The indomitable Red Maria (@dolphinmaria on Twitter) has tweeted at me:
I think your analysis is rational and correct. The question is what is to be done?Well, appeals to the authority of Marx (whether Karl or Cardinal) are surely the way to get me going...
As Marx said, "Philosophers have interpreted the world; the point is to change it."
Initiatives like the letter in support of priests were excellent. Why stop there? What's next?
However, I am not by nature an activist, in the political sense, still less a leader. But that does not let me off the hook, of course: many of those whom God has called to lead decisively would have said the same, I am sure. But I am also keenly aware of the risk to those who lead political resistance successfully that they be corrupted by the process (history is littered with examples) and I am not convinced that I would have the strength and integrity to avoid that fate.
More significantly, my analysis of the problems we face is that they are primarily spiritual problems. They may manifest in political ways in some prelates and priests, but the roots are spiritual.
So I believe that the response must be primarily spiritual. At the personal level, that means prayer and fasting; a sacramental life, and a growth in faith, hope and charity. And on that journey, I have a long way to travel.
But I am also part of a larger whole, the Church, and my own imperfections do not let me off from making a contribution there. However, if my analysis of the problems is correct, and that it is primarily a spiritual battle in which we are engaged, that also must inform our response.
According to St Augustine (I understand - I am not a great scholar and get most of my knowledge second or third hand - in this case, if I recall correctly, from Frank Sheed) the faculties of the soul that distinguish men from animals are intellect, memory and will.
So one of the ways in which we oppose the malaise infecting the Church must be by the use of the intellect. We must study, and we must analyse, and we must share the results of that study and analysis. That is where the internet has proved such a boon. Previously, it was easy to be swamped by the approved narrative, and to imagine that one was alone in one's questions. Now, one can find other concerned and well-informed Catholics and learn from them - and (as I have frequently found) they are also good at correcting our misunderstandings and misperceptions.
Another way we must oppose the malaise is by the use of the memory. And here I am referring to the collective memory of the Church, which is Tradition. That is why I find it infuriating when people claim novelty as restoration - it is reminiscent of the wilful destruction of collective memory that was such a feature of Ingsoc in Orwell's 1984. Indeed, the more I reflect on this, the more I think that is why I am at heart a traditionalist. I refuse to discard the wisdom of the generations of saints who have preceded me, and the teachings of Christ Himself and His apostles which the Holy Spirit has inspired the Church to understand with ever-increasing depth over the centuries. I refuse to imagine that we in the early twentyfirst century are so much wiser than our forebears that we can discard all that has gone before that is out of sympathy with our present culture and sentiments.
Finally, there is the will. We are called above all to love. And that means to love even when we have been betrayed; to love even those who have betrayed us. I find that very difficult, and I am clear that if I were to engage in active campaigns, the risk would be that it would be bad for me. I reflect on some of my posts on ++Nichols, for example, and wonder whether my motives would stand scrutiny. I am always haunted by that great couplet in Eliot's Murder in the Cathedral:
The last temptation is the greatest treason:
To do the right deed for the wrong reason.
Of course, should I discern that I am called to something more, then I will strive to answer that call. But for the present, I think that living my vocation as husband, father and professional, living a sacramental life and seeking to grow in virtue, and contributing as I can to the intellectual, traditional and charitable life of the Church, is how I am called to oppose the malaise at present.
I don't think that's quietism - but as ever, am open to correction.