The Good. The Bad. The Asinine.

Why Francis, anyway?(insert animal joke here).

This little missive comes under the sub-title:

‘Know Your Enemy’

A lot of fairly cheap capital has been made on the choice of the new pope’s name: Francis. Hilarious references to preaching to animals, as well as jokes about how feeding the poor is a new idea. Etc., ignorant etc.

The fact of the matter is that the name is astonishingly significant. Why has there never been a pope called Francis, do we think? It’s simple. Francis and the movement, initially outlawed and persecuted by the inquisition, that loosely took his name and (even more loosely) espoused his ideas, were a social and spiritual force that came close to tearing the mediaeval church apart. There were riots, massacres, and a long forgotten bloody and brutal battle. Check out Fra Dolcino at the link below.

What was so destructive about the Franciscans/Dolcinians? I’ll do it in point form.

  • They believed that the adjuration to poverty should be taken literally, i.e., that the church and all its clergy should be literally poor, rather than calling themselves poor on the basis of the claim that they cared not for the mountains of gold that they sat on.
  • They believed that the ‘secular clergy’ (priests, bishops, cardinals, etc.) were heretics simply because they had accepted rank and status, and should be killed – a belief that many Dolcinians, at least, put into practice.
  • They believed that the second coming had been delayed for reasons that they repeatedly explained (and which I still don’t understand) and that the program would resume normal function once everyone they didn’t like was dead, or something like that.

Needless to say, most of these beliefs arise from the fact that they were completely insane. The important thing, though, is that, say whatever you like about the church (I always do), the pope’s choice of name is in fact as significant as they say. It suggests revolution, upheaval and, potentially, a complete re-casting of ‘THE CATHOLIC CHURCH’ as ‘the catholic church’.

Why am I telling you this? Because if you wish to criticise the papacy, the fuss about the name or the Church at large without knowing this, you are going to look a fool, and a blindly partisan one at that.

If you intend to make cheap jokes about preaching to the birds and feeding the poor without understanding what the name ‘Francis’ means to an organisation that never forgets – well… suffice it to say, if you don’t know what you are talking about, there is no good reason for anyone to listen to you. This would be a shame, especially in light of the election of what’s shaping up to be one of the most popular popes of all time. It would be a crying shame if all we atheists started looking like tiny-minded bigots just as the church enters a period of likely resurgence, headed, of course, by the smiling Francis, forgiving us all for our malice.

There are several fundamental things deeply wrong with the church’s values, ways and very existence. None of these have anything to do with hats, gowns, funny names or Darth Vader’s boss. 

It annoys me that so many people are willing to undermine this central truth, as well as the credibility of all who espouse it, for nothing more than a cheap and not very intelligent joke.

Category: Catholic Church


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