Sunday, March 17, 2013

Philistines and Mockery

Too many are rather cruelly contrasting the simplicity of Pope Francis – especially his sartorial restraint – with what they caricature as the frippery of Pope Benedict's wardrobe: my ears had the nasty experience of hearing the latter described on SBS News this evening as a sort of ecclesiastical Barbie doll by their SBS Rome correspondent, who went on to mock poor Mgr Marini, a learned, devout and dedicated M.C., by claiming that, when Marini offered him the Papal mozzetta to wear for his first appearance, Francis replied (supposedly) "No more carnival attire".

Such a cruel remark would surely be unworthy of our new Supreme Pontiff, who by all accounts is humble, not rude; the offending phrase rather reveals more about those who delight to repeat it (I mention it in anger and sorrow only).

Australians of all nations are given to Philistinism, and scoffing at the appropriate and traditional vesture proper to officials of all sorts.

It is the sin of Judas to say "such and such should have been given to the poor", whereas it was for Christ Himself rightly to testify that the costly nard expended upon the veneration of His Sacred Body was a kindly and justified act given the special circumstances. The latter-day Judases who would celebrate the sacraments in rags tend not to be similarly self-denying in their secular lives; too often, they are self-satisfied middle-class liberals posing at playing poverty, and care not enough about God to expend much if anything when adoring Him.

Holy Church requires that the chalice and paten, as also other items used in divine worship, be of a certain quality, despite the cost thereof: for in determinate circumstances, it is justified and no sin to spend money on sacred things (and similarly in all the circumstances of everyday life).  St Francis, far from despising money spent on the upkeep of churches and on the liturgy, insisted upon careful regard for those things – while always serving the needs of the poor. One can – one ought – do both.

There is no absolute duty always and everywhere to give every last cent away to those needier than oneself – but in certain circumstances, there is indeed a duty to spend very much to help others, even at great cost to oneself: prudential judgement comes into play here. In general, it would be madness to sell all the goods of the Church, so that they fall into private hands and are never more seen by the public, in the false belief that to do so would (for a time) raise funds to advantage the poor, but – when prudence dictates – the sale even of the most valuable treasures may indeed be justified in particular circumstances, so as to satisfy pressing needs.

St Lawrence gave away the treasures of the Church to the poor, lest the pagans seize them; St Chrysostom reminds us to give alms to the poor, lest in giving a costly chalice we forget the beggar at church door; but neither the one nor the other would claim that the Church cannot morally possess good things, nor accept even precious vessels, provided the needy be rightly and fairly helped and aided.

But for a truly insulting display of mockery and hypocrisy, one need only glance (once is enough, I will not reproduce them here) at the twitterings of horrid Cardinal Mahony (how has he escaped prison?) – who maladministered his former archdiocese by sheltering pedo-priests, and thus occasioned payouts of hundreds of millions of dollars to their many victims (as fulsome online documentation reveals), rather than stop those evildoers before they molested, and with the money saved help the poor – a smug prelate who yet unblushingly affects joy at the "low church" arriving in place of the "high church" (the use of Anglican terminology is revealing in itself), and prophesies the disappearance of lace et al. 

If only such asinine whited sepulchres as himself would disappear! Hopefully the rumours about such proud and lying prelates being ordered to do penance in a strict monastery prove true.

Meanwhile, to attempt to "worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness" is but to do as Pope Francis himself has said: it is to promote through the media of vesture and music, precious metalwork and rich tapestry the True, the Good, and the Beautiful – since God is all these in Himself, to try and reflect such is evangelical and God-pleasing, be it done unselfconsciously, without conceited self-regard or odious self-love. It would be vile to accuse the recently-retired Benedict XVI of falling into such traps.

Dear Holy Father, please justly punish all ecclesiastics who have by deed or negligence gravely harmed the little ones of Christ, and don't worry too much if your M.C. lays out vestments not entirely to your taste (though of course you may properly insist upon sobriety in their style). I am sure you would agree that the latter trial, if fault it be, is but an imperfection easily to be borne, whereas the former  duty incumbent upon you is most pressing, given the grave scandal it occasions, let alone the demands of justice that compels it.

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