For some reason Rodrigo Borgia, better known as Pope Alexander VI, seems to have reached the status of “worst Pope ever” among Catholics and Anti-Catholics alike.
Whilst the man represented many of the shortcomings of his age, and not even nowadays’ spinmeisters would dare to call him a saintly man, it is remarkable how the man allows Popes like Liberius, or Benedict IX, or John XXII to go unnoticed among the masses. Actually, in most cases if people don’t shoot at Alexander they will shoot at, say, Julius II or Leo X. All Renaissance Popes, you see. It catches the imagination. Sex, War, and Sacred Music. Still, all orthodox ones.
There is, if you ask me, a frequent mistake here, present in a rather extreme way: the confusion of the moral qualities of a man with the way he exercised his office.
No one seems much interested in the fact that, say, Churchill drank like a fish. What they are interested in is how he did his job as Prime Minister, and his private failures are considered a private problem of his exactly as his public work had a very public dimension.
This should, always if you ask me, apply even more to a Pope. If it is true that the business of saving England is of far more consequence than the private failings of the British Prime Minister, then it must be the more true that the business of being the Vicar of Christ with all this entails – worldwide evangelisation, say; or the fight against the world’s values – is of far more consequence than the business of saving England. If every souls has, being infinite, infinite value, then the business of the salvation of souls is an infinitely more important business than the salvation of Britain.
A corrupt Renaissance Pope certainly did put his soul in danger, and certainly did go to hell if he died in state of mortal sin. We cannot know with certainty about anyone of them – not even of Alexander VI – but the impressive string of very bad Popes between, say, the X and the XV century allows us to tell that very probably a number of them did not escape hell.
Such a bad Pope lost, then, his own soul. He did, in case, contribute to the loss of many other souls in his entourage. But in those times there was no Internet or Facebook, no Twitter or even CNN, not even much literacy. The private failings of a Pope were specifically known to a restricted number of people, most of them of the educated sort. Still, most people died with the same faith, the same rules, the same Mass and the same certainties with which they were born. Their world revolved around the Truths of their Faith, with which no Pope dared, or even thought, to tamper. In the economy of their own salvation, the private conduct of the Pope was pretty much near to zero.
Yes, the peasant might have known that high prelates were corrupt, but it’s not that he did not have experience of corrupted powerful men in his own environment – or that he was an angel himself, in most cases -. Yes, it might be said that the corruption of the Church was an element in the march of the great Heresies of the XVI century; but again, every illiterate peasant knew, when he rebelled to the Church, what he was doing, and note no one was more justified in being an heretic then than he is today, and many clergymen and Popes were very corrupted for many centuries before the XVI. Again, the private conduct of the Popes did not enter the life of the common people. They knew God’s rules applied to the powerful clergy as well as to everyone else, and that was rather the end of it. Wise people. They knew Alexander was orthodox; and if he had not been, I doubt they would have had any knowledge of the fact. Still, orthodox he was.
Fast forward to these disgraceful beginnings of the XXI Century. The Pope has, it can be safely said, no mistresses and no illegitimate sons; he does not lead an extravagant life; he is certainly persuaded, “in conscience”, that he is a good man. I cannot imagine he has many fears about his eternal destiny, something Alexander could at least be worried about.
Still, this man will contribute to the loss of millions of souls; he reinforces heretics and heathen in their conviction that there is no need to convert; he downplays the doctrinal solidity of the Church at every step; he leads people to believe they can be saved by merely following their conscience; he tells them they should not be “obsessed” by abortion and homosexuality; he tells everyone there is no need to evangelise; he gnaws and scratches at Catholicism in thousand little and less little ways, some of them clearly heretical, some of them merely stupid; in short, with his intellectual pride he gives scandal and confuses the faithful day in and day out, not with his private conduct but certainly with his public one.
I do not doubt in all ages past most people would have told us a Francis is infinitely more dangerous than an Alexander. More still, they might have had difficulties in even understanding the question: the privately corrupt people were part of their everyday experience, but a Pope behaving like Francis must have been, to them, simply inconceivable.
There can be, therefore, no doubt Francis is much worse, much worse as a Pope than every “Renaissance Prince” you might care to mention; in the same way as a Churchill is infinitely better than Chamberlain as a British Prime Minister irrespective of any private virtue the latter might have had.
I am not very interested in the private conduct of a Pope. Not much more, anyway, than I am interested in the private conduct of Winston Churchill. Every soul has infinite importance. Therefore, the salvation of a Pope isn’t more important than the salvation of Mrs Bridges, the pleasant neighbour of number 23. But think how many millions Mrs Bridges Francis is encouraging on the way to perdition. Pope Alexander was certainly corrupt and scandalous as far as his scandals could go; but Francis has unwittingly – but very arrogantly – made of himself a damnation machine on a planetary scale as his intellectual pride allows him to attack and sabotage Truth at every step and even persuade himself he is doing the right thing. He is, after all, following his conscience. Sounds a bell?
No. Keep your Francis, and give me ten Alexander VI instead, any day.
It is so beautifully un-PC I must have it on my blog.
“If heretics no longer horrify us today, as they once did our forefathers, is it certain that it is because there is more charity in our hearts? Or would it not too often be, perhaps, without our daring to say so, because the bone of contention, that is to say, the very substance of our faith, no longer interests us? Men of too familiar and too passive a faith, perhaps for us dogmas are no longer the Mystery on which we live, the Mystery which is to be accomplished in us. Consequently then, heresy no longer shocks us; at least, it no longer convulses us like something trying to tear the soul of our souls away from us…. And that is why we have no trouble in being kind to heretics, and no repugnance in rubbing shoulders with them… It is not always charity, alas, which has grown greater, or which has become more enlightened: it is often faith, the taste for the things of eternity, which has grown less…”
Henri de Lubac: Further Paradoxes (Newman Press 1958) and reprinted in Paradoxes of Faith (Ignatius Press 1987)
The 500th anniversary of the date conventionally considered the start of the Heresy of Luther (1517) is fast approaching, and the V II – ecumenical hearts are all a-flutter already.
Cardinal Koch, the man at the Vatican in charge of telling it as it is without ever telling it as it is, has started the hostilities by declaring that the Church does not participate in celebrations of sins. He would, instead, favour a kind of strange “commemoration” during which a “two-sided admission of guilt” would take place. How very John Paul II.
The Cardinal is now running the risk of being accused of not being ecumenical enough; than if you are truly “ecumenical” you are supposed to “charitably” overlook little details like Truth and Heresy, and to take part in the Great Mahatma Gandhesque Ecumenical Love-In, in which everyone loves everybody, God forgives everyone everything, and it should be good that we remind ourselves that we are, at times, all a bit naughty in one way or another.
I do hope the Cardinal does get accused. Firstly, this would have the beneficial effect of unmasking those within the Church who are openly sympathising with heresies; secondly, it might have the effect of forcing the Cardinal to tell a couple of things straight rather than always, always taking the whip out of the drawer and starting the usual public self-flagellation. This is a new fashion introduced by Blessed John Paul II, the brilliant Pope who went around implicitly criticising the Crusades (and perfectly happy to have the media understand the message in that way) whilst he protected all sort of sodomites, fornicators, thieves, and protectors of paedophiles.
In fact, one can reasonably say Cardinal Koch made the first step, but stopped with the second foot in mid-air. His warning that Luther committed “a sin” remains a very vague and very weak statement, if the Cardinal doesn’t openly tell why. Explicit, unmistakeable and insisted condemnation of heresy should be the very first duty of each and every Prince of the Church. Instead, we are served a feeble voice in favour of Truth, without a clear statement as to what this Truth is based upon. The Cardinal should have used this occasion for an open condemnation of heresy and an open call to conversion, without any consideration for the popularity of such statement. This would have been at the same time authentically charitable and authentically ecumenical, then he who does not strongly upholds the faith does not promote Christian unity, but Christian division. The watering-down of Truth through the umpteenth admission of past guilt is not really enticing for confused Christians. On the contrary, the Cardinal’s statement will reinforce in them the feeling that everyone is wrong one way or the other; and if this is so, why shouldn’t they continue to consider the Church wrong in theological matters?
We live in such disgraceful times that even these feeble accusations expose a Cardinal to criticism – a state of thing actively promoted by the Vatican itself in these last 50 years -and we must therefore be grateful for every half word of support for truth.
But make no mistake, every mention of the Heresy of Luther which does not clearly and openly attack heresy falls short of the mark.
My last post was in defence of Michael Voris complaining about those religious who seem to have forgotten (probably because they have) what Christianity is about.
If you want an excellent example of such behaviour, look no further than to the Numero Uno of English Catholicism, our well-known disgraziato Archbishop Vincent “Quisling” Nichols.
Nichols is already notorious for the zeal with which he undermines Catholic doctrine and Catholic principles. His clear support for so-called same-sex couples speaks volumes about the heretic Pope Benedict has made the mistake of putting at the top of the English Hierarchy (and the even bigger mistake of not removing when it became clear that the man doesn’t care a straw for Catholic orthodoxy), and his continued refusal to put an end to the scandalous homo masses in Soho should leave even the most naive supporter of Archbishop Vincent “Quisling” Nichols in no doubt as to what side he has chosen. He has also managed to pick another scandalous battle in the Cardinal Vaughan School matter. In short, wherever he can undermine Catholic values, he relishes the job.
On another occasion (when our anti-hero decided to bash bankers; a very popular and risk-free activity at the moment and therefore an ideal occupation for this disgraziato) I have written about him as follows:
++ Vin “Quisling” Nichols lives in a world where abortion kills 200,000 a year and the womb has become the most dangerous place to be, easily eclipsing war zones. He has witnessed the disintegration of British society through the widespread recourse to divorce and easygoing, taxpayer-financed, future securing teenage pregnancy. He has seen the mockery of the family through the legalisation of so-called civil partnerships and has had the nerve to say that he was not against, and that the Church’s opinion on the matter is “nuanced”. He presides over a society where no Hollywood comedy thinks it can do without the obligatory faggot and the BBC even has the temerity to re-write the recent rendition of Evelyn Waugh’s “Brideshead revisited” in very pink tones. He sees every day how every kind of monstrosity (from old couples, let alone old men, adopt children to the renting of uterus to the slow crumbling of opposition to euthanasia) gets a foot in the door of British society, and he complains about ……bankers!
This applies – verbatim if you exclude the miraculously let aside bankers – to the present situation; with the important exception that we are now in the middle of the Holy Week.
You would think that the UK Catholicism Supremo would profit of the Holy Week (when he is bound to have more media attention) to:
1) point out to the many ways in which our society behaves in an an-Catholic or at least un-Christian manner (say: abortion; divorce; sexual promiscuity; homosexuality) and
2) extol the virtues of the Catholic way as a sure remedy to those evils.
You would think that he would do it, if he cared for Catholic values. But the simple fact is that Archbishop Nichols doesn’t care a straw for Catholic values.
He really, really doesn’t. All he cares for, is to speak every now and then over economic social issues, which should be the preserve of politicians, whilst he is supposed to be, first and foremost, occupied with the cure of souls. If he believed in their existence, that is.
We are now well into the Holy Week, and our astonishing Vincent “Quisling” Nichols has been on record as follows:
1) On Sunday (Notabene: Palm Sunday!) on the Sunday Telegraph. He gets a big interview on a major newspaper on Palm Sunday and what does he talk about? Yep, that Cameron’s “Big Society” is not “social” enough for his liking.
2) On yesterday’s Evening Standard (not as prestigious as the “Telegraph”, for sure, but read nationwide) our chap is on record as intervening to ask a brewery not to change the name of a pub entitled to Cardinal Manning. And do you think that he did so defending Cardinal Manning’s lifelong battle for everything Catholic? Of course not! He does it because in this way Manning’s commitment to “social good” would be played down.
“Social good” is everything Vincent “Quisling” Nichols is interested in. It is the only issue he wants to go on record during the Holy week. This is a mickey mouse of an Archbishop, if there has ever been one.
I can’t wait to hear about our completely de-Christianised Archbishop talk about earth day on Good Friday, or on the immediately following weeks. But I’m sure he’ll put some social issues in the middle; just to be on the safe side, you know.
This man is a scandal through and through.
I am now re-reading C.S. Lewis’ “The Screwtape letters” and I am truly enjoying every word again. In a sense, I had almost forgotten how witty, profound and instructive the man was.
This book is, so to speak, the non-Catholic counterpart of the great G.K.Chesterton. More rapid to get to the point than the latter probably, though perhaps not so full of surprises and paradoxes.
Most of all, C.S.Lewis is amusing. He instructs whilst he entertains. The book is even more remarkable because, though written in the midst of the Second World War, it does not have anything of the propaganda or “Gott mit uns”-Attitude you might expect in a book written in such difficult and passionate times. Written in the middle of a savage conflict, the book reminds one even more of the far more momentous conflict (because linked, each one, to an eternal result) that the battle for the soul of every one of us is. C.S. Lewis flies over the conflicts of his time and dwells over the conflicts of every time.
The man is also remarkably orthodox from a Catholic perspective and is therefore, in my eyes, rather safe reading as instruction, too.
Many of you have probably read the book already. I think the others won’t do any damage to themselves by ordering it. Books which make it a pleasure to open and re-read at regular interval are seldom wrong investments.
(There. No one will be able to say that I always shoot at Heretics now….)