Wednesday, 3 April 2013
Pope Francis: A Different Kind of Pope?
I share the concern of Pope Francis for those who are poor and oppressed, as does the rest of our parish and of course, Father Dickson. We are not a rich parish; in fact we are a former ‘Pit Village’ (mining village) parish whose industry was lost in the 1980’s, so the needs of the poor and oppressed are close to the hearts of us all. As such, we not only pray for the deprived every weekend in the General Intercessions but, under the initiative of Father Dickson establishing charitable coffee mornings after Sunday Mass, try to support them practically too. For from these coffee mornings we send a few hundred pounds each year to our favourite charities (Aid to The Church In Need, Water Aid and the Society for the Protection of the Unborn Child). We also collect and donate clothing to the Knights of Saint Columba, the SVP and to our Diocesan 5p Bus Scheme, in which a bus travels to the impoverished areas of the Diocese to sell clothing at 5p an item. Our Prize Bingo has raised funds for several non-Catholic good causes within our village, and our Red Mission Boxes are always well-filled. I mention this to show that we are a parish in which those in need are remembered both spiritually and corporally, although we celebrate both the ordinary and Extraordinary Forms of the Mass with as much dignity, reverence and beauty as possible. Sometimes, this is the only beauty the poor have in their lives. We are then, I think, a parish of the same heart and will as Pope Francis. In fact, I don’t believe a Catholic parish exists that does not have a heart and a will for the needy and oppressed.
All that said, I think that the picture we are getting of Pope Francis at present is problematic. Like Father Dickson, I have no doubt that Pope Francis’ concern for and identification with the poor is genuine. However, I worry that by divesting himself of certain papal attire and ignoring the rubrics of the Missal he is allowing the so-called ‘socially aware’ (liberal, left-field catholic) to use him as a stick with which to beat down the reputation of Benedict XVI and all previous popes who retained the fullness of papal attire and remained faithful to doctrine and to the rubrics of the Missal. The presentation we are getting of Francis is that for the first time we have “a pope who is genuinely concerned for the poor”, as though other popes were not; “a pope who is humble”, as though other popes were not; “a pope who reaches out”, as though others did not; “a pope who does not hide behind bullet-proof glass”, as though others always did. Personally, I think abandoning the fullness of papal attire does not help us to see the papacy, but the man who holds the papal office, and I think it should be the opposite way round: that he should be less seen for who he is than for the office he holds. I do however, think the liberal left will find Francis less to their taste and less their ‘blue-eyed boy’ when he publicly upholds the Church’s established doctrine on contraception, abortion, homosexual acts etc., as I fully expect him to do given his reported reputation in Buenos Aires. Indeed, I think the liberal left are heralding a ‘new Church’ too soon; I think they expect Francis to be as free and easy with our doctrine as he was with the liturgical rubrics on Maundy Thursday. I think –I certainly hope- that he will prove the liberal left wrong, and I hope he does so quickly so that he does not become their puppet. I think he will surprise us all...