Circling The Void

Circling The Void

[Hat-tip to St. Corbinian’s Bear, who provides the prefatory remarks below]

Posted by St. Corbinian’s Bear on Monday, December 28, 2015

As readers know, the Bear hardly ever links to someone else’s work, preferring to inflict his own view and style upon his friends. But he is making an exception for this very interesting and timely piece by Maureen Mullarkey.

Whether anyone wants to admit it, the very nature of the papacy has changed through the boomer generation. It is said that St. Pope John Paul II was seen by more people than any other person in history. We saw the throngs of adoring Catholics surrounding the man in white on our televisions. Everyone did.

The change accelerated with the election of the elderly gentleman from Argentina. He has used the media to change perceptions of what the Church believes. Pope Benedict called the Vatican II council’s evil shadow “The Media Council.” The elderly gentleman from Argentina is creating a “Media Pontificate.” He commands the cameras. He speaks into the microphones. It is a living demonstration of Marshall Mcluhan’s maxim, “The medium is the message.”

And that message is, fundamentally, “The Pope.” He is the Church. He has transcended his proper role and become an Oracle, uttering dark imprecations or bright inspirations; answering questions with Delphic ambiguity, such as “who am I to judge?”

But remember, this is a symbiotic relationship between the cameras and microphones on one hand and the elderly gentleman from Argentina on the other. Now get ready for this: the Pope is binding and loosing doctrine and discipline with the help of the international news media.

It is practically inevitable unless our popes realize the danger and exercise discipline and reserve. It seems impossible that the elderly gentleman from Argentina will learn this lesson.

If the Church were an organism, one might be tempted to say that the papacy has metastasized.

But why go on when there is a more elegant explanation that you may read and enjoy.

Maureen Mullarkey
December 18, 2015

Many are called but few are chosen. There are sayings of Christ which suggest that the Church he came to establish will always be a minority affair. (Edward Norman)

Edward Norman has been on my mind recently. At seventy eight, he belongs to that generation of scholar-priests we cannot afford to lose. Not now.

Better known in Britain than here, he has had a long, distinguished career as an historian, an academic, and a priest of the Church of England. Among his ecclesial credits, is Dean of Chapel, Christ Church College, Canterbury and, later, Canon Chancellor of York Minster.

Three years ago, he converted to Catholicism in October 2012, four months before Benedict XVI resigned from the papacy. Writing of his decision in the Catholic Herald, he spoke of his abiding affection for the Church of England, but added this:

How can the “Church” be the body of Christ in the world when its confession varies from place to place and person to person, not only in minor but in the most essential teachings about faith and morals? At the centre of Anglicanism is a great void.

I can only wonder what he is thinking now, as Catholicism is tilting—once again in the longue durée—toward the same void.

A quarter century ago, in Entering the Darkness (1991), he wrote:

Adherents of the faith are attracted by example rather than argument; but the example often lacks objective reality—the Christian life which attracts is frequently an invention of the observer’s own desire to find something noble to which adherence can be given.

Christian lives which become cults, either of the past or of the present (whether Francis of Assisi or Oscar Romero), are so overlaid with propagandistic piety that they become artefacts of ideology rather than human realities. People simply do not want to see the living tissue behind the icon.

Just so, a blinkered attitude toward the papacy is encouraged among Catholics. It is spurred by bishops, by editors and academics on a Catholic-career track, in homilies and in devotional literature. Idolatrous in nature, and metastasizing since the nineteenth century, this surrender to illusion has reached monstrous proportions by now. Our media-induced culture of pseudo-events has made the pope a celebrity mascot of globalization, loosey-goosey leftism, and environmental spirituality. Pope Francis both feeds on the role and fuels it.

The first responsibility of any Catholic journalist today is to demythologize the mythical sentimentalities that have grown like briars around the papacy, protecting its occupant behind a thicket of delusions of omnipotence.

Leave the last word to Edward Norman:

A religion . . . which becomes preoccupied with the material fate of mankind and neglects it unique understanding of human transcendence, and which regards itself as most cogently expressed in movements for social advance, will cease to relate to the spiritual needs of humanity. The interior life of man is not social. Wisdom recognizes the loneliness of the creature in the cold realities of the creation, and it sees that what most afflicts the human soul is not susceptible to merely human consolation.

Get AQ Email Updates

Leave a Reply