Mysterious ways

“It is one thing to pray for discernment, but quite something else to announce being in receipt of it.”

I quote Maureen Mullarkey, one of my living heroines, whose essays and blog (here) are a constant source of furious uplift. As the Naga peppers from the Chittagong Hills, I suppose there are people who don’t like them. The magazine First Things, for instance, decided that she was too hot to swallow. But I like edge, spice, taste, point, and Scoville heat units. And Mrs Mullarkey is a public provider.

By that sentence, from a recent post, she has put her finger in the correct eye. Within the Catholic Church today, and wherever the Christian religion is experiencing an exceptionally squalid late decadence, the belief that “the Holy Spirit” is telling us to do this or that, is alive and twisting. The notion that, for instance, we must respect the pope, not for his holy office, but because he is the receiver of divine messages, is superstitious, for a start. Popes, like emperors, may have no clothes, and the little boy who alludes to the fact should be judged on the evidence.

We owe respect, and obedience to the office. The man himself must earn it, as most previous popes have done, by teaching the Faith, unaltered. If he is serving warmed-over Zeitgeist from the political Left, for instance, or playing little subversive games with sound bites and footnotes, he must be held to account. Error must be corrected.

Now, to be fair to the current custodian of the Throne of Peter, he is not in the habit of claiming a hotline to heaven, in a direct way. The claim tends to be made on his behalf by his court jesters. I refer to men like Victor Manuel Fernández (see my Thing column yesterday, here), his appalling, blowhard adviser (and see the quotes therein); a man now exposed as the pope’s “ghost-writer.”

The “ghost” in this case is very far from requiring a capital G.

For Catholics in the trenches, or along the pews, the challenge cannot be to swallow the latest novelties from Rome. As Catholics, we can know that what is not in accord with Scripture and Tradition cannot possibly be in accord with the Holy Spirit. The challenge is rather to endure until the nonsense is over.

“Whatever they do in the Vatican, I’m staying Catholic.”

This exhilarating line comes from an old Czech drinking buddy, from the days when the Bugnini liturgical “reforms” were emptying our chapels. It is a more plausible expression of the Spirit than many others I have heard.

We are not dealing with a religion that “evolves”; rather with a Revelation immortal and unchanging, that we may come to “discern” more or less. At this historical moment, our hold is weakening. Therefore each, in his own life, must strive to make it stronger; to carry it forward in our very lives, and communicate it as well as we can, person to person: cor ad cor loquitur.

Mrs Mullarkey cites Paul, “How unsearchable are His judgements and unscrutable His ways,” echoing Isaiah:

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways, saith the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.”

This is something we can know.