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A Leaven In The World… Brave New Vatican: Handkerchiefs And Hubris

April 8, 2019 Our Catholic Faith No Comments

By FR. KEVIN M. CUSICK

The Church is suffering grievously from the deleterious effects of the sin of pride.
The mania of constant reference to Vatican II in nearly all matters constitutes a sickness for those who seem to recall the past only to condemn its faults. Pride seems to play a major role in this malady. “Pride goeth before the fall,” which, in this case, is forgetting history and being condemned as a result to repeat it.
You see, one of the reasons we study the past is to avoid repeating errors.
Recent years in the Church are replete with examples but they are legion under the current pontificate. Cozying up to Communists and betraying the faithful Catholics in China, at times muting teaching on contraception, abortion, and homosexuality as if ignoring them will make them go away. Encouraging sacrilegious reception of Holy Communion. There are other examples.
Pride is at work as well among those who lecture the rest of us on compassion and mercy and yet lack the tools of common decency. The Pope’s recent pastoral voyage to Loreto was no exception. After his behavior there, a video went viral. The episode would be nearly unremarkable had it not been for the incredible amount of attention it garnered around the world, even among those who do not share our faith. I was quoted in the London Sun on the matter. In an article entitled, “Pope Francis bizarrely refuses to let churchgoers kiss his Papal ring by repeatedly yanking his hand away in meet-and greet,” I was quoted thus based on a Tweet:
“Catholic priest Kevin Cusick tweeted: ‘It’s a grace for the faithful to be able to show respect for the office of the Pope by kissing the papal ring. It’s not about the Pope, it’s about the faithful’.”
What happened? Why was the Pope seen to be acting in a very socially awkward manner, jerking his ringed hand repeatedly away from the faithful who sought to show their love and respect by kissing it? It would be some time before we would find out.
In the meantime the commentary was loud and long. Some condescendingly dismissed others who found fault. Ironically, these were among the same people who harp endlessly about the importance of treating lay people not with “clericalism,” as in the past, but with the “new” things of “mercy,” “dialogue” and “accompaniment.” Here was a perfect example of a priest, in the person of the Pope, interacting on a pastoral level with the sheep of the flock, the laity. What better opportunity to demonstrate the importance of his own teachings for all priests, to gain “the smell of the sheep”? And yet, he is seen to be rather rejecting them instead.
The Sun also quoted the opinion of another priest well known for commentary: “Fr. Dwight Longenecker wrote on his blog that while priests may find it embarrassing that the faithful kiss their hands it is part of Catholic ritual and a way of honoring Jesus. ‘Therefore I do actually think it’s disturbing that the Pope behaves in this way,’ he wrote. ‘It would seem that he had not yet figured out that being the Pope is not about him’.”
So, what happened? The Pope explained himself on a subsequent interview on the return flight to Rome from Morocco, an apostolic voyage which followed hard on the heels of his trip to Loreto to sign the document Christus Vivit on the Youth Synod.
Crux reported on the Pope’s comments:
“Pope Francis has set the record straight about why he pulled his hand away when throngs of people lined up this week to kiss his ring: for fear of spreading germs.
“Vatican spokesman Alessandro Gisotti said Thursday [March 28] that Francis was concerned about hygiene when, after greeting dozens of well-wishers in a lengthy receiving line Monday in Loreto, he began pulling his hand away to discourage people from kissing his ring.
“Video of the incident went viral, with conservative critics blasting what they said was Francis’ ‘graceless’ disrespect for the tradition and the faithful who wanted to honor it.
“Gisotti said Thursday he had just spoken to the Pope about it, and Francis replied that it was nothing of the sort.
“ ‘The Holy Father told me that the motivation was very simple: hygiene,’ Gisotti told reporters. ‘He wants to avoid the risk of contagion for the people, not for him.’
“The tradition of kissing the ring of a bishop or Pope goes back centuries, as a sign of respect and obedience.
“Gisotti noted that Francis is more than happy to receive the ring-kiss in small groups, where the spread of germs is more contained, as he did Wednesday when a handful of people were lined up at the end of his general audience to greet him.”
Fair enough.
But if this is true, why not pull out a handkerchief and avoid being the source of a video deemed so oddly comical in appearance that it boomerangs around the world, drawing reactions of headshaking and consternation, galvanizing foes and discouraging friends?
A little knowledge of history would help. Just as we use a linen hand towel to clean a relic after each member of the faithful venerates it, the Pope could easily have chosen to do the same for his ring after each veneration. Why did he not? A rejection of anything reminiscent of a will prior to his own no matter how eminently practical? Tradition is handed down to help, not hinder, the practical work of pastoral care in the Church in matters little as well as great.
@kevinjjones, a reporter with integrity whom I respect and follow on Twitter, commented in the aftermath of “PapalRingGate”: “Last week the usual Catholic suspects were flipping out over the Pope’s ring-kissing choices, now they’re flipping out because they’re willfully misunderstanding concerns about ‘proselytism.’ Seriously people give up sh-t-stirring for Lent.”
Undoubtedly there are some who believe I may be counted among “the usual Catholics,” those whipping up better-left-unnamed scatological substances on Twitter and the Catholic commentariat. But isn’t more expected of the Pope? Doesn’t the Pope himself set high standards for himself? He could begin by ceasing to fire those who worked in Rome before 2016 and there will be far fewer needlessly embarrassing episodes, which the Pope himself would be the first to admit are avoidable distractions.
Also: Holy Father, pack a handkerchief. Or ask your ever-present aide-de-camp to carry one.
Thank you for reading and praised be Jesus Christ, now and forever.
@MCITLFrAphorism

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