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Conclave, Holy Ghost, London Oratorians.

I always liked Father Julian Large, and his extremely brave homilies were a great factor in my process of rapprochement to the sacramental life after decades as a lapsed Catholic. I particularly remember one beautiful homily, when he said incendiary (read: catholic) things about sodomy and invited any pew sitter not in agreement with them to denounce him to the police, adding it would be a privilege to be jailed for Christ.

I had never heard the like before.  The style of the Oratorians in general (and of Father Large in particular) was so different from the “don’t kick the cat”-homilies of my childhood and early adolescence that I felt greatly motivated to deepen my neglected Catholicism and discover the treasures hidden, alas, under several strata of Vatican II mud.

This is the kind of man we want as a Pope.

Nowadays Father Large is the Provost of the Oratory, and his position might counsel him to be a tad more moderate in his utterances. Still, the man hasn’t lost his rather blunt writing style, as you can see from the phrase below, taken from the Oratory Website:

Only slightly less annoying than the predictable speculation on ‘Vatican power struggles’ are the pious platitudes that tend to emerge around the time of a Conclave: “Oh Father, we can relax. It’s the Holy Spirit who will choose the new Pope.” No. It is actually the cardinals who will elect the Pope, and the College of Cardinals is a fallible group of fallible men.

The refreshingly blunt character of the man is showed by the fact that he is positively annoyed by the pious platitudes concerning the Pope’s election. I was very glad to read his words, because I also experience a more than slight increase in my adrenaline level when I hear the one or other faithful talking as if the Church were a wireless toy car with the Holy Ghost firmly in charge of the remote control. To think so shows not only a worrying degree of naivety, but it even sounds to my ears remotely blasphemous, as it implies that the long list of utterly inadequate, positively corrupt or utterly disgraceful Popes of the past were carefully hand-picked by the Holy Ghost. Besides, it encourages inaction and passivity, another specialty of the V II church; and in fact, it’s impossible not to notice that those who talk about the Holy Ghost making all the work tend to be the least willing to put up a fight for Christ themselves.

“Why worry? The Holy Ghost is in charge!” Seriously, this is the stuff out of which persecutions of Christians are made. 

The Church is run by men, and these men have all the qualities (good and bad) of the kind. They will choose more or less wisely according to their ability to discern wisely what the Church needs; but they might get it wrong, and even massively wrong, which is why a conclave is always such an important event. We must pray for the election of a good, strong Pope.

Father Large says the next Pope should be “Catholic, holy, wise and strong”. Personally I would, in my fear for the election of the wrong man, gladly settle for the first, third and fourth of these qualities, leaving the rest to the cares of the new Pope’s confessor. After John Paul II’s experience, I am very scared of another Pope chosen because of his holiness, without looking too hard to whether he has the character to lead a vast apparatus, and to be a King rather than a monk. 

Oh Lord, please, please give us a strong Pope.


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