One guest at the royal wedding was the grandmother of Queen Elizabeth II. Even when she became queen, Mary of Teck never forgot the assassination attempt on the royal couple that day by the anarchist Mateu Morrai. Many in the procession were killed or mutilated and the bride’s gown was splattered with blood. It had a sobering effect on the wedding banquet, but the Princess Victoria lived until 1969. In fact she was a neighbor in Switzerland of a former parishioner of mine, sharing their compound with Charlie Chaplin.
Yet when a grandstanding fundamentalist preacher in Florida ruminated about burning the Quran, headlines even referred to him as a “priest” as if to give the impression that he might be an agent of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. If the “London street sweepers” were members of an underground Wesleyan chapel, it would not have escaped the attention of the “Manchester Guardian.” But even the media must admit that there are not many Algerian Methodists.
The graceful and even elegant beginning of the state visit has only been made trying by the incessant banter of commentators who think themselves obliged to fill in every second of air time with streams of talk, occasionally informative, but mostly banal. “When I met the Holy Father . . . etc,” “I wonder if they will serve the Pope haggis . . .” “The Queen certainly wears interesting hats . . .” So far this has blocked out the band and pipe music and the sounds of the crowds. Why won’t these “anchormen” occasionally identify who is what, and otherwise just quietly sink? Nothing can be less trivial if it is real trivia, and not an anchorman’s gratuitous notes left over from History 101. Here are some seriously trivial items that have escaped the attention of the media as they drone on.
One commentator incorrectly said that Elizabeth II is the first British monarch to have entered a Catholic Church since the Reformation (she visited Westminster Cathedral and not long after made the dying Cardinal Hume a Companion of Honour). The first was George V who, with Queen Mary, in 1920 attended a Requiem Mass in Farnborough Abbey at the funeral of the exiled Empress Eugenie where she is entombed with Napoleon III and their son, the Prince Imperial, who was killed by the Zulus while fighiting in the British army. The Moderator of the Kirk of Scotland objected: “Mindful of the claims of fallen greatness…” Nevertheless, it was unsuitable in the opinion of the Presbyterians for the King and Queen to attend.
When the Pope and the Queen stand together, it will be an image of the last generation that did not mock the concept of heroic faith, hope, and love. They are the same age and lived through the Second World War which shattered the narcissist’s mirror. The self-absorbed and self-indulged baby-boomers of the media seem deeply to resent that, but their self-reflection now has lots of cracks and this will become evident in Holyrood Palace when we watch a man and a woman who have seen more of life than most people who have ever lived.
Right now we are in that crepuscule time of day when Newman’s “busy world is hushed, and the fever of life is over” and the truth starts to kick in. The largely manufactured hysteria of the last months and weeks is now squeezing into a final few hours, and the prospect is certain: if Satan has been this angry, something very good and holy is about to happen.
One assumes that The New York Times would have been glad to receive an Op-Ed article from the new Archbishop of New York. The Archdiocese of New York is responsible for a very important part of the city’s educational, medical, and charitable life. The newspaper refused to print it. Such censorship only whets the appetite to know what was thought not fit to print. There are many items that the Times, which claims to publish everything that’s fit to print, has printed although they were not fit. There were, for instance, its mockery in 1920 of Goddard’s hypothesis that rocket propulsion can take place in a vacuum, a denial of Stalin’s forced famine in Ukraine and a whitewash of his show trials by its Moscow bureau chief Walter Duranty, its advocacy of Fidel Castro, and its benign regard for the Soviet spy Alger Hiss. So there had to be some journalistic equivalent of a cerebral stroke to make the editors of the Times unable to print Archbishop Dolan’s words .
The cause of the apoplexy was the Archbishop’s imputation of bigotry to the newspaper. His charge was not self-indulgent whining. He did not have to go back farther than a couple of weeks for examples. First, in reporting widespread child abuse in Brooklyn’s community of Orthodox Jews, there was not the “selective outrage” which animates the paper against criminous Catholic clerics, whose numbers are in fact proportionally much smaller than other religious and professional groups .
Then there was the sensational front-page publicity of a paternity suit involving a Franciscan friar, going back twenty-five years, and getting more space than the war in Afghanistan and genocide in Sudan. Headlines also claimed that the Pope was seeking to “lure” Anglicans into his fold, when in fact he was responding to a petition. Then a columnist invoked the Inquisition, portrayed the theology of priesthood as neurotic sexism, and even mocked the Pope’s haberdashery. The Archbishop said that her prejudice, “while maybe appropriate for the Know-Nothing newspaper of the 1850’s, the Menace, has no place in a major publication today.” While a free press is free to criticize, said the Archbishop, such criticism should be “fair, rational, and accurate.”
Hostility raised to such a pitch that journalistic standards are abandoned, is provoked by an awareness that the Catholic Church continues to be the substantial voice for classical moral standards and supernatural confidence amid the noise of a disintegrating behaviorist culture. A tabloid is still a tabloid even if its editors dress in tweeds. Churchill said, “No folly is more costly than the folly of intolerant idealism.” Not to worry. Christ promised that the gates of Hell will not prevail against his Church. He did not include The New York Times, 30% of whose work force has been laid off in the last year and a half.