The Confession of the Archbishop, and the Mother of the Confessions

The tomb of Saint Monica, in the basilica dedicated to her son.

What is one to say of the recent allegations of the former papal nuncio to the United States, Carlo Maria Vigano, claiming a network of complaisance, cover-up, deceit, aiding and abetting in homosexual behaviour amongst clergy, reaching to the highest echelons of the hierarchy, even implicating Pope Francis himself? As the Archbishop confessed, he did not want to go before God with this on his conscience. Indeed.

I would not call this entirely unprecedented (just read some of the forthright reflections and exhortations of Saint Peter Damian in the 11th century, when things were also rather dire), but what we are witnessing comes close to being unique. I would describe what is unfolding as ‘apocalyptic’, perhaps not in the ‘end of the world’ sense (although we know neither the day nor the hour), but in the sense that many things are being revealed that were once hidden in darkness, which may well be salutary to driving out the rot and evil (which, we should remind ourselves, resides in all our hearts).

When asked about the disturbing allegations on the plane ride back from Ireland (a visit fraught with difficulties, and quite unlike John Paul II’s ebullient pilgrimage in 1979), the Holy Father replied that ‘he’s not going to say a word’ about the letter which, he ominously added, ‘speaks for itself’, urging reporters to ‘draw their own conclusions’.

One is not sure what to make of this, but we may hope that the truth, and its implications, will unfold over the next few days.

As Archbishop Vigano states in his letter, it is only the truth that can set us free, and Nietzsche wrote once that the test of a man is how much of the truth he could take. We may soon all be tested more than we might have thought, or wanted.

In the secular world of politics, we have the sad state of the federal Conservative Party here in Canada where, in their policy convention on the weekend, the motion to include ‘limiting abortion in Canada’ as part of their platform was defeated, albeit by a narrow margin. I have heard that social conservatives are not all that welcome amongst the more entrenched members of the Conservatives, who seem a tad too comfortable in the status quo.

If the Conservatives refuse to touch any ‘social’ issues (itself a misleading term, for all issues are ‘social’), then how do they differ from the Liberals, except not being quite as radical, driving us off the precipice and into whatever abyss lies ahead if we continue on our present tragic course (see Venezuela) perhaps a bit more slowly?

We are in the problems we are in, both in the Church and in the world, because people did not speak the truth, especially those whose duty it was to do so. We need more of that virtue of parrhesia of which Saint Paul speaks, boldness and courage in the truth, not more complaisance and going-along-to-get-along, waiting for that ‘opportunity’ that never comes. As the saying goes, fortuna audaces iuvat, fortune favours the bold, and it is well past time now to proclaim the truth from the housetops.

On that note, today is the memorial of Saint Monica (+387), mother of Saint Augustine, for whose conversion she prayed incessantly, living to see her immensely gifted son not only return to the Church, but become one of the greatest theologians, doctors and bishops who have ever graced those offices. Saint Augustine recounts the moving story of his mother’s final moments, and their last conversation, in his autobiographical Confessions, the central part of which is in today’s Office, declaring his deep love and affection for the woman who gave him both physical and, more to the point, spiritual birth.

She is the patron saint of mothers, especially those who pray, suffer and intercede for their children, which includes pretty much all of them.

So a hearty thanks to all mothers out there, my own dear Mum and all the rest, for all you have done. So while we may advocate preaching the truth more boldly, we should not forget that there is also a quiet sort of holiness, the more common and perhaps effective variety, hidden in homes across the world, sacrifices made day in and day out, diapers changed, meals prepared, children tutored and taught. Such families, mothers and fathers and children, need the truth, the Church, and her pastors, to speak clearly, to support them, like Augustine in Hippo, to be the ‘pillar and bulwark’ that Christ intended her to be, instead of a shaky reed blown in the wind, or worse.

But more on that in the days ahead.

And on a happier note, here is the link to the recent editions of the Kids’ Bulletin, for all you Mums out there.

Saint Monica, ora pro nobis, omnibus.