And it came to pass the Bishop of Rome decided no one can be made “Monsignore” anymore until he is 65 and has, presumably, lost almost all trains to become a bishop.
Apparently, this should help stem careerism.
It might well be, but yours truly cannot avoid posing himself the following questions:
1. Monsignors have been around for several centuries now. Was it an ingenious way to promote careerism, or were there other motives? Like for example giving a particular recognition to priests who would not become bishops, or were not interested in becoming such?
2. How will the abolition of the title of Monsignor help to eradicate careerism? People are careerist, or they aren’t. They aren’t careerist because the title of Monsignor exists. Those who were careerist before will be just as careerist afterwards. They might though, in case, become even more slimy in order to be made bishop. I see a lot of particularly “pastoral” (read: heretical, and forgetful of Christ) ambitious priests in our future. Conversely, those who were good and holy and humble (really humble) men of God will remain so upon being made Monsignore. See, ahem, picture above. Please also notice the measure is not retroactive: not one of those careerist priest who have apparently caused this decision will lose his title.
3. Is the principle itself of giving recognition to people deemed worthy now suddenly bad? What is this, rank egalitarianism? Is not a bishop considered ipso facto a particularly worthy shepherd? Is the appointment to Cardinal not considered a great personal honour? Does the Church not give recognition, through his own organisations, right and left, even to fag scientists? Yes, we know: not all of these honours will be wisely given. But this is human nature. The execution might be at times unsound, but the principle is certainly fine. Is not in the end even the beatifications and canonisations made for this reason, that worthy people can be taken as help and example for the others? By the thousands of saints already available there is no need to make new ones, surely? And still, the same V II Pope who now tell us that careerism is bad now proceed to their own serial beatification and canonisation!? Why? *
4. In certain situations, the title of Monsignore is (was) just what the doctor ordered. Say, you have a new Ordinariate and the one you want to put at its head is married, so he can’t be a bishop. Appointment to Monsignor, et voila’, everything is in its right order! One wonders what will happen in future in such situations. And I do not think of converts necessarily. A military Ordinariate, for example, is another of those situations.
One may understand the reason for the measure. But I doubt this has been thought through accurately.
There will not be one single careerist less, at least because of this measure. But many occasions to extol the work of good and holy priest will be lost.
It is, in fact, as if the Queen would abolish the Honours List because there are people who would do everything to be among those honoured.
A very Argentine measure.
* note for the distracted readers: canonisations are infallible, but not obligatory. No doctor has ever ordered a canonisation. Even in the presence of several miracles, a Pope is always free to decide whether or not to proceed. One reason for his prudence could be, for example, to avoid giving the impression that the canonisations of Popes are self-serving.
Read here an article of the National Catholic Reporter about the vocation crisis among the US Hispanics.
The article is particularly interesting for some, I think, rather extraordinary affirmations of Auxiliary Bishop Nevares of Phoenix; affirmations that I would like to share with you:
Auxiliary Bishop Eduardo Nevares of Phoenix believes that because Hispanics have such a strong sense of family that they don’t want to leave to attend seminary
This is very interesting. We learn from this that in the past, when Mexico and Latin America didn’t even know how to spell “vocation crisis”, the sense of the family must not have been so strong. Bad times, I suppose.
Even better is the second explanation:
Additionally, young Hispanic men have a sense of obligation to help support the family financially, which they cannot do in the seminary.
This is also very instructive, because it teaches us that in the past, when Mexico was infinitely poorer than the Hispanics today living in the US are, young boys did not hesitate in plunging their families into destitution and utter misery.
Bishop Nevares’s conclusion is, then, perfectly aligned with his “pass the buck” premises:
“We need to persuade young married people that having a son that is a priest is honorable and will bring many blessings to a family,” said the bishop. “It is a wonderful gift to have a child that is a priest.”
Yes, let us make a bit of marketing for the priesthood, says the bishop. If we just could explain. Perhaps a Power Point presentation would be useful? This way the bishop could impress the family, who would then say to him “Pedro and Armando are already too much into wine and songs, but we’ll talk to our youngest, Benito, who might be interested”.
It seems to me that bishop Nevares looks for the culprit in the wrong place – the society out there – rather than where he should – inside the Church structures, and in the mentality reigning within her -.
The mere idea of a bishop thinking that priesthood be a matter of mentality of his faithful is not very reassuring. This is an entirely secular thinking, which in turn cannot but reflect the way a diocese organises its affairs and, in turn, the way it is seen by its faithful. A Church focused on the world will never have enough vocations, a Church focused on God always will.
Is it a surprise that the Hispanic population, who has been so systematically deprived of the very bases of Catholic instruction – at the point of giving massive support to Obama in the 2008 election – does not produce vocations? Where is the relentless defence of Catholic values that would allow the Hispanic families to rediscover the importance and dignity of the priestly office? Where are the brave, manly priests able to inflame a child’s heart with love for God and to let him desire to be, one day, himself on that pulpit, fighting God’s fight? Where is the constant stress of the role of the priest as Alter Christus, the explanation and constant reminding of his unique role in the economy of salvation, the constant stressing of the miracle which takes place daily through him?
If you make of a priest a vaguely pathetic wannabe social worker who can’t marry – and rather often not even a very masculine one at that – is it a surprise that this priest will not be taken as model, will not inspire anyone to want to become as largely irrelevant and vaguely superfluous as they themselves are? Vocations are the result of the young being taught properly and being instructed about the role of the priest, and of the young seeing these priest both taking their sacramental role seriously and fighting the good fight. Prestige is not a matter of marketing or of persuasion, and the uniqueness of the priest’s role can’t be properly transmitted if the rest of the church’s activity, and the daily actions of the priests themselves, contradict the marketing slogans.
I wonder how many Traditional Masses these dioceses with vocation problems have, because I do not know any situation in which a massive use of the Tridentine Mass doesn’t go together with healthy, or very healthy, vocations. For crying out loud, the SSPX is in imperfect communion and they don’t know where to put all their seminarians – seminarians who look forward to suspensio a divinis the day they are ordained! – and reasonably wealthy, growing communities of dioceses perfectly aligned to Rome complain about vocations and blame the “secular mentality” out there? Where do they think the conservative/traditionalist orders live, on Mars?
Again, both the analysis of the bishop and the proposed solution show where the problem lie: the consciousness that vocations will come when Catholicism (in the liturgy; in the instruction of the faithful; in the defence of Catholic values) is taken seriously again is just not there.
The capture of Ratko Mladic, the notorious bastard of the Bosnian War, once again reminded me of a similar Italian situation, how Italians dealt with it, and why.
The Italy of the post WW I years was extremely explosive, and during the “biennio rosso” (1919-1921) it seemed that an outright civil war was in the cards. As it is well-known, a de-facto alliance of liberals, landowners, industrialists, conservative Catholics and Fascists put an end to this danger.
When it was clear that the Fascists had got the upper hand, they had to deal with the opposition. But they weren’t Serbians, or Spanish commies. In the end, everyone wanted to live peacefully, and leave adversaries alone as much as this could be reasonably done. The most used device to “pacify” the country was typically Italian: castor oil.
In two words, a small troop of Fascist activist would present themselves to the home of the relevant chap (a socialist, or an anti-fascist liberal or Catholic) and invite him to drink the castor oil. The refusal to drink obviously meant open war, but the acceptance of the “medical aid”a sort of token: one would abstain from anti-fascist activity and would, henceforth, be left alone. No blood, no murders, no widows, no orphans. Not even physical violence. You can call this fascist oppression and I won’t say it was pleasant. But given the circumstances I call it absolutely genial, very Italian, and very Catholic.
This praxis, savagely criticised in the following decades, was in my eyes extremely civilised, and I don’t know any other country where such limitless hate was set aside in such a bloodless way. Humiliating as the drinking of the castor oil was, it was a humiliation meant to consolidate Fascism in power without tragedies, and keeping even one’s adversaries totally unscathed.
I must honestly say that, whilst the civil war phase at the end of WW II was much bloodier than the Fascists ever dreamt to be, most anti-Fascists were honest and decent enough to remember the wisdom of the treatment and, when their hour struck, caused many bottles of castor oil to go over the pharmacy counter and, from there, down different throats. Again, I see in this the way of a country where even the strongest hatred very rarely causes people to forget a sense of humanity and Christian piety; not even then, when those now in the commanding position wouldn’t even define themselves as Christians. Such is the power of an all-pervading Catholic attitude.
The most humorous way to describe in very visual terms the difference between the Serbian and the Italian attitude can be seen in this fragment of a Don Camillo/Peppone film, so popular at the time because so adherent to the Italian reality.
Unfortunately there are no subtitles, but the story is easily told.
1) An old fascist (the great Paolo Stoppa, dressed as a Redskin) has profited from the Carnival to come back to his old village; but he has been recognised from Peppone’s commies and is now very afraid something truly bad may happen to him. He takes refuge by Don Camillo.
2) Don Camillo reminds him that he would feel “safer” if it wasn’t for the castor oil the other had made him drink many yeasr before. The other has the usual excuses: come on, we were mere boys then…
3) Don Peppone, the commie mayor, intervenes after having gone in from the window. He carries a bottle of…. castor oil. Doctor’s orders, he says. “It will do you good”. An iron bar strenghtens the doctor’s advice considerably.
4) The Fascist chap makes a first attempt at escaping, but is stopped. He frees himself a second time, reaches for Don Camillo’s gun, threatens Peppone. “Don’t be stupid, it’s loaded”, says Don Camillo.
5) Now it’s iron bar against gun. Peppone must drink.
6) Triumphant, the fascist chap sends him away. “Now go and call your reds. Perhaps it will cost me my skin, but I won’t go to hell alone”.
7) Don Camillo smiles. He fills a glass. He remarks about how good the oil’s quality is. “You’ll like it”, he says. When the chap threatens him, he informs him that the gun is not loaded, and overcomes him with sheer physical strenght. “I’ll count up to three, then I’ll pulverise you by mere force of slaps”. The chap has no choice but to drink. He is then sent away with the advice of “dressing as a hare” before he is found by Peppone’s boys.
8) Everything seems fine, but Jesus now talks to Peppone: he has lied. “If I had told that the gun wasn’t loaded, Peppone would have massacred him”, tries Don Camillo. “You could have spoken when the redskin forced Peppone to drink the oil!”, says Jesus. “But then Peppone wouldn’t have drunk!”, answers the cheeky priest feigning indifference whilst lighting a cigar.
9) Jesus calls this “vengeance”, Camillo replies with “Justice”. When Jesus insists on him having a “profound sense of justice”, his words are clear: “justice demands that violence and lie be punished”. Camillo’s eyes fall on the castor oil bottle. “Ah, you understood me well!”, says Jesus.
10) At this point, resistance is futile. Camillo tries to cheat, but then fills the glass properly. Before he drinks, he movingly says: “in the end, my Lord, this will remind me of my youth”.
I hope that this little, delightful sketch has added some sun to your Sunday, and that it has explained to you the difference between mad fanaticism, and a Catholic approach to the enemy.