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 an entire Papacy in which "teaching" 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 own rules and traditions down here in the Pandaemonium Club. It also has the strategic advantage of making it very hard for mortals 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 and Bishop Baetzing?
"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. Would this simpleton of a supposed tempter never grasp the objective realism of Hell? "Well, there may be those who consider him somewhat self-obsessed, but, my dear nephew, as I have grown tired of explaining to you, 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 ... Snodgrove ... Ted McCarrick ... drink ... peripheries ... 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 ... 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.