Patrick Fitzmike and Mike Fitzpatrick
By Larry Smith
Patrick Fitzmike: The Good Fight
I'm sorry but I can't think of anything wickeder than a bunch of goddamn gravediggers going on strike and, if there was anything that proved my point about Communism, it was when those bastards did just that. So I recruited a squadron of seminarians to do that holy decent work and break that unholy indecent strike. "Understand what we are being called upon to do," I told the boys we recruited. "These evil men, for thirty more pieces of gold than what they're already accustomed to getting paid, are ready to stand by and watch while the dead pile up and decompose at the pleasure of the collective bargaining process, ready to impose the horror of that reeking carnage on poor families already sunk in grief with the loss of their loved ones. Some of you may have your own feelings about strikes and those who break them, and you are entitled to your opinions—but not now! It is God's work to bury the dead. It is Joseph Stalin's work to desecrate their corpses. You will dig, young gentlemen. You will dig deep enough into the earth, you will dig six feet under the earth, and you will dig six feet north to south. You will do so again and again for as long as you are needed to. As God is my witness, and as I can still draw breath, no one will shame you for doing so or dare try to stop you from doing so."
So then Hemingway writes me a letter and calls me a fascist. The stench of the dead was infecting the air in Queens—I'll admit some rhetorical license as to the preservative efficacy of the embalmer's art—and that damn hairy bastard calls me a fascist, while, right here within the Church itself, I've got my own sinister gonfalons to deal with too. Understand what I'm saying, we had come upon such times as to have people inside the Catholic Church, themselves a part of or ostensibly a part of God's body on this planet, defend those who would displace or keep the dead displaced from their resting places. I would have expected even the worst among us to be better than that. For example, as much as I had always simply loathed her, I still could not believe, even then I still could not believe, that Dorothy Day would lend her support to a bunch of goddamn wops who at the end of the day weren't doing anything more or anything less than extorting, or trying to extort the families of the dead, yes, extorting the dead themselves for a few extra shekels to drink up on Friday nights. If there was ever a moment I acted with conscience, it was then, I couldn't stand it then and I cannot now stand the idea of the dead going unburied, and piling up and starting to stink, and I couldn't believe it, I just couldn't believe how many people simply turned on me, they turned on me, while the wives and parents and nieces and nephews of the dead were huddled in their little homes and huts and hovels in Elmhurst and Woodside and Maspeth just praying that their mothers and brothers and Lord knows who else might know eternal rest at last instead of just to lie around and stink like carrion and praying too that the goddamn city of New York would not let those red bastards get their abominable, their unspeakably abominable way. Say what you want about O'Malley and Scheidman, they'd never let corpses, anybody's corpses pile up in mountains of the dead, mountainous feculent reproaches to the living. Maybe we're not perfect, but have the rest of you all lost all sense of decency? For Jesus Christ's sake, answer me that.
Then there was the Church school funding thing, and that wretched Roosevelt woman rears her grand dame head again. But I saw no way out, I was losing too many chips where the hands could have gone either way and I thought it judicious to regroup a little, so I went to Hyde Park to slobber over the old witch. "Eleanor, we're friends from way back and we don't want to let this get out of hand," I tell her. "Maybe I said some unwise, harsh things to the newspapers, but you have to understand how deeply this issue affects me. But I want to start off by apologizing. I want first and foremost to ask for your forbearance."
I figured if I apologized privately, and if I did so fast enough, there'd be less chance she'd ask for a public apology—which, trust me, I would never stoop to. I'll writhe in private because it just doesn't mean so much in the long run, but I won't codify self-abasement in the public record, never.
"I understand, Patrick. Of course I understand. I'd only ask that you bear in mind that public decisions not supportive of the Church's position are not anti-Catholic in intent or sentiment."
Ah, so where did she come off calling me "Patrick?" She hadn't called me "Patrick" since the thirties. I thought to myself, Eleanor darling, I will eat your shit but someday I will see you buried in it. She invited me to visit her in October when the leaves around Hyde Park were just so utterly exquisite (ah, "utterly exquisite," don't you know!). She and Rose Kennedy were as different as two gargoyles could be but gargoyles they were, both of them. Gargoyles with tits, gargoyles with sagging wrinkled tits. I never knew a liberal who wouldn't turn on you. After I took it up the ass a few times in Boston in the old days, I swore no one was going to get over me like that again, but these liberals just walk around with jelly on their dongs. Here's another example of that: I got that bastard appointed to the Supreme Court, it was me, goddamn it, you think Eisenhower would ever have gone for him except for me, and then His Honor turns on me, he says I dishonored America, do you hear me, that man is on record, that Supreme Court Justice is on record saying that I dishonored America. The only thing he ever did in his life with any emphasis or enduring impact was to dishonor the sacrament of marriage—oh, excuse me, Protestants don't actually have sacraments in quite the same invested form as we who dishonor America do, what with our pagan religion and all—and, oh sure, sign his name to alimony checks that he could not really afford to sign.
In 1958, Fitzmike would once again prove his perspicacity, albeit in a losing cause, although in some ways this particular conclave was circus enough to show off far less intelligent men to advantage. Gathered as they were in august assemblage over Pacelli's corpse, one senile old fool kept voting to replace him with Ratti, dead nineteen years at that point! Country of the blind! On the flight over, Fitzmike obsessed over the French, and he'd already warned at least a half-dozen others that the French had something up their sleeves, maybe they were still nursing war wounds, and so hated Pacelli, and that they might even take a particular perverse zeal in springing some sort of a surprise. Which, as we know, is exactly what they did; Fitzmike was stolidly unapologetic when word circulated that he had called Roncalli a banana peddler. Fitzmike could live with it in any event. Roncalli was ancient already, he wouldn't be around long enough to cause any damage (and how many if any amongst them could be ardent or purposeful in allegiance to some cockamamie Celestine revival, for Christ's sakes), and Pacelli's great tradition would go on, be revivified if it even needed to be revivified, as it always had throughout history and always would. The new Pope sent him to Latin America where Somoza introduced him to an amusing queen named Isaak Mendoza, who practically pranced the distinguished visitor into his bedroom to show off a vast collection of perfumes and, obeying an impulse he knew would be inconsequential, took a quick taste of Isaak Mendoza while half the Nicaraguan general staff milled about the parlor. The Kennedys cultivated Roncalli and once again he had occasion to seethe with resentment of the old woman who was now talking up Fitzpatrick more than ever, talking up that drunken old queer all the time, and her sons were doing the same, and there wasn't much I could do about it, having supported Nixon, which may have been a mistake. Meanwhile, he realized how he had underestimated Roncalli or perhaps the French cabal that had inspirited the change. Liberals crawled out of the woodwork until the very ancient sacred language of the Church was in peril, and baby after sacred baby was thrown out with their bath water.
The doctrinal war continued intra Ecclesiam and, as it did, he felt a certain invigorated confidence as he put things in historical perspective. Hadn't the Church always been beset on every side, and for centuries before Luther? So let the work continue. Sex became less important to him. The big lies of the liberals got bigger, he was confident that their very absurdity, which was bred in their bones, would betray and undo them. When he defended Pacelli from that awful play, he was accused of further driving a wedge between Catholics and Jews, which was patently absurd when his whole point was that Pacelli had always been a friend to the Jews. He saw less of Scheidman who was spending more time now with Mafia clients. New York provided an exhilarating battleground of its own. There was that obscene comedian and there was a growing drug problem. But he relented on civil rights, and said nice things in public about the civil rights people, so Joseph Charles Tyler was disappointed in him for the first time since they'd known each other.
Mike Fitzpatrick: Do the Cognoscenti Have Good Souls?
Let me share a concern that first came upon me in 1963 when I joined with my brothers in elevating Montini to the papacy, sharing with you too a few comparably haunting considerations that over many days and nights I can directly recall as having preoccupied me amidst our august deliberations. Montini was, first of all, like me; that is, the worst of me. As his name ascended ever higher every day during our sessions, as the apotheosis drew near, I could not help but remember my own descents and wonder if anything of that agony—the stark reality of the raw physical submissions if not (for Montini was certainly no drunkard) the alcoholic surfeits that occasioned them—he might have known too, and can or should a man who's ever had such awful knowledge reign upon the human soul, all human souls, when such knowledge even if forgiven may yet render one who's undergone that awful knowledge too tainted or at least too strange in his perceptions for us to contemplate perched atop such a throne as the one we readied for him to sit upon? In what vision, apocalyptic beyond Bosch times a thousand, can the Vicar of Christ, the very head of God's body on earth, ever be sucking on a man's meat in his mouth?
An ancillary consideration arose as I pondered those around me and engaged with them in these very deliberations. Each of them or most of them likewise knew he was like me. Yet they seemed not to care. Those who opposed Montini had altogether different reasons for doing so. I cannot honestly say that I apprehended serious reservations in anyone on the issue, which, to me, loomed like a horrid ghost, a nightmare upon the City. Was their indifference on this score good or bad?
I deem it bad and here's why. Something I've seen happen to people who achieve certain stations in life, in politics, of power, sometimes involving sex, other times just a knowing certainty about the ways of the world expressed amongst each other, a sense that they know what the great mass of mankind cannot and likely should not know. It's the permanent wink and nod that distinguishes and separates them as a knowing class, a form of sophistication by which their own rules get made. Of course the Montinis of the world are the Montinis of the world, so their sensibilities tell them, and, while the congregation at large, meaning the vast multitude of devotees, can never know it, we know it, we who occupy these special places know it, and we have our own friends with whom to share our knowledge so that we may flatter each other in our specialness of knowing, in a collective understanding that that's the way things are, so let's render the judgments and make the decisions that life calls on us to render, on altogether different bases. My brothers, who would not and did not bat a half-mast eyelash at the thought of a pederast raised up as pontiff, take this prideful satisfaction in their own worldliness, which they don't think of or even likely suspect to be pride but rather simple realism, their educated sense of the ways of the world that the world both bestows on and demands of those who, like them, run it. I see it in politics all the time, a sense of the gamesmanship, an acceptance of the duplicities that is first learned and then becomes instinctive through habit, a certain professional credo that says we are kings and senators and presidents and commissars, and we know how the game is played, and we appreciate each other, including to be sure our adversaries, for playing it well, and it's something that at most you can only hint at in public even as you must continue to intone the bland perorations through all the unmeaning electoral cycles and administrative regimes. There is a caste of cognoscenti that exists outside of class and country, they are the worldly arbiters, the thinkers of thoughts and the knowers of things that their own mothers in many cases would die if they, their own mothers, were to ever even suspect that such thoughts are being thought and such things so glibly, casually known and lived with.
These men live in a terrible separation that they do not know is separation. It is mystifying to me to look upon them, and to look upon such a one as I reckon Fitzmike to be, knowing and nodding and seeing and winking their own wickedly precious sense of things to their allied princes and principals of the benighted realms they live in and thrive in, and yet, and this I sense is so true of Fitzmike, to also aver such fiercesome rectitude, a defining creed in which they have immured themselves, but that, I daresay, has the dual and duplicitous convenience of, on the one hand, embodying the moral substance of their suzerainty, a veritable Church militant, to protect their suzerainty and properly direct the flock, while, on the other hand, simultaneously allowing their—again I rely on the adjective "precious"—imperviousness to the perversions, I say perversions, that the great mass of their dutifully enfeoffed constituents, those who walk through their lives being butchers and bakers and candlestick makers, affirm as unambiguous pronouncement of their own unambiguous moral instinct violate both man's law and God's, for perversion it is, and, pride of a different type though it be, I will forever take too much pride, I will forever take too much pride in my own decency, too much pride in what is, God willing, that plenipotentiary part of me that God has mercifully kept alive in me, to ever call it anything else except perversion. As to Fitzmike, let me simplify. His sophistication is such that it allows him to truly hate Communism and truly love choir boys. Forgive me, I am being cruel, I am being glib, and I am being cynical, but I simply cannot like or trust that man. Further, as to trust, in his case I must never.
I live with these cognoscenti and I have come to realize how I myself no doubt benefitted, was maybe even spared total institutional if not public opprobrium because of their sense of themselves, their attitudinized tolerance for the likes of me, their self-preened worldly indifference or it might be cynicism if it is not tolerance, as they abide so happily and kindly willing to ignore my shame or glibly forgive it or even cherish it in their worldly way, because it's their own sense of elevated moral indifference they voluptuously savor, their knowing detachment, which is first and foremost a pride in their own knowing-ness, always voluptuous in its self-savoring, or maybe I am overestimating them, maybe they just don't care, these ecclesiastical brethren of mine who must know all about my shame at least in a general sense from general rumor, and who may even have a few awkward reasons of their own to empathize and overlook, and who, if they are plainly dismissive of my commonplace offenses, it is because they see them as just that, utterly commonplace, and who therefore cannot much care about and who probably never will care much about, or ever imagine in any deep or dark way the consequences of these, my woefully commonplace offenses, even though, as God knows, such consequences must, must be seen deeply and darkly as they merit.
I have never gotten from any of them less than warm welcoming handshakes and accommodating civilities. I am invited everywhere. I am never shunned or shut out. They just don't care, and they're so proud they don't. They accept, the cognoscenti just plainly accept, as if in so doing, as if in finding no fault with me, they further affirm and even celebrate their own winking nodding mutual understandings of themselves as cognoscenti. My sins, and their knowledge of my sins, and their blithe unwillingness to scold or censure, confirm their power. Only God should have such power to be so blithely accepting about such things. At my worst, I confirm them as the cognoscenti they live to be. My political friends have gone even further, not just accepting me but aggressively protecting me, they who, as cognoscenti of the type I've described, are likewise unimpressed much less horrified by all that they have assiduously protected me from. Not that I know exactly what specific circumstances Joe Kennedy protected me from, but I always felt his offices poised everywhere on my behalf. He never actually asked me for anything in return except my friendship to his family, which I would have happily given in any event. I feel his goodness as I felt Pacelli's and I know that, for all the compromises both those men must have made, great things have sprung, fruits and branches from their powerful trunks. So at least some cognoscenti have good souls.