Smoke & the mirrors

“We want a Pope for young people,” sez the current top video item on the Beeb, & looking about the media we find that a Pope is wanted for some other things, too. It is time, I read, for a Pope from Africa, from USA, from South America, from Canada. Even when they are not being especially malicious, the media are obtuse. They do not grasp that the papacy is not a representative government, except in the sense that it represents God to man, & man to God.

Yet this is obvious. Why can’t they get it? You don’t have to be Catholic to grasp the principle of the thing. But brains are baffled by the received ideas of any age. We can see this clearly enough when viewing, say, the 10th century through 21st century eyes. It is the beam in our own eye that we cannot see. And yes, there is an explanation for it. (Original sin breeds false consciousness.)

“Lord do not send us the Pope we deserve.”

It is true I have favourites, for instance Angelo Scola, Cardinal Archbishop of Milan, former Patriarch of Venice; or Raymond Leo Burke, Cardinal Prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura, former Archbishop of St Louis. But I know these men only through other men who have known them, & I have done little more at firsthand than kiss the ring of a couple of others. I have disfavourites, too, but will not be so stupidly invidious as to name them. I am working from the same kind of vague & often wrong & misleading information that is provided through our media of communications to any general electorate, when making their foolish choices among self-seeking politicians. The Pope isn’t elected like that. Perhaps I am better informed than most; but not a fly on the wall of the Sistine Chapel.

That is where one must be to see what is involved in the choice; & some hopeful trust is required that for all their moral, intellectual, & spiritual limitations, the 115 who are locked inside will be listening through prayer for God’s opinion.

Sandro Magister mentions Michelangelo among the electors, in a recent post. For the cardinals have been locked up with his Last Judgement; & with the prophet Jonah, turned to face our common Maker, Who is separating the light from the darkness at the Creation. Jonah, the prophet sent by God to convert the pagans; the prophet who, with his human sense of justice, regrets that God shows mercy to Nineveh; until by a vision of the Creation, some part of the mystery of God’s Love unfolds before him. Christ took upon Himself “the sign of Jonah”; of a justice & a mercy beyond human understanding.

It is an extraordinary place, which through the genius of popes & artists, & by the trumpet of the Gloria, speaks comprehensively of the Keys, which Christ passed to Peter. The frescoes on those walls, the images placed throughout that chapel & in its vaults & recesses, sober & raise the thinking heart. The cardinals are removed not only from the electronic welter of our present world, but more fundamentally from the welter of its glibness.


Update. I was in an Italian grocery shop (in the Greater Parkdale Area) when the white smoke appeared from the chimney. The television behind the cashier was set to it. The cashier — also the proprietor I believe; a man of age, girth, & good humour, with a grand white beard — translated a televised remark that the choice was “unexpected.” But of course, the name was not yet announced.

“They must have elected a black,” my grocer surmised.

Another customer in the store, a Jewish lady, asked him if he is Catholic.

“Some days,” he replied.

I was in another store when I heard a radio flash that it was Cardinal Bergoglio of Buenos Aires, taking the name Francis I. Now curiously, I had been thinking through, to the best of my ability & knowledge, what would be most likely; & had come confidently to the conclusion that it would take the Conclave until tomorrow evening to settle on … Cardinal Scola.

More than I ever knew about the former Cardinal Bergoglio has now been reported through the usual media, or may be found in the standard reference sites. Everything I learn about his career in Argentina persuades me that he will not be a great enthusiast for Benedict’s Summorum Pontificum; but he will not get in the way of it, either. He appears to be humble & without hypocrisy: he takes his Christianity neat, lives it, & has no illusions about right & wrong. Doctrinally, a rock. He is quietly courageous; the opposite of ostentatious. Not the first man I would expect to swing an axe through the Curia, but we’ll see. I am more surprised by the election of a Jesuit than by the election of a Latin American.

According to a well-publicized account, Bergoglio was runner-up in the Conclave of 2005, but clinched the election of Cardinal Ratzinger with an impassioned appeal to his own supporters to “please stop voting for me.” That he will be utterly unlike Benedict XVI seems clear enough. But as they say, the Catholic Church doesn’t believe in cloning. That so many cardinals both then & now thought this man, whose whole life has been devoted to the Church in Argentina alone, a worthy successor to Saint Peter, must speak for itself.