News today that the Pope abolishes the title Monsignor in a bid to end careerism in the church.
What a shame for all those faithful Catholics who were proud of their parish priest’s genuine accomplishments and were pleased that he got a little bit of recognition. How sad for those faithful folks who enjoyed referring to their much loved priest as “Monsignor” and were delighted to see him in he regalia. How sad for those men who labored long and hard in the vineyard and were granted just a small measure of recognition and respect from their bishop and their peers for their humble and hard work.
Doing away with outward signs and symbols in the church always seems to me to be a kind of iconoclasm. By getting rid of the outward sign or symbol do you get rid of the inner abuse? I doubt it. Human nature being what it is, there will other, more secret and subtle ways that people are either rewarded genuinely for hard work or rewarded for being toadies and sycophants. There will always be the ‘better’ parish, the cushier diocesan job, the softer option. New titles less traditional and more bureaucratic will develop. No more will the bishop’s favorite be named “Monsignor”. Instead he will be “Bishop’s Special Advisor” or “Senior Priest”.
Is this the nature and level of Pope Francis’ “reforms”–abolishing outward church traditions in hopes that the inner man will somehow change? It’s a bit like expecting a man to embrace vegetarianism by removing steak from the menu.
What worries me most about this kind of reform is that it smells too much like the do-gooding kind of meddling of which big government nanny state bureaucrats are so fond. “You can’t drink big sodas in New York City anymore” and “You can only have a certain kind of light bulb.”
If Pope Francis was so interested in being “consultative” and “working in a more conciliar way with the bishops” why didn’t he allow a low level decision like this to be taken by individual bishops? Instead a decree comes down from on high to all the nuncios telling the bishops to hop to? Sounds like even more centralization of power in the pope and his personal predictions.
Anyhow, it’s not a big deal, and I’ve decided as a small protest that since there are no longer monsignori that all the nice cassocks with red buttons and piping will be going cheap. So I think I’ll zip over to my local ecclesiastical outfitter and get myself a set. I’ll wear them to clergy meetings and if anybody protests I’ll simply answer that there are no monsignori anymore, so the vestments are meaningless and I just thought they looked quite spiffy, and added a spot of color.
I might even get a scarlet pom for my biretta.
Who knows, the cardinals might be abolished next and then I could get a nifty set of red robes…
UPDATE: My regular corrector informs me that the title “Chaplain to His Holiness” is the lowest of three honorary titles all of which are styled “Monsignor.” Therefore his reading of the pope’s decree is that worthy men over sixty five will be granted this lowest of three honors (the other two being abolished) and these men will still be called “Monsignor”. I guess I’ll have to put my shopping trip for red piped cassocks on hold after all…