If you have never read C.S.Lewis’ final chronicle of Narnia, go find it and read it.
The story is about the end of Narnia, and to summarize briefly, the wicked Calormenes have been welcomed into Narnia by a devious ape named Shift who finds a lion skin and ties it to a donkey named Puzzle. He then pretends the Donkey is Aslan and tyrannizes the Narnians.
Part of the story is the treachery of the Dwarves. The dwarves are true Narnians, but having been once fooled by Shift, they become sour and cynical–rejecting the saviors of Narnia as well as the invading Calormenes. “The dwarves are for the dwarves!” they cry–attacking both their friends and their enemies equally.
I was reminded of the dwarves when, in a regretted moment, I spent some time online reviewing a few of the extremist conservative Catholic websites.
I realize there are many conservative Catholics who are dismayed by the leadership of the Church at this time. They dislike Pope Francis. They dislike his advisors even more. They can’t stand Fr James Martin SJ, revile the German bishops, are disgusted by the McCarrick affair and the gay mafia, resist the liberal prelates and extend their animus not only to all the liberals but also to just about everybody else who does not join in their constant stream of sour invective.
The websites not only express conservative Catholicism, but are often mixed up with right wing politics, some anti semitism, wild fundamentalism and conspiracy theories.
A telling chapter in the Last Battle is entitled How the Dwarves Refused to be Taken In By this time the battle is over and the Narnians–including the dwarves, are inside the stable which is the ante chamber to the new Narnia. It is a beautiful place. All is as it was in Eden. The problem is, the dwarves, who had all along refused to believe that anything good could come about, had drifted further and further downward in a spiral of doubt, suspicion and ultimately despair. Because they had been taken in by Shift they decided never to be fooled again, and so everyone became their enemy.
The children try to wake the dwarves up and help them see the victory that has been won, but the dwarves refuse. They think they are in the dark when it is a bright, Spring morning. They cannot see the children, and when Lucy gives them proof of their existence the dwarves reject the proof with an insane argument or with anger. So, for example, Lucy attempts to prove she is there and she can see the dwarves (who can’t see her) by saying, “You have a pipe in your mouth!” The dwarf replies, “Of course. Anybody could figure that out by the smell of tobacco!”
So it is with the conservative Catholic dwarves. Some poor folks, being disenchanted by the failures of the church leaders, have decided never to be fooled again. So they attack not only the liberals and heretics, but also everyone else who doesn’t take the same extreme views they do. This kind of insanity ends up in schism.
I know of people who have got into this cycle of suspicion and conspiracy theories who end up in one of the traditionalist or sedevacantis sects or fraternities and then, surprise surprise, they discover that the people in that group are also frail and unworthy sinners. Immorality, cheating and lying are there too. Then some go off and listen to the voices that say, “There is no true pope and therefore there are no true priests any longer, and if no true priests then no valid sacraments.” So they stop going to Mass. They stay home and say the rosary with their family.
I mention the conservative Catholic dwarves, but this phenomenon is not just a Catholic thing. The dwarves exist in every church, sect and denomination. Furthermore, its not only a religious thing. You will find the sour, cynical and suspicious dwarves in political parties, in school communities, in families, in businesses…everywhere. Let’s take it further–it is also not a conservative phenomenon only. I’ve come across radical progressives who are similarly disenchanted, suspicious, sour and hateful towards everyone–even those who are on their side but who are not willing to be drawn into their cycle of despair. Its a personality type.
So what to do about the dwarves?
Lucy says, “Oh dear! What are we to do for them?”
“Let ’em alone” said Eustace.
Then Aslan appears and roars. It doesn’t work. The dwarves dismiss it as some sort of noise making machine. Aslan sets a great banquet before them. The dwarves treat it as pig swill, grumbling and fighting over the food until it is trampled into the mud and they are wounded.
Finally Aslan says, “You see. They will not let us help them. They have chosen their own cunning instead of belief. Their prison is only in their own minds, yet they are in that prison: and so afraid of being taken in that they cannot be taken out. But come. I have other work to do.”
So Eustace, the boy who was once a dragon, was right. Let ’em alone. Have pity on them and walk away. To argue with them will only draw you into their circle of sickness.
And for yourself? Stay close to Jesus and Mary. Stay close to the sacraments. Stay close to prayer. Stay close to the Sacred Scriptures. Get down on your knees the roll up your sleeves and do what you can do with what you have where you are.
God is good. His creation is good. His church is glorious. His Son victorious.
If the darkness surrounds you, remember you are a child of the light. Shine as a light in the world to the glory of God the father.
And remember, the dwarves were Narnians too. Be kind even if they are blind.