Subscribe by RSS

Monday, 4 March 2013

Catholic tastes

Having lulled me yet again with her elfin charm, Isle of Jura and Belgian chocolates, Mary gets to the point. "Have you read those articles I gave you?" she asks.

I play for time with a sip of the mellow malt and study the photos of her extended family above the fireplace, with the latest and tiniest taking temporary pride of place. "So you're a great-grandmother now?" I try diversionary tactics with small hope of success.

"For the third time," she says. "Never mind that. I can talk about babies with anybody. I expect more from you."

"Fair enough," I say, swirling the whisky, holding it up to the light and seeing the tear-drops separate and slide inside the crystal. "From the look of those legs I'd say this is the 15-year-old."

She shakes her head but says nothing, simply staring at me. Like a well-loved teacher she knows I can't take her disapproval. "All right," I say. "Tell me what you want to talk about."

Her blue eyes sparkle. "The article on the legacy of Vatican II and the challenge of secular society," she says.

I groan. "Hell's bells Mary, couldn't we start with something simpler? You know I'm somewhere on the Buddhist spectrum. I think monotheistic religions stuff spirituality into straitjackets. Debates about Catholic doctrine go well over my head."

"Did you read the article?" she asks again.

"Yes," I admit.

 "Well then," she says.

"Well then what?" I say.

"Stop prevaricating and give me your opinion."

I take a larger slug of the malt than the cratur deserves, think fast and talk slow. "Well, the short version is that it's unhelpful to regard different sides of the debate as traditional and modern or progressive and reactionary," I say and she nods encouragingly.

"Are you agreeing with the statement or with my saying it's the main point of the article?" I ask her.

"Bit of both," she says. "Keep talking."

I run my finger round the inside of my collar. "Well, it's better to see them as a struggle between keeping things simple, the writer says, and engaging with the complexities of the modern world. Vatican II chose complexity."

She sits forward in the padded high chair, surrounded by tables containing all the specs, phones, money, books and newspapers she needs to get through the day without moving far. Nine decades and half a dozen operations slow you down some.

"It did and we welcomed it," she says. "But 50 years on it hasn't delivered. Why not?"

She's testing me and exploring the argument. "Several reasons," I say. "The writer highlights 'aggressive atheism' and the church's over-reaction to it."

"We circled the wagons," she nods. "We simplified. We covered up instead of opening out."

She sits back in her chair, seemingly satisfied, and I start to relax. I will never learn. "Pour yourself another whisky," she smiles at me. "You've earned it."

I reach for the decanter. "So that's the problem," she says quietly and my hand freezes as she leans forward again.

"Now what do you think is the solution?" she says.

No comments:

Post a Comment