And now for a little gloating. I've been saying to people (both those critical and those delighted) not to be too quick to read grand commentary into some of Pope Francis' homey practices. While freely admitting I know nothing more about it than anyone else (having first heard of Bergoglio/Francis back in February), I nonetheless have had a simple intuition that his not wearing red shoes is not a commentary on anything, but a function of his being a religious with a vow of poverty rather than a secular priest (you non-Catholics: here's the difference). I'd read that Cardinal Bergoglio's shoes were hole-y and some friends purchased new ones for him for the conclave. It just makes sense to me that a man with a vow of poverty would wear his old shoes until they were threadbare rather than accepting new ones.

As for his living in Domus Marta, I further intuited that this has less to do with rejecting riches than with Bergoglio's personality -- he needs a community to stay sane just as Benedict needed ongoing intellectual interaction and found ways to get it (made the same point here towards the end of the "popery" section). I'd read the same comments we all have about his shock about how big the papal apartments are. But as both buildings already exist, it can't cost that much less for the pope to live and have his guards in Domus Marta than for him to be in the papal apartments. And he could always live in one room and stash homeless people in the rest of the space if he chose.

Now we have it on his own authority. In a Q&A with students, here's how the pope answered the question about why he's not in the papal apartments (my translation from the Spanish report):
"It's not only about riches," he said "but a problem of personality."
"I need to live among people and if I were to live alone, isolated, I wouldn't feel well. A professor asked me this same question, "Why don't you live there?" And I told him, "Look, Professor, for psychological reasons, eh?" This is my personality. Yes, the apartment isn't as luxurious. But I couldn't live alone, understand?"
So HA! One of the things that impresses me about the trio of popes I've encountered personally is how fully, uniquely themselves each one has been and how realistic about their own strengths and frailties. Each seems to me in his way to embody the truth of faith that "grace builds on nature." It doesn't crush or supplant who you are, but elevates it. Men fully alive as St. Paul would say.

I conclude with my First Rule of Papal Interpretation: The pope is a man. Or: never assume a sermon where personality is a sufficient explanation.