This post originally appeared on 11th October, 2013 under the Title "The Importance of Being Frank (Apologies to O.Wilde)"

I have to admit, that when Pope Francis first appeared on the balcony of Saint Peter's  to be introduced to the world, I had a horrible sick feeling in my stomach as he stood there motionless, expressionless, staring out at the crowds in the Piazza below. I thought to myself that it was as if he did not approve of their joy, that he was about to say something by way of rebuke, and if he did, what more might he say?

My unease, rather uncertainty, continued even after he asked the crowd to pray for him.It has never really gone away.

For those of our readers who do not come from the Anglosphere I should point out that "Frank" is the common colloquial abbreviation, the familiar form of the Christian Name "Francis". And in 1928 there was a Radio series - Protestant fundamentalist origins - called " Frank and Earnest". The phrase was in common use - half mockingly - when I was a child growing up in 1940s/50s Sydney Australia. And of course Oscar Wilde wrote the famous comedy play called " The Importance of Being Earnest." Thus our Title for this Post.

The Importance of being Frank therefore has two meanings:

.  it is truly important to be Francis - the Pope,

and it is truly important to be forthright and honest about things as we see them, thus frank.

To be the Pope,the Bishop of Rome and Vicar of Christ is the greatest office that one could hold on Earth.It is an office therefore that commands the greatest respect from everyone and that includes the holder of that office himself. It is not something that a Pope has the right to use or abuse to "do it my way". 

It is the most sacred trust.It has evolved spiritually under the guidance of the Holy Spirit and naturally under the influence of history.


It is the latter evolution that is most susceptible to change. Historically that change has, more often than not, come from the working of external forces. For example we might consider :

.the assumption of civil governance after the collapse of the Roman Empire and the beginning of the so-called Dark Ages, as the people turned to the only remaining reliable source of organisation.

.the "loss" of the Papal States to the new Italian Republic which seemed so catastrophic, leading English enemies to gloat over the end of the Papacy, and Blessed Pope Pius IX assuming the " prisoner in the Vatican " status.

.the steady increase in the international influence of the Pope in behind the scenes international politics after that period, as history has revealed. Whereas Blessed Pope Pius IX had to be content with sympathetic correspondence with Jefferson Davis President of the failing Confederacy,his Successors came to be courted by the Church's old enemy the English Crown and its Governments as they sought (in reality) to calm down the King's self-respecting Irish "subjects" who did not see themselves as anybody's subjects.The Holy See came to be courted by many nations seeking co-operation, information and often approval.

.the extraordinary status achieved in World affairs by Pope Pius XII during and after World War II as the only leading moral ( as opposed to political) authority who consistently opposed the evils of Nazism and  Communism.

His standing then has been largely undermined by the Left inclined Media promoting the idea that he did not use his influence to protect Jews from Hitler (oddly The New York Times , it has been shown, knew even more about the Nazi atrocities but said almost nothing) . The allegation is readily answered by the fact that he directly saved 800,000 Jews in Italy. He refrained from direct criticism of what was being done in Germany because he saw what happened when the Dutch Bishops publicly attacked the Nazis on the issue: even more Jews were rounded up and sent to the Death Camps { including Saint Edith Stein} and the Church and Catholics were attacked.Nevertheless he was praised in some parts of the contemporary media as "the only voice standing up for victims of the Nazis" as he did in carefully phrased addresses.

But , as we have said, the change has not always come from external forces :

. Ven. Pope Paul VI laid aside the Papal Triple Tiara

.the moves of Bl. Pope John  Paul II toward increased practical collegiality as demonstrated in the development of the Synod of Bishops processes.

.Pope Benedict XVI set aside the title " Patriarch of the West".

So we see that even at the highest levels of world activity the Pope's role has evolved over time.


Those spiritual aspects of the role starting with the Gospel obligation to "strengthen your Brethren" ( Luke 22:32) and the guidance of the Holy Spirit are cumulative and only susceptible to change by development. God does not change His Mind.


So much is being written about Pope Francis that it is easy to see the concern in many quarters, the adulation in other quarters. Pope Francis is also so very active in novel ways and so variously prolific in his utterances that the divisions his words "off the cuff" have brought, seem only to grow.

The heart of the matter seems to be this : Pope Francis is an enigma - he is difficult to properly understand. In his formal teaching he is unfailingly orthodox - that is not disputed.

In his over-abundant " off the cuff" utterances he continually makes remarks which seem to suggest that orthodoxy is at risk in his hands, and yet, usually he ties those remarks down with statements and references that affirm orthodoxy. "What is he up to?" his critics cry. And often they are people whose conditioned reflexes have been developed in the post-Conciliar false "spirit of the Council" era of liturgical abuse (now a little diminished as many of its practitioners go to their eternal reward) and the unnatural repression of the Latin Mass prior to Summorum Pontificum ( and still in some recalcitrant Dioceses).

Then again, in this climate of irritable uncertainty which, it must be admitted Pope Francis has caused - whether intending to or not - rumour mills ( always busy in Rome at the best of times) have gone into overdrive.

A classic example of this surrounds Archbishop Piero Marini who was removed as Master of Pontifical Liturgical Celebrations (after 20 yrs under Bl Pope John Paul II and then the first couple of years of Pope Benedict XVI) and appointed as President of the Pontifical Committee for international Eucharistic Congresses. About two months ago he had an audience with Pope Francis.This was nothing necessarily abnormal as the intentions of the new Pontiff regarding the locations of future Congresses would be of interest to the new Pontiff as well as their conduct.

                                                BENEDICT XVI AND NOW ABP MARINI - 
                                                    VESTMENTS NEED NO COMMENT

But wait! The Rumour mongers set to thinking: Piero Marini - ex  Liturgy Maestro to the Pope - Hmmmm, Cardinal Llovera Prefect of the Sacred Congregation will be retiring soon. Could Piero Marini be his replacement? Immediately the rumour mills begin to spin , the Media picks it up, Traditional Latin Mass advocates are thrown into frenzied anguish, and away the story goes throughout the Internet.


Nobody stops to think :
 Pope Francis the lover of simplicity.
 Piero Marini the lover of garish vestments and vulgar spectacles surrounding the Liturgy, the man who fussed about the King of Spain whilst ignoring the needs of his Holy Father Benedict XVI plainly obvious at he time. 

Is it even remotely plausible that Pope Francis would find this man remotely congenial? Did anyone think that the Holy Father might have been telling Archbishop Marini what he expects of him in his PRESENT post? 

Oh! No! where is the sensation and destabilisation in that?

It is not unlikely that we will be left with the Enigma. That is , unless the Holy Father stops making "off the cuff" remarks -unlikely, or enough evidence of his orthodoxy in word and action builds up, the latter is to be devoutly prayed for as we wait.

There are even those so disconcerted that they have begun speculating on the next Conclave and the Papabili. I would not put any money on 
another  South American! 


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