Let me explain why Rabelais (bio) is the patron of this blog. His Gargantua and Pantagruel is the second novel ever written; only Cervantes' Don Quixote beat him to the punch. Rabelais was a Renaissance doctor, scholar, humanist, (bad) monk, and satirist. Here is how he explained the method behind his satire:
. . . Alcibiades, praising in a dialogue of Plato’s called The Banquet his teacher Socrates (beyond dispute the prince of philosophers), says amongst other things that he resembled Sileni.
Formerly Sileni were little boxes such as we can now see in the booths of the apothecaries, decorated all over with frivolous merry figures such as harpies, satyrs, geese with bridles, hares with horns, ducks with saddles, flying goats, stags pulling carts and other such paintings arbitrarily devised to make everyone laugh. (Such was Silenus, the Master of good old Bacchus!) But inside were kept rare drugs such as balsam, ambergris, grains of paradise, musk, civet, powdered jewels and other costly ingredients.
Such, he said, was Socrates, since on seeing him from the outside and judging from his external appearance you wouldn’t have rated him above an onion skin, so ugly was he in body and so ridiculous in bearing, with his turned-up nose, his bull-like glower and his face like a fool’s; simple in manners, rustic in dress, poor in fortune, unlucky over women, unsuited to any office of state, ever laughing, ever matching drink for drink with all comers, ever joking, ever hiding his God-sent wisdom: but, upon opening that ‘box’, you would have found within a medicine celestial and beyond all price: superhuman understanding, miraculous virtue, indomitable courage, unparalleled moderation, assured contentment, perfect confidence and an unbelievable contempt for all those things for which human beings wake, run, toil, sail and battle.
The dissonance between Catholic appearance and Catholic reality is something I've explored frequently at Cosmos the in Lost. That's where I first developed the notion of Rabelaisian Catholicism. To get a sense of what I'm getting at, sample my meditations upon the problem of the good (not evil), the ineradicable Greek contamination of Christianity, and the permanent pagan remnants in Catholicism.
Let's talk a little about pope Francis now. He strikes me as a Silenus.
For example, there is much consternation about many of his pronouncements. I'm sure you've spent many a day in combox combat about them, so maybe I shouldn't list them? And perhaps there are too many confusing statements to list?
Yet, the following questions arise: Doesn't Francis realize he's misleading outsiders? Doesn't Francis realize he's misleading the faithful? Why can't Francis be clear about what the Church teaches?
I for one find the confusion refreshing and here are the biblical reasons behind it.
Jesus consistently scandalizes outsiders:
The disciples approached him and said, 'Why do you speak to them in parables?' He said to them in reply, 'Because knowledge of the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven has been granted to you, but to them it has not been granted. To anyone who has, more will be given and he will grow rich; from anyone who has not, even what he has will be taken away. This is why I speak to them in parables, because they look but do not see and hear but do not listen or understand' (Matthew 13:10-13).
Christ consistently scandalizes (his fellow Jewish) believers:
Where is the wise one? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made the wisdom of the world foolish? For since in the wisdom of God the world did not come to know God through wisdom, it was the will of God through the foolishness of the proclamation to save those who have faith. For Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those who are called, Jews and Greeks alike, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength (1 Corinthians 1:20-24).
Finally, it would seem God isn't all that big on clarity:
Then the LORD said, 'Go outside and stand on the mountain before the LORD; the LORD will be passing by.' A strong and heavy wind was rending the mountains and crushing rocks before the LORD--but the LORD was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake--but the LORD was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake there was fire--but the LORD was not in the fire. After the fire there was a still small voice (1 Kings 19:11-12).
Just as with the Sileni of Gargantua and Pantagruel, there isn't a one to one correspondence between appearance and reality in any of these passages.
By these standards pope Francis is doing just fine. The onus falls upon the interpreters of his words. They will be judged by how they box him.