Papal integrity – matters arising from the previous post

On another forum I have been taken to task on my previous post, which was called “sly”, “poisonous” and my words full of “vitriol”. After some discussion it became clear that the basic sticking point was that I was apparently impugning the Pope’s integrity.

No, I am not. In that post one phrase of mine admitted of such an interpretation so I have changed it.

Pope Francis, as I do indeed imply, came to the papacy with something of a plan of action. His actions from the outset make this clear enough. My issue is that his plan of action is inadequate because he seems not to have accounted for the world of difference between being Archbishop of Buenos Aires and being Bishop of Rome. His words carry more weight, suffer greater scrutiny, and will be misused on a global scale if he leaves room enough for such misuse. Pope Benedict was an example of someone who could write carefully worded, logically constructed and fully coherent pieces and find them still misused and distorted. On matters of faith and morals, popes must be crystal clear. It is a duty incumbent upon the papal office.

His Holiness must also remember that no conversation with a group of people can be considered private now that he is pope. This is most definitely so with a group like the delegates from CLAR. There can be no unsubtle asides any more, nothing that can be accused of mockery of the ordinary faithful or of traditional, centuries-old Catholic practice and devotion. Such would be used, as it has been recently, against the Church, its faithful, and ultimately against him. As I said, the Holy Spirit will necessarily guard him from dogmatic error, but not necessarily from indiscretion, nor from imprudence, nor from gaucheness, nor from gracelessness. Given that these traits little befit Christ’s Vicar, it behooves us to pray for the proper gifts to be given the pope in full measure. It is a duty incumbent upon the faithful, of whatever rank or station.

Disloyalty to the papacy is not something I have never been accused of, as far as I know. I would still run a mile from disloyalty. But to point out the Pope’s missteps and indiscretions is not disloyalty; to do so is to try to prevent him from repeating them. Maybe we should keep in mind Hans Christian Andersen’s tale, The Emperor’s New Clothes. Who serves Pope Francis better: the courtiers who maintain the fiction that the Emperor is clothed at all, or the little boy who cries “He is naked”?

In the story, the Emperor takes no action in light of the little boy’s truthfulness. We can surely expect better from Pope Francis. We would be right to pray that it be so. Our prayers for him are a worthy homage in God’s eyes, if in none other’s.

**UPDATE – do please read the latest on this matter here**

14 thoughts on “Papal integrity – matters arising from the previous post

  1. Quite honestly anyone who fundamentally disagrees with your original post cannot truly call themselves orthodox or faithful Catholics (perhaps that is a point they may revel in, who can say). It seems the very people who are so very quick to attack those who discuss, evaluate and comment on the Holy Father in an honest and respectful manner are, as usual, being used as cannon fodder in their ongoing battle to strip everything Catholic out of the Church so we can all sit around in a soulless (and might I add Christless) hall in circles on the floor singing kumbaya to the sound of a strumming guitar.
    Discussing the Holy Father is not now nor has it ever been heresy and discussing points that concern us is not anti-Catholic. In fact supreme loyalty the Holy See and showing concern for the standing of the sucessor of St Peter in the world doesn’t really get more Catholic does it? At no point did it appear to me that you were questioning the Holy Fathers integrity.
    Some people (and sadly also some members of the clergy I know well) like to see Francis as some sort of ‘Vatican Che Guevara’ who will lead the Church in a glorious revolution against the ‘evil and shadowy’ orthodox bogeyman, faithful to the magisterium who (shock! Horror!) may use Latin in their worship sometimes. To criticise a man of God for being loyal and faithful to the Church is despicable and their tactics and motives should be made public for all to see. As I descend my soapbox for the evening I’ll finish by reaffirming my belief that ‘tu es Petrus, et super hanc petram ædificabo Ecclesiam meam’. The rock must stand firm as it has for 2000 years. I stand with you on this Father. Domine Jesu.

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  2. Reposting as original didn’t make sense in the middle. sorry about that.

    Quite honestly anyone who fundamentally disagrees with your original post cannot truly call themselves orthodox or faithful Catholics (perhaps that is a point they may revel in, who can say). It seems the very people who are so very quick to attack those who discuss, evaluate and comment on the Holy Father in an honest and respectful manner are, as usual, using faithful Catholics (such as yourself) as cannon fodder in their ongoing battle to strip everything Catholic out of the Church so we can all sit around in a soulless (and might I add Christless) hall in circles on the floor singing kumbaya to the sound of a strumming guitar.
    Discussing the Holy Father is not now nor has it ever been heresy and discussing points that concern us is not anti-Catholic. In fact supreme loyalty the Holy See and showing concern for the standing of the successor of St Peter in the world doesn’t really get more Catholic does it? At no point did it appear to me that you were questioning the Holy Fathers integrity.
    Some people (and sadly also some members of the clergy I know well) like to see Francis as some sort of ‘Vatican Che Guevara’ who will lead the Church in a glorious revolution against the ‘evil and shadowy’ orthodox bogeyman, faithful to the magisterium who (shock! Horror!) may use Latin in their worship sometimes. To criticise a man of God for being loyal and faithful to the Church is despicable and their tactics and motives should be made public for all to see. As I descend my soapbox for the evening I’ll finish by reaffirming my belief that ‘tu es Petrus, et super hanc petram ædificabo Ecclesiam meam’. The rock must stand firm as it has for 2000 years. I stand with you on this Father. Domine Jesu.

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    1. LOL – it is late, so I sympathise with your typos!

      Thanks for your post, FC. You get where I am coming from. And quite frankly, what I wrote does not even make the scale when compared to some things the saints have written to and about particular popes. Popes are human, they need support and advice, and occasionally even correction. Not on matters of dogma, of course. God vouches for them on that score.

      You put certain things very well, such as identifying those who see Pope Francis as a “Vatican Che Guevara”. There are some also who see popes are little short of God re-incarnate. Any pope would shudder at the mere thought of it.

      And, as you seem to intuit, a man does not ascend to the papacy and receive an instant ability to get every little detail right in his ministry. No pope has ever been able to rule without advice. Some give it to popes in no uncertain terms. St Paul admonished the first pope, St Peter, to his face when he caved in to the Judaizers in the primitive Church. St Peter saw the point. And he loved Paul no less, nor did Paul ever cease loving and honouring Peter. Thanks be to God.

      Pope Francis is our pope, validly elected. I have utter respect for his papal person, and would not hesitate a second to kneel and kiss his ring were I to be in his presence. He deserves nothing less. I know you would agree.

      So let us continue to pray for him and his papal ministry – that he might bear much fruit to God’s glory.

      Buona notte!

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  3. Fr,
    Are we not all guilty of a fundamental misundersatnding of the Petrine office? This is something that 24/7 media makes even more probable. When we feel drawn to someone (like Benedict XVI) we avidly follow what they do and say and are comforted by what we see and read. When we feel less comfortable, we still avidly follow the media trying to get a measure of our discomfort, trying to understand why we feel like we do.

    Is it not the avid following of the Holy Father that is the problem? I’m becoming more and more convinced that we must get back to seeing the Pope more correctly as the Bishop of Rome. The Bishop all other Bishops refer to for Authority when crisies arise. The Bishop who can speak with Authority because Christ gave him that Authority. The everyday acts of the Bishop of Rome are of no more importance than the everyday acts of your local Bishop. Indeed there is probably a case for saying union behind ones local Bishop is something we all neglect to do as prayerfully as we should. This is something that ought to happen irrespective of how “good” they appear to be.

    I personally think that a crisis in the Church is coming where he will be called upon to speak with Authority (and it will be very uncomfortable for some) and it is a matter of Faith that he will not flinch from doing what is ri

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    1. Good morning!

      Thanks for your measured, non-hysterical contribution. I have had to delete the abuse and the histrionics, if only because the authors embarrass themselves. The number of people who have alighted on my passing mention of vestments and papal liturgical style and apparently no further confirms what others who write have experienced. But I digress…

      There is some merit to a re-focusing on the pope’s essential office of Bishop of Rome, though it is noteworthy that Pope Francis has been a lot quieter on that in recent weeks. What we do need to remember is that Christ did not appoint Peter Bishop of Rome at all; he appointed him the rock on which the Church would be built, with the power to bind and loose in heaven and on earth. That the office of Rock/Peter is tied to the Bishopric of Rome is simply because that it where Peter ended up, by the divine design of course. But if he had ended up in Ephesus, the papacy would have been tied to the see of Ephesus. So the Pope’s role as bishop of Rome is part of the definition of the petrine office because it became part of the identity of Peter. So it is essential, but by itself it is not adequate to explain the petrine office. The petrine office has from the start had a universal scope.

      What I do concede is the the problem with the de facto image so often, perhaps unwittingly, fostered of the pope as the world’s parish priest. He is not, nor should he be, nor was he ever meant to be. With that in mind, I agree indeed that the obsessive focus on the smallest papal doings is unhelpful. What is more important is to take note of his solemn teaching, carefully prepared with the whole Church in mind, not just a small audience physically before him at any particular moment. By noting his every word as though it was a diktat from heaven, when some of these words are not so carefully chosen as they could be, only weakens his authority on the bigger issues.

      So perhaps the Vatican could help here by NOT recording summaries of his daily homilies and impromptu talks to individual groups, even if they are in some sense rightly open to the Church’s gaze. Maybe the Vatican should stick to posting his major homilies, his audiences and angelus catecheses, and then the major utterances above these. That would certainly remedy some of the issues that have arisen.

      Pax.

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  4. I really enjoyed your previous post and this one. In fact, I wrote a similar one in March, long before the examples of the Holy Father’s extemporaneous remarks were available. I was only writing on his decision not to live in the papal apartments.

    A couple examples from that post:

    “For example, I think living in hotel quarters will only create headaches for his staff and security detail. Along those same lines, I wonder that if the pope won’t go to the papal apartments, the papal apartments won’t just come to him. Vatican staffers will just reorganize the area in the hotel around the Holy Father to suit their needs and the needs of the Holy Father (needs he may not even know he has yet)….With all the logistical struggle that will come from Pope Francis’ decision, along with those potentially negatively affected, can Pope Francis’ decision to permanently live in temporary quarters really be held up as a humble act? ”

    “Couldn’t it be said, maybe I am the one saying it, that this particular decision does not come across as humility but as one having their own way. His decision is a manifestation of his power as the leader of the Catholic Church; he gets to decide where he lives. Everyone else has to figure out a way to make sure it happens the way the new pope wants it. That is not going to be a simple task. It seems a more humble act would be to resign oneself to accepting all that comes with the Petrine ministry, to include the papal apartments.”

    I was reminded of my own words from March, especially that second quote when I read your statement: ” Humility is also served when one adapts to the demands of one’s office.”

    Keep up the great work Father! God Bless!

    http://www.christophersmith-op.com/2013/03/26/too-much-humility/

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    1. Hi Christopher! Thank you for reading and for your comment. I followed your link and added you to my Google +, since Google Reader is about to be decommissioned (boo hiss).

      Your points resonate with my thoughts pretty much exactly. I have never been convinced by the whole humility thing. To be fair, of course, this hermeneutic of humility by which all Pope Francis’ actions are read is imposed upon him rather than by him. And when he has spoken of the need for humility he may well be preaching to himself: most preachers have preached homilies directed more at themselves than anyone else! However, this hermeneutic of humility really must be resisted. It distorts the papal office and gives the secular media lots of straw men to set up for scorn and ridicule. Perhaps we Catholics need to reclaim the papal discussion and impose our own hermeneutics on the matter, like those of integrity, orthodoxy, consistency, tradition. That way we get to set the pace on how papal words and actions are interpreted. Maybe you/me/both of us need to write about this.

      To be blunt, a humble pope is far less a priority for me than a strong, insightful, articulate one. It would be awful if humility were to become the measure of papacies past and future. It’s a red herring. Let us not take the bait.

      mmmm…. you’ve really made me think, Christopher! Glad to have you aboard and I look forward to exploring your blog.

      And let’s keep praying for Pope Francis.

      Blessings!

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    1. Bede! What a lovely surprise. Hello.

      I think a portion of your post was detached and may be now lost in cyberspace.

      Thanks for the link which was a sensible piece of writing. What it showed me yet again was that the pope is essentially meaning the right things but not saying them well. Or more precisely, his words are coming to us in a way that requires chaps like this Jesuit commentator to fill in the gaps missing from the pope’s reported words. That for me is the primary problem: poor communication of his message in a context in which communication is instant and widespread in its reach.

      As one of our top drawer debaters at school, and no doubt since, you will know all too well the necessity of crafting the message for maximal persuasion and effect. Jesuits taught us that, so we can hope that this Jesuit pope will remember the lesson.

      Pax!

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