End Notes: Laughing in the Dark

Father Catoir, the Maryknoll father who directs the Christophers, suggested in a recent article that things are not as bad with the Church as we may think. He drew attention to some heartening statistics on converts to Catholicism, he mentioned the reception the Pope gets wherever he goes, and . . . . But I guess that was about it. I read the article in the hope that it would offset the Gilbert Pinfold mood I often fall into.

Waugh’s The Ordeal of Gilbert Pinfold is said to chronicle its author’s own period of depression, but Waugh had the melancholic’s gift of making down look like up by eliciting laughter. “There was a phrase, current at the time, that it is later than you think. It was never later than Gilbert Pin fold thought.” Nor later than Waugh himself thought.

Not everything Waugh wrote about his reaction to the wake of Vatican II appears in the articles and reviews collected by Donat Gallagher, but there is a list of the items that are not reprinted indicating where they can be found. Soon someone must see the wisdom of collecting all such pieces and bringing them out as a separate volume. It is long past time that we should begin to heed the wise words such laymen as Waugh have spoken on what a few marauders have done to the Church in the name of Vatican II.

When Waugh wearied of socialist Britain, he thought of moving to Ireland. When he decided against that, he resolved to make living in England tolerable by imagining he was a tourist, not a resident. It is difficult to apply either of these solutions when one is assailed by some new liturgical or theological outrage in the Church. Another rite in union with Rome? Some have emigrated in this fashion. Most have remained and are toughing it out, seeking merit in the pain that attending Mass so often entails. Offering it up, as the nuns used to say, and what better occasion than the Mass for that?

Things are not going well in the Church, pace Father Catoir. Not long ago, some forty bishops agreed to a document which Dale Vree, who ought to know, characterized as Anglican in its ecclesiology. In an editorial in New Oxford Review, Vree used what I suppose we can call the Sword: Schism. The ideas embraced by forty American bishops with Rembert Weakland as their apparent spokesman appear in a manifesto that has been delighting the schismatic wing of Catholic journalism. Is it later than we think?

On campuses, the hot item is homosexuality. Did you ever think you would live long enough to hear arguments on behalf of sexual deviance by speakers professing to represent the Roman Catholic faith? But then, as I write, women are marching in Washington, protesting their breast implants, claiming a cover-up. I should hope so. Gilbert Pinfold, call your office.

One of the most perceptive things Jim Hitchcock ever wrote traced the pathology of the presumed orthodox man later ordained bishop to the delight of such as you and I, but who, in a few years, is indistinguishable from the other prelates gathered in business suits in a hotel ballroom to vote the agenda prepared for them in Chicago via Washington. What happened? Hitchcock’s subtle analysis can be reduced to a single factor. The new man simply joins the bureaucracy in place, in his diocese, in Washington.

Undeniably, in this twilight time, people are streaming into the Church. No doubt the alternatives are dreadful, but it is the response to grace that explains it. Converts are not converted to the Church of the forty bishops—Anglican schismatic, whatever. They have entered the Church because of her sacraments, because of her teaching, including her moral teaching. Perhaps some day, under the pressure of these new Catholics, more priests will stand in the pulpit and enunciate that moral teaching, defend it, celebrate it as John Paul II has done so often. Perhaps some day more priests will be recognizable papists once more. Perhaps it is not as late as Pinfold thinks.


Ralph McInerny was a popular writer, philosopher, and teacher, as well as the co-founder of Crisis Magazine. He passed away on January 29, 2010.

Join the conversation in our Telegram Chat! You can also find us on Facebook, MeWe, Twitter, and Gab.