Screwtape Assesses Francis
Fans of The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis will, I think, l appreciate this letter from a senior devil to his nephew Wormwood, a Junior Tempter. I got it from the blog “Ignatius His Conclave” of ex-Anglican Dr Geoffrey Kirk of the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham.
Congratulations ! I thought you had bitten off more than you could chew this time, but I am delighted to be proved wrong. You are making remarkable progress with Francis – who is not the easiest Patient, in more ways than one. But you have got it absolutely right: spontaneity is the key! Humans invariably confuse the extempore with the sincere. Soundbites on aeroplanes. A masterly ploy!
Speaking from long experience, if you want to be thoroughly successful in undermining the teachings of the Enemy, I suggest you encourage your Patient in a threefold approach:
First he must be seen to affirm the Enemy’s teaching in all its clarity and rigour: No abortion! No divorce! No gay marriage! It is essential that he is to be seen as thoroughly orthodox (perhaps even a little bit ‘old-fashioned’).
Next he should compassionately embrace the difficulties and complexities involved. How hard to follow such precepts in a world which has changed so much! How can one know what it is like until one has experienced the pain? ‘Let him who has not sinned cast the first stone.’ (A particular useful saying of the Enemy, now that we have succeeded in virtually eliminating the concept of ‘sin’)
Thirdly, your Patient must appeal to the individual conscience. Humans nowadays (thanks to hard work on the part of our colleagues) think almost exclusively in terms of autonomous individual choices (which are all equally valid). One size does not fit all! The key themes here should be Mercy and Tolerance, not Righteousness and Justice. The media, of course, will lap it up.
If you can get your Patient to follow this simple ‘one-two-three’ paradigm, the original teaching, which was so roundly affirmed to begin with, will, almost imperceptibly but very effectively, have been undermined. And our job will be done.
Collaterally, the Patient will have gained in general popularity (a thing we should always encourage wherever possible), and so be well positioned for the next attack on the Enemy.
Yours in Diabolo,
Fr Hunwicke wonders if the Holy Father will respond by sending a crack hit-squad of aged Jesuits to attack Fr Kirk with their zimmer frames. Which prompts the question: how many any Jesuits are now left who don’t need zimmer frames.
Vatican spokesperson Fr Frederico Lombardi may be a bit cross too. Fr Kirk quotes him as saying:
Not all pronouncements of His Holiness are binding upon the faithful. There are three kinds of pronouncement: those which are ex cathedra (as defined by Vatican I – and personally I don’t think this fellow is going to risk that sort of thing); solemn pronouncements in Encyclicals (like Laudato Si – though the faithful were somewhat puzzled over what actually to do about it); and declarations ex aeroplano – which (in Church parlance) can be taken cum grano salis