CNS put up a short interview with the Anchoress today, several months after her book on idolatry came out. (Reviewed earlier here.) CNS struck me as poking a bit with their headline, “Pope Francis craze may be idolatry …” Turns out the interview is a few months old. Man, in today’s world that’s like the Oligocene Epoch. Back when the world was warm.
Any craze may be idolatry. Today it usually takes a publicity engine, considerable sales (with or without technique), and overblown expectations. It could be my blind spot for personal idolatry, but I think Pope Francis doesn’t fit the bill nearly as much as his two predecessors. I have a few reasons.
The Exodus golden calf represented the devil the Israelites knew. It could have been a reaction against the unknown of the desert, the pilgrimage, the future. Idols in this image represent the tried-and-true, no matter how musty and untrustworthy. And that strikes me as more the JP2/B16 traditional longing for the days before the world went to hell at the hands of the liberals. Ms Scalia seems to agree:
Hew it out of gold, polish it up and voila!
Sounds like candlesticks and old vestments to me.
Pope Francis is really more like Moses than the calf. Some people got excited about release from a very dark situation: predator priests getting free passes, bishops not perceiving pornography, women religious under investigation while schismatics far and not so far got coddled. Money poured into the coffers of dislike, and disguised as defense.
If people were looking to Pope Francis like conservative Catholics were looking for canon-law-n-order, they would be thumping for women priests, married priests, and contraception dispensers in churches. Nothing like that seems to be happening–just tweaked noses of neo-con economists. And they’ve already trashed the economy below the level of aristocrat.
My sense is that a lot of Catholics read Pope Francis’s documents. A number of people are familiar with Ignatian spirituality, and some of us didn’t even go to a Jesuit school.
I certainly think that celebrity is a potential part of idolatry. I also think it’s possible to admire someone’s leadership without making an idol out of it. You can also latch onto a fine leader, say a Moses or a Pope John Paul II, and fashion an idol in one’s mind. I think the internet is particularly good at assisting idolatry–you really don’t need gold. Virtual burnish is enough.
I’ve already said I think Ms Scalia’s book is worth a read. The overt suggestion of Pope Francis and idolatry in the same mind of a person? I’m sure it happens. It seems a bit like sour grapes to me. But I’ll watch it. And keep discerning. Detachment is another good antidote.