Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Living in Bubbles

That wise and learned old pedant Fr Hunwicke suggests that Popes should be married so as to avoid upsetting women. I am crusty old celibate but I have seen that look on a lady's faces when their husbands have said or done something foolish, that tight lipped smile which doesn't quite reach they eyes, which says, "I think we must have a talk later, dear", it is like the look rural American fathers might have, which says to their sons, "any more of that and we will have to visit the woodshed together".

One of the problems we celibates have is that we can live in our little bubbles, there is no-one there to burst it. Traddies live in a traddy bubble, liberals in a liberal bubble, conservatives in their conservative bubble. It is a bit like a man I met years ago, who said, "God heavens, Father, you are the first priest I've met who doesn't shoot". He then went on to say, "I know some who don't hunt but you are the first I have met who doesn't hunt or shoot". He then turned to his wife to acquaint her of his discovery, here my thesis breaks down, in that very English three syllabled form of the word, that reveals worlds, she responded, "Really?" In their particular world all priests rode to hounds or at the very least shot, it might have meant he only knew two or three priests but that was world he lived in.

Normally, having a wife means there is someone who stops you from being a prisoner of yourself. Ideally for a celibate his religious community or parish takes the place of a wife, if you let them, they become a key that releases from your prison, (though not always).

Edward Condon writing in the Herald asks, "Is Francis becoming the new prisoner of the Vatican?" Popes have almost always ended up becoming prisoners, as much as Chinese Emperors became prisoners of the Forbidden City or the Sultan became a prisoner of the Sublime Port. It was Benedict's increasing isolation, I am sure. lead to his resignation.

I know this is pure speculation but I wonder if the preferred candidate of the St Gall Mafia, would actually be a clear thinking articulate intellectual like Martini or someone whose thinking was muddled, who was not capable of communicating his ideas, or better had few ideas of his own. More importantly someone who for a few years would convince the Church that being in 'a mess' was the natural state, and whose every word was ambiguous and needed interpretation.

Under Benedict I read practically every word he said or wrote or said, often it was complicated and subtle but it was comprehensible. Francis, I read sparingly, partly because it is incomprehensible and to be honest I have never read anything that speaks kindly to priests - I cannot bear the constant nagging. Condon suggests that Francis is simply unaware of the effects of his words (or his actions) "This can be seen, for example, in the otherwise inexplicable decision to invite a man as compromised as Cardinal Danneels to the synod (on the family of all things!) despite the scandal surrounding his reported attempts to silence victims of sexual abuse."

Condon is right to draw attention to fact that the Pope in many ways has all the qualities of a 'prisoner',  "it came out that the Pope had not watched television for more than 20 years, did not use the internet, and read only one newspaper". If you add to that a limited pastoral experience, a limited knowledge of any language beyond Italian and Spanish, a limited knowledge of the Universal Church and limited intellectual interests - I am curious about the absence of books in the Papal study - does it perhaps mean that the Pope doesn't read much? Certainly his disdain for 'doctors of the the law', "Specialist of the Logos" and "ideologues" of various stripes would suggest an intellectual grasp of the faith is something antipathetic to him. Similarly, his sense that history, in terms of the Church the hermeneutic of continuity, is pretty meaningless to him, beyond his comprehension. Like many ecclesiastics of his age he seems to think the Church is a 'now event', with little sense of its past or very much more worryingly of its long term future.

Edgar EvansIn contrast to his predecessor he seems only to appoint those who share his views. Benedict had at the heart of his theology 'both and', Francis seems be much more factional, getting rid of those who disagree with him are invariable sent into outer darkness. The great problem with that is that ultimately you dwell in a tent surrounded with cronies, whilst those outside the tent are ...err... looking in.


Liam Ronan said...

Dear Father Blake,

You observed, quite rightly in my estimation that:

"Francis seems be much more factional, getting rid of those who disagree with him are invariable sent into outer darkness. The great problem with that is that ultimately you dwell in a tent surrounded with cronies, whilst those outside the tent are ...err... looking in."

This circumstance put me in mind of Stalin's 'Great Purge' (or 'Great Terror')in the 1930s which, in part, moved 'Uncle Joe' to annihilate a great part of his experienced officer corps because he sensed most were unreliable or it just suited his fancy to destroy them.

Uncle Joe went about his job with great relish and then came Operation Barbarossa. Yoiks!

Pelerin said...

The Herald article has a couple of comments underneath which if true are indeed worrying.

One states that the one and only newspaper which Pope Francis reads is a communist/ atheist one. I would not have thought he was getting a balanced view of the world just as someone who reads the Conservative press here only receives one biased view.

The other from a Spanish speaker who says that Pope Francis' comments in his native Spanish are just as confusing as when we read them in English translations. Up to now I had presumed the difficulty in understanding what he really means was due to having to read a translation of what he actually said.

Regarding living in a bubble, don't we all tend to do this for our own comfort?

Fr Ray Blake said...

IF YOU ARE GOING TO COMMENT make sure you have something to say - I shan't publish comments that are just rude about the Pope.

Tamsin said...

It's not just a wife who is missing from the bubble: it's the children. Small humans with whom you have to start from scratch about everything. Separating "wants" from "needs".

I suggest Walter Kasper would improve his theology by discovering its limitations if he were put in charge of a toddler or two for thirty days, no vacations.

Stephen Turton said...

I think what was interesting about Benedict, was that although he had definite ideas, on the immediate practical level he had no prior policy as to how to deal with individuals, rather he was a very great listener who only only decided after listening, so he bent over backwards to really listen to the protestants and come as close to theological agreement as was humanly possible yet at the other end of the spectrum made an almost superhuman effort to listen to, understand, and accommodate the SSPX et al, and every opinion of every type of group. He was a Pope of unity if ever there was one.

Barbara Jensen said...

I believe your scolding is due to my recent post. Funny, as soon as I posted it I turned to the Creative Minority Report where there is posted an article called 'The Big Reveal.' In it Mr. Archibold states that (Francis')Mask is off and there can be no more denying with what and whom we are dealing. Sorry if my bluntness offends your sensibilities, but the facts have to be faced.

Caimbeul said...

Pope Francis does make sense if one realizes that he speaks as a Modernist. Modernism means that one can be unclear, ambiguous, and contradictory, and perhaps no one will notice except those pesky Tradies, who, living in a bubble as they do, rely on and stubbornly believe in all of the Truths as the Church and Popes taught before the Council, and refuse to comply with the new orientation. This is what comes of living in a bubble, poor things. The Progressive bubble, on the other hand, is far more inclusive, loving, merciful, and, perhaps most importantly...loyal to the Pope.

BJC said...

"...would suggest an intellectual grasp of the faith is something antipathetic to him"

He just seems to be a doer and certainly isn't a thinker. If we're honest, we have to say what he writes and says is garbled and half-thought through. it's difficult to understand why others have had to point out to him that there's no mercy without truth; it's such a simple point, but one wonders whether he's really grasped it. He certainly hasn't made any response to it, that's for sure.

As for the constant carping comments about Pharisees, power etc, it just seems almost obsessive. Sorry, but I feel as if I'm listening to an idealistic sixth-form rant.

Anonymous said...

when a wife sees her husband put on his underwear one leg at a time surely prevents him starring in his own soap opera?

gemoftheocean said...

I don't think the Pope is unfamiliar with Saul Alinsky's Rules for radicals. Some of them nail him right on. [see page 127 and on for "tactics." The pope sure has the ridicule and isolate tactics down to a T.

RJ said...

Husbands can often be under the thumb of their wives. This is not the ideal situation for a priest.

Liam Ronan said...


I understand your point. The most dangerous moments in a husband's life are those when he returns home after a hard day's work to be greeted by his smiling wife whose first words are:

"Well now. Do you see anything new?" Best to get that right on your first guess or there's big trouble.

For my part, I tried once to deflect this danger with a bit of offhand humour by replying:

"You're in a good mood?", said I. Wrong answer.

There are other traps I might have fallen into such as:

"You've lost weight?" or "You've used a bit of make-up?"

In any event, I am reminded of the following from Scripture:

"But I want you to be free from concern. One who is unmarried is concerned about the things of the Lord, how he may please the Lord; but one who is married is concerned about the things of the world, how he may please his wife, and his interests are divided." 1 Corinthians 32-34

Unknown said...

I must comment about this: "Condon suggests that Francis is simply unaware of the effects of his words (or his actions)"
Fraancis knows exactly what he's doing and he's fully aware of the efects. You will recall hispope mobile stopping in St Peter's square to pick up a priest Francis spotted from home? The words Francis said to that priest are most telling. The priest concerned told journalists afterwards that Francis said to him, "Just watch, this will be headlines around the world tomorrow"
Francis is fully aware, that's what is most worrying,

Exsollertan said...

I am concerned that the off the cuff and derogatory remarks by the Bishop of Rome can have a corrosive effect on the many, many good priests in the Church throughout the world. Parish priests today are often the sole priest in the parish and are very much overworked. The constant carping and criticism is not helpful. In any other organisation such behaviour by its chief executive would lead to a collapse of morale, a loss of share value and a quick boot out of office.

Clare said...

If Francis had a wife he would never have been allowed to promote Danneels. If he had kids, he would never have wanted to.
Personally i think priestly celibacy can be a beautiful and powerful witness. But it also gives one the opportunity to withhold giving the 'whole self' in terms of emotional commitment to real people.
Can every priest say he loves his parish as his spouse? Can every parish say they love their priest in the same way?
In my experience it usually becomes a utilitarian relationship pretty quickly. Sad.

richardhj said...

I can't of course vouch for the truth of this story. However it may be of interest.

At the gates of Heaven, there are two entrances.

One for men who have been under the wife's thumb, the other for men who haven't.

One day, St Peter went out to see who was waiting, and to his surprise found a man at the "Not been under the thumb gate". So he asked, " what are you doing here?"

The man replied " my wife told me to stand here".

thomas tucker said...

I think we are seeing a neo-Joachim de Fiore in the Bishop of Rome.

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