Mandeville, LA – “As it is a nervous business for prelates to court and be courted by civil power, one might question the wisdom of popes addressing the United Nations or parliaments.
“We make men without chests and expect from them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honor and are shocked to find traitors in our midst.”
A pope is not merely another head of state, and the whole history of the economy of Christ and Caesar makes clear that popes are never stronger than when they are weakest in things temporal. Surely a man resolved as Pope Francis is to do what is right for mankind, was ill-served by those who counseled him on what to say in addressing a joint session of Congress. On that awkward day, the Holy Father spoke of refugees, human rights, the death penalty, natural resources, disarmament, and distribution of wealth, but there was no mention of Jesus Christ. The speech invoked acceptable figures like Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Dorothy Day, and Thomas Merton, but no canonized saint that the nation’s legacy boasts.
The resources of the Church in the material order are vast, if fading, but her supernatural resources are beyond calculation. An indicting finger points to the neglect of such treasures of talent and grace in lands of privilege, as for example in the mercenary hypertrophy of the Church in Germany. This affects all limbs of the Body of Christ. Where there are bishops of moral vigor, there will be an abundance of young men willing to take up the call of priestly service. Where the spirit is tepid and refreshes itself on the thin broth of a domesticated and politically correct Gospel, seminaries will be vacant. As C.S. Lewis gave account: “We make men without chests and expect from them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honor and are shocked to find traitors in our midst.”
In his Idea of a University, Newman wrote: “Neither Livy, nor Tacitus, nor Terence, nor Seneca, nor Pliny, nor Quintillian, is an adequate spokesman for the Imperial City. They write Latin; Cicero writes Roman.” The Church needs a Roman vigor that persuades men to rise above self-consciousness. An English bishop reflected: “Wherever St. Paul went, there was a riot. Wherever I go, they serve tea.” In spiritual combat, there is no teatime, and effective strategies cannot be plotted at conferences, synods, workshops, and costly conventions at resort hotels with multiple “break-out” sessions and mellow music. One fears that a fly on the wall at any of those conversations would drop to the floor out of boredom. “For if the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle?” – Father George Rutler, Crisis Magazine