Thursday, March 14, 2013


A one-day Conclave, and a Conclave that merely voted in the runner up from the last election is causing some understandable concern among anxious Catholics.  When I say "anxious Catholics" I am referring to those Catholics living in fear of what is about to befall the Church next given the tragedies of the last 50 years.  It would be an injustice to judge them too harshly, or to dismiss their concerns as mere trifles.

Something seemed to be up when we learned on the night of March 12th from the BBC that one Cardinal interviewed prior to the Conclave mentioned rather cavalierly that, "We want to get this done by the end of the week."  Even the news reader looked a bit startled.  Only four or five days to mull over, reflect upon and seriously discuss such a worldwide loss of faith?  It would be a monumental task worthy of the greatest Saints and Doctors of the Church to discuss such a crisis in a single week.  Yet they've done it not in one week but in one day.  On Tuesday mid-morning they met to elect a Pope.  On Wednesday afternoon the thing was done.

Those words by the Cardinal have unnerved a few European Catholic journalists who have been exchanging emails with this writer since yesterday (one such respected writer speaks of "trembling" over these developments). Were they the words of a holy Cardinal worried about the vacant See?  Or was the bad fruit of "collegiality" at the bottom of such a remark?  Regardless, the vote was over in an instant.

Amidst the jubilation right now it is natural to express joy and hope, while at the same time praying for this man.  Prayer, yes; hope, always; joy, I cannot say as yet.  The internet is ablaze with stories about the new Pope, some edifying, others troubling.  There are shadows here and there.

In the early 1980s shortly after Pope John Paul II was elected, the Holy Father called for a worldwide meeting of Bishops to discuss the aftermath of Vatican II, to assess the situation forthrightly.  Anxious Catholics then, this writer very much included, were literally burning inside with a great hope.  Hamish Fraser wrote a special article about it in his famous Approaches, entitled "An Inquest on Vatican II?"  Every European intellectual, journalist and Churchman sympathetic to the centuries old traditions of the Church was cautiously optimistic.  Mr Fraser and I shared a correspondence on the matter always hopeful that, at long last, the Church was going to look Vatican II in the eye and put a stop to the abuses, the chicanery, the injustice of what had been plaguing the Church since that fateful Council.

But no.  When reality came all that happened was that all the Bishops traveled to Rome, had a few meetings with the Pope and issued a Pastoral letter stating that Vatican II was a Second Pentecost and that everything in the Church was going swimmingly!  I remember writing to Fraser at the time, telling him that I felt like a prisoner who had just been informed that his sentence was to be extended another thirty years.  The coming weeks should give us an indication if the drastic re-thinking that is so necessary will begin, or if that prison sentence will be extended another thirty years  If it is to be an extension of the sentence my age says that I will die in prison.

In a late February interview with Andrea Tornielli, re-posted yesterday on The Big Pulpit site, the new Pope talks much about the Church's sins.  This is a statement that is unfortunate.  It is unfortunate because the Church does not, indeed cannot sin.  It's members can, and do, sin; the Church, the institution created by Christ, cannot sin.  This is a point that I trust the new Pope will re-think.  The rest of the interview, aside from a few good points about careerism, was, alas, a disappointing re-hashing of the du Lubacian ambiguities which have plagued the Church far too long and have been responsible in one way or another for a downgrading of the very idea of priesthood.  The interview was not enlightening.  These are some of the shadows that have to be evaluated side-by-side with the good.

There is always that tiny hope that we will see a repeat of the Pius IX papacy, a Pope who began as a liberal, and a darling of the Freemasons, who would suddenly wake up and turn on them, and so become one of the great Popes in history.  But we hoped that a few times before in the last forty years.

We can hope that Pope Francis will begin his task by taking the reins firmly in his hands.  This is not the time for him to ask for the blessings of Protestants or to hob-nob with the grinning sociopaths who lord it over their citizens; no more synagogue visits, please, Holy Father, no more attending Hindu rituals.  There is serious work to be done. And there are souls to be saved.  And a Church to heal.  We are hearing much about his concern for the hungry and the homeless.  Catholics are hungry, too.  They hunger for the truth, proclaimed boldly.  And they hunger for a nourishing, beautiful Liturgy unencumbered with stupidities.

If this Papacy turns out to be our continuing punishment let us accept it manfully.  Easy to say, hard to do....I know.  Please God that this Pope will be another Pius IX.  But if Our Father in Heaven wishes us to suffer a little longer for our sins then so be it.  Certainly all of us have our battle scars.

But the lightning-fast Conclave vote should, if nothing else, give us pause.  Let us wait and see and never let go of the beads.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Aged Parent, In reference also to "Imminent Danger" and your concern shared by many was well founded; Of course! I'm sure that so many were taken quite by surprise at white smoke. I was in for the long haul as were you I think. I think we can write that down as hope and our own kind of trust. It is called Faith isn't it. The sad reality in the worldly sense is that too many men of the Church are worldly, careerist and lack holiness. God save the Vicar of Christ. God save the Holy Church amen +

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