Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Back Off the Benny Bashing

Nothing more cowardly and unmanly than to make fun of an elderly man. Only someone who is insecure in their own masculinity has the audacity to launch verbal attacks on a true gentleman and scholar. It is pathetic when a person is reduced to making petty insults and puerile epithets just to mask their own theological inadequacies. Any moron can resort to ad hominem attacks but an intellectual person seeks and respects the truth. Sadly, a cardinal, a prince of the church, recently made schoolyard-bully insults via twitter the very day Pope Francis was elected:

"So long, Papal ermine and fancy lace! Welcome, simple cassock, and hopefully, ordinary black shoes!"

"Moving from HIGH Church to LOW and humble Church! What a blessing that we are encountering Jesus without trappings!"

You do not have to be an astrophysicist to figure out who was being implied in His Eminence's remarks. Trashing a former pope while he is still alive (albeit abdicated) is not just bad manners, it is like dissing your elderly grandfather after he goes to the retirement home. Disrespectful and DISTASTEFUL. Shameful, not to mention embarrassing that the non-Catholic world has to see a Cardinal show such disdain for a Vicar of Christ and Successor of Saint Peter.

DE GUSTIBUS NON DISPUTANDUM EST.  Pope Francis has a different style than his predecessor. So did Pope Benedict XVI to a smaller degree. It is UNJUST and dare I say, it is SLANDEROUS to accuse, allege or imply that B16 was in any a proud pontiff. It took great humility to resign from the most powerful office on earth. Pope Benedict abdicated for the sake of the common good of Holy Mother Church. She needed a shepherd who was healthier and more vibrant. BOTH popes, however, are HUMBLE. Humility can be expressed in different ways.

Saint Thomas Aquinas and Saint Francis of Assisi are perfect examples. One was a brilliant theologian and intellectual giant while the other was a pioneering spiritual reformer. While there may be some friendly competition between the Dominicans and the Franciscans, neither Aquinas nor Francis were in any way, shape or form bitter rivals or enemies.

The secular press, however, and some in the Catholic media (and one notorious and infamous Cardinal) make it sound as if only Pope Francis showed humility. They imply and infer that Pope Benedict was a proud aristocratic who veiled himself with trappings of imperialism.

Pope Benedict merely showed the Church and the world that CATHOLIC means UNIVERSAL. Just as we have both an Eastern and Western (Latin) Church in Catholicism, we also have in the Roman Rite the Ordinary and Extraordinary Forms. We have traditional and contemporary taste in ART, MUSIC and LITURGICAL ATTIRE. If Pope Benedict wore a lace alb it was merely a matter of personal TASTE, not a political statement.  If someone is looking for hidden agendas and latent messages, I would not look at the old fashioned vestments, rather, peek into the moral activity of those who cast the first and largest stones. Before the sex scandals broke in the press, many a seminarian was persecuted for wearing a little lace in his alb or surplice while a classmate who frequented gay bars or who preached dissident theology in his homilies got sterling evaluations. 

It is not the liturgical lace that church bureaucrats need worry about. Instead, they should be concerned about the women's lingerie some deviant clergy were wearing as has been reported in newspaper articles a few months ago. We do not need the Dark Ages of the Witch Hunt for conservative and traditional seminarians and priests as we had in the '60's, '70's and early '80's. Almost like Elizabethan England when finding a rosary got you drawn and quartered, many of us remember the intimidation, ridicule and often offensive persecution for practicing private devotions and personal piety.

Some people like formality not because they consider themselves better than others, rather, they want to HONOR someone or some event by making an extra effort to dress up. Casual has become the icon of our modern age. When I was growing up, everyone, be they poor, rich or middle-class, had 'church clothes' that you wore every Sunday. Jeans were for manual labor, not for office or school, nor dining in restaurants and NEVER in church. Wearing the proper wedding garment had nothing to do with the cost of it. Attention to small details is not always a sign of obsessive compulsive behavior. It can also be a sign of RESPECT. When good china and real silverware are brought out, along with the linen napkins and tablecloth, it is the OCCASION and/or the GUEST who is being honored. Paper plates and plasticware are inexpensive and convenient but they do not bespeak anything SPECIAL. Some people or some events are special. Some places are special (like Church).

Pope Benedict XVI had CLASS. He is a true gentleman and a man of polite manners. He would never make the disparaging remarks like the ones made by an American cardinal calumniously attacking him just for his choice (and it is an option) of liturgical attire. If more attention had been spent on cracking down on BAD THEOLOGY (dissent) and BAD MORALITY (sexual misconduct) as well as BAD LITURGY (rubrical abuses), many scandals could have been avoided and prevented.

I am sick of those who keep trashing and bashing B16 as if he were some snobby Czar or glib monarch who dines on caviar while the poor masses eat stale bread. What Pope Benedict did was to show us that SACRED WORSHIP (Divine Liturgy) is about God and it comes from God. Man did not invent divine worship. God created and ordained HOW and WHERE He was to be adored and worshipped as we see Moses being told by God to tell Pharaoh, 'let my people go so that they may worship me in the wilderness.'

It was JUDAS who reprimanded the woman that anointed the feet of Jesus with expensive aromatic nard. Christ did not stop nor did He chastise her. He instead thanked and blessed her. Cain made a sloppy second, convenient sacrifice whereas his brother Abel offered the best sheep of the flock. Whose offering was accepted and whose was rejected?

Blessed Teresa of Calcutta INSISTED that silver or gold vessels be used at Mass in all her chapels where the Missionaries of Charity worshipped God around the world. She said the worship of God deserved only the best and the poor should not be deprived of offering the best to God merely because they themselves cannot afford it.

I find it is clerical men who are more like girly-men and nancy-boys (i.e., those insecure in their own masculinity) and who launch vicious attacks on their peers and colleagues for wearing more elaborate, formal and more traditional vestments. Real men do not bully the perceived 'nerds' or 'geeks' who dress less casually than the jocks. Real men are secure in manly VIRTUES and have no need for histrionics and melodrama. HUMILITY is not what you wear, but how you ACT and how you TREAT others.  One can be CHEAP and have nothing to do with saving money. Being CHEAP is not about spending less, rather, it is about being too lazy or too conceited to do what might be inconvenient but what is expected by convention to show RESPECT and APPRECIATION to someone else. Cheap Catholicism is like cheap grace; neither is efficacious. REVERENCE is not a matter of price-tag but it is a matter of deliberate effort to show respect.

Pope Francis is entitled to his personal taste, opinion and prudential judgments. We are not in any position to render any comment as he is the supreme shepherd of the universal church. That being said, those of us who APPRECIATE and LIKE the former style of Pope Benedict are FREE to continue his example just as those who wish to imitate and emulate Pope Francis, Pope John Paul II, Pope Paul VI or even Pope Pius XII. In matters of faith (doctrine) and morals, we must all be on the same page with the Vicar of Christ. In matters of taste (DE GUSTIBUS) there is no argument or debate (NON DISPUTANDUM EST). When will some people finally figure that out?

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