Terminology note: Pope

Via Rorate coeli, Archbishop Jan Graubner reports recent remarks by Francis I, the incumbent of the See of Rome:

When we were discussing those who are fond of the ancient liturgy and wish to return to it, … [Francis] made a quite strong statement when he said that he understands when the old generation returns to what it experienced, but that he cannot understand the younger generation wishing to return to it. “When I search more thoroughly, I find that it is rather a kind of fad.[*] And if it is a fad, therefore it is a matter that does not need that much attention. It is just necessary to show some patience and kindness to people who are addicted to a certain fashion.”

As Pat Archbold notes, this is “completely wrong, … disrespectful of the reasonable desires of so many good and faithful Catholics,” “staggering in its coarseness and dismissiveness,” and “diametrically opposed to the attitudes and pronouncement of his Holiness Pope Benedict XVI.”

It is, however, entirely characteristic of the attitudes and pronouncements of Pope Benedict’s successor, Francis. I forget the cheaper, more casual insults that he has hurled at traditionally-inclined Catholics, but just off the top of my head, it occurs to me that just as he today tells us that we are “addicts” to a “fad,” in Evangelii gaudium, he told us that we are “self absorbed promethean neo pelagians,” whatever that might mean. Shortly before that, in the Jesuit publications interview, he told us that we are hidebound by small rules, we talk about the wrong things, we are ideologues who wish to exploit the Mass, and so on. And a few months before that, we he told us that we “wish to turn the clock back,” that we are “stubborn” people who “want[ ] to tame the Holy Spirit.”

It has become apparent since that black day on which he was elected that the erstwhile Tom Marvolo Card. Riddle (I think that was it) holds people like me in complete contempt; he think that we have Catholicism all wrong, he thinks we have the wrong priorities, he thinks we’re part of the problem. These are sentiments and fraternal warmth that I am happy to reciprocate in kind. But for all the nasty names Francis is pleased to call us, I will content myself with simply not calling him by just one name. The bishop of Rome has traditionally enjoyed a nickname: “pope,” a familiar corruption of “papa.” It is not a title,** merely an affectionate appellation. For the foreseeable future, following the precedent set with regard to the rev. Hans Kung, I will no longer afford it to Francis.

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* Rorate renders the Italian “moda” as “fashion,” but Father Zuhlsdorf renders it as “fad.” I adhere to Zuhldorf’s word choice not only because I trust him as a translator but because it is, in his case, an admission against interest. Zuhlsdorf is convinced that Francis’ pontificate is “in continuity” with that of Pope Benedict the Great, a case that is hardly helped by Francis dismissing as a fashion, but a fortiori as a fad, a project so dear to Benedict’s heart.

** The titles annexed to the office of the Bishop of Rome are Vicar of Jesus Christ, Successor of the Prince of the Apostles, Supreme Pontiff of the Universal Church, Patriarch of the West (it is unclear whether Benedict XVI intended to set aside that title permanently), Primate of Italy, Archbishop and Metropolitan of the Roman Province, Sovereign of the Vatican City State, and Servant of the servants of God.