Friday, March 30, 2007

Medieval tech support

This is pretty funny.
[Hat tip to Greg Krehbiel]

Naked chocolate Jesus show canceled

Chalk one up for Bishop Egan, who described it as "a sickening display." AP writer, Larry McShane writes, in "Chocolate Jesus Show Canceled" (, March 30, 2007):
NEW YORK (AP) -- A planned Holy Week exhibition of a nude, anatomically correct chocolate sculpture of Jesus Christ was canceled Friday amid a choir of complaining Catholics that included Cardinal Edward Egan.

The "My Sweet Lord" display was shut down by the hotel that houses the Lab Gallery in midtown Manhattan, said Matt Semler, the gallery's creative director. Semler said he submitted his resignation after officials at the Roger Smith Hotel shut down the show.
Semler claimed he was the victim of "a strong-arming" from those who hadn't seen the show and "jumped to conclusions completely contrary to our intentions." By contrast, Bill Donohue, head of the watchdog Catholic League, described it as "one of the worst assaults on Christian sensibilities ever." More than 200 pounds of milk chocolate, featuring Christ with his arms outstretched as if on an invisible cross, and with a conspicuously missing loincloth. What hypocrisy! What Christian-baiting hostility! What a waste of good chocolate! What idiocy!

"St Gregory Palamas: orthodoxor or innovator?"

Al Kimel, over at Pontifications, has posted a fascinating excerpt from "Theosis and Gregory Palamas: Continuity or Doctrinal Change?" (St Vladimir’s Theological Quarterly 50:4 [2006]) by Norman Russell. See "St Gregory Palamas: orthodoxor or innovator?" (Pontifications, March 28, 2007).

'MP' buzz

Amidst the rumor-mongering about the prospective Motu Proprio, the most interesting tid-bits I find are these:
  • The Pope received in separate audiences on March 22nd His Eminence Card. Francis Arinze, Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments; and His Eminence Card. Darío Castrillón Hoyos, President of the Pontifical Commission "Ecclesia Dei". (Rorate Caeli, Friday, March 23, 2007)

  • "According to Die Welt, even a cover letter to the world's bishops, which would be sent out with the eventual motu proprio, 'is ready'." (Rorate Caeli, "For the Record," March 28, 2007)

    For details, see: "Das Urmeter der katholischen Liturgie" (Die Welt, March 28, 2007): An English translation of the entire article has been posted by Chris Gillibrand: "The Standard Measure of Catholic Liturgy" -- the last paragraph of which is noteworthy:
    An accompanying letter to all Bishops is already in preparation. It has been decided. This is not a systems reboot, as is due with a defunct computer. Benedict XVI returns to the Catholic Church her own standard with this liturgy, a standard which from now on can be compared to the 1969 Novus Ordo decisively. The decision has opened the way to a finger-wrestling full of surprises. After all finger wrestling is a Bavarian speciality.
  • "Tradition is not traditionalism," Benedict XVI, General Audience, March 28, 2007 (Rorate Caeli, March 28, 2007). While the Holy Father's remarks may perhaps be viewed as a warning against schismatic tendencies evident among some traditionalists on the eve of his prospective Motu Proprio, probably the most balanced interpretation of his remarks is that of a commentor over at Rorate Caeli, who writes:
    I think it is incorrect to view this as an attack on "traditionalists," who merely see themselves as upholders of Tradition in an age that has largely forgotten how to do this.

    The pope is making the point that adherence to tradition is not nostalgism, but a living transmission of the word of God from one generation to the next under the guidance of the Paraclete.

    When traditionalism becomes an absolute "ism" it loses its Catholic identity. The saints did not call themselves "traditionalists," they called themselves Catholics.
    In a profound sense -- even an ineluctable, unavoidable sense -- to be Catholic is to be traditionalist, although the polarizing politicization of the term, along with the anhistorical immediatism of our time, has caused many to lose sight of this fact today.

  • March 25, 2007 Conference "on the State of the Church and Relations Between Rome and the SSPX": by Father Alain-Marc Nely, Second Assistant to the Superior General of the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Pius X (SSPX/FSSPX). (Rorate Caeli, "For the Record," March 28, 2007)

Retired Episcopal Bishop Herzog of Albany Papes!

The Rt. Rev. Daniel Herzog, retired Episcopal bishop of Albany, has entered into full communion with the Catholic Church. (See "Bishop Herzog Joins the Roman Catholic Church," via Pontifications, "Bishop Herzog Papes!" March 29, 2007)

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Repent & prepare . . .

The Gospel according to Matthew, chapter 3, verses 1-3:
In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judea, and saying,

Repent; for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.
For this is He that was spoken of by the prophet, Isaiah, saying,

The voice of one crying in the wilderness,

Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.

Pope: Hell 'really exists'

Pope: Hell 'really exists' VATICAN CITY, March 28 (UPI) -- - Pope Benedict XVI says Hell -- despite being typically overlooked in today's society -- "really exists and is eternal."
Church historian Agostino Paravicini Bagliani said the warning comes at a time when the world's concept of Hell has changed dramatically.
[Hat tip to M.F.]

Goeteia -- the dark art of deconstructing nature

Now scientists create a sheep that's 15% human (Daily Mail, March 27, 2007)
Scientists have created the world's first human-sheep chimera - which has the body of a sheep and half-human organs.

The sheep have 15 per cent human cells and 85 per cent animal cells - and their evolution brings the prospect of animal organs being transplanted into humans one step closer.
All of this courtesy of Professor Esmail Zanjani, of the University of Nevada, who has spent seven years and £5million perfecting the technique, which involves injecting adult human cells into a sheep's foetus. Among other things, however, there is this:
Dr. Patrick Dixon, an international lecturer on biological trends, warned: "Many silent viruses could create a biological nightmare in humans. Mutant animal viruses are a real threat, as we have seen with HIV."
[Hat tip to M.F.]

Home again

We're home again, as of midnight last (Wednesday) night. We had a wonderful and gratifying time together with family and relatives. Daughter Hannah enjoyed staying at our cousin's bed and breakfast in a rural setting in a remodeled farmhouse where they currently in lambing season, so there are lots of baby sheep about. But of course it's also great to be home again, safely after the long hours of driving. Thanks for your prayers.

Speaking of prayers, another prayer request: a couple whose marriage is on the rocks because the husband's dabbling in pornography and sexual perversion have pulled him over the edge into a vortex of diabolical addictive disorders bordering on the uncontrollable. The family needs prayer. Given the pervasive hedonism of our culture, the increasing perversion of its forms of entertainment, and their ready accessibility through the same cyberspace network that brings you this blog, this problem is probably more common than we'd like to admit.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Gone to Iowa

I will be taking a leave of absence from Blogville for the next few days as my family drives to Iowa to celebrate my father's 90th birthday and my stepmother's 85th birthday, several days apart.

My father was delighted to announce a few months ago that he successfully renewed his drivers license, but I assure you that the highways are not likely to be more dangerous than they already are: he's a very careful driver, even if he does have a heavy foot. But if you are concerned, just give plenty of berth to any traffic you encounter in the vicinity of Iowa City if you're ever in that area.

As to the heavy foot, I think it must run in the family. There is a story about one of our great great (I don't know how many "greats") grandfathers, named Abraham, who lived in Ohio. He was fond, it is said, of driving his horses and carriage out of the church parking lot after services at break-neck speed and letting the horses gallop at full throttle until they had run themselves exhausted.

Ah, well. Iowa City is about 1000 miles and we do it in a single day. Please pray for our safety as we undertake this expedition once again as we just did at Christmas. We expect to be back late Wednesday evening (Marc 28th).

The Case of Fr. Jon Sobrino, SJ

Nulla veritas sine lex. Nulla lex sine poena. [Hat tip to P. Borealis]

"Catholic traditionalists fire back at Southern Poverty Law Center"

"Recently, the radically left-wing, pro-abortion Southern Poverty Law Center issued a report on anti-Semitism among 'radical traditionalist Catholics.'

"John Grasmeier, a Catholic traditionalist who moderates the forum, has provided me with the following response to the SPLC's report . . ."

So begins a post by Matt C. Abbot, entitled "Catholic traditionalists fire back at Southern Poverty Law Center" (Renew America, March 22, 2007).

[Hat tip to P. Borealis]

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Küng shows true colors again

"Hans Kung Uses Friend Status to Bash Pope Benedict," LifeSite (Marcy 19, 2007).

A fine turnabout after the dramatic gesture of reconciliation in which Benedict met with Kung for dinner on Sept. 24, 2005, after Kung had previously compared the earlier-Cardinal Ratzinger with the head of the KGB in his capacity as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith ("Pope Benedict XVI meets Hans Küng," Sept. 27, 2005).

Fr. Fessio fired at Ave Maria University

"Top Ave Maria Official Dismissed," (March 21, 2007).

Update (3/23/07):
In response storm of protest, AMU has retained Fr. Fessio in a different position (Open Book, March 22, 2007) [Hat tip to Jordan Potter]

Head Of The Human Genome Project: Homosexuality Not Hardwired

"Homosexuality Is Not Hardwired," Concludes Dr. Francis S. Collins, Head Of The Human Genome Project (National Association for Research & Therapy of Homosexuality, March 12, 2007):
" ... sexual orientation is genetically influenced but not hardwired by DNA ... whatever genes are involved represent predispositions, not predeterminations."
[Hat tip to M.F.]

Two from Roiter-Doister

I have two posts for you, my friends, from our good friend and longstanding contributor, Ralph Roiter-Doister. Since they are, though not unrelated, quite different in tone and content, I have taken the liberty of posting them in two different places.

No. 1: "The gnostic temptation: Theology as literary criticism" (Philosophia Perennis, March 22, 2007). This piece is vintage Roiter-Doister, packed with the signature attitude du plume as well as all the serious substance we've all come to expect from Ralph. Here's the first paragraph:
I love the idea of theology as literary criticism. Much of literary criticism can be reduced to the explication of metaphorical language, or of the language of symbolism (which, with the flash and filigree removed, is only a more complex and challenging permutation of metaphor). The common denominator of both metaphor and symbol is the illusion that two separate things are actually one. With a simple metaphor, such deliberate confusion may amount to nothing more than a conceit, designed to highlight the cleverness of the author. With a symbol, however, a more complex statement is being made, the template of which is typically (1) A is not B, but (2) in a different and more profound way, A is B. The "more profound" way has to do with the cleverness of the author, of course, but also with his relationship with the reader: the author has set out in his text a deeper, more profound and elusive subtext, a hidden level of meaning which only the best prepared, most intelligent, most sensitive, most attuned, can fathom. It is a game of perspicacity, and also of exclusivity.
As you can see, this is serious stuff, which may also help you see why I posted it where I did. But this is only the beginning. At this point Ralph notes "a certain gnostic tincture to literary criticism," and launches into a tour-de-force rant cum critique of theology as deconstruction qua fabrication, pitching us analogies from Melville's great white whale and drawing us to the inexorable conclusion that it would make no difference to many contemporary theologians had the Nag Hammadi parchments been blank. A must read.

No. 2: "Does Anyone Believe in Purgatory Anymore?" (Scripture and Catholic Tradition, March 22, 2007). This is a Lenten reflection on the Catholic doctrine of Purgatory, based on a reading of Fr. F.X. Shouppe's book, Purgatory Explained By the Lives and Legends of the Saints. The relation it bears to the first essay can be seen from the following sentences excerpted from his closing paragraph, where he writes:
Fr. Shouppe has no problem with clarity, and no need for relativistic accomodation of various "readings" of purgatorial metaphors. He is just a simpleminded priest of the old school, using the mind God gave him to illuminate His truth in the clearest way possible.
In other words, in the face of gnostic-minded theologians tempted to reduce Purgatory to metaphor and symbol, Fr. Shouppe articulates with simple irreducible clarity the universal and traditional teaching of the Church on Purgatory, and says -- as in the Billy Crystal-Robert De Niro movie -- "Analyze (or metaphor-ize) this!" Read this essay. Then, as Ralph says, "Find a place for [Fr. Shouppe's] book in your busy schedule of lenten reading, along with the Enchiridion of Indulgences, or perhaps the Raccolta."

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

"Vatican approval" of Gospel According to Judas?

Don't believe it for a moment! The media love to promote this sort of misinformation. "Pope gives blessing to gospel of Jeffrey Archer," shouts a headline by Richard Owen, Sarah Delaney and Ruth Gledhill (The Times, March 9, 2007). "The Gospel According to Judas is being launched at the prestigious Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome" blares another, "with Vatican approval" and the "Church's overt backing," according to Ruth Gledhill, Religion Correspondent of The Times, in "Archer, the story-teller, turns pen to Judas" (March 20, 2007), and "Jesus 'didn't walk on water or turn water into wine'" by Ruth Gledhill, on the TimesOnline Blog (March 20, 2007).

Here are the known facts: The Gospel According to Judas is a revisionist work of fiction that endeavors to exonerate Judas from being a traitor and "rehabilitate" him as a sympathetic figure and faithful disciple. Jeffrey Archer (pictured above left), who is co-author of the work, is the notorious author of best-sellers such as Kane and Abel, The Eleventh Commandment and prison diaries entitled Heaven, Purgatory and Hell, as well as a convicted perjurer and master makeover artist. As far as he's concerned, "Jesus never turned water into wine, He did not walk on the water and He never calmed the storm on the Sea of Galilee." So how can a book like this garner the "Pope's blessing" and "Vatican approval"?

The short answer is that it cannot and has not. Then what is the basis for these claims? The answer is that there is none -- beyond certain personal Vatican connections of the other co-author, Professor Francis J. Moloney (pictured right). A Bible scholar, Moloney is head of the Salesian religious order in Australia, and has been a member of the Vatican’s International Theological Commission since 1984. But it gets better: he is a personal friend of the Pope. These connections have allowed Fr. Maloney to introduce their work as though it had the Vatican imprimatur as well as approval and official backing by the prestigious Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome.

Fr. Moloney is more cautious than his co-author about public image, especially where the Vatican is concerned. He publicly insists upon his faith in the resurrection, and told The Times that he considers Jesus to have been a "miracle worker." But even he is willing to state that his biblical studies have led him to "become convinced that some of Jesus's miracles were invented by the early Church." Ah, that good ol' time German "higher criticism" again! And there, you have it!

If this becomes any more of a public embarrassment for Rome, expect decisive backpedalling and nuanced "clarifications" from the Vatican public relations office.

In fact, here already is a response by Fr. Paul Mankowski, S.J., of the Pontifical Institute for Biblical Studies, posted this morning in the "Off the Record: Notes from the Newsroom" department of Catholic World News ("Remarks on the Gospel According to Judas"):
  • The Pope did not "bless" the Archer-Moloney novel.
  • The Pontifical Biblical Institute provided the bottled water at the speaker's rostrum for the Archer-Moloney press conference. Its scholars had nothing whatever to do with the book's content.
  • The Archer-Moloney novel was not "published with Vatican approval."
  • No biblical scholar, including my former colleague Fr. Frank Moloney, believes Fr. Frank Moloney to be "the world's greatest living biblical scholar."
  • Fr. Moloney is not "one of the Pope's top theological advisers."
  • The International Theological Commission, of which Fr. Moloney was a member, enjoys the same level of teaching authority as the Philatelic Office of the Holy See -- that's to say: zero.
  • The teaching of the dogmatic constitution Dei Verbum §11 has not been abrogated.
Fr. Mankowski's remarks are worth reading in their entirety, although they merely confirm that we have here, once again, as in the case of Dan Brown (Da Vinci Code) and James Cameron (The Tomb of Jesus), another case of individuals angling to cash in on the growth industry of Bible deconstruction.
[Hat tips to Al Kimel for The Times and Ruth Gledhill blog links and to Jordan Potter for the Mankowski link.]

"Pope insists on liturgy changes"

I recently received a copy of the Catholic answers Report, a publication of Karl Keating's Catholic Answers organization in California. The headline article is entitled "Pope Insists on Liturgy Changes" and addresses two liturgical changes upon which the Holy Father is reportedly insisting. The first concerns the overuse of Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion (EMHCs); the second concerns the change in the words of consecration from "for all" to "for many" to reflect a literal translation of the Latin "pro multis." Neither of these, of course, is news. We have discussed the former in "On the institutionalization of abuse in the Novus Ordo Mass" (August 20, 2004) and "Extraordinary ministers: from liturgical abuse to liturgical norm?" (May 16, 2006); and the latter in "Pro multis means 'for many,' Vatican rules" (November 21, 2006). Nevertheless, it is heartening to see Catholic Answers highlighting these matters of concern.

The former question -- concerning EMHCs -- is what interests me here. The discussion of EMHCs in the Catholic Answers Report comes under the subtitle: "Role of Extraordinary Ministers Trimmed." (I know . . . "That'll be the day . . ." says a sardonic John Wayne voice inside my head. But let us continue . . .) "Rome has been concerned about the widespread overuse of extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion in many countries and particularly in the U.S., where extraordinary ministers are often treated as an ordinary part of Mass," states the article. The ordinary ministers, of course, are "priests, deacons, and instituted acolytes." (What's the last time you've spotted an instituted acolyte around your suburban parish?) Canon law permits the use of EMHCs when there are too many communicants present to be served in a "reasonable period of time" by the ordinary ministers. (I know. . . That John Wayne voice again . . .) To its credit, the Report is straight up about this:
But in recent years, many liturgists adopted an ideology that tries to blur the line between clergy and laity at Mass, and extraordinary ministers became one of the key ways used to advance their agenda. Large numbers of extraordinary ministers were used on a regular basis -- far more than were actually needed. In some places, extraordinary ministers were used to distribute Communion while a perfectly healthy priest simply sat down and waited out the Communion rite.

An attempt was also made to gloss over the extraordinary character of their service. In many places they came to be referred to as simply "special ministers" or even "eucharistic ministers" -- hiding the fact that they are to be used only in extraordinary circumstances.
That such use of EMHCs has become something on the order of an institutionalized abuse is not an overstatement. The norms governing the extraordinary roles and circumstances in which EMHCs may be used have been clearly spelled out in official documents: the 1983 Code of Canon Law (Canons 900, 907, 910, 230 #3); the "General Instruction of the Roman Missal" (2003), ##100, 162, 284; the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) documents, "General Principles: Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion at Mass" (USCCB, Committee on the Liturgy), and "Norms for the Distribution and Reception of Holy Communion Under Both Kinds for the Dioceses of the United States of America" (USCCB, August, 2002), no. 26; the Vatican Instructions, "Redemptionis sacramentum: On certain matters to be observed or to be avoided regarding the Most Holy Eucharist" (2004) ##151-159, and "On certain questions regarding the collaboration of the non-ordained faithful in the sacred ministry of priest" (1997), Article 1, #3; Article 8.

Yet the conspicuous defiance of these norms on the parish and diocesan level has been mind-numbing. In my own parish, the standard number of EMHCs at Sunday morning Masses is a full variety show contingent of eight (8) individuals! If they are "short," even one, the priest or deacon will call for another EMHC from the congregation to have the full contingent of eight EMHCs. It is standard practice for these EMHCs not only distribute Communion, but to 'bless' children and infants who carried or accompany their parents in the Communion line, or even adults who approach with their arms folded in front of them. Until recently, the United States had an indult from the Holy See allowing EMHCs to purify the vessels that held the Body and Blood of Christ. It was standard practice in my parish until recently for EMHCs not only to purify these vessels, but to consume the remainder of the Precious Blood after the distribution of Communion. My impression is that these practices are far from being unique to my own parish. I have encountered them in my travels across the country.

The good news is that the Holy See appears to be reigning in these abuses. In a series of recent documents, the Vatican has emphasized that EMHCs should be used only when there are too many communicants for the ordinary ministers to "reasonably serve." (I know . . . That John Wayne voice again: What does "reasonably serve" mean in such statements?) There is some evidence that the Vatican is going beyond repeating earlier instructions with their implicit escape clauses, however. In October 2006 it was announced that Pope Benedict had decided not to renew the United States indult that allowed EMHCs to purify the vessels after Mass. From now on, Americans will have the same rule that applies throughout the world, and vessels are to be purified only by ordinary ministers -- "priests, deacons, and instituted acolytes." (Nancy Frazier O'Brien, "Extraordinary ministers of Eucharist barred from purifying vessels" (CNS, Oct. 24, 2006) Hopefully, Benedict's decision is part of a larger pattern in which the Holy See will continue to apply steady pressure to ensure that the overuse of EMHCs is discontinued and they cease being used as pawns in an attempt to blur the line between clergy and laity.


"That is what I imagine the average church's signboard could advertise, so few are those who go to confession any more," writes Karl Keating in his E-Letter of March 20, 2007. While acknowledging that, like himself, most of his readers probably go to confession regularly, he admits that most Catholics today go rarely or not at all.

But wait! This isn't one of those negative posts about how Catholics today are all going to hell in a hand basket. There's more -- some of it good news, as you'll see in due course. Keating does go on to cite some alarming statistics (from Religious News Service) that only 14% of Catholics go to confession yearly, and 42% never go, and so forth -- in contrast to 50 years ago when penitents lined the aisles outside confessional booths on Saturday. Gone with the wind, those days. What happened?

Keating cites (from RNS) the reasons commonly offered by way of explanation -- "changing notions of sin, opposition to the Church's stance on birth control, widespread changes after the Second Vatican Council, ignorance about the sacrament, and busy lives." But, Keating observes, "I think the real answer may be simpler than that. Let me tell you a true story":
Some years ago I was invited to dinner at the rectory of the most populous parish in the Los Angeles Archdiocese. When I knocked on the door, the housekeeper admitted me. It was evident at once that no one else was there. Had I shown up on the wrong night? Oh, no, said the housekeeper. All four priests were still in the church, hearing confessions.

On a Thursday night?

When the priests finally returned to the rectory, the pastor apologized for keeping me waiting. They had had fifty more penitents than usual for a Thursday. I remarked that Thursday evening seemed an odd time to have confessions. "Oh, we have confessions every evening," said the pastor--hundreds and hundreds of confessions each week.

I wondered how that could be possible. The pastor chuckled. He said that neighboring pastors asked the same thing--and they proffered answers. "Many of them say, 'Well, you're just getting our penitents because you have such convenient times for reconciliation,' but that's not so, you know. We can tell that these are our own people."

But why, I asked, were the four priests in this parish kept busy with confessions each evening, not to mention on Saturday afternoons, when in neighboring parishes only a handful of people showed up at the once-a-week slot for confessions?

"Easy," said the pastor. "It's so easy that other priests don't believe how we do it."

Okay, I said. What's the secret?

"From the pulpit we tell our people that they are sinners, that they know they are sinners, and that they need to go to confession. We tell them that God loves them and wants to forgive them. We tell them that we will be waiting for them in the confessionals each night and on Saturday afternoon. We tell them this often and always gently, and so they come to confession. Lots of them."

That's it? I asked. No fire and brimstone? No bribes, spiritual or otherwise? No threats?

"Not necessary," said the pastor. "If you tell people the truth that they already know in their hearts--that they are sinners and need forgiveness--they will respond to that." And so they did.
No matter what changes have occurred since Vatican II, says Keating, no matter how poorly catechized today's Catholics may be, no matter how put off they may be by scandals or banal homilies, one thing has remained constant: human nature. People today commit the same kinds of sins that people committed fifty or a hundred or a thousand years ago. Those sins have the same effect on them as sins have always had on people. In this regard, at least, there is nothing new under the sun.

Keating suggests that this suggests why most parishes have so few penitents: "The fault is found not so much in the wider culture but in the narrow pulpit. When is the last time you heard a priest, even a good one, say clearly that those listening to him were sinners, knew they were sinners, and needed to go to confession--and that he would be waiting for them and would give them as much time as they needed?"

Many priests -- good priests -- mention confession, says Keating, but that's not good enough. What's the last time you remember hearing even one of them discuss confession the way it should be discussed? These are the good priests. But then what about priests who would rather not have Saturday afternoons so inconveniently interrupted, "those who have never uttered the word "confession" from the pulpit, who think they are doing their parishioners a favor by not trying to burden them with guilt?"

"I have news for such priests," says Keating. "Their parishioners already are burdened with guilt. They struggle with guilt because each person over the age of reason is a sinner. That is something called a Brute Fact. What a pity that so many priests fail to understand what is so obvious to the people they preach to each week!"

Keating makes a very important observation about priestly psychology here, which reminds me of familial analogies: priests are perhaps reluctant to talk about sin in this simple and frank way with their congregations much in the same way, perhaps, as parents these days often seem reluctant to discipline their children or even to withhold from them anything for which they express a desire. I wonder whether parents are not so motivated by the narcissistic desire to be liked by their children that they inadvertently fail to attend to the moral and spiritual formation of their offspring's souls. The fact is that children who grow up without loving discipline do not feel loved and do not respect their parents. Children ultimately grow to respect and love parents who set boundaries, who tell them the truth about themselves and what they need, and don't simply indulge their inclinations. The same, I dare say, with parishioners and priests.

The good news, as far as priests are concerned, is that the answer is simple: "If you preach it, they will come."

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

East meets West, Orthodoxy meets Likoudis

James Likoudis, an Eastern Orthodox convert to Catholicism, has been hard at work. For many years a close associate of Catholics United for the Faith, he has been involved in a variety of undertakings. In 1981 he co-authored with Kenneth D. Whitehead a response to Lefebvrist criticisms of the Second Vatican Council and the reformed liturgy, which has been updated by Emmaus Road Publishing last year, The Pope, the Council, and the Mass, Revised Edition (3rd ed., 2006). He has also gone solo with a critical review of Christopher A. Ferrara and Thomas A. Woods' The Great Facade: Vatican II and the Regime of Novelty in the Roman Catholic Church (2002).

Whatever one may think of Likoudis' work in such undertakings, his forté clearly lies in his apologetical work vis-à-vis his own religious and theological background of Eastern Orthodoxy. I remember over a decade ago first encountering his apologia in summary form in his personal testimony concerning his conversion to Catholicism in an essay entitled "To Be Truly Orthodox Is to Be in Communion with Peter's See" in an anthology entitled Spiritual Journeys Toward the Fullness of Faith, edited by Robert Baram (1987). The essay struck me concise, cogent and compelling. I also remember finding chapters I thought important in his book, Ending the Byzantine Greek Schism: Containing: the l4th c. Apologia of Demetrios Kydones for Unity With Rome & the 'Contra errores Graecorum' of St. Thomas Aquinas (1992).

That, however, is only the beginning of Likoudis' work on the question of Eastern Orthodoxy. The divine primacy of the bishop of Rome and modern Eastern Orthodoxy: Reply to a former Catholic (1999) provides what is probably the most thoroughgoing examination in English of the major objections made by Eastern dissidents to Catholic doctrines. In the words of Robert Fastiggi, "With a serene confidence gained by years of research, [Likoudis] calmly shows how most of the objections leveled by the Orthodox against the Catholic Faith are based on historical distortions, theological stereotypes, and suppression of counterevidence."

Likoudis' latest work, Eastern Orthodoxy and the See of Peter: A Journey Towards Full Communion (2006), provides probably the most comprehensive analysis of Eastern Orthodoxy from a Catholic perspective available in English. Beginning with three autobiographical chapters, Likoudis proceeds, in ten more chapters and two appendices, to furnish the reader with ample material for a profound appreciation of the gift of the papacy. These chapters treat not only the well-rehearsed areas of disagreement, but bring into focus areas of difference on the doctrines of original sin, Immaculate Conception, contraception, etc. Due in no small part to his own background and conversion from Orthodoxy to Catholicism, there is probably no other English writer who has so exhaustively explored Catholic-Orthodox issues. This last book of the Likoudis trilogy is the fruit of more than fifty years of reflection and way well represent the culmination of his work in this venue. Likoudis' work is testimony to how the Holy Spirit has guided and continues to guide the See of St. Peter.

Of related interest:
  • Reviews The Divine Primacy of the Bishop of Rome and Modern Eastern Orthodoxy [Scroll to bottom of linked page.]

  • Reviews of Eastern Orthodoxy and the See of Peter [Scroll to bottom of linked page.]

  • Fr. Ray Ryland's review of Eastern Orthodoxy and the See of Peter (Crisis magazine, Dec. 2006)
    Excerpt: Likoudis calls our attention to a seldom-mentioned fact and sees in it “great hope” for the reconciliation of the separated Eastern Churches with the Catholic Church. The fact is this: No Eastern Orthodox rejection or questioning of Catholic doctrine, not even by their rejection of papal supremacy, is “binding in conscience on all Eastern Orthodox . . . .” Why? Because not a single Eastern Orthodox variation from Catholic teaching has ever been taught by what they claim as their final authority, an ecumenical council. For this reviewer, the implication is clear: The entire Eastern Orthodox apologetic—insofar as it deviates from Catholic teaching—on its own terms is necessarily and purely private opinion.
  • Vladamir Soloviev, The Russian Church and the Papacy, ed. Fr. Ray Ryland (2002) [Hailed as a tour de force in apologetics, this is a powerful defense of the papacy by a Russian theologian with an encyclopedic knowledge of world and Church history.]

Monday, March 19, 2007

Aidan Nichols, a Catholic convert

I did not know that Aidan Nichols is a Catholic convert. Born in Lytham, Lancashire, England, in 1948, and brought up in the Church of England, he became a Catholic in 1966. After studying modern history at Oxford University, he entered the Dominican Order in 1970. He has worked in Edinburgh, Oslo, Rome, and now lives at Blackfriars, Cambridge, from where he commutes to teach theology in Rome.

A select bibliography:
A number of Fr. Nichols' works can be found online at Fr. Aidan Nichols Home Page [Hat tip to Peter]

Sungenis comes out against his critics

For the record, CAI apologist Robert Sungenis, recently under attack ("Sungenis, again," Musings, March 6, 2007) for his criticism of Jewish Catholic convert, Roy Schoeman as a 'Judaizer', has come back swinging against his critics in a PDF post entitled "I'm mad, and I'm not going to take it anymore" [PDF], with the subtitle, "Ben Douglass, confused and culminating."

The answer, my friends, is blowin' in the wind ...

Who would have guessed?

Julie Farby, "French Supreme Court Rejects Gay Marriage" (March 14, 2007):
Paris, France (AHN) - In a landmark ruling, France's highest court ruled the first marriage by a homosexual couple in the country was unlawful, thereby annulling the June, 5 2004 union between the two men.
[Hat tip to M.F.]

Motu proprio: for the record

Your recommendations?

By the way, my son Benjamin visited me over the weekend and expressed his gratitude for the titles all of you recommended for him for the prospective class he will be teaching on the theology of the Church. In fact, the harvest of wonderful titles we garnered on the subject of "Ecclesiology" recently so impressed someone else, that he is also interested in soliciting the opinions of this blog audience. I'm sure you will enjoy helping him. This time the subject is "Catholic systematic theology."

A year or two ago, I remember looking into this topic briefly for a friend and not coming up with much, which led me to wonder why the list of available Catholic titles seems short, especially compared to the Protestant production of systematic theologies -- both single volumes and whole sets -- which nearly strikes one as a growth industry. I do suspect, however, that there are many treatments out there about which I know nothing. So I am interested in what some of our readers may have to suggest.

So far we have:
  • St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae
  • Ludwig Ott's Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma
  • Michael Schmaus, Dogma (6 vols)
  • Cardinal Ratzinger and Johann Auer, Dogmatic Theology (8 vols?)
  • Matthias J. Scheeben, The Mysteries of Christianity (Die Mysterien des Christentums, 1865)
  • Emile Mersch, The Whole Christ: The Historical Development of the Doctrine of the Mystical Body in Scripture and Tradition (1938)
  • Aidan Nichols, The Shape of Catholic Theology: An Introduction to Its Sources, Principles, and History
Your suggestions?

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Proper end-of-life opioid use does not hasten death

A study involving 725 patients conducted in 13 U.S. hospice programs found that the use of opioids (narcotics, such as morphine) need not hasten the death of patients with advanced illnesses. "Undertreatment of pain is a far more pressing concern than is the risk of hastening death in those with advanced disease," researchers discovered, "and physicians should be encouraged to use opioids effectively to relieve suffering at the end of life." [R.K. Portenoy et al., "Opioids Use and Survival at the End of Life: A Survey of a Hospice Population," Journal of Pain and Symptom Management, pp. 539, 12/6/06]

The research undermines the frequently used claims by right-to-die advocates that euthanasia and assisted suicide should be legalized because those induced death practices are no different than the yield of aggressively treating pain when death is hastened. According to the study's leading author, Dr. Russell K. Portenoy, "Opioid drugs can be used aggressively at the end of life to relieve pain and suffering, and this use should not be constrained by inappropriate fear of serious consequences like earlier death." [Reuters Health, 1/26//07]

[Source: International Task Force on Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide Update, Vol. 21, No. 1 (2007), p. 2]

Friday, March 16, 2007

Audio recording

Japanese Sushi Documentary

As much as I love sushi, it's a wonder I didn't hear about this Japanese Sushi Documentary before visiting Bill Cork's blog, where he posted a link (Built on a Rock, March 14, 2007). It's in Japanese with English subtitles, informative, and peppered with often outlandish tongue-in-cheek humor, especially for anyone who understands Japanese. Delightful!

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Gays ballistic over Keillor remark

Mark Shea describes it as a "classic case of liberal jacobinism punishing the insufficiently pure" in his post, "Garrison Keillor Fails to be Sufficiently Adoring of Homosexual Marriage" (Catholic and Enjoying It, March 15, 2007). Keillor himself is no social conservative. Shea writes: "Keillor, an old liberal war horse from way back, who has made fun of the GOP stance on gay marriage on his show, nonetheless writes a column in which he dares to state that twice two is four and to suggest that there is something out of whack about a conception of marriage built entirely on narcissism."

Money grafs:
Nature is about continuation of the species -- in other words, children. Nature does not care about the emotional well-being of older people.

Under the old monogamous system, we didn't have the problem of apportioning Thanksgiving and Christmas among your mother and stepdad, your dad and his third wife, your mother-in-law and her boyfriend Hal, and your father-in-law and his boyfriend Chuck. Today, serial monogamy has stretched the extended family to the breaking point. A child can now grow up with eight or nine or 10 grandparents -- Gampa, Gammy, Goopa, Gumby, Papa, Poopsy, Goofy, Gaga and Chuck -- and need a program to keep track of the actors.

And now gay marriage will produce a whole new string of hyphenated relatives. In addition to the ex-stepson and ex-in-laws and your wife's first husband's second wife, there now will be Bruce and Kevin's in-laws and Bruce's ex, Mark, and Mark's current partner, and I suppose we'll get used to it.

The country has come to accept stereotypical gay men -- sardonic fellows with fussy hair who live in over-decorated apartments with a striped sofa and a small weird dog and who worship campy performers and go in for flamboyance now and then themselves. If they want to be accepted as couples and daddies, however, the flamboyance may have to be brought under control. Parents are supposed to stand in back and not wear chartreuse pants and black polka-dot shirts. That's for the kids. It's their show.

Shea: "To this rather mild and droll observation of the bleedin' obvious, Dan Savage replies by raving like a flaming drama queen and Andrew Sullivan's One Man Magisterium declares Keillor a homophobe. All because the old liberal who has made it clear he supports gay marriage has also dared to observe that, you know, it's not all about *you*."

[Hat tip to Mark Shea]

'Evangelism' and 'evangelization'

In yesterday's mail we received a letter from a neighborhood Baptist church. It was the result of a neighborhood canvassing effort, which ordinarily would not have garnered more attention than the usual supply of junk mail. However, this gesture truly touched me. The envelope contained a hand-written letter, signed by a church member. There was nothing perfunctory about this letter. It was printed neatly in ball pen ink. It was five painstaking paragraphs in length. It described the mission of this particular Baptist church, along with worship and Sunday school schedule.

Protestant Evangelicals and Fundamentalists -- usually Baptists of one sort or other -- don't use the word "evangelization." They talk about "evangelism" instead. What they mean by this is welcoming strangers into their fellowship in order to make sure of their salvation. "Winning souls to Christ" or "saving the lost" is how they might put it. A man was willing to sit down and hand-write a five-paragraph letter and mail it to me because, somewhere among his motives, was the love of God and the desire to reach out to those in his community with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He's a Baptist. He has no ecclesiology such as a Catholic would recognize. He probably couldn't recite a single line of the Nicene Creed if asked, although he would find nothing to object if he were confronted with it. He probably does not know that his European ancestors, if he traced them far enough back, originally had the light of Christ brought to them by Roman Catholics, as the Irish monk, St. Columba, brought the Gospel to the pagan Picts of Scotland. But he understands, and we understand, what he means by "evangelism."

I am not quite sure, however, what "evangelization" is supposed to mean in my parish and diocese these days. Even the USCCB's Secretariat for Evangelization's page isn't much help. One publication featured on its main page is entitled Catholic Evangelization in an Ecumenical and Interreligious Society, noting that we are called to be "people of dialogue"; and a conference notice features the North American Institute for Catholic Evangelization (NAICE) meeting at Xavier University in Cincinnati, Ohio to reflect on Evangelizing God’s People in A Culture of Diversity.

Not in the least would I belittle the genuine philosophical and theological issues involved in asserting truth claims within a pluralistic culture. I simply wonder here what St. Paul, St. Peter, St. Columba, St. Patrick, St. Ignatius Loyola, St. Francis Xavier, and all the great missionaries of history, along with our good Baptist friend, would think of all these workshops, committees, books, conferences, and nuanced postmodern jargon -- given the Great Commission and all those lost souls out there.

Pope to Politicians: Some issues non-negotiable

Ian Fisher, "Catholic politicians get strict orders from pope," International Herald Tribune (March 13, 2007) -- "BOLOGNA: Pope Benedict XVI strongly reasserted Tuesday the church's opposition to abortion, euthanasia and gay marriage, saying that Catholic politicians were "especially" obligated to defend the church's stance in their public duties.

"These values are non-negotiable," the pope wrote in a 130-page "apostolic exhortation" issued in Rome ..."

[Hat tip to M.F.]

A thought for Lent

  • I consider the Ten Commandments and face Heaven like a Breakfast Optimist.
    * What's the last time I've murdered someone?
    * Committed adultery?
    * Stolen?
  • I consider the Seven Deadly Sins and face the Tribunal of Heaven in evening terror.
    * Lust?
    * Gluttony?
    * Greed?
    * Sloth?
    * Anger?
    * Envy?
    * Pride?

Oil facts

  • ExxonMobil made $39.5 billion last year, more than any other company in history.
  • The United States government took $100.7 billion from ExxonMobil last year (according to the Tax Foundation).

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Political quote for the day

"It appears we have appointed our worst generals to command forces, and our most gifted and brilliant to edit newspapers! In fact, I discovered by reading newspapers that these editor/geniuses plainly saw all my strategic defects from the start, yet failed to inform me until it was too late.

"Accordingly, I’m readily willing to yield my command to these obviously superior intellects, and I’ll, in turn, do my best for the Cause by writing editorials - after the fact."

- Robert E. Lee, 1863

[See for details.]

Vree: Pickstick raises dubium concerning von Balthasar

Surrendering Oneself to Beauty

By Dale Vree

In First Things (April 2006, pp. 67-68), Fr. Richard John Neuhaus wrote about "Challenging a Giant," the title of his piece. The giant is Hans Urs von Balthasar. Alyssa Pitstick challenged this alleged giant. At the Angelicum in Rome, Pitstick wrote a doctoral dissertation on Balthasar, which focused on Christ's descent into Hell on Holy Saturday.

Fr. Neuhaus said that by reading Balthasar one is "surrendering oneself to…beauty." Balthasar is probably the pre-eminent theologian of beauty. Of course, Hell is not beautiful, and so Balthasar does his best to expunge Hell.

According to Neuhaus, "Pitstick contends this 'theological opinion' of Balthasar's entails grave departures from orthodox teaching," namely, that Christ suffered in Hell the fate of all unredeemed mankind, so they won't have to go to Hell. According to Neuhaus, Pitstick notes that Balthasar "misrepresents scriptural, patristic, and magisterial texts and simply ignores aspects of the tradition inconvenient to his argument…. She finally convinced me that, on the descent into hell and some other signature themes of the great man, there are, at least implicitly, possible incompatibilities with the received structure of faith…. Like the third-century Origen, to whom Balthasar was deeply devoted, Balthasar may end up with a somewhat ambiguous reputation in the history of Christian thought."

In First Things (June/July 2000, p. 99), Fr. Neuhaus expressed dismay that the NOR would contest Balthasar on the issue of Hell. Neuhaus said, "I don't know what NOR is up to by attacking Balthasar." Well, now he knows.

In First Things (Dec. 2006) there is an article by Alyssa Pitstick and a counterpoint by Edward T. Oakes, S.J., who teaches at the University of St. Mary of the Lake in Mundelein, Ill., and who wrote many works on Balthasar and is a defender of Balthasar. (Alyssa Pitstick's dissertation will be published in book form by Eerdmans in 2007.)

Pitstick's book is about Christ's descent into Hell on Holy Saturday. As we said in our New Oxford Note "How Lovely!" (Nov. 2006), in Balthasar's Theo-Drama (Ignatius Press) he said: "Hell would be what is finally condemned by God; what is left in it is sin, which has been separated from the sinner by the work of the Cross" (italics added). In other words, universal salvation -- no repentance needed.

Pitstick says in her First Things article: "What then are we to think when Balthasar himself radically reinterprets a perennial doctrine of his ecclesial community, the doctrine of Christ's descent into hell? When he retains the form in its general expression but changes the content to the point of contradicting the original?… It was held universally in both Christian East and West until the Protestant Reformation; the Catholic Church and the Orthodox have continued to profess it without interruption…. It has consistently been held as an authentic and authoritative doctrine of Catholic faith. To doubt that would be to doubt not only the testimony of history but also the authority of the tradition itself and of the Church's ordinary Magisterium."

According to Pitstick, Balthasar says that Christ's suffering in Hell "must embrace all time if it is to atone for the sins of all time." Pitstick says that Balthasar "stands in opposition to the faith."

Edward T. Oakes, S.J., defends Balthasar, and in essence Oakes defends universal salvation. For all intents and purposes, Oakes admits that Pitstick is right -- which Oakes should not want to do. As Pitstick says: "It was held universally in both Christian East and West until the Protestant Reformation; the Catholic Church and the Orthodox have continued to profess it without interruption." Oakes says that Pitstick "disapproves of Protestant influence on Catholic theologians…. I will up the Protestant ante even further. In my reading, the strongest Protestant influence on Balthasar was not Luther or Calvin but Karl Barth…." Oakes quotes Barth: "we actually know of only one certain triumph of hell -- the handing-over of Jesus -- and that this triumph of hell took place in order that it would never again be able to triumph over anyone." Barth is known to favor universal salvation.

Oakes quotes 1 Timothy 2:4, that God "desires all men to be saved." Of course God, and all Christians, "desire" that all men be saved. But men have free will. Not surprisingly, Oakes leaves out the rest of the text: God "desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth" (1 Tim. 2:4).

Oakes quotes God as saying: "all things are possible" (Mt. 19:26). This is where Jesus says: "Assuredly, I say to you that it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven" (Mt. 19:23). Yes, all things are possible with God, but this is no guarantee. In Matthew 19:29 Jesus says: "And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters…for My name's sake, shall…inherit everlasting life."

Then Oakes appeals to 1 John 2:1-2: "My little children, I am writing this to you so that you do not sin; but if any one does sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the Just One. He is the expiation for our sins, and not for our sins only, but also for the sins of the whole world." Again Oakes leaves much out. In 1 John 1:7,9: "the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin…. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (italics added). And 1 John 2:23-25: "Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father either…. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, you also will abide in the Son and in the Father. And this is the promise that He has promised us -- eternal life."

There was another exchange between Pitstick and Oakes in the January 2007 First Things. On the issue of universal salvation Oakes makes an about-face: "Personally, I would never assert an empty hell…. So how then do I reconcile that position with my enthusiasm for Balthasar? By citing the French anthropologist René Girard's recent book…. Girard speaks retrospectively of his work in a way that uncannily mimics Balthasar's voice: 'We have no choice but to go back and forth, from alpha to omega. And these constant back-and-forth movements force us to phrase matters in a convoluted, spiraling fashion, which eventually runs the risk of being unsettling and even incomprehensible for the reader… [Oakes omission]. I think one needs to read [my work (Oakes comment)] like a thriller. All the elements are given at the beginning, but it is necessary to read to the very end for the meaning to become completely apparent.'" Who knows what this means? Incomprehensible indeed!

Fr. Neuhaus is right: "Like the third-century Origen, to whom Balthasar was deeply devoted, Balthasar may end up with a somewhat ambiguous reputation in the history of the Christian thought."

[Dale Vree is editor the New Oxford Review. His essay, "Surrendering Oneself to Beauty," was originally published as a New Oxford Note in the New Oxford Review (February 2007), pp. 11-14, and is reprinted here by kind permission of New Oxford Review, 1069 Kains Ave., Berkeley CA 94706, U.S.A.]
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New paperback edition, by G.K. Chesterton

G. K. Chesterton's What's Wrong with the World (Classic Books Library, 2007) is out in a new paperback edition designed and typeset by Waking Lion Press, sure to please fans as well as newcomers to this wonderful author.

Here Chesterton takes a hard look at what's wrong with England in 1910, and his insights are just as true for America in 2007. As Amazon reviewer Brian White says, he "skewers feminism, free-love, collectivism, capitalism, and the nanny state," and the fact that the essays are a century old does not reduce their relevance in the least.

Furthermore, Chesterton addresses the underlying problem, which, in his view is that our leaders no longer put the individual (who is human and therefore sacred) above the social organization (which is artificial and expendable).

The book falls into five sections: "The Homelessness of Man," "Imperialism, or the Mistake About Man," "Feminism, or the Mistake About Woman," "Education: Or the Mistake About the Child," and "The Home of Man," each of which has several chapters on a variety of topics.

As White notes, Chesterton enjoyed the genuine friendship even of those he politically and culturally opposed, which may be related to the fact that his expansive good-humour was legendary. "His writings make it clear why he was a hit at any party!"

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Debate: the state of women and gender studies

"Are We Getting it Right? The State of Women and Gender Studies"

Jennifer Roback Morse vs. Amy Richards

Date: March 14, 2007
Time: 6:30 PM ET
Location: University of Virginia
Newcomb Ball Room

FREE and OPEN to the Public! (For more information, contact 800-526-7022)



A cursory reading yields the impression of a solid theological and pastoral reflection upon the October 2005 Eucharistic Synod by the Holy Father, yet containing no significant new surprises -- nothing, certainly, concerning his views on the ad orientem celebration of the Mass.

A quick sampling:
Beauty and liturgy

35. ...Like the rest of Christian Revelation, the liturgy is inherently linked to beauty: it is veritatis splendor.

Ars celebrandi

38. ... The primary way to foster the participation of the People of God in the sacred rite is the proper celebration of the rite itself. The ars celebrandi is the best way to ensure their actuosa participatio.

The Bishop, celebrant par excellence

39. While it is true that the whole People of God participates in the eucharistic liturgy, a correct ars celebrandi necessarily entails a specific responsibility on the part of those who have received the sacrament of Holy Orders…. I would ask that every effort be made to ensure that the liturgies which the Bishop celebrates in his Cathedral are carried out with complete respect for the ars celebrandi, so that they can be considered an example for the entire Diocese.

Art at the service of the liturgy

41. The profound connection between beauty and the liturgy should make us attentive to every work of art placed at the service of the celebration.

Liturgical song

42. ... while respecting various styles and different and highly praiseworthy traditions, I desire, in accordance with the request advanced by the Synod Fathers, that Gregorian chant be suitably esteemed and employed (130) as the chant proper to the Roman liturgy (131).

The sign of peace

49. ... It should be kept in mind that nothing is lost when the sign of peace is marked by a sobriety which preserves the proper spirit of the celebration, as, for example, when it is restricted to one's immediate neighbours (150).

The distribution and reception of the Eucharist

50. Another moment of the celebration needing to be mentioned is the distribution and reception of Holy Communion. I ask everyone, especially ordained ministers and those who, after adequate preparation and in cases of genuine need, are authorized to exercise the ministry of distributing the Eucharist, to make every effort to ensure that this simple act preserves its importance as a personal encounter with the Lord Jesus in the sacrament.

Personal conditions for an "active participation"

55. ... The faithful need to be reminded that there can be no actuosa participatio in the sacred mysteries without an accompanying effort to participate actively in the life of the Church as a whole, including a missionary commitment to bring Christ's love into the life of society.

The Latin Language

62. ... In order to express more clearly the unity and universality of the Church, I wish to endorse the proposal made by the Synod of Bishops, in harmony with the directives of the Second Vatican Council, (182) that, with the exception of the readings, the homily and the prayer of the faithful, such liturgies could be celebrated in Latin. Similarly, the better-known prayers (183) of the Church's tradition should be recited in Latin and, if possible, selections of Gregorian chant should be sung.

The location of the tabernacle

69. ... In new churches, it is good to position the Blessed Sacrament chapel close to the sanctuary; where this is not possible, it is preferable to locate the tabernacle in the sanctuary, in a sufficiently elevated place, at the centre of the apse area, or in another place where it will be equally conspicuous.
The Holy Father says some remarkably insightful and beautiful things in this Exhortation, as well as some important things reaffirming the tradition of priestly celibacy, the indissolubility of marriage, and much more. More on this, surely, anon. But, for the moment, one thing that again strikes the reader is the non-binding way in which pastoral recommendations are suggested rather than imposed:
E.g., #42 -- "I desire ... that Gregorian chant be suitably esteemed and employed"; #49 -- "nothing is lost when the sign of peace is marked by a sobriety"; #50 -- "I ask ... those who, after adequate preparation and in cases of genuine need, are authorized to exercise the ministry of distributing the Eucharist ... "; #62 -- "I wish to endorse the proposal ... that ... such liturgies could be celebrated in Latin" (emphasis added).
I think I understand the spirit of pastoral collegiality that animates this language. The thought, I believe, is that pastoral effectiveness is enhanced by winsome humility rather than by exercise of an authoritative tone. I could be dead wrong, but I wonder whether such understatement and repeated qualification could not strike a note of indecisiveness and play into the hands of those who have no intention of submitting to a "reform of the reform." It will be interesting to read what the pundits have to say.

Meanwhile ... back to our Lenten observance.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Pray for the Holy Father

Pope Benedict XVI's post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation on the Eucharist, Sacramentum Caritatis, is scheduled for publication tomorrow. This could be a significant teaching moment in his pontificate.

In other news, there's this: "Pope ignores protests to restore Latin mass" (The Australian, March 12, 2007). Little here is new, even if it is promising: the Rome newspaper La Repubblica reports that Catholic publishers in Rome are preparing new editions of the Latin missal and have sent proofs to Vatican authorities for approval.

Msgr. Ignacio Barreiro, Rome-based consultant to Una Voce America, confirmed that his Vatican sources have said the long awaited and much-rumored motu proprio easing restrictions on the Traditional Roman rite of Mass should be issued by Easter.

Of course, when it comes to the Vatican and dates, one mustn't be too credulous: if the date is not published on the Vatican's official Bollettino, there's no guarantee. Pray.

[Hat tip to Brian Mershon, via Rorate Caeli]

The Old Mass and the Great Thaw: Forbidden Opinions Suddenly Mainstream

By Thomas E. Woods, Jr.

News reports of an impending papal document freeing the traditional Latin Mass from the restrictions of the 1988 indult were all over the media throughout 2006, the first time in many years that the old liturgy had been so newsworthy. In October I got a call from Relevant Radio, a Catholic radio network whose programming appears on several dozen stations across the country as well as through a live feed on the Internet, asking me to discuss these reports and explain their significance on the air.

A couple of weeks after a friendly appearance on the network’s morning show, Morning Air, I was scheduled to appear on Relevant Radio’s hour-long call-in program called “Searching the Word.” Of the 200 or so radio appearances I’ve made over the past couple of years, this was far and away the most satisfying, and the one to which I turn my attention here.

The long and the short of it is this: it’s suddenly become all right to say things that for years have been played down or suppressed in the Catholic media.

In the first segment, before we took calls, I discussed the old Mass with host Chuck Neff, and explained why the Pope’s rumored initiative – which I said had to be more than just a rumor at that point – was a wonderful step forward for the whole Church. It would restore the sacred to our parishes, increase vocations, and bring back some of those souls who had been so disillusioned by the liturgical changes that they had stayed away from the Church for good. I talked about the sacrifices that many families make to attend the relatively few traditional Masses available now – driving hours each way, even relocating across the country in order to sanctify their souls at this copious font of grace. And I quoted the passage from Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger’s 1997 book, Salt of the Earth that by now I’ve committed to memory: “I am of the opinion, to be sure, that the old rite should be granted to those who desire it. It’s impossible to see what could be dangerous or unacceptable about that. A community is calling its very being into question when it suddenly declares that what until now was its holiest and highest possession is strictly forbidden, and makes the longing for it seem downright indecent.”

Neff was receptive and friendly, but the calls began inauspiciously. The first came from a woman in Texas who managed, in two minutes, to repeat just about every major misconception and fallacy I’d ever heard about the traditional liturgy – it was like listening to the entire community of liturgical vandals from the 1970s, rolled into a single person. I was told that “no one understood” the old Mass thanks to the use of Latin and the priest’s having his “back to the people,” that there was nothing special about Latin anyway, that I was wrong to say the traditional Mass was older than the Council of Trent (1545-1563) – you get the idea.

It was hard to know where to begin, but with the host’s indulgence I took my time with a response that went like this. The complaint that the priest had his “back to the people” in the old rite is emblematic of a modern mentality in which “the people,” rather than God, are the center of the Mass. For weighty theological reasons, priest and people face East together as the Holy Sacrifice is offered. Mass facing the people, scholars are now coming to acknowledge, was not the primitive practice, and Mass said ad Orientem is the historic norm – Roman basilicas in which the priest might appear to have traditionally “faced the people” can be accounted for simply by their peculiar construction, which forced him to face that way in order to fix his gaze eastward. (During the consecration, moreover, the people turned to face East along with the priest.) In the 1990s, Cardinal Ratzinger, persuaded by Monsignor Klaus Gamber’s arguments on this point, spoke of the desirability of returning to ad Orientem celebrations, and later wrote the preface to Uwe Michael Lang’s book Turning Towards the Lord: Orientation in Liturgical Prayer, which takes the same position.

To the caller’s claim that the fathers of Vatican II had all but demanded the Novus Ordo, I replied with the research of Father Brian Harrison of the Pontifical University of Puerto Rico – research that appeared in these pages, I might add – to the effect that most bishops at Vatican II envisioned only minor changes to the Mass, and added that Monsignor Klaus Gamber, whose book The Reform of the Roman Liturgy features a preface by the man who is now our Pope, insisted that the vast majority of the Council fathers would not have approved of the rite of Mass imposed on the Catholic world in the name of Vatican II. As for Trent, it merely codified an already-existing liturgy; it didn’t create the traditional Latin Mass out of whole cloth.

With regard to liturgical language, I said, the use of a non-vernacular tongue is not an uncommon religious phenomenon. Islam uses Arabic even in non-Arabic-speaking parts of the world, and synagogue services are largely in Hebrew – a tongue that has only recently begun to be used once again as a vernacular language. (In the name of fostering “active participation,” Reform Judaism once tried, unsuccessfully, to displace Hebrew, which has since returned to the Reform liturgy.) The Latin language plays an especially important role for the Catholic Church, as pope after pope tried to explain to us. In Veterum Sapientia (1962), Pope John XXIII reiterated that because the Catholic Church was greater than any merely human society, it was perfectly fitting and right that she should employ an international, non-vernacular language as a sign of the unity of her members. The Church defended the use of Latin long after it had ceased to be a vernacular language, and the twentieth century saw popes drawing particular attention to the merits of Latin. When did all those arguments suddenly lose their persuasive force?

(Incidentally, what can it mean when a Catholic tells us that “no one understood” the Mass in the old days? Anyone suggesting such a thing expects me to believe the following: 1) literate human beings could not follow a simple Latin-English missal; 2) for years on end, no one possessed even the modest level of ambition it would have taken to ask a priest, or even an informed fellow parishioner, to explain to him the meaning of the ceremony his religion required him to attend at least once a week throughout his entire life; and 3) no one could be bothered to leaf through even one of the many books, including Maria Montessori’s The Mass Explained to Children, that explained the basic contours of the Mass in simple language. What kind of lifeless automatons would we have to be dealing with for all this to be true?)

Sticking to the theme of Latin and the universality it both represents and fosters, I gave as an example the experience of Douglas Hyde, the British Communist who became a Catholic in the mid-twentieth century. Hyde began to inquire into Catholicism for a variety of reasons, including his interest in the medieval world. Then something impressed itself upon him ( I had this quotation on my computer screen during the program and read it over the air):
At 11:30 p.m. on Christmas Eve I was twiddling the knob of my radio. Unable to get out to Midnight Mass I wanted at least to bring it to my fireside. And as I switched from one European station to the next I tuned in to one Midnight Mass after the other. Belgium, France, Germany, Eire, yes, even behind the Iron Curtain, Prague. It seemed as though the whole of what was once Christendom was celebrating what is potentially the most unifying event in man’s history. And the important thing was that it was the same Mass. I am a newcomer to the Mass but I was able to recognized its continuity as I went from station to station for it was in one common language. This aspect of Catholicism is but a single one, and maybe not the most important. But I have a strong feeling that it is precisely the Catholicism of the Catholic Church which may prove the greatest attraction, and will meet the greatest need, for my disillusioned generation.
I added that Father C. John McCloskey, who is not a traditionalist per se, nevertheless estimated that hundreds of thousands of people were driven away by the imposition of the new rite. Well, I said, those people matter. Those people have souls just as much as you or I have. And if making this traditional Latin Mass available once again could bring them back, how could we be so petty as not to do it?

The very fact that I was able to say these things – none of which is particularly “extreme,” but little of which has (for some reason) been able to get a hearing in much of the Catholic media until very recently – was, I thought at the time, significant in itself. Little did I know that at least as important as anything I had to offer were the comments that would come from the rest of the callers, who joined me in saying things that any loyal Catholic is of course perfectly at liberty to say, but that for years have been portrayed as vaguely subversive. (Someday, I am sure, we will look back stupefied at a time when some Catholics actually felt funny about praising their own Church’s traditional liturgy.)

Everyone else who called, in fact, was thrilled at the news that the old rite could be coming back to us on a larger scale. One gentleman wondered about the practical issue involved in training priests in the use of the old Missal; I pointed to the instructional videos that are available, the Low Mass guide for priests available at the website of the Latin Mass Society of England and Wales (see, and the possibility (perhaps) of instructional retreats put on by priests of the traditional orders. He also had a more serious concern about whether the bishops might still obstruct the celebration of the Mass, but a commercial break prevented me from answering. (Without knowing the terms of the Pope’s motu proprio I could not have answered him perfectly in any event, but my sense is that some bishops will welcome the old rite out of loyalty to the Pope and , in a few cases, perhaps even out of genuine affection for it, while others will be indifferent and some fraction will be hostile. It is no less a dramatic papal move for all that.)

Another gentleman called to recount his own experience with returning to the traditional Mass, which he had known in his youth. A customer of his told him that the old rite was being offered about 40 miles away, so he went. “I was just awestruck at the reverence of it,” he said. “And I picked up the ’62 missal and I began to read it. It’s in English and it’s in Latin. It explains the Mass entirely. I never understood the Mass before I went to the Latin Mass and got the ’62 missal.” How’s that for turning the usual claim upside down – he never understood the Mass until he attended the traditional Latin Mass and read the old missal! He then mentioned some of the literature he found and read there, including Michael Davies’ A Short History of the Roman Mass. And now, with the old Mass poised to make a comeback? “If my Mom – my saintly Mom – could be alive to see this, she would break down in tears.”

Before hanging up he asked to add one more thing: “ I see whole pews of families – families with nine children. Young people go there, and they have these large families. It’s just the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen.”

Then we took a call from a woman in Wisconsin. “I grew up in the old Church,” she began. “I had 13 years of education in the Catholic school system, and it seemed in the mid-60s where I was living, where I was form on the East Coast, overnight we lost our Church. Everything that we’d grown up with, been taught, revered, thought was holy, just walked out the door….It seems to be there’s been nothing but mass confusion all along the way since that time.

“The one thing that kept me on track throughout,” she went on, “was the holiness that I remembered and the reverence for the Holy Eucharist. The one thing that kept me in the Church.”

This caller then joined the previous gentleman in finding it impossible to believe that people before the Council really didn’t follow the Mass. “As far as the Latin goes, that was never a problem. We had wonderful missals with English right alongside, things were very simply put, anyone could understand it…. I think it was more geared to the person in the street than it is today.”

The last call came from New Jersey. “When I was a kid,” this gentleman recalled, “the churches were packed, and you could walk up to any Catholic and he could explain to you what the Church was all about. Try to do that now….The new Mass – and where I go it’s celebrated reverently, it’s wonderful – but you go other places, and people have their own agendas that they’ve put in, and it’s opened the door for things that are not part of the Church to enter the Church.” I added, as time was running out, that in the traditional Mass the Latin language and the priest’s eastward posture both served to prevent such things from happening. (Are our liturgical vandals talented enough to improvise Latin prayers?)

News reports alone, in advance of Pope Benedict’s initiative, have thus initiated a most welcome thaw in the Catholic world, such that the previously marginalized can at last begin to be heard. Of course, self-styled “progressives” do not want to hear the laity saying such things. It is those who congratulate themselves the loudest on their eagerness to cater to the needs of the laity, to listen to their concerns, and to open the windows in the Church, who are most contemptuous of popularly expressed support for the traditional Latin Mass. But it is both coming out and picking up momentum all the time. With separate statements on behalf of the Pope and the old Mass issued in recent months by French, Italian and Polish intellectuals, the lid has perhaps been ripped off the issue for good – how, after all this, can the old Mass become a forbidden subject once again? It is this kind of thaw, we may confidently hope, that will at last foster a true springtime in the Church.

[Dr. Thomas E. Woods, Jr., is the author of How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization (a free chapter of which is available at, as well as The Politically Incorrect Guide to American History, a New York Times best-seller. His book The Church Confronts Modernity has just been released in paperback from Columbia University Press. The present article, "The Old Mass and the Great Thaw: Forbidden Opinions Suddenly Mainstream," was originally published in Latin Mass: A Journal of Catholic Culture and Tradition (Winter 2007), pp. 16-18, and is reprinted here by permission of Latin Mass Magazine, 391 E. Virginia Terrace, Santa Paula, CA 93060.]