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Out with a whimper -- or, Requiem for a Featherweight

By Diogenes ( articles ) | Oct 05, 2004

The Spring 2004 number of Letters and Notices, a publication of the British Jesuits, approvingly repeats the following excerpt from the London Times's obituary of Fr. Cyril Barrett, S.J.:

Like many Jesuits down the ages Barrett made no attempt to disguise his chafing at the Vatican's hierarchical politics and social conservatism -- going so far as to declare on the day of the attempted assassination of the Pope, in a bellow that filled a London restaurant, that "the only thing wrong with that bloody Turk was that he couldn't shoot straight." Yet he could readily assume his priestly guise and, in that capacity, was a compassionate and subtle counsellor and eminently practical moralist, ultimately convinced of the intelligence as well as the goodness of the Holy Spirit and able to instil that belief in others.

No doubt the Holy Spirit was flattered by the compliment.

A decaying aristocracy brings to all its endeavors the odor of the tomb, and there's something macabre and pathetic even in its attempts at self-congratulation. Deprived equally of a viable future and of a heroic death, it finds itself reduced to mockery of the canons of nobility on which it was founded.

During the persecutions of the 16th century, England's scaffolds provided a platform for several outstanding martyrs of the Society of Jesus to pray for their executioners as they went to their deaths for courageous papistry. In the present era, her restaurants entertain a feebler strain of Jesuit, roused occasionally to the defense of sodomy or inclusive language, but otherwise content to creep into the grave muttering blessings on the Pope's assassin.

It's important to keep in mind that Barrett's outburst is not recorded against him by his detractors but remembered to his credit by his fellows. Do these so-very-emancipated Jesuits realize, I wonder, that in writing this obituary they have written their own?

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