13 June 2018

Slippery Slopes

"I knew there was something wrong when he first walked out onto that balcony", I heard a priest saying a few months ago at a clerical gathering. Indeed. So one instinctively did. In my case, it was not so much that PF declined to dress as a Bishop of Rome as his choice of an unheard-of papal name. It was as if he felt the need to dissociate himself from all his predecessors in the Cathedra Petri ... even from the other 'post-conciliar popes'. In other words, it seemed to me that this was at least potentially a proclamation of papal Rupture.

But how long it took before such uneasy whispers broke out into the open in the mainstream Catholic blogs. Even when the unappealing side of PF's character ... particularly his propensity to insult and humiliate his fellow clergy on every conceivable situation ... became noticeable, and some humourist decided to make a collection of the genre ... bloggers remained cautious. After all, the Lord Himself said some impolite things about Pharisees and Pilates. We leaned over backwards to make excuses when we could; PF's ambiguous phrases and actions were glossed in as orthodox a sense as writers felt able to invent.

As late as 30 May 2016, I agonised for some time about whether to describe this pontificate as 'dysfunctional'. One's every instinct was and is to avoid writing like this about the Successor of S Peter. One has a habit of affection and, even when that had been worn away, one says to onself "Could it really be right to use such language?" Or even possibly "Such language might get me into trouble". After much thought and redrafting, I left in my draft for that day a statement that this pontificate had "some dysfunctional characteristics".

I think you might discover (to give just one example) the same sort of caution in Fr Zed; the same long reluctance to engage too directly with what was manifestly dodgy in this pontificate, until such engagement became unavoidable.

It was, in various different ways on the various Catholic blogs, an unwillingness which only gradually got eroded.

Then, of course, and with as much reluctance, we moved into the period of the Five Dubia and the Filial Correction. And now the world has had a spate of books about this pontificate by lay historians.

PF really did have to work enormously hard before the current atmosphere of frank talking was born.


Mick Jagger Gathers No Mosque said...

Dear Father. Many shared your unease from the get go.

The moment when it became obvious to ABS that he was unqualified to be Pope (to say nothing about being a priest), came less than a year into his reign.

When he was exiting the Papal crypt, he espied a young altar boy standing in prayerful recollection and Bergoglio stopped to pry his hands apart.


It struck ABS then that we had a piety-phobic Pope.

Lord have mercy.

Banshee said...

Well, I still think he has his good side... But when you look at what he does, you see an even more objectionable picture than when you look at what he says. His objectively good moves seem to be the result of fickle moods or personal nostalgia.

Shrug. I try to take him for what he is. He seems pretty good for the causes of fitting Argentinian saints, even if his reasons might be banal or cynical.

Highland Cathedral said...

On March 13, 2013, Rorate Caeli published this quotation:

“Of all the unthinkable candidates, Jorge Mario Bergoglio is perhaps the worst. Not because he openly professes doctrines against the faith and morals, but because, judging from his work as Archbishop of Buenos Aires, faith and morals seem to have been irrelevant to him.”

Lepanto said...

I recall reading a blog comment by the mother of a young Down's Syndrome girl who was a great 'fan' of Pope Benedict and who had his picture in pride of place in her room. She was very upset to hear that he would no longer be Pope but was comforted by her mother who told her that there would be a new Pope. She and her mother watched Francis emerge and the little girl burst into tears saying 'but I don't like him!'. 'Out of the mouths of babes.....' It took me about 5 minutes 'Googling' to come across the outraged comments of one of his flock in Buenos Aires and I became afraid of what might happen, is she were being truthful. It has been much, much worse than she predicted or I imagined.

Liam Ronan said...

Amen, Father.

cyrus83 said...

Francis is imprecise enough in what he says that one can assign him the benefit of the doubt in many individual cases, it is the cumulative effect of always having to apply that corrective filter that wears down the inhibition to question Francis more directly.

The dysfunction and temperament of the present papacy seems to mirror the age - indifference and overemphasis on immanence at the expense of transcendence.

Liam Ronan said...

Just an afterthought. The moment PF was introduced to the world from St. Peter's I thought his demeanor was funereal, akin to the Grim Reaper. Having thought about it more I am reminded too of the opening sequence for The Alfred Hitchcock Hour where the host accompanied by the music from The Funeral March Of A Marionette eased into an empty silhouette to fill it out. The clip is here (YouTube)if anyone would wish to see what I mean.


Randolph Crane said...

I always found it extremely shocking when liberal media insulted our Most Holy Father Benedict. I felt disgusted, and it was far from me to ever say anything negative about the Father of all Christians, and the Vicar of Christ. But, indeed, when PF appeared on the loggia, I knew immediately that something was wrong. In many conversations with my Father Confessor, he told me he felt the same way (he is, as you can think, a faithful priest). It is almost impossible to deny the many bad aspects of this pontificate. And what was unthinkable under Benedict, is now the norm.

Richard said...

When Father Aidan Nichols says in public that the Pope may be teaching heresy, it is time to be alarmed.

Randolph Crane said...

@Lepanto: That is the way I felt. For me, there was no natural affection for PF when he entered into the public. Normally, when the Pope comes out, it is "love on first sight" for every Catholic. But with PF, I said "but I don't like him".

The story is heart-breaking, really.

Simple Simon said...

This quote from Walter Farrel O.P. (elucidating Aquinas) says it all for me. Written over sixty years ago:
Beauty and goodness come into a man's life only in the train of truth. Even the enemies of beauty and goodness, making their burglarious entry must wear the disguise of the beautiful and the good. Perhaps the mind may never see through those disguises; but the heart of a man cannot be deceived perpetually. Ultimately, the diet of evil, however good it is made to seem, sickens a man; and ugliness revolts his soul with its loathsomeness. It is to just such sickness and revulsion that leaders and teachers of men condemn the little ones when they deny them the truth. And God is truth.

LL said...

A very sad incident indeed.

Mark said...

I knew something was wrong when he shortened his first Easter Vigil and still looked at his watch.

Athelstane said...

"In my case, it was not so much that PF declined to dress as a Bishop of Rome as his choice of an unheard-of papal name."

When I heard the name, I was hoping against hope that - just possibly - it was actually for St. Francis Xavier, who was of course a famous missionary saint and indeed a great *Jesuit* saint. Still a mercurial and even iconoclastic choice, but one with some promise to it.

Once it was explained that it was for St. Francis of Assisi - and the adumbration of the "popular" reception of St. Francis, quite distinct from the living, breathing saint - the ominous sign could not be denied.

Howard said...

We have had mediocre popes before; we have had scandalous popes before. The previous two popes notwithstanding, not every pope has been a philosopher or scholar; the recent trend in canonizations notwithstanding, not every pope has been a saint. The Church can of course survive such.

Perhaps the problem was the priorities of the College of Cardinals, who reportedly wanted, above all, a pope who could put the Vatican's finances in order. Would that finances were the biggest problem facing the Church!