Thursday, March 14, 2013

Pope Francis I, What to Expect

The main word that has most been used to describe the new Pontiff, even within the first few minutes of his reign, is certainly “humility”. From all I have tried to rapidly learn about Pope Francis I since his election, it seems to me that his reign will be one that will make reformers applaud and supporters of the status quo groan. That can only be a good thing as, from all I have read, there is evidently some very firmly encrusted corruption that has built up in the curia and most expect the pope from Argentina to be just the man to clean it out. If Pope Francis proves to be as upright and intolerant of corruption and wrongdoing as is his reputation, I can only applaud him for his morals and strength of conviction. Where his humility may be less than pleasing to some is in the externals of his position. It will surprise no one I’m sure that I am myself less than thrilled about this but when a pope takes the name of “Francis” and even in his first appearance on the balcony refuses to wear the traditional red mozzetta (if my dictionary is correct, I mean the red shoulder cape of course) and only temporarily donned the elaborate stole to give his blessing before promptly taking it off, I think it is safe to say that the high fashion in traditional style of Benedict XVI has passed into retirement with him.

The humble, simple nature of the new Bishop of Rome, formerly known as Cardinal Bergoglio, is certainly laudable. Everyone has probably heard by now how he declined to live in the Episcopal Palace in Buenos Aires, opting instead for a small, modest apartment; how he cooked his own food, carried his own luggage and took the train to work rather than be driven in his own car. The standards for papal simplicity have now been kicked up a notch since Paul VI and John Paul I and I think it is safe to say that papal coronations are gone for good. Perhaps he might make good on the musings of Paul VI to disband the Swiss Guard? Castel Gandolfo Palace might be donated as an orphanage but with Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI still on the premises I think the Apostolic Palace will be safe enough -he has to live somewhere and there are not that many options in a “country” the size of Vatican City. I heard one commentator remark that if Francis wishes to continue his humble means of transportation by making use of the Roman trains instead of the (horrendously named) “Popemobile” he better get used to arriving late everywhere. As I have said before with the abandonment of the Papal Tiara by Paul VI and the coronation by John Paul I, it is not that these were bad acts but that such gestures of humility are problematic because they are impossible to go back on and force future pontiffs to go to greater lengths to show their own humility. What will a future pope have to do to ‘out-humble’ Francis I?

Monarchists who long for the ceremony of the coronation, it seems, will have to be content with the British (providing that ceremony survives the Prince of Wales of course) but, to try to be optimistic, perhaps this will help win over … someone. That is my problem with this sort of stuff, I must confess; I don’t know who this is supposed to impress. Humility is something in our character, it is not something dependent on our surroundings or material possessions. I have seen plenty of people who lived in a shack on nothing but a government welfare check and had the most arrogant and haughty attitude imaginable. On the opposite side, one of the most gracious, humble and compassionate ladies I have ever known in my life is married to one of the richest men in the state and lives in a huge house with a private pool and golf course in the back yard. I am sure popes in the past were perfectly humble even with all of the splendor and ceremony as it used to be. And, I doubt anyone who sees the Pope or the papacy as arrogant and vainglorious will be won over by any giving up of external trappings. I always thought the external things were supposed to be important to Catholics.

All that being said, I am not trying to criticize the Sovereign Pontiff on his first day. I thought his asking the public to bless him before blessing them was touching and if he can clean out the corruption in the curia, I think most would agree it to be a feat worth a mozzetta. These areas of dress and ceremony are relatively minor details (the major stuff being done away with long before now) and Pope Francis may yet impress many a great deal if he is, as many have described him, as upright and intolerant of wrongdoing so as to put the Vatican to rights. When it comes to more strictly moral issues such as the most often under attack these days; abortion, contraception, gay “marriage”, a male-only clergy and so on, Pope Francis I looks to be as intransigent in his defense of doctrine as the most ardent could wish. That, at least, is what I have been hearing and I have no reason to doubt it. At this point, having had two papal elections so close together, it is rather funny to see the media babbling on and on about whether the next pope will change the Church’s position on any of these subjects -as if any Roman Pontiff ever could. One may also just as well laugh as to cry when Catholics are interviewed on the street and say they would like to see a more “tolerant” man elected pope. Tolerant? Tolerant of what? Some sympathy for the Devil next too?

Finally, we have the nationality of the new pope. I did think his remark about the cardinals going to the “end of the earth” to find a new pope rather funny. It seems safe to say, at this point, having had a Pole, a German and an Argentine in succession that Italians can say “ciao” to the papacy. As the pope is Bishop of Rome and Primate of Italy it never seemed unreasonable to me that 80% of popes throughout history have been Italian but, evidently, that is another tradition that is no more. I would look for more national competitions in the coming years as everyone demands to have “their” first pope. However, the times are certainly changing, and Pope Francis may be the ideal man to ease Catholics through the transition, being the first South American pope but also being a man whose parents were native-born Italians. I have had my worries that, if this came to be, it might be bad for the already dwindling Church in Europe as people with already scant interest in the Church might come to see it as a “foreign” institution, however, it may be just as well to rip the bandage off quickly and let Christianity brush the dust off its sandals as it bids Europe farewell.

I know I caused some a bit of anxiety when, some months ago, I mentioned the fact that the European peoples are doomed to extinction in the not-too-distant future and that, at this point, nothing could be done to change that fact. Well, it seems, noted Catholic monarchist and author Charles Coulombe might agree with me. He said he would welcome a South American or African pope as the Church in Europe is just about dead and the future of Catholicism will be as a Latin American and African Church. It is only fitting then that the papacy begin to reflect the cultures and nationalities that will be the future of the Catholic Church. When asked about the nationality of Pope Francis, I heard Donald Cardinal Wuerl, Archbishop of Washington DC, among others, make the statement that “it was time” there was a Latino pope (Eva Longoria said it weeks ago, hmm…) and that says to me that there will be more non-Europeans in the future, probably fewer European electors. In that regard, Pope Francis may be blazing the trail for a Church that will probably always have to be based in Rome but which will have a noticeably non-European flock. It seems to me he will be a figure of transition, cleaning up the decay of the past to make way for gains in the future, bringing a new, simpler style to the papacy and easing Catholics into a less European future.


  1. I suppose even if Europe is "abandoned", eventually it will have to be reclaimed. Re-evangelization can occur in future centuries. Europe was converted once and it can be again, I think. But it will take new missionary efforts led not from the European devout "rear-guard", but from the Latinos and the Africans and even the U.S.

    1. True, nowhere did I say otherwise. "Europe" can always be reclaimed but "Europeans" cannot. Once a people are gone, they cannot be resurrected -at least not by mere mortals. Christianity will go on but it will not be European/Roman/Middle Ages-style religion, which it wasn't to begin with anyway.

  2. Replies
    1. I never said "all" was lost. Religion is an idea and an idea cannot die. People, unfortunately, can and the European peoples decided at least in the last century to kill themselves and they have effectively done so. They have passed the point of no return but Christianity will go on, simply in a different style than what it has been previously.

    2. Well, maybe the european cultures can dissapear in europe, but not in another parts of the world, for example here in argentina there are italian-argentines, french-argentines, spanish-argentines, so on (in my case i have french, spanish, italian, scotish an maybe german ancestry). But i don't think that the caucasian people will dissapear elsewhere, for example in South America, the middle east, india and pakistan, etc. So i think that the white people as race (but not the european culture) is safe in another parts of the world. Don't be so pessimistic.

    3. In South America the European-descended population is quite small, in fact tiny in most countries (Argentina being one case where it is larger) and where it is not the trend is the same as in Europe itself (certainly in North America). And culture is not just race or bloodlines. Many people have blood of ancient cultures in them but those peoples are long gone and most Americans of European descent are mixtures of various nationalities so maintaining the culture of any one of them would be unlikely. This is how history goes, peoples die out, are replaced by others and European peoples have been killing each other, contracepting, aborting and mixing on such a scale that their survival is simply impossible at this point.

      The first prerequisite for any national longevity is that the nation must *wish* to survive, it must consider survival a priority and Europeans, and their offspring around the world, simply do not. Some few individuals might be upset by that fact, but it's something everyone better get used to because once demographics change beyond a certain point there is no going back.

  3. Well, he is Argentine, but he does have Italian-Argentine blood in his veins, so supporters of an Italian papacy can claim at least a partial victory. I agree that this confusion of genuine, inward humility with outward material symbols is a sad, modern development that is probably beyond reversal, but it's one of those things that I guess we just have to throw up our hands over because it doesn't look like it's changing. At least we do still have a Pope, and whether American Catholics care to recognize it or not, Vatican City and the Catholic Church are still a monarchy and the Pope is still first in precedence among the crowns of Europe (whether he wears his tiara or not).

    The depth of the organizational problems at the Vatican were a bit surprising to me, I'm starting to think that's what Benedict XVI was getting at with the references to not being up to the task. There may be a major corporate reshuffling coming up and he honestly felt that he wasn't the one to execute it (though the Pope certainly has the power to delegate though). Cleaning up the Vatican bank and bringing it up to international standards is a pretty important priority. The church has to perform it's work within the constraints of the temporal world, and that brings with it a need to keep money and credit flowing smoothly and safely. Failure to meet transparency standards could eventually lock the Holy See out of the global financial system, which would be fairly devastating at least in the short term.

    1. Yes, I thought there might be just a slight (*slight*) glimmer of hope that if a certain cardinal fond of traditional styles were elected he might pay tribute to Benedict XVI by being crowned with his tiara but, I think it is safe to say those days are now absolutely gone forever. A pity it was all done away with in the times when modern communications would allow the whole world to witness the spectacle. The Papacy as a whole may be a great deal simpler from now on as no one ever wants to be the one to resume something that was renounced in a gesture of humility. But, as I said, if it means the curia gets its act together most would agree it to have been a good trade.

      I do worry though when a pope is described as being liberal on socio-economic issues but conservative on moral issues. It just seems to me that what is being said is to liberals he agrees with you on this, this and this and to you conservatives, well, he's not a heretic. That's what you get. I guess I'm saying I thought being "conservative" on moral issues was the rule, the bare-minimum requirement but it often seems like that is not the case anymore.

    2. I tend to think that someone like Pope Francis is a prerequisite to bringing back a tradition like the papal crown. As you say, there is a difference between inward humility and outward symbols, but the only way to see that difference is if the man wearing the crown is already known to be humble. Someone who rides the bus to work can make the case for symbols of authority in a way that members of the old guard cannot.

      I do not think Pope Francis will be crowned, but if he were crowned, the people would understand that as a good thing. I think that is enough progress for one Pope.

  4. I appreciate your commentary and respectfully-expressed concerns regarding the modern papacy, and the election of our new Pontiff, Francis.

    Your point about the regal bearing of the Holy Father is a good one, and I also am sorry to see the pomp and ceremony appearing to be phased out, along with the beauty attached to it. I agree that an authentic humility is not so simply to be had by the wearing or not-wearing of finery, and I've never thought of previous popes' wearing of such as an expression of their own personality (though no doubt with some of the weaker characters among the pontiffs this was a problem), but a statement on behalf of the Church for which they symbolize, that herein lies beauty, dignity and authority for all of mankind.

    I think, however, that we might be hopeful that not all is gone by the wayside for the future in this regard. It is easy to imagine a future pontiff being chosen who sees the importance of the externals, and that they need not come at the expense of authentic humility - that the externals indeed may enhance our grasp of a sanctified interior life - and also such a strength of will and character that he does not care what the world says about his "extravagance" and "arrogant ostentation." Cardinal Raymond Leo Burke is one such that comes to mind, and I'm sure there are several others.

  5. Okay, first of all, let me just say that I am a cradle Roman Catholic from the Philippines. I have never called myself by any other name, label or group other than Roman Catholic. I don't call myself a "Trad", "SSPX" or a "follower of Second Vatican Council".

    Second, I am all up for tradition and I am a monarchist. However, I attend both forms of the mass (the Latin and the Novus Ordo, depending on which is scheduled and where or when I would be attending) and I consider them as both holy and sacred. The forms of the mass are, it's only the priests of the Novus Ordo who make it less than holy.

    Third, now, while I just said I uphold tradition and monarchy, I detest vehemently all these judgments about the new Pope. It seems that as soon as the Vatican announced we had a new Pope, vitriol from "Trads" were spewing forth all around Facebook and other networking sites like wildfire. He has not even been Pope for an hour, or even a day, and already people want to see him FAIL.

    And if this is people's attitude every time we have a new Pope, then we might as well do away with the whole Papacy thing forever. I mean, if monarchists are staunchly loyal to the monarchs everywhere, why can't Catholics around the world say the same of the Pope? I thought it would be "So saith the King" should be the same as "So saith the Pope". He is the LEADER of the Church, is he not? And so? What are all these complaints? I thought that this is why we like to restore monarchies so we can get rid of republicanism and democracy and get rid of the mob trying to make their own laws. So should the Pope. He is the leader, we SHOULD obey him.

    And he's the Pope. Exactly. We are nothing compared to His holiness, so I really don't see why we should be like rabid dogs all for the sake of sentimentalism about the pomp and grandeur. I would love for this Pope to not get rid of it, but if he wants to, should we commit suicide, kill each other, or kill him, or kill our faith because of it? Then I suppose your Catholic faith is shallow, and not rooted in God.

    Fourth, I have to ask: Humility is a BAD thing?

    I call forth the statement: "I don’t know who this is supposed to impress. Humility is something in our character, it is not something dependent on our surroundings or material possessions."

    So, all the crowns, all the gold, all the pomp and grandeur are examples of humility, but riding a bus and looking after the poor and not opting for a palace is pride and vanity? Please tell me how twisted this world is.

    And exactly. You said humility is not dependent upon material possessions, and yet you want all the gold, all the coronations and crowns and pomp and grandeur, as if FAITH resides in these material things. Faith is WITHIN your heart and soul, NOT in crowns and not even in gold. They are just symbols, not FAITH.

    And I think people have been judging Pope Francis waayy too much to begin with. For example, what if this is just HOW HE IS? What if he grew up so very poor in his life that it is just the way he views the world? Why would these traditionalists judge him so harshly as if he has done something horrible like murder or abortion to warrant people's wrath?

    And I really don't understand: If the Church was built because we believe in Christ, then why are people despairing for the loss of coronations when the most important things are following God's footsteps?

    1. Well, that was uncalled for. Do you overreact this much about everything? "Okay, first of all" I'm not a cradle Roman Catholic and I never mentioned anything about Trads, SSPX or Vatican II. Why don't you go somewhere more appropriate if you just want to go on a tirade about those subjects? Personally, I've never been to a mass in Latin in my life and don't even know why you're freaking out over that. I never mentioned anything about mass in any language. Again -go somewhere else if you just want to gripe about Catholicism.

      "Third" I made no "judgments" about the new pope, I just gave my opinion on him based on his clerical career. And, frankly, I think I was pretty damn positive and I really don't appreciate you bringing your little rant on to my blog which has not been the source of any "vitriol" against the Pope or any other monarch. Did you even READ the damn article or are you just carpet bombing everything on the web about the new Pope, assuming everyone hates him? Because I said nothing hateful about the man, in fact I purposely tried to be as optimistic as possible and I certainly made it CRYSTAL CLEAR that I do not want to see him or any of his fellows "FAIL".

      Exactly how is my saying he may be exactly the man the Catholic Church needs right now negative or 'spewing hatred'? If you can answer that, I would damn well like to hear it as I do NOT appreciate being accused of things I did not do, say or write and being lumped in with the disloyal or being compared to a rabid dog. You need to back the hell off little girl.

      I will ignore a great deal of the rest of your incoherent tirade, but I will address the coronation and the trappings of the papacy since that is something I did actually mention (was that just an accident on your part?) I could have said a great deal more if I wanted to be negative or overly critical but I chose not to. If, however, you are going to get upitty over it, I will have to be honest and say, yes, I do think such humility is a bad thing because it blackens the reputation of every pontiff that used the things Francis I has renounced. Was that his intention? I don't think so and I hope not but when a pope says, 'I won't do what all the others before me have done, because I think that's vanity and I'm not like that' that IS being critical and that doesn't even strike me as being truly humble but rather being more on the vain side.

      And where does it stop? If you do not know the difference between the dignity of the position and the man himself, then how is the whole Catholic hierarchy not just one big collection of vainglorious excess? Why not have all clerics dress the same? Why not sell off all the gold and jewels and give the money to the poor? Why not give up the Vatican and the Apostolic Palace and go live in the hills, barefoot and wearing rags just like Jesus and the apostles? All of the pomp and ceremony surrounding any monarch is NOT about the individual, it is about what they represent, which is something people used to understand.

    2. "Well, that was uncalled for. Do you overreact this much about everything?"

      Hah, no. Actually, the traditionalists on Facebook and everywhere on the internet are the ones who are overreacting and judging the new Pope before he even began.

      "Did you even READ the damn article or are you just carpet bombing everything on the web about the new Pope, assuming everyone hates him?"

      Yes, I read your article. I was also just stating my opinion, sir. I often read your blog since I'm also a monarchist. I never said YOU said something hateful about the Pope. I was only commenting based on what I have seen on my Facebook newsfeed and every other blog, whether religious or about monarchy.

      "I would damn well like to hear it as I do NOT appreciate being accused of things I did not do, say or write and being lumped in with the disloyal or being compared to a rabid dog. You need to back the hell off little girl."

      I'm twenty-seven years old, SIR. Do not speak to me as if I'm your kid sister. Like I said, I never said it is YOU who is spewing hatred.

      "I will have to be honest and say, yes, I do think such humility is a bad thing because it blackens the reputation of every pontiff that used the things Francis I has renounced."

      Since when does the individual actions of ONE person reflect the entire Papacy? So, because he chooses to be humble, he is bringing SHAME to the entire Papacy? Each person is different, and perhaps humility is just something that is part of this Pope's personality. And since when does, in the entire history of the universe does it say that humility is BAD??? Even during our kindergarten years, we are being told, not just in school, but by our parents themselves that we ought to be good, loving, kind, humble, forgiving....and so those virtues are now shameful? So, what do you want us to practice, then? Being a snob? Being a jerk? Being a selfish, individualistic, liberal, hateful citizen of the society?

      And if you think humility is vain, perhaps then I should never apologize to you, or to anyone else. I should just be some jerk who trolls around, never saying sorry, never forgiving anyone, never speaking to anyone in kindness. Perhaps that is what you want us to practice, so yeah...if that is vain, I guess flashing all the gold in the world is being humble.

      You asked, "Why not give up the Vatican and the Apostolic Palace and go live in the hills, barefoot and wearing rags just like Jesus and the apostles?"

      And to this, I almost fell out of my chair. You're a historian, I gather. Based on your readings of history, WHY IS THERE A CATHOLIC CHURCH? Was it built because a couple of people wanted to display all their jewels and their gold? No. St. Peter was the rock, the foundation with which Jesus Christ told that His Church be built upon. If you think the Catholic Church was built so that it could boast of its jewels and grandeur, then perhaps you know nothing of the religion itself. I am sorry, but the whole Roman Catholic Church was built because of Christ. Because He said that his apostles should go out into the world to preach the Gospel so that more people will KNOW God, not know more about gold. And what is your problem with living in the hills and being barefoot? Jesus' apostles were mere peasants and poor folk, who earned their living as fishermen. They were not men of noble birth who had crowns on their heads. So perhaps it is time to really assess the truth here.

      I'm not saying we should do away with the pomp and grandeur. I love it that way. But more and more people everywhere on the internet as I have observed are judging and criticizing this Pope and calling his humility as vanity, even though he may actually be one of the few who WALKS the TALK.

      I apologize if I have offended you, I was merely making my own opinions as well. I love your blog, and I am often here reading your articles even if I don't always comment.

    3. So, because some people somewhere on the internet said things you didn't like about Pope Francis, you come on to my blog, in response to an article I wrote to complain about it and then seemed surprised that I took that as being directed at me? Did you ever think to respond to the people who actually upset you? Just a thought...

      As for the're really not making sense. Before you start lecturing me on religion, make up your mind whether you think externals matter or not. Should the pope live in a palace or not, should others bow and kiss his ring or not, should he use gold cups and things or not. It sounds like you're not sure yourself. As you say, you don't need all that stuff just to tell people about Jesus. The problem, and it is a problem YOU brought up, is one of consistency. If Francis is going to be applauded for not using traditional papal vestments as a sign of how humble he is, then you must be critical of all those who did in the past as being vain.

      At the "inauguration" mass this morning I heard a priest having to stumble over that very thing, praising Pope Francis for his very simple vestments but then having to awkwardly explain that all the other cardinals in fancier vestments weren't being vain or anything. You can't have it both ways. If you really think I am confused about WHY the Catholic Church exists, just so you don't fall and hurt your very grown-up self, I will assure you I know all about Jesus and the apostles. "Traditionally" people have taken the view that the gold and glamour, the crowns and jewels were meant to reflect the importance and the greatness of the "office". If that is true, getting rid of them is not a sign of personal humility. If that is not the case, then it is all vanity and all those of the past should be called out for their vanity.

      TO REPEAT, in the actual article what I said was that if the new Pope can clean up the mess in Rome it would be well worth a more plain papacy. I try to be fair and give any monarch the benefit of the doubt. But, I also have a habit of doubling down when I am attacked. When I meet resistance, I charge ahead.

      This time, I won't though. I started too, but just deleted it. You are really tempting me to be even more blunt than I should. Perhaps I should just ignore the current pope from now on? For your sake, I would advise you not to seek out things that are going to upset you. I have heard a number of people complaining about all the abuse showered on Pope Francis, but you must be looking for it because I have heard nothing of the sort. E-people are not "real" people and as far as the SSPX types go, they didn't like B16, they didn't like JP2 so why the surprise that they don't like Francis? Just ignore them and in the future, at least around here, I would suggest you limit your responses to things I have actually said or what someone else has commented *on this blog*. Responding here to what someone else said on another blog really does no one any good. (Especially on a post several days old that no one is likely following anymore)

  6. Such a renaissance pope, isnt't he:


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