Thursday, October 24, 2013

In which my head explodes

No doubt you all have heard of the so-called "Bishop of Bling"--Bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst of Limburg, who apparently spent a bit over 40 million bucks to rebuild his residence complex.  To be fair, that "residence complex" includes more than just the bishop's house, as it evidently houses diocesan offices, the diocesan museum, and some conference rooms.  Of course, it also includes charming amenities like a $15,000 bathtub.  No, I'm not sure how one spends 15K on a bathtub, barring having the thing inlaid with gold or something.  To put all of this in perspective, the total income for that diocese in 2012 was about 200 million dollars.  Yep, you read that correctly: nearly 25% of the diocesan income last year went towards making sure that that bishop's residence rivaled that of, oh, I dunno, Saddam Hussein and his gold toilets come to mind...

With justification, when the Pope heard about this little stunt he arranged for His Excellency's episcopal tail to be yanked neatly out of his $15,000 bathtub and sent out of the diocese, hopefully to a nice strict monastery to consider his vocation and how $15,000 bathtubs aren't part of the equation.  (snort)

Not that it matters all that much, but pretty much every Catholic I've talked to--and they range from pretty liberal to pretty conservative--are all in perfect agreement on this: the Pope done good, period, full stop, end of sentence.

I have no problem at all with my priests and bishops living in nice residences; I don't think that unless it's their particular charism, they need be sleeping on a floor mat and existing solely on bread and water at all times.  Through the ages, a lot of people would donate nicer furniture (note I say "nice," not "obscenely expensive beyond the wildest dreams of filthy avarice") to rectories, and as the rectories stay with a given church and, unlike a priest, don't move from place to place, I've seen many rectories with very nice furnishings indeed which have been there for a century and more.  I also believe that churches themselves should be as beautiful as humanly possible.  Look at the directions that God gave the Hebrews for their sanctuary tent even while they were in the wilderness.  He didn't say "oh, you'll be picking up and moving every few weeks, any old tent will do."  Nope.  There were gold and fine fabrics and silver and precious jewels, and don't even get me started on the Temple itself once the Hebrews reached Israel and built Jerusalem!  The Eucharist is our greatest treasure on earth, and our churches should reflect that.

Pardon me, however, if I don't think that $15,000 bathtubs give great glory to God.

When I heard about this story initially, I was utterly disgusted, but I let it pass from my mind fairly quickly.  Until, that is, I actually came across a traditionalist site which I will not link here which actually has the gall to claim that this is part of some plot of Pope Francis's to make our churches ugly and to persecute conservative bishops.

At which point, as the post title suggests, my head exploded and I started writing this post.

You. have. got. to. be. kidding. me.

I actually wouldn't have had that much of a problem if this bishop had spent about half this amount of money on building a truly glorious cathedral, or considerably less on a school to educate our children, or perhaps 10 million or so to build a truly Catholic university.  But he didn't.  He spent this on sodding bathtubs, you numpties.  How on earth can someone defend this?

I don't bloody well care if the guy says the Tridentine Mass daily.  (Which he doesn't, I might add.)  Doing something right doesn't mean he gets a pass on doing something phenomenally wrong.  And somewhere around the $15,000 bathtub mark, I'd argue there's a serious wrong afoot.

(Yes, I know I keep coming back to the $15,000 bathtub.  I can't help it.  Say the words "$15,000 bathtub" to yourself a few times, and you may see where I'm coming from.)

Good gosh.  This is reminiscent of those nutters who'll defend ex-SSPX Bishop Weakland (memo, Your Excellency: it's a good rule of thumb that when the SSPX chuck you out for being an extremist, it's a good idea to reexamine your life choices at that point), the noted Holocaust denier and 9/11 "truther", on the grounds that "well, he says the Tridentine Mass so he can't be all that bad!"

Folks, you are not helping.  Was Pope Benedict probably closer to my style than Pope Francis?  Sure.  That doesn't mean that the latter is on a personal crusade to rid the Church of all things traditional.  It means that he has a different focus, one which, judging by this guy's $15,000 bathtub (sorry, just had to bring it up again), is rather desperately needed.

See, every time you say something like this, everyone who's attached to the Tridentine Mass gets painted with the same brush that tarred you.  It's like the looks I get when I attend my local Mass wearing a chapel veil.  Most people don't have a problem with it, but I have gotten the occasional odd look which I will bet dollars to donuts I can chalk up to the local SSPX chapel and their adherents.  It doesn't matter that I wouldn't be caught dead at an SSPX function of any kind, or that an SSPX adherent is unlikely to attend a Sunday Novus Ordo when she could drive a few more miles to attend an SSPX chapel.  Some people see a chapel veil, and assume rad-trad.  My job is to prove that you can have traditional leanings and preferences while being approachable and without being a raving lunatic.  Someday, perhaps in five or ten years, I hope to have a Tridentine Mass at this church.  I think with hard work and dedication, it's quite possible that will happen.  But you lot are not helping.


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