Novell: This Church Without Zeal or Love Reminds us of Voltaire's brutal diagnosis. By Juan Manuel de Prada*

How is it possible that the faithful and priests of Solsona did not notice the drifting away of their bishop?

To anyone not infested by vileness, Bishop Novell's resignation should cause immense sadness at the spectacle of a life broken in its very marrow, sadness at that abysmal wound that drives a man to betray his commitment.

There is no more heartbreaking spectacle than that of a man who abandones a freely assumed commitment: the betrayal of a friend, the disloyalty to a spouse, the repudiation of a vocation.

Behind such decisions there is always - unless the one who made the decision is a fool or an impostor - a lot of secret agony, festering pain, and a lot of dark night of the soul. Rather than for scorn or condemnation, these cases should be used for humble and pious meditation.

For what happened to Bishop Novell could happen to us tomorrow, unless we are those "flawless armours" about which Péguy says: "They do not represent that door to Grace which is essentially sin. [...] The love of God does not kiss the one who has no wounds. He who has not fallen will not be picked up; he who is not dirty will never be cleansed".

Novell, at least, has the chance to have fallen and to be dirty; and, therefore, he can be picked up and cleansed. Something that perhaps those who let him fall, after having elevated him, cannot say.

For, apart from the sadness of the case, we must highlight the blind and impersonal bureaucracy of an ecclesiastical society that neglects discernment in vocations, that renounces fraternal correction (and Novell had been crying out for it for many years) and that, finally, ceases to be Veronica and Cyrene for those who live a Calvary.

How is it possible that the faithful and priests of Solsona did not notice the drifting away of their bishop? How is it possible that their mitred brothers did not bend down to wipe his face or carry his cross, seeing him prostrate on the ground?

This Church without zeal or love, routinised, disconnected, sick with solipsism, which has lost the insight to correct and console, which lets a brother fall ill without realising that he is ill, reminds us of Voltaire's brutal diagnosis: "They enter without knowing each other, they live without loving each other, they die without mourning each other".

In recent days there has been wild speculation that Bishop Novell may have been possessed by evil. But we must not forget that, when the devil takes possession of his victims, the devil is unable to conquering their will (and contents himself with depriving them of it); so it cannot be said that possessed persons sin or, therefore, condemn their souls.

What purpose, then, would diabolical possession have? The aim of the devil is never the possessed, but we, the observers.
He wants us to despair because we are not "flawless shells", he wants us to reject our frail humanity, he wants us to see ourselves as beasts, as vile and unclean, horrible, and unworthy of God's love. But God, who sees in the darkness of our wounds, is ready to kiss them. Also, those of Bishop Novell.

*Juan Manuel de Prada Blanco, 50, is a Spanish writer, literary critic, and columnist. He is considered one of the greatest talents in contemporary Spanish literature. His article appeared originally on
"This Church Without Zeal or Love Reminds us of Voltaire's brutal diagnosis"
Reminiscence of Voltaire's diagnosis reminds me that Mr. Arouet belonged to the synagogue of Satan.