25 March 2013

Pope Francis isn't a garden statue

Fr. Longenecker has it exactly right about the media's obsession with F1's poverty and simplicity:

. . .the vast crowds (of mostly rich people) who profess to love [Pope Francis'] simplicity of life are responding sentimentally ['cause that's pretty much the only way they have left to respond, having surrendered their ability to think critically]. There is a syrupy idea that the poor are wonderful just because they’re poor. There is also a very warm hearted feeling toward St Francis, who preached to the birdies and hugged trees and kissed lepers. This sentimental approach to poverty and ministry to the poor is shallow and naive [and dangerous]. It’s the stuff of St Francis statues in the backyard, and the sickly sentimentality of that creepy sixties movie Brother Sun, Sister Moon in which a beautiful young Francis went tumbling through fields of flowers [you mean Franciscans don't spend their days tumbling through flowerbeds and chasing butterflies?!].

[. . .]

The latte sipping crowd who think the Pope is “just marvelous” because he doesn’t go in for the limousine or the trappings of the office are strangely deaf if we suggest that they follow his example. They’re all quiet happy for the Pope to sell off the riches of the church, but they’re not about to have a garage sale [well sure, if he sells off the Church's property and gives that money to the poor, then they won't have to feel bad about not selling their stuff. . .not that they would anyway].

[. . .]

I predict that before too very long he’ll be under attack. The attacks will be vicious and cruel and unfair–like Christopher Hitchen’s famous attack on Mother Teresa of Calcutta. Pope Francis may continue to live in poverty and eschew the trappings of the papacy, but no one will notice. The “poverty effect” will be short lived. It will be played down, and if my hunch is right–it will even come under attack. The same members of the secular press who are now licking his hands will turn and bite him. They will say his “poverty” was a sham, a public relations stunt and that he is just another hypocritical Catholic prelate. [The first salvo from the lefty media will come when he says something publicly against their preferred political agenda. . .all this fawning over his poverty will be instantly forgotten.]

We'll see the similar reactions from the Peace and Justice Crowd in the Church when he speaks out against their political idols, especially the ordination of women, same-sex "marriage," and all the other pelvic issues that seem to exercise them beyond reason.

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  1. Anonymous12:08 PM

    The emeritus and the present popes seem to be typological opposites.

    Benedict was a contemplative introvert, an intellectual and an aesthete. His religion was about truth and beauty. As an introverted thinking type, his personality tended to look for places to hide in plain sight: inside books and encyclicals and lectures, and inside ancient ritual forms and structures. He related to people, both as individuals and crowds, by inviting them into these structures, both intellectual and aesthetic, where he was the host rather than the star. In charge, but personally muted.

    Francis is an activist extravert, a devotionalist and a moralist. His religion is about emotional love and good works. As an extraverted feeling type, his personality tends to look for places to assert itself in imaginative romances with both otherworldly and thisworldly beings and in spontaneous but morally oriented interactions with crowds and groups. In his interactions, he is always front and center as an ego, even when --or especially when-- enacting gestures of humility. By his humble dramatics he becomes the star of his show.

    Bergoglio is a Jesuit. I openly confess to not "getting" the appeal of the Jesuit religion. It is rooted in an individual technology of imaginative devotion and transformative decision based on the manual of Spiritual Exercises created by the founder, a Spanish Counter-Reformation ex-soldier. As much as I know of it, I find it both suffocating and boring.

    Ratzinger, though a diocesan priest, has a more Benedictine monastic style, as his choice of name indicated. Here it is the rhythm of the liturgy, the daily and ancient structure of images, gestures and ideas which shapes a man, slowly and over time, but within a fixed community that is withdrawn from the outside world.

    Both styles create ironies and paradoxes. The interiority and military submission to the ideals of the Jesuit corps has created many very strong individual personalities. The withdrawal and communal submission to rule and ritual and work created centers of civilization around communities where hardly anyone stood out but the abbot, but around which towns and cities grew up.

    You can tell my own bias.

    But both men are Roman Catholics. And eventually, that will not go down will with the press.

    1. We share that bias. Being an academically inclined introvert myself, F1's style is not going to attract me to him as a leader like BXVI's did. JPII didn't appeal to me on that personal level either. My concern FOR F1 is that he be super suspicious of the media and Vatican cranks. BXVI was mishandled and that makes me very angry. Regardless of style, F1 is the Holy Father. . .and that's all I need to know.

    2. Anonymous

      "Jesuit religion"...? "Jesuit religiosity", or "Jesuit spirituality" would do the job, but "Jesuit religion"? I mean, I know just enough about the SJ to know that the order has a rather "problematic" (so to speak; not in a derogatory way) history since its beginning, but its "religion" has always been the Catholic one. We can tell your own bias indeed.

      And as for your psychological profile of the new Pope, unless you have a Myers-Briggs done by him, at this point when his potificate isn't even at cruising speed yet you're mostly buying into the media speculation.

    3. Anonymous8:42 PM

      My profile of the new Pope is obviously a first impression, but it is based on my reading of his history, his own behavior and his own words, especially his homilies. You can get a good sense of people's typologies by observation, too, not just testing. As for what "the media" thinks, I can assure you that, right or wrong, I am not someone who takes his cues from them. They are a pestilence. Robert Kaplan's 2004 article Media and Medievalism pretty well sums them up for me.

      As for the Jesuits, well, I'll just say that St Thomas, in the Summa, refers to what we call a religious order as a "religio".

  2. Now having read the linked article, I don't think Fr. Longenecker gets it or his predictions will work out that way. What he and the commentators who are anxious about the Pope is that his "poverty-oriented" facet is just one of many others. And I'm not the only one saying that: (via Peggy Noonan)

    "...the strange and interesting character of Jorge Bergoglio, the Argentinian just elected pope. He is an advocate of the poor who has consistently opposed the Argentinian government’s ostensible programs for the poor. A social activist who rejects most social reform. A churchman who refused many of the elaborate trappings of his office while promoting the power of the church. A populist who denies almost every request for an interview. A leftist who denounces the state power and cultural changes demanded by the left. A reactionary who despises the accumulation of wealth and the libertarian freedoms praised by the right. No attempt to impose liberal and conservative definitions on him will succeed. Pope Francis simply won’t fit in those categories, mostly because the ancient religious insights of Christianity—taken, as he takes them, in their undiluted form—cannot find an easy place in the modern world."

    "Then, too, he is a Jesuit, the first Jesuit pope, in fact—a member of a society that frowns on high church offices for its priests. Of course, he is also something of an outlier in the Society of Jesus, not just in his having been a metropolitan archbishop but also in his theology. In the days of Bergoglio’s young priesthood, South America’s Jesuits were almost entirely persuaded by Communist-tinged liberation theology, and Bergoglio remains far more in the world of traditional and socially conservative ethics."

    1. Good assessment by Noonan.

    2. Not sure to which one are you referring, but the article quoted is from Joseph Bottum of First Things; the Noonan post was where I found it.