Thursday, September 24, 2015

Quickies: A Few Words About The Pope’s Visit To America

     Some time ago, I wrote an essay that delineated my dissatisfactions with both “orthodox” conservatism (as distinguished from the classical-liberal thinking that’s steadily been penetrating conservative ranks) and the proclamations of the clergy of the Catholic Church. (Apropos of which, it’s not the “Roman” Catholic Church; it’s just the Catholic Church. “Roman” describes one of the several rites within the larger Church.) Persons interested in the topic of ultra vires assertions of authority, which I consider critical to the analysis of organizational behavior, should give it a look. I’ve reviewed the sentiments expressed there and find that I hold them still.

     As virtually everyone old enough not to sit in a high chair at the dinner table is aware, Pope Francis, previously known as Jorge Cardinal Bergoglio, Archbishop of Buenos Aires, is currently touring parts of these United States. As is usually the case when a pope visits this country, the excitement has been considerable and the media coverage has been exhaustive. I’m not excited at all, though I am exhausted.

     The pope – any pope – is the Vicar of Christ on Earth. He is deemed the spiritual guide of Catholics everywhere...with emphasis on spiritual. We accord him immense respect when he speaks on theological subjects. But outside the borders of Vatican City, which is nominally a sovereign state even though it has agreed to conform to the secular laws of Italy, that’s as far as his authority goes.

     Pope Francis is not here to make any theological pronouncements. The closest he’s come to a theological subject is his announcement that the Blessed Junipero Serra has been canonized, and is thus admitted to the hagiography of saints. The excitement over his visit to America, therefore, is founded entirely on the secular glamor that weirdly attaches to the Supreme Pontiff of the Catholic Church, as if he were a famous entertainer, perhaps a rocker or a sports star.

     Concerning Pope Francis’s opinions on politics, economics, and climate science, he has no more authority than you or I, and quite a bit less than any qualified geophysicist. When he emits those opinions as if they were more significant than the opinions of any other non-geophysicist, he does harm to his position and to the respect both Catholics and non-Catholics accord to any pope.

     It does not matter who Pope Francis’s advisors are. He ought not to be slathering Americans with his non-theological opinions. If he doesn’t cease and desist, he could do a great deal of harm. I would say so even if I agreed with those opinions.

     The authority of the pope is expressed in papal bulls and encyclicals. Beyond that, he’s merely another celebrity. As I don’t become excited over celebrities, his presence on the North American Continent means little to me, other than for his effect on regional traffic. It would be well if the supposedly humble Pope Francis were to reflect on those thoughts...though, given my own smallness in the world, the probability that he will do so approaches zero,

1 comment:

Adrienne said...

I thought his speech to congress was a big nothing-burger.