Our Kingdom, where?

We cannot know, and perhaps should not presume to know, whether the election of our current pope was a good thing or a bad thing. The matter will not be decided by historians, who for the most part are as useless as journalists in getting to the bottom of anything, and are often as riddled with bias as the worst of them.

There can be no doubt that the Church was in a bad way, before Jorge Bergoglio took office. That a conclave in Rome, made of cardinals appointed by the two preceding popes, were capable of electing such a man, is superficially distressing. We have had bad popes in the past, however, and Lord, bad cardinals, too. Rarely are they the majority, but the world is the world. To each generation, the Church appears to be made of men, but by now we should have noticed what wretches men are.

Some become saints, and ought therefore to be trusted, but the very question of who are the saints is being confused by the current practice of creating them wholesale. If, for instance, every pope is to be pronounced a saint as if it were a gold watch on his retirement, we can look forward to a Saint Pope Francis when the conclave he has stacked chooses his successor. Unlike many “traditional” Catholics, I do not look forward to when Bergoglio goes. I can easily imagine the worse that could follow.

A great deal of responsibility is being passed down the ranks, to individual Catholics, whose difficulties mount. Is superstition not encouraged, when the individual at prayer is distracted by conflicting accounts of what he should be praying?

Is he really supposed to adore Mother Earth? Has he omitted comminations against oil and gas companies? Should he be wearing feathers?

Since Vatican II, if not before and during, the Church herself has been broadcasting mixed messages, so that even plain questions of good and evil are frequently in dispute. We have now reached the point when the Vatican communications officer tells us a pagan ceremony filmed in the Vatican garden, thus witnessed by millions, did not happen. He is then applauded by stolid Vatican bureaucrats sitting along his panel.

Had George Orwell been a Catholic, he could have written a satirical novel about this; though I think Wyndham Lewis could have done better. Evelyn Waugh would have been too discreet. Our contemporaries must be content with ill-written newscasts, and a discouraging diet of lies, lies, lies.

But the question I began with was not, do we have a bad pope, but is that a bad thing? The jury is always out, down here on Earth. As an old-fashioned Catholic my view is that authority descends from Heaven. My guess is that today’s quasi-socialist, radically political church will survive, but in Hell.

It has occurred to me, and several others, that the prevailing “post-Christian” mess in Rome might have good consequences. Even without using the word “schism,” I can see that a new devout, underground Church is emerging, just when it is needed. Those still obedient to the conception of the Church, adumbrated by our Founder, are being inspired to new and more heroic acts, and deeper prayer, in defence of that tradition.

How this will work out, down here on Earth, I have no idea. Yet when evils coalesce down here, resistance is also coalescing.

The means by which the Truth may be disseminated, still, are experimental and uncertain. I am thinking, for instance, of unofficial religious sites on the Internet, which bring comfort to those horrified by Rome. This is a dangerous thing; but as long as there remains a will to orthodoxy, good things can result.

Let us be martyrs: “witnesses.” Let us revive the old habits, contra mundum. In particular, let us recollect that the future we seek is no earthly, political utopia, but a Kingdom not of this world.