Year of clemency

Perhaps the word they are looking for in Rome is clemency. Or, clementia, should we wish to be late mediaeval about it. Merciful, if you will, with respect to Catholic doctrine, since it is mercy in itself. Imagine now, gentle reader, a full year in which the “we” of the Church (and any well-wishers) will be gentle, mild, and humane. I was thinking, especially towards faithful Catholics, who have suffered enough through the last couple of years, or rather, the last half century. Rome could let up on them for a while.

The pope himself might wish to spend the whole of the year, not saying anything. Let things pass. When asked, for instance, leading questions by the media, while aloft in aeroplanes — above 30,000 feet, where the air pressure might contribute to a certain dangerously giddy whimsicality — he could smile benignly. Let them mistranslate that. Bless them, perhaps: for they are so much in need of blessings, these poor journalistic souls. Smile, then put on headphones, and listen to Gregorian chant.

Or much better it would be, to stay out of aeroplanes; to stay home; for instance to relax at Castel Gandolfo. There are swans there, I understand: one might watch them glide on the Lago Albano. Or if no swans, surely other elegant birds. There are walks to take in the Alban Hills. There is even a golf course, I am told. And too, the remains of the Villa of Domitian to explore. Let us reflect, after all the cruelty of his first-century persecutions: that Domitian is dead. And that we have his Villa.

Too, we have the fine baroque collegiate Church of Saint Thomas of Villanova, designed by the sublime Bernini. It was this Saint Thomas who compared Our Lady’s Heart to Moses’ burning bush: alight, yet not consumed. Days could be spent contemplating that: a light that perpetually illuminates our darkness. The idea of Light, as opposed to noise.

No conferences, no “synods,” no talk to speak of. Rather than make new statements, we could focus on worthily re-publishing the old.

And the Curia going quietly about its business, looking for things lost under cushions, and at the backs of drawers. Let no one be fired for the entire Year of Clemency. Let the baddies be quietly identified, and simply eased out of any significant employments. Let them occupy their time doing Latin crosswords. Let all pause frequently for the Angelus: five times daily and a sixth on Fridays, in the gladdening tradition of Reconquista Spain.

Father Zed said recently that Pope Pius XIII will be so quiet, and make himself so invisible, the media will be circulating rumours that he has died. But why wait until his election? We have the technology to do this now.

Such rumours could be fed by transferring the Wednesday audiences away from San Pietro, to quiet corners in the Vatican gardens. Perhaps ask the Emeritus, beloved Benedict XVI, to resume his wonderful Wednesday “catechisms,” in his gentle, Peter Lorrie voice, expounding Scripture and the Lives of the Saints to little clumps of people who happen to be interested. And the Cardinal Vicar of Rome could be delegated to bless the small crowds of tourists and the faithful in Saint Peter’s Square, Wednesdays and Sundays. By such means, the Holy Father could be kept hidden away.

Of course the bishops of St Gallen would mutter and gripe, demand this, demand that, and possibly the other. But let us suppose no one is returning their phone calls.

Imagine for a moment our Holy Church less like a busy field hospital, full of carnage, and more like a chapel for pilgrims. Let those who wish to come, come; let those who wish to go, go.  As an act of clemency, or mere trial if you will, let us spend a whole year communicating, not by public gestures on the public stage, but through the bells, the bells.