Christ stilling the waves

The Trumpeteer

  • "The Catmoot"

    The reason that I felt inspired to write “The Catmoot” back in 2013 was to try and allay the fears of some of the clergy with regard to His Holiness Pope Francis. I was trying in a whimsical, but nevertheless very serious way, to warn and console. Even now with the Pope’s extremely strange reaction to things theological, things political and things moral, I suspect that I have caught some of his personality.

    We know from his sister that when he wants do something, nothing will stop him. We know he is courageous. We know he is very kind to the poor and the marginalized. We know him to be something of loose cannon, and we believe that he is the Pope that God has, in his Providence, placed as his vicar on Earth. Popes are human. Some have been great men like all the popes who bear the title great. They have been giants like Innocent III who was almost all powerful in his time; something of a mixed blessing. They have been men of great asceticism and somewhat forbidding like Paul IV, who was ferocious, or Pius V who was a saint. They may have been wonderfully erudite and genial as well as holy like Benedict XIV. They have been holy and great like John Paul II, and wonderfully warm and witty and saintly like John XXIII, and they have been great theologians like Benedict XVI. They have been like St. Pius X, luminously holy, or completely underestimated and underappreciated like Benedict XV whose charitable works would have had him canonized in a saner age than ours. They have been lauded in their lifetimes like Pius XII, and scandalously vilified in death. There have been popes who found it very difficult to make up their minds like Paul VI, and there have been wicked popes Like Alexander VI, who had the great Savonarola burnt at the stake for heresy, which he was not guilty of. It is interesting to know that both St. Philip Neri, most lovable of saints, and St. Catherine dei Ricci, most extraordinary of mystics venerated Savonarola as a saint, whereas St. Ignatius Loyola forbad his picture being in any of the Jesuit houses. This brings us to the recurring problem of the Jesuits in the history of the Church.

    Many years ago, a former Jesuit teacher of mine at my old school, Stonyhurst College, said to me “The problem with us Jesuits is that we have too much power.” This is an admission that most would agree with. The Church since the Counter Reformation has been dominated by the Jesuits. This has been both a blessing and a curse. Who cannot be moved when one reads about that greatest of missionaries, after St. Paul, namely St. Francis Xavier? Who is not moved at the great simplicity and humility of the first Jesuit priest St. Peter Favre, whom St. Francis de Sales called “The great Peter Favre. Who is not bewildered at the multifaceted and rich personality of St. Robert Bellarmine, theologian, Bishop, Cardinal, and must humble of scholars? Then what do we say of that dogged spiritual giant St Peter Canasius, whose personality though stolid, almost boring, bore such wonderful fruit in the re-Catholicising of Germany, and the saving of Poland from Calvinism. This man who is, I believe, called the second apostle of Germany, encourages us by his massive plodding quality; one that many of us can relate to; namely slow and steady wins the race, a man who was a sort of catechetical tortoise one might say. What do we say of Matteo de Ricci who tried to incluturate the Gospel in Chinese philosophy and ancestor worship? And there is the problem; in their noble and praiseworthy desire to save as many souls as possible, they try to find easy ways of getting to Heaven. There is that hint of Machiavelli, that the ends justifies the means. Even the Little Way of St. Thérèse requires great heroism, and unflinching determination. It is certainly not easy, and I, who have been trying to follow it for 51 years since the age of 11, have singularly failed to live up to its heroic demands. The Jesuits have always moved among the powerful, and sadly some of the worst despots of the 20th century have been educated by them, or found inspiration from them. We need only to think of Himmler, who greatly admired the Jesuits, and Pol Pot, who I think was educated by them.

    However when we look at the Jesuits today we are dumbstruck, not by their former grandeur and greatness, but by a quality that shocks. The Pope’s storm troopers seem to have turned informant. They seem to have become ecclesiastical double agents. They seem to be demolishing their Church, and their great inspiration was, it would appear, that most peculiar of men, Theilhard de Chardin who was the first Catholic thinker to talk so much esoteric nonsense and worse still to take in men like de Lubac. Who can read Karl Rahner and not be overwhelmed by the dense style that is utterly indigestible, and really what does it mean? Von Balthasar can write beautifully but is it all a song and dance about nothing, especially when his natural bent is to hope that no-one goes to Hell. He may have not wanted people to go to Hell, but go to Hell they do, because they reject God, and Hell will be worse than Heaven where God lives for the soul who hates God. They are rather like Gollum in Lord of the Rings; they hate the light, be it Moon of Sun. This is the view of St. Gertrude the Great, and I would trust a sound Benedictine rather than a modern day Jesuit.

    The Kingdom is given to the childlike, and it is good to know that Karl Rahner shocked some of his more avant-garde theological associates by dropping to his knees at the end of a talk and devoutly say his rosary. It is up to the children and the childlike to save the world. No-one else is going to, certainly not the likes of Cardinal Marx et al.

    Though “The Catmoot” may not be very accurate, but when is a fairy tale ever accurate in its details, and more so when it is a spiritual fairy tale? It, nevertheless, was trying to make a very necessary point. The Catholic Church must look to her Orthodox Sister in the East, who by and large has been more faithful to the ancient tradition than her Western Sister has in the disastrous 20th century.

    The cats were meant to signify the good and honest faithful, who in the main come from the ranks of the laity, but who also include humble religious, who have no airs and graces, who have not gone on this or that stupefying course in this or that spirituality, have not gone to University and got a degree in some very questionable theology, or have not become counsellors, psychotherapists, or psychologists sorting people out not for Heaven, but for Hell. Most of this stuff is some perverted form of Pelagianism, which is what we do not need. What we need is humility, joy, laughter, and good deal of charitable poking fun. I felt that the Cardinals and bishops and the career clerics needed to be gently sent up, to have their balloons of pride and self-satisfaction pricked, and made to see how silly they are. They need a St. Philip Neri, or a Brother Juniper to make them see how ridiculous heresy is, especially in regard to sexual morality, and that all that matters is that we love God in great simplicity, with true Faith, and with vast amounts of Hope. We must get these poor benighted prelates and the Pope to see that possibly the most important of the Beatitudes is “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” Nothing impure can look on the face of God. In their own ways, I suspect animals can, because, despite being part of Fallen Creation, they are innocent, despite doing what they do, which is eating somebody or some animal, when they are hungry. In the First Created World as the Fathers tell us, they would not have done so, neither would Man and Woman for that matter.

    So perhaps one of the saints in “The Catmoot” might help us here. St. Hildegard said that with the Fall, Man could no longer understand the animals, but they can still understand us.

    In Chapter 3 of the Catmoot called “The Watchtower of Heaven” I have St. Hildegard say “The Pope has turned the tide…but the evil is still immense.” Well I fear that the Pope has not turned the tide and the evil is still immense. He was sent a copy of the Catmoot, as was Pope Benedict, and Patriarch Kyrill, and President Putin. I never got round to sending one to Binyamin Netanyahu, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, and President Obama. The first of the three has a sense of humour I am sure, and no doubt the King would have a very oriental sense of humour, but Obama does not, for he has no sense of proportion. The Holy Father is both good humoured and I suspect quite fiery, but he does not strike me as a man who has a great sense of humour. He seems to take everything very seriously and one gets the impression, no doubt a partial one, that getting jobs for the young and getting welfare for the elderly, and sorting out Climate Change, another modern myth along with Evolution, are in the same category as saving souls. There appears to be an imbalance, and this is a very contemporary problem. With a loss of a sense of sin, comes a loss of the sense of not only God, but who one is, and what one is meant to do, and how one is to live. If there is no Hell then what? The Holy Father is well aware of evil and Hell, but then one gets the impression that he might one day go on about Indulgences with the same enthusiasm as The Trinity. Obviously I exaggerate to make a point. I hope that he did read The Catmoot, not that it is particularly good, but because it does try to bring a perspective on the lunacy let loose on our times?

    As the great song of praise ended and there was a pause, which might have been a few minutes, years or centuries, for the time of Heaven, if one can use such a term, is completely different, Catherine spoke in her lilting lovely voice, “The Pope is good, very good, but his determination to reform the Church reminds me of Urban VI, without his faults.”

    “It does seem so, and I am brought to think of Pedro de Luna who we, in France, thought was the true Pope, and he too was determined to reform the Church.” said St. Colette.

    “Men must learn to make haste slowly, a most difficult thing for them to do.” remarked Hildegard.

    Unfortunately men so often only learn from their mistakes, and very often don’t learn at all.” And with these words Bridget of Sweden we take our leave of these gracious saints and go to meet our courageous and irrepressible cats.

    Let us pray that the Pope, the Cardinals, the Bishops, the religious and priests will not have to learn by their mistakes, as a result of the decisions made at this Synod, for if they do, the mistakes may be so great that God will have to punish the Church in the same way that He punished the people of Sodom and Gomorrah, and Israel and Judah in the days of the Assyrian conquerors, and in the days of Nebuchadnezzar. May Mary the Mother of The Church and Saint Joseph protector of the Church pray for us.

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