There are historically significant happenings you might be missing while you obsess about the fabulous doomsday ejaculations of writers such as Damian Thompson who leads this week with the subtly phrased title, THIS WEEK THE CATHOLIC CHURCH IS IN CHAOS. AND POPE FRANCIS IS TO BLAME.
His unquotable stream-of-consciousness prose cuts way into conspiracy theory territory. He makes Jeremiah sound like a paragon of mental health. I mean, what’s going on here? Is Damian Thompson trying to put Chick Tracts out of business? Why must he hate the Jesuit Pope?
If one thing is clear, it’s that Francis is not to blame for what’s happening . . . instead blame Wojtyla, blame Ratzinger. They appointed the Cardinals Francis has to contend with. Then again, saints and ex-popes are human too. Forgive them, they knew not what they did. This happens all the time: it’s called human history.
Speaking of history, those having fits about the Synod should take a deep breath and relish in the glorious Rabelaisian past of the Roman Catholic Church. Don’t be ashamed or bashful. Take a full whiff . . .
One place to linger over is the pontifical pornocracy of the 9th 10th centuries. The popes of those days make the Renaissance popes–even if Quod non fecerunt barbari, fecerunt Barberini still holds–look like the Mormon Tabernacle Choir: organized, peaceful, and well-behaved.
If you don’t have a dictionary handy, “pornocracy” means “prostitute rule” and here are a few choice tidbits from Edward Gibbon’s History of the Decline and Fall of Rome to flesh that out for you:
The Roman pontiffs, of the ninth and tenth centuries, were insulted, imprisoned, and murdered, by their tyrants; and such was their indigence, after the loss and usurpation of the ecclesiastical patrimonies, that they could neither support the state of a prince, nor exercise the charity of a priest. The influence of two sister prostitutes, Marozia and Theodora, was founded on their wealth and beauty, their political and amorous intrigues: the most strenuous of their lovers were rewarded with the Roman mitre, and their reign may have suggested to the darker ages the fable of a female pope. The bastard son, the grandson, and the great-grandson of Marozia, a rare genealogy, were seated in the chair of St. Peter, and it was at the age of nineteen years that the second of these became the head of the Latin church. His youth and manhood were of a suitable complexion; and the nations of pilgrims could bear testimony to the charges that were urged against him in a Roman synod, and in the presence of Otto the Great. As John XII had renounced the dress and decencies of his profession, the soldier may not perhaps be dishonored by the wine which he drank, the blood that he spilt, the flames that he kindled, or the licentious pursuits of gaming and hunting. His open simony might be the consequence of distress; and his blasphemous invocation of Jupiter and Venus, if it be true, could not possibly be serious. But we read, with some surprise, that the worthy grandson of Marozia lived in public adultery with the matrons of Rome; that the Lateran palace was turned into a school for prostitution, and that his rapes of virgins and widows had deterred the female pilgrims from visiting the tomb of St. Peter, lest, in the devout act, they should be violated by his successor.
Finally, comes news from the Daily Mail of all places (I kid, it makes perfect sense), that the city of Sodom–the proverbial biblical symbol of utter depravity–might be more than the stuff of pious legend and biblical folk stories:
The team believes the city they have discovered must be Sodom, because evidence suggests it thrives on the banks of the river Jordan and was an important trade route, as described in the Bible.
Further evidence to support the claims is that Tall el-Hamaam was suddenly deserted at some point time towards the end of the middle Bronze Age.
This has been suggested because the researchers have found few artefacts from the late phase of the period in comparison to other settlements in the region.
The area remained deserted for around 700 years, after which the city was repopulated, evidenced by artefacts and remains of an Iron Age settlement.
I suppose one thing remains constant: humanity keeps messing up, but the Good Lord patiently abides–even if he sometimes loses it and destroys a city or two. But then he feels bad about it and promises not to blow up or flood anything anymore. Remember? That’s what the rainbow signifies in the Bible.
So next time you feel unleashing fire and brimstone, recall the epigraph to Anna Karenina: “Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord” (Rom. 12:19). Also remember that 2016 will be the Year of Mercy.
If you’re prone to habitual forgetting, then bookmark this page so you can come back to the following words from Hans Urs von Balthasar’s Elucidations:
I do not greatly mind what outsiders do, but there are those within the Church who think they do a service to God by belaboring the Church as they would a dusty mattress. Let them beat away by all means, provided they strike their own breasts and with each blow identify themselves with the belabored Church.
If they refuse, I fail to understand how they can assert they are in the Church and not outside fighting against her. However, let us leave them to their fate or, better, to a gentle Providence who may open their eyes to this truth: a sinless, all-knowing Church that would sell off the old dusty one would be no Church at all but only a Montanist-Donatist-Pelagian sect not worth remaining in and having nothing in common with the Church of Jesus Christ.
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