The saddest and most depressing place in the world this side of the pits of hell is Divorce Court. I know. I’ve been there.
What follows are some recollections and thoughts prompted by hearing about, but not reading, the recent letter to us all from Pope Francis, “Amoris Laetitia”, which translates into English as The Joy of Love; thoughts prompted by listening to and reading (1) what ordinary folks say, (2) what “smart” folks say, (3) what the public talkers say, those whose opinions “make” something for all of us to carry about as if they were ours. Many people, I think, will read little more than the title then it will fade like a little white cloud fades from the sky on a dry summer day.
But, the majority of people, I think, will depend on the reports about it given by the “experts” on the 6 and 10, or the interviews with “experts” on The View and Oprah. Having thus been enlightened they’ll continue to do right as The Media give them to see the right; and walk around humming, if not singing aloud in praise, the title line from the Beatles song, “All You Need Is Love”, written by that dead numbskull, John Lennon. They won’t read the whole thing either. But, they won’t read it because they’re lazy like me. They won’t read it because they don’t need to. They really know that all you need is love…the numbskulls.
Thank you, Universe!
TWO STORIES ABOUT HARD CHOICES AND CONSEQUENCES
Joey was about a year behind me in school; a quiet kid, small framed, with dark hair, and dark, deep set, and sad eyes. I didn’t know him well. He was just another kid on the block, one of a hundred or so spare parts, random particles bouncing around back there in the Bronx a million or so years ago.
He had two older sisters, Barbara and Marie. His mother was a nice enough woman; but what does a kid know about things like that? She had her own sad face with her own sad and gentle smile. She came and went by herself, saying hello, and, just as quickly, but politely, saying goodbye. His sister Marie was never around. His sister Barbara was what might have once been called neurasthenic. But who knew such things, then? She was just thin and different; a kind of worn out version of the mysterious and older Marie, of her mysterious and already worn out mother
Perhaps, I wonder after all these years, if that was the reason there was “that thing” about him, you know? He just wasn’t at his ease, it seemed, anywhere. His eyes, I hadn’t the brains then to notice such things, told the story. And, over the years, the small, sad eyed kid just got smaller until one day, he finally disappeared. I never found out where he’d gone, never knew what had happened to him. He just went. Not that I missed him, I mean. We weren’t pals. He was just another kid on the block.
I was about thirteen when I learned Joey’s mother and father were divorced; actually divorced. The interior reaction I had to learning that there was actually someone whose parents were divorced, that there were children who lived near me and never saw one of them was , not to put too fine a point on it, tumultuous. We had our own troubles in our own family. Dad drank too much, and would get worse. Mom took up the habit in her own defense. They argued. We worried. The rent was late. Bills piled up.
But divorce? Become like Joey? Mom asked us one day, during what my sister and I sometimes refer to as our own family’s long day’s journey into night, if we thought she and Dad should get a divorce. All I remember doing in response is crying. Thank God, it never happened. But, truth to tell, it was no bed of roses. Thorns, sometimes would have been a softer place, and sometimes were. Nevertheless, she loved him. He loved her. We loved them. And so, life went on. We were, I thought, in a tough place; but, we were a whole family, and that fact was protected and assured by Mom being Mom and Dad being dad until death parted them.
Besides, we weren’t strangers to the kind of combat family life was. You hear a lot living in an apartment house, especially in the summer when all the windows are open. besides, kids, all of them except Joey, I think, share their stories.
We called her The Big A, and her daughter was, of course, the Little A. Her “husband”, I never knew he was anything but a husband until I was in my mid-teens, was a fellow named Sonny, a friend of my father. He was Little A’s father, and later on the father of a little boy, Robert. When Robert was a baby, I took care of him while his mother went to work as a book keeper in some nearby business.
Sonny worked, too, for Con-Edison, the power company in The City. He had a bad back, injured, so we believed, during the war, World War II, for which he received a discharge. He was a pugnacious little guy, someone who probably lost a lot of fights, but kept on trying anyway. The fights he always won, though, were with The Big A; another fact I only found out much later in life. I might have guessed had I cared to. But I was engaged in being a full time kid which was not easy work.
The Big A was younger than Mom or Dad, and younger than Sonny. She was a blond, and beginning to look puffy. But, she loved a good time. I suppose that was how she met Sonny and became his “wife”; even though, as I learned much later, she was already a wife to some guy I never met who was away in the Pacific on a big gray boat. One of those good times led, as they often do, to her becoming Sonny’s “wife” and the Little A’s mother.
When I was younger, and less kind, I would have called Little A a “piece of work”. And, I often did. Now that I know, I realize she didn’t really stand a chance. My first wife, may she rest in peace, had a term for children like Little A. She called them “walking abortions”; killed before birth, and still among us.
On several occasions when I was a kid, I remember hearing snatches of conversations between my parents about their “friends”; conversations about the problems they were having. It was from those “overheards” that I learned of Big A’s hospitalizations from time to time, and her broken nose, and their trips to see a priest for counseling. And always Mom and Dad wondered what would happen next. And he talked to Sonny. And she talked to Big A. And the music went round and round.
When I was in high school there began a series of extended stays on our couch by Big A; once for about a year. Later on her daughter became a guest for months at a time. She eventually drifted away across the “highway of life”; like a bit of tumbleweed I suppose, aimlessly bouncing off the rocks. One of the tales coming back about her in later years was that she had decided she was a lesbian. And, I have sometimes thought, if anyone had a reason for it, she did. But, life on a rock in the middle of the ocean would have been my own solution did it come to that.
My final memory of them all was a short conversation with Mom not too long before my poor wreck of a father died. She told me that her friends were on their way to see another priest for another time. She wasn’t too sanguine about the outcome. And, I thought, what else? How many times can a nose be broken? What could a priest say? “Just stop it?” “Grow up?” “Always wear a catcher’s mask?”
THE EXPERTS WEIGH IN, TRUTH IS EXPLAINED AND THINGS ONLY GET WORSE
Someone sent me a link to this article the other day, and after taking my medications against stomach upset I read it. You who take the time to read it will learn what the author, James Carroll, says. For those who don’t, I’ll tell you briefly. He thinks what the pope wrote would have been a wonderful thing to have when he was a priest, but, alas for him, the cavalry arrived too late.
The thing I like about this guy Carroll is that at least he left the priesthood. The thing I don’t like is that he parlayed that into a comfortable living biting the hand that once fed him. There is a small industry in that kind of thing.
But he, at least, had the “nads” to go, not like so many others, termites one might call them. These were the guys who stayed and played with the souls of folks they were supposed to shepherd. That job really isn’t too hard, you know. A well trained dog can do it; and that’s all they are, because the Shepherd calls the shots, and sometimes, he does that from as much as a half mile away with a sharp whistle and a wave of the staff. Of course, the dogs keep the flocks out of the thickets, away from tall cliffs, deep holes, swift and dangerous waters. That’s all Slim, and says the Shepherd, “And, I will lay you down to rest when your work is done. Tend my sheep.” How hard can that be?
But not a few of them decided they weren’t dogs; they were shepherds. And these guys (Robert Drinan comes to mind) said: ” Swift waters invigorate! Tall cliffs expand ones horizons! Deep holes, if entered carefully, should be explored, and perhaps will provide shelter in dangerous times…. Who knows? Life’s an adventure, and The Shepherd of the flock whom I know personally can’t stop lovin’ you. He’s made up his mind!”
Don’t just take my word.
Here’s another article you may want to read. The fellow analyzes Carroll’s analysis and uncovers some serious misunderstandings by someone who passes himself off as an authority; a case, perhaps, of going too far out from sure and getting carried away by the ocean currents you never knew were there. As I mentioned to someone else solipsism is a bad word.
Don’t get me wrong. I like Pope Francis for a lot of things, but not this, and not for the reasons you may think. He should have seen what was coming. He’s had more than fifty years experience of, and time to understand, it.
We’ve had bad popes before. We’ll have more again. The good thing about bad popes is that they ain’t permanent. And, I’m not saying that Pope Francis is a bad Pope. But, I think, there are bad, or at least seriously mislead and misleading people out there. In the first category are people who one might call the sheep of the flock. In the second category are those who identify themselves as shepherds.. They fill the pages of things like The New Yorker. Perhaps they are the theological equivalents of men who identify as women, or gossamer winged fantasies, or real shepherds, and want us to pay them the respect normal people, or normal fantasies, or real shepherds, get. And then there’s the ones, we all know them, who would like nothing better than to see the last of this whole sheep, shepherd, and flock thing go away.
And, finally, the last word on Mr. Carroll, and his views, the fellow who might have been called a “spoiled priest” in another, more enlightened, age from a fellow who, I think, describes him accurately; Carroll and the majority of the people the numbskulls at places like the New Yorker turn to for “expert” advice. Remember, they are legion.
My author introduces his piece by saying James Carroll “has made a career out of attacking the Catholic Church and Christianity in general. And like many of the most prominent anti-Catholic authors he is also an ex-religious–in this case an ex-priest. I’m not sure whether even he would still call himself a Catholic, but others have called him a Catholic “liberal” or “reformer.” I think the fairest term would be “dissident.”
And this is the kind of fellow most folks who “read” Pope Francis will turn to for advice, confirmation and support.
You see, that way “It’s Easy.”
There’s nothing you could do that can’t be done