St Henry of Bavaria and Donald Trump

Henry II, the last of the Ottonian Holy Roman emperors, is the only German king to have been canonised. His personal holiness was never in doubt, for all that he was caught up in endless military campaigns. He was actively involved in promoting Church reform and the foundation of monasteries, but some would argue that his involvement in  ecclesiastical affairs sometimes went too far. It was he, for example, who persuaded Pope Benedict VIII to include the filioque clause in the Nicene creed which led to the still-unresolved Great Schism of 1054.

‘Saintly’ is probably the last epithet anyone would think of applying to Donald Trump, but here he is, on 13 July 2018, the feast of St Henry, saying things that leave his hosts quietly choking into their handkerchiefs. Breaking all the rules of diplomacy, he swaggers his way through EU and British politics; and the danger is that, because he expresses himself crudely, we won’t necessarily hear the things we ought to hear, only those that irritate or disgust us; or, like the insertion of the filioque into the creed, we may miss the significance of something we agree to because we have our gaze fixed on another goal.

I hope that Mr Trump’s visit to the UK will clarify matters between our two countries, and that those involved in talks will keep cool heads and work for the common good. Perhaps someone should tell the President, quietly and courteously, that Britain repaid every last penny of her World War II debt to the USA. The much-vaunted help we received during the War years did not come free. Repaying the debt mattered, because there are things more important in life than making deals or producing winners and losers. Honour is one of them; trust is another; and the pursuit of peace, that Benedictine obsession, the greatest of them all.

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11 thoughts on “St Henry of Bavaria and Donald Trump”

  1. The blog today and on Wednesday made me think about the Rule on hospitality. We are urged to be welcoming visitors as if they were Christ and welcomed in peace. Elsewhere, on welcoming pilgrim monks ‘if he finds fault with something or calls attention to it reasonably and with humble charity, let the Abbot weigh the matter prudently, in case the Lord should have sent him for this very purpose’.

    Now I know that the President of the United States is not the most diplomatic of people, and tends to call a spade a spade, but I appreciate honesty in people because if they are honest it builds trust and you know where you stand. It also makes it easier, because people who work with them will know automatically how the other person would react, and can take a similar line. In the example of Margaret Thatcher, love her or loathe her, one instinctively knew where she would stand, and consequently, the line to take. I believe that she was intrinsically honest, and know, from family friends, how thoughtful and caring she was.

    One man I had to deal with was very nice and pleasant to your face, but behind the scenes he was back stabbing. At the time I was setting up a contract to supply business training to people setting up in business. The man in question was a business counsellor, not a fellow employee, and he had drawn up the specification against which training providers were supposed to tender. I discovered that, behind the scenes, he had been advising one of those training providers how to pitch their tender. I was livid and complained but this was ignored. So when my term of secondment came to an end, I left and returned to my own government department.

    We are led to believe that Mrs May showed a draft of the White Paper to Frau Merkel before it had been presented to the Cabinet for approval. This betrayed the essential trust. Unfortunately, this seems to be a feature of all recent governments, and it is really no wonder that people have lost faith in their political and business leaders.

    So I agree wholeheartedly that honesty and trust are essential if we are to retain the vital peace, but in so much of life today, the honesty and trust is being betrayed, and our peace is at risk.

    • Yes and no. I think RB 61, which you’ll not be surprised to know was behind some of my own thoughts today, is a very highly nuanced chapter which places great weight on the abbot’s discernment. In the light of that, perhaps one could make two points about Mrs May’s alleged consultation of Mrs Merkel. One, it is an allegation that has yet to be substantiated, I believe; two, to take counsel is not necessarily a breach of trust. If Mrs May did consult Mrs Merkel, I think I’d give her the benefit of the doubt, especially as her cabinet colleagues seem to have a record of intentional leaks and thinly-disguised personal ambition masquerading as public concern. If we have lost trust in our politicians, it is perhaps because of the self-interest and venality we often see in them. The good ones just get on with serving.

  2. Sister Catherine again you have made a point that so many of us may miss in our dislike of the current US president. I am not so sure that the word honour and Donald Trump will appear very often in the same sentence but sinking to his level of nasty rhetoric will only encourage him to continue.

    • True, and there is the obvious point I was trying to make: just as saints don’t always get things right, so the less-than-saintly don’t always get things wrong. But, I must confess, Mr Trump is a ‘challenge’!

  3. We continue to pray earnestly for Mr. Trump and his administration that they (and we) be able to approach the issues of our country with humility, insight, wisdom and compassion.

  4. Many are trying over here to acknowledge facts and context surrounding statements made by Mr.Trump, but the reality seems to be that he says what he wants whether it’s truthful or not and denies saying it. I don’t believe he would listen to anyone no matter how nicely they contradicted him. I pray that some good can come out of his term in office –perhaps a realization of how involved citizens need to be to maintain a democracy. Other days I just pray that we don’t devolve into a fascist state.

    • You touch on a much bigger question there than I was brave enough to attempt in this morning’s brief post. However, here in the UK we have just experienced another of Mr Trump’s astonishing voltes faces. Yesterday, before meeting our Prime Minister, he gave an interview in which he rubbished Theresa May and her approach to Brexit and threatened an end to any possibility of a trade deal with the UK, etc. Today he talked glowingly of her and the ‘special relationship’, denying that he had ever said anything negative. That is behaviour typical of an abuser and it is doubly worrying because almost everyone now seems to accept it as normal!

  5. I had a Great-Aunt Gertie “only through marriage” my mother would qualify, who used to shock us with an annual surprise visit. She’d arrive wearing her fox fur stole, its mouth formed around a clip which, biting its tail, kept it firmly draped around her neck over a mothball scented wool suit. She wore hats with great long feathers and bits of this and that poking out. Hooked over her arm was the ever present baby alligator purse, a source of amazement to me with its little feet and tail still attached. Best yet, her sterling silver flask, monogrammed, “a good bit of silver” she would inform me; I would inherit it some day. (I did not, nor did I develop her penchant for gin). She’d have a nip from it “for the pain” as she was about to depart.

    Her visits lasted too long, were too instructive and abrasive and when she would leave my mother would take two aspirins and lie down. My father would pour a large glass of port and sit in the dark.

    Suffice to say even as a small child I remember the feeling of relief when she’d catch the bus home. I rather imagine that’s how many in your part of the world will feel at the conclusion of this visit. – Jean

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