What is the “Dignity of His Office”?

One of the vague complaints that keeps getting lobbed against Pope Francis is that is actions offend the “dignity of his office.” So-called “traditionalists” are claiming that “he doesn’t understand that his office is about Jesus, and not himself,” yet most people would say that’s precisely what *he* understands and *they* don’t. The purpose of the worldly glories of the papacy was always to impress world leaders with the superiority of the papal office to their own, yet those days are long past: they may come again before the Lord does, but, for now, people associate the trappings of papal glory with the corruption of the Middle Ages, not with the office of Vicar of Christ.

Trads, myself included, are fond of quoting St. John Chrysostom that the “Floor of Hell is paved with the skulls of bishops,” yet insist that bishops, and Popes especially, exhibit the kind of worldly splendor that the Eastern Doctor was speaking of. St. Jerome famously warned a “soldier” (priest) that he was putting his soul at risk by leaving the heremetical life to become a bishop, and this was long before the trappings of Medieval episcopacy that Trads consider “the dignity of the office”!

St. Lawrence is known for “turn me over; I’m done on that side,” but he should be known for what got him (and Pope Sixtus II) executed: when the Romans demanded that he show them the “treasures of the Church,” he showed them a room full of homeless people the Pope was caring for. I daresay that, if the Internet had existed during World War II, some Catholics would say, “Pius XII is a modernist! He’s offending the dignity of his office by sleeping without air conditioning and letting Jewish refugees sleep inside the Papal palace!” What is the true dignity of the papal office? It is the dignity expressed by that symbol of the Papacy that Protestants decided to tell people is a symbol of Satanism: the upside-down Cross:

He said to him: Feed my sheep. [18] Amen, amen I say to thee, when thou wast younger, thou didst gird thyself, and didst walk where thou wouldst. But when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and lead thee whither thou wouldst not. [19] And this he said, signifying by what death he should glorify God. And when he had said this, he saith to him: Follow me. (Jn 21:17-19)

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