Stop Fixating On The Pope?

Paul Baumann challenges the relentless focus on Francis and other Popes:

The truth is that the more the world flatters the Catholic Church by fixating on the papacy—and the more the internal Catholic conversation is monopolized by speculation about the intentions of one man—the less likely it is that the church will succeed in moving beyond the confusions and conflicts that have preoccupied it since the Second Vatican Council (1962-65). The church desperately needs to reclaim its cultural and spiritual equilibrium; it must find a density and richness of worship and mission and a renewed public presence, which far transcend mere loyalty to the pope. Lacking such equilibrium and self-possession, the church cannot find its true voice. But to find this voice, Catholics will have to turn not to Rome but toward one another, which is where both the problems and the solutions lie.

The fixation on the papacy trivializes the faith of Catholics, the vast majority of whom throughout history have had little knowledge of, and no contact with, any pope. Traditionally, the papacy was the court of last resort in adjudicating disagreements among the faithful. But in the last century or so it has increasingly become the avenue of first resort, determined to meddle in every theological or ecclesiological dispute.

I couldn’t agree more. And, of course, the paradox of this Pope is that, even though his personal, charismatic authority has soared, perhaps the key feature of his pontificate has been an attempt to demystify the Papacy, to remake the role as the Bishop of Rome, rather than the Supreme Pontiff. I laid out the evidence for this at some length in my profile of last December. In other words, one way to undermine this Pope’s actual agenda is to elevate him into a rock-star. Perhaps the secular world cannot resist. But Catholics should.