Monday, March 10, 2014
EVEN THIS PAPIST THINKS THAT TOO MUCH POPE MIGHT BE UNHEALTHY
While I loved Pope John Paul II, what I did not like is how the papacy was transformed by his popularity into the "cult of the personality." His Masses and personal appearances turned into pep rallies resembling more a sporting or celebrity or political event rather than a religious event.
Pope Benedict brought a more sober style to the papacy, but was criticized for not being as outgoing as Pope John Paul II, too stiff, academic and aloof. As time went on and as trials multiplied for His Holiness he brought out more and more of the regal aspects of the papacy, its imperial or monarchical look, its "kingdom of God" look a term I prefer to use when linked to the Biblical images of the benevolent royalty of heaven headed by Christ the Sovereign King.
When one looks at old footage of popes prior to the Council and immediately after (prior to Pope John Paul II) the appearance of the Pope was intentionally aloof, elevated, monarchical and regal. The pope was greeted as the visible head of the Church (Jesus is the invisible head of course, the pope is simply His vicar.)
While Romans would applaud the pope and yell out "viva il Papa!" and wave white handkerchiefs, the pope was royally treated. He did not act as a politician or a celebrity. When he entered the room, His Holiness would acknowledge the Faithful with raised arms and multiple blessings.
I dislike and dislike it immensely that the cult of the personality is returning to the papacy. I do not like the pope acting as a celebrity or a politician when in public. Hopefully this will only be a blip on the radar screen of the papacy.
Prior to the internet, popes were covered in more serene and dignified ways by the press. We'd hear about some of what the Pope said in Catholic periodicals and newspapers. The secular press would offer snippets of the papacy and usually in positive way. Magazines like Look and Life would have wonderful, colorful photos of the pageantry of the papacy. But the focus was on the papacy as an institution rather than on the "institution" of the current occupant, on this or that pope.
Perhaps we are having overkill with popes and all due to blogs and the internet and even the Vatican offering us a play by play description of what the pope does all day long. We never heard of the daily homilies of previous popes, but we get a synopsis each day and almost immediately. I never saw a complete Angelus until the internet and Vatican Radio providing it live each Sunday and all of the public papal Masses televised.
When is too much too much and the focus taken away from the local Church and placed on some virtual Church in the Vatican?
Catholicism is local as well as universal. On the Diocesan level we are a mega Church, the first Mega Church for that is the nature of the Catholic Church. Our parishes are simply satellites of the Bishop's diocesan Church.
Let us honor and respect the papacy but let us not make too much of it or more than what the Lord intended. Let's keep it aloof, regal and rare in our psyche and focus on the work of the Church locally to show forth Christ and the complete Christ, one who washes feet, shows the unconditional love and compassion of the Father, His Divine Mercy and one who rules and judges and does so as Lord and King in His Risen and Glorified Body.