Jackass for the Hour: Chapter 12 – Two girls in class cried for him
“I’m sorry that I’m early,” padre Absj apologised to Signora Gagno. As he did so, he stared at the floor, which was covered with pages ripped out of an edition of America magazine. Ripping apart journals and newspapers was another obsession of Carpe Diem.
“Please, follow me,” she said, turning to lead him to the adjoining dining room, but Carpe Diem suddenly appeared, standing in front of them, naked, cold as it was. He had heard the bell and wanted to know what was happening, since it was his job to ring the doorbell. It didn’t matter that he was soaking wet, having just stepped in and out of the shower.
“I’m sorry,” said Signora Gagno to padre Absj. “I forgot to lock the bathroom. He spilled molasses all over himself.”
Padre Absj had no experience of autistic people, or even those who were mentally retarded. He was so busy being offended at the unexpected sight that he could not reason out what Signora Gagno had said to him. He unconsciously clasped the papers he was carrying closer to his chest, which was the worst thing he could do.
“What’s that for?” asked Carpe Diem, pointing to the papers carried by padre Absj.
Padre Absj did not answer. He had been expecting an intensely academic discussion as soon as he walked in the door, but was met with what he considered to be surreal, not knowing that it was reality which was monstrous to him, living in his own little world as he did. He clasped the papers more closely to his chest, as if to protect himself. There was a lesson being provided.
“What’s that for?” repeated Carpe Diem, now reaching out to the papers, obsessed, as he often was, with getting an answer, regardless of whether or not he would understand it. Signora Gagno was doing her best to reprimand Carpe Diem and drag him away to the bathroom, but she knew it was useless. She went to fetch a towel to wrap around her son. With this, Carpe Diem became braver, and took hold of the papers even as padre Absj held on to them more tightly, stupidly becoming angry with Carpe Diem. The ideological social justice interests of padre Absj were of no help to him in this real-life situation. It was difficult to tell who was trying to take the papers from whom. All those who were in the dining room came out into the entrance to see what the commotion was, unnoticed by padre Absj and Carpe Diem. With a surge of determination, Carpe Diem succeeded in taking the papers, but slipped on the loose papers of America magazine on the wood floor. Padre Absj, just as determined to keep hold of the papers, wound up falling to the floor with Carpe Diem. The others laughed at the ineptitude of padre Absj, who, thinking he had been compromised, gave up trying to obtain the papers. It took Carpe Diem less than two seconds to lose interest, leaving the papers on the floor. Signora Gagno, who had just returned, took the opportunity to wrap the towel around her son and lead him to the bathroom to get dressed.
“If I hadn’t seen it myself, Absj,” said Cardinal Fidèle, “I would have had you arrested.”
“I… I… I…” was all that padre Absj could manage to say.
“Polycarp is autistic,” said Cardinal Fidèle.
“Isn’t the definition of autism selfishness?” asked padre Absj, trying to blame Carpe Diem.
“You are not only a man ahead of your time, Absj,” said Cardinal Fidèle, “You are stupid.”
“I accepted an early ride with someone going up to the Accademia Americana, and…”
Padre Absj cut himself off, noticing don Hash. “I didn’t know you would be here, Hash,” he said.
“Of course he would be here,” retorted Cardinal Fidèle. “He’s my personal secretary.”
“But he is a friend of…” padre Absj began to protest.
“Of course he is. So am I,” asserted Cardinal Fidèle. “Just how naive are you, Absj?”
Padre Absj collected the papers from the floor, which included Father Alexámenos’ study.
“Just put them on the side table, Absj,” said Cardinal Fidèle. “Get a hold of yourself.”
Soon, Carpe Diem joined them, shamelessly beginning to eat the desert his mother had given to padre Absj. Carpe Diem was staring at him, trying to figure him out. Padre Absj, meanwhile, was trying to remain unnoticed by Carpe Diem as he put a few drops of milk in his tea. When he put the small pitcher down, Carpe Diem picked it up and poured the rest of it into padre Absj’s tea cup, making it overflow onto the saucer, table and – with padre Absj moving his chair out of the way just in time – onto the floor. With this ‘success’, and having seen how the others had put sugar into their tea, Carpe Diem climbed onto the table and poured half the sugar bowl into the tea cup of padre Absj and half over the Jesuit, indicating that the kind gesture was for his benefit. The others thought this was humourous on Carpe Diem’s part, and sad on padre Absj’s part, for he was oblivious to the kindness shown to him. Carpe Diem asked, “What’s your name?”
“Absj,” came the reply.
“What’s your name?” Carpe Diem repeated instantly. The others knew he was asking the right question with the wrong words, perhaps, “What does your name mean?” When padre Absj did not answer, not thinking it worth his time, Carpe Diem became very intense, as if padre Absj was being selfish with something he wanted. “What’s your name?” Carpe Diem asked again, this time having moved around the table so as to stand right next to him. When padre Absj weakly said his name again, Carpe Diem, not used to such obstinacy, repeated his question without waiting for a response, again and again, until he ran out of breath, trying to make him understand.
✵ ✵ ✵
After leaving the Vatican, padre Emet entered the Ottaviano subway stop, and took the next train to Termini, thinking the express shuttle train to the Airport would be the quickest way to go, and praying that he would encounter Father Alexámenos there. He was pleased to have the anonymity afforded him by his religious habit. People were always pleased to see a friar, but would be nervous when seeing a Cardinal. The train was fairly empty. He was the only one in the two rows of seats in that part of the carriage reserved for smokers, with those seats still surrounded by glass walls, though smoking was no longer allowed. After the train started to move, a lady came into the cabin and closed the glass door, making the Sign of the Cross. She started to make her Confession, so he took out his stole and put it on. He was used to this in travel situations. When she was done, another followed, and another, and so it went during the forty minute ride to the airport. “How sad,” he thought, “that so many priests do not want to be known as priests.”
After the train arrived at the airport, he walked over to the nearby moving footpaths, and rode through the covered bridge connecting the train terminal to the airport. He saw Father Alexámenos coming toward him from the airport, but then pass by him. “It seems the religious habit can also make one invisible,” thought padre Emet. “Alex!” he called out.
Father Alexámenos turned, looked, didn’t see anyone he knew, and turned around again.
“Father Alexámenos!” padre Emet called out again.
Hearing his full name, Father Alexámenos turned around and saw that the only face looking at him, now some distance away on the moving footpath, was padre Emet. “Your Eminence!” he said, jumping over the side of the moving footpath he was on, and then again over the side of the one upon which the Cardinal was going in the opposite direction. He soon caught up with the Prelate, saying, “Your Eminence, I didn’t even know you belonged to a religious order.”
“‘Padre’ is more appropriate, Alexámenos.”
“I was just going to see you… padre. Do you have a moment? Are you going somewhere?”
“The question is how much time you have, Alexámenos.”
“My plane leaves at midnight. I have to check in within eight hours from now. I thought it would take me all day to get my boxes of books approved for shipping, but it was over very quickly. The Americans donated some imaging machines to the airport which check for drugs and explosives at the same time.”
“I have come to bring you to the Holy Father, Alexámenos. Let’s go back to the train.” He said this quietly in Latin. Within fifteen minutes, the shuttle train was on its way back to Rome. They were lucky enough to get a ‘smoking cabin’ to themselves. When they were alone padre Emet said, “I have something to tell you…”
Padre Emet’s hesitation was out of character, and made Father Alexámenos listen carefully.
“You are to be publically tried for heresy,” said padre Emet.
“Haven’t you heard, Padre? We don’t use that kind of terminology any more,” Father Alexámenos replied in jest. “I expected as much,” he continued. “But why should I go to Haïti?”
“Fidèle is up to something. I just don’t know what,” said padre Emet. “There may be penalties if you are guilty. There is no limit to a penalty in Canon Law, other than that it be a just penalty.”
“Given the lack of education the past generations of priests have had, the perception of what constitutes heresy and what a just penalty is may be arbitrary,” observed Father Alexámenos.
“Yes…” agreed padre Emet. “An honest to goodness Catholic may be held to be a heretic who is deserving of…” His voice trailed off, wanting Father Alexámenos to say it himself.
“Death?” offered Father Alexámenos, immediately adding, “I know that it is all too much for them, all at once. You’re the one who taught me, padre, that no good deed goes unpunished, with the punishment fitting the crime, so that our Lord was crucified for His love, His Heart pierced through. His goodness and kindness were all too much for us, all at once. They were certainly too much for me. I crucified Him with my sins…”
“Meaning that you are hardly Christ Jesus come to save us all,” said padre Emet sharply.
“I have no goodness which would make people react like they did with our Lord. If He wants to make me His instrument, having me speak about His Revelation, I laugh with Him. He conquers the world with irony, using the likes of me. To see this plainly will be our joy in heaven, when justice and mercy kiss, seeing God in the face… the crucified and risen Christ, who is God.”
“Are you so strong?” asked padre Emet.
“It’s said that only the good die young, padre. I think I’ll grow as old as you!”
“There is much at stake,” said padre Emet gravely, indicating the death he would be risking. “Are you not tempted to escape, perhaps like Elijah? No one would blame you for that.”
Padre Emet’s tone of voice set Father Alexámenos on edge, so he replied in kind: “One must submit to the Church’s authority. Running is useless. If this is the direction things are going, there could be no escape, even to the Lord. When your Patron, Elijah, reached his refuge, the Lord asked him what he was doing there, of all places, in refuge, and sent him back whence he came.”
Padre Emet hid a smile. This was an interpretation that no one else had given to the Scriptural passage, except for padre Emet himself. “Are you so strong?” padre Emet repeated, testing him.
“As you know, I haven’t been to Confession for some time, padre…”
“In calmer times, I would expect you in two more days,” said padre Emet, taking out his stole.
“Bless me, padre… It’s been almost two weeks. I would like to accuse myself in this confession of all of the sins of my past life, especially since I was ordained a priest, especially the just zeal that I’ve combined with my unjust anger, more than just impatience. On top of that, I’ve not given time to the Lord that I should have in prayer…”
“Time you stole from the Lord,” interrupted padre Emet. “Do you have anything else to add?”
“Last night I’m afraid I fell into the sin of gluttony,” said Father Alexámenos. Padre Emet said nothing, so Father Alexámenos explained: “I think I drank a bit too much, padre. I’m so ashamed. What a way to end my time in Rome… escaping into self-indulgence…”
“But Alexámenos, I know you well enough to know that you know nothing about alcohol. It would be my guess that you didn’t know your limit… Is that right?”
“Always the prophet!” Father Alexámenos half laughing.
“Well, now you know,” said padre Emet, with some sternness.
“Padre… to answer your question about whether or not I am strong enough to face such a thing, the answer is, as you know very well… No, not in the least. Christ must be my only strength. I must trust Him alone. But that is why I tell you this in Confession.”
“Go on,” said his Confessor.
“This morning, in prayer, I vaguely saw the state of my soul,” said Father Alexámenos. “I saw the purification, the purging that needs to be done, as if I am to go through Purgatory now.”
“But we all undergo this purification by fire,” stated padre Emet. “This is a work of the Lord, His work of Charity. It’s much better to burn in purification now than later in punishment. You can only grow in appreciation of Charity in Purgatory, but you can actually grow in Charity now. God, who is Charity, wants to purify you here. Now, what is so bad about what you saw.”
“What I saw,” said Father Alexámenos, “is the difference between my desire to do God’s will on the one hand, and, on the other, simply doing God’s will, cooperating with His life within me.”
“That’s quite a difference,” said padre Emet. “But you don’t really think that you can bribe God for His favour by trying to be good? You are not good, Alexámenos.”
“Our Lord has already taught me that lesson, padre. I know that all good things come from Him, and that I cannot make myself better than myself by myself. His grace works all, even as I cooperate with this grace to do what is expected of me with the commandments and precepts of the Church. My difficulty is not in how to proceed, for that is the Lord’s prerogative in drawing me more deeply into the Charity that is the Holy Trinity. Instead, in seeing sin’s horror, I am grieved, not only out of love of God, against whose love I have sinned, but because of regret…”
“Regret?” asked padre Emet. “What do you mean, exactly?”
“In the parable of the talents, there are those who have multiplied what the Lord has given to them, and then there is the fellow who buried his talent in the ground. I regret that, with sin, I have buried my talent in the ground where, even upon repentance, it will effectively stay, even if I dig it up and cooperate in having the Lord set it to work. I will first have to take the time to clean it off when I could be busy with other things, what the Lord really wants of me…”
“One of the good things about spiritual direction is getting some feedback when you are so unavoidably close to your own situation that you can’t see how inconsistent you are.”
“Padre?” prodded Father Alexámenos.
“As you say, the Lord will lead you more deeply into an ever greater life of Charity. But He does this, Alexámenos, by actually having you grow with the Cross of weakness in this world… and our Lord never despises the Cross. He uses it to throw you into the heights of the spiritual life, not that the sin from which one repents is transformed into the ‘energy of sanctity’, as the gnostic psycho-spiritualists of the ‘orthodox’ Catholic media insist, but because He draws you to Himself, giving you of His wholeness, not some mere reaction to your sinfulness. Now, depending on how one repents in the very Charity of God, that is just how much one is reestablished in the depths of Charity which one previously enjoyed, or even more if…”
“But, padre…” said Father Alexámenos, though not knowing how to make an objection.
“Don’t forget, only the one who is forgiven much, loves much,” added padre Emet.
“Thanks for that, padre.”
“Have you offered Mass yet, Alexámenos?”
“No,” he replied.
“In that case, for your penance, you will offer the Holy Sacrifice later today for the Holy Father’s intentions. Have no worry. Our Lord will Himself transform your heart so as not to be distracted from His presence by anything or anyone, doing the Lord’s will by being with Him.”
Father Alexámenos recited his act of contrition, which was immediately followed by the absolution of padre Emet, who then took off his stole, saying, “The one who is forgiven to the very depths of his soul can also love with his whole heart, soul, mind and strength.”
“Amen,” said Father Alexámenos after some minutes. He was staring through the graffiti covered windows as the train noisily and roughly made its way past the tangled web of train tracks at Stazione Ostienze. He was thinking of the fact that he had prostituted himself to the world. Yet, he didn’t dwell on this in itself. He was thinking of the great love given to the woman in the Gospel of Luke, for she had been forgiven much, having repented from her prostituting herself to the world, but who presented herself, by grace, to Jesus, in tears. Father Alexámenos was thinking of the great love being given to him in the absolution he had just received. “Amen,” he repeated quietly, with a determination that looked forward to what he would face sooner than later. Padre Emet said nothing more, but instead prayed silently for his penitent. The young priest’s attention had now been taken by the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass he would soon offer.
✵ ✵ ✵
Pyè said, “Look everybody! It’s finished!” proudly referring to his having painted the donkey-cart bright yellow and white, the colours he and his father, Jozèf, had found in discarded paint cans at the side of a mountain of garbage which was slowly burning not far from where they lived.
Meanwhile, Jozèf was finishing making final measurements of a doubled-up length of old rope that would reach from the donkey’s nose to where Pyè would sit on the front side of the cart. Having finished this, they freed the donkey and waited for the paint to dry, which would be sometime in the early afternoon, just in time for a maiden ‘voyage’ to the largest trash heap in the city, testing out the cart’s ability to carry the ‘treasures’ which were just waiting to be found.
Jozèf, a devout Catholic, looked at the white and yellow of the cart, looked at Pyè, and then took a paint brush in hand, asking Pyè if there was any black paint. Pyè handed him a can with a small amount of almost hardened black paint in it. Jozèf painted in large letters on both sides of the cart: “Barque de Pyè.” It struck Jozèf that the Barque of Peter contains treasures thrown out by the world, which, when rescued, have new life…
✵ ✵ ✵
Leo was not finished packing and making arrangements for transportation back home after getting sacked from the seminary by père Jacques. Home was almost eighteen hundred kilometres away in Colombia, not counting the circuitous route he would have to take. He was not prepared for this unexpected expense of returning home so early. He decided to try to keep going to lectures until he acquired his fare home. Père Jacques had the first lecture. Leo had nothing to lose. He took his place, as usual, opposite père Jacques, but remained standing, raising the expectations of the other students, who were all with Leo in spirit, though they were not as brave as he was.
Père Jacques was late in coming to class. After ten minutes, the students were ready to leave, but then he walked in and immediately began his lecture, not looking at anyone in the eyes, and not noticing that Leo was there. After he had phoned the Nuncio earlier in the morning, père Jacques immediately began to work on a web-site he was almost finished creating, and had lost track of time. He was nervous and jumpy… spooked, a mere shell of a man, though not by something done to him. He looked guilty, as if he had again done something to someone else.
Père Jacques began his lecture by giving an example of a ‘Liberation Application’, describing a situation in Leo’s village, not far from San Miguel, Colombia, in which a number of priests had been murdered, some of them after being tortured in front of the parish church. He spoke as if he had been there. He used his usual political terms, bragging just how much he himself had done for the poor. He thought this would make up for having sacked Leo, as if it would reestablish his credibility with the students, a credibility he never had to begin with.
In an instant, Leo could see just how the next two minutes of his life would proceed, and thanked the Lord for this new opportunity to witness to Truth and Charity. He knew the priests who had been murdered and was a witness to their martyrdom for the Faith instead of to some passing political strategy, as père Jacques had tried to infer. Leo was just a young boy when it happened, but the torture and death were forever ingrained in his memory. He had been standing with his family and the rest of the parishioners in front of that parish church. He couldn’t stomach this slander by père Jacques against them and once again stood up in class, challenging père Jacques: “I served that Mass which was interrupted by the guerrillas. I served their funeral Mass as well. You don’t know what the bishop said at their funeral. You weren’t there. That was my parish. Those priests were my friends. They helped me to discern my vocation to the priesthood.”
Père Jacques had kept his eyes to the floor during this speech of Leo, becoming angrier by the second. But then he thought that Leo’s last words gave him a way to save face. He said, “Oh, but you have no vocation, Leo. I thought we made that clear yesterday.”
“Pray tell…” retorted Leo, “what is a vocation?”
“If you want to know what a vocation is, just look at me,” said père Jacques, looking up. “As proof, notice all the things I do for the poor. I am a liberationist. I do so much… so very much.”
“So you prove you know nothing of these priests,” Leo shot back, “nothing of Columbia, nothing of the poor and nothing about priesthood. I was present at the meal they had before the Mass from which they were dragged. They said they never served the poor on their own, but Christ in them. But I stupidly exclaimed, ‘You are all doing so much!’ My parish priest said, ‘We’ve done nothing; we haven’t given our lives…’ Another priest finished his sentence for him: ‘…like so many priests have done. Don’t you see, Leo?” he said, “Christ died for us, and has the right to demand that we pardon others. Les droits de l’homme: c’est de la merde!”*
“Don’t use foul language in front of me,” interrupted Pere Jaques with pomposity.
“Those words are sacred!” Leo insisted. “My priest said that ‘vindicating our so-called right to mortal revenge multiplies violence.’ That lesson was then confirmed… Within two hours… they were tortured and killed in front of everyone…” Leo could not go on.
Two girls in class cried for him. Another seminarian said, “De stercore erigens pauperem. They were martyrs. But God also throws the arrogant into the sewer.” Père Jacques stormed out.
✵ ✵ ✵
Signora Gagno was thanked for lunch, and the Cardinals, along with don Hash and padre Absj, retired to Cardinal Fidèle’s study. Padre Absj, followed by Carpe Diem, was asked: “What’s your name?” “Absj,” was the response. Signora Gagno called Carpe Diem to the kitchen.
“Now, Absj, give the remaining copies of Alexámenos’ paper to don Hash,” commanded Cardinal Fidèle. “Good… Now, don Hash, do the honours, please.”
Knowing padre Emet had a copy of what Father Alexámenos had written, don Hash arranged these other copies of the study on top of the logs in the fireplace, opened the flue of the chimney and, matches in hand, squatted down to light America on fire. “How appropriate for the American church,” he thought, “America burning the righteous of America.”
Padre Absj was staring at don Hash, not believing what he was seeing, wondering who it really was who he signed on to teach at the Vigilanza. They all watched the flames increase. The blaze soon filled the length and height of the fireplace, and the heat became uncomfortable.
“I hope there will not be a chimney fire,” said don Hash above the hissing and popping noises of the fire. The flames were fierce, and the Cardinals moved their chairs farther from the fire.
Cardinal Fidèle seized the moment to say, “So, Hash, you would be disappointed if the fire were to spread so that someone might even be burned to death?”
Just then a large red-hot ember popped from the fire onto the carpet directly in front of don Hash, who was still standing, knowing that he might be needed for just such an eventuality.
Before don Hash could do anything, Cardinal Fidèle pursued his question. “What if the fire were to consume someone you know… say, for instance, Alexámenos?”
The other Cardinals, knowing Cardinal Fidèle well, immediately became interested, trying to predict where he would lead the conversation. The questions were like an opening chess move. Even Cardinal Elzevir, who had been present at the meeting with the Holy Father, was curious to see how Cardinal Fidèle could possibly present the substance of that meeting to the others.
After such wild questions, don Hash took the opportunity to say, “Your Eminence, collateral damage would be regrettable.” His employment of military vocabulary was meant to highlight the extraordinary nature of the questions. For effect, he left the ember burn deeply into the carpet, which, because it was not flame retardant, had started to build up a small flame. The stench was immediately noticeable to all present. They heard Signora Gagno leaving the apartment to do some shopping at the markets, and then watched as Carpe Diem entered the study with his clothes on inside out and back to front, with the same Latin Bible on his head. Carpe Diem saw, as they all did, the small flame that don Hash was purposely ignoring. Cardinal Fidèle couldn’t have cared less about his priceless carpet. The manipulation of don Hash and the others was much more important. He surmised that don Hash was making a point by letting the ember burn into the carpet, and wanted to know what it was. Carpe Diem, pressing the open halves of the large tome to his ears, said, “Don Hash, carpe diem!” Padre Absj, always on the periphery of any conversation, jumped up and stamped on the ember, putting out the flame.
“You have no appreciation for poetic license, Absj,” said Cardinal Fidèle, shaking his head. “What would happen if no one put out the fire?”
Padre Absj was about to sit down, oblivious to the possible meanings of the exchange that had just taken place, but Carpe Diem was already in his chair, so he went to the far side of the study to fetch another chair for himself, making a show of how indignant he was.
Don Hash said, “Thank you, Polycarp.” But his gratitude went unheard by Carpe Diem.
Cardinal Fidèle, not able to figure out what seemed to have developed into an ongoing, inside joke between don Hash and Carpe Diem – unbeknownst to Carpe Diem – was uncertain of the motives of don Hash in letting the flame grow under his own feet, especially when don Hash then simply said, “I would be disappointed if Alexámenos were to be burned,” and then sat down.
“Would you? Really?” asked Cardinal Fidèle, also calmly, though with an exacting intensity.
“Are you really serious?” asked don Hash, incredulously, but with a faint hint of fear in his voice, thinking of the extraordinary events of the past day. The Cardinal let don Hash’s question hang in the air.
They locked eyes as they had during don Hash’s doctoral defence. They were not distracted when Cardinal Francisco, clearly upset, asked, “What are you up to, Fidèle?”
Finally, Cardinal Fidèle answered, “I am serious, Hash, deadly serious. There are post-Reformation precedents.”
“There are other ways,” interrupted padre Absj. “Don’t forget what we did to Ruotolo.”
“They are hardly the same! For goodness sake, Absj! Don’t tell me you haven’t read anything of Alexámenos’ paper,” exclaimed Cardinal Fidèle.
“There was no time,” came the defensive reply. “But what I do know is that it seems you want an inquisition that can solve the problems of the Church instantly, as if taking care of this or that individual case will accomplish something in the face of a collapse of governance.” As he said this, Carpe Diem took the Latin bible from his head, closed it, and held it upright in his lap. It’s top edge reached up to his neck. He rested his head on its top edge, his arms around it, eyes closed, contented.
“You’re upset because you don’t know what we’re talking about…” interrupted Cardinal Fidèle. “Would that you were as taken with the Word of God as is Carpe Diem here.”
“Where will it stop, Fidèle?” insisted padre Absj, ignoring Carpe Diem with the disdain of one who has no appreciation of the awesome mystery that each person is. “Should we get rid of all bishops and priests and religious who disagree? And what about the laity? Should we have a system of secret spies and start witch hunting? Should we rule with an iron fist and cause schisms left and right?”
“Bravo, Absj!” interjected Cardinal de Colines, against the antics of Carpe Diem, who, upon hearing the word ‘spies’, put the bible down on the carpet, stood up, and mimed using binoculars he had seen depicted on animated cartoons, looking at all those present with an acting ability as perfect as it was easygoing. He remained standing in front of padre Absj – his chosen nemesis for the day – continually adjusting his make-pretend binoculars in front of him.
“Spying is not what unity is all about, Fidèle!” added Cardinal Froben.
Sighing to make evident his disdain, Cardinal Fidèle said, “None of you know anything about efficiency, even with the good example of many of the laity in these past years. Hash, I shall rephrase my question for the sake of our guests. Why would burning your friend, Alexámenos, especially with you lighting the fire, be a contribution to justice?”
“You must be out of your mind, Fidèle,” said Froben. “We don’t do that in this day and age. I don’t care if this Alexámenos is against everything I do. That’s just not the way to go. Where have you been for the past century?”
“And where have you been, Froben?” asked Cardinal Fidèle. “The battle cry of ‘We are all nice people!’ is ludicrous, as all blasphemy is.”
“You’re wrong Fidèle. Our cry is ‘We’re sorry!’ and ‘Never again!’ That’s the way it should be,” cried Cardinal Froben.
“Here, here,” added Cardinal Francisco.
Carpe Diem sat down and held the Latin Vulgate, opened up upside down, on his head.
“If your apologies of ‘We’re sorry!’ were actually an admission of sin instead of being a proclamation that, in the past, we were not as nice then as we surely are now, public penance and confession of our own sin would be done, asking forgiveness not only of those who are offended, but of God Himself. What would be confessed is the sin of self-congratulation which is so optimistically being flaunted in these days, the sin of saying that we all make ourselves nice for the reason that we live now, not then, and so we are necessarily better. As soon as we proclaim our niceness, with such blind, arrogant hypocrisy, that is how soon we will have a trial by fire. Saying we’re nice is the quickest route to disunity and violence, exactly what you self-righteously proclaim to avoid.” As Cardinal Fidèle looked at their eyes that were half-glazed over, he continued his rant repetitiously: “The very ones who say they are against capital punishment so as to look good in the eyes of the media are the very ones who for the same reason will rationalize that capital punishment is sometimes necessary in the world in which we live if that will help to ensure that they are not the targets of the media. For them, it’s never about truth, only perception.”
Cardinal de Colines flatly said, “The deterrent effect of capital punishment is virtually nil.”
“Only because execution has not been used as a warning,” replied Cardinal Fidèle, “but merely for political, economic and racist reasons. America is a prime example. In our case, however, the pedagogical value of the action will be emphasised for maximum deterrent effect.”
“He’s serious…” mumbled Cardinal de Colines under his breath, incredulously.
“The morality of capital punishment for a crime that may tear the Church and the world apart,” continued Cardinal Fidèle, “is simply self-defence, making an example of the perpetrator, a warning that will be followed.”
“You’re damned cold blooded, Fidèle,” said Cardinal Froben, gasping.
They were starting to notice that Cardinal Elzevir was not saying anything.
“Hash?” prodded Cardinal Fidèle, trying to get don Hash to respond.
Up next: Chapter 13 – You are out for his blood
© International 2005-2018 – George David Byers
* These words were publicly proclaimed by a conservative Opus Dei Archbishop in South America against some Marxist priests who wanted to proclaim that murderous vengeance as distinct from self-defence was a human right. These words of the Archbishop were cited as headlines as far away as France. Let it be noted, however, that Saint John Paul II one month later put the Archbishop on the list to become a Cardinal in the next consistory.