Thursday, August 01, 2013
Not a Renaissance Prince?
My understanding of the feudal world is that it was highly litigious, partly because its basis was about mutual obligation and it was reasonably static, everyone knew their rights and when they were violated they went to court. Medieval court records, at least in England show that even the lowest in society could insist on their rights even over the local Lord or other magnate, even the king. It is not surprising, as the very nature of feudalism was based on the idea of a society with God, the Lawgiver, at its very top. When it worked it was good, when it didn't work the sword ruled.
Renaissance society I always think was different. I read The Prince at an early age. It was fast moving, renaissance princes seem to have been answerable to no-one, not the Church, not God and certainly not to their inferiors, one can't quite imagine a Medici or a Tudor doing public penance like Henry II after Becket's murder.
The Renaissance was a lawless time, the princes will was law, princes were feared, the parvenu was not rooted in society, he was here today and gone tomorrow. It is no wonder Pope Francis keeps saying, 'I am not Renaissance Prince'.
One thing that does worry me about the the present Papacy is that on the one hand the Bishop of Rome is calling for transparency, especially with regard to the IOR, the Vatican Bank, and yet on the other hand seems to act as if he is unconstrained by Law or custom, just like a Renaissance Prince.
Setting as a priority the clearing out of any hint of waywardness in the IOR is certainly important and it is good place to start, It is important the Church can be trusted, especially with money but transparency has to be attached to everything in the Church not just its finances.
I admit I was quite shaken by Francis' disregard for liturgical Law and washing the feet of women despite what the rubrics plainly say. The recent negation of the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate's right under the rules set out by Summorum Pontificum, which gave every Latin Rite priest the ability to choose which form of the Roman Rite he wished to use, seems not only worrying but also high handed and most probably illegal, that is worrying too. Even the decision to Canonise the Blessed John XXIII without the necessary divine sign of a further miracle, and today it is reported that the Pontiff is seriously considering the Canonisation of Pius XII. These things might be good or possibly necessary or pastorally fitting or whatever you might describe them as but what is worrying is that they cut across the proper and due process of Law. There is a very serious danger of the Church being seen as a Renaissance Principality, Papa vult is not the basis of the Church's law. If the Pope wishes for transparency he cannot act like a Renaissance Prince, he too has to be subject to the Law, bending his personal desire to it, not bending the Law to his desire.
If the Church's Law is disregarded then the Church simply becomes an institution based on it earthly leader's whim. The most important role of the Pontiff or any ruler is to ensure the law is as clear as possible and immediately obvious to everyone. The Church must be 'a just society' because God is Just. If the Pope acts without due regard to the Law why can't anyone, the answer is obvious, if we do not obey the Law we become not a just society but a band of robbers. Bringing in confusion, muddying the waters, does no good whatever and in the long term destroys the Church's credibility, especially in a time when, as His Holiness tells us some pretty dramatic reforms are likely to take place.
Posted by Fr Ray Blake