It hasn't taken long for the Tradition to take hold that, just before Christmas, PF berates the Roman Curia for its shortcomings, polymeros kai polytropos, as the Letter to the Hebrews puts it in the Epistle in die for Christmas Morning. Rather as with the Queen's Christmas Address to the Empire and the sound of Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer in Tescoes, we would miss this terribly if it no longer happened.
This year, however, the customary pontifical malevolence was confined to just one single rather lonely paragraph, giving it a distinctly perfunctory appearance. Did someone slip some paracetamol into the papal coffee? (That is the paragraph, of course, that all the ordinary blogs have been commenting on.) Elsewhere in the address, there are some really quite good bits. I will single out in particular what PF says, fairly early on, about the ministry of Deacons. (I do hope Cardinal Burke and the other Cardinal Deacons were listening carefully.) But first, a little local background.
Regular readers of this blog will be aware of my irritation when well-meaning people repeat the tired old historical and sacramental nonsense (vastly popular in the 1960s but unmitigated rubbish in that and every other decade) that the purpose of a Deacon is to minister to the poor and needy and sick and disadvantaged within, or even beyond, the Christian community. (Somebody included this stuff recently in a comment on this blog ... don't worry, I know you only did it in order to infuriate me! I know where you live!) Newer readers who care can use the search engine to discover a series I wrote on this particular topic. I haven't the energy to repeat it all here, not even as a Brand New Christmas Tradition!
This year, PF, or whoever tittivated his draft for him, included quotations from authentically early Christian writings, giving a very clear explanation of what the real, Traditional understanding is of deacons within the Church's ministry.
So credit where credit is due. Viva il Papa! I hope that Cardinal Sarah will take the hint and expunge from the Ordination Prayer of deacons in the modern Pontificale Romanum all the weary old 1960s twaddle which was so crudely interpolated into that fine old Roman Prayer in the meddlesome years that followed the Council, thereby pretty well doubling its length.
[I wonder if Cardinal Sarah is among those PF had in mind when he said they were being given just a weeny bit more time to come on-message before being sacked ... or 'sidelined', delicatamente allontanate, as we say nowadays ... ]