Jackass for the Hour: Chapter 27 – You will burn, burn, I say!
As the first session of the trial continued, nearing midday, it was early morning in Port-au-Prince. The seminarians were just arriving on foot for the early morning hour of Eucharistic Adoration at the Cathedral before the Mass offered by Archbishop Pòv, as they had for almost a month. Their enthusiasm was real, grounded in Christ. With the Archbishop’s blessing, they were still working in the shantytown. By force of circumstance, because the tables had turned, père Jacques, the Rector of the seminary, was now in prison after having given himself up to the police. The Archbishop was reviewing everything at the seminary, especially the faculty and administration. He didn’t have a chance to do this previously, since he had only recently been appointed.
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As Cardinal Froben arrived three quarters of the way up the Hall, out of breath for having walked so quickly up the slight incline, the collective din of hushed comments became quite loud indeed. The Cardinal stopped next to the two guards who were beside the people with the banner. He asked the protesters if he could make use of it. They were happy to oblige. The Cardinal asked them to give it to the two guards, who then went with him to the stage. When they arrived, Cardinal Froben had them stretch the banner right across the stage for everyone to see, making sure it came right to the side of Father Alexámenos.
“I thought your vision might be suffering, what with those voodoo cuts under your eyes,” he said, bringing some laughter from the crowd. They had not expected such a show, and were relieved to get a break from the intense attention they had to give to the proceedings.
“Re-veal-ed… Re-li-gi-on… Sa-cri-fi-ces… Child-ren…” read Cardinal Froben ever so pedantically, unaware he was making a fool of himself. The intention of the Cardinal was to make Father Alexámenos admit to the crime of sexual abuse in Haïti.
“If priests and bishops do such things,” said Father Alexámenos, “it is because they reject Revelation and religion, denying the Faith of the Family of Faith, the Tradition by which the Scriptures are understood. They hate that God the Father sacrificed Christ, having Him lay down His life for us. It is to the Sacrifice of that Child that Scripture and Tradition point. Faithless priests hate those for whom God made this Sacrifice, a Child of God for the children of God.”
“Who is it that you are accusing? Is it not yourself?” asked the Cardinal.
Some of the words exchanged by Cardinal Fidèle and don Hash during the latter’s doctoral defence now came to Father Alexámenos’ mind: “Your Eminence, the reason why we have the state of affairs with the sacrifice of children by some self-perceived members of revealed religion is that there are so many who have insisted on making a policy of burning the truth about the unity of Scripture and Tradition, keeping people far from Charity in Truth. Many think that burning the Truth is expedient for ecumenical unity. The Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity has for a long time been suppressing the Faith, suppressing Tradition, and trampling upon the Ordinary Magisterium of the Church, giving Scripture away to the Protestants, letting them decide what is or is not to be included in Scripture in view of the myriad differences in so many of the ancient manuscripts, just like an Erasmus redivivus, beginning another Reformation within the Church.”
“Our Protestant friends,” said Cardinal Froben, “use scientific knowledge of manuscript traditions which so many Roman Pontiffs have eagerly embraced…”
“Oh yes!” interrupted Father Alexámenos. “But there’s more to it than scientific input, more than what you think is “small t” traditional, pastoral, liturgical, apologetic, sociological, organizational, cultural, political, geographical, psychological, intellectual, attitudinal or even economic. Your principle of having no principles, your Prinzip der Prinzipienlosigkeit, neglects Revelation understood as Scripture and Tradition, while ignoring that Revelation has the Magisterium as its privileged custodian. It is the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity which has created the structures within which the rejection of Humanae vitae with the rest of the morals and doctrine of the Church came about. Rejecting Revelation rejects the image of God. Get it? It’s always about destroying children so as to shake one fist at God, whose image is to be found as Adam and his wife become one in their children. Destroy them, you destroy the image of God, you destroy all ability to take in Revelation, you effectively destroy God among us, Satan’s purpose in…”
“The Holy See is not on trial!” exclaimed the Cardinal, fuming. “It is not we who are to be burned! The Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity is innocent! You are the one accused of rejecting the Ordinary Magisterium of the Church. You are the heretic. You are the one who is immoral. You are the one who is leading the world into heresy and immorality. You…”
“When I was a child, your Eminence,” interrupted Father Alexámenos, “I saw one schoolmate call another terrible names. The other responded with the childhood aphorism, ‘What you say is what you are!’ which is either true or not. If the child who is guilty of stealing a pencil lays the guilt on his victim, calling him a thief when he is not, the response ‘What you say is what you are!’ is true. Children know the truth of the matter, even if they lie. But the faithless priest…”
“What does that have to do with anything?” asked Cardinal Froben, mocking Father Alexámenos with exaggerated bewilderment.
“With the faithless priest,” continued Father Alexámenos, “the situation is entirely different. The faithless priest does not think that he is guilty of anything, so full of himself is he. When he attacks others, he is accusing them of being like himself, but he doesn’t see this as an accusation. He is happy to attempt to make others like himself, considering himself as the be all and end all of everything there is. He is a bully. This creates what is, humanly speaking, an insurmountable sense of betrayal in the victim, but this can be transformed in grace to work for the good of the person. Those accused of such crimes can be guilty or innocent. Some do sin, some more than others. The Pontifical Council for Christian Unity abuses the whole Church as it attempts to destroy Revelation by…”
“We are not on trial!” thundered the Cardinal.
“We should have a real inquisition,” Father Alexámenos quickly added. “I repeat: heretics attempt to destroy the unity of Tradition and Scripture and, in this way, set up the circumstances in which people find only their fallen selves in Scripture, giving people a divine mandate to flaunt their fallen selves upon others. This gives rise to the saying that ‘Revealed religion sacrifices children.’ But such an inquisition is to begin with the Cardinals, the Roman Curia…”
“This inquisition ‘enjoys the sum total of authority’,” he responded, citing himself with the sum total of arrogance and rejection of the Church second only to Satan’s own “Non serviam!”. “And you, Father Alexámenos,” he spluttered on, “will burn… burn I say!”
Cardinal Francisco began furiously tapping on his microphone, causing everyone in the Hall to hold their ears. “Your Eminence,” Cardinal Francisco finally said to Cardinal Froben, “You are to question the defendant about Judaeo-Catholic child-sacrifice as being justification by God’s grace. That was the topic of the conversation which he had on the plane, and which was such a cause for alarm. You were chosen as Special Prosecutor for this session since you have expertise as the President of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity, which also deals with relations with the Jews. Shall we move on, please?”
“Right,” said Cardinal Froben, “I’m getting to that.” Cardinal Froben motioned to the two guards who were still holding the banner to give it back to the protestors. Turning to Father Alexámenos, he said, “You mentioned earlier that there is a reason why the banner was correct. What did you mean? How can ‘Revealed Religion Sacrifices Children’ possibly be correct? According to you, there is only one Child, the Christ Child, who legitimately has anything to do with sacrifice. But the banner speaks of children in the plural. And you think that that is correct? Perhaps you think that if children suffer, they will be justified and their abusers will be justified in this way.”
“They have been redeemed by the Blood of the Lamb,” said Father Alexámenos. “The triumph of mercy is when they enter heaven, and we pray that this mercy will be theirs, that they be given the grace of wanting to see their abusers repent and be forgiven. Then they will, in fact, be fully justified, like Saint Maria Goretti, who, as she lay dying of the knife wounds she received during her attempted rape, forgave her attacker, wishing to see him repent and go to heaven.”
“Do you understand, Father, that convulsing emotions give little hope of justification?”
“It does a terrible disservice to people to equate them with their emotions. Telling them that it is alright to be bitter, resentful and full of hate only enslaves people to their emotions, perpetuating the crimes committed. If, with grace, they pray for their enemies, they will not only do themselves a great deal of good, but they will do a great deal of good for all peoples.”
“That’s very convenient. Do you want forgiveness so easily for what you did in Haïti?”
“I cannot see why I should apologise for anything I did in Haïti.”
The Cardinal waited for jeering from the audience, but none came. He wondered if he had already lost them, and if the images were no longer viewed as conclusive. “I see that you are being difficult,” said the Cardinal. “Perhaps you would like more theologically oriented questions. So, to get right to the heart of the matter, tell us what the Key of Knowledge is. Do you not think that you have taken away the Key of Knowledge from others, for instance, down in Haïti? You did not use that Key, and you restrained those who wanted to use it.”
“Your Eminence, our Lord defines this Key Himself in the same passage, saying that we – having first received mercy from the Lord – are to have mercy on others. Keys match that which they open. One uses the Key to enter into the presence of the Lord, prostrate in adoration before Him. The Key is the Lord’s own Divine Mercy, which He turns for us.”
“What does mercy have to do with knowledge?” asked the Cardinal. “I’m asking about the Key of Knowledge, not of love or mercy or adoration or whatever… What are you talking about?”
“But our Lord is Truth, and, as such, is our Way and Life,” replied Father Alexámenos, hoping that the words ‘Truth’ and ‘Knowledge’ were related in the mind of the Cardinal. “He is the Charity we are to live. Justified in that Charity, love of God and love of neighbour are instantaneous and simultaneous. It is not a matter of one before and the other after. In our justification, we do not decide to be charitable. Charity, God, lives within us. As Augustine says: “Qui ergo fecit te sine te, non te iustificat sine te.”
“But what about the Key of Knowledge which, as the text has it, we turn,” said the Cardinal. “Is not this Key of Knowledge your own ‘faith’? Are you not more justified the ‘deeper’ your ‘faith’ is? Are you not saved by your work of assent to the ‘faith’ alone? Is not this Key of Knowledge your own ‘faith’, which you can use, or, in your case, abuse by refusing to turn it? Does not your justification and that of others depend on what you do with it?”
“We are not saved by epistemology, your Eminence, but by supernatural Faith, the sanctifying grace by which we love God and neighbour simultaneously. Our knowledge of supernatural Faith – beyond what our natural brains can grasp – is proved by our love of God and neighbour. One cannot Pelagianistically work one’s way into God’s favour, downplaying a connection between Scripture on the one hand and Tradition as Faith on the other. Protestants really do have a concept of justification very different from the Judaeo-Christian, that is, the Judaeo-Catholic belief.”
“Are you not too confident about your identification of Charity and Faith, Father?”
“It is not an identification,” replied Father Alexámenos. “In the end, we will have vision of God. Only the Charity of Living Truth will remain. By this Charity we are justified. By this Charity we assent to the Truth expressed in Scripture. I call it a theological epistemology of Charity, but it is only Charity, a Living Faith, if you will, which justifies.
“Come now, Father. When you’ve admitted to your ‘indiscretions’ in Haïti in the next session, won’t you be more willing to admit to your heresy? According to you, immorality follows on heresy. That’s just what we think. So, why not just admit your heresy about justification now? If you’ve sinned against mercy, your Key of Knowledge, you’ve sinned against knowledge itself. Tell me you agree.”
“Your Eminence, with all due respect, you are grievously mistaken…”
Cardinal Froben shook his head in exasperated dismay.
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“That’s silly, Sister Brendan,” said Jacinta, talking out of turn during a rare lenten recreation at Mater Ecclesiæ convent. “That great saint was hardly a fool, and Jesus was no disciple of Paul. It’s ironic that you misinterpret her by turning upside down the comment made on interpretation.”
Mother Bernadette intervened, saying, “In fact, the saint’s presentation of the Key of Knowledge, the divine doctrine of Jesus Christ, was most accurate. Saint Paul, in 1 Corinthians 2:9, does interpret Isaiah 64:10 – cited in Matthew 13:15, Acts 28:27, and so on – by saying it is by way of the love of God, by way of the crucified Lord of glory, that we see what the eye cannot see, hear what the ear cannot hear, and know in our hearts what cannot otherwise arise in the heart of man. Paul is correct, so much so that “questo parbe che volesse dire Paulo,” as if it were his revelation, his knowledge, appearing to be what Paul himself, as Paul, wanted to say. Jesus, according to the saint, was not guessing what Paul was saying – as in, ‘It seems, I guess, perhaps, maybe, that Paul wanted to say this’– but was stating that Paul was so transformed by this grace, that it was as if Paul spoke on his own authority. But Paul says he is speaking by the power of God and the Revelation of the Holy Spirit. Jesus was confirming just how correct Paul’s words were, for they were actualised in Paul’s life. Saint Gregory of Nyssa writes likewise of Paul.”
They heard the donkey kept in Vatican Gardens in preparation for the Holy Week ceremonies bray loudly, repeatedly. “Paul was the perfect jackass on which our Lord rode into the heavenly Jerusalem,” said Mother.
“Hopefully our donkey won’t be getting its head cut off like Saint Paul,” said Jacinta. They heard loud braying again, as if in agreement with Jacinta’s good wishes. They all laughed.
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“Faith is not our assent to whatever theological understanding we happen to have by way of this or that experience in this or that culture,” continued Father Alexámenos. “Any so-called ‘faith’ which is not supernatural, not given by God, which does not come with God’s supernatural Charity, which does not come with the merciful forgiveness of God, cannot have any understanding of the true Faith revealed by God. Such an unfortunate so-called ‘believer’ is an utter relativist, an individualist who does not want to receive mercy and therefore has no capacity to have mercy on others. Unless he converts, such a person must destroy any connection between Tradition and Scripture, between Faith and Scripture, taking away the Key of Knowledge from himself and others, flaunting himself before others as if he were Revelation. Such a person will try to stop the Key of Knowledge from being turned by Christ. Such a person hates this Revelation in mercy. He will not enter into the presence of the Lord, nor permit others to do so.”
“How is it that you think you are so merciful?” asked the Cardinal, incredulously.
“We are to see the face of the Redeemer in everyone. Christ redeemed them. We pray that they will be saved. This Faith in Charity is not our intellectual invention. This mercy, this Faith, this Tradition, is given from on high. If we love Christ, who is risen in heaven, we must desire that those He redeemed will become members of His Body, and desire to see them in heaven.”
“So, you think you have it all figured out?” asked the Cardinal. “What if not everyone wants to have Christ’s face seen in them? In projecting your own Faith unto them, you insult them. They simply need to say, ‘Christ didn’t take my place before God’s justice! I like my own religion!”
“It is no insult to anyone to say that Christ died for all. Non-believers are free to reject what they do not know, for they are only rejecting what is, hopefully, their own ignorance. When Christ stretches His arms out on the Cross, He embraces all peoples of all time, and the many are saved. His face is to be seen in them before our Father in Heaven. He provides the Key of Knowledge, our justification in grace, in Charity, in Faith, in Tradition, in the knowledge of…”
“You are mistaken!” exclaimed the Cardinal. “You will make other religions despise us.”
“Instead, your Eminence, with your ‘dialogue’ – your hiding the truth, your proclaiming a natural understanding to be supernatural Faith – the conditions for a persecution become ripe. Other religions have a right in justice to receive witness concerning the meaning of Christ’s Sacrifice. They will get this witness either willingly given or because it has to be coerced, even to the shedding of blood. They have the right not to remain blind to the fulness of Truth. Those who should know better should have preached to them, as an invitation to unity, all the Truth. Not preaching about the Key of Knowledge, the Living Truth, the Word of God Himself, will bring about the martyrdom of believers, having them preach with their blood. Those who believe, regardless of the non-preaching of those who should know better, will dismissively be called imprudent for their insistent belief by faithless bishops and priests. Those who are faithless will, of course, not be martyred, for they are not worth the effort.”
“But all religions have many aspects of truth,” asserted the Cardinal.
“Those few elements of truth,” replied Father Alexámenos, “are due to what participation mankind has left in Natural Law after Adam’s sin, as well as to haphazard cultural phenomenon, all of which are poisoned by so much else, including the ubiquitous human sacrifice understood to be pleasing to the bloodthirsty gods of so many ‘religions’. Again, Christ redeemed all. Some reject Christ. I pray for the salvation of the elect. His face is to be seen in them all.”
“You are mistaken!” repeated Cardinal Froben. “Your Key of Knowledge is the key to the shaft of the bottomless abyss. The smoke of that furnace darkens the sun and air. We are left without our insight for unity, without our work of ‘faith, with no common ground, no way to dialogue about Revelation, about ‘faith’ and the Scriptures, about ‘tradition’ and psychology, about justification. If you believe Christ’s face is found in all, do you not insult the Jews?” Cardinal Froben immediately announced: “I call Rabbi Shelomoh ben Yishaq, as a witness.”
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Rabbi Shelomoh came from behind the stage while excitement filled the Hall. Memories of the Rabbi meeting Pope Tsur-Ēzer were still fresh. Cardinal Froben began with a preemption: “Rabbi, I’m sure you have heard that it was said: ‘While the time of the Enlightenment contributed to bring a cleansing from the abuse of religion, secular society still has need of religious bases to sustain durable moral values, one of which is the fundamental principle of the sanctity of human life and its dignity. Ethical monotheism affirms these as inviolable human rights and must, therefore, be a source of inspiration for society in general.’ Would you agree, Rabbi?”
“Sapere aude! your Eminence, as long as you don’t prescind from the Faith while daring to use what is between your ears. Faith rids one of the egotistical motivations of obscurantist, tyrannical sayings such as Cogito, ergo sum, and whatever else le temps des Lumières offered as its raison d’être, the Enlightenment’s essentially, intransigently anti-Semitic, anti-Catholic hatred. Religion isn’t purified by antithetical propaganda and the slaughter of religious people, but only by graced repentance. If one replaces Natural Law – man’s reasoned participation in the Eternal Law of God – with the secular state, one desires ethical relativism, which cannot tolerate the sanctity of mankind’s life and inalienable rights. What oh what are ‘durable moral values’ in the face of ethical monotheism merely inspiring society? Instead, all men, religious or not, must demand that all men, religious or not, live the moral truth of the Natural Law. Auschwitz reopens if life itself is subject to religious affirmation apart from the Natural Law and, thus, necessarily to what must then be understood to be mere opinion. Hitler thought the Reich’s most sacred place was Les Invalides. He had four honour guards by Napoleon’s corpse day and night, saying that he was a true son of Napoleon, since, he said, Napoleon exemplified les Lumières.”
“I shall think about it,” Cardinal Froben said feebly, interrupting him.
“I’m sure you will,” enjoined the Rabbi. “You might also think about other things in the ‘report’ you cited, for instance, the declaration that ‘il est légitime qu’une société cherche à préserver son identité religieuse.’ Excuse me, your Eminence, but it is not always legitimate that a society may seek to preserve its religious identity. What if a society’s ‘religion’ is sacrificing children as the Hindus did in Calcutta? Or does ‘might make right’, the real principle behind your ‘architectural lights’ of liberté, fraternité, egalité? For your sake, I hope that a Pope will soon – during a Traditional High Mass on 21 January – canonise King Louis XVI, and then, during Latin Mass, crown a pious Catholic layman as King of France, in Reims, on 15 August. No more anti-God constitution which condescendingly gives people rights instead of recognising their inalienable participation in the Natural Law. If rights can arbitrarily be given, they can arbitrarily be violated and taken away, which happens all the time. Have you never heard, your Eminence, that ‘les droits de l’homme: c’est de la merde!’ You would benefit with the example of good laity, like a new King of France. You are now too friendly with Maximilien François de Robespierre.”
Taken off guard, the Cardinal decided to play the recording of the conversation which the Rabbi and Father Alexámenos had had on the plane. The recording had been provided by Shaykh al-Husayn. The Cardinal did not know it was edited. The sound system broadcast Father Alexámenos saying that the face of Christ was to be seen in all, including Jews.
“Translate the Hebrew of the recording,” Cardinal Froben commanded Father Alexámenos. When he had done so, the Cardinal asked him, “Isn’t seeing the face of Christ in all people insulting to our guest, Rabbi Shelomoh?”
“I beg your pardon, your Eminence,” interrupted the Rabbi, “but why not ask me? And I have more questions for you. Why, for you, is it anathema to hold that Christ loves the Jews in such a way that they should be part of the Church? Do you think that we are so content with our Hebrew Scriptures that we “irreducibly” do not need any Judaeo-Catholic Messiah? Does unity, for you, exclude a communion of religion and Truth concerning the Messiah, so that we agree to disagree, nicely. Is Judaism, for you, merely one ‘religion’ among many that has to be respected beyond any respect for the adherents? Does error, in your eyes, have rights, and does error give any and all religions the right to suppress truth in order to preserve its predominant identity in a society?”
The Cardinal stared at him, unable to think. Seconds ticked away. It became embarrassing. Father Alexámenos offered a suggestion: “Why don’t you ask the Rabbi how many images of Jesus’ face he sees depicted in the artwork on the back wall of the stage, your Eminence?”
Cardinal Froben snapped out of his stupor, and began to apologise to the Rabbi, saying, “Rabbi, please forgive the young priest for his continuing indiscretion. He does not realise that…”
“One face in three places!” exclaimed the Rabbi, who was looking at the Crucifix of San Damiano and the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe hanging in front of the blue velvet curtain.
“Excuse me…” interrupted Cardinal Froben, wanting an explanation.
“One face in three places,” repeated the Rabbi, “without counting the small figures on the Crucifix, the angel below the feet of the Madonna, nor, as it is said, those in her eyes.”
Father Alexámenos smiled broadly and, making the Sign of the Cross, turned to look at the images.
“I am afraid that I do not understand,” said the Cardinal, completely at a loss as to how he might regain control of the interrogation of Father Alexámenos.
“I’m afraid that, in fact, you don’t understand,” said the Rabbi. “Catholics can be so ignorant.”
“I apologise for my ignorance, Rabbi. Please, explain,” requested Cardinal Froben, who did not want his own ineptitude to get in the way of his own style of ‘unity’.
“Imagine me, a Jew…” began the Rabbi, standing up. Enjoying the moment, he turned to the audience and, speaking into the microphone, started once again, half chuckling, but also with some sarcasm in his voice: “Imagine me, a Jew, telling this Cardinal his own doctrine!”
Although the audience did not yet know what he was talking about, they laughed, to the chagrin of the Cardinal. He wasn’t used to this kind of straightforward, honest ‘dialogue’.
“Clearly, the face of Jesus is that of Jesus,” said the Rabbi.
“That is one,” said the Cardinal, keeping count.
“And since you Catholics believe that everyone needs redemption, including Jesus’ Mother – though from the first instant of her conception, so that she was conceived immaculately – Jesus’ face also has to be seen in her, asking the Most High to accept the Redemption of her just as you believe the Redemption of the rest of mankind was brought about by Jesus.”
“I see… Well, that is two,” said the Cardinal, who was already lost.
“Notice the dress Mary is wearing,” continued the Rabbi. The television cameras zoomed in.”
“I do not recognise the type of clothing she is wearing,” said Cardinal Froben, candidly.
“It is the typical garb of pregnant Jewish women of the first centuries,” observed the Rabbi.
“I must admit that Mary certainly is expecting in this image,” said the Cardinal.
“And that Baby in her womb also has the face of Christ, for it is Himself as a Child within the womb of His Mother. Tell me, your Eminence,” said the Rabbi, “is it not true that it is Pope Tsur-Ēzer who ordered this arrangement of the images of the Crucifix and the Virgin?”
“That is my understanding, yes,” said Cardinal Froben.
“Interesting…” murmured the Rabbi. “Now, to the point, there are more faces of Christ inferred here.”
“Rabbi?” prodded the Cardinal.
“Some Catholics think that Mary appeared in Mexico at the time the pagans were bribing the gods with human-sacrifices. She appeared ‘with child’, with Jesus, so as to say that those children are the image of her own Son. Catholics say that her Son, God’s Son, was sacrificed. That’s enough sacrifices, then, forever. There are to be no other sacrifices. The sacrifices of the pagans then stopped, that is, until today. Now there is much abortion going on in Mexico City.”
“I do not see the point. Do you mean to say something about justification?” asked Cardinal Froben, hoping against hope that he would answer in the negative. The Rabbi had undone all that he had proposed about justification to Father Alexámenos, and wanted to scuttle the effects of the Rabbi’s comments.
Up next: Chapter 28 – Perfidious Jews
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