Yes; I tricked you there. You thought I would turn left inside the entrance to the Ashmolean Museum and, half way down the Howard Marbles, stop at the bust of Menander (By the way, I am confident that anyone who reads Wodehouse and Ovid will share my conviction that Menander is the Greatest of the Greek Playwrights). But no. Up the stairs I went, pausing only twice for breath, and along the corridor on the first floor to the room at the end, where there is fine series of busts of Renaissance popes, by a gifted but unknown sculptor. I set my folding chair down in front of Papa Lambertini, Benedict XIV, and looked at him. I find that, if I do this for long enough, he talks to me and answers all my questions. I ignored the Attendant who kept asking me if I was Sure that I was All Right.
After some twenty or so minutes, there was the very slightest movement ... not quite a wink ... in the Holy Father's left eye. Using my Fr Melrose walking stick to sweep aside the Attendant (he fled, bleating), I put my question.
"Beatissime Pater, who is right ... about the narcissistic butterflies ... Fr Finegan or I?"
"Rectius tu, fili, iudicasti."
"Thank you, Sanctitas!! But ... in that case, wasn't your successor Benedict XVI a ... well ... a bit of a butterfly himself? The way he sent Good Marini to rummage endlessly through the cupboards of the Vatican and the Roman basilicas ... all those splendid sets of vestments, the mitres, the fanons, that he wore? Every time he appeared on Vatican Player he seemed to be wearing something unseen for decades ... or even for centuries ... isn't that ... butterflyish?"
"Minime minime: now ... you think of yourself as knowledgeable in matters Heraldic; I remember you looking with particular interest at my coat of arms embroidered here on my stole. Did you never notice, as you watched Vatican Player, the arms embroidered on those vestments worn by St Benedict XVI (mehercle; I shouldn't have given away his canonisation)? If you had kept your eyes open, you would have spotted who had ordered each of them to be made."
"Well ... erm ... "
"Some of the vestments were made by order of his recent predecessors; some of Paul VI; some of the Pontiffs of the first part of the last century; some of St Pius IX ... quid dicendum restat?"
"You mean ..."
"Of course I do. As Fr Finegan (a ten times better man than you, by the way) would point out on his admirable blog, it was all Hermeneutic of Continuity. St Benedict XVI was expressing, by the vestments he wore, the fact that, in an unruptured succession of Roman Pontiffs, he was successor of Paul VI no less than of St Pius X; of St Pius IX no less than of Blessed John XXIII. Vixere fortes ante Agamemnona ... vel, si fas est dicere, ante Concilium. Istius autem Francisci vestimenta, nihil loqui videntur nisi Me Me Me."
"But ... but ... but ... what about Benedict's red slippers?"
At this point the Pontiff's marble brow very slightly contracted, almost as if in anger.
To be continued.