Until this weekend, I had largely believed in the liberal narrative which holds that Pope Francis’s reforms of the Catholic church are unstoppable. But the conservative backlash has been so fierce and so far-reaching that for the first time a split looks a real, if distant, possibility.Wow. I only read that after I made my comment in my previous post about the coming schism, and Tim mentioned his desire to be an Antipope in comments. I didn't realise Pell had been "thinking out loud" about it.
One leading conservative, the Australian Cardinal George Pell, published over the weekend a homily he had prepared for the traditional Latin mass at which he started ruminating on papal authority. Pope Francis, he said, was the 266th pope, “and history has seen 37 false or antipopes”.
Why mention them, except to raise the possibility that Francis might turn out to be the 38th false pope, rather than the 266th real one?
Brown's column continues:
This is a fascinating nudge in the direction of an established strain of conservative fringe belief: that liberalising popes are not in fact real popes, but imposters, sent by the devil. The explanation has an attractively deranged logic: if the pope is always right, as traditionalists would like to believe, and if this particular pope is clearly wrong, as traditionalists also believe, then obviously this pope is not the real pope. Splinter groups have held this view ever since the liberalising papacy of Pope John XXIII at the start of the 1960s. I don’t think that’s what Pell meant, but it was odd and threatening to bring the subject up at all.You should go read the rest of Brown, too, where he attacks Douthat's take on Henry VIII.
So, all this Antipopery is something I have to start paying attention to.
I haven't read anything about them for a long time, and the Wikipedia entry indicates that there have been a lot more Antipopes than I remembered. In fact, about the only thing about Antipopery that had stuck in my mind was how Avignon was the centre of it for quite some time.
This always sounded like a lovely place for an Antipope. I've never been there (sadly, only ever Paris, for me) but my goodness, it does look lovely:
Anyhow, it's far too Eurocentric for a new Antipope to take up as his (or her) seat of power. Given Pope Francis' concern about poverty and social justice (and the conservatives' embrace of cut throat free markets, destroying the planet, bugger the poor, they've always been with us, and as long as the divorced can't take communion everything will OK), clearly the new Antipope will need a location that reflects the First World/Third World divide.
After giving it much thought last night, in the shower, I think the obvious answer is: