Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Catholic stupidity

This makes me mad.

We can only guess about the nature of the lifelong friendship between John Henry Cardinal Newman (1801-1890) and Father Ambrose St. John. Maybe it was sexual. Maybe it was not. Maybe it was sexual in its earliest years and chaste after their conversions and ordinations. That is not important. The fact is that the Cardinal specifically requested that he be buried next to his friend. His request was honored. When Ambrose died, the Cardinal wrote

"I have ever thought no bereavement was equal to that of a husband's or a wife's, but I feel it difficult to believe that any can be greater, or any one's sorrow greater, than mine."

The cardinal is currently classified by the Roman Catholic Church as "venerable". This means that he has at least one miracle to his credit, and that there is a "postulator" assigned to advancing his case for sainthood. He needs another miracle to get that process into a higher gear.

That brings us to the current sad situation. The order of priests championing his cause has received permission to have his body moved to another location, supposedly in anticipation of his canonization. That is absolutely ridiculous, and it is disgustingly obvious that the translation of his remains is an effort to obscure the inconvenient fact that he loved Ambrose St. John.

The left half of my head (the faithless half that calculates and demands evidence) says that this is not important. That the two men no longer exist and that this nonsense will be unknown to them. The right half of my brain (the rhyming and singing half that yearns for wings in another dimension where I'll meet Lady Di and Mother Theresa and Fabian who is not yet dead but who is not returning my phone calls in this world) says that splitting up these men is worse than just bad karma. It is cruel. As cruel as would be the splitting up of Alice B. Toklas and Gertrude Stein who are together forever in Pere Lachaise.

What is to be done with these fools who are running this Church onto rocks? I wish I didn't care.

I recommend you read a bit of the Cardinal's The Dream of Gerontius. Elgar set it to music, as did I while I was in Rome. I hear my version is still occasionally performed there. I selected these verses by Newman and wrote it for four unaccompanied voices.

Sanctus fortis sanctus deus
de profundis oro te,
miserere iudex meus,
parce mihi domine.

Newman had close ties to The Tablet a London periodical that accepted and printed the first piece I ever wrote and submitted for publication. I've always wondered if Newman would have approved of what has become of me.

Here's the Cardinal and his boyfriend.


Birdie said...

Like you, the logic of my left brain is frequently ignored by the passion of my right brain; they are constantly at war over situations such as this. Reconciling the conflict frequently feels, I don't know, incomplete. Something's missing.

Outside of that, what's missing here is compassion. Expediency wins over grace.

Can you please translate the verses you put to music? I cannot find an adequate translation online. And do you have a recording of your own work? I know all of us would love to hear it.

Thydess said...

Bless me father for I have sinned.

This is one great post. Sometimes the Church has their own legion of nutjobs.


Anonymous said...

This makes me so sad. I think it shows a complete lack of understanding of the deepest meaning of faith. To “venerate” this man by disregarding his last earthly wish shows just how far distanced the RC church has become from the human heart.

I have just finished reading something about Newman on Wickipedia, and was very moved to learn that "the pall over the coffin bears his cardinal's motto Cor ad cor loquitur (‘Heart speaks to heart‘). Inseparable in death as in life, the two men have a joint memorial stone that is inscribed with the words he had chosen: Ex umbris et imaginibus in veritatem (‘Out of shadows and phantasms into the truth‘).” Wow. Cardinal Newman would definitely have approved of you.


Ray said...

Thank you for posting this, Father. I was intrigued by the story when I read it awhile back & never got around to writing my own post (I am embroiled in writing my thesis these days). Good job!

Jess said...

What a horrible thing to do! Even if these are just remains of human bodies, this dishonors these men and their feelings for each other, regardless of the forms those feelings took. Horrible!

Paris said...

There's a neat book from a few years back on 19th cen. Oxbridge masculinity. It gave me a very helpful context for the ancient bachelors that haunt the colleges of Oxbridge, who are, on the one hand, so very queer, but, on the other hand, so very not.

The pragmatic Catholic corner of my brain is of the opinion that once Newman is made a saint, the unofficial relic-hunters will exercise even less regard for Newman's wishes than the current batch of official relic-collectors. Catholics shuffle the bones of their saints like cards.

Vic Mansfield said...

That left brain may keep order but it does not bring life.

The sweetest, dearest thing of Newman was his deep love. The saddest thing is that some would "dissect" it so and judge whether it was "good enough".

Love is always good enough. Blessed John, blessed Ambrose pray for us.