I think it was G. K. Chesterton who – talking about ‘population control’ – said that the solution to growing a second was not to call on the headsman, but on the hatter.
One particular hat has been the subject of some recent discussion, though; the Papal Tiara. There have been suggestions that it should be restored to use, and others who are very concerned that it would create entirely the wrong idea in the minds of the world – ideas which would work against the Church’s ‘credibility’ and image in the minds of non-Catholics (and possibly some Catholics as well !)
I know this may seem a fairly silly issue; but is also seems to me to highlight something which Archbishop Nicholls at least tried to get across in his recent BBC interview : namely, the question of whether the Church should be governed, or even guided, by the perceptions of anyone except God.
In that interview, the questioner was implicitly implying that flexibility was a desirable – one might even say essential – quality in a Church; and that the Catholic Church’s perceived lack of flexibility was a bad thing (whereas, apparently, the flexibility of the Church of England which leads to it not having very much at all in the way of clearly defined doctrine – and that subject to abrupt review by committee – is laudable).
Although it might be argued that ++Vincent might have been a little more definite in his response, it seems to me that he tried hard to clarify the point that, at least to the Catholic Church, fidelity – often at considerable cost – is more valuable than flexibility; and that the Holy Father (at least) recognizes that the cost of this fidelity may well be that the Church of the future (and possibly even the fairly near future) will be much smaller than it is at present.
My own view on the Triple Tiara is that it’s there, and it remains part of the insignia of the papacy, and that – by extension of the principle applied to other such things – it should probably come out if the Holy Father ever celebrates publicly according to the Extraordinary Form, and otherwise be left to the individual decisions of Pontiffs.
What I am quite clear on, however, is that the decision is not one in which the world has, or should have, any say whatever; because it seems to me quite clear that, whatever it says, it will be reasoning in a way which is not relevant to the Church – and that is the current problem; that people, some of them inside the Church, believe that satisfying those outside the Church is a primary objective.
I know that it was once said that ‘the Church is the only Club which exists for the benefit of non-members’; but as soon as you consider that, you realize that this does not extend to complying with the wishes of non-members. Had we done that, there would have been no martyrs in the Coliseum; and the Church would have died out long before Constantine arrived at the Milvian Bridge. Our duty is to comply with the wishes of Almighty God, whatever the cost, and to do so in the best interests of the whole of His creation, regardless of what others think.
Lord, keep us faithful to You usque ad mortem : even if it does happen to be mortem autem crucis !
(And many thanks to Bones for posting the transcript of the Archbishop’s interview.)