29 March 2017

Celebrity Pontiffs

In an idle moment, I browsed through some grainy old black-and-white video clips of the life of Pius XII. I had not realised how much he travelled in the 1930s, when he was Secretary of State. It all looked uncannily like a preview of the culture mainly set in place by S John Paul II, of the travelling papal circus going from country to country, doing big things at big services in a thoroughly big way. Not surprisingly, Cardinal Pacelli was called the cardinale volante (remember that air travel was by no means as every-day at that time), and described as a sort of vice-papa. Occasionally, I was even reminded of Herr Hitler and the cult he fostered ... Pacelli and Hitler have in common a legacy of embarrassing studio photographs showing the Great Man trying out 'to camera' some rhetorical gestures.

I am far from sure that I agree with all that sort of thing. If we are to use our 'modern' technology to whizz images around the world, the sort of things we need to show and be shown must include the lovely clip, reproduced on Eponymous Flower, of Papa Ratzinger silently and most humbly kneeling before his Eucharistic Lord while the Divine Praises are chanted.

Foreign visits? On the one hand, the role of Peter is to strengthen his brethren, and I would have to concede that a papal visit can be very strengthening to a besieged and insecure local Church (and in such circumstances would be even more powerful if it were rarer). But the whole present-day business does rather suggest to me that a pope is a sort of superbishop, which he isn't. He is the Bishop of that Church with which all Christians are supposed to be in communion; of the Church where Peter's voice lives and speaks - so that under specified conditions he articulates the Infallibility of the whole Church and has a Primacy, when and where it is needed, of ensuring that the universal norma fidei is everywhere also the local norm. In a healthy Particular Church, surely the local Successor of the Apostles, the Diocesan Bishop, should be capable, in normal circumstances, of fulfilling the munera apostolica without needing the Head Master to come into his classroom and restore order? 

The endless and vulgar showcasing of Papa Bergoglio demonstrates how inherently dangerous this cult of personality really is. Turning the Servus servorum Dei into a cosmopolitan celeb obscures, rather than expresses, his true place in the Church Militant, as that role has been handed down and was taught authoritatively by Vatican I. Even Pio Nono did not consider that his  Primacy (which he was indeed anxious to have defined) required him to gad around the world showing it off like a girl with a new engagement ring. And, before anybody draws my attention to the 'pompous' 'Renaissance' rituals of the pre-John Paul I Papacy, I will suggest to you that a pope lurching precariously around on an old-style sedia and with a weighty triregnum* to keep safely balanced on his head was not in a position to posture and gesture and flirt with the mob, or to dish out ill-considered one-liners to a hungry Press. But the modern papal cult, for all its phony 'immediacy' and showy 'spontaneity' and theatrical 'humility', is a much more domineering phenomenon than all those harmlessly quaint bits of baroque fun. And, in the hands of a pope who does not care about doctrine, and who has a supreme over-confidence in the value of his own misguided and often inane off-the-cuff remarks, the entire, present-day officially promoted papal personality cult is a very dangerous and profoundly unedifying tool.

Next time, we could do with a much quieter and less visible and more considered papacy. A pontificate along the lines of the Petrine Ministry as it was so admirably defined in the careful and balanced words of Vatican I; as it was publicly demonstrated in the quiet and gentle Petrine Ministry of Pope Benedict. Perhaps we may even now pray for that man who, in God's omniscient foreknowledge, will be the next Roman Pontiff?

Unless, of course, we are truly living in the Last Days.

* A truly edifyingly and really humble pontiff might resume the use of the papier-mache tiara made for the Coronation of Pius VII after the Conclave held in Venice while Rome was occupied by French revolutionary armies. It was light-weight, and is said last to have been worn by B Pius IX. 


Anonymous said...

When Cardinal Pacelli visited the United States in the 1930's, he made his headquarters Mr & Mrs Brady on Long Island. There are a number of photographs of the visit and the vestments made for the occasion (Mr Brady enjoyed serving daily Mass)and worn in the Chapel are still in the possession of the Jesuits who, just recently, sold the grand (sixty room)house. It has since been demolished for a housing estate.
It is generally understood that the Cardinal's visit and the Bradys elevation to Vatican Nobility was in return for a large gift to the Vatican to keep it solvent.

Unknown said...

I am entering the Church (and the ordinariate) this April, but the impression that the Pope had become a kind of "superbishop," rather than the bishop of the Roman see with special universal prerogatives, was a stumbling block for me for some time.

Mick Jagger Gathers No Mosque said...

Well, we are living n the last days which began with Pentecost but in all of his days ABS has rarely seen a very popular Priest write so puissantly and profoundly about the perplexing papal praxis which got of to a ghastly start when Pope Paul VI went to the International Eucharistic Conference in Latin America with revolutionary goals that supplanted Savific Theocentrism with political and social Anthropocentrism.

Franciscus is following in the footsteps of his father, Pope Paul VI, but he hasn't, so far, begun to wear the amulet his father wore:

From the Abbe de Nantes

The moral effect at the Vatican has been enormous, almost shocking. Rumors had been circulating for a long time in Vatican circles without anyone daring to expose the fact. It was only recently that Abbe Georges de Nantes disseminated
the news that the sovereign Pontiff of the Apostolic Roman Catholic Church occasionally wears the insignia of the Hebrew high priest, Caiphas,along with his pectoral cross on his mozzetta. The echo of this news behind the Bronze Gate has been resounding.

Nevertheless, there can be no doubt: the shape, color and embellishment of this badge corresponds to the description given in the Bible. No Pope in the preceding two thousand years had even worn ajewellike this, minutely described in chapter 28 of Exodus, one of the books of the Bible. John Baptist Montini most certainly wears it. Why? No one dares divulge the obscure motives for this decision of his, but everybody agrees about the possibility of intentional ambiguity on the part of the Pontiff. This object, made of pure gold, is square, enhanced by twelve precious stones arranged in four rows of three each, and
hangs from the neck by means of a golden cord made of interlaced rings ending in a tassel. All twelve precious stones have different colors.

Mick Jagger Gathers No Mosque said...

This is the ephod of the Hebrew high priest, known as the breastplate ofjudgment. Aaron and his issue had to wear it as a ritual ornament, and its precious stones represent Israel's twelve tribes. The description of this peculiar thing is to be found in Exodus ... exactly as it can be seen today in many photographs of Paul VI .... [Editor's Note: The ephod appears to have been a
linen garment worn under the amulet spoken of by the author. The amulet iscalled the "breastpiece of decision" in Exodus 28:29 in the Saint Joseph Edition of The New American Bible (New York: Catholic Book Publishing, 1970. Imprimatur: Patrick Cardinal O'Soyle, Archbishop of Washington.)~ the jeweled amulet is called the "rational of judgment" in the Douay-Rheims version of theBible (Rockford, Illinois: TAN Books and Publishers, from the 1899 edition. Imprimatur: James Cardinal Gibbons, Archbishop ofBaltimore.)~ in the Revised Standard Version of The Oxford Annotated Bible with the Apocrypha (New
York: Oxford University Press, 1965.), it is called the Ubreastpiece of judgment."

Still another name, the "burse," is assigned to it in the Knox Bible (New York:
Sheed and Ward, 1950. Imprimatur: Bernardus Cardinal Griffin.). The reader is
urged to read the 28th chapter of the book of Exodus for a better explanation of
the items spoken about in this section.]

How long is it since this unbelievable union of the pectoral cross and the badge of the Hebrew high priest took place? To answer this question, we have examined hundreds of photographs. In this way we are able to affirm that thefirst appearance of this strange amulet on the chest of the Roman Pope dates from at least 1964, some months after his visit to Palestine. It seems logical to deduce that this ritual ornament was given to him on that occasion, since Paul VI visited Israel also.
This is no isolated case or hallucination. The emblem of the Levitical high priest is clearly visible, especially when Paul VI wears his mozzetta, a red mantelet embroidered with white ermine. On such occasions the pectoral cross often cannot be seen in pictures, for the Pope's clasped hands may conceal it, but Aaron's device always appears, for it is connected by means of a large golden piece of cord.

The Last Days are nothing if not perplexing...

Fr PJM said...

This book might be of interest. Bugnini at the side of Cardinal Pacelli.


John Vasc said...

"Next time, we could do with..."
Father, I'm sure you've heard the dictum that we don't get the Pope we want, or even the Pope we need, but the Pope we deserve.
In much the same way as the Israelites in Babylonian and Assyrian exile, perhaps we should rather be considering (with the aid of a modern Jeremiah, Isiah or Ezechiel) exactly what we have done to deserve this Pope, and strive to make amends.

Pastor in Monte said...

Father: as to your post itself, without commenting on the preceding observations; yes, yes, and yes again.

Just another mad Catholic said...

oh for a quiet and prayerful pontiff who shunned the media

Confitebor said...

In reference to the comments of ABS regarding Pope Paul VI's wearing of a representation of the "breastplate of judgment" (or "rational") that was prescribed to be worn by the Aaronic high priest in the Sinaitic covenant, he and St. John Paul II are not the first Catholic bishops to wear a rational as a part of their episcopal vestments. For a while in the Middle Ages it was popular for Catholic bishops to wear rationals that looked exactly like the one that Paul VI was photographed wearing on more than one occasion. The practice was common from the tenth to the thirteenth centuries, at which time the wearing of such rationals died out, surviving only in the Diocese of Rheims up to the early 1500s. Why Paul VI decided to revive the custom in the 1960s is unclear -- but the Pauline demolition of the Roman Rite is noted for all kinds of dubious archaeologisms, so it wouldn't be surprising to find Paul VI engaging in another archaeologism. Whatever Paul VI and St. John Paul II may have meant by wearing a rational, a Roman Pontiff wearing a rational can in Catholicism mean only an expression of our inerrant, unvarying faith that the Catholic priesthood fulfills and therefore supersedes the Levitical priesthood.

Ecce Sacerdos Magnus . . .

Mick Jagger Gathers No Mosque said...

...he and St. John Paul II are not the first Catholic bishops to wear a rational as a part of their episcopal vestments.

ABS has heard the claim before and he'd love to have a link to a book or monograph or article that treats of that subject because that claim raises a ton of questions.

That aside, Pope Paul VI was the first Pope to wear one - the first Pope in nearly 2000 years - and so that noxious novelty had to have some stunning significance because the men of the Aaronic Priesthood were the rulers of the Synagogue with which the Catholic Priesthood has absolutely no connection at all.

Revolutionary actions have real consequences even if the laity is denied explanations for the revolution -whether it be deliberately ambiguous documents of a council, the Roman Rite being blowed-up, the entire Sacramental System being blowed-up, the Blessings being blowed-up, the Orders being blowed-up, the Religious being blowed-up, the Holy Eucharist being blowed-up...

Look, ABS does not know why (or even if) some Bishops of the Middle Ages wore what Pope Paul VI was wearing but if they were wearing it that wearing did not signify the revolution within the form of Catholicism presided over by Paul VI for the Middle Ages was not about severing virtually all connection with what came before because Ecumenism (The Universal Solvent of Tradition).

In the meantime, our Inertia Into Indifferentism is perpetuated because there is not one identifiable Prelate whose possession of Tradition is such that it could be applied as a force against the our inertia into indifferentism.

Confitebor said...


"Rationale" --

". . . From the tenth to the thirteenth century the rationale was also the name of an episcopal ornament similar to a large pectoral clasp, made of precious metal, ornamented with diamonds, and worn over the chasuble. It is frequently met with in pictures of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, and is generally square, seldom round in form. Its use was discontinued in the course of the thirteenth century, and it is only at Rheims that its use can be traced to the beginning of the sixteenth century. It originated undoubtedly in the pomp developed in episcopal vestments during the tenth century, and took its name from the breast ornament of the Jewish high-priest."

You may be correct that Paul VI was the first Roman Pontiff to wear such a rational as the old Catholic Encyclopedia describes, but he wasn't the first Catholic bishop to do so. It's just that it was a common feature of episcopal vestments in medieval times ("It is frequently met with in pictures of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, and is generally square, seldom round in form.") and had long since died out. I can't speak to why Paul VI adopted it.

It's wrong to say that the Catholic priesthood that God Incarnate established at Mount Zion "has absolutely no connection at all" with the Aaronic priesthood and the "Synagogue" (or Jewish Church) that God established at Mount Sinai. The Catholic priesthood and the Church fulfills and supersedes the Levitical priesthood and Old Covenant Israel -- but we must never forget that it is from Israel that the Church sprouted and grew, from our Mother Mary and her Son Jesus. The Church has always underscored the connection between the old priesthood and the new priesthood, which is why, for instance, deacons have often been called "levites," and the passage from Ecclesiasticus referring to the Jewish high priest has been applied in our liturgy to bishops.

Mick Jagger Gathers No Mosque said...

There is a complete and utter break with the Aaronic led Synagogue and the Catholic Priesthood as the Jews who accepted Jesus as Messias were tossed-out of the Synagogue.

It is true, of course, that the Catholic Church is the New iIsrael and the New Testament superseded the Old Covenant and that many features/practices of the Catholic Priesthood had their origins in the OT Priesthood - especially noteworthy is the Apostolic Origins of Priestly Celibacy which directly grew out of the Levitical Priesthood and the requirement for those priests to be continent when they served in the Temple (Pope Siricius 384 ad)

Thanks for the link, Confitebor, although what the Encyclopedia describes does not seem so similar to what Pope Paul VI wore.

Albrecht von Brandenburg said...

ABS there is no apostolic origin to "priestly" celibacy, because celibacy has nothing to do with the priesthood. Sometimes, the one man may have two callings- one to the priesthood and one to celibacy, but not always. Furthermore, ritual purity did not survive into NT times, so there is no basis in anything other than wishful thinking for people, even popes, some church fathers, some saints, Jesuits like Fr Christian Cocchini, or others to hold that there was or is an obligation of continence on the part of married clerics. Such an obligation is certainly not mentioned in the Didache, which is exactly where one would expect to find evidence of it.

Hans Georg Lundahl said...

"Complete and utter" break seems somewhat exaggerated.

In St John's Gospel, the enemies of Christ are described as "Jews", but always by the narrator, never by Jesus Himself.

Except when He is talking to Pilate.

However, St John's Gospel is the last one. In the three synoptics, the enemies of Christ are never described simply as "Jews", it is always stated which group of Jews they were (priests and scribes, synagogue of Nazareth, Pharisees and Sadducees, Herodians, High Priests and so on if I forgot a category - the multitude, perhaps too).

And these Gospels were also written while the New Testament priesthood was already in function.

Meaning, the early decades of the Catholic Church, there was not a complete and utter break with all of Judaism, nor can such a thing be constitutive of the Catholic priesthood.

The next question is whether Montini had Judaising or not so intentions when wearing the rationale, and the practical points may be more about things like abolishing St Christopher and St Barbara.

I had a semi-Catechist while converting who had gone Russian Orthodox over liturgic reform, she was called Barbara (Barbro in Swedish) and I myself had a devotion to St Christopher as he was a kind of "convert from Satanism".

Plus that document on homosexuals "called to chastity" which equivocally suggested to many the opposite of what Bishop Chaput has lately been saying, salutarily.