This is the strangest blog post that I’ve written in at least a month:
In the context of the Holy Father’s visit to Scotland, it was recently announced that an actor had been hired by the Catholic Church to portray the bearded John Knox who would then parade before the Popemobile.
Just in case you nodded off in class while your history teacher covered the Scottish Reformation, John Knox was a 16th century Catholic priest who became the chief Protestant ‘reformer’ in Scotland and fomented the abolition of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass in 1560. Subsequently, stained glass windows were smashed out and churches were white-washed so as to avoid any other forms of “idolatry.” Knox is considered the father and founder of Scottish, English, and American Presbyterianism.
Knox, a great polemicist against the papacy, is rolling in his grave, I’m sure. Knox’s well-known hatred for the papacy and this recent “Knox actor” announcement raises a question: Is this a misguided attempt at saccharine ecumenism on the part of Rome or is it a tongue-in-cheek mockery of the Protestantism of Scotland in the person of Knox? Maybe it’s a little of both. Let me explain:
A) Either, Catholics in Scotland are trying to be “inclusive” in a predominately Protestant nation and so they’re giving John Knox (er…an actor dressed like John Knox) a place in the show.
B) Or, this is making a mockery of John Knox. Remember, John Knox had been a duly ordained Roman Catholic priest before he became a Protestant. Hence, Knox is a disgraced child of the Church of Rome.
Any theologically informed Catholic knows that Knox is a priest-turned-Protestant who banned the Catholic Mass from Scotland. Having a likeness of him march before the Popemobile reminds one of how vanquished enemies of the Roman Caesars were required to march in humility in front of the chariot of the emperor. It’s like the Pope comes to Scotland and rides victorious over the enemy. At last, Knox’s Protestantism is vanquished and the nation once again receives the Bishop of Rome.
Surely, none of the planners of the event are aware of the irony or they would not let it go on. However, I wonder if Benedict will be grinning as watches Knox skip before him as he rides victorious in the popemobile…