8 July 2015

The Next Pontificate

I will be honest about this: there are elements of Pope Francis' public manner which are not as much to my personal taste as were the (two very different) styles of his two predecessors.

But my tastes are an irrelevance. No pope is ever equally to the taste of everybody; and Catholics are under no obligation to go around pretending otherwise. The Catholic Church is not a Stalinist tyranny in which whoever is currently the Party's General Secretary has to be unconditionally idolised and all the old photographs have been airbrushed and Clio herself has had a face-transplant.

What worries me is something rather more substantial.

Remember what happened after Vatican II. An idea of the Council grew up, sometimes called the Spirit of the Council. This idea bore little .... correction, it bore no ... relationship to what the Council had actually taught and mandated. But there are people, there are journalists, who, never having read the acta of the Council, believe otherwise. Recently, the Wall Street Journal informed us that the Council had taught that the Old Covenant had not been superseded in Christ. Ordinary Catholics will tell you that the Council ordered worship to be in the the vernacular, and sanctuaries to be reordered. All that.

All of that is the purest moonshine. But it is that moonshine which holds centre-stage, so that post-Conciliar popes (from Blessed Paul VI onwards) have been criticised for "trying to reverse the Council", when their actions have simply been directed to maintaining the Council, to securing a rereading (or first reading!) of its texts, and to elucidating the hermeneutic according to which it should be understood. Enemies of the Faith have no interest in understanding this, and stoutly maintain that false and lying image of Vatican II which they themselves, upon instructions from their Masters Below, created and have so sedulously fostered.

When our present Holy Father abdicates or dies, it is my fear that something very similar will happen. Pope Francis has been thoroughly open about the fact that he is a "loyal Son of the Church"; he has notably upheld her teaching in areas in which the World most virulently detests her, such as Abortion and Marriage and the relationship between the Sacrament of Order and Women. Indeed: his expression of the Tradition is ignored by the Media. And this is partly because he has a deft manner of not being 'in-your-face' in dealing with the World. I suspect he feels that a vision of prelates wagging disappoving fingers at the World conforms to an image and expectation which the World has of the Church, so that it acts as an immediate turn-off. That, probably, is why his expressions of orthodoxy so rarely coincide with some major 'news-story' about the World rejecting the Christian Way. Some Catholics criticise him for this: but it seems to me at least prudentially arguable that he is right. Condemnations, indeed, seem to have done little to turn back the tide; Francis may be sensible in adopting his rather more wily approach. But, whether he is or is not, it remains true that he has staunchly maintained the Church's moral teaching, over and over again, and without ambiguities.

My greatest worry is this. After the present pontificate, the Wolves, the Christ-hating journalists, the unfaithful priests, will forget, suppress, Pope Francis' actual record of impeccable ecclesial fidelity and orthodoxy. Just as the Evil One promoted a false image of the Council, so he will present a false image of Pope Francis as someone who "refused to condemn", someone who "had no problems" with divorce and homosexuality and the other aberrances of the Zeitgeist; a "soft" and "humble" and "loving" and "merciful" pope.

And just as the false image of Vatican II has dogged and hampered the life of the Church for more than half a century, so the false image of Pope Francis will dog the footsteps of his successors. They will, whatever they do, be accused of "trying to put the clock back to before good Pope Francis". A totally falsified picture, a completely unhistorical "Pope Francis", will unceasingly be brandished to harrass future popes and to impede their ministry and to hold at bay the sweet breath of the Holy Spirit. The Ecclesia Militans will struggle on in via weighed down by yet another foul hobgoblin upon her back.

I do not know what you and I can do about this problem. But I think a starting point must be an awareness of it.

Do you think that it may soon perhaps be the time for a black African pope? Either that, or someone who knows his way around curial Rome?


pie said...

"Do you think that it may soon perhaps be the time for a black African pope? Either that, or someone who knows his way around curial Rome?"


P.S. Colour/curial experience optional.

Josephus Muris Saliensis said...

You are entirely right. This scenario is a certainty. And your solution is also perhaps one of the few which would muzzle the media. A black African Pope would be above such criticism, and (while any Pope deserves our fully loyalty) we can be certain with the present black African candidates that would have a vigorously sound and traditional Pope who would be of immense service and dignity to the Holy Church. But what if we have a European Pope? How then can he deal with this new line of attack? Perhaps only Pope Francis himself can deal with it, to pre-empt it, in an Apostolic letter to the Press?

In the meantime, Ad Multos Annos.

KaeseEs said...

With regard to your final question, Fr. Hunwicke, I think we must answer in the affirmative. I was hoping the last conclave would surprise us and elect Francis Cardinal Arinze.

Sean W. said...

Witness, in support of this fear, the nightmare vision of a future church gone wrong, by Patrick T. Reardon: http://ncronline.org/news/art-media/church-refreshed-dispatch-american-catholic-future

Among its liturgical dancers, female "chanceloresses" (priests without the sacraments), and storefront fast-food communion service centers, he makes explicit reference to a great big banner featuring the likeness of Pope Francis, together with his words: "WHO AM I TO JUDGE?" Possibly the only thing for which he will be remembered.

Yes, I am very much hoping for an African Pope, preferably named with a cardinal number greater than 3 (and even more preferably, greater than 10). Maybe a Leo... or an Innocent.

Unknown said...

Fr. Hunwicke,
Maybe another great soul like Saint Augustine from Africa.
Fr. DeCoste

W.C. Hoag said...

Perhaps we need in the next Pope someone bold enough to dismiss the entire Roman curia--everyone--and start afresh, say new curial employees with no previous experience in Rome...er...in Italy!

Pastor in Monte said...

Exactly as they have done with Pope John.

Jacobi said...

I have said before that we are, post-Vat II, in another Reformation. let's say a Secularist Reformation. Benedict said quite clearly that Vatican II declared no new doctrine. End of story.

Approximately, if we take Vat II as, say, the 5th Lateran Council, it will take another two Popes and another Council, and then maybe another two to implement,and sort out the mess,

We have along way to go.

Having said that I wish the present Holy Father, many happy years. Well, I mean, he is the same age as me!

Mick Jagger Gathers No Mosque said...

The preference here is for a Roman Traditionalist. A Real dyed-in-the-wool-take-no-prisoners-excommunicate-the-sodomites-and-heretics whose masculinity will shock and abhor the entire world; a Pope who will restore the Real Mass, suppress the Lil' Licit Liturgy, restore Gregorian Chant, and NEVER leave Rome and NEVER grant an interview to any secular newspaper or TV station and who during their Ad Limna visits will have Prelates leaving Rome with all of their limbs ONLY if they are 100% in line with Catholic Tradition.

John F. Kennedy said...

Francis Cardinal Arinze.


Samuel C Bunch said...

I always appreciate your thoughts on the current Pontificate, Father Hunwicke. I share your worries about the potential for a "Spirit of Pope Francis" to arise which is opposed to his orthodox moral teachings.

I too am not sure what the solution should be. That said, I think there is one possible solution worth considering.

Those of us (very much including myself) who do not find Pope Francis' style to our taste can humbly embrace Pope Francis much more fully than we would like, accepting and promoting all that is holy and orthodox in his homilies while not being afraid to admit that we do not find his style to our taste.

That's what I'm attempting currently, and it seems to be bearing some good fruit in my encounters with others who lap up the media narrative about Pope Francis.

Liam Ronan said...

God bless you for your irrepressible optimism, Father, but aren't you a tad premature?I thought the maxim was: "De mortuis nihil nisi bonum".

I am of the opinion that there are all sorts that not only crave but also thrive in 'moonshine'. Just so then,I shall don my night vision goggles for the foreseeable future.

Donna Bethell said...

Cardinal Robert Sarah.

Unknown said...

For a pope's teaching to be orthodox it is insufficient for it to assert
or entail even the totality of orthodox doctrine. In addition it also has
neither to assert or entail any inconsistencies. The reason is simple.
As beginning logic students are taught, it is straightforward to prove
that any proposition whatever follows from an inconsistent set. If we
can show that a body of teaching entails, for example, both that the
moon is made of cheese and that the moon is not made of cheese then we
can show that it also entails that there are flying pigs! Just in case
anyone doubts this, here is a proof:

1. The moon is made of cheese.

2. The moon is not made of cheese.

3. Either the moon is made of cheese or there are flying pigs. (From
1, since if 'p' is true then 'either p or q' is also true).

4. There are flying pigs. (From 2 and 3 since if 'either p or q'
is true and 'p' is false then 'q' is true).

So if people are drawing all sorts of undesirable conclusions from Pope
Francis's teaching, it may not be because they are ignoring his orthodox
assertions but because they are noticing his apparently unorthodox
statements and drawing the conclusion that anything goes. Furthermore,
if one were to apply the same standards to interpreting Pope Francis that
one does to anyone else, one would say that he is not only unorthodox
but also unconcerned about it. As he himself said, he wants
to, and indeed does, say things that 'may be heretical' although he
'doesn't know'. As if he didn't have the resources to find out!

Where people are going wrong in this situation is to make assumptions
rather than presumptions. To presume that the current occupant of the
chair of St. Peter is the Pope is to hold that, in the face of a case to
answer, we must arrive at that conclusion unless a compelling proof is
made to the contrary. To assume that position, however, means that no
compelling case against the occupant could be made, since all contrary
evidence could all be overturned by deploying the assumption together
with the principle of reductio ad absurdum. Since Catholic theology does
allow that a compelling case could be made in a number of situations,
that assumption is un-Catholic. Those who think otherwise often confuse
the proposition that nobody may judge somebody who is a pope, with the
proposition that nobody may judge whether somebody is a pope.

Perhaps it is time to shift from assumption to presumption!

Liam Ronan said...

May I just offer for those of you enamoured of an African Pope merely because he is from the continent of Africa, that the lumpen masse of the US (Catholics certainly) were over the moon to have a black man running for President and simply had to have him elected notwithstanding they hadn't a clue about his background, politics, philosophy, etc. And then they got him.

Be careful what you wish for.

Liam Ronan said...

Speaking of papal preferences, I'll toss in my tuppence. My 'candidate' in the 2013 Conclave was and remains Angelo Cardinal Scola. It remains an everlasting mystery to me that on the very eve of the Conclave which gave Bergolio to the world Scola, who was generally regarded as a front-runner, Italian anti-mafia police conducted a much publicized pre-dawn raid on Cardinal Scola's diocesan offices in Milan.

In fact, as Vatican Insider's Giacomo Galeazzi reported on 14 March 2013:

"...just minutes from the Proto-Deacon’s announcement, an unfortunate statement by the Secretary General of the Italian Bishops’ Conference (CEI) expressed 'the feelings of the entire Italian Church in welcoming the news of the election of Cardinal Angelo Scola as the successor of Peter.'"

But the god of surprises carried the day and here we are standing in the moonshine.

Michael Ortiz said...

Well, I see what you mean, Father, except for this: I teach high school young men Religion, ie, Catholicism at a private school. If I taught them about the Commandments and the Faith with the same ambiguity of our beloved Holy Father, I don't think I could sleep at night.

May the Lord God bless Pope Francis!

May the next conclave elect Malcolm Cardinal Randjith! A man with curial experience, and I have heard, a polygot of several languages.

Unknown said...

I think that an African who is a curial official like Cardinal Robert Sarah might be ideal. I do like the frank, no-nonsense conservatism of the Africans. Sarah also seems to be good on the liturgy. Also, the curial experience would be good. If I remember correctly, it took quite awhile for JP II to learn the ropes - but he was relatively young and had the time. Card. Ratzinger had almost 25 years of curial experience before he became pope, and that is why he was able to get some good things done right away. Anyway, I agree that the ideal next pope would be someone who can speak very frankly to problems in the Church and the world and/or someone who, with curial experience, can get good things accomplished.

Anonymous said...

“We cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods. This is not possible. I have not spoken much about these things, and I was reprimanded for that. But when we speak about these issues, we have to talk about them in a context. The teaching of the church, for that matter, is clear and I am a son of the church, but it is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time." - Pope Francis | Interview with Pope Francis by Fr Antonio Spadaro, Monday, Aug 19, 2013.
"I am a son of the church" [what Pope Francis described himself] is often understood as "I am loyal Son of the Church". Those two are not equivalent.