30 October 2021

Bishops and their Camels

Dom Gregory Dix supplies a vivid and jolly account of episcopal inadequacy during the Diocletian Persecution.

"[I]t cannot be said that the episcopate as a whole had come well out of the universal crisis of the Diocletian persecution. 

"Few bishops when it broke out were men of much distinction. Eusebius, who as a bishop and a contemporary has some claim to be heard, says frankly that they were on the whole a poor lot, and ascribes the persecution largely to divine anger at their conduct. He is rather given to pious thoughts of this kind, which have not quite the value of historical judgments. But the precise and definite evidence of episcopal failure everywhere at this time can hardly be discounted ... The better bishops, of course, proved faithful and were martyred. But a shockingly large number at the first question turned traditor - i.e., handed over the Scriptures and sacred vessels to the authorities for destruction, the formal act required of them, which Church and State agreed to consider as constituting apostasy. Others denied that they had them in their keeping, but gave the names of the lectors who had them. Others again salved their consciences by handing over other books instead ...

"When the African Council of Cirta met in 305, after the persecution had spent its first violence in these parts, it revealed a pitiful state of affairs. All the bishops present but two seem to have been traditores in some sense. The president himself was compromised, and agreed to suspend all enquiries to avoid unpleasantness. Nor were the only faults those of lack of courage. More than one of these men was afterwards found guilty of direct theft; others of simony and adultery, and of peculating Church funds. One bishop, who admitted to two murders, retained his seat in this assembly by a timely display of diabolically bad temper.

"We may hope that this sort of thing was exceptional, but the evidence is not reassuring. We hear, e.g., of bishops in Palestine who after the persecution, "because they had not rightly shepherded the rational flock of Christ, were by divine justice turned into camel-drivers, an animal of a natural perversity to which they were suited". It is a fact that though there were a score of sees in Palestine, no bishop was martyred there in ten years of persecution ... "

Father Hunwicke asks:

(1) Isn't there some jolly old ditty about Making the Punishment Fit The Crime?

(2) Does the Annuario Pontificio give careful statistics about the ratio of Bishops to Camels in each Episcopal Conference area?

(3) Might a new, reforming, pope need to have exactly this sort of information at his finger tips?


frjustin said...

Gilbert-and-Sullivan, thou shouldst be living at this hour!

Mick Jagger Gathers No Mosque said...

If the putative vaccines had been derived from the brains of politicians bashed in by sand wedges would those shots have been approved for experimental use, to say nothing about them being mandated for millions of Americans?

Would the Bishop of Rome support those putative vaccines and have his own mandates?

Fr Scott Bailey, C.Ss.R. said...

Thank you for this, Father. I feel a bit less despondent about the episcopate in our day knowing ours is not the only era of wolves in the guise of sheep.

Atticus said...

A more humane and clement Pontiff
Ne’er did in Rome exist.
No Francis the Second,
I’m certainly reckoned
A liberal liturgist.
It is my very humane endeavour
To make, to some extent,
Each stubborn traddie
Appear a baddie
And harmful dissident.

My object all sublime
I shall achieve in time –
To crush the usus antiquior
The usus antiquior;
And make each son of Trent
Unwillingly represent
A rigid stirrer-up of dissent,
A stirrer-up of dissent.

Grant Milburn said...

Dom on droms…

So camels may not be kosher, but they have a role to play in teaching degraded bishops a lesson, bringing worshippers and their gifts to the Lord:

A stream of camels thronging about thee, dromedaries from Madian and Epha, bringing all the men of Saba with their gifts of gold and incense, their cry of praise to the Lord! (Isaias 60:6, Knox)

-and only the camel knows the 100th name of God, according to Arabic folklore- hence its superior expression.

So spare a thought for this perverse but hard-working animal during the epistle next Epiphany.

Grant Milburn said...

Milton! Thou shouldst be living at this hour.

Last came, and last did go,
The Pilot of the Galilean lake;
Two massy keys he bore of metals twain
(The golden opes, the iron shuts amain).
He shook his mitred locks, and stern bespake:
"How well could I have spar'd for thee, young swain,
Enow of such as for their bellies' sake
Creep and intrude, and climb into the fold?
Of other care they little reck'ning make
Than how to scramble at the shearers' feast
And shove away the worthy bidden guest.
Blind mouths! that scarce themselves know how to hold
A sheep-hook, or have learn'd aught else the least
That to the faithful herdman's art belongs!
What recks it them? What need they? They are sped;
And when they list their lean and flashy songs
Grate on their scrannel pipes of wretched straw,
The hungry sheep look up, and are not fed…


PM said...

I often find myself these days recalling the immortal words of Belloc:

"THE Catholic Church is an institution I am bound to hold divine — but for unbelievers a proof of its divinity might be found in the fact that no merely human institution conducted with such knavish imbecility would have lasted a fortnight."