21 March 2013

A note to my traditionalist friends

By now, I imagine you have heard that the Pope will be celebrating Holy Thursday, the Institution of the Eucharist, in a Roman prison.  Some of my traditionalist friends and acquaintances are up in arms about this, Francis' latest break with Tradition.  My poor advice on the matter is this:  Don't argue about it.  Do not pick this as a fight.

Why?  The Pope is breaking with Tradition, obviously.  The Pope usually celebrates Holy Thursday at St John Lateran, his Cathedral.  By rights, and in continuity with the past, that is where Francis should be.  That is where Benedict would have been.  There are strong arguments for him to be there.  It would seem almost everything is on the side of Tradition.  So why am I telling Traditionalists not to pick this fight?

Because it is a losing fight.  Francis will, first and foremost, be following Christ's command, given from His own lips, while he lived: to visit the prisoners.  Even those who don't particularly believe can still sense that what he is doing is a powerful message, a worthy deed.  If you oppose him, you will first be setting a block against someone who is committing a an act of Corporal Mercy.  It is not as if the Pope is going against Catholic teaching.  Quite the opposite: he is upholding one of our saviour's commandments in the most public way possible.  If you oppose him on this, you will come off looking mean spirited.   There is just no way to argue against this and come out on top.

If I was to give any further unwanted advice, I would tell some of the bloggers out there this: reconcile yourself to the fact that Francis is the Pope.  I read many of you during the years of Benedict's Pontificate crowing and claiming victory, and expressing bewilderment and outrage that the Pope was trying to set an example, yet few were following.  You- and myself included, for I took part in this from time to time- took apart the statements made by those who opposed the Pope, always attacking their statements from the position that the Pope was the Pope.  How are we to argue now that the Pope does not have to be obeyed, that his example should not be followed?

I am not saying that you should abandon the Tradition, or that it is an unqualified good that Francis is deviating from Tradition.  I am not telling you to abandon your struggle for your rights.  I am advising you to pick your battles carefully, if at all, and to remember the Pope is the Pope, and to not take the position you condemned so soundly when it came from the mouths of liberals.

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