Sunday, September 20, 2015

What Makes For A Humble Pope?

Well, it's certainly not what we heard in the homily during today's 9:30 Mass at St. John Neumann.  Expounding on today's Gospel from Mark 9:30-37, the homilist preached on humility, attempting to tie it in with the pope's visit to the DC area this coming week.  He lauded Pope Francis for not taking on the traditions of his papal predecessors: the crimson robe, the red slippers, the tiara, etc.  The homilist said that "Pope Francis does not need these things" and that because of these choices, Pope Francis distinguishes himself for his humility.

I beg to differ.

Pope St Pius X, with tiara and robe
A "non-humble" pope?
"These things" to which the homilist referred are not mere props intended to puff up the egos of the pontiffs who occupy the chair of Peter.  Rather, they hearken back to the traditions of the Roman Catholic Church and towards the papacy itself.  The pope is not just "one of the fellas".  He is the Vicar of Christ.  The traditions associated with that office have nothing to do with the personal proclivities of the individual occupying the Chair of Peter at any given moment.  They are linked with the dignity of the office, an office instituted by Jesus Christ Himself when He designated St. Peter as the first pope.

The homilist elaborated on Pope Francis' refusal of the red papal slippers, saying that Pope Francis felt no need for them since "he had other shoes".  Perhaps both the homilist and Pope Francis need to be reminded that the red color is a somber reminder that the pope must be prepared to shed his blood in defense of the Faith, as indeed many of the popes (particularly during the first few centuries) did.

I do not think for one moment that Pope Francis is the first to feel discomfort at the thought of assuming the traditions of the papacy.  However, it seems that the others understood that these traditions had diddly-squat to do with their personal preferences.  In true humility they put aside their personal opinions and adopted the traditions, vestments, living quarters, etc attendant with papal traditions in order to point to Jesus Christ the King, in Whose stead they acted.

Am I saying that Pope Francis displayed lack of humility by not accepting the traditional garb of the papacy?  No, for that itself is not sufficient basis for such an opinion (although the eschewing of papal traditions has been a harbinger of other problems).  By the same token though, there is no basis for stating that he displayed humility by eschewing papal traditions as today's homilist erroneously claimed.


  1. This is completely RIGHT ON! Thanks for pointing out the obvious, that what some view as 'Papal Trappings' have nothing really to do with true Humility.

  2. Jesus allowed His enemies to crown Him whereas modern Popes refuse to allow their friends to crown them with the Triregnum and which behavior suggest a I'm humbler than Jesus attitude but that would, necessarily, ignore the reality that Jesus did allow His enemies to crown Him and to mock Him whereas we all know that were a modern Pope to allow his own self to be crowned with the Triregnum, the world over which he truly does have power would mock him.

    If a Pope is actualising hus duties, at least one half of the world will have his guts whereas Franciscus has his face on the cover of Time Rolling Stone, The Advocate, etc etc


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