Jackass for the Hour: Chapter 11 – If worse comes to worst…
Back down in the Courtyard of Sixtus V, don Hash had begun driving away with Cardinal Fidèle. Don Hash asked him, “How did the meeting go?”
Cardinal Fidèle couldn’t suppress his satisfaction, though he simply said, “It was productive… Hash.” They drove in silence, exiting the gate next to the Holy Office. Don Hash noticed that the river had markedly risen after the previous night’s rain. When he turned right, away from Ponte Garibaldi, just minutes from San Calisto, Cardinal Fidèle cited the Confessions of Saint Augustine again from memory – “Mecumque novit et benedicit te quisquis ingratus non est certæ veritati” – as if don Hash would know and bless the Lord along with him only if he was not ungrateful for certain truths supposedly mentioned by the Cardinal in the last day and a half.
Don Hash racked his brains for an appropriate response, and said, “Placeat in conspectu misericordiæ tuæ invenire me gratiam ante te, ut aperiantur pulsanti mihi interiora sermonum tuorum.” Perhaps a similar passage to what he had quoted earlier that morning would again be appropriate, for surely, he thought, one can understand that the one who seeks in the presence of God’s mercy, finds, if he seeks in the right way.
However, the Cardinal did not answer. Don Hash determined to start praying and fasting for both himself and the Cardinal.
✵ ✵ ✵
As padre Emet was ushered into the Papal Apartment, he said, “Your Holiness, I apologise for being late. The guards at Porta Sant’Anna did not recognise me.”
“You are very humble to call me ‘Your Holiness’ and not laugh while I approach you as a penitent, Emet. I can see why they did not recognise you. You are wearing your religious habit, and it seems you have started to grow a beard… Where is the Fisherman’s Ring?”
“It is not part of the habit of a friar, your Holiness. I gave it to another penitent, saying that it would remind him to pray for his Confessor. Not all penitents remember to pray for their Confessors, your Holiness.”
“Don’t worry, Emet. You will not hear me confessing that sin of ingratitude.”
“Thank you, your Holiness.”
As they walked to the private chapel, the Holy Father commented that his Confession that day would be rather unusual, with all the sins confessed in the present tense.
“The Confession will
not begin until you can put sin behind you,” said padre Emet.
“I know, Emet. It’s just that I am in an impossible situation.”
“Impossible for whom?” asked padre Emet. “What you wish to confess is not what you think is an impossible situation, but something which truly needs mercy.”
They came to the entrance of the chapel and stopped. The Holy Father looked at the tabernacle, lifted his hands as if to embrace the Lord, and sighed from the depth of his being.
“It must be consoling,” said padre Emet, “to hear the words of Christ to Peter, to you, that after you have converted, after Satan sifts you like wheat, you are to strengthen your brethren.”
The Holy Father, used to the prophetic utterances of padre Emet, merely said, “That is why you are my Confessor. Only you would call those words a consolation. I agree with you. Come.”
As they went to the altar, padre Emet took out a purple stole from beneath the scapular of his habit and placed it around his neck, preparing himself for the Confession of the Holy Father. They knelt, one on the Epistle side, the other on the Gospel side of the altar, with the tabernacle between them. After some moments, the Pontiff said, “Emet, before I begin my Confession, I need your advice. I fear that I am being presumptuous, that I am testing the Lord.”
“Go on,” said padre Emet.
“The desolating abomination is where is should not be,” said the Pontiff, clearly distressed.
“It is as you say,” replied padre Emet, as if he were looking into the soul of the Pontiff, trying to discern the strength of his spiritual state. “Please, continue.”
“I cannot put on a front of what I believe to be the false, heretical optimism that I have seen since I was a boy. It is as if so many in the Church, from both rank and file, have denied the devastation that has come upon the Church and the world. Everyone says that we are all so nice, that no governance, no discipline is needed, for the unity of all is imminent and such fatherly care would be counterproductive. But they do not understand that a father who does not govern and discipline his children hates his children. It is as if they are denying the fires of hell all around us.”
“Do not be a fool, Tsur-Ēzer,” commanded his Confessor.
“You live up to your name, Emet. You always give me the truth,” said the Pontiff.
“Tell me, where do the fires of hell come from?” asked his Confessor.
“I do not follow,” said Pope Tsur-Ēzer.
“Fire issues from the throne of Almighty God,” said padre Emet. “It is devastation and punishment – finally hell – for those who reject Him, but purification and life, communion in Charity – finally heaven – for those who follow the Lamb of God in the obedience of Faith. This fire is not a thing, but the very presence of God Himself, excruciatingly blinding to those lost in their own sin, but enlightening to those who have been found by His mercy.”
“And so…” said the Pope, encouraging padre Emet to continue.
“And so the intensity of the fire,” said his Confessor, “while a sign of punishment, is also a sign of great hope, of the will of the Lord to save us still. The Father encourages fatherly care.”
“I may have compromised the will of the Lord out of fear of the enormity of the situation facing the Church,” said the Pontiff. “This morning I asked Saint Michael for guidance and, in that very instant, the prophecy of Jeremiah flooded into my soul as if I were standing in the midst of the old Jerusalem, trying to decide whether or not to stand and fight the invading armies in my sinful arrogance, and thus whether or not myself to become that Biblical Whore of Babylon, or to bow to the punishment of the Babylonian Exile which the Lord in His gracious mercy was permitting for the purification of His children.”
“King Zedekiah,” replied padre Emet, “played the whore, as the leader of Jerusalem, by fighting Babylon on Babylon’s terms. He and the city were punished accordingly. Most died horrible deaths, many by fire. He himself was blinded and made to die in his prison in exile. The whoredom defined itself as pride, playing the part of the Evil One. Tell me, Holy Father,” said padre Emet with a severe tone of voice, “did you play the whore, endangering the lives of many by fighting the punishment which the Lord is sending upon the Church, or did you cooperate with the merciful purification permitted by Him?”
“Instead, I bargained with Christ,” said the Pope. “I asked for a further sign of His mercy, the grace to recognise and teach strongly that the Church has always been in exile from our Heavenly Homeland while upon this earth, and that we are to become saints in the midst of purification.”
“In view of the sin with which the world is glutting itself, which Saint Paul describes in his letter to the Romans, chapter one – all following upon the sin of the suppression of the Truth – I suppose that your bargaining was like Abraham for Sodom and Gomorrah, so that the few who are just, if any, might avoid the fires of punishment. Is that right?” pressed padre Emet.
“I was given to understand that the sin was as you say. However, my intercession was to be that of David when he took a census of Israel, though I am not sure why. Since David was allowed to choose between three years of famine, three months of fleeing from the sword, or three days of pestilence, I asked the Lord for this choice, if such a punishment really had to come. If it was in accordance with His will, I asked for the three days of pestilence, thinking that, however fearful, it is better to fall into the hands of the Living God…”
Padre Emet shook his head in dismay. The Holy Father, seeing him, stopped speaking. “Tsur-Ēzer…” padre Emet began, but did not continue.
“I knew that I was standing before God’s throne of judgment, and that I was granted this request, for it was a request for mercy,” the Holy Father continued, shaken by padre Emet’s behaviour. “The Church is in a desperate state. The attack on the Church from within is truly an abomination. Many priests are corrupt, and they bring corruption to society. They could do so much for the spiritual life, and, because of that, for true justice, for confirmed mercy, for the peace of the Prince of the Most Profound Peace…”
“What about King David and his census?” asked padre Emet with a hint of impatience.
“I do not know,” admitted the Holy Father.
“That you cannot speak to the significance of the census is frightening,” said padre Emet. “It is imperative that you pray,” he added. “Your being sifted like wheat has everything to do with coming to know this. For now, tell me… you said something about being fearful of being presumptuous, of testing the Lord.”
“I may have endangered the life of a priest, even his eternal salvation. I do not know if he is strong enough in the Lord to resist the onslaught of the Evil One. He has become the centre of the storm. He is to be held up as an example of all that is wrong in both the Church and society. He is to go on trial for heresy, a public trial. The penalty, if he does not repent, is death. I believe him to be innocent of the accusation – which he denies – that he rejects that the Ordinary Magisterium guides the Church. Inasmuch as it is in my power to prevent his death, I will. But these things can get out of control. Is this not presumption? Is this not testing the Lord? Once they have the taste of blood, people may start witch hunts, but they will put faithful Catholics to death.”
“So, you are hoping that the Lord will intervene so that the Church will not fall into the hands of men?” asked padre Emet. Not waiting for an answer, he continued, “The faithfulness of others is the responsibility of the Lord. King Zedekiah would surely have had court officials putting pressure on him, telling him that to surrender to the Babylonians and go into exile was an abandonment of the Faith in the power of God to save, to deliver Jerusalem and the Temple from the hands of the desolating Abomination. However, the exile was something which the Lord had prepared as a merciful purification of the abomination of diabolical arrogance which had gripped the very souls of the inhabitants of Jerusalem. Instead of fighting, it would demonstrate faithfulness to surrender, go into exile, and convert to the Lord there, taking the punishment they deserved.”
“Have I done the right thing?” asked the Jewish born Pontiff.
“Is Alexámenos the name of the priest?” asked padre Emet.
“Always the prophet!” exclaimed the Holy Father.
“His paper came into my hands today by way of his friend, don Hash,” said padre Emet.
“I understand that you are Alexámenos’ Confessor,” said the Holy Father. “You will have access to him during the trial.”
“Who is pushing for the trial?”
“Fidèle,” said the Pope, sighing. “Elzevir doesn’t know what to do. But with Fidèle are Francisco, de Colines and Froben.”
“Along with a good number of politicians and bishops,” added padre Emet. He knew Cardinal Fidèle well, including his loss of Faith decades earlier. “Your Holiness, to answer your question, yes, you have done the right thing if you, at the same time, continue to strengthen your brothers in the Faith. You are to be for the children of God a Holy Father and, if worse comes to worst, you know what you must do…”
“Of course,” said the Pontiff. “I’ve always intended to do this… if worse came to worst.”
“The Lord will surely intervene with His own Fatherly discipline, for the Church is truly in a bad way,” continued padre Emet. “For your part, you are not to suppress the truth, but instead, knowing it fully, you are to proclaim it loudly. I will provide you with a copy of Alexámenos’ research. While the trial proceeds you are to verify the truth of what he says. If you judge it to be worthy, you are to bring this truth to the world, trusting in the Holy Spirit that it is the truth which solidifies unity in the Church, not clever damage control. If Truth divides like a double-edged sword, it does this to conquer through the Heart of Christ, pierced with a sword, only to draw all to Himself. All nations will gaze upon Him whom they have pierced.”
“But many may die because of what I do,” protested the Holy Father, blind to the meaning of the punishment for David’s self-glorifying census.
“When Christ said not to throw one’s pearls before swine so as not to get trampled by those swine, He referred to those who rightly protect the Word, Rule of Faith and Witness, not abandoning their responsibilities so as to toss the pearls of Revelation and teaching authority to those to whom these responsibilities have not been given. Christ did not mean that you are not to teach the Truth in Charity, but that you are not to beg non-Catholics to interpret Tradition, having them usurp your Magisterial office. The Lord will open hearts to receive the Truth, Himself, when He wants to do this in His providence, uniting the hearts of men to His own.”
“Fidèle was trying to convince me that the Truth is not to be offered in its full integrity,” said the Pontiff, “at least not yet, not until people are begging for it.”
“To give the Truth in a piecemeal fashion,” insisted padre Emet, “is to tear apart the Body of Christ during His Passion and Death, for He is the Living Truth, and cannot be divided.”
“The problem is that Alexámenos is a stalk of wheat growing next to a weed,” said the Pontiff, “and the weed is threatening to choke him to death.”
“How perfectly diabolical,” said padre Emet. “The weed makes the stalk of grain look like a weed that must be pulled up now. Fidèle is sending him to Haïti.”
“This is all for revenge for the Chinese affair,” said the Pontiff.
“How could that be?” asked padre Emet. “The only ones who know this are Alexámenos, myself and, since your election, yourself. Not even Alexámenos knows that you know.” As he said this, the Pope handed him a scrap of paper. “TLI,” read padre Emet. What does that mean?”
“It’s not ‘TLI’. It’s ‘+Li’. We’ve just been discussing the flames you see pictured. It’s from the Chinese ‘Pope’. There is no way that I will approve the Chinese nomination of Li as a bishop, however much they threaten the life of Alexámenos. If there is time, you shall bring him to me discreetly,” said the Holy Father. “Bring him to Mater Ecclesiæ convent. Bring this Hash as well. I am ready to begin my Confession.” Padre Emet cast his gaze during the Confession to the tabernacle. “I accuse myself of fear,” began the Pope, “Even while sinking into the storm waters of trusting in myself, I hardly turned to the Lord, unlike Peter, who did cry out to the Lord. I have been a danger to myself when I am, instead, to be sifted like wheat by the Evil One. It is as if I am circling around the walls of Jericho, praying that the walls do not fall down.”
“Your penance,” said padre Emet, “is to spend an hour in adoration of our Eucharistic Lord, begging Him for the grace to know more deeply what you are saying when you utter the words of consecration – in Persona Christi – at the Sacrifice of the Mass, “Hoc est enim Corpus meum… Hic est enim Calix Sanguinis mei, for Christ does permit that you are to be sifted like wheat.”
As the Holy Father completed his act of contrition, padre Emet recited the absolution, concluding with the words “Passio Domini nostri Iesu Christi…”
As they left the chapel, the Pope said, “You mentioned the diabolical before my Confession, Emet. I may need your assistance with an exorcism.”
“Let me know,” said padre Emet. “In any case, I shall begin to fast and pray. I assume that you have already asked the nuns for their prayers and sacrifices.”
“I did, but they always seem to know even before I tell them,” said the Pontiff.
As padre Emet exited the lift at the Courtyard of San Damaso, he was disappointed to see that a car was still waiting for him. He allowed himself to be driven to Porta Sant’Anna, but as the car waited at the traffic light, he thanked the driver and quickly exited the car, much to the protestations of the driver and the amusement of the Swiss Guards. Padre Emet backtracked and headed north, leaving Vatican City by way of Porta Santa Rosa, soon disappearing among the crowds of tourists in Piazza Risorgimento at the end of Via di Porta Angelica.
✵ ✵ ✵
With Simon’s brothels closed, the gang of boys he coerced into working for him had just returned from searching for ‘treasures’ as the sun rose. They called for little Pyè, who was busy shovelling his donkey’s dung into the open sewer. They had a ‘treasure’ with them, an entirely bald tyre still full of air on its wheel. They “found it,” they said, on their way ‘home’ and wanted to sell it to Pyè. Instead, Pyè asked them, “How is Ev?” They all put their heads down and said nothing. But Pyè insisted, “Tell me!”
“Fine… She’s just fine,” said Pòl, the eldest boy, who was almost twice the size of Pyè.
Pyè was pleased with the answer, such as it was, knowing he would not get more from them. Pyè took the tyre, carefully rolling it down into the open sewer, and then slowly moving it along a few metres in the water. The boys followed him. This took almost two minutes. Pyè was minutely examining the surface and sides of the tyre, listening, watching for bubbles over its wet surface. Finding none, he rolled the tyre back up onto dry ground and then ran into the one room house used by his family, returning with a worn football he had found on the previous day. The boys liked what they saw and left the tyre with Pyè.
As they walked away, they each repeatedly tried to kick the ball as high in the air as they could. When the ball came down and Pòl tried to kick it into the sky, it burst. They weren’t upset. They just kicked it into the sewerage next to them and went inside the brothel where their sisters and cousins slept during most of the daylight hours.
Pyè had already rolled the wheel into his house, where a donkey-cart put together by his father Jozèf lay upside down, awaiting another tyre. They had the other one already attached to the makeshift axle. It didn’t matter that it was a different size. The axle could be adjusted. They would make it work. The cart itself was small for lack of materials to make it larger. It had two long poles which stretched almost two metres behind the cart and up to the shoulders of the donkey in the front. A board rested on the poles just in front of the cart so that Pyè could ride on a front corner.
He would soon be in business for himself. No one was envious of this, for they respected the help Pyè and his family gave to the others along their stretch of sewer frontage. If anything, they were happy for Pyè and his family, pleased that they were not mixed up in the prostitution racket.
✵ ✵ ✵
The Apostolic Nuncio of Haïti, Archbishop Cromeu, picked up his phone and said, “Oui.”
“Archbishop! Good morning,” said père Jacques, the new Rector of the seminary. “How are you? Well, I’m sure. I knew you would be…”
“It’s rather early to be making phone calls, don’t you think? What is it you want?” interrupted the Nuncio.
“Your Grace… I’m sorry. I was just wondering, hoping really, that you would need my services to meet Father Alexámenos at the airport when he comes. I know he’s staying at the Nunciature for some time, but I just thought it would be a good opportunity…”
“Do what you want,” said the Prelate.
“Thank you, your Grace. I appreciate that. After all…” began the Rector. The phone was dead.
✵ ✵ ✵
When Cardinal Fidèle and don Hash entered the apartment at San Calisto, they were greeted with aromas coming from the kitchen signalling that a wonderful lunch was being prepared. Don Hash seized the opportunity, saying, “It’s a tradition in America to give a condemned prisoner a special meal before his execution.”
“Don’t worry, Hash. You are not to be executed,” responded the Cardinal instantly and, as always, ambiguously. “Let us pause a moment in the chapel.”
Don Hash wanted to curse himself for feeling so uncomfortable in the chapel, suspicious that something was wrong. But then the thought came to him that, when it was possible, he would find the key to the tabernacle so as to look inside. When it came to the Blessed Sacrament, he had sometimes received extraordinary assistance from, he guessed, his guardian angel. He remembered one time when he was still a seminarian, the day after the Papal Mass which closed that year’s World Youth Day; he received an inspiration to return to the scene. He asked a friend to come with him, saying, “We have to rescue the Blessed Sacrament.” His friend thought that he was just tired, but went along for interest.
During the Mass the previous day, it poured so heavily and for so many hours that the ground had become an ankle-deep sea of mud, which it remained into the next day. When they arrived, his friend stayed on the street rather than slog through the sea of mud with him. Hash, without hesitation, went straight out into the mud about forty metres. He stopped, looked down, and picked up a Host, which, miraculously, had not disintegrated. His friend was overwhelmed. This was the last thing he expected to see. They brought the Host to a priest at a nearby Church.
On another occasion, again as a seminarian, Hash had helped the new Rector of a seminary move into his quarters. Going into the chapel, he asked if the Rector could open the tabernacle, sensing there was something terribly wrong inside. The Rector looked at him quizzically, but found the key, opened the tabernacle, and showed him five Hosts on a paten… along with half a dozen maggots. That Monastery, where the seminary was located – it came to his mind only now – had also spent millions of dollars on an illuminated biblical manuscript project whose calligraphers went out of their way to change the inspired text. It was all a hellish extravagance in praise of political correctness, corrupting the Word of God like so many parasites, even making Hagar Jesus’ ancestor. Don Hash hoped not to find anything untoward here in Cardinal Fidèle’s chapel.
After they came out of the chapel, Signora Gagno met them and gave the morning’s letters to the Cardinal. “Cardinal Froben has arrived,” she said, rolling her eyes and shaking her head in dismay. They heard a crash of pots and pans in the kitchen. “I have to get back to my cooking,” she said. They knew this was her way of saying, “Carpe Diem is getting himself into trouble.”
“Of course, Froben doesn’t have a long way to travel,” called out the Cardinal after her, with a note of concern in his voice.
They walked down the corridor wondering why Signora Gagno was concerned, but then they heard another crash, this time from the study. When they arrived at the door, they almost laughed out loud. Cardinal Froben was absorbed in his attempt to light a fire more or less in the fireplace, and had not noticed their presence. He was placing a large pile of logs on the grating, and had also succeeded in scattering bits of bark and logs of varying sizes around himself, making a mess of the whole area in front of the hearth. They watched as he struggled with the logs, absorbed in his own world, filling the fireplace. When he began holding matches to the tops of the logs, without success, he took a small piece of paper out of his pocket, crumpled it up, and lit it on fire on top of the logs. It burned, but did not even singe the logs. He had not opened the flue, and the smoke from the paper had entered the room. He grunted, staring at what he had done.
Cardinal Fidèle quietly came up behind him with a handful of past issues of the journal America in his hand. He let them drop directly next to Cardinal Froben, making him curse as he jumped. Cardinal Fidèle said, “I think we will let Hash light all the fires from now on, old man. What were you trying to do, set us all on fire?”
Don Hash spent the next five minutes taking most of the logs out of the fireplace – along with those which were still on the tiles and carpet around the hearth – putting them back in their place along the far side of the hearth. Taking the issues of America, looking at Cardinal Fidèle and thinking of Father Alexámenos, he crumpled them up and shoved them into the ashes. Cardinal Fidèle said not to bother lighting the fire until after lunch. As Cardinal Fidèle completed his correspondence, the sounds of the other three Cardinal’s arrival echoed into the study.
Cardinal Fidèle told don Hash to come with him and Cardinal Froben. They went out and greeted the Prelates and went into the chapel. They prayed the Angelus, the sixth hour of the Divine Office and the first five decades of the Rosary. Cardinal Fidèle announced the mysteries, changing the last two, as John Paul II had sometimes done, to the Slaughter of the Infants in Bethlehem and the Exile of the Holy Family to Egypt. Don Hash felt guilty that it was this very piety of Cardinal Fidèle which puzzled him, made him feel that something was not quite right. They remained in the chapel until lunch.
Although Carpe Diem had eaten in the kitchen while the meal was being prepared, he could never be kept from joining the Cardinal and whatever guests he had for lunch. Carpe Diem had no sense of private property whatsoever, whether for himself or anyone else. He continuously spied out good things to eat on other people’s plates and proceeded to help himself. Eating kept his talking to a minimum, giving Cardinal Elzevir a chance to ask don Hash about his schooling.
“I did the doctoral programme for political science at Georgetown,” replied don Hash.
“On the Potomac?” asked Cardinal Elzevir. “You must have been a fish out of water there.”
“My father graduated from law school at Georgetown, your Eminence. When I was a boy we lived half the time in the United States and half in Italy.”
“What did you write on?” asked the Cardinal Secretary of State.
“On the advantages and disadvantages of the political tolerance or intolerance of so-called religious fundamentalism during the so-called ‘war on terror,’ your Eminence.”
“Interesting, Hash. Anything else?”
“I was invited to a special course in military strategy at West Point.”
“That sounds quite promising for a secular career. How is it that you went to the seminary?”
“When I returned to Italy, I found that two friends had joined the Italian Military Ordinariate, and were preparing to be military chaplains. They invited me to ask the Lord in prayer about a vocation, and to speak to a priest they knew. We were together at Laurentina, but…”
“What kind of studies did you do then?” interrupted Cardinal Elzevir.
“I was able to transfer most of the philosophy credits to the Pontifical Vigilanza University and so started the theology cycle immediately. They kept me there for seven years.”
“You must have written another thesis. What was the topic?”
“The excommunication of Queen Elizabeth I,” replied don Hash.
“So, to cut a long story short,” said Cardinal Elzevir, “you wanted to serve Church and State at the same time, but the virgo fidelis of the state is not necessarily the…”
“I wanted,” said don Hash, cutting him short, “and do want to serve the Lord, who is semper fidelis, in the circumstances in which I find myself. I do believe to have been called by Him.”
“And the Italian State is pleased to have the Ordinariate let you go on leave to serve another State, the Holy See?”
“I do not see any conflict of interest, your Eminence, if one is honestly serving the Lord.”
“Hah! Neither did the Italian State see any conflict of interest in you serving at the highest levels of another sovereign State!” exclaimed the Cardinal Secretary of State.
“Let up, would you, Elzevir?” exclaimed Cardinal Froben. “You don’t run the Inquisition!”
“I do,” said Cardinal Francisco. “Tell us what your pastoral experiences have been thus far.”
“I haven’t been a priest for very long, your Eminence,” said don Hash.
“That is evident,” said Cardinal Francisco.
“I’ve had all the normal experiences of any parish priest, inasmuch as a military chaplaincy on a military base during summer break is normal. I was in the Middle-East for a while to help take care of the troops there. That included hospital work and visits to some of the remote areas of the conflicts. During the school year I helped in a particularly difficult parish on the weekends.”
“And you think this qualifies you to be at the Secretariat of State?” asked Cardinal Francisco.
“Your Eminence?” asked don Hash.
“Do you have any diplomatic experience?” pressed Cardinal Francisco.
“Well, I haven’t become a numerary of the alumni of the Accademia ecclesiastica over at the Minerva, if that’s what you mean,” replied don Hash.
“Thank heavens! What you mean, Hash, is that you haven’t been contaminated. Hah!” exclaimed Cardinal Froben, laughing at the expense of the Secretary of State, who still thought of himself as the overseer of the downgraded, though still revered school of Vatican diplomacy.
“However,” continued don Hash, “for what it’s worth, I was friends with some members of the Sant’Egidio community when I was in Georgetown. We had long discussions on diplomacy. They had me tag along at many sessions of informal mediation which they were providing for the embassies of some particularly troubled nations.” Don Hash was aware that many conservatives had grave problems with the Sant’Egidio community, but knew that information was always a boon, and that, in the present company, such an admission would only be welcomed.
“I suppose that hands-on experience can be worth something,” responded Cardinal Francisco. But tell us, when push comes to shove, what is to be compromised, diplomacy or truth?”
Cardinal Froben did not know how he himself would answer, and so did not make his usual out of turn comment. It was not a question which Cardinal Elzevir could ask, though he was most interested in the response, and was secretly thankful to Cardinal Francisco for asking the question.
“I am not so much an historian and political strategist as I am a priest,” said don Hash.
“Many compromise the truth, but fail in their diplomacy inasmuch as they distance themselves from truth’s integrity. The Lord provides a way even in the most difficult circumstances. The protocol is that Catholic diplomacy must be the splendour of integral doctrine.”
Cardinal Elzevir put his head down.
“What’s the matter?” asked Cardinal Fidèle. “Are the Black Forest warthogs haunting you?”
“Let it go, Fidèle. The victims of those scrofæ of Germany may have forgiven me,” said Cardinal Elzevir.
“Warthogs are big pigs!” claimed Carpe Diem, remembering a television documentary he had seen. “They eat their babies.” He then ran out of the room with an edition of America in hand.
Don Hash watched as his own answer was being used to trounce his future boss.
“Never mind them, Hash,” said Cardinal Froben. “I’ve settled on unity as humanity’s hope. I don’t pretend to understand all the theological niceties, but I wonder if you do. When you have the possibility of unity on the horizon, don’t you feel just a little bit tempted to, well, maybe not suppress the truth… let’s just say, temporarily suspend mentioning its fulness? Must not a priest be in the middle as dictated by extremes so that neither right nor left lose their way?”
“Right and left, equal opposites with their utilitarian, feigned ‘middle’, are lost to the Living Truth. If you have Stalin on the left and Hitler on the right, you get a lying hell in the middle called compromise. But if the Church were to…”
He was interrupted by the doorbell. They heard Signora Gagno opening the door.
Up next: Chapter 12 – Two girls in class cried for him
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