Renowned writer and RTE producer Aidan Mathews takes an oblique look at the barque of Peter with Pope Francis at the helm. He cautions against assessments of Pope Francis in terms of mythic polarisations – sharp differentiations between the Church before and under Francis. The Logos, he remarks, is the silence beyond all slogans.
Beyond black and white
The early Christians dreamed of a spiritual conversion which would also be a semantic inversion: in the fullness of time, in a time of fullness, Roma would become Amor. The outstretched hand would triumph over the clenched fist, the she-wolf surrender to the lamb of God, and love conquer the omnivore. It was a playful yet a prayerful palindrome, this reversal of letters in late antiquity. Contemporary Christians diligently dream on, forgetful intermittently that the three glazed verbs of that final conciliation – triumph, surrender, and conquer – are themselves analogies of violence and therefore sanitised Latin proxies for atrocity.
So the question remains to be answered and the answers remain to be questioned. How can the church militant become the church demobilised without doing violence to itself? How, for that matter, can directives da capo, whether petrine (we like them) or petrifying (we don’t) strengthen subsidiarity in the long run? The Restoration clerics I’ve canvassed are as happy with Francis as they were with Benedict, which suggests they want orders even more than holy orders. Amongst the conciliar remnant, on the other hand, there’s already a sort of binary bitch-craft at work which compares the Ratzinger assizes with the Bergoglio Assisi; but black-and-white thinking, our default polarity, lacks grey matter and is mythological, the enemy of the sanity of scripture. Besides, idolatry is only demonization in a good mood. Today’s flags are tomorrow’s body-bags, and the Logos is always and everywhere the silence beyond all slogans.
I have reached a So Be It stage in my life, more Amen than Alleluia. If this is a virtue, it’s also a deficit. But dilemmas, in the amateur stamina of a human tenting beyond contraries, beyond Roma and Amor, beyond city and pity, are surely the real ad limina in the time remaining.