It’s not often that I look at Papist blogs these days. Between work and other commitments I simply don’t have the time; and, in any case, to do so habitually would be like the Prodigal Son exchanging the fatted calf for the husks of swine. Occasionally I check Fr John Hunwicke’s blog but I’ve found that since he poped his erstwhile high standard has fallen, and I don’t care for his silly rhetoric about pope Francis. I see that to-day he is advocating schism (“I’m sure…the SSPX [sic] would happily make such provision as far as its ministry can reach,”) and calling an explicit papal teaching “heathen.” I never look at Crassus’ blog, that idol of American traditionalists whom I will not name, since he is excommunicated vitandus. And then there’s Raymond Blake. It’s ages since I looked at his blog. Heretofore I hadn’t noticed the photo in the header of an isolated pope but I’m sure it was chosen to make some point. In his latest post, entitled “DARE WE JOIN THE DOTS?“, Blake tacitly accuses pope Francis of being a paedophile by juxtaposing two images, one of a scantily-clad young man on his knees, and the other of two boys, with many a circumstantial charge. I wonder if Blake has seen this?
I first saw this in 2010. As a friend of mine remarked at the time, there can’t have been much liturgical orthopraxis going on in Rome so Ratzinger chose to pass the time with other activities instead. At any rate, as far as Francis is concerned, I’m inclined to believe that he is not a paedophile, even if he is corrupt; he’s too much of a thuggish bully. And if Blake is concerned that Bergoglio’s handing of abuse in Buenos Aires was wanting, what shall we say of his hero Ratzinger? This was a man so concerned about defending the reputation of the Papal Communion that he was completely incapable of the kind of self-criticism that might have saved him, and others more innocent, from many sins.
There are other bloggers too. Sean Finnegan doesn’t like Francis. The other Finigan doesn’t either but he seems to have gone quiet recently. So too has his female associate, a woman who takes the idolatry of clericalism to such an extreme that she would quit her job and move to another part of the country just to be his sacristan, and no doubt perform other services for him. For people who quite happily entertained the sodomites of the London Oratory this situation seems not a bit scandalous, especially given their shabby treatment of me in the past.
What all these people have in common is their loathing of pope Francis. The palmy days of Benedict XVI being long gone (and never coming back), they have no recourse. Their dear leader is the enemy! I’m sure some of them believe that the senescent prisoner of the Vatican is still the “true pope,” like one quasi-sedevacantist (another old queen) whom I knew at Covent Garden who wouldn’t accept Francis. I’m not sure how accepted Francis is among mainstream or left-leaning people. When I was in Knock some years ago I spoke to an elderly woman who liked neither Francis nor Benedict, but adored John Paul II and I thought at the time that was because he was around for so long, or knew how to smile for the camera. Who knows? It’s all idolatry to me and I can only dimly guess now what void the Papacy fills in the lives of people deprived, by birth or circumstance, of the Orthodox Christian Faith.
Nonetheless, Francis is a polarising figure. Churchmanship in the Papal Communion has almost come to resemble party politics. Who is orthodox? Who worships in the correct way? Who is going to hell? Does hell even exist? And both sides, whatever you like to call them; modernists vs traditionalists; liberals vs conservatives; or, more crudely, the saved and the damned; they’re all guilty of the same fundamental heresy. They all think that raw authority, or the Papacy, is the answer to all their problems. They all think that some high ecclesiastic is going to wave a magic wand and spirit away all of the heresies, all the corruption, all the revisionism, and then impose some utopian vision of the Roman communion on earth, and converts will come flocking. When Benedict XVI was pope, the traditionalists were in the ascendancy (or so they thought), and how smug they were! They witnessed his arbitrary revival of a few defunct bits of papal frippery, such as the camauro, and they almost anticipated the return of the Papal States! The fact that almost nothing changed at the parochial and diocesan level (apart from the imposition of an artificial and pretentious translation of the new missal) during Benedict’s time seems to have escaped their attention. And now that he’s gone (well, not quite), and his replacement is of different character, their resentful, spiteful, obsessive sniping is most unedifying! It’s so bogus and worldly. I’d be interested to know the cause of this idolatrous tendency to rely completely on authority. What happened to integrity? What happened to common sense? What happened to doing the right thing locally? There are interesting parallels with the Brexit/Trump vs EU/Clinton divide.
Of course, as an Orthodox Christian I have a more holistic view of church history. To me, traditionalists are no different to their Tablet-reading enemies. The great failure of Papal traditionalism is its inability to see beyond the 19th century, or for some the 1950’s. How can you expect a revival of piety when all you have to offer is a bastardised form, or caricature, of what went immediately before you? That what went before might already have become so attenuated and corrupt as to be irreconcilable with Christ’s ordinances is not a thought that even occurs to traditionalists. As for the other side, well; they’re just the keepers of the torch. They are part of the epic of progress and authority that started in the West way back in the mists of time when popes Gregory II and Sergius made their respective alterations to traditional praxis which have continued to the present day. I’m not in the business of placing blame anymore; nor do I have regrets about it. The Orthodox Church has maintained the purity of worship and belief, and we have no need of popes or bridge-builders or keepers of keys or other idols to finish the course and keep the faith. I suppose that if I do have a regret it’s that other, more intelligent persons could see this, and recant their Romish heresy.