Daily Linz 23: Dining with the Enemy - Lunch with a Bishop!

Lindsay Perigo's picture
Submitted by Lindsay Perigo on Tue, 2006-02-07 05:50

Daily Linz 23: Dining with the Enemy - Lunch with a Bishop!

by Lindsay Perigo

One of the (mostly) nice things about being a broadcaster is that it enables one to rub shoulders with the rich, the famous, the powerful and the influential. One of the nice things about being an Objectivist broadcaster is that it enables one to judge them unawed by their status, unblinkered by conventional bromides.

Recently I had lunch with a bishop. A Catholic bishop. Not a small-fry New Zealand Catholic bishop, but a Catholic bishop from overseas. A bishop who, if he has anything to do with it, will end up a cardinal. “No one deserves a biretta [cardinal's red cap],” he observed as we dined. “Except me. I’m working on it.”

He liked to be witty in that risque way. A Catholic bishop, after all, is supposed to be humble and unambitious, a reluctant wearer of worldly raiment in the event that, undeserving and all though he be, he be granted the right to don said raiment by the Holy Father. Pelf and place are not supposed to matter, so to suggest over lunch that they just might matter is … well, funny because it’s naughty.

He spoke, or tried to speak, in such Wildean epigrams constantly. Yet he was adamant that Oscar, literarily speaking, was “in the B-Team.” His Lordship was, so he would have had us believe, an aficionado of great writing, just as he was of great singing. The greatest in the latter category, he informed us, was Joan Sutherland, whom, of course, he had heard live many times in the great opera houses. Never mind that this particular Diva sang completely untroubled by such pesky things as consonants, and one couldn’t hear a word she was singing. His Lordship had decreed it—she was The Greatest.

Mario Lanza? (Who could possibly have brought him up?!) Not even worthy of consideration, since he went to Hollywood and had a wife named Betty. How common! Our host, himself an accomplished singer, volunteered that he was a Lanza fan, but His Lordship was having none of it. No one who went to Hollywood and had a wife named Betty could possibly be any good.

Nor could a broadcaster who served Mammon. I worked for commercial radio, not the state-run network that was free of such capitalistic horrors as sponsorship and advertising? Then I had sold my soul! Arguments about the spiritual status of government coercion in the funding of radio weren’t going to wash with His Lordship. Wash over him, more like it.

As it happened, we were dining on St. Thomas Aquinas’ birthday. His Lordship seemed less interested in discussing Aquinas’ tremendous theological achievements than his tremendous girth—so great, legend has it, that a recess had to be cut into the monastery’s dining table in order to accommodate it. But he was eager to expound on the new Pontiff’s first encyclical, on Love. True love, it turns out, is “self-sacrificial.” Well, there’s nothing new in that, exactly, but there is a certain startling quality to hearing it said so baldly over lunch. For one thing, when an Objectivist rails against the ethic of self-sacrifice, there are usually several degrees of separation between him and those promoting it. To hear it directly in one’s left ear while eating, I can report, is a shock. For another, “self-sacrifice” was not a term that came readily to mind as His Lordship, in love with God, tucked into the delicious food and wine on offer with a relish that only an Objectivist would deem to be proper!

It was on the subject of love—specifically, sexual love—that His Lordship seemed almost to come unstuck. This ecclesiastic, who clearly fitted the mould of a particular gay archetype I as a gay person have encountered many times (I hasten to add that it doesn’t follow that he is gay), was palpably uncomfortable with the subject of homosexuality, and doggedly tried to change it when it came up. Our host had a story to tell about a young relative who had had a difficult time coming out, but His Lordship didn’t want to hear it, repeatedly deflecting our host with a red herring. This pointed up in my mind a larger dilemma for his Church. His Church has a culture that is plainly homoerotic. Its clergy may be male only. Its young priests are cloistered away with each other for years of training at a time when their hormones are at their most insistent. They must renounce heterosexual marriage. The Pope himself has a personal army of 107 gorgeous Swiss hunks. Much of the great artwork that the Church so proudly sports depicts the male body at its most gloriously muscular. The svelte and naked Jesus looks extremely fetching dangling from that cross. Yet the Church that worships him is arguably the most homophobic institution in Christendom, and will clearly remain so under the new Pope. If any kind of rational solution to this dilemma is possible, within an organisation so intractably wedded to irrationality, it seems unlikely that His Lordship will be contributing to it.

All rather sad, really. His Lordship is intelligent, erudite and charming (albeit a tad pretentious as per the gay archetype I mentioned). It was a pleasure to dine with him. As I contemplated these qualities after the event, I couldn’t help imagining what a boon he would be to Objectivism were he an Objectivist, and thinking, “What a waste!”

Maybe if we offered birettas …


( categories: )

Out to lunch

Lindsay Perigo's picture

Ed:

Linz, interesting!
Did you get a chance to ask him about the "officially-current" Catholic position on homosexuality? Did you prod him (please excuse the unintended pun!)?

No. As I said, he made it very clear he didn't want to engage on the subject.

I gather from this short piece that there were more folks at the table for this (un-?)holy meal. Were they predominantly sycophantic to ye' ole' Bishop-de-Catho-holic?

There were two other Catholics, and me. I was in a lions' den. Smiling

"Talk-Aquinas" seemed to hit a "firewall" there, but did you get a chance to query the to-be-ordained about the seemingly inescapable struggle of reason vs. faith? Was he stalwartly deflective of all analytical inquiry involving reason vs. faith?

No. Reason/faith as such didn't come up.

Last question: Was he ever made aware of your philosophical position, or was it necessary to utilize less than 100% open-ness -- in order for the meal to continue unabated?

He knew I was a Randian, & he knew who Ayn Rand was. He evinced no curiosity on the matter. I think his main interest was in being the one to hold court. Smiling

Ed, I think the official

Ross Elliot's picture

Ed, I think the official Catholic position is still the missionary position.

Homo-erotica? Homo-phobia? We come in peace. Shoot to kill! The Catholic church after all *is* a political organisation first and foremost. Inconsistencies and contradictions will abound.

Interesting observation about hearing the cold creed of self-sacrifice uttered so uncomfortably close to one's ear, Lindsay. I suspect many Objectivists would do well to actually smell the foetid breath of the enemy from time to time. It tends to gird the loins and sharpen our sense of rational indignation Smiling

Out to lunch

Ed's picture

Linz, interesting! 

Did you get a chance to ask him about the "officially-current" Catholic position on homosexuality? Did you prod him (please excuse the unintended pun!)? I gather from this short piece that there were more folks at the table for this (un-?)holy meal. Were they predominantly sycophantic to ye' ole' Bishop-de-Catho-holic?

"Talk-Aquinas" seemed to hit a "firewall" there, but did you get a chance to query the to-be-ordained about the seemingly inescapable struggle of reason vs. faith? Was he stalwartly deflective of all analytical inquiry involving reason vs. faith?

Last question: Was he ever made aware of your philosophical position, or was it necessary to utilize less than 100% open-ness -- in order for the meal to continue unabated?

Ed

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