Friday, February 29, 2008

Obama: the fine print

"Obama Speaks to Planned Parenthood about the Unutterable Glory of Sticking Scissors in a Baby's Brain"

"Fighting to keep murder safe, legal, and fantastically lucrative. The sole core value of the Democratic Party on display in all its noxious splendor."

In related news: Obama receives Coveted Moloch Endorsement

[Hat tip to Mark Shea]

Pope's 3rd encyclical due May 1st

"The Pope's third encyclical" (Rorate Caeli, February 28, 2008): "Ignacio Ingrao, Vatican affairs journalist for Italian weekly Panorama, reports:
Six months after Spe Salvi, the Pope publishes his third encyclical. The document should bear the date of May 1st, feast of Saint Joseph the Worker. It will be a social encyclical ....

The document is divided in two parts. In the first one, the Pope recalls the encyclicals Populorum progressio, of Paul VI, and Centesimus annus, of John Paul II; in the second part, [he] assesses the great challenges of our time.
"Tip and source: Papa Ratzinger blog."

[Hat tip to Rorate Caeli]

"Creative initiative" of Italian bishops' conference


Sandro Magister, "The Pro's and Con's of the New Liturgical Lectionary. Two Experts Go Head to Head" (www.chiesa, February 29, 2008):
They are Timothy Verdon and Pietro De Marco. The former defends the works of the modern artists that accompany the passages from the Sacred Scriptures. The latter severely criticizes both the artists and the patrons.

... With the liturgical lectionary that went into use last Advent, the Italian bishops' conference, CEI, intentionally adopted a "courageous initiative," not only for Italy, but for the entire Church. This is how the conference's secretary general, Archbishop Giuseppe Betori, describes it....

Thursday, February 28, 2008

William F. Buckley -- R.I.P.

Memorable quips from Wil [Reader advisory: strong language]:
In a famous exchange with Gore Vidal in 1968, Vidal said to Buckley: "As far as I am concerned, the only crypto Nazi I can think of is yourself."

Buckley replied: "Now listen, you queer. Stop calling me a crypto Nazi, or I'll sock you in your goddamn face and you'll stay plastered."

Years later, in 1985, Buckley said of the incident: "We both acted irresponsibly. I'm not a Nazi, but he is, I suppose, a fag."

Writing in defense of the rich in 1967, Buckley said: "My guess is, that the last man to corner the soybean market, whoever he was, put at least as much time and creative energy into the cornering of it as, say, Norman Mailer put into his latest novel and produced something far more bearable -- better a rise in the price of soybeans than 'Why Are We in Vietnam?'" (For you kids out there, Norman Mailer was an America-hating drunkard who wrote books.)

Some of Buckley's best lines were uttered in court during a lengthy libel trial in the '80s against National Review brought by the Liberty Lobby, which was then countersued by National Review. (The Liberty Lobby lost and NR won.)

Irritated by attorney Mark Lane's questions, Buckley asked the judge: "Your Honor, when he asks a ludicrous question, how am I supposed to behave?"

In response to another of Lane's questions, Buckley said: "I decline to answer that question; it's too stupid."

When asked if he had "referred to Jesse Jackson as an ignoramus," Buckley said, "If I didn't, I should have."

Buckley may have been a conservative celebrity, but there was a lot more to him than a bow tie and a sailboat.
[Acknowledgement: Ann Coulter, "William F. Buckley: R.I.P., Enfant Terrible" (Human Events, February 27, 2008)]

Richard Rorty on Jacques Derrida having a bad day

In his memorial, "Richard Rorty (1931-2007): In Memoriam" (CrossCurrents, Fall, 2007), John D. Caputo (right, pictured with white-haired Derrida) writes:
Later on, I also took exception to what [Rorty, pictured left] said about Derrida, that Derrida was not just making fun of the great philosophers but he had an important philosophical project of his own. His response to that was equally gracious. Again, he did not contest what I said about Derrida but only mused that at those times when Derrida stopped making fun of philosophical theories and started developing positive philosophical theories of his own, Derrida was just having a bad day.
[Hat tip to Dr. P.B.]

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Hillary on Pat Robertson's 700 Club

Here's Hillary at her I-will-do-anything-to-get-back-that-White House best ... (get this now) ... talking about her faith. Hillary Clinton on 700 Club.

"Obama's women reveal his secret"

"Obama's women reveal his secret" (AsiaTimes, Front Page, February 26, 2008):
"Cherchez la femme," advised Alexander Dumas in: "When you want to uncover an unspecified secret, look for the woman." In the case of Barack Obama, we have two: his late mother, the went-native anthropologist Ann Dunham, and his rancorous wife Michelle. Obama's women reveal his secret: he hates America.

We know less about Senator Obama than about any prospective president in American history....

Obama profiles Americans the way anthropologists interact with primitive peoples. He holds his own view in reserve and emphatically draws out the feelings of others ...
Read more ...

[Hat tip to S.F.]

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Michael Foley on Summorum Pontificum



Michael P. Foley, Professor of Patristics at Baylor University, offers a insightful analysis of Summorum Pontificum in "Motus Magnus: An Analysis of Summorum Pontificum" (Scripture and Catholic Tradition, February 24, 2008). Excerpts:
... thought the 1962 Missal is now universally available, no mention is made of a universal indult. This is a subtle yet tremendous change in language. In Church parlance an indult denotes permission to do something not allowed by the common law. It is thus an exception to the rule, an exception that, int he case of Pope John Paul II's 1988 Ecclesia Dei indult, was conceded begrudgingly. By speaking instead of two forms of the same rite, one extraordinary (the 1962 Missal) and the other ordinary (1970), Benedict has redrawn the map. No longer is the old Mass an exception to the rule; it is an established part of it. True, it will be a less frequently occurring form of Catholic worship, but there is a significant legal and even psychological difference between more frequent and less frequent on the one hand and a rule and its exception on the other. And as one blogger wryly remarked, "Let's hope that the term 'extraordinary' when referring to the 1962 Missal will be as broadly applied as it is when referring to 'extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion'!"

Another way in which Summorum redraws the map is by locating the initiative with the faithful and requiring the pastor and Bishop to address their needs (Article 5, para. 1). As Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos explained, "If a group ... having a priest available to do it, asks to celebrate this Mass, the pastor or rector of the church cannot oppose it." Indeed, the entire trajectory of Summorum is from the ground up: the faithful petition their pastor, and if he cannot accommodate them, they are to appeal to the Bishop; if the Bishop does not help, the matter should be referred to an expanded Ecclesia Dei Pontifical Commission (5 para. 1, 7). In a twist that some might consider ironic, Summorum performatively reaffirms Vatican II's teaching on not only the clergy but the laity as the people of God.

Summorum also offers a robust vindication of the legitimate aspirations and claims that traditional Catholics have been making for decades. The Pope gently reminds the Bishops that it was their own failure to implement Pope John Paul II's indult that led to the Motu Proprio, and he laments the liturgical "deformations" that betrayed the aims of Vatican II and caused great suffering among the faithful -- including, he adds in a touching personal note, himself. His Holiness also rejects the old canard that attachment to the classical liturgy is geriatric nostalgia by speaking of all the young who have been drawn to it, and he accords greater intellectual respect to traditionalists by mentioning those whose attachments have been "formed by the liturgical movement," that is, by study and prayer rather than mindless habit or mere allergy to the new."

... The Holy Father, however, is not blind to the vices that plague some traditionalists, who might be prone to "exaggerations and [unsavory] social aspects." Yet even here Benedict tells his Bishops that the best way to help them is by responding with charity. Put differently, if you want people to stop acting like freaks and fanatics, stop treating them like freaks and fanatics.

Os Guinness vs. Frank Schaeffer: "With such a son, who needs enemies?"

Os Guinness, in "Fathers and Sons" (Books & Culture, March/April 2008), takes Frank Schaeffer to task for his treatment of his father in his new book, Crazy for God. Some excerpts:
If asked what is the deepest relationship imaginable, many people would say it is between lovers, or between husbands and wives. The case can be made, however, that from a Christian perspective, no relationship is more mysterious and more wonderful, yet sometimes more troubling, than that of fathers and sons. The depth and wonder begin with all we know of the relationship of God the Father and God the Son, while the troubled aspects stem from the Fall. Consider Absalom's rebellion against King David in the Old Testament, Edmund Gosse's exposure of his father Philip, the Oedipal drive in the writings of Sigmund Freud—and now Frank Schaeffer's Crazy for God, a memoir that is his personal apologia at the expense of his famous father, Francis Schaeffer, who was the founder and leader of the worldwide network of L'Abri communities....

The problem is not so much that Frank exposes and trumpets his parents' flaws and frailties, or that he skewers them with his characteristic mockery. It is more than that. For all his softening, the portrait he paints amounts to a death-dealing charge of hypocrisy and insincerity at the very heart of their life and work.....

... Francis Schaeffer, in his son's portrait, lacked intellectual integrity. There was a lie at the very heart of the work of L'Abri, and the thousands of people who over the decades came to L'Abri and came to faith or deepened in faith, were obviously conned too.

I challenge this central charge of Frank's with everything in me. I and many of my closest friends, who knew the Schaeffers well, are certain beyond a shadow of doubt that they would challenge it too. Defenders of truth to others, Francis and Edith Schaeffer were people of truth themselves....

... Frank's portrayal of his mother is cruel and deeply dishonoring, monstrously ungrateful since she poured herself out for him far more than his workaholic father.
[Hat tip to J.M.]

Grazie, Benedetto XVI



by Alice von Hildebrand


The date of July 7th, 2007 will be remembered with gratitude by all those who treasure the Traditional Mass. Not only is it likely that the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum will bring back into the fold many who have been rightly distressed and grieved by the shocking abuses which have taken place in the Sacred Liturgy since Vatican II ..., but also because it contains treasures of spirituality which have been buried.

When in January 1980, I had the priviledge of having a private audience with John Paul II, I drew this fact to his attention, and mentioned that, shortly before his death, my husband said to me, "I believe that to prohibit a holy traidition is morally illegitimate." John Paul was silent for a moment and then said, "Your husband is definitely one of the very great ethical thinkers of the twentieth century." Later, the Holy Father granted an indult to priests wishing to celebrate in the "old" rite, but permission had to be obtained from the local bishop. In spite of the pope's explicit request that bishops be "generous" in granting this request, many of them were deaf to his plea. Nevertheless, the sacred Tridentine Mass refused to die.

Cardinal Ratzinger, whose magnificent book on the liturgy, testifies to his profound understanding of its importance for man's religious life, clearly indicated that he regretted some of the changes that had taken place since 1969, many of which could not claim to be requested by Vatican II.

As head of the Congregation of the Faith, Cardinal Ratzinger became aware that the de facto prohibition of the "Tridentine" Mass had nefarious effects. When I was once again granted the incredible privilege of having a private audience with another pope, Benedict XVI, I repeated to him what I had said to John Paul II twenty seven years earlier. He told me that the Motu Proprio would be released in May 2007. (Apparently problems of translation delayed somewhat this ardently awaited proclamation.)

His Holiness was clearly aware that the legitimate wishes of innumerable faithful had been totally disregarded. He also knew that the congregations faithful to the "old" rite were flourishing, whereas many religious orders and seminaries had great difficulties recruiting young men for the priesthood.

Let us mention one parish whose story deserves to be told ...

[For the rest of the story, see "Grazie, Benedetto XVI" (Scripture and Catholic Tradition, February 23, 2008).]

[Alice von Hildebrand, wife of famed philosopher Dietrich von Hildebrand, is an internationally known philosopher and author of numerous books, most recently The Privilege of Being a Woman. The present article, "Grazie, Benedetto XVI," was originally published in Latin Mass: A Journal of Catholic Culture and Tradition (Advent/Christmas 2007), pp. 32-34, and is reprinted in its entirety at Scripture and Catholic Tradition by permission of Latin Mass Magazine, 391 E. Virginia Terrace, Santa Paula, CA 93060.]

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Bill Murray's sister, Dominican nun, actor too




Barbara Beckwith, in an article entitled "Dominican nun, sister of actor Bill Murray, breathes new life into saint" (St. Anthony's Messenger, March 20, 2006), writes:

With a hearty voice, an over-the-top Italian accent and old-fashioned Dominican habit, Sister Nancy Murray, OP, strides up the aisle from the back door into the Cincinnati church named for St. Catherine of Siena. She greets everyone with “Buon giorno!” and instantly draws her audience into Catherine’s life story.

Dramatizing vignettes from Catherine’s life, Sister Nancy uses minimal props, but somehow in the magic of theater, she conjures a believable Catherine who understood that love of God is love of neighbor: “On two feet you must walk my way; on two wings you will fly to heaven.”


Tim Funk, in "Nancy the nun is an actor, too" (Charlotte Observer, February 15, 2008), writes:
Two women.

Each grew up in a large framily.

Both bypoassed that well-traveled road to marriage and motherhood, deciding instead to steer their lives in a differend direction.

Donning nun's habbits, Catherine of Siena and, 600 years later, Nancy Murray joined the Dominicans -- a Roman Catholic order of preachers and teachers.

Catherine was a 14th-century Italian saint, a mystic, author, servant of the poor, adviser to the popes.

And Sister Nancy?

A nun since 1966, she's also been a servant of the poor, in inner-city Chicago, as well as a teacher, a vocation director and a hospital chaplain.

But these days, like her little brother Bill Murray -- she calls the "Groundhog Day" star Billy -- Sister Nancy acts full-time. And next Saturday she'll play Catherine of Siena, Italian accent and all, in a one-woman show at Charlotte's St. Gabriel Catholic Church.

To date, she's performed it about 340 times, all over the world.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Demographic Winter - decline of the human family

Nope. This is definitely not what any of us were expecting. I recently learned about this new film on the Worldwide decline of birthrates: Demographic Winter. Yes, you read that right. Decline. I know. It's enough to make one's head spin and regurgitate split pea soup like Linda Blair if you lived through the seventies and all the Club of Rome hype about the world population explosion.

I highly encourage you to view this trailer. It will make you think twice. Thrice. Maybe more. http://www.demographicwinter.com/

Related links:

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Obama Christ, Superstar

It looks like 'ObamaMessiah' is sweeping the Democratic field, which will make for an interesting Democratic Convention in the months ahead, not to mention interesting reading for Clinton-watchers in the tabloids. That sordid business aside, Jennifer Rubin puts a good face on the McCain vs Obama odds, in the face of ObamaMessiah's stadium-size screaming crowds in her article, "Five Ways for McCain to Beat Obama" (February 15, 2008). That, however, assumes an intelligible universe of rational subjects responding to reasonable arguments. Have you been looking at the ObamaMessiah crowds?

One reader writes: "Yes Barack Obama is a deeply flawed candidate. But something very important is happening. Not only a vast expansion of the electorate but a hunger for citizenship." (Well, it would be nice to think it's that. Could it be anything else?) "Mitt Romney rightly recognized that Washington is broken. Without vision the people perish. I remember the Rockefeller Brothers and their goals for America in the 1960s. Nothing comparable exists today. And so we drift to a country isolated from each other and damned to nothing but consumption. I am refreshed by the views of Wm F. Buckley and John O'Sullivan on Obama in the current National Review. Peggy Noonan, Reagan's speechwriter, remarked 'Obama's opponents see him as Bambi, in fact he is bulletproof.'" (That all depends on what 'bulletproof' means. Undefeatable? Irreproachable? Above criticism? She isn't clear.) "McCain, a worthy hero, is not up to matching wits with Obama. He will play the fear card and play it effectively." (I'm not sure this isn't comparing apples and oranges. McCain can't beat Obama on American Idol singing arias from the Webber-Rice rock opera, "Jesus Christ, Superstar"; but that hardly means means McCain isn't up to matching wits with Obama. Choose a different theater: foreign policy, geo-political relations, national defense: one can then just as radily question whether Obama is up to matching wits with McCain. This isn't saying McCain wins the popularity contest. It's only insisting that the popularity contest isn't an accurate index, in the final analysis, of intelligence or knowledge.)

Hey, you think this is over the top? Barack Obama promoted himself with George Friedrich Handel's Coronation Anthem, "Zadok the Priest," with all its Old Testament religious overtones, composed for the coronation of George II of Great Britain in 1727 (Obama, Believe Again -- check it out)!!! Regal music. Intimations of royalty. Sound bites and images drenched in sentiment. Heady stuff. As long as you don't think about what it means -- because it's little more than a Rorschach inkblot for American audiences to envision their own inchoate hopes and dreams. At Obama's inauguration, do not expect a mere plebeian oath. Expect a royal coronation. What these screaming crowds yearn for is not mere citizenship, but worship. In a post-Christian America, they have found a substitute for the Son of God in Obama Christ, Superstar. Expect a royal coronation of sacerdotal proportions -- Obama Prophet, Priest, and King. If Hillary ever scared you, think again. Hillary is nothing compared to her rival's groupies gone positively mad over how ObamaMessiah makes them feel.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Remembering Newman's battle against liberalism

Rorate Caeli has posted a tribute to "Newman, the Prophet" (postdated February 21, 2008) on the anniversary of the Venerable Cardinal's birthday. It is taken from Newman's Biglietto Speech of May 12, 1879, in Rome, on the subject of liberalism in religion. Here are several brief excerpts:
For thirty, forty, fifty years I have resisted to the best of my powers the spirit of Liberalism in religion....

Liberalism in religion is the doctrine that there is no positive truth in religion, but that one creed is as good as another, and this is the teaching which is gaining substance and force daily. It is inconsistent with any recognition of any religion, as true. It teaches that all are to be tolerated, for all are matters of opinion. Revealed religion is not a truth, but a sentiment and a taste; not an objective fact, not miraculous; and it is the right of each individual to make it say just what strikes his fancy.

... Hitherto, it has been considered that religion alone, with its supernatural sanctions, was strong enough to secure submission of the masses of our population to law and order; now the Philosophers and Politicians are bent on satisfying this problem without the aid of Christianity. Instead of the Church's authority and teaching, they would substitute first of all a universal and thoroughly secular education, calculated to bring home to every individual that to be orderly, industrious, and sober is his personal interest....

There never was a device of the Enemy so cleverly framed and with such promise of success. And already it has answered to the expectations which have been formed of it. It is sweeping into its own ranks great numbers of able, earnest, virtuous men, elderly men of approved antecedents, young men with a career before them.

... I lament it deeply, because I foresee that it may be the ruin of many souls; but I have no fear at all that it really can do aught of serious harm to the Word of God, to Holy Church, to our Almighty King, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, Faithful and True, or to His Vicar on earth.

Christianity has been too often in what seemed deadly peril, that we should fear for it any new trial now....
[Hat tip to Rorate Caeli]

Monday, February 18, 2008

"Is Barack Obama the Messiah?"

You had to know it would come to this. Mr. Obama is a winsome young laddie with tremendous charismatic appeal and has been turning audiences into true believers wherever he goes -- and I mean "true believers" in the blindest, most credulous sense of that expression. Mr. Obama feeds this, of course, at times by trading on quasi-religious nuance (e.g., "The hour is almost upon you," "You will have an epiphany," "we need politicians who can BE the truth"). Swooning bodies add to the charismatic religious revival atmosphere. Disciples have begun sharing "Obama conversion stories," talk about the "feeling you get in his presence," and Obama has been compared to Jesus Christ, and has been called "the New Wine," "the collective representation of our purest hopes, our highest visions and our deepest knowings." (For documentation on all of this, click on the link at bottom.)

The fascinating thing is that in his public speeches Obama is basically saying nothing -- better than anyone has said it before. If one pushed the mute button and simply read his speeches, I wonder what the effect would be. If one examines his actual policy positions, they are rather unexceptional and not too different from Hillary's. He is clearly committed, like other major Democrats, to such policies as racial preferences, multiculturalism, liberal immigration laws, and the transfer of power from America's constitutional republic to non-accountable global bodies and international law. John O'Sullivan has described him, profoundly, as not merely "post-racist" but "post-nationalist" and "post-American." This would give us something of serious concern worth debating.

But instead of pressing the mute button and reading the text, look what people are falling-all-over-themselves for: "Is Barack Obama the Messiah?"

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Errata

In our post, "St. Josaphat Catholic Church" (Musings, January 11, 2008) we attributed several excerpts from the "Tridentine Community News" portion of the St. Josaphat bulletin to Fr. Mark Borkowski that should have been credited to Alex Begin. My wife said "No soup for you!" until I made the necessary corrections; and my wife makes the best lentil soup in the world. My wife also says: "Thank you, Diane."

Benedict: Pray for me . . .

"You report: Traditional Masses around the world"

Well, Rorate Caeli beat me to it, and I can't seem to get the picture used on that site to post properly here. Anyway, this is big news in our neck of the woods. Here's what was reported in the post, "You Report: Traditional Masses around the World - X Mississippi" (February 12, 2008):
Our reader Nathan Blosser reports from the Diocese of Biloxi, in the United States:
On Saturday, February 9, 2008, at 6 P.M. Father John Noone celebrated the Mass according to the extraordinary form at Annunciation Catholic Church in Kiln, Mississippi. This was the first public Tridentine Mass in the entire state of Mississippi for about the last 8 years. A little over 100 people were in attendance with some driving well over an hour to attend.

Father Noone will celebrate the Extraordinary form throughout Lent and then determine if there is a genuine interest.
Congratulations to Father Noone and to the local Una Voce chapter. We encourage all readers in southern Mississippi and nearby areas in Louisiana to show their interest in the permanent celebration of the Traditional Mass in Kiln.
Check out the comments over a Rorate Caeli and on the Una Voce site for reactions from those who know the Mississippi scene, and also for the pictures. (Nathan sent me some other pictures, but I have no way of posting them at the moment. He says that at the first public Mass the servers included himself and Jonathan Goff, a 21 year old student from the University of Southern Mississippi who drives over an hour to serve.)

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Fr. Rutler vs. the Spirit of Vatican II

Few people know how to turn a phrase as well as Fr. George Rutler. Whether in skewering modernists or celebrating unsung heroes, he has cultivated and used his gift in the service of Church. Indeed, Fr. Rutler's column is one of those I have missed the most since the recent demise of Crisis magazine.

The latest issue of First Things carries a review by Fr. Rutler of Piero Marini's book, A Challenging Reform: Realizing the Visiton of the Liturgical Renewal, 1963-1975 (Liturgical Press), a book to which we devoted a post back before Christmas, "Defiant Marini kicks off his ¡Viva la revolución litúrgica! book tour" (Musings, December 14, 2007).

I have selected just the juiciest exerpts from this very meaty review in order to showcase Fr. Rutler's literary acumen, theological insight, and liturgical instincts, which, I think, you will come to enjoy if you do not already:
To young people today, Vatican II reposes in a haze with Nicaea II and Lateran II. Their guileless ignorance at least frees them from the animus of some aging liturgists who thought that the Second Vatican Countil defined a whole new anthropological stage in the history of man. The prolix optimism of many interpreters of that council has now taken on a patina -- not that of a fine bronze but more like a discoloration of a Bauhaus building.

...the author shows a genuine innocence in his assumption that readers will share his preference for theory over practice. His polemical tone will agitate those whom Marini calls "reactionaries" to think that their misgivings about the events of 1963 to 1975 were not totally hallucinatory.

... this thin, even epistemologically anorexic, book will long be of interest to ecclesiologists as they study its awkward ballet of resentments and vindications of the wort commonly found in youthful diaries that were not burned in maturity. There are no greys in the book: Champtions like Leraco, Giobbe, and Larraone were "brilliant" and "charismatic" and "progressive<' while anonymous members of the Congregation for Rites were "anchores in the past" and often "overplayed their hand."

... Marini is not a slave to the principle of noncontradiction. The Consilium was "to reflect the hopes and needs of local churches throughout the world," but two sentences later Holy Mother Church becomes something of a nanny: "In order to renew the liturgy, ti was not enought to issue new directives; it was also necessary to change the attitudes of both the clergy and the lay faithful to enable them to grasp the purpose of the reform." In case the people thought something was being done to them instead of for them, various means of social communication would be required "in preparing the faithful to welcome the reform."

... Considerable erudition was at work in those years, but too often its populism overruled the people. It was like Le Corbusier sketching a new metallic Paris. Marini complains about "a certain nostalgia for the old rites." In doing so, he contradicts Pope Benedict's distinction between rites and uses, and he also fails to explain why nostalgia for the 1560s is inferior to nostalgia for the 1960s, except for the dentistry.

The editors of Marini's A Challenging Reform explain that their aim is to "keep alive" the "vision" of the Cnsilium, but their diction is a voice in a bunker, embittered by the failure of people to be grateful. If an organism is truly healthy, it does not need a life-support system. Before he became pope, Cardinal Ratzinger said plainly: "We abandoned the organic living process of growth and development over the centuries, and replaced it, as in a manufacturing process, with a process, with a fabrication, a banal on-the-spot product." In consequence, the fragile construction must be pumped up by multiple Gnostic-Docetic innovations such as dancing (referred to in a presecriptive text as "pious undulations")> Hula dancers at the batification of Father Damien in 1995 hardly gave a sense of verisimilitude in Brussels. The papal flabella dn burning flax having been eliminated as the detritus of imperial Rome, it was even more anachronistic to trumpet the Great Jubilee in modern Rome with costumed men affecting familiarity with the art of blowing elephant tusks.

For all its proponents' goodness of intention, this kind of thing confuses universality with internationalism, treats the awesome as picturesque, suburbanizes the City of God, and patronizes nations and races....

Acts deracinated from the Divine risk becoming the sort of baroque theatre Louis Bouyer disdained in the operatics of an earlier century. As Ratzinger said, "It is a sure sign that the essence of liturgy has totally disappeared and been replacd by a kind of relgious entertainment." Cult becomes cabaret and applause usurps amen.

...The blight obliviousness of many experts to damage all around them is, nonetheless, breathtaking. At times in various lands it is like watching a venerable procession of Alcuin, Ivo of Chartres, Gueranger, Fortescue, and Jungmann and finding, at the end Inspector Clouseau.
[Rev. George W. Rutler is pastor of Church of Our Saviour in New York City and the author of
Coincidentally: Unserious Reflections on Trivial Connections.]

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Alfons Maria Cardinal Stickler, SDB (1910-2007)

Alfons Maria Cardinal Stickler, SDB, died just a couple of weeks before last Christmas at the age of 97 on December 12, 2007. The latest Una Voce America Nota carries an article about his passing. It states that at the time of his death, he was the oldest living Cardinal, that he was also one of the last remaining periti of Vatican II, and that he is best remembered as one of the great defenders of the Tridentine Mass during the 1990's, when few others dared to defend it. Among the biographical details noted is that he was professed as a Salesian in 1928 and was ordained a priest at the Lateran Basilica in 1937; that he became an eminent canon lawyer and Latinist, serving the Second Vatican Council as peritus while also serving (from 1958 to 1966) as Rector of the Salesianum in Rome. He was also appointed Vatican Librarian in 1984, and was made a Cardinal in 1985. His claim to a place in the books, however, was yet to be established. The key events follow:
In 1986, Cardinal Stickler, Ratzinger, Oddi, Casaroli, Palazzini, Tomko, Gantin, Innocenti and Mayer were formed into a Commission tasked by John Paul II to examine the following questions:

1) Did Pope Paul VI authorize the bishops to forbid the celebration of the traditional Mass?

2) Does the priest have the right to celebrate the traditional Mass in public and in private without restriction, even against the will of his bishop?

The Commission voted eight to one to declare that Pope Paul VI had not forbidden the Traditional Mass. The Commission voted unanimously to declare that every priest has the right to celebrate TLM in public and private without restriction, and that even the bishop cannot forbid him from celebrating the TLM.
As one blogger observed, this was in 1986 — 21 years before Summorum Pontificum!

The Commission issued a series of Norms ("The Vatican Norms of 1986") which included:
  • Bishops should ensure that on Sundays and ferial days at least one Latin Mass should be celebrated in each important locality of their diocese.
  • For every Mass celebrated in the Latin language - with or without the faithful present - the celebrant has the right freely to choose between the missal of Paul VI (1970) and that of John XXIII (1962).
While John Paul II never released the findings of the Commission, Cardinal Stickler was to publicly reveal the verdict of the Commission of Nine Cardinals on these two questions in 1995. (Here the Una Voce article refers the reader to the article “Traditional Mass Never Forbidden,” and observes that the proposals and declarations of this Commission are practically identical to those of Pope Benedict XVI's Motu Proprio, Summorum Pontificum, 21 years later.

The article then continues:
From 1992 to around 2000, Cardinal Stickler was by far the most outspoken defender of the Traditional Mass movement in the whole College of Cardinals. He was the great protector of traditionalists at a time when even “orthodox” Catholics considered the Tridentine Mass to be either abrogated or “passe” and hopelessly outdated for the present age. When almost no one else would defend the Traditional Mass movement, he did. In 1992, he became the first Cardinal since the 1960’s to celebrate a Pontifical Solemn High Mass according to the 1962 Missal, in the North American continent. In 1996, he celebrated a great Pontifical Mass at New York City’s St. Patrick’s Cathedral.
Examples of Cardinal Stickler's defenses of the Tridentine Mass include the following:
  • Address to the 1992 Annual General Meeting of the Latin Mass Society of England and Wales -- one excerpt:
    The first idea I will communicate with you is that you can be sure that your movement has full legitimacy in the Church. Some have said that we are not legitimate. This is not true because, if you remember article 4 of the Liturgical Constitution, the Council Fathers explicitly said all the venerable rites have to be preserved. Some people say this is valid for all the other rites, with the exception of the Roman Latin rite. This is not so. Because article 4 says: all the rites legitimately recognised. This was not only established for the rites existing at that time, during the Council, but also for the rites that should be approved afterwards. Now the Old Latin rite was really recognised after the changing of the former Latin Roman rite because, as you know, exception was given immediately for old priests and, in England, you had fortunately your great Cardinal Heenan, who obtained the Indult for England and Wales in 1971. Then, we had the Motu Proprio, the Indult of the Pope, and later on Ecclesia Dei which was clearly confirmed by the Pope; for example, when he spoke to the Abbot of Le Barroux in 1990, who had asked explicitly for this rite. Consequently, a new authority was given to the old Rite on the base of the liturgical Constitution of the Council itself. This recognition is coming from the Holy See, from the Pope, under the conditions given at the moment of the new approbation, which institutes a real legitimation of the Old Rite (and is available now). So, if you fulfil the conditions for the continuation of the Old Rite, it is legitimate for you. This is the external legitimacy of your movement.
  • The Theological Attractiveness of the Tridentine Mass (May 1995)

  • The Role of the Celebrant in Mediator Dei -- an excerpt:
    The role of the priest as celebrant necessarily comes into focus here. Indeed, his oblation is not a mere memorial of the passion and death of Jesus Christ the Redeemer, but a real sacrificial action in which Christ Himself does what he did on the Cross though in an unbloodly manner. Now He performs it through the office of the priest, who represents Him, having received the power to act in this manner through his ordination. Thus, priest, oblation, and object of the sacrifice are the same.

    . . . There are such who nowadays come close to heresies which have already been condemned (these anthemata were pronounced by the Council of Trent, Session 23, cap. 4), inasmuch as they teach that in the New Testament there be only that priesthood which embraces those who are baptized; and that the commandment by which Jesus Christ at the Last Supper ordered the Apostles to do what He had done Himself concerned directly the whole Church and the faith. Only from there, and subsequently, had the hierarchical priesthood developed and come into existence. Thus, they proclaim that the people posess true priestly powers, and that the priest on the contrary acts only by way of a mandate received from the community. Therefore, they see in the Eucharistic Sacrifice a true "celebrating-together/' (concelebration) and think it better for the priests to concelebrate together with the people present than to offer the Sacrifice "privately" in the absence of the people.
  • Reflections of A Vatican II Peritus -- an excerpt:
    The Church and the liturgy grow and develop together, but always in such a way that the earthly is organized around the heavenly. The Mass comes from Christ; it was adopted by the apostles and their successors as well as by the Fathers of the Church; it developed organically, with the conscious retention of its substance. The liturgy developed along with the Faith that is contained within it; thus we can say, with Pope Celestine I, in his writings to the Gallican bishops in the year 422: Legem credendi lex statuit supplicandi: The liturgy contains, and in proper and comprehensible ways, brings the Faith to expression. In this sense the constancy of the liturgy participates in the constancy of the Faith itself; indeed it contributes to its protection. Never has there been, therefore, in any of the Christian-Catholic rites, a break, a radically new creation-with the exception of the post-Conciliar reform. But the Council again and again demanded for the reform a strict adherence to tradition. All reforms, beginning with Gregory I through the Middle Ages, during the entry into the Church of the most disparate peoples with their various customs, have observed this ground rule. This is, incidentally, a characteristic of all religions, including non-revealed ones, which proves that an attachment to tradition is standard in any religious worship, and is therefore natural.
  • Preface to the 2004 Reprint of the Ottaviani Intervention
Finally, the article concludes:
His short speeches are noteworthy for their blunt and prophetic insight. Although he accepted its validity and the fact that it is Catholic, he insisted that the Novus Ordo Mass is a fabrication and a distortion of the will of Vatican II. He trenchantly declared that the Tridentine Mass is theologically preferable to the Novus Ordo. These opinions, which were considered too extreme during the reign of John Paul II, are now staple theological fare in theological groups that have embraced the program of liturgical restoration under Benedict XVI.

When extreme old age finally silenced him in the early part of the present decade, other cardinals — Ratzinger, Medina Estevez, and Castrillon Hoyos — carried on his work of promoting and defending the rights of the 1962 Missal in the Church. He spent the last years of his life in seclusion in the Vatican; he was known to have celebrated his private Mass exclusively according to the 1962 Missal.

He reiterated in 2003 that all priests may celebrate TLM in private, even without their respective bishops’ permission. In 2004, he endorsed the Ottaviani Intervention as remaining relevant to our own time.

It is sweet to think that this Cardinal lived to see the day when his teaching that the TLM was never forbidden was finally vindicated by the highest authority of the Church. With Summorum Pontificum promulgated and in effect, he could finally say his Nunc Dimittis.

Alfons Maria Cardinal Stickler: Requiescat in Pace.
[Acknowledgements: Obituary by Mr. Carlos Antonio Palad, with slight modifications, as published in Una Voce America Nota (Winter, 2007); and "Alphons Maria Cardinal Stickler Dies," (Catholic Tradition, December 19, 2007)]

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Liturgical futures

In the latest issue of the Fellowship of Catholic Scholars Quarterly, Kenneth D. Whitehead has an extensive and interesting discussion under the title of "The Pope's Motu Proprio: What Exactly Did Benedict XVI Decide about the Tridentine Mass?" (FCSQ, 30, No. 4, Winter, 2007). It is a long discussion with many things worth mentioning and several points worth, perhaps, questioning. At the moment, I have time only for two quick excerpts, the first a quotation from Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger's God and the World (2002), the second, a remark by Dr. Whitehead.

First, the quote from Cardinal Ratzinger's God and the World:
Anyone who nowadays advocated the continuing existence of this [Latin] liturgy or takes part in it is treated like a leper; all tolerance ends here. There has never been anything like this in history; in doing this, we are despising and proscribing the Church's whole past. How can one trust her present if things are that way? I must say, quite openly, that I don't understand why so many of my episcopal brethren have so such a great extent submitted to this rule of intolerance, which for no apparent reasons, is opposed to making the necessary inner reconciliation within the Church."
Perhaps most of you recognize that last line's anticipation of the Holy Father's following sentence in his Letter to the Bishops accompanying his Motu Proprio, Summorum Pontificum (July 7, 2007): "It is a matter of coming to an interior reconciliation in the heart of the Church."

Now for Dr. Whitehead's remark. After pointing out Pope Benedict's terminology of 'ordinary' and 'extraordinary' use of one and the same Roman Rite, Dr. Whitehead points out that in his earlier, Ratzinger Report (1985), Cardinal Ratzinger himself nevertheless actually refers to the "new rite." Commenting, Whitehead writes:
Quite apart from the semantics or terminology being employed at the moment, it could well be that the long-term effect of the pope's action in [his Motu Proprio] could well be the legitimization of what could come to be considered a separate "Tridentine rite" in Latin in the Catholic Church. There are, after all, in the worldwide Catholic Church, numerous separate "rites" besides the Roman rite. Besides the historical Eastern rites, there is of very recent vintage, for example, the Anglican Use rite, where the Book of Common Prayer has been adapted for those former anglicans who came into the Catholic Church along with their priests. "Liturgical pluralism" has long been a fact of life in the Catholic Church, in fact, and the Catholic Church is surely big enough to embrace it.

John McCain's pro-life record

I've only come recently to this question, and what I've read recently isn't necessarily consistent with the hear-say that's come my way, which is that his record has been mixed. What I've read recently looks like the problem was not with abortion, but with embryonic stem cells, and that it may have been his misunderstanding of the issue in any case. Anyway, recent scientific discoveries have made that a moot point. Gerard V. Bradley, "Pro-Life, Pro-McCain" (National Review, January 18, 2008) gives McCain "an unmatchable record on life issues." Ramesh Ponnuru, "Pro-Lifers for McCain" (The Corner, January 17, 2008), says that "McCain has Notre Dame law professor Gerard Bradley, Rep. Dan Lungren, Marty Dannenfelser, Frank and Mary Cannon, Sen. Sam Brownback, and Austin and Cathy Ruse in his corner." It's an impressive line-up. Are there unturned stones here somewhere?

Friday, February 08, 2008

Franky Schaeffer: Crazy for Obama

You may recall our post of several days ago, "Catholics for Obama???" (Musings, January 31, 2008). Well, here's one to continue the discussion: "Frank Schaeffer: Pro-Life, Pro-Obama" (Vox Nova, February 8, 2008). Frank (or Franky) Schaeffer isn't a Catholic, as some of you may recall (he claims to be an evangelical convert to Eastern Orthodoxy). In recent years, however, he has become increasingly embittered against his parents, his evangelical religious and conservative political past, as we noted in "Jaded: Franky Schaeffer 35 years later" (Musings, November 3, 2007), and "Groothuis: Franky Schaeffer 'Escapes from Reason,' again" (December 20, 2007). If Schaeffer has not, like a good Buddhist or Lewis Carroll, become adept at affirming and maintaining two mutually incompatible propositions simultaneously -- and I'm not at all certain he hasn't -- he has most certainly become careless and uncritical about the underlying presuppositions of his political bedfellows. His political drift has that all-too-familiar pallor about it that reminds me of G.K. Chesterton's statement that "only live fish can swim against the current."

Consider the following, from an editorial by Schaeffer entitled "Why I'm Pro-Life and Pro-Obama," published only yesterday:
“I am an Obama supporter. I am also pro-life. In fact, without my family’s involvement in the pro-life movement it would not exist as we know it. Evangelicals weren’t politicized until after my late father and evangelical leader Francis Schaeffer, Dr. Koop (Reagan’s soon-to-be Surgeon General) and I stirred them up over the issue of abortion in the mid-1970s. Our Whatever Happened to the Human Race? book, movie series and seminars brought the evangelicals into the pro-life movement.

“(Dad’s political influence persists. Last week one of my father’s followers — Mike Huckabee — was interviewed by Katie Couric, along with all the other presidential candidates. Couric asked the candidates if they were to be sent to a desert island and could only take one book besides the Bible, what would that that book be? Huckabee answered that he’d take my father’s book Whatever Happened To The Human Race?)

“Fast forward . . .

“In 2000, we elected a president who claimed he believed God created the earth and who, as president, put car manufacturers and oil company’s interests ahead of caring for that creation. We elected a pro-life Republican Congress that did nothing to actually care for pregnant women and babies. And they took their sincere evangelical followers for granted, and played them for suckers.

“The so-called evangelical leadership — Dobson, Robertson et al. also played the pro-life community for suckers. While thousands of men and women in the crisis pregnancy movement gave of themselves to help women and babies, their evangelical “leaders” did little more than cash in on fundraising opportunities and represent themselves as power-brokers to the craven politicians willing to kowtow to them.

Fast forward . . .

“Today when I listen to Obama speak (and to his remarkable wife, Michelle) what I hear is a world view that actually nurtures life. Obama is trying to lead this country to a place where the intrinsic worth of each individual is celebrated. A leader who believes in hope, the future, trying to save our planet and providing a just and good life for everyone is someone who is actually pro-life.

“Conversely the “pro-life” ethic of George W. Bush manifested itself in a series of squandered opportunities to call us to our better natures. After 9/11, Bush told most Americans to go shopping while saddling the few who volunteered for military service with endless tours of duty (something I know a little about since my son was a Marine and deployed several times). The Bush doctrine of life was expressed by starting an unnecessary war in Iraq that has killed thousands of Americans and wounded tens of thousands more. . . .

“What we need in America is a spiritual rebirth, a turning away from the false value of consumerism and utilitarianism that have trumped every aspect of human life. To implement this vision we need leaders that inspire but to do so they have to be what they say they are. It’s not about policy it’s about character. . . .

. . . the Republicans have . . . been hypocrites while talking big, for instance about their pro-life ethic. But what have they achieved? First, through their puritanical war on sex education they’ve hindered our country from actually preventing unwanted pregnancy. Second, through the Republican Party’s marriage to the greediest and most polluting earth-destroying corporations they’ve created a climate (both moral and physical) that has scorched the earth for-profit, with no regard to future generations whatsoever. The Republicans are to the pro-life movement what the Clintons are to selfless public service.

“The real solution to abortion is to change the heart of America, not the law. We need to stop seeing ourselves as consumers. We need to stop seeing ourselves as me and begin to think of we. Our country needs someone to show us a better way, a president who is what he seems, someone with actual moral authority that our diverse population can believe in who has the qualities that make us want to follow him. Obama is that person.”
If you don't know what I think -- though it should be obvious -- feel free to read my comments on the Vox Nova blog. Your thoughts?

Update: Things have heated up considerably over in the combox over at Vox Nova ("Frank Schaeffer: Pro-Life, Pro-Obama"). Feel free to join the debate. Be advised, however, that some of the recent heat may be attributed to the overheated combox viruses contributed by the "Spirit of Vatican II" (the dissident Fr. Joseph O'Leary) who has been banned from this site.

Another Vatican showdown

Sandro Magister, A Theologian Remakes the Catholic Faith from Scratch. But the Church Says "No" (www.chiesa, February 8. 2008):
He is Vito Mancuso, in a highly successful book that has been recommended by cardinal Martini. In it, there is no longer any sin or redemption, but instead man saves himself. After months of silence, a double "stop right there"' from the Vatican authorities. Here are the complete texts

Quo Vadis?

Quo Vadis is the youth branch of the Coming Home Network (CHN) dedicated to assisting young people come home to the Catholic Church. I recently received an email from Mary Clare Piecynski at CHN, asking us to help spread the word about Quo Vadis to any children, relatives or friends we might have who are young adults (teens through college aprox.) and are already Catholic, on the journey to the Catholic Church, or just have questions about the Catholic faith. What does Quo Vadis offer teens and young people? For starters, it will have a monthly newsletter (the first will be on Mary), a group on facebook, a website is in the works, there will also be weekly chats and a section of the Coming Home Network forum dedicated to Quo Vadis. If you or anyone you know is interested in Quo Vadis please have them contact Mary Piecynski and she says she will give them whatever help can! You can have the person contact her through e-mail -- maryp[at]chnetwork[dot]org -- snail mail (P.O. Box 8290 Zanesville, OH 43702) or by phone at 1-800-664-5110 ext 105.

Monday, February 04, 2008

"Pope rewrites Good Friday prayers"

George Conger - London, "Pope rewrites prayer following Jewish protest" (The Jerusalem Post, February 3, 2008; updated February 4, 2008):
LONDON - Jewish leaders have welcomed Pope Benedict XVI's decision to reformulate the Catholic Church's traditional Good Friday prayers.

The removal of references to the "darkness" and "blindness" of the Jews for their refusal to recognize Jesus as the messiah was a sign the pope was "deeply committed to advancing the relationship with the Jewish Community," Rabbi David Rosen, chairman of the International Jewish Committee for Interreligious Consultations, told The Jerusalem Post.

The new text will drop all reference to the "blindness" of the Jews, Milan's Il Giornale newspaper reported on January 18. The pope has prepared a draft version of the new prayer, which will be released in time for Holy Week celebrations in March, the report said.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Political infomercial

Many of you will recall that on July 8, 1947, almost exactly 60 years ago, witnesses claim that an unidentified flying object (UFO) with five aliens aboard crashed onto a sheep and cattle ranch just outside Roswell, NM. This is a well-known incident that many say has long been covered up by the U.S. Air Force and other federal agencies and organizations. However, what you man not know is that in the month of March 1948, nine months after that historic day, the following people were born:
Albert A. Gore, Jr.
Hillary Rodham
John F. Kerry
William J. Clinton
Howard Dean
Nancy Pelosi
Dianne Feinstein
Charles E. Schumer
Barbara Boxer
I leave you to draw your own inferences, with every confidence that this information will help clear things up for you as it did for me.

Salvation, Hope & Presumption

A reader, a Catholic convert from a biblically and theologically literate, evangelical Reformed background, recently wrote to me with the following thoughtful questions about contemporary Catholic understandings of salvation, which I share with the permission of the author. In reading these remarks, I find that I share many of the concerns expressed here. As prolegomena to these remarks, I offer the author's concluding observation that while these issues open, on the one hand, a theological hornet's nest, yet on the other hand, they seem extremely relevant given the contemporary climate in the Church. Here, then, for your own thoughful consideration, and for the solicitation of your constructive remarks, are some questions concerning salvation [the reader's remarks in blue]:
I continue to struggle with the aspect of Catholic theology that addresses salvation.
On one plane things are quite clear. When Avery Dulles in 'First Things' writes about who can be saved ["Who Can Be Saved?" FT, Feb. 2008], I follow it easily
[Cardinal Dulles' remarks in green]:
Nothing is more striking in the New Testament than the confidence with which it proclaims the saving power of belief in Christ. Almost every page confronts us with a decision of eternal consequence: Will we follow Christ or the rulers of this world? The gospel is, according to Paul, “the power of God for salvation to everyone who has faith” (Rom. 1:16). The apostles and their associates are convinced that in Jesus they have encountered the Lord of Life and that he has brought them into the way that leads to everlasting blessedness. By personal faith in him and by baptism in his name, Christians have passed from darkness to light, from error to truth, and from sin to holiness.

... Those who believe the testimony of Peter on the first Pentecost ask him what they must do to be saved. He replies that they must be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of their sins and thereby save themselves from the present crooked generation (Acts 2:37-40). ...

John in his gospel speaks no less clearly. Jesus at one point declares that those who hear his word and believe in him do not remain in darkness, whereas those who reject him will be judged on the last day (John 12:44-50). At the Last Supper, Jesus tells the Twelve, “This is eternal life, that they may know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent” (John 17:3). John concludes the body of his gospel with the statement that he has written his account “so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ and that believing you may have life in his name” (John 20:31).

From these and many other texts, I draw the conclusion that, according to the primary Christian documents, salvation comes through personal faith in Jesus Christ, followed and signified by sacramental baptism.

The New Testament is almost silent about the eternal fate of those to whom the gospel has not been preached. It seems apparent that those who became believers did not think they had been on the road to salvation before they heard the gospel. In his sermon at Athens, Paul says that in times past God overlooked the ignorance of the pagans, but he does not say that these pagans were saved. In the first chapter of Romans, Paul says that the Gentiles have come to a knowledge of God by reasoning from the created world, but that they are guilty because by their wickedness they have suppressed the truth and fallen into idolatry. In the second chapter of Romans, Paul indicates that Gentiles who are obedient to the biddings of conscience can be excused for their unbelief, but he indicates that they fall into many sins. He concludes that “all have sinned and fall short” of true righteousness (Rom. 3:23). For justification, Paul asserts, both Jews and Gentiles must rely on faith in Jesus Christ, who expiated the sins of the world on the cross.

Animated by vibrant faith in Christ the Savior, the Christian Church was able to conquer the Roman Empire. The converts were convinced that in embracing Christianity they were escaping from the darkness of sin and superstition and entering into the realm of salvation. For them, Christianity was the true religion, the faith that saves. It would not have occurred to them that any other faith could save them. ...
So, there is indeed a fundamental cleavage between believers and non-believers here indicated. As for those who haven't heard, that's a whole distinct area I can leave alone [although I just realized if my perception is right, the anonymous faith clause that was once an exception or concession has in fact in the period of a century been transformed into what may now be viewed as the norm for the majority of the planet].

Where I trip up is the modern (or, arguably, simply other) emphasis on the 'universal salvific will of God.'

God wants us all to be saved. And the way the Catechism is written, it sounds like we will be saved unless we dramatically screw up. Let me put it this way. It is not like anything the Catholic Church teaches suggests what Fundamentalists accuse it of teaching, that we have to be good enough. Actually, the emphasis seems to be almost an upside-down reversal of that caricature: that to go to Hell we have to be BAD enough, like Hitler or Stalin or Jack the Ripper bad. If we insist, if, despite God's mad pleading and chasing, we doggedly continue in mortal vices. And then I think, Well who really does that?

That is how I read the Pope's latest encyclical (and that, of course, creates a strong cognitive dissonance in my former Protestant, 'no one is good enough' and 'everyone is already bad, bad, bad, and certainly bad enough!' mentality). [In Spe Salvi, the Pope writes
(the Pope's remarks in brown)]:
45. ...There can be people who have totally destroyed their desire for truth and readiness to love, people for whom everything has become a lie, people who have lived for hatred and have suppressed all love within themselves. This is a terrifying thought, but alarming profiles of this type can be seen in certain figures of our own history. In such people all would be beyond remedy and the destruction of good would be irrevocable: this is what we mean by the word Hell[37]. On the other hand there can be people who are utterly pure, completely permeated by God, and thus fully open to their neighbours—people for whom communion with God even now gives direction to their entire being and whose journey towards God only brings to fulfilment what they already are[38].

46. Yet we know from experience that neither case is normal in human life. For the great majority of people—we may suppose—there remains in the depths of their being an ultimate interior openness to truth, to love, to God. In the concrete choices of life, however, it is covered over by ever new compromises with evil—much filth covers purity, but the thirst for purity remains and it still constantly re-emerges from all that is base and remains present in the soul....
So, unless I stubbornly cling to mortal sin and refuse every impulse towards God (and again, who thinks of themselves in such a manner?), I will end up in the antechamber of Heaven.

This seems to jive with a Balthasarian reading, and also with the more current viewing of mortal sins as being rare. Perhaps it is also a Kreeftian approach, in that the most decisive cleavage in the universe is not between believers and non-believers, but seekers and those who do not seek, since all seekers will eventually find themselves in the amped-up, fully dimensional world of belief and in the presence of Jesus in Heaven, realizing that it is He who saved them if even as through a glass darkly.

But it also seems like a take that would be contested conservative Catholics--but I have heard nary a peep from anyone. I think it is almost a case of denial that Benedict XVI might ever teaching anything left-of-center controversial, especially given what are cited as his Augustinian leanings.

If such is the case, and my former orientation is more damaged than I suspected, is Evangelism less sounding an alarm (since few will be so tragically bent as to refuse God positively and resolutely to the end), and more applying first aid to those who will smartly receive it now, with the remainder ("the great majority...[in whom remains] an ulterior openness to truth..."] being a group that will, on death's door, finally realize their desperate straits and then willingly wait for the purgatorial surgery that will be all the more radical for its lifelong postponement?

I don't necessarily expect an answer, nor am certain you even have one.

However, given your former Westminster background, your appreciation of the Reformed psyche, and your current immersion in what is supposed to be a solid Catholic seminary, I thought at some point you might have some helpful thoughts to orient my thinking on this area. On the one hand, I think it is a theological hornet's nest. On the other, it seems like extremely relevant matter given the climate in the Church.
[Hat tip to J.M.]

Saturday, February 02, 2008

If hell were only this funny

Rowan Atkinson as the Devil

[Hat tip to S.F.]

Best stem cell website

Do No Harm: The Coalition of Americans for Research Ethics
"As to diseases, make a habit of two things — to help, or at least do no harm."

-- Hippocrates, The Epidemics

Vatican surge

Sandro Magister, "The Roman Curia Wakes Up and Strikes Three Blows" (www.chiesa, January 28. 2008):
Thanks to a few carefully chosen changes in the Vatican offices, Benedict XVI is getting what he wants. The proof is in three recent decisions by officials for the clergy, the causes of saints, and the liturgy