Monday, February 09, 2009

But the penny still hasn't dropped

The newsletter from the parish on the north side of Dublin city where Melancholicus spends his working week has again popped through his letter-box.

This newsletter has in the past inspired the whole range of human emotion in Melancholicus; it has moved him by turns to surprise, anger, sadness, relief, indifference, sometimes to derision, and sometimes also to happiness whenever he found therein a nugget whereon he could blog. On one or two very rare occasions it has even edified him.

There is no edification in the current edition, but there is a line in Fr. Tully’s editorial address on which Melancholicus was able to seize with fell glee. Hence this post.

Fr. Tully is the parish priest. Actually, his name is not Fr. Tully, for Melancholicus has changed the names to protect the guilty. Fr. Tully is merely a convenient pseudonym for this man, inspired by Mark Tully, the rather pompous-sounding and extremely woolly presenter of the wishy-washy pseudo-religious programme Something Understood broadcast weekly on BBC Radio 4.

Fr. Tully is the same age (or thereabouts) as the figure after whom he is nicknamed. They both share the ecumenical and irenic world-view widespread among those who grew up in the aftermath of the Second World War. Listening to Something Understood on the BBC, Melancholicus does not remember ever having heard its presenter discourse effusively on the Second Vatican Council (he is an Anglican), but surmises that his views thereon would be no different from those of Fr. Tully, the parish priest, who never misses an opportunity to gush about the renewal that has flowed from the council like springs of clear, cool water, vivifying the parched earth and causing the grass to sprout lush and green... well, at least that’s the theory.

The repeated trumpeting of Vatican II reminds Melancholicus of the plight of an orthodox marxist who, fixated in his view that marxism is an exact science devoid of error, cannot understand why the socialist order has failed to bring about the promised utopia, and why only division, bitterness, misery, destruction and death have followed in its train.

Sometimes, however, Fr. Tully’s commentary lets slip an observation that all is not well, even in this green and sunlit vale of renewal:

“The parish community here in [censored], while it lacks the vigour of previous times, is still in a healthy condition”

There is a moment of despondency, in which a shade of reality might be breaking through—but then he checks himself, and hurriedly goes on to deny the evidence of his own eyes and ears, insisting, comrades, that the Revolution has been a tremendous success, that the people glory in it, that it has been what the Church has always needed, not noticing that the Church throve quite well without it for 1,960 years, and probably convincing himself more than convincing his readers.

He certainly hasn’t convinced this reader.

The examples of “a healthy condition” he cites are all ecclesiastical bunions, mushroom outgrowths which are not (strictly speaking) necessary to parochial life, but create the illusion of vitality so beloved of the renewalists. These include the “pastoral committee” (Melancholicus once had the misfortune of serving on such an animal, so he speaks from experience here), as well as committees for this, that and the other; the ubiquitous folk groups, naturally, whose renditions of Marty Haugen, David Haas and Paul Inwood jingles never fail to turn Melancholicus’ stomach; the various “teams” that serve in the parish (in fact this part of the newsletter is overflowing with buzzwords and management-speak), and not least, the “community” itself. “Community” is an exciting word the renewalists love to throw around. The fact that 90% of the local Catholic “community” do not participate in the life of the parish in any capacity whatever, not even by hearing the occasional Mass—a disaster candidly admitted in a previous edition of the newsletter—does not merit a mention, as it would rather spoil the picture of growth and renewal which we are supposed to believe is the legacy of Vatican II.

Melancholicus is one of those 90%. He has lived during the working week in this parish for three years, and has heard only three Masses in the parish church during that time. On each of those three occasions, he departed the church interiorly conflicted, wondering it he ought to have been present at such a mockery of the liturgy. Hence he is not minded to return thither in a hurry.

As for Fr. Tully... the evidence of the catastrophe stares him daily in the face, but still the penny hasn’t dropped.

Melancholicus doubts it ever will.

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