My sincere gratitude goes out to reader Alison for pointing out this post over at The Sensible Bond. It is beautiful.
The blogger quotes from Georges Bernanos:
Phariseeism is a particular kind of crime that cruelly tests the patience of the saints, while merely making poor Christians like me either bitter or disgusted.
But I do not trust my indignation or my disgust: indignation never saved anybody and it has probably led to the loss of many souls. All those simoniacal orgies in 16th century Rome would have been of little use to the devil if they had not brought about this unique achievement of casting Luther into despair, and with him two thirds of the sorrowing Christian world. Luther and his followers despaired of the Church, and whoever despairs of the Church risks – by a curious paradox – despairing sooner or later of Man. Protestantism from this perspective seems to me like a compromise with despair. […]
Churchmen would have willingly put up with Luther’s joining his voice to that of others who were more illustrious and holier and who were constantly denouncing such disorders. But Martin Luther’s tragedy was to try to reform them. Let’s try to grasp the nuance here. […]
It is a fact of experience that nothing can be reformed in the Church by ordinary means. Whoever attempts to reform the Church by such means, the same means by which one would reform a temporal institution, not only fails in his entreprise, but ends up infallibly outside the Church. I say that, by some kind of tragic fate, he finds himself outside the Church before anyone has taken the trouble to exclude him. He renounces its spirit, its dogmas, he becomes its enemy without hardly realising, and if he attempts to turn back, each step takes him further away […]
One can only reform the Church by suffering for her; one can only reform the visible Church by suffering for the invisible Church. One cannot reform the Church’s vices except by pouring out the example of the most heroic virtue. It’s possible that St Francis of Assisi was no less disgusted than Martin Luther by the debauchery and simony of prelates. It is even certain that they made him suffer more cruelly than Luther because he was a very different man from the German monk. But he did not defy iniquity or try to confront it; he threw himself into poverty, plunged himself into it as much as he could, as if it were the fountain of healing and purity. Instead of trying to rip from the hands of the Church her ill gotten goods, he filled her with invisible treasures, and under the guidance of this beggar, the heaps of gold and riches began to flower like a hedgerow in April. Can I say – in the hope of being understood better by some readers – that the Church does not need critics but poets? When there is a crisis in poetry, what is important is not to denounce the bad poets or even to hang them, but to write beautiful verse, to reopen the sacred fountains of inspiration.