Monday, March 10, 2008

Pope, "really a monarch"?

Fr Zuhlsdorf put up an article from the Tablet by Fr Keith Pecklar SJ on the new style of Papal liturgies a couple of days ago, there was this very curious passage.

Critics of papal liturgies in the pontificate of Pope John Paul II lament the fact that the Pope was reduced to celebrating as if simply the bishop of any diocese – albeit on a grand scale – while the Bishop of Rome is really a monarch and thus, papal liturgical celebrations should better express this. By contrast, in his motu proprio of 21 June 1968, "Pontificalia Insignia", Pope Paul VI sought to simplify and clarify the use of pontifical insignia for all prelates linked to the Roman pontiff.
Fr Z's comment

[I think this may be unfair. I don’t recall seeing people in the blogosphere arguing that the Pope should have older things or specifically "papal" thing because he is also a monarch. I have certainly never argued that. As a matter of fact, I suggested that the Pope should celebrate a TLM as a regular pontifical Mass without trying to do all the old stuff requiring the papal court, etc.]

I think those of us who critical of previous Papal liturgical styles do not want a return to anything monarchical, on the contrary we want something that does not the reflect the Pope's personal style but the "style" of the Church itself, something which touches the wellspring of Catholicism. What I want is a model for every bishop in the world, a liturgy that points to God, which frankly many of John Paul II's celebrations really did not. I am sure it was not his intention but those I attended seemed to be a celebration of him. I welcome Pope Benedict's liturgies which allow the words and action of the Rites of the Church to speak clearly.

Has anyone actually read or heard a serious appeal for something which expresses "monarchy" or is this just part of the Tabletista's new "black legend", like the infamous Tablet's, "the pope is not a trained liturgist", or those dreadful Micken's slurs?


Dr. Peter H. Wright said...

We cannot lose sight of the fact that the Pope is not simply the Bishop of Rome.

He is the Vicar of Christ.
He is the successor of St. Peter, Prince of the Apostles.
He is the visible head on earth of the Catholic Church.
And, yes, he is the Sovereign Pontiff.

He has humble titles too. He is "servus servorum Dei".

The Vatican City State is a sovereign country.
The Pope is the absolute monarch, however you spin it.

The point is : the Pope is subject to no man.

The Ecumenical Patriarch is a citizen of Turkey.

The Archbishop of Canterbury is a subject of the Crown.

The most powerful American cardinal is a citizen of the USA.

The Dalai Lama lost his sovereignty when the Chinese invaded Tibet.

Only the Pope has preserved his independence.

Of course, the old papal court has gone.

But the Pope is still a Head of State, sending out Nuncios, and receiving Ambassadors.

Papal sovereignty does not detract from the from the Petrine office.
It enhances it.

Yes, I think it matters that the Pope is seen to be something more than a rather grand bishop.

Because that's not what he is at all.

Hilary Jane Margaret White said...

"I think those of us who critical of previous Papal liturgical styles do not want a return to anything monarchical,"

Speak for yourself, Padre.

Anonymous said...

If Jesus is King and Lord of all, then the Pope as his representative is exactly what?

but the "style" of the Church itself, something which touches the wellspring of Catholicism

Historically the Popes were monarchical were they not? To say that you just want to go back to the style of the Church itself is this in fact not a desire to recognise the Kingship of Christ as it was always recognised. This is reflected in the robing of Peter. Granted as Fr Z says we would not desire a return to the papal court setup.

What really sickens me is this idea that because Jesus was born in a stable and was a carpenter's son we should keep everything gaudy and simple. What about the resurrection and the Kingship of Christ? No, we could never have expected that He would come as he did. We can now see the wisdom of it. However, He is King and Lord of all. I think His Church and his vicar Peter should reflect this. Our Church buildings should reflect this. Our sacred vessels should reflect this.

To those who would desire to make little of His Kingship I would take a close look at the cars they drive, the clothes they wear, where they eat. I think you might find they spare nothing on adorning themselves - "because they're worth it"


Hilary Jane Margaret White said...


the Kingship of Christ and the prerogatives derived from that Kingship by his lawful ministers in the social and civil order, what is usually termed the "social reign of Christ the King" is the one area of Catholic doctrine that the so-called "conservative" Catholics cannot dare to touch, so alienating from the modern culture is it.

I have noticed that it is these teachings that mark the line between a modern "conservative" Catholic, one who sees something embarrassing about the monarchical trappings of the Papacy, and what we must now term "Traditionalist" Catholics.

So many people think the difference is about the Mass, new vs. old, but it is not.

It is about the very nature and constitution of the Church and her proper sovereignty over the civil powers.

"Neo-Catholics" as they are sometimes called for brevity's sake, usually become very hot under the collar when these differences are pointed out.

A very common response is to retreat into the "I'm just a Catholic" line and to attempt to deny at a stroke both that these distinctions exist, and that there has been any denial of the Church's teaching on the social reign of Our Lord.

To paraphrase some American writer whose name I forget,

we're all democrats now.

GOR said...

"What I want is...a liturgy that points to God."

I think you have it just right, Father. I also believe that is the Holy Father's intention and wish as well. He is a very humble man and has been concerned that liturgies be about Him, not about him.

I was not comfortable with the "rock-star" element in many of JPII's liturgies with large crowds - and I believe Pope Benedict wants to avoid that also. It has been evident already in his encounters with large crowds, where he has sought to turn attention away from himself and towards Our Lord.

Even his practice of having a crucifix on an altar that is versus populum speaks to his leanings.

Anonymous said...

When I was young and an Anglican I was taught that the purpose of a fixed liturgy ,vestments, and an unvarying ceremonial was to submerge the personality of the celebrant in that of the Lord. I understand that that is what this Pope is trying to do. He does not want to be like the celebrant I once remember, a rather camp person, whom the organist- who had a sense of humour - serenaded on the way to the altar with the strains of "There's no business like show business".

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