Any Catholic with their eyes and ears halfway opened knows that there has been much controversy surrounding Pope Francis and whether or not he will uphold the traditions of the Roman Catholic Faith. Some are concerned that if current trends continue, the Church may lose what little spiritual and moral credibility that she still retains.
There is much confusion regarding the papacy. Our Lord promised that His Vicar would never solemnly promulgate error in matters of faith and morals; that is, he'd never pronounce error "ex cathedra". That's it! That is the extent of His promise. We were never promised that all other sayings/actions by a reigning pontiff would be free from error. Too many people today equate every saying and/or doing by the pontiff, be that saying/doing ever so trivial, with the spiritual weight of a truly ex cathedra pronouncement. They are either: 1) utterly convinced when such errors happen that the Church has apostatized and thus is no more or 2) be overly scrupulous about accepting such misstatements as ex cathedra and thus condemning those of us who take exception to such misstatements.
We were never promised a holy and/or intelligent pope at all times. Indeed, history shows that some popes have been outright scoundrels. Alexander VI comes to mind. He, while sitting on the throne of Peter, had several illegitimate children. Lucretia Borgia was his daughter. His son is said to be the inspiration for Machiavelli's "The Prince". The son apparently learned some murderous tricks from his father. If we've had less-than-holy pontiffs in the past, we've no reason to presume it can't happen again.
Let's face it. Pope Francis has caused many eyebrows to raise. While I have neither desire nor competence to accuse him of any malice of heart, by the same token I'm in no position to excuse him of any such thing in the light of so many questionable incidents during his pontificate.
Right from the start of his papacy we knew things were going to be unusual. For the sake of brevity I'll not elaborate on them in this post (at least not too much). I'll post links that will go more into detail, as I do believe we should all be aware of these matters.
We learned right away that Pope Francis had no plans to reside in the papal apartments in which his predecessors had all resided. Rather, he chose to occupy a suite of rooms in the Casa Santa Maria, a Vatican guest house. Some might opine these arrangements to be more modest than the apartments; one must wonder what expenses were incurred to adjust this suite to be adequate living quarters. We also learned that he was removing some of the ornate features of papal vestments and - disconcertingly - referring to himself as "Bishop of Rome" as opposed to "pope" or "pontiff".
Here is a list of other changes noted by some during his first few weeks of his pontificate. Some might argue that these matters only deal with externals. But are they perhaps taking an overly simplistic look at how this pontificate is evolving? These matters, such as the apartments, the papal slippers, his preferred title, etc aren't merely externals. They are part and parcel of the tradition of the papacy, a tradition that transcends the individual preferences of the man who may be on the Chair of Peter at a given moment. Such traditions link him with his predecessors and with his role as Vicar of Christ. I'm sure previous pontiffs may have chafed at some of the traditions themselves, but they embraced the traditions as part and parcel of their new vocation. Moreover, as has become evident, attitudes towards relatively minor matters are often harbingers of attitudes towards more weighty matters.
One addition to papal vestments was rather banal. In congratulating a newlywed couple, he saw fit to don a clown-nose and pose with that thing on his face. Sense of humor, one might say? It's more like an affront to the dignity of his high office. Like it or not, no pope is simply "just one of the guys". He's the Holy Father, the Vicar of Christ. Like all ordained, the Holy Father doesn't "punch a clock". The Sacrament of Holy Orders confers on the ordained an indelible mark upon his soul, a mark that lasts into eternity. Any priest is an "alter Christus"; why would he disregard that high dignity for even a moment?
Such "clowning around" segues into real violations. Last year, after the World Youth Day in Brazil (you know, the one where bishops were led in a silly dance by gay choreographer Fly), Pope Francis returned with several souvenirs: a beach ball and soccer jersey. So what did he do with these items? He went to St. Mary Major Basilica and put them on the altar - right next to the tabernacle. The altar of any Catholic Church is reserved for the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. When the words of Consecration are uttered by a priest saying Mass at that altar, the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity comes down on that very altar. That altar is to be reserved for sacred use only: not to be the receptacle for cheap baubles.
I've posted before on the various impromptu interviews that he has given; see this link. These interviews have caused immense damage: damage that has at least been anticipated and tolerated, if not deliberated.
There has been papal disdain for spiritual bouquets offered on his behalf; see here and here. There is the draconian treatment being meted to the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate; see here. We've seen him NOT genuflecting during the Consecration of Masses, but he does kneel when protestants "pray over him". During two Holy Thursday liturgies we've seen him wash women's feet, in direct violation of rubrics; see here and here for evidence of the damage done by poor example. Then there is the damage being done in the name of ecumenism; some of us have renamed it "ecumenicide". Another name for it is indifferentism.
Do we have a problem in the Vatican? A reasonable person might conclude from the foregoing list that indeed we do. The jury might still be out on that question, but bear in mind that the preceding list is from a papacy less than three years old. Again, not one of us is qualified to judge his heart or motives, but we do look at what has proceeded from the Vatican thus far.
Again, Our Lord promised that His Vicar would never solemnly pronounce error, but that's as far as the promise goes. We must pray for Our Holy Father and all clergy. We must also have our eyes wide open and not be afraid to utter objective truth, be that truth ever so unpopular or uncomfortable. Else our prayer won't be worth much.
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