autem homines, quanto minus intenti sunt in peccata sua, tanto
curiosiores sunt in aliena." - St Augustine, Sermo 19 (reading
in Liturgia horarum, xiv per annum)
said that 'perhaps' is the adverb of the elderly. Perhaps.
The characterization of the dominant traits of various stages
of life that one finds in the Rhetoric are well worth
pondering, but I suppose we are most persuaded by the descriptions
of those in stages we have long since passed through. Age
does have a mellowing effect, however, and I often wince when
I recall the scoldings I have delivered in print, chiding
bishops and theologians about their conduct. Did I ever wonder
who had appointed me the Torquemada of the times?
zest with which one goes after those manifestly guilty of
waffling and worse should doubtless be subjected to scrutiny
by the one in the grips of it. Thomas Aquinas had some sobering
things to say about what we may say of others, arguing that
we ought always to judge others in the best light. Melius.
This may seem to be an invitation to naivete, but perhaps
naivete can be a virtue. Thomas's position is based on the
fact that we can never know the hidden virtues of those we
criticize and, in discussing humility, he urges us to consider
how our faults are largely hidden from others as their virtues
can be from us. The judgment that one is the worst of men
this a species of waffling? What about fraternal correction?
But one must occupy a role to engage in this. One in authority
must make judgments on overt conduct of others that would
be inappropriate to those not in authority.
thoughts are prompted by a recent massive volume called The
Rite of Sodomy which deals with the alarming rise of homosexuality
in the Church. I have read excerpts of it on the web and felt
a profound uneasiness. The certitude with which high churchmen,
popes included, are accused of unnatural vices is often predicated
on the flimsiest of premises. The attack on the founder of
the Acton Institute is particularly virulent, seemingly exhibiting
a tendency to judge peius rather than melius. Even
if one granted, per impossibile, that all the charges
in the book are true, the question arises as to the justification
of drawing attention to them.
similarly the attacks on Cardinal Bertoni for his recent book
on The Last Seer of Fatima
seem excessive. The Secret of Fatima has long functioned as
a kind of addendum to the Nicene Creed for many, their measure
of how the Church is doing. Surely Our Lady of Fatima did
not envisage this kind of thing. I am not defending Cardinal
Bertoni, he seems capable enough of that, but the criticisms
end by accusing him and the then Cardinal Ratzinger of deliberate
falsehood when in 2000 they released that Secret. Charges
of cover-up and deception were heard immediately and have
increased since. The criticisms of the Curia and the Holy
Father are such that they can scarcely strengthen the faith
of Catholics in their Church. Whatever ever happened to the
pointed but reverent style that characterized Romano Amerio's
Iota Unum? That many things have gone awry since Vatican
II was the burden of the reportatio of the Second Extraordinary
Synod held on the twentieth anniversary of the close of the
Council in 1985, the year of the famous Ratzinger Report.
It is the Church that has pointed out the "false spirit" of
I saying that we should all just shut up? Not quite. But there
are moral requirements of criticism that must never be forgotten,
requirements of justice as well as charity. As for Fatima,
Our Lady's urgent demand is that we do penance and pray for
ourselves and the Church. Sera e mane, as Dante put
it. So too in the quotation from Augustine above, the emphasis
is on self-examination and personal reform. Is it naive to
think that if that plea were heeded the unfortunate aspects
of the times would be corrected?