Downton Abbey to Vatican City: a New Year’s Refection


Over the Christmas and New Year’s holidays, I watched a number of Downton Abbey episodes, watching the unfolding lives of the aristocratic Crawley family and their servants in post-Edwardian England. A lot of real human drama. Plenty of material for a serious meditation on the meaning and purpose of human life. And good British drama for an old Yankee.

One afternoon, however, I sat rather lazily in front of the fireplace and re-read Pope Benedict’s Christmas Message with its dire warnings that gay marriage is destroying “the essence of the human creature” and that gay marriage, like abortion, and euthanasia (I call them the contemporary Roman Catholic “intrinsic evil trinity”) is a threat to word peace. Then I put another log on the fire and switched back to Downton Abbey, where, amidst all the human joys, downfalls, hopes and sorrows, there was, of course no mention of the gay-marriage-abortion-euthanasia evil trinity.

Then a little insight.

What would happen, I wondered, if during the coming season of Lent neither the Pope nor any bishop would be allowed to use the words “gay marriage, abortion, euthanasia”…….and for U. S. bishops one could throw-in one more intrinsic evil no-no term: “birth control.”

Think about it.

If our bishops could not groan, protest, and cry-out about gay marriage, abortion, euthanasia, and birth control, what would they talk about?

What message would our hierarchy proclaim for millions of people hungering for genuine spirituality? For a taste of the Divine? Would they be tongue-tied and speechless? Or would there be a new Pentecostal-type inspiration….little tongues of fire flickering over every episcopal miter?

Would young people turn, for a minute, from their smartphones and iPads, shaken by a new message?

Would our young people see visions and our elderly men and women dream good dreams? Would the Pope have something fresh and invigorating to “tweet” from his pontifical iPad?

As my favorite poet said…….

“Last year’s words belong to last year’s language
and next year’s words await another voice.”

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7 thoughts on “Downton Abbey to Vatican City: a New Year’s Refection

  1. So true! What numbskull doesn’t know the Bishops’ (ala, the Church’s) positions on these matters. They must feel so smug, like the Pharisee in the story of the Pharisee & the Publican – they’re doing their Godly duty: over & over & over & over again – apparently not the least cognizant of the adage about repeating the same behavior and wondering why you don’t get different results.

  2. Forj all the right to life, antiabortion, anticontraception and antigay language, wouldn’t it be wonderful to hear our US bishops speak out on gun control? Isn’t that a pro-life issure? Their silence is deafening!

    But,John, thank you for sharing your wonderful daydream. How can we make it come true?

  3. The Hierarchy themselves hasn’t done any real penances (definite
    changes in their lives) during Lent for years…
    Have any of them cut back their salaries even 5% during any of the
    several years of this Great Recession? Yet millions of their laity have
    lost homes & jobs & been set back economically for generations…
    Why would John expect them to keep quiet about the “unholy trinity”
    either? They seem to have nothing else to say about God’s message!

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