The Bottom Falls Out of the Middle
“I had not thought death had undone so many.”
- Dante, The Inferno
- Dante, The Inferno
For all the horrors elaborated in its deeper circles, Dante consigns most of the damned to a vestibule of the Inferno reserved for the non-committed: there, those who are fit neither for Heaven nor for hell run a ceaseless round, spurred on by the sting of small insects. They follow behind a banner on which nothing is written, and among their number, all unnamed, is one who made “the great refusal.”
Some identify this soul as Pontius Pilate, who refused to follow his conscience and release the innocent Christ because it was not politically expedient. So he fell back upon the rationalization provided by his agnosticism: “What is truth?” Others identify this figure with Pope Celestine V, who resigned the papacy rather than confront the evils with which the Church was beset. He was succeeded by Boniface VIII, whom Dante places in hell for his political ambitions and willingness to use his office to acquire worldly power.
The vestibule is also home to those angels who refused to take a side during Lucifer’s revolt. Neutrality in the face of evil is capitulation to evil.Dante does not name any soul in this circle, and his guide, Virgil, hastens him on, thus giving the impression that those who run this pointless round are not worthy of consideration. They stood for nothing in life, except their own convenience and pleasure, and now occupy a kind of no-man’s land in death: they are even denied the distinction of being in hell proper, with souls who made a choice. And the vestibule is very crowded: “I had not thought death has undone so many.”
Dante thus describes the mass of men at any given time in history. T.S. Eliot uses the same line, quoted above, to describe the crowd flowing over London Bridge during the morning rush hour in his early 20th century poem, “The Waste Land.” They are the Laodiceans of the Book of the Apocalypse: the lukewarm whom Christ finds so unpalatable.
But the fact is, most people go along to get along. They are represented in the halls of power by those who speak with bland circumspection, never saying anything unqualifiedly and with conviction. They form the heart of every bureaucracy: cautious, self-serving, unprincipled, mildly cynical and morally lethargic. They can remain largely anonymous and relatively harmless so long as those who govern have virtue. But if those who govern lack virtue, the bureaucracy will assist in the demise of the institution on whose preservation they depend, so deep is their habit of deference and conciliation. (See: “Cardinal Müller Tightens His Blindfold”.)We appear to have arrived at a juncture at which those who would follow safely behind a blank banner are being forced to choose a standard. This is happening in the world as well as in the Church. Two figures are lighting up the landscape, exposing everyone’s position: in the world, it is Donald Trump; in the Church, it is Pope Francis.
Trump has revealed the collusion of the ruling elite that pretends to be divided into different factions, representing democracy, but is in reality an oligarchy with identical interests. He has also exposed the media as the servants of this oligarchy and the utter disregard for truth routinely displayed by those who bring us “the news.”Pope Francis has exposed the temporizing hierarchy whose moderation has allowed the deconstruction of the Church to proceed for more than a half-century now. Some wonder why so few among the Cardinals and bishops speak out against the blatant heresy coming out of the Holy See (see: “BREAKING: Pope fails to reply to 4 cardinals’ urgent plea for clarification, so they go public”). These princes of the Church and successors of the apostles are, with some notable exceptions, so accustomed to pretending that every assault upon the Faith and liturgy is merely an “updating” in continuity with tradition, that they have lost the faculty of telling the truth, let alone defending it. Jorge Bergoglio has bypassed the very structure — the Roman Curia — they have so assiduously tried to preserve as their power base, and now governs by decree, aided by his hand-picked ideologues. (See: “Francis: The Pope Without a Curia”.)
But the Pope’s departure from Catholic teaching has become so blatant and outrageous that even among those Catholic commentators who have made a career out of rationalizing the demolition of Tradition there have arisen, here and there, voices of protest. (See: “Phil Lawler Has Had Enough”.)
Those who would continue to pretend that all is as it should be with the Bergoglian papacy are now forced to side with a radical campaign to purge the Church of all who defend magisterial teaching on sex, marriage and the reception of Holy Communion (see: “Bishop Barron’s Moral Subversion and the Perils of Celebrity Clericalism”). Attempts to ignore the Pope’s increasingly pointed attacks on orthodox churchmen and faithful Catholics are now seen as absurd denials of the screamingly obvious. One can no longer tiptoe around the elephant in the room.Comparisons of what is happening in the Church and in the U.S. government are instructive. The Trump administration is fast learning that civil discourse and compromise with its critics is impossible. The opposition party, which includes the political and corporate establishments and almost the entire media, is intent upon total destruction of the Trump presidency and will settle for nothing less than the removal, in any way possible, of the man they consider to have usurped the power they have wielded, unchallenged, for so long.
Those who would uphold the immemorial teaching of the Church are fast learning that to do so is regarded as an attack upon the Pope. Simply to state that the divorced and remarried cannot receive Communion unless they repent of their adultery and amend their lives is now labeled as rigid and reactionary and opposed to the “mercy” that the Pope demands of his clergy. Those four Cardinals who were rash enough to ask the Pope if he supports the moral absolutes the Church has always taught are labeled heretical (see: “Updated: Who are these four cardinals who wrote the ‘dubia’ to the Pope?”).
One almost expects to see banners with a slogan from 1984’s Ministry of Truth hanging from the papal balcony: The Truth Is A Lie. (See: “Behold the Face of the New Doctrine-Free Catholicism”.)
The Pope has been hailed by the media as the new leader of the global Left. Like the Left, Pope Francis prefers the argument ad hominem to reasoned argument: he caricatures and vilifies people and positions he dislikes, piling on insult and invective in an attempt to delegitimize criticism by breeding contempt for his critics. And all of this is done in the name of compassion, just as the Left claims its increasingly nasty, totalitarian and sometimes violent actions are motivated by compassion for the supposed victims of bigotry and injustice, i.e. Muslims, illegal immigrants, criminals and anyone who might help to complete the dismantling of what remains of Western culture.
The avid attention now given to current events, both in the Church and in the world, reflects the recognition that we have reached a civilizational crisis point: either we abandon traditional moral values and conform to whatever the managers of the New World Order tell is acceptable behavior (see: “A Harbinger of the Apocalypse?”), or we fight a last-ditch battle for the preservation of what we know to be true and good.
The stakes are high. Some stand by and wait to see which side will prevail, as though they are essentially uninvolved, much as the angels did who were consigned to the vestibule of hell. But the battle now being fought does not respect non-combatants. You must either stand with the truth or against it. Neutrality is capitulation to falsehood.
Sister Lucy told Cardinal Caffarra that the final battle would be fought over marriage and the family. Can anyone now doubt the accuracy of that prophecy? We who love Our Lady, who believe in Her Fatima Message, must do all we can to stand our ground and proclaim the truth, no matter what the cost. We know that Our Lady’s victory is assured, but we don’t know how dark and dire the conflict may become before the smoke of satan clears and Her banner shines triumphant in the light of truth. Be prepared for what may come. And do all you can to support this apostolate and Our Lady’s Army of Advocates.