PopeWatch: Bear Growls-Broken Crucifix



Saint Corbinian’s Bear notes a crucifix mishap for Pope Francis:

So many impious comments come to mind… Bear must resist. So Pope Francis broke his staff. How do you think this might have happened?

Can’t say the Bear’s ever been a fan of this ugly crucifix. Christ looks utterly defeated, and drawn toward the center of the earth. Inhuman. Even the cross is bent. Shouldn’t there be a hint of triumph? At least shouldn’t we be able to watch the Pope without being repulsed by the odd staff? That’s old, old news, of course. Yes, the Bear knows this comes from St. Pope John Paul II. It still doesn’t improve it.

Without making too much of it, he might have chosen to go onstage without it, rather than sending a message of fracture. Then again, Bears are a bit superstitious.

Go here to read the comments.  Signs and portents or much ado about nothing?  The problem is that we often discern signs and portents only after the fact.  Rather than predictive their role is often confirmatory.



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  1. Bad taste is relative. It is harmful or acceptable shepherding that is at issue.
    This is counter-productive.

  2. Part of the poverty shtick. He’s too poor to buy a new one or repair properly. God has words about this:

    ” Six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. 2 There they made him a supper; Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those at the table with him. 3 Mary took a pound of costly ointment of pure nard and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair; and the house was filled with the fragrance of the ointment. 4 But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (he who was to betray him), said, 5 “Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?” 6 This he said, not that he cared for the poor but because he was a thief, and as he had the money box he used to take what was put into it. 7 Jesus said, “Let her alone, let her keep it for the day of my burial. 8 The poor you always have with you, but you do not always have me.”

  3. “Even the cross is bent…”
    One recalls the traditional Roman sentence, “arbori infelici svspendito – Let him be suspended from a withered [lit “unfortunate”] tree.” The cross would have been constructed of any rough, unplaned timber to hand.
    As for “drawn towards the centre of the earth…” a dead body would be drawn in the direction of gravity!

  4. I don’t care for that particular crucifix. Contemporary art makes me think of contemporary art. More traditional stylings are more evocative of religious themes for me.

  5. I should add: a good Catholic can spend his whole life without having a Pope who shares his aesthetic sense. I had Benedict. I should count myself lucky. The past 100 years, we’ve had a run of above-average popes, some even great. Those Pios knocked it out of the park. I’d be really worried about the impact of a lousy pope in the age of modern communication.

  6. I’m familiar with a similar incident that happened at Aqueduct Raceway to Pope John Paul II in 1995. I heard this story from a deacon friend of mine who was there and saw it happen.

    All the deacons, priests, and the Pope had lined up for the entrance procession under the stands. There was a short flight of stairs to climb up to the raceway level. As the procession began, the deacon carrying the cross slipped and fell on the stairs, bending the crucifix so that one side (I believe the left side) of the cross beam was angled downward. The deacon was only semi-conscious, so he was pulled aside and another deacon took up the crucifix. There was no time to get a replacement.

    After the papal visit I mentioned to my friend my interest in the ‘broken crucifix’, mistaking it as a work of modern art, and that’s when I got the full story about it.

  7. I can’t stand the style, either– I’ll even take the Rocket Jesus* one over it, by choice– but are we sure it’s broken?
    It looks like about where you’d want to grip the thing to keep from falling over if your leg was weak, and isn’t there a nasty rough patch right there?

    * He’s gold colored, kinda art-deco, and there’s an either inlaid or painted dark cross behind him. Sent a picture to my sister’s boy, he started making airplane noises.

  8. Pinky wrote, “The past 100 years, we’ve had a run of above-average popes, some even great…”
    Remarkable indeed. Can you think of one memorable pope between the death of Sixtus V in 1590 and Leo XIII, elected in 1878? There is Benedict XIV, of course, but better remembered today as Prospero Lambertini, the great canon lawyer than for his pontificate. Thirty popes and not a Leo or a Gregory, a Hildebrand or an Innocent III amongst them; the very suggestion seems absurd. Good men, pious men, of proven ability in a lifetime of administration, but the pattern isoneof assiduous mediocrity. Benedict XIV can fairly be ranked with Innocent IV as a canonist and with Leo X and Clement VII for his learning; his correspondence with Voltaire shows him to have been a witty and elegant writer, an even rarer quality; he appears as a giant in that age of pygmies.
    Meanwhile, we had the Church riven by the Thirty Years War, the Quietist controversy, the Jansenist heresy, the Gallican controversy, Josephism, the suppression of the Jesuits, the French Revolution and its aftermath, and the Risorgimento, in none of which can the Holy See be said to have distinguished itself. It was the Propaganda that had the greatest successes, largely because the Roman authorities had to leave the initiative very largely in the hands of the local vicars-apostolic and the missionary orders, who, for the most part, rose to the challenge magnificently. The Faith flourished in the Missionary territories, as it crumbled in Europe, with the results we see today. Micro-management by a pope with a Blackberry could have stultified those efforts.

  9. “Can you think of one memorable pope between the death of Sixtus V in 1590 and Leo XIII, elected in 1878?”

    Pio Nono who largely created the modern papacy. A disaster as a secular ruler, he was a genius at bringing the papacy to the average Catholic.

  10. Donald R McClarey

    Certainly Pio Nono was a masterly manipulator of the mass media of his day, particularly cheap lithography, which enabled him to put his portrait in every Catholic home. Even in Catholic countries, his predecessors had had the same personal impact and the same popular appeal, as the average Secretary-General of the United Nations or President of the World Bank.

    The counterpart of this was that few popes have been so heartily detested; the old euphemism employed by critics of papal policy that the Holy Father was being “misled by evil counsellors,” was too ludicrously implausible to be employed. Even Bl John Henry Newman, the mildest of men, wrote of him, “We have come to a climax of tyranny. It is not good for a pope to live twenty years. It is anomaly, and bears no good fruit; he becomes a god, has no one to contradict him, does not know facts, and does cruel things without meaning it.” Again, when someone remarked to the gentle and scholarly Lord Acton that it was widely believed that the Holy Father had been consoled in his sufferings and exile from Rome by a foretaste of the Beatific Vision, Acton replied, “Yes, every morning, in his shaving-mirror.”

  11. As often was the case MPS, the critics of Pio Nono missed the point. They saw the failed ruler of the Papal States who refused to accept the new reality and the author of the Syllabus of Errors who was trying vainly to preserve the Old Regime decades after it died. They did not see the Pope who invigorated the Church with popular devotions and new Orders and the Pope who understood that the papacy in the modern world had to reach directly into the pews to be effective and to bypass the filtering mechanisms of the past. That is what Vatican I was all about. When it comes to sheer impact on the modern world, Pio Nono stands in a category with Abraham Lincoln, Queen Victoria and Otto von Bismarck among nineteenth century rulers.

  12. Donald R McClarey

    Actually, the parallel with Bismarck is interesting. Both were Arch-Conservatives and utterly inflexible in their principles and this gave them the freedom to be remarkably flexible and innovaative in their practical policies and methods.

    As a schoolboy, I knew oneof the last French Benedictine monks of Farnborough. He well remembered their foundress, the ci-devant Empress Eugenie, who died in 1920 and is buried there with her husband and the Prince Imperial. He used to shew the mausoleum to visitors. “Ah!” he would exclaim sorrowfully, shaking his head, “the Roman Question.”

  13. Metternich of course considered Pio Nono to be a liberal during Pio Nono’s brief period as a reforming Pope at the beginning of his reign. Pio Nono certainly became an Arch Reactionary politically, but in matters of religion I think he was more innovative than he is normally given credit for. His reign could do with far more scholarly attention than it has hitherto received.

  14. I know very little about Sixtus V or Pius IX, but I would have thought to put the former among the below-average popes and the latter among the best.

    A pet peeve of mine: I think it’s way too early to be referring to John Paul as “the Great”. “The Great” is not an office or an official designation, but it’s very rare within the Church.

    By the way, did anyone else notice that Francis promoted St. Gregory of Narek to the title of Doctor? I’ve only read a little of his Lamentations – as someone prone to scrupulosity, I found it far too burdensome. Not that I need puppies and rainbows all the time, but it was just too much for me. Anyway, I would have expected that it would have gotten more attention.

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