On the occasion of a new friend having entered into the Catholic Church this past Christmas and in gratitude to another new friend who has been like a nagging little brother to me, I wanted to compose this little letter to my aforementioned new brother in faith. While this is addressed to him, I have told him of my intention to publish it here for the sake of anyone else of good will and who is not already in the rigid electric chair of polemics or sclerotic death throes of ideology.
While most of the attention surrounding the Papacy is usually focused on the ways in which Pope Francis is steering the Church, it is almost an afterthought that, for the first time in centuries, we have a case of a Pope who has renounced the Seat of Saint Peter. For individuals at the time of the renunciation, including myself, at first it was a big shock. For many Catholics at the time, Benedict was the standard bearer of a more “reverent” Church. After all, wasn’t that what Catholics—at least in America and in “traditional” circles around the world—were clamouring for? Wasn’t a stricter, more “conservative” Church part of the hopes and dreams of the New Evangelization in the face of modern secularism?
For some or perhaps many, this dream was shattered. Instead, Francis is looked upon with suspicion and dismay. “Where did the Holy Spirit go wrong?” almost seems like it could have been on the lips of “radical traditionalists” around the world. “We already had a good Pope… why did it have to change?” Indeed, “why” is a good question. Naturally, a lot of these concerns and urges stem from a terrible misunderstanding of how the Church operates in the world. If Catholic men are looking for action in the world, then they must do it for the Church like a son, who, seeing his father killed by brigands, should not hide behind his mother’s skirt and complain that mummy isn’t doing anything to protect him but fights the men himself so that his mother can live. I shall not go into it again since I have already written at length about it before. Nevertheless, if we, for now, dispense with the concerns of individuals who are merely looking for someone to do their fighting for them, we are still left with a kind of miasma about how to approach looking at Francis and the Papacy presently.
Should we give in to pessimism? Is this simply our lot to have a Papacy that is surrounded by vicious and malignant polities and men in the secular world, and, thus, like a captive princess, must demurely endure the ignominy of being forced to watch what she says while the cowards do nothing to liberate her? Naturally, the Aristocratic minded should already have their own activities for attempting to liberate the Church, but in the meanwhile and concurrently, is there something to be gained or understood from the Papacy as it is now?
If one approaches Francis, dear brother, with a heart open to what he might represent, what can we say are his best qualities? Perhaps it is “spirituality”? Perhaps it is “love”? His genuine caring for individuals is palpable, even to the most cynical. And as for Benedict, we already love him for his intense intellectuality. So many find these two currents to be in great opposition in the Church today. This is noteworthy, since this is precisely the beginnings of spiritual development:
This means to say that the individual soul begins initially with the experience of the separation and opposition of the spiritual and intellectual elements within it, then advances to—or resigns itself to—parallelism, i.e. a kind of “peaceful coexistence” of these two elements within it. Subsequently it arrives at cooperation between spirituality and intellectuality which, proving to be fruitful, eventually becomes the complete fusion of these two elements in a third element […] The beginning of this final stage is announced by the fact that logic becomes transformed from formal logic (i.e. general and abstract logic)–passing through the intermediary stage of “organic logic”–into moral logic (i.e. material and essential logic). […]
Moral logic, in contrast to formal logic and organic logic, operates with values instead of notions of grammar, mathematics, or biological functions […]
Moral logic, as we have stated, is the logic of the head and heart united. (Meditations on the Tarot: A Journey Into Christian Hermeticism, Letter XXI: The Fool).
Thus, dear brother, what an opportunity we have in this modern age: to work within ourselves to achieve the understanding of uniting Francis and Benedict. If we do this, we would be able to participate in the great work of uniting intellectuality and spirituality. Indeed, we need only look as far as St. Ignatius of Loyola—one of the greatest saints venerated in the Church—to see a sign of the real fruits of unity between intellectuality and spirituality regardless of how the vulgar masses and so called intellectuals ignore his Order! For how much stronger of a Catholic faith can we have if we resolve the seeming contradiction and achieve the marriage of these opposites: to unite the horizontal hospitality of Francis with the whole world with the vertical isolation of Benedict. To unite the warm and natural spirituality of Francis which is like his horizontally open arms with the great stalwart uprightness of Benedict. This works in converse as well, for what great fruit can be attained from uniting Benedict’s clarity, with the depth of Francis? Thus, uniting the two, intuiting the two, and meditating on how these two are present in the world today form a meditation on the cross for it is their horizontalities and their verticalities that form the axes.
Indeed, we must move past the initial stage of setting these two against each other and embrace them for who they are. For what complaints, really, do people have against Francis, for example? Is it that he teaches heresy or lives like a debauched Pope of old? Absolutely not. Was he illegally elected? No. Indeed, the Supreme Pontiff is one of the last legitimately appointed supreme offices left on the planet! Unlike presidents or token monarchs who have no Emperor to legitimize their reigns, Catholics cannot assail Francis’s selection without being in a state of rebellion. Is it just that he is not “wise to the world”? Indeed, many complain that his teachings of love and generosity are not compliant with the “necessary” rhetoric of power and control. They expect an inquisitor to save the Church! You could almost hear the foolish complaints I have written about before: “God forbid, Lord, that your body [The Church] should suffer mutilation and death.” Obviously, the only answer to such complaints is “vade retro me Satana.”
It is no wonder, perhaps, that the discourse on the movement from simply formal logic to a higher, moral, logic based on quality is found in the meditation on the Arcanum “The Fool” for it is exactly what people accuse Francis of being. Yet, what beauty to be able to proclaim mercy in a time of hardness! Like Don Quixote, Francis is accused of tilting against windmills, but a wise man said of Don Quixote and “The Fool”:
One can meet you often in historically difficult situations […] where hearts have become hardened and heads have become obstinate. It is you… it is your voice which resounded more loudly than the beating of drums around the guillotine, one day in the month of Thermidor or Fructidor in the year II or III (of the French Republican calendar), with a cry from the top of the scaffolding, “Long live the King!” before your chopped-off head rolled to the ground. It is you also who, in the presence of the jubilant revolutionary populace, tore down the wall and ripped up a red placard announcing to the people of St. Petersburg the dawn of a New Era in Russia… and who was promptly run through by the bayonets of the red guards present. It is you again who declared openly to the German military authorities of the invaded and occupied Netherlands in 1941 that Germany, by occupying the land, was infringing on the Hague Conventions that Germany herself had signed thirty years previously… (Meditations on the Tarot: A Journey into Christian Hermeticism. Letter XXI, “The Fool”.)
And here we have Francis, whom Benedict was wise enough to step aside for and obey, who proclaims at the very center of the world: “Love your enemy!” when the masses are baying for blood! Do you think, dear brother, that when Saint Paul said in his first letter to the Corinthians, “God’s folly is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength”, and, “for the wisdom of this world is foolishness in the eyes of God” that he only meant liberals? That he only meant non-Catholics? No, how often do we keep our worldly wisdom even after we have been baptized and confirmed? Look around you and at yourself, brother, and ask if you, too, have become obstinate, cold, and hardened by intellectuality alone. For ultimately, what is the implication behind the complaints about Francis? The implication is that there is nothing to gain from him; nothing to learn. Instead, we have turned the Papacy into an ideological tool rather than a focus for anagoge and guidance. We have profaned the seat of Saint Peter by assuming it serves our agendas; whether right or left.
I heard a young man say once, “Francis makes it hard to be Catholic.” I’m sure he does. But, dear brother, we have to ask ourselves why it’s difficult. Is it because we have only achieved the most basic depth of spirituality? I wonder, dear brother, how many of the ninety-nine sheep doubted they had a Good Shepherd when he left them in the desert to go find the single lost one. And how many today grumble at Francis searching for the lost sheep and instead scream to Francis “break the sheeps’ legs, Holy Father!” See what happens when we have intellectuality and spirituality fight? Instead, we have to understand on the level of value. Something which only comes through practicing this cooperation between intellectuality and spirituality. Thus, dear brother, meditate on the cross that we must bear. Meditate on the cross of Francis and Benedict. We must be ready and willing to accept the difficulty of being “The Fool”. Embrace the difficulty of being a Catholic who transcends both right and left. I understand that you and I may have thought we have found a “home” in the “right.” But this is yet just another step on our way upwards, brother. Without dishonouring where we came from, we must also realize the limitations we have walked into and then be willing to move beyond. For some of us, we have walked the length of left and right. It is time to start ascending. May the work of uniting the Two Popes be fruitful for you as it has been for me. I look forward to speaking with you more as I move on to the next part of my journey and I am thankful to have any fellow pilgrims on the path of achieving morality.