Monday, December 28, 2009

Obama authorizes INTERPOL

Executive Order (Dec. 16, 20099), designating INTERPOL as a public international organization entitled to enjoy certain privileges, exeptions, and immunities.

[Hat tip to Anon.]

Friday, December 25, 2009

Leave of absence from Blogsville

I will be posting and moderating comments only sporadically over the next week or so.

May God bless all of you during these twelve days of Christmas and throughout the new year.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

A Christmas Reflection

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God, and saying,
Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace, good will toward men.
And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another,
Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pas, which the Lord hath made known unto us.

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

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

Nearly every Christmas, it seems, NEWSWEEK or TIME or some television special will featre the "latest scholarship" concerning the "authenticity" of the Christmas story. The scholarly authorities cited are consistently and incorrigibly one-sided, usually including scholars like John Dominic Crossan who dissent from Church teaching, or more ostensibly mainline scholars like Raymond E. Brown (now deceased) who have been quite thoroughly corrupted by the Humean philosophical presuppositions of the historical-criticism of the biblical narrative. Two years ago we saw the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, call the Christmas story a 'legend' ("Archbishop says nativity 'a legend,'" London Telegraph, December 12, 2007). And this year I've notice that, a site which Internet browsers frequent to learn "the facts" about this or that, has taken up this partisan skeptical slant in Austin Cline's article, "Nativity vs Gospels: Are the Gospels Reliable About Jesus' Birth?" (, suggesting that all the key ingredients of the Nativity story in the Gospels were concocted fictions of various kinds.

The lack of critical circumspection in all of this would be amusing if it were not so destructive. The upshot is always the same: that the Gospel writers are unreliable and not to be trusted, and certainly not to be taken at face value. Just how ludicrous this all is, however, can be seen by anyone with a bit of intelligence and familiarity with literature, mythology, and history. One of the best examples of a powerful antedote to this kind of foolishness is a little essay by C.S. Lewis entitled "Modern Theology and Biblical Criticism," which is available in a collection of essays by Lewis entitled Christian Reflections (1967; reprinted by Eerdmans, 1994). The following are some excerpts from Lewis' essay, which begins on p. 152 and contains four objections (or "bleats") about modern New Testament scholarship:
1. [If a scholar] tells me that something in a Gospel is legend or romance, I want to know how many legends and romances he has read, how well his palate is trained in detecting them by the flavour...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Form vs. Content of the Holy Mass

Tridentine Community News (December 20, 2009):

One of the most faithful readers of this column is a member of Sweetest Heart of Mary Parish. An active supporter of all three parishes in the St. Josaphat cluster, he regularly teases this writer about acting like a Pharisee. Column topics, he asserts, express haughty disdain for the Ordinary Form of Holy Mass. “We know the Tridentine Mass is superior, and that’s that, those of you who don’t know any better”, he claims to read between the lines.

He believes that the best form of Holy Mass is the Novus Ordo in the vernacular, accompanied by Gregorian Chant, presumably in Latin. He maintains that such a Mass has the advantage of being understandable, yet still displays continuity with the Church’s liturgical and musical tradition. Interestingly, the only place in the area that consistently provides such a Mass is the same Assumption Church in Windsor that hosts the Tridentine Mass, at their 11:00 AM Sunday Ordinary Form Mass. A largely professional choir sings chanted Propers and sacred polyphony, accompanying a vernacular Mass. The Detroit cluster presently offers no comparable alternative.

First let it be said that we are always open to hearing opposing views. Debate of this nature can help each viewpoint be understood more clearly. If you disagree with something expressed in this column, please e-mail the address at the bottom of this page, and include your full name. A reasonable counter-position will be given space on these pages. Our objective is, after all, worshipping God most effectively and living a life in accord with our Catholic faith, not supporting one form of the sacred liturgy per se.

This gentleman’s opinion is not unique. The issue of the role of the vernacular is hotly debated. Does it really make the Mass more understandable? Or does it make its language subject to the whims of the age? Few would contest that the current English Novus Ordo translation has a 1960s sound to it; that is one reason why it is being revised. Our friend’s argument, however, ignores one of the fundamental differences between the Ordinary and Extraordinary Forms: the at-times radically different prayer content. What would he think of a Tridentine Mass in English? It would be “understandable”. It would have the Prayers at the Foot of the Altar and the original Offertory Prayers. This is largely what the transitional 1965 Missal offered. Reinstating something akin to the 1965 Missal would provide more continuity with Catholic liturgical tradition than the present Ordinary Form. We encourage any reader who is curious about a vernacular Tridentine Mass to read the 1965 Missal (and preferably not the 1967 variant). You are welcome to come to the sacristy at St. Josaphat and inspect the 1965 Missal that we have on the shelf. [Or see this Ordinary of the 1965 Mass in English.]

It is important to distinguish the “form” of Holy Mass (in this context, the language and music) from the “content” (the texts of the Ordinary and Propers of the Mass). This writer believes that an analysis and comparison of the texts of the Ordinary and Extraordinary Forms will reveal, in most but not all cases, that the content of the Extraordinary Form Mass, Sacraments, and blessings are more consistent with Catholic teachings and sensibilities than their Ordinary Form counterparts. Consider, for example, the abbreviated and quite different Offertory Prayers in the Novus Ordo Mass: They fail to address the notion of the celebrant’s unworthiness to offer the Sacrifice.

The most frequently heard argument of the pro-Ordinary Form view is one that supports liturgical antiquarianism. If the early Church’s liturgies were conducted in a certain manner, so should ours today. Some of these arguments can be difficult to support, as some of the underlying historical assertions often cited have turned out not to be accurate. For example, the Second Eucharistic Prayer is said to be based on the Anaphora of Hippolytus, dating from the third century. A reading of that anaphora, however, reveals that it is not all that similar. But even if it were much the same, how does that justify the addition of yet more Eucharistic Prayers which are not based on any historical precedent?

While we don’t want to make debate a focus of this column, neither do we truly want to be Pharisaical. What we do want is to be logical. Doctrine and liturgy are logical; they reflect and relate to one another. This is a beautiful aspect of our faith to discover. Recognizing and learning more about that beauty is a fascinating way to grow in faith and devotion. It becomes increasingly apparent how the sacred liturgy reflects Christian concepts and the ebb and flow of life. Preferring the vernacular strictly because it is more easily comprehensible fails to address the essential matter of what the Mass says and prays. It is for reasons of content that many would prefer an English Tridentine Mass over a Latin Novus Ordo.

To use an analogy, why have a stained glass window without meaningful stained glass? The accompanying illustration portrays the concept of the Holy Trinity. In the Tridentine Mass, the orations are addressed to specific members of the Holy Trinity, with specific conclusions befitting Who is being addressed. That notion is not so clear in the Ordinary Form orations, which often have abbreviated and less specific conclusions. This is but one example that, taken as a whole, the full beauty of Catholicism is more readily perceptible in the Extraordinary Form, in which the content of prayer, as well as the form of music, rubrics, vestments, art, and surrounding elements combine to lift our minds and hearts to God intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually.

[Comments? Please e-mail Previous columns are available at This edition of Tridentine Community News, with minor editions, is from the St. Josaphat bulletin insert for December 20, 2009. Hat tip to A.B.]

The Grich who stole foreign policy

Nile Gardiner, "Barack Obama’s Top Ten Foreign Policy Follies" (, December 23, 2009), in his first year alone: 1) Surrendering to Russia over Missile Defence, 2) Appeasing the Mullahs of Iran, 3) Ending the War on Terror, 4) Announcing a Surge while Declaring an Exit -- and the list goes on. Don't worry. Be happy. He doesn't even touch on domestic policy.

[Hat tip to C.B.]

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Covert Senate rule changes embedded in health bill

More Capital Hill shenanigans: U.S. Senator Jim DeMint (R-South Carolina) recently questioned the Parliamentarian of the U.S. Senate through the chair about changes to the Senate Rules hidden within the 2700 page Reid-Obama health care document. Here's the YouTube clip.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Limbaugh: Democracy is dead. You're nothing but a gnat.

Responding to a woman caller irate over the Democratic erosions of U.S. Constitutional government under the pretext of health care reform, Rush said today (December 21. 2009):
Wait a second, let me step in here because I want to try to save you some mental energy. You're looking at this the entire wrong way. They're not listening to us. They have the polling data. You're wasting your time e-mailing them. You're wasting your time faxing them. You're wasting your time calling them. This is no longer a representative republic. This is not a democracy. You're nothing but a gnat. You're an inconvenience, especially if you disagree with what they're doing. You're somebody to be gotten even with. You're somebody whose mind isn't right yet. You are somebody that they're going to have to erase. They don't want to have to deal with your opposition. This is why I've been saying for practically my entire broadcast career behind this microphone, the only way to understand this is to understand what liberalism is and who liberals are, radical leftists, and at that point you will understand how truly insignificant you are. [You don't matter to them.] They're not even thinking about what you want and don't want. They're not thinking about how they can best respond to public opinion here to prolong their careers or to do the best for the country.

This is about them. This is about power in perpetuity. This is about ruling you, not governing the country. This is not about we the people. It's about them the political class. They have sought this moment ever since FDR. They have sought total control over this country, over this population, over individuals in this country for years. They have made a mockery of the notion that they're interested in what you think or care about their public opinion. They're not. They know the risks that they're running. That's why they have these slush funds to help with their reelection efforts, to try to help whatever fraud it takes next November with ACORN or what have you. They know that nobody wants this. They know vast majorities don't want this. That alone ought to tell you what we're dealing with and who we are.
This may not be an American version of the Bolshevik Revolution, exactly. As Larry P. Arnn, President of Hillsdale College said in the December 2009 issue of of Imprimis, "I have been making the point lately that people are wrong who accuse the Obama administration of being socialist. I take the president at his word when he says that he has no desire to own the automobile companies. Instead, he wants to control them -- and the rest of us as well -- through a regulatory apparatus oversen by czars and bureaucrats. ... his intentions are good. What is bad is the view underlying them of what human beings are. Rather than looking on us as equal beings with a set nature -- such that none of us should rule another in the way that God rules man or man rules beast -- our political leaders today have been taught to see us as material to be shaped and perfected by experts who have the proper technical training." Thus, the economic policies being proposed these days stem from very poor thinking. But the principles behind them are far worse. For they represent a return to the idea, says Arnn, "that the American Revolution repudiated -- the idea that some are equipped by nature or training to manage the lives of others without their consent." (emphasis added.) Indeed. Very poor thinking, wedded to good intentions. And we all know that the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

[Hat tip to S.K.]

Sunday, December 20, 2009

The committee to save the world


Members of the dream team committee to save the world -- Barack Obama, Nicolas Sarkozy, Angela Merkel, Gordon Brown and other leaders assembled at the Copenhagen climate talks -- share the classic leftist fantasy of elitist global management ... or, perhaps we should we say totalitarian micro-management. Janet Daley, "There'll be nowhere to run from the new world government" (, December 19, 2009), writes:
If the impact of our behaviour on humanity at large is much greater or more rapid than ever before then we shall have to find ways of dealing with that which do not involve sacrificing the most enlightened form of government ever devised. There is a whiff of totalitarianism about this new theology, in which the risks are described in such cosmic terms that everything else must give way. "Globalism" is another form of the internationalism that has been a core belief of the Left: a commitment to class rather than country seemed an admirable antidote to the "blood and soil" nationalism that gave rise to fascism.

Elephants stampede villages of Catholic persecutors

Fr. Sunil De Silva, "Elephants attack in Orissa exactly after one year of persecutions" (Archdiocese of Colombo, India, December 12, 2009). Bizarre.

[Hat tip to T.P.]

New English translation of Roman Missal: Will it make a difference?

Today I received an email asking me to publicize, via this blog, a petition entitled We've Waited Long Enough, "in support of the speedy implementation of the new English translation of the Roman Missal." The author signed off with a slogan used by Fr. John Zuhlsdorf, "Save the Liturgy Save the World."

How far this will go toward "saving the liturgy" is, I suppose, a question worth considering. On the one hand, I have little doubt that the forthcoming changes in the new English translation of the Roman Missal will bring greater accuracy and some badly needed improvements. On the other hand, I do not doubt that many who prefer the stability of the well-established Traditional Latin Mass will see this as but another confirmation that the post-Vatican II vernacular liturgy, far from representing an established and stable thing, continues to be very much a work in progress.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Pope Benedict: true vs faux Green thinking

Sandro Magister offers a nice summary in his article of Dec. 17 (www.chiesa):
The ecology of man comes before the ecology of nature, says the pope. Vatican experts pan the Copenhagen conference on the climate. It is a "false departure." Worse, it denies the value of human life.
There is a genuine Green Revolution, which fosters the care and protection of creation. But this must not be confused with a false ecological ideology that overlooks the difference of kind (not degree) between man and the subhuman rest of nature. (Yes, I know: just reading that sentence is enough to give an ecological true believer heartburn.) The effect of the leveling logic behind the great "circle-of-life" mythology found everywhere from the Copenhagen Conference on Global Warming to kids movies like The Lion King (otherwise a great movie), is actually not to elevate the subhuman (seals, whales, fauna) to the level of man created in God's image, but to subordinate the human to the subhuman. Hence "Save the seals/whales" gets media priority while the 4000 unborn human babies killed every day in abortuaries across our land gets absolutely no air time, because it's considered -- 'yawn' B-O-R-I-N-G! -- and who besides froth-at-the-mouth Fundies and Papists would have a problem with a civilized woman's right to choose anyhow? So it is thought.

Which takes me back to a book Francis A. Schaeffer wrote long ago in the seventies entitled Pollution and the Death of Man (Reprinted by Crossway, 1992), in which he presents a popular apologetic for a Christian ecology and a quite-insightful critique of the assumptions underlying the aforementioned leveling logic.

Reading again the titles of his chapters, I find it almost nostalgic that he takes his first ("What Have They Done To Our Fair Sister?") from the twenty-minute-long song by Jim Morrison and the Doors in 1967, "When the Music's Over" (from the album "Strange Days"). Our "Fair Sister," of course, is planet Earth, and as Jim Morrison sings,
What have they done to the Earth?
What have they done to our fair sister?
Ravaged and plundered and ripped her and bit her
Stuck her with knives in the side of the dawn
And tied her with fences
And dragged her down ...
This line of thinking attributes all of the ecological evil in the world to the totality of Western tradition, embracing everything from its aboriginal patriarchal religions of dominion over the earth (Genesis 1:28 -- "Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over [it]") to the development of scientific mastery of nature. By the same token, everything that is good and ecologically sound on this view comes from primitive animism, peace-loving native peoples (Kevin Costner's Dances with Wolves, James Cameron's Avatar -- otherwise both very well-made and highly entertaining movies).

Schaeffer also explores the generally pantheistic assumptions underlying much of the modern ecological thinking, which says that we humans are ultimately no more than the grass. After exploring other inadequate answers, Schaeffer discusses a properly Christian view, which must take into account the fallen and broken dimensions of creation, as well as the restorative dimensions of grace and renewal that bring genuine healing. One appendix in particular, by Lynn White, Jr., deals with the historical origins of the modern ecological crisis and endeavors to substantially exonerate Christianity from the sorts of accusations and insinuations made in popular culture and even academe.

[Footnote on Cameron's Avatar -- a brilliant cinematic spectacle, to be sure! However, one of the more perversely ironic moments in the film, as far as its embrace of pantheistic paganism, was when the protagonist, Jake Sully, as an Avatar, finds himself praying to a sacred tree of the Na'vi, the indigenous inhabitants of Pandora. Any mention of the Holy Name of JESUS and all of Hollywood would have broken out in hives. But a cinematic hero prays to a tree, and that's taken for venerable reverence and profound piety. O tempora o mores!]

How to comment using Blogger's system

You do not have to be a blogger or registered user of Blogger to use Blogger's comment box system -- the system now in use on this blog. Simply pick the "Name/URL" option. The "URL" is optional, so all you have to do is to enter your name (or pseudonym) and you can comment. You can, of course, also use the "Anonymous" option. Those are the easiest I can recommend.

Friday, December 18, 2009

"The Natural Superiority of Traditional Worship"

As noted back in September, Patrick McCloskey of the International Society of Scholastics has announced that "professors of the International Society of Scholastics are pleased to present Saturday morning online Crash Courses in traditional Catholic philosophy—part of our Sapientis Online Education program." These are 3-hour seminars on various aspects of Thomistic tradition, including "a philosophic defense of the Traditional Latin Mass."

The course in question, entitled "The Natural Superiority of Traditional Worship," is offered March 13, 2010. For course descriptions, visit For more information, see, or contact

[Hat tip to Rorate Caeli]

Evangelicals discovering Church Fathers

I wonder whether the several hundred Evangelicals who crowded into Barrows Auditorium at Wheaton College to mark the public beginning of the Wheaton Center for Early Christian Studies on October 29, were told that Robert Louis Wilken, professor emeritus at the University of Virginia, when he was introduced to address them on the occasion, was a Catholic convert.

David Neff, Why Evangelicals Turn to the Church Fathers (Christian History Blog, November 4, 2009), writes:
In his short address, Wilken dashed through the church fathers’ approach to interpreting Scripture, touching the bases at Isaiah 6, Matthew 5, and Job 14, before coming home with key insights on patristic exegesis.

In addition to relating the Fathers’ comments on these passages, Wilken explored why evangelical Protestants in particular should pay attention to writers like Gregory the Great, Augustine, John Chrysostom and Gregory of Nyssa, and why evangelicals are indeed beginning to realize “that the early heritage is theirs also.”

The large majority of Wilken’s graduate students over the past ten years have been evangelicals, he said. The success of the ambitious Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture (InterVarsity Press) testifies to such interest as well. Now the opening of the Wheaton Center for Early Christian Studies institutionalizes that interest—and in a first-rate location.

First, Wilken posed the question, Why this renewed interest?

Precisely because evangelical theology and spirituality are built around Scripture, and so were those of the patristic writers. You cannot read them without an open Bible in your hand. Their writings are shot through with Scripture. Evangelicals and the church fathers thus have a natural affinity.

Second, Wilken asked whether giving some priority to these early interpreters of Scripture isn’t at cross-purposes with the evangelical principle of scriptural perspicacity. Evangelicals have long taught that the meaning of Scripture is open to every Spirit-led reader, and that biblical interpretation must not be held hostage by church tradition. Isn’t the Bible intelligible without the Fathers?

Yes, of course, in a sense it is. But the Fathers help us go more deeply into the Bible, Wilken said. They teach us to read it more slowly and enter it more deeply. He illustrated this by looking at several passages through their eyes, showing the way in which they treated the Bible as a single, coherent book in which difficult passages are illuminated by other passages. Indeed, those other texts raise the questions that lead us deeper.

Thus Isaiah‘s report in chapter 6 that the prophet “saw God” is clearly in tension with passages (such as John 1:18) that suggest no human has seen, or even can see, God. The key, however, is found in the Beatitudes, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” By mining the notions in that passage, the Fathers were able, not only to explain in what sense some might “see God,” but also to point the way toward the ideal Christian life. Thus to see God is to be united to him through purity of life. Understand, said Wilken, that the Bible is not primarily about the head; it is about the heart.

Third, Wilken reminded us, the patristic writers were the best minds of their day. From their engagement with Scripture, they forged the language with which we express the Christian faith. To ignore their reading of Scripture is also to undercut the foundations upon which the great creeds were built.
Read the rest of the article here.

Historically, I find it interesting that Evangelicals have been saying that Catholics don't know their Scripture, while Catholics have been saying that Evangelicals don't know their Church Fathers. To go deep into history, said Cardinal Newman, is to cease to be Protestant. Ignorance of Scripture, said St. Jerome, is ignorance of Christ. Many a Catholic convert has found his way into the Church through studying the Church Fathers. Many a Catholic has discovered how Scriptures come alive while reading the Patristics.
No contemporary translation of St. Augustine's Confessions that I know of, as I've recently learned, begins to include all the Biblical quotations that are found in the Latin original. The Patristics writings are apparently saturated in Biblical exposition. Food for thought, and perhaps for authentic Ecumenism. Your thoughts?

Related:[Hat tip to J.M.]

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Comment boxes up and running

Please feel free to comment on posts again. Thanks to the assistance of son Christopher of The Pope Benedict Fan Club website and Against the Grain blog, we've made the transition to the Blogger comment box system in no time. Comments will continue to be moderated.

Our thanks, again, to Christopher!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

That's so gay

Diogenes, "That's so gay" (Off the Record, December 10,2009):
The website bears the aptly unwieldy name Think before you speak. Don't say "That's so gay." A project of the Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network, the campaign employs posters, print ads and videos with the aim of curbing an element of teen slang that gay ideologues find particularly vexing.

For the uninitiated, it may be well to explain that saying "That's so gay" does not condemn the object of disparagement as characteristic or suggestive of homosexuality. The fascinating point, on the contrary, is that the word gay in this slang has become a general term of disapproval, semantically indistinguishable from "wrong." As Prof. Wittgenstein said, usage is meaning.

This is illustrated with admirable if unintentional clarity by the instructional videos provided at the site....
[Hat tip to Fr. D.J.]

Heads-up to commentors

We will be transitioning the comment box system from Haloscan to Google's Blogger system over the next two weeks. In the process, we will try to save some of the most recent comments and transfer them to Blogger, however all the earlier comments will be lost. The only exceptions to this are the extended comments accompanying our posts in the series on "fittingness" in the liturgy some years ago, and several posts with extensive debates involving some of you with Fr. Joseph O'Leary. These will be archived and posted in linked pages at some point.

Thus, be aware that comments, until the transition is made, may be lost. If you have something substantial to post, please email it to me (scroll down to the "Contact us" link in the sidebar, just above the "Recommended Books" section).

Monday, December 14, 2009

Bishop Schneider, the Pope, and the mode of receiving Communion

Bishop Athanasius Schneider, who was one of the featured speakers at the Call to Holiness Conference at the Shrine of the Little Flower in Royal Oak, MI, on October 10, 2009, "continues his worldwide pilgrimage in defense of Traditional Communion" (Rorate Caeli, December 13, 2009). A baltic blogger reports, via translation provided on Rorate Caeli site:
Bishop Athanasius Schneider visited Estonia December 10, 2009, for the publication of his book Dominus Est in Estonian. After the presentation, Bishop Schneider celebrated a Missa Cantata in the Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul.

In the book presentation the Bishop explained how the present form of hand communion has nothing to do with the practise of hand communion in the early centuries. The new way was adapted by some liberal priests in Holland directly from the Calvinists in 1965.

The Bishop ultimately decided to write a book defending the traditional way of receiving Holy Communion, and when the work was finished he gave a manuscript to the Holy Father. The Pope wrote back to the Bishop praising the work and his accuracy of knowledge of the patristics.

Bishop Schneider told he had also asked the Pope to stop distributing Communion in the hand in Papal Masses, and even if the Pope's answer was supportive it was not certain that it would happen. But since only a few months later, all communicants have been asked to receive Holy Communion from the Pope only kneeling and on the tongue. A true miracle, says Bishop Schneider.
[Hat tip to N.C. at Rorate Caeli]

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Violent Buddhists savage peaceful Catholic parish in Sri Lanka

"Buddhist extremists brutally attack Catholic church in Sri Lanka" (CNA, December 11, 2009):
More than 1,000 Buddhist extremists armed with clubs, swords and stones ferociously attacked a Catholic church in the town of Crooswatta, Sri Lanka on December 6, destroying the altar, statues and pews.

L’Osservatore Romano reported that Father Jude Denzil Lakshman, pastor of Our Lady of the Mystical Rose, said “I still can hear their shouts in my ears, ‘Cut him to pieces, kill him’.” ...

The attack took place after the 7 p.m., Sunday Mass ...

One parishioner told the Archdiocese of Colombo that as the congregation was leaving the evening Mass, they saw a mob coming towards them.

The parishioner added that the mob “set fire to Fr. Lakshman's car and then someone attempted to strike him with a sword,” but a young man heroically pulled him away.

The extremists “then damaged all other motor bikes, ordinary cycles of the poor people including a three-wheeler. Some persons armed with swords and batons went on beating the people. There are six Catholics in the hospital with cuts and injuries."
The reader who sent me the link to this story writes: "I should start watching TV again. I'm sure the mainstream media are all over this story. I'll bet Bono and Sinead O'Connor are raising money for the oppressed Catholics of Sri Lanka even as I tap this message on my keyboard."[Hat tip to T.P.]

Brilliant: Lord Monckton Debates Greenpeace Activist on global warming

If this were an old-fashioned "Faith vs. Science" debate, guess who would represent irrational faith?

The reader who sent me the following clip, wrote: "On why intelligent people get migraines at alarming pace. And, why there is no possibility for reasonable debate with environmentalists of brands such as 'Greenpeace.'"

"Lord Monckton debates Greenpeace activist on streets of Copenhagen" (Breibart.TV, Dec. 13, 2009).

[Hat tip to T.K.]

Fr. Ronold Pazik, RIP

Tridentine Community News (December 12, 2009):
A prominent figure in local Tridentine Mass history passed away on November 30, 2009: Fr. Ronold S. Pazik, CSB. A member of the Basilian order, Fr. Pazik was the primary celebrant of the Windsor Tridentine Mass between 1999-2001, and a substitute celebrant before and after those dates. Most of his priesthood was spent as a Spanish professor, first in Rochester, New York at the Aquinas Institute, then in Windsor at Assumption University and the University of Windsor. Fr. Pazik was a true academic, pursuing advanced theological studies even after retirement. He donated a vast quantity of missals, breviaries, and reference books to Assumption Church, which have proven invaluable in the training of priests to offer the Extraordinary Form. He had a great love for the historic liturgy of the Church and was a good friend to many of those who presently attend Assumption and St. Josaphat.

Readers of this column might be interested to learn that Fr. Pazik was baptized at Sweetest Heart of Mary Church and attended its grade school. The unusual spelling of his first name came about when Canadian authorities misspelled it during his application for Canadian citizenship. Rather than correct it, he thought it an interesting conversation starter.

Ánima ejus et ánimæ ómnium fidélium defunctórum per Dei misericórdiam requiéscant in pace. Amen.

Christmas Masses in the Extraordinary Form

We are pleased to announce that a number of options exist for those who wish to attend Tridentine Masses during the Octave of Christmas:

Christmas Eve:
Midnight Mass at St. Joseph Church, Detroit
Celebrant: Fr. Peter Hrytsyk
Choir and chamber orchestra will perform
Franz Joseph Haydn’s
Missa St. Joannis de Deo
Christmas Day:
9:30 AM Mass at St. Josaphat Church, Detroit
Celebrant: Fr. Wolfgang Seitz
2:00 PM Mass at Assumption Church, Windsor
Celebrant: Fr. Peter Hrytsyk
At both Masses:
Choir and chamber orchestra will perform Marc-Antoine Charpentier’s Messe de Minuit de Noël
New Year’s Day:
9:30 AM Mass at St. Josaphat Church
2:00 PM Mass at Assumption Church, Windsor
The O Antiphons

The resurgence of interest in the Extraordinary Form of Holy Mass has brought with it an interest in other aspects of the Church’s liturgy which have gone unemphasized in recent decades. One example is the so-called “O Antiphons”:

With the exception of the Feast of St. Thomas on December 21, the week prior to the Vigil of Christmas, December 17-23, is comprised of the Greater Ferias of Advent. These are Second Class Ferias on which the Mass Propers of the preceding Sunday are used. Most Votive Masses are prohibited on these days. The Church wants us to focus on Advent, not on other Feasts, during this week of anticipation. The Antiphons for Vespers of this week are correspondingly known as the Greater Antiphons, but more commonly known as the O Antiphons because of their wording.

Each Antiphon addresses Jesus with a title which comes from the prophecies of Isaiah that anticipate the coming of the Messiah. The first letters of the titles in the original Latin in reverse order spell “Ero Cras”, which means “Tomorrow, I will come”. The verses of the hymn Veni, Veni, Emmánuël (and its English translation, O Come, O Come, Emmanuel) are reworded versions of the O Antiphons, with the last being the first verse.

December 17 - O Sapiéntia: O Wisdom Who camest out of the mouth of the Most High, reaching from end to end and ordering all things mightily and sweetly: come and teach us the way of prudence.

December 18 - O Adonái: O Adonai, and Leader of the house of Israel, Who didst appear to Moses in the flame of the burning bush, and didst give unto him the law on Sinai: come and with an outstretched arm redeem us.

December 19 - O Radix Jesse: O Root of Jesse, Who standest for an ensign of the people, before Whom kings shall keep silence, and unto Whom the Gentiles shall make their supplication: come to deliver us, and tarry not.

December 20 - O Clavis David: O Key of David, and Sceptre of the house of Israel, Who openest and no man shutteth, Who shuttest and no man openeth: come and bring forth from his prison-house, the captive that sitteth in darkness and in the shadow of death.

December 21 - O Óriens: O Dawn of the East, Brightness of the light eternal, and Sun of justice: come and enlighten them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death.

December 22 - O Rex Gentium: O King of the Gentiles and the Desired of them, Thou Corner-stone that makest both one: come and deliver man, whom Thou didst form out of the dust of the earth.

December 23 - O Emmánuël: O Emmanuel, our King and Lawgiver, the Expected of the nations and their Savior: come to save us, O Lord our God.
[Comments? Please e-mail Previous columns are available at This edition of Tridentine Community News, with minor editions, is from the St. Josaphat bulletin insert for December 12, 2009. Hat tip to A.B.]

Saturday, December 12, 2009

CDF-SSPX talks spark new interest in import of Vatican II

If anything, one positive result of the talks currently underway between the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and the Society of Saint Pius X may be a renewed public interest in the historical significance of the Second Vatican Council. Back in November, we noted that George Weigel's account of the talks has been treated already as a peremptory attempt to "speak for Peter" (cf. Rorate Caeli, 11/23/09).

I have just come across a quite substantial point-counterpoint by Christopher A. Ferrara that may be worth a read alongside Weigel's statement. Ferrara is a traditionalist lawyer whose reasoning is usually cool, even when he gets hot under the collar, as here. He writes:
... Weigel hastens to tell us “what’s going on here, and what isn’t.” The discussions the Pope has ordered are “not a negotiation,” Weigel declares with the suave assurance of one who knows, addressing those who do not know. Rather, says Weigel, “the purpose of these conversations is to make clear what the Second Vatican Council taught (especially about the nature of the Church), to listen politely to what the SSPX has to say, and to invite the SSPX back into the full communion of the Catholic Church.”

Make clear what the Second Vatican Council taught? But what needs to be clarified nearly fifty years after the Council ended? What is there to discuss? Why not simply deliver a copy of the conciliar documents in the official Latin to Ecône and demand a blanket assent to every proposition contained therein—an act the Society would readily perform as to any other ecumenical council in the history of the Church? Moreover, what exactly did Vatican II teach about “the nature of the Church” that was not known before Vatican II? Indeed, what did Vatican II teach anywhere in its sixteen documents that would involve an assent to some previously unexpressed doctrine now deemed essential for “full communion” with the people who know?
Ferrara says that Weigel comes closest to clarifying what he means "in his note that the dialogue between the Society and the Vatican cannot involve 'mutual enrichment,' for 'it is not easy to see how the Catholic Church is to be theologically enriched by the ideas of those who, whatever the depth of their traditional liturgical piety, reject the mid-20th century reform of Catholic thought of which Joseph Ratzinger was a leader.'” What the substance of that "mid-20th century reform" is most clearly revealed (then again, maybe not) in a list of questions Weigel poses for the SSPX, which he believes it simply rejects. The Devil is in the details, however, and the difficulty of Weigel's sort of account lies in the fact that the details, which are anything but simple, could yield quite unexpected results. What are Weigel's questions, and what does Ferrara say about them? I do not have space to offer more than the barest highlights:
First: “Does the SSPX accept the teaching of the Second Vatican Council on religious freedom as a fundamental human right that can be known by both reason and revelation?” One can hardly deny that religious freedom is a fundamental right, if by that freedom is meant the right to “worship the Father in spirit and in truth,” as Our Lord said, or, negatively, the right not to be forced to profess the faith against one’s will. All the Popes before Vatican II taught as much. But did Vatican II announce something new in this regard ... as Weigel ... declares?

Second: “Does the SSPX accept that the age of altar-and-throne alliances, confessional states, and legally established Catholicism is over, and that the Catholic Church rejects the use of coercive state power on behalf of its truth claims?” But where did Vatican II teach this curious compound proposition, a mixture of historical opinion and prudential judgment about the exercise of civil authority? Even [Dignitatis Humanae] insists that it “leaves untouched traditional Catholic doctrine on the moral duty of men and societies toward the true religion and toward the one Church of Christ.”

Third: “Does the SSPX accept the Council’s teaching on Jews and Judaism as laid down in Vatican II’s “Declaration on Non-Christian Religions” (“Nostra Aetate”), and does the SSPX repudiate all anti-Semitism?” What exactly did the Council teach on Jews and Judaism that the Society is accused of rejecting—even though Archbishop Lefebvre voted for Nostra Aetate! ...

And finally: “Does the SSPX accept the Council’s teaching on the imperative of pursuing Christian unity in truth and the Council’s teaching that elements of truth and sanctity exist in other Christian communities, and indeed in other religious communities?” I doubt the Society rejects “pursuing Christian unity in truth.” I rather think the Society would insist upon it. Which leaves only “the Council’s teaching that elements of truth and sanctity [sic] exist in other Christian communities, and indeed in other religious communities.” Well, the Council’s verbatim teaching (in Lumen Gentium) is as follows:
This Church constituted and organized in the world as a society, subsists in the Catholic Church, which is governed by the successor of Peter and by the Bishops in communion with him, although many elements of sanctification and of truth are found outside of its visible structure. These elements, as gifts belonging to the Church of Christ, are forces impelling toward catholic unity.
I am quite certain the Society would not deny there are “elements of sanctification and truth” outside the visible structure of the Catholic Church, such as the valid baptisms and marriages performed by non-Catholic ministers and the truths to be found in Protestant versions of the Bible, or that these elements can confer a grace that leads one toward the Church, as many converts have attested. But what is the meaning of this affirmation when it comes to the eternal salvation of non-Catholics? Do they need the Church or not in order to be saved?
Ferrara's chief complaint seems to center on Weigel's purported assumption that whatever Vatican II's means on these teachings, it is not what the Church meant before Vatican II.

A provocative discussion indeed!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

What to do at Mass in case of gunfire

Cute: Fr. Z, "What rubrics to follow at Mass in case of gunfire?" (WDTPRS, December 9, 2009):
From a reader:
I have a question for you. Suppose during a EF Mass, a gunman or threatening person enters the church, and opens fire. What can be done within the rubrics to protect the Blessed Sacrament, the priest, the servers, and the congregation? Please keep in mind that the congregation is made up of slow, aging men, who no offense to them, really can’t protect anyone.
Lemme get this straight ... what rubrics are followed in case of gunfire...?

I believe there is a little known rubric which calls for the deacon and subdeacon (who in any event should be packing) to take out, reverently, their .9mm and return fire. As I read it, they are to recite the Maledictory Psalms while firing. At the change of a clip/magazine, they may bow, or duck.

... Alternately, if the sacred ministers are not packing, there is no reason why a group of religious could not be formed as a sort of liturgical militia against such an eventuality. I believe in this case, the gun stock must have a ribbon of the color of the days....

Seriously ...
[Hat tip to M.L.]

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Bright young men without philosophical prudence?

At lunch the other day, I was watching Peter Orszag on C-Span. He's the White House Budget Director and clearly has a stellar academic and professional resume. Watching him interact with the press on the question of health care reform, however, I got the uneasy feeling that I was watching a pleasant young man with no sense of the big picture, by which I mean a picture that includes more than economic factors and math. I could be wrong, but I wonder whether he even knows what a "world view" is, or whether he could name and compare a few. He smiled continuously, but appeared unable or unwilling to effectively field questions touching on differences of underlying premises in health policy. Anyone know anything about this guy?

Clarity in Blessings: A Comparison of the Extraordinary and Ordinary Forms of the Roman Ritual – Part 3 of 3

Tridentine Community News (December 6, 2009):
The Devil Does Not Deserve Politeness

Certain Extraordinary Form rituals contain exorcisms that are not present in their Ordinary Form counterparts. The Blessing of Holy Water, for example, incorporates exorcisms of the salt and water, before they are commingled. The Sacrament of Baptism contains an exorcism of salt as well as three exorcisms of the candidate before the words of Baptism are pronounced.

Baptism drives out the Original Sin that every man has been born with since Satan first tempted Eve. The Sacrament should clearly convey, in language and in ritual, what it is doing. The direct language of the Extraordinary Form of Baptism acknowledges the reality of the devil and his minions and addresses them directly. The First Exorcism reads,
“Depart from him (her), unclean spirit, and give place to the Holy Spirit, the Consoler.”
The Second Exorcism reads:
“I cast you out, unclean spirit, in the name of the Father +, and of the Son +, and of the Holy + Spirit. Depart and stay far away from this servant (these servants) of God, N. (N. and N.). For it is the Lord Himself Who commands you, accursed and doomed spirit, He who walked on the sea and reached out His hand to Peter as he was sinking. So then, foul fiend, recall the curse that decided your fate once for all. Indeed, pay homage to the living and true God, pay homage to Jesus Christ, His Son, and to the Holy Spirit. Keep far from this servant of God, N., for Jesus Christ, our Lord and God, has freely called him (her) to His holy grace and blessed way and to the waters of baptism. Accursed devil, never dare to desecrate this sign of the holy + Cross which we are tracing upon his (her) brow. Through the same Christ our Lord. Amen.”
The Third Exorcism reads:
“I cast you out, every unclean spirit, in the name of God the + Father almighty, in the name of Jesus + Christ, His Son, our Lord and judge, and in the power of the Holy + Spirit. Begone, Satan, from God's handiwork, N. Because our Lord (has) graciously called him her to His holy sanctuary, where he (she) will become a dwelling place for the living God, a dwelling place for the Holy Spirit. We ask this in the name of Christ our Lord, who is coming to judge both the living and the dead and the world and the dead and the world by fire. Amen.”
In contrast, there is only one exorcism in the Ordinary Form of Baptism:
“Almighty and ever-living God, you sent your only Son into the world to cast out the power of Satan, spirit of evil, to rescue man from the kingdom of darkness, and bring him into the splendor of your kingdom of light. We pray for this child: set him (her) free from original sin, make him (her) a temple of your glory, and send your Holy Spirit to dwell with him (her). We ask this through Christ our Lord.”
Civility is all well and good. Anyone from North America who travels to England and witnesses how polite people are to one another there will realize how comparatively crude our interactions are on this side of the Atlantic. However, the devil does not deserve politeness. Our Lord Himself did not hesitate to tell him to depart in no uncertain terms: “Begone Satan!” [St. Matthew 4. 10]. An exorcism is not a situation in which to engage in polite discourse; the father of all lies does not deserve anything but the most direct response. One is not negotiating with an equal. Yet the Ordinary Form represents a different, indirect approach, that of requesting God to purge the effects of Original Sin, instead of a command, or even a reference, to Satan or his demons.

A related issue with the English Book of Blessings is that just as the devil is not repulsed as strongly, the Holy Trinity is given less reverence. It refers to our Lord as “you”, often with a small “y”, not “Thee” with a capital “T”. It does not use supplicative phrasing such as “we beseech Thee” as commonly as before. Yet downplaying something does not make it go away. God is not just some other person to be casually addressed, nor are Satan’s wiles to be trivialized. As the traditional saying goes, Lex orándi, lex credéndi (the law of prayer is the law of belief): If we don’t acknowledge their distinctiveness from the mundane, we tend to diminish both the Divinity and sacrality of God and the unspeakable evil and havoc that the devil can wreak upon us.

There is no reason for Holy Mother Church to withhold her great powers of blessing, intercession, and exorcism. Her Sacraments and official blessings should reflect the authority which Christ has given Her to sanctify the lives of the faithful. Unlike the weak wording of parts of the present English Ordinary Form Mass, the indirectness of the prayers in the Ordinary Form Roman Ritual is not merely due to a poor job of translation. The original Latin text is the primary culprit.

Fortunately, the treasure that is the Extraordinary Form Roman Ritual is now available for all Catholics to make use of, provided that a supportive priest will use those books. It seems logical that in matters of blessings and Sacraments, if one is to engage in them at all, one should use the clearest expression of those prayers. Few people go to a fine steakhouse and order a hamburger. Readers of this column have been blessed with the availability of the Extraordinary Form blessings and Sacraments upon request at Assumption-Windsor and St. Josaphat Churches.

Assumption Church Restoration Update

Windsor’s Assumption Church has begun a major fundraising campaign to raise $9,800,000 needed to remedy some serious structural problems. Because of the significance of Assumption in the history of the city of Windsor, support is being sought from secular as well as conventional Catholic sources. A new web site has been created for the campaign, with architect’s concepts for the updated campus: Fear not, this is a restoration, not a wreckovation. In fact, traditional elements of the church such as the high altar and high pulpit are prominently featured in campaign materials.

We are honored that campaign leaders have invited five members of Assumption’s Tridentine Mass Community to serve on the advisory committee for the effort.
[Comments? Please e-mail Previous columns are available at This edition of Tridentine Community News, with minor editions, is from the St. Josaphat bulletin insert for December 6, 2009. Hat tip to A.B.]


Wednesday, December 02, 2009

An Examination of Friday Penance

By Brian A. Graebe

The reign of Pope Benedict XVI may well come to be known as the Age of Restoration in the post-conciliar Church. To the delight of some, and the scorn of others, practices that had fallen by the wayside have been dusted off and given new prominence in this papacy. While much of this restoration centers around matters liturgical, Benedict's steady if cautious program of reform occasions a more encompassing look at the current state of the Church.

From the outset, one ought to be clear what the Benedictine restoration is not. It is not an effort to "turn back the clock." Rather, Benedict has restored prominence to norms that had, over time, become dulled by exceptions, permissions, and general neglect or confusion. Examples abound, but the most famous must surely be this striking line in Summorum Pontificum, Benedict's 2007 motu proprio: "It is, therefore, permissible to celebrate the Sacrifice of the Mass following the typical edition of the Roman Missal promulgated by Bl. John XXIII in 1962 and never abrogated, as an extraordinary form of the Liturgy of the Church" (emphasis added).

Masterfully avoiding any volley in the liturgical wars of the past decades, Benedict has changed the entire scope of the debate by claiming precedence or rightful prominence for norms and practices that had never been abrogated in the first place. In so doing, he has claimed the status-quo position and removed the burden of change from those championing the hermeneutics of continuity. Such leadership has undoubtedly opened windows in the Church, allowing for discussions and developments that only a few years ago would have been unthinkable. This is a most uniquely Benedictine aggiornamento.

One area of the Church that has perhaps suffered more than its share of neglect is the penitential nature of Fridays. Not just Lenten Fridays, but all Fridays of the year. And not just penance in general, but specifically abstinence from meat. What might seem like a rather remote and insignificant corner of the contemporary Church becomes, on closer inspection, a trove of spiritual riches of which the faithful have largely deprived themselves. A victim of confusion, poor catechesis, and general disregard, penitential Fridays can play a significant role in the renewal of our times.

The first question to arise in considering this subject would be, Why abstinence? Granting the natural-law obligation to do penance for sin (Summa Theologiae, II-II, 84, 7, ad 1), abstinence presents itself as a time-honored means of fulfilling this obligation. (For clarity, fasting generally refers to quantity, limiting the amount of food one eats; abstinence to quality, restricting the type of food). By forgoing certain foods and drink, one makes an offering to God, a sacrifice of repentance, while emphasizing one's total dependence on God alone. The physical hunger and deprivation underscore our spiritual hunger for the heavenly banquet, which alone can nourish and satisfy. Certainly the practice of abstinence dates at least as far back as the Levitical laws of the Old Testament, and was present even in Eden (Gen. 2:16-17). Following Our Lord's own counsel (Mt. 6:16-18, 16:24) and His example in the desert (Mt. 4:2), the Apostles continued to recognize the importance of abstinence, most notably at the Council of Jerusalem (Acts 15:29). St. Paul repeatedly exhorts his readers to fasting and abstinence (2 Cor. 6:5, 11:27) as a sure means of imitating Christ.

So Christians continue a time-honored penitential practice when they abstain. But still we must ask, Why Fridays? This is the easiest of our questions to answer, for Friday of course marks the day on which Our Lord offered His life in supreme atonement for the sins of all men. Each Friday, by uniting us to the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross, prepares us properly to celebrate the weekly Easter that comes with each Sunday.

Finally, and perhaps most critically, we ask, Why meat? I say most critically, because it is on this point, more than any other, where confusion reigns. Very few will object to the practice of penance in general, or on Fridays in particular, but the entire notion of meatless Fridays has fallen much out of favor. For many, it harks back to a rigid legalism that put the letter of the law over the spirit. But when evaluating the efficacy of meatless Fridays, one ought first to have an understanding of both its history and significance in the tradition of the Church.

References to fasting on Fridays occur as early as the first-century Didache (8:2); meatless Fridays are mentioned by St. Clement of Alexandria and Tertullian, and quickly became a widespread custom in the Church. But why? A proscription on meat may strike one as rather arbitrary. One with no preference for meat would not find the restriction very penitential; shouldn't one decide freely to forgo those foods one prefers? Certainly, one is encouraged to make particular sacrifices -- one does not preclude the other. But it nonetheless remains fitting for the Church to encourage abstinence from meat, always a historical luxury, as a penitential norm. In the first place, the refusal to consume flesh is symbolically appropriate. When we forgo animal flesh, we call to mind that day on which Christ offered His flesh for the life of the world. We recall that unless we eat His flesh we shall not have life (Jn. 6:54, 56). We join His sacrifice of the flesh, in a small but important way, by sacrificing flesh ourselves.

Moreover, abstinence from flesh ought to turn one's mind to man's pre-fallen condition. In his state of original justice, man abstained from eating animals (Gen. 1:29); it was only after the cleansing flood that God gave man permission to eat animal flesh (Gen. 9:3). A harmony existed among creation that we strive to reclaim (Is. 11:1-10). When we abstain from meat, we not only respect that sixth day on which all animals (and man) were created, but we unite that sixth day to Calvary, to the New Adam -- the cross alone can restore man's fallen state and lead us to Paradise.

Fittingly, ecclesiastical law has, from antiquity, proscribed meat on Fridays as a binding means of fulfilling the penitential norms to which all are bound. This absolute prohibition changed in 1966, when Pope Paul VI issued Paenitemini, his apostolic constitution on penance. Among the many fruits of this document is a call to greater interior penance, a cultivation of the spirit of the law over the letter. Pope Paul gives a fine synopsis of penance throughout salvation history, and writes of its spiritual benefits and necessity. Importantly, Paul recognizes that "true penitence, however, cannot ever prescind from physical asceticism." He goes on to note that the Church "has always observed in a special way abstinence from meat and fasting," and that "it is necessary to inculcate some special form of penitence in preference to others." In other words, not all forms of penance are created equal, and proper weight must be given to the time-honored tradition of the Church vis-à-vis meatless Fridays. Paul nevertheless proceeds to modify the binding law of the Church; he writes that "abstinence is to be observed on every Friday which does not fall on a day of obligation," while also leaving it to the episcopal conferences to transfer the day of penance or to "substitute abstinence and fast wholly or in part with other forms of penitence and especially works of charity and the exercises of piety." These modifications were incorporated into the 1983 Code of Canon Law. The relevant canons read as follows:
1250 All Fridays through the year and the time of Lent are penitential days and times throughout the Universal

1251 Abstinence from eating meat or another food according to the prescriptions of the conference of bishops is to be observed on Fridays throughout the year unless they are solemnities; abstinence and fast are to be observed on Ash Wednesday and on the Friday of the Passion and Death of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

1253 It is for the conference of bishops to determine more precisely the observance of fast and abstinence and to substitute in whole or in part for fast and abstinence other forms of penance, especially works of charity and exercises of piety.
One is duty-bound to abstain from meat on all Fridays of the year, unless the conference of bishops designates some other food, or another form of penance altogether, as an approved substitute. Precisely what, if anything, are the binding norms for Friday observance in the U.S.? A conscientious Catholic has to do a bit of investigative work on this matter.

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops decreed in its "Pastoral Statement on Penance and Abstinence" (1966) that "abstinence from flesh meat on all Fridays of the year is especially recommended to individuals and to the Catholic community as a whole." Nevertheless, although "Friday itself remains a special day of penitential observance throughout the year…. we hereby terminate the traditional law of abstinence as binding under pain of sin, as the sole prescribed means of observing Friday." Even though the bishops "give first place to abstinence from flesh meat" as a commendable means of penance, this remains only a recommendation, a "hope that the Catholic community will ordinarily continue to abstain from meat by free choice as formerly we did in obedience to Church law."

These hopes were echoed in 2000, when the U.S. bishops issued a complementary document, "Penitential Practices for Today's Catholics." While "the Church prescribes making each Friday throughout the year a penitential day," the document states somewhat ambiguously that "all of us are urged to prepare appropriately" for Sunday. So, while the language of prescription seems to imply a binding duty of some sort, that implication is followed with an exhortation toward what can easily be interpreted as a voluntary and supererogatory form of penance. No mention is made either of the preferential nature of meatless Fridays or of binding observance at all. Friday is called a day of penance, but it is highly debatable whether a Catholic in America today actually has to do anything or fulfill any specific obligation in this regard. Rather than reinvigorate the penitential nature of Friday, the current norms seem to have had the opposite effect. Ironically, a modification that sought to restore the spirit has witnessed a reduction to a minimalist letter: Lacking an explicit and clear requirement, Catholics have abstained from the penitential call altogether. Catechesis on this subject has been woefully lacking; many Catholics do not recognize Fridays outside of Lent as a day of penance at all, and certainly do not observe them in any meaningful way.

What to do about this current state? Perhaps, somewhere along the way, the spirit of the law has been thrown out with the letter. We need a renewed emphasis on penance, and abstention from meat on Fridays carries both a normative and an objective value.

Latin-rite Catholics as a whole have lost sight of how much meatless Fridays have pride of place in the penitential tradition of the Church. The post-conciliar documents continue to affirm this primacy: Paenitemini and the Code of Canon Law cite abstinence as the normative and binding practice unless a substitution is approved by the national episcopal conference. Forgoing meat on Fridays should never be reduced to a de gustibus penance, a matter of mere taste; its symbolic value and its ancient custom preclude any relegation to just one option among many. The Eastern Churches stand as an important reminder; they have never lost this emphasis. Mercifully free from Occidental legalism, their continued and deeply ingrained abstinence offers a model of precisely that voluntary spirit to which Pope Paul and the U.S. bishops aspired. (One Eastern-rite priest told me that "the practice of fasting and abstinence is not so much a matter of law in the Byzantine Churches as it is an art, wedded as it is to the art of prayer and the moral life.") With so many ecumenical gestures toward the East coming out of Benedict's papacy, a renewed focus on this oft-forgotten part of our heritage can only bring Orthodoxy and Catholicism even closer together. Importantly, this would not change or adapt any part of Western belief or practice; it is simply uncovering and re-valuing what has always been the norm of the Latin Church.

Abstention from meat also carries an important objectivity to it, as it presents a clear standard by which one can faithfully observe the penitential call. This is not to diminish the importance of, for example, acts of charity; again, the two are not mutually exclusive. And there is some deep value in an objective norm. The "sample expressions of penance" in "Penitential Practices for Today's Catholics" include tears of repentance, efforts at reconciliation with a family member, defense of justice, mutual correction, and endurance of persecution for the sake of God's Kingdom.

Now, there is nothing wrong with any of these practices. They are all highly commendable. But they are also highly impractical for the average Catholic to put into weekly practice. It is simply unrealistic to expect Catholics, striving to observe the penitential custom, to shed tears of repentance or to contact some estranged family member (assuming they have one) to reconcile on any given Friday. Nor is the typical Catholic in America faced with persecution for the sake of God's Kingdom which he can penitentially endure one day a week. An objective norm, on the other hand, offers clarity and more universal applicability. Even if I am not particularly inclined to eat a meat dish on a Friday, merely knowing the value of abstinence instills an awareness of sacrifice to which I interiorly respond. From this small step, an atmosphere of self-denial arises, and will hopefully lead me not only to call to mind Our Lord's Passion, but spur me on to other opportunities for prayer, acts of charity, etc. I am uniting my observance with Catholics throughout the world and throughout history, and giving eloquent expression to the Church's universality. Abstinence is by no means the last word in the discussion of Friday penance; it has long been, however, the first word and, as our own tradition teaches, not at all a bad place to start.

The ramifications for a renewed emphasis on meatless Fridays could be great indeed. Like the mustard seed in the Gospel (Mk. 4:30-32), its impact would likely spread far wider than may at first be apparent. Exteriorly, it gives a powerful witness to the world at large, reinforcing the very Catholic notion of a people set apart. Our true home is not in this world (Jn. 15:19), and a simple gesture like forgoing meat once a week emphasizes that we have been called out of the world. Even lapsed Catholics cling to these badges of identity. One merely has to stand at any church on Ash Wednesday to see the streams of Catholics queued up for their smudge of ashes. Now, it is fair to say that many of these are not regular churchgoers: their practice and maybe even their faith has waned. But they are holding on to this distinguishing identity. What some may deride as hypocrisy ought to be viewed as a sign of hope, that tiny seed waiting to spring forth. Therein lies a powerful lesson: Catholics long for these hallmarks of belief, these simple outward signs that let the world know and recognize a living faith. Ash Wednesdays, meatless Fridays, Palm Sundays -- these are the tangible, earthy signs which, for most of the world, are the closest they will ever come into contact with the Catholic Church. Why would we deprive them of even that much?

In short, abstinence forms an important part of Catholic identity -- theologically and historically. Yes, one ought always to bear in mind the spirit of the practice and avoid external legalism. Yes, exceptions and other possibilities exist and should be prudently exercised. But when we disregard our heritage completely, when the average Catholic takes no note of the penitential norm at all, something has gone seriously wrong. In this Age of Restoration, then, it would be most fitting not to impose but to propose anew this time-honored practice. Abstinence is not good because it is ancient, it is ancient because it is good, because it taps into that longing, that natural need, to atone for sin. May I propose, in the spirit of renewal, that meatless Fridays be re-introduced for the specific intention of purity. In a world marked by sexual indulgence, perversity, and gratification of every kind, a manifest self-denial can serve not only as a powerful antidote, but as a great means of grace for conversion and reparation. And the symbolic value of flesh gains added significance when we offer that up for the sins of the flesh that so wound the Mystical Body of Christ. Along with so many other signs of the times, a restoration of this custom, which has never been abrogated, can assist in regenerating a truly Catholic identity, a unity with Our Lord's Passion, and a conduit of grace to hasten that new springtime which the Church so eagerly awaits.

Brian A. Graebe is a seminarian of the Archdiocese of New York, studying at St. Joseph's Seminary, Dun­woodie. A summa cum laude graduate of New York University in philosophy, he pursued graduate studies in classics at the American Academy in Rome. His foregoing article, "An Examination of Friday Penance," was originally published in New Oxford Review (July-August 2009), pp. 26-29, and is reproduced here by kind permission of New Oxford Review, 1069 Kains Ave., Berkeley, CA 94706.

Pope on post-V II "desert without God," and new signs of life

In his recent Address to the Bishops of Brazil on their Ad Limina visit at the Papal Summer Residence, Castel Gandolfo, on September 7, 2009, Pope Benedict XVI made what is perhaps the frankest admission yet that the post-conciliar period has been disastrous for the Church:
Beloved Brothers, in the decades that followed the Second Vatican Council, some have interpreted openness to the world not as a requirement of the missionary zeal of the Heart of Christ, but rather as a passage to secularization... They were unconsciously caught up in the self - secularization of many ecclesial communities...

Today there is a new generation born into this secularized ecclesial context. Instead of showing openness and consensus, it sees the abyss of differences and opposition to the Magisterium of the Church growing ever wider, especially in the field of ethics. In this desert without God, the new generation feels a deep thirst for transcendence. (emphasis added)
One example of an apostolate that seems to be mounting a counter-cultural effort to quench this thirst and to plant flowers of faith and hope in this "desert without God" is The Latin Mass: A Journal of Catholic Culture and its affiliate organization, Keep the Faith, which aims to promote a "traditional, robust, missionary, and world-changing Roman Catholicism." In a recent promotional mailing from the organization, Fr. Francis Piro, S.T.L. writes:
You know from our previous letters that is the world's largest Internet source for traditional Catholic audio and video content covering every aspect of the Catholic Faith and its application to political, moral, and social problems.

You also know that Keep the Faith provides seminarians, priests, and religious with special accounts that allow them to have unlimited access to all the content at on a 24/7 basis, absolutely free of charge, and that they can download, reproduce, and distribute this content without limitation, all over the world.

But here is what you don't know: The other day, in going over our "web traffic" figures, I learned that more than five hundred seminarians have free accounts at With the post-Vatican II decline in vocations, that represents ten percent of all the seminarians in America.
St. Maximilian Kolbe, with his interest in using modern communications technologies for purposes of evangilization, would be smiling his approval.

Detroit advisory on SSPX

Members of the Archdiocese of Detroit have been recently reminded by His Excellency, Archbishop Allen Vigneron (via an Archdiocesan bulletin), that two churches of the SSPX in the environs of Detroit -- along with eight other churches (four affiliated with the Polish National Catholic Church, and four more of various independent para-Catholic affiliations) -- are not in full communion with the Roman Catholic Church. The Advisory also states:
Out of concern for the faithful who want to participate in the Holy Eucharist celebrated according to the form of the Mass prior to the Second Vatican Council (sometimes called the "Tridentine Rite"), Pope Benedict XVI in hiis Apostolic Letter, "Summorum Pontificum," extended permission for the celebration of the Eucharist according this Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite. Catholics who wish to worship according this form should attend it at parishes in the Archdiocese of Detroit in full communion with our Holy Father the Pope. A list of thse parishes can be found on the Archdiocese of Detroit website:
Finally, the faithful are enjoined "to continue to pray that God will bring the Society of St. Pius X and all other Christian communities into full communion with the Roman Catholic Church so that we may all be one."

As reported in an earlier post, Archbishop Vigneron administered the Sacrament of Confirmation according to the Extraordinary Form at St. Josaphat Church following the 9:30 AM Mass last Sunday.