No need to get hopped up
And though John Paul II is largely responsible for the modern expectation that Popes would be charismatic media-friendly larger-than-life figures, I think he also did his best to strike a deathblow against the cult-of-celebrity papacy.
Why else would he keep appearing in public long after he had become stooped, frail and swollen, drooling and slurring his words? It was his way of saying, “I am not the Chairman Mao of the Church, with a carefully stage-managed image. I am a Polish priest who would be nothing but for the grace of God.”
I think Pope Benedict XVI said the same thing by retiring early (especially in the way he did). He was delivering John the Baptist’s message: “He must increase; I must decrease.”
It is Christ’s personality that needs to capture the imagination of the world, not the Bishop of Rome’s.
So, yes, I was disappointed by the Pope’s rabbit remark.
But the faux pas of Francis only shows that the papacy is greater than the sensibilities of any one man. It is the papacy that delivered the truth about contraception despite a hostile world that mocks us for believing. And while I have no idea whether Jorge Bergoglio likes large families or not, I know what Pope Francis teaches about them, based on Scripture and Tradition.
In remarks to large families a month ago, the Holy Father said: “In a world often marked by selfishness … [t]he presence of large families is a hope of society.”
If Francis after rabbits is diminished for you, so be it. Jesus Christ still reigns.
Tom Hoopes is writer in residence at Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas.
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