Random Ruminations #5

"Listen to Him"... To Listen, You Can't Be Asleep... The Pope's Latest Letter

“Listen to Him”

In both last Sunday’s Second Reading (from II Peter) and Gospel, we are exhorted (in the Gospel by no less than God the Father) to “listen to” Jesus. Peter, James, and John “listen” to that message from the bright cloud that overshines Mount Tabor; it would be hard not to hear it. That said, as the Gospel of the Sower and Seed reminded us three weeks ago, many listen but do not hear because the message is not what they want to hear.

What was true of Jesus’ day is not untrue of ours. The Son’s Word continues to be spoken in the living Magisterium of the Church: “He who hears you, hears me, and he who rejects you rejects me and Him who sent me,” says Jesus to His disciples as he dispatches them on their first missionary journey. At the same time, many hear but do not listen, because the Church’s message is not what they want to hear. We recently marked the 55th anniversary of Humanae vitae, teaching basic truths of human sexuality, and the 30th anniversary of Veritatis splendor, reaffirming basic principles of morality at large (including that there are such things as intrinsically evil acts).

Is anybody listening?


Disappointing Ohio Outcome

Of course, to listen someone first has to speak. The Father did. Our father bishops? Not so much.

The defeat in Ohio of Issue 1 (to raise requirements for referendum-initiated constitutional amendments, aimed at defeating a pro-abortion referendum next November) August 8 was unfortunate but not wholly unexpected. It failed, 57-43%, i.e., by about 400,000 votes out of three million cast.

Two observations:

  1. Regarding speaking: Except for the Bishop of Toledo, the Catholic bishops of Ohio largely sat on their pants, occupying the political-moral “high ground” of the sidelines: “The Bishops of Ohio have no position on Issue 1 as it does not have moral content.” They pretended it was a procedural issue when everybody knew (and abortionists never lost sight of) what the real endgame was: stopping or greasing the skids for a radical pro-abortion referendum in November. If the bishops really wanted to play the “see no evil” game, they could have at least acknowledged the real nexus of the issue and prudentially suggested that voting for Issue 1 would appear best to support life. The next time Ohio’s bishops go on retreat, I suggest the theme be “Simple as Doves, Wise as Serpents” (Mt 10:16), because Their Graces seem to have the character traits confused.
  2. Paradoxically, the outcome of the vote made the case for a major argument of Issue 1 proponents: the inclusion of all Ohioans. Issue 1 appears to have won in 66 of 88 Ohio counties. It was heavy voting in urban areas (northeast Ohio, Columbus, Cincinnati) and college towns (Columbus, Athens) that provided the losing margin. (Athens County, home to Ohio University, split 9,700 to 4,000 against Issue 1). Takeaways: the next time Ohio bishops sit down, they might ask themselves about (a) the consequences of their “renewal” and “stewardship” by thinning their presence in urban areas through parish abandonment and closures; and (b) whether engagement with youth, especially Gen Z, might not need more attention to “conversion” and less to “diversity” because the latter’s “dreams” of “fraternity” clearly are not “inclusive” of their unborn brothers.


To Listen, You Can’t Be Asleep

The Italian website La Nuova Bussola Quotidiana often provides unique insights into the mutations and consequences of woke ideology as manifested in southern Europe. Its August 9 edition identified a concerning phenomenon: “rotting in bed.” [see here]

“Marcire a letto” seems to be a growing pathology. Paul Gulisano defines it: “Bed rotting consists in staying in bed by choice during the day, which is not intended for sleep or rest. Hours become whole days, several days a week. Stay in bed even to eat, talk on the phone, scroll through social networks, watch television. The bed as a privileged place to spend the day.”

Kids on summer vacation, after the enforced isolation of COVID and the sham of “distance learning,” seem prone to it. But not only kids: Consider the elites that, three years after COVID, still anguish over whether to go back to the office full-time. Work, which is good for people not just because it allows their God-given creativity to find expression and to take responsibility for themselves and others, also serves the social purpose of contact with others, i.e., getting out of bed and sweatpants.

Psychologically, this is not healthy; it looks like an indicator of depression, although Bussola thinks it’s a coping mechanism for the “anxieties” moderns must face. I wonder how it relates to the rise of loneliness, something we need to talk about without turning it into a political axe to grind (e.g., here).

Scripture rarely recommends that we “lie down in peace and sleep” (Ps 4:8). Far more often it exhorts us to “be awake and vigilant, because your opponent, the devil, is prowling like a roaring lion” (I Pet 5:8). Is “rotting in bed” today’s embodiment of the foolish virgins’ torpor, which often finds roots in acedia — spiritual indifference, or sloth? Because, as Gulisano concludes, “man is not made to rot, in bed or anywhere else.”


The Pope’s Latest Letter

Pope Francis wrote a letter August 7 [here] to “the priests of the Diocese of Rome.” Given that it’s August, when most things in Italy shut down for summer vacation, it’s puzzling why this letter came out now (and from Lisbon).

It honestly says nothing new. Its primary thrust seems to be Francis’s usual obsession: “clericalism.” The word is mentioned nine times (one less than “Jesus”), and it provides the usual grist for Francis’s warnings against “worldliness,” “efficiency,” not being “pastoral,” etc.

The subtext, of course, is that the “clericalism” and “worldliness” come from clergy wedded to “habits” and “old ecclesial institutions.” Certainly not those wedded to refried 1970s “theology” or the Zeitgeist! They certainly are not “‘traders of the spirit,'” although they constantly insist they are discerning the Spirit!

If I were a clergyman, I’d be disappointed in this constant grinding on priests doing their job by giving their people clear teaching.  I hope we don’t see an encyclical about it on November 5, “In Cathedra Moysi” (In the Chair of Moses), the next time the Gospel featuring that bugbear comes up.

Honestly, I would really love to meet some of these “rigid” priests immersed in “formalism” about which Francis regularly rails, because I don’t know very many. I don’t know where the Holy Father is getting this vision, unless he’s listening too much to himself.



John M. Grondelski (Ph.D., Fordham) was former associate dean of the School of Theology, Seton Hall University, South Orange, New Jersey. All views expressed herein are exclusively his.

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