I had to smile – though not always – at reading Father Blake's experiences with, shall we say, Italian administration. As a proud son of the Country, I think I should say a word or two; my short reflections will also, I hope, ground my argument about why Italians are good for the Church, and we need more of them.
Italy is a Country of contrasts. For reasons which have a lot to do with our historic past, we are a rather surprising mixture of an extremely dynamic, efficient, intelligent and productive mentality on one side and a stunning carelessness, inefficiency, stupidity or outright corruption on the other. Which is why foreigners wonder how the Country avoids sinking in the Mediterranean Sea, and Italians wonders where they would be if the various toxic influences polluting a good part of the population (which have their own more or less colourful names: furbismo, menefreghismo, favoritismo, leccaculismo among others) were expunged with a massive exercise in punishment of bad behaviour that the Country – even those who have none of these shortcomings – are ultimately too kind and gentle, too soft-hearted to implement.
But notice this: Italians aren't a mixture of Northern European virtues and Northern African shortcomings. In matters concerning work ethic, efficiency, and honesty they tend to be either 100% of one kind, or 100% of the other. In a country where many cut corners, the honest ones are truly honest; because they are honest out of deeply felt conviction, not out of fear of punishment like, say, pretty many are in Germany.
This polarity is why Italy has peaks or efficiency coupled with pits of inefficiency. This is why Italy as a Country has vastly outperformed England and France since the end of WWII. This is also why so many Italians are – also thanks to an excellent education system – in a position to escape from a country partially suffocated by nepotism and party card politics and can go abroad, and do rather well for themselves.
The matter is therefore, in my eyes, not whether to pick Italians – there is no doubt in my mind we are among the very best intellects on the planet – but rather in the picking of the right ones. Then Italy has many Pacellis, and at least an equal number of, shall we say, aspiring Bergoglios. Though I am sure even Bergoglio would not have been as bad had he been brought up in Italy, see below.
Italy also has traits eminently suited to the Church: the Anglo-Saxon oscillation between Puritanism and utter licence is foreign to them. Countless generation of dominant Catholicism have left them happily immune to the extremes. Never have I seen a bible-bashing street preacher in Italy, but the sense of sin is much more developed than in feminist England. Feminism, Vegetarianism, Environmentalism, animal rights activism, all these extreme “isms” are blessedly absent from Italy compared to most other Western Countries. These is the kind of people you want. Serene, solid-minded, lovers of (cough) God, Country and Family. Pick an Argentinian instead, and you might discover the man is a rotten fruit of Liberation Theology, an Italian in name only. And no, Italians aren't Puritans. But you don't need long to understand the Blessed Virgin looks at them with all their shortcomings and cannot but smile.
There is more. Italy is a country of people smart in ways foreigners not always see. Father Blake notices the small commercial premises where all the family is more or less – more often less – usefully employed; what he has not noticed is that this is the way the wise Italian parents keeps their children busy, teach them duty and responsibility, keep them away from the street and bad company, and keep an eye on them all the time; it may seem inefficient, but it isn't; particularly in places where there would be no other realistic opportunity of employment. Then, these parents will try to help the cousin, the future son-in-law, or the oldish uncle who has lost his job in the foundry. It's the way it works, at least in the healthy way. It can be worse than this, and it often is. But we must consider the constraints of the economic environment if we want to understand how it works.
More Italians, say I. And let them be very patriotic and a tad nationalist as a people (we are), and utterly persuaded of their own awesomeness as individuals (we are that, too: mamma has persuaded us of this from the cradle). You only have to pick the right Italians, and you can do no better.
As the (cough, again…) Duce said: a people of poets, saints, navigators and transvolators. Sure.
But a people of great saints, too, and great warriors who built huge empires, the Church not excluded. And a people with a great common sense, allergic to fanaticism, and with a great sensus catholicus.
But please choose them wisely.
It is very bad that anyone should ever get drunk. Drunkenness is, as people in Anglo-Saxon countries should be reminded far more often, a grave matter and can, given the circumstances, lead a soul to perdition. Notice that no traditional Catholic country has a culture of drunkenness (no, not even Bavaria; merriment yes, drunkenness for the sake of drunkenness, certainly not). This seems to be – together with his opposite, the alcohol Puritanism – rather a speciality of prevalently Protestant countries.
It is, I was saying, bad enough that anyone should get drunk. It is even worse if a priest does it. But it is truly the worst when a drunken priest goes to his keyboard and types a long list of insults to a blogging priest, whom he knows personally for being (the blogger priest) an ex pupil of his (the drunken typist).
Visit the blog and read for yourself. Savour the pleasant sound of the tambourines; the joy of Vatican II; the tolerance, the love of “dialogue”, and the “charitable”, “non-judgmental” attitude of Father John X, a true son of the Church Spring; a man now on his way – and a Spring now on its way – to a hateful autumn before winter, and a sad and sorry death, and (for the priest) judgment.
Pray for Father John X, that he may stay away from the bottle.
Pray that his soul may come out from such spiritual darkness that the reading of a decent blog causes in him drunken rants filled with a hatred that leaves one breathless. A hatred, mind, directed at a former pupil of him; at one for whom Father John X should have been an example. Pray, as you are there, that Father's rant may not have been written whilst drunk, but in a sober state; which seems not credible to me but, if confirmed, could open an horrifying view into a truly dark pit of hatred.
This, ladies and gentlemen, is what the Spring has given us. A generation of angry, bitchy, self-righteous old Sixty-Eighters unable to recognise the failure of their entire life, and the danger for their soul.
To them, God was always wrong and they were always right. They now see with dismay the contempt with which the young generations look at their pathetic, wasted lives. Therefore, they get angry. This chap here says it explicitly only because he is very drunk, or uncommonly evil. But many others think in exactly the same way when they are sober, though they are smarter than to write such emails; which, among other things, could bring the police in their homes and cost them a nice sum to boot.
Father John X reminds me of the angry communists of old, who grew more resentful as Communism was looking, even to them, more and more like the losing side, and a stupid one at that.
In the end, Communism went down so spectacularly that even the resentful old Commies were silenced. We must hope, for the sake of this man, that the same happens to V II before he dies.
And it came to pass the well-known blogger priest wrote a (beautiful) blog post about the alcoholic who drank himself almost to the point of self-annihilation, but this time knocked at the priest’s door not to ask for money – which I am sure Father would not give him, lest he fuels the other’s addiction – but to care for his own salvation, proceeding afterwards to produce a serious, and very beautiful, prayer effort according to his lights.
We are, I am sure, all pleased for this change of mind and wish the chap all the best, and a future without alcoholism to the point of self-destruction. I am reminded of Lucia’s words in the Promessi Sposi: “Dio perdona tante cose per un’opera di misericordia!”, “God forgives (so) many things for a work of mercy!”.
All fine up to here. A good priest, this one, who inspires drunkards to spend half an hour kneeling in prayer.
What seriously angered me immediately upon reading the post is the comment of an obvious V II ultra, who then proceeded to say to Father: “Remember your soul is more at stake than his; God loves Poor Lazarus”, clearly stating that his (the priest’s) own soul is more in danger of damnation than the soul of a possibly terminal alcoholic who has managed a beautiful feat of faith, once. As I write this blog post, no other commenter has questioned these words.
Let me make a couple of observation on this, then, because I can’t read such crap without saying a word or two; and no, don’t give me any of the usual sensitive, PC bollocks, because I have enough of it and won’t even read your comment to the end.
It is a strange, and rather perverted Christianity in which a man who consecrates his life to Christ – and, I am sure, makes a very good job of it – is considered in graver danger of damnation than a self-demolished alcoholic. It is the result of an orgy of goodism that is so worried of feeling good with itself that it forgets goodness in the process.
According to such perverted Christianity, it is better – and as a result, more advisable – to waste one’s life drinking oneself almost to death, and then spend half an hour in prayer in front of the altar, than to dedicate one’s life to Christ and to the salvation of the sheep. The stupidity of this thinking boggles the mind: it devalues – nay: it humiliates – virtues at the same time as it positively encourages to sin. In fact, it makes of sin – of very grave, constantly repeated sin – the best and surest way to Jesus’ love.
I know, it sounds oh so fine. Much of the populist V II crap does. As if Jesus would love the sinner in proportion to his sinfulness. “Blessed the child rapists, because theirs is the Autobahn to heaven?” But you see, in these egalitarian and very stupid times it seems the Gospel’s prodigal son is the better son and the better soul; which is nowhere to read in the Gospel; but boy, it sound sugary enough for nowadays’ saccharin addicted.
And let us talk of Lazarus the beggar, too, the specific man mentioned in the comment. Last time I looked, Lazarus is described as destitute and either a leper or one with huge health issues, but not an alcoholic. And he doesn’t go to heaven because he is a beggar, but because he is good in the eyes of the Lord. Similarly, the rich man is not damned because he is rich, but because he is not good in the eyes of the Lord.
We live in a world that has so much lost the sense of sin, that it even puts the alcoholic above the priest at the price of half an hour of prayer. Then we complain about vocation crisis. Ah, those stupid people of our Christian past, who considered the priest, and not the alcoholic beggar, the example to follow, and the good soul! They should have reserved their esteem and consideration for the drunkard instead! Hey, he has spent half an hour at the altar, has he not! You see, this clearly puts him in a better position in Jesus’ eyes than the one who spends an entire life for Him, because the best triggers of Jesus’ love are just not there: like being an alcoholic, say; or a whore, or a child rapist, or a professional killer. Jesus loves a sinner! Alleluia! That Padre Pio, who was obviously so boringly good… one wonders whether Jesus loved him in the first place. I bet the man never even got drunk once in his life! So sad.
Happily, Christianity tells us exactly the opposite, though this isn’t heard much nowadays: those who are better are those God loves more, and His great saints – many of them, of course, unknown to the world – are those whom He loves most. Christianity also tells us that to be good is good, and we must strive to live a life as devoid of sin as our energies – which we, again, train by living a good life – allow. We do our part to earn Paradise – or rather: to earn Purgatory – by living well, not by living badly; by staying near to the sacraments, not by becoming alcoholics; with fear and trembling, not with utter disregard of God’s laws. I though it was “if you love me, keep my commandments”, not “if you want to be loved more by me, trample them”.
And yes, thankfully for all of us, the Mercy of the Lord is always there just for the asking – which goes with the repenting, of course -. There is always hope, even for the alcoholic, the whore, and the child rapist. We pray that everyone may be saved, as we hope for salvation ourselves; and we are consoled by every show of God’s mercy, because we are also in great need of it. Therefore, we try to walk through life in the fear of the Lord, but we also trust on His mercy when we stray, as we all do. We stay near to the confessional, because we know that in the same way as we rely on God’s mercy, God demands of us that we work towards it; & Co., & Co.
Or perhaps we should forget all this: the Mass, the prayers, the confessions, and the struggles with sin, and become stupidly drunk and, in time, self-demolished alcoholics instead.
Hey, upon a single act of faith our souls would be less at stake than the one of a good priest.
With pleasure I read that Father Blake isn’t your usual weakling who, after receiving a huge tort, whines for a bit and then simply shuts up. Father Blake is now waiting for the answer of the Argus, and further initiatives now include contacting the advertisers after it became clear the Argus article is creating lasting damage.
With much less pleasure I read the counsel of the usual pacificators, shining in their oh so non violent attitude. There is a very rough saying in Italy about how easy it is to be a sodomite with other people’s backside; it is a crude comparison, but a very apt one.
In this particular matter, it is obvious that justice must be pursued, and must be pursued hard. Not only has an individual priest been slandered in the most horrible of ways, but Catholicism in this country is being attacked by the attitude of at least one person involved, with international repercussions.
Forgiveness is one thing, inaction another. You can forgive the enemy before you go to battle, but to battle you go when necessary; Jesus took it on himself to remove the money changers from the temple without thinking “hey, I told them them to move, they didn’t listen to me, I’ll show them how good I am by just letting the matter rest”.
Some people truly seem to believe that the “other cheek” means becoming everyone’s doormat, particularly when they are not the victim themselves. A commenter comes to the point of accusing Father of pursuing his own “vendetta”, and asking him if it is his job to “dish out justice”, and – this is getting popular, of course – if he “is the one who judges”. If she were raped, I dare to think her opinion about giving the other cheek, forgetting, not “dishing out justice” and “not judging” would be more than somewhat different. And yes, the comparison is pertinent: either it is right to pursue justice or it isn’t; either can we “judge” or we can’t; either justice is vendetta or it isn’t; come on, a vicious attack on one man’s reputation with an international echo is certainly bad enough.
Truly, we live in stupid times.
The Christian attitude in this case is to do exactly what Father is doing: pursue justice and pray for his enemies. Kudos to Father for not only doing this, but doing this very publicly, showing that a Catholic priest can be charitable as much as you like, but a tough guy when it is necessary.
I obviously do not know how this will evolve. One can hope the Argus will consent to publish a sufficiently publicised apology, and accept to pay a moderate sum to Father Blake’s “poor fund”. They would get out of this with a semblance of good reputation, at least for showing the will to put some patch on the damage done.
Still, I am afraid things might not be so easy. This is a small province rag, which is apparently not faring well; I can only imagine the slander-prone attitude is, at least in part, due to the desperate need to increase circulation. If this is the case, the job of the editor must already be on the line, and he might not feel motivated to give his superiors a good occasion to sack him. This would, if true, create an alignment of interest between the journalist and the editor. I am assuming here that things truly are bad at the “Argus”; but frankly, if circulation decreases around 20% in only one year – the worst collapse in all England among regional newspapers – I can’t see how things can be other than desperate.
A second alternative would be to sue the damn rag, or at least put solicitors in the middle to force the apology and payment. Personally, this is the way I would suggest, as I understand several good souls have already stepped in offering their services gratis et amore Dei, and the exercise therefore promises to be rather cheap.
Until a decision is taken, and particularly if the Argus does not cooperate and it is decided not to sue, I personally hope Father will continue to expose the Argus’ stupidity not only in the months, but in the years to come, until every cat and dog in Brighton and outside of Brighton knows how things stand and what kind of rag the Brighton Argus is. This can be done very easily, as Father regularly informs the blogging world of his laudable charitable activities, that the Argus considers so complacent, in help of people the Argus writes he considers so disgusting. In the present situation, this should do it for them then; and no, I would not be sorry to see the jobs go; if there is a place for a local newspaper in Brighton the jobs will reappear somewhere else, hopefully with better publishers; if there isn’t, they would have gone anyway.
Let me close with another observation: the shifting of power between the “official” structure of the press and the blogging world. The reaction to the Argus’ stupidity has been fuelled to a good extent by blogs, and the same blogs will be able to do, in time, great harm to the Brighton Argus if this confrontation continues. Exactly the atomised structure of the blogosphere must be a powerful warning for advertisers that widespread hostility to the Argus’ attitude do not make of them the best place to spend one’s advertising money, or for readers that their money might be better spent elsewhere.
Blogs are slowly contributing to a change in the landscape, and for the better.
Congratulations, Father Blake.
Please do not listen to the Grima Wormtongues. We all know you are a first-class Gandalf.
Some of you might know of the vicious attacks of some journalists (that must, on reflection, be the oldest version of the oldest profession in the world; with sexual prostitution emerging on a later and more advanced stage of human organisation) to Father Ray Blake, one of the most interesting blogging priests around and one who can be relied on not keeping his keyboard inactive when he thinks something must be said.
I read the now famous blog post about the derelicts of Brighton when it first appeared and, not approving the general message of it for other reasons, have avoided commenting on it. My luminous example was not followed by some journalists, to whom you are complacent merely if you challenge the usual thinking about drunkards, addicts and other bums; people to whom the general rule applies that they must be ignored in practice and sanctified in theory. Thus, if you point out to the way some of them customarily and routinely abuse the generosity of their helpers – an abuse, I add, fully to be expected every time one gives a scrounger something for nothing – you are being, well, complacent. Ah, the beauty of political correctness.
Father Blake has invited the journalist in question to help him physically in his complacent work for the poor of Brighton, but I doubt feel-good protection of bums will come as far as that. I for myself make the following reflection: if you want to avoid criticism talking about “the poor”, the only way to follow is to canonise them whilst living and carefully avoid any criticism.
You see, in this country most people are not interested in knowing reality as it is. Their main aim from morning to evening is to feel good with themselves. Everyone going in the way of this continuous self-celebration must, therefore, be bad.
Woe to the one who challenges their comfortable fantasies about the poor “victims of society”, then; fantasies that are the very essence of the complacency they criticise.
In the matter of Cardinal O’Brien, Father Ray Blake does me the great honour of a mention, and actually of an entire blog post in answer to questions I had posed in a previous blog post of mine. His answers are, I must say, very interesting, and I will therefore report them here together with some short – as far as I can ever do “short” – observations of mine.
I had posed the question: “Is it probable that no one had noticed?” , to which he answers, inter alia, as follows:
“The great problem of the clergy, is that we tend to be naive about both scandal and sex.”
“We tend to be guarded about calumny, even calumnious thought. Especially today when we clergy live solitary lives, it is more than likely we are completely in the dark about what a priest is doing in the parish next door and even more so what our bishop is up to…”
I found the answer consoling. I had already stated that “innocence is slow in discovering filth”, and it seems to me Father Blake beautifully repeats the concept. This also tells us, though, that the homosexual wolves will have an easy game in not being discovered, or exposed, by the innocent and honest people they have around them. If I reason correctly, this means the homosexual predator will be able to carefully study his own environment and decide when and whom to attack, in the reasonable certainty that even if things were to go massively wrong (seen from his perspective) the probability of getting away with it will be high.
to the question “Is it possible no one ever sent notes and warnings to his superiors?” the following consideration (again, inter alia) are added:
“There is no mechanism for reporting suspicions to superiors, and certainly not if one’s suspicion is about a bishop”. [..]
“Until the appointment of Archbishop Memini there was always the feeling that his predecessors were both unlikely to forward ones concerns to Rome and were more than likely to copy any letter to the Bishop concerned”.
This I found rather disquieting. In my innocence, I always thought a carefully worded anonymous letter would awaken the interest of some vigilant chap at the Congregation for the Clergy, whose role is – I have always thought – exactly to react to situations which would require an anonymous letter. Of course, no one expects the Spanish inquisition, but that Rome does not have a structure able and willing to cope with friendly advice is very sad indeed. It means, among other things, that a bishop only needs the friendship or gratitude of the nuncio to be fairly sure of impunity. This, in turn, will allow him to fish in his own pond for the homosexual fishes undisturbed. One starts to understand how situations like “Miami Vice” can happen.
3. To the question : “Is it possible that such warnings were sent and given, and were ignored by the competent authorities without much thinking, or because of the wrong thinking” the following reflection is added:
As far as complaints made to bishops or other superiors they are unlikely to act on mere suspicion or rumour. Sexual crimes especially always tend to happen in private, and there tends to be little evidence, and generally it is one persons word against another and without evidence their must be a presumption of innocence.
Again, an alarming picture emerges. There is, in modern parlance, an awful lack of proper governance mechanisms, and non-existence of proper codes of conduct like they exist everywhere else (say: to whom one may complain or denounce a criminal offence; who examines the complaint/denunciation; how the whistleblowers are protected, and the like).
It seems to me that a system is in place in which many do not even see the evil (good for them, I add); those who get in touch with the evil are basically left alone, as they do not have any serious interlocutor (the nuncio can’t be trusted; the bishop is obviously extremely dangerous) and Rome is far away and, in substance, uninterested or too busy. The reticence, which I find excessive, to act on rumours (not with condemnations, of course; but with carefully conducted investigations) might well do the rest.
This situation also is in stark contrast with what happens to the poor priest, who can be suspended from his functions and/or stipend at the first totally unproved allegation made by some boy or mother; suspension leading, as we all know, to a substantial reputational damage even when the poor priest is, in the end, acquitted (last time I looked, 90% of the cases?). Granted, in this case the accusers have a name; but the difference is striking.
In modern organisations, the importance of whistleblowing as a way to encourage and enforce proper behaviour has been long – and rightly so – acknowledged. Many blogs exist who are dedicated to whistleblowing, and whose existence is one of the main reasons anonymous blogging is not only allowed, but positively protected in all Western democracies. Anonymity isn’t bad per se, and well-trained people are very good at recognising what is probably private revenge from what is probably useful denunciation of authentic criminal behaviour.
I am told the Latin Inquisition had post boxes (in Rome and, I suppose, elsewhere) where everyone could put anonymous letters about heretics and the like. Every lead was followed. I am sure most leads… led to nothing, but the system seems to me more accurate, more protective of the sheep and the priests, and in general fairer than what happens today.
I hope the next Pope will dedicate great time and energy to these issues. Without proper rules of governance, the danger of further “Miami Vice” will always be present; particularly so, as we are afflicted by the disgraceful generation of guitars and tambourines priests, now elevated to purple and red.