Rex Mottram, the Weather Forecast and Papal Infallibility

Rex Mottram’s casual acceptance of Roman Catholic dogma scores a twofer in this week’s conservative Catholic websites. Earlier in the week, it was his understanding of sacred monkeys in the Vatican that rated a mention. Now another site, The Stream, carries a story linking Rex’s acquiescent understanding of Papal authority to a recent Vatican pronouncement on global warming. According to blogger John Zmirak:

Catholics now have it on good authority that the pope can predict the weather a hundred years out. The claim confirms as true something Evelyn Waugh once wrote as a joke. In Brideshead Revisited, the character Rex Mottram is a scheming, insincere convert to Catholicism. Eager to please, he tells the priest instructing him whatever he thinks he will want to hear. Hence the following priceless exchange, which starts with a question from the priest:

“So you understand the dogma of papal infallibility?”
“Oh yes Father.”
“Suppose the pope says that it’s going to rain tomorrow. Does that mean it will rain?”
“Oh yes Father.”
“But supposing it doesn’t rain, what then?”
“Well … Uh … I guess it would be, ah, spiritually raining. Only … We were too sinful to see it!”

This quote, however, isn’t exactly the way Waugh wrote it. The question Fr. Mowbray put to Rex was, “…does our Lord have more than one nature?” To that, Rex replied, “Just as many as you say, Father.” The questioning then continues more or less as in the quote. (Brideshead Revisited, Penguin, p. 185).  Zmirak goes on to argue that the recent Papal pronouncement is being interpreted by Papal spokesmen to mean that global warming is the result of human activity and not natural causes. This in turn means, according to Zmirak, that Roman Catholics “who deny that human beings are causing catastrophic global warming, and that it must be stopped through drastic restrictions on our use of energy” are committing a sin. This may be an oversimplification, but in essence Zmirak posits that, once again, as with the sacred monkeys, Rex inadvertently got it right.

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