Of late it seems to have become fashionable among Roman Pontiffs to engage in progressively more ostentatious displays of humility. For instance, here’s a photo from the coronation of Pope John XXIII in 1958.
The successor to Pope John XXIII was Pope Paul VI, the last pope to be crowned, in 1963. His coronation looked like this:
This act, of course, caused Paul VI to go down in history as the humblest Pope yet. And since then the humble-off has gotten more and more competitive. HH Servant of God Pope John Paul I ratcheted up the humility another notch and even made it his motto.
Unfortunately, John Paul I died after only 33 days on the Chair of St. Peter. He was succeeded by, apparently, a big fan of his. John Paul II had his problems, to be sure:
Nevertheless, as far as I can tell the papal ceremonial did not notably degenerate during his installation.
His successor, Benedict XVI, was widely considered a conservative, even traditionalist Pope. He certainly did facilitate the use of the Latin Mass, for which he is, in my opinion, to be commended. However, dont forget that he also declared the aforementioned Paul VI ‘Venerable’. Moreover, and again according to La Wik,
During his inaugural Mass, the previous custom of every cardinal submitting to the Pope was replaced by having twelve people, including cardinals, clergy, religious, a married couple and their child, and newly confirmed people, greet him.
So we do see a bit more of a move toward the informal, the less ceremonial, and the less traditional, even in the inauguration of the relatively conservative Pope Benedict.
And then, His Holiness Benedict XVI shocked the world with his virtually unprecedented decision to resign the papacy. And his successor? Pope Francis. Heck, even his name practically oozes the kind of in-your-face humility that has become de rigueur for Roman Pontiffs.
The kind of ‘humility’ that we see from Pope Francis can be seen in a WaPo article from 29 March:
Over the past two weeks, with one act of humility after another, Pope Francis has proven he’s willing to break with tradition.
Just after being named the new pontiff, he asked the faithful to pray for him, rather than the other way around. He’s refused to stand on the customary platform above other archbishops and dressed himself in simpler vestments than his predecessors. He’s made a practice of shunning the rich trappings of the position, from paying his own hotel bill to opting out of the palatial apartment popes have lived in for a century in favor of simpler digs.
Is it just me, or does this tendency toward a reduction of the dignity of the papal office seem both endless and irreversible? Where does it stop? Will the next Pope come before the masses wearing Bermuda Shorts and a half-open T-shirt to show how ‘humble’ he is? Will he refuse to teach theology and instead ask the people to teach him? Will the tradition of having the Cardinals elect the Pope be replaced with a popular vote? Who can say? And how could any Pope ‘turn the clock back’ without appearing arrogant?
To be honest, I see this kind of humility as a form of pride. Each Pope must show himself more humble than the previous one. The truly humble thing to do would be to submit oneself to the tradition of the Church, to do just as one’s predecessor had done, and not to call attention to one’s humility.
But I doubt the Popes will do that. Yet again, the fruits of democratism are seen in the destruction of beauty, order, and dignity, for the sake of leveling hierarchies, pursuing ever the elusive and pernicious dream of ‘equality’.
And that, dear reader, is why I stand forever against equality, democracy, and the tyranny of the masses.