According to his own account earlier today (see here and here), he removed the crucifix from a Rosary that was in the casket of his fellow priest. For the sake of non-Catholics reading this blog, let me explain a little of Catholic burial customs. We have viewings (or wakes) as do most Christian denominations. When the deceased is placed in his/her coffin, their hands are folded over their midriffs as though they are in slumber. A Rosary is placed in their hands, intertwined with their fingers. Often the Rosary is a favorite of the deceased's, or holds meaning to the deceased's relatives.
It is that cross that Pope Francis surreptitiously removed. In his own words, "And immediately there came to mind the thief we all have inside ourselves and while I arranged the flowers I took the cross and with just a bit of force I removed it. And in that moment I looked at him and I said 'Give me half your mercy.'"
Coming from the Vicar of Christ, this is incredible. "Thou shalt not steal" remains the Seventh Commandment, binding on us all. There is also the matter of the Spiritual Work of Mercy known as "burying the dead". Whatever else that Work of Mercy means, it doesn't mean helping oneself to personal effects of the deceased and absconding with them for one's personal use/enjoyment.
Particularly scandalous is the nonchalance with which he spoke of his - yes, I'll say the word - crime. He showed the cross to those in attendance this morning. Instead of contrition for indulging "the thief we all have inside ourselves" he seemed to affirm his own "inner thief" with a wink-chuckle-wink air. He is the Holy Father. Should we all emulate that example? If so, why stop at "the thief we all have inside ourselves"? Why not indulge "the murderer we all have inside ourselves"?
The victim of Father Jorge Bergoglio's sticky fingers was himself a well-known confessor. Perhaps that Sacrament is needed, along with the return of the cross to the deceased's relatives.
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