This week Pope Francis 1 who heads up the Roman Catholic Church as against the resigned Pope Benedict 26 who lives in retirement within the Vatican State, made his first overseas trip. Since it now appears Pope Benedict resigned but did not abdicate, still wears the Papal White he may be regarded as the True Pope by many traditional Roman Catholics both Lay and Clergy. The Pope Francis visit was to Brazil only, which is interesting in and of itself because Brazil is relatively next door to his native nation of Argentina that he will not visit.
The Head of State of the Vatican State is making an Official Visit to Brazil a Sovereign Nation and thus is accorded all the courtesies and protection by both Diplomatic Tradition and International Law. But what happens? After his flight by Alitalia from Rome, Italy to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil he is greeted by the usual diplomatic greeting committee and travels from the airport to the city. The car used is not the usual limousine but a Fiat sedan of modest size. On the route which has been planned to the metre by his Swiss Guard Protection Detail and the Brazil Law Enforcement Authorities his driver takes a "wrong turn".
Now such things simply do not happen particularly in this 21st. Century CE with a Head of State who also happens to be the Supreme Pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church of one (1) billion persons. Having done this and been surrounded by highly excited locals of a very emotional culture the Pope lowers the car window and makes physical contact with them. Then at some point someone instructs the Fiat driver to move off, which he apparently does by moving forward then making a turn to the left into oncoming traffic, which has not been stopped for the transit of the Pope on the other side of the median. At some point after this Pope Francis transfers into a "popemobile" (where did that appear from?) and proceeds on this Papal route. During that incident a very worried looking archbishop is seen replacing his purple kippah which had been knocked off during all this excitement. Now travelling in this new vehicle Pope Francis travels to a point where a helicopter picks him up to fly him to a meeting with the President of Brazil. Well now how and why did all that unplanned - which of course it was not - excitement occur from the Fiat driver making a supposed wrong turn ?
Several points come to mind based on both personal experience and theological studies. The last of ones school years, some 60 years ago now, were spent under the guidance of the Jesuits at one of their premier Colleges in Ireland where one of my former classmates is now Father Rector. You may be assured that not a single action of any Jesuit is made without the greatest thought, study and assessment of results before a word is said or that action made. The public statements of a Jesuit may or may not truly reflect his inner believes, with them the end always justifies the means. It is also highly unlikely that a particular Jesuit is in conflict with the Society of Jesus even if he is publicly criticized by his Father Provincial or even the Father General of the Society.
As we all now know Pope Francis is the first Jesuit in the history of the Roman Catholic Church to be elected Pope. Even though he publicly opposed Liberation Theology in Argentina this was actually done in an attempt to protect his Jesuits from the political effects of the time in his nation. His behavior there, which has not been always accurately reported, actually practiced the main points of Liberation Theology. He rode public transport and thus could talk to the less well off of the population, visited and worked at feeding places for the poor and drug addicted generally making himself available to them. By doing this he taught his ideas and encouraged them to take actions which Liberation Theology preaches will improve your position in a society - he walked the walk and talked the talk. Of course the Argentine Government took another point of view about this which was that their Bishop was a Marxist revolutionary troublemaker and on occasions vented their displeasure on some of his Jesuits and the priests of poor parishes, also considered Marxist troublemakers, throughout the nation. This is also the viewpoint held by many Traditional Roman Catholics both Lay and Clergy.
Giovanni Pietro di Bernardone was a wealthy young playboy from Assisi called Francesco by his father. He, for want of a better term, "got religion" when serving as a soldier for Assisi and as a result went off begging in Rome and living in poverty. This led him to some profound thoughts and no doubt want of a regular meal or two. So in 1210 he founded with Papal Blessing the Franciscan Order for men and the Poor Clare nuns for women. It should be noted that he was a self-declared friar, an environmentalist and was never ordained a priest of the Roman Catholic Church. He was an advocate of Social Christianity and is honoured today by the Roman Catholic Church, Anglican Communion, Lutheran Church, Old Catholic Church, and New Age ecologists.
The Jesuits and Franciscans have not always had a good working relationship particularly if one studies the history of when both groups had missions in Japan. The Jesuits at first ruled supreme and had their main missions, schools and principal churches in the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The Japanese Shogun however eventually had enough and took the Jesuits heads once he had finished taking those of the Franciscans.
So it is interesting that the Italian/Argentine Jesuit Bishop elected Pope in addition to the already elected, still living but resigned Pope Benedict 26 choose the Papal Name of the founder of one of the great rivals in soul saving of the Jesuits - Francis/Francisco - who it seems by his words and actions in Brazil continues to support Liberation Theology a part of Social Christianity. It is playing an ill advised dangerous game which could lead to his death as there was talk of a bomb placed on the Papal route. The Roman Catholic Church is in turmoil and someone once said that it is only one scandal away from oblivion, in fact Malachy the Irish Churchman prophesied that this Pope could be the last Pope. His Holiness Pope Francis 1 might want to seriously consider his overall responsibility to both all Lay and all Clergy members as Head of the Roman Catholic Church, keeping that big picture in forefront not behave as he did when Bishop in Argentina or on portions of this visit to Brazil.
Should anything tragic happen to him we the Lay Persons of the Roman Catholic Church will once again be placed in the position of having to require our Princes of the Church to gather in the Sistine Chapel and try to elect yet another Pope while a resigned Pope resides within the Vatican State.
Such a tragedy and the necessary following action could cause the scandal that would lead to the oblivion of the Roman Catholic Church.
Count D. Peter Boucher, Kt. SMOM.