Thursday, June 9, 2016

The Poignancy of Incompetence

Surely one of the greatest movies of all time is the 1954 naval drama The Caine Mutiny, based on Herman Wouk's novel. It stars Humphrey Bogart, Van Johnson, Fred MacMurray, E.G. Marshall and Jose Ferrer. Bogart's Captain Queeg is the skipper of an old minesweeper, USS Cain. One can hardly imagine a less glamorous ship. Queeg is quirky, rigid, and insecure. When he gets nervous, he rolls two steel balls in his hand.

His wardroom, instigated by Fred McMurray's character -- a writer -- lose respect for Captain Queeg after a number of lapses of judgment. When Queeg reaches out to his officers to try to repair mutual respect, he meets a stony rebuff.

When a typhoon threatens to capsize the ship, Queeg does not seem up to the crisis. His executive officer, played by Van Johnson, relieves Captain Queeg of duty and takes command of the ship.

During the ensuing court-martial (the Navy does not take mutiny well) Captain Queeg takes the stand. What follows may be Bogart's best performance, and is a film classic. We see in Queeg an ordinary man who was simply not up to the extraordinary responsibilities he had been given. Under the effective cross-examination of trial defense counsel, played by Jose Ferrer, Captain Queeg slowly strips himself of his dignity as his psychological unfitness for command is revealed.

Realizing what he has done, Captain Queeg, who has largely been allowed to testify in a narrative, offers to answer specific questions. There follows a series of tight shots of trial counsel, played by E.G. Marshall, and the other officers present, looking at Captain Queeg's train wreck with a mixture of horror and sympathy as we hear only the clack of Queeg's ball bearings.

It is hard for us to see a man who should command respect be revealed as incompetent. The captain of a U.S. warship is a father, a leader, and an exemplar. His commands are unquestioned. (The XO does all of his dirty work.) To see someone fall from such an exalted position is sad. What's even worse is serving under such a captain.

We're not sure if Van Johnson's "mutiny" saved Cain or not. A few ships were lost, but the vast majority survived. What was clear was that the circumstances were extremely dangerous, and the captain's actions were questionable. The trust between leader and led had already been eroded. It was a position no officer should have been put in. Van Johnson had to do what he thought best, and would never be certain he was right in substituting his judgment for his captain's.

After the trial, a drunken trial defense counsel, played by Jose Ferrer, is hardly in a celebratory mood, despite his win.  He points out that while he was going to law school and the other officers were following their own civilian pursuits, Captain Queeg had the low-paying, unglamorous job, of maintaining a peacetime navy. He reminds them that when he reached out to them, they were cold. But it's Fred MacMurray's writer character, LT Keefer who is singled out for the worst treatment.

It was LT Keefer -- an above-it-all jerk, like many writers of all kinds -- who poisoned the wardroom's support for Captain Queeg. Yet at trial, LT Keefer had practically nothing to offer. Jose Ferrer's character toasts "the real author of the Cain mutiny," and throws his drink in LT Keefer's face.  Fred MacMurray, who does not move a muscle, cannot deny the charge.

Why talk about an old movie? The Bear doesn't know. It is one you should see. It also shows what happens when the man at the top causes genuine worries for his subordinates. No one knows what to do. Some seize authority that is not lawfully theirs, but to them it seems like the only course of action possible. Nobody's quite sure. Nobody should be put in that position.

And it is not a happy sight to see someone who ought to command respect be revealed as unworthy of the position entrusted to him.


  1. It's not a movie I ever want to watch more than once. I saw it in high school
    and I just remember that after the trial was over and the lawyer ripped into Johnson, my whole perspective changed.

    Seattle kim

  2. Jose Ferrer said his destruction of Queeg was "like shooting fish in a barrel." Professionally, he had to do it, but it made him sick. Sometimes the Bear feels like Fred MacMurray's character, but with more integrity.

    Frankly, going after Pope Francis is like shooting fish in a barrel. The Bear does not wish to be in this position. Sometimes he feels more like Jose Ferrer than Fred MacMurray. The Bear would wager few Catholic ephemerists feel 100% confident in what they're doing. Any one that did the Bear would not trust as far as he could throw him.

    1. perhaps this will stiffen your spine a bit....

      Granted, this has been going on for a long time now, but francis is accelerating it exponentially, and setting the stage himself for the unthinkable to be embraced and 'sanctified'....just like obama is doing on the secular level. francis has shown his cards...he is evil; not naive, not bumbling, not obtuse....evil. He is an enemy of Christ and His Church, and to fail to state what is in clear evidence, no matter how much it feels like a punch to the gut, is to enable the diabolical narcissist in his raping of the Bride.

      Report it; and don't let the devil make you feel scruples. For goodness sake Bear, what are you still in doubt about?...that he hasn't actually taken a poo on the altar yet?...(at least not for the cameras). IMHO he's already done far worse, and I fear he's only warming up.

    2. I agree Bear. Holding oneself judge over others is a frightful predicament especially when it happens to be the Pope who is counseled by the Holy Spirit.

    3. The Caine Mutiny is one of my favorite classic films and is, without a doubt, cast flawlessly. The sight of the Captain's (Bogart's) glee when remembering his coup in finding a duplicate key to the mess room shows in one instant that this poor broken, shallow, paranoid man is in way over his head in a wartime naval command.

    4. Badger, the Bear has no problems with stiffness of his spine. But he appreciates your presence here. He needs to hear your perspective.

    5. "....the Pope who is counseled by the Holy Spirit."

      Seriously Michael? really think that the Holy Spirit is the counselor of this.....

      *'Mary wanted to yell at God the Father "Lies!" at the base of the cross'

      *'damned souls will not suffer in hell; they will simply be annihilated'

      *'Christians are just like muslim jihadists; they are commanded to conquest of the world'

      *'Jesus didn't rebuke the Apostles, He was just telling a little white lie for effect'

      *'Jesus needed to apologize to Mary and Joseph'

      *'athiests can be saved by doing good works'

      *'the REAL miracle was that he got them to share'
      *never, NEVER genuflecting after the Consecration

      *laughing at and mocking a pious group of Catholics who, in love, offered him the spiritual treasure of thousands of Rosaries said for him and his intentions

      *tearing apart the folded, praying hands of a little altar boy, telling him not to do that

      *inviting a radical muslim imam inside the Vatican walls to pray for the destruction of, and victory over, the infidels (us!)

      *inviting a lutheran woman (in sly wording) to commit sacrilege 'if her conscience is clear in doing it'

      *surrounds himself with dissidents and clerical sodomites, promoting them to the highest positions

      *has the kissing archbishop write 'the joy of sodomy' apostolic exhortation using the exact writings he was KO'd for years earlier (in other was a fait accompli; the synod was kabuki theater

      *and to get that kabuki to come near the conclusion he wanted, stacked the deck with the likes of the rotten, disgraced, too-old-to-participate C. Danneels...he of the give pornography to kids under the guise of 'sex education'. Think I'm kidding?...Bing 'Danneels pornographic catechism'

      and I could go on for pages...literally P.A.G.E.S

      You can't judge this garbage and it's source? We're called by Christ to 'judge rightly with good judgement'...St. Francis prophesied an apostate, wolf pope. For God's sake, what is it going to take to wake people up?

      At this point, I truly don't think his taking a poo on the altar would do it. There would just be handwringing and mutters of, "well...he is the pope; there must be a deeper meaning that I'm missing...."


    6. And Bear, I love you dearly as a true brother in Christ. Your writing is magnificent, and greatly NEEDED at this dark time. People need to be awakened....MUCH is at stake.

    7. susan~

      That Pope Francis IS counseled by the Holy Spirit doesn't mean that Pope Francis is listening, or understanding, or not humming really loudly. I don't know, I am not in his head...I don't know what he is thinking, I can only see his actions.

      But the Holy Spirit is also not just a voice, one of the perhaps many, that one has in one's head trying to get attention. The Holy Spirit also speaks/has spoken in the Book of Creation, in the Book of Scriptures, in the deposit of Faith, in the liturgical action.

      People use the Holy Spirit as an excuse to do what they want...He must be very insulted. Reparations to the Sacred Heart...what about Reparations to the Holy Spirit? Blasphemies compounded!

      Waking up? Well, we are all asleep. If we really did wakeup, we would flee to the desert and spend the rest of our lives in prayer weeping over our sins.

    8. Lurker, agreed...that is basically what I was trying to say...the counsel of the papacy by the Holy Spirit doesn't override human free will. The spirit that bergoglio is listening to that inspires the MANY and varied heresies and lunacies emanating from his mouth and pen, most decidedly isn't of the Holy type, as God cannot contradict Himself (allah can, and perhaps that explains quite a bit about frank).

      This is a good site to peruse to wake up the somnambulant....

    9. It may be helpful to keep a list of what has been said and what has been done. This is to keep it fresh in one's mind. Our Catholic sensibilities about speaking ill of another, in particular the POPE, will rise up and cause that cognitive dissonance. We feel regretful and sad, maybe even go to Confession (which we ought to do anyway of course). It is just my own uninformed opinion, I know nothing, but what is happening here is outside the realm, and we badly need to speak out and have others speak out. It is a horrible situation for us all to be in, truly, it seems like the End of Days with all this. God help us.

    10. Susan, well put, and you made the list I just recommended before I read it. In case we forget all that has been said and done.
      As you said, enough has happened. It is time for a great resistance movement, and for this we need everybody on board and certainly, the captains. In our film these would be the Cardinals.

  3. It's a thankless task but someone has to do it. If for no other reason than to instill in the consciousness of the College of Cardinals that this is the reason God created the "due diligence" process. And that is not the Holy Spirit's job!

  4. Imagine if through some fluke, that Lt Keefer -- disloyal, faithless, not interested in his duty, and obsessed with half-understood fads -- had been designated captain of the Cain. That's a better analogy. No, I would feel no pity in witnessing his exposure.

    1. In the book The Caine Mutiny Keefer is assigned command of the USS Caine after the court-martial. He abandons ship after it is struck by a kamikaze, and LTJG Keith stays aboard and saves the ship. Keefer turns out to be nearly as neurotic as Queeg.

  5. There is nothing worse than being in a situation where you must rely on, follow, and support a boss/superior/spouse/parent and you are smarter and wiser than that person.

    Humility and obedience do require us to follow a less wise choice. How difficult is this?!

    There is though a difference between less wise, incompetent, dangerously incompetent, and malicious actions by the person to whom we owe our loyalty and working together as a team.

  6. Queeg is a sympathetic character. Francis isn't, because he's acting out of malice, not weakness. (IMO)

  7. McMurray's character was a weasel and a half. He fomented the insurrection. He put doubt in the officers' heads.

  8. I have learned that few people act out of pure, moustache twisting villainy. There is something wrong with them, or they have a warped perception of the good. Pope Francis doesn't seem right to me. He thinks he is humble, but is clearly not. He thinks he's smart, but has not even shown an average intelligence. He seems to lack the insight that keeps most of us on the rails.

    In any case, I still think it is sad to have to watch the Vicar of Christ clowning around like a fool. He has no idea how ridiculous he is. Even Captain Queer had more insight than that.

    More importantly, we are in the typhoon, the ship is capsizing and our leader is not up to the job. He has destroyed our confidence in him. It isn't supposed to happen this way. We don't have clear instructions on what we do when the Vicar of Christ is seriously damaging the Church in ways it will be nearly impossible to recover from.

    Yes. We can pray. I think I'll lie in bed here in Moscow today with my mouth open praying for fish to fall into it. God has not made us to pray only. Yes, I do worry whether I am doing the right thing, because, I have a not inconsiderable readership for which I have a responsibility. But I do this because I believe it to be the right thing to do in the typhoon where there is no reg that tells us what to do if the captain is wrong when he is not supposed to be wrong and maybe only 20% of the crew even sees it. Francis, whether evil or culpably foolish, is so off the rails it isn't funny.

    So we can follow every order like robots, bowing to a disaster with a title, or fold our hands in prayer. The latter is a good idea, but we have means to do more.

    It's cognitive dissonance again. Pope Francis is inconsistent with our beliefs. We get a constant error message. We have no rules to resolve this because we were never supposed to have a pope like Francis. So we're glitching. Or maybe we were, and the first part of the 21st century is the time the Church is meant to get rebooted and become the Universal Church of Man.

  9. Yeah, spell correct -- Queeg not queer.

    1. Are you sure you didn't get it right the first time? Blogger Mundabor, and others, openly say it, along with a lot of other unflattering things. I can't go as far as they do, but the question has become omnipresent: "What the devil is wrong with the man?"

    2. What is wrong with the man?

      SJ from South America who landed in the episcopate instead of teaching someplace. There is no need to elevate or drag him low. He is exactly, no more, no less than that.

      Coming to terms with who he is helps to cool the blood as what he does isn't all that surprising.

    3. Yes. But the difference between the consequences of an incompetent theology professor and that of a Pope of Rome are almost infinite. Francis is an absolutely unique case.

    4. I think the point is that we know the tree, so we have a good idea of the fruit.

  10. Hi Bear. Hope you are getting a generous allotment of herring in sour creme and jellied carp there on the banks of the Moskva River.

    Funny, I've recently had twinges of pity for the pope over his mind numbing craven-ness to the world. Not so much anger as felt earlier in this papacy, but of profound regret that this can't end well, that the Church is mired in such Bergoglian squalor. Just wait and see what his recent Motu Proprio will bring! The heads of the more relatively good bishops will be rolling.

    I'm sad. So sad.

    1. I am being treated very well, thank you. They have asked me to accept Russian citizenship. That would make me tri-national (German, U.S. & Russia). Apparently that's legit, although I won't be able to enter the U.S. on my Russian passport. I'm still going to have to deal with the U.S. Embassy here, who will probably be jerks.

      There are not many veterans of the Great Patriotic War, so the Bear is something of a national treasure here. A living symbol of Russia who will no doubt once again be duped into propaganda purposes. The Bear was a partisan. Didn't care much for Hitler's regime. It's all rather complicated.

      I wonder if I can return via Cuba. I've always wanted to go to Cuba.

      Sometimes the Bear feels sorry for Pope Francis, too. But He can tell you it is common among Bears. We call it "predator's remorse." Kind of like buyer's remorse, only with a lot more blood. Don't worry, it passes.

  11. The Forty-Fourth Chapter
    Do Not Be Concerned About Outward Things
    The Voice of Christ
    MY CHILD, there are many matters of which it is well for you to be ignorant, and to consider yourself as one who is dead upon the earth and to whom the whole world is crucified. There are many things, too, which it is well to pass by with a deaf ear, thinking, instead, of what is more to your peace. It is more profitable to turn away from things which displease you and to leave to every man his own opinion than to take part in quarrelsome talk. If you stand well with God and look to His judgment, you will more easily bear being worsted.

    The Imitation of Christ
    Book three
    Thomas a Kempis

    1. Thank you so much for the gentle reminders.

  12. The Bear shall prophesy.

    Secretly, the college of cardinals is horrified. Next time there will be a strong reaction against any candidate backed by the cabal that campaigned for Bergoglio (which is against the rules, but whatever). Those people will have zero credibility. We will get a safe, conservative pope who is not from some ridiculous country.

    After Pope Francis' pontificate ends, anything he did or said will be quietly forgotten. Of course, he will be made a saint to please the mob, but he will go down in history as a curiosity. Progressives will idolize him, of course, but they overestimate their importance.

    1. Owl is bad at prophesy, but from a top his tree, he sees the whole Woodlands and beyond on fire.

      Everything will be forgotten in time, as it is with all Popes, save for anything in the historical record.

      Denzinger-Bergoglio will be a real thing beyond a website BUT what it will be is those particular scholarly collections of magisterial documents that are used as source documents to teach the Catholic Faith. Pope Francis is issuing documents that are being put into the Acts of the Apostolic See. Pope Francis' MAGISTERIAL writings will be put, in excerpted form, you can guess right now the paragraphs and footnotes that will be there, into the various source books of Catholic theology.

      That is part of the perks of being a are a source of doctrine, dogma, and praxis.

      So long as his magisterial writings are part of the source books, this whole Pope Francis thing isn't going away.

      What does it mean to get a conservative Pope out of the next conclave? Someone who is going to strip Pope Francis' writings out of the historical record?

      Of the current Cardinals, there are those who like and those who do not like Pope Francis' pastoral praxis that he is putting into place for the Church. Of the Cardinals, there are some who do like and those who do not like Pope Francis' method of governance. These groups do not always overlap. Pope Francis, when he makes new Cardinals makes those who like is praxis and like he style of governance. In order to get a Pope that will undo Pope Francis, you need an authoritarian Pope who disagrees strongly with Pope Francis' praxis. That is going to be a hard one to get elected because the heterodox Cardinals want either someone with lax authority or strong authority but interested in heterodox praxis.

      So then, either a Pope that maintains Pope Francis's status quo or a Pope who advances, or a more extreme Pope.

      Personally, I think Pope Francis has a long life in his future and he will be more increasingly proactive in putting pen to paper.

      Fr. Jacques Dupuis,s.j. was the long time editor of the frequently updated The "Christian Faith: In the Doctrinal Documents of the Catholic Church." This is his, perhaps cumulative thought "Toward a Christian Theology of Religious Pluralism".

      A lifetime of study produces that book, and a lifetime spent working with magisterial documents. I bring this up to point out that Pope Francis' isn't that terribly unique in his thoughts. It is unique if one compares it to orthodoxy, but not unique when compared to modern theology.

      Luther didn't one day popup and say something was built upon a secondary and tertiary philosophical and theological system that he normalized and made mainstream.

      What really is in Amoris laetitia that cannot be found in all sorts of books and in half hushed practices found in diocese around the world?

      Pope Francis is the product of his time. He is a normalizer of heterodoxy.

  13. That resolution is repugnant, yet credible. My question--do our shepherds not fear for their immortal souls? Will Jesus give them a pass for waiting it out with the intention to do good at the next conclave? It's all so dispiriting.

    1. And in the meantime the biological solution kicks in...'good' cardinals age out, and francis appoints new heterodox ones who will be the next electors.

      I hope (I pray!) you're right Bear, but I fear you're whistling past the graveyard.

    2. Bear prophecy is infallible.

    3. That's right!...proclaimed at Trent! I forgot.

      Mea culpa.

    4. No problem. It's in the secret Bear archives at the Vatican.

  14. Gosh, Bear, I hope you are right but...that sounds very optimistic.

  15. Jose Ferrer'S character irritated me. Yes, they could have handled Captain Queeg in a gentler way but he WAS unfit to be captain and he needed to be given a desk job.

    1. Cross is usually pretty adversarial. You only want to soft-pedal if you have a sympathetic witness. I believe trial defense counsel might have been pushing Queeg's buttons. That was probably part of the reason he felt such self-loathing afterward. But zealous advocacy is zealous advocacy. Blame our sporting English forebears for imposing an adversary system upon us. Other countries do it differently, e.g. inquisitorial system.

  16. Clarification: I like the part about a conservative Pope, but so much existential damage will be done by canonising Jorge Bergoglio. How could that ever come to pass? Canonisations are infallible. He IS the Destroyer.

    1. Anything can come to pass. Do you think this is not the most beloved pope in history? Even more than "santo subito" JPII.


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