Helen Weir
With apologies to Jack alone (Chapter Four)
By Helen Weir
June 18, 2017

"In that lonely moment when I found myself abandoned for the second time by Richard," the Speaker mournfully continued, "I can say in all humility that a certain temptation to despair utterly assailed me. But did I give in to it? No! I did not! Instead, I heroically took stock of something that we who are steeped in the scriptures all know deep in our hearts. We know and are convinced, of course, that 'all things work together for the good.' So I asked myself: just because one misguided individual refuses to extend himself fully within the circumscription of his given complexities, why should the rest of us? Glass half full, and all that; and I hastened back here to the Grey Town with the germ of tonight's Intervention firmly planted in my mind. I could present my reflections regarding the tragic loss of my friend Richard as a paper to our little Grey Town Theological Society! And that, of course, is what you are all about to hear.

"But when I returned to our kindly community with its booming architectural endeavors, beckoning frontiers, and predictable climate, all was not yet well. I found that, even during the course of my relatively brief absence, the Society on which I was pinning such high hopes had languished nearly unto non-existence. Doctrine will do that to you; every time! Still, when the Equal Powers close a door, as the saying goes, a window is simultaneously opened. This state of affairs was not a setback, but an opportunity to examine how we were failing to serve the needs of the Other in any significant fashion, and how we could be reborn, phoenix-like, from premises less divisively 'religious' and more collegially rational.

"When I called together my confreres to offer this proposal, they all (certain judicious Committee removals having been carried out) joyously agreed. Striking upon a new name for our group which would not inadequately reflect its profound renewal itself, however, presented something of a challenge, and I would like to take a moment to congratulate my colleague who first proposed the clever title which was selected, at my urging, in the end."

And here the Speaker began to clap, holding his hands out in front of him and turning this way and that by way of offering himself as a prototype. While the Well-Tailored One in question gazed over at the Podium as dazed as a knickered schoolchild awarded a cheaply-gilded participation certificate, the Others shuffled their feet and adjusted various inconsequential aspects of their apparel until the evening's regularly scheduled remarks were resumed.

"Perhaps now you understand, my friends, what I meant a moment ago by counting Richard as a kind of reluctant patron in absentia. Nevertheless, it does grieve me beyond expression that he is not in attendance with us here tonight. Will you, of your charity, and whatever your chosen belief framework or lack thereof, graciously join me in a moment of silence on his behalf?"

"The only other individual lacking on this auspicious occasion," the Speaker smiled wanly when the designated "moment" was up, "is, bien sur, our dear Dr. Joseph Fletcher; yes, the very one for whom this splendid Community Center itself is aptly named. We did send an embassy to invite him, because his work is clearly foundational for all we are about to discuss. But, alas! The effort was to no avail. For Joseph is already 'beyond the pale' – one of the 'Old Ones,' so to speak, even though he only arrived in the Town during what must be termed 1991. I myself have actually been here longer than he has.

"So why has he surpassed even me on the journey forward, ever forward? Perhaps because of the singular clarity of his vision. His life work became the hinge of the 'Revolution of Reorientation;' the cornerstone (if I may be permitted to mix my metaphors a bit) upon which the rest of the structure arose. Could anyone state more lucidly what we are about than he did, in his 1979 work Humanhood: Essays in Biomedical Ethics? As Dr. Fletcher puts it, on Page Nine:
    any God worth believing in intends the highest possible well-being for human beings. . . . (Therefore) there is no practical difference between the ethical judgments of humanistically- and theologically-oriented moral agents. Our guidelines, then, would be what is humane and rational, not what is revealed and authoritarian.
"Which ushers us directly into the very heart of the topic which has come under our microscope this evening.

And that is how the Internal Forum's first official event mercifully got underway at last.

"Amoris Laetitia. That, in the dead language still inexplicably in vogue in certain circles on Earth, is the formal title of the document in question. Though rather pedestrian, the title's commonplace translation as The Joy of Love will suffice for our present purposes. Of course, its richer overtones – but, best leave all that for another audience, and an investigation of an entirely different order. Our papal meditation may also be referred to by its nickname, Amoris, or its initials, AL, during the balance of these remarks.

"Back on Earth, Amoris caused an overnight sensation mainly due to a single one of its countless footnotes. You must forgive me, but it slips my mind exactly which one. Ha, ha!

"L'Affaire 351
(if you'll pardon the pun) centers around the long overdue assertion that the 'divorced-and-remarried-without-benefit-of-an-annulment' who are attempting to live as human beings rather than angels or pathetic plaster saints (in other words, who are giving open and total expression to their love, as the pet '60's era encyclical of the Critics clearly enjoins everybody to do), can also partake of a little 'harmless bread and wine' without being cast as modern-day lepers by embarrassing medieval throwbacks who ought to be questioning their own Eucharistic worthiness, quote-unquote, instead of somebody else's!"

A split second later, I found myself caught up in the standing ovation which erupted – not so much because I got the Speaker's drift and agreed, but because I would have been squeezed almost unto injury otherwise. And as the applause died down and I glanced back in preparation for resuming my former posture without mishap, I found myself under the momentary impression that all the chairs had somehow sunken far, far away; worlds away; as though I was looking at them through the wrong end of the most powerful of all telescopes. When I did succeed in sitting back down again, this perception proved, of course, to be only another optical illusion, and I tried to forget about it (even when I found, as the evening wore on, that the same thing kept happening over and over again). Because really, what is the point of worrying about the inconsistencies plaguing this place as thickly as bloated frog carcasses choking the divine Nile? It's not like you can do anything about it, anyway.

Take those people straight across the circular Stage from me and Ned, congratulating themselves again about finding a place where they can see the Speaker head on. But there's no way. From where they are, they've got to be staring right in between his pinstriped shoulder blades.

Then there is that slightly intoxicating breeze, wildly salty, as though there must be an ocean out there at the cloud cover's edges; only here in the Grey Town, the cloud cover doesn't have any edges. And where is it coming from? The disused, small doorway, one would guess; except for the fact that that one has been closed all the while, and kept under lock and key. Which is kind of strange in its own way, when you come to think of it.

And what about the officials during Processing, who kept insisting that . . . but, wait. Nobody else was breaking a sweat about this stuff, so why should I? It's Management's problem; not mine.

"Still, the Critics were right about one thing. In all fairmindedness, we shall give credit where credit is due. That tiny prepositional phrase which somehow managed to worm its way into AL Chapter 8 – namely, 'in certain cases' – has, in fact, proven to be the 'needle's eye' through which the 'camel' of a formerly unrecognizable theological perspective was finally capable of passing. Yes; yes; a number of anti-Amoris troglodytes perceptively predicted that this would happen at the time, but fortunately nobody was listening to them in the least; not even, among their own.

"This certain cases verbiage sounded quite innocuous at the outset, which was intentional. But the only real 'ambiguity' about AL resulted from the Critics' failure to think their own position through. Focused on what those 'cases' could possibly be, many who might have resisted (had they realized what was at stake) settled instead for the security blanket of reassuring themselves that the divorced-and-remarried-without-benefit-of-an-annulment had not been granted some sort of sacramental carte blanche, after all; as if, for their side, this was a good thing. And while our would-be opponents solemnly pointed out to one another that there still remained a diocese or a parish here or there where the former discipline is being maintained, the rest of us stormed the 'gates,' and took them! What the Critics missed is that, where a 'negative precept of the natural law,' quote-unquote, is concerned, the opposite of never isn't always. In res Amoris, the opposite of never is ever.

"For when the dust finally settled, who became Footnote 351's 'certain cases'? A handful of smiling Extraordinary Ministers, sedately 'remarried' to a member of the traditionally opposed gender assignment and residing quietly where only their winking pastor need ever be the wiser? Not on your life! We are the 'certain cases' – all of us gathered together in the lovely Fletcher Center right here, right now, including me and those of us who came before, because we benefitted from the thinking enshrined in Amoris decades and even centuries in advance of its actual promulgation. And whom do we have to thank for it all? Pope Bergoglio; Pope Bergoglio and the 'Revolution of Reorientation' he and his courageous collaborators magnificently effected! He prophesied that he would split the Church, and split it he did; into the 'Richards' of lamentable rigidity versus the rest of us. Sub luce laetitiae we now gratefully live, forever more; in the glorious rays of the 'joy of the gospel' as shed upon us by this pontificate and no other!"

And the chairs went through their little exercise of appearing to sink much, much further away again.

© Helen Weir


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