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The Julian Calendar

26 February, 2013 0 Comments

A new Oriens column.

By Julian O’Dea

Someone found one of my blogs recently by searching on “fluffy daylight poems”. There is nothing quite like “fluffy daylight”. But it has been in short supply lately for us Catholic Church watchers. Nothing has been comforting or clear.

Sometimes it is downright heartwarming to be a Catholic. Watching the pope bless people in St Peter’s Square last Easter, in fifty different languages, was a marvellous reminder to me of the universality of the church and her genuine catholicity. And as Lawrence Auster, the Episcopalian traditionalist writer, once remarked, apropos the Swiss Guards and the flamboyant Catholic-themed hat Madame Biya of Cameroon had just worn to meet Pope Benedict, “extravagance is very much a part of Roman Catholicism”. That is what the Catholic Church does best, the grand gesture. But the Church’s problems of late have been in the niggling little details, where they say the Devil lies. We are currently deep in a mire of rumour, leaked reports, innuendo, in-fighting and speculation.

The spectacle of the Catholic Church has recently resembled a spiritual thriller movie. The world has been positively agog since His Holiness announced his resignation. His enigmatic decision has astounded everyone, and being a Catholic has not helped us in the slightest to fathom the murky waters in which the Barque of St Peter is currently sailing. Instead, it reminds me of The Dawn Treader encountering the island of blackness at sea in the Chronicles of Narnia, and everybody on board starting to have delirious waking dreams, seeing things that others don’t perceive.

Anything I write now about the next pope and the immediate problems in the Church is likely to be, as we used to say in the Public Service, “overtaken by events”. So I shall not speculate. The Melbourne Cup makes us all racing experts for a day. A papal conclave turns the world into expert clerical handicappers. But I shall resist offering a guess as to who the next pope will be. Instead I will offer a prayer that he is up to the task and that he does not take the name Celestine.

We will have to wait for the interview with Oprah.

I must say I don’t think the world is well-served for Catholic bloggers. I only regularly visit a small handful. Maybe three. And one of these has disgraced himself for a while, as far as I am concerned, with a recent post. We all have our blind spots, and his is a fixed antipathy to Traditionalism. I tend to agree with the dictum that it is best just to call oneself a Catholic, and not further label oneself. But I can nevertheless say that the Traditional movement has been very much a nett positive in my life. And I have found traditionalists to be, on the whole, a pretty decent bunch. So I was peeved to find this prominent Catholic blogger repeating some tattle about a Latin Mass Catholic who was reported to have said that “if they appoint some African witch-doctor pope, I am leaving the Church.” The story may be true, but I am sure such a view is not especially associated with Traditional Catholics. I don’t personally know of any who would say something so silly.

It was just guilt by association. So, I have made all of that blogger’s work guilty by association too. He is in my personal sin bin for a while.

The next pope might indeed theoretically be an African. Though not Madame Biya. Although she has a spiffing hat.

Why did Benedict resign, anyway? Perhaps to give a new, younger man a chance to try to clean up all the lingering problems with which Benedict’s generation is perhaps inextricably entwined? To attempt to ensure that the next pope is the kind of steady hand he wants? Because he is worried that he will suffer a physical and mental decline like his predecessor? To set a precedent? To write more theology books? To give Dan Brown something to think about for his next Vatican thriller? Who really knows?

We will have to wait for the interview with Oprah.

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