Pope Francis Not A Pope For All Seasons: A Rejoinder


By Malachy Igwilo

I write in respect of the piece that appeared in The Guardian newspaper of 17th and 18th of March written by the Catholic Bishop of Sokoto dioceses, Bishop Hassan Kukah titled “Pope Francis for all seasons”. I read the piece with pains in my heart at the level people can stoop in order to join in the praising of an anomaly which has become normal in the world. Kukah tried to point out to us that the current pope is a man that we should cherish and love.

He talks this way because he is in agreement with the last Catholic council, Vatican II which held from 1962 to 1965. This council indeed damaged the Catholic Church endorsing all sorts of ideas that indeed removed the Catholic Church from the path of evangelization.  The majority of the ordinary Catholics know nothing about this council but it is based on the conclusions of this council that Kukah is operating from.

Kukah told us about his friend, Richard Daniels who is not Catholic but who has interest in Catholicism. The man is on the verge of converting to ‘the one true Church’ as Kukah is expected to believe.

But Kukah will not help him convert by pointing out the way for him. Why? Because Kukah, being a proponent of Vatican II council do not see any need to convert anyone. If Kukah points the way to Richard, he may indeed convert and perhaps, he will come to see that the current pope, who he sees as a man with an African heart is indeed a monster as far as authentic Catholicism is concerned. In presenting the pope to us Kukah said that “the first sign (of Francis revolutionary intent) was a spectacular demystification of power, a signal of the hammer the pope was going to use to break down some layers of some walls that have held back the blessings of God for his people”.

This is a clear falsehood if the bishop will admit. There are no walls in the Catholic Church preventing God’s blessings except sin. The Catholic Church has existed for 20 centuries and God’s blessing is with this Church and this is seen in her still surviving today despite huge assaults from enemies and Catholics themselves have been receiving all sorts of blessing from God.

But this pope is not going to break the walls of sin. He has no concept of sin in his diary. There is no word or document said or written by this pope that contains the Catholic understanding of sin. What does Kukah mean? He did not make clear. Perhaps he meant that the Pope’s rejection of his traditional dresses and official protocol constitute ‘demystification of power’.

If this is what the bishop means, then it is either that he does not understand papal powers or he is playing to the gallery. This pope makes it appear as if the usual papal opulence should be discarded as symbols of raw power.

The pope’s robes are replete with symbols. Each papal robe and the opulence surrounding it show how Christ is adorned in His majesty. Also, according to Rationale Divinorum Officiorum of 1286 written by Guillaume Durand, a Dominican priest “The Supreme Pontiff always appears wearing a red mantle on the outside; but underneath he is dressed in a bright white garment.

For whiteness symbolizes innocence, and the red on the outside symbolizes charity and compassion, that is to say, to show that he is always ready to lay down his life for his sheep because, indeed, the Pope represents the person of the One who, for our sake, stained his own garment red.”

So suggesting that abandoning traditional papal robes is a symbol of ‘demystification’ of power is absurd. But we are not just sure what the bishop means by “demystification of power”. Yes! The pope has enormous power as far as physically governing the Catholic Church is concerned. He is the Vicar of Christ, the person who uses Christ’s power to ensure that the church fulfils her mission on earth. There is no rawness in this power. It is a holy power. But enemies of the church understanding that the pope is the bastion of the church seek to attack that office left, right and centre.

They create false ideas like suggesting that ‘there is a raw power in the papacy’ and so they seek to remove papal legitimate powers and grant it to those who cannot use it. Bishop Kukah also suggested that this ‘demystifying’ by Francis is witnessed by him when he went to the Vatican for a meeting and the pope walks in for breakfast “without any swagger of power”. Yes.

But the bishop must tell us which pope he knows that walks with swagger of power. There is no such pope. All popes walk slowly and with calculated steps and so there is no swagger in the papal life. He also said that the pope allows people room to pass through a door since he is suggesting that each person has much of right of passage as himself.

These tell us who Francis really is. He hates protocols but he likes being paid special attention. He performs for the camera. He wants to be the talk of the town not on account of the faith but on account of doing what the world wants. From Francis’ actions, he is telling us that there should be no orderliness.

We have witnessed Children run up on stage to tug at his white robe, pull out his skull cap and want to climb on top of him just to prove that there is nothing much about this office. He even rode on a bus with other cardinals after his election. At face value, there is nothing wrong with these events.  But everyone who may care to know should know that each office, even in the world, has a protocol associated with it.

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There must be decorum. But this pope thinks otherwise. He abandoned the usual papal apartments and decided to live in a hotel to avoid the opulence of these apartments. But he has ended up in another form of opulence since his current apartment is on a whole floor, bigger than his official one.

Those in the world press who praise him for demolishing protocols and the usual ways of doing things are praising him for trying to destroy the prestige of the papacy they so much hate for it being the centrepiece of Catholic moral high ground. They praise him in public but laugh him to scorn privately.

We see that this is part of the very gradual destruction of the papacy established at Vatican II council. Francis is putting this destruction in top gear. Eventually, Bishop Kukah suggested that based on these sentiments about Francis tending towards a “Francismania” his atheist friend from India (who Kukah is not trying to convert)  is considering converting.

This clearly shows that that friend is not a serious atheist. How can someone suggest that because of emotional outbursts he will abandon his position? Such abandonment will have no depth whatsoever!

The allusion made by Kukah concerning Francis asking Christians not to allow the devil to rob them of fraternal love, missionary zeal and sense of community and hope is just one of those sentiments coming from Francis who truly does not believe in the devil, missionary zeal or compassion.

We have heard him suggest that ‘preaching is a holy nonsense’ thereby undermining missionary zeal. We have seen Francis punish the Franciscans of the Immaculate, a group of Franciscan priests for living a Catholic life Francis wants abandoned.

This undermines compassion. The Bishop should provide us with any writing of Francis or his sermons where he talked about the devil in the traditional Catholic sense. None! The document quoted by Kukah, the Apostolic Exhortation Evangelium Gaudium is one of the most unbelievable documents coming from a reigning pontiff.

It departs from the Catholic faith wholly. But the average Catholic will never know how revolutionary this document is. According to Francis on this document, “I dream of a ‘missionary option,” that is, a missionary impulse capable of transforming everything, so that the church’s customs, ways of doing things, times and schedules, language and structures can be suitably channelled for the evangelization of today’s world rather than for her self-preservation.”(No.27).

This means that he wants to change everything, things that have survived for millennia simply to acclimatise with the world and be loved by the world. When one reads about the ‘missionary option’ mentioned, she may think that Francis will start to really go out there to convert people.

No! He wants to evangelize the Catholic Church removing her from her age-old path towards another path, a more world friendly path. The same document admonishes that we should abandon Catholic life and militancy, build bridges, show mercy and be tolerant of the world. Militancy here means that Catholics are called to live the faith by resisting the world’s corruption. This resistance is a battle for everyday.

This is what we are now called by Francis to abandon. Just as AIDS destroys the immune system of a body and exposes it to all kinds of diseases and even death, so also the tolerance and abandonment of tradition preached by Francis destroys the militant character of the church and opens her to every type of dogmatic and moral abomination and relativism. This infection of false tolerance among Catholics reached a new paroxysm with Evangelium Gaudium. Indeed, everything in this document speaks in a feminine way of love, mercy, beauty and joy. Nothing is about militancy or dogmas of the church or heroic holiness. Instead, militancy and core Catholic teachings are set aside as irrelevant and out-of-place.

This is the document Bishop Kukah is presenting to us as a sign that Francis is a pope for all seasons and a pope that has lit up the world. This pope darkens the world with his deceit and out of place revolutionary intent. I agree with Kukah that “it is too early to see how this papacy will shape the world” but there are signs about where it is heading.

Because of these problems of Francis, I will not follow Kukah is chanting “long may he live”. I will add my own to this: Long may Francis live, but may his papacy be short!

•Igwilo wrote from Bells University of Technology, Ota.