The self-defeaters

The Devil is prone to a little tactical flaw. He overplays his hand. Those who emulate the Devil tend to share this foible. One thinks of Ludendorff, for instance, who lost the First World War for the Germans. Then set them up to lose the Second one, too.

How many battles in history have been lost, when a general became a little overconfident. Let us say he has the defenders’ command in view. With all his concentrated forces, he will overleap, or overpower, a single soft and worn position, to achieve checkmate. All his freshest soldiers will gather around this one, ever weakening point. For days, weeks (from Synod to Synod) his shelling continues, until he can be sure the defenders — however numerous they once were — are exhausted, if not extinct.

They refuse to be mesmerized, however. They continue to suspect a trick, a surprise. Surely the Devil is planning a sudden thrust from another location. The defenders therefore hang in: stupidly, one might say, for all they do is absorb the blows. They do not ask the rest of their front line to supply reinforcements; shrug even when the wing commanders offer them. No, they are just going to take their lumps.

Finally comes the thrust: just where it was signalled all along. The shelling stops; the Enemy races forward; the position is breached. With nothing left to plug this hole in their middle, the defenders would seem to have cracked. “Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold.”

But what’s this?

The Enemy has, after all, been neglecting the rest of the line. Remember, he stripped it to reinforce his vanguard. On the cry, the outlying defenders mindlessly advance. They meet only token opposition. In the very moment their middle is collapsing, the defenders’ wings begin to swing around.

They (the Prussians, the Kasperites, whoever) have walked into a trap that they never suspected; and this because it was never laid. It is a trap the Enemy created and sprang — on himself. Suddenly it is not his opponent, but he, who is surrounded. He was focused, he was cocky, he was arrogant, and ruthless, and now — he is done.

All the enemy bayonets are stabbing forward — into the aether. But from both wings Saint Michael has come round, and ho! We are unloading all this holy ordnance into their backsides.

My most optimistic view of the Battle over Communion is that the Enemy has once again made this mistake. He’s put everything into a single, definitive breach in Church doctrine, on the assumption that after that hole is made, everything else goes down it. And it does, but not quite in the way the Enemy expected. What follows instead is Saint Michael aroused — whose strength remained in all the scattered positions.

The Kasperites spent years shelling this one carefully selected position (communion for adulterers) in the expectation that when it fell, Rome would be theirs. They even have the pope of their own choosing: one obviously beholden to them. The defence of Church doctrine seems about to expire, ignominiously.

But no, the battle is not over yet. It may well look rather grim. Until nearly the end of the First World War, it appeared that the Germans were winning; not only to us but to them.

Ah, Ludendorff; perhaps I am unfair to him. He certainly creamed the Russians at Tannenberg. He was the very Devil, and hardly in disguise.

“I repudiate Christianity as not appropriate to the German character,” the Prussian commander once said.

As G.K. Chesterton parodied: “I deny the existence of the Solar System, as unsuited to the Chestertonian temperament.”

Deny what you will, it is very large, and in the moment when the breach is made and boasted, the rest of it comes round to hit you in the ass. We may think it is going rather poorly for us, right at the centre of our beleaguered front. But that is to forget about Saint Michael.

You know: that holy angel of angels, hidden in plain view. The one to whom only “traditionalists” pray.

Lead us in battle.


POSTSCRIPTUM. I have removed a parenthesis from the above in which I toyed with the dangerous notion that the “St Gallen Mafia” forced Pope Benedict XVI to resign. We had the word of the latter that this was not so, as I was promptly reminded by a couple of readers; and as I now discover, even a hint from him of a mystical affirmation. I took my remark down immediately on their suggestion, but then my machine fritz’d, and I was only able to make it disappear these many hours later. … Mea culpa.

More could be said, but to no good purpose. … More should be said on one vital point: that in retiring from the papacy to a cell of prayer, the Pope Emeritus did not “give up.” We do not appreciate today the significance of such prayer.