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Unformatted text preview: -1- For Goody Cable and of course Rennie, always When one does not see what one does not see, one does not even see that one is blind. -Paul Veyne A Bantam Book / December 1996 -2- Table of contents PART ONE Friday, May 10 Tuesday, May 14 Thursday, May 16 Friday, May 17 Saturday, May 18 Saturday, May 18 (cont.) Saturday, May 18 (cont.) Sunday, May 19 Sunday, May 19 (cont.) Sunday, May 19 (cont.) Monday, May 20 Monday, May 20 (cont.) Tuesday, May 21 Wednesday, May 22 Thursday, May 23 5 9 9 12 15 17 21 23 27 31 35 44 49 55 56 PART TWO Friday, May 24 (two A.M.) Friday, May 24 (ten P.M) 58 71 PART THREE Date unknown Saturday, June 1 Monday, June 3 Tuesday, June 4 Wednesday, June 5 Saturday, June 8 95 97 99 102 103 103 Epilogue Undated 112 The Public Teachings The Great Forgetting The Boiling Frog The Collapse of Values Population: A Systems Approach The Great Remembering 114 122 130 136 146 -3- -4- PART ONE Friday, May 10 A Diary Today I ducked into a drugstore and bought a notebook—this notebook right here that I’m writing in. Clearly a momentous event. I’ve never kept (or been tempted to keep) a diary of any kind, and I’m not even sure I’m going to keep this one, but I thought I’d better try. I find it’s a peculiar business, because, though I’m supposedly only writing for myself, I feel impelled to explain who I am and what I’m doing here. It makes me suspect that all diarists are in fact writing not for themselves but for posterity. I wonder if there’s a child anywhere who hasn’t, at some stage of awakening consciousness, incorporated into his/her address “The World” and “The Universe.” Having already done that (almost three decades ago), I begin this diary by writing: I am Jared Osborne, a priest, assistant pastor, parish of St. Edward’s, professed of the Order of St. Lawrence, Roman Catholic Church. And having written that, I feel obliged to add: not a very good priest. (Wow, this diary business is hot stuff! These are words I’ve never dared to whisper, even to myself!) Without examining the logic of this too closely, I can say it’s precisely because I’m “not a very good priest” that I feel the need to start this diary at this point in my life. This is excellent. This is exactly where I have to begin. Before I go on to anything else, I have to put it down right here in black-and-white who I am and how I got here, though thank God I don’t have to go back as far as my childhood or anything like that. I just have to go back far enough to figure out how I came to be involved in one of the strangest quests of modern times. Recruiting Poster: Why I’m a Laurentian By long tradition, we Laurentians have been defined in terms of our difference from the Jesuits. Some historians say we’re not as bad, some say we’re worse, and some say the only difference between us is that they have a better instinct for public relations. Both were founded at roughly the same time to combat the Reformation, and when that battle was lost (or at least over), both redefined themselves as elitist educators. And where do little Jesuits and Laurentians come from? Jesuit recruits come from Jesuit schools, and Laurentian recruits come from Laurentian schools. I came to the Laurentians from St. Jerome’s University, the intellectual hearth of the order in the United States. This may explain why I became a Laurentian, but of course it doesn’t explain why I became a priest. All I can say on that point right now is that the reasons I gave when I was in my early twenties no longer seem very persuasive to me. The important thing to note here is that I was considered a real comer when I was an undergraduate. I was expected to be another jewel in the crown—but by the time postdoctoral studies rolled around, I’d been spotted as a rhinestone—plenty of flash but pure paste. I was a big disappointment to everybody, most of all to me, of course. My superiors were as nice about it as they could be. I was never going to be invited to join the faculty at St. Jerome’s or any other of the order’s universities, but they did offer to find a place for me at one of their prep schools. Or if I didn’t care to be humiliated quite that much, I could be loaned out to the diocese for work in the parochial trenches. I chose the latter, which is how I ended up at St. Ed’s. I say I’m not a very good priest. I suppose this is a bit like a cart horse saying it’s not a very good horse, because it expected to be raced but couldn’t make the grade. The blunt truth is that you don’t have to be a very good priest to make the grade at the parish level. This observation is not as cynical as it sounds—the priest is only a mediator of grace, not a source of grace, after all. Sure, you’ve got to be even-tempered and patient and tolerant of human shortcomings (which says a lot), but nobody expects to you be a St. Paul or a St. Francis, and a sacrament that comes to you from the hands of an utter swine is every bit as efficacious as one that comes to you from the hands of a paragon. The way things -5- are going nowadays, you’ll be considered a bloody treasure if you don’t turn out to be a child molester or a public drunk. Enter Fr. Lulfre Six days ago I got a nice little note from the dean’s secretary asking if I would be so kind as to present myself next Wednesday (day before yesterday) at the office of Fr. Bernard Lulfre at three o’clock in the afternoon. Well, now, that was interesting. Dear Diary, I can tell right off the bat that you don’t know who this Bernard Lulfre is, so I’ll have to enlighten you. In a word, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin was the Jesuits’ superstar, and Bernard Lulfre is ours. Teilhard de Chardin was a geologist and a paleontologist, and Bernard Lulfre is an archaeologist and a psychiatrist. The difference, typically, is that Teilhard de Chardin is world famous, while Bernard Lulfre is known to about ten people (with names like Karl Popper, Marshall McLuhan, Roland Barthes, Noam Chomsky, and Jacques Derrida). Never mind. To those who breathe the rarefied air of the scholarly Alps, Bernard Lulfre is a heavyweight. While an undergraduate at St. Jerome’s, I wrote a paper proposing that, although belief in an afterlife may have given rise to the practice of burying the dead with their possessions, it’s just as plausible to suppose that the practice of burying the dead with their possessions gave rise to a belief in an afterlife. The course instructor passed it on to Bernard Lulfre, thinking it might be publishable in one of the journals he was associated with. Of course it wasn’t, but it brought me to the great man’s attention, and for a season I was shown round as a promising youngster at faculty teas. When I entered the novitiate a year later, it was imagined by some that I was a sort of protégé, a misconception I foolishly did not discourage. Fr. Lulfre may have followed my progress in the years that followed, but if so, he did it at a very great distance, and when my academic career began to falter, his remoteness began to be interpreted (with equal imaginativeness) as a withdrawal. In the five years since my ordination, until that nice invitation arrived from the dean’s office, I hadn’t heard from him once (and hadn’t expected to). Naturally I was curious, but I wasn’t exactly holding my breath. He wasn’t going to offer to send me to the ball in a coach-and-four. Probably he was going to ask for a small favor of some kind. Maybe some folks at St. Jerome’s wanted to know something about somebody at St. Ed’s, and they said, “Why don’t we have Fr. Lulfre contact that young Fr. Osborne who works there?” No one would hesitate to ask me to do a bit of spying for the order if spying was needed. We’ve had our own private espionage network for centuries and think of it as being not one whit less honorable than that of MI16 or the CIA. (We’re quite proud of our intrigues —in a quiet way, of course. During the last decades of Elizabeth’s reign, for example, our “English College” at Rheims infiltrated scores of priest spies into Britain to keep the spirit of insurrection alive among English Catholics. Our greatest coup was achieved in 1773, when Pope Clement XIV was feeling some scruples about destroying his old friends the Jesuits; it was one of our own who showed him how to reason with his tender conscience and get the job done.) The order is our homeland, after all, and it would be taken for granted that, even in exile, I would never allow some paltry diocesan or parochial concern to supersede my loyalty to it. On the other hand, if it was something as simple as this, then a phone call would have been sufficient. The more I pondered the problem, the more intrigued I became. At Fr. Luffre’s office Nothing had changed at Fr. Lulfre’s office since I’d last visited it some ten years before: It was in the same corner of the same floor of the same building. Fr. Lulfre hadn’t changed either: Still six and a half feet tall, as broad as a door, with a massive, rough-hewn head that might belong to a stevedore or a trucker. Men like him somehow don’t change much till they reach an age like seventy or eighty, when they fall apart overnight and are whisked away. I’ve been around enough brilliant men to know that they’re seldom brilliant in real time, and Fr. Lulfre is no exception. He greeted me with unconvincing heartiness, made some awkward small talk, and seemed ready to beat around the bush for hours. Unfortunately, I wasn’t in the mood to collaborate -6- with him on that, and after five minutes a dreadful silence overtook us. With the distinct air of someone biting the bullet, he said: “I want you to know, Jared, that there are many men in the order who know you’re capable of doing more than you’ve been asked to do.” Well, shucks, I wanted to say, but didn’t. I murmured something or other to the effect that I was gratified to hear this, but I doubt if I managed to keep every trace of irony out of my voice. Fr. Lulfre sighed, evidently realizing that he still had some biting to do on this bullet. Deciding to give him a break, I told him, “If you’ve got a different assignment for me, Father, you certainly don’t have to be shy about proposing it. You have a ready listener here.” “Thank you, Jared, I appreciate that,” he said—but still seemed reluctant to go on. At last he said, rather stiffly, as if he didn’t expect to be believed, “You will remember the special mandate of our order.” For a moment I just stared at him blankly. Then of course I did remember it. The mandate about the Antichrist. The “Special Mandate” In studying the history of the Laurentians, every novice learns that the original charter of our order includes a special mandate regarding the Antichrist, enjoining us to be in the vanguard in our vigilance. We’re to know before all others that the Antichrist is among us—and we’re to suppress or destroy him, if that should prove to be possible. At the time the mandate was written, of course, it was taken for granted that the identity of the Antichrist was a settled matter: It was Luther and his hellish company. As this confident understanding gradually became unfocused, the Laurentians began to argue among themselves about the means by which the mandate was to be fulfilled. If we were to be vigilant, what were we supposed to be vigilant for? By the middle of the seventeenth century, everyone in Europe had heard so many people accused of being the Antichrist that they were heartily sick of the whole subject, and speculation along those lines became more or less what it is today, the domain of religious cranks—except among the Laurentians, who quietly developed their own distinctive (and unsanctioned) Antichrist theology. The Antichrist comes to us from a prophecy of John, who wrote in his first letter, “Children, it is the final hour. You’ve been told that the Antichrist is coming, and now not one but a multitude of Antichrists have appeared, so there can be no doubt whatever that the final hour is upon us.” When this “final hour” failed to arrive during the lifetime of John’s contemporaries, Christians of each succeeding generation looked for signs of the Antichrist in their own era. At first they looked for persecutors of the Church, preeminently Nero, who was expected to return from the dead to continue his war against Christ. When Roman persecution became a thing of the past, the Antichrist degenerated into a sort of folktale monster, a huge, bloody-eyed, donkey-eared, iron-toothed bogeyman. As the Middle Ages wore on and more and more people became disgusted with ecclesiastical corruption, the papacy itself began to be identified as the Antichrist. Finally popes and reformers spent a century belaboring each other with the bad name. When the Laurentians, with their special mandate, began to rethink the matter in the centuries that followed, they went all the way back to fundamentals and took note of the fact that prophecies are seldom literal predictions of future events. Often they’re not even recognized as prophecies until they’re fulfilled. Numerous examples of this occur in the New Testament, where events in the life of Jesus are described as fulfilling ancient prophecies that were not necessarily understood as prophecies by those who enunciated them. Laurentian theologians reasoned this way: If prophecies about Christ must wait upon their fulfillment to be understood, why shouldn’t the same be true of prophecies about Antichrist? In other words, we can’t really know what John was talking about until it actually happens, so the Antichrist is almost certain to be different from whatever we imagine him to be. If someone tells you that Saddam Hussein is the Antichrist (and he has in fact been nominated for that honor), you’re absolutely right to laugh. The Antichrist isn’t going to be a worse sort of Hitler or Stalin, because worse than them will just be more of the same in a higher degree—sixty million murdered instead of six million. If you’re going to be on guard against the Antichrist and not just some ordinary villain, you have to be on guard against someone of an entirely new order of dangerousness. -7- And that’s where things stand at the end of the second millennium. But not exactly. This is just the “official” word, and the impression you get on receiving it in the Laurentian novitiate is that the Antichrist thing is a dead issue and has been so for nearly two centuries. What I now learned from Fr. Lulfre was that this impression is a false one, engendered as a deliberate policy in the novices, primarily to forestall babbling that could end up as an embarrassing story in the sensationalist press. The policy works. Among the peasantry of the order, the subject of the Antichrist never comes up. At the topmost levels, however, a discreet watch is still kept. Very occasionally—maybe once in fifty years—a worrisome individual pops up, and someone from the order is sent out to have a look. Someone like me. Someone exactly like me. The candidate The candidate was one Charles Atterley, a forty-year-old American, a sort of itinerant preacher who had been circling the middle states of Europe for a decade, picking up a fairly large but unorganized following that seemed to defy all demographic sense and wisdom. It included young and old and everything in between, both sexes in roughly equal numbers, mainstream Christians and Jews, clergy of a dozen different denominations (including the Roman Catholic), atheists, humanists, rabbis, Buddhists, environmentalist radicals, capitalists and socialists, lawyers and anarchists, liberals and conservatives. The only groups notably unrepresented in the mix were skinheads, Bible-thumpers, and unrepentant Marxists. Atterley’s message seemed difficult to summarize and was typically characterized as “mindboggling” by those who were favorably impressed and as “incomprehensible” by those who weren’t. I told Fr. Lulfre I didn’t understand what made him seem dangerous. “What makes him dangerous,” he said, “is the fact that no one can place him or his product. He’s not selling meditation or Satanism or goddess worship or faith healing or spiritualism or Umbanda or speaking in tongues or any kind of New Age drivel. He’s apparently not making money at all—and that’s disquieting. You always know what someone’s about when he’s raking in millions. Atterley’s not another example of some familiar model, like David Koresh or the Reverend Moon or Madame Blavatsky or Uri Geller. In fact, his presentation and lifestyle are more reminiscent of Jesus of Nazareth than anyone else, and that too is disquieting.” “Disquieting I understand,” I said. “Dangerous I don’t.” “People are listening, Jared—possibly to something quite new. That makes it dangerous.” This I could understand. Anyone who thinks the Church is open to new ideas is living in a dreamworld. The assignment Atterley was presently in Salzburg, Fr. Lulfre said. I was to go there, listen, watch, hang out, and report back. When I asked who my European contact would be, I was told there would be none. I was to contact no one in the order under any circumstances. I would travel under my own name, making no secret of my priesthood but not broadcasting it either. I would travel in civilian clothes, as if vacationing. “Why doesn’t someone in Europe handle this?” I asked. “Because Atterley’s an American.” “But he’s talking to Europeans.” “Don’t be simple, Jared. Europe is just a rehearsal. Whatever else the United States has lost in the last three or four decades, it’s still the world’s style setter, and nothing will catch on everywhere unless it catches on here first. Atterley knows this, if he’s half as bright as people think he is, and when he’s ready for us, he’ll be here, count on it. And that’s why you’re going to Europe: We want to be ready for him before he’s ready for us.” “You seem to be taking him very seriously.” Fr. Lulfre shrugged. “If we don’t take him seriously, then we might as well not take him at all.” -8- After discussing a few mundane matters, like travel agencies and credit cards, I got up to leave, a heavy question in my mind causing me to drag my feet. At the door I finally got it out. “And what happens afterward? To me, I mean.” He chewed on this for a minute, then asked me what I wanted to happen. “I don’t know,” I said. “If you think I’m being wasted at St. Ed’s, then what’s the plan? Were you thinking I’d go back and waste myself some more?” “You’re right to ask,” he said, as if I didn’t already know it. “There is no plan as such, but I feel it’s an unspoken assumption that this would mark the beginning of something new for you.” “I’d rather hear it as a spoken assumption, Fr. Lulfre.” “You’ve heard it spoken by me, Jared. Won’t that do?” I wouldn’t have minded hearing it spoken by a few other people, but he didn’t offer to arrange such a thing, and I didn’t want to be churlish about it, so I told him sure. The end of the beginning That was the day before yesterday. Yesterday and today I’ve spent canceling appointments, parceling out my duties at St. Ed’s, making travel arrangements, and bringing this diary up to date. There’s something else on my mind that should go in here (maybe a lot), but I don’t quite know what it is and won’t have any leisure to look for it till I get on the plane to cross the Atlantic. Tuesday, May 14 Salzburg If a spymaster in Len Deighton or John Le Carré sends you to have a look at a man in Salzburg, chances are the man will be found in Salzburg. Real-life spymasters are not as reliable as this. Charles Atterley is not in Salzburg. As far as I’ve been able to learn in two days, he’s never been here and isn’t expected here. In fact, no one has ever heard of him. Salzburg, however, is very cute and full of Olde Worlde Charm, and the locals tell me again and again, “Your friend is probably waiting for you in München.” They make it sound as if Munich is packed solid with American friends that have been mislaid in Salzburg, and one of them is bound to be mine....
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