Somewhat coincidentally I have been reading A Tale of Two Cities or, more precisely, listening to it on an audio book. I last read it as a sophomore in High School but it has always remained among my favorite books. Last evening, on my way home from church, I had been listening to the scene where Monsieur the Marquis’s carriage runs over and kills the child of Gaspard. One could not help but be appalled at the Marquis’s apathetic contempt for the ordinary citizen. Here is a man who lives in a universe where he thinks the “vulgar masses” were created solely to provide him with his indolent lifestyle. And you know, I hate to say it, but in so many ways I see “The Church” reflected there. In many ways it was the Church of the Renaissance and the ancien regime that Dickens was writing of—quite explicitly. He does not leave that to your imagination when he speaks of the French ecclesiastics. “The Church” was complicit in the evil that left so many people in dire poverty and squalor in those centuries when some think the Church was so glorious. Those Basilicas and palaces of Renaissance Rome were built on the backs of the poor. Not only Italy, but all Europe was being drained dry by the Medici, Della Rovere, Piccolomini, Borgia, Farnese, et al popes and their sycophant cardinals and bishops and pezzi grossi prelates who were building their palaces and screwing their pages and poisoning their enemies while God’s poor starved. I am not being anti-Catholic in saying any of this. I am just reporting the facts. And when I say that today we have prelates in Rome and prelates here parading around in silk gowns with trains longer than Kate Middleton’s upcoming dress and pontificating about sincere people who are trying to figure out how to balance their need for giving and receiving love, their same-sex attraction, and their devotion to Christ I am not sure how much has changed. And when I hear sermons that tell me the priest is from cloud la-la land and has no idea how parents of families with four and five kids are trying to make ends meet without the mother having to work outside the home, or hear priests say that they have a life of sacrifice when a maid plops their three course dinner down before them on a table set with linen, china, and crystal I think that there is a need for change in “The Church.” When I hear priests disparage women or hear of a Bishop who has instructed his pastors that when he visits, no woman is to be invited to dinner I cannot but think of Monsieur the Marquis and his contempt for the people who carried him with all his comfort on their backs and with the sweat of their brows.
But that is not the whole story, nor even half of it.