Samhain, and the Hail Mary Pass in the Atlantic Banks

Old Gaelic traditions die hard. As I write, for instance, a sort of old-fashioned Marian apparition is being sought at Knock, though denied by the Church.

The power of the modern papacy has grown with putative appearances of the Virgin, and with the protection of her secrets. Bishops, on the other hand, have tended not to be so keen. The implicit revelation to ordinary multitudes built into apparitions--the populism of it, if you like--undermines the hierarchy.

They've been struggling against the corrosive and democratic tendency of modern life since the infallibility of popes was emphasized over the infallibility of the Church in Council in the mid-nineteenth century as the supreme government of Catholicism. Popes were guardians, Councils were rulers. Guardians thrive and grow from the consent of the guarded, and not those in between. Councils and the bishops and priests of whom they were composed were in between, and in the past in charge; a point which escaped again at Vatican II, but which is probably safely caged today.

So priests and bishops are not keen on what is going on at Knock. I wouldn't attribute all of the historicized reasons that I put forward, since most people in the thick of things don't generally explain their reasons coldly, least of all to themselves. I also note that the Church officially, and with papal sanction, tends to be suspicious of what it terms 'superstition'.

That will surprise some of my readers, since that, in the post-protestant mind, (and, for that matter, for the superb Larry David) is what Catholicism is all about. However, many of the practitioners of the faith are logical, even if faith itself is not rational. God and his mum might bend or suspend the rules; but there's never very much reason to believe that they would, regularly, as clause 2111 of the catechism points out.

I thought of the visions at Knock today because, whether at Bayside, Fatima, Lourdes or Medjugorje, people tend to see her at times of enormous strain. Ireland is, not to put too fine a point on it, in the economic mincer at the moment. Despite the hysteria of modern weeks, the media-political class isn't really picking up, I think, on that sense people at the bottom have that the descent is about to get worse. The derivatives crisis is not unwound; real unemployment is much higher than the numbers suggest; desperate repayments of credit and bills are not being met with reward or material improvement.

There is sometimes wisdom in crowds; people have a way of knowing things long before educated fools. When everyone knows how crazy-bad things are, but can't articulate it, why is anyone surprised when people start sharing visions? When a meteorologist runs past you shouting about a storm, he's crazy; when the herd heads for the hills, run.

There were straws in the wind of the things that might trouble us more this strange Hallowe'en. I've not been alone in noting for some time that Citibank is doing things consistent with serious trouble in the US economy. I'd draw readers attention to two things that I think should be added to my list of worries.

Firstly, Cit group (no relation), a major provider of commercial credit in the US, is in serious trouble. Rumours about it pushed the Dow Jones Index right down yesterday. Here, LloydsTSB are struggling, by all accounts, to convince themselves that they will raise the stupendous cash they need soon to avoid the government's toxic asset scheme. A new transatlantic crisis, focussed on commercial mortgages and collateralised debt, which will impact on the banks, is on the cards.

Why else would the American government have sought and won congressional approval for new, unlimited, and pre-cleared bail-outs from the Congress and then buried it in recent bills?

I merge London and New York easily, by the way, deliberately. I know more about them than anything else, of course, and a blog is a personal thing. Also, however, there was sense in the idea that both, though London more so, were divorced from the countries to which they were attached in the great boom. There was sense I think, in the idea of a transmaritime entity that existed in financial and, for many, in personal space, called 'NY-LON', and as they grew together, they have gone down together. New York is in less of a crisis because the entity to which it is attached is bigger and stronger. London governs a hollowed out shell full of unhappy people as though it were a colony, despite for all intents and purposes being a foreign city-state. That's the new difference.

I want to admit to having been wrong again in some of my previous predictions this Hallowe'en. Yes, the Atlantic world seems to have avoided the bond and currency crisis that I expected for around about now. What if we did so by co-ordinating international banks to shuffle money that the governments who owe money printed around, so that each bought each other's debt and pretended that stability had returned? What happens if something knocks the needle off the record player, and the music stops? That cash certainly isn't going in great quantity to consumers or businesses, as far as I can see....

Secondly, and I'm surprised that this is not being picked up, the Germans have escalated vaccinations against swine flu this weekend. To the east, Poland is talking of closing its border with the Ukraine. In the Ukraine itself, presidential campaigning has been severely restricted and a near-state of emergency put in place because of what respectable news outlets are characterising as a sort of pneumonic plague, which could be a variant of the swine flu. Cinemas, schools, and public gatherings have been closed for November in nine regions.

The Russians seem happy, and have offered help for 'snoutbreak' as one rather glib TV station put it. Smile whilst you can....

Samhain is the old festival marking the end of the light and the beginning of the darkness. It does not seem to me too bad an idea to think about getting that Rosary out.