"Do not be like those people who think they are inaugurating a new era: as if before they came along there had been nothing but emptiness or chaos" -
The events which have been visited upon the Catholic Church, both in Scotland and around the world, in recent weeks have certainly thrown up some interesting developments.
Via Twitter, the celebrity road traffic lawyer Nick Freeman has told the world that the report he made to Lothian and Borders Police alleging criminal behaviour by Cardinal O'Brien
is not being pursued any further; an outcome against which you might not have got odds at William Hill's, but one he nevertheless describes as 'disgusting'
. It is interesting to see that Mr. Freeman's Twitter address (that might be the wrong lingo, but not being a Twitter user, thank God, that service's terminology is utterly meaningless to me) is '@TheMrLoophole'; in the wake of this exercise, loopholes might not be the only type of holes with which his name could be associated.
Potholes! That was the word I was looking for! Potholes - yes, that was it.
What can only be described as the absolutely bloody ghastly news that the Scottish Bishops' Conference didn't do enough about priests suspected of abuse
is not going to be the nail in the coffin of Our Church here that a perhaps not insignificant number of our neighbours might like it to be. It is beyond words that such things have ever happened anywhere, never mind have been alleged to have happened here. Was drink, the Celtic curse, a factor in these cases? It certainly seems to have been a factor in the case of Cardinal O'Brien. Do some of our priests drink too much? While alcoholism among the clergy is certainly not unknown, is there a drinking culture among our clergy? I don't know, but when a member of the College of Cardinals feels that he must absent himself from conclave on account of serial sub-standard behaviours in which having been in drink seems to have been a consistent thread the new Pope might consider adding a vow of sobriety to those already required for ordination to the priesthood.
And take the bars out of the seminaries, for such adornments don't belong in such places.
Such a universally crappy response to abuse allegations as that which has been revealed as having been made by the Scottish Bishops' Conference, with no apparent thought being given at all - none at all, the callously legalistic posture of 'taking a position' apparently being preferable to driving perverts out of parish houses with whips and scorpions, all motivated by the low and mean mindset of 'protecting the Church's reputation', a mindset derived from educated men still seeming to possess the EQ's of those of their uneducated ancestors whose most natural form of communication was the lie, a mindset which in Scotland is now ingrained and is becoming as ingrown as a fungal toenail - to the needs of children, blessed, innocent children, who have been hurt by priests - nobody else - priests! - is the sort of macabre horror story of clericalistic neglect that one could only hope happened somewhere else, if it ever had to happen anywhere at all (which it didn't). But it happened here, and that which should have been exposed many years ago has finally come out - as if it ever wouldn't have, once again showing that no matter how well-acquainted some bishops might be with the Apocrypha of Egbert of Worksop, nor how pure their Greek, a number of them are bloody naive. Sometimes it seems that the seminaries can churn out dolts as effectively as the business schools. May anyone, anywhere who suffered at the hands of a priest as a child forgive that priest; if they feel they cannot, may they at least not hate God. God is good, and God is love - and He will deal with the abuser in His way, and in His own time. You have His word for it.
Yet as horrible as all this has been, it does not in anyway undermine Our Church's moral authority. It fatally undermines the individual authority of those men who were members of the Scottish Bishop's Conference and who did not do enough to protect the children who were in their care as surely as the priests who abused those children were in their care. That is it. Blanket references to 'The Catholic Church' in the context of such reports as these are meaningless. The Church is all Catholics, not merely the creature and plaything of its bishops, thank God. Renewing the message that Our Church's moral authority remains intact might be a vital task for our next Pope.
The quotation from Blessed Pope John XIII which I reproduced at the top of this essay is an interesting one, if only because it provides an obvious insight into his aims for the Second Vatican Council.
He was certainly no revolutionary; he was really quite down on those who think they are inaugurating new eras.
He did not intend to reinvent the Church, nor remake it his own image and likeness in the way in which Baroness Kennedy of The Shaws and her opera buffa claque 'Catholic Scholars Declaration On Authority' - a group of people who sound as if they could do with reading what the man who initiated Vatican II had to say about his ideas for it before forming their own ideas for it - might wish to remake it in theirs.
He did not intend to liberate it, for he had no need to do so; it was not imprisoned.
What he did intend was that it be renewed in the same way that the Earth is renewed each spring, when that which is already there is given a new lease of life, its essence unchanged but its spirit renewed; not a new Passion, but a new Pentecost. In recent years, there has been much talk of 'Springs', of the 'Prague Spring', the 'Arab Spring', and so on. Blessed Pope John XIII intended to have a Roman Spring, not a Spring of guns and discord but a natural one of sunshine and gentle renewing rain causing the fertile ground of Holy Church to burst forth with life anew. For that, some dare declare that he never was a Pope.
Of course, that sublime and most humane of men did not survive to see the great work he initiated come to completion. Had he lived, and with no disrespect to his saintly successor Pope Paul VI, events might have taken a different turn. Last night, it was startling to read the views expressed by the late Father Divo Barsotti on Vatican II
"I am perplexed with regard to the Council: the plethora of documents,
their length, often their language, these frightened me. They are
documents that bear witness to a purely human assurance more than to a
simple firmness of faith. But above all I am outraged by the behavior of
"The Council is the supreme exercise of the
magisterium, and is justified only by a supreme necessity. Could not the
fearful gravity of the present situation of the Church stem precisely
from the foolishness of having wanted to provoke and tempt the Lord? Was
there the desire, perhaps, to constrain God to speak when there was not
this supreme necessity? Is that the way it is? In order to justify a
Council that presumed to renew all things, it had to be affirmed that
everything was going poorly, something that is done constantly, if not
by the episcopate then by the theologians.”
"Nothing seems to me
more grave, contrary to the holiness of God, than the presumption of
clerics who believe, with a pride that is purely diabolical, that they
can manipulate the truth, who presume to renew the Church and to save
the world without renewing themselves. In all the history of the Church
nothing is comparable to the latest Council, at which the Catholic
episcopate believed that it could renew all things by obeying nothing
other than its own pride, without the effort of holiness, in such open
opposition to the law of the gospel that it requires us to believe how
the humanity of Christ was the instrument of the omnipotence of the love
that saves, in his death.”
Strong stuff. If Father Barsotti was correct (and he probably was, if only because the upstarts of 'Catholic Scholars Declaration On Authority' seem to provide the proof), history would seem to provide a direct analogy for the behaviour of those theologians who might thus have twisted Blessed Pope John XIII's intentions for the Council for their own purposes; the notorious Jacobins of the French Revolution, starting out in their grotty little club and staying at the heart of things until they had twisted the noble spirit of 1789 into the horrific madness and slaughter of The Great Terror. That which started out as one thing turned within a very few years into another thing altogether, with the minority ruthlessly imposing its view on the majority and all of it done from the top, all predicated by their mistaken assumption that an air of greater openness had given them absolute licence to behave in any way they saw fit.
Such states of affairs cannot go on forever, which always means they don't; no actual heads have rolled down the steps of St. Peter's Basilica, of course, and perhaps far fewer metaphorical ones than might have been in order, but the same spirit of internal perversion of authority, of persons at the centre of events making themselves the focus of events, that was abroad in the National Assembly might just have been roaming Our Church. This is one of those many times in life when one can only Thank God for God, for having directed Joseph Ratzinger into the course of action that He has, and for giving that most humble servant of His the words to tell his successor the nature of his task, and the courage to do it in front of the world's media. February 28 was not and was never going to be 9 Thermidor; it's far more important than that.
I hope, I hope, that our new Pope, whichever mother's son he might be, will commence his work in the spirit of Good Pope John (and he was such a good Pope!), working to renew us, and give us new life of the spirit. In the middle of this most lenten Lent, a new Roman Spring might soon be upon us, one in which the gentle rain not merely renews and gives new life but cleanses; for The Broken Bread hung upon the Cross for the world, not only for his priests, and His house must be clean.
Labels: Our Church