Wednesday, May 04, 2016

Fr. Perrone on the chain of authority from Christ to the priest, how this is mirrored in traditional church architecture, and why modernists are uncomfortable in such churches

Fr. Eduard Perrone, "A Pastor's Descant" [temporary link] (Assumption Grotto News, May 1, 2016)
Recently I mentioned to a couple under instruction that I could not teach them catechism nor could I preach at Mass without having had faculties from the archbishop, that is, without having received a mandate from him who alone has the authority to designate me for this ministerial work. Behind this assertion is the fact that no one possesses authority on his own; authority must be lawfully derived from another who himself has legitimate authority. Thus, there is authority that parents naturally have over their children; of a teacher over his students; and of a lawfully designated ruler over the populace. In the Church, no one has any authority unless it has been concretely given by Christ.

Even our Lord Himself, though divine, in His human nature received authority from His Father ("All authority has been given to me, both in heaven and on earth...."). It was said of Him that He had been "appointed," and that He did not take the honor of priesthood upon himself, but was called to it by the Father (cf. Hebrews 5:5). He Himself said that as He had been sent from the Father (in the Incarnation), so it was that He was sending His apostles (the very word means 'those who are sent'). So then, no one in the Church has authoritative position without having divine authority which comes from Christ -- authority that's not merely subjectively felt to have been received, but which was truly, legally, lawfully conferred upon him. (So much then for ministers and self-made reverends who have no apostolic leg to stand on, no matter how much they may feel themselves to have been "called" to ministry, no matter how talented or dedicated to the Gospel they may be. No one can start his own religion, his own church.) A validly ordained and lawfully deputized Catholic priest is one who has been literally called (and not merely subjectively felt to be called) to holy orders by his bishop and who has been given by him the mandate to preach, teach, and to absolve sinners in the sacrament of Confession.

This instruction on the Church authority as derived from Christ and made actual through apostolic succession, Ordination, and through the exercise of juridical power rooted in divine authority, led me to think about the architecture of our parish church. In a tour I gave of it to some visitors I mentioned that ours is a traditional cruciform church, that is, it was made in the form of a cross, a design wherein the most sacred part is the sanctuary -- the place where Christ's head would be on the cross if one could get the aerial view of the church building. This traditional architectural shape of a church contrasts with the modernistic circular design of many churches built since the 1960s, a form which reflects not the hierarchical body of Christ (with Christ at the position of the head and His bodily members in the transept and the nave), but rather an egalitarian assembly of people where there is no head, no position of leadership, but where all are in equal placement, 'in the round.' This model does not reflect the Catholic theology of the Church (Christ being the Head, and His members subordinated to Him) but represents a protestant, individualistic, self-ruling kind of society where there is no true authority but where everyone, including those said to have been "ordained," are of equal position and status.

Needless to point out perhaps, architecture matters. The modern architecture, so prevalent in many Catholic churches, makes the laity feel that they are equal in position and authority to the priest who is merely their "presider" for the liturgy, or the appointed "president." In such case, lay people feel they have been "empowered" (a favorite slice of Saint Suburbanite jargon) to decide for themselves what they will believe and be taught, empowered to fashion their own liturgies, and to rule in areas proper to the ordained priesthood. One then out not to underestimate the power of art (here, of architecture) either to reinforce and sustain true, orthodox faith or else to usurp it.

We are regarded as being a traditional parish by many people, rightly so. Our church's very shape reflects the inherent hierarchical structure the Church, that is, which it has of its very nature, due to the express will of its divine Founder. Your parish priests, however unworthy, have been called by the Church to perform the ministerial service needed for the salvation of your souls. This is not a matter of self-imposed tyranny over you, of an outmoded pre-Vatican II "model" of the Church; it is rather of the very essence of the priesthood. And so, when one walks into our church building for the first time one gets a sense of this theological structure from its very architectural structure. And so it is that those of a modernistic frame of mind rightly feel discomfort upon entering our church. They sense there the majesty of God and His authority looming over them. Our church building itself is a catechetical lesson in Catholicism.


bill bannon said...

Such theories seem like feng shui or magic. I attend in an old age home in a normal room...due to hearing problems aggravated by gothic microphone echoes in the Church a half block away. We all know the priest is in authority in that normal room because he's saying the Mass. Period. He often rebukes this senile man who talks aloud....out of context. The man obeys the priest in the normal room. Catholicism must get beyond these endless trivial arguments for the thing that one prefers. Pope Alexander VI observed probably every architectural and bodily and language detail Fr. desires in a Mass. But if he looked at your sister too long in 1494, you knew trouble was brewing...and it wasn't Protestant trouble. How come physical detail didn't produce a continent Borgia Pope? Because posture etc. doesn't save...God does. Pope Nicholas V arguably set in motion the birth of the perennial chaos of the Catholic continent in Romanus Pontifex.
I'll bet he was architecturally, posturally, and language perfect as to Mass.

Pertinacious Papist said...

Hi Bill,

Thanks for your thoughts. I agree with you that Mass could be celebrated on the hood of a Jeep on the battle front and it would be no less Mass than in a magnificent Cathedral.

I disagree that architectural differences are trivial -- on so many levels I hardly know how to begin.

While I would like to engage you on the level of aesthetics and semiology since I know you're an artist from personal experience, let me set that aside for the moment in interests of brevity.

A few generations ago Polish families in their ethnic neighborhoods of Detroit mortgaged their tiny homes in order to help fund the building of magnificent churches to the glory and honor of God. Today many suburban American Catholics live in palatial homes and drive Hummers or other expensive SUVs and attend churches that look like Elks Lodge meeting rooms and complain if their pastors want to purchase a communion chalice or tabernacle made anything more than base metals.

So even before we get to aesthetics, much less semiology, there's a problem in spiritual disposition where people aren't willing to put their money where their mouth is in honoring God in their houses of worship.

The point isn't that God cannot be worshipped out of doors in mother nature. He can. But then why did He prescribe in such detail the instructions for the Tabernacle in the Old Testament, or the blueprint for the Temple? Why did Jesus get so bent out of shape at money changers in the courtyard of the Temple, when he could have suggesting to his followers that they worship out-of-doors in the wilderness?

It all comes back to the sacramental worldview of Catholicism (the view that outward physical things point to inward spiritual things), and the hermeneutics of fittingness. We could all do our spiritual reading and rosaries for the day sitting on the crapper, but ...

Neither is the point that having picture-perfect architecture or outward form makes us unwardly perfect or even superior. It doesn't, as such. However when you say that "such theories seem like feng shui or magic," I would agree, just like Protestants see Catholics' view of the sacrament as being like 'magic'. Something does happen. A buildings can either depress and demean us by their squalor and McDonaldization of our Faith, or humble us by their grandeur and thereby ennoble and elevate. Not quite magic. But something better. My two cents.

bill bannon said...

The things you admire in the OT detail did not give life (Gal.3:21)...they predicted Christ.
God in the details of the Old Testament temple etc. was signifying Christ in many hidden ways to a very physical people to whom He promised very physical rewards in the Sinai covenant in Exodus. If they obeyed, they were to have no miscarriages and no barrenness. If they obeyed, they would see their enemies flee in war. If they obeyed, they would have a long life.
We're not them. We don't have physical promises. We should be less physically dependent than they. We are promised a cross and if we obey, we still might have two miscarriages and get hit with a stray bullet driving through a rough neighborhood and die early. Hence the God who gave great physical detail in the OT....for example Noah's ark had to be 300 cubits long, 30 cubits high, and 60 cubits wide....was a God who according to Augustine was foretelling Christ...." these are the proportions of a man" said Augustine who noted that a slender man's chest depth is roughly one tenth of his height and his width is one fifth of his height. Ditto I'm sure for every detail in the OT of altars, covenant arks, temples. It's all prefiguring Christ. That's why the Church does not build churches according to the temple measurements. Physical hidden prophecies are over since Christ has come. By the way, the chasing of the merchants from the temple was different....they were crowding out the gentiles for whom that space was reserved hence Christ said in one account citing Isaiah...Mark 11:17..." My house shall be called a house of prayer for ALL peoples". In any event His action can be done by a priest in any shaped Church.
I live in the city. Gothic churches devour heat and airconditioning above the tallest parishioner. Most of the heating bill is wasted in the vast non used very tall ceiling. Unlike the Polish parishes of the past, many parishes are down to more elderly than young familes but few attending in general...hence few contributing. In some temperate climate lands, that ceiling is no problem. In our poor northern neighborhoods, parish after parish is being closed for financial reasons....tuitions, heating bills, painting huge churches, have many children and pay for their tuition...all added up to too much. St. Patricks Cathedral was something like a $150 million renovation but NY must have hit up a national list of wealthy Catholics.
Save the liturgy, save the simply not true. You had about five Popes with illegitimate children from various stages of their lives in the 16th century. They lived in the liturgical world that you envision. Then you probably had a dozen or more other Popes per century that made their young nephew a Cardinal or a Bishop with a large income. Why didn't perfect physcal detail and language make them just? Because none of that has a causal connection to virtue.
I love that you have the Latin Mass. I loathe the tendency of your school of thought to turn your preferences into a magical, physical solution. The Old Testament forms and rituals didn't work..." the law brought nothing to perfection" Hebrews 7:19... " had there been a law that giveth life, salvation would be by the law"...Galatians 3:21.

Pertinacious Papist said...


(1) The reason for parish closings and the widely-evident implosion of the first-world Church is not excessive heating bills created by high vaulted ceilings, but the massive apostasy of Catholics.

(2) If you wanted a purely 'spiritualized' religion, I would recommend some form of Protestantism, such as Calvinism -- or the Society of Friends or Salvation Army, which do away with all sacraments altogether since their import is 'spiritual' anyway, rather than Catholicism whose thinkers produce books with titles like Why Matter Matters by David Lang and Peter Kreeft or Chance, or the Dance? by Thomas Howard.

(3) It was the heresy of Marcionism that pitted the Old Testament against the New. You are right that the New Testament universalizes the covenant that was limited to the Jews in the OT. But just as the signs of our NT sacraments allow us to be incorporated retrospectively into the Body of Christ crucified once-for-all, so the signs of the OT sacrifices allowed the OT saints to be incorporated by anticipatory faith into the same Body of Christ whom they knew only as the promised Messiah. There is no less spirit and grace in the OT than there is in the NT. The New Covenant simply expresses what is implicit and anticipated in the Old. To pit 'law' against 'grace', or 'physical' against the 'spiritual', is to open the Pandora's Box opened by Luther and all of its false problems that are foreign to the Catholic mind.


bill bannon said...

Oh I believe in the physical Catholic sacraments as bringing about what they signify. I'm simply against traditionalists as humans creating three or more additional sacraments...priest facing a wall annexed altar; Latin language; and now shape of Church. You think they bring about a more faithful Catholic but Rome studiously avoids saying such a thing in an infallible venue. Deuteronomy warned against adding to what God said...or subtracting. Apparently you don't accept all of the word of God. Hebrews 7:19 and Galatians 3:21 inter alia pit law against grace in the very quotes I gave from the Holy the Catholic Bible. "Law" there is not the ten commandments but the hundreds of non ten commandment laws that the Jews had to observe...including how to design the temple. Augustine noted that such details brought nothing to life in his exegesis of 2 Kings 4. A boy has died and the mother seeks help from Eliseus who sends his servant, Gehazi to lay Eliseus' staff on the dead boy but he remains dead. So Eliseus comes in person and descends on the dead boy ...matching his hands, mouth, and eyes to those of the boy who grows warm then Eliseus descends again without the matching of body members and the boy sits up and coughs 7 times. Augustine noted that the meaning is that the boy is mankind and Eliseus is a symbol of God. Mankind was dead in sin and God first sent the " law" ( the staff ) to be laid on mankind by his servant Moses/Gehazi. But he remained dead. So God had to come Himself and descend on mankind first as Christ ( the body parts matching) then as the Holy Spirit ( no matching of body parts but 7 coughs signifying the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit). Hence the gospel in John 1:17 says..." the law came through Moses, grace and peace came through Jesus Christ." The Old Testament had actual grace not sanctifying grace which only comes with Christ with the exception of Mary. John the Baptist therefore was the greatest man in the pre sanctifying grace period but Christ said the least in the kingdom of God ( a baptized infant after Pentecost ) was greater than had sanctifying grace which John lacked. That's why John had to take radical measures to stay independent of sin and kings...eating and dressing from desert matter only ( independent of all society and its wages and dependencies) whereas Thomas More and others would later dress and eat normal and still be able to confront kings...because John only had actual grace and they had sanctifying they were greater than John as to the ease of virtue via sanctifying grace which he lacked while he had actual grace only and cooperated with it mightily as did Job and Tobias.
The Latin Mass is fine for those who love it. It has no superior powers. I took it ...Latin...for six years and don't like it in Mass but I'm glad you have a right to it. Just avoid giving it magical powers. There are seven sacraments....not Latin is not another one neither is the priest facing a wall annexed altar....neither is Fr. Perrone's church building.

Pertinacious Papist said...

The equal validity of different liturgies is not, I think, in question here; the equal Catholic authenticity of different forms of worship may be. The first to welcome me into the Catholic Church were Catholic charismatics. However, there is virtually nothing to the distinctives of the Charismatic Renewal that I find to be remotely Catholic. It essentially derives from Protestant Pentecostalism. I bring this up only to suggest a great many features of the (valid) Novus Ordo Mass have no support in Catholic history and were not even mandated by Vatican II -- like the priest facing the people, the free standing altar, standing for Communion receiving in the hand, etc.

Does this make it any less licit to go to a Novus Ordo Mass? No? Does this mean there is something 'magical' about the EF liturgy? No. What does it mean? It means that the Mass of St. Padre Pio, St. Francis of Assisi, St. Francis Xavier, St. Therese of Lisieux, St. Thomas Aquinas was not the Novus Ordo but the EF. Does it mean anything else? Yes, lots of things. Receiving the host on a ping pong paddle and flipping it into your mouth may not invalidate the Sacrament, but it may not be respectful or befitting the gravity and sacredness of the Sacrament. One form of the liturgy may be in certain respects less distracting and more fittingly reverent than another -- and I'm not just talking about the "way it's celebrated," but the form itself.

bill bannon said...

The last word is yours. It was a good war. I've never seen a ping pong paddle in a church at all. Hyperbole can be a trumpism....take heed of that path. In my part of the northeast, we see nothing weird in church.

Pertinacious Papist said...

Thanks, Bill.

You write: "In my part of the northeast, we see nothing weird in church." Either that, or you've been immersed in it so long you haven't noticed.

On the cover of Michael Davies' The Catholic Sanctuary and the Second Vatican Council is a photograph of the high altar inside the Brompton Oratory in London. In the foreground you see the Communion rail, beyond that a wide expanse, then the steps leading up to the high altar with tabernacle and six gilded candle sticks on top of it, with a crucifix in the middle.

Inside the cover, as I recall, is a black and white replica of the photograph with something to the following effect: "This is a photograph of the Catholic Sanctuary exactly as the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council envisioned it."

What's the point? The removal of the tabernacle to some other part of the church, the free-standing altar that the priest can stand behind facing the people, the removal of steps leading up to the alter, the removal of the communion rail, not to mention lay communion ministers (usually women, making the priest look like an out-of-place father in the kitchen), lay lectors, girl altar boys, reception of communion in the hand while standing in a queue, preaching (or 'entertaining') in the aisle in the church's nave (or, rather, since churches no longer have 'naves', somewhere in the midst of the congregation), removal of kneelers, etc. -- none of these things was mandated by the Second Vatican Council.

None of this may 'matter' to those who've grown accustomed to it -- for as a good Protestant would point out, who needs kneelers in order to pray, or a communion rail to receive Communion, or, for that matter, an ordained priest in order to hold a memorial service of the Lord's supper?

The first question I'd ask is probably: How are any of these changes Catholic? Or how were these changes introduced (many of them were introduced through acts of explicit defiance of Roman directives)? Or, well maybe that's enough for now.

Thanks again, my friend.

James Joseph said...

Are saying sir that the Good Lord Jesus Christ does not confer His Grace through His Creation? Or are you that men and women are going to be sluts no matter how perfect things appear?

Anonymous said...

A good Protestant could also point out the the blue Norvus Ordo sanctuary pictured is uncommon since it is actually tasteful and uncluttered by tacky absurdities! The modern Catholic sanctuaries are only half the problem. The other is all the garbage that is mixed in wit them. It is the 'Serendipity' Bible culture run amok as administered by Sister Joan that is the problem, on top of the tainted theological enterprise bequeathed us by the conciliar fathers.