Silly, Quixote, windmills are for kids…

I was not born to see, hear, and keep quiet; therefore, for my own personal health, I choose from this day forward to avoid seeing or hearing certain things, in order not to be forced to keep quiet, as I do today. On a certain occasion, a reader wrote me a letter asking me, if one day I lost my faith, not to allow this to be revealed through my articles, because it would inflict a very deep wound upon those who, like her, fed their [faith] by reading me. There are things that, even when one wants to, one cannot let go: it happened thus with Jonah and his duty of preaching in Nineveh; and it thus happens with me regarding my faith. But Saint Augustine taught us that, even though we must never refuse martyrdom, neither must we deliver ourselves to it senselessly.

I who am the most senseless man in the world spent many years delivering myself joyfully into martyrdom, in a battle with the world that left me in shreds, with my literary career thrown in the wastebasket and turned into the laughing stock of all my colleagues; and I made this daily exercise of immolation joyfully, because I considered that my obligation was not to please the world, but to fight it until my last breath.

Where there were nests yesteryear there are no birds this year, Don Quixote tells us, when he comes back to his senses. I am unaware if I was insane before; but today, reading a certain interview that kicked up a dust cloud, I felt that I played the fool during all these years.

And, following the example of the distinguished interviewee, I will dedicate myself from this day forward to pleasing and flattering the world, in order to avoid its condemnation.

Juan Manuel de Prada

[If you haven’t been following my latest codgitations about the Pope’s reported controversial statements, or if you still don’t grasp why I am perturbed, and if you don’t want to poke through the past week or two of archives here to read those posts of mine, I recommend reading the following articles. And even for those of you who have been reading me so far, I highly recommend you read at least the pieces by Ferrara and de Marco.

1. Romam vado iterum crucifigi” by Christopher A. Ferrara — “[T]he Pope who will be known forever by the phrase ‘Who am I to judge?’ respecting homosexuals has also passed judgment on the Church herself, and by implication his predecessors, suggesting that he will correct her many shortcomings as Vatican II demands.”

2. “A ‘liquid’ message” by Pietro De Marco — “[B]efore the press and the world a ‘who am I to judge?’ spoken by a pope objectively jars with the entire history and profound nature of the Petrine function, moreover giving the distasteful sensation of an uncontrolled outburst. Because of his function as a vicar with respect to Christ, not as an individual, the pope judges.”

3. “There is something strange going on in the Vatican” by Hilary White — “In the nearly ten years I’ve been covering Vatican and Catholic-related news, through three papacies now, I don’t remember a time when the uproar caused by things a pope is saying and doing has reached so deeply into the minds of orthodox believers.” (See also especially the quotation from Fr. Longenecker therein.)

4. “The Promise and Perils of Pope Francis” by Ross Douthat — “In the uncertain reaction to Francis from many conservative Catholics, you can see the[y] fear … not that the new pope is about to radically change church teaching, since part of being a conservative Catholic is believing that such a change can’t happen. Rather, they fear that the center he’s trying to seize will crumble beneath him, because the chasm between the culture and orthodox faith is simply too immense.”

{Oh, heck, why not a few more links, just for good measure? “A new genre of papal speech” by Louie Verrechio, “Après moi le déluge” by Ches, “And where from here?” by Dale “Crisis Buddy” Price, and this short video response by John Vennari.}]

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I am not conflicted in my faith because I believe the Church has, by mere virtue of some stupefying comments-in-the-Pope’s-orbit, veered off the right track or been usurped by Satan. A comment I just read captures this perfectly: “Why on earth should an uncongenial Pope make the slightest difference to the content of one’s faith? Uncongenial Popes are as inevitable as death and taxes.” Again, the trouble for me is not that the Pope was wrong, but rather that perhaps he is right.

When I saw the malapapalisms that I’ve been going on about lately defended so vigorously and consistently by other Catholics, I had to face the possibility that they are right and I am wrong. What if the utterly repellent implications that I detect in certain of the malapapalisms are simply logical entailments of the faith to which I converted? What if it has taken someone as blunt as a Pope Francis to enunciate, in the span of a few sentences, the logical extension of my own premises as a Catholic? Once those questions seized me, it has only taken some of my trademark codgitating to find mysef pulled towards the same conclusion as Bernanos and de Prada: à quoi bon? What’s the use?

Recently a friend sniffed at my alleged “crisis of faith,” saying his own faith had survived learning about Popes Honorius and Nicholas IV, and I lauded him for his impressive gift of faith. (I too have come through the crucible of those and other bad popes.) The difference for me is this: as unsettling as those popes were, at least they were recognized as heretics and scoundrels, whereas Pope Francis unsettles me precisely because he is lauded almost unanimously as a living saint and an unmistakable voice of Catholic orthodoxy. Hence, the dread I feel is not that Francis, by some nefarious web of heresy, robs me of my Catholic convictions, but rather that he shows me all too clearly the logical culmination of those same convictions. The dread that stalks me on yet a deeper level is not that my Catholic convictions are wrong, but that Catholic conviction as such is wrong; not that the Church is untrue, but, far worse, that She is merely optional. If the saccharine platitudes that seem ever to pour from Pope Francis are in fact genuine reflections of Catholic orthodoxy as I always thought I have honored it, then Catholic orthodoxy is a tray of candies from which I can abstain.

I am inside out because my world is upside down: where once I fought to the death for truth (see this blog’s masthead), now I see that perhaps it’s more Christian of me instead to dialogue for a set of mutually agreeable semi-truths; where once I believed that all roads lead to Rome, now I am to be persuaded that all roads lead to a Rome of each one’s own, or, more aptly, that Rome leads us all to roam along any ol’ road. Upon what road do I now found myself?

How I miss being a contented Catholic.

I have lived the reality of despair and I can assure you that the Church is right: it’s as mortal a sin as they come.

Perhaps now, though, is the first time I’ve ever understood, in my bones, what acedia is like. I had always thought it was more like apathy, fatigue or disordered priorities, but now I suspect it’s actually more like trying to live life not knowing if a missing loved one is dead or alive. (Or maybe I’m wrong.)

Nor is the providential irony lost on me that this is all coming to a head just as the Year of the Faith comes to a head.  Good Catholic that I may or may not be (Who am I to judge?), I am reading the essential documents of Vatican II again, almost like a novel.

More important, I am trying to resort to the power of the Spirit: yesterday I bought a prayer candle with Papa Francisco on it that now stands just left of my computer; this weekend I started keeping a prayer candle of St. Michael the Archangel (whose feast is on the same day my son was baptized last week!) in my car, and I am genuinely trying to focus on the good that comes from this, our Jesuit Pope, my sometime cross. To wit, here’s a quotation that does something at least to sweeten the hollowness within:

But there is another form of poverty! It is the spiritual poverty of our time, which afflicts the so-called richer countries particularly seriously. It is what my much-loved predecessor, Benedict XVI, called the “tyranny of relativism”, which makes everyone his own criterion and endangers the coexistence of peoples.

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About The Codgitator (a cadgertator)

Catholic convert. Quasi-Zorbatic. Freelance interpreter, translator, and web marketer. Former ESL teacher in Taiwan (2003-2012) and former public high school teacher (2012-2014). Married father of three. Multilingual, would-be scholar, and fairly consistent fitness monkey. My research interests include: the interface of religion and science, the history and philosophy of science and technology, ancient and medieval philosophy, and cognitive neuroscience. Please pray for me.
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5 Responses to Silly, Quixote, windmills are for kids…

  1. Crude says:

    Man, if I’m commenting too much in your blog lately, let me know. I feel like I’m hounding you. Not my intention.

    Actually, I had more thoughts on this – but this time I’ll write ’em up on my blog when I have time. Good article though.

  2. Too much commenting? Impossible! I’m sorting all this stuff out. (I’m in the process of adding some briefish comments to this quotation.)

  3. Pingback: The F1 F/X Files… | FideCogitActio : omnis per gratiam

  4. not-me says:

    My biggest problem with Pope Francis is that he seems to be a fuzzy thinker. Being something of a fuzzy thinker myself I don’t think it will ever cause a crisis of faith, but it does try my patience. Over the years I’ve learned to keep my mouth shut until I’ve had time to contemplate things through a little more clearly. The pope is nearly twice my age at least and he has yet to learn that lesson, really? Or maybe the problem is that he doesn’t care – and that really bothers me.

  5. Eggsactly. I had an employer once who, every pay period, had some reason the figure was “different this time”. So I had to go through my own records to show why my pay should have been x, etc. For a while I couldn’t tell if they were being mendacious or just incompetent, but then I realized it didn’t matter: the effects of prolonged incompetence are indistinguishable from those of mendacity. Do I think the Pope is being mendacious or insincere in his orthodoxy? No, though that is a charitable assessment. Do I think he’s being cavalier and inconsiderate in his teaching duty? Absolutely, and the sad part is that the damage being done is the same if either conclusion were true.

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