This story has been in (restricted) circulation for a even though, but was written up in a extremely quick small book I enjoyed reading when it 1st came out, Rome & Constantinople: Pope Paul VI & Metropolitan Meliton of Chalcedon by Athanasios Papas, trans. George Dion Dragas (Orthodox Investigation Institute, 2006), 60pp. (There are some photographs of the incident right here.)
Speedy forward to this week’s utterly silly furor more than the pope’s hand getting kissed. The query no one is asking is of course psychological. Outdoors a liturgical exchange of the kiss of peace, what motivates folks to want to do this? And what motivates folks to rush to judge Pope Francis more than this when the evidence from the occasion in query appears significantly less than simple and admits of numerous plausible interpretations? For a lot of Catholics, of course, this is just a single much more piece of proof of how wicked a man he is for defying such a “sacred tradition.”
But why should really this be a tradition in the 1st spot? And how “classic” is it, anyway? Would it be much more classic if he had folks kiss his feet, as employed to be prescribed by protocol till only a handful of decades ago? Would he be believed much more classic if he brought back the papal slippers with a cross on them to get the kisses of the folks prostrate ahead of him on his throne? Would that reassure folks, and give them an additional frisson at getting capable to indulge in not a single but two kisses, and not of his hand or ring, but of his feet even though they are on their knees?
The have to have to do this is what should really give us pause. Currently, of course, his most vocal detractors are insisting that folks usually and only do this to show reverence to Christ, and if he does not like it or prevents them from carrying out it, then he will have to be like Ayn Rand (as a single individual place it on Twitter) denying the divinity of Christ. Kissing the ring, then, is a sign of impeccable Christology or one thing known as “orthodoxy.”
Some folks–probably–may possibly see themselves carrying out it solely for that cause, but I wager they are a vanishingly compact minority, and even they are not carrying out it for that cause alone. One particular of the points we ought by now to have discovered from Freud is that our motives are hardly ever if ever that unequivocal–even as we stay largely unaware of our motives, which are revealed by our actions. (See his 1914 essay “Remembering, Repeating, and Operating By way of” for much more on this.)
To his credit, the erstwhile Catholic Rod Dreher has helpfully drawn our interest to these mixed motives in reflecting on the earlier crisis of sex abuse that engulfed Bernard Cardinal Law of Boston in 2002 and how Dreher employed the act of ring kissing as tendentiously as today’s critics of Francis are carrying out:
This is nobody’s fault but my personal. Component of that involved hero-worshipping Pope John Paul II, and in spite of obtaining a wholesome awareness of the sins and failings of several bishops, exaggerating the virtues of bishops my side deemed “orthodox.” Bernard Cardinal Law was just such a bishop. I count it as a single of the most shameful acts of my life the moment when I rushed across a courtyard in Jerusalem to kneel and kiss Cardinal Law’s ring.
I do not count it as a sin to kiss a cardinal’s ring what was incorrect was my motivation for carrying out so: I felt so significantly pride in displaying myself to be an orthodox Catholic paying due homage to an orthodox archbishop in that public way.
It was, in other words, and as we say now, virtue signalling. But why?
Once again the query ahead of us is psychological. Leaving aside the claims to be demonstrating piety or respect for an “workplace,” why do Christians, all young children of the very same Father, really feel the have to have to elevate some of their quantity and prostrate ahead of them? This is a query taken up to strong impact by yet another Spanish Jesuit, Carlos Dominguez-Morano in his current and hugely significant book Belief Immediately after Freud.
I draw on Dominguez-Morano in my new book Every thing Hidden Shall Be Revealed: Ridding the Church of Abuses of Sex and Energy, exactly where I was forced to devote time on such psychological queries as are engendered by the character cult about the pope, and talk about in detail 3 extremely revealing situations–from a group of laics, from a prominent priest, and from an whole episcopal conference (that of England and Wales)–of this have to have to prostrate themselves ahead of the pope and engage in self-abasement even though figuratively kissing his ring (if not other much more posterior components). Regardless of whether you kiss the ring or not, and no matter whether he likes it or not, are all totally beside the vastly much more exciting and significant query: why this is a felt have to have in the 1st spot?