Of Red Shoes, Non-Prada

Thirteen months on, it remains a vast amusement to see some conservative Catholics spinning Pope Francis to fit their worldview. Apparently, it’s not enough to read and consider the man’s words. William Oddie at Catholic Herald offers a take on “Should Pope Francis have abandoned the trappings of his office? The media image now is of a pontiff rejecting the traditions of the Church.

To be frank, I pay little attention to the secular media on specialty items like religion, science, and even less important subjects like entertainment, sports, and other occasional hobbies I might have. I don’t expect the media to get faith or reason right. So I don’t read them.

That said, my sense is that the media is paying attention to the pope’s tone, which by any standard is far different from his predecessor. I would expect it. One was a diocesan priest, another was in a religious order. Both were teachers, but in different settings. They lived on different continents. They had vastly different experiences of WWII, Vatican II, the counterculture, and the Cold War era. Both had post-academic careers in bureaucracy: one in Rome and the other in a religious order.

Mr Oddie asks:

Firstly, does anyone seriously think, because (Pope Benedict) wore the scarlet mozzetta and red shoes, and went to his duties driven in a white Merc (by a driver who wept at his final departure) that Pope Benedict was NOT the profoundly humble and holy man he clearly was, for all that he didn’t consciously project humility?

I’ve said it before. Joseph Ratzinger was the most well-known person ever to be elected pope. Before his election he ran CDF, and in that role, he rarely if ever projected humility or holiness.

He may well have been a humble and holy person. A lot of people didn’t see it. His humility and sanctity are a matter between him and God.

His restoration of many decorative elements to the papacy were colored by the perception of the man as CDF head. Good things for a slender minority of Catholics. Probably not praiseworthy for most Catholics who had reason to dislike the man before 2005.

The fairness, accuracy, or utility of such feelings, assessments, or opinions may or may not be a good thing. In the view of many faithful and holy Catholics, the man had baggage heading to the Chair of Peter. Jorge Bergoglio, almost nothing.

Should Pope Francis have abandoned some 2005 innovations? In my opinion, yes. Does the media image of the man mean what the conservatives are fretting about? Not at all.

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Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
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2 Responses to Of Red Shoes, Non-Prada

  1. “Before his election he ran CDF, and in that role, he rarely if ever projected humility or holiness.

    He may well have been a humble and holy person. A lot of people didn’t see it.” A lot of people did see it. What a lot of people didn’t like was his emphasis on orthodox Catholicism and his attempt to bring the reverent and sacred back to the liturgy.. You don’t get any more humble than stepping down from the papacy. Speaks volumes. Let’s be careful not to confuse simplicity with humility.Simplicity is a manner of living and it’s exterior. Humility is a virtue and it’s internal.

  2. Brendan Kelleher svd says:

    Todd, among my SVD confreres are quite a few who have met the emeritus Bp of Rome both before and after his time in the Chair of Peter. When I was working briefly in our Generalate in Rome, back in the early 90’s, there were a couple of encounters between SVD’s and the then Cardinal since they had been anonymously “related” to the CDF. The encounters were conducted in German, and the confreres were accompanied by our Superior General – also a German, and a veteran of the missions. All described him as “a perfect gentleman”. But also commented on his inability to see beyond what they saw as a narrow understanding of the world in which the Church was called to live and witness to the Gospel.
    By not allowing him to retire as head of the CDF when he reached the age of seventy-five JPII meant that more Cardinals than we realized saw him as a front-runner. His understanding of liturgy and tradition, one that some feel had its flaws, made him the man that he was. Maybe he was the perfect example of the application of the Peter Principle.
    As to Mr William Oddie – he left Anglicanism (in its Anglo-Catholic incarnation – a product of the 19th cent), crossed the Tiber hoping to find a home in the “Roman” Catholic Church only to find that the emphasis was increasingly on the “roman” CATHOLIC Church, with all that implies. His columns sometimes, pardoning the allusion, read like the cry of a homeless or orphaned child.

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