More merciful than Jesus

Asked once if he were a happy man, Charles de Gaulle replied, “I am not stupid.”

It was a direct reply to a direct question, and it was superb. For the French general and president would not diminish the concept of happiness to what it has become in our modern world; to what I would call the “happyface” idiocy. The burdens of state are not happyface, and the jollying rhetoric of cheap politicians does not lighten them. I love Charles de Gaulle, by the way, in the same way I love Winston Churchill: the man for the job in each case. But I have never mistaken either for a saint.

Gethsemane, to be plain, was not a happyface story. Neither was the Crucifixion.

The Gloria is not a happyface proposition. Nothing that is bottomless could be so.

The moral stench of our contemporary, “progressive” worldview is not founded on anything. It floats in an air of glibness — the very glibness that denies the existence of Hell. It presents itself as more merciful than Jesus, more tolerant than the madame of any brothel. Its happiness is a false posture, shallow and neurotic; a mask over something unspeakably grim.

What troubles me most is not our current pope’s repeated contradictions, of the Catholic doctrines that are his duty to uphold. This troubles me a great deal, but even more, his refusal to answer direct questions about what he has said, or is reported to have said. Instead he leaves his staff to issue “plausible denials” — sophistical obfuscations — then goes back to playing conventional pope again, for the conventionally faithful, until his next irruption. He is playing a game with us — a game with the heart, mind, and soul of every Catholic. By now I am convinced that he is not an honest man.

He is not even a sincere heretic. The venerable heresy of Apokatastasis, attributed to proponents of universal salvation, from Origen to Teilhard, is not what he is selling, contrary to what several intellectuals claim. That doctrine is not glib. It does not involve denial of the existence of Hell; it rather affirms that the souls in Hell will be, somehow and eventually, brought to salvation. It further contradicts the pope’s Peronist notion that inconvenient souls can be made to “disappear.” For however we imagine Hell, or its duration, the idea that God did not make every human soul immortal is actually more offensive to Christian teaching.

I have been accused, by several correspondents, of being a bad Catholic, for showing the office of the papacy disrespect. This is upside down. It is exactly what the pope is doing — forcing us to choose between himself and Jesus Christ.