In the kingdom of Whatever
We do not like Daylight Savings Time (why would we?) but can say this much for it. Once every year, it gives us a publicly-recognized opportunity to set all our clocks back one hour. While this is hardly sufficient to erase centuries of Error, it is a satisfying gesture. Voting no longer gives us that sort of thrill. “Those bastards never set the clock back a single minute,” as Evelyn Waugh explained, to some dimwit or other, who asked why he wouldn’t vote even for the Tories. (No doubt apocryphal; the best quotes usually are.)
Our American readers are reminded to set their clock backs this morning, if they haven’t already. And as it is now the first Tuesday in November of a Leap Year, “vote often & early for James Michael Curley.” Had we the energy, & a car, we might be tempted to drive down to Ohio, & impersonate dead Americans in a dozen voting precincts. But then, we would probably overcome the temptation.
As a former newspaper pundit, we are ashamed to say, we would be capable of talking gentle reader’s ear off with comments on polls, their background assumptions, the underlying demographic facts, the partisan trends & their causes; the conclusion of which would be that we’re not sure who will win. Without enthusiasm, we support Mr Romney’s “Mormon-Christian coalition,” or at least, have long been on record against the Obama Nation that makes desolate.
But the Archbishop of Phila, the estimable Charles J. Chaput, makes a more sober point. Read this. And do not weep, for as he says, “it has always been this way.”
Verily: our Kingdom is not of this world.
To which we might add, that His Grace, in the item linked, touches upon vast history, through Brad Gregory’s recent book, The Unintended Reformation, which we have promised ourself to read. In our experience, people (a term we use to include Catholics) know little to nothing about the Reformation, & this mite floats on the breeze of centuries of half-remembered sectarian propaganda.
Consider this remark:
“Late mediaeval clergy too often preached one thing & did another. Greed, simony, nepotism, luxury, sexual licence, & schism in the hierarchy created an intolerable gap between Christian preaching & practice.”
True, but note the qualification. Let us distinguish between “too often,” & “always.” The point here is that the Protestants did not finally focus upon the greed, simony, nepotism, &c, rather used it to support attacks on the doctrine itself, by which such crimes were ultimately defined. (How often, back in the days of the Cold War, we found ourself painfully obliged to defend corrupt & hypocritical allies in places like Vietnam, against supposed “morally pure” Communists, who would not merely depose them, but impose a tyranny that turned morality itself upside down.)
Corruption there was in many places, but also, exemplary works. In England, for instance, on the eve of Henry VIII’s sack of the monasteries, it is necessary to go through them case by case. Some were in an appalling condition; some were shining lights; & many were somewhere between. We should not easily accept a caricature, in which the worst cases are taken as typical. (Read Eamon Duffy, for instance, & through his bibliographies, find much more.)
It should also be remembered that the arguments of the Reformers were themselves the product of the later Middle Ages. Reckless anachronism recasts them, through eyes that are looking through the history backwards.
“Our side” did not consist of perfect little choirboys. No side of anything ever did, for this planet is diseased. Conversely there was good in the worst of the Reformers; the good that God had put there. And while there is plenty of better & worse to argue, the argument itself leads us astray. For the issue was not the assignment of Brownie points, but the integrity of Christendom.