In these depressing days there is a need for something cheering and frivolous. And what better than a competition to find the most tasteless objects religieux dedicated to the cultus of our beloved Holy Father?
I offer the following as a modest starter, and encourage readers to submit others in the same vein. The aim is to include all worthy submissions in a book, ‘The Pope Francis Little Chamber of Horrors’, to be published by Libreria Vaticana, with an introduction by Austen Ivereigh.
The competition will be judged by those acknowledged connoisseurs, Frs Spadaro and Rosica.
The Pandaemonium Club
666 Pall Mall
London, SW1Y 5ER
My Dear Wormwood,
I confess that, at first, I did not know what to make of the Vigano affair. Such outspokenness had something of the righteous wrath of the enemy about it. I feared it might bring our successful infiltration into the very heart of the Vatican to an abrupt end. For a moment I thought that there was going to be an almighty cleansing of the Augean stables. But I need not have feared. Your timely intervention has averted disaster!
Persuading Francis to take a vow of silence on the matter was a masterstroke on your part.
He, of course, saw it not only as a cunning ruse to avoid awkward questions, but also as a proof of his own spiritual and moral superiority. (How vain these humans are!)
On the contrary, as you yourself saw straight away, it serves our purposes capitally. If the Pope thinks he is holier-than-thou (or indeed than anyone else) he will hardly be enthusiastic about the ‘independent and thorough-going investigations’ that people are demanding. The very gratifying result is that our chaps can sleep comfortably in their luxury Vatican apartments.
But there is more.
If the Church authorities are not seen to be investigating and regulating themselves, then someone else will step in and do it for them. The spiritual heritage of two thousand years will fall into the self-righteous hands of the heirs of the Enlightenment: the French Revolution all over again!
It is a prospect, I admit, that I view with relish. No tumbrils, this time, of course (that was a mistake which I argued against at the Grand Council in 1790) – but ritual humiliation before the civil courts for every prelate who dares to raise his silly opinionated head!
With my fondest wishes and deepest appreciation,
Your loving uncle,
PS If you can keep Francis preaching every morning in the vein he has been recently, it will render any change of heart on his part virtually impossible. Well done.
No one was surprised when the C9 group of Cardinals (the Papal Privy Council) expressed its complete confidence in Pope Francis after the Vigano allegations. The group is hand-picked by Francis, and over half of them are mired in accusations of cover-ups or financial impropriety.
The world is no longer inclined to be impressed by a coterie of compromised geriatrics who are reluctant to initiate a thorough and independent scrutiny.
They had better keep the silence.
Meanwhile, preparations are being made for a conference of the heads of local episcopal conferences world-wide, to take action on the child-abuse scandal. Clearly the Vatican has not yet grasped that what was once a crisis about clergy child-abuse has now changed into a crisis of confidence in the world’s episcopate.
Which a conference of bishops alone probably will not – and cannot credibly – address..
It was revealed today that unprecedented changes are to be made in the procedures of the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints. Previously a candidate for sanctification had to be dead before the Congregation would consider a cause. In a startling revision of the time-honoured rules, Pope Francis has determined that living Christians can now be declared saints, after a carefully revised process of consideration.
How can you become a saint?
That is the challenge that Pope Francis is throwing down before Catholics everywhere. And, as always, Francis is giving clear and helpful answers.
You should be found to be living an exemplary Christian life (it helps if you are already the Pope); you should have shown an overwhelming concern for the poor, the starving and the marginalised; you should have turned the Catholic Church upside-down, flung open the windows of the Vatican and purged the Augean stables of corruption, simony, nepotism and financial skulduggery; it is not enough just to sit down in a room in the Vatican and write learned books (like Benedict), you must have been in constant dialogue with the outside world and with the universal Catholic Church (like Pope Francis). Above all, you must have made a difference.
At least one miracle will still be required before sanctification, but, in the words of the newly elevated Cardinal Becciu, the very notion of a ‘miracle’ has recently undergone a ‘paradigm shift’.
‘Have we any doubt as to who is the ideal candidate for this revolutionary new concept of sainthood?’ asked Fr Antonio Spadaro at a recent Press Conference. ‘Of course not! Francis is our man! Santo subito!’
[With acknowledgements to the blurb of Fr Spadaro’s new book ‘Open to God, Open to the World’, https://www.amazon.com/Open-God-World-Pope-Francis/dp/1472959019%5D
Something very remarkable is taking place.
Traditionalists in the Vigano affair are proving to be the liberals, and supporters of Francis – the Pope of the Poor; the New Broom; the epitome of tolerance and forgiveness – are proving to be the authoritarian reactionaries.
Traditionalists demand that the Pope be humble and answerable; the Liberals defend an ultramontane Papacy, which can ride roughshod over the past, in the name of an as yet unrealised future; and ignore the legitimate concerns of millions of the faithful.
Fifty-five years after John Paul I set aside the papal tiara, Francis has been re-crowned. The man who declared that the ‘carnival is over’ is being acclaimed by his friends and advisers as an absolute monarch, with plenary authority over the doctrine of the Church.
‘The Spirit of Vatican II’ is proving more totalitarian than anyone ever expected.
If you were in any doubt about the strategy behind the Pope’s otherwise indefensible policy of refusing even to comment on the Vigano accusations, here (from as close to the horse’s mouth as we are likely to get), is fulsome confirmation.
‘This trumped-up net has been shown to overflow with hate and fake news. Journalists are doing their job, and Viganò’s statement appears for what it is. The sketchy interests [behind it], in collusion with pseudo-Catholic American media*, have in part been revealed. The tragedy has become a farce.‘ – Father Antonio Spadaro, S.J., editor of the influential Jesuit bi-monthly Civilta Cattolica, and a close advisor of Pope Francis, on his Facebook page.
‘What is fascinating about the schismatic #Catholic traditionalists** is how modern, or even liberal, they are upon closer inspection. They feel entitled to reject the living Mystical Body of Christ for a postmodern retro-Church and a cloistered life of hyper-hipsterism in the USA.’ – Fr Antonio Spadarro on Twitter.
*This is an intended slur against The National Catholic Register and EWTN.
**Compare and contrast with the ultramontane papolatry which is the stock-in-trade of Spadaro and Rosica.
It began as a cunning ruse to deflect awkward questions from the press pack on an aeroplane back from a less than resounding Papal visit to Ireland. Francis was calling in favours from his friends in the press (who have given him a soft ride thus far) in the hope of buying time.
But things have got more serious now.
In a homily at early Mass in the Domus Santa Marta, where he lives, the Holy Father elevated the refusal to address the most serious accusations into a theological principle. Implicitly comparing himself to Jesus before Pilate, he turned a counter-accusation against Archbishop Vigano and others (‘people lacking good will, with people who seek only scandal, with those who look only for division, who want only destruction’) into a gesture of humility and sanctity.
This imposture should not be allowed to go unnoticed or unrewarded.
The American catholic crisis over child abuse has not been only (perhaps not even primarily) about paedophilia, but about a culture of coterie and cover-up, the only response to which must be to draw back the curtains and let in the light. If the Pope is in any way implicated in these things, he has a duty, himself, to sponsor an independent and thorough-going investigation. Any attempt to evade the scrutiny to which others are subject – and especially by pious subterfuge – can only bring the office itself into disrepute.
All faithful Catholics will hope and pray that such an investigation will show that the accusations against the Pope are wholly groundless. But this is a turning point, a kairos, in this pontificate.
Francis must decide. He cannot be both the Pope of the Poor, and an absolute monarch responsible to God alone.