IT IS a pain and a pleasure to write about the Jubilee. Well, you cannot ignore it. But what do you write? I personally am enjoying it. The idea of public, ceremonious, ordered rejoicing should be nothing strange to Cat holics.
Every Easter, for example, we rejoice in the fact of God. The idea is a bit terrifying, so we tend to concentrate our more joyous rejoicing upon Christmas, which is less awcful and more anthropocentric,
1 have struggled, tentatively, for a proper Jubilee theme for this strange and luxurious writing place. A reasonable Christian virtue exemplified by an earthly family? l believe that to he astonishingly true. But then so does most of the reasonable world.
A national achievement to be celebrated? No!
A nation offering itself to God? No!
A curious and natural and deeply English desire to be happy despite all the symptoms, signs and anguishes? God has been good to us.
Ile has given us undeserved oil as a sort of moratorium on our debt incurred by our less than excellent behaviour in the past. No! I have always behaved impeccably in foreign affairs and have almost always been right. I refuse to feel ancestrally guilty. Here i have nothing to conceal from my parish priest, who is also politically sound.
To go on about the Queen would be dull. She has been one of the great achievers of her generation, which is more than can be said for her politicians. (Is this really true, or is it because in a meanness df spirit we have lost the admirable virtue of admiring anything but the dreary impersonators 01 uninteresting people on the television and the brief gladiators on the football field?)
In our church we arc going to sing "God Save the Queen". The parish priest is being difficult about the second verse. But that in a mystical sense is already and forever happening, because it will not have happened by the time you read this. And anyway, Charterhouse shall treat it as a hymn and mean it sincerely.
Yet something should be said. But why? The vast and unconsulted majority of this country is astonished by its own delight. And God save all of them too — within reason, of
All that I can think of is a fearful. couplet that I read lately which hich has stuck in my memory like a drugged dart. I think it goes:
There she stands in her Royal Regalia, One foot in Canada and the other in Australia.
In fact those lines embody important constitutional truth. Perhaps, having written them down, I will now be able to forget them without passing
them on to your sub-conscious.
I hope you will have, are having, or have had a most royal Jubilee.
Will the Pope resign?
IN SEPTEMBER this•year, the Pope will be 80. It is the age at which, he laid down, Cardinals lose their right to take part in Papal elections. He buried his face in his hands in the Sistine Chapel when he was chosen Pope on June 21 in 1963.
The question arises, will he resign? After all lie has urged bishops to quit at the age of 75, and quite a few of them have been gently pushed to conform. There is no legal or theological reason why a Pope should not resign. Resignation is actually permitted by a law of 1294. This was promulgated by Pope Celestine V. He was a ruggest and simple-minded hermit who lived in a cave in appalling mountains.
Ile was elected Pope in an act of desperation by the College of Cardinals, who had been deadlocked for 27 years. He seemed so obviously saintly that he might at least tide the Church over.
Ile was a holy disaster, and reigned only for 122 chaotic days.• He resigned. His successor, Pope Boniface VIII, then imprisoned him to stop anyone using him as a political tool. He died a prisoner and in great sadness. For this great refusal of
responsibility, Dante put him in his Inferno. He was, however, canonised in 1313, and may be invoked under the name of St Peter Celestine. He is the only Pope to have left the post voluntarily, and he never wanted it in the first place.
There is no mechanism for removing a Pope for any sort of incapacity. This last is not now in question, and not even the keenest and most creative Vatican watchers can say for certain whether Pope Paul will choose to retire.
He is not the retiring sort of man. Believing in his office, he is said to believe that he receives special graces to sustain him there.
He is certainly a melancholy man, but he maintains an almost unchanged daily workload. His last encyclical was the heart-shaking Humanae Vitae nine years ago which, according to your views and habits, either saved or spoilt the Church.
A few years ago, in an audience, he said that the Church appears "destined to burn itself out .. , Yes, the Church is in difficulty."
After the ease and simplicity of his predecessor he has been, and has had to be, a controversial Pope. Among serious people his reputation has been kept high by his agonised honesty. It would have been so easy for him to have been the People's or the Permissive or the Popular Pope.
We have stopped our unquestioning adulation of the holder of the Fisherman's Ring. It is part of our massive and undiscriminating impatience with every sort of authority and of our squalid disbelief in goodness and love. But then at times in the past it was customary for quite ordinary people to be impatient of the holder of the Ring.
I do not think he will retire.
And yet and yet — the appointment of his greatest servant, Archbishop Giovanni Benelli, to Florence and the Red Hat seems like the action
of a man clearing his desk. But a better explanation is that it is the act of a loving Christian getting ready for the end.
Archbishop Benclli has had almost as bad a press as Cardinal Otaviani used to get from the Vatican watchers, Actually none of us knows either of them, and I can see no need at all for the Pope's retirement. Still, I am unlikely to be consulted.
Standards in public life
MOST MEN and women practise a selective public indignation based upon double standards. In the Catholic magazine America, they gave recently a couple of examples of this selection at work. They concern the fate of people who take up unpopular and un fashionable causes.
One was about an entertainer in Miami who opposed an Equal Rights Bill for homosexuals. She was outspokenly against it. and a television appearance by her w as cancelled for a time. No um: On this occasion thought to say that she was being "blacklisted."
S'1111111) Davis, Jr, who is a Jr by choice and a black by Girth and a liberal by conviction. 11\ es in Sweden. Ile is making a film about American deserters led into acts of terrorism.
'the exllrs, according to the
pert.° rl11iii arts magazinc, Variety, hirer e)it the Swedish exiles to slow down production of the film because It might influence public opinion on the question of an amnesty for such people. No' one has protested that Mr Davis' rights have been impaired.
In this country, student organisations have decided that university unions should not provide platforms for racism or fascism. Yet a member of the National Front has the same rights as an International Socialist.
Both groups appear equally destructive, intolerant and nonconloi mist. Ambit' even universities cannot make the act of will to preserve such irritating and awkward rights, the rights have little chance of long surviving.
How thin public morality. how easily it breaks under pressure, ally011e t,ho has see n a country keying itself up for even a cold war will know in the way that he or she knows his or her (mil lovable weaknesses.
This country has been accused of cruelties performed by the orces of the Crown in the Six Counties,
Do %%e demand the sort of retribution we demanded of the Greek colonels, do we stress that we did not know, or do we say that there were extenuating circumstances and that our basic goodness remains uncontaminated?
Recently' two Ministers were sacked in I antania because men for lk hum they bore responsibility had used torture.
It is usually fairly easy to decide YN hat is morally correct in our private lives, but continually and increasingly difficult in our public and corporate life. We blind ourselves with cliches, we comfort ourselves with fashionable causes, we leave on One side those issues that are unfashionable. South Africa presents an acceptable issue: Cambodia does not.
It is not an easy thing to maintain t he standards of private morality in public life. 1 he demonstrating student, being more free. may well be more evil than an armed policeman.
But you cannot write that without seeming to put yourself On the side of oppression. and, perhaps worse, to put yourself outside the barriers of fashionable ideology. It is all very dilTieult, and perhaps it is best to leave it all alone. hxeept that to leave such mailers to a mob is just as had as leaving them to a General Amin.
Nitty-gritty of the Vatican
SOME GOOD people spend long nights in churches praying about peace. This happens fairly often, and for the moment seems to be working — at least on the international front.
But it is more entertaining to visit a great church when it is
locked and empty and exhausted after its day of worship.
I did this the other day in London's Spanish Place — with all the lights on.
It is a noble building, the victim of an impossible site, It is squeezed crooked behind Marylebone High Street. Empty and by electric light it looks very rich and solid' and rhythmic. The only thing is that it is a pity that Christians have to sit down.
Every church — except a few choirs of a monastic pattern is spoilt by the scrambling intrusion of chairs. I know of no chairless churches in Britain, except of course the ruined ones.
But a few of the great ones of Europe are able to spread out the splendour of their pavements without all that irritating carpentry — St Mark's or St Peter's for example. I once, vicariously, did St Peter's at night. The BBC hired the Basilica for an evening of filming. It was part of a programme about the Vatican for which I wrote the commentary. I cannot remember how much St Peter's cost, but I do remember that the BBC went quite pale at the price.
The result was charming, and entirely given over to the music and stone. I remember that I had suggested they covered the public treasury because I wanted a lot of tiaras in the film, but the Vatican asked for an extra £500 for that and so we did not do it, .
But, like British government, Vatican government too can be wildly anomalous. We got into the Sistine Treasury for nothing.
This is the Pope's personal treasury of liturgical objects and a fine old Windsor Castle sort of repository of the great and the pleasingly absurd it turned out to be. Most of it artistically rubbish, with the diamonds very small and the designs hysterical.
But then the rich and the notso-holy once lightened their consciences by giving things olgold and silver and silk and jewels. Rulers used to dedicate the finest they could spare from their armies to Almighty God. It was the least they could do.
cellent programme, which attracted less notice than an outmoded streaker across a small murderer-haunted common on the edge of a small and unfashionable city.
He, brilliant and homo naturaliter Christianus, had been profoundly moved by the late Padre Pio. I did that commentary too, without going to the Calabrian Communist village. I suspected he found the elemental simplicities of the Church overwhelmingly attractive. The experience of the splendiferous nitty-gritty of the Vatican stopped that one dead.
The farewell of Sir Francis
I HAVE, a few times been to the Church of Sao Roque in Lisbon. It is a pleasant, baroque, neighbourhood sort of church, and in it is buried thei Cornish recusant gentleman, Sir Francis Tregian, who died in exile there in 1608.
He is not, as far as I know, rievceiannya aVdemneirreadhlelo. clatielyisbyu ntufhe
Portuguese as a powerful man of God. He is also buried standing up. At one time his chaplain in England was St Cuthbert Mayne.
A friend of mine sent me an extract from a letter Sir Francis wrote from prison to his wife. He excuses himself for writing it in verse. Because he had no pen, he pricked it out with a pin, This is part of his adieu to his wife:
My keeper knocks at door, who comes to see his hawks in mew. Wherfore good wife I must make short farewell, sweet spouse, adieu, farewell, the anchor of my hope, farewell, my stay of life, Farewell, my poor Penelope, farewell, my faithful wife: Farewell, again thou lamp of light, viceregent of tny heart,
He that takes leave so oft, I think, he ndlik yet tn wet I no i deuscadref p:
And art of force, And art of force, to my no little grit
God send us well to meet again, God send us still relief:
And well to run our restless race, though rough and full of pain, That through the blessed Blood of Christ, true glory we may gain.
But I recall that the producer and I had worked together before. We did a programme on Padre Pio. Again, I was not there. As a foreign correspondent I hate travelling as most publicans hate drinking.