5 February 2016

Bishop Schneider and Cowardly Rabbits

With great diffidence and respect, I venture upon the gentlest, most scholarly, most dreadfully pedantic, heraldic disagreement with Bishop Schneider concerning his suggestion that the "semi-heretical bishops and Cardinals" who swarm around everywhere today are to be likened to "cowardly rabbits". You see, our admirable English Cardinal Allen, the chap who was all primed to be Archbishop of Canterbury and Lord Chancellor of England if only the Armada had succeeded, had as his Arms Argent three conies passant sable. Yet His Eminence was thoroughly red-blooded: his contingency plans for post-Liberation England appeared to be based on the assumption that the Protestant elite would ... er ... no longer be a noticeable factor in the general over-all situation as such. He is the only Cardinal whose statue stands proudly looking down on the High Street in Oxford, securely perched on the still inviolate Rhodes Front of Oriel College. Viva il Cardinale.

But perhaps they don't have conies in Kazhakhstan.

Nevertheless, if Bishop Athanasius is just the merest tadge unreliable on rabbits, he is absolutely dead right about the evils of "Pope-centrism", "Papolatry". Let us examine that disagreeable subject with all the vigour of General Woundwort ("Come back, you cowards, dogs aren't dangerous") himself. (Google Watership Down if you're a bit lost here.)

Despite the rhetoric that some prelates employ in the rather trying euphoria which follows every Papal Conclave, we have no divine assurance whatsoever that any Pope after S Peter ever has been or is "God's choice". Even as a corporate collegium, the Cardinal Electors are not protected in their prudential decisions. That would be an absurd dogma. I will not insult my readers by inserting here a history lesson about 'bad popes' (google 'Marozia' or 'Pornocracy') except to say that we can find more whole-hearted moral evil in quite a number of First Millennium popes than in the titillating iniquities of an occasional Renaissance libertine. Popes, needless to say, are protected from defining heretical propositions ex cathedra; but they are not vi ipsius muneris necessarily good or wise or nice men. (In 1559, Papa Caraffa was mad, bad, and nasty, had done a great deal to sabotage the Catholic cause in England, and Archbishop Hethe of York said more or less that in the House of Lords. But Hethe and all the other English diocesans, by God's grace, refused, at great personal cost, the orders of Bloody Bess to break communion with Rome.) Moreover, vi ipsius muneris, popes are not even protected against being heretics or expressing heresy (google Liberius, Honorius, and John XXII); only against  defining a piece of heretical doctrine ex cathedra. As Cardinal Pell made clear more than a year ago, a small number of popes has been very, very good; a small number very, very bad; and the overwhelming majority somewhere or other in between.

Nor is a world-wide personality cult of the Roman Pontiff required or even encouraged by Catholic Dogma. Such a cult is, surely, a very modern corruption of the Petrine Office, and indicates too much influence within the Church of the modern, Media-driven cult of the 'celebrity', so characteristic of our global village. Perhaps it is not a coincidence that the first glimmerings we had of this cult were during the 1930s, the decade of the Nuremburg rallies, the decade also when Cardinal Pacelli (later Pius XII, but then Secretary of State) enjoyed displaying his charisma by going on foreign, even world-wide, tours and became known as il vice-Papa, il Cardinale volante. I wonder if these circuses have disadvantages as well as advantages. Poor shy Papa Ratzinger obviously loathed doing them, but went through it all out of a sense of duty: I wonder how much the strain sapped his declining strength. (Even Madonna seems to do them less, dear old thing ... barus de m'o thumos pepoetai, gona d'ou pheroisi/ ta de pota laipser' eon orkhesth' isa nebrioisi ... as another ancient lady, called Sappho, once put it). It was, moreover, Papa Pacelli who appears to have started the silly game of having babies handed up to him while swaying along in his Gestatorial Chair.

We need to clear out of the way the fawning superstition that faithful, obedient Catholics, episcopal, clerical, or lay, are supposed to regard whoever happens currently to be the bishop of Rome as some sort of god-like superman who never makes mistakes and is above all criticism (until he dies or abdicates ... when, of course, the vermin all emerge squealing loudly from the bilge of the Barque of S Peter). When a newly appointed bishop promised that he would strive to be a "worthy representative of Pope Francis [or Pope Anybody]", the silly fellow should have had someone to tell him that bishops (according to the teaching of Leo XIII, not to mention Vatican II) are not Romani Pontificis vicarii, but Apostolorum successoresWe need to do what we can to educate our obtuse and ignorant Media to abandon their assumption that the Catholic Church is some sort of Stalinist or North Korean dictatorship in which a throw-away, off-the-cuff remark made by one man in an airliner might constitute the discarding of the teachings of two or four millennia. Indeed, I wish the last two pontiffs had never started these wretched airliner interviews. Even Pius XII, for all his faults, would have known better.

So .... three (cubed?) cheers for Bishop Schneider, and to Rorate for carrying, two or three days ago, that exclusive and important interview. Papolatria delenda est.

If the cry goes up to drink a toast to our beloved Holy Father Pope Francis I the Roman Pontiff and Vicar of S Peter, nobody will spring to their feet faster, or hold their head higher while enthusiastically doing exactly that, than I will. And without any water on the table at all.

But I will drink a toast to Holy Tradition first.

10 comments:

vetusta ecclesia said...

Cardinal Vin seems particularly prone to larding every statement with multiple references to Pope Francis.

Nicolas Bellord said...

You may well be right about the scarcity of rabbits in Kazakhstan. See:

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/e/ea/Oryctolagus_cuniculus_distribution_Map.png

Reading the Wikipedia article one realises how aggressive rabbits are and certainly not cowardly. Apparently the word Hispania means the land of rabbits which perhaps explains Cardinal Allen's choice of them for his coat of arms?

dunmowflitch said...

With the greatest respect, Father, could you desist from highlighting portions of your text in different colours? It actually diverts the eye away from the rest. I am sure in your teaching days you would not have approved of your students marking library books in fluorescent marker pen. Trust us to read, mark, learn and inwardly digest.

Charlesdawson said...

Rabbits can have a very nasty bite, as many a careless vet or imprudently teasing child can testify. You can only push them so far....

Andreas said...

This might be a reference to "lepus galeatus" (a coward). A rabbit is a timid animal that runs away, hence soldiers who ran from battle were once called "lepores galeati".

W.C. Hoag said...

Very well, dear Father, I can accept toasting the Holy Father without any water upon that table, but I cannot endure the thought of toasting the Monarch without a finger bowl of water upon the table. Sláinte!

Liam Ronan said...

The shop-worn metaphor is 'He/she/it froze like a rabbit caught in the headlights'.

Much worse than mere cowardice. Numbing suicidal bestial terror that the end is nigh. In that respect I believe Bishop Schneider might have named it.

Amateur Brain Surgeon said...

Excellent, Father. ABS had just emerged for Silflay when he read your reference to Watership Down. Now that was a very fun read.

Matthew Roth said...

In America, we say he or she was like a deer in the headlights.

Thomas said...

"About halfway across I came on a rabbit sitting on a stump, cleaning his silly face with his paws. He was a pretty scared animal when I crept up behind him and placed a heavy forepaw on his shoulder. I had to cuff his head once or twice to get any sense out of it at all. At last I managed to extract from him that Mole had been seen in the Wild Wood last night by one of them. It was the talk of the burrows, he said, how Mole, Mr. Rat's particular friend, was in a bad fix; how he had lost his way, and "They" were up and out hunting, and were chivvying him round and round. "Then why didn't any of you DO something?" I asked. "You mayn't be blest with brains, but there are hundreds and hundreds of you, big, stout fellows, as fat as butter, and your burrows running in all directions, and you could have taken him in and made him safe and comfortable, or tried to, at all events." "What, US?" he merely said: "DO something? us rabbits?" So I cuffed him again and left him. There was nothing else to be done. At any rate, I had learnt something; and if I had had the luck to meet any of "Them" I'd have learnt something more--or THEY would.'"
(from Wind In The Willows by Kenneth Graham)