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Sunday, 28 August 2016

Destitute of all power

And as his glance returned yet once more to the window of the Vatican, and he fancied he could see a pale hand uplifted behind the glass panes, he thought of that papal benediction which Leo XIII gave from that height, over Rome, and over the plain and the hills, to the faithful of all Christendom. And that papal benediction suddenly seemed to him a mockery, destitute of all power, since throughout such a multitude of centuries it had not once been able to stay a single one of the sufferings of mankind, and could not even bring a little justice for those poor wretches who were agonising yonder beneath the very window.
Emile Zola - Rome (1896)

This is something Zola does so well. Priest Pierre Froment is losing his faith after a visit to Lourdes followed by a sojourn in Rome trying to gain papal support for a religiously radical book he has published.

In his lowly naiveté, Father Froment thought his ideas could be a route back to the ancient values of his Christian faith, a means to extricate the Catholic Church from the moral quicksand of political intrigue.

Pierre glances up at that high window, having already seen the squalid side of Rome, the filth and poverty in close proximity to Vatican wealth, grandeur and endlessly subtle political machinations. He now knows that without its political resources the Vatican would be doomed, as his faith is doomed by exposure to the realities and exigencies of political power.

An interesting question arises if we ask ourselves if power is on the move again. It may be that traditional political power is on the wane - look at the people it attracts. Their benedictions are also a mockery, destitute of all power.

4 comments:

Sackerson said...

In the form of money and its servants, power has found a way to make itself more remote, almost unspottable, yet greater.

Demetrius said...

Leo XIII offered the rosary as a means of dealing with poverty. Now we have reality TV.

Roger said...

I feel that there is something of a land-grab for the trappings of power. The old masses have been left behind (in the west at least) and the bourgeoisie are getting worried that their ladder is being pulled up as well. Well they might, there are not enough truly good things to go round to all that might once have enjoyed them.

A K Haart said...

Sackers - I agree, although ordinary consumer behaviour may be a source of power too. In that sense we seem to be in a power loop.

Demetrius - I suppose in one sense reality TV is a kind of poverty.

Roger - the main thing going for the bourgeoisie seems to be spending power, but that could change as automation eats into economic life.