Papa Luigi Syndrome
From the Ecclesia Dei journal Oriens, Winter 2001:
Instead of being the summit of the pyramid of Christian society, of which the base was a spontaneous Catholic traditionalism theologically justified by the permanent presence of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of the faithful in every age, the papacy was made, from the time of Gregory XVI (1831-1846) onwards, to carry the whole burden of the maintenance of Catholic tradition, among a Catholic population which, in Europe, was in the process of apostasizing from the faith, and closing its heart to the Holy Spirit. It was as if the pyramid had been inverted, and the foundations of a restored Christendom were to rest on the authority of a papacy isolated in the face of a hostile world. To change the image, when the great forest of Catholic Christendom was cut down, except for the tallest papal tree, that remaining tree stood out in a lonely prominence that was unimaginable in the pontificate of Innocent XII.
In that sense, Pio Nono (1846-1878) could truly say Io sono la tradizione, because he had become, by default, the principal upholder and last defender of Christendom. From the fall of Rome in 1870 to the proclamation of aggiornamento in 1959, the papacy and the Church cut a splendid, embattled figure, defying the modern world and ostensibly keeping the guns of Christian tradition blazing. The danger was that it was a tradition now maintained by papal fiat and bureaucratic decree, and thus dangerously exposed to any shift or ambiguity in Vatican policy.
And the rest, as they say, is history...
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