Essays in Idleness

DAVID WARREN

Judy

Let us consider the case of Judy, whose surname I will not supply, even though I haven’t seen her in more than forty years. She must now be an old lady, near seventy. When I knew her she was not only young, but ridiculously attractive. She had “a problem with” men that, I gathered, began with having a rather weak father. (This was in England, but it happens everywhere.)

It continued when, age about nineteen, she had an affair with a young, but married, Anglican priest. It was an “uncontrollable” passion. Unfortunately, the wife found out, along with everyone else in that village. Shades of Hardy: she was driven out. (My own shadings tend more to Hogarth.) And so on, to the road and the new life.

To merry London, where she made friends among the young and hip. There was one particularly cool guy whom she liked to hang out with, though they were “just friends.” She didn’t care what other people thought. One day, when they were smoking a joint together in his room, he raped her.

She was surprised how badly she took it. She’d trusted the guy; she’d trusted the priest; she’d trusted her father, when she was very little. She had no value for sexual continence, and little interest any more in the old, backward, Christian institution of marriage, of which her parents had given an especially poor example. She was “theoretically” in favour of “free love,” though too shy to practise it consciously. She was a girl, now actually a woman, in a world where, even in the 1970s, a girl was expected to have a job. This she found, as a stenographer, though she had to quit when her boss made embarrassing passes at her. But she found another, and still had it, for she was diligent and proficient. She didn’t rely on any man for an income.

Soon she found what she took for a much better man than any previous, and moved in with him. But she had recently moved out. This was because he’d found “a little tart,” with whom he was sleeping, openly on those tenets of “free love.” She “knew” that jealousy was “wrong,” but for some reason she was stabbed to the heart by his infidelity, and could not “get over” her rage. She’d trusted him, too. And now she was toying with some serious feminism.

Another day, I got to hear the whole story (in somewhat unnecessary detail) when the two of us were alone (though not in my bedroom). It involved tears. Why she was telling me instead of a woman was a question I asked, in a rare moment of insight. She said it was because she trusted me. She said it so ingenuously that I can remember thinking, “I shan’t dishonour her trust.” But I also thought: “Incurably naïve.” By now, she ought to have been introduced — to herself.

There was no point in walking her to a church: she’d “been there, done that,” and paid.

The rest of this story is irrelevant to my purpose; except to say there was now an “atmosphere” between us, such that I almost became her next man. But did not, thank God, and my guardian angel.

I think of her now in light of Catholic scandals. There was nothing lesbian in the story of her life (till then), however, and nothing “gay” in the priest’s, so there is no homosexual diversion to make things wilder. (On the other hand, thinking back to when she was first seduced: it wouldn’t have happened had the priest been homosexual.)

To my knowledge that deflowering was “consenting” on both sides. (Judy was only raped later.) It wrecked her life all the same — that, in combination with the “urbane” moral environment to which she then proceeded. I hate to think what became of her: this girl who was so trusting, instinctively faithful, capable of work — and a magnet to over-magnetized men. And by church and formerly-Christian society, utterly betrayed. And with her own active cooperation.

Statistics cannot tell this story though, with minor variations, it has happened a million times.

Quick review

I should like to review, on this holy Sunday, for the benefit of those gentle readers who are Catholic, two reasons for not leaving the Church. These will not be, of course, the principal reasons, which may be found in the Gospels, the Bible more largely from Genesis to Apocalypse, the Tradition from our earliest times, the Holy Spirit in mysterious human action, the works of the Church Fathers, Doctors, and Saints, the integral beauty of Christian poetry, music, architecture, art, before their ruination, the Liturgy which arranged and harmonized these things in the True Presence and in the whisper of Our Lady. (Then look into the eyes of your children.) But these arguments require attentive patience, and that peace of mind and soul that may not be available in hot moments of controversy, when the wolves of Rome, Washington, Chicago, &c, are making free in our sheepfold, and no suitably armed shepherd seems to be in sight.

In such difficult circumstances, I implore my gentle reader to recall these two more immediate arguments:

1. “Don’t let the bastards drive you out of the Church.”

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

Let’s be practical

In Canada we used to have — still have, according to a friend who should know — the excellent institution of the “returned ballot.” It is my usual way of voting. I can write with some confidence that it has never won.

Here’s what you do. You go into the polling station, show your ID (in Canada voters must identify themselves). The officer crosses you off the voting list, and gives you a ballot. Then you say, “I wish to return this ballot.” He says, “Thank you, sir,” and takes out his returned ballot book. (It need be nothing special: a school exercise book will do.) He copies your name into that, along with your address. (It is the only way to get your preference recorded.) You thank him, then wander off through the boobs who came to vote for somebody.

One has oneself, in effect, just voted for “none of the above.” This is the theory.

In practice the officer, who may or may not speak English or French, but probably needed the money, looks puzzled and a little frightened. He has no idea what you are talking about. You dig in, to provide a patient lesson in elementary civics. He won’t have a book, but you have brought along a cahier with “Returned Ballots” written on the cover in large capitals with a felt pen, and some heraldry doodled above it. To be helpful, you have already written your name and address on the first line. He consults all the other polling staff then says, “Thank you, sir.”

When, later, you check the results, you will not find a single returned ballot mentioned. Perhaps you were counted among the spoilt ones.

Now if you had been counted, and had persuaded a plurality of your fellow citizens to do likewise in, say, the riding of Parkdale (about one-in-four would triumph in most Canadian ridings; one-in-six if the turnout were low enough), the election is annulled. A by-election must then be called, in which none of the previous candidates may stand.

By repeating this process four or five times in a significant number of constituencies, you (now in the plural) could perhaps send some sort of message to Ottawa. (Or, “Tottawa,” as I like to call it.) The scheme would be to leave the House of Commons without a quorum or any sort of government for two or three years, to see if that improves things. (I assume that, if they aren’t paid for long enough, the “civil servants” will drift off to other jobs.)

One of Canada’s politicians, a known trouble-maker named Maxime Bernier, has just announced the formation of a new political party. It will be called the “People’s Party,” to distinguish it from those other parties. Bernier is, I gather, a vaguely libertarian populist. He is quite popular in his own riding, somewhere south of Quebec City, and I predict his party will win one seat in the next Parliament. We would probably need to persuade one-in-three voters in Beauce, to get him out.

I wonder if any of my gentle readers in Canada, with perhaps a hundred million to spare, would like to finance a national campaign for the returned ballot. I doubt that we would find a politician of any party to front for it. But that’s okay.

The Premier of Ontario has caused much consternation by using the provincial power to cut the size of Toronto’s municipal council to roughly half. I endorse this, as a tentative measure, but I don’t think it goes far enough. Split the place into about two hundred boroughs, and get rid of the “Metro” bureaucracy entirely, and then we have something to talk about.

To be men not destroyers

A gentleman who wears the collar expresses surprise at the surprise. He has been wearing that collar for some time. He was in the seminary so long ago, that he can remember when the classes were taught in Latin. He has lived with degeneration in the Church since before Vatican II — has seen it all, and heard it all, and now he is seeing and hearing more.

“I find it hard to stomach all the misplaced surprise. I hear echoes of Genesis‎: ‘Who told you that you were naked?’ …

“Where were these alarmists as our children’s catechism was denuded, our altars disobediently despoiled, our Catholic institutions‎ demolished? … Catholic Children’s Aid, gone‎. … Catholic Hospitals, gone‎. … Catholic Schools, no longer Catholic. … Immigration Services for Catholic immigrants, gone. … Seminaries, not even a shadow of their former institutional selves. … Convents turned to condos. …

“As to clerics who lived lifestyles not in keeping with their calling: one would have had to ‎be a member of the Orange Lodge not to have rubbed shoulders with a multitude of them in the ’sixties and thereafter. …

“Now, on a sudden, the flood of crocodile tears. …

“Sexual perversion lamented by folk in second unions, contraceiving, sterilizing, in-vitro fertilizing. Yet marriage is a holy calling, and one with vows. Vatican II did remind us that the clergy have no monopoly on holiness, and the laity are not held to a lesser standard. …”

He could go on.

I am in only my sixteenth year as a Catholic. Yet I have known Catholics, it seems, since time out of mind. I did not directly experience the heartbreak and desolation through years of the contemptible “Bugnini reforms,” yet felt them vicariously through close, “traditionalist” Catholic friends, and through what I read by Catholic writers. (A certain Joseph Ratzinger was the most impressive among the living ones; even as an Anglican I subscribed to Communio.) I was aware, when I was received into the Church, that she was, in these Western lands at least, at a nadir in her fortunes. I could honestly tell my collared friend that I was not surprised by recent revelations that the rot ascends from feet to knees, and to the very top of the hierarchy.

As I have tried to make abundantly clear, I do not take Bergoglio for the cause, but as a symptom of our squalor. We have finally got “the pope we deserve,” surrounded by a cabal of perverts. Or perhaps we have not, and worse will come.

Let us not make excuses for them, but more urgently, let us not make excuses for ourselves. The priests have failed the laity. The laity have failed the priests. And now we all fail in the face of the “hurricane” I described this morning at Catholic Thing (here). Do not pretend to be surprised by the torrents.

A mob of accusers can accomplish nothing, except to spread more destruction. The task before us is to rebuild; to consult once again the directions of our Founder.

Fragments of Holy Church can still be found in the immense fields of rubble. We must collect them with reverence, and clear the rubble away. Wherever the Old Mass is worthily sung, there we still hear: the voice of Our Lord singing in the ashes.

“To be men not destroyers,” as that old wreck of a poet Ezra Pound once proposed.

Of the cool & the cold

Oh look, it is the seventeenth anniversary of an event in lower Manhattan, with some associated events which still dominated news cycles, days later. It took North Americans and other worldlings the rest of the year to get over them. While ramifications of those events filled further years, through Afghanistan and Iraq, and lap our footsteps to the present day, the shock value of “9/11” wore off fairly quickly.

I gauged this at a Tuesday drinking table I used to attend. In the first week after the aeroplanes hit, my more Left-progressive friends changed their tune. This was a relief, for their old tune had been playing for a very long time. “Amerika” was suddenly no longer the source of everything evil and ugly on the planet. It was widely acknowledged that anti-Americans could be bad, too. I remember, particularly, a little disquisition from a European member of the circle, a specialist in anti-American sneering and insinuation, who had come to this continent only for the economic opportunities. He said, in the spirit of Susan Sontag (when she mentioned that subscribers to Reader’s Digest were generally better-informed than those in her own cultural-revolutionary vanguard), that he had learnt more about reality in two hours the previous Tuesday than in all his life before. He declared himself an American Patriot and a big fan of George W. Bush, to whom he referred as “our captain.”

But by Canadian Thanksgiving his “scepticism” had resurfaced, and soon after, he was the Leftist version of a “truther” again, though with some slight reservations. By Christmas he had forgotten everything. (Dear fellow: knows a lot about movies.)

I remember him particularly, but the fashion trend — what I would call “the return to idiocy” — could also be perceived through the media in the world at large. It struck me at some point that, from a radical Muslim view, the 9/11 attacks had proved a brilliant stroke in public relations. Islam was now fashionable on the campuses of the West, and through the dictates of the politically correct, Muslims could no longer be criticized. Any word spoken against the religion, or the religionists, could now be given as an example of the most genocidal racial bigotry; and Christians were once again what they had in mind when touching on the subject of “religious extremism.” Those who resisted the prospect of unimpeded immigration from the Middle East were now “neo-Nazis.”

Let me return to the subject of beer. Through correspondence over my Idlepost of Friday it dawned on me that most people do not actually like beer. It’s not something in the taste, but the taste itself that does not appeal to them. That’s why they drink it as cold as possible. An ice box “chills out” the flavour of cheeses, other dairy goods, most any food, all alcoholic or other beverages. Sodas are popular, because people like the sugar, so strong it can be tasted through shards of ice. At room temperature these sodas become undrinkable, because some of the background flavours emerge.

(We could go on with this, from the gastronomic angle; I won’t, except to say that I like certain strong monastic ales the best, and to serve them at anything lower than room temperature would be a crime. I also like runny French cheeses.)

I link this with the response to 9/11 by the “cool” people. One morning they had to drink their violence warm. They much prefer it refrigerated.

On beer consumption

Guinness has been described — accurately I think — as “stout-flavoured water.” I had not drunk a tin of this liquid for many years, but in the course of a meeting of the secret society to which I happen to belong, I tried another last night. It was as I remembered.

A beer snob somewhere on the Internet made a list of the world’s most overrated beers. I was not surprised to find this Irish-multinational “dry stout” at the top of the list; or that Heineken, Yuengling, Blue Moon Belgian White, and “sour beers: every stinkin’ one of ’em,” made his top five. As a Canadian, let me add, without exception, every one of our mass-market national brands, starting with “Molson Canadian.”

Living in England in the 1970s, I recall what was dubbed a national campaign for “real ale,” which allowed some microbreweries to make inroads against things like Watney’s Red — a noxious chemical concoction from which life could never have evolved. The demands of low-class British tourists had carried this horror to the Canary Islands, and all over the world. But even the higher-caste pub chains served brews that could not withstand serious review by a cerevisaphile.

Indeed, I witnessed an unfortunate altercation in a Young’s pub once, in which an aficionado of “real ale,” whom I shall call Ian (for that was his name), lost his patience with a man extolling what was on tap, to a small group of smug upper-middle types elbowing the bar behind them. Ian tapped the enthusiast on the shoulder, who turned towards him with a big vacant smile.

“Excuse me, sir,” Ian inquired, in his best Oxbridge. “How long have you been a banana?”

The smiley gentleman then laid him out. The barkeep, acting as referee, leaned over Ian’s prone form, to administer the countdown. Ian was now permanently banned; I helped him hobble out. The enthusiast, a regular customer, could remain.

I am opposed, in principle, to starting fights in bars. I think my friend was actually in the wrong, though he protested that it was odd to be evicted from a pub for having been the object of violence.

Since, I have been trying to think of other ways to advance the cause of “real ale.” I have entertained such ideas as making the tax code friendlier to small enterprises, such as local breweries. But while I have come to oppose tax codes, tout court (much could be achieved by making all taxes voluntary), I do not think we can improve the quality of beer overmuch, by that means.

Ditto, while I should like to see the elimination of all mass-market “lifestyle” advertising, I have had to conclude that this should be done only as an end in itself. It would help make many international franchise operations extinct, but would not necessarily lead to the improvement of such beverages as they are currently supplying.

No; I have, with characteristic pessimism, had to conclude that the only way to improve standards in the production, distribution, and consumption of ales, pales, lagers, stouts, and what have you, would be for the individual drinkers to stop buying wretched, tasteless things. They must teach themselves to distinguish good from bad, if no one is available to teach them, and they must refuse to drink e.g. “stout-flavoured water” as a matter of acquired habit.

We must all become beer snobs. Our civilization depends on it.

____________

SMALL BEER. — A reader, who is a home brewer, immediately asks if my objection to Guinness is to the “stout flavour” or to the “water.” Assuming it is to the water, he then asks if I would condemn all light-bodied beers? Ignoring the first question, I reply, that I do not object to small beers, designed and labelled as such, for consumption by children (before we send them to work in the fields). But the idea of a “light stout” is a perverse contradiction of terms and an outrage.

News, news, news

I wish everyone and their SJW aunt would stop dumping on President Trompe, so I could have a turn. The news tends to demean one. It invites all readers to take sides, and by its immediacy adds that quantum (or quantus, or those quanta) of hysterical madness — instant emotional response to partial information, of which a proportion is maliciously false. Actually, I despise Trompe, and am opposed to almost everything he is doing, but I’m not going to give the slightest satisfaction to his “progressive” opponents, whom I despise more. He is no reactionary, and no “conservative,” either, only a puffball populist; why would I like him? (Example: Trompe wants everyone to have more money; I think they have too much already.)

He has unusual virtues in a politician, however. He is candid about his intentions, and is passing honest, however sloppy with the details; robust in his flattery, as too in his abuse. His self-seeking is open, not disguised. He is the dead opposite of a Machiavellian schemer. This is brave because, while it charms his stiff-necked supporters, the majority in any democratic electorate demand to be lied to. Should the entire media say one thing, and Trompe says another, I would think Trompe more likely to be telling (some aspect of) the truth.

Comparisons of Trompe to the Pope are obtuse. Proposals to replace either with the other would be, heroically, obtuser. An Aristotelian mean between the two is inconceivable. They are, in my humble but persistent opinion, nearly opposites.

Edward Feser, always worth reading, explained patiently yesterday, “Why Archbishop Viganò is almost certainly telling the truth” (here). Since I couldn’t explain it better myself, I have given the link. Apart from what he demonstrates, Prof Feser’s manner of presenting his case is worth holding up to admiration. Tabloid readers may find it boring, but if so, it is an argument against having taught them how to read. (The spread of half-education is among our modern crimes.) Those who discover in themselves the right to an opinion on topics with which they are unacquainted should soldier through such articles on a mission of auto-didactic reform.

What Trompe and Bergoglio have in common is a now-global culture in which the truth has lost any sort of precision — where it has not lost any content at all. We can’t turn the clock back, I am often told (though I find this easy enough to do on my forty-year-old Timex watch), and therefore we must accept the new reality, to which Humpty Dumpty is our lexicographic guide. Even if we could move backwards through time, we would find that our world was always a whore. Still, it was once more discreet about it.

Very well, I might “accept” this reality, there being no choice. Except, there is a choice. It is to act “as if” the truth had value — the whole truth, and nothing but — for in the longer scheme of things, nothing ever changes. The truth is still the truth and a lie is still a lie, no matter what the powers of enforcement. Wait, patiently, and the fog will clear. Of course this will not happen in our lifetimes, as Holy Church has always taught.

____________

WOOD’S HA’PENCE. — A certain valued correspondent immediately replies that while he counts himself among the obtuse, he finds these qualities in common between “el Papa” and “el Presidente”: 1. Ill-educated and badly informed. 2. Given to constant self-expression. 3. Playing to a particular crowd, constantly (populist, Peronist). 4. Uninterested in the character of their respective offices as established by tradition. 5. Vengeful and mocking towards those with whom they disagree, while ignoring legitimate criticism. 6. Pretending to reform while installing their own “swamp” pals. 7. In the world and completely of it, in the culture that no longer acknowledges the force of truth (a different way of describing the culture you mention).

Two items

Two items that have come to my attention, I link, because they are exceptionally worth reading. Each says what I would say, had I the wit. Both articles are about Power, but where the first by “Spengler” in the Asia Times (here) considers the matter in a profane context, the second by Maureen Mullarkey at The Federalist (here), looks beneath.

Mrs Mullarkey is a friend, whom I much admire; an unusual writer at the edge of the “meejah” (kicked out of as many places as I have been, perhaps) who thinks for herself, and thinks thoroughly to conclusions. This (I want to compliment “Spengler,” too) is extremely rare. The overwhelming majority of hacks bounce to a beat, like pebbles on a drumhead; these writers flutter on their own wings.

Chastity is something almost impossible for that “post-modern,” vacantly atheist mind to comprehend. We think of it in explicitly sexual terms; we cannot cope with the idea of detachment, as it applies to all human activities — including all poetry, science, and art. Conversely, we imbue sex with an autonomy that became possible only with easy access to contraception and abortion — by which technological means we were able to demean sex itself, turning it from something profound in its communion, into a form of home entertainment. We cannot begin to understand the ancient ecclesial call for chastity, poverty, simplicity; for celibate priests.

As I was just writing to Mrs Mullarkey, “On certain topics, the most interesting thing is that they are boring.” Illicit sex is finally a bore, because there is nothing beautiful in it. It is of use only to the expression of Power. The feminists have a point, but as ever, get it backwards. Celibacy in the Church was a means to contain Power, both directly and indirectly. Directly it provided a means to undermine all dynastic ambitions within the Church. Indirectly, it was the shield of innocence against a broad range of depravities — parcelled with the command for poverty, for detachment from this sinful world. Sex, the Church teaches, as Nature also teaches, is for the purpose of procreation; marriage is for the purpose of children to be conceived, born, protected, raised in virtue; and for the union of the female and the male within the Body of Christ. The fornication promoted everywhere in our culture is everywhere founded in deceit.

When we consider the current vast scandal within the Church herself, we witness something that goes beyond fornication. The fact of a “gay lobby” is not something new. As the latter link notes, it was present also in the 14th century. Appalling in itself, it becomes something worse when we discover the challenge it offers to what Christ taught — right across the board.

Homosexual strutting, whether in the 21st century or in the 14th, is the most comprehensive subversion I can imagine against the whole mission of Holy Church. In defiance of the ancient world, and its punishments, she condemned it absolutely.

It is hard for the post-modern man, whose head is full of glibness, to consider this even as a possibility. He works exclusively from a principle of pleasure, and with an idea of freedom that is ruthlessly selfish: “I want what I want.” His quality of life is purely quantitative. When the possibility of pleasure is withdrawn, he wants to be dead. He’s “the end of history,” the “zero sum” man.

And yet, even if he wants to be this, he cannot. The rebellion against God, the power-lust and vanity that infiltrate his pleasures, mark him still as a spiritual being. But it is an inverted spirit that he serves. “The arrogance of power” describes it well.

Labour Day ramble

My Chief Texas Correspondent, whose heart is often in the right place though he is no Catholick, has been, as so many “secular conservatives,” following Church events in the meejah, and rooting for the “conservative” side. (Alas, it is not a game like football.) He believes democracy in the Church would help: we should be able to vote the baddies out. I had to tell him that if we’d had democracy in Holy Church, she would have ceased to be Christian at least seventeen centuries ago. He asked, then, if I could tell him a plan to displace our many “progressive” bishops, including one in Rome. I told him that if I had a plan, I wouldn’t put it in email.

But, seriously, he writes: “You and your cohorts better start working on one, cuz you can bet Francis and his cohorts are scheming up a plan for how to weather the storm. They aren’t sitting around the Vatican just hoping and praying.”

To which I reply:

I don’t doubt they are, and we’re not. But in my considered opinion, the other side has reckoned without Jesus, and will discover that was a serious oversight, over time.

Stalin used to ask mockingly how many divisions does the pope have? A progressive pope might be thinking, how many bishops do the Traddies have? Some, not many. One might be enough, as we were recently reminded, by a certain outspoken Monsignor. (Carlo Maria Viganò.)

From a genuinely Catholick view, I believe, it’s not even bishops, who as you know are always male. I think of Catherine of Siena (who died age 33 in 1380, happily enough on my birthday). She single-handedly brought the papacy home from Avignon to Rome, and in so doing, helped clean the place up, exerting a huge influence on the subsequent history of Europe thereby. How did she do it? Mainly by putting the fear of Hell into people. You see, she was a Saint. And people who’d met her came to realize this.

God doesn’t intervene in history directly. He gave us freedom, with all the catastrophes that followed from that. He does, however, work through human agents, some good some bad; if He didn’t we’d no longer be here. But principally He operates through Saints. … (Nobody expects them.)

My dear CTC, I don’t expect you to believe this for a moment. But I do. As a modern person, of the “conservative” tendency, you believe more in politics and economic forces. This is Marxism Lite, and it is everywhere — worse than any bishop I can imagine, because it cripples all thought.

And understandably, from their common premisses, both sides seek material solutions for material problems. This would make perfect sense if the problems were all material, but every one of them has spiritual ramifications, and by ignoring those, we go blind.

*

It is Labour Day, our North American celebration of Work.

As an Idler I must speak plainly: work is good. It keeps us alive, at so many levels. My opposition is only to “fake” work, which accomplishes nothing worth having. Alas, most of our economic work is like that: making things nobody needs, and which in the balance are bad for us. Too, philosophical Leisure is important, including the work that consists of sleeping on problems. It helps, before work, to think what one is doing. God, I should think, designs and builds in a single operation; we must do things one at a time.

Moreover, thanks to “progressivism” and “conservatism,” we have come to forget that Prayer is good work; that Contemplation is, likewise; that so are acts of the purest unpaid and unrecognized charity, which will never show in our GDP; that Beauty is the hidden solution, which, if we don’t think, we will never find. For cause and effect do not operate on the material plane, only.

Leisure is crucial to good work. We must find more time in our busy schedules to do nothing; to be Silent; to consult not only with our friends but with our Maker.

Il morso delle termiti

My headline this morning is from L’Osservatore Romano, a paper I frequently consult because the print edition is available for free as a PDF, and the graphic design is gorgeous. Too, I am curious what it will say, for instance this past week on the Viganò revelations. Alas, I could not find a single mention of them, but a headline in the centrefold of this morning’s edition seems somehow apt. It is over a long article on “the bite of termites” which, as ever, have been chewing away at the woodwork of various Italian shrines, of art-historical interest if no other.

Note my calm. Having lived many years in the tropics, I am familar with termiti; and having once paid what I thought an exorbitant sum for the repair of a verandah roof they had infested even in the temperate zone, I cannot be surprised by their behaviour. I will not indulge in the virtue-signalling that inveighs against the depredations of termites.

Indeed, from the POV of any individual termite, the scandal is that we are trying to interfere with their work. Termites, I imagine, find men a brutal and incomprehensible species, given to a monstrous bigotry against them. We are what they might call, “termitiphobes.”

A man of broad sympathies, I can understand their consternation. I must freely acknowledge that I have personally sinned, with respect to these innocent Isopterans, and would sin again if offered the temptation. Should they, for instance, threaten my books, I would exterminate them without mercy.

Well, gentle reader, make of this what thou wilt.

What to do?

Judging if only from the contents of my email inbox, many Catholics are at a loss what to make of their Church at the present day, and what to do about it.

Monsignor Viganò’s testimony this past week has made clear to any candid and intelligent observer that her administration is — in Rome, as well as dioceses spread through the world — a kind of criminal shambles. The accuser is extremely credible; he has a reputation for honesty and integrity, among those who actually know him, and he is writing at first hand about many events, with assertions that can be checked. His self-explanation is likewise plausible. He is writing near the end of a long life in the hierarchy, in view of his own death. He does not wish to confront his Maker with a dirty conscience. He will not be a member of the “silent majority” of clerics who saw terrible evil, and let it pass. The eleven pages of his indictment are replete with references to dates and documents, to assist investigators; it concludes dramatically, by calling on the pope to resign. Moreover, it comes after years of partial revelations, and in addition to so many other known facts and reasonable suspicions. I, for one, found nothing in this “screed” that could surprise me, knowing what I already knew.

To my mind, revelations about sexual improprieties (extending to rape) are not the principal issue, although they are gravely important, and demand prosecution to the fullest extent of the Church’s own long-existing, and very impressive laws. Civil prosecution is no alternative: it will soon enough turn against the Church in herself, and upon all Christians. With the enthusiastic help of our rabid media, a mob will be raised against the guilty and the innocent alike. The worst perps within the Church will join the mob with alacrity, to save their own skins. Catholics who demand the intervention of the civil power cannot know what fire they are playing with.

Rather, the crux of this matter is the comprehensive subversion of the Church, from within, by her own bishops. The “cover-up” for these crimes is at a greater spiritual level than mere evasion of worldly justice. It involves an attempt to overthrow Christ, as the source of authority in the Church’s liturgy and teaching. Very cynical men have used His Church not only as their private club or brothel, but as a toy for their “progressive,” political views. The tampering with seminarians, and thus with their vocations, is a direct affront to God. But so has been each flight into heterodoxy. The Church, from her curial centre in Rome, has been invaded by something unambiguously demonic.

Many are leaving the Church in disgust. They are cowardly fools. By this act they can only intend to surrender the governance of the Church to devils. They abandon Christ on the hill of Calvary. Fools, because they will not find salvation in any other quarter.

Prayer, penance, fasting, may seem fey suggestions in present circumstances. Instead, they are crucial. We must let God know that we side with Him against His persecutors, and that we recognize our own failures, not just other people’s sins. We must not ourselves succumb to the agnosticism that preaches the ineffectuality of prayer. Rather we must purify ourselves for the battle, and raise our prayer with the faith that moves mountains. To the conflict with a faithless enemy, personal faithlessness brings nothing. Live with disappointment, and not for it.

In addition to this, each Catholic man and woman must examine — with the love that enables clarity — his own parish and diocese, and learn what can be done, positively, to restore the Catholic order within each. Withholding contributions makes sense in many cases, but the money must be saved for a later day, or spent the more generously in private (and mostly invisible, not self-seeking) acts of charity and devotion.

Before each decision ask yourself, and never lightly: “What good will this do?”

Get to Mass — the most reverent Mass you can find. Do not be shy about going to Confession. Do not afflict yourself with speculations about the worthiness of the priest, who personifies Christ. (All of them, always, are unworthy, as we are unworthy to receive the Host.) Open your heart, naïvely, to Christ, and let Him do the work only He can do. Do not assume that He has been defeated.

*

(I wrote on this today also at Catholic Thing, over here.)

For whom?

For whom do I write? It is a question for any stenographer or hack, who takes up a pen, metaphorically. Usually, he will have a ready answer. Among the best I have heard is, “I write because they pay me.” It can be a job, like basket-weaving. Do it every day and you may get good at it. All you need is a supply of straw.

There are poets, and journalists. They write for different markets. I count the novelists with the journalists, as I have previously confessed. This is not to say there are no good ones, or that in moments they do not rise to the condition that only poetry can reach: that of fine art. Yet poets are also journalists at their very heights and depths, reporting, as Zbigniew Herbert said, from “the beseiged city.” Or Dante, celebrated journalist of the underground, from whom we were able to learn that Hell is full of bishops. (Few readers follow the rest of his journey — the upward portion.)

Art may happen anywhere, like murder. It is shocking, though the crowd turns away. They’ve seen murders before, they want something better. And while it is true that art, “creation,” is the opposite of murder, they think they’ve seen that, too.

Do not speak to us of the greatness of poetry,
Of the torches wisping in the underground,

Of the structure of vaults upon a point of light. …

Day is desire and night is sleep. …

So wrote Wallace Stevens, who told us in prose that, time and again, we are told that poets must not write for an elite. But no, he says, they must do so. The poet must write for a gallery of his own, “if there are enough of his own to fill a gallery.”

This has nought to do with poetry, in itself, but with the manner of address. There are those who write for “the people,” and they are plentifully available to the people, on the Web. And there are those who write, like teenage girls keeping diaries, only for their friends. Please, God: keep me in the latter category.

Trudopia & the Trudope

There is a saying my mama would use, to describe some of my childish and youthful posturings. It was, “Cutting off your nose to spite your face.” It is self-explanatory.

The problem with writing every day, is that there are always things to write about. A quick glance through the morning news, and I find about a dozen topics on which I’d be prepared to rant or squabble. But beware, my wee writer angel says to me, for that is too easy. Within weeks one will have degenerated into a meejah pundit again; another sock-puppet for the Zeitgeist. Not a pretty sight. Worse, one’s audience may start growing. It may grow to an unmanageable size, once your opinions become tired and safely predictable, and the usual two galleries have formed, of your friends, and your enemies. The conservatives all love you; the liberals all hate you; or more commonly, vice versa. All will be reading at half-attention, or less. Your job is to flatter your friends (who indirectly pay you), and insult your enemies (who don’t).

I worked in the meejah for years.

But I’m stuck. I’m not a conservative or a liberal. I’m a reactionary, and that is off the chart. My mama, though we had many views in common, including ripe examples of Reaction on her part, might nevertheless warn of my nose-slicing tendencies. “Why not write something people can understand?”

At a cottage on the weekend I was asked to explain the difference between a “conservative” and a “reactionary,” by a mild liberal who seemed genuinely curious. I found the task relatively easy.

“A conservative is a person who thinks nothing should ever change. A reactionary is a person who thinks nothing ever changes.”

A liberal, note, wants change, for its own sake if no better reason comes to mind. A lunatick, to put it in one word. The issue only became complicated when conservatives noticed that they were always losing. So today, conservatives and liberals are interchangeable. Both claim to want “progress,” which neither can conceive except in purely material forms. Mostly they want the very same things — more money, more pleasure, more leisure, self-esteem — but keep each other in a state of irritation by using different euphemisms. Conservatives want a little more, liberals want a lot; it is merely a question of degree. The liberals are of course still winning. They set the agenda, and the conservatives drag after, leaving knuckle ruts behind each innovation.

“But how can there be no change?”

“Because the conditions of human life are changeless. All progress is an attempt to escape the inescapable, or when that becomes impossible, to distract from it. In the end you still die. And then what?”

You don’t have to be a religious nutjob to become a reactionary. But it sure helps. For if there is to be a glorious future, it won’t be here.

I say this by way of providing some context to the NAFTA negotiations, in which Trompe’s Natted States Merica just signed a deal with Meh-hico, leaving Canada noseless. The little Trudeau boy, our current prime minister, and his pert young foreign ministrix, had their kicks at Trompe’s expense, and succeeded in making him quite angry. Now we all share in their reward.

We get to keep our softwood subsidies, and our dairy “supply management,” and our monopolistic banks, and our investment restrictions, and everything — except perhaps our auto industry. And Trompe gets to nail us with any tariffs that occur to him while he is watching Fox News.

Or, we deliver our unconditional surrender by Friday.

I hate cars. Naturally, I hate auto parts, too. Banks have always annoyed me. I say everyone has too much money. I like forests, and will be glad to see so many trees preserved. I think most people have stupid jobs, which they should have quit years ago. We’ll be free to do more virtue signalling than Venezuela. Our whole economy will be DOA at the next election, and Trudope will be creamed. What’s not to like about the new arrangement?

So let me admit I’ve been unfair to Trudope, and his smug little sidekick. It would seem they have been doing my bidding all along.