Something to declare

There is a wonderful passage in a memoir by the Orcadian poet, George Mackay Brown. (For the Islands I Sing, 1997.) He finds himself in a drunk tank in Edinburgh, with two other gentlemen: one a sailor, “who had damaged his hand in a fight in a respectable coffee-house”; the other an English tourist, pleading for a cup of tea. Brown himself had been arrested for “drunk and incapable” in Hanover Street. The three, though seriously hungover, and in some misery, spent much of the long day in laughter together.

Night came, and the policemen added a fourth customer: a gentleman blathering obsessively about his hatred of Catholics. When this became insupportable, the sailor declared himself a Catholic, in a decisive yet understated way. The Englishman then announced that he would be a Catholic, too. Our poet became the third to realize that he was a Catholic, even though he had not entertained the possibility, before. The scene ends with the fourth shrieking to the guards, to let him out of this cell full of Catholics.

I think it is the happiest triple conversion story I have read. I must thank my gentle reader, Lord Jowls, for sending the book to me.


My intention had been to write, today, about the bizarre document that came yesterday out of the Vatican. It is the relatio post disceptationem, for the first week of the Extraordinary Synod on the Family. ​I’m scratching my head trying to guess what it was meant to accomplish, and whom it was meant to please — besides people who loathe the Church, both within and outwith her. Scratching my head till it is bleeding.

Questions come to  mind. Do the bishops not know what this is doing in the parishes? What doubts and divisions are being sown, by their posturing vanities? The discouragement they are spreading among Christ’s faithful and obedient? The encouragement they are giving to the wolves? About the rancid smell in the peanut gallery?

Maybe they don’t know. Maybe they don’t care. Maybe they just want to pleasure one another.

It is statistically unlikely that all two hundred bishops are at fault. We know with certainty that many in there must be as appalled as many out here. But it is becoming apparent that a considerable number, perhaps even the majority, are devoid of shame.

We should pray for them, I suppose, as we pray for practising homosexuals, and the squalidly remarried, and others who find themselves trapped in a situation that is objectively and inherently disordered, just as they begin to realize that it is disordered, and there will be no easy way out. Bishops playing fast and loose with Church doctrine are especially in need of our prayers. Christ give them strength to confront their own degradation.

The press conference after the release of this relatio was, if possible, worse than the document itself: the sight of bishops tacking and weaving in the spin mode, which we rightly associate with sleazy politicians. Christ inspire them to begin answering direct questions, honestly.

Meanwhile: “Whatever they do in the Vatican, I’m staying Catholic.” Even if the pope should be objectively disordered — and we have had some right scoundrels in the past — we must stay the course. It is up to us now, to show an example to our bishops, and hope they come to their senses, soon.

My particular prayer is that, in the face of this Vatican abomination, people may react by Grace, as the gentlemen did in that Edinburgh drunk tank. I pray that Christ may come to us directly: in His unexpected ways.

To those sincerely Christian, but not Catholic, I would plead: come. Come into the Church now, and help us fight the contagion within.