1636 The Vatican Sanctions – Snippet 26

“Necessity compelled us to cap the non-Catholic representatives to the colloquium at seventy. We arrived at that number by assessing how many sects needed representation, where their most respected theologians or authorities were located, how long it would take to contact them all, get a reply, and then fetch the farther ones here using airships.

“I must also point out that, excluding a few exceptional cases, our invitations were not to individuals but to the different communities of faith. Obviously, had His Holiness or any other Church representative selected specific members from faiths which do not have their own clear hierarchies, our process would have been open to — and would have deserved — accusations of picking the attendees we felt would be serviceable to our agenda.”

Caetani of Rome looked up. “We have an agenda? Have I missed something?”

There were a few laughs; Mazzare smiled. “You have missed nothing, Your Eminence. In this case” — and it may be a first in Church history, up-time or down-time — “the agenda is no more and no less than has been declared openly: the building of an ecumenical bridge, hopefully in the direction of a more peaceful future.”

Dietrichstein tapped the head of his cane testily. “I am surprised that any of the Reformationists are attending at all.”

Caetani looked at him, frowning. “Why? Because they are so suspicious?”

“No. Because they are so quarrelsome. They had to decide whom to send? I am surprised they have been able to conclude those deliberations within the decade, let alone within the year.”

Mazzare was grateful for the low, but pervasive, rumble of laughter in the salon. Because the joke had come from Dietrichstein, it had extra power to clear the lingering miasma of bitter intolerance. Now, before the miasma came back — “His Holiness had a similar reservation, but evidently, the Lord chose to work in mysterious ways on this occasion. That, and there may have been an extra level of urgency added by our stipulation that, if a group was unable to agree upon representatives, there could be no promise of admission to the later, determinative meetings. Still,” Mazzare finished with a sigh, “I can tell you in all candor that, taken as a whole, getting everyone here was a most difficult undertaking.”

“For which we thank you, Cardinal Mazzare,” said von Harrach of Hungary with just enough formality to impart official appreciation, yet not enough to seem aloof.

Larry smiled. “I wish I could take the credit, Your Eminence, but most of the planning and all of the resources were provided by the USE in general, and the State of Thuringia-Franconia in particular.”

That comment brought Péter Pázmány to his feet. Another elder statesman of the Counter-Reformation — a silver-tongued Cicero compared to Dietrichstein’s bulldog — the other Hungarian took his time, arranged his cassock, folded his hands and looked around the room, before fixing his eyes on Larry Mazzare. “Cardinal Mazzare, why is it that you are unwilling to speak to us? Do you feel unwelcome?”

Mazzare shook his head. “No, Cardinal Pázmány. I feel that this council has welcomed me warmly and freely. But I fear that hindsight might make it wish it had not. Unless, that is, I restrain my participation.”

Pázmány frowned. “Would you mind explaining that, Your Eminence?”

Larry nodded. “I have watched — carefully — how the people of this world have treated us up-timers. I will not say we are well, or even widely loved. Our ways are different, and we portend change that many people find profoundly, and understandably, unwelcome. Yet you have made me welcome in your world.” He looked around the room. “I have never presumed that this is easily achieved, particularly given the troublesome perspectives and documents I brought with me from the twentieth century. Amongst which were the collective papal constitutions and declarations known as Vatican II, which, ultimately, gave rise to this colloquium.”

Larry spread his hands. “Even in my century, Vatican II did not merely send ripples but quakes through the bedrock of the Church. It incited resistance, rejection, and talk of rebellion, of schisms within our community. All this, even though we had been making steady progress in that direction for over three hundred and fifty years. How, then, could such a document and its concepts fail to be still more titanically dislocating, and even terrifying, in this time?” A few murmurs of assent rose into the silence as Larry took a deep breath.

“It might seem to you that I am the natural voice to defend the value of Vatican II, or at least its revelations into the deeper mind and intents of God, but I would argue that I am the last person that should do so.” He saw the puzzled looks around the room. He smiled. “If I were to speak on behalf of the products of my century, you would all acknowledge my authority…but you would also rightly think, ‘but he has the least understanding of how this will impact our world, how it seems to our minds, in this very different time and place.’ And so, I recuse myself from any participation other than to answer your questions, as best I may, about the documents that have shaped His Holiness’ ruminations upon this meeting and the encyclical he has been crafting. Which in no way, I must point out, resemble Vatican II in any of their specifics. As His Holiness has already said, the up-time documents have served merely as an inspiration for the ecumenical discussions we shall have, not as a roadmap.”

He swept all the faces with a steady gaze. “You have allowed me to exist and now serve among you, a visitor to your world. But this is your world. And I would do your welcome and trust a dishonor if I now tried to transfer the beliefs and reactions of my time into yours. It would not merely be a rude usurpation; it would be folly.”

Pázmány’s posture had changed from one of readiness to debate, to one of careful regard. “That is most empathetically considered, Cardinal Mazzare. You have certainly foreseen how your role in this could become problematic and have, I deem, taken all the steps you may to prevent that. But I wonder if your role is the only one which merits that measure of caution and scrutiny. I speak, of course, of the power that, by your own admission, has enabled almost every aspect of this gathering: the USE.”

Mazzare had a notion of where Pázmány was going but wasn’t going to lead him there on the off chance he had a different discursive destination in mind. “I’m not sure what you are referring to, Your Eminence.”

Pázmány picked up a thick sheaf of papers. “I have read all the proceedings from Molino last year. And in it, Father Wadding made an excellent point: that we should not take steps that make us beholden to a power outside the Church, particularly one that arguably remains hostile. Interestingly, His Holiness agreed. Purportedly, that was why he has not dwelt in the USE, and has not convened either the council or the colloquium there. He wisely foresaw that the Vicar of Christ must not shelter in, as you put it last year, someone else’s house. And if he speaks from such a place, particularly ex cathedra, he is weakening his words before they are uttered.”

Larry nodded. “Which is why we have chosen Besançon, Your Eminence. There is an absolute insistence upon religious freedom and toleration, stemming from the relationship between the very highest persons in the land.”

“Yes,” Pázmány allowed, “akin to the religious toleration that enabled Gustav to proffer the offer of membership in the United States of Europe to Claudia de Medici, in her role as regent for her young sons. An offer which she readily accepted, and which therefore ultimately brings us back to the same concern: that even though these proceedings are not housed in the USE, their validity becomes questionable simply because they have been financed and effectuated by a Lutheran emperor and are being held in a land where the sovereign is not a son of the Church, and his spouse has vassal-like ties to that same Lutheran Emperor. Indeed, I would argue that the up-time councils invoked during your debate in Molino, Cardinal Mazzare, show that even those almost unthinkably liberal Church fathers of your time still understood and obeyed the basic principle of speaking from a position — a physical position — of strength.

“Specifically, I refer to the convocation of Vatican II. Why does it have that name? Because of its location. It was in the Holy See. Within a Catholic country. Protected by allies that were overwhelmingly Catholic and had proven themselves the Vatican’s friends — and never its enemies.” Pázmány shook his head. “Even in that up-time world, where the Church was in no immediate danger of extinction, those popes nonetheless understood that where one makes one’s decisions sends a message as well. In short, if you are promulgating doctrine, you do it from the very seat of your power.

“It is impossible to overstate how much more pertinent that strategy is here, in a world so riddled by self-proclaimed arch-foes of the Church. The location of this council sends a clear signal that Mother Church is homeless. The fact that it has to rely upon the money and resources of a Lutheran sovereign further proves that it is reduced to beggary.

Pázmány crossed his arms. “And so one must wonder if, in this position of singular vulnerability, we can afford not to ask how, in fact, the Church’s reliance upon Good Samaritans for support and shelter influences how it makes decisions, and therefore, what decisions are actually made. To carry forward one of the analogies invoked at Molino, how much freedom does one have when speaking beneath a host’s roof? For instance, can a guest, but particularly a weak one, afford to assert that his host does not possess his own house, but rather, that it rightly belongs to you? Because that is the case here: the keys to the kingdom of heaven were entrusted to the Prelate of Rome and to him alone.

“Can you call your host to account for the injustices and atrocities he has heaped upon your family, or in this case Catholics, from one end of Europe to the other? And more to the point, even if you could ask these questions beneath your host’s roof, should you be there to do so?”

His tone became more intimate, as if he were talking to a friend over mulled wine on a winter evening. “In our own home, we set our own schedule, are secure in our own walls and with our own provisioning. There, we are strong: strong enough to decide and do whatever we must. Outside such a place, not all of us may frankly and boldly speak and act as God’s grace would guide us. And if we cannot be sure of that, then by what right do we lead his flock, that for fear of offending a host, we refrain from speaking truth as bluntly as we might? Or that we resign ourselves to a comfortable middle course when our conscience tells us we must follow a harder, holy path? Why should the Church continue to exist, if we have been lulled by good manners into playing the part of Judas, of buying our shelter here not with thirty pieces of silver, but by betraying the Truth and the Word that is Christ our Savior?

“So, in summary, I ask you, is it right — or safe — to accept the hospitality of a host knowing that your honesty will offend him?” Pázmány drew up to his full height. “I say no. Do not go to his house. And so, preserve both your honor and his.” He turned his head slowly toward Larry.

And he waited.