When I lived in England there was a brilliant satirical weekly paper called Private Eye whose editors would expose hypocrisy of prelates, corruption of politicians, foolishness of academics, vanity of celebrities and the idiocy of the royal family.
Private Eye had a long running reputation of airing grievances, sticking up for the little guy, catching people with their pants down and exposing corruption, graft and general arrogance and ignorance of the human race.
It is still in print and is a peculiarly English institution. The Brits get satire, sarcasm, innuendo and the wink, wink, nudge nudge in a way that Americans simply don’t.
The editor during my time in the damp lands was a fellow called Ian Hislop who was very bright, very funny, very droll and, as it happens a practicing Christian. About his faith Hislop joked, “I’ve tried atheism and I just can’t stick it. I keep having doubts.”
On television once he was asked about his editorship of Private Eye and their policy of mocking, ridiculing and poking fun at just about everyone and everything.
The interviewer said, “Mr Hislop, you have attacked the Queen Mother, the Royal Family, the Church, the military, Parliament and the universities and the celebrities of literature, the arts and sports. Is there anything you would not mock?”
Quick as a flash Ian Hislop said, “Yes. We would not mock the death of our Lord Jesus Christ nor the ceremony whereby it is commemorated.”
I am moved very deeply just remembering that moment because at this time of crisis in the church it seems to me that there is so much bitterness, so much anger, so much blame of others.
Conservatives have the knives out for the “liberal heretics” and modernists load sarcasm and bitterness on the conservatives. People deride and mock the Holy Father while others heap scorn on Mother Angelica or Archbishop Vigano or Cardinal Burke. The mockery, ugliness and derision from both sides is increasing and is deafening and discouraging.
One of the great faults of Catholics (and other Christians too) is that we so easily take our eye off the ball. We so easily turn our religion into something other than Christianity. We get obsessed with liturgy or social work or peace and justice or the abortion battle. We become passionate about this devotion or that or we get passionate about this worthy cause or that. We worry ourselves about the gays, the liberals, the conservatives, the traddies or the trendies, the Protestants or the Orthodox. We get all huffy about politics or petty rules and rubrics and miss what it is all really about.
So much of it is simply dross. It is chaff which the wind will drive away and the fires consume.
I am inclined to mock all the silly obsessions like my friends at Private Eye, and I would hold up my head with Ian Hislop and say, “The one thing we will not mock is the sacrificial death of Our Lord Jesus Christ and the ceremony whereby it is commemorated.”
This is my New Years’ Resolution, and I say it with all my heart, that I am resolved to know nothing but Christ and him crucified.” Forget all the rest. I will remember that and I will remember his sorrowful mother and I will celebrate this turning point of time and the redemption of the world, for this is what matters, and this is what I will not mock.
The rest of it all is fair game.