Popemobile Rides Victorious over Protestant Pedestrian?


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.

Ex-Priest John Knox

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…

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  • Matthew McGuire

    I appreciate your point, but wish the Pope was being carried in triumph on a well-decorated elephant instead of that funny jeep.

  • steve dalton

    And “John Knox” can be behind the elephant with a poop scoop!

  • Matthew

    You know, I am sure I read a few years back that the Catholic Population via Conversion & immigration, had overtaken the Protestants. I hope so.

  • Elizabeth

    What are they thinking??  Are they trying to offend the presbyterians??  It just doesn’t seem right somehow in the context of a papal visit.

  • Nigel

    Taylor, Do you believe John Knox was right with God?

    In fact it might be an interesting exercise try to lay out the grounds on which Benedict thinks he is right with God and compare and contrast with the the views of Knox.

  • Jay

    Technically, Knox was an apostate priest. Assuming that his original ordination was not irregular, his orders are indelible even aside from being barred by his bishop from exercising that office. 

    As for Pope Benedict triumphing over Knox, if only that were the case. Catholicism and Protestantism are not exactly flourishing in Scotland today. About 42% of Scots affiliate with the Church of Scotland and 16% with Rome (2005 figures). The number who actively participate in the sacraments and attending services is substantially lower. If Catholics have overtaken Protestants on Sunday in Scotland, it’s importantly because the latter is crashing.

    I imagine that Pope Benedict, who is steeped in classical moral theology, cares more about whether his visit encourages (i) a sustained increase in baptisms and communication in parish churches and (ii) Scottish Catholics actively telling and displaying to their fellow Scots that Jesus Christ is good news. That’s the kind of triumph that is consistent with evangelical humility. Focusing on humiliating a long-dead Protestant preacher strikes me as vainglorious.