Daily Archives: February 14, 2013
When I lived in Italy I did not know the expression “Catholic guilt”. I would also have been at a loss to describe or define it, as if I had heard such an expression it would have made on me the same impression as “wet water” or “hot fire”. If the concept had been explained to me from some Protestant, and if I had been required to give a Catholic name to it, I would have rather called it “human condition”; but again, I would have felt like the one asked to give a specific name to the fact that water is wet.
It was when I moved to England that this “Catholic guilt”- thinking imposed itself to my attention. In this wondrously unthinking country, journalists and mixed wannabe intellectuals spoke of “Catholic guilt” as of something medieval, unconscionable and more than vaguely retarded. I do not recall, though, many of these sources as being openly atheist and therefore coherently rejecting the very fundaments of Christianity. Rather, I have a distinct recollection of criticism from a pretended vaguely Christian point of view, in which Christianity 1.0 is analysed and recognised to be vastly inferior to Christianity 2.0, newly released and now completely bug-free.
It stroke me even then – and I was by far not as aware or instructed as I am now – that to even think of Christianity without the guilt is an exercise in absurdity, like wanting water that does not have the quality of being wet. Take the guilt away, and Christianity simply dissolves in thin air: Adam and Eve are reduced to a curious legend, the entire Old Testament to a fantasy tale, Christ’s work a complete waste of time, His death the work of a lunatic, the Mass an exercise in madness.
Mind: attentive and sincere Protestants certainly have the same concept of guilt we have. Still, one never hears of “Protestant Guilt”, only of the Catholic variant. What I think happened is that so many Protestants have abused their sola fide tenet to the point of declaring themselves spotless lambs, that the entire wetness was taken away from mainstream Protestant water, making of it something useless and absurd at the same time.
The same chill I experienced when I was asked whether I was “saved”; and thinking of it, there is system in the madness. Once I have persuaded myself that I am, well, guiltless in the end (because I believe! I believe!! Praise the Lord!!) nothing stands in the way of my self-canonisation whilst still living, and I am at this point ready to sabotage every other tenet of Christianity in what Austin Powers would call “a guilt-free environment”.
If you have no “Guilt”, you can ultimately have no Christianity. Which is why “guilt-free” Protestantism is so rapidly imploding, and the wailing and gnashing of teeth is probably assuming dimensions unknown to our Christian experience, Protestant or not. Those who criticise the mentality of “Catholic guilt” pay us, in fact, a compliment, and encourage us to hope for our salvation. Concerning the salvation chances of people who have obliterated guilt from their Christianity I would be rather more cautious.
Catholic Guilt makes people uncomfortable, but it saves souls.
One never ceases to be amazed at how incompetent journalists are, and how ready to invent “trends” and “epochal changes” existing only in their desperate need to have an article ready by the deadline.
This time, the German FAZ has the honour of a special mention. From the fact that one Pope has resigned they deduct that Pope Benedict’s gesture has now changed the Papacy forever. They see a time-Papacy now, and they reason that if one Pope resigns, then a loud cry will rise for his successors to do the same whenever they are criticised; as if we were talking here of a Bundespraesident (they tend to resign a lot lately, I am told).
What these people do not understand is that a Pope is a bit different from any other Head of State or Government; that he is expected to resign only in the presence of very valid and grave reasons, so much so that the practice was always extremely rare. They also do not know (because of sheer ignorance of history, and things Catholic) that the resignation of a Pope is contemplated far more often than it is effectively put in place.
Pius XII signed a letter of resignation, to be made public if the Germans had taken him prisoner; the same Pope thought of resigning when it became clear to him his illness was getting in the way of his office, and probably renounced to the idea when it became clear he did not have many years anyway. John Paul II was rumoured to have signed a similar letter, to be taken out of the drawer if his illness had become too incapacitating for him to understand it is the time to resign; and Pope Benedict himself had never made a mystery of the fact that with him the JP II’s situation would have not been allowed to occur.
What happened on the 11 February is therefore, if out of the ordinary in the usual course of things, not really extraordinary. Rather, it is like Chelsea taking two goals in three or four minutes. Very rare indeed, but it’s all in a football game.
The elementary logic of all this is more than a journalist can muster; epochal changes must be evoked, the Papacy must receive a new face, history must now have taken a new and unexpected turn. What shallowness, and what absence of proper historical perspective.
As if there was anything on the hearth that a FAZ journalist has seen, and the Church hasn’t.
Clearly, Archbishop Mueller wasn’t informed of the Holy Father’s plans.
He managed to anger both the Archbishop of Lima and the SSPX (he loves that) in just a few days.
The first with a letter with which he inelegantly walks over the Archbishop of Lima in the matter of the non-Catholic, non-Pontifical University of Lima (non-Catholic; where Mueller went every year; get that?).
The second is with the confirmation that some days ago an ultimatum was sent to the SSPX: either you accept to eat the yogurt within the 22 February, or we will try to do what we have tried to do these last 25 years: split you.
Isn’t it ironic that whilst Mueller was bullying left and right, the Holy Father was, Latin-German dictionary in hand, perfecting the message that would make Archbishop Mueller the lamest duck to walk along the Vatican corridors in a long time?
The Archbishop was really taken by surprise: would you send such letters if you knew just hours afterwards people would read them and laugh? Why would Cipriani be worried, when he can simply sit and wait for the man to pack his bags? And how credible must Vatican promises appear to SSPX priests – allegedly so easy to win over, or so does the Archbishop thinks – when the one who makes the promises doesn’t even know he’ll be an “unemployed man walking” in just a few hours’ time? How could anyone not see that now the cards will be reshuffled, and there is no saying whatever what kind of Pope will get out of the Conclave?
Archbishop Mueller’s inning at the CDF will almost certainly prove very short.
But one can’t say it wasn’t, in a rather tragic way, amusing.