18 October 2015

The Church of Smiles: A Portrait

"Several synod fathers spoke of the importance of smiling, and one particularly thanked Pope Francis 'for teaching us how to smile as we pastor people.' "
 —Fr. Thomas Rosica, CSB, at a Synod Press Conference, 15 October 2015.

Please look for a moment at the image above.  

What do you notice in it first?
The first thing I notice in the picture is the large golden object mounted on the wall.  It is the papal insignia: the crossed keys bound together and crowned with a triregnum.

What do the keys in the papal insignia represent?  
The keys represent the "Power of the Keys", the power to bind and to loose: the power to exercise disciplinary authority over the Body of Christ, and to forgive sins.  

What do the keys open?  
Christ says they are the "keys to the kingdom of heaven" (Matt 16:19).  

To whom do the keys belong?
Keys belong to the person who owns whatever they open.  Christ is King of Heaven.  Therefore the keys belong to Christ.

Why are the keys part of the papal insignia?
The keys are part of the papal insignia because the power of binding and loosing was given to St. Peter, to all of his successors, and, through participation in the apostolic office of governing the faithful, to bishops throughout the world.

What is a triregnum?
The triregnum is the triple crown traditionally worn by the popes since the early 1300s.  For the past fifty years, since Paul VI renounced the adornment, no pope has chosen to receive the triregnum upon taking office.  

What does the triregnum represent?
The three crowns represent the supremacy of the Pope: in jurisdiction over the Church's discipline and governance, and in authority over the temporal rulers of the world.  He is reminded of this at his inauguration: "Know that thou art father of princes and kings, ruler of the world, vicar on earth of our Saviour Jesus Christ, to whom is honour and glory for ever and ever."

Why are the papal insignia set in gold?
They are set in gold because gold does not tarnish or rust, and this signifies that the office of Peter, the office of teaching and pastoring the flock of Christ, defending them against the wolves, gathering them together, governing them, nourishing them with the Gospel of Christ and with his sacraments—that this office will not fade or change, but will endure until Christ returns.

Where are the papal insignia placed in this picture?
They are set against a bare concrete wall, which in its gross brutality signifies the pragmatism of the modern world.

What does the juxtaposition of the insignia with the concrete wall represent?
The juxtaposition of these two elements signifies the compromises made by the Popes in order to accommodate modern civilization.  It also signifies the extent to which the truth-less pragmatism of the modern age has infected Church's hierarchy, and used it as a tool to legitimize itself in the eyes of the faithful and lead them astray.

What is happening at the table in front of the papal insignia?
In front of the papal insignia a panel of press officers are briefing reporters on the events of the Synod of Bishops from 15 October 2015.  Each of the press officers deliver delivers a short summary of the speeches or interventions given in his native language on the Synod floor.

What do these summaries convey about the overall mentality and coherence of the Synod Fathers?
The summaries suggest that there is an overall incoherence among the Synod Fathers.  Many of the interventions focus solely on sociological phenomena or on sentimental appeals to things such as "the experience of individuals", or "the interconnectedness of human relationships", or the need to "live the questions with people".  These things have no apparent relationship to the Gospel, except insofar as they are being used in underhanded appeals to undermine the teachings of Christ.

What is on the wall to the right of the press officers?
To the right of the press officers, on the same wall as the papal insignia, there is a gigantic TV display, in which the image as a whole is being broadcast.

What does this large television display represent?
The TV display on the wall represents the self-obsession of the bureaucratic hierarchy in the Church today.  The image contains itself, because its focus is on itself and its act of reporting.  Worse still, the image is not an image of officers of the Church presenting the Gospel to those hungering for the truth—it is an image of men piping the latest propagandistic slurry from the doctrine-makers to the "subject-church" for which they make their doctrines.

On the whole does this scene remind you of anything?
On the whole, this scene of the press conference, with its usurped insignia, its brutalist architecture, its vain self-obsession, and its lack of evangelical integrity, calls to mind nothing so much as the ministry of propaganda in George Orwell's novel 1984.  It is an image which makes the Church—with its divinely ordained offices, its divinely revealed truth, and its eternal destiny—appear to be nothing more than a shop in which opportunistic bureaucrats hash out the best reformulation of their sentimental catchphrases, so they can go out and salve the emotional discomfort and bad consciences of the people of today—like so many "Physicians of Mercy", anesthetizing their souls unto eternal death.