10 May 2016

Suckers? (3)

Screwtape summoned a Club servant to fill his glass. He shifted in his chair, animated by the recollection of his own triumphs. "The master stroke was my brilliant idea for a document which would be structured around ambiguity ... the beauty of this was that it introduced into the teaching of the Church just that primacy of imprecision, of self-contradiction, of deliberately cultivated vagueness, of programmed disintegration and fissiparous confusion, which is the essence of our rules and traditions down here in the Pandaemonium Club. It also has the strategic advantage of making the mortals unable to pinpoint explicit error in a text which eschews the heresy of explicitness." He waited as the glass was filled, and raised it to his nose. The dogmatisms, perhaps, of Savonarola and of Bertrand Russell excitingly blended? With deeper hints of Martin Luther?

"At the next War Cabinet meeting Sodgrope, iniquitous careerist, claimed as his own a brilliant cultural transformation which was in fact a construct of mine ... I cannot wait to welcome, to embrace him ... to draw him in ... to make make him one with myself ... ouroborinda ... ... ... You see, in the bad old days, Roman Pontiffs passed on to their successors what they had themselves received. This rendered most difficult all our hopes for reconstructing their religion upon lines which reflect the luminous realism of Hell. The human means by which such continuity was achieved included often the successive elections of men who had been closely associated with a previous Pope. This used to be done by, for example, the election of senior deacons in those days when the deacons were the pope's first ministers. Or by the election of a Ratzinger after a Wojtila ... and what a tragedy that was ... the waste of nearly three decades when we could only achieve our ends by oblique means ... My new policy (and, whatever Sodgrope may claim, it was mine) helped the Cardinal Electors to understand the need for Fresh Blood and a Wind of Change and a Radically New Approach ... and for the election of a man from the most distant place on earth ..."

Wormwood interjected: "And a narcissist of limited intelligence"; Screwtape gave a weary sigh. "Well, there may be those who consider him somewhat self-obsessed, but, my dear nephew, what the Infernal Actuaries demand of us is not abuse of the Enemy and his associates, however satisfying, but concrete results. Remind me to send you a leaflet about the new Correctional Training Techniques being developed for unsuccessful tempters ... it is most copiously illustrated ... What is truly to our purpose is that Bergoglio is certainly a man with a contempt for what he inherited and found in Rome, and that this gives us rich opportunities to contrive rupture ... opportunities which have already yielded results ... fine piece of work ... crucial consolidation of my own position in the current power structure ... decanter ... Sodgrope ... Daemoniorum laetitia ... Me ... ambiguities ... drink ... Kasper ... want ..."

The effort of his exposition had clearly been tiring work for the aging Spirit. Ignoring his nephew, Screwtape drained the decanter into his glass, grasped it with crackling  knuckles, and buried his nose in the fumes. What was this? H G Wells matured in barrels impregnated with Lloyd George? Or Simone de Beauvoir with an aftertaste of Major Hardcastle? John Wither blended with ... After a minute or two, the glass slipped from his fingers, unloading its ambiguous contents over the dreaming tempter.

On tiptoe, still fearing the wrath of the mendacious old bore, Wormwood crept away.


mark wauck said...

As it happens, yesterday I came across this relevant passage from Michael Davies' "The Order of Melchisedech":

Those who have read "Cranmer's Godly Order" will realize the manner in which, to a large extent, the orthodox bishops and priests found themselves drawn into an almost inevitable process of compromise during the English Reformation. In the initial stages, Cranmer was intelligent enough not to provoke large scale clerical resistance by formulating his demands in a manner which would amount to a formal denial of the Catholic faith. But the longer this process continued the less likelihood there was of those who had been drawn into it ever making a stand. Just as has been the case since Vatican II, four hundred years earlier there was large scale lay resistance, very little clerical resistance, and practically no open resistance on the part of the bishops. Gardiner and Bonner were notable exceptions. I have described in Cranmer's Godly Order how Bishop Bonner reached the point where he realized that he must either stand up for what he believed to be true or abandon any claim to personal integrity.

More briefly than in "Cranmer's Godly Order," Davies expands on these ideas in True and False Liturgical Reform.

Back in 2003 Avery Cardinal Dulles wrote an article, True and False Reform. It offers an interesting, not to say bemusing, contrast.

Chazalami said...

Bravo, Father.
James iv, 7: Stand firm against the devil, and he will run away from you.

It is all very well running away to dodge the devil in time of temptation, but in times of tribulation a qualitatively different order applies and different tactics are required. Prudence be damned, this is an hour for confrontation through the assertive recklessness of faith. (An illicit, homemade distillation of St. Margaret of Cortona and Kierkegaard, I think.)

BobBrookes said...

Absolutely Brilliant! I have really enjoyed these poignant posts. Thank you!

fr. Thomas said...


Jesse said...

The "mendacious old bore" indeed! As C. S. Lewis warned in the original introduction to the Screwtape Letters, "Readers are advised to remember that the devil is a liar. Not everything that Screwtape says should be assumed to be true, even from his own angle. There is wishful thinking in hell as well as on earth."

But even when such allowances are made...

Simple Simon said...

Fr. Heartfelt thanks for ‘‘Suckers’ – a superb master class treat of much-needed parrhesia .