“He who who does not sin is not human. … Life without conflict is not life. … We need to caress conflicts.”
The following is mostly an “impressionist” post, in which I provide quotations for your consideration, with no commentary on my part. I will bracket these quotations with two interpretive “lenses” by which me may keep from going cockeyed in times like these. The closing bracket is artistic, while the opening bracket is more theoretical:
“The normalcy bias, or normality bias, refers to a mental state people enter when facing a disaster. It causes people to underestimate both the possibility of a disaster occurring and its possible effects. This often results in situations where people fail to adequately prepare for a disaster, and on a larger scale, the failure of governments to include the populace in its disaster preparations. The assumption that is … that since a disaster never has occurred then it never will occur. It also results in the inability of people to cope with a disaster once it occurs. People with a normalcy bias have difficulties reacting to something they have not experienced before. People also tend to interpret warnings in the most optimistic way possible, seizing on any ambiguities to infer a less serious situation.“
Let us consider those who whitewash any damaging effects of the current papacy as suffering from the normalcy bias. And let us all pray for each other. As I will note in my closing reflection of this post, some Catholics may be making Herculean efforts to maintain their sanity–which is to say their faith–and perhaps a form of spiritual lobotomy is the easiest method, for now. Let us always pray for each other.
In any case, prayerfully consider the following data.
“I have met with little of the fabled odium theologicum from convinced members of communions different from my own. Hostility has come more from borderline people whether within the Church of England or without it: men not exactly obedient to any communion. This I find curiously consoling. It is at her centre, where her truest children dwell, that each communion is really closest to every other in spirit, if not in doctrine. And this suggests that at the centre of each there is something, or a Someone, who against all divergences of belief, all differences of temperament, all memories of mutual persecution, speaks with the same voice.”
“I am convinced of one thing: the great changes in history were realized when reality was seen not from the center but rather from the periphery. It is a hermeneutical question: reality is understood only if it is looked at from the periphery, and not when our viewpoint is equidistant from everything. Truly to understand reality we need to move away from the central position of calmness and peacefulness and direct ourselves to the peripheral areas. Being at the periphery helps to see and to understand better, to analyze reality more correctly, to shun centralism and ideological approaches. … It is not a good strategy to be at the center of a sphere. To understand we ought to move around, to see reality from various viewpoints.”
— Pope Francis, 29 Nov. 2013 (as cited above)
The comments on this article (about the pope’s Nov. 29 “encounter” with men’s religious superiors) speak volumes about the true import of the unprecedented worldwide adulation that Francis enjoys. But I digress.
“In every dictatorship, the past must be censored. No one must know how it once was before the dictatorship, which always claims to give new life to the world. And the dictatorships of the ‘liberals’ are the worst and have always been the worst. When the schema of a dictatorship enters the Church, the censorship of the past is almost a dogma: ‘Today the Church has a new consciousness, you can not go back to the things of the past, even if they were sacred, but today they are no longer there, because the Church’s consciousness determines the truth in today.’ Something like that is thought by almost all today, and that is terrible. It is the fastest way to destroy the Church, as we see. The representatives of this thinking have access to almost all means of communication, because they are useful to ‘entertain’ the people, they do not argue with the New Paganism, they do not startle, do not challenge them when they criticize, then only the Church, most of the time, but they just talk, they palaver and palaver and say this mostly nothing.
“But it is enough that a child says in his innocence, see, the king is naked, and already breaks the spell of censorship that the past is hidden, it falls into place in a single moment. That’s why it will take more work from the traditional side and less ‘whining’, to help build the kingdom of God, according to the responsibility that God has entrusted to each of us objectively. There is no time to lose: Do all that stands in your way, so that the Catholic Church and the world is Christian.”
— Don Albero Secci (c/o The Eponymous Flower)
“Though we are urged to look outwards, ‘to the peripheries’, what seems to be happening is that everyone both in and outside the Church is looking at the Pope, more so than any of his predecessors, he has become the sole ‘specialist of the logos’ [cf. this De Lubac reference for the pope’s meaning]. It appears as if the only indispensable person in the Church at the moment is the Bishop of Rome, he alone can control the velocity of the roller coaster and which particular track it will follow. He alone has the master-plan. What did he mean yesterday by the Curia no longer being ‘inspector and inquisitor’? What seems to be happening is that we are dispensing with one one form of Ultramontanisn to more closely another one. Magister had an interesting article in which he spoke of ‘the monocratic, centralizing form in which Francis is in fact governing the Church.'”
— Fr. Ray Blake (22 Dec. 2013)
“Do not refrain from speaking at the crucial time, and do not hide your wisdom. … Never speak against the truth, but be mindful of your ignorance. Do not be ashamed to confess your sins, and do not try to stop the current of a river. Do not subject yourself to a foolish fellow, nor show partiality to a ruler. Strive even to death for the truth and the Lord God will fight for you.”
— Sirach 4:23-28
“For though we live in the world we are not carrying on a worldly war, for the weapons of our warfare are not worldly but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every proud obstacle to the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ”.
— 2 Cor 10:3-5
“Sing to the Lord, all the earth. Let no one separate; let no one cut himself off. You are the wheat; bear with the chaff until it is winnowed away. Do you want to be driven from the threshing floor[?] Although you are wheat, once outside, the birds of the air shall find you and gobble you up. What is more, that you should leave and fly away is proof that you were but chaff: and because you were without weight, when the wind blew, you were carried off from under the feet of the oxen. But they who are wheat, bear with the treading out. They are happy because they are grain; they grieve amidst the chaff, they wait for Him Whose fan is in His hand, Whom they know is their Redeemer [Qui autem triticum sunt, ferunt trituram; gaudent, quia grana sunt, gemunt inter paleam, exspectant ventilatorem, quem cognoscunt redemptorem].”
“Is not this a time of strange providences? … Has not all our misery, as a Church, arisen from people being afraid to look difficulties in the face? They have palliated acts, when they should have denounced them. … And what is the consequence? that our Church has … ever been sinking lower and lower, till good part of its pretensions and professions is a mere sham, though it be a duty to make the best of what we have received. Yet, though bound to make the best of other men’s shams, let us not incur any of our own. The truest friends of our Church are they, who say boldly when her rulers are going wrong, and the consequences; and … they are most likely to die in the Church, who are, under these black circumstances, most prepared to leave it. … I am very sanguine … that our prayers and our alms will come up as a memorial before God, and that all this miserable confusion tends to good.”
— John Henry Newman, letter written at Christmas 1841
With all of the above in mind, I offer you a second lens to correct the visions and phantoms that cloud many eyes in our day.
In light of the resurgence in post-Vatican II liberalism under Francis, the movie Dark City, which ranks among my favorite films, has been frequently coming to mind. In particular I am reminded of the villains’ ability to subdue humans by intoning the word “sleep” and brandishing their hands over targets’ faces (by which I think the director meant to convey a sort of perverse blessing). So much good in the Church in the past half-century has been rearranged, suppressed, and twisted by a capricious “tuning” in the name of “pastoral” experimentalism. The villains are able to tamper with the denizens’ sense of time–in particular their memories–by keeping the city under a perpetual shroud of darkness, amnesia, and lethargy, in order that their research may be unhindered by intransigent holdouts.
“First there was darkness. Then came The Strangers. They were a race as old as time itself. They had mastered the ultimate technology: the ability to alter physical reality by will alone. They called this ability ‘Tuning’. But they were dying. Their civilization was in decline. And so they abandoned their world, seeking a cure for their own mortality. Their endless journey brought them to a small, blue word, in the farthest corner of the galaxy–our world. Here they thought they had found what they had been searching for.”
Finally, I agree that we must not unduly expose the nakedness of our Holy Father, but, when he himself constantly kicks the papal covers off of his own self, the situation is more complicated than most soft ultramontanists are willing to countenance. I likewise agree that we ought not unduly air out the Church’s dirty laundry, but, when the pope’s imperial clothing is lauded as yet another sign of evangelical “affirmation” from the world–are we obliged to smile at the gross superficiality at play? Or are we not obliged to draw those who will listen into the depths of a Faith, the fullness and uncompromised beauty of which is worth garnering the world’s hatred? Is unity to be had at the expense of truth? Doubtful. In his Christmas message, Pope Francis himself said the following:
“True peace is not a balance of opposing forces. It is not a lovely ‘façade’ which conceals conflicts and divisions. Peace calls for daily commitment, starting from God’s gift, from the grace which he has given us in Jesus Christ…. [M]y hope is that everyone will feel God’s closeness, live in his presence, love him and adore him. May each of us give glory to God above all by our lives, by lives spent for love of him and of all our brothers and sisters.“
Ultimately, one wonders what manner of ‘piety’ behooves us to leave soiled linens draped upon the Immaculate Bride when her children simply want the freedom to drink of her wisdom without being smothered by the stench of paternalistic clericalism.
Recall that Pope Francis has proposed that Our Lady, in the grip of Her Son’s Passion, may have desired to say, “Lies! I have been deceived!” I will grant that I’ve certainly had that passionate desire in the past several weeks. I suspect that many Catholics sympathize, but are choosing simply to go stumm in the darkness, quite like Pope Francis imagines that Our Lady did.
Strangely enough, the word “sleep” comes to mind.