23 Sep

The Holy Stuntman

How’s this for a slice of ostentatious humility? When Pope Francis arrived in the USA yesterday, he declined a limousine and opted for a modest Fiat saloon. Mind you the number plate was SCV-1 – that’s Status Civitatis Vaticanae which, being translated, means, “I’m Number One.”

I forgot to mention that, before he left Cuba, he treated us to a Lady Diana moment when he called for “A revolution of tenderness.”

Will it be a universal revolution, though? I don’t think so. It presumably won’t include successful businessmen, for earlier the Pope referred to capitalism as t”the dung of the devil” – thus showing us something of the dung of historical reflection: for it is the dung of capitalism which has raised more people out of poverty than any other economic system in history.

But back to the stuntman.

Isn’t there something in the Gospels about the sin of parading one’s self-denial? I was thinking of the Pharisee who said, “I am not as other men. I fast twice in the week. I give tithes of all I possess.”

And then those words of Our Lord to his disciples:

“When ye fast, be not as the hypocrites…” He was criticising those who make a show of their good works.

This Holy Stuntman Pope resembles Uriah Heep. I can just hear him saying, “Oh do look – there is none so ‘umble as me!”

02 Sep

Bless me, Father, for I have sinned

Pope Francis has announced that he will allow priests to absolve women who have had abortions if they seek forgiveness during the forthcoming Holy Year of Mercy. The Pope said he will permit priests “the discretion to absolve of the sin of abortion those who have procured it and who, with contrite heart, seek forgiveness for it” during the special year which will begin on 8th December – the Feast of the immaculate Conception.

He added, “I am well aware of the pressure that has led women to this decision and I know that it is an existential and moral ordeal.”

I find this confusing. The Pope seems to be saying that the pronouncement of the forgiveness of a particular sin – abortion – has not always been in the capacity of every priest. The Bible says that Jesus ordained his disciples. “Then said he unto them again, Peace be unto you; as the Father hath sent me, even so send I you. Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain, the are retained.” (St John 20:23)

And ever since Our Lord’s commission, every priest has the authority to forgive all sins, mortal as well as venial, including the sin of procuring an abortion. Except one: the sin of blasphemy against the Holy Ghost. (St Mark 3:29). And the only reason why that sin cannot be forgiven is because it is not possible sincerely to confess it: for blasphemy against the Holy Ghost effectually involves a person in praying, “Evil, be thou my good.”

Surely the Pope, of all people, understands that all his priests have the authority to forgive sins?

So what’s going on?

The Pope’s announcement is a political gesture by which he has fired a salvo across the bows of his traditional bishops.

This is the back story…

Last October the Pope inaugurated part one of a Vatican Synod in which he hoped his bishops would agree with his proposals for a relaxation of the rules concerning sexual ethics in such matters as homosexuality, abortion, divorce and remarriage. But he met considerable opposition and so next month, when the bishops reconvene for part two of the Synod, the Pope is going to have another try to institute his “reforms.”

All the signs are that he will once again face strong opposition from traditionalists: that is from the authentic Catholics