papal comparisons – who wears it best?

Sometimes you don’t realize how dysfunctional and depressing a situation is until it is in the past. Only when it is over can we find the courage to look long and hard at the reality we just lived. Only when we experience the joy of new hope can we dare to admit how little hope we had.

Barely one week has passed since the world was introduced to Pope Francis, and the good news stories continue to flow daily; stories of his genuine simplicity, humility, and love of the poor. Today’s headlines included the announcement that he will celebrate the Holy Thursday Mass in Rome’s Casal del Marmo prison for minors.

I’m trying really hard not to be mean-spirited to his predecessor, but the comparisons are getting more and more difficult to ignore – especially in the wardrobe department. This is the first image we had of our new pope.

francis 2

Here is Benny the Ex on the same papal balcony, giving his 2012 Christmas message.

bxvi xmas message

Here is Cardinal Jorge Maria Bergoglio, sharing a mate with folks on the streets of Buenos Aires.


Here is our new Holy Father vested for his papal inauguration. Hmmm….the mitre looks familiar. Looks like he passed up the papal discount at Gammarelli’s.

francis 3

And here’s one last one of the emeritus pope.

bxvi3A picture really is worth a thousand words.

can a new pope reform the church?


As we count down the last hours of the papacy of Benedict XVI, news continues to pour out from the Vatican. I’ve been spending far too much time reading the latest press releases about the soon to be pope emeritus, I’m hooked on following the changing tides of the long list of papabile. (It’s a good thing that I’m not a gambler.) My jaw has dropped a wee bit more at each new scandal; from the surprising resignation of a Scottish cardinal to the simmering  cauldron of the Vatileaks affair. Too many hours have been spent trying to process it all, and not enough in writing. I hope to put thoughts to words in the next few days.

Meanwhile, here is the latest piece I wrote for the Prairie Messenger. Some believe that reform is not possible with the current roster of conservative cardinals. I’m more optimistic. I believe that conservative theology can go hand in hand with a progressive leadership style. After all, few would call Benedict XVI progressive. Yet, he threw a centuries old tradition of pope-until-death out the window. The key is in reclaiming the Vatican II wisdom of collegiality and subsidiarity. Here is the article….

  Bring back collegiality and subsidiarity in the church


pope benedict xvi and the dowager countess of grantham


“I declare that I renounce the ministry of Bishop of Rome, Successor of Saint Peter” (Pope Benedict XVI)


“Don’t be defeatist, dear. It’s very middle class.” (Violet Crawley)

One of the big questions surrounding the upcoming papal retirement concerns the role that Pope Benedict XVI will play once he has relinquished the rights of the papacy. Some wonder if his close proximity to the Vatican (he will be living in a converted monastery on the Vatican grounds) will make it difficult for the new pope to conduct business freely and without interference. The news coming from the Vatican Press Office is adamant that Pope Benedict will have no role in future Vatican business. His will be a true retirement. But, can we believe that he will have no influence at all?

I admit, I have Downton Abbey on the brain today. I’ll be glued to the TV tonight watching the two hour season 3 finale. As with most Downton fans, I’m smitten with Violet Crawley, the Dowager Countess of Grantham. I tape the show to make sure I get each and every brilliant line uttered by the inimitable Maggie Smith.

So, what do you get when your musings combine the Dowager Countess and a future ex-Pope? The imagination takes this seemingly unusual mix and comes up with a strangely similar picture of what could be.

Violet Crawley fully embraces her role as the elder Matriarch of the clan. She may no longer be the primary decision maker in the family, yet she certainly makes her wishes known. She has a deep love for her family – though not necessarily divided equally. Her love transcends fondness for the individual persons. Most dear to her heart is the family as institution, centered on Downton Abbey as its geographical and spiritual center. Regardless of the changing times around them, the family and estate must remain intact as a symbol of all that is good and holy in British society.

Violet knows how to move the tides without seeming to hold the rudder. Hers is an indomitable spirit that refuses to be put to pasture. Her husband may have died, but her ambition has not. She may no longer be the acting Countess, but she will certainly tell the new Countess how to act.

As the season finale unfolds on Downton Abbey, we can be assured that more delicious plot-lines will be served up to whet our appetites for another season.

As February 28 approaches, the eyes of the world will continue to be turned to the Vatican. As the focus turns from the resignation to the election, media interest in Pope Benedict may fade to the back-ground.

Once a new pope has settled in, is it so difficult to imagine Benedict (or Joseph) accepting visitors from across the garden for tea (or a cold glass of beer), willingly sharing his opinions on the latest issue circling curial halls? Is it so far-fetched to imagine him taking his cane and making a slow and determined stroll to drop in on old friends and offer his advice?

Sometimes the imagination is just too delicious! 😉