The Day of the Four Popes: Pope Francis and the Reform (??) of the Church


William D. Lindsey

The day of the four popes, they’re calling it.

We had Vatican II, which told us that the church is the people of God on pilgrimage together to the reign of God. Vatican II called us to recognize the presence of the Spirit among the entire body of the people of God, to decentralize and declericalize our church after the centralization and clericalization that occurred in response first to the Reformation and then the rise of modernity and democracy had smothered the church and turned it into a fusty, creaky museum piece, a travesty of an institution effectively proclaiming the good news of Jesus Christ in contemporary culture.

All of that, and in 2014, we find ourselves at the day of the four popes? With two living popes canonizing two of their predecessors and another in the wings to be canonized (please see Jerry Slevin’s valuable commentary on the latter point)? This is what Vatican II was all about?

Popes added to popes added to popes. Popes declaring each other — presto abracadabra! — saints at the drop of a hat, as soon as one of them has taken his last breath.

Because they were popes, for goodness’ sake! And popes are ipso facto holy (unless they happen to be the forgotten pope who died mysteriously after a reign of only 33 days in which he announced plans to reform the Vatican bank and said that God is “even more our mother” than our father — that poor fellow seems totally ignored when the presto abracadabra! of saint-making takes place, doesn’t he?).

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