Pope Francis: Papabile in a Fallen WorldBy Timothy Gordon
It's official: this strong conservative was papabile without ever having to prove to a bunch of his moral inferiors that he was "electable" or "presidential." Sound familiar? No, it doesn't sound familiar to me either, but rather, refreshingly novel.
And as the know-nothing, "anti-pap" popular media takes a blow on the sidelines during the next weeks to discern what is the best sniping angle for implementing the assault on the apparently unassailable new Pope Francis, the time is ripe for making a few general notes and predictions on the new papacy.
First: the media presently proofs up "test stories" in order to check whether they can foster discontent vis-à-vis the Pope's orthodox stance on socio-sexual issues; even among a lamentably persuadable public, one generally hostile to "absolutism" and to moral realism, Catholic orthodoxy bears with it certain immunities that militate against popular condemnation, without more promising grounds for its slings. From here, I predict that the usual homophilic whining ("boo hoo, this 2,000 year-old institution doesn't bend to the flavor-of-the-month slave morality we cultivated in the 1990's") is just too unapologetically stale to be run as the main hit piece with the public...which says quite a lot. If this proves true, then they will be forced back to the "tail wags dog" drawing board to scrounge (or make) up some far uglier "biographical fact"... a Nazi or a molestation... from the life of a very saintly public transit rider.
Petite forays into criticism late last week included vehement anti-pap AP writer David Rising's story on the Pope's failure to "confront" (a la Rambo?!) a 1976 Argentine military junto who kidnapped priests, and the insinuation run on Yahoo News that the young Bergoglio chose a religious life solely because of romantic heartbreak. Neither took, and the anti-pap bigots in the media search on.
Good luck with that: 'twould be mighty unproductive muckraking, it seems.
Second: Part of the beauty of the Conciliar Conclave is that, as Wednesday's reporting showed amply, it suspends outsiders to Vatican politics and Magisterial bylaws... in bona fide befuddlement. By the time the drive-by media folks understand what it means that Pope Francis has strong ties to the conservative group Comunione e Liberazione (not unlike the stodgier Italian papabile Angelo Scola), they'll have blown the opportunity to demonize a perfectly salutary orthodox Catholic group. Out of sheer ignorance of important things-anything besides entertainment and the variant brands of sodomy -- media liberal groups wind up way behind the curve, reporting the story, as one noticed last Wednesday, in a comparatively generic way. Compared, that is, to every other story that, say, CNN, reports with ostentatiously unabashed bias.
And no leaks or sneak-peaks into Conclaves are had... even by sway-holding media elites. And so they end up reading news reports which sound less like Katie Couric brashly lambasting Sarah Palin and more like Rand Paul's twelfth hour of filibuster (through no fault of his): "...so... it appears that the new Pope will have... hair... or no hair... we'll have to wait and see... or not..."
One is reminded what very great sport the befuddlement of fools by genius makes.
To this end -- and by this metric -- the Conclave's choice was a wise one. Pope Francis seems to have it all: orthodox theology, charisma, popular support in a region popularly extolled by the politically correct... and the first word on bachelor livin' in humble, but tasteful frugality. All this in addition to having immunity from the pernicious breath of idiots.
For now, at least.
Third: The Magisterial power structure once again has been vindicated by its own ability to propagate, time and again, its own orthodoxy. Orthodoxy athwart a rapidly disintegrating West. As I wrote here, such a capacity for perdurance proves an utterly unique one among all world institutions.
As one who studied at Pontifical universities in Rome, I well understand the profundity of today's victory, represented by Pope Francis's seat at the Altar of the Chair, over against the bureaucracy and Progressive creep in the Curia. Yes, it exists there too, but happily there -- as we saw Wednesday -- it is stifled by an abiding commitment to the verbum and ergon of the Gospels by the Church's stalwart leaders.
One cannot assume that because the last three Popes have failed to share a common temperament -- and because the media reported on all three differently -- there was not a harmony among their emphases. More than a harmony, there will be seen in the not-distant future a direct lineage: doctrinal, programmatic orthodoxy.
Because, by rule of the conclave, only Cardinals younger than eighty years old become electors of new Popes, this meant that every single Cardinal casting a vote on Wednesday had been nominated by one of the past two champions of Magisterial orthodoxy: John Paul II or Benedict XVI. Talk about an apparatus for propagating a unity of ideas (in the case of these two pontiffs, good ideas).
This tees up point #4: In once-mostly-Protestant, now-mostly-secular America, one intuits a fair amount of horizon-eyed jealousy: in Wednesday's nomination, the democratic-republican sees and wants something extrinsic to his credo -- ideological longevity.
The Catholic Church's nominating apparatus unofficially harkens back all the way to the non-hereditary monarchy of the Pax Romana. As has been pointed out by the likes of Will Durant, the Pax Romana -- and not some short-lived Pax Americana, on a fast decline less than a century after its ascent -- constituted the pinnacle of political staying power and sustained happiness within a polity. Mortal sin as it may be within our republic, yes, I extol the efficacy of a regime by Philosopher-Kings, or in this case Philosopher-Popes, who pass on the mantle to the next best guarantor of the regime instead of some random popular-elect.
It turns out that popular opinion is a mercurial mistress, a restless sea, Damocles' sword hanging over the lives of republics. Etc. Pick whatever analogy you like: just don't entrust fast doctrine to popular whimsy, which will trade it in for the nearest penny candy and a packet of magic beans.
Yes, in our republic, everyone's voice counts. Blah, blah, blah. But this tyrannis populorum conduces to the sinusoidal meaninglessness of all forms of majority rule: check how scant few times has America seen two back-to-back presidents of the same party! Ideological momentum has proven completely impossible in American politics: where, make no mistake, the fever of the mob becomes the ever-rising temperature at which politicians define human health, en masse.
We've seen how rule by mob's passion has worked out for us as Americans: four electoral dictators, one income tax, one commerce clause, thirty-seven abolished state militias, and fifty million abortions later.
Yet not only the green-eyed liberals clamor jealously to claim for their causes celebre a fraction of the devotion or longevity of the Church: sadly also a generous portion of conservatives (even AT readers!) regard this Catholic ability to sidestep popular sentiment as... dangerous. American conservatives seem too often to lampoon the Church on that basis. (Once again, see the scathing commentary panel on my pro-Church article here.
To wit, the Catholic Church refuses to make this truth-for-magic-beans trade. Thus, it represents the true Pax Romana -- not two hundred, but two thousand years and counting -- reserving (read: relegating) popular sovereignty to less important spheres like politics, where the stultifying flux of the "sympathies of the people" can be risked, even if apparently they cannot be learned from.
Finally: as an American Catholic, the nomination of the new Pope was far more important to me than the 2012 November election... for reasons painfully obvious by now. (And some which may yet appear.) But you could probably tell this just by my first four points alone.
Time will tell how goes the papacy of Pope Francis. But without the bitterness or the avarice entailed by a campaign, and with the good will of the people whom he has already served at his back, it promises already to fare better than the campaigns of those almost decent political candidates in our ranks, who were, like pearls cast before swine, promptly devoured and called "unelectable." In this wise, and those appearing above, electability and "papability" seem to be eternal contraries.
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