Sunday, May 9, 2010

On Mothers' Day

It's no fun losing a post. Especially when it's the sort of post that is not all that easy to write, one in which the writer has to scold the very people he has every reason to admire, love, and be grateful for. I really do not know how I did it, other than to realize that it must have been through some strange combination of key striking that is programmed, inadvertently or not, to do it for me. It's never happened to me before, and of course I don't ever want it to happen again. It was a whole post, just finished before breakfast, and then in the process of editing. I was tinkering with a passage about the bishops who had complained at the very short run of the film "The Jeweller's Shop", that strange brew a commercial group made from a poem of Karel Woytyla's. With not a few questionable scenes, no catharsis, and startlingly forgettable sound  track, it drew its due reward at the box office. As Vatican Two was at no little pains to point out, the arts and the sciences really do have rules of their own, and everyone involved with this enterprise was equally at no little effort to break them. I had pointed out that for a film demographically aimed at young married couples it had come out remarkably short of the sort of music they like. Put a good rock track in there, and the Thirty-somethings will turn out to a flik on gardening. I had come up with just a little more salt for the wound when the unthinkable happened. (But at least it wasn't a chapter of fiction. That is a much harder thing to come by these days.)
Why am I going on about something of so little consequence and that happened so long ago?
Because, frankly, I am delighted by the new opportunity John Paul's successor has presented to his own newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano. Benedict has let the kids at it, like someone who in trying to figure out why the old folks are drying up, then suddenly hid away to read Aristotle's chapter on friendship, eight in the Nichomachean Ethics. Yes, the young certainly do need the advice of the old, but the old also need to not only value the energy of the young, but to learn how to dialogue with it. "The Jeweller's Shop" had about as much real dialogue as a speech by Fidel Castro.
There is no doubt that John Paul was a great man, and the Slav Pope that clobbered Soviet Communism. As a lie, it had to die eventually, but it was the Trumpeter of Krakow who led the charge. But he was overrated as a mystic, and was a Pope of dialogue much less than necessary. It's probably a good thing he became a priest rather than an actor.
Why does this seem so stern, even ungrateful? (And I'm sure there's the odd churchman fuming at such apparent insolence from a layman, but then he's never been alone with the Transformation in my study.)
Nothing easier, when you know your John of the Cross.
This is not the time to go into my long formation as a prophet as well as a mystic, but by January 15, 1984, suffice to say that it was suitably extensive, as well as suitably without honour in my own country, my own province, my own diocese, my own parish. So, when I was told to pick up the phone by the Holy Spirit, and also cleared for my target by my spiritual advisers, I called the telegram people and dictated the following to John Paul II:

"Redemptor Hominis courts error. Come to Nelson for your penance."

By then, the Pope had known months in which to familiarize himself with my thoughts, my record, my spiritual history and position. Not only all my fiction up to that date, but a number of letters. Moreover, he had at hand all manner of theologians supposedly familiar enough with such matters to know how to shoot me down if it were necessary, whereas I had among the local clergy one criminal bishop, and an entire diocese full of priests and religious willing to follow his directives on myself and my community, a situation which never substantially changed until our present bishop, by the grace of God a Capuchin with a sound grasp of the early days of the Franciscans.
Jesus rarely makes it easy for his closest friends, as Saint Teresa was fond of pointing out to him.
I was very aware, of course, once the heat of the prophetic moment had cooled down, that the Holy Spirit might have intended only a spiritual coming to Nelson, and in fact for a decade John Paul did this rather well, especially after a few more months and his trip to Canada and the Holy Spirit upping my status to make me his spiritual director.
But now I think it is not too inaccurate to suggest that He would have preferred a literal obedience. What dialogue would then have ensued? What stories about our little nest of criminal clergy and perverts in high places, all wonderfully masking the truths of the sordid details?
What was lacking? Spiritual courage? Perfect humility? Or, following Pius VII's reaction to the Napoleon who assumed that to have the Pope under lock and key was to run the Church: "Without my advisers I am not Pope!", did he simply lack the right staff?
It was very difficult for John Paul to realize the horror so many priests were creating out there, and he seemed unable to grasp the outright criminal content of their actions. Jesus was crucified; why is a priest above hanging?  Or having his throat slit like the false prophets of Baal?
Benedict has been the one to pay for this neglect, via the recent profoundly unprofessional antics of some of the press, and the Lord's view of the record needs to be set straight.
It would be interesting to see some of this clarity emerge in the "New" L'Osservatore.

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