Monday, December 31, 2007

Home again

Thanks to all of you, sincerely, for your kindly thoughts and prayers. (There's something to be said for the fellowship kindred minds, be it on the Internet.) I made it out to Iowa and back without incident, avoiding blizzards in both directions. I had two great days with my father (pictured left, in 1942, at age 25), spending nearly the whole of each day with him. As things turn out, he's got a much stronger heart than suspected, and it looks like he'll be hanging on for some time. In fact, although the symptoms are nearly identical, the diagnosis of congestive heart failure appears to have been misplaced. Without going into detail, the problem appears to be aspirated pneumonia, which produces a buildup of congestive fluid in the lungs, etc. But this can be treated, which means that his condition is not immediately critical, though still serious.

My father is very weak. He has an arthritic conditio called Ankylosing Spondylitis that has fused together the bones of his vertibra, making it nearly impossible to dress himself, etc. He also has a great deal of trouble eating, and can do so only with much coughing for which there is no treatment. He now has to have everything puréed. Still, although he has lost almost entirely his sense of smell, he has a good appetite, and, believe it or not, looks forward eagerly to certain things when he wakes up each day -- talking with his wife, family and friends and visitors who may stop by, and reading his Bible, or getting a bath. Such are the joys of a man born in the year of the Bolshevik Revolution who is coming up on his 91st birthday in March, if he makes it that far.

Thank you for your prayers.

Today I go looking to buy a "pre-owned" car.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Gone for several days

Permit me to follow-up on my prayer request of several days ago. The time has come for me to drive out and see my father while there is still time. I am leaving this morning and driving. Also, I am leaving behind my wife with a rental car since I was just in an auto accident yesterday that totalled the family car. These kinds of things often seem to happen right around Christmas for some reason. Keep us in our thoughts and prayers as you are able. God bless. --PP

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Huckabee's anti-Catholic associations

  • Huckabee speaks at anti-Catholic mega-church (Catholic News Agency, December 20, 2007)-- The church's notoriously anti-Catholic pastor, John Hagee (pictured right, with his wife Diana), is on record as suggesting that the Pope is the anti-Christ, that the Catholic Church is the "Beast" mentioned in Revelation 17:30 and following, and that Hitler's anti-Semitism was a product of Catholic teaching.

  • "Huckabee angers some Catholics" (Reuters, December 23, 2007) -- Ya think?

Tony Blair received into the Catholic Church

Monday, December 24, 2007

Christmas reflection

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God, and saying,

Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace, good will toward men.
And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another,

Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pas, which the Lord hath made known unto us.
And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph and the babe lying in a manger. And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child. And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds. But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them. (The Gospel According to Luke, Chapter Two, Verses 13-20)

Here we are again, on the first day of the Christmas season. It has become something of a Christmas tradition for me to engage the following text from C.S. Lewis in connection with the above quoted Scriptures. The reason will be obvious.

Nearly every Christmas, it seems, NEWSWEEK or TIME or some television special will featre the "latest scholarship" concerning the "authenticity" of the Christmas story. The scholarly authorities cited are consistently and incorrigibly one-sided, usually including scholars like John Dominic Crossan who dissent from Church teaching, or more ostensibly mainline scholars like Raymond E. Brown (now deceased) who have been quite thoroughly corrupted by the Humean philosophical presuppositions of the historical-criticism of the biblical narrative. This year we've seen the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, call the Christmas story a 'legend' ("Archbishop says nativity 'a legend,'" London Telegraph, December 12, 2007). The upshot is always the conclusion, or at least the suggestion, that the Gospel writers are unreliable and not to be trusted, and certainly not to be taken at face value. Just how ludicrous this all is can be seen by almost anyone with a bit of intelligence and familiarity with literature, mythology, and history. One of the best examples of a powerful antedote to this kind of foolishness is a little essay by C.S. Lewis entitled "Modern Theology and Biblical Criticism," which is available in a collection of essays by Lewis entitled Christian Reflections (1967; reprinted by Eerdmans, 1994). The following are some excerpts from Lewis' essay, which begins on p. 152 and contains four objections (or "bleats") about modern New Testament scholarship:

1. [If a scholar] tells me that something in a Gospel is legend or romance, I want to know how many legends and romances he has read, how well his palate is trained in detecting them by the flavour...

I have been reading poems, romances, vision-literature, legends, myths all my life. I know what they are like. I know that not one [of the stories in the Gospel of John, for example] is like this... Either this is reportage - though it may no doubt contain errors - pretty close up to the facts; nearly as close as Boswell. Or else, some unknown writer in the second century, without known predecessors or successors, suddenly anticipated the whole technique of modern, novelistic, realistic narrative...

2. All theology of the liberal type involves at some point - and often involves throughout - the claim that the real behaviour and purpose and teaching of Christ came very rapidly to be misunderstood and misrepresented by his followers, and has been recovered or exhumed only by modern scholars... The idea that any... writer should be opaque to those who lived in the same culture, spoke the same language, shared the same habitual imagery and unconscious assumptions, and yet be transparent to those who have none of these advantages, is in my opinion preposterous. There is an a priori improbability in it which almost no argument and no evidence could counterbalance.

3. Thirdly, I find in these theologians a constant use of the principle that the miraculous does not occur... This is a purely philosophical question. Scholars, as scholars, speak on it with no more authority than anyone else. The canon 'if miraculous, unhistorical' is one they bring to their study of the texts, not one they have learned from it. If one is speaking of authority, the united authority of all the Biblical critics in the world counts here for nothing.

4. My fourth bleat is my loudest and longest. Reviewers [of my own books, and of books by friends whose real history I knew] both friendly and hostile... will tell you what public events had directed the author's mind to this or that, what other authors influenced him, what his over-all intention was, what sort of audience he principally addressed, why - and when - he did everything... My impression is that in the whole of my experience not one of these guesses has on any one point been right; the method shows a record of 100 per cent failure.

The 'assured results of modern scholarship', as to the way in which an old book was written, are 'assured', we may conclude, only because those who knew the facts are dead and can't blow the gaff... The Biblical critics, whatever reconstructions they devise, can never be crudely proved wrong. St. Mark is dead. When they meet St. Peter there will be more pressing matters to discuss.

However... we are not fundamentalists... Of course we agree that passages almost verbally identical cannot be independent. It is as we glide away from this into reconstructions of a subtler and more ambitious kind that our faith in the method wavers... The sort of statement that arouses our deepest scepticism is the statement that something in a Gospel cannot be historical because it shows a theology or an ecclesiology too developed for so early a date...

Such are the reactions of one bleating layman... Once the layman was anxious to hide the fact that he believed so much less than the Vicar; he now tends to hide the fact that he believes so much more...
For further reading:Merry Christmas everyone!

Surprise: Pope takes curia to Brazil for Christmas

As Sandro Magister observes in a post, "Surprise: The Pope Takes the Curia to Brazil" (www.chiesa, December 24, 2007), Benedict XVI, in a surprise move, dedicated almost all of his pre-Christmas address to the Roman curia three days ago to a reflection on the purposes of his trip to Brazil from May 9-14 of this year. Those purposes were to bring the Church back to a stance of mission and to proclaim Jesus to all the peoples of the earth. Including the Muslims. An excerpt, in which the Pope again insisted on this missionary effort, citing the "Doctrinal Note on some aspects of evangelization" released on December 14 by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, states:
"The document proposes, in effect, to remind all Christians – in a situation in which it is often no longer clear even to many of the faithful what the reason for evangelization is – that the reception of the Good News in faith itself urges the communication of the salvation received as a gift. [...] Nothing is more beautiful, urgent, and important than freely giving back to men what we have freely received from God! Nothing can exempt or relieve us of this onerous and fascinating commitment. The joy of Christmas, which we can already taste in anticipation, while it fills us with hope, drives us at the same time to proclaim to all the presence of God among us." (emphasis added)
Merry Christmas! Ummm . . . Ever thought about becoming a Catholic?

Pertinaciously yours,
Pertinacious Papist

Saturday, December 22, 2007

The Twelve Days of Christmas

I received a flyer, "The Twelve Days of Christmas (The Faith Hidden in Song)," reprinted from the November 1999 newsletter of the Latin Mass Society of Great Britain, 11-13 Macklin Street, London WC2B 5NH England. Most of you have probably seen or heard this story before about how this song was developed by English Catholics to communicate their faith in coded lyrics. "True love" is said to refer to God; the "Partridge" is the symbol of Christ; the "Two Turtle doves" symbolize the Old testament sacrifice offered by the parents of Jesus at His presentation in the Temple; the "Three French hens" symbolize the three Wise Men and three theological virtues of Faith, Hope, and Charity; the "Four calling birds" represent the four major prophets and four Evangelists; and so forth. One similar example of such an account is given online under the title, "The Origin of the Twelve Days of Christmas."

Well, I hate to disappoint you, folks. But, which has a pretty good record of sorting out fact from the stuff of urban legend, says, in its post, "The Twelve Days of Christmas," that this account has no basis in fact. Snopes could be wrong, of course. In any case, there is nothing fictional about the record of persecution of Catholics in England particularly under Elizabeth I and her Secretary of State, William Cecil. Civil Rights were not restored to English Catholics until the Act or Restoration of 1829.

Having said that, the symbolism of this account is charming nonetheless and may have been used for some time in Catholic and other Christian circles. So here are the rest:

"Five golden rings" represent the five wounds of Christ, as well as the five obligatory sacraments (Baptism, Penance, the Holy Eucharist, Confirmation, and Extreme Unction), and also the five books fo the Pentateuch (Genesis, Exodus, Levicitus, Numbers, Deuteronomy).

"Six geese a-laying" represent the six days of creation.

"Seven swans a-swimming" are the seven Gifts of the Holy Ghost and seven Works of Mercy (Corporal and Spiritual).

"Eight maids a-milking" are the eight Beatitudes, among other things.

"Nine ladies dancing" are the nine ranks of angel choirs.

"Ten lords a-leaping" represent the Ten Commandments.

"Eleven pipers playing" are the eleven surviving Apostles proclaiming the Resurrection of Jesus.

"Twelve drummers drumming" are the twelve minor Prophets and the twelve points of the Apostle's Creed, and also symbolize the twlve tribes of Israel, the twelve Apostles (their number being restored after Pentecost), as well as the twelve Fruits of the Holy Ghost, among other things.

Cheaper by the dozen. Seems the sky's the limit here. Say Amen.

Ralph Martin's 'Dancing with the Stars' Christmas card

"Benny, Marie, Whoopi and I wish you a Happy New Year," says Ralph.

[Note: this may take several minutes to load.]

[Hat tip to R.M.]

Happy Democratic Winter Solstice!

1. To My Democratic Friends and Family:

Please accept with no obligation, implied or implicit, my best wishes for an environmentally conscious, socially responsible, low-stress, non-addictive, gender-neutral celebration of the winter solstice holiday, practiced within the most enjoyable traditions of the religious persuasion of your choice, or secular practices of your choice, with respect for the religious/secular persuasion and/or traditions of others, or their choice not to practice religious or secular traditions at all. I also wish you a fiscally successful, personally fulfilling and medically uncomplicated recognition of the onset of the generally accepted calendar year 2008, but not without due respect for the calendars of choice of other cultures whose contributions to society have helped make America great. Not to imply that America is necessarily greater than any other country nor the only America in the Western Hemisphere . Also, this wish is made without regard to the race, creed, color, age, physical ability, religious faith or sexual preference of the recipient.

2. To My Republican Friends and Family:

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

3. To My Catholic Friends and Family in the South:

A Merry Jeezus-lovin' CHRIST-Mass, and a Happy Mary-the-Mother-of-God-Lovin' New Year y'all, through Jesus, Mary and Joseph, ad maiorem Dei gloriam, with Papal Bulls along with your coffee at breakfast, now, hear?

Friday, December 21, 2007

Good news from Charlotte

The Catholic newspaper of the Diocese of Charlotte, North Carolina, carried the following article by Karen A. Evans today entitled "Traditional celebration: Extraordinary form of Mass to be offered in diocese" (The Catholic News & Herald, Dec. 21, 2007):
CHARLOTTE -- Older Catholics wanting to re-experience the Catholic Mass as they remember it pre-1962, or young people curious about the "old Mass" will soon be able to attend such Masses in various churches throughout the Diocese of Charlotte.

In July 2007, in the long-awaited and much-debated document 'Summorum Pontificum,' the pope relaxed restrictions on the use of the Latin-language liturgy the predates the Second Vatican Council.

the pope said that Mass celebrated according to the 1962 Missal should be made available in every church where groups of the faithful desire it. The Mass from the Roman Missal, in use since 1970, remains the ordinary form of the Mass, while celebration according to the 1962 missal is the extraordinary form.

"The main benefit of Pope Benedict's document is two-fold," Bishop Peter J. Jugis said. "It recognizes the beauty and legitimacy of the extraordinary form of the Mass and promotes the unity of the faithful because, as Pope Benedict has noted, there are people devoted to this form of the Mass."

"Both forms of the Mass are legitimate means of worship; we don't want to hurt or leave people behind because of their devotion to earlier liturgical forms," said Bishop Jugis.

"We've had a good response from our priests wanting to celebrate using the 1962 missal," said Bishop Jugis. "However, many of them need to learn the rubrics and details of the 1962 missal."

Therefore, 14 priests from the Diocese of Charlotte participated in a five-day training session on the 1962 missal in Hickory Dec 17-21. They studied the rituals of the missal and the prayers, which are recited in Latin.

But diocesan priests won't be the only ones brushing up on their Latin.

"Catechesis will be necessary for parishioners, as well, to fully appreciate the Mass of teh 1962 missal," said Bishop Jugis.

"The major differences between the ordinary and extraordinary forms of Mass you'll notice are the priests' orientation during the liturgy and the use of Latin prayers," said the bishop.

In the extraordinary form, the priest and the people face the same direction in worship, as the priest leads his flock in prayer.

Prior to the Second Vatican Council, a church's altar was placed against the wall at the back of the sanctuary. During the consecration of the Eucharist, the priest therefore faced away from the congregation.

The Second Vatican Council decreed that a church's altar should be placed in a central location in the sanctuary, allowing the priest to face the congregation during the consecration.

Bishop Jugis said that a priest celebrating the extraordinary form of the Mass will now stand in front of the altar, between it and the congregation.

The extraordinary form of the Mass will be offered in certain churches beginning in 2008. Catholics interested in attending a Mass should contact the office of their vicar forane -- a priest who coordinates pastoral activities among groups of churches -- to find out Mass times and locations.

"It will be up to each individual priest to determine when he is comfortable celebrating the Mass," Bishop Jugis said.

Since his ordination four years ago, the bishop said he has received letters from all areas of the Diocese of Charlotte requesting the extraordinary form of the Mass.

"These are individuals who are grateful that Pope Benedict XVI has encouraged the wider use of the 1962 missal," he said.

"Going forward, Pope Benedict said we're not going to leave anyone behind," the bishop said. "We're all going forward together."
One of those letters Bishop Jugis received was mine; and I am most pleased so see the generous spirit with which His Excellency has responded to the Holy Father's Motu Proprio. I am especially delighted to note that the training sessions for the 14 priests took place (presumably at the Catholic Conference Center) in Hickory, NC, which has been my home for the last twenty years. I am almost certain that one of these 14 priests was a former student of mine, whose Christmas card I just received, forwarded to me in Detroit with the remark that he is studying with other priests of the diocese to learn the Tridentine Mass. I have always admired this priest, for many reasons. Here, it seems to me, he has precisely the right attitude toward those who ask for the extraordinary form of the Mass. There is no politicizing of the issue. No grandstanding resistance or ostentatious embrace. Like the good Bishop, he simply sees a need, and as a shepherd of his flock, he steps in to meet that need. Thank you all!

Of related interest:
Friends of the Mass in the Extraordinary Form in the Diocese of Charlotte will be pleased to know that a High Mass is being planned for SUN 13 January, 3:30 p.m. at Our Lady of Grace church in Greensboro [Father Ferguson], Propers for Holy Family.
[Hat tip to T.S.]

More liturgical icky-pooh

"The Italian bishops' conference has entrusted the illustration of the new Lectionary to thirty contemporary artists, with their styles. It's the first time that a liturgical book has been associated with modern images. An audacious undertaking . . ." Indeed, and absolutely idiotic. Have a look: Sandro Magister, "A Test of Courage: Have the Nativity Painted by an Abstract Artist" (www.chiesa, December 21, 2007).

The image reproduced to the left illustrates the healing of the man born blind, from chapter 9 of the Gospel of John: "One thing I do know is that I was blind and now I see" (John 9:25). This is the page of the Gospels that will be read at all Latin rite Masses on the fourth Sunday of Lent next year.

There are eighty-seven full page illustrations like this in the three-volume lectionary. Archbishop Giuseppe Betori, secretary of the Italian bishops' conference, remarked on the new development thusly: "It is a courageous initiative. We want to resume the great tradition of the Church, which has been able to converse with art and figurative language in every era."

Courageous indeed. Right. Now if we could only commission someone from the John Cage or Arnold Schoenberg school of Music to help with the Mass settings. Ummm-hmmm. You know it.

Prayer request

Please remember my father in your prayers as you are able. He has been hospitalized in Iowa City with what appears to be congestive heart failure. He is in good spirits and in good hands and receiving visitors. But there is still no clear medical prognosis. His name is Eugene (he goes by Gene).

A must read

Tracey Rowland, Culture and the Thomist Tradition: After Vatican II (London: Routledge, 2003).

Thomism's influence upon the development of Catholicism is difficult to overestimate - but how secure is its grip on the challenges that face contemporary society? Culture and the Thomist Tradition: After Vatican II rexamines the crisis of Thomism today as thrown into relief by Vatican II, the 21st ecumenical council of the Roman Catholic Church. Following the Church's declarations on culture in the document Gaudium et spes - the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World - it was widely presumed that a mandate had been given for transposing ecclesiastical culture into the idioms of modernity. But, says Tracey Rowland, such an understanding is not only based on a facile reading of the Conciliar documents, but is flawed by Thomism's own failure to demonstrate a workable theology of culture that might guide the Church through such transpositions.

A Thomism that fails to specify the precise role of culture in moral formation is problematic in a multicultural age, where Christians are exposed to a complex matrix of institutions and traditions both theistic and secular. The ambivalence of the Thomist tradition to modernity, and modern conceptions of rationality, also impedes its ability to successfully engage with the arguments of rival traditions. Must a genuinely progressive Thomism learn to accommodate modernity? In opposition to such a stance, and in support of those who have resisted the trend in post-Conciliar liturgy to mimic the modernistic forms of mass culture, Culture and the Thomist Tradition musters a synthesis of the theological critiques of modernity to be found in the works of Alasdair MacIntyre, scholars of the international ‘Communio’ project and the Radical Orthodoxy circle. This synthesis, intended as a postmodern Augustinian Thomism, provides an account of the role of culture, memory and narrative tradition in the formation of intellectual and moral character. Re-evaluating the outcome of Vatican II, and forming the basis of a much-needed Thomist theology of culture, the book argues that the anti-beauty orientation of mass culture acts as a barrier to the theological virtue of hope, and ultimately fosters despair and atheism.

What people are saying about the book:
  • “The Second Vatican Council was a turning point, a moment of grace; the Catholic Church, ever suspicious of Western society, at last joined the modern world. As observers feared at the time, however, the Council was much too optimistic about the nature of modern Western culture. In this careful and well-documented study, Tracey Rowland analyses its failure to make a radical critique of the problems that have afflicted Catholicism in the post-Conciliar years.” -- Fergus Kerr OP

  • “Tracey Rowland provides a critical but lucid analysis of the contemporary illusion that it is possible to convert to Christianity a modern culture wrongly thought of as ‘naturally’ Christian. In response, Rowland advocates the development of a Christian culture conscious of its own strong specificity. This book offers valuable insights into how the Christian faith can tackle the cultural challenges it faces today.” -- Serge-Thomas Bonino OP

  • “This ... is an extremely important book, and no serious student of theology or pastor of souls can afford to ignore it.” -- Laudetur

  • “This study...deserves a wide readership...[Rowland's] powers of elucidation and clarification of tangled issues are in full stride in this sustained and persuasive argument.” -- David Forest, Nova et Vetera

  • “For anyone interested in contemporary Thomism or the future of Vatican II's theology, there is much of interest here. ... There is no doubt that anyone interested in current thinking on Vatican II would gain from reading this book. The argument is impressive, challenging, and expressed with clarity and force.” -- Theology

  • “Tracey Rowland's compelling new book ... [is] impressive in many respects.” -- FCS Quarterly
[Tracey Rowland is Dean of the John Paul II institute for Marriage and the Family, Melbourne, Australia, and part of the international ‘Communio’ school of post-Conciliar Catholic theologians.]

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Groothuis: Franky Schaeffer "Escapes From Reason," again

Some of you may remember the piece we posted "Jaded: Frank Schaeffer 35 years later" (November 3, 2007). Douglas Groothuis, professor of philosophy at Denver Seminary, has just published a fairly scathing review of Frank Schaeffer's new book, Crazy for God, entitled "Franky Plays Schaeffer Card, Again" (The Pearcy Report, December 18, 2007), in which a persistent question is whether the junior Schaeffer has not lost his faith. A few passages in Schaeffer's book encourage such speculation, such as the one on p. 388 in which he questions the existence of God. Again, there are texts such as these:
“We never have any real information about anything important. . . . The most ridiculous thing in the world is a Ph.D. in theology, an oxymoron if one ever existed” (102).

“Perhaps Mom and Dad were right. In an infinite universe, everything must have happened at least once, someplace, sometime. So maybe there is a God who forgives, who loves, who knows. I hope so.” (end of book)
But then again, maybe Groothuis is wrong, and there is a Franky who really does believe, knows and loves God. I hope so.

[Hat tip to E.E.]

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Old Mass to return to Boston's Holy Trinity

After depressing reports about closing down the Indult Mass at Holy Trinity in Boston back in April of this year, reports have now reached the internet stating that Fr. John Connolly, Rector of Holy Cross Cathedral (recently named administrator of Holy Trinity) has officially given his consent to the Extraordinary (Tridentine) Form of the Mass being celebrated again at Holy Trinity (German) Church in Boston's South End.

The evangelistic IMPERATIVE

Addendum to "New CDF document Magna Carta of Evangelization" (Musings, December 14, 2007):
ROMA, December 17, 2007 – "It is an exact order from the Lord, and it does not allow for any sort of exemption. He did not tell us: Preach the Gospel to every creature, except for the Muslims, the Jews, and the Dalai Lama."
Thus does Sandro Magister begin his discussion of the CDF Note on Evangelization releasted last Friday, December 14, by recalling the preaching of Cardinal Giacomo Biffi, archbishop of Bologna, in a celebrated address he gave nine days after September 11, 2001. In his account, "Overturned: The Church Can – and Must – Evangelize" (www.chiesa, December 17, 2007), Magister stresses the target of the Note: the "growing confusion" that has penetrated even within missionary institutes, who, in deference to 'dialogue', refuse even to preach or to baptize, but stress only social activism. He also focuses on the two critical situations of evangelization within Russia and the Muslim countries.

Of related interest

Monday, December 17, 2007

What happened to Catholic intellectual culture?

The irony is that history is rich in examples of Catholic intellectual culture, but it seems to be in singular eclipse on university campuses across the country -- even on Catholic university campuses. This is something that continues to disturb me. Robert Louis Wilken, the William R. Kenan Jr. Professor of History at the University of Virginia has an article in the latest issue of First Things that, at least in part, addresses this issue. The article is entitled "Catholic Scholars, Secular Schools" (FT, January 2008, pp. 40-43). Herewith I excerpt some paragraphs from the early part of the article:
At Fordham University, while I was teaching there in the late 1960s, it was said that most students were sons and daughters of firemen, policemen, or sanitation workers.

That was probably an exaggeration, but not by much. few parents were themselves college graduates, and the typical student was often the first in the family to attend college. Although the State University of New York had an extensive system of public education, Catholic parents preferred to pay a steeper tuition to have their child attend a Catholic university. What counted was not curriculum, programs of study, or academic excellence but that the school was Catholic.

Today it is estimated that 80 to 90 percent of Catholic students who go to college in the United States matriculate in non-Catholic institutions. Even the majority of college-bound students who graduate from Catholic high schools end up at non-Catholic colleges. Given the number of Catholics in the United States, that adds up to a lot of students. In many public colleges and universities, Catholics make up 20 to 30 percent of the student body and sometimes more.

The most visible sign of Catholicism on American college campuses is attendance at Mass. Catholics, like evangelicals, go to church, and on weekends, Sunday evening in particular, students can be seen making their way to the university parish, a Catholic center on or near the campus, or a local parish. On Ash Wednesday, Catholics are identified by the smudge of black ash on their foreheads.

But, when it comes to the intellectual life of the university, the lamp of Catholic thought is hidden under a bushel. An occasional faculty member, or a group of students, will join in a protest against abortion, but in the public discussion and debate it is rare to find a Catholic professor addressing the issues in a distinctively Catholic way. The Catholic presence runs the gamut from pizza at a Newman Center even to community service, but it seldom reaches into the library or lecture hall. Piety is evident. Catholic intellectual and learning are not.

On university campuses, Catholic faculty are largely invisible. They are seldom known to students, and, though many are accomplished scholars in their academic disciplines, few have the formation in Catholic culture or history to serve as mentors to students. More often than not, their Catholicism is a private and personal thing, an affair of piety and practice, divorced from the intellectual enterprise that is the business of the university.
Although there are differences, the situation is not altogether unlike that of American Evangelicalism following the Civil War. As chronicled by Mark Knoll in The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind, Evangelicals found themselves in an increasingly secularized milieu following the Civil War as universities were taken over by proto-secular forms of liberal Protestantism. Instead of engaging the intellectual culture from their Evangelical Christian perspective, they sequestered their faith within the sanctuary of private piety and devotion, yielding the intellectual front to the ascendant secular idols of the pretended autonomy of 'scientific' reason. The minority of Evangelicals who remained involved in academic life dealt with the problem by means of a disingenuous and intellectually schizophrenic compartmentalization splitting off (a) private sectarian faith from (b) public secular reason. But the majority of Evangelicals yielded the field of intellectual and academic endeavor to their religiously liberal or non-religious peers and retreated into the spiritual insularism that was the spawning grounds of American Fundamentalism. One worries less in the case of Catholicism about the insular Fundamentalist impulse than about the schizophrenic campartmentalizing one or even the accomodationist secularizing one.

Wilken goes on to point out that in the decades leading up to Vatican II, Catholic culture was deeper and more encompassing than it currently is, and educated Catholics had much more of a sense of being part of a long, vibrant, and venerable intellectual tradition that was very much alive in mid-twentieth-century America. American Catholicism went through a literary revival between 1920 and 1960, he says, fueled chiefly by such European writers as G.K. Chesterton, George Bernanos, Charles Péguy, Sigrid Undset, Graham Greene, and Evelyn Waugh. American writers like Flannery O'Connor, Walker Percy (one of my favorites), J.F. Powers, Allen Tate, and many others were part of this revival. Together with such philosophers as Jacques Maritain and Etienne Gilson and historians like Christopher Dawson, they kept alive a brilliant Catholic intellectual tradition that gave educated Catholics an imaginative grasp of faith and an eagerness to engage the increasingly secular American culture.

There was also the renaissance of Thomism, beginning with Leo XIII's encyclical Aeterni Patris in the nineteenth century. Famously, Flannery O'Connor herself had the custom of reading from St. Thomas Aquinas' Summa Theologiae for twenty minutes every night before going to sleep, and, in one of her letters, writes that if her mother came into her room and said, "Turn off that light. It's late," she would life her finger with a "broad beatific expression" and reply: "On the contrary, the light, being eternal and limitless, cannot be turned off. Shut your eyes" (the adorable smart ass)! But this revival of Thomism utterly collapsed in the aftermath of Vatican II. Wilkin suggests several reasons -- (1) the difficulty of teaching a philosophical system to thousands of undergraduates; (2) the growing influence of Catholic biblical scholarship in the wake of the encyclical Divino Afflante Spiritu introduced a strong anti-scholastic bias into Catholic thought; and (3) in the 1950s, la nouvelle théologie brought a critique of scholasticism from another quarter. In the end, Wilken suggests, the loss of cohesion in Catholic intellectual life had less to do with any particular challenge against it than with a loss of conviction that Catholicism had a unifying intellectual vision to offer. He writes:
This failure of nerve still afflicts Catholic intellectual life and has been weakened further by widespread ignorance of the Catholic tradition among educated Catholics. With the burgeoning number of Catholic students attending private and secular colleges, Catholics increasingly resemble other university graduates in their moral and intellectual outlook. Though they are well trained in other areas, unfamiliarity with the Catholic tradition puts them in a position of vulnerability and weakness in matters of faith. They often lack the capacity to defend or express their beliefs -- even to themselves -- and are ill equipped to give an account of their moral convictions in our relativistic culture.
The latter three-quarters of Wilken's article are devoted to a discussion of two major strategies that have emerged over the past two decades for dealing with this situation -- (1) the creation of independent Catholic institutes at major American universities (such as the Lumen Christi Institute at the University of Chicago, the Aquinas Educational Foundation at Purdue, the Institute for Catholic Thought at University of Illinois, or the St. Anselm Institute at the University of Virginia), and (2) the endowment of Catholic chairs at secular universities (such as the Stillman Chair at Harvard, the Riggs Chair of Roman Catholic Studies at Yale, the Arthur J. Schmitt Chair of Catholic Studies at the University of Illinois in Chicago, the William K. Warren Chair of Catholic Studies at the University of Tulsa, the Monsignor James A. Supple chair of Catholic Studies at the Iowa State University in Ames, or the Cottrill-Rolfes Chair in Catholic Studies at the University of Kentucky).

This discussion is interesting enough; however, I'm not sure it gets at the bottom of the issue. Before long we may have to create independent Catholic institutes at major American Catholic universities and endow specifically Catholic chairs at Catholic universities, if it comes to that.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Hugh Laurie - Mystery

. . . and when a bit younger

[Hat tip to M.S.]

UK diversity champions defend Christmas: Woo-woo!

Paul Majendie, "Hands off Christmas, say religious leaders" (Yahoo!News, December 10, 2007), writes:
LONDON (Reuters) - Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims joined Britain's equality watchdog Monday in urging Britons to enjoy Christmas without worrying about offending non-Christians.

"It's time to stop being daft about Christmas. It's fine to celebrate and it's fine for Christ to be star of the show," said Trevor Phillips, chairman of the Equality and Human Rights Commission.

"Let's stop being silly about a Christian Christmas," he said, referring to a tendency to play down the traditional celebrations of the birth of Christ for fear of offending minorities in multicultural Britain.
Tim Jones, over on Jimmy Akin's blog, says he's such a sentimental fellow that the story is enough to make him begin tearing-up -- >>sniff<< -- at all these kind folks coming to the rescue of Christmas and our right to celibrate it "without ya know, being accused of Gross Religious Bigotry and Insensitivity, or something" ("A Christmas Gift from U.K. Religious Leaders," JimmyAkin.Org, December 12, 2007).

Why Peter Phan needs the CDF Note on Evangelization

As a follow up to our post of yesterday, "New CDF document Magna Carta of Evangelization" (December 14, 2007), we note that the USCCB's doctrinal note on Peter Phan was excellent and very well put, and a good compliment to the Vatican's subsequent Doctrinal Note on Some Aspects of Evangelization.

In this connection, Christopher has an excellent resume of the Peter Phan affair in an article he posted yesterday entitled "USCCB Doctrinal Commitee Educates Peter C. Phan on the Gospel" (Against the Grain, December 14, 2007) involving the notoriously recalcitrant and obnoxious Peter C. (for 'Cantankerous'?) Phan. One marvels at the clarity of the USCCB's censure of Phan, among other things.

A small gesture of Muslim-Christian unity in Baghdad

In a follow-up to our post ("New Cardinal celebrates first Mass in Baghdad," December 10, 2007), I wish to call your attention to a post on a "Reunion of Iraqi Christians and Muslims" (Against the Grain, December 15, 2007), which offers the following details based on Sameer Yacoub's account of last Sunday's Mass ("Baghdad Christians Celebrate Sunday Mass," AP). The post begins with excerpts from Yacoub's account:
Under heavy guard and broadcast live on Iraqi state television, the service was capped by a handshake from a visiting Shiite imam—a symbolic show of unity between Iraq's majority Muslim sect and its tiny Christian community. . . .

Delly presided over other services this week in Baghdad and the northern Kurdish city of Irbil, spreading his message of unity and forgiveness among Iraq's Christians.

"We are of one family, everyone should work for the progress of this country," he said during his sermon.

The frequent target of Islamic extremists, Iraq's Christians have been forced to flee by the tens of thousands or to isolate themselves in barricaded neighborhoods if they choose to remain.

"We pray today for the sake of each other and to forgive each other, as well to be directed to do good deeds," Delly said. "That is my demand for the Iraqis, moreover I urge the return home for displaced people and immigrants to their ancestral land."

Many people who filled the pews at the elegant brick Church of the Virgin Mary said they were taking advantage of a lull in violence to attend services and to congratulate Delly. The imam of a nearby Shiite mosque shook hands with him in the church's courtyard after the service.

"I came here to show the unity of the Iraqi people," said the black- turbaned imam, Jassim al-Jazairi. "We are happy with the cardinal. We are very proud of any person, whether Christian or Muslim, who raises the name of Iraq in the international arena."
This past November, the post continues, combat journalist Michael Yon released a truly epic photograph of Christians and Muslims, placing a cross atop the St. John's Church in Baghdad ("Thanks and Praise" Against The Grain Nov. 8, 2007).

Further, Michael Yon provides the background to the story and the momentous events that occurred after the taking of the photo in a piece entitled "Come Home." This is truly an amazing piece of photo-journalism with an inside look at the Mass in Baghdad. Have a look!

The post continues: "On November 19, 2007, Most Reverend Shlemon Warduni, Auxiliary Bishop of the St. Peter the Apostle Catholic Diocese for Chaldeans and Assyrians in Iraq officiated at a mass in St. John’s Church in Baghdad. He was welcomed home by a crowd of locals and American soldiers, who had fought hard to cleanse the streets of Al Qaeda. According to Michael Yon, "speaking in both Arabic and English, Bishop Warduni thanked those American soldiers sitting in the pews for their sacrifices":
. . . when al Qaeda came to Dora, they began harassing Christians first, charging them “rent.” It was the local Muslims, according to LTC Michael, who first came to him for help to protect the Christians in his area. . . . the Muslims reached out to him to protect the Christians from al Qaeda. Real Muslims here are quick to say that al Qaeda members are not true Muslims. From charging “rent,” al Qaeda’s harassment escalated to killing Christians, and also Muslims. Untold thousands of Christians and Muslims fled Baghdad in the wake of the darkness of civil war.
Michael Yon reports that the front pews of the Mass were filled with Muslims, in a spirit of solidarity with their Christian neighbors and to welcome them back to Iraq.

He concludes his post thus:
It’s been a long time since I’ve seen any fighting. I can’t remember my last shootout: it’s been months. The nightmare is ending. Al Qaeda is being crushed. The Sunni tribes are awakening all across Iraq and forswearing violence for negotiation. Many of the Shia are ready to stop the fighting that undermines their ability to forge and manage a new government. This is a complex and still delicate denouement, and the war may not be over yet. But the Muslims are saying it’s time to come home. And the Christians are saying it’s time to come home. They are weary, and there is much work to be done.
Amen to that. Also, as Against the Grain concludes, we can pray that this is only the beginning and, whatever opinions we may hold about the due cause of the Iraq war, have the decency to express our gratitude for the US and Iraqi servicemen whose assistance was indispensable in making this meaningful gesture of amicability possible.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Protestants historically anti-Christmas

Tom Breen, "Religion Today" (AP, December 12, 2007), writes:
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — As Christmas draws near, Pastor John Foster won't be decorating a tree, shopping for last-minute gifts or working on a holiday sermon for his flock. After all, it's been 50 years since Christmas was anything more than a day of the week to him.

He's one of very few American Christians who follow what used to be the norm in many Protestant denominations — rejecting the celebration of Christmas on religious grounds.
These tendencies seems to be still most alive among those denominations with some sort of Puritan (e.g., Scottish Covenanter, Reformed Presbyterian) background. I have known Christian communities that would not celebrate Christmas, and some who would turn around and celebrate St. Nick's day in early January when they would all exchange presents. Go figure. Out the front door and back through the rear window.

New CDF document Magna Carta of Evangelization

"NEW document on evangelisation released by Vatican" (CN-CathNews, December 15, 2007):
Vatican, Dec. 14, 2007 ( - Acknowledging "a growing confusion about the Church's missionary mandate," the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) has released an important 19-page document strongly defending the right and duty of all Catholics to spread the faith.

The CDF document-- which was released on December 14, accompanied by an unusually strong publicity effort-- responds to criticisms of Catholic efforts to bring new believers into the Church. The document states at the outset (quoting Pope John Paul II), "Every person has the right to hear the Good News." For Catholics, the CDF adds, "This right implies the corresponding duty to evangelize."

All believers, the CDF states, have a duty to participate in "the Christian mission of evangelization, which is to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ."
[Hat tip to J.K.]

Defiant Marini kicks off his ¡Viva la revolución litúrgica! book tour

Archbishop Piero Marini, until October of this year the Vatican Master of Pontifical Liturgical Celebrations, has just published a book, A Challenging Reform: Realizing the Vision of the Liturgical Renewal, 1963-1975 (Liturgical Press, 2007). John Allen, an exceptionally balanced writer for the otherwise predictably tendentious National Catholic Distorter, has just written a review of it: "Marini's book on liturgy: The future of the liturgy is the future of Christianity" (National Catholic Distorter, December 14, 2007). Allen begins his review with a story he says he likes to tell when he's on the lecture circuit -- a story set in the summer of 2002, when Pope John Paul II was in Mexico City to canonize Juan Diego, the Aztec visionary in the Our Lady of Guadalupe devotion:
At the moment in the canonization Mass when John Paul read out the Latin formula declaring Juan Diego a saint, pandemonium broke out in the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Confetti fell from the ceiling, drums beat and horns blared, and a knot of indigenous dancers began to gyrate down a catwalk. Inside, it felt like Michael Jordan had just hit the winning shot in Game Seven of the NBA Finals; an American TV correspondent standing next to me, who happens to be Jewish, shouted in my ear, “If they did it this way every Sunday, even I would show up!”

The next day, when John Paul beatified two indigenous martyrs, the atmosphere was equally electric. Once again, confetti fell, music rang out, and native dancers did their thing. The dancers in this case were Zapotec Indians from the State of Oxaca, but there was a notable difference from the day before. In their midst was an elderly female shaman carrying a cluster of burning herbs. She performed a purification ritual known as a limpia, believed to drive off evil spirits. The shaman ritualistically brushed the herbs first on Cardinal Norberto Rivera Carrera, and then on John Paul II himself.

In effect, the shaman performed an exorcism on the pope.

Watching this surreal scene play out, I couldn’t help but wonder what the personnel in the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, the Vatican office responsible for policing the liturgical rules, were thinking. I took out my cell phone and dialed the number of a friend who, at the time, worked in the congregation. I asked if he had seen the ceremony on Vatican TV, which he had, and then I asked for the reaction in the office.

Summoning his deepest baritone, the official thundered back a three-word reply: “Marini must go!”
Marini, of course, was responsible for organizing all the major liturgical events presided over by the pope, whether in Rome or on the road. Hence he gets the credit or blame whenever something pushed the envelope -- such as the exorcism in Mexico City, or the scantily clad Pacific islanders who danced for the pope in St. Peter’s Basilica during the opening of the 1998 Synod for Oceania.

Marini, says Allen, is regarded as perhaps the leading advocate of progressive reform in Catholic liturgy -- the democratization of liturgical control, "inculturation," innovation, and all the rest of the legacy with which we're all too familiar.

Among other things, Allen says:
Marini’s book tells the story of the Consilium, the body created during Vatican II to oversee the implementation of the council’s decree on liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium. The Consilium was always an anomaly in the Vatican: it had no juridical authority of its own, yet at the peak of its influence it enjoyed virtually unchallenged sway over liturgical policy; it was led by a wide international assortment of bishops and liturgical experts, most of them not part of the Roman Curia; and it consulted widely with bishops’ conferences, national liturgical organizations and publishers of liturgical texts, usually backing their views over opposition from the dicasteries of the Vatican.

* * * * * * *

The Consilium’s crowning achievement was the Novus Ordo, the new Mass, issued by Pope Paul VI in 1969 to replace the Tridentine rite codified five centuries earlier as the normal way Catholics worship.
Marini nowhere mentions Benedict or his recent Motu Proprio, Summorum Pontificum liberalizing the old Latin Mass. In fact, his account ends in 1980. But it is clearly an informative retrospective, if not swansong, of a champion of the liturgical revolution that many thought they read in the tea leaves of the "Spirit of Vatican II," which certainly went far beyond anything envisioned by the Council's Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium. Allen's review is long, thorough, and well worth reading.

Archbishop Marini's book publication was feted today at Archbishop Murphy-O’Connor's House in Westminster in London. Marini and company are scheduled to be on the road in the United States promoting A Challenging Reform: Realizing the Vision of the Liturgical Renewal, 1963-1975 in February. Projected dates include:
  • Feb 11-12: Boston College
  • Feb 13: Catholic Theological Union in Chicago
  • Feb 13-15: University of Notre Dame
  • Feb 15-17: New York and the United Nations, with a luncheon hosted by America magazine
Most of the events are reputedly "invitation-only" and there are no present plans for an event in Rome. Gee, I wonder why.

[Hat tip to S.F.]

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Biblia Clerus: Powerful new Vatican online Bible commentary resource

It's not finished yet. There are glitches, and many of the links do not yet work. But it looks to be one of the most thoroughgoing online resources for Bible interpretation. Here's what Catholic World News had to say in a recent announcement: "Vatican offers rich online source of Bible commentary":
Vatican, Dec. 12, 2007 ( - The Vatican Congregation for the Clergy has unveiled a powerful new web site, linking Bible texts with commentary from the Church fathers, doctors of the Church, councils, catechisms, and other magisterial documents.

The Biblia Clerus site links each passage of the Bible-- Old and New Testaments-- with commentary taken from a rich variety of sources. In an introductory note Cardinal Claudio Hummes, the prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy, explains that the site provides "Sacred Scripture, its interpretation in light of Sacred Tradition and the teachings of the Magisterium, with appropriate theological commentary and exegesis."

The sources of the commentary-- many of them provided in full on the site-- include the works of the apostolic fathers, saints, Popes, and councils. The site also provides links to the Code of Canon Law (and the Code for the Eastern Church), and to the catechisms of the Council of Trent, St. Pius X, and the 1997 edition of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

Although designed for priests, the Biblia Clerus site is available to the general public. The entire contents of the site can be downloaded.
[Hat tip to E.E.]

Woman -- as understood by engineers

Now that's pretty Neanderthal, I admit. But several years ago I saw a part of this series called "Woman - As Explained by Engineers" (EBWN) that I thought was pretty funny. It's the third item down (scroll down on the linked page to the instrument panel illustration). Anyway, I haven't seen all of these together in one place until now. But before some thought police troll goes spoiling the moment, notice that it was posted online by someone named Joanna.
[Hat tip to B.H.-- a woman]

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

USCCB withdraws review of 'Golden Compass'

The U.S. bishops, without comment, have withdrawn the review of the film “The Golden Compass,” written by Harry Forbes and John Mulderig, the director and staff reviewer respectively of the Office for Film and Broadcasting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. See USCCB withdraws review of “The Golden Compass” (CNS News Hub, December 12, 2007); cf. "Peters on 'Golden Compass'" (Musings, December 2, 2007).

Baloney from Bologna: Benedict promoter of 'discontinuity'

In a daring move, Ruggieri, Komonchak, and other promoters of the "discontinuity" of Vatican II with respect to the Church of the past have finally replied to Benedict's critique with the audacious claim that he is on their side. Sandro Magister, "Confirmed: The Council Was an 'Historic Transition.' The School of Bologna Annexes the Pope" (www.chiesa, December 11, 2007), writes:
ROMA, December 11, 2007 – For almost two years, the memorable discourse in which Benedict XVI had criticized and rejected the interpretation of Vatican II as a "discontinuity and rupture" had gone without any response. None of the historians and theologians who were its apparent targets had replied to the pope's arguments.

But now the response has finally come, in quasi-official form, with four essays by four highly representative scholars, published in the latest issue of "Cristianesimo nella storia," the magazine of the Institute for Religious Studies in Bologna.

The Bologna institute, founded by Fr. Giuseppe Dossetti and professor Giuseppe Alberigo, is the one that produced the "History of Vatican II," the history of the council most widely read in the world, in five volumes completed in 2001 and published in seven languages. It is a "History" that interprets the Council more as an "event" than in terms of its documents, more in the "spirit" than in the "letter," more as a "new beginning" than in continuity with the existing Church.

The authors of the four articles in reply to the pope are Giuseppe Ruggieri, from Italy, the director of "Cristianesimo nella storia"; Joseph A. Komonchak, an American; France's Christoph Theobald; and Peter Hünermann of Germany.

* * * * * * *

Komonchak dismisses as lacking any real target the pope's criticisms against the theoreticians of the Council as a "rupture." And he instead draws upon passages from the discourse of December 22, 2005, in which Benedict XVI said that behind the "apparent discontinuity" of certain conciliar affirmations – in particular the one on religious freedom – there was, instead "full harmony with the teaching of Jesus himself, as well as with the Church of the martyrs of all time."

In Komonchak's judgment, the discontinuity exemplified by the pope is not at all "apparent," but real. On this and other questions, separation from the previous centuries is all too clear. In substance, therefore, the pope also agrees with those who see in Vatican Council II the most tremendous transformation of the Church in recent centuries.

Ruggieri is more subtle. If the pope, in the discourse on December 22, 2005, defended the continuity of the Council with the previous tradition of the Catholic magisterium, it is because from the point of view "typical of the theologian," which was his, "he could do nothing but subscribe to this conception."

But from the historical point of view, Ruggieri objects, everything changes. The "novelty" of Vatican II is an undeniable fact. And Ratzinger himself contributed to this, when he was German cardinal Josef Frings' expert consultant at the Council. According to Ruggieri, it was the young Ratzinger who wrote the explosive address that Frings read in the assembly hall during the first session, an address that broke completely from the ecclesiastical magisterium of the last two centuries. From this, Ruggieri deduces:

"What the 'History' directed by Alberigo affirms about the novelty of Vatican II is summarized well in this address by Frings." Read: by Ratzinger.
Throughout "Cristianesimo nella storia" the Council is interpreted as event rather than document. Theobald quotes the following sentence from Alberigo: "The Council as such, as an event of communion, of encounter and exchange, is the fundamental message that constitutes the context and kernel of its reception." Again, Ruggieri writes: "The Council transmitted itself. In this sense, the new 'doctrine of the church' is not the fruit of Lumen Gentium and of the other ecclesiological fragments present in the various conciliar documents, but of the conciliar celebration as such. [...] The problem of the reception of Vatican II is primarily that of the collegiality of the whole church."

Sandro Magister pointedly asks: "But isn't this vision the very same one that Benedict XVI had criticized under the heading of the 'hermeneutic of discontinuity and rupture'?" Here is how the pope described it, he notes, at that time:
"The hermeneutic of discontinuity [...] asserts that the texts of the Council as such do not yet express the true spirit of the Council. It claims that they are the result of compromises in which, to reach unanimity, it was found necessary to keep and reconfirm many old things that are now pointless. However, the true spirit of the Council is not to be found in these compromises but instead in the impulses toward the new that are contained in the texts. These innovations alone were supposed to represent the true spirit of the Council, and starting from and in conformity with them, it would be possible to move ahead. Precisely because the texts would only imperfectly reflect the true spirit of the Council and its newness, it would be necessary to go courageously beyond the texts and make room for the newness in which the Council's deepest intention would be expressed, even if it were still vague. In a word: it would be necessary not to follow the texts of the Council but its spirit."
These dissidents have their work cut out for them in denying that they have never written in just such terms, observes Magister. Their own "History" is also an 'event' that goes beyond the text and has a reception yielding results in thought and practice. Benedict has simply thrown down the gauntlet by putting all of this in black and white, describing and criticizing the "spirit" of the school -- or should we say, the Baloney -- of Bologna. The paradox of "Cristianesimo nella storia," Magister observes, is that, in order to respond to the pope, they cling to the "letter."

Monday, December 10, 2007

New Cardinal celebrates first Mass in Baghdad

"Leader of Iraqi Chaldean community celebrates first Baghdad Mass as cardinal" (AP, International Herald Tribune, December 8, 2007):
The leader of Iraq's Chaldean community, who has sought protection for minority Christians against sectarian violence, on Saturday celebrated his first Mass in Baghdad since Pope Benedict XVI elevated him to cardinal last month.

Cardinal Emmanuel III Delly, leader of the ancient Chaldean Church, celebrated Mass at the convent of Mary's Daughters in Baghdad's central Karradah area, in a small service attended primarily by monks and nuns. He led his first Mass in Iraq since elevation earlier this week in the Kurdish city of Irbil.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Game-change in GOP race?

The very first op-ed piece in the "This Week" section of a recent issue of National Review devoted to analysis of the GOP candidates for next year's presidential election floated the following idea:
Rudy-Huck '08? Between the two of them, the ticket will have one solid conservative.
Today the following articles were in the news:

(1) Mike Allen, "Huckabee called homosexuality 'sinful'" (Politico, December 8, 2007); and

(2) Andrew Demillo, "Huckabee wanted to isolate AIDS patients" (, December 8, 2007).

Vatican: resistance to liberalization of old Mass disobedient

About two weeks ago, the following was reported by Catholic News Agency:
Archbishop Malcolm Ranjith of the Vatican Congregation for Divine Worship and Sacraments blasted as "disobedience" the reaction of many bishops to the Pope's motu proprio document Summorum Pontificum, which lifted the restrictions of the older "extraordinary rite" of the Mass.
The article was entitled "Resistance to Latin Mass liberalization is disobedient and proud, says bishop" (London, CNA, November 23, 2007). The article continues:
Archbishop Ranjith decried the action "and even rebellion" of many bishops who are trying to limit access to the older Mass. “On the part of some dioceses, there have been interpretive documents that inexplicably aim to limit the ‘motu proprio’ of the pope,” he said earlier this month.

The archbishop's comments come in response to "interpretations" of the motu proprio supported by the bishops of England and Wales. Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor provoked outrage from some Catholics after his commentary on the document claimed that priests still needed to ask permission from their bishops to celebrate the Tridentine Mass. Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor also said that congregations requesting the old Mass must be "stable," though that requirement is absent from the Pope’s document.

The cardinal’s commentary was called an “ungenerous interpretation” and “a slap in the face of traditionalists.”

Another clergyman, Bishop Arthur Roche of Leeds, claimed that the power of the bishops to stop the Tridentine Mass remained in effect.

Archbishop Ranjith said that, in these dissents, “there hide, on the one hand, ideological prejudices and, on the other hand, pride, which is one of the most serious sins.”

“The bishops, in particular, have sworn fidelity to the pontiff; may they be coherent and faithful to their commitment,” he said.
Notre Dame's stuck-in-the-seventies dissident professor, Fr. Richard McBrien, is also quoted (surprise, surprise) as criticizing young Catholics who like the old Mass, saying "it is a mystery how one can be nostalgic for something one had never experienced." Who says they need to be nostalgic about it in order to experience it? What's to stop them if they just happen to like it? McBrien is also said to have praised "liturgical scholars" who “have published articles which carefully pick apart the reasoning behind the papal document.” Why is McBrien's bloodless dissent so boring, and the Holy Father's bracing orthodoxy (like Chesterton's), by contrast, so exhilarating?

Damian Thompson, writing for the Daily Telegraph, by contrast, is quoted as defending the papal motu proprio, stating: "By failing to welcome the latest papal initiatives - or even to display any interest in them, beyond the narrow question of how their power is affected, the bishops of England and Wales have confirmed Benedict's low opinion of them."

[Hat top to C.B.]

Friday, December 07, 2007

"House of Mary"

An icon of Mary with bullet holes shot through it is at the center of an extraordinary exhibit was opened on the renewal of Christian faith in Russia since the end of the Soviet Union in 1991.

Robert Moynihan, "The House of Mary" (Inside the Vatican, Newsflash, December 7, 2007), writes:
WASHINGTON, DC, December 7, 2007 -- Few who stand before the Russian Orthodox icon of Mary and the Child Jesus which went on display today in the Memorial Hall of the Roman Catholic Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception here can avoid a momentary shudder, an involuntary gasp of horror.


Because the icon, which depicts the Virgin Mary holding her son, Jesus, has 13 bullet holes in it. (The bullets are still there, imbedded in the thick wood of the 19th-century icon. The icon is a 19th-century copy of the famous 16th-century icon of Kazan which Pope John Paul II kept for many years in his apartment in Rome, and which was finally returned to Russia on August 28, 2004.)
The icon has been transported from Russia to be put on display this Advent in Washington as the centerpiece of an extraordinary exhibition on the revival of faith in Russia following the Soviet period which opened today in the lower hall of the Shrine of the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in Washington. Russia was sometimes referred to as the "House of Mary" prior to the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917 when there were more icons and churches dedicated to Mary in Russia than in any other country in the world, according to Father Victor Potapov, a Russian Orthodox priest, in his opening remarks at the exhibit.

[Hat tip to S.F.]

Thursday, December 06, 2007


These women think they scare the Vatican. They think 'conservative' Catholics are enraged by them and hate them. I don't think that is true. I think most Catholics tuned in to the mind of the Church, if they think about it, simply find these women pitiful. Like so many other Catholic laity today, they suffer a near-fatal lack of proper formation and ignorance. Add to this a hubris-inspiring dose of wounded pride, a sense of victimization, self-righteousness in the form of sublimated resentment, and prudence-paralizing floods of lime-light, cameras, and a sense that the whole anti-patriarchal world is cheering them on from the grand stands, and the jig is up: they're putty in the hands of the Devil's useful idiots. Simply pitiful.

[Hat tip to Mr. P.B.]

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Priestblock 25487

I have just received a review copy of Jean Bernard's Priestblock 25487: A Memoir of Dachau, trans. Deborah Lucas Schneider (Bethesda, MD: Zaccheus Press, 2007) from Zaccheus Press Editor, John H. O'Leary. In an accompanying letter, he notes that the original German edition of the work, published in 2004, was adapted into an award-winning European film called The Ninth Day the same year, but has never before been translated into English.

This is a work of non-fiction, a work of reputed literary merit, which promises to be not only a great read but to offer a tremendous witness to the power of faith. Read some of the consistent five-start Amazon reviews of the film version of the story for confirmation of that.

Here are a number of editorial reviews:
Product Description

In May 1941, Father Jean Bernard was arrested for denouncing the Nazis and deported from his native Luxembourg to Dachau's "Priest Block," a barracks that housed more than 3,000 clergymen of various denominations (the vast majority Roman Catholic priests).

Priestblock 25487 tells the gripping true story of his survival amid inhuman brutality, degradation, and torture.

This important book, originally published in Germany in 1963, was adapted by director Volker Schlöndorff into the film The Ninth Day in 2004.

Introduction by Robert Royal. Preface by Seán Cardinal O'Malley, Archbishop of Boston.

Praise for Priestblock 25487

"Stunning... Casts light into dark and previously neglected corners of the horror that was the Third Reich."
Richard John Neuhaus, Editor in Chief First Things

"Father Jean Bernard's portrait of survival in a German concentration camp is simple, forceful and vivid and therefore impossible to put down or forget. It ranks with the great 20th Century personal testimonies against totalitarian violence... Priestblock 25487 is a diary of Catholic discipleship under extreme conditions that will deeply move all persons of conscience."
Charles J. Chaput, Archbishop of Denver

"Gripping! This crisp story of the 3,000-plus Christian clergy at Dachau in 1941 forces me to turn pages quickly, in horror... In its understated power, this brief book is unforgettable."
Michael Novak, author of Washington's God (with Jana Novak)

"Many hundreds of books have been written and published about German concentration and extermination camps during World War II, including at least two or three dozens written or dictated by their actual survivors.

Of these, Father Jean Bernard's Priestblock 25487 is among the very best, because of the exceptional intelligence and honesty of its author. Dachau, where he was imprisoned, was not the worst of all those camps, and Father Bernard was, surprisingly, released after two years of imprisonment: but perhaps because of these very circumstances his diary is extraordinarily telling, convincing, and graphic.
Every scholar and student of that dreadful chapter of twentieth-century history ought to read—and ponder—its contents."
John Lukacs, author of The Hitler of History; and Five Days in London: May 1940

"Father Bernard has left readers with a gripping testimony of the brutal treatment the Catholic clergy received at the hands of the Nazis in Dachau. Despite the grim subject matter, the strong Christian faith held by these men is inspiring."
William A. Donohue, President, Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights

"Deeply moving... The suffering of these priests for the sake of the loving God is one of the modern age's glorious mysteries."
Father George Rutler, author of A Crisis of Saints

"It is dramatic. It is brutally honest. I loved the book and could not put it down."
Teresa Tomeo, Ave Maria Radio

"Priestblock 25487 is an important work—a gripping firsthand account of the persecution of anti-Nazi Catholic clergy. I highly recommend this excellent book."
Sr. Margherita Marchione, author of Yours Is A Precious Witness: Memoirs of Jews and Catholics in Wartime Italy

Antonio Socci: Spe Salvi contra Gaudium et Spes?

Part of an article by Antonio Socci offering an interesting take on the Holy Father's new Encyclical On Christian Hope, Spe Salvi, has been translated into English at Rorate Caeli ("Spe Salvi: the Anti-Gaudium et Spes," December 1, 2007). Socci's remarks on the Encyclical are, in true Italian form, dramatic:
A bomb. It is the new encyclical of Benedict XVI, Spe Salvi, in which there is not a single quotation from the Council (a choice of huge significance); in which at last Hell, Heaven, and Purgatory are spoken of again (and even the Anti-Christ, even though in an excerpt of Kant); in which horrors are called by their name (for instance, "Communism," a word which, at the Council, it was forbidden to pronounce and condemn); in which, instead of greeting the powerful of this world, the powerful witness of Christian martyrs, the victims, is mentioned; in which the rhetoric of the "religions" is wiped out, by affirming that the Savior is only one; in which Mary is shown as the "star of hope"; and in which it is shown that blind faith in progress (alone) and in science (alone) leads to disaster and despair.

Benedict XVI does not quote, from the Council, even Gaudium et spes, which nonetheless had in its title the word "hope," but wipes out the very mistake disastrously introduced in the Catholic world by that which was the main Conciliar constitution, On the Church in the Modern World. The Pope invites, in fact, at n. 22, to a "a self-critique of modern Christianity". Particularly on the concept of "progress."
[Hat tip to New Catholic]

FSSP-UVA workshops in usus antiquior

The Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter announces its collaboration with Una Voce America in making possible Latin Mass Workshops hosted by Our Lady of Guadalupe Seminary in Denton, Nebraska, on teaching priests to say the extraordinary form of the Latin Roman Rite: Monday, January 21 - Friday, January 25, 2008.

Monday, December 03, 2007

And the Quiz winner is . . .

Luke the Drifter came through with the winning first correct identification of the quotation on the Eucharist in the post, "Quiz: Who wrote the following?" (Musings, December 1, 2007). The answer, of course, is John Calvin, whom he correctly identified as "the most scholastic of the Reformers." Honorable mention goes to John Hudson. Wish there was some prize money in it for you guys!

The love that dare not speak its name

Actually, it's a case of the love that dare not speak its name becoming the love that can't shut up: John-Henry Westen, "Gay Pride Clubs Erupt in Ontario Catholic Schools" (, November 29, 2007). Enough already.

Vote Strike?

I received this email at work today, which began thus:
What is a national Vote Strike?

It is you withdrawing your consent to be governed by the inept & corrupt Republican & Democratic parties. . . .

Before we gave a majority to the Democrats in both houses pork & ear-marks were out-of-control. Democrats promising to clean it up were elected. And yet pork & ear-marks are still out-of-control. This year (2007), members of the house of Representatives wrote at least $4.2 billion in earmarks. The same is true across the board, wether[sic.] you voted in a Democrat or a Republican they have failed you. And now we are being asked to pick between a Republican or a Democrat as our next president.
That sounded non-partisan and at least somewhat interesting until I got to the typo, which never invites confidence. Then there was this:
We the people (the voters) find ourselves in a very difficult position. Local governments are forced to do the job of the federal government. . . .
Which pretty much tips the author's hand as a partisan of an activist if not 'big' federal government. I guess in an election year like the one we're facing, one can pretty well expect this sort of thing.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Expanding TLM venues in North Carolina

Masses in the Extraordinary Form according to the Missal of Blessed John XXIII

FRI 7 December 2007, 11:00 a.m., Davis Chapel, Wake Forest University [Father Samuel Weber], Propers for the Memorial of St. Ambrose, Mass: from the Common of Confessors, In Medio... of a Doctor

SAT 8 December, 1:30 p.m., Davis Chapel, Wake Forest University [Father Weber], Propers for the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception -- (NB change in time on SAT for Holy Day)

SUN 9 December, 1:30 p.m., Davis Chapel, Wake Forest University [Father Weber], Propers for Second Sunday of Advent

SUN 16 December, 3:30 p.m, St. Francis of Assisi Church, Mocksville, NC, [Father Robert Ferguson], Propers for the Third Sunday in Advent

SUN 6 January 2008, Sacred Heart Cathedral, Raleigh NC, Propers for the Solemnity of Epiphany -- a Solemn High Mass to be offered at 4:30pm by Father Paul Parkerson as Priest, Father Meares as Deacon, Father Robert Ferguson, FSSP, as Subdeacon, and Bishop Burbidge, Bishop of Raleigh, at the throne.

SUN 13 January, 3:30 p.m, St. Francis of Assisi Church, Mocksville, NC, [Father Robert Ferguson], Propers for the First Sunday after Epiphany, Feast of the Holy Family.

SUN January 20, 2008 at 1:30 p.m., Davis Chapel, Wake Forest University [Father Weber], Propers for Septuagesima Sunday. (if all is ready, this will be a High Mass [more choir members are solicited!])

[Hat tip to S.C.]

Washington Post: Young Catholics leading TLM resurgence

A reader recently sent me the following link with the remark: "Yes, from the Post .... No, I swear it is!"

Jacqueline L. Salmon, "Latin Makes a Comeback: Young Catholics Are Leading a Resurgence of the Traditional Mass" (Washington Post, November 24, 2007).

Comment on 'active participation' at Mass

Just one comment. Near the end of the article, Salmon relates an observation from a traditional Mass she attended in Alexandria, Virginia. She writes: "At St. Rita's Church, more than 150 worshipers listened and watched in silence . . . There was no . . . English and no lay participation." This seems to implicitly assume that the only kind of meaningful participation is external and physical, that if one is listening and watching in silence one cannot be participating. I mention this only because it is such a pervasive assumption. Have people forgotten the meaning of the verb 'assisting' at Mass? The most important kind of participation at Mass, the kind of active participation for which St. Pope Pius X called in his Motu Proprio, Tra le Sollecitudini (1903), is internal and spiritual, not primarily external and physical; and certainly not trying to emulate the roles of clergy. Even Pope John Paul II in his Ad Limina Address to the Bishops of the United States in 1998 "On Active Participation in the Liturgy" says:
Active participation certainly means that, in gesture, word, song and service, all the members of the community take part in an act of worship, which is anything but inert or passive. Yet active participation does not preclude the active passivity of silence, stillness and listening: indeed, it demands it. Worshippers are not passive, for instance, when listening to the readings or the homily, or following the prayers of the celebrant, and the chants and music of the liturgy. These are experiences of silence and stillness, but they are in their own way profoundly active. In a culture which neither favors nor fosters meditative quiet, the art of interior listening is learned only with difficulty. Here we see how the liturgy, though it must always be properly inculturated, must also be counter-cultural.
[Hat tip to J.M.]

Peters on 'Golden Compass'

You’ve probably heard about the controversy surrounding New Line Cinema’s upcoming movie The Golden Compass and the claims that the book it is based on by Philip Pullman is anti-Catholic.

Last week (Nov. 29, 2007) the USCCB Office for Film and Broadcasting released a very favorable review of the movie, discounting the many criticisms and calls for boycotts it has received.

Thomas Peters takes issue in "U.S. Bishops give Golden Compass a pass, and why we shouldn't" (American Papist, November 29, 2007).

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Why would anyone want to become a Catholic?

The following is posted with the permission of the reader from whom it was received, who resides in a major coastal metrapolis. Names and places have been changed to protect anonymity.
Today a lady spoke briefly to the congregation at Mass prior to the dismissal about our parish’s involvement in the diocese-sponsored Care Ministry -- a 20-year old program where people go and assist elderly folks with light housekeeping and so on. Very nice little plug, very sweet.

After Mass, she showed up to our coffee hour, and I approached her to ask a couple of questions, first about the minimum age for participating in the Care Ministry, and second about whether she hailed from the Midwest (her vowels gave it away). Why yes, she was originally from Champaigne, IL.
Me: “I’m also from Illinois, and I went to high school in Champaign.”

She: “Really? Which high school?”

Me: “Centennial, on the west side.”

She: “I was at Driscoll Catholic High. Do you know Driscoll?”

Me: “No, I don’t know anything about the Catholic high schools in Champaign. I wasn’t Catholic back then -- I’m a convert.”

She: “A convert? That always amazes me. Why would anyone want to become Catholic?”
I confess that at this point, I just stood there staring. I would expect this question as a matter of course from some sandal-clad, pony-tailed, Volvo-driving software engineer whose definition of fulfillment is sex on a four-poster featherbed after a therapeutic massage and a little Thai cuisine at Orrapin with his domestic partner. But from a sixtyish alumna of Driscoll Catholic High in Campaign, who’s clearly been Catholic all her life, and travels from parish to parish speaking on behalf of a beautiful ministry to shut-ins?

Why would anyone want to become Catholic? Who would know better than she? Who should know better than she?

Of course, you’re saying. At present, a question like that is precisely what we might expect from a sixtyish Driscoll Catholic High alumna, if we expected it from a Catholic at all.

The conversation did not end there. After a number of seconds, I pulled myself together and explained that I had grown up in the seventies when many, including my family, were involved in experimenting with various lifestyles, and that what drew me to the faith more than anything else was the solidity of truth. She gave me an uncompre-hending look, and then asked whether the liturgy had made an impression on me. I said that yes, it had, particularly the liturgical life and popular piety I observed in Spain during the two years I lived there.

She then reached her own construal of my conversion: “Well, I suppose you grow up in a certain way and then you realize that there is so much more going on outside of your family in the world, and you want to be part of that.” With this breathtaking formulation, the relevance of what was said about my own upbringing is completely inverted and transformed into what I take to be her own autobiography (of a “sheltered” Catholic upbringing?).

And that was as far as we got, I’m afraid. At that point, she asked to be introduced to my family, and my father-in-law kept her captive for the next 30 minutes, until she had to go.

I wonder if she could have made anything of this response:
“No, you grow up in a certain way of the world and then you realize that there is so much more going on outside of the world in the supernatural family of the Church, and you want to be part of that.”
[Hat tip to K.K.]