There are some Posts I would prefer not to write. This is one of them. But if one is to be credible more broadly, it is necessary to address difficult issues - even when one would prefer to remain silent.

" UBI PETRUS , IBI ECCLESIA" is one of those fundamental Catholic phrases that encapsulates an essential truth. " Where there is Peter, There is the Church". It is true in multiple ways. Yes, where we find the teaching of the Pope we find the teaching of the Church. And physically, where we find the Pope, we find the heart of the Church. In so many ways, as members of Christ's Church we are oriented toward , and bound in Faith and love to the Successor of Saint Peter in our spiritual life. 

Does this mean that we believe each and every Pope is a person who is perfect - never makes a mistake at all, or an error of judgement? Does it mean that we regard everything each Pope does as something necessarily to be emulated? Plainly, no. 

We know the doctrinal truth of Papal Infallibility. The First Vatican Council -   defined the Tradition that the Successor of Saint Peter when teaching " Ex Cathedra" on matters of Faith and morals to be held by all the faithful,  is infallible. We also know that the number of times such statements are made is extremely small. And we know that in the course of exercising his Petrine Ministry the Holy Father teaches on many subjects , and that this Ordinary Magisterium is to be given our faithful religious obedience.

Nevertheless, if in the course of some ecumenical or inter-religious gathering, the Pope of the day, on the spur of the moment, does something daffy like kissing the Koran, we do not approve that action, but rather , with love, recognise simply a silly impulsive error of judgement.(Attributed to Bl. John Paul II).

In the weeks since the election of Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio as Pope Francis we have witnessed a pattern of activity on the part of the Holy Father which has at the very least , been greeted with fawning applause by the anti-Church  Media and equally with hissing and spitting venom by some arch traditionalists.What some have seen as evidence of authentic holiness, others have seen as " ostentatious acts of public humility" ( a truly withering phrase).The whole matter has become a complex sorry distraction across the Internet, as some seek to use these novelties to slyly disparage Pope Benedict XVI , and yet others seek to excoriate Pope Francis, while others laud and glorify him. A wholly unnecessary distraction.

At its heart, some of the criticism has a logical basis. The new Holy Father seems determined to assert his personal approach to matters of behaviour rather than to adopt the practices of his predecessors over the last hundreds of years. It is as if the assertion of personal preference would defy the nature of the office. In opting for simply ornamented vestments as opposed to those more ornate, he is adopting one line of logic, where all his predecessors have adopted another. It is a matter of judgement, and entirely up to him. In choosing to kneel in his white cassock and zuccheto at the back of the congregation before his public ( another innovation) morning Mass he is again making  a judgement that none of his predecessors have made. That is his prerogative.

Yet we, as individual Catholics, are in no way obliged to accept that his judgement in these matters is better than that of all of his predecessors.

In the case of the simple vestments we are entitled to agree with his predecessors that it is right and just to honour the Presence of Our Lord and God in the Blessed Sacrament with the greatest beauty we can provide. And that neither accommodating personal humility, nor deferring to the situation of the poor, who are always with us, justifies denying God whatever honour we can, in human terms provide, through the use of superb traditional vestments, which also work to inspire in the same poor  greater devotion.Especially when those vestments are at hand, already available.

Equally , whilst we know the Pope is one of us, we know that he is, by virtue of his office far more than that. And even the most basic recognition of human reality shows us that the mantle of authority and a certain " distance" are required to preserve the dignity of the office and essential if, when the crunch comes , one is to be obeyed implicitly - even when it is contrary to the popular will.The old wisdom is undeniable : " Familiarity breeds contempt".And that has never been more true than to-day when heavy Media exposure tends to banalise everything.

Tedious though it may be , I must repeat that I honour and respect our new Holy Father, not only in his Office but in his person .  I love the strong orthodoxy of his preaching and teaching. I pray for him and his welfare most earnestly. 

At the same time there are matters of judgement in which one is entitled, and I think should, respectfully disagree with his personal choices, matters in which one finds oneself in the company of his predecessors over the centuries.


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