On March 28, on the the website, www.atlantico.fr Jacques-Charles Gaffiot published an article entitled, “Humilty Alert: What the Church would lose by renouncing decorum and her traditions.” In the article, it is reported (I do not read French, thus I am going by what the website www.dici,org is reporting) he comments on Pope Francis’ new style of humility and proximity to the people. He essentially asks whether Francis’ style of governance undermines his authority.
It seems that many who find comfort in the extra-ordinary form of the Mass are worried that Pope Francis embrace of mixing with the people, his comments about the necessity of being proximate to the people, the Church not closing in on herself behind closed walls, and his more simple attire and living arrangements…. all of this in some way will erode the authority of the papal office and the Church as a whole.
I find that a curious concern. I cannot figure out how being humble diminishes authority. I suppose that depends on one’s definition of authority.
Authority is rooted in truth. Real authority, that is. Of course, many men have taken “authority” based on lies and ruled over people with horrendous consequences. I recently watched a You-Tube video on the Roman emperor Caligula which drove this point home. I would submit, though, that such “authority” is not authority at all; rather it is power, i.e., the ability to make something different. True authority, I say, is conveyance of the truth in word and deed. A man who has authority has been given the truth which he then transmits to others.
You remember, of course, Pontius Pilate quizzing Jesus with the question, “What is truth?” Jesus had full authority both in heaven and earth, and his power (which Pilate feared and misunderstood) was rooted in it. Jesus’ authority derived from his Trinitarian relationship with the Father and the Holy Spirit. It was derived from truth. Because his authority was completely rooted in truth, it was all-powerful.
So, back to Gaffiot’s concern. Will Pope Francis’ humble, proximate and simple style erode papal authority?
I don’t think so….. unless you mistakenly equate authority with power. The papal office has great authority for it is rooted in Christ’s promise to never mislead the Church, and his giving of the keys to Peter. That will not change.
I will make a bold statement here…. I don’t think the papacy has much power at all. It has only full authority. Whatever power flows from the Petrine ministry comes directly from God himself.
I welcome your thoughts.