Pope Francis is the first from the Americas, the first Jesuit, the first from the “Global South,” and the first in 600 years to replace a man still very much alive.
Many of our readers will no doubt take umbrage at the coverage we here at Monomakhos give to other Christian confessions. As is known, your humble correspondent takes an expansive view of Christ’s Church. Thus what happens in (say) the Catholic Church or the Anglican Communion can be significant to the Orthodox Church. We do not live in a vacuum.
The Salutary Effects of Catholicism on the Orthodox ChurchAs such, the papacies of John Paul II and Benedict XVI were salutary in many respects to Orthodoxy. Both men were willing to “revisit” the Papal office in light of Orthodox ecclesiology, both men made significant outreach to Constantinople and Moscow, and both recognized the endurance of doctrinal orthodoxy in the Eastern Churches.
John Paul II for example recognized the liturgical vibrancy that emanates from the East, as noted in his encyclical Orientale Lumen. It is hard to say who influenced whom regarding certain internal matters —specifically regarding the ordination of women to the priesthood. Yet John Paul II’s ruling that the priestly office was closed to all women for all time could not be anything but helpful to Orthodox, who because of our often pitiful circumstances in the West, are daily buffeted by modernist pressures to compromise our faith.Benedict for his part brought back dignity to the Mass. I for one cannot help but think that we Orthodox, with our icon-screens and the men that stand reverently behind them, must have played a part in this enlightenment, especially in regards to the almost universal debasement of the Catholic liturgy following in the footsteps of Paul VI’s horrendous Novus Ordo Mass.
Benedict also opened to Catholic audiences the legacy of Orthodox Christianity and the West’s debt to the East in his Regensburg Address.
Modernism and the Moral Collapse of Western Civilization
One could say that this is all window dressing. But it is not. The compromises to the faith are part and parcel of what John Paul II called the Culture of Death. He recognized it for the juggernaut that it was. Because his body was crippled by disease the last years of his life, he would not be able combat it. However he did the next best thing in that he elevated good men to the rank of Cardinal, a process which was completed by his successor. The demon of Liberation Theology was exorcised by both men with their appointment of conservatives to the College of Cardinals.The pressure to modernize, to surrender to the spirit of the age so to speak, is incessant and makes its way known in several other manners. Pope Benedict recognized that and in Patriarch Kirill of Moscow, recognized a kindred spirit in that both men were Europeans and believed in the moribund concept known as Christendom. Word on the street was that Benedict and Kirill were going to meet in 2013 to commemorate the 1,700 year anniversary of the signing of the Edict of Toleration by Constantine the Great. This is not to be. (Occasional commentator Fr. Hans Jacobse has written extensively about Catholic and Orthodox rapprochement for the Catholic press.)
As to why Benedict felt compelled to resign we can only speculate. Some took him to task; did not John Paul II remain in office despite his pain and suffering? Yes, but John Paul also dropped the ball regarding the pedophile scandals that rocked the Church. Perhaps Benedict was given a measure of grace to recognize that his increasingly feeble body was not up to the task regarding the lavender cabals that had seeped into the very walls of the Vatican City itself. It has been whispered that a reformer in the mould of Francis would be needed to root out this corruption once and for all. If so, then the Lord will look kindly on Benedict’s resignation I believe.
Saving Europe (and America) from Nihilism
What does this all mean for we Orthodox? What does this mean for Benedict’s mission to save Europe from itself?
It’s hard to say at this point. In my opinion, the election of Francis means that the Roman Catholic Church is repositioning itself, looking away from Europe to the Global South. For those of us of European descent and who treasure the legacy of the West, this is disheartening. But it speaks volumes about the capacity of the Papacy to fight battles that it can win. It should not be forgotten that prudence is one of the cardinal virtues. If nothing else, Francis’ election showed the agility of the College of Cardinals.
So what accounted for this need to be nimble? To pivot to the South? In my humble opinion it is because the nihilistic juggernaut represented by ardent homosexuality has completed its takeover of the West.
Allow a digression if you will: the United States has now become the premier crusader for homosexualism throughout the world. It is bringing force to bear against sovereign states to legalize so-called gay marriage. Likewise our State Department has pressured societies to support abortion on demand. Both lead to the destruction of the family, which even pagan philosophers such as Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle saw as the basis of civilization. This is nothing less than demonic.
So where does Pope Francis stand on this? In his battle against the Kirchners of Argentina, who fought to legalize gay “marriage,” he said this:
“Let’s not be naive, we’re not talking about a simple political battle; it is a destructive pretension against the plan of God. We are not talking about a mere hill, but rather a machination of the Father of Lies that seeks to confuse and deceive the children of God.”
Contrary to the Tolerant Set, this is what it’s really about. The mechanics of homoerotic coition are certainly destructive in and of themselves but they are more than that: they are actions are nihilist to the core; one could say the “desacraments” of an evil being. We have seen how those who champion these acts have taken over churches in the West and the institutions of those other churches that have not yet succumbed to their demonic program.
It is my fervent hope that His Holiness will be able to continue this battle against nihilism, perhaps on friendlier territory. And then when the North is laid waste, a new Christendom can arise.