14 March 2013

Habemus Papam

As has been broadcast to all corners of the globe, we have a new Holy Father, Pope Francis (not Pope Francis I).  I had a feeling today was going to be the day, and I was not disappointed.

I will confess, the traditionalist side of me was not ecstatic about his election, primarily because I did not know a great deal about him (and what little I did know, primarily regarding his stance on liturgical matters, did not thrill me).  I wasn't in as sour of a mood as our friends over at Rorate Caeli (seriously, most of the comments on here make me ashamed to call myself a traditionalist), but I also wasn't as giddy as some others.

So, to help myself sort out my thoughts, here are reasons why I am happy today, followed by things about which I will reserve judgment.  First, the happy things:

  • We have a pope!  Enough said.
  • By all accounts, Pope Francis is a staunch defender of the Church's moral teachings in the public arena (not that this is surprising, given the fact that all of the Cardinal electors were appointed by Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI).
  • He has been excellent in combating the aggressive secularism that is plaguing his native country of Argentina.
  • The Cardinals seem to have found the one man even more humble than Pope Benedict -- I have enjoyed reading of his deep and gentle humility in the way he lives his life.  
  • Even more than that, his request to have everyone in St. Peter's Square pray for him before he imparted the Urbi et Orbi blessing was absolutely stunning.  I had chills.
  • His appointment continues to confound the news media and those of a more progressive mindset. This is summed up well by this remark on Twitter from New York Times resident nitwit, Nicholas Kristof: "Pope Francis seems liberal on social justice but sadly traditional on sexuality and contraception." My response: "So you mean he's actually Catholic? The horror."
  • I love, and I mean LOVE, his choice of name.  Before the Vatican clarified that he had chosen the name in honor of St. Francis of Assisi, it could also have been in honor of St. Francis Xavier, the great Jesuit saint.  But the invocation of the Poor Man of Assisi, whom God instructed to rebuild His Church, is a powerful statement in this age, when the Church is under siege from forces both within and without.
  • He is emphatically not part of the Curial wing of the College of Cardinals, and I pray that he will be able to clean house and get the Curia in order.
In spite of all of this (much of which I did not fully hash out in my own head until just now), I could not help but feel a twinge of frustration when Cardinal Tauran announced who our new Holy Father was going to be.  I have written before of my deep love for Pope Benedict's liturgical mindset.  Though I realize full well that the sacred liturgy is not the only important issue in the Church, in my mind, it is the most important and the key to the New Evangelization.  It is for several reasons related to the sacred liturgy that I am apprehensive about his election:
  • Pope Francis presided over this travesty that apparently was supposed to be a Holy Mass.  (Warning: this is as bad as any puppet "Mass" you have seen.)
  • If this report and the accompanying photograph are to be believed, he once received a "blessing" from a Protestant televangelist.
  • He declined to wear the traditional papal mozzetta today when he made his first public appearance and only wore the papal stole while he was giving the Urbi et Orbi blessing.  Before you say anything, I know that vestments and liturgical fineries are not everyone's cup of tea.  But he still should have worn them.  As I remarked to a friend earlier, humility need not entail eschewing the Church's liturgical traditions.
  • (Admittedly unsubstantiated) reports from people living in Argentina have said that as Archbishop of Buenos Aires, he was not at all friendly to the implementation of Summorum Pontificum.
Because of these issues, my initial reaction was one of disappointment that the wonderful liturgical legacy begun by Pope Benedict would not continue under Pope Francis.  My thoughts have been tempered over the course of the day.  Though he may not do much to encourage the Traditional Mass, I do not believe that he will actively move to discourage or suppress its use.  I remain concerned about the example he will set in his public Masses -- though Pope Benedict never celebrated a public Extraordinary Form Mass, he did a great deal in orienting us toward a more reverent and traditional Novus Ordo Mass (with things like communion kneeling and on the tongue, wider use of Latin, use of the Propers of the Mass, etc.).  I also lament the loss (or at least the passing from view) of Pope Benedict's writings on liturgical theology, though there certainly is nothing stopping Pope Francis from taking up his mantle (please?).

Considering all of these factors, if Pope Francis concentrates on cleaning up the Curia and other problematic areas within the Church and steers clear of the Traditional Mass and other liturgical issues as much as possible, I think his pontificate will be a success.  Given his age, it may not be a long one anyway, so I will pray that in whatever time he is given in the See of Peter, he will effect the change in the Church for which the Holy Spirit called him to the office.

V.  Oremus pro Pontifice nostro Francisco.
R.  Dominus conservet eum, et vivificet eum, et beatum faciat eum in terra, et non tradat eum in animam inimicorum eius.
Deus, omnium fidelium pastor et rector, famulum tuum Francisco, quem pastorem Ecclesiæ tuæ præesse voluisti, propitius respice: da ei, quæsumus, verbo et exemplo, quibus præest, proficere: ut ad vitam, una cum grege sibi credito, perveniat sempiternam. Per Christum, Dominum nostrum. Amen.

P.S.  One of the other things that excites me, though it may not have been our new Holy Father's doing entirely, is that his installation Mass will take place on the Solemnity of St. Joseph, Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary and Patron of the Universal Church.  How awesome is that?

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