by Guy Somerset
Is the Pope Catholic? It is a question without an answer... because until quite recently the answer was obvious. For those unfamiliar with the idiom, this phrase is a common one in the English language and usually given in response to a query whose truth is so obvious merely to ask the question is an absurdity. (By way of example: Enquiry - "Is Moscow frigid in February?" Rejoinder - "Is the Pope Catholic!?!")
However, according to this maxim either Moscow may not be so cold in winter as it once was or the Pontiff is less fervent than ever before. Given that of everything else in Russia at least we can always depend on the weather, perhaps we should direct our skepticism in this case towards the Vatican. It was His Holiness who interjected himself into the American political process (quite uninvited) last week when questioning the Christianity of Republican candidate Donald J. Trump.
One of the newest deadly sins of this modern age is apparently the desire not to have your home overrun with indigents who arrive to take everything you own. The fact Trump is none too keen on turning the other cheek as millions of Mexicans march into the United States makes his hands particularly unclean
Unsurprisingly, tens of millions of Europeans are likewise less than enthusiastic to permit hordes of invaders to stomp into their homelands in an orgiastic spree of mayhem and destruction. Such was the wide displeasure at the preening of the Pontiff even many Roman Catholics themselves dismissed him.
There is no Biblical command to self-destruction, only an admonition to love. In Roman Catholicism (and Christianity in general) are seldom dictates. On the contrary, the "Commandments" appear in the Old Testament whereas the New Testament is almost wholly concerned with persuasion rather than power. Even if one proffers Trump is not strictly adhering to Christian philosophy it can at worst be said he is violating the spirit of the word rather than the law...because there are very few laws in the Good Book.
To be pointed out to the Bishop of Rome is that Christianity is not a perfect faith in the sense it does not require its followers to be perfect. Indeed, several times in the Gospels is repeated all mankind is fallen and we are only by degrees on the path to redemption. Is it really for the Pope to be kicking believers off the road to redemption because he personally adjudges them not traveling quickly enough for his taste?
All of which is only the outline of an argument why Papal Infallibility is a failure for Pope Francis.
It is not a unique observation that Vatican City is itself ringed with a colossal wall which is armed at all times by either Vatican Guards or the Italian military. (While it has been some time since reading the Scripture, there areseveral passages about hypocrites...) So many people across the globe immediately made this counterpoint to Francis's comments it might almost be deemed Divine Inspiration.
Yet after dispensing with what is glaringly obvious (to all but the His Holiness), there are other matters to address which have been less vigorously reviewed heretofore.
More damning than the obnoxiously pretentious insertion by Francis into politics of another country is his apparent obliviousness to the state of his own Church. The trend is hardly new though the recent comments further highlight an institution in steep decline; largely by fault of its own gatekeepers.
As long ago as Vatican II, concluding the in the mid-1960s, Roman Catholicism has been waning. Primarily this was due to efforts at "modernizing" what had been bathed in solemnity. Liberalization of sacred ceremonies, evisceration of traditions and reduction of sermons to little more than self-help lectures all stripped the Church of moral authority to lead anyone to anywhere.
Perhaps worst of these were revisions regarding the Holy Mass whose strict Latin was abandoned in favor of pliable tongues of various regions. This was purportedly done for the sake of convenience.
The result? A Church which once had unwavering pillars was recast on an uncertain establishment. This not only set congregations adrift in seas of relativity but unbound its priesthood from rigidity. Consequently, in recent decades the Roman clergy has been plagued by one scandal after another ranging from pedophilia to usury to murder.
Even Popes flaunt age-old teachings, with Benedict XVI sporting Prada-esque shoes in a despicable display and who later chose to "retire" from his sacred duty. Ignoring apparent sins of Greed and Pride Benedict evidently assumed a responsibility vested by the Lord Himself could be set aside when the task became overly burdensome; hardly a figure to inspire confidence in the fight against absolute evil. His successor Francis has further suggested undermining doctrine.
Not for nothing has Orthodox Christianity seen a resurgence of interest as Roman Catholicism withers. In Russia services in the Church are conducted to honor the Almighty, not to make attendees feel better about themselves. Inside the Cathedral a choir is mostly unseen and a majority of the time the Priest faces away from parishioners; the essence of worship being sublimation of attendees.
As the Church of Rome seeks popularity with the general public the Orthodox Church seeks approval from a higher authority.
Whether or not one supports Trump is hardly at issue. Love him or loathe him, Trump describes himself as a Christian and it is fair to say that even the candidate himself would admit (as all of us) of having failed to live to the highest ideal of his religion. Regardless, he claims to be a Christian and while some might criticize his devotion none may question his belief. Not even a Pontiff.
Moreover, given the relative hierarchy of these two men in the Christian denomination, and judging by the totality of their respective demonstrations, what is clear is that The Donald has less to answer for than the Pope.
Is Donald Trump a Christian? While not perfect, it seems so. Is the Pope Catholic? We can only take it on faith.