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Every snarky comment about the Pope is an insult to me

People outside the faith will never understand how much the Holy Father means to us

By on Friday, 1 March 2013

The Pope Emeritus, as he is now called

The Pope Emeritus, as he is now called

The See of Peter is vacant, and as a result, like so many others all over the world, I feel a little bereft as I write this. Yesterday, as in so many other parishes, we did our best to mark the end of Benedict XVI’s reign and ministry as Supreme Pastor. The children in our primary school, many of whom were not born when he was elected, had a celebration; and there was, in the evening, Vespers, Benediction and Te Deum, followed by food and drink. It was nice to be able to say goodbye to a Pope while he was still alive – a novel event – rather than to mark his death and burial; but all the time I was aware of those pictures on the television, of the helicopter flying past the dome of St Peter’s taking the Pope away from us all. It felt like a bereavement, and it felt that way because it was a bereavement.

I was born in the early months of Pope Paul VI’s reign, and so I have seen four Popes, and await my fifth. I have had a deep personal attachment to all four, even though I never met any of them in the flesh, and I only ever saw John Paul II from an immense distance. But, the Pope is our father, and we love him; he belongs to us, we are part of the same family of faith. These four pontiffs have had a great formative influence on me, and I do not think that someone who is not a Catholic can really understand this. Andrew Brown,  who writes for the Guardian, always writes well, and he has great insight into religious matters, but he stands outside the family of faith, and as a result, he does not get why this Pope, indeed any Pope, matters to us so intensely. The Church is not an organisation like the United Nations or the European Union or the Liberal Democrat Party. It is the Mystical Body of Christ. To be Catholic is to experience the joy, peace and love that belonging to the Mystical Body brings; it is to be in communion with the Pope, which is the visible sign of that Mystical unity. And that in the end is why I cannot really express to anyone just how intensely I loved Benedict XVI, John Paul II, John Paul I, and Paul VI, or how intensely I will love the Pope who is to be elected shortly.

This is the mystery of the Mystical Body. Those outside the Church need to deal with it. It is the way we are. And it is the reason why when people make snarky comments on Twitter about the Pope, any Pope, they do not really insult the Successor of the Apostles, they insult me.

How happy I am that, wherever I have been in the world, I have been with people who profess the Catholic Faith, people who follow Christ and follow Peter. Ubi Petrus, ibi Ecclesia, ibi vita eterna. For those who need a translation: Where Peter is, there is the Church, there is eternal life!

  • Peter

    On the contrary.

    Having succumbed to the temptations of homosexuality decades ago, the Cardinal had first hand experience of how sinful it is and was consequently repelled by it, leading to his robust condemnation of same-sex marriage.

  • Peter

    Be very careful how and when you the “hypocrisy” word, in a society which happy murders a quarter of a million unborn children every year.

  • Peter

    Should read “happily murders”.

  • $17919843

    Yes I totally agree with you but the media would be scared stiff of being called racialists.

  • Tim Spalding

    With a title like that, I thought this might be an Onion article. 

    Sorry, but the unquestioning, automatic, groveling approval, agreement and love of everything the pope is, does and says isn’t Catholic theology at all. It’s Pope-o-latry. 

  • Anglicanus

    As an Anglican, may I say how inspirational a spiritual leader Pope Bendict has been – surely one of the greatest popes of modern times. What a tragedy that he is unable to lead the Church for a few more years and advance the reforms he has put in hand. The level of comment from many liberal commentators is despicable.

  • liquafruta

    “Seeing liberals squirming” …..How very far from the attitude which would be expected of us by Our Lord. Everyone must be currently squirming which is why the current non-retired hierarchy have been completely silent in recent days.
    We should meet each other in Christian love and charity, trying to resolve our differences without condemnation of each other and not wishing for anyone to squirm.

  • Tridentinus

    The Pope can only infallibly define a doctrine that has always been held to be true, he doesn’t just make them up.

    The doctrine of Papal Infallibility cannot be questioned as it is an infallible doctrine. If one wants to question it or deny it one has to leave the Church and join an Ecclesial Community whose teaching is more accommodating to their personal opinions.

  • Tridentinus

     #”Seeing liberals squirming” …..How very far from the attitude which would be expected of us by Our Lord.#

    I know but none of us is perfect.

  • vito

    well people are entitled to make snarky comments about absolutely everyone and anyone. So get used to it and deal with it. And whether you feel offended personally or not, it’s basically up to you

  • vito

    by the way, I guess it is more common to make critical remarks and jokes about Christians, their values etc. than about Muslims because so very few Christians really believe and take their faith seriously. I live in a nominally Catholic country, where the Church even has an important role in political and public life, but in my 37 years of life, I have met maybe two or three people, clergy aside, who take their faith seriously and try to follow Church teachings. Others just observe Catholicism as a tradition: holidays, funerals, christenings etc. So when someone tells you for instance, that he or she does not use contraception because the Pope does not allow it or someone comes tells you they cannot eat meat on a certain day etc, you first assume the person is making a joke… Normally that IS the case.  So here’s the answer. There are very few Muslims in my country, but I’ve heard they still take their faith seriously (maybe I’m wrong), so I would be more cautious with jokes and snarky comments towards their faith. At least until I get to know them. No one wants an unpleasant confrontation or a violent reaction… No one, perhaps, wants to really offend anyone. But I have hardly met any Christians than CAN be offended in matters of their faith

  • Julian Lord

    You may be mistaken, without realising it.

    Islam and Christianity are two VERY different religions.

    Islam is VERY centrally based on “good practice” — so that moral rules, strictures, and public behaviour are very central to a Muslim life.

    Christianity is based on Faith in God — so that moral rules, strictures, and public behaviour are more secondary, and they do not need to be so aggressively manifested in the public sphere.

    It is therefore perfectly natural that an outside observer might falsely conclude that Muslims are generally more “faithful” than Christians.

    They do not realise two things –

    1) That there is a form of simply outward pseudo-”good practice” that is very common among Muslims, a kind of religious hypocrisy, that manifests as some quite basically social rules and requirements that are easily confused with “serious faithfulness”. The peer pressure towards such superficial religiosity or pseudo-religiosity is IMMENSE.

    2) There are a great many Christians who although they might outwardly appear to be just like any other “ordinary” member of society, are in fact living lives of intense devotion and Faith to the Religion.

  • Jonathan West

    If the Pope says that a doctrine has always been true, and makes an infallible statement on the subject, who in the church is going to say that he is wrong, even if he has made it up?

  • Jonathan West

    Let me see. There was the division from the Orthodox churches, then there was the division from the Protestant churches at the time of the Reformation, then there was the division with SSPX at the time of VII.

    No, the church can’t be divided at all!

  • Realitycheck

    You can make it up!  After all just look at some of the stuff you guys have made up in the last 2,000 years!

  • Jonathan West

    If you have been reading the on-line comments in the national newspapers
    you surely must have seen that the ‘criticisms’ of the Church, the Pope
    and the rest of the clergy are scarcely mild. Thousands upon thousands
    of the most vile, vituperative, abusive insults I have ever seen in
    print have been hurled at this man personally and the Church generally.
    Social networking sites are just as bad. If such opprobrium were to be
    heaped upon any other religion or religious leader then the perpetrators
    would more than likely end up in court or in the case of one faith, it
    could even lead to civil unrest. If some Catholics feel that they are
    under seige then that is hardly surprising. By contrast it is very rare
    to come across a comment or a tweet by a Catholic insulting Protestants
    or atheists with similar invective.

    I suggest you read the comments here in order to disabuse yourself of that notion.

  • $24570317


  • $24570317

    I hope you’ve got that clear vito: When you see and hear Muslims displaying and supporting their faith, this is just “pseudo-religiousity”. On the other hand, when you see Catholics not showing any concern for their religion through their actions and words, you can be sure that a “great many” of them actually ARE – you just can’t see it, you see.

  • Ratslinger

    I think you mean “racists”.

  • jasmine999

    Historically, in countries where Christianity had the backing of the state, “outward…good practice,” was as important as it is now in Islamic countries like Saudi Arabia and Iran. In Catholicism, “outward…good practice” in matters of sexuality is crucial, as is doctrine. There was a time when Christians hanged gays,
    executed heretics, and punished “promiscuous” women, EXACTLY as Muslims
    do today in Saudi Arabia and Iran. In Christian nations with strong religious feeling, like Uganda, and in nations where the state panders to religion when it’s convenient, like Russia, you still get bizarre laws which criminalize certain types of behavior and sexuality. Evangelicals, who don’t believe in evolution, have been trying to institute teachings against evolution in US public schools for years.

    The only difference between Islam and Christianity is that “true” Christians are in the minority, and no longer have the power to legislate their beliefs. When they had that power, they used it, exactly the way Muslims do today.

  • Ratslinger

    Why does someone attaining a certain post mean he has to be respected even if he is “not so good”?

    Respect is earned and you can’t earn respect by covering up child abuse.

  • Walcotc

    Very much agree with you, Ratzcat, and of course with Fr Lucie-Smith. There is a sense of missing someone, a subliminal need to call Benedict XVI back to have a last word with him, to see his face and hear him again.

    Many who have thoughtlessly condemned Benedict’s decision to resign are very young, so they cannot feel or understand the fatigue of being old, or have totally forgotten how this man had looked after the ailing Pope John Paul II for  years on end. When elected Pope he already had a pacemaker, had already passed by 3 years the normal retirement age for bishops and two years later he would pass the age when Cardinals are deemed too old to elect a Pope. He continued to run the Church at full steam for five years, but knew there were not another 5 such years in his physical grasp.

    Others condemned his decision to retire as “giving up” without thinking that the Church could not afford to have two popes in a row with “lame duck” periods of quasi interregnum.

    Luckily that so many of us are prayerful wellwishers and see that we can still love Benedict as a sort of Holy Grandfather. I hope he lives comfortably into his 90s and so will continue to write. And what is yet to come from his thoughts and his pen is something for us still to look forward to, even though nothing further may get published in his lifetime.

  • Julian Lord

    I hope you’ve got that clear vito: When you see and hear Muslims displaying and supporting their faith, this is just “pseudo-religiousity”

    Oh do at least *try* and refrain from this snide anti-Catholic trollery JB24 …

    I live in a building inhabited by 80% Muslims — I can assure you that the notion that there is a very common pseudo-religiosity masquerading as Islam comes from them, not from me.

  • Tridentinus

    Re-posted above as a reply to Jonathan West.

  • Tridentinus

     Please point one out.

  • Julian Lord

    There was a time when Christians hanged gays, executed heretics, and punished “promiscuous” women, EXACTLY as Muslims do today in Saudi Arabia and Iran.

    Sorry, but this is just a load of old indoctrinated cobblers.

    hanged gays” — the ONLY example of this in History that anyone has EVER put forward to me involved a clique of homosexual men who invested one of the major churches in Rome, threw all of the clergy and faithful out, and turned it into a giant 16th century gay club, where they engaged in profanations of the church, the Church, of the Holy Mass, and other such GROSS violations of the Catholic Faith : their activities were repressed, and whilst those who were captured and imprisoned in the crackdown were executed, most of them fled. They were punished NOT for their homosexuality, but for their religious and civil crimes against that Parish and its Clergy and Parishioners. Unfortunately for the last person who pointed out this so-called “anti-homosexual” “crime” of the Catholic Church, I had spent an entire University year studying the Renaissance text in question, and BTW I have it on my hard drive right now.

    executed heretics” — No. Heresy is not a capital crime, and it never has been. Barring the occasional local atrocity (Saint Joan of Arc’s execution, for example), heretics or “heretics” who have been condemned to death in the History of the Church have in the vast majority of cases also been criminals according to the civil laws of the time, and executed for their crimes (you know ; like murder, rape, theft, brigandry, slave-trading, etc etc)

    punished “promiscuous” women” — Your “punished” is so vague as to be devoid of meaning. Though I’m entirely unsure as to why you appear to be suggesting that sexual promiscuity might be some kind of virtue.

  • jasmine999

    I don’t even know what to say. YES, Christian states executed heretics, gays, and other non-believers. They also executed or publicly shamed “promiscuous” people, especially women. In a Christian state, the state acted in collusion with the church. This is a fact.

    Here are some suggestions: Read some 16-17th century history, and see how the Catholics and Protestants fared in Protestant and Catholic states. I’ll pick a popular time period and a single nation: England under Henry, Mary, Edward, and Elizabeth. Read up. Also read up on how the Crusades worked, and who was responsible for them. Read up on what happened in the South of France in the 13th century; do find out about the Albigensian Crusade. Montaillou is an old but excellent history about Albigensians. Read about the very early heresies. See what happened to Nestorians and Arians.

    Just READ, please. Your position is literally historically indefensible. btw I have absolutely no intention of getting caught up in an argument with someone who will insist endlessly that 2+2=15. Been there, done that. It doesn’t work. This is my last contribution. Read up.

  • Marsh

    Snarky comments are by definition unloveable or they would not be called snarky. Catholics should be given the same respect as other religions (and criticised when they Say or do bad stuff). Islam gets its surprisingly good press because people are afraid of fatwas and threats.
    Father lucie-Smith makes a good point here. But his profession of totally inexplicable love for any holder of the office of Pope is emotional and personal. We can only thank him for sharing and move on.

  • Arden Forester

    Heaven forfend that the Church is like the Liberal Democrats!

  • WSquared

     …and good on you for replying the way you did.  Because turning the other cheek has nothing to do with being a doormat.

    Fr. Robert Barron has talked extensively about how “turning the other cheek” does not make one a doormat, both in his “Catholicism” documentary series and in a book called “And Now I See:  A Theology of Transformation”:  it’s not lashing out or fleeing, but mirroring back the violence of the other person non-violently.  It does mean to stand one’s ground.

    He gives the example of Desmond Tutu being told by a white man to get off the sidewalk, because the man “didn’t yield for baboons.”  Tutu smiled and said, “yes, but *I* do!”  Likewise, when Mother Theresa asked a baker for a loaf of bread for a poor child she was caring for, the baker spat in her face.  Unflinchingly, Mother Theresa persisted:  “thanks for that gift for me, now perhaps something for the child?”

  • WSquared

     Actually, as human creatures, we’re pretty darned limited when left to our own devices.  Given our limited imaginations and our penchant for constant distraction, we couldn’t make this stuff up if we tried.  The initiative has to come from God, whom we believe is Being Itself.  What we believe often comes across as “too crazy to be true” until we actually encounter God, learning slowly (and sometimes painfully) that He loves us, wants to get to know us, and wants to reconcile us to Himself.

  • Diane1522

    Jews are far from protected humans they suffer at the hands of anti semitism world wide from all faith groups primarily Muslims. As a catholic I believe Jews are god first born children we are the Gentiles welcomed and saved by our lord Jesus Christ who died on that cross for all of us. I believe we should be more supportive of Jewish people and Israel as a state of its own, I believe in the holy scriptures our lord was born a Jew was raised Jewish practised the Jewish celebrations he loved his people who were Jews and Gentiles . We forget that star on the Israeli flag has so much more of a deeper meaning to Jews and Catholics that being its the Star of David and of the Star of David a saviour shall be born ……

  • WSquared

     No kidding– this, that, or the other thing about “Ratzi the Nazi,” “the Panzerkardinal,” “God’s Rottweiler” and the like, all of which are uttered by people who can’t be bothered to actually read what he’s written or listen to what he says.  But turnabout can be fair play, and when some journalist bloke complained publicly upon B16′s election that “we were looking for a Good Shepherd, but instead, we got a German Shepherd!” Catholic youth everywhere came up with t-shirts, bumper-stickers and other paraphernalia that sported Benedict XVI’s likeness and the words, “I love my German Shepherd!”

    I think one major American newspaper (can’t remember which one) recently complained that Benedict’s smile was always sinister, as though he were always looking to bite someone.  And people find it fit to print rubbish like this?!

  • WSquared

    The Pope is our spiritual father.  That’s what she means.  Likewise, we address our priests as “Father,” because they are our spiritual fathers.  Parenthood isn’t exclusively biological;  at one time, we did speak of teachers as acting “in locus parenti.”  When we are in Communion with Christ, we are enabled to think of His Heavenly Father as ours, witness the “Our Father” prayer.

  • WSquared

     It’s nothing of the sort.

  • WSquared

     “It’s funny how patronizing and condescending ‘others’ feel the need to remind us that Christ hasn’t left us.”

    Yeah, because anyone who’s ever bothered to pay any attention to what Joseph Ratzinger/Benedict XVI writes and says knows full well Who Christ Is, and that Christ’s vicar always points beyond himself to the Lord.  And we receive Christ in the Mass.

  • Tridentinus

     The Church is One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic. There was no division nor can there ever be if division means dividing into parts. Christians may break away from the Church, the True Church and when they do, they cease to be members of the True Church. Thus the True Church remains, one and indivisible.

    Christians who break away do this this by either formally rejecting the Church either through apostasy (abandonment of Christianity altogether), schism (Orthodoxy, SSPX et al) or heresy (Protestantism).

    Others whilst rejecting the True Church, yet deceive themselves that they are still within it. These pseudo-catholics endeavour to persuade true believers to rebel. They are false prophets (Matthew 7:15–23, among other NT references). They are the tares among the wheat (Matthew 13:24-30).

    Only those christians who accept without demur all the dogmas,doctrines and creeds which the Catholic Church declares to be necessary for Salvation can claim to be true members of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.

  • Tridentinus

     Well said.

  • Tridentinus

    “So when someone tells you for instance, that he or she does not use
    contraception because the Pope does not allow it or someone tells
    you they cannot eat meat on a certain day etc,…”

    Please try and get your facts right. It is the Church which declares that the use of artificial is sinful. The Pope and the bishops simply re-iterate the doctrine through the ages.

    You may be correct in saying that most Catholics are ‘cultural catholics’ but then one could say the same about the Jews but we don’t see many ‘snarky’ comments about them due to the fear of being labelled as an anti-semite and possibly prosecuted.

    Let us remember that we are not talking here about ‘Father Ted’ type of humour. Abuse such as calling the Pope a Nazi is hardly a joke, is it?

  • Tridentinus

    “If the Pope says that a doctrine has always been true, and makes an infallible statement on the subject, who in the church is going to say that he is wrong, even if he has made it up?”

     I repeat, ” The Pope can only infallibly define a doctrine that has always been held to be true, he doesn’t just make them up.”

    Those who say he is wrong obviously do not believe what the whole Church believes and thereby put themselves outside the Church.

  • Tridentinus

    I was merely making the point that Judaism and Islam are protected from written or verbal abuse because their religions are entwined with their ethnicity. People are generally circumspect about voicing or publishing abusive criticism of Jews and Muslims for fear they will fall foul of the Equalities Act.

    Christians not being an ethnic grouping seem to get no protection under this Act if they or their religion are vilified in the media and on internet blogs, e.g. calling the Pope a Nazi, describing Cardinal O’ Brien as a ‘vile hypocrite’ or comparing the Church to the Mafia.

    There is no argument regarding the role of the Jews in God’s plan for Creation. However whether they have entitlement to the State of Israel or not is a political question not a religious one.

  • Julian Lord

    Christian states executed

    You’ve shifted your story — in case you hadn’t noticed, the whole *point* of my disagreement was that the atrocities in question were committed by secular authorities, NOT “Christians” (unqualified).

    But REALLY — that statement should be corrected to read : “[ --- Fill In The Blank With Your Adjective Of Choice --- ] states executed

    Oh, and your conflation of war with crime is untenable.

  • Julian Lord

    Christians who break away do this this by either formally rejecting the Church either through apostasy (abandonment of Christianity altogether), schism (Orthodoxy, SSPX et al) or heresy (Protestantism)

    erm, no — actually you’re wrong (which is BTW rather unusual in your case)

    The One True Church is the celestial Church of the Communion of the Saints in Christ, the living and the dead.

    Those who break away from the One True Church do so by rejecting God Himself.

    You’re describing how people leave the *Religion* :-)

  • Julian Lord
  • jasmine999

    READ. Thank you.

    According to the gospels, Jesus was indicted by the Jews, who had no authority to execute. He was, hence, sent to the Romans for execution.


  • Tridentinus

    Thank you for the compliment, Jabba.

    Naturally I agree with your definition of the whole Church but my concern is with the Church Militant in the current circumstances.

    I’m not sure I quite understand what you are saying about there being a difference between rejecting God and leaving the “Religion”.

    Judging by the number of testimonies I have read in on-line media of young Christians mainly Catholics ‘growing out’ of their religion and ceasing to believe in existence of God, I would regard this as rejecting God.

    Not everyone, however, who ceases to practise their Catholic Faith necessarily ceases to believe in God yet the Athanasian Creed categorically states that :-  Whosoever will be
    saved, before all things it is necessary that he hold the catholic faith. Which
    faith except every one do keep whole and undefiled; without doubt he shall
    perish everlastingly.

    The doctrine of Nulla Salus….
    reinforces this.

    Accepting ‘fine-tuning’ of this doctrine over time up to the present, I would still judge that in the external forum, the consequence of leaving the Catholic Church is the equivalent of rejecting God.

    Btw how do you manage to post in italics?

  • Julian Lord

    Your recommendation to engage in reading is coherent with my own Master’s Degree in Literature, thanks.

  • Julian Lord

    This is a delicate topic.

    The problematic resides in the dual definition of the word “Catholic” — meaning both Universal, and Catholic in particular.

    Nulla Salus was declared using the *first* of those two definitions, not the second — and the Council immediately after the doctrine was first declared, in Antiquity (can’t remember which century, offhand) explicitly explained (it was actually a Papal declaration within the Council itself IIRC, so its Authority is the highest possible) the doctrine as meaning that the “Catholic” Church mentioned in the doctrine is the COMMUNION of ALL of those who are TRULY Faithful to God in Christ.

    Judging by the number of testimonies I have read in on-line media of
    young Christians mainly Catholics ‘growing out’ of their religion and
    ceasing to believe in existence of God, I would regard this as rejecting

    I agree.

    But there’s a qualitative difference between an adult Catholic deliberately and willfully rejecting the Faith, and any non-Catholic or Youth doing so in a very different manner.

    IMO Confirmation should ordinarily be given to people at about 18 ; not when they are still children. Though of course, there’d be no reason to withhold it from younger people who have demonstrated their firmness in the Faith.

    As for italics, you need to use the following protocol :

    Use (without the blank spaces) to start your italics ; and (without the blank spaces) to end them.