29 January 2014

Narcissistic butterflies Episode the Third

"Nescis ... illitteratus nescis ..."
I had never seen our late Holy Father Pope Benedict XIV so agitated, or heard him so cross. I looked around. There were twenty-seven Japanese tourists, gazing with incomprehension at a gigantic canvas of the Temptation of Hercules. Fortunately, they appeared to have heard nothing. The Italian couple embracing on the other side of Pope Clement XII were as self-absorbed (BAD!!!) as before. I looked back. The papal brow was once again serene. The papal lips moved.
"Do you not know that red is the colour most proper to Our Office? What do you think is the real colour of the camauro on my head, the mozzetta round my shoulders, the embroidered stole I am wearing? That is why St Benedict XVI wore them  ... and the red slippers ... to demonstrate the continuity of the papal office. Ever since the Donation of Constantine ... "
"But I thought the colour for popes was white ..."
"Cogitasti, cogitasti ... Red ... the colour of imperium, of martyrium, red was the colour for Roman Pontiffs. The red mantellus was put on him immediately after his election; true, it was put on over the white alba Romana ... or rochet, as you might call it ... and people remarked upon the contrast of the white and red. And gradually what my predecessors wore under the rochet tended also to be white. And so the white became more noticeable, most especially during what you people call the Counter-Reformation or the Renaissance. But the white was always really the informality of the undergarment. Red is the papal colour."
"So ... when Pope Francis the First ..."
"Not 'the First'; the world will never have another Pope Francis."
"So when Pope Francis upon his election refused these garments of red and appeared purely in a white cassock, this was because ..."
"Exactly! It takes a long time for the soldo to drop in your mind! He was symbolising his determination to be the most truly and extremely Renaissance, the most magnificently Absolutist a Prince that had ever graced the Throne of St Peter. Did you not know that new Bergoglio is but old Borgia writ large?"
"Da veniam, Sancte Pater, da veniam ... but consider his humility in taking the name Francis".
"De humilitate loqueris! Quanta haec et qualis humilitas!! Throughout the entire second millennium we popes were content to take names already graced by a previous pontiff, so as to demonstrate our humility and our instinct for the continuity of our office. Adopting a name unknown before in the sedes Petri denotes an immense sense of personal grandeur, transcending that of even the princeliest Renaissance popes. Their self-assertion, lofty as it was, never went beyond using names for the second time which had been used but once before ... Aeneas Sylvius Piccolomini, an admirer of Vergil, called himself Pius II to draw upon himself the greatness of Pius Aeneas, the Founder of Rome, and died organising a Crusade ... and Giuliano della Rovere, another military gentleman who, incidentally, laid the first stone of S Peter's, called himself Julius II quasi natus esset de gente Iulia, de grege Caesarum!! Quibus maiorem iste se Franciscus iactat! Humilitatem dicis! 'Qualis unicus ego', ait, 'talem numquam vidistis!' But, fili dilecte, mi fili, I think your own Carnivale, as we Pontiffs put it, is about to be over ...".

He was right. The Attendant was returning, accompanied by the Museum's resident psychiatrist (this is, after all, a University City) with some large gentlemen carrying a straight-jacket. I was hustled away. It was some little time before I regained my freedom.

I am indebted to Ovid for his Fasti and his Metamorphoses; to Callimachus of Cyrene for his Aitia; to Professor William Tighe for generously making available to me The Pope's Body by Agostino Paravicini-Bagliani; and to the late Fr Michael Melrose, sometime Vicar of S Giles', Reading, whose books and walking sticks support me daily and whose name so often occurs in my Memento etiam.


Supertradmum said...

Dear Father, I have great respect for you but the comparisons are no longer helpful. We must accept different styles and viewpoints from a non-European pope, who is not thinking like any pope before in the history of the Church. A new world pope will not look or sound like a European one...God bless you, but we need to move on from red or brown shoes.

jasoncpetty said...

Sorry, Supert Rad Mum, but Father's point yesterday stands: Istius autem Francisci vestimenta, nihil loqui videntur nisi Me Me Me.

Gerald said...

It's not about the color of the shoes or the mozzetta. It's about what they represent, and what statement is made with them.

To me, reverently following what came before you is a more humble act than drawing attention to yourself through novelties.

Remember when dear Benedict XVI momentarily brought back the camauro? It caused a media commotion across the world. Peter Seewald asked him about it in the interview that would be published as LIGHT OF THE WORLD:

"I wore it only once. I was just cold, and I happen to have a sensitive head. And I said, since the camauro is there, then let’s put it on. But I was really just trying to fight off the cold. I haven’t put it on again since. In order to forestall over-interpretation."

He didn't want to draw undue attention to himself. That's real humility there.

The Rad Trad said...

Thank you for that Fr Hunwicke. Lesson aside that was the best laugh I have had in quite a while.

Fr John Hunwicke said...

Dear supertradmum ... I have published two posts expressing a great desire to see a radically different agenda, including development of the Church's Social Teaching with regard to the poor, from this pontificate. But all we get from those who detested Benedict and (cautiously) love this pontiff because they see him as validating their detestation of his predecessor, is incessant bilge about how Benedict was arrogant and this man is humble.

Please use your influence with the new regime to persuade it to move on from a preoccupation with image to something of substance. It will soon be a year ...

Anonymous said...

Dear Supertradmum:

I have great respect for you, but your comments are no longer helpful.

Would you consider changing your moniker to UltramontaneMum?

Thank you.

Supertradmum said...

Dear Father, thanks for your comments. I do think the South America culture and the Pope's very different experience has a lot to do with our perceptions and our expectations.

We are so use to very sophisticated, and inculurated men, part of the ancient university systems of Europe, that someone coming out of a foreign, albeit, universal Catholic Church, is hard to understand

Of course, I hate the sound bites. But, if you read my interview last March with his personal media secretary which is on my blog, you will see that the Pope is deliberate in everything he does. He is NOT spontaneous. He is a Jesuit.

That the media takes the symbols and runs with them is also not something which would be the same in the Americas. Black and white is the religious perception here, not shades of grey.

Oddly enough, if you would follow the horrible things happening in the States with such as DiNardo and O'Brien, who are positively causing scandal over here, what the Pope has been saying and doing honestly looks less threatening.

Of course, I do not agree with all his decisions to date, but I know the doctrine of infallibility does not cover jet plane conversations or even Angelus statements.

He will not change doctrine.

I shall do my best to be both a respectful and obedient daughter of the Church while noting some of the gross inequalities of actions towards the trads, which has been unnecessary and sad. God bless you and your wonderful work.