Hail to the chief

Ed Smith
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My heart goes out to members of the Roman Catholic church.

It really does. Not being sarcastic in the least. I think to be a faithful member of that church in this day and age must be more than challenging if you’re at all conscientious about it.

I’m not Catholic, so perhaps I shouldn’t be commenting on this stuff at all. When I was 10 years old, my mother had me promise never to marry a Catholic. So far, I haven’t. I was regaled with stories about my great-grandmother carrying ammunition to our side in the infamous skirmish between Catholics and Protestants on the hills between Carbonear and Harbour Grace.

As an interesting aside, my oldest daughter is happily ensconced with a Catholic boy from Harbour Grace! (Sorry Great-Grand-Nan — I was with you in spirit.)

Carrying on with this, my youngest daughter is just as happily settled with a Catholic fellow from New York. That’s different because he has never heard of either Carbonear or Harbour Grace and probably doesn’t even know who won. Come to think of it, neither do I.

My middle daughter was going strong with a Catholic as well, but finally saw the light and settled down with a fine young Protestant from Stag Harbour on Fogo Island. Despite their proximity to the purest concentration of Irish Catholics this side of Dublin, i.e. Tilton, we know of no relevant skirmishes.

Everyone seems to be inordinately pleased that the new Pope is humble. He’s so humble he makes Mahatma Gandhi look like an arrogant snob. Even St. Francis of Assisi, from whom he takes his name, would be hard put to keep up with this man in sheer humility.

No, I am not making fun of the Pope. But I do think it’s interesting and even a little over the top that the media is making so much of this man’s humility. Spokespersons for the Catholic Church especially are sheer wallowing in the fact that Francis wants to do everything for himself. Anyone stop to think that maybe the man’s a control freak? (I know, I know — a rather weak attempt at gratuitous humour.)

I wouldn’t be surprised one of these days to see the Pope lugging around official visitors to the Vatican in one of those wheelbarrow-type things with the shafts sticking out and some poor fellow acting the part of the horse.

I thought Christ’s representative here on Earth was supposed to be humble. Does this mean that the last fellow wasn’t?

I tell you one thing in all seriousness: those cardinals bedecked with the trappings of their office don’t come off looking that good. How many of them take public transportation or pay their own bills at the hotel? How would you like to be the clerk when 170 red-cloaked clerics turn up at your desk waving Capital One cards?

“Yes, your Eminence. You had the humble special. Wasn’t that the clothes closet? Right. Now, do you get the seniors discount? Oh, of course, you all do.”

Dumb answers

There is also much conjecture about whether or not Pope Francis will be traditionalist or liberal in his thinking, and thus in his management of the Catholic Church.

I watched with no little interest and almost an air of disbelief as a Roman Catholic priest was interviewed on his view of the new pontiff. He wasn’t a cardinal or anything “big” in the church, so I don’t think he was speaking for it. Nevertheless, his answers to the questions were more than revealing.

Perhaps I missed something as the interview unfolded. Perhaps something was said that puts the whole thing into a different light from how I heard it.

The questions had to do with whether or not this priest thought Francis would be conservative in his approach or liberal. In other words, was the church ready to take off in a new direction as several of its members and adherents seem to be demanding?

“Well,” this gentleman responded, “I expect he will be conservative in some things and liberal in others.”

Good answer! What else could he say other than what could obviously be said of anyone from the Pope down to me. I’m a redneck conservative when it comes to broccoli and cauliflower. I’m a born-again liberal when it comes to vanilla ice cream and Bailey’s Irish Cream. That’s simple enough to make a point.

“OK,” the interviewer asked, “what’s he likely to be conservative about?”

The priest didn’t even have to think about that one.

“Abortion,” he said, “same-sex marriage, women priests.”

No great surprise there, either, although perhaps a little disappointment that the dialogue might not be opened up at all. Then they asked the question I was waiting to hear.

“What’s he likely to be liberal about?”

I was all primed to hear “women in the church,” “a crackdown on sexual abuse and coverup” and possibly “stemming the tide of AIDS in Africa.”

I don’t know if anyone else fell off their chairs at the answer, but I came close. Again the priest didn’t hesitate.

“War,” he said, “and poverty.”

War? He’s going to have a liberal approach to war? Likewise poverty? What does that mean? That he is going to be against both? Or for it?

It reminds me of president Calvin Coolidge’s response to his wife’s question of what the sermon was about when Cal got home from church.

“Sin,” he replied. Coolidge is still remembered as a man of few words.

“So what did he have to say about it?” she persisted.

Said Cal, “He was agin’ it.”

I have to admit that when I first saw Pope Francis the other day, he looked dour and downright anti-humorous. Perhaps he was taking the whole thing a mite seriously. You think?

Today I watched him stride out to meet some people in St. Peter’s Square, and he did stride, and his face was animated and his body language said, “I’m really pleased to be here!”

I hope the expectations of his people are not mirrored in the response of that priest.

Whatever, bless you, Francis, from all of us.

Ed Smith is an author who lives

in Springdale. His email address is edsmith@nf.sympatico.ca.

Organizations: Catholic Church, Capital One, Catholic Church.I

Geographic location: Carbonear, New York, Stag Harbour on Fogo Island Dublin Vatican Africa Springdale

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Recent comments

  • dace Berg
    March 23, 2013 - 08:24

    I am not catholic. I do worry about this pope. The Church is a big business and it take more than humility to run it. Also, as I recall, a pope got murdered (not proven, since they do not autopsy popes) a while back for looking into corruption in the finances. Seems to me Francis 1 will be either dangerous or ineffective!

  • Peter
    March 23, 2013 - 07:19

    There is no such thing as a "liberal Catholic" or a "conservative Catholic." These are just terms for heretical Catholics who disagree with the Church on non-permissable terms of disagreement (there is room for some debate) and are therefore not fully Catholic . As for the Pope, the terms "liberal" or "conservative" should never be applied. The terms imply a deviance from the norm. but the Pope as the head of the Church appointed by the Holy Spirit is the norm and to deviate from oneself is impossible. The only terms to use when talking about other people are simply "Catholic" or "not Catholic."