When I first heard Jean-Louis Cardinal Tauran begin to make his announcement of "Habemus Papam," and I heard him utter the name "Georgius" (the Latin form of George), I grew very excited, because for a second I was excited by the prospect that he would follow by saying the man's given last name was "Pell." Pell, as anyone who closely follows the Church knows, is a lion, a staunch defender of the Church, responsible for the renewal of the English Mass' translation, and a friend of the traditionalist current with Catholicism.
However, when I heard "Bergoglio" instead, I must admit with some degree of embarassment, my heart plummetted. I was crestfallen. My constant prayer had been, "Dear Lord, anyone but a Latin American."
Why? Look around the southwest hemisphere. Do you see any place that is a hotbed of orthodoxy, affirmative, evangelical or otherwise? If you do -- Lima, Peru, and maybe Chile are the only places that come to my admittedly somewhat ignorant mind -- they are rare. The whole region is awash in at least the stain of Liberation Theology. The "sects," as they call the Protestant bodies, are making huge gains. And in Argentina, a country that is officially 75 percent Catholic, only 10 percent of that number practice their faith. Much of that, of course, is because of the Church's silence during the dictatorship of 1976-83, which saw the murder of tens of thousands of dissidents, real, suspected, or imagined. The people have never forgiven the Church's hierarchy for their silence, it seems, and this is understandable.
Now, then-Cardinal Bergoglio's diocese -- which is akin to Washington, DC, in this country and the Federal District of Mexico City in Mexico -- accounts for only 7.4 percent of the nation's population, and it is unknown what percent of his former archdiocese practices the faith. But let us assume it is akin to the national average. That means that just 228,804.6 of the federal capital's 3,050,728 residents attend Mass.
Plus, he was a Jesuit. There are very few good Jesuits left in the world today. Whenever you see some sort of theological innovation that reeks of heresy or heterodoxy (especially in Asia and in the West, in which I include Latin America), there is a more than excellent chance that a Jesuit is behind it.
However, I first consoled myself that at least he wasn't the Brazlian or Honduran cardinals many had mentioned. As awful as this may come across or may actually be, those guys were just scary. Sorry. I'm just being honest.
Furthermore, the more biographical information began dribbling out about Jorge Mario Cardinal Bergoglio, now Pope Francis I, the more I liked the man.
He road the bus? He lived in his own apartment? He did his own cooking? He personally worked amongst the poor, as well as aged and dying priests? He was removed as Jesuit provincial (i.e., head of his province) because he was *too* orthodox? Blessed John Paul made him an auxiliary bishop *because* he was orthodox? Maybe he wasn't so bad after all. Maybe I was too hasty in my rejection of all candidates Latin American.
Then came his first words as Pope and that awesome moment when he bowed in all humility and asked for people to bless him. And the loving, grandfatherly way in which he spoke to the crowd. It was awesome.
Next came his visit to the shrine of Salus Populi Romani (English: Protectress of the Roman People), the left transept chapel at the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore (St. Mary Major). He also prayed in the right transept chapel before the tomb of Pope St. Pius V (the reason why popes wear white; he started that as he was a Dominican friar, and that order's habit is white), not to mention the altar on which St. Ignatius Loyola said his first Mass, which is in the same chapel.
So far, all good.
However, why did he and his fellow Argentine bishops do so little to stop same sex marriage? Our own bishops have been working that issue for years (not very successfully according to one recent survey I saw the other day).
Most troubling, for me, however, is the fact that he has been a roadblock in terms of liturgical traditionalism. In his former archdiocese, against the very letter of Summorum Pontificum, he only allowed one hybrid Novus Ordo-Traditional Latin Mass per month, and it was so badly done, it is now defunct.
And now come reports that Msgr. Guido Marini and His Holiness have been butting heads over matters liturgical. Msgr. Marini is unassailable when it comes to such issues. The papal Masses he directed were truly inspiring, not the mish-mash and sometimes attrocious concoctions they were under his predecessor, then-Msgr. Piero Marini.
So I join Rorate Caeli in offering a prayer for Msgr. Guido Marini and I offer another for Pope Francis I.
However, I also offer a prayer for myself ... and for all who love theological and liturgical tradition (you?).
My prayer for Msgr. Marini echoes RC's: That he be given strength, courage, resignation to God's will as expressed through the Successor of Peter the Pope, charity at all times and in things, endurance, and perseverance in doing the right as God gives him the ability to see what is right.
For His Holiness, I pray he becomes more open to traditionalism of all sorts, because it is this which has proven most edifying and attractive and the most powerful evangelical tool in the arsenal of the New Evangelism.
And for me and other tradition-minded Catholics, that we trust Peter more than we do our own judgment. I pray that we never become "more Catholic than the Pope," and that we consistently realize the Holy Ghost/Spirit guards and attracts the Petrine office more than He protects our tastes, our wants, and our discernment. So by following Peter (i.e., the Pope), we follow Him in a more secure way than is otherwise possible.
As the first Jesuit St. Ignatius Loyola said, “We should always be prepared so as never to err to believe that what I see as white is black, if the hierarchic Church defines it thus.”
Here is a beautiful prayer that sums up this intention:
Lord, source of eternal life and truth, give to your shephered Francis a spirit of courage and right judgment, a spirit of knowledge and love. By governing with fidelity those entrusted to his care, may he as successor to the Apostle Peter and Vicar of Christ build Your Church into a sacrament of unity, love and peace for all the world. Amen.
V. Let us pray for our Pontiff, Pope Francis.
R. The Lord perserve him and give him life and make him blessed upon earth, and deliver him not up to the will of his enemies.
V. May Your hand be upon Your holy servant.
R. And upon Your son whom You have anointed.
Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory Be.