FAIR-WEATHER FRIEND: | Noun 1. A friend who supports others only when it is convenient to do so; 2. One who is dependable in good times but not in times of trouble.|
T’S NO SECRET that several writers and bloggers previously known as “champions” of authentic liturgy lost interest in such things when Pope Francis was elected. I’ve even heard of some priests and bishops adjusting their ars celebrandi in light of B16’s resignation.
To those of us who have supported passionately authentic liturgical renewal—going back well over a decade before Pope Benedict’s election in 2005—such withdrawals seem more than passing strange. For one thing, Pope Francis is unlikely to make any drastic changes to the liturgy. 1
More importantly, what have we been doing all this time? Have we merely been “hopping on the bandwagon” of a current Pope (Benedict) who preferred a certain style of liturgy? 2 I always believed—and still do—that we were fighting for something powerful, beautiful, holy, and true, based upon sound principles and respect for our Catholic heritage.
ON THE OTHER HAND, I must concede that the hysteria surrounding Pope Francis can get on my nerves. Not too long ago, a friend initiated the following dialogue with me. (My friend is not well-informed about the Catholic Church—his knowledge comes from skimming the newspaper headlines.) Our conversation went something like this:
I’ve read that Francis’ election changed practically everything in your Church. Has it been hard for you to adjust? You’ll have to re-evaluate all you’re doing, right?
To be honest, nothing much has changed. The prayers, the Mass, the struggles, the consolations—everything remains just as it was. In fact, I cannot name a single substantial change he’s made. If you want to talk about a Pope who made changes, we should talk about Paul VI…
But newspapers claim that Francis has changed everything. Don’t you think about these changes each day?
Frankly, I think of Pope Francis about as much as I think of Pope Adeodatus. Or Pope Benedict XII. Or Pope Damasus II. Or Pope Julius I. Or Pope Pontian. Or Pope Theodore II. (Except we do often pray for the current Pope’s intentions.)
I don’t understand. How can you say that?
Look, the Pope has a job to do. The bishops have their jobs. Priests and nuns have their jobs. I have mine, too. Pope Francis has the same job as the other popes I mentioned. He has the same authority, too—no more, no less. Whether I think about those popes 10 times a day or 100 times a day is unimportant. We study his magisterium & accept his appointments, as we do for all popes.
This obsession with every aspect of our leaders’ lives comes from the 24/7 news cycle, which demands “news” constantly. Out of laziness, most journalists default to talking about unimportant details of the leader. The United States has 300+ million people, yet journalists dwell without ceasing upon silly stories—and even speculation—about the current President. The same thing happens with Pope Francis: it’s deplorable.
For centuries, Catholics knew very little about their Pope—not even how he looked—and they got along just fine. I’m told Pope Pius IX could sneak around in a priest’s cassock visiting the parishes incognito because the few who’d actually seen him only viewed him from a distance. The Roman Emperor wanted his subjects to recognize him, so he placed his face on every single coin.
Believe it or not, back when popes held temporal power, Catholics even fought against their Pope in wars. Fr. Leslie Rumble of Radio Replies explained how this was morally permissible. This reality probably sounds bizarre to some people, yet much about our Church’s history comes as a surprise—such as Christ choosing Judas Iscariot to be one of the Twelve.
But newspapers claim Francis is imposing his own ideas on the Church, to make the Church how he wants.
Decades ago, Cardinal Ratzinger said:
“The Pope is not an absolute monarch whose thoughts and desires are law. On the contrary: the Pope’s ministry is a guarantee of obedience to Christ and to his Word. He must not proclaim his own ideas, but rather constantly bind himself and the Church to obedience to God’s Word, in the face of every attempt to adapt it or water it down, and every form of opportunism.”
I agree with what Cardinal Ratzinger said.
Many are wasting an obscene amount of time trying to guess what Pope Francis might do and what it might mean. Can you imagine if these wasted efforts were given over to prayer or acts of charity?
SENSIBLE PEOPLE CONCEDE that our world is full of serious problems and frightful sufferings. Sometimes, when I contemplate these things, I’m so overwhelmed that I nearly collapse. I have my own struggles, too (e.g. with health).
One thing that bothers me greatly is how evil people have infiltrated the Church, trying to destroy her from within. Many times, the perpetrators possess great skills and intelligence—but instead of using their gifts to promote the Gospel, they corrupt souls. I’m sorry to admit that some of these evil men teach in Catholic seminaries. Dwelling on this robs my soul of serenity. For some reason, considering the plight of those suffering real devastation—such as the piteous victims of Ebola—calms my mind; because if they can deal with such horrors, surely I can bear my tiny crosses.
The catastrophic scandals in our Church, especially those perpetrated by members of the hierarchy, are an opportunity for us to place all of our trust in God.
Moreover, we must never succumb to the temptations so prevalent on the internet today. I’m sure you’ve encountered blogs run by anonymous people who act as though the Catholic Church is about to end, and only their hysterical & slanderous postings can prevent such an outcome. Yet our Lord promised (Mt 16:18) that the gates of hell shall never prevail against the Church. Doubting the words of our Lord—even in a seemingly harmless anonymous internet post—comes very close to serious sin.
NOTES FROM THIS ARTICLE:
1 This is something repeated over and over again by trustworthy experts ever since Pope Francis was elected, and so far, these experts have been proven right. Those who disagree have recently begun grasping at straws.
2 Such evacuations remind me of certain sports fans I knew in my youth, who waited to see which team was dominating and—Voilà!—that was suddenly their favorite team! It’s the opposite of my father, who always rooted for the Chicago Bears even though they never seemed to have a good year.