Sunday, March 24, 2013

Defending Benedict

We all love Pope Francis, me included. But the way the media is fawning on him I can't help but think of the events of holy week. The crowds fawned over Jesus on Palm Sunday as He entered Jerusalem. Luke 19:36-38:
As he rode along, the people were spreading their cloaks on the road; and now as he was approaching the slope of the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of his disciples began to praise God aloud with joy for all the mighty deeds they had seen. They proclaimed:

“Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord.
Peace in heaven and glory in the highest.”
I'm not attempting to deify our new Pope, rather I'm thinking of the fickleness of the crowds. Those who were praising Jesus as the Messiah on Palm Sunday quickly discovered that He wasn't going to do the things they wanted or expected Him to do. And when He turned out not to be the "change" they "hoped" for, the crowds turned on Him. Luke 23:16-23:
Therefore I shall have him flogged and then release him.”
But all together they shouted out, “Away with this man! Release Barabbas to us.”(Now Barabbas had been imprisoned for a rebellion that had taken place in the city and for murder.)
Again Pilate addressed them, still wishing to release Jesus, but they continued their shouting, “Crucify him! Crucify him!”
Pilate addressed them a third time, “What evil has this man done? I found him guilty of no capital crime. Therefore I shall have him flogged and then release him.”
With loud shouts, however, they persisted in calling for his crucifixion, and their voices prevailed.
It doesn't take a prophet to predict that it won't be long before the media discovers that Pope Francis is not the Pope they want him to be (aka anti-Catholic) and they will call for his "crucifixion".

So we all love Pope Francis, me included. But nobody will every replace Pope Benedict XVI's place in my heart. Why do I have such an affinity for Benedict? I don't know. Perhaps it's because he was the first Pope elected after I started caring about those things. Perhaps it's because of my German background. Perhaps it's because, like him, I am a somewhat shy, bookish man who loves learning.

And so it hurts all the more when I hear people using Pope Francis to bash Pope Benedict XVI. And much of it is coming from Catholics. I keep hearing how we finally have a Pope who cares for the poor instead of the "trappings of office". Let's see what Benedict XVI said on the subject.

From Deus Caritas Est (God is Love) section 20:
Love of neighbour, grounded in the love of God, is first and foremost a responsibility for each individual member of the faithful, but it is also a responsibility for the entire ecclesial community at every level: from the local community to the particular Church and to the Church universal in its entirety.
And of course he wrote another encyclical, Caritas in Veritate entirely on creating economic policies that favor the poor. Then there is the observation that Pope Benedict XVI loved the "trappings of office" so much that he renounced them entirely.

But what exactly do people mean by the "trappings of office"? As far as I can tell from what gets mentioned, it is mostly clothing. The red shoes and the mozetta are mentioned. What is the purpose of dressing in those things? I remember a long stretch in my faith journey where I believed that wearing a suit and tie to mass was just pageantry and hypocrisy. Jesus doesn't want us to be show offs. Look at the widow in Luke 21. Jesus always criticizes the Pharisees for wearing fine clothes.

But Jesus doesn't praise the widow for having nothing, but for giving everything. The Pharisees he doesn't criticize for wearing fine clothing but for calling attention to their piousness while not being truly pious. We are supposed to use our finest in worship. From John 12:
Mary took a liter of costly perfumed oil made from genuine aromatic nard and anointed the feet of Jesus and dried them with her hair; the house was filled with the fragrance of the oil. Then Judas the Iscariot, one [of] his disciples, and the one who would betray him, said, “Why was this oil not sold for three hundred days’ wages and given to the poor?”
So when someone wears a suit and tie to mass (or a mozetta and red shoes) we have to ask, "is this person doing it because they want us to believe they are pious when they are not, or are they doing this out of respect for God?" If we call them hypocrites, is it not we who are acting high and mighty? Aren't we the ones who are being "holier than thou" because we say that we dress "rightly" and they don't?

If we presume to know what is in their hearts, than indeed we are the ones who are hypocrites. Is there something about Pope Benedict XVI that would indicate that he was doing these things out of pride, rather than out of respect for his responsibilities and love of God? No? Then judge not, lest ye be judged.


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