Wednesday, 4 February 2015
A priest once told me that, upon the election of pope Benedict XVI, now almost ten years ago, a seminarian in his care was dancing cartwheels, crying out: "there is a God!" Good old Francis is barely into his happy reign and there are petitions and letters being sent to him by the traditionalists asking, in fact begging, him to stop comforting sinners, not to use the telephone, not to talk to the media; accusing him of flouting the evangelical ordinances and concluding in a cynical, veiled threat that if he doesn't comply then he will lose the respect and loyalty of Christ's faithful. See Rorate Caeli for that harridan. Then there is the "filial appeal," [do you know, I almost wrote Fenian?] which you can sign here, if you have a mind. Signatories include His Royal Highness Pennywise the Dancing Clown, or Cardinal Burke for short; and Joseph Stal-I mean Ratzinger himself. I was going to sign with a ridiculous pseudonym but why add to the almighty 62,000 signatures out of 1.1 billion Roman Catholics worldwide?
Now, you all know me. I don't care much for popes, still less for loyalty to the cult of personality, but this all seems very untoward and profoundly disrespectful to me. When Ratzinger was pope (he still is in some circles!), the traditionalists were in the ascendency and they could not get enough of him. His every bowel movement was sacred! Now that we have Francis, a man who is refreshingly apathetic about lace frippery and the inconsistent application of a few eclectic bits of old Papal attire, but full of concern for the plebs sancta Dei, or inhabitants of some "third-world cesspool," in the words of a reader of this blog; the traditionalists have turned from fear at what this patsy might do to the labours of that tired old queen Ratzinger in the course of his pontificate to hatred and resentment. This reaction seems to me to have its uttermost origins in the pontificate of John Paul II, which was so long, so tasteless and tyrannical. People got used to the foreign trips, the open air Masses with thousands upon thousands of communicants, the "popemobile," etc. The reforms of Vatican II were cemented and sealed forever because people just died. Then old Ratzinger came along; didn't change that much, but certainly raised many hopes among the more prejudiced of the Roman church with his obsession with the $$PX, promulgation of Summorum Pontificum and the Anglican ordinariates. But he was so traditional that he didn't die in office, like the old dribbler, he resigned! And now he can't leave the Vatican because someone like Peter Tatchell might attempt a citizens arrest!
And with what was he replaced? A man with a smile on his face who was offended that one of his guards had kept vigilance all night and went to get him some breakfast. A man who would make a telephone call to a divorced woman and condole with her in her distress. Whether or not that 'phone call was genuine is beside the point. Why is this man so odious to the traditionalists? These are the people who go on about the dignity of the Petrine ministry but they seem to act like the Pharisees in judgement of Our LORD. In all seriousness, I would ask what difference his actions make to any of our lives. When, if, you manage to loose yourselves from the vicious cycle of Traddieland, when you realise that Christianity does not depend upon the lottery of who is pope in the year 1964 or 1984 or 2014, then you can sit back and enjoy the squabbling with a cup of tea. It really makes no difference to me what Francis says or does and it shouldn't make any difference to anybody else either. He is only the bishop of Rome!