Tuesday, February 12, 2013

After Benedict, the wolves.

Thanks to modern over-the-counter pharmaceuticals, I've had the first decent night's sleep I've had since November, and am feeling physically better, but not one tiny lick further ahead than last night when I gave up trying to think of something to write about This Thing that would not come off sounding crazy.

We like to forget that there are large supernatural realities behind our day-to-day lives, and most specifically behind the ecclesial realities we talk and write so much about. We like to keep that spooky stuff at bay and reduce it all to silly small talk on the internet. But that is the really Real behind all this and it is often not the sort of thing one makes polite table conversation about.

My sense of foreboding has deepened, if anything, as I've weighed in more of the many different things this act of Benedict's will affect, the various possible reasons, the possible repercussions. Stuck between two impossible obstacles: what I think is true is horrifying and would not be accepted; what I think I can write that would be accepted is not true.

I can't bring myself to do what everyone else seems to be doing, and put up cheery little stars and hearts notes on Facebook about how we're all grateful for eight wonderful years and wish him well in all his future endeavours. The thought that keeps coming back to my mind again and again is that now things are going to start getting much, much worse.

Benedict's was, perhaps, the lone voice on the world stage making a rational case for the Real in the face of an insane, murderous, global mass self-delusion. What was he holding at bay? What is now going to have even more freedom to act in the world? From the things I've written about for the last ten or twelve years, I think I've got an idea.

And I'm not sure that we glib and flippant moderns are really capable of grasping the utter strangeness of a papal abdication. My first reaction to it was simple confusion. A friend called me from the states while I was napping, and my muzzy brain simply couldn't grasp what he was saying. "Pope Benedict has resigned". No. Stop saying that. That doesn't mean anything.

How quick we are, with our five-second, internet-trained attention span, to be ready to move on to the next news item. How quick we all were to start making childish conversation about who was "going to be next". As though the fact that Benedict has resigned is a sign of absolutely nothing of interest.

Last night I talked with my buddy Chris Ferrara (who seems perfectly cheerful as always) as he was putting this together. Some of what I'm thinking about is in there. But not all.



Seraphic said...

Hilary, I've been waiting over 24 hours to hear what you have to say, so thank you.

I still feel like the rug has been pulled under our feet, and if I read another remark "humility" I may scream.

The two possibilities that occurred to me at once were that (A) he's abandoning ship (but that's unthinkable) or (B) it's a last-ditch surprise move against the wolves, something they never expected because no-one could have expected it. And this, though scary, beats possibility A hands down. In a world where fathers abandon their children, it is staggering to imagine that the pope would abandon us to get a good rest. (Monsignor Georg seems oblivious to the fact that he spreads black propaganda against his own brother.)

Surely Benedict, who is a brilliant intellectual, be he ever so humble, must understand the terrible shock and emotional toll on Catholics at this interruption of the natural order of things. Therefore, it must be for a good reason and not merely a wish to sit in a monastery rose garden with a book and a cat.

I imagine a lot of the Facebook cheese is the shocked reaction of unhappy Catholics trying desperately to make sense of it all, like untold numbers of unhappy priests and faithful who just did what they were told and learned to love the St Louis Jesuits.


Anonymous said...

The conversations my husband and I have had about this over the past day have echoed much of what you and Christopher Ferrara have written.

What we don't understand is the blindness of many Catholics to what is occurring in the world right now.

We are exceedingly sad, and anxious.


Wendy in VA said...

Like Dorothy, I have been waiting to hear your reaction. And like Lydia and her husband, my husband and I have been discussing -- more and more frequently -- how it is that we can see things no one else around us seems to be able to. I've had a horrible sense of foreboding for a while now, and it's getting worse.

Anonymous said...

You know more about it of course, but it seems to me that poor health can be extended so long in old age that the simple explanation of lack of vigor to do the job is sufficient to explain this. With modern health care, we could be looking at 15 more years of a old tired man ruling the Church. This doesn't strike anyone as monstrously cruel?

And I have to say that as someone who is enmeshed in a crazy religious subculture where physical limits are completely ignored, the example of the pontiff giving up because his body is worn out is paradoxically encouraging.

Anyway, if you're right and the blood is going to start flowing we all go to Heaven faster, so rejoice. - Karen

Hilary Jane Margaret White said...

Karen, quitting the papacy because he is tired would be an act of such craven self-interest that I cannot, in simple charity, ascribe it to him.

Again, these kinds of comments seem to come from the fact that people really don't seem to understand what the papacy is. It is not a presidency, or even a simple monarchy.

Anonymous said...

I'm too tired to talk about it anyway. - Karen

Vox Cantoris said...

All of the worst things imaginable could be true, including Ferrara's column. However, it can be as simple that he sees his own incapability of carrying on and he does not want to put the Church through two or three years of a death-watch as we had previously. He witnessed it and he witnessed the chaos. Let us trust in the Holy Spirit and remember the promise of Our Lord and beyond that let us continue to do our work on our own selves and for our Holy Mother in whatever capacity God asks us.

New Catholic said...

Agreed. It is just so enormous that I have avoided actually speaking about it specifically: I may have much more to say following the conclave because then we may have a better notion of what Pope Benedict XVI accomplished - and more information on what exactly prompted him to go from an abstract, though persistent, desire to immediate (and urgent) action, that couldn't wait for his encyclical on the year he made up (the "Year of Faith"), or for the end of said year with its majestic celebration of the 50th anniversary of the first conciliar documents, or even one single month for Holy Week, as if he had to move his pieces on the checkboard as soon as possible before someone else did. We don't have a "right" to know it, but I think we will regardless - and in the meantime, at least for me, speaking about the conclave at least helps me to avoid considering the enormity and abnormality of the act itself.

I encourage you to write what you actually think is going on regardless.

Best regards,


Anonymous said...

Everyone has different ways of processing something so enormous. Posting things on FB as a way of coping won't alter how the Heavenly Father works His wonders.

Felix said...

I wonder whether B16 has received intimations of impending Alzheimer's? Pure speculation but it might explain his decision.

Anonymous said...

I believe that Pope Benedict is much more influenced by the Holy Spirit than I am, and would like to believe that he abdicated by listening to God - that, in time, we will all understand what we cannot understand now.

Having heard that Benedict would have invasive surgery soon, I wondered what would happen if a Pope were in a coma or a vegetative state - unable to abdicate, unable to move, speak, or communicate, let alone lead a billion Catholics. Infirmities are one thing; it is entirely another to be unable to blink, move, or communicate. Previous Popes never worried about such things; they would die in short order, not hang on for ten years in a coma.

(Before anyone denounces me for this, please explain what would happen if the Pope were in a coma for years on end.)

That said, the horrible sense of foreboding that kept me up through Sunday night tells me something different.


P Mosca said...

As a possible reason, how about avoiding to give time to those who imposed the preacher of the lenten homilies to the Curia enough time to first promote and then elect him as the Pope's successor?
Btw, will not the prefect of the papal household be present in the conclave?