Friday, April 25, 2014

Bad men can't unmake The Real

I hate to disagree with a venerable and worthy priest, but I believe Fr. Ray Blake has with a single comment neatly pinpointed a big problem in the Church.

He writes on his blog in response to a commenter:
"The real question is, 'Is the Pope a Catholic?' The only possible answer is in the affirmative, therefore any 'strangeness' is impossible, otherwise..., otherwise.... well, that is impossible to imagine, and millions of Catholics have been living a lie and our faith is built on sand."

Ah, actually, no it isn't impossible to imagine, and it really, really doesn't mean anything like that.

Here is where we have one of the biggest problems in the post-Conciliar Church and a source of huge misinformation perpetuated by those who think they are doing all they can to rescue Catholics from despair and apostasy (or sedevacantism... which is pretty much the same thing).

I get it. I get that faithful Catholics are freaked out at what's been happening. But if the very worst is true, it SO doesn't mean what Fr. Blake says it means.

If the pope isn't Catholic, it doesn't mean that we are all not Catholic, or that we have to abandon the Faith, or that it is "built on sand." Only if you have got into your head the error that "the pope is the Faith" or that the Faith requires a good pope to be true can it possibly follow that a bad pope = bad or untrue religion.

This is the error of papal positivism - papolotry - at it's core, but it is opposed to the Faith.

Recite the bolded sentences below three times a day until the Parousia.

The pope does not give us the Faith.

The pope is not the Faith.

The Faith comes from God not Rome.

If the pope loses the Faith, I don't lose mine.

If the pope is a heretic, an apostate, a schismatic or any of those horrible things that we pray every day he is not, I don't have to be those things too. The papacy is a key unit of the Church, so having such a bad one would be a terrible thing, but absolutely no reason whatever for anyone to lose their Faith.

The notion that the pope is and must always be a personal paragon of faithfulness - and that if he is not we're really in the Spock-with-a-beard Mirror Universe and everything we thought was true isn't true - is product of a number of different historical paths and events since Vatican I (yes, I meant Vatican I, that wasn't a typo). It was greatly exacerbated by the cult of adulation that surrounded John Paul II and that long pontificate has set the scene for the current dire situation.

Since JPII we have had such a terrible situation in the Church and the world that we naturally took great comfort in looking towards the person of the pope for comfort and support. Faced with bad bishops and bad priests, bad schools and bad government, we thought we could look to Rome and say, "Well, obviously the papacy is sacrosanct and can't be corrupted." But this really just shows a dismal knowledge and understanding of both the real source of the Faith and Church history.

This doesn't mean that I am saying what people like Shea and Akin and Phil Lawler are saying ("Lalalalalalaaa skippidy doo! Everything's GREAT and Francis is the best pope EVAH!!" Yeesh!) I personally think we are in a unique situation. And by that, I mean uniquely awful.

I have asked many smarty-smart people, who know lots of history and theology, when there has been a comparably disastrous period in the Church, and each one of them has said something like, "Well, the Arian crisis comes close, but this is probably worse."

It is clear that the current worries about Francis and the general state of things are not isolated, unique or distinct from the general catastrophe that has befallen us. We're hurting more than we would have, I think, because the transition from John Paul II to Benedict XVI seemed to us like a natural progression in the Great Effort to Fix Things. That was something else that we incorrectly put our faith in, that the situation was terrible in the 70s and 80s, and since then there has been a steady restoration to sanity. All the evidence that this was not the case we tended to just sweep under our mental rug and ignore.

Well, we can't ignore it any more, can we. Francis, if I may say something so dreadful, is a symptom - or perhaps the culmination - of the overall disaster that has become the ruling principle of the world since 1965. Francis, in other words, is nothing new, and if we had not put so much energy into clamping our eyes shut against the real problems with both the last pontificates, we would not be in such a state now. We would have been able to, with the Trads, shrug and say, "Well, what can you expect. It's NuChurch."

But again, if Francis is a bad pope this has no effect on the Faith. None. The Faith is simply the Truth. The Real. The realness of the Real does not change or fade because lots and lots of people want to deny it or because powerful men try to fight it. Two and two still equal four. Marriage is still what it is. The Holy Eucharist is still the Holy Eucharist.

If the Papacy has been seized by bad men it does not mean that the things we believe are "built on sand". It means only that the papacy has been seized by bad men. Bad men will do what bad men do, and we can do nothing but maintain and continue to proclaim what we know is true throughout their reign.

Facing up to the possibility that something very bad is going on does not necessitate a loss of the Faith. Fearing that the sky will fall if there is a bad pope, fearing it so much that one tries to retreat into denial of what we see plainly before us, will do nothing to help anyone.

Facing up to what is really happening is the only way to maintain the Faith. Retreating and saying, "Oh, that couldn't possibly happen and if it did then the Real is no longer the Real," is going to allow the disaster to spread still further. Only the Real counts. And if the pope and all the cardinals and bishops of the world try to say that something other than the Word of Christ is true, then we reject that as a wicked lie. We know what is true because we have the Faith.

As laypeople (and humble parish priests) our duty is clearly before us. We don't have the power to stop bad men from doing bad things. But we have the power to continue to maintain the Faith, what we know. And to pray for a just solution to the terrible troubles of our times.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Pay no attention to that elephant in the living room...

Fr. Ray Blake, carefully not saying things:

People have been asking me about what the Pope has been allegedly saying to that divorced and civilly remarried Argentinian woman.

Jesus said, "Every one who puts away his wife and marries another commits adultery; and every one that marries one put away from a husband commits adultery". Now, I cannot imagine anyone who loves Christ and his teaching, saying to this poor woman, 'Jesus, says one thing but I teach something that is opposite to Jesus, follow me because I am greater than Jesus Christ'.

Now, simply, that would be anti-Christ and a diabolic blasphemy, so the poor woman is either mistaken or lying.
Of course, having, so to speak, minutely drawn the negative space around the elephant, the image of the elephant in the room becomes the most prominent object in the drawing.

To wit: there is one more logical possibility.


Sunday, April 20, 2014


My heart is not proud, Lord,
my eyes are not haughty;
I do not concern myself with great matters
or things too wonderful for me.
But I have calmed and quieted myself,
I am like a weaned child with its mother;
like a weaned child I am content.
Israel, put your hope in the Lord
both now and forevermore.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

It's Holy Thursday, and I'm looking around wondering what I'm supposed to do. The Barbarians are at the gates and everyone's just carrying on going to the Forum and the Games and pretending everything's the same as always.
Today I feel like there's almost nothing left to say or do but wait. I remember feeling exactly like this when 9-11 hit the world. I looked up at the sky and said, "Well, what the hell am I supposed to do about THIS?!"

I've spent 15 years braying on the trumpet, trying to warn everyone about the asteroid. Now I feel like I just want to wait quietly for whatever's next.

Long-time bloggie-buddy Steve Skojec just sent me this, and it pretty much sums up what I'm thinking:

"And there amid the prayer and the fasting and all that attend the struggle to obtain self-mastery, young Benedict made an important discovery, one which would enable him to become a great light upon an age whose descent into darkness could not to be dispelled in any other way. He saw that by his very exertions to overcome himself, to draw nearer to God, to respond to those promptings of grace that Christ had come to dispense, the world that he’d fled was itself becoming a better and more wholesome place. In other words, by turning his back on the world in order to turn his face to God, Benedict had become, quite unwittingly, an instrument of the world’s regeneration.

"As if the world could only be saved by those who turn their backs upon it."

I think I'll just toddle off to church now, and I suggest y'all do the same.


Friday, April 11, 2014

Of your charity,

please remember to say a prayer for my mum, Judy, who would have been 70 today.

I miss you, Mamma.


Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Bloody new people

Shutting down.

Go say a Rosary. Or do the crossword. Or read the stupid Pollyanna stuff at Patheos.


Abandonment issues

When I was four, my parents divorced. It was 1970, and the Divorce Tsunami hadn't hit the general population yet. No-Fault, easy divorce was still a few years away. There was still a stigma, believe it or not.

I don't remember much about it except one episode in the car with my mother on the way home from (paternal) Grandma and Grandpa's house. My mother had told my grandparents (who I think liked me and my mother better than their son) and then on the way home she explained it as best she could to me. The only thing I remember asking was, "Will Daddy still be my daddy?" I think at that point, I was the only one in the family who still liked him.

When Benedict announced his resignation, I'd been up late the night before and was napping. My phone rang under my pillow and I blearily answered it. It was a friend of mine from the US who had been up very early indeed looking at the news on the internet after getting a phone call from a mutual friend in Rome, telling him what had happened.

He didn't mince any words, "Pope Benedict has resigned."

"What?!" He said it again, and I told him that this was just meaningless noise. Those words didn't make any sense.

"If a pope can painlessly walk away from his relationship with the Catholic flock, why do divorced laypeople need annulment?"


Divorce is verboten. Papal resignation is not: It was officially authorized by Pope Celestine V in 1294 (who then took the opportunity to step down, five months into his term). But between Celestine V and Benedict XVI, only Gregory XII resigned, to end a schism involving three claimants to the papal throne. Pope Benedict is the first to abdicate because of age and infirmity. The tradition and expectation is that once elected, you are pope until you death do you part.

What does that have to do with Gwyneth Paltrow? The idea behind conscious uncoupling is that divorce needn't be a devastatingly painful separation, and that both halves of the couple can take positive things from the relationship if they drop the shame, guilt, and regret and regard one another as teachers, and divorce as a natural part of our modern lives.

This is an aspect of that event that very few are willing to talk about. He ditched us. If the reasons he gave were the true ones ("I'm tired"... seriously? We're just supposed to go with that?) then he just walked away to a quiet retirement, with a little wave and a smile, like a feckless deadbeat dad.

"You're on your own now, thanks for all the prayers."

It would hardly be surprising if some of us were harbouring a little forbidden, guilty anger with him for it.

When I was a kid in the 70s there was a kind of explosion of "groups" you could go to and talk about your feeewings about things. All kinds of "groups" where you were supposed to shaaare how you felt about this or that childhood trauma or whatever. When I was about 8 or 9, a popular type was, "Talk about your parents' divorce" groups. We were told a lot that it was OK to feel angry about it, and that it wasn't our fault, and that feeling angry and then feeling guilty about feeling angry, was all a normal reaction, which I suppose is true.

Abandonment by a parent is something that kind of sticks with you. And we have a whole western world now living permanently in a state of psycho-emotional post-divorce trauma.

This might not have been the best possible historical moment for him to decide to go "find himself" or practice piano.