Shipshape & Bristol fashion

Just before attaching him to the helium balloon, that will carry him eastward towards China, I should like to explain to some gentle readers why a certain beloved Pope Benedict, who knew a certain Cardinal Kasper to be an heretick, did not have him defrocked and excommunicated, but rather left him in position as a (prominent) bishop in Holy Church.

I have mentioned previously that in my humble, though authoritarian opinion, there are worse heretics that Kasper among the cardinals today. He has often boldly stood various orthodox Catholic red lines, which migrant liberals were trying to cross. That is a long footnote I am not going to write this morning, however. O Lord am I not.

One of the things I have come to understand by perusing Catholic media in Germany, Switzerland, the Low Countries, northern France — is that guys like Kasper are actually conservative, compared with their laity. I’ve seen polls to suggest that large majorities of nominal Catholics wanted stuff like gay marriage yesterday, and can’t imagine a reason for not offering communion to anyone who walks in off the street. Once-Catholic Ireland gave us a plain taste of this, when “same-sex marriage” was put to the vote there. Wail as we might about the failure of Catholic discipline and education, this is among the hard current facts of life.

Mafella Mercans should not take any comfort from an invidious comparison. As we know perfectly well, a substantial majority of nominal Catholics on this far side of the ancient western sea, think like the northern Europeans. The Nancy Pelosis and Joe Bidens and little Justin Trudeaus who serve as nominal Catholics in very public places are, moreover, not unrepresentative of these airhead masses. I have myself mixed with the effectively lapsed “nominariate” on many social occasions. When those liberals claim that they speak for the majority, they are, for a change, not lying. And of course Pope Francis is extremely popular with such people who, giving him only half attention, conclude that he is a “nominal” too.

Nor is this situation new. Long before, decades before, finally becoming a “Dogan” myself, I was vividly aware of it. Indeed, upon my own definitive conversion to Christianity, in 1976, this knowledge kept me from the Catholic Church. Every Catholic I knew was lapsed, back in that day — including each of the priests I consulted in England. It was why I found myself praying with the (beloved) high-church “Anglo-Catholic” fruitcakes, when not with the (beloved) low-church Evangelical nutjobs, in the carefully niche’d Anglican communion. A convert does not want, after all, lukewarm broad-church tea. (Soon after I discovered, however, that there were also some Catholics discreetly hidden within the Roman communion.)

I make this point at tedious length, because the full tedium must be appreciated. My fellow orthodox “holy rollers” tend easily to overlook the great white shark in our swimming pool. The masses in Africa may be drawn to the life-giving truth of the Catholic faith; the dwindling congregation in the modern West expect, when they whistle, that the faith will come to them. It is why the fatuous image of the “field hospital” rather appeals. It is the Holy Father’s way of saying, “I hear you whistling.”

Pope Benedict XVI, and John Paul before him, were not stupid men. They were trying to put a Church back together which, in “the spirit of Vatican II,” had all but fallen apart. The Hippocratic principle, first do no harm, was before them daily and Sundays. Both put up with a great deal of nonsense, that neither would have tolerated through breakfast in other circumstances.

Bishops like Kasper had to be endured, to avoid provoking open schism in such long-established Catholic realms as Bavaria and Flanders. Both popes worked with a “gradualist” strategy, in which the proclamation of a new and orthodox Catechism played an important part. The idea was to resume actually teaching the faith, with ever-increasing precision and energy, and let the heterodox die out. Only in the most extreme cases, of open defiance, did the gauntlets go down. Hans Kung, for instance, was too much for them.

To be sure, these were judgement calls, within a whole strategy that was a judgement call. It was like the classic accounting strategy, of eliminating a deficit not by cutting expenses, but by constraining their growth while revenues grow faster. This requires not only delicacy but patience. Had we continued to get popes in the mould of Wojtyla and Ratzinger, it had some chance of working.  Instead we now have a pope in the mould of Bergoglio, whose basic instinct is to blow the bank.

But we will see what is coming. For the opposite strategy, unthinkable at the moment, in the way in which War is unthinkable, may in the end prove the only sensible course. It would be for some future, muscular pope, to lay down the law from Rome, in unmistakable terms, and save the Church as she was saved in the course of many previous centuries — by the kind of “reform” that is designed to cut all the rot away. Rather than “pastorally accompany” the nominals farther and farther from received Catholic doctrine in faith and morals, we would “pastorally accompany” them to the door.

Or to vary the metaphor yet again, save the ship by dropping the deadweight overboard. (See Matthew, 18:6.)

As I say, this is unthinkable — not to the traditional Catholic mind, but to the unmanly sentimentalism of the post-modern. “Shape up or ship out” is not what we say to our sensitive, delicate flower children in this age of effeminate degeneration — unless, of course, we want them to shape up.