Internet As Defender Of Orthodoxy
You might not have noticed it, but those who have clicked around to take the temperature of the Catholic blogosphere have become aware of a widespread unease at Pope Francis’ latest exploits. Already weeks into his pontificate a good, young priest commented on Rorate Caeli and made no mystery of the fact he was scandalised by the Pope’s behaviour; another priest promptly assured him he has the same feeling. For any two to write, there are hundreds who think the same.
In addition to simple comments, if you read around the blogosphere you will even find blogging priests – I will not make names – expressing themselves with unusual openness about the problem they see in the Holy Father’s behaviour. The cry of orthodox Catholics has become so loud than in just a few days the “Guardian”, the “Times” and the German “Spiegel” have reported, and none of them has tried to dismiss the opposition to the Pope’s feat as the rant of isolated grumpy old men. Even Father Lombardi has felt he had to intervene, and has tried to mount a very clumsy, illogical and rather pathetic attempt at explanation of the Pope’s liturgical abuse, certainly without success.
Orthodox Catholics are complaining and not only the Catholic world, but the world at large has noticed.
This is, if you ask me, a major difference with the wreckovation of the Sixties and Seventies. In those times, with the access to public information limited to a restricted number of outlet, it wasn’t easy to get the word of opposition out. Countless Catholics were, no doubt, confused and mortified by what was happening, but they did not have any outlet to express their dismay, besides talking to – and being probably mocked by – their priest. There were some initiatives, like the worldwide Una Voce or its English affiliate Latin Mass Society. But these were clearly limited in the scope of their activity and the audience they could reach, and they certainly were no worry whatsoever for the Vatican II demolition troops.
Fifty years later everything has changed, and liturgical abuses don’t go unpunished so easily anymore. The atomisation of news outlets caused by the explosion of the blogging world makes any attempt to silence the cry of orthodox Catholics utterly futile.
Of course, we must not kid ourselves into believing that as conservative Catholics pretty much rule the blogosphere, they will be perceived as the real audience the Vatican will aim at. The contrary is, I am afraid, true. This Papacy seems to be liked – I am being politically incorrect here; but then I always am – most by those who don’t care for tradition, true Catholic values, and Mass attendance, and to cause a favourable reaction chiefly among the huge mass of distracted “rosewater Catholics”. This is, it seems to me, the main audience the Pope is seeking. A superficial message to attract the superficial.
“I like the fact this Pope is one of us”, says the woman at the bakery who never cares to attend. “How nice he is”, says the man at the barber’s shop who wouldn’t waste three seconds thinking whether he/his wife should avoid contraception; “he certainly likes the young”, says the boy who couldn’t even recite the Ten Commandments if his life depended on him. All these people don’t go around reading Catholic blogs, and many of the older among them probably still do not really know what a “blog” is. Again, this seem to be the target of the Vatican’s new “popularity drive”, possibly in the very deluded hope that such an enterprise may encourage people to rediscover Catholic values. A very strange hope, if you consider that the “popularity drive” started in the Sixties is exactly what caused the emptying of the pews in the first place, so that this strategy reminds one of the man wanting to cure his alcoholism by changing vodka brand. This, of course, without considering the undermining of Catholic values put in place every time tradition is trampled, or liturgical abuses put in place in front of a worldwide audience (“I find it very good that he washed the feet of women”, says the butcher’s wife, and she has no idea why the feet are washed in the first place).
The “popularity drive” will, therefore, continue, and I am eagerly awaiting for the Pope driving the school bus, or making a night shift at the bakery, or inventing some other stunt to please the masses. Still, now the game won’t be very easy, because the voice of serious Catholicism is here to stay, and will not be silenced by any amount of consent garnered among the distracted, the tepid and the outright indifferent.
If any one of us were in the position to ask Pope Francis if he had expected to find so much resistance and criticism after his decision not to wear the Mozzetta, he would probably get the answer the Pope had expected one or two murmurs from right-wing corners, but certainly not a worldwide indignation. Similarly, the newest episode of the feet-washing has most certainly caused a criticism far above the expected measure, even putting the “new Franciscans” in the defensive. If Pope Francis thinks this indignation is going to stop, he is not as smart as we think. I am confident he is coming around to the simple reality he can’t do as he pleases.
The time of the Pinocchio Masses has gone, and continuing on that road will cause the Pontiff wild opposition and, at some point, well-deserved ridicule.
Pope Francis seems a smart man. He will, methinks, try for a while to push his “stunt” agenda, but if the Catholic blogosphere continues to pay attention and denounce his antics he will soon discover he will go down in history as an unmitigated disaster born of barely controlled pride. If he is intelligent, he will draw the consequences.
The time of the Pinocchio Masses has gone.