Monday, 22 October 2012

Bomb proofing just in case ...

This post is offensive and should only be read if you have nerve, a sense of humour and love God desperately. The rest of you can clear off now.


The Sensible Bond has been on something of a sabbatical in recent months. Truth be told, as I grow older, I find myself increasingly intolerant of religious enthusiasm of any kind. This is no vice. You'll not find 'enthusiasm' listed in any manual of moral theology I know of. Mine is not a distaste for things spiritual, before you ask. It is a distaste for unconsciously obsessive interest in what I'm going to call religiona, by which I do not mean just religious paraphernalia, but rather the religious paraphernalia of the mind wherein prudential and concrete policies are loaded with burdens that only the universal faith is meant to bear. 'Keep the faith' is a universally valid proposition. 'The Combat for the Faith' (within Tradi-talk) is a different prospect, involving a whole series of judgments, assumptions and assertions, any one of which could be eminently contestable. Toute mystique descend en politique, says Charles PĆ©guy. Every noble ideal tends to disintegration. It's the law of spiritual entropy. Beyond entropy, however, there is a kind of religious performance wherein, ignoring or simply denying the entropy, we insist on trying to impose our own account of the way things are. We turn counsel into precept and lend the weight of dogma to our own poor imaginings. Religious enthusiasm ultimately is like a simulation of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. In its worse case, it makes a claim to charisma that can only ever be effects of the Paraclete.

Thus - coming back to my original point - all this talk of the new evangelisation or else of the combat for the faith makes me reach for the sick bucket. To me, it seems like the language either of PR men or else of self aggrandizement. It is the language of those who are whistling in the dark, or else of those who have bricked themselves up in a corner out of self defence. Bishop Egan, recently installed in Portsmouth, has denounced talk of the Left and the Right in the Church as 'literally diabolical'. Well, face it, Bishop Egan, there is such a split: that is what's diabolical! And proponents on both sides of this diabolical divide could confirm it for him, if only they weren't busy pissing their pants with excitement, either because they think Vatican III is around the corner, or because they've caught a glimpse of the papal fanon.

So, where am I in all this? Fighting might and main not to send the lot of them to the devil, if truth be told. They make me want to kick the cat (so, lucky I don't have one). It takes all one's concentration but mostly God's grace just to keep to the basics in these difficult days. And all we get from either side of this literally diabolical divide is a wall-to-wall blather of self-imposing narratives: Vatican II was another Pentecost vs Vatican II was not even magisterial; Vatican II is the key to our future vs Vatican II must be destroyed; Vatican II has yet to be understood vs Vatican II is radically incomprehensible because ambiguous; living Tradition vs constant Tradition; Pope Benedict is a modernist vs Pope Benedict uses Prinknash aftershave. One side can barely admit its mistakes while the other side can only patronise the little good it discerns in the rest of us. One side shows all the cynical diplomacy of the worldly while the other shows all the irrealism of the utopianists.

And meanwhile, all the live-long day, certain commentators reassure us either of the Church's steady progress towards safety or its steady disintegration - like cautious optimists or knowing pessimists. No sooner do the principal protagonists break wind than the mills of the commentariat roll into action and assure us of what is happening (if I've been a part of this awful system, I like to think I've kept a certain independence of mind). One side urges the narrative of pilgrimage, which appears to excuse certain individuals from the necessity of sweeping up the piles of shit being left in the wake of the main train. The other side urges the narrative of combat, which appears to excuse certain individuals from the necessity of loving without fear of infection. One party passes us by on the other side of the road in case they get defiled. The other party passes us by on the other side of the road because there can't possibly be anything wrong with us. We're okay, they're okay, everyone is okay really. Our next hymn is called Colours of Days and is dedicated to the Guild of Felt Banners.

No, friends, put not thy trust in princes. I've warned you! It's only a lonely place to be if you don't believe in the Communion of the Saints. I'm beginning finally to understand - perhaps - what Bernanos meant when he wrote: Notre Eglise est l'Eglise des Saints. As for the rest - the self-authenticating caped crusaders in Tridentine underpants or the fanon wearing, mitred golfers of Holy Church - if they sit on the seat of Moses (the latter do but the former don't), then we must do as they say. Thank God that some are holy. Wonder not that many fail. I'm not against bishops golfing by the way; I'm just trying to say how their apparent inaction makes them look like Nero working on his handicap.


If the reports hold true, Bishop Richard Williamson will be expelled from the SSPX this week. Dici, the SSPX's PR steam-engine, has cranked into gear with a wonderful bunker-down talk by Bishop de Galaretta which swaggers with all the courage of Captain Mainwaring (on the right) reassuring poor Sgt Wilson (on the left). Really, it's just like this:

The only problem with trying to sound tough enough to take the wind out of the sails of the Good Ship Williamson is that you sound perfectly loopy to the rest of the world. The best Bishop de Galaretta can do by way of plausibility is to posit the possibility of a weak pope who, while not having the guts to reform the Church, might just have the guts to let the SSPX do what they want. Really, his Lordship should not fantasize in public like that!

Meanwhile, they're talking the new evangelisation in Rome. Why is it Church administrators are always about thirty years behind the times? The only thing that will convert the world is a heart roaring with charity. Have you got one? I haven't. Our hearts are broken. Fix that, your Lordships!

On second thoughts, no! Don't! We don't want another new system, or another reform, or another fix. Just come home, sack a few crackpots, and do forty days penance. Then we might just have a fighting chance.


The only happy news on the horizon is the continuing success of the 40 days for life. God bless them every one; and spare the rest of us too (if that's okay).


Now, stop reading the internet and go away and lead a real life for a little bit. Cherish your children, love your spouse or serve your neighbour, squeeze your friends, eat and drink heartily but fast when possible, read Scripture and the Saints (modern and ancient), be a bit mad at least once a week, and regularly wonder at the beauty of the world.

I have no answer to the current madness from whatever direction it comes if not in those lines.


Raphaela said...

Your very exasperation with the attitudes you lambast in this piece makes you one of the best commentators on the Internet. I completely understand why you aren't posting much any more, but that doesn't keep me from wishing you would.

And from removing your feed from my reader even when you break out the mothballs. Nice to know you can still be expected to pop up occasionally. :)

ben ingledew said...

Don't worry. "It's always darkest just before it goes pitch black".

ben ingledew said...


This is a bit of topic but I wondered if you know the answer to the following.

Bishop Williamson's most recent letter, following his expulsion, contains the following paragraph.

In 2000 a major Jubilee Year pilgrimage of the Society to Rome shows forth in the basilicas and streets of Rome the power of the Society. The Romans are impressed, despite themselves. A Cardinal invites the four Society bishops to a sumptuous luncheon in his apartment. Three of them accept. Immediately after this most brotherly encounter, contacts between Rome and the Society which had grown rather cold over the last 12 years, pick up again, and with them begins a powerful process of seduction, as one might say, by means of scarlet buttons and marble halls.

I do not remember this. What was this all about? He implies that he refused to sit down for a meal with the Cardinal but the other 3 Bishop did. Any idea why he refused ?

On a lighter note the paragraph which begins...

Starting with the French Revolution towards the end of the 18th century, in many a formerly Christian State a New World Order began to establish itself ....

.. it just makes me think of the sketch in the comedy film Airplane.

Steve McCroskey: Jacobs, I want to know absolutely everything that's happened up till now.
Jacobs: Well, let's see. First the Earth cooled. And then the dinosaurs came, but they got too big and fat, so they all died and they turned into oil. And then the Arabs came and they bought Mercedes Benzes.

The whole thing is so tragic it seems a little levity is the only way to cope with it all.

Ches said...

Good question. The allusion will be well known to Bishop Fellay. In fact, the bishop who did not attend was Bishop de Galaretta. Some say he had to leave Rome due to commitments. In any case, it was not Bishop Williamson who was absent. And, in his own inimitable style, he took advantage of Cardinal Hoyos's hospitality, leaned across the table and said to him bluntly, 'Eminence, there are two religions around this table.'