I really couldn’t resist re-posting this from one of my favourite blogs. Dr. Taylor Marshall’s latest post says exactly what many are thinking – even in this land of ‘Downton Abbey’s
by Taylor Marshall
When Pope Francis was elected, we didn’t know much about him. When Pope Benedict was elected Pope, we knew exactly who he was. Pope Benedict had scores of published books and he had a been a visible and known prelate at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Benedict was in many ways the right hand man of John Paul II and we knew what to expect.
Pope Francis is entirely unknown to most of us. As a result, most folks have had to rely on only one source of information for the past week or so: photographs.Hence, most of the controversy over Pope Francis has boiled over “what is the Pope wearing or not wearing?”
As I was thinking about this, I realized that Pope Francis’s wardrobe and customs have created as much excitement as a Downton Abbey episode! Black shoes on a Pope? What would the Dowager Countess say? My goodness!
For those that have never seen Downton Abbey, it’s essentially a BBC drama centered on the “scandals” of an English Earl and his family as they wrestle with wearing black tie at dinner instead of white tie and whether noble blood necessitates a valet to help one dress. Other profound controversies include whether the Irish son-in-law should wear a morning suit, and which servant gets to wear the livery of a footman. As you can tell, it is an epic mini-series of deep philosophical distinctions…
People love Downton Abbey because it introduces us to the world of Old World nobility and elegance in conflict with the modern age. To carry the analogy, Pope Benedict represents the dignified Old World Pope in red slippers. Pope Francis represents the New World Pope in black lace-ups. If Benedict is Sir Robert Crawley Earl of Grantham, then Pope Francis is Matthew Crawley, the up-in-comer who doesn’t understand why a valet has to dress him in white tie every evening before dinner. Notably Matthew does come around…
People are buzzing about Pope Francis’ choice of a silver papal ring, his refusal of the red papal mozzetta, his black shoes, his simple vestments, his low mitre, his preference for a Popemobile Jeep rather than a Popemobile Mercedes, etc.
Personally, I wish that the Pope had retained the traditional Papal attire. There I said it. But I don’t judge him over it. There is no sin in wearing black shoes. I don’t think that there are any precepts of canon law regarding shoe color or designating the manufacturer of the Popemobile. Again, the problem is that we do not know Pope Francis. What we have are instant digital photographs. This likely accounts for why some Catholics worked themselves into a frenzy within hours of the Pope’s appearance on the balcony after his election. “What? No scarlet mozzetta? I’m going to start tweeting about how this signals the end of the Extraordinary Form and the world as we know it!”
We should recall how Our Lord Jesus Christ rebuked the Pharisees for rebuking Him for not washing his hands ceremonially before meals. The Pharisees accused Christ of sin, because He did not obey the traditions of the elders. Christ sternly rebuked them for raising “breaking custom” to “breaking God’s law.”I think we can revere the papal customs (and even privately hope for their return), but we should not assume that black shoes on a Pope means that He has a black sole, I mean, black soul.Let me lay my cards on the table. I was hoping for Raymond Burke as Pope Leo XIV in a full out papal tiara. I would have been first in line to carry the Pope in the sedia gestatoria on my shoulders.
The Pope’s Sedia Gestatoria
I think the Dowager Countess would like this, no?
But it did not happen. Burke wasn’t elected. It was not God’s will. So we retain peace. We pray. We do our duties. And we keep being grateful for Christ’s gracious gift of the Papacy and a living magisterium. I’ve been Protestant and I am grateful for a Pope, no matter what color his shoes. Let’s just trust Christ and keep moving along. I like what Father Z said yesterday. Pope Benedict gave us 8 years of trad training wheels. Now let’s take off the training wheels and simply ride the bike.
Question: Is this a fair assessment? People are so divided on this issue of “black shoes vs. red shoes” and what it represents. Folks are either thrilled that the Pope is so “humble and simple,” or they are scandalized that Pope Francis is breaking valued customs and slighting his predecessor.