The Guardian newspaper in England has something good to say about the Pope in an editorial. This makes a nice change from much of what has gone before. But I do have to lift an eyebrow when I read this, writes Fr Alexnder Lucie-Smith:
- The Catholic Herald
Not that his position on abortion, or homosexuality, or women priests, differs substantially from Benedict XVI. He remains socially conservative. But the mood music is altogether different and not just because of his personal charm and the decision to eschew all the fancy ecclesiastical haberdashery and grand palaces. Pope Francis has regularly excoriated economic injustice and the global inequalities created by unrestrained capitalism.
And his message on Syria has been unusually direct in opposing the prospect of US intervention. On Saturday he told a congregation praying for peace in the Middle East: 'Violence and war lead only to death, they speak of death! Violence and war are the language of death!'
The present Pope’s words on unrestricted capitalism are more or less identical to those of Benedict XVI and John Paul II; and his message on Syria, surprise, surprise, is more or less identical in theology and tone to that of John Paul II at the time of the Gulf War. In fact his Syrian message recalls what Pope Paul VI said at the United Nations in New York back in 1965.
Readers of The Catholic Herald will be familiar with the concept of tradition, and the hermeneutic of continuity as opposed to rupture. For those who are not, it can be expressed in this demotic phrase: all popes sing from the same hymn sheet. They really do.
The Guardian’s appraisal contains two basic errors of misunderstanding. The first is that ancient error that was so prominent at the time of the Reformation – the idea that if we get rid of vestments (or 'ecclesiastical haberdashery') then some how or another we will usher in an epoch of social justice and equality. Yeah, right. Let us remember that the Reformation replaced monks in habits with landed gentry as administrators and landlords of large swathes of the county.
The landed gentry’s haberdashery was noted for its flamboyance, and they were a lot less kind than the monks – in fact they were the forerunners of the oppressive capitalist rentier class that the Guardian and the Pope have such misgivings about.