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semi-sweet nothings

By Diogenes ( articles ) | Apr 23, 2006

Yesterday, the Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Angelo Sodano celebrated Mass for a "pilgrimage" of Jesuits and Jesuit collaborators in St. Peter's Basilica. After the Mass [can you blame him?] Pope Benedict arrived and addressed the assembly in pointedly unpointed words of the kind used at the deathbed of a rich but unloved relative: you might call it The Last Bedtime Story. I imagine, in keeping with his "let's focus on points of doctrinal agreement" theme -- a theme exhausted in less than a thousand words -- he also reminded the Jesuits to carry clean handkerchiefs and floss daily. Those lines didn't make it into the official version, but the lines that did could have been uttered a century ago with equal relevance.

If the Pope's remarks were free of topspin, the deficit was supplied by Sodano's homily, which was ghosted (I presume) by a staffer with a malicious sense of humor. In Vatican discourse, courtesy and benignity are usually warring twins, and the former speaks most distinctly when the latter is gagged and hog-tied. Here Sodano is pretending to expand on the meaning of the Mass in Eastertide:

Keep in mind that every Eucharistic Sacrifice also has a conciliatory purpose: today we wish to ask pardon for our infidelities.

Curious choice of delict, Eminence. What infidelities might you be referring to?

In truth, we are well aware that every human endeavor is accomplished by sons of Adam, who are disposed to sin, and that every day they must repeat the prayer Jesus taught us: "Pater noster …, libera nos a malo -- Our Father…, deliver us from evil."

The Cardinal's translation, for the benefit of his audience, of the Latin of the Lord's Prayer was probably not an inadvertence. It's even more pointedly patronizing in his Italian: "Pater noster ..., libera nos a malo – Padre nostro ..., liberaci dal male." Very helpful indeed. And it gets better:

Evil exists in the history of individual men, as it does in the history of communities.

Evil ...? Communities ...?

Already in the Apostolic College there was Judas, who betrayed the Lord, as was Peter who denied him. Also for us the cock often resumes his crowing, which invites us to bewail our infidelities and to ask pardon of our Lord.

Another baffling reference. What does Judas Iscariot have to do with the contemporary Society of Jesus? Can it be that the Secretary of State was caught short of time to prepare a congratulatory message and was obliged to recycle his Good Friday sermon? Then again, we have to concede that the Cardinal was operating under peculiar homiletic constraints. When a religious order has just concluded the spiritual enterprise of a Brokeback Lent, where do you go for Easter?

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