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Unsafe opinions

26 March, 2013 0 Comments

The Julian Calendar

By Julian O’Dea

Is it safe to write another column?

I hope so.

Recently, our political masters have reluctantly conceded that we may express our opinions without fear of being charged with some nebulous crime, of having offended a protected group with an opinion. By a remarkable coincidence, I do not seem to fall into any of the protected groups. By a further coincidence, many of my opinions are just the kind of opinions that nice people wanted banned.

It is tempting to exercise my continuing freedom by making all sorts of timely remarks about the peculiar behaviour of Australian women in political office. It is tempting to use phrases like “jumped up student feminists trying to run the country” and “incompetent redheaded sheilas”, just because I still can. But that would be childish.

Published with permission

Nonetheless, we are to be kindly permitted to express our views. Most experts would agree that, when one is writing an opinion column like this one, it is of help to be allowed to express opinions.

So, here are some opinions.

Our religious masters have elected a new pope. They made an interesting and unexpected choice. As always, we trust that God will write well with His human instruments. What He is writing now sounds like a children’s story come true: A Pope Called Francis; in honour of a man whose preaching charmed birds.

However I hope it is not irreverent to say that in one way the new pope reminds me of another figure from his part of the world, what geographers call the Southern Cone. General Pinochet. He claimed that he was a kindly man; he just had a harsh face. Pope Francis no doubt is genuinely a kindly man; but he has a serious mien. Facially, he departs from the rather jolly, twinkly look the last few popes have had. Jorge Mario Bergoglio looks like he means business. What kind of business, we have yet to find out.

A Pinochet in the Santa Sede?

His face is a gift to cartoonists, if they can draw it. It is hard to envisage precisely. The main effect is of strength and seriousness of purpose. I once read that there are beautiful Italians, and then there are imposing Italians. He is one of the latter.

What will he mean for Catholics with a special attachment to Tradition, in particular the Traditional Latin Mass? As I said recently, in another place, it is unlikely that the Holy Spirit has raised up Pope Francis purely for the discomfiture of Traditionalists. I suspect the pope will have more immediately pressing concerns on his mind than tinkering with liturgical matters. Perhaps we can look forward to some “benign neglect”. I am told that liturgy is one branch of the sacred sciences in which Jesuits do not specialise.

The big losers

As the first Jesuit pope he represents one of the two great intellectual religious orders of the Catholic Church, the other being their old rivals, the Dominicans. Roughly speaking, the Jesuits represent action and experiment. They are the natural scientists. Thirty-five craters on the moon are named after Jesuit scientists. The Dominicans have a reputation as philosophers and preachers.

There have been Dominican popes, but no Jesuit until Pope Francis. The Jesuits are more used to being suppressed by popes than being popes.

Most Catholics will be asking this very human question about the new papacy: what does it mean for me and what I value? Who will win and who will lose from the election of Pope Francis? I went to confession today in a Dominican parish. While I was there, it dawned on me who the clearest losers from this papal election are: the Dominicans.

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