Attacking The Pope
I suppose it is only natural that after such a wonderful papacy as that of Benedict XVI, during which all those who know and care about the Apostolic faith felt truly safe and nurtured, that change is going to be unsettling. Of course this could not be more accurately related than through my own personal disquiet when Cardinal Bergoglio, unknown to me, stepped out onto the balcony after the Conclave. Our house was full, and I had been so animated about the process, every eye turned to me for exuberance at the choice made by the Conclave. Instead of joy they found uncertainty, worry, nervousness.
Very quickly, I set to the task of finding out a little more about this man who is now our Pope, and my heart began to rise. He is erudite, he has integrity, but most importantly, he literally oozes faith.
Despite our relative ignorance, there has been a real division evident over the last few days between a kind of triumphalism of more liberal factions in the Church, those who typify the "Spirit of Vatican II" fallacy, and who suggest Pope Francis' direction will take us back to the sixties, and those whose full aspirations were tied up with Benedict's Papacy. The liberals seem to want to high light a disparity between the previous papacy and this one, which they consider will reverse much of what Pope Benedict XVI achieved. From the more orthodox, there is growing disquiet and great chatter, perhaps led by bloggers such as Rorate Caeli over numerous minuscule actions; the colour of Pope Francis' shoes and trousers, the material his pectoral cross is made of, the fact that he has changed his chair and the height it is at.
As a Jesuit, Pope Francis has taken vows of poverty, chastity and obedience as well as the fourth vow of missionary obedience to the pope. His lifelong commitment to poverty seems to be part of his being, and so must be part of his papacy surely? We are right to value what Pope Benedict has taught us about the value of beautiful liturgy, how it inspires us, how it is pedagogical in and of itself, but none of this is at odds with Pope Francis' personal commitment to poverty. Indeed, it seems to me that Pope Francis could be showing us the true happiness that comes from an abandonment of idolatry—that is—over reliance of material things. When we think about the great religious figures from history like St. Francis, like St. Benedict, St. Augustine, St. Dominic, we cannot help but be reminded of the common call to simplicity:
Call nothing your own, but let everything be yours in common. Food and clothing shall be distributed to each of you by your superior, not equally to all, for all do not enjoy equal health, but rather according to each one's need. For so you read in the Acts of the Apostles that they had all things in common and distribution was made to each one according to each one's need (4:32,35).—Rule of St. Augustine, Chapter I, III.Indeed, the history of monasticism appears punctuated with reform driven by a restless search for a simpler and more secluded form of ascetical life, usually inspired by a reaction to corporate wealth, worldly involvements and surfeited liturgical ritualism. 'We appeal to the life of the primitive Church,' wrote Peter the Venerable in 1130, 'for what is the monastic life except what was then called the apostolic life?' (The Letters of Peter the Venerable, ed. G. Constable (Cambridge, Mass., 1967), i, p. 59). His sentiments were echoed by Abbot Rupert of Duetz: 'If you will consult the evidences of the Scriptures, you will find that they all seem to say plainly that the Church had its beginning in the monastic life.' (De Vita Vera Apostolica, ed. E. Martene & U. Durand in Veterum Scriptorum et Monumentorum Amplissima Collectio IX (Paris 1733), 1007). This theme has long been commonplace in monastic literature and expresses Gospel values we all recognise. Why should we be shocked if at this time when everyone seems to agree that the Curia needs reforming, the Holy Spirit has given us a Pope who is equal to the task and will begin by reminding us all how misguided we are clinging to material wealth or trappings. It also strikes me that this segways perfectly with Pope Benedict's teaching on relativism, a segway which appears to set one of Pope Francis key agendas with regard to the challenge he intends to bring to secularist ideology.
The grandeur and splendour of the Papacy is indeed something historic, and to be enjoyed and celebrated by us all. But to what extent is it truly apostolic? Are these trappings of any real efficacious benefit to a faith grounded in Jesus Christ? In love of God and in love of neighbour? I understand the importance of the beauty of the liturgy, but when we are considering the sort of gossip floating around about Francis, we're not really even talking about that, are we? We're talking about affectation, inconsequential preferences, the papal mozetta, will he wear the fanon? Aren't these trapping essentially separate to the foundational principles of our Church?
Pope Francis' papacy will be a different in style to that of any pope before or after and I for one have no doubt that it will deliver us a rich spiritual treasure, if we are prepared to be patient, to be humble, to listen and not to think that we know what is in his heart, or mind, or that the Conclave didn't know what they were doing—or that they knew exactly what they were doing and their goals were misguided. Chill out people! Let us see what God has in store for us!
I remember learning about the great Councils of the Church, and being astounded at the way it always takes a century or two for things to settle down afterwards. We do live in the shadow of a great Council and we shouldn't be surprised at the different ideas that are being thrown around. We should also remember that throughout its two thousand year history, the Church has based its faith not on the Pope, but on Jesus Christ, who is the same yesterday, today and forever. So we really have nothing to worry about. The Church still teaches the same rich Apostolic faith it taught two thousand years ago and it's not about to change now.
Finally, I was so happy and impressed that the Latin Mass Society has been so vocal in support of Pope Francis offering a Spiritual Bouquet for him which I urge you to support. I also found the video below from the outspoken and very orthodox Michael Voris really valuable. He pulls no punches in telling it like it is about our new Pope, so please take a few moments to watch it.
Finally, I urge everyone to pray for Pope Francis and the onerous task that lies before him.
O God, who in your providential designwilled that your Church be builtupon blessed Peter, whom you set over the other Apostles,look with favour, we pray, on Francis our Popeand grant that he, whom you have made Peter’s successor,may be for your people a visible source and foundationof unity in faith and of communion.Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,one God, for ever and ever.Amen.