Jacks

Corona Chronicles VII

Home – Thursday
Yesterday, I had to take a medicine that I had been putting off using for two weeks. Why? Because I read the instructions and saw that one of the possible side effects is anaphylactic shock. That pretty much scared the life out of me so I put the medicine away and said I will Only Take It If I Have To. Yesterday, I did. Afterwards, my day came to a halt: I was waiting to see if I would suffer an anaphylactoid reaction.

It’s stupid, really. Did I really think my doctor is in the business of prescribing me medicines that he thinks will be harmful? Yes, an adverse reaction was possible but surely unlikely as the medicine would hardly be on sale if it was common.

This, though, is logic, and when you are anxious, you do not think logically.

So, there I was, stewing in my fear, when I received an unexpected call from a very dear friend. Actually, she’s more than a friend – she is the person who instructed me when I joined the Catholic Church so is also a kind of spiritual mentor. I think she’s a saint, as well. Talking to her took away the anxiety and afterwards I was, in a manner of speaking, a new man. Deo Gratias.

As for the medicine, it did its job and although I could have continued taking it, I have decided not to unless the problem reoccurs.

Home – Today
Yesterday and today I did my exercise straight after my physiotherapy exercises. I think I might carry on like this as it feels quite good and doesn’t make me particularly tired. During today’s exercise, I finished Bad Boys. Oh my. It’s loud, brash, and silly; but also witty and funny. I rate it 6.5/10. I might have rated it .5 higher but the stupidness of the film is just a tad too strong. With that said, Bad Boys II is on Netflix, sooooo. Actually, I better wait for the brain cells that I destroyed watching this one to repair, though. The new film is Hook (1991): Robin Williams plays Peter Banning who is actually Peter Pan. In this film, Peter has grown up and forgotten who he is (or was). In order to rescue his children from Captain Hook, he has to try and remember.

I’m watching this film for the same reason that I hope to read J. M. Barrie’s book in the days or weeks to come: as I get older and see my parents age, a part of me wishes that I could be young again. I don’t like them getting old. I don’t like the thought of them not being there. Of course, I better get used to it because ageing is inevitable: in me. In them. Watching Hook is a stupid attempt to pretend that it doesn’t have to happen.

Abroad
This afternoon, I went to Sainsbury’s. They were only letting a limited number of people in at a time so we had to queue for a little while outside. Everyone was very good at observing the two or so metre gap. The shop was pretty well stocked, though again, some shelves were empty. Tomorrow, I have to go back to the chemist for my parents.

On the way to Sainsbury’s, I passed some firemen who were trying to break into a pub. They weren’t thirsty – its fire alarm was ringing. I thought to myself that if they have to break in, the landlord will find it hard to replace the glass or door lock afterwards. Fortunately, though, by the time I walked by on my way home, the firemen were gone and the door appeared to be in one piece.

A.O.B.
I subscribe to the New Ways Ministry blog. I don’t like everything that they do because I don’t like the idea of being a dissenter, but I am glad they are there. This week, they quoted the traditionalist Cardinal Burke as implying that LGBT people are to blame for the coronavirus. You can read the article here. This kind of scapegoating makes me intensely angry, and I would very much like to tell him to get fucked but if I said it and meant it I would in my own way make myself no better than him. How should one respond to such an attack? Well, with love, of course. And forgiveness. 7×70. God bless, Cardinal Burke; I disagree with him and will pray for him; I get things wrong, too, so I hope he would pray for me if he read this.

What about the coronavirus? This is my view: it happened because for whatever reason the disease jumped from an animal to a human. God allowed it to do so; not because He is angry with anyone or any group but because He is not in the business of controlling our lives like that. It is part of the free will deal. If God intervened to stop the coronavirus’ ‘jump’ we might ask Him why he did not intervene to stop the movement of any other disease or ailment, and as a matter of fact, why doesn’t He intervene to stop [your issue of choice here]. Very soon, we would hand to God our free will. We may want to do that but He does not. He knows we would find it the most painful thing of all.

That’s my view. I can’t say I have thought deeply about it so if you disagree you will have to forgive me.

Yesterday’s New Ways Ministry blog (here) was about a queer Catholic singer named Gina Chavez. I’ve been waiting to read about someone like her for a long time. I’m glad to say her music is pretty good, too (This is her You Tube channel).

I started reading from my C. S. Lewis shelf yesterday. I read the first chapter of his Reflections on the Psalms, and then an essay based on a talk about him by a lady named Joan Murphy, who was – or is – his grandnephew. I looked her up after reading the talk and found that she was still alive in 2015. If she is alive today she’ll be 94. It was a lovely essay. Unfortunately, C. S. Lewis’ father, Albert, does not come off well in it but Lewis very much does. Murphy writes,

When I began to think about this talk and wrote down things that I wanted to say, I noticed that there were two words that became dominant in my memory, and they kept coming up and coming up again: the first was encouragement and the second was laughter. Those are two things that I remember about Jacks.

(Jacks: Lewis’ given Christian name was Clive but he hated it. While still a boy he announced to his family one day that from now on he would only answer to the name Jacks. In time, that became Jack, and the name stuck).

Encouragement and laughter. What lovely ways to be remembered.

Boris Johnson and the Health Secretary, Matt Hancock were both diagnosed as having the coronavirus yesterday. We must pray for them, and indeed, for anyone in a position of authority who falls ill. I have thus far managed to resist the temptation to read comments about Johnson’s and Hancock’s diagnoses on Social Media (beyond the people that I follow) as I know they would be malevolent.

Answers and Relationship

Earlier this evening, I was thinking about something else when another thought came to mind. It was this: Catholicism is a religion of answers.

But the Faith is, so we are told, about a relationship; a relationship with Jesus Christ.

I don’t want to disparage the Church’s concern for finding answers but I do find myself being worried that she cares more about that search than about teaching her children how to live in relationship with Jesus.

What to do? Leave? I can’t do that. Not while I still believe that she is the Church that Jesus founded on the rock of Peter. At the moment, the best answer I have is suck it up because I dislike the idea of being a dissenter.

As usual, what is on my mind is (in)direct attacks by orthodox Catholics on LGBTQ+ people.

I actually don’t mind Catholics believing that same sex relationships are wrong. I just wish they’d speak with a little more humility; with an awareness that maybe, just maybe, the good Lord has not given us His last word on the matter. But no, Rome has found and given us an answer – it’s in the Catechism – so that’s that.

It’s hard. The least orthodox Catholics could do is spend some time marrying up the Church’s concern for answers with the idea of relationship with God in a way that is fair (DON’T tell us we are called to celibacy by virtue of our sexuality). That, however, might require more effort than a tweet or a Facebook update, so never happens.

If I was Pope…

At the start of my post on 18th March 2019, I wrote this,

Over the weekend, I met a very dear friend for a coffee and amongst other things we talked about Catholicism. Two topics that we covered were what changes I would make to the Church if I could – I will come back to this in an upcoming post…

Here is that post.

Liturgy
I like the Extraordinary Form of the Mass. It is complimented by the Novus Ordo Mass
I like the Novus Ordo Mass. It is complimented by the Extraordinary Form of the Mass.

If I had my way, I would introduce a programme of complete liturgical reform that would lead to all priests being able to celebrate Mass in both the Extraordinary and Novus Ordo form. I would require each and every parish to celebrate the Extraordinary Form at least once a week whether or not any parishioner asked for it.

This is what should have happened after Vatican II rather than Catholics being forced to write to the Pope to ask permission to continue celebrating the Extraordinary Form. It should never have been like that. The Extraordinary Form should never have been so marginalised (or maybe even replaced but that’s another matter). This has led it to being politicised leading, I believe, many people to oppose not it but what they think it stands for.

I would also restore all the Holy Days to their proper place, promote the corporate and individual praying of Lauds and Vespers, the practice of confession – the beginning of a restoration of a Catholic identity in daily life.

Theology
During the Punic Wars, Cato the Elder ended every speech with this statement: Carthago delenda est – Carthage must fall; if I had my way, I would begin every homily with this question: Are we loving fully?

The answer will always be ‘no’ because unlike God we are not love. If I had my way, therefore, I would ask Catholics to think about how they love and how they might love more. When I say ‘Catholics’ I mean all Catholics – lay and clerical and all inbetween. In fact, I would bring representatives from every group together to discuss the matter. This is because I believe we are not currently listening to the Holy Spirit enough.

Whenever a Catholic, probably liberal/progressive, speaks out in favour of something that accords with secular thinking, you can be sure that another Catholic, probably a traditionalist/orthodox one, will say that this shows that their confrère has succumbed to the thinking of the age.

It’s quite possible that they have, but also possible that the Holy Spirit is speaking to the Church from outside because she has become deaf to His voice from within. For this reason, the liberal/progressive Catholic needs to be listened to just as much as the traditionalist/orthodox Catholic.

I believe this deafness of the Church is currently happening in at least one respect – that of the Church’s theology regarding LGBTQ+ people and relationships.

If something is sinful, the bitter fruits of that sin should be clear to see; the wages of sin, after all, are death. So, for example, if one is a thief, the bitter fruit of that sin is the hurt caused to the people from whom one steals; if one supports a far right or far left political party, the bitter fruit of that sin is the hurt caused to the people one must put down in order to achieve the party’s objectives.

As I look at LGBTQ+ people, however, and especially those in relationships, I see no sinfulness: I see no one getting hurt but one person or two people growing in each other. It is a beautiful thing.

The orthodox response to this would be that the bitter fruit of their disordered desire and sinful relationship is spiritual death. Well, I can only say that it is a very curious thing that what is spiritually bad can lead to a physical and psychological good.

If I could bring representatives of all Catholic groups together to discuss how they love, and how they might love more, I would ask them to prayerfully consider that the Holy Spirit is calling us to regard the fact and love of LGTBQ+ people in a new, positive, way.

One last thing on this point, it goes without saying that this meeting would be grounded in scripture. I’m not interested in emotionalism. Looking at what Scripture has to say is all the more important because it contains the (in)famous ‘clobber’ passages. Nothing can change unless new light can be shed on them.

In addition to this, I would invite the bishops to Rome to discuss the Culture of Life and ask them to come back in a year and tell me what they had done to promote this ethic from cradle to grave. Then, I would ceaselessly promote it – partly because it is worth promoting but also as a riposte to all those who think that the Catholic Church only care about stopping abortion and not what happens afterwards.

End the Culture of Silence and Shame
Further to the above – I could walk into a church and easily have a conversation with another layman or with a priest during which I admitted, ‘Yes, I can be very impatient’ or ‘I sometimes feel a temptation to hurt those I don’t like.’ We might laugh about it but certainly we would move on.

It would not be so easy, however, to tell another Catholic, priest or layman, that I was gay, bisexual, or a lesbian etc. Especially if I held any kind of official role within the Church up to, and most certainly including, that of the priesthood.

This is unacceptable. In the first place, the Church does not regard simply being gay (in the broadest interpretation of the word) as sinful; how can we be in a situation, therefore, where sins can be casually admitted but a state of being can’t?

Of course, the matter isn’t as easy as that: the Church regards same sex attraction as a ‘disorder’. That is not going to encourage me to tell anyone that I am gay/bi/lesbian etc; but the whole reason we are in the Church to begin with is because we are all disordered in some way or another. The whole point of being a Christian is to confess it, receive God’s mercy and grace, and grow.

The Catholic Church should be a place where we can be open about ourselves and the meaning of things. The Church should be a place for light; in many respects, she is, but she is also a place of shadows where laypeople and ordained are forced to hide from their spiritual brothers and sisters. This is a wickedness for which anyone who helps perpetuate it will have to answer to God. We need more light!

The Vatican
If I had my way I would make the Vatican more transparent in how it conducts its affairs, then more transparent, then more transparent after that. I would not stop until it was a world leader in transparency – a model for the governments of the world to look up to. It simply isn’t acceptable for the Church to be anything else.

Generally speaking, the Vatican needs to be more open. So much trust in the Church has been lost by the various sex abuse scandals that we have now reached the point where it is now not enough for the Church simply to act but she must be seen to be acting to make sure she becomes a safe place for all God’s people once more.

For the avoidance of doubt, I am not arguing for total transparency here; that’s impracticable; it would probably be sinful as well, but the Church must do better. A part of me would be happy to fire the entire Roman Curia and start again from scratch but I know that that would not be a good idea.

Deaconesses
As I understand it, the Church has yet reached a consensus on whether or not women served as deaconesses in the early church. If it could be shown that they did, I would allow them to serve again in that role now.

If I did that, you can be sure that calls for women to be allowed to serve as priests, or priestesses, would be renewed. I would allow them to do so if they could find a woman among the twelve apostles.

Women in the Church
How many women serve the Church at the latter’s highest levels? In the diocese and at the Vatican? There ought to be more – especially in Rome. There is no need for men to have charge over all the dicasteries.

Pope Francis has taken a good first step in increasing the diversity of the Curia by appointing cardinals from unlikely places; if it is possible within a strict meritocracy, giving more roles to women, indeed to lay people in general, would make a good second one.

Ecumenism
If I had my way, I would end it as a formal process. I don’t believe the Church of England or any Protestant community as a body will ever (want to) unite with the Catholic Church. The way forward is to help individual non-Catholics ‘cross the Tiber’.

Finally
In the title of this blog post I said ‘If I was the Pope’; the truth is, though, that if I had my way, I’d have more power than the pope. That’s too much. So, as soon as I got my way, I would resign and apply to join one of the Oratorian communities. I love Newman’s congregations so much! I’d love to talk more about it, but that’s a post for another day. Alternatively, I’d follow Sebastian Flyte to a monastery in north Africa.