, you will understand that the previous Pope, Benedict XVI, set in place something which is now a law of the Church that will not easily be repealed. It was a document called Summorum Pontificum. It was followed by another document called Universae Ecclesiae. These documents liberated the traditional rite of the Church, with 'all the trimmings' both you and Cardinal Mahony despise but which a great many people, young and old, see as treasured features that point to God's majesty and glory, communicated to us by virtue of His great condescension, in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

Priests and yes, Bobby, Bishops too - that is - those of a lower rank and status in the Church than the Pope - are still celebrating the Traditional Latin Mass despite Pope Francis's reluctance to publicly continue the liturgical vision of Benedict XVI. Not only this, but hundreds, thousands, tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands, even millions of people, in the next half to full century will be exposed to not only beautiful and reverent liturgy in the new rite, in many Churches, but to the traditional liturgy also. Benedict XVI sowed seeds that may not be sowed by the now reigning Pontiff, but, the gardeners watering the seeds are in every country, if not every Diocese, across the World.

Bobby should be worried. Why? Because this young man could one day be Pope...
Therefore, it stands to reason, brother Bobby, brother wolf indeed, that by the time you and I have kicked the bucket, it is most likely that the younger priests coming through will be traditional in their liturgical outlook and will not only desire to celebrate the 'TLM', but will be fully allowed to do so. Heck, perhaps within one generation, upon the Throne of St Peter will be a Pontiff who celebrates ONLY the traditional Mass or a hybrid/synthesis of the traditional Mass and the Novus Ordo. Worried? No? You should be. If or rather when this happens it will be not because the Pope has ordered something from above, but because Benedict XVI gave 'power to the people' to request Mass in the Extraordinary Form. Of all the 'ultramontanes' liberals are, readers, the worst!

Heck! In such a scenario, by then everyone will be happy. Oh, apart from you and Cardinal Roger Mahony who, displeased and made to feel uncomfortable by the exquisite Liturgy of Heaven will presumably ask God to take you elsewhere because the constant reverencing, praising, adoration and worship of Almighty God in that perpetual Sunday will just 'not be your cup of tea.' Oh, and Heaven is nothing if not chock full of Popes you really don't like, like Pius X, Pius V and, er, St Peter.

St Francis to Pope Innocent III: "Tone down the wardrobe a bit, Holy Father!"
Finally, while its true to say that St Francis was a poor, humble and most excellent of Saints to the poor, he spent a great deal of his time cleaning Churches, telling Priests to ensure the sacred places of the Churches were clean and fit for the sublime Sacrifice and said nothing - nothing - in terms of criticising the vestments, the 'pomp and the ceremony' that befits the King and Kings, Prince of Princes and Lord of Lords in the Papal Mass.

Pope Innocent III, so impressed with Francis of Assisi, kissed his feet, which would one day be pierced by the Seraph. Please note, Bobby, Pope Innocent III did not throw out his wardrobe and join the Order of Franciscans and celebrate Mass deliberately 'facing the people' barefoot!

St Francis only had good things to say of the Pope of his time, praised the dignity of the Office of the Priesthood and loved the Sacred Liturgy. He also prayed the Divine Office in Latin. I'm pretty certain Pope Innoncent III's vestments consisted not of polyester but of the finest material of his day. Ermine? Maybe. Lace? Dunno. Anybody? Why not read 'The Spirit of the Liturgy', Bobby. Plenty of seminarians are. We all love the Pope dear Bobby, but the liturgical argument will be won by the 'team' with youth and time on its side and that ain't your crowd.

God bless, Bobby, may the Lord keep you, make His countenance to shine upon you and do all the other things St Francis would ask Him to do for you and your liturgical brother-in-arms, Cardinal Roger Mahony. "The Lord is Victorious", Bobby, just as Pope Emeritus Benedict said, its just you or His Eminence won't be around to see the victory.

Hmmm....the sweet smell of incense. The sweet smell of the Lord's victory...Drink it in, Bobby!


Unknown said...

I enjoy and appreciate your informative and well-written blog. Thank you for sharing your gift of the Holy Spirit.

bill bannon said...

The problem though is that you are using two liberals and St. Francis' place in cultural history to discredit the choice of simplicity in externals. This problem subsequent to St. Francis has split the Cistercians into two observances and the Carmelites into two observances. It is a deep division point potentially and one could imagine future biblically conservative youth within Catholicism going further away from red shoes and bejewelled crosses. The plush as you point out symbolizes God's majesty; the simple or non plush symbolizes the poor Christ better ( He allowed the plush nard only for His burial not for His lifestyle). Should the Church feature the majesty of God or the poverty of Christ at its headquarters? If Pope Francis uses Castel Gandolfo as a half way house for the mentally ill or pregnant sinners, will you feel despoiled?
I would only warn that carnality is a problem in the history of the plush at Rome. Saints could have affirmed the plush but certainly nepotistic Popes who effectively enriched their families also affirmed the plush. Both groups had an orientation to the Old Testament ( your majesty of God) that ironically fades in recent Popes (see section 42 of Verbum Domini wherein Benedict implies that the massacres of the OT
were sins rather than the antecedent will of God that scripture avers). The future could go Pope Francis' way toward simplicity through not liberals but through future generations who get biblically conservative not about the OT but about the NT. The Popes of the Rennaissance in some cases saw OT despoiling as ok by Portugal e.g. Romanus Pontifex, mid 4th large par. It led to the rich poor divide of Latin America with 3 subsequent Popes affirming it in writing. That OT conservatism was part of the plush papacy as was despoiling at that time...few saints even questioned it.
The despoiling by Catholic nations is over for good thanks to history and that makes future biblical conservatism among young Catholics narrowed to the NT. They will not incline to despoiling thank God but neither to the plushness of Solomon's temple. So the future I'm saying is a could go either way. I doubt that Latin Masses are extensive outside of Caucasian Catholicism. Am I incorrect therein?

BJC said...

I hope Pope Francis gives Mahony his P45 and asks him to hand himself in at the nearest police station. That would be true Catholic humility but Mahony is incapable of it.

As for Mickens & Co I wonder if we''ll see the start of a Tablet soup kitchen so that they can do their bit for the poor. Catherine Pepinster and Tina Beattie could even set the example and wash the feet of the poor and homeless instead of sitting on their backsides all day writing articles railing against the "ermine and furs" Church afraid of "revolution". Then again maybe not. They're too busy hob-nobbing with Bishops at the top table and enjoying the trappings and attention of being a media Catholic to worry about all that.

I notice also that Cormac who's been making more and more appearances on TV recently and seems delighted we have a humble Pope is another one who doesn't exactly walk the talk. Given a choice of where to retire to where does he go? Fashionable white middle-class Chiswick. Not exactly the choice of St. Francis of Assisi who one suspects would have gone to dirty dusty multi-cultural Dalston Junction and lived on a park bench with the poor.

Siobhan said...

That was wonderful!

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