Rorate Caeli

Socci: Do the hierarchies in the Church still have the Catholic Faith?

Antonio Socci
     March 10, 2018

The parish priest of Cisterna in Latina,  Don Livio Fabiani caused a bit of sensation with his words at the funeral of the two children killed by their father.
Yet perhaps – for Catholics – the homily of Cardinal Giuseppe Betori, Archbishop of Florence, at the funeral of the Fiorentina’s Captain, Davide Astori, who died two Sundays ago of a heart attack, ought to be a source of more amazement.
These two tragedies have made us face sudden death, the eruption of evil and the suffering of the innocents. We are all dumbstruck.  The words “waste and void” repeated by Thomas S. Eliot in his poem describe our hearts in these situations.
For Christians, however, there was and always has been a voice that knows the mystery of all things, that knows how to make friendship even with “sister death” and for centuries has had the mission of illuminating man’s path: The Church.

Again Eliot recalls that She was seen for centuries as the One who: “who will perhaps answer our doubtings.  The Watcher, who sees what is to happen. The Witness. The God-shaken, in whom is the truth inborn.
The poet continues: “She tells them of Life and Death, and of all that they would forget./She is tender where they would be hard, and hard where they/like to be soft./ She tells them of Evil and Sin, and other unpleasant facts.


For this the parish priest from Latina in the heartrending Mass for the two murdered children, asked for prayer “even for the father” who had committed suicide after killing his own children and wounding his wife.
The Corriere della Sera reported “that someone from the pews contested the priest’s words but that he said, after a moment of silence and commotion. “ Pardon me, but the family have forgiven”.
In the homily the priest recalled: “I baptized Alessia, gave her  First Communion and next May 6th she would have received the Sacrament of Confirmation and Martina would have begun attending catechism classes in the parish.”
Then he emphasized that “we brought Alessia and Martina here, not to a stadium or sports hall. We brought them here, to church where they first began their steps in Christianity ” because  “it is here that we find the answers, in our faith in Jesus.”  Simple but vertiginous, Christian words. They should extinguish the rancor that we have seen elsewhere.  ANSA reports that at Secondigliano the body of Luigi Capasso (the father) was greeted with “with shouts and insults”  but “was blessed at the Neapolitan cemetery of Poggioreale.”
Even when anger prevails among the people, the Church never fails in Her compassionate prayer for everyone, by taking the example from Jesus, Who, nailed to the Cross, prayed even for His executioners: “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.”  
The Church is where one goes to seek the prayer we all are in need of and where we find consolation in suffering or when confronted with death.
The Church  is  She – who, like a mother who loves -  tells Her children even the uncomfortable truths they don’t want to hear. Starting with the necessity and duty of prayer for everyone. A mother doesn’t seek the approval of men, since she wants only the salvation of her children.
For this reason, the words of the Archbishop of Florence, Cardinal Betori at Davide Astori’s funeral Mass leave us somewhat bewildered.
Actually, there is not even one reference to prayer in his entire discourse: not for the young footballer’s soul and his eternal salvation, nor for his family and relatives who are grief-stricken.
This is astonishing since a churchman should make it clear that the bond with the dear departed  doesn’t end with death, but we can and must continue helping each other with prayers for our salvation and eternal bliss.
Prayers for those who have died convey that death is only a momentary exit from the field of vision, that “life has not been taken away, but rather transformed” . Thus Christians may cry out: “Death where is thy victory?” .
Prayer for dear ones who have previously been called by God is a great act of love and reminds us that we have an immortal soul. As Chiara Corbella used to say: “we were born and we won’t die anymore.”
These were the eternal words of the Church that thousands of people in Florence wanted to hear.
The tragedy of Davide Astori has cast a chill on everyone as the sudden death of a 30 year old man is like a punch in the face and confronts us with the terrible fragility of life. Even when one is in the prime and vigor of his youth.  It carries us to the brink of the abyss and the mystery of life.  And it is above all at these times, that our gaze is directed to that place which promises “words of eternal life”.   In fact, the Church of Santa Croce in Florence was filled to overflowing as was the piazza in front of it.
But Cardinal Betori didn’t embrace the suffering of all those people by inviting them to pray, thereby teaching them the faith and opening their hearts up to Christian hope.  On the contrary, he said he was unable to give any consolation. Here is his astonishing preamble:
“The sense of many things in life escapes us, the “why” remains obscure. First of all death itself. We have no explanations to offer about death which could serve in giving consolation.  Our suffering remains, especially when death takes away from us a person we love - a friend.  It has happened now to us, with Davide Astori.  Don’t ask me then for comprehensible reasons, for justifiable conclusions [or] motives to console [you]. I can only cry with you. And offer you something to think about.”

Certainly, during the homily he juxtaposed some quotations from the Gospel, nonetheless, always on the horizontal, social dimension (let’s help others) and without changing substantially that leaden, awful preamble.  
But a Church that proclaims “we have no explanations to offer about death which could serve in giving consolation” and  “don’t ask me then for comprehensible reasons, for justifiable conclusions [or] motives to console [you]. I can only cry with you.” , - I say – what’s the use of a Church like that?
It is completely useless. It is as desolating as an abandoned post office. A despairing Church cannot help us, we despairing creatures. This is the salt that has become insipid  – as Jesus says in the Gospel – it is of no use for anything and is thrown away to be trampled on.
We cannot even attribute this to a blunder by a cardinal, since Betori here has echoed things said several times by Bergoglio on the subjects of suffering, evil and death.
The present Church – at the end of the day – has at present a colossal problem contained in this question: do Her hierarchies still have the faith?  All the drama is in this, as Cardinal Sarah recently commented.  
Without firm and luminous faith (and the hope of eternal life) there is only an earthly horizon where you go about seeking the approval of the world. As Bertori did, by delivering a long eulogy on the Fiorentina football player to his fans.
In truth, in the past, the Church had prescribed that at funerals a eulogy on the deceased should not be done, but that the teaching of Christ on life, judgment, the resurrection and eternal life should be made clear.  
Betori delivered a discourse which was directed at the “violet”* heart of the city, more than the Christian conscience of the people. He even made detours about football.
Today the Church seems to be undergoing a catastrophic, spiritual collapse seeing as the hierarchies expect  the flock of the faithful to follow their same way.
Perhaps someone will say that all this - even if enormous -  only concerns believers.  Except that when there is no longer a place where hope for eternal life resounds, it is a frightful impoverishment for everyone. They have switched off the light - now everyone is in the dark.  
*the colour of the Fiorentina football jersey.
Translation:  contributor Francesca Romana