31 October 2015

Lay Power

Two things have struck me about the last month; the first is: how much of the fury about the Synodal fixings has been expressed by laymen and laywomen. You may think this is because presbyters are often nervous about putting their heads above parapets; I have heard the view that bishops in the Catholic Church have more ways of bringing pressure to bear on clergy they dislike than do the poor toothless old dears who discharge episkope in the C of E. Possibly; but I am more inclined to think it is because orthodox and traditionalist movements in the Catholic Church are so very substantially lay-run and lay-dominated. Rather like the lay Wardens and Brethren of the great Medieval Guilds, they are the powerful people who call upon clergy to do for them the essential things that only clergy can do ... and, like old-style fags grateful to be noticed by the Bloods of the Upper Sixth, we tug our forelocks and jump to it. They are very much in the driving seat. It is in the more liberal corners of the 'mainstream' that naked, unreformed clericalism still flourishes and members of the plebs sancta Dei are bossed around by any ignorant clerical know-all who gets his kicks out of endlessly misinforming them about "the Council".

The other thing I have noticed is that the natural and splendid and time-honoured Catholic instinct to avoid saying critical or disrespectful things about the man who is Sovereign Pontiff is increasingly wearing thinner and thinner. This, I think, is largely because so many of us, clergy and layfolk, bloggers and blogreaders, simply do not know how to understand and interpret the endlessly unkind expressions which flow from the os Petri. Especially after the gentle courtesy and personal charm of Pope Benedict, the predictable condemnations and the merciless language in which Pope Francis' views are couched are so difficult to gloss. Is it simply that this is Latin American culture? Is it because in Argentina nobody listens to what you say unless you give them a good kicking first? Is it something about the particular psychology or even the physiology of this Successor of S Peter? Has Jesuitry got anything to do with it? Does he expect us to be cowed by his words or is he 'up for' us to reply in kind, tit for tat, insult for insult, with lots of jolly and good-humoured knock-about fun? All the stuff about parrhesia ... does he mean it, or is it just code for "If you're in agreement with me I expect you to talk loud and to talk often. Oh, and by the way, if you aren't, well, I am the pope and I've got your card marked already."?

We cannot know how much longer le bon Dieu will permit this hermeneutically unfathomable pontificate to last. But it is surely clear that we are going to need very much more than the usual ration of daily grace to get through it. Come, Holy Ghost ...

Consolator alme, veni,
linguas rege, corda leni;
nihil fellis aut veneni
     sub tua praesentia.


Nicolas Bellord said...

Now the Synod is over it is difficult not to believe that his Holiness Pope Francis has an agenda to change the church in a certain way and he may sincerely believe in this and believe it to be correct. However what the Synod has revealed is the means he is prepared to use to force this agenda. Perhaps that is how things are done in South America but it does look like using the end to justify the means.

Liam Ronan said...

Dear Father, you observe (rightly) ..."so many of us, clergy and layfolk, bloggers and blogreaders, simply do not know how to understand and interpret the endlessly unkind expressions which flow from the os Petri."

My own belief is that Bergolio ululates a kind of South American theological version of the late Jelly-Roll Morton's and Louie Armstrong's 'scat'jazz, i.e. vocal improvisation of non-sense words and expressions, which causes the traditionalist and orthodox faithful alike to suffer from what the Great Satchmo once identified as the 'Heebie Jeebies'.

Tamquam said...

I cannot speak for the Catholic experience in Latin American in general, still less of the Argentinian experience in particular as I am an American raised in Mexico and having lots of dealings with clergy and laity in California. I report what I have seen myself and heard from the Mexican people here.

Mexican clergy, even (and perhaps especially) those of humble origins, tend to treat most of the Latin American faithful very poorly. They tend to be imperious, demanding, and generally rude (unless the person before them is clearly of the upper class). In their preaching they tend to be great scolds (unless preaching to Americans in English), freely informing their flocks of the depth and extent of their ignorance, stupidity, love of vice, general inadequacy, and to be sure, niggardliness in regards the Church. All of which is true, yet ... It is as if barrels full of vinegar were good for what ails them.

The strange thing is that nobody can figure out why so many Hispanics are leaving the Church.

There are exceptions, to be sure, for which one gives thanks to God. The wonder is that the churches are as full as they are (and the Spanish Masses are generally packed on Sunday). Even so, these faithful are a tiny minority of the Hispanic population. The official census figure for my parish show 28,000 households, of which 80% are Hispanic, of which we see far less than 10% even on the High Holy Days, Christmas and Ash Wednesday.

A big part of the situation regarding the laity's influence on the clergy here in California, and probably in the US in general, centres on two factors. First, the bulk of Hispanics coming to the US are from the lower class, which after all, makes up the bulk of Hispanic society to start with. They are abysmally educated, and that by what is in effect a Socialist, government run educational system. The upper classes are well set up where they are and tend to stay where they are, we don't see many of them here. The upshot is that there are not many well educated, well formed leaders, the people tend to look to the clergy for leadership. Secondly, as so very many of them are in the US illegally they tend to want to keep their heads down and are too busy simply eking out a living to keep informed about what's going on in the Church, much less have the basic catechatical background to understand it. They sure as heck aren't going to express their opinions to Father!

I hope some part of this little diatribe sheds some light on your question, dear Father. I'll stop now.

philipjohnson said...

Father,i love your writings and this last one made me smile!How long will this pontificate last?As long as The Holy Ghost allows is ,i think,the answer.I continue to pray for the Bishop of Rome.Keep writing Father.God bless.

Stephen said...

I'm not sure what exactly supreme, immediate and universal jurisdiction means. But we may find out, and I would bet it would be informed in no small measure by this from Paul VI

GOR said...

Yes, Father, I too am struck by the stark difference in approach and manner of Pope Francis, from that of Pope Benedict. While the uninformed initially railed about the ‘PanzerKardinal’ and ‘God’s Rottweiler’, those who really knew then-Cardinal Ratzinger spoke about his gentle and gentlemanly manner, his humility and courtesy.

For so many of us, he soon became ‘Our German Shepherd’ – meant in the best sense of a strong, fearless protector and defender.

Somehow, ‘Our Argentinian Shepherd’ doesn’t evoke similar warm feelings.

mark wauck said...

Cardinal Dolan's words go a long way to explaining the animus that Fr Hunwicke notes. One wonders at the all too obvious hatred among some for the very notion of normality:


"Can I suggest as well that there is now a new minority in the world and even in the Church? I am thinking of those who, relying on God’s grace and mercy, strive for virtue and fidelity: Couples who—given the fact that, at least in North America, only half of our people even enter the sacrament of matrimony—approach the Church for the sacrament; couples who, inspired by the Church’s teaching that marriage is forever, have persevered through trials; couples who welcome God’s gifts of many babies; a young man and woman who have chosen not to live together until marriage; a gay man or woman who wants to be chaste; a couple who has decided that the wife would sacrifice a promising professional career to stay at home and raise their children—these wonderful people today often feel themselves a minority, certainly in culture, but even, at times in the Church! I believe there are many more of them than we think, but, given today’s pressure, they often feel excluded.

"Where do they receive support and encouragement? From TV? From magazines or newspapers? From movies? From Broadway? From their peers? Forget it!

"They are looking to the Church, and to us, for support and encouragement, a warm sense of inclusion. We cannot let them down!

"I am pleased that the final report of the synod was a vast improvement over the original working text, in large part because it expressed esteem, support and encouragement for those who try their best to live by the light of the Gospel—and who are succeeding! This new minority not only needs encouragement; they give all of us encouragement! We thank them for their witness! They give us confidence that the Gospel has not lost its power.

"One of the most successful gatherings we have in the archdiocese happens on Saturday evenings in a midtown parish, and attracts a thousand or more young adults who come for prayer before the Eucharist, confession, song, and, especially, good company with those who share deep Catholic values in a culture and city that can indeed be at times antagonistic. The name of their gathering is revealing: Catholic Underground! That’s the new minority who give their bishop so much hope! May their tribe increase!"

Highland Cathedral said...

I did not ask him to repeat it as I was a bit taken aback when he said it and I am therefore not absolutely sure that I heard him correctly but I THINK that a member of the clergy (I leave his status deliberately vague) said to me recently that if Francis were minded to admit the divorced and remarried to Communion, God would make sure that he did not survive long enough to put pen to paper.

Jacobi said...

I agree Father, There has been a substantial lay back-lash against this Synod.

This is partly because the means, the internet, is there and partly because the clergy are silent. A gap is being filled.

At Mass for years now all around me have been Catholic families at 1.8 reproduction rate. Some occasionally at Mass, (but not Holy Days of obligation of course) and everybody, but everybody, trooping up to Holy Communion.

Never once has a priest even touched on the subject of contraception (or Natural Family Planning ), or the obligation of Mass attendance or belief in the Real Presence, and I am getting a bit fed up.

What Cardinal Marx has been openly proposing is logically heretical – and he has not been contradicted.

I know my Catholic Faith reasonably well – and I will not have that altered.

Unknown said...

Couldn't agree more about liberal clergy and clericalism. One notorious deacon who spends his time mouthing off about traditionalist priests on Twitter, recently referred to clergy who were publicly questioning various papal insults as 'the staff'. You don't he said, expect the paid staff to speak out against their masters. He also referred to non-clergy as 'junior members of the church'. Which says it all.

Unknown said...

Couldn't agree more about liberal clergy and clericalism. One notorious deacon who spends his time mouthing off about traditionalist priests on Twitter, recently referred to clergy who were publicly questioning various papal insults as 'the staff'. You don't he said, expect the paid staff to speak out against their masters. He also referred to non-clergy as 'junior members of the church'. Which says it all.

Nicolas Bellord said...

Mark Wuack: Thank you for that. There have been some negative things said about Cardinal Dolan but lately he has risen immensely in my estimation.

Kathleen1031 said...

We, the laity, are still reeling from the realization that the rumors were indeed true, and our church is full of homosexuals who hate the church and have made great progress in dismantling it.
But just as scandalizing, is what is happening TODAY. Today is the day, that we will wait for Cardinals, Bishops, priests, deacons, faithful religious, theologians, to say the H word loudly, boldly, from the rooftops, among others.
Heretics. Heresies. Evil. Diabolical. Anathema. Sin. Plague.
These words are not being said by the right people. Oh, we understand, we can say them, and they must just be borne, since we have no positions of influence with which to punish us, but unfortunately, we are not in charge. They are. And it is they who must say these words, which will be noticed, which will draw attention, which will perhaps bring negative consequences.
But which will also defend the teachings of Jesus Christ, which is supposed to be the point, AND, will do much to bolster the flagging spirits of so many Catholics, who are completely disheartened to find that WE have more faith than the clergy, most of whom do not seem anxious at all to march into the brink and call things what they are! THAT, is the worse scandal by far. We do not even have martyrs willing to get their delicate wrists tapped. And we have ISIS and homo-fascism to contend with? What chance!

Thank you, Fr. Hunwicke. You are a source of consolation, wisdom, faith, education, and so welcome, even humor, that is badly needed. May God bless you!

Dorota Mosiewicz-Patalas said...

I thought until now that the pope's manner has little to do with his cultural origins.
I thought that he is an ideologue, someone to whom his not so humble goal justifies the means used to achieve it. The end is nothing less than peace on earth, happy mother Gaia, social justice, one deity worshipped by all in unity.

All obstacles on the path to that goal need to be smashed, destroyed, annihilated. We are talking mostly about Catholics faithful to the outdated, harmful and and merciless teaching of the Church.

I thought that the pope has neither patience nor desire to LISTEN to faithful Catholics, as he seems more angry with them than with militant Islamists raping them and cutting of their heads.

I now have a very small hope that I might have been mistaken. I thought that everyone who still perceived reality, saw what I saw.