If the Cardinals had a sense of humour…

…they might try, just for a gag, whomever they elect as pope, dressing +George up in the full papal regalia and pushing him out on the balcony after the “Habemus Papam” announcement, just to see the look on the faces of these guys.

Of course, no longer being a reader of The Age because of its declining reporting on exactly this kind of thing, I didn’t see the story there. I saw it in the other place, which has since pulled the article from the page on which it was located, and where today you will find a complete and unreserved apology for rerunning the story in its columns. The excuse used by that particular news-site which we hear so often is “we don’t write the stories, we just reprint them”, has been shown (in this deplorable instance) to be no excuse at all. By this stage they should have learned that not all that appears in our daily papers contributes to the “peace and for mutual upbuilding” (Rom 14:19) of the brethren.

I was going to blog about this deplorable article myself yesterday, but in fact if you wait long enough, someone else will do the job for you. Thank you, Zenit. I wonder how The Age’s religion reporter feels walking around Rome after that one…

Come to think of it, after watching St Geraldine of Doogue on Sunday night’s Compass “The New Pope – What Australians Want”, it might be an even better joke if the Cardinals just said, “What the heck. Let’s do it for real.”

About Schütz

I am Catholic, married to Cathy, father of Maddy & Mia. Since 2002, I have been the Executive Officer of the Ecumenical & Interfaith Commission of the Archdiocese of Melbourne. I was once a Lutheran pastor, but a "year of grace" and soul-searching led me into the Catholic Church. It was a bumpy ride, but with the support of my (still Lutheran) wife, I was finally confirmed on June 16, 2003.
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58 Responses to If the Cardinals had a sense of humour…

  1. matthias says:

    David i note that you have a sidebar linking to Barney schwarz’s blog page. Given his fellow traveller ways with secularists and his comments thus far ,is it not time for you to remove that link.
    I think ZENIT has the Australian media’s views well summed up and i hope a Pope is elected who will confound these people. I was talking to a cousin who converted when she married a catholic and she said ” i hope they do not elect that canadia cardinal he is against abortion” I replied that a catholic would be elected instead.

  2. I may be a critic of the Catholic Church, but I found the smugness of those Catholics interviewed on the Compass program to be very cloying. I have to agree with Greg Sheridan, why don’t they just leave the church? I’m sure they’d all feel quite at home in the Uniting Church.

    • Peter says:

      100% correct Pastor Mark

    • Joshua says:

      Quite right, Pastor.

      One of your fellow Pastors (now in Adelaide) once remarked to me on the strange phenomenon of the self-hating Catholic, who loves to confess their hatred of and opposition to Church doctrine and morals to all and sundry at every opportunity: he found such persons particularly annoying because their views put them still further from Lutheranism, and still closer to Pelagianism and every other heresy.

      • Of course, I exempt Bishop Coleridge from my criticism. He seems to be becoming the regular ABC spokesperson for orthodox Catholicism, although he is often found to be giving a minority report, so to speak, outnumbered by progressives. I hope to see more of him in this role.

        • Schütz says:

          +Mark is one of the most able communicators among the bishops. Did you see the complete interview on the ABC Religion and Ethics Website?

          Of course, the impression that Greg Sheridan and Archbishop Mark are “marginal” in the Australian Church is a complete fiction of the ABC. Problem is, a lot of Australian Catholics tend to rely on the mainstream media for their information about the Church, so programs like Compass become self-fulfilling. Lutherans can be thankful they fly too low on the radar for the ABC to warrant paying them any attention.

          • Tony says:

            The irony, David, is that the link which shows the strengths of +Coleridge is on the ABC website and includes a sidebar of links to other articles by such well known liberals as +Coleridge himself (2 articles), Tracey Rowland and George Weigel (2 articles).

            As usual these allegations of substantial bias (in all sorts of areas) against the ABC don’t usually stack up to dispassionate scrutiny. Your own link is an apt symbol in that regard.


            • Joshua says:

              Oh pub-leeaase! Blind Freddie knows the ABC is left-leaning, secularist, green-tinged and possessed of at least a portion of the anti-Catholic Zeitgeist (ditto for Fairfax) and not best pleased that Tony (barring accidents) will be PM come September. (At least I hope so, since I bet $100 on it, when a relative said “that dreadful man” will never win…)

            • Peter says:

              Name one conservative presenter or commetator on the ABC Tony.

            • Peter,
              Scott Stephens, who pops up now and again on ABC TV and radio as a religious commentator and edits the ABC religion and ethics website, is quite conservative (actually, I think I would describe him as a post-liberal being re-constructed as a social and religious conservative). But he is the proverbial exception that proves the rule.

            • Tony says:

              David has done it for me: Scott Stephens.

              What about Amanda Vanstone the host of Counterpoint (not to mention previous hosts who’s names have escaped me)?

              But then we get into what ‘conservative’ means. Is Robyn Williams, for example, a conservative in terms of his presentation of science?

              Is Geoff Wood a ‘conservative’ by the very fact that his program concentrates on ‘spiritual’ music or is he a ‘liberal’ because he doesn’t just focus on a Christian tradition?

              If you look at the scope of RN Programs for example, you can see that labels like ‘conservative’ or ‘liberal’ are irrelevant.

              Anyhow, I’ve named one, which is what you asked. What does that prove?

            • Schütz says:

              Tony, I have written on this blog in numerous places that I admire the work of the editor of the ABC Religion and Ethics webpage, Scott Stephens, and that his editorial choices are indescribably more intelligent and informed than some of his comrades.

            • Tony says:

              Glad to hear it, David. It came across as a pretty broad sweep in that post though.

              Can you elaborate on how ‘the ABC’ (presumably the ‘comrades’ other than Stephens) gave ‘the impression that Greg Sheridan and Archbishop Mark are “marginal” in the Australian Church’.

              I watched the program and it seemed to give no more or no less weight to the various commentators.

          • Why do you prefix Archbishop Mark’s name with a +, David?
            When bishops or other clergy choose to do this it is to indicate that they are sinners in need of redemption. It’s not for others to refer to them as such.

            As for Lutherans flying low – yes, relative obscurity has its benefits. The last time the ABC did a story on the LCA in the 1990s it wrote us off as a “German church” destined to decline because of a lack of emigration from Lutheran lands. Since that time we have increased in membership chiefly due to the growth of Asian immigrant and African refugee missions. PTL!

            • Joshua says:

              I had always thought it was meant to be a cross, symbolising their right to having a cross carried before them; and that archbishops ought have two crosses (cf. the Cross of Lorraine).

              I must check this…

            • I’d be interested in your findings, Joshua.
              I’m fairly confident what I wrote is correct (we Lutherans are not totally ignorant of medieval church history, which is where this practice began).
              The formal way to refer to a bishop in writing in the 3rd person is “His Grace”, etc.

            • Schütz says:

              In catholic usage – and only in British territories – and only if he is an ARCHbishop… Bit more research required, pastor.

            • An innovation, David.
              Fancy you propomting an innovation ;0)

            • Ugh…”promoting”.

              On the topic of Liberalism as Gnosticism, Joshua, there is much discussion both in scholarly discourse and on-line. I will also add, in passing, that the notion of unwritten tradition as revelation alongside holy scripture was originally an idea of the Gnostic Christians. ‘Dei verbum”s move to a single source of revelation containing both scripture and tradition has always seemed a bit of an artificial construct to me that doesn’t quite resolve the issues.

            • Schütz says:

              Whatever Pastor Mark’s theories on the origin of bishops signing their name with a cross, it is today an accepted online norm for indicating a bishop. And you say we quibble over minutiae…

            • Peregrinus says:

              Trivia of the Day:

              The use of a cross in a bishop’s signature is a fairly old custom, though so far as I know it has no official standing; it’s a matter of convention. It’s only used by diocesan bishops; a retired bishop or a titular bishop with a curial post doesn’t use it. If you look at the signatures of Joseph Ratzinger over ever time, for example, he used it while Archbishop of Munich, didn’t use it while working in the CDF, and used it again once elected pope. (Will he use it as pontiff emeritus? I think we should be told!)

              Only the bishop himself uses it, since it’s supposed to be a gesture of humility. (Though this may be a modern folk-etymology for the symbol.) Other people are not supposed to use it when referring to the bishop, since its use by others would be a gesture of denigration. Strictly speaking, the way for others to indicate bishop/archbishop status is with the prefix “Rt Rev/Most Rev”.

              In my youth there was a Bishop of Galway, Michael Browne, who wrote regularly to the newspapers offering his full and frank opinions on such diverse subjects as chewing-gum and costume jewellery. He signed his letters “+ Michael” and, given the invariable tone of the letters, he was universally known as “cross Michael”. (But this wasn’t a mark of respect.)

              Anglicans only adopted the custom about a hundred years ago, apparently, but once they did they started to elaborate it, with a double cross for an archbishop, and occasionally a triple cross for Canterbury. It’s also, I think, in Anglican circles that the custom first arose of others putting a cross in front of a bishops name. Initially this was only done to avoid ambiguity, or when it was relevant to the context to underline that the person named was a bishop, but pretty soon it became constant, I think at first as an in-joke and then as just, well, standard.

            • Thank you for confirming my point, Pere.
              When it comes from my pen, David questions it, but I doubt he’ll question you!

        • Joshua says:

          He is very good. I recall him giving a wonderful spiritual talk about how, when in Rome facing a very difficult examination years before, he (cover your ears, Pastor) took refuge in prayer, by the very Catholic method of venerating a sacred relic of the heart of St Charles Borromeo, “the pastoral heart of that great bishop” – he seems to have received a double portion of that spirit.

          • Joshua says:

            On second thoughts, my memory may be playing tricks on me – it may have been, not Coleridge, but Costelloe (Abp of Perth), I may be recalling speaking thus.

    • Tony says:

      I have to say, Pr Mark, that I find Catholics who come out with this chestnut — inviting fellow Catholics to leave because they disagree with them — pretty smug too. Coming from you, it’s every bit as ‘cloying’.

      There are a range of views in the Catholic church. You can characterise it in simplistic ‘them and us’ terms like left and right, conservative and liberal, heterodox and orthodox … and so it goes. Mostly they are terms used by someone identifying with one set of views wanting to box someone else into another. In reality most of us are more complicated than the simplistic labels of partisans.

      It’s true that some of the views held — at either end of the spectrum — put individuals and groups ‘on the edge’, but aside from being an excuse not to listen to anyone you find uncomfortable, inviting people to leave is not that helpful and is usually counter-productive in terms of communication and understanding.

      Aren’t the people on the edge, or on the outer, the ‘lost sheep’, the ‘lost coins’ and the ‘prodigal sons’?

      Sometimes to illustrate my point I ask a rhetorical question in return: ‘If you find that the church is too tolerant of views you don’t find acceptable, why not leave yourself?’.

      For you I guess it’s different, but if you really can’t understand why people have views you regard as incompatible with ‘staying’, maybe you’re not listening hard enough?

      • Schütz says:

        Tony, I doubt if you would ever have heard from me the “why don’t they just leave?” line. Like you, I am far more ready to regard my wandering brethren and sistern as the “lost sheep” etc. (and, might I add, I often find myself amongst them as one of “the wanderers”). What I desire is their (and my) full conversion, so that with complete docility we might accept the teaching of the Church as Christ’s own will for us. Today, a professor from the University of Vienna drew my attention to this paragraph from the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

        181 “Believing” is an ecclesial act. The Church’s faith precedes, engenders, supports and nourishes our faith. The Church is the mother of all believers. “No one can have God as Father who does not have the Church as Mother” (St. Cyprian, De unit. 6: PL 4, 519).

        In other words, it is all very well for individuals to say “I want”, “I think”, or “in my humble opinion”, but the faith of the Church is something I receive, not something I construct. So yes. May the lost sheep experience deep conversion and return to the heart of the Holy Mother Church, who seeks them out with great love. Me too.

        • “There are a range of views in the Catholic church.”
          You mean the CCC is not a reliable guide, Tony?
          Who’d have thought?

          • Schütz says:

            It would be a great error, in speaking of any religious or political community, to mistake it’s public doctrine with the opinions of all its members.

            • The thing is, David, I’m not really interested in people’s “views”, I’m interested in doctrine.
              In the case of the Catholic Church, that doctrine is claimed to be infallible and it at least used to be said that it was to be believed by the Catholic faithful on pain of loss of salvation.
              Now, you have a significant mass of dissenters from Catholic doctrine in countries like Australia who yet still want to be regarded as Catholic. That is clearly a problem for them, but it is also a problem for the Catholic church. For one thing, it scandalises the faithful and leads to doubt, yes? Not to mention making the bishops’ lives very interesting.
              Pastorally, there is a distinction to be made between people who have sincere doubts about this or that doctrine but who resolve to continue in the faith regardless, and people who question the whole system of doctrine.
              If I were, hypothetically, counselling a Lutheran who had fundamental differences with the doctrinal basis of the Lutheran Church, including on the question of authority, I would, failing all else, have to suggest to them that if their informed conscience did not allow them to accept Lutheran doctrine, it would probably be better for them to consider joining a church whose doctrine they could accept. I realise many Catholics have a deep cultural attachment to Catholicism, but as a Lutheran I would maintain that one must follow one’s conscience regardless of difficulties. Frankly, there is no genuine prospect of “reform” along the lines they advocate (women’s ordination, acceptance of homosexuality, democratisation of authority), so why cause themselves and others so much angst?

        • Tony says:

          Tony, I doubt if you would ever have heard from me the “why don’t they just leave?” line.

          I doubt that I have either, David.

    • Tony says:

      I’m sure they’d all feel quite at home in the Uniting Church.

      This really sets the scene for your comment, Pr Mark. You’re ‘sure’? How so? Have you spoken to ‘them’? Have you listened to ‘them’?

      Your elaboration below is so crammed with sweeping generalisations and assumptions that it’s virtually impossible to give a considered response.

      • OK, Tony, “I suspect”…have a nice day!

        • Oh, and yes I have spoken and listened to Catholic dissenters. The Toowoomba diocese is full of them!

          • Tony says:

            And when you revealed to them that they would certainly … almost for sure … be more comfortable in the Uniting Church, what did they say?

            It’s all pretty ironic really. In some dialogue between Catholics the term ‘dissenter’ — rarely defined — is a kind of benchmark of badness. For some, being a ‘dissenter’ is far worse than being … say … an Atheist or even a Protestant!

            Hey, and you have a nice day too!


            • Well, I don’t think it’s for me to say anything to them, Tony, so I just listen politely. But if I were their pastor…
              And I did have a nice day, thank you – covered 175 kilometres through glorious Darling Downs early autumn countryside, conducted a Bible study and did some visits.

            • Tony says:

              Well, I don’t think it’s for me to say anything to them …

              Glad we could end your nice day on a note of agreement.

            • Well, my day’s not over yet, Tony – hospital visits and a meeting still to go.

  3. Gareth says:

    Cardinal Raymond Burke (God Bless him) is very, very similar in the US and would actually make a good Pope. A long shot though

    My heart is warming to Cardinal Luis Tagle of all the ‘out-there’ candidates, but may be too young.

    Only God knows.

    Here is too some serious prayers over the next week.

  4. Peter says:

    Somehow I doubt the Cardinals would take much notice of an un-representative rabble like Collins and his acolytes.

  5. Or, more accurately, the “Catholic-hating Catholic”, Joshua, since a little bit of self-hatred can be a good thing, religiously speaking ;0)
    The pastor concerned – I’ll take an educated guess – Fraser Pearce? – was spot on. As I like to say: a liberal Catholic doth not a Lutheran make.

    • Joshua says:

      Quite right on all counts, Herr Pastor!

      I know where I stand with Confessional Lutherans, for instance, and that’s good; I don’t like not knowing where I stand with co-religionists of vague and various private notions. No one likes wheedling sorts whose eccentric beliefs metamorphose or metastasise from moment to moment: I do prefer clarity to wiffle-waffle.

      Do you think it true that, say, a Confessional Lutheran, a – for the want of a better term – “orthodox” Catholic, and a Russian Orthodox would have more in common, despite their real differences, than their respective confreres of the modern, indifferent, secularising type?

      • Joshua,

        “Do you think it true that, say, a Confessional Lutheran, a – for the want of a better term – “orthodox” Catholic, and a Russian Orthodox would have more in common, despite their real differences, than their respective confreres of the modern, indifferent, secularising type?”

        For a start, we all subscribe to the catholic creeds – Apostles’ , Nicene and Athanasian (technically the Apostles’ Creed is a western baptismal creed and has no official status among the Eastern Orthodox but they would hardly object to its content, and we’ll have to leave the filioque aside for the moment) and we accept the articles of faith taught therein unconditionally. Yes, we have different conceptions of what constitutes proper authority in the church, but the liberals are of another stripe altogether – they transfer authority from revelation to the human consciousness. That is a very profound shift that outweighs in significance the differences between Lutheran and Catholics (in that at least we both acknowledge supernatural revelation). If I may, I suggest a little book by a confessional Presbyterian New Testament scholar of a previous generation, ‘Christianity and Liberalism’ by J. Gresham Machen, for insight into how Liberalism represents a different religion from orthodox Christianity. Although it uses the familiar language of Zion, it invests orthodox terms with a meaning foreign to revelation.

  6. PM says:

    (Comment edited)

    To revert to your original topic, Paul VI did have a sense of humour. The story goes that when an old friend joked with him about Hans Kung being elected pope, Paul replied ‘Of course not! He’d have to stop being infallible.’

  7. Thank you for that, Pere.
    David, please desist from adding + to a bishop’s name immediately!

  8. This thread seems to have gone stale, but for the record: In the past, we’ve discussed in the comments section here the meaning and origin of the cross sign in a bishop’s signature. Since then, Fr. Zuhlsdorf has posted more on the matter, similar to what I was thinking of in the second sentence of my comment there of May 21, 2010 at 4:16 am. Here’s the link:


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