If you have looked at the Video of Pope Francis visiting the Pontiff Emeritus yesterday, you could probably not avoid noticing how frail Benedict looked. If one thinks that only at the beginning of February he was still fully in charge, one begins to have a very clear picture of why his decision to abdicate was a wise one.
I never bought the story of the “Cross from which the Pope is not supposed to step down”. If the duty of a Pope had traditionally been to be frail and ineffective, the Popes would have been traditionally chosen among the oldest and sickest, in the hope their frailty goes on for as long as possible; after which, the next sick old man would have been picked up.
We all know this was never the case, and when it happened that old men were chosen for the office it was because a ” transition Pope” (that is: one of whom the Cardinals thought he would not occupy the position for very long) was considered preferable to a long impasse or a very public quarrel.
Please also consider the most famous Popes were men full of energy. Leo the Great, Gregory the Great, Urban II, or Pius IX (to mention just a few) were Popes who would have never thought it would be better for them to be old, frail, and ultimately factually irrelevant. Popes were meant to reign, not to be put in a shop window (or a “Popemobile”) for all the world to see Catholicism is de facto without its guide.
Pope Pius XII was a Pope I continue to go back to, because it seems to me in most cases if you want to know how a Pope did it right you only have to look at what this great Pope did. Pope Pacelli was a man of such strong energy and iron will, that in one of the most difficult periods in the history of the Church he united in himself the functions of Pope and Secretary of State. Nothing less than full control was enough for him. This, my friends, is a Pope who sees his role rather differently than being looked at behind the bullet proof glass of a vehicle. In fact, Pope Pius XII thought of resigning when it became clear to him he could not reign properly anymore; and we are talking of a time where the Church had things so much under control – though challenges are always there – that the Western societies of the Fifties seem to belong to a different age than the present ones.
What does this tell us? It tells us that a Pope is supposed to function as a Pope, rather than as a televised ad for Catholicism. The “shop window Pope” is very well for the Curia, who can easily manipulate him; or for the local hierarchies, who can do as they please; but it's not good at all for the Church, who needs to be led by Peter, not by a bunch of Cardinals no one ever made Pope and avoiding, at least on this earth, every accountability.
It is not surprising that weak or ill Popes cause the Curia to become inefficient, or corrupt. What is surprising is that the same people who lament the Curia's inefficiency (or corruption) are perfectly fine with years and years of impotent Popes, unable to reign or, alas, even to think properly. They don't see that weak Popes, like weak Kings or Emperors, unavoidably lead to the supremacy of the shrewdest manipulators, to a total lack of accountability, and to an environment of savage intrigue, whereas strong Popes will, for good or for bad, steer the Barque where they want to, and be clearly seen as responsible for what they do.
If we are honest with ourselves, Benedict wouldn't have gone down in history with the nickname “the iron Pope” if he had been in best health every day of his Papacy. Still, the exercise of power always needs a certain amount of energy, of inner fire, of will to demand and command that builds on a certain amount of strength. This strenght is needed to cope with the adrenalines, the difficult decisions, the opposition, the punishments if must be, that the exercise of power invariably demands. Seeing Benedict in yesterday's video, it is abundantly clear this fire isn't there any longer.
An intelligent man, and a man who loves the Church, Benedict must have seen it. He had also seen from very near the quasi-Sede Vacante situation created in the last five, or more, years of his predecessor's reign. He has, I am certain, correctly assessed such a situation as damaging for the Church; and he has decided to draw the consequences from his own situation for the good of the Church, irrespective of the criticism he knew would be levelled at him.
Pope Benedict wasn't an Iron Pope, but he understood the need for the Church to be guided by a Pope, not by an unelected small group of shrewd manipulators. He was intelligent enough to see the issue, and unselfish enough to take a step he knew would be criticised. It pains me, it truly pains me to see a man able to take such a selfless decision, and being criticised for it.
If you ask me, this, what Pope Benedict showed us, was the true courage and the true humility; not the iron cross, the black shoes, and the absence of Mozzetta.
May the Almighty grant Benedict serene days of prayer on earth, and reward this gentle man for this beautiful act of courage.
The singer Michelle Shocked performed a rather strong tirade against so-called “gay marriage” some days ago, apparently during a concert. I do not have any idea who the woman is, or whether I would like her music (rather not, methinks; but you never know). What I do know is that over the Pond she is known enough to make a “US Tour”.
This tour now appears to be in tatters, as following Shocked's utterances several venues have hastened to cancel the scheduled performance. Faggots all over the country are rejoicing.
Now, it appears Shocked expressed herself in rather robust tones, including the “God hates Fags” so hated by those who hate God. Now, it is certainly wrong to say that God hates fags as creatures made by Himself, or as immortal souls. God loves each and everyone of his children; but to love one's child does not mean to approve of everything he does, or even not to punish him when he has richly deserved it.
God does not hate fags as human beings, but God most certainly hates faggotry in extremely high measure. He did not send an angel to destroy Sodom (which means, let us be clear about it, killing everyone in it, including women, children and elderly) because they made loud music at night, but because they were, erm, sodomites.
This simple fact escapes the modern apostles of the new religion of tolerance, to whom God is “homophobic” and should not be allowed to “discriminate” against sodomites, much less exterminate them.
They are entitled to their opinion, stupid as it may be (you can't outlaw stupidity after all, and I value freedom of expression, at least outside of my blog), but they should be coherent enough not to tell themselves Christians as they do so.
God hates faggotry. He hates it so much, that he punished it with a genocide, not sparing even little children. I really can't imagine how He could have made his point in a more forceful way than by exterminating everyone.
Michelle Shocked expressed herself, being a Proddie, in an inaccurate way, but she went far nearer to the Truth than her critics on the liberal camp.
God hates faggotry all right.
When the news of the election of Pope Francis was announced, among the many dismayed commenters on Rorate Caeli and elsewhere there were one or two Anglicans reasoning along the lines of “I was thinking about conversion, but now that (put here your favourite peeve) I cannot see any reason for that”.
Well I cannot, either, then such a conversion would have been a very wrong one indeed. What some Protestants seem not to understand is that the conversion to Catholicism is not just like one of those change of denominations many Protestants seem not to have any problem with; rather, it is a definitive choice, and a choice dealing with absolutes that do not change with the Pope of the day.
To choose Catholicism means to believe and profess that there is only one Church, the one Christ founded on Peter and over which the gates of Hell will never prevail. It is a fundamental choice between Truth and Lie, Orthodoxy and Heresy, Right and Wrong. Whether the Pope is good or bad, liturgically savvy or challenged, a lover of beauty and tradition or a shocking philistine, or even orthodox or heretic is neither here nor there.
When a new Pope is elected, Catholics do not make a new decision whether they want to continue to be Catholic. They believe in One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, not in one, pious, orthodox, and intelligent Pope. Popes come in the most various flavours; some of the flavours historically smelled awfully, and will undoubtedly continue to do so.
When one joins the Church he gets a deal for eternity, not a time contract valid until further notice. What is required from him is a commitment for life, not an approval based on contingent circumstances.
Popes come and go. The Church will stay forever.
The scammers of Medjugorje are the latest to join the very long line of those claiming Pope Francis is on their side, and at this point one only awaits for Obama, Mugabe and Hawkins.
The Medjugorje crowd are not new to this kind of fraud, as for decades they have spread the legend that they had the seal of approval of John Paul II. What makes the Medjugorje matter more interesting, though, is that Pope Francis will, in all probability, find on his desk a decision already made, which he will only have to make public.
As it is universally known, the usual commission has worked on the matter with the usual lethargic slowness, and the decision expected “within the year” 2012 was then, disappointingly but predictably, officially not yet delivered. Still, I think it can be seen as granted that the works are concluded, but this was just another decision the Pontiff Emeritus did not have the guts to take.
No Catholic doubts the heresy of Medjugorje should be exposed and uprooted once and for all, the real question being nowadays how many Catholics walk around the splendid corridors of the Vatican. I do not think we will have the “worst case”. What is to be feared is a decision in V II style, on the lines of: no, actually the “apparitions” aren't really worthy of belief, but the faith and zeal and Christian spirit of those who in good faith take part in the circus is to be praised, bla, bla, & bla.
This would be a great mistake, hiding below a thin veil of fake “charity” the aiding and abetting of a Satanic manoeuvre not only mocking and offending the Blessed Virgin every day, but positively undermining the very pillars of obedience to the Church and faithfulness to Her teaching.
Pope Francis is, we are told, a great devotee of the Blessed Virgin. Still, apparently he hasn't any problem in being blessed by Protestant pastors, which means as an Archbishop he did heresy rather well. There are, therefore, Catholic and Protestant tendencies in him. On the other hand, now he is Pope, and he is very probably smart enough to understand the time for such heretic antics has come to an end. I am, therefore, rather sure we won't see him “blessed” by the Medjigorje “seers” any time soon, and if he is a devotee of the Blessed Virgin he will keenly feel the offence made to her by the scammers. At the same time, he also seems enough of a populist and specialist in V II waffle to avoid adopting crushing measures against the “simple people” of Medjugorje.
We shall see how this pans out. The Pope desperately needs good advisors around him, able to stop him when he is tempted to do something very much in line with his Argentinian past. I trust he will understand the implications of his new role and try to learn to be a half decent Pope, rather than transforming the Papacy in another version of the Archdiocese of Buenos Aires. We must help him with our prayers, but also be vigilant and always separate sound orthodoxy from the Pinocchio masses.
Browsing the newspapers this morning, one cannot but have depressing thoughts about how deep we have sunk. Since yesterday evening it would appear bus riding in itself qualifies one to be a good Pope, and Popes who didn’t cook themselves will forever be seen as backward. The new frontier is now a Pope who does his own domestic cleaning, floor scrubbing and toilets obviously included. The bus seems, in fact, elevated to the rank of Great Elector, and the debate whether a proper carbonara is made with or without the albumen of the egg will now be, Deo Volente, answered by the Pope himself.
On the same vein, the number of supposed pundits is multiplying, who after the fact are all eager to tell us why this is such a genial move, conveniently forgetting to tell us why they didn’t think about it before. “Me too, me too!” is the war cry of the day….
Then there are the prophets of the Holy Ghost, explaining to us peasants a reality which would otherwise remain inaccessible to our simple intelligence: the seagull was obviously remote-controlled by Providence, because hey, I have to write something original before someone else does. Yours truly remembers seeing the seagull from the webcam, but neglected to think: “look, a seagull on the chimney! The Holy Ghost is clearly doing overtime! It can only be Bergoglio then, or at the very least a cyclist!”. Very stupid of me, I admit.
In all this, I miss the hard facts: the number of vocations in the Holy Father’s archdiocese during his tenure; how the Argentinian Jesuits fared during his tenure; how the seminary he ran fared during his tenure. They will be published somewhere, I am sure; but it seems no one of those whose profession it is to give us this kind of really useful information, and who have at their disposal extensive research resources, care two straws for it.
We are fed with the bus, the cooking, and the seagull instead.