As one year of the Lord (or, as the BBC Solons would say, of the common era; but they are politically correct, atheist cretins, so we’ll stay by the Year of the Lord) comes to its end and a new one begins, it might be appropriate to stop a moment and look at the great picture, away from the one or other controversy of the day.
When one looks at things from a wider perspective, one becomes immediately aware that nothing is new under the sun. Corrupted priests, heretical or cowardly bishops, and halfway courageous Popes have been such a constant fixture of the Church that the times in which these features have not been so present are justly remembered as luminous parentheses in the often rather corrupted – if glorious in so many ways – prose of Church history. As to us, the laity, I can’t truly say that we as a class would score particularly well when compared with almost all the Christian generations before us, bar the most corrupted.
Still, the Church towers over a great part of the Western society today as it did for most of the past twentieth century, and her inability to do pretty much anything in a halfway decent manner is – if you ask me – far more the result of internal incompetence and cowardice than of external challenges.
I am in Rome as I write, and can’t avoid being stunned at seeing – even more so, because I see the contrast with England – how much of our Christian heritage has survived the systematic attempt of the clergy to bury it under a thick layer or senseless, but comfortable platitudes. I can report with pride that I have detected not one, but several priests going around in cassock as if this was the most normal thing on earth – and no, this was not the case when I lived in Italy -, the confession times are extremely long in all the churches I have cared to look at, the number of masses – always compared with England – rather scary and the masses I have attended to well frequented and reverently celebrated, at least if measured with the depressing standard of our times . Vespers (unknown during my youth), holy hours, processions & Co. are clearly on the increase.
What I notice in Rome is, I think and hope, a small part of a wider movement. Whilst some regions continue to be clearly deficient and some bishops continue to be barely recognisable as Catholics – I think of the Chief Scoundrel Vincent “Quisling” Nichols, or of the Oberfeigling Schoenborn, but there are many more – it seems to me the world is slowly waking up. In the United States the fight against abortion is taking momentum, and the war to legalised sodomy and other sexual perversions has at least started. More and more courageous bishops are being appointed or moved to key positions, and this will not fail to have an effect in the general tone of the discussion in 2012 and beyond. I can’t say the Church is leading the battle, but at least some of the clergy are willing to fight. The people of the tambourine are simply dying, whilst all conservative religious orders are full of seminarians, and the “worker priest” of the Seventies is now a pathetic object of well-deserved mockery.
Of course, much is still to be done. It pains me to see a papacy unable to show more than milk teeth in front of the many challenges coming from outside and – far more gravely – inside, but this is already an improvement compared with the absolute absence of any teeth in the last, say, five decades minus the thirty-tree days of Pope Luciani. It angers me to see that four and a half years after Summorum Pontificum it is still in the power of every bishop whether he wants to consider the latter a command, a suggestion, or a joke – without any fear of reproach, let alone punishment! -, but then I reflect that only five years ago we did not have Summorum Pontificum in the first place.
Not everything is fine, but then it never was. We have, I think, a clear deficit in leadership (I mean by that practical leadership: the ability to keep the shop tidy, and let the personnel behave correctly), but then we often had. We have heretics infiltrating the very core of the Church, but this wasn’t different many times in the past.
I am often accused of being a kind of Catholic Pollyanna, seeing everything through long-term pink spectacles. But you see, I am a Catholic, and cannot see any other way of seeing things and remaining orthodox. Victory is assured, as the Church will never be defeated. Victory is ours already, as we are on the side of the Almighty.
Let us start this 2012 thinking of these simple facts, enjoying the signs of Catholic awakening we see here and there and trying, in our own little way, to do our best to bring our contribution of foot soldiers – which, make no mistake, will bring us hatred, mockery, and social isolation – to this nasty, difficult, glorious but, in the end, victorious battle.
Best wishes to everyone