I am thinking what will happen to all those practicing Benedictolatry after the man goes to his judgment.
I can think of the following:
- They declare that Benedict is still alive, but has been shipped to some village in Eastern Bavaria, near the Czech Border, with instructions to his jailers to never let him see the light again.
- They declare that Benedict is still alive, and is happily drinking beer in Kloster Andechs (as every German knows, they brew wonderful beers over there…). However, he has decided to let the world believe that he is dead for the greater good of the Church.
- They declare that Benedict is still alive, but is being kept prisoner in a coffin.
Discussion and further hypotheses welcome.
As to me, I am a simple guy and my take is very simple:
- Benedict has resigned. Francis is Pope. Benedict said as much.
- He kept title and white cassock because he did not want to be called a Celestine V.
- he will be called a Benedict XVI. Which, history will say, is much worse.
Today is the fifth anniversary of that fateful day, in which Pope Benedict XVI announced his intention to abdicate at the end of the month and make way for a more vigorous Pope.
Benedict's Pontificate had been, Summa Summarum, more Catholic than JP II's, particularly because of the historic Summorum Pontificum. Therefore, I then believed in the honest, straight narrative of a Pope who feels that his strength is leaving him and, remembering the last sad tears of JP's Pontificate, decided to make way for a more energetic man, confident that the Conclave he was about to leave would lead to the election of a man continuing on his path, a Benedict XVII so to speak.
This reading still makes, if you ask me, the most sense. However, the past five years have not helped the man to rise in my, or many others', estimation. Actually, if I were the man I would now be rather scared for my salvation.
Benedict The Emeritus has disappointed in many ways. One can mention here:
1. The at least two interviews – two were really brutal and I have written about them; there were other minor occasions – in which Benedict approved of Francis' work and expressed himself in glowing terms concerning his Pontificate.
2. The failure to do what he said he would do: retire to a life of prayer and contemplation. It seems nowadays not even nonagenarian Popes can resist the temptation of frequent interviews and photo-ops, with or without Bierkrug.
3. The failure to condemn Pope Francis when it became clear that the pontificate was steering towards aggressive heresy. In particular, his silence concerning Amoris Laetitia and the many heresies and blasphemies therein contained – something a theologian like him must see with extreme clarity – is most shocking from one who claims to still keep the title of former Pope, and therefore maintains that he is still way more than just another bishop.
4. The strange neo-Catholic thinking and reference to his, apparently, imminent salvation (about which doubts are more than justified). That a Pope who decided to abdicate does not approach his impending death, at least publicly, with fear and trembling tells you all you need to know about V II and the massacre of sound Catholic thinking.
I certainly forget a lot.
In general, the man gives the impression of being not a leader, but a follower. In true German fashion, he has marched to the drum of V II without much regard for the ruins he saw around him. When it became clear to him that Francis' course was a much more brutal incarnation of V II that he could ever imagine, he decided to toe the party line and promote this new, inspired version of V II, instead of using his unique position to try to give witness for proper Catholicism.
Granted: countless bishops and Cardinals have done the same. But much fewer have given glowing interviews about Francis, and no one of them has insisted on being called Pontiff Emeritus.
Benedict is, I think, about to get into history as a tragic, pathetic figure. Too weak to be an effective Pope, too naive to see Francis coming as a result of his many disgraceful episcopal and cardinalatian appointments, too cowardly and gregarious to denounce the disaster unfolding under his eyes, and even praising Nero whilst Rome burns.
Now, in his last legs, the recent, disquieting public announcement of his own impending salvation; which is what V II does to you if you allow it to work on you for 60 years.
A horrible wannabe Catholic (I think) magazine reports from Archbishop Gaenswein, who said that Benedict is “very weak” but still “aware” of what happens around him.
If he is aware, it’s no surprise he is weak. Imagine knowing that your successor, whom you have praised in embarrassing tones, has been publicly condemned by dozen of theologians, lay scholars and even some priests and the occasional bishop. It would make stronger man want to seek the next chair.
If it is true that Benedict is too weak to celebrate Mass, it means that he is probably not long for this world. Pray for his soul, and that he may repent of the horrible, unjustifiable complicity with the FrancisRevolution; a movement, this one, which he has sanctioned in at least two horrible interviews out of sheer “going with the flow-itis”, a disease he had already abundantly showed during his papacy with countless horrible episcopal appointments amidst the occasional bout of real sanity (Summorum Pontificum comes to mind).
This Pope will be remembered as one of the most tragic figures in Church history: too weak to do what he wanted, too conformist to raise his voice when things started to go really south, so much poisoned by Vatican II that he decided to even speak for Francis instead of,. at the very, very least, keep his mouth shut as he had said he would do when he abdicated.
We see this in Burke, in Benedict, in Caffarra, in Brandmueller, in pretty much all of them: Vatican II mentality and the desire for a comfortable life poisons them in their very bones; so much so, that even when they see the evil with sufficient clarity they do not have the guts, or the forma mentis, to call a scandal a scandal and a heretical Pope a heretical Pope.
Pray for Pope Emeritus Benedict.
That he may, for once in his life, not flee for fear of the wolves.
It is a very sad anniversary, this day that marks 10 years of Summorum Pontificum.
Ten years ago, I thought – albeit not yet introduced to Catholic blogging, much less with my own one – that Summorum Pontificum would one day be seen as the first meaningful step towards the recovery of sanity.
Today, I seem to notice that it was the pet project of a Pope not really interested in the recovery of the past, but rather more focused on giving a varnish of old to the new he was still promoting. This very man subsequently stunned the world with a resignation that I found, at the time, in perfect good faith and made in the confidence that his successor would more vigorously continue his program of very moderate conservatism; before two interviews gushing praise for Francis led me to suspect – the man not being gaga at all – that he is actually on board with everything that has happened after his abdication.
Ten years ago I saw a great offensive coming. Today I see us entrenched, albeit I must also say that the trenches have revealed and nurtured a fighting spirit that warms the heart.
Still, entrenched we are, and with the very sad prospective of going on this way for who knows how long, it being now clear that only the Blessed Virgin's intervention will save us from a spiral of decline made by obscene episcopal and cardinatial appointments,coupled with the most scandalous silence of the others.
Ten years after, we prepare ourselves for a half apocalypse.
When I think of all this, and reflect that some people are even happy with the faint meowing of the likes of Cardinal Meisner, I have no doubt at all why we are where we are.
The Pontiff Emeritus is about to release another book, and Repubblica (yes, that one) has some tasty bits of it, meant to awaken the reader’s appetite and to open their wallet.
However, these is not the usual pre-publication snippets. These declaration equate to a complete loss of face for the – we can now safely say – tragic and pathetic figure of the Emeritus.
Let us see the downfall in detail. Emphases are mine, and not made without pain.
“There were numerous commitments which I felt I was no longer able to carry through,” Ratzinger explained. “Notably, the World Youth Day which had been scheduled to take place in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in the summer of 2013. I was very certain of two things. After the experience of the trip to Mexico and Cuba, I no longer felt able to embark on another very demanding visit. Furthermore, according to the format of these gatherings, which had been established by John Paul II, the Pope’s physical presence there was paramount. A television link or any other such technological solution was out of the question. This was another reason why I saw it as my duty to resign.”
What an embarrassing statement to read.
I had always thought that Pope Benedict had decided to resign because he felt unable to gather the strength necessary to fight the long and brutal fight that announced itself after the famous report about sodomy within the Vatican. I can still understand he might have decided to be too weak for the job tout court (remember he was very frail at the time). But to read from a Pope that he decided to resign because he felt he was now unable to be the main attraction, the chief clown of a worldwide travelling circus is truly beyond the pale. Even more stupid, if possible, is the linked assertion that, since JP II had started the circus, Ratzinger felt it could not be stopped, and he the Pope. What a total lack of leadership. What a total lack of… manliness.
Embarrassing. I am ashamed for him. I am literally red in the face thinking of the way he has put shame on himself.
It goes to show: you scratch the V II Pope and what comes out can only be pus.
Alas, it goes on. Let us see what a Pope Emeritus has to say about an extremely cruel Communist bastard, a prime candidate for Hell and decades long friend of all the wrong causes:
I need scarcely remind you of how impressed I was in Cuba to see the way in which Raul Castro wishes to lead his country onto a new path, without breaking with the immediate past.
Seriously, what is this? A Pope (emeritus) lauding one of the Castro brothers for trying to keep Communism alive for as long as he can? Is this man on drugs? Drunken? Gaga? He can give interviews that become books, so one must infer he is decidedly “there” with his head.
I think the reality is far simpler: Ratzinger is, and always was, a gregarious type; an order-taker; one always ready to fall in line.
This interview will certainly mark the lowest point of Ratzinger’s public career. It is a complete denouement of a little yes-man. It is the embarrassing spectacle of a former Pope now towing the Francis line in a way inconceivable only a few years ago.
I never thought Benedict a hero of orthodoxy. I always thought Benedict was always V II, and Francis is V II on steroids. But this interview here is tantamount to Benedict taking the first dose of steroids himself, and saying to the world how much he likes it.
Let me say it again: a supporting rider, not a leader; an order-taker, not an order-giver.
What a tragic figure.
The recent uproar about Bishop Gänswein's utterings about the Petrine Office seems a tad exaggerated to me.
My understanding already was that Benedict kept dressing in white, and chose the title “Pontiff Emeritus” exactly for the reasons Gänswein says: because he sees himself as still a Pope, albeit one who does not work as such anymore. I repeat here examples already made in the past: a Professor Emeritus is still a Professor, but he does not teach anymore. Clearly, Benedict wanted to avoid the accusation of, so to speak, having “pulled a Celestine”. Once Pope, always Pope.
“I do not have the strength to be an effective Pope”, he says. “But I could not divest myself of the Papacy more than I could the priesthood”. Makes a lot of sense to me.
Now, Gänswein's remark might be meaning, in a very indirect, plausibly deniable way, that a good Catholic appalled by the Evil Clown can draw from strength from Benedict for an image of the Papacy that allows him to sleep at night, but this is already understood by everyone!
The word “extended” is, I think, what caused the ruckus. But Gänswein also made clear that there is only one Pope in charge. Therefore, the concrete exercise of what it is to be a Pope can only be his exclusive competence. Benedict does not rivendicate a concrete papal remit. He simply wants to avoid the accusation of dereliction of duty.
Finally, another element makes this discussion largely irrelevant: age. Benedict is very old and very frail, and chances are he will not be with us for long. It seems not probable that he may outlive Francis. Even if he did, he could not be re-elected Pope because he has officially resigned the office of Cardinal, and is more than 80 years old, and no one would be authorised to invite him to the next Conclave.
This “legitimate alternative spiritual papacy” dreamed by some can come to an end any day, and when it does the problems will remain exactly the same. Therefore, it can only be a pale palliative, and only for a short time, for the suffering of a Catholic. It would be no solution to anything even if it worked logically, which it doesn't.
I don't need for Pius X or Pius XII to be alive in order to see in them paragons of good, holy Papacies.
And I will rather look to them than to Benedict anyway.
In your mercy, please cut some slack for the Pontiff Emeritus.
We all remember the great weakness, the obvious frailty he showed during and after the time of his abdication. I have written here about why I think the abdication was wise, and as one who attributes at least some of the antics of JP II’s last papacy phase to his disease I hope I will never see a clearly non-functioning Pope at the head of the Church for a long time.
On another post – just reblogged, but also here for ease of future reference – I have dealt with the conspiracy scenario, and explained why I think such a scenario is just plain absurd.
The fact is, though, there: the Pontiff Emeritus thrives.
Good for him, say I. I can’t imagine him such a good actor, and his doctors such a wonder of medicine, that they would transform a sane man in the very frail man we have seen just after his abdication, the forces obviously leaving him very fast. I was not the only one thinking he was not long for this world.
He is thriving, poor chap. It goes to show that the challenges of being a good Pope are big, and they take their toll; up to the point that the Pope thinks: “I will soon reduce myself to a larva, and be the next John Paul II. Nein, Danke!”
Already 83, and just out of just another bypass operation, he saw the end coming. Not the end of his life, probably; rather the end of the active papacy he thought necessary for the Church. If it comes to pass that the man, relieved from his burden, recovers and is now able to stand for more than one hour, can it be his fault?
In my eyes, Benedict was right to abdicate; but he was very wrong in thinking his successor would have walked in his shoes. As the man who appointed around half the Cardinals who elected Pope Joke The Humble he could have done better, actually much better. He was, in this as in many other matters, too much of a gradualist, and the system he wanted to quietly reform is now reforming itself from his papacy, and not even quietly.
In my eyes, the homo scandal ( the famous 300 page report now put under a ton of sand by Francis; who knows if he was mentioned therein…) persuaded him that the great purge he thought had to come needed a stronger man than himself; a gentle man who had never been a fighter in his strongest years, benedict felt he did not have the phtysical or spiritual energy for this battle. Hence, the abdication.
If a man had been elected who was able and willing to continue Benedict’s policy, no one would have noticed that he is well other than to briefly remark how well he looks and what a joy it is to see him in form. Actually, most would praise his sensible timing, his move able to make sure the Church has a stable and orthodox guide for many years to come without the risk of a crippling de facto interregnum as, say, in the years 2000 to 2005.
Alas, it did not happen. But this proves nothing.
We must pay attention to put the abdication of Benedict into doubt; because if we do so, the election of Francis is automatically thrown into the same pot. Sedevacantism – albeit of a moderate sort – is the result.
If Benedict was forced out, I can’t see how Francis can be said to be in. If Francis is legitimately in, Benedict was not forced out. I can’t see any other solution here.
I am very glad to hear about the good wealth of the Pontiff Emeritus. It would be good if he were to attend in a state of comparable good health the funeral of his successor, or the enthronement of his successor’s successor.
He would then, perhaps, wonder about a well-known German saying: totgesagte leben laenger.
As two of my favourite blogs (this one and this one) have mentioned the story about Benedict allegedly saying to the old lady she can be “more useful” if she remains a Proddie, I would like to offer my two very devalued liras. Bearing in mind, of course, that I wasn’t there. I would like to examine firstly whether Benedict would say that, and secondly why we now get to read such things from the Vatican press.
1. Did Benedict really say it?
I doubt it. I doubt it because it does not seem to me in line with the man; who, by all his deficits in issues of sound Catholicism, certainly knows the fundamental difference between a Catholic and a Protestant. It’s just not very credible to my ears that Benedict would have said to her “don’t get on board the Barque of Peter. You are better off swimming alone in the cold waters of rebellion”.
Rather, I think it far more probable he would have said something on the line that it is better to wait until she is sure of what she is doing, and it would not be good to convert out of a passing emotion and go back to being a Protestant afterwards. I wasn’t there, but it seems to me this is the kind of answer everyone would give to someone wanting to convert “in a time of crisis”. He must have sensed when the crisis is away, so is the conversion. Wonderfully emotional, the gentler sex.
I would also like to know the exact source of the statement. Did the lady truly use those very words? Did she quote Benedict? In which context? How long afterwards? By whom have these alleged words of her been reported to the Vatican Press?
How many people do you know who, after the fact, would initially imply or suggest, and at some point state it as fact, that something was said to them which in fact wasn’t? I know a couple of those. Nay, more. Women, actually, all of them; all of them looking for validation either for a controversial choice, or one about which they have lingering doubts.
Furthermore: how often in your daily life are you ready to attribute some very bad words to someone, just because it is reported that someone else, now dead, would have said that he has said it? Really? If your standards are so low I prefer not to talk to you or to anyone you know, and thank you very much.
The Pontiff Emeritus is still alive. I am sure this story is bound to make many suffer. Perhaps Benedict could be persuaded to say a word?
2. Why does the Vatican publish the story as it did?
Ah, that is easy. Because they want you to read Benedict through Francis, that’s why. They want you to think Benedict isn’t really different from Francis in his theology, merely more conservative in his sartorial choices. This is very much in tune with this Papacy; which, when it doesn’t allow Benedict to be insulted, allows him to be misrepresented. Yes, Benedict has never been a model of orthodoxy like the Pre-Conciliar Popes. But it certainly cannot be denied that this papacy is a brutal rupture even compared to the former one… Heck, it is a brutal rupture even compared to Paul VI’s…
Mind, I do agree that Francis is V II on steroids, and Benedict was still V II; with a foot on the brakes perhaps, but still V II. But to put the two in the same pan is the same as stating that Elvis Presley is in the end the same as Lady Gaga, because Elvis Presley was already different from Pat Boone. Feel free to pick different singers if you like, I think you know what I mean.
If Benedict had Catholic influenza, Francis has Catholic syphilis.
Benedict is being here, if you ask me, deliberately Francis-ised in order to let the latter appear less scandalous. The only result of this is, though, that such an exercise only makes the former appear more scandalous. If you are a sound Catholic, there is. If you aren’t, and most aren’t, this will probably work as another dose of tranquilliser, and the suitably and comfortably numbed nuCatholic will go to sleep with another dose of Catholic Valium, telling himself that all is well and the world is, actually, rather peaceful.
By all Benedict’s shortcomings, and the questionable and at times horrible things he has said and done before and after becoming Pope, I allow myself not to buy this one.
Let me end with a short, sad reflection:
Pius XII managed to covert the Chief Rabbi of Rome.
Benedict obviously didn’t manage to convert a Protestant quisque de populo.
Francis justifies fears he might be about to be converted to Judaism.
I must think rather often of the Pontiff Emeritus these days; namely, every time the Bishop of Rome decides to impart to us another lesson in heretical thinking, revolutionary Christianity or abetting of sexual perversion.
Pope Benedict appointed almost half of the Cardinals going into the 2013 Conclave. Francis’ election is, to around half, literally the result of his own doing. It must, therefore, be rather bitter for the Pontiff Emeritus to see how his own successor – for whose election he himself, Benedict, is responsible – to mock, dismantle or threaten everything Pope Benedict has worked for.
This is, if you ask me, a fitting punishment; it is, the way I see it, as if the Lord would force him to see the consequences of his own mistakes, whilst still on this world.
Benedict always acted like the one who thinks he does not need to act, and a couple of symbolic gestures and sundry encouragements will be sufficient to steer the Barque in the right direction. Unfortunately it does not work that way, and he who is put in a position of power and responsibility but fails to exercise this power and shoulder this responsibility is an excellent candidate for failure and ridicule.
Pope Benedict liked the Tridentine Mass, but he did not have the guts to forcefully impose it to his bishops; he sincerely wanted sound, and orthodox bishops, but when the big conflict came (with Monsignor Wagner, in Austria) he refused to impose himself on the Austrian clergy and caved in in the most shameful way; he would have certainly wished a successor willing to continue on his path, but he obviously did not have the energy to appoint those sound, conservative, orthodox Cardinals who would have never dreamed of appointing a maverick like Bergoglio.
In this tragedy, I suspect the lack of teeth played only one part. We must reflect that Benedict is still a product of V II and one of the man who – admittedly, from the second row – shaped it. He does not have the “lio” madness of his disgraceful successor, but he was certainly “collegial” enough not to stem the tide of stupidity coming from his dioceses. He must have thought – at least in part – that whatever the instances and the flawed ideology of the local churches, they have a right for these instances and these ideologies to be reflected in the appointment of bishops, and even cardinals.
The result is plain to see: bishops waving their hand like disadvantaged kindergarten children in Rio, and cardinals able to appoint a Bergoglio to the top job.
Pope Benedict will live his last years in the bitter knowledge he is the ultimate responsible not only for his own humiliation and the dismounting, brick by brick – I use this expression on purpose – of his own Pontificate, but for the plunging of the Church in an abyss of populism he must, most certainly, abhor.
A fitting punishment, as I have already pointed out. Let him see what happens to the Church he certainly loves when absence of spine and adherence to conciliar values meet to create such an explosive result as Pope Gay The First.
If Benedict had only paid more attention in his appointments of cardinals, he could now relax and watch with satisfaction his predecessor continuing on his line with more energy and enthusiasm. If he had also refused to cave in to the local hierarchies and had appointed sound and orthodox bishops, he could now look with satisfaction at an increase in vocations – and the right ones – as the fabric of the Church in the Western countries is slowly repaired. But he did neither the first nor the second, and now even Summorum Pontificum, for which his own Pontificate will be most surely remembered, might be swept away the first morning Francis feel like a bit of “lio”.
This is what happens when those in whose power it is to act prefer to teach instead, and do not care that their pupils are riotous and only waiting for them to go away.
The single man who bears the most responsibility for Bergoglio’s appointment is the Pontiff Emeritus. No one else can say he played such a big role in his election as Ratzinger did.
He will have to live with the regrets and the humiliations for the rest of his life.
They are both of his own doing. Therefore, he deserves both.
The new four-hand encyclical letter, Lumen Fidei, will be released on Friday. It surely calls for a quiet evening with a glass of brandy, some good chocolate and Beethoven – if you have a “Renaissance Prince” moment – in the background. I can't wait.
It would be easy to make the obvious joke and say the periods with five or six subordinates are Benedict's, and those ending with “eh?” or “no?” are Francis' … I will certainly resist the temptation… If I can.
More seriously, I can't imagine the work has not been revised by some wise theologian's pen, to give it uniformity of style, disguise the obvious gap between the heavyweight and the featherweight and not make it possible to say what is the one's, or the other's. This, assuming the encyclical is exclusively the work of the two, which does not have to be the case.
For the moment, I register with some satisfaction that the official version appears to be in Latin. I had feared Spanish, or perhaps Esperanto.
We shall see. Prepare the brandy.
I always admired the quiet style and soft diplomacy of blogging priests, a feat of which I am entirely incapable. I actually suspect in seminary they are trained to face confrontations or thorny issues in a fitting way, as I seem to recognise a certain “style” through the board; as if there were rules they all follow, though they don’t write about them.
In the last three months, the traumatic transition from one Papacy to the other has put blogging priests in front of huge challenges because of the (now) conflicting duties between loyalty to the Pope – which is clearly more pronounced in a priest than in a layman, as it should be – and the loyalty to sound – at times, basic – Catholicism, both of them slapped in the face by the present Pontiff everytime the fancy takes him to say something he thinks smart, or pleasing to his audience.
Speaking here only of the blogs I like, up to now I have recognised three styles of reaction. They all have in common a soft, diplomatic, conciliatory approach, but differ visibly in the way they do it. In my eyes, they are the following.
1. Ignore the scandals. Whenever the Pope blunders, the blogging priest of type 1 just does not write on the matter, at all. “Bishop XYZ appointed to the archdiocese of ABC”, or “Conference on TLM in ABC” are the likely blog post issues. They seem to say – without saying it – “what is a poor blogging priest to do in a situation like this…”. My sympathy goes out to them.
2. Amplify the good news. This type of blogger will insist in wanting that we see Francis as a continuation of Benedict, and exhibit in a triple salto mortale to persuade us Francis is a perfectly suited Pope, if we just care to look at things from the right angle. Not bad, merely different. Again, I appreciate the spirit and admire the good will. As I see it, though, the problem with this approach is firstly that, if you allow the metaphor, a peasant has succeeded a professor, and the difference is so brutally evident no amount of good will can ever bridge it; secondly, that the new Pontiff talks nonsense with such alarming frequency – and, which is worse, with such indifference towards his own blunders; clearly the fruit of humility – that every comparison with his extremely guarded predecessor has been untenable for the last, erm, three months. Summa summarum, I would call strategy Nr 2 a very nice try, that would have great success if Pope Francis were not so … Pope Francis.
3. Criticise brutally with nice words. This third – and by far littlest – group will word the criticism in such a way that it is still clearly within the boundaries allowed to a blogging priest, but does not hide much of everything that is going wrong. Again, I have found only very few of these blogs, but when I do they are worth the reading. They find the way to make the messages very clear, but so nicely wrapped.
It will be interesting to see how this situation evolves as this Papacy unfolds. I find it very difficult to believe Francis will want to make his reign more similar to Pope Benedict’s as time goes by; actually, I suspect the contrary will be the case, with the new Pope introducing more and more his own style (or lack thereof) in the years to come, particularly after the not improbable death of the Pontiff Emeritus (may he have a long and happy retirement) during Pope Francis’ pontificate.
We shall see. Please cut some slack to your favourite blogging priests, whose situation is rather different from the one of a layman, and not easy at all.
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.
After the events of the last days, it might be good to refresh an elementary principle of logic that is, if you ask me, all too often forgotten: the principle of non-contradiction. The principle states that contradictory principles cannot be true in the same sense at the same time. It seems obvious, and it is, but one would be surprised at reflecting how often it is neglected.
Pope Francis, as we all know, refused to wear the Mozzetta and the golden cross. His new attitude found, we are informed, many friends among Catholics, to whom “simplicity” is suddenly so appealing, particularly now that a phenomenon completely unknown during the history of the Papacy (I am obviously referring to the poor) has appeared. Perhaps we should stop a moment and reflect on what is happening here.
As you all know, Catholicism is very rich in symbolism. It is, in fact, so densely populated with it, that a typical trait of Protestant denominations is either the toning down or the outright abandonment of the extremely rich Catholic traditions.
The sedia gestatoria wasn't the way the Church prevented a Pope from muddling his shoes. The Tiara wasn't conceived so that he Had to keep his head straight. The ermine Mozzetta isn't there because Popes are old and need to keep warm. They are symbols of Papal authority, a sensorial way (visual, in this case) to remind one in a simple but effective manner of a supernatural reality. Of course, it is not the Tiara that count, it's the Papacy; but every attack to the symbols of power symbolises, nay, it literally invites, a weakening of this power.
In past ages, everyone understood this, and this symbolism found application everywhere. When Kings had real power, they had real crowns, and real sceptres, symbolising their position; symbols of power whose use in real life has almost disappeared, together with their power. Similarly, when Priests wanted to be recognised as such they wore a cassock; when they started to be “one of us”, they started to wear priestly suits; and when they started to be ashamed of being priests, they started to wear plain clothes. You can think of further thirty examples of this elementary logic for yourselves. Symbols are powerful.
Some of the symbols of Papal authority are now – if we are honest with ourselves – under attack. After the sedia gestatoria and the mitra, the Mozzetta, golden cross and red shoes are now supposed to go. Make no mistake, this attack to the symbols of the Papacy is, whether willingly or not, a weakening and banalisation of the majesty of the Petrine Office.
Which leads us nicely to the initial argument: this abandonment of the traditional symbolism of the Papacy can find you in agreement or not, but not both at the same time.
It can't be that Benedict was right in recovering aspects of Catholic tradition, and Francis is right in demolishing them. One of them must be wrong, because they are at opposite poles of the way to understand the art the Papacy must be perceived. Again, this here is not about not liking red shoes, or thinking the Mozzetta is too warm; it is about wanting that the authority of the Papacy is clearly, immediately, unmistakably perceived. This desire, cultivated for centuries and so very typical of Catholicism, cannot be right and wrong at the same time. You either are with with Benedict and his predecessors, or with Francis.
Why, then, so many commenters around many blogs, who were all in favour of Benedict's red shoes, are now enthusiastic fans of Francis' black ones? Because they aren't thinking, they are merely emoting; which latter also avoids the embarrassment of having to think “the Pope is wrong”, apparently a taboo among so many that I begin to think the Protestant mockery of “Papolatry” certainly applies to a good many simple Catholics.
Imagine a new, young queen appearing in low-cut jeans and t-shirt, and the crowd saying “how beautiful! How simple! How humble! So long, useless pomp of the past! She is one of us, why shouldn't she dress like one of us?”. The answer obviously is that she shouldn't, because she isn't. But if she starts to dress like one, at some point she'll certainly be.
Thinking of which, why is the red Mozzetta not in order, but the white cassock is? Why should the “bishop of Rome” not dress like every other bishop? Everyone knows he is the Pope, right? And why a cassock? How many priests wear cassocks? Would not be more “humble” and “simple” to wear a simple priestly suit? What about trousers and sweaters? Why not jeans? He is one of us, right?
So long, shoes! Welcome, sandals!
“But, no, Mundabor, he isn't! He is the Pope! Successor of Peter! Vicar of Christ!”.
Exactly. He is the Pope, Successor of Peter and Vicar of Christ, and out of respect for the Holy Office with which he was entrusted he should have the humility to dress accordingly and appropriately, whether he likes it or not.
I'd say this respect for one's office is fitting for everyone, but most of all for a Pope.
It would appear that a new consistory is rather probable within the end of the year.
This is not entirely surprising as the vacancies are now numerous. By the end of the year there will be the possibility of appointing 15 Cardinals (if Pope Benedict wants to remain by the number of 120 elettori, that is). Now, this is at least one eighth of the next conclave, probably more – due to the system which sees Cardinals continuously losing electorate – and it is clear enough that every consistory can, in and of itself, radically change the situation at the next Conclave.
Pope Benedict is still in rather good health, but at 84 and with a past of heart problems I’m sure he is not planning for a reign of JP II’s duration. It is therefore rather important that this consistory injects the right energies into the next conclave.
Much is at stake, as both Summorum Pontificum and the relationship with the SSPX and the other traditionalist groups could be seriously compromised in case the next conclave results in a serious mistake. On the other hand, a careful but noticeable shifting of the centre of gravity towards the right wing would give everyone the serenity necessary for long-term hopes.
Ideally – if you ask me – Pope Benedict would appoint only one or two of the liberals to appease them (Nichols’ appointment is this time, alas, very probable) and choose for all other places men of undoubted liturgical and theological orthodoxy, possibly rather young so that they stay around for a long time.
I wish the Holy Father a long and healthy reign of course, but the demographic reality is what it is and it must be clear to us that this might be the last consistory of this pontificate.
Ad multos annos, Papa! But please, please conservative appointments!
If you go here at around 2:10:00 (make haste, because it might disappear in the next days) you’ll have a good example of what doesn’t work with the Church in England.
The BBC journalist insists in posing irritating, but actually very fitting questions to Archbishop Longley. Thankfully, the journalist has got it that the Pope was, during Condomgate, “not saying anything terribly new” and he therefore asks – understandably, from his ungodly perspective – whether the Church is going to “change” Her opinion about condoms and, more fittingly, whether the average English Catholics accepts “lock, stock and barrel” the Catholic doctrine.
This would be an ideal occasion to launch oneself on a passionate defence of Truth, on BBC’s “Today” programme, on Christmas Eve. Which is, I was told, what an Archbishop is supposed to do anyway.
Instead, Archbishop Langley’s answers oscillate between the inane, the cowardly and the pathetic. He goes on and on remembering the success of the Papal visit; talks about how much the church is looking for “dialogue”; insists on Cardinal Newman in a way clearly meant to avoid the show of “tough love” required of him; tries not to answer the journalist’s questions and even says that he thinks that Catholics in England accept “lock, stock and barrel” the Catholic teaching, “otherwise they wouldn’t be Catholic”. Good Lord; do we live on the same planet….
The buzz words, though, are all there. Dialogue is obviously there and change is also felt as appropriate. “The Church is constantly changing”, says he when he talks of the ways the Church talks to the people. This is meant to sound positive, I suppose, but the guts to say loud and clear that the Truth doesn’t change and everyone must come to terms with that is clearly more than he can muster. So we have on the one side the hurt feeling of perverts – explicitly and emphatically championed by the Beeb man – and on the other hand we have a man insisting with you that the Church “changes” because now the Pope talks to you on the radio. Brilliant.
Archbishop Longley (not one of the worst, for sure; for the English standard, I mean) has given a wonderful example of why the Church struggles in this country: because it is afraid to say it straight and prefers to hide behind successful visits, blessed Cardinals and easy slogans of “dialogue” and “change” instead.
You can read on Rorate Coeli (you’ll have to scroll down to the 21st December) the Note of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith “on trivialization of sexuality” (American spelling, apparently. Fair enough…).
This is nothing less than an official statement about Condomgate. If you take the few minutes to read it, you’ll notice that the arguments it makes are not in the least different from the comment made on this and other orthodox blogs at the time of the controversy.
What one notices is that at least here in the UK the media have chosen to completely ignore this statement in the same way as they had – once it became clear that they had once again pissed outside of the pan – conveniently decided to move to other topics.
As a result the truth didn’t get one hundredth of the media attention given to the lie and untold non-churchgoer Catholics must be somewhat under the impression that after all the Church can change Her teaching and therefore, well, must change it in order to become, ehem, more similar to them.
This is further prove that the media landscape of this country – largely dominated by champagne liberals, liberals who can’t afford the champagne and socialists who think they’re liberals – is not interested in information, but in manipulation of the (license-paying) public.
Just in case you had thought that I am the only one jumping from the chair when he reads what our disgraziato wants to smuggle as Catholicism, I refer here about the reaction caused by the same Archbishop Vincent “Quisling” Nichols on Mr. John Smeaton, the head of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children. Mr. Smeaton has, as previously reported, his own blog, and an excellent one at that.
The ire of Mr. Smeaton was referred to an interview given by Vincent “Quisling” Nichols to the Daily Telegraph (the once conservative, now pinkish-PC daily newspaper) on the 11 September.
In this interview, Nichols is asked whether he thinks that the Church will ever “accept the reality of gay partnerships” (notice here: the “Telegraph” doesn’t write “homosexual”. “Gay” is the word of choice. As everything in the DT, it exudes political correctness. How very gay.) and he answers “I don’t know”. I admit to have read the article and to have given “Quisling” the benefit of the doubt; not being a mother tongue, I thought that this “I don’t know” could be meant in the same way as the “I’m not sure about that” used to express your clear disagreement; I have, therefore, not blogged on the matter.
Interestingly, though, Mr. Smeaton points out to another affirmation of the same man, interviewed by the BBC on the same matter and answering: “”I don’t know. Who knows what’s down the road?”
“Who knows what’s down the road?!” Well for one you are supposed to know what’s down the road, Mr. Nichols!!
I have already mentioned yesterday, but repetita iuvant, what Vincent “Quisling” Nichols is bound to know and to say about these perverted “unions”:
In those situations where homosexual unions have been legally recognized or have been given the legal status and rights belonging to marriage, clear and emphatic opposition is a duty. One must refrain from any kind of formal cooperation in the enactment or application of such gravely unjust laws and, as far as possible, from material cooperation on the level of their application. In this area, everyone can exercise the right to conscientious objection.
I will also, like Smeaton, mention CCC 2357 here as I didn’t do it yesterday:
Homosexuality refers to relations between men or between women who experience an exclusive or predominant sexual attraction toward persons of the same sex. It has taken a great variety of forms through the centuries and in different cultures. Its psychological genesis remains largely unexplained. Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity,141 tradition has always declared that “homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered.”142 They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved.
I’ll avoid sending my adrenaline sky-high just writing what I think of this disgraziato. Read and reach your conclusions for yourself. Unbelievably, this is an archbishop of the Only Church. It’s like listening to a Nancy Pelosi with some brain; or to an Anglican with some fear of actually being disciplined.
John Smeaton’s conclusion is perfectly logic:
“..as a Catholic parent, I am in a position to say, and on behalf of Catholic parents I meet up and down the country, that Archbishop Nichols’s, my archbishop’s, comments are dangerous to the souls of my children”
He later quotes from Evangelium Vitae and points out that:
“it is an illusion to think that we can build a true culture of human life if we do not offer adolescents and young adults an authentic education in sexuality, and in love, and the whole of life according to their true meaning and in their close interconnection”.
Archbishop Vincent “Quisling” Nichols is not interested in all this. He doesn’t give a penny for two thousand years of Christian teaching; he pretends not to know Vatican documents on the matter; he pretends (we have seen it yesterday) that Pope Benedict is even of his opinion; he even pretends to completely ignore what JP II’s Catechism very clearly says on the matter.
This man is just a disgrace for the Church and an enemy in our midst.
The address where to send your email of complaint is email@example.com
Please point out to this scandal. Let us help those of good will in the Vatican (I’m sure there is someone, and more than someone) to clean the Church from their enemies.
Another brilliant article by Stephen Glover on the Daily Mail.
Glover points out, with great clarity, to some striking facts:
1) Benedict’s authority eclipses Rowan Williams’
2) Irrespective of authority, Benedict has the guts to say things straight and Rowan Williams hasn’t.
3) There is a thirst for religious values. The coE can’t satisfy it. It doesn’t even want.
4) The atheist crowd has been silenced and exposed for what they are: haters. But they hate Benedict, not RW, because the latter is no threat at all.
Let us read some of the most striking passages of this eye-opening article.
“In a manner wholly unlike our home-grown clerics, the Pope spoke to the soul of our country, affirming eternal moral verities which our own political and religious leaders normally prefer to avoid”.
“Pope Benedict’s declarations over the past few days have been remarkable and, in modern Britain, virtually unprecedented”.
It is almost a shock to hear a religious leader speak in so blunt a way, so inured are we to our own religious leaders, particularly Church of England bishops, accommodating themselves to secular values.
(I would add here: Catholic bishops are not bad at accommodating secular values, either)
“The tragedy is that Dr Williams and Anglican bishops probably agree with almost everything Pope Benedict said about the dangers of secularism – and yet they do not have the courage, or whatever it takes, to say it”.
And whereas the Pope speaks clearly in English, which is his third or fourth language, Dr Williams often speaks opaquely or in riddles in the language that is his own.
(true.. 😉 ).
In his concluding address, Pope Benedict said that he had discovered ‘how deep a thirst there is among the British people for the good news of Jesus Christ’. He is right. And yet how often our national Church – the Church of England – fails to proclaim this good news.
In large parts of the Anglican Church there is a sense of defeatism in the face of the incoming tide of secularism, as congregations dwindle and parish churches close. But look at the young people in Hyde Park or those lining Princes Street in Edinburgh or those standing outside Westminster Cathedral. They yearn for the good news, and they invite moral certainty. Would it be too much to hope that Anglican bishops might learn something from the fearless commitment of the Pope?
Speaking of the aggressive anti-Catholic atheists, Glover writes:
Their foaming and often unbalanced denunciations of the Pope reveal their fear. They fear him because he adheres so strongly to traditional Christian teaching and champions principles they abhor. They fear him because the values he reiterates commend themselves to millions of people and, above all, to millions of young people. They do not trouble to vent their spite and vitriol on the Archbishop of Canterbury because Dr Williams has been so cowed by the forces of secularism that he no longer poses any threat to their bleak vision.
In invoking the heritage of our Christian past, and suggesting we might still have a principled Christian future, Benedict XVI has achieved more than the Church of England over many years. The lesson of the past few days is that Britain is not quite the deeply un-Christian country that the BBC and other parts of the media would have us believe.
Of course, Mr. Glover doesn’t get it completely right. He describes papal infallibility as “bizarre” and doesn’t even stop to reflect what be so “bizarre” in it, or to wonder whether he has perchance not just assisted to infallibility at work.
Still, this is a remarkably outspoken article making clear that the country can recover its values and that a courageous Pope, not the so-called church of England is the one able to do the job.
I imagine that a good part of the Daily Mail reader, whilst not Catholic, feel an instinctive sympathy not only for the courage of the man Benedict, but for the courage of an institution not ready to accommodate her principles to those of the world. One can only hope that in time, this vague perception may become in many a more profound feeling and identification with Christian values and the acknowledgment that those values cannot be adequately defended by imitations, but only by the Original.
Rorate Coeli has a beautiful detail that will make you smile; very fitting for a Monday.
When in Westminster Abbey for the Evensong (about which I have written here), Pope Benedict wore a stole made for Pope Leo XIII.
Now, Pope Benedict is profound and intelligent enough not to wear a stole from a Pope who has been dead these more than 100 years simply because he likes the look of it. No, this stole was certainly a willed, conscious, tribute to a particular Pope in a particular circumstance.
Leo XIII is, as I have repeatedly stated on this blog, the Pope of Apostolicae Curae (please see link under “Church Teaching”). With Apostolicae Curae, Pope Leo XIII has not (importantly) decreed, but he has repeated the nullity of Anglican orders.
What a pleasant, saucy old German Pastor we have ; )
1) As largely expected, no show: no “ground kissing”, no crowds at the airport.
2) Motorcade could have been better: the Holy Father squeezed into a Jaguar XJ (wonderful car, but almost a coupe’); the car is a fairly new product and a beautiful example of the ability of the British automotive industry. One cannot avoid to suspect that the vehicle was chosen with publicity, more than the Holy Father’s comfort, in mind. Those of you who follow these things will have noticed the “60” registration: the car was registered after the 1 September 2010. The rest of the motorcade was a heterogeneous mixture of BMWs (the “5” at the head), Range Rover, Range Rover Sport, even a MPV. Different colours. Not really impressive.
3) Holy Father less fragile than I had expected. Looks like he can bury Hitchens, easily, and pray for his soul after he has gone. He went up the stairs of the welcome podium unaided and with rather sure foot; his voice is firm. My congratulations to the other two, in splendid form. The Queen walking with the Pope reminded me of dear Margaret Rutherford.
4) Thankfully, Pope Benedict has not waited before launching the first salvos. As I had hoped, he has basically repeated (in diplomatic form) Cardinal Kasper’s remarks of yesterday. As I had feared, he has made it diplomatically enough as not to cause embarrassment.
5) The thing with the scarf was very nice. He even wore it on the (horrible, almost demeaning) Popemobile. Salmond and a couple of other people wore it too. A nice touch that will, I think, be fondly remembered by the people over there.
6) Participation seems rather good. Police says 100,000 in Edinburgh. I am against overvaluing this element, but one sees that a generalised hostility to the Pope is most certainly not there.
Interesting article from Daily Mail’s Stephen Glover.
Mr. Glover is the son of an Anglican vicar and, as such, not the least biased to consider everything Catholic. His deficiencies in matters of Catholicism are crudely shown by his assertion that the Anglican orders have been invalid since 1896 (which is obviously wrong: they have been invalid since the reign of the Bastard King, Edward VI; in 1896 it was merely repeated that they are invalid because many Anglicans were trying to pretend they weren’t) and that the Pope has been infallible since 1870 (obviously wrong for the same reason, the Pope having always been infallible and the Papal infallibility being merely declared dogmatically in 1870). He also gets it totally wrong when he says that Benedict was “slow to grasp” the extent of the homosexual priests’ child abuse problem, when the evidence shows that the man was uncommonly perceptive and decisive in his actions.
We can therefore see that this man has everything one needs to be virulently anti-Catholic: wrong religious background, erroneous conceptions about the Church and even what he thinks is, basically, an offence done to dad. (His comparison with a “witch doctor” in reference to his father is again totally irrational and wrongly emotional: the comparison with a lay preacher, albeit one in grave error, is the more appropriate one).
Still, even a person with such a biased background can reason and point out to some interesting facts:
1) there has been so much talk about the costs of the visit but I can’t remember (nor can he) the same kind of talk by the visit of African dictators, or the like. It is only when the Pope comes that suddenly everyone is interested in the costs. That the British government doesn’t pay for the cost of the pastoral visits and the £10m mentioned are largely forked by Catholic faithful also seems not to interest anyone. In fact, Mr. Glover also seems to have overlooked this simple fact;
2) Even an Anglican like Glover admits that “Pope Benedict expounds what he believes is Christian doctrine in a courageous way” and “does not bend to fashionable secular trends, and holds fast to beliefs which are those of the traditional Church”. Once again we see that unless one is completely blinded by his ideological hatred (Dawkins, C. Hitchens) or, probably more often, by his sexual perversions (Tatchell, Fry) one is naturally inclined to show proper respect to those who have ideals bigger than their own existence and fight for them. “Isn’t it admirable?” is the rhetorical question Glover asks his readers and we all know the answer.
3) He criticises the fanaticism of the hard-core atheists and more importantly the space given to them by the media, in primis by the BBC . If even biased Anglicans start to see that the BBC is truly crossing a line, perhaps there’s hope that something will change. Mr. Glover explicitly agrees with Cardinal Keith O’Brien on the matter, about which I have already reported here.
Let me conclude with the beautiful words of Mr. Glover:
Notwithstanding all the hatchet jobs that have been executed and others that are planned, Pope Benedict’s visit will probably make a deep impression on many people, including non-Christians.
We may not agree with everything he says, or even with his most fundamental beliefs. But his visit should be welcome because he is something rare in the modern world. A decent man of principle.
I was sitting in front of the TV, looking at images of the Papal Visit. It was a dream so there were a lot of things that are not entirely rational, you understand.
The first thing I remember are the cars lined up at the airport waiting for the guests. A long line of midnight blue Mercedes S-Class and Jaguar XJs, with some Lancia Thesis in the back (I always liked that car, you know. These things always play a role in a dream). “Carabinieri” everywhere, in their usual perfectly elegant black suits with red stripes. Near them, the MET policemen with their yellow thingies and triple bulletproof jackets look like apprentice clowns. All cars have Vatican diplomatic flags and make a rather impressive show of power. Not “spit us in the face and we’ll be telegenic”-power, but rather “we can make the PM unemployed”-power. David Cameron looks slightly green.
It being a dream, at the center of the long line there is a wonderful Mercedes 600, also midnight blue. “Beautiful, that they have decided to use it again”, I think. The BBC commenter is saying that that is the car of the Pope, but the curtains don’t allow to look in. “Very good again”, I think in my dream, “this means that the years of the Pope trying to be a pop star are gone”. No “ice cream van-looking” Popemobiles in sight, with the Holy Father in it treated as if he was an exotic animal just come in from far away and you almost wait for people throwing peanuts at him. I breathe the air of dignity, of importance, of authority the long line of cars clearly conveys. The message is unmistakable. The Pope is not visible, but in everyone’s mind. Exactly his being not visible is what puts him so clearly on the stage.
And in fact, I seem to hear that even in the voice of the BBC commenter (it was a dream, so I knew that he was sipping from a finely etched champagne flute; but again this fact was totally natural to me, as if I wasn’t expecting anything different); there is in him a sense of awe, of occasion. His subdued, almost hushed voice is a clear sign that the long line of cars, the strange but awfully prestigious oldtimer in the middle, the obvious show of power, all demand respect in no uncertain terms. Much as he would have wanted to he can’t avoid feeling, well, rather insignificant. Being a journalist, he hates that.
He has prepared a long list of “reflections” about paedophile priests, wymyn “dissent”, priest celibacy, london buses and the like. They all sounded very intelligent and oh so progressive in a champagne-sipping way when he was rehearsing them, careful to get the right amount of patronising smugness in his tone. Now he realises that they would just feel stupid. Stupid like a petty quarrel put in front of the Mistery, or like a spoiled aggressive child trying to kick a splendid oak. The shamelessness of the display is in such contrast with the modern fake modesty he is accustomed to (PMs in jeans, or jackets without tie; fake informality; “I am just one of you”-atmosphere) that he is ten meters in offside before he even realises it. He knows that all this is wanted and he knows what everyone is thinking: this is not a PM playing “one of the people”. This is a glimpse of the splendour of Christ.
“Cunning bastards”, he thinks whilst sipping; still, he feels the awe and is fascinated by how it works even on him, against his will.
The helicopters continue to film the line of cars. The motorbikes are on both sides, huge crowds greet the Pontiff as the cars drive solemnly by; some close-up pictures show young women in girlish excitement, old ladies in tears , fathers holding up their children to allow them to see (it was a dream, so no health & safety madness here). They are driving along Constitution Hill now and making it all blue, and already the cars enter Buckingham Palace. Prince Charles is standing in the forecourt, in a traditional Arab dress, ready to welcome the Pope in his role as “defender of the faiths”. But look! The cars don’t stop for him and disappear directly – and with the magic of dreams – within the Palace itself. “They have probably not recognised him” says the commenter, astonished. He has been joined by another one. Being this a dream, the new commenter is Alan Hansen. As always, I can’t understand a word of what he says.
“Up to now” – says the BBC champagne-sipping but RP-speaking chap – “no one has seen the Holy Father, ahem, Pope Benedict” and bites his lip. He shouldn’t allow the pump to influence him, but he just can’t help it. “These people truly know what they’re doing”, he thinks. He knows this is the thought in everyone’s mind. “Bastards”, he thinks once again. But he knows he can’t help admiring their chutzpah. “I preferred JP II’s times”, he goes on reflecting. “Very telegenic, great audiences, no one cared a dime for what he said but everyone wanted to see him trembling. I would tell the audience why the Church is all wrong and explain how they can improve; all in a gentle, understanding tone not without symphaty for the less fortunate who believe in God. How I felt terribly superior! It doesn’t work anymore. Ah! Those were the days!”
It being a dream, I am now inside the Palace. The Queen is waiting for the Pope. She sits on a very strange throne made entirely of living Corgis, strangely sitting over each other and combined as to form a throne where she can comfortably sit. The Corgis all smile like the Cheshire Cat, but I know that the Queen doesn’t have any Cheshire Cat so they must all be Welsh Corgis. Suddenly, the Queen showing great energy jumps from her Corgi-throne (loud, but dignified yelping) and kneels at the feet of the Holy Father amidst the hushed expressions of dismay of the diplomatic personnel, saying in an extremely posh voice: “Holy Father, we want to convert to Catholicism. Please free us from this disgraceful sect of atheist madmen”.
The Archbishop of Canterbury is present, and feigns indifference. Strangely, he is Vincent Nichols. He wears a rainbow chasuble with a huge “peace” sign at the front. Nichols says to the Pope that the Queen’s opinion does not reflect his own; he informs the Queen that she is a Catholic already, only not Roman, because her accent would clearly betray her as British. “We all speak the same language of God, Peace and Love” – says he stressing the words and counting them with his fingers, as to indicate the Most Holy Trinity – “only in slightly different tongues, Majesty“. He then proceeds to invite both to the homo mass he organises every week in Soho. “Very inclusive”, says he, “and great fun! You should see their “Little Britain” parody during the liturgical dance, Mr. Ratzinger!”.
The Holy Father looks like he would have a good use for a Beretta 92FS (it is a dream, remember!) and it is clear that he has made a mental note. He doesn’t say anything.
And then we are outside again. It is a magnificent Cathedral and I recognise it, it is Canterbury Cathedral. It being a dream, I remember that last year it has been bought back from the Anglicans at a firesale price because the Anglicans need to pay the lawyer’s bill. I smile at the fact that I still haven’t grown used to the fact. But I remember very well that many E & W bishops were strongly opposed, thinking that the purchase offended the Anglican community and was nothing to do with “ecumenism”. They wanted to make of it a Muslim Cultural Centre instead.
I am in the Cathedral now, but again the cameras stay out. Out is also a huge crowd, spreading beyond the little town, vehicular traffic blocked since dawn. Alan Hansen is near me and is now commenting live for the radio but as always with him I can’t understand a word. I don’t care because I am in anyway. The Pope has not been seen by the crowds yet. There is a total refusal to make of him a “popular icon”. But the crowd understands that this is because he is so much more.
I am waiting for the Mass to begin now. Everyone is there. The Queen is there, the Corgis are also there but now they are intricately put together to form a furry pew. Cameron is darkish green in the face, Clegg is yellow. Brown is brown (yes, that brown) and must always be stopped because he continues to say “bigoted woman!” and “it must have been Sue!”. Blair is at the entrance, distributing books no one accepts. He gets an egg in his face instead. Lord Mandelson is near him, wearing a tutu and also trying to give away books with his photo. People look at him in a strange way. No one says a word. Evidently, they are all still afraid of him. And evidently, they are all English.
Vin Nichols has a portable Hindu altar and is planning to worship in front of it, but he is Anglican so my dream doesn’t particularly care for him. All twelve Milliband brothers are present as they are all candidates for the top job over at the party. Unfortunately, their mother has told them she’d vote for the Pope instead, so they are all rather downbeat.
The Pope is at the centre of the attention. Old, but not frail. Gentle, but nobody’s doormat. Subdued in tones, but I hear Cameron thinking (it is a dream, remember) “this is one I don’t want to have against me” and “I must ditch the homos; there’s no choice I am afraid; who cares for the bloody frockers anyway”.
The Holy Father delivers the sharpest, most threatening homily Cameron has ever heard; he informs the PM of the historical existence of Jesus; speaks about abortion, divorce, euthanasia, tolerance for sexual perversions, a country going to the dogs (the corgis all nod here, in a very dignified way). He also touches the issue of the eternal fire and everyone knows he sees Cameron’s soul on the line; but he makes clear that there is still hope. Cameron’s green becomes slightly lighter and he thinks that the worst might be over.
But then the Holy Father starts talking about bees and flowers and everyone understands: he is instructing Cameron on marriage; with goodness and patience, as you would do with a child.
All eyes are on Cameron. He is decidedly pea green now and his roundish face looks a bit like a watermelon. He feels like a Pakistani cricket player caught in the “News of the World”. Brown still looks like his party, with or without the twelve Millibands.
Change of scene again. The Mass has ended. The helicopter shows to the TV audiences the huge masses outside. I know it because it’s a dream. Cameron’s skin is now clearly of a very dark British Racing Green and he is visibly shaken. He trips on Nichols kneeling in front of his Hindu altar and utterly ruins his garland. Nichols is angry. “You bloody queen”, he murmurs to Cameron’s ear, but Mandelson is just there and clearly hears every word. Mandelson makes a mental note. Nichols shivers. Embarrassment all around. Nichols has a brilliant idea and invites him to his homo mass too. “They’ll love your tutu”, says he one instant before realising that this can be construed as a joke rather than honest brown-nosing. Mandelson makes another mental note. Terrified, Nichols turns to the other side where prince Charles sits now clothed in a Tibetan monk outfit (purest silk, you understand) whilst eating delicious orange biscuits “from the farm”, as he puts it. The Holy Father’s convoy is now past them. The Pope sits on a sedia gestatoria, a wonderful Tiara over his head. He goes out in the full light, still on the sedia gestatoria. The immense crowd sees him on the megascreens and goes “ooohhhh” and “aaahhhh”. All cameras are on him. The crowd has stopped rumouring. There is an unreal silence now. The Pope scans them with his kind, but intelligent smile. “Vell, vell, vell”, I hear him think (yes, I do; and yes, in English!), “Ve hef shoved ze Perfidious Albion zet Tsekularism is not ze vay”.
In the silence, a man runs to the Pope. He bows in front of the sedia. A hushed murmur spreads itself among the huge crowd, then becomes a roar of surprise. They have recognised him. Thin, bold, scared, frail, but now hoping. He is Christopher Hitchens. He asks for forgiveness, live on TV, in front of a worldwide audience. “I believe in God, the Father Almighty!”, he says very loud and in tears; then he starts to sob uncontrollably. It tears your heart out. Hansen says something but I don’t understand him. And now the Pope makes one calm, solemn gesture and the sedia is lowered down. The silence is unbearable. He goes near Hitchens, invites him to stand up and looks deep in his eyes. Very deep. The camera nearby takes an extremely close shot of both men’s expression; one is inquisitive, attentive, loving but not to be fooled with; the other is just scared, broken, but you can clearly see that for the first time in his life he dares to ask for hope.
The camera comes still closer, it is perhaps ten seconds but it looks like an eternity. Finally, the Pontiff makes a gesture. It is a blessing. Hitchens cries, the BBC commenters cry, everyone cries, Hansen cries and that even I can understand.
It is a triumph. Everyone kneels down and starts to pray. Rosaries pop out from a thousand pockets, only Nichols continues to stubbornly pray in front of the portable hindu altar and pretends he hasn’t seen anything, his loud OOOOOMMMMMM of defiance lost in the general outroar. The Pope is now led to the Mercedes 600 as the screams become deafening. The long line of cars starts again. The media have instantly spread the news of the conversion everywhere. The crowds on the roadside kneel and pray at the passage of the cars. The helicopters film everything. Seen from above, it is like a hugely long, interminable Ola. I see it from one of the megascreen outside, in the clamour of one thousand Hail Marys.
When everyone has gone away, the cameras take a short shot of one man, alone, sitting there in disbelief. He is Peter Tatchell. No one has noticed his presence.
Then I wake up. I try to fall asleep again and to continue the dream, as I remember I did sometimes as a child. But it is no use. Reality catches up with me with all its harshness.
Vincent Nichols is the Archbishop of Westminster.
I have written some time ago about the lost and now slowly rediscovered solemnity and pomp of papal appearances. I read today from His Hermeneuticalness ‘s blog that the Papal tiara donated by members of the Belgian Court to Pius IX in 1871 could be used during the Papal visit to the UK.
This is good news for more than one reason. Firstly, it shows that Pope Benedict is – would be, might be – determined to give back to the Papacy the dignity which belongs to such a high and sacred office. Secondly, it is a beautiful reminder that not everything must be dumbed down to the lowest common denominator of shallow mass TV audiences. Thirdly and probably most importantly, it shows the will to proceed in a determined way with such a symbolic recovery of papal authority in the country where such authority is most likely to be aggressively fought against.
If the papal tiara is really used during the UK visit, this will be a clear sign that the Holy Father intends to visit the United Kingdom not in a defensive spirit – that is: merely trying to minimise the damage made by the inevitably loud protesters – but with a clear pastoral intent: to refuse to bow down to the rhetoric of the mediocre and the populism of the hypocrites and to show the Greatness, Holiness, Truth and Universality of the Only Church in an assertive and unashamed way.
The Britons – very much fond of ceremonies – will rapidly get the symbolism of the papal tiara and rightly see in its use a show of authority and a claim to spiritual supremacy to which they are not accustomed. They will be perhaps surprised at first but I do trust that, on reflection, they will understand the message. Some will like it and some other won’t, but no one will be able to ignore it.
Let us hope that Pope Benedict will listen to the advice of some of his more conservative minded counsellors and resolve to take a step toward the restoration of assertive Catholicism.
We had more than enough populism during the Pontificate of his predecessor. More than enough shows of humility which became humiliations. More than enough playing down the authority of the Pope. Now is the time for assertiveness, for conservative and undiluted Catholicism, for the return to what is right rather than popular.