"About rigidity and worldliness, it was some time ago that an elderly monsignor of the curia came to me, who works, a normal man, a good man, in love with Jesus - and he told me that he had gone to buy a couple of shirts at Euroclero and saw a young fellow - he thinks he had not more than 25 years, or a young priest or about to become a priest - before the mirror, with a cape, large, wide, velvet with a silver chain. He then took the Saturno, he put it on and looked himself over. A rigid and wordly one. And that priest - he is wise that monsignor, very wise ... etc.."
The Speaker condemns someone he has never met, and does so on the say-so of a third party. One is reminded of the sacking of some workers in the CDF who were reportedly condemned instantly, without any consultation with the Prefect of that dicastery, on a report that those concerned had been heard speaking critically about the leniency accorded to clergy convicted of child abuse. The Speaker had no compunction about swallowing, hook, line and sinker, without any due process, those delated to him, as long as the delation fitted neatly into his own prejudices. This impatience with due process is the characteristic of the tyrant in every age. In his own great wisdom, the Mighty Man is competent to discern the guilt of those delated to him without the tedium of making enquiries about such vulgar details as evidence.
Indeed, recent events in the 'Barros' case reveal that the Speaker did not look at or cannot now remember looking at an eight-page letter containing details of sexual abuse and handed to him by a Cardinal.
The Speaker appears to have been blithely unaware, when talking to his curial chum, of the risk that, given his own position, there will be sycophants around, anxious to secure or enhance their own positions by telling him the sort of stories he likes hearing. And, if you do tell him the sort of tales he wants to hear, then, clearly, you are normal, good, wise ... er ... "very wise".
The Speaker apparently has ample leisure to listen to delatores who gossip about their shopping and pander to his prejudices, as well as to chatter incessantly to scalfaris, although his door is shut to curial cardinals.
The delator was buying shirts. Presumably, even if he never wears a cassock, he does wear trousers to the South of his shirts. Personally, I am the shabbiest priest in England, but, buying shirts and trousers, I either look them over in the mirror in the shop or as soon as I get home, so that if there is something amiss, I can take them back for a refund. Does the delator never do that? When the Speaker himself was being fitted up with white cassocks in the Room of Tears next to the Sixtine Chapel, is he absolutely sure that he resisted Mr Gammarelli's invitation to consider himself in the mirror?
Do they sell real silver chains on their cloaks at Euroclero? Perhaps some reader resident in Rome could check that. Before I was ordained to the Diaconate in 1967, I purchased a cloak from the clerical tailor who came from Wolverhampton to Staggers; the clasp was, I concede, of pleasantly silvery appearance but is of undoubtedly base metal. I may, conceivably, have contemplated myself in a mirror: I can't now remember. In the last 50 years I have worn that cloak when stumbling in front of coffins across uneven hillside cemeteries in the pouring rain; when taking the Blessed Sacrament to elderly villagers through winter weather; when commemorating the departed of two World Wars at village War Memorials on cold Sundays in November. Why the h**l should I feel guilty? I do not know that I have ever noticed photographs of the Speaker himself standing unprotected in pouring rain, humble though he is. And, had he ever done so, there would undoubtedly have been photographers there to record and to give worldwide publicity to his humility.
Indeed, why does the Speaker go around all the time in a white cassock? His face is well known; he does not, like an ordinary priest or even bishop, need a 'uniform' to identify himself to people. Indeed, a white cassock must, because white shows the dirt, need dry-cleaning a lot more often that cassocks in most other colours ... to the detriment of vital Environmental resources. Bishops, less showy men, nowadays often wear black, much the same as their clergy. The cassocks, incidentally, visible in photographs of the Speaker show no obvious signs of wear and of mending. I am in only the second cassock of my clerical career (I was deaconed in 1967): I wonder if the Speaker could say as much.
But ... why does he need to wear a cassock at all? What is wrong with doing what the Speaker has recommended to other clergy: wearing shorts and a tea-shirt so that the Youff can admire his tatoos?
Could it just possibly, just conceivably, be something to do with status and with other rigid wordly considerations?