Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Comparing liturgies: the standards of judgment are objective

A common response to the question of the relative superiority or inferiority of the new or old Mass is to couch the question in terms of preference. This is to utterly skew the issue, recasting the debate in the framework of subjective perceptions rather than objective properties.

The same thing happens in aesthetics, when concepts like "expressiveness" are cast in terms of subjective perceptions, as in the Evocation Theory of 'expressiveness', which supposes that what is expressed depends on subjective perceptions. Thus a song is said to be "expressive" of meloncholy if it evokes meloncholy feelings in me. But this is nonsense, as Nicholas Wolterstorff argues in his book, Art in Action. If one looks at two lines -- the first a jagged line, the second an undulating one -- and say the first is expressive of "restlessness" and the second of "restfulness," is it because I am plunged alternately into subjective feelings of restlessness and restfulness? Of course not: and whether it did or not would be irrelevant. A jagged line's expressivness of restlessness or restfulness is based on objective properties of the lines which are objectively fitting with respect to these feelings, but not dependent on an actual evocation of these subjective feelings. Even if one felt tranquil while looking at the jagged line, the line would still be expressive of "restlessness." That's why a person can sometimes fail to perceive the objective qualities that are actually there.

The same is true with the comparative question of the new Mass or old Mass. Therefore, the question ought not to be primarily, "How does it make you FEEL?" but rather: "What objective qualities are expressed by the Mass?" The latter are objectively grounded in measurable qualities and properties of the Mass itself. On that basis, the symbolism of the new Mass is confused and radically inferior to the old. Sacrosanctum Concilium, though itself far from being a perfectly clear document, was never properly implemented.

Accordingly, the question of the relative superiority of one liturgy over another cannot properly be settled in terms of whether it makes one feels involved or detached, interested or bored, joyful or sorrowful. That would be like supposing that one should make one's decision about engaging someone in marriage based primarily on how one happens to feel in the person's presence, when the more important question is objectively what kind of person this is. Likewise with litugy: the question needs to be settled in terms of objective properties of the rite and ritual itself. Are the majesty of God, the holiness of His Sacrifice, the divinity of His Presence on the Altar expressed by the Mass? And here, remember, we're not talking primarily about how one feels but about qualities in the rite and ritual itself.

Even the question of the quality of "participation" cannot be properly adjudicated by how "involved" one happens to feel, as important as that question may be. Rather, first of all, it must be a question of how the rite and ritual objectively elicit the congregation's participation by elevating those present to the contemplation of those aforemention qualities of divine majesty, holiness, and Presence in the Sacrifice of the Mass. This isn't something principally dependent upon how successful a liturgy is in actually producing these perceptions in a given congregation. A congregation of liturgical philistines may lack the religious sensibilities to perceive what is properly there. Just as in art, one has to learn what to look for, to be properly habituated to the sensibilities appropriate to what is expressed in the Mass. The standards are objective.

A few new book deals ...

In honor of Mardi Gras, a few more book deals for you have been added to the Store, including a couple of brand new C.S. Lewis volumes at cut rates, and a copy of Peter Kreeft's A Refutation of Moral Relativism (also in mint condition at a radically cut rate), which someone needs to buy for Fr. Joseph O'Leary or any of your other favorite "Spirit of Vatican II" relativists.

P.S. Sold! -- both C.S. Lewis books (2/28/06, 1:30pm)

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Oxford philosopher weighs in against liturgical "abomination"

The latest issue of Adoremus Bulletin carried the following letter in its Readers' Forum, from the vernerable Oxford University Professor, Sir Michael Dummett, Wykeham Professor of logic (emeritus) and world-renowned philosopher of mathematics and linguistics:
Your report of the discussion by American bishops on English translations of the liturgical texts (AB Dec-Jan 06) indicates a general feeling among them that the translation of the Ordinary of the Mass (Gloria, etc.) ought to remain the same, because the laity have become accustomed to it.

We are, indeed, very familiar with it: who could not be who has attended many Masses in the English language over the past few decades? But familiarity with it does not imply that we like it. We did not choose it: it was imposed on us. Our opinion has never been asked.

The mangling of the Gloria, in particular, is an abomination. Those responsible thought it their business, not merely to translate, but to revise; this ancient Christian hymn, used in the Byzantine as well as the Roman rite, ought to have been treated with respect. Instead, it has been dismembered.

When I can, I attend a Mass in which it is sung in Latin, because I find the English version so painful and therefore so distracting.

I hope the argument that 'what we are familiar with must be kept as it is' will not be given any more weight than it deserves, which is to say none.
This is not the first time Dummett has weighed in on liturgical matters in Adoremus Bulletin. In the March 1997 issue, he had an article criticizing ICEL translations, "Revision of the Roman Liturgy, a Review."

Friday, February 24, 2006

The Enlightenment's impact on the Mass

In "The Idler," his monthly column in Crisis magazine (February/March 2006), Canadian journalist David Warren (one of my favorites in Crisis, by the way) addresses the question of "Mass and Modernity." He writes:
For some time, I had been aware of "Jonathan Robinson of the Oratory" as a writer and interesting priest. I was, however, too shy and Anglican to come near. But when I resolved to be received into the Catholic Church, there was a happy accident: I was sent to him for catechetical instruction. This was, of course, terrifying. In addition to founding the Toronto Oratory, the man was once chairman of philosophy at McGill and wrote a book on Hegel. By reputation he does not suffer fools gladly; how was I to know that under a forbidding exterior he is a gentle parish priest?

I mention Father Robinson because his new book, The Mass and Modernity: Walking to Heaven Backward (Ignatius Press), deserves mention outside the ecclesiastical confines, where it will be read by the "professional Catholics" as the expostulation of a frustrated, traditional Catholic. Its subject -- the Mass -- is far broader, and the book is pitched to the intelligent general reader -- Christian and non-Christian alike -- who wants to understand his world. It largely ignores the "in-house" disputes over liturgical arrangements that have been rending the Church for two generations.

The book is instead about the Mass in relation to Western civilization in the time since the Enlightenment; about how the Mass has been interpreted and progressively diminished -- not by some conspiracy of freemasons in the Vatican, but by the impact of modernity.
Hard on the heels of Warren's column Crisis magazine , Zenit (2/17/2006) came out with an interview with Father Robinson entitled "The Enlightenment's Impact on the Mass." The Zenit article began with a quotation from Cardinal Newman from whom the subtitle of Robinson's book is taken:
TORONTO, FEB. 17, 2006 (Zenit.org). -- Cardinal John Henry Newman said that bad practice is based on confused and false principles, and it is by an often bitter experience that we finally see the truth.

Oratorian Father Jonathan Robinson concurs -- especially in the case of the contemporary Mass.

In his book The Mass and Modernity: Walking to Heaven Backward (Ignatius), the superior of the Oratory of St. Philip Neri in Toronto and rector of St. Philip's Seminary asserts that confused and false principles have seriously damaged the liturgy.
Fr. Robinson shared with ZENIT how the Enlightenment and its intellectual pundits influenced Westerners' understanding of God, society, religion -- and the state of Catholic worship -- and understanding of worship -- today. One thing we learn from this interview about Robinson's book is that it differs from the many excellent "in house" books about the Mass in that Robinson's book steps outside the ecclesiastical framework to examine how the Age of Reason and Enlightenment philosophers -- especially Kant, Hegel, and their successors -- have changed how Western individuals understand and perceive God, man, society, religion, community, etc.

When asked about the subtitle of his book, "Walking to Heaven Backward," Robinson explained that the phrase is from a sermon of Newman's where he writes:
We advance to the truth by experience of error; we succeed through failures. We know not how to do right except by having done wrong ... we grope about by touch, not by sight, and so by a miserable experience exhaust the possible modes of acting till nought is left, but truth, remaining. Such is the process by which we succeed; we walk to heaven backward; we drive our arrows at a mark, and think him most successful, whose shortcomings are the least.
Newman, he says, was not preaching the modern idiocy that we have to sin in order to be virtuous. Rather, he was reminding us that bad practice is based on confused and false principles, and it is by an often bitter experience that we finally see the truth a bit more clearly. Applying this to liturgy, Fr. Robinson explains:
I think that confused and false principles have seriously damaged the liturgy. That means that any reform, or renewal, of the liturgy will cause us to walk to heaven backward.

We will have to walk to heaven backward without any sign posts and without any certainty except for the promises of Christ to his Church; but if we believe in the Church we know that out of disorder and wrong turns God's truth will ultimately prevail.
When asked about "modernity" and "postmodernity," Fr. Robinson mentioned the secularization of the West and said:
We live in a world for which the language of traditional Christianity is a dead letter. The intellectual frame work, the images, and the moral teaching of the faith no longer color the ordinary consciousness as they once did.

There are many different strands in the history of thought that have contributed to this condition. The difficulty for the Christian is that many of these strands contain valuable elements.

There is the Enlightenment with its concern for justice, human rights and due process; or again "the rise of modern science" with its applications to health and technology; or the Romantic movement, with its historical, communitarian and imaginative preoccupations.

All these in different ways have persuasive and desirable elements. Nonetheless the overall thrust that characterizes them is hostile to the Christian revelation. The efforts of various sorts of Christians to accommodate the Gospel in order to make it acceptable to the world had proved, not surprisingly, destructive of the Christian message.

I think the attitudes and concepts that we associate with "postmodernism" is toward "liberation" -- especially liberation from the necessity of making judgments.
Postmodernists, Robinson suggests, are indiscriminate -- equally at home with everything from the Nicene Creed to hard pornography, from kitsch to high culture. The refusal to reject anything, he says, is what they take to be their escape from what they regard as the harsh, scientific, 'masculine' sort of thinking of modernism. Postmodernists seem to see themselves as living beyond value, beyond right and wrong, beyond truth and falsehood. This sort of attitude, of course, has dire consequences for freedom, sanity and any serious version of the Catholic faith.

Furthermore, Robinson sees postmodernism as the vehicle used by the self-anointed inheritors of the Enlightenment as one more tool to destroy the authority of tradition, thereby wrecking the partnership -- of which Edmund Burke wrote so eloquently -- between the dead, the living and yet unborn -- a partnership that is the only real guarantee of a freedom independent of the whims of sociology departments and high court judges. While admitting his ignorance whether any of this may considered viable politics, Robinson insists that something like Burke's attitude is probably necessary to Catholicism if the Church is to recover the integrity of its liturgical worship.

When asked whether the Church's desire to speak to the modern world shouldn't be reflected in the liturgy, Robinson replied:
The answer is "no" if you mean that the liturgy is supposed to adapt to what we are told are the aspirations of modernity and the promptings of postmodernity. The Church is supposed to bring something to the world, not accommodate its message to what it thinks Tom, Dick or Harry will swallow.

Pope Benedict XVI gives us a lesson in what I mean in his first encyclical, "Deus Caritas Est." The document is a vibrant affirmation of the uniqueness of the Christian teaching about love, and this uniqueness is based on God's self-disclosure of himself -- what we call revelation.

The liturgy must return to reflecting this God-centered approach.
The following exchanges are excerpted (with editing) from the conclusion of the Zenit interview:
Q: What are the ways in which authentic liturgical renewal can overcome the handicaps of modernity?

Father Robinson: If by authentic liturgical renewal you mean a liturgy based on God's revelation -- and not on our aspirations -- as well as serious preaching based on this same revelation, and finally on an attempt to live holy lives, then nothing more is required....

Q: How can the Mass be reinvigorated and renewed without bringing constant change and upheaval to the spiritual lives of the faithful?

Father Robinson: In principle, as the French say, the answer is that the Mass can indeed be reinvigorated and renewed without constant upheaval and change. For a variety of reasons, many of them detailed in my book, I am not optimistic that this will in fact happen.

Q: An appreciation of the transcendent dimension to the liturgy has always appeared to be important to Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Benedict XVI. How do you believe the Pope will foster a renewed appreciation of the liturgy?

Father Robinson: I would not presume to second guess what the Holy Father might do or not do.

On the other hand, everything we know from Cardinal Ratzinger's writings about liturgy shows that they are firmly grounded on a theological foundation, and so we can assume that he will try to ensure that this teaching about the nature of God is reflected in the worship of the Church.
David Warren, back in his Crisis column, concludes with the following reflection:
[Father Robinson] is a pessimist; yet he knows Christ can fix what we cannot. Father Robinson advises the contemporary Catholic to succumb to neither anger nor indifference. He counsels prayer and study. As Newman observed, a light shines deeply into history. Follow it, and the extraordinary claims of Catholicism (and of the Judaism on which it was founded) become more visible. Abide with that light.
Good words.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

South Dakotans attempt to force overturn of Roe

A New York Times article by Monica Davey today sported the headline: "Vote Due on South Dakota Bill Banning Nearly All Abortions." The article reports:
PIERRE, S.D., Feb. 21 -- Lawmakers here are preparing to vote on a bill that would outlaw nearly all abortions in South Dakota, a measure that could become the most sweeping ban approved by any state in more than a decade, those on both sides of the abortion debate say.

If the bill passes a narrowly divided Senate in a vote expected on Wednesday, and is signed by Gov. Michael Rounds, a Republican who opposes abortion, advocates of abortion rights have pledged to challenge it in court immediately -- and that is precisely what the bill's supporters have in mind.

Optimistic about the recent changes on the United States Supreme Court, some abortion opponents say they have new hope that a court fight over a ban here could lead to the overturning of Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that made abortion legal around the country.
Read more here.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

A few good book deals added ... and more

A tip of the Guinness glass to those of you sending in orders for the Benedict XVI bumper stiker below (... keep 'em comin')! Let me also note several very good book deals that we've added to the store (the link is above, right -- or HERE). It's not a large selection. Just clearing out some inventory and double copies of books in my library. Still, offerings range from Pope Benedict XVI to Immanuel Kant. I do not have multiple copies for all of these, so if you would like one of these, don't wait. It's a good deal while it lasts. Cheers! --P.P.

P.S. (2/22/06) We've also got a great deal for anyone who loves the cinematic portrayal of that wonderful Old Testament story of Joseph and his brothers, starring Ben Kinglesy as Potiphar and Robert Mercurio as Joseph. This is largely thought to be the best of the OT seriest produced by Beta Film GmbH, Five Mile River Films; and I concur. Mercurio and Kingley pull off their rolls here in top form. $13.95 Used - Very good condition (Amazon Marketplace Link)

P.P.S. (2/22/06) SOLD! My single copy of Lewis' Four Loves was just bought today by a former student of mine from England. Going fast.

P.P.P.S. (2/22/06) Oops! The Joseph video's just been SOLD! No more copies of that, sorry! Like I said: going fast.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Bumper sticker for sale

This lovely little bumper sticker with its merry little message of good cheer is back in print by popular demand -- for all of you who drink your coffee black and take your religion straight. Slap in on your vehicle, rejoice, and drive with pride. Available for a donation of $4.00 each (including shipping). Trust me: nobody's getting rich from this little sale. At the very worst, you might be buying ol' Pertinacious Papist a pint of Guinness in the local Irish pub -- not a bad investment in good cheer indeed.
Contact me by email for multiple orders or any questions (my link is given in an itemized list in the column to the right near the top of the blog).

A modest proposal: it's legal to kill babies, so why not let people eat them?

Gordon hidden Clark (1902-1985) was an American philosopher and Calvinist theologian. He was a primary advocate for the idea of presupposition apologetics and was chairman of the Philosophy Department at Butler University in Indianapolis, IN, for 28 years. He was a specialist in pre-Socratic and ancient philosophy and was noted for his rigor in defending Platonic realism against all forms of empiricism, in arguing that all truth is propositional and in applying the laws of logic.

I remember first encountering the thought of Clark while at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia back in the 1970s, where he was renown for his debate with Cornelius Van Til over the question "univocity" of human knowledge of God. While Catholics will not find themselves in agreement with everything Clark has written -- particularly his criticisms of Catholicism, the doctrine of natural law, or St. Thomas Aquinas' doctrine of the "analogical" knowledge of God -- they will appreciate much of what he has written.

In the following article, Clark turns his sharp logic and acerbic wit against the modern scandal of abortion. Although Clark died over twenty years ago, there is little that is dated in the following article, except perhaps the reference to Barry Goldwater. Clark presented an earlier form of this piece, or at least parts of it, at a demonstration before Erlanger Hospital in Chattanooga, Tennessee in the early 1980s. As you read it, imagine what thoughts must have passed through the minds of his listeners as they hear him propose the things he did! Enjoy!

The Ethics of Abortion

Gordon H. Clark

Parts of this paper were given in connection with a demonstration before Erlanger Hospital in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

Today many hospitals, institutions which are supposed to save life, permit and even encourage their doctors to kill innocent babies. They tear the babies limb from limb or sometimes the nurses have thrown the living babies into garbage cans. Abortion is legal because the Supreme Court in Washington, D.C. said so. A majority of nine men, without any amending of the Constitution or any referendum of the population, but all by themselves, negated the legal right of innocent persons to live. Having rejected God, they wish to assume His prerogatives.

One argument abortionists frequently use to defend themselves against the charge of murder is the claim that the baby is not a human being. But if the baby in the womb is not human, what is it? Is it canine? Is it feline? I think that some babies born thirty or forty years ago have turned out to be asinine.

Another argument which abortionists use to defend their murder of innocent infants is that the government must not base its legislation on religious principles. Legislation should always be based on irreligious principles. No doubt you have all heard that the government should never enforce morality. This may be one reason why many abortionists oppose the death penalty for murder. This is consistent, for if murder be a capital offense, the abortionists, both doctors and mothers, are in great danger. But if a government cannot enforce morality, rape would be as legal as murder. Nor could the government prohibit theft. Note carefully that the same Ten Commandments which condemn murder condemn theft also. When irreligious bureaucrats and secular judges prohibit the display of the Ten Commandments on the walls of a public school, they erase theft as well as murder from the list of crimes. Opposition to theft is just as religious as opposition to murder. Christianity condemns both murder and theft because both are condemned by God.

If atheism is to be the law of the land, there can be no laws at all to support morality, for there is no morality apart from the laws of God. I would like to make it clear that sociology, statistics, psychology, or any empirical science can never determine moral norms. Secular science at best can discover what people do; but it cannot discover what people ought to do. From observational premises no normative conclusions follow. Any attempt to define morality by observational science is a logical fallacy. Science can invent new ways of killing people, but science can never determine who should be killed. It can only invent more effective ways of doing what somebody for some other reason wants to do.

The controversy between those who consider life sacred and those who kill babies is not a controversy between two systems of ethics, as if we had one system and the abortionists, secularists, and atheists had a different system. The point is that they cannot have any system of ethics at all. Scientific observation -- what they sometimes call reason as opposed to what they misunderstand by faith -- cannot establish any values whatever. Science often produces wonders but one thing it cannot do: It cannot establish the value of anything, even the value of itself.

Repudiation of divine laws is destructive of all morality. Abortion is immoral. Rejecting God, the abortionists try to justify their cruelty to babies, while at the same time condemning burglary, by an appeal to a social consensus. To this attempt to condemn theft while justifying murder, there is a single answer with two parts.

First, no social consensus has been established. The Supreme Court alone, nine men out of two hundred million, legalized the killing of babies on its own arbitrary authority. This is the autocracy of evil dictators.

Then, second, social consensus cannot determine what is right or wrong. The social consensus of the Spartans in antiquity and of at least some Indian tribes in North America condoned theft and even praised it. Before the Belgians took over the Congo a century or so ago, social consensus approved of cannibalism. The fact that various societies have considered theft and cannibalism to be right, does not prove that theft and cannibalism are right -- nor the murder of babies, either. One can perhaps with relative ease discover what groups of people thing is right; but social consensus does not make anything right or wrong.

So far as I can see, the only pertinent difference between the abortionists here and the cannibals in the Congo is that the abortinists do not eat the babies. They throw them in the garbage can. What a waste of good meat in these times of famine. Of course the meat would have to be inspected by the USDA, but I can see no reason why, on abortionist principles -- or lack of principles -- I see no reason for prohibiting the eating of human flesh. A nice tender baby might taste better than a Cornish hen. Or if the mothers, for no good reason, do not want to eat their babies, they could at least send them to alleviate starvation in the Third World [emphasis added]. Of course babies are a little small, like Cornish hens. But if the Supreme Court can legalize the murder of infants, it can as easily legalize the murder of adults. Indeed some groups already propose the murder of the elderly. Abortion logically justifies the murder of anyone. Hence the Supreme Court could legalize the murder of all who support the right of life and so produce a unanimous social consensus.

If anyone thinks that this proposal is extreme, be it noted that Hitler's National Socialism and Stalin's International Socialism attempted just that. Hitler massacred the Jews and Stalin massacred the Ukrainians and hordes of others. And aside from historical examples, rampant murder is well within the logical range of atheistic abortionism. There is a determined effort in this nation to reduce orthodox Christians to the status of second class citizens. Their recent interest in politics and law has been severely condemned. Even Barry Goldwater, supposedly a conservative of the conservatives, showed his anti-religious bigotry in denouncing the pro-life movement. In many public schools the secularist view is sustained by government imposition and the pro-life view is denied a hearing. Smut is legal, and even required reading, but the Ten Commandments are prohibited. The end of this, unless stopped, is the same persecution now practiced under Communism.

We must try to stop this atheistic program. And one place, a good place to start, is abortions.

[Gordon H. Clark, "The Ethics of Abortion," was originally published in the Trinity Review (May, June 1982), and is reprinted here by permission of John W. Robbins, Editor, Trinity Review, P.O. Box 68, Unicoi, TN 37692.]

Friday, February 17, 2006

Cardinal Arinze on the Liturgy

The following from Pontifications on Valentine's Day:
The Catholic News Service recently interviewed Cardinal Francis Arinze on the future of liturgical reform. Here's my favorite quote:

"Suppose a priest comes at the beginning of Mass and says: 'Good morning, everybody, did your team win last night?' That's not a liturgical greeting. If you can find it in any liturgical book, I'll give you a turkey."
[Hat tip to Al Kimel.]

Archbishop Levada: Advancing on the Chessboard

By Tom Bethell

Probably most American Catholics had never heard of Archbishop William Levada. But Benedict XVI's decision, soon after he was elected Pope, to promote Levada to Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith came as a surprise to insiders, including some cardinals. Levada had taken what could only be called a modest view of his role as Archbishop of San Francisco. Then, out of the blue, he was elevated to the highest Church position ever held by an American. As Archbishop, first of Portland and then San Francisco, he had shown little inclination toward leadership. An intellectual with Hamlet-like qualities, he was surely not cut out to be the Prefect.

Under the regime of Archbishop John Quinn, his predecessor in San Francisco for 18 long years, Catholicism in "the City" (as San Francisco is called by locals) continued its prolonged decline. Mass attendance, which had fallen by over 60 percent since the late 1960s, showed no sign of recovery. At least 10 churches were closed. When Levada arrived, the main issue stirring up activists was the closure and threatened sale of St. Bridget's Church on valuable real estate. That was put on hold -- bishop seemingly riding to the rescue! -- but its sale was announced the moment he left San Francisco. That summarized his tenure. Oil on troubled waters, but beneath the surface there was no change.

The quality of episcopal appointments in California, dismal before Levada's arrival in San Francisco, showed no improvement after it. Patrick Ziemann, the Bishop of nearby Santa Rosa, had a two-year sexual relationship with one of his priests and had to resign after accusations of assault made the immoral relationship public.

Meanwhile, homosexual activism in the area went from strength to strength. Despite, or more likely because of AIDS, homosexuals acquired ever greater political power. The local episcopacy, under both Quinn and Levada, were too timid to say much of anything about that dangerous topic. The ever-present risk of retaliation -- who knew which closeted homosexuals within the clerical ranks might be outed? -- ensured that silence remained the preferred policy. More than anything, that accounts for the almost inaudible response by the Catholic hierarchy, and not just in San Francisco but almost everywhere, to one of the great moral issues of our time.

Levada behaved as though he had been parachuted into a minefield and his job was to emerge without setting off any mines. He referred to the "hot button" issues that pressed against him -- hot buttons being the horns of the mines. Somehow, he seemed to avoid them. He made no waves. He construed his job as one of avoidance, of steering clear, hanging back, treading softly, and certainly carrying no stick. And in the end, at the age of 69, he was airlifted out by his old friend Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI.

Levada stayed on the good side of Don Lattin, the San Francisco Chronicle reporter capable of generating hostile headlines at 24 hours' notice. He stayed on the good side of the liberal Jesuits at the University of San Francisco, whose enmity might have hurt fundraising. He stayed on the good side of his own senior cabal of priests, who wanted to pursue their easygoing agenda without too much interference from the Chancery. He stayed on the good side of the liberal Sulpicians and the Rev. Gerald Coleman, who ran St. Patrick's Seminary in Menlo Park, 30 miles to the south of the City.

Levada didn't pay much attention to the handful of conservative Catholics remaining in the City, because he didn't have to. Largely powerless, they could be ignored. They wrote articles for San Francisco Faith, but its circulation was tiny. Ron Russell came along and did his independent digging for SF Weekly, just as he had done two years earlier with his alternative-press exposees of Roger Mahony's borderline criminal operations in Los Angeles. But the status quo was never threatened in San Francisco the way it was in Boston, and indeed Los Angeles. (The Boston Globe and later The New York Times only became involved in serious coverage of Cardinal Law and the Boston scandals after another "alternative" paper, the Boston Phoenix, published story after story about the Church scandals in 2001.)

Levada's ability to skirt controversy won him admirers in Rome. At a time when press coverage of the American hierarchy was turning into a nightmare, unfriendly headlines rarely made their way from San Francisco to Rome. To a Curia that has long seemed to value diplomacy above all other skills, and prudence above all other virtues, Levada's quiet tenure in the hot-button City by the Bay surely marked him as a master navigator of the American scene.

In an article published by San Francisco magazine just as Levada set off for his new assignment, the Catholic writer Jason Berry pointed out that Levada had escaped unscathed even though he had used the same tactics that had caused other bishops to be vilified in the press. Levada had "hidden the identities of accused predators, recycled some after sending them for a bout of therapy and left others in their posts, including one who became a top consultant on the abuse scandal. He also punished whistle blowers. Yet with the exception of recent cover stories in SF Weekly, Levada has largely escaped banner headlines. Had Levada been subjected to the sustained scrutiny that Cardinal Bernard Law of Boston was, he might have been passed over for the new job."

In his first interview in Rome, Levada told Vatican Radio in late October that he brought to his new job "a sense of the complex pastoral realities that a bishop faces." Realities is an interesting word, implying something so large and entrenched -- a whole anti-Catholic culture out there -- that no mere bishop can be expected to change or even challenge it. That, at any rate, was how Levada proceeded. The culture, dominated in San Francisco by activist homosexuals and their supporters, was simply there -- a reality. Short of putting one's head in a news-media noose -- not Levada's style -- there wasn't much that could be done about it. (And was that not Rome's will? That any bishop's moves on the cultural chessboard should be made as diplomatically and inconspicuously as possible? That was Levada's style.)

Levada added in his radio interview that the Congregation's new responsibility "for dealing with issues of sexual abuse of minors by priests, by clergy," may also have been a factor in his selection by the Pope. Given "the explosion of that on the American scene over the past few years," he added, the Pope may have seen his "experience with that" as a useful qualification.

I would amend that only to say that it's not so much the sexual abuse that has exploded as the public revelation of it. That really is new. But cases have been reported in Europe, too, suggesting that the real difference in America is the press, which is more aggressive and less subject to external pressure. That is what the Vatican has been unprepared for. A smattering of morally delinquent priests is nothing new. The regular broadcasting of their misdeeds is new.

Entrenched Vatican policy seems to have been based on the idea that publicity about an abusive priest only makes a bad situation worse. Therefore, bishops are expected to cover up such things as a matter of course. But that strategy is useless today, or worse than useless. Bishops have to assume that the story will come out, and that they themselves will appear as accomplices rather than leaders if they attempt concealment. To make matters worse, the trial lawyers will come after whatever cash they can lay their hands on. As far as Rome is concerned, the media realities may not have sunk in. Levada is well positioned to tell the Pope how the press works here. In San Francisco he made a point of keeping abreast of developments in The New York Times. "Where's The New York Times?" he would often ask aides. (Which of his brother bishops was in trouble today?)

In December 2002 Cardinal Ratzinger was quoted by the Catholic news agency Zenit as saying: "I am personally convinced that the constant presence in the press of the sins of Catholic priests, especially in the United States, is a planned campaign, as the percentage of these offenses among priests is not higher than in other categories, and perhaps it is even lower."

But in the realm of premeditated sexual assaults by clerics on minors, surely, the expectation is that it would be lower -- a lot lower. The question is not whether the news media undertook a "planned campaign" but whether the articles were true. All the indications are that they were true, and further, that such exposees have been minimized -- confined to the narrow category of criminal activity, involving minors. The press has shown hardly any interest in the far broader category of immoral relationships involving consenting adults -- especially homosexuals.

As to Levada's appointment, the following should also be noted. From 1976 to 1982, he worked in Rome for the Congregation he now leads. Cardinal Ratzinger got to know him well during that time, and it is reasonable to assume that today Benedict XVI has a good understanding of the workings of Levada's mind.

It is said that Levada is moving to this "powerful" position in Rome, but as Prefect he will surely have less freedom and independence than he enjoyed as Archbishop of the remote province (from Rome's point of view) of San Francisco. He will be hemmed in, not least by the Pope himself, and what one knows or suspects of Levada's character suggests that a loss of independence is something that he won't mind in the slightest. Constitutionally, he seems better suited to the Congregation job than to the Archdiocesan minefield.

At the time of his San Francisco appointment in 1995, Levada was identified in the media as a conservative. He was the "conservative Portland prelate," a "rising conservative force." He "fits the pattern of conservative postings by the Pope." He was a "theological conservative." And so it went. One former priest in San Francisco, identified in the Chronicle by name, said his colleagues in the City who were still on the job, still pastoring away, were worried about this new conservative arriving from Portland. "This guy is going to come in and demand obedience to the system," he said. Imagine that! That's how bad it could have been.

Eventually, Levada came out with his hands up. He granted an interview to the Chronicle's Don Lattin.

Lattin: You're coming to a city with a reputation for liberalism, spiritual and ethnic diversity, and tolerance for gays and lesbians. You arrive with a reputation as a conservative man and theological hard-liner. Do you come to San Francisco with a bit of trepidation?

Levada: ... With regard to reputations about conservative or hard-liner, I consider myself to be in the exact middle of the road as to where I should be as a bishop. I have a responsibility to uphold the teaching and tradition of the church. I would hope that I would be compassionate, interested in people's situations, their problems, their difficulties -- listen to them, dialogue with them.

In May, after Levada's appointment to Rome was announced, The New York Times called him "A Theological Hardliner with a Moderate Streak." In a retrospective assessment, also published in May, the Rev. Richard P. McBrien of Notre Dame's Theology Department summed up Levada's tenure with considerable accuracy: "A number of people were apprehensive about his coming there as an archbishop and were relieved to find out that he was much more hands-off in many respects than what they expected."

Hands-off. One hopes that that reaches the Pope's desk. If Levada skirted the mines and the headlines, and therefore was viewed as a success, at least at the level of diplomacy, it was because he had been hands-off rather than hands-on. Levada's own self characterization, as "more of a cocker spaniel than a rottweiler" (as Cardinal Ratzinger had been called), was itself quite perceptive.

The National Catholic Reporter's John Allen said that Levada "is seen as somebody who is very clear in his principles but very flexible in his application of those principles." Conflict is something that he tries to "defuse." That, too, was on the mark. Levada was "flexible" and saw conflict with the secular world as something to be finessed. But doctrine, even when enunciated correctly, cannot be conserved for long if leaders turn a blind eye to practice. Orthodoxy without practice is like faith without works. Principles espoused on paper but applied flexibly soon resemble dead letters.

That has been the fate of the Church's teaching on abortion. The U.S. hierarchy has been less than enthusiastic about transmitting it, not because they don't believe it, necessarily, but because they don't want to offend the secular culture -- influential politicians in particular. Until Archbishop Raymond Burke of St. Louis took action in 2004, the silence of the bishops had shown that politicians who loom large in our lives could ignore the Church's teaching without cost. The teaching survived in principle, but a flexible hierarchy had blurred it with "seamless garment" messages and the indulgent embrace of such figures as Sen. Edward Kennedy.

A politician who actively opposes all anti-abortion laws and then conspicuously receives Communion on Sunday sends a plain message to the faithful: "It's O.K. to support abortion. If I were doing anything wrong my bishop would have said something by now. But he hasn't."

Levada skirted this hot-button issue. When he returned from a trip to Rome in May 2004, and was asked about giving Communion, he had "no comment" for reporters. House Minority leader Nancy Pelosi of San Francisco, a Catholic, was one of 48 representatives who wrote a letter to the U.S. bishops warning them that the "threat of withholding a sacrament will revive latent anti-Catholic prejudice." (A religion that can only avoid prejudice by refusing to take itself seriously is not long for this world.) San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom had already made headlines by issuing same-sex "marriage" licenses at City Hall. Newsom calls himself a Catholic, but, according to the Chronicle, said he "fundamentally disagrees with Catholic Church teachings on stem cell research, abortion rights, same-sex marriage and birth control." He had received Communion just the other day, he added, although he declined to say where. "I have lots of priests who are family friends." But his conscience was "clear."

Levada issued an on-the-one-hand, on-the-other-hand statement, clearly hoping the issue would go away. He called abortion evil, but stressed the intention of politicians -- did they intend to promote the killing of innocent life when they voted for abortion. He thereby revived the alibi of Catholic politicians who say they are "personally opposed" to abortion. Later, in an interview with the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, Levada threw in the towel, saying: "Many of us as bishops are newly committed to seeking a path of dialogue on these areas," and "you don't start that dialogue by telling them you are going to refuse them Communion."

In effect, he had teamed up with Washington, D.C.'s Theodore Cardinal McCarrick, who sometimes gives the impression of loving power as much as he loves the Church. At Mass in St. Matthew's Cathedral the day after Pope John Paul died, McCarrick went out of his way to embrace Ted Kennedy and at the end of Mass went down the aisle practically arm-in-arm with him.

One wonders if Levada said anything to Newsom and Pelosi. When Levada's promotion to Rome was announced, Newsom was full of admiration for the departing prelate. "When he disagrees with a particular issue, he sees the bigger picture," Newsom told The New York Times. "Clearly in San Francisco he has seen the bigger picture."

What was this bigger picture? If I may interpret, Levada had seen that in a place like San Francisco, the Catholic Archbishop is not expected to insist too strongly on the practice of what he preaches. He can make creedal statements if he wishes, but decisive action will be taken as a declaration of war. That was the reality, and if Levada tried to change it, he did so inconspicuously. He stated Church teaching but sought to stay on good terms with Catholic pols who scorned it. He lacked fortitude, in short, and to that extent he exemplifies the present-day weakness of the Church and her inability to confront the popular culture by which she is besieged.

Earlier in his tenure, the issue of "domestic partners" benefits came up. In 1996 a city ordinance required all firms doing business with the city to provide such benefits for employees' "domestic partners." Catholic Charities, in receipt of $4 million from the city, faced budget cuts if they didn't treat same-sex partnerships the same way as marriage. At first, Levada seemed to hold the line -- long enough to win a favorable write-up on the Wall Street Journal editorial page. Then he accepted a compromise that allowed employees to designate anyone -- parent, sibling, friend, homosexual live-in -- as beneficiary. In effect, he gave away the store. Dollars took precedence over doctrine. John Cardinal O'Connor of New York had already shown that such ordinances could be resisted, but (O'Connor told friends) here was Levada capitulating without even phoning him or asking for his advice. As Phil Lawler wrote in The Catholic World Report: "By accepting this compromise in 1996 -- relatively early in the nationwide drive by homosexual activists to secure spousal benefits -- the San Francisco archdiocese put pressure on other local churches and Catholic institutions to accept similar compromises." Levada here showed that he was quite eager to placate the secular powers that be. His first priority, it seemed, was the preservation of government funding.

One group not at all unhappy with the trends in the city are the Jesuits, who run the University of San Francisco (USF). Here they promise students a "Jesuit education," and as local conservatives joke, at least they have the decency not to call it a Catholic education. The Jesuits became more and more "gay"-friendly with each passing year, as traditional restraints broke down and their more orthodox senior brethren either died or were packed off to the Jesuit retirement community in Santa Clara, 50 miles to the south.

One old-timer who had managed to hang on was Fr. Cornelius Buckley, a Jesuit from the old mold who had not changed with the times. He taught history at USF and was conspicuous around campus in his clericals. He heard confessions, advised students, and by his own example and presence single-handedly reminded those who might otherwise have forgotten that once upon a time, and not too long ago, a Jesuit education was synonymous with a Catholic education. In short, he was a rock, but also a rebuke. He must have daily reminded his modernized, compromised, civilian-clad brethren of the extent to which they had abandoned their old mission.

Then he was asked to leave, or rather ordered to leave, the clerical discipline of obedience being invoked by superiors who themselves had shown little respect for the Jesuit tradition. It superseded any consideration of tenure, custom, decency, or respect for Fr. Buckley's near 50-year service as a Jesuit. He was sent to St. Teresita Hospital in Duarte, Calif.

Fr. Buckley didn't want to go, and especially didn't want to leave the city, but he told friends he still had a chance to stay, because Archbishop Levada could save him. But Levada did no such thing. A priest in San Francisco told me that Levada probably feared that the Jesuits would complain to wealthy friends and alumni in the City and that might hurt archdiocesan fundraising. To Duarte Buckley went.

Levada's weakness was also apparent in his dealings with the seminary within his jurisdiction, St. Patrick's in Menlo Park. Since 1995 former Archbishop Quinn has lived there in retirement. The Rector and President of this Seminary since 1988 had been a Sulpician priest named Gerald Coleman, who didn't hide his "openness" to seminarians of whatever sexual inclination. He stressed the "importance" of seminarians recognizing and accepting their own "orientation." One seminarian told Michael S. Rose in his book Goodbye, Good Men that before an earlier Vatican visitation, an elaborate charade was laid on; heterodox books replaced with orthodox titles, the seminarians dressed up in unaccustomed clericals, and classes toned down "to give the impression that the seminary was orthodox when we definitely were not." Rose also reports that one visitor, now a Byzantine-rite priest in Pittsburgh, visited St. Patrick's and looked for the liturgical schedule so that he could go to Mass.

When I went to the main chapel, no one was around and the doors to the chapel were locked. A man dressed in shorts and walking his dog came into the hallway and I asked him about Mass. He said that's where he was going at the moment, and he would show the way. It turned out that Mass was not offered in the main chapel, but in the nuns' convent in another building. This was the only Mass offered at the seminary each day. I went in and there were no seminarians at Mass.... There were only nuns present. The man who was walking the dog came out vested and celebrated the Mass, with his dog sitting in the corner. After Mass I went to the dining hall for breakfast, and I noted that the seminarians didn't fail to show up there.

A more recent story I heard from a former seminarian involved a homosexual from the Bay Area who showed pornographic pictures to an African seminarian. Upset, the African reported it to his (female) adviser, who told him he obviously needed treatment. He was packed off to Stanford Medical School for psychiatric evaluation and from there sent back to Africa. (This kind of thing has been frequently reported in U.S. seminaries, although more commonly the candidates likely to react as the African did are screened out by "gay"-friendly "discernment" committees before they are admitted to the seminary.)

In March 2000 the Academic Dean of St. Patrick's was arrested after he was caught soliciting sex on the Internet with someone (a police officer) posing as boys aged 13 and 15. Fr. Carl A. Schipper was placed on administrative leave, pleaded guilty, was sentenced to six months and registered as a sex offender. Earlier he had worked as Superintendent of schools for the Archdiocese. He had living quarters at the Seminary and spent most of his time there. The prosecutor said that Schipper "was writing graphic descriptions of what he would do sexually when he met the young boys."

The Rev. Gerald Coleman was on sabbatical when the arrest occurred. As to "gay"-oriented seminarians, a ban would be counterproductive, he told the San Francisco Chronicle, because "a guy who was gay could just lie. My fear is that he won't deal well with that area in his life." (The same argument could be used to oppose a ban on murderers becoming seminarians. They, too, could lie.) Coleman seemed to want an environment in which homosexuals were free to proclaim their "identity." But he did object to homosexual priests who were too blatant. "If people are identifiably gay in the way they walk and talk, do you want that element in the priesthood? No. Guys should not let their sexuality get in the way of their priesthood. I don't like guys to announce they're gay. Then they're known as 'a gay priest.'" (Here he seemed to be advocating a certain amount of deception.)

Time magazine sent a reporter to the Seminary, who found that Coleman's students "are expected to discuss their sexual attitudes and development, among other things, once a month with their advisers and must take three courses on sexuality: a class on overall human sexuality, another on intimacy and celibacy, and one on sexual abuse, which includes guest lectures by victims and perpetrators." The reporter sat in on one of these courses.

"At a recent meeting of Coleman's elective class, Homosexuality and the Church, words and phrases like penis, Freud, male rectum and Will and Grace are bandied about without embarrassment," he reported. "Coleman covers the scriptural teachings on homosexuality and the psychological impact of homophobia. At one point he says that gay teenagers suffer from a lack of role models. In the next moment, he says gay priests and teachers should not come out of the closet, lest they confuse children. It is an awkward balancing act, and a seminarian calls Coleman on the contradiction. 'How are young people supposed to work out their sexuality if they don't have role models?' asks Chris Sellars, 27, who is scheduled to be ordained next January. Coleman listens intently but stands by his imperfect position. 'Our fundamental role is to proclaim the Gospel,' he says. The other seven students around the table look slightly confused, but Coleman encourages them to accept ambiguity and just be aware of different perspectives."

It's worth noting that the Rev. Schipper's sex-writing (to police officers, inadvertently) got him sent to prison; the Rev. Coleman's sex-talk (to seminarians, deliberately) was part of the curriculum.

In a column for the San Jose Valley Catholic in 2000, Coleman wrote that he could see "no moral reason why civil law could not in some fashion recognize these faithful and loving [homosexual] unions by according them certain rights and obligations, thus assisting [homosexual] persons in these unions with clear and specified benefits."

Growing restless over Levada's inaction, conservative laymen attended a talk that Coleman gave at a Menlo Park church in 2002. In the question period that followed, Coleman agreed that a disproportionate number of homosexuals in the seminary probably did create an awkward climate and deter heterosexuals from enrolling. There have indeed been reports of conservative seminarian candidates in the Bay Area decamping to Denver, where Archbishop Chaput dealt more forcefully with his own "gay"-friendly seminary, closing it down and opening a new one.

One of those who had engaged Coleman in this colloquy then wrote to Levada informing him of what was said. The archbishop responded to the letter-writer, fairly well known in conservative circles, and asked if he (the letter-writer) couldn't make use of the letter in some way, so that he could try to do something about Coleman. It was as though Levada didn't really think of himself as vested with the powers of an Archbishop at all. By that time, word had arrived that Rome would once again be conducting an investigation of American seminaries.

Coleman duly left for a sabbatical, ensuring that he would not be on the scene when the new inspectors appeared. But a website reveals that the irrepressible Coleman will end his sabbatical in 2006, whereupon he will serve as the Vicar for priests for the San Francisco Archdiocese, and somehow find time to return to St Patrick's to teach moral theology.

The American bishops can be divided into three broad groups. The liberals want to change Church teaching to align it more closely with Western culture (Cardinal Mahony is their de facto leader, and before him Cardinal Bernardin of Chicago). The traditionalists are not afraid of resisting the culture, come what may (leaders today are Archbishops Chaput and Burke). Then there is the great middle ground of bishops, who repose their faith in diplomacy and ingenious compromises that paper over differences with the secular culture. They wish the problems and publicity, the process servers and the trial lawyers, would go away and the money would keep flowing in from the faithful in the pews. Levada and Cardinal McCarrick are their de facto leaders.

Levada, as he said of himself, is in the "exact middle," the middle of the middle. He has shown little inclination to innovate, or to revivify the practice of the faith. Both as regards doctrine and discipline, he remained a passive figure in San Francisco.

The process servers caught up with him shortly before he left for Rome.

The Portland Archdiocese (Levada is the former Archbishop of Portland) had filed for bankruptcy protection a year earlier. It was the first American diocese to do so, in response to lawsuits seeking $155 million in damages. Three of the plaintiffs had committed suicide, and several of the lawsuits involved priests "who were restored to parish work by Archbishop Levada after having been accused of molesting children, or protected from criminal prosecution when their misdeed came to the archbishop's attention," according to The Catholic World Report.

On August 7, just before he began his final Sunday Mass in San Francisco, Levada was subpoenaed to testify at a deposition requested by attorneys for 250 alleged victims in Portland. CBS News reported:

Cookie Gambucci, whose brother is one of the plaintiffs in the Portland case, served the court papers on Levada. She told KCBS reporter Tim Ryan the archbishop called her "a disgrace to the Catholic church." "That's what he said. Now I'm thinking about all the priests that have abused all those little kids, including my brother," said Gambucci, "and I'm thinking, let's define disgrace to the church."... She had tried unsuccessfully on several other occasions to serve Levada with papers.

A Portland attorney representing some of the plaintiffs said Levada had been avoiding the subpoena since May. Levada agreed to waive the diplomatic immunity that he will enjoy as a Vatican official, and will return to the U.S. for a one-day deposition in January. Then came Levada's $150-a-plate farewell dinner in a San Francisco hotel; Levada organized his own cheering squad by obliging parishes to buy a $1,500 table, and to then find 10 parishioners who would pony up. (I am told that one pastor flatly refused to go along with this arrangement.) Another process server showed up at this event, dressed up in a borrowed Armani suit. He handed Levada another subpoena to testify in a Portland case.

In his roundly applauded speech, Levada said that abuse by clergy is a "crisis in the United States." But -- things were looking up! "By and large the people in our parishes ... think that the steps that our bishops of this country have taken have done a great job and are meeting the crisis and doing an outreach program trying to prevent any kind of abuse by clergy or anyone else." And at a news conference he said, "We have done our best to reach out." In a final irony he echoed what Mayor Newsom had said a year earlier. The Archbishop was leaving San Francisco "with a good conscience."

[Tom Bethell is a Contributing Editor of the NOR, and author of The Politically Incorrect Guide to Science (Regnery, 2005). His article, "Archbishop Levada: Advancing on the Chessboard," was originally published in the New Oxford Review, Vol. LXXIII, No. 1 (January 2006), and is reprinted here by permission of New Oxford Review, 1069 Kains Ave., Berkeley CA 94706, U.S.A.]

Fr. James McLucas on the MOTIVES for restoring the Mass of Pius V

Many of us are all-too-familiar with the following, frequently-quoted sentence from Pope John Paul II's apostolic letter, Ecclesia Dei Adflicta of 1988:
To all those Catholic faithful who feel attached to some previous liturgical and disciplinary forms of the Latin tradition, I wish to manifest my will to facilitate their ecclesial communion by means of the necessary measures to guarantee respect for their rightful aspirations.
At the time, those words sounded a momentous note of hope for Catholics who had been praying, writing letters to their bishops, and otherwise fighting for the preservation of the traditional Mass. In the nearly eighteen years that have elapses since that historical intervantion, however, this language that reduces the longing for the restoration of traditional liturgy to a matter of "preference," Fr. James McLucas argues, has been turned against advocates of the traditional Mass as a verbal club to batter them with charges of "elitism," "divisiveness," and "neurotic nostalgia." So writes Fr. James McLucas in an editorial closely re-examining the motives animating the desire of traditional Catholics to see the traditional Mass of Pius V restored in the most recent issue of Latin Mass (Winter 2006), pp. 2-3.
The motive to restore the Mass of Pius V has never been that of a mere "feeling of attachment" nor has it ever been simply about Latin. Catholics of tradition should never permit their purpose to be co-opted by the restrictive language of "personal preference." The consistent effort of this journal has been to eschew the language of subjectivism and make the argument for the restoration of the ancient liturgy on the high ground of theology, philosophy and history. And scholarship -- from within the normative liturgical mainstream -- is demonstrating that this course is more than justified. What follows is a case in point.
What McLucas goes on consider next is a fourty-two-page essay that appeared in The Thomist in 2003 entitled, "The Theological Principles That Guided the Redaction of the Roman Missal (1970)," by Dr. Lauren Pristas. Pristas, a professor of theology at Caldwell College in New Jesey, it should be noted, is not only widely published in such prestigious academic journals of theology and philosophy such as The Thomist, Communio, and Nova et Vetera, but has never been associated (at least to the knowledge of McLucas) with the "traditionalist movement." She received her doctorate from the Jesuits' Boston College, and to all intents and purposes appears to be a scholar who is comfortable with the milieu of post-conciliar Catholicism. For this reason, says McLucas, what she has to say in her article should be even more disconcerting to defenders of the "normative Mass" than if it had come from within the ranks of traditionalist scholarship.

In her forty-two-page essay, "The Theological Principles That Guided the Redaction of the Roman Missal (1970)," Dr. Pristas remarks on the need for critical studies of the Missal of Paul VI in order to "definitively establish whether the reform of the liturgy was a renewal that was entirely faithful to authentic Catholic liturgical tradition, a reform that departed from the prior liturgical tradition and inaugurated something fundamentally new, or a revision that is more accurately placed between the preceding two possibilities."

Pristas procees by analyzing an article written by a Benedictine monk named Antoine Dumas, who at the time of its publication was a member of the Sacred Congregation of Divine Worship and was in charge of directing a working group of the Consilium (the liturgical commission appointed by Paul VI to reform the Roman Missal) responsible for the orations that would appear in the new, Pauline Missal. Choosing a number of representative texts, Dumas extrapolated the principles for their construction.

The conclusions Pristas draws from Dumas' article run for six pages of her essay. These are carefully nuanced and, according to McLucas, should be read in their entirety, since they cover the overall philosophy governing the new texts as well as the possible theological difficulties contained within them. He (McLucas) singles out several of her observations, however, as meriting special attention:
Both in Dumas' remarks and in the changes he cites a number of shifts [from the original liturgical texts upon which the new ones are based] that are clearly discernible: ... toward rationalism, toward an historical approach to liturgy which puts the modern person at the center; and away from such things as miraculous events.... These tendencies reflect Enlightenment preoccupations and presuppositions. They raise the question whether Enlightement presuppositions have shapted our new liturgical books and rites, and, if so, in what ways, to what extent and to what effect...(emphasis added, here and throughout.)

[I]it may be the case that all the texts of our missal [the Missal of paul VI] reflect the strengths and weaknesses the insights and biases, the achievements and the limitations of but one age, our own.... If this is indeed so, then Catholics of today, in spite of the access made possible by vernacular celebrations, have far less liturgical exposure to the wisdom of our past and the wondrous diversity of Catholic experience and tradition than did the Catholics of earlier generations.
Two years following the publication of this article in The Thomist in 2003, Dr. Pristas published another essay in Nova et Vetera (Winter 2005), a prestigious international theological journal that, according to McLucas, at that time had Georges Cardinal Cottier -- the theologian of the papal household -- as its senior editor. The thirty-three-page article, "The Collects at Sunday Mass: An Examinatin of the Revisions of Vatican II," offers an analysis comparing the vocabulary and theological content of the original Latin texts of the 1970 Pauline Missal with those of the 1962 Missal of Pius V. Because the study was a limited comparison examining only the Advent Sunday collects, Dr. Pristas warned against drawing sweeping conclusions "about the whole corpus of Sunday and Holy Day collects in the 1970 missal on the basis of the findings." But she continued:
Nevertheless, the extent both of the material changes in the full set of collects and of the substantial changes in the Advent Sunday collects raises the question of whether the new corpus of collects expresses a significantly different understanding of relations between God and his Church, and whether, in consequence, it forms the faithful who pray by means of it differently from the way in which its predecessor formed previous generations.
Pristas compares the verbs contained in the Sunday collects of the two missals, then points out three differences between the missals that present a problem she describes as "delicate":
Put simply, the Catholic faith holds that every good deed that advances us toward salvation depends on divine grace. The doctrine is formally defined and is not susceptible to modification that would reverse its import. Every nuance of the 1962 Advent collects expresses this Catholic doctrine of grace unambiguously in the sumewhat subtle, non-expository manner proper to orations. While the 1970 Advent collects do not explicitly contradict Catholic teaching on grace, they neither articulate it nor, more worrisomely, seem to assume it.
McLucas again stresses that Pristas' essay should be read in its entirety -- not so much as a caution against drawing too exaggerated a conclusion from his editorial, but because, he says, there are other troublesome aspects in the comparison of the two missals for which there is too little space for him to discuss. A partial rendering of her conclusions, however, is revelatory:
The facts and figures presented in the first part of this essay indicate that those responsible for the revision of the missal made extensive changes to the corpus of Sunday and Holy Day collects. The result is not the revival of either a Roman or non-Roman Latin liturtical tradition that fell into disuse over the centuries, but something essentially new....

The latter part of the paper is an experiment in comparative contextual analysis. The findings must be regarded as exceedingly provisional, for the analysis encompasses only four of the 66 Sunday and Holy Day collects. In these four, however, we discern a markedly different presentation of our spiritual situation and the way in which God involves himself with us. If the 1970 collects bring to mind the psalmist's petition "give success to the work of our hands," the 1962 collects remind us of Augustine's graced realization that God is more intimate to each of us than we are to ourselves.

These are not inconsequential changes... [T]he anthropological shift that we see in the new Advent prayers toward what might be described as a more capable human person is not nearly so arresting as the corresponding theological shift according to which God's dealings with us are less direct and more extrinsic....
As McLucas notes, Pristas is not addressing here the banal translations of the Missal of Paul VI from the Latin originals into the vernacular, but suggesting something a good bit more serious -- namely, that the original Latin orations and collects invoke, for those who pray them, a very different understanding of God Himself. McLucas writes: "There is the diminution of the centrality of grace and a glorification of humanity who has 'matured' to a point at which it has less of a need even to ask for it."

With more and more examples such as these, it is becoming evident -- probably even to those experts who have no desire to return to the traditional Mass -- that the men responsible for the "reform" of the liturgy after the Second Vatican Council had an agenda that was not in harmony with Catholic tradition or the principles that govern the concept of organic liturgical development. The constant tinkering with the text -- with seemingly endless revisions and directives -- in the new rite already conveys the impression that the current ritual of the Church is often more about the worshippers than the One Who is to be worshipped. For nearly fourty years, says McLucas, millions of the Church's children have protested that their Catholic sensibilities have felt violated by post-conciliar liturgical rites -- only to be told that their disquiet was a figment of their antiquated imaginations. However, candid academic research is destroying the myth that Catholics who favor traditional liturgy as simply neurotic nostalgics.

[Credits: Fr. James McLucas, "A Feast of Presumption," Latin Mass, pp. 2-3.]

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Pope Benedict and Traditionalism

A writer from Eureka, California, called to my attention the other day Sandro Magister's article, "The End of a Taboo: Even Romano Amerio Is 'A True Christian'" (www.chiesa, Feb. 6, 2006). The significance of the article is that Amerio -- the author of Iota Unum: A Study of Changes in the Catholic Church (now deceased, pictured left) -- was the leading figure of the traditionalist opposition in the Church of the twentieth century, and although he suffered for this from a general ostracism, it now turns out, in Magister's words, that "his central thesis is the same as that of Benedict XVI -- who wants to make peace with the Lefebvrists."

My source in California writes: "Amerio wrote a second book, Stat Veritas, a critque of Tertio Millenio Adveniente." Interestingly, on Magister's website you can find a review of a striking critique of John Paul II's ecumenism by one of Amerio's disciples, Enrico Radaelli, Il mistero della Sinagoga bendata, reviewed by Magister in a post entitled "The Latest Heresy: Ecumenism. Accusations from a Catholic Traditionalist" (April 15, 2003). The introduction to Radaelli's book is written by an Opus Dei priest, Antonio Livi.

Shawn McElhinney weighs in

I promised myself I wouldn't blog anymore on this subject, so here without, any commentary by me, is a LINK to Shawn McElhinney's discussion of our recent controversy over the New Oxford Review. I received it from Mr. Mclhinney and have responded to him privately by email.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Parishes Report Extraordinary Minister Shortage

DAVENPORT, IOWA -- While Catholics across the country pray for an end to the religious vocations crisis, many parishes are now reporting a sharp decline in extraordinary ministers, the lay volunteers who distribute Communion to parishioners.

"It has gotten so bad we only have two Eucharistic ministers for every one parishioner," said Nelda Roarke, an extraordinary minister at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Davenport, Iowa. "I can remember the days when we had more people up here with the priest than we had people in the pews," Roarke said. "It looks like those days may be gone."

Gina Louvain, an extraordinary minister at Queen of Mercy Catholic Church in Birmingham, Alabama, said she thinks people at her parish are just losing their commitment to service. "I guess people are just more interested in praying in their pews or contemplating Christ or something, whatever that means," she said.

"I've heard that at one parish the priest actually distributes Communion by himself now," said Louvain.

In an attempt to counter the shortage, Roarke is hosting a spiritual retreat for current extraordinary ministers, as well as for those who feel God may be calling them to the job. "People need to know about the rich spiritual heritage Eucharistic ministers have," Roarke said. "Why, I believe Sts. Peter and Andrew helped Jesus distribute bread and wine to the other disciples at the Last Supper. Well, at least that is what I am telling people, anyway."

She has also designed buttons for extraordinary ministers to wear that state, "I'm Extraordinary." "I think the Garamond font will really grab people," Roarke said. "The first thing parishioners will notice when they go up to receive Communion is this button. It will remind them whose presence they are in."

Benny Fiedler, who serves as an extraordinary minister at St. John the Baptist Church in El Paso, Texas, said he hopes people will heed the call and start volunteering again.

"Sometimes Catholics just don't realize what they have," he said. "Back when Catholics used to believe these hosts were actually Jesus' body, nobody but the priest would be allowed to touch them. But now that we have advanced in our wisdom and knowledge, we are allowed to do almost as much as the priests do."

[Maureen Martin is the pen name of a Catholic satirist who encourages readers not to look to her posts for actual facts and information. You can visit her blog at: catholicnews.org. This gem of an article was also picked up by the February/March 2006 issue of Crisis magazine and printend on it's page entitled, 'The Catholic Enquirer.']

Monday, February 13, 2006

Giving the Devil his due

I've talked with Catholic students and parents who were surprised to learn that the Catholic baptismal rite contains a minor exorcism -- one, in some cases, which they witnessed unwittingly (apparently) in the baptism of their own infant siblings or children. About the only time most Catholics are reminded in a formal liturgical way of the Devil's existence is in the "Renewal of Baptismal Promises" made at the baptism of those being received into the Church at the Easter Vigil. That rite includes the following questions asked of all present in the congregation:
  • Do you reject sin, so as to live in the freedom of God's children?
  • Do you reject the glamor of evil, and refuse to be mastered by sin?
  • Do you reject Satan, father of sin and prince of darkness?
Then the rite continues with the Apostles' Creed.

C.S. Lewis once said that there were two dangers to be avoided with respect to the Devil -- first, an excessive curiosity that might lead to dabbling in the occult; second, an excessive indifference that might lead to forgetting that he exists and prowls about the earth seeking to devour souls. It takes little intelligence to guess which side the danger lies on in the Church today. The last time I heard anything serious or intelligent said by a Catholic priest about the Devil and hell was at an Opus Dei evening of recollection -- and what rank-and-file Catholics are going to be caught dead at one of those? Liberal priests, like Fr. O'Leary, may even deny the existence of the Devil. Many others seem too embarrassed to talk seriously about the Devil. Most liturgical references to the Devil in the modern rites are so sanitized that people hardly realize they even refer to the Devil.

Compare the minor exorcism in the baptismal rite found in the Roman Catholic Missal of 1962 -- the English translation of which reads as follows:
I exorcise you, unclean spirit, in the name of the Father + and of the Son + and of the Holy + Ghost. Come forth, depart from this servant (hand-maid) of God, N., for He commands you, accursed and damned spirit, He Who walked upon the sea and extended His right hand to Peter as he was sinking.

Therefore, accursed devil, acknowledge your condemnation and pay homage to the true and living God; pay homage to Jesus Christ, His Son, and to the Holy Ghost, and depart from this servant (handmaid) of God, N., for Jesus Christ, our Lord and God, has calle him (her) to His holy grace and blessing, and to the font of Baptism.

Accursed devil, never dare to desecrate this sign of the holy + cross which we are tracing upon his (her) forehead. Through the same Christ our Lord. R/. Amen.
If Catholics were in the habit of hearing such simple, clear, and powerful language as this on a regular basis, they might not find themselves in such a befuddled funk or so confoundedly indifferent about the sin, death, hell, and the Devil. That would not be a repressive thing. It would be a liberating thing. For it would clarify and bring into focus all that is beautiful, good, and true and worth living for in these few years we've been given on the face of the earth, as well as the supernatural end for which our lives were intended. By contrast to the red meat of the 1962 Missal, it's hard to avoid listening to the liturgical seasons come and go under the new rites and their cotton candy presentations without asking: where is the beef?

Saturday, February 11, 2006

"Liturgical Song" Parodies: by Christopher J. Garton-Zavesky

I'm not Afraid....

You shall cross a barren desert,
caused by jingles such as this.
You shall wander far from safety,
singing "I am on my way".
you shall mangle words in "modern" tongues
and none shall understand.
You think you're replacing God. How sad!

I'm not afraid: your time won't last for always.
Come back to God,
and He will give you rest.

If you pass through raging tempers on the way,
you shall not frown.
If you walk away from ICEL's charms,
If you stand with God against the foe,
and death must be your call,
Know that He is with you,
through it all.

I'm not afraid: your time won't last for always.
Come back to God,
and He will give you rest.

Blessed are the poor,
for the Kingdom shall be theirs.
Blessed are those who've wept and mourned,
who've prayed "God's will be done."
And if wicked men at ICEL hate you
for your love of God,
Blessed, blessed are you.

Be not afraid: the end is close at hand.
Come back to God,
and He will give you rest.

On Eagles' Wings ...

Yoo hoo!, here in the shelter of the Lord,
we abide in His shelter for life.
Hear from the Lord, your refuge:
"In sin you should not trust"!

And He can raise you up on Eagles' wings,
He can keep you safe from harm,
make you soon shine like the Son,
but only if you're in His Hand.

The snare of the fowler can't catch a bird like you,
and famine can't bring you to heel:
if you know better than God,
what need have you of shield?

And He can raise you up on Eagles' wings,
He can keep you safe from harm,
make you soon shine like the Son,
but only if you're in His Hand.

You needle each and every little thing
which you see and you think has gone out.
Though thousands tried before you,
they erred and so do you!

And He can raise you up on Eagles' wings,
He can keep you safe from harm,
make you soon shine like the Son,
but only if you're in His Hand.

For to His angels (HIS angels don't you see?)
He's given the charge to call home
ungrateful souls,
so they bear you up.
Would you turn away their earnest plea?

And He can raise you up on Eagles' wings,
He can keep you safe from harm,
make you soon shine like the Son,
but only if you're in His Hand.

Sing to the Mountains

Sing to the Mountains, sing to the Sea
This is Our new Liturgy!
This is the day which We have made,
Why doesn't earth rejoice?

We will take thanks from you, My lord.
We are so great and strong:
We have saved your church from death,
We are the church, hear Our SONG:

Sing to the Mountains, sing to the Sea
This is Our new Liturgy!
This is the day which We have made,
Why doesn't earth rejoice?

Holy, Holy, Holy Cow!
Heaven and earth are full of Our Glory!!!

Sing to the Mountains, sing to the Sea
This is Our new Liturgy!
This is the day which We have made,
Why doesn't earth rejoice?

This is the day when the lord is made
modern and hip, up to date.
We have turned the church around:
each person now their own pope !

Sing to the Mountains, sing to the Sea
This is Our new Liturgy!
This is the day which We have made,
Why doesn't earth rejoice?

City of God

Awake from your slumber,
arise from your sleep:
we're shearing the plumper
of god's little sheep.
From people in darkness
we've hidden the "Light",
the "Truth" which can guide them
though dark is the night:

Let us build the city of Us,
so their fear be turned into prancing,
for our lord, our hand in his glove,
has freed the lambs, let them stray.

We are children of morning,
we are daughters, okay?
The One who has loved us
will do as we say.
The lord of all blindness
has called us to see
new light in His People
The Church newly Free.

Let us build the city of Us,
so their fear be turned into prancing,
for our lord, our hand in his glove,
has freed the lambs, let them stray.

Got the lite? In Us there is no darkness.
Let us walk in our light, the children of new birth...
O comfort the people;
make gentle god's words.
Proclaim to our city
the day of her birth.

Let us build the city of Us,
so their fear be turned into prancing,
for our lord, our hand in his glove,
has freed the lambs, let them stray.

O City of Gladness,
O Vatican Two,
Proclaim our New Tidings,
OUR Church is brand new!

Let us build the CITY TO US,
so that fear is turned away prancing,
see: the lord, from heaven above,
has given us newly a WAY.

I have loved you with a narcissistic love

I have loved you with a narcissistic love,
I have seen you, and you are me.....
I have loved you with such narcissistic love,
We can worship, just you and me.

Seek the place of the Lord since he's been moved
if you find Him I'm not doing my job.

I have loved you with a narcissistic love,
I have seen you, and you are me.....
I have loved you with such narcissistic love,
We can worship, just you and me.

Seek the place of the Lord if you're so bored!
If you find Him I'll board up the door.

I have loved you with a narcissistic love,
I have seen you, and you are me.....
I have loved you with such narcissistic love,
We can worship, just you and me.

Seek in place of the Lord the people here
in the presence of "Voice of God" songs.

I have loved you with a narcissistic love,
I have seen you, and you are me.....
I have loved you with such narcissistic love,
We can worship, just you and me.

[Christopher J. Garton-Zavesky, 2002-2003. Published by permission of author. Mr. Garton-Zavesky is a parish choir master and music teacher in Louisville, KY. Gratias tibi ago!]

Last call for "Raging Pit Bull"

Talk about "over the top" comedy: Mark Shea just posted a piece over at Catholic and Enjoying It entitled "A drama for our time!" --
They were a father and a son bound together by unbreakable cords of love...

until one man threatened to drive them apart!

New Oxford Review Films proudly presents Philip and Christopher Blosser in "Raging Pit Bull".
I told Mark in his comment box that I've always liked his shoot-from-the-hip style, freighted as it is with all its risks of possible misunderstanding. I also told him that's what I also liked about Dale Vree's style, though I grant that a shoot-from-the-hip style can have pique behind it as well as humor -- and that's true not only only of Vree's writing, as Mark knows.

What Mark's post is referring to is a substantial and, as-usual, well-written post by my beloved son, Christopher, "Dale Vree and the New Oxford Review" (Against the Grain, February 10, 2006), taking issue with my defense of Vree and NOR. As I read Christopher's post, his argument -- after a brief review of his personal history of reading NOR -- falls into two points: (1) Vree's manner of criticizing others is uncivil, and (2) Vree's argument in a specific example he cites by way of illustration from an exchange between Vree and George Weigel is mistaken.

First Point: The claim here is that Vree is uncivil. Here Christopher's view seems to fall in line with what looks like a majority consensus. Even I, who have come to Vree's defense, have described him as a pugnacious, sometimes piquish, "pit bull." Poor guy. Never a break. So there's that. But is it simply this? Or is this all it is that offends people? Clearly not. In my last post on the matter, "Why NOR ads aim to offend" (Feb. 9, 2006), I argued that much of what people find offensive about NOR and Vree is an in-your-face style and language ("sissies," "sodomites," "whores," "bozos," "fags") that evokes a recoil of abhorrence and disgust because it is deemed as having no place in "civil discourse." This isn't the sum of what offends, but I want to argue that a very large swath of what people find repulsive is precisely this. When Vree offered a detailed etymological and social analysis of the term "fag," for instance, with his accompanying "call-a-spade-a-spade" suggestions, you heard roomfulls of scandalized individuals jumping atop their chairs with lifted skirts, shrieking like Victorian schoolmarms who had sighted a rat. The pro-gay Fr. Joseph O'Leary, the living embodiment of political correctness, dismissed what he heard of Vree's discussion here as "dreck" -- Yiddish slang for excrement. When Vree used the words "whore" and "slut" to describe the view of women perveyed by contemporary liberal culture with its raunchy sex ed, soft-porn TV, recreational sex, Fr. Richard J. Neuhaus bent himself out of shape offering apologies to his readers in First Things, which had carried NOR's ad, calling the ad "beyond the pale," and NOR "mean-spirited, malicious, in violation of good taste, and seriously false." Yet in each of these cases, Vree was not simply shooting-from-the-hip: he clearly had a carefully reasoned rationale for what he was saying -- one that, I would insist, whether we agreed with it or not, was at least arguably defensible.

But this clearly isn't the sum of what offends. What also offends is the tone of Vree's editorials, which surfaces in remarks that pique, provoke irritation, poke beneath the belt, and snipe with ad hominem innuendo. I grant that I've noted this in some of Vree's columns. There were times several years ago when I wished he had simply dropped what I took to be his sniping at Deal Hudson. I had met Hudson, when he visited Lenoir-Rhyne College for a conference once, and though I think I may have caught a hint of impatient condescension with our small-potatoes venue in his demeanor with some of the audience members during a coffee break, I did like the content of what he had to say on stage, as I have generally appreciated his editorials in Crisis when he was editor in the past. Vree kept harping on Hudson's political aspirations, suggesting that he was curring favor with Bush Republicans in hopes of positioning himself to be appointed US ambassador to the Vatican -- that he was beholden to the big moneyed interests of the neoconservative wing of the Catholic-Republican coalition, and so forth. Then, when Hudson's sexual scandal broke, Vree wanted all the facts out in the open, questioning the motives of those who wanted to forgive and forget and let bygones be bygones. He questioned those who wanted to keep him on as editor at Crisis, for example, after such a high profile scandal in the midst of the national sex scandals that were then rocking the Catholic Church throughout the United States. All of this is so much unpleasantness, of course, and many will invariably be inclined to question the motives of anyone who seems to target an individual in a pointed, personal way, even where there are religious and moral concerns at issues in the penumbra of the discussion. The question remains whether and to what extent Vree in fact has been guilty of this.

Yet here I would raise a singular caution: if Vree can be blamed for violating the "laws of civil discourse" (I'm thinking of the reference to John Courtney Murray's We Hold these Truths that Christopher cited here), there is plenty of blame to go around. In fact, I would suggest that if Vree has seemed more piquish of late, it may well be due to the fact that many others have been perhaps violating the laws of civil discourse in their treatment of him. I personally HATE calling into question the integrity of specific individuals, especially individuals I like, in public. So far I have avoided doing so, preferring instead to extend the benefit of a doubt -- or at least an indulgence -- as far as possible; and I intend to continue doing so, since I consider such accusations largely unproductive. So I shall speak in generalities. But I can assure you that I have an ARSENAL of examples I could offer you if I were so inclined, which would only provide Vree with the near occasion of the sin of gloating and the accused individuals with the near occasion of the sin of vindictive hate and vengefulness. Whatever their faults, I love the work being done by Vree, Rose, Neuhaus, Weigel, Fessio, Hahn, Welborn, Shea, Christopher, and many, many others, and see no reason why they should not indulge one another a trifle more as well. (Hahn, I think, has actually been a model of this, particularly when the subject of criticism and attack.) I don't think anybody can fault me for lack of appreciation for the work of any of these individuals. But if we're talking "rules of civil discourse," Vree has had stunts pulled on him -- often behind-the-scenes -- the likes of which would make any editor's blood boil and the paint peel off the wall -- like having his ads pulled from "friendly" periodicals without any reasonable explanation, having requests for review copies of books ignored, having correspondence and communication refused, or not being consulted by key players before decisions were made indirectly affecting his apostolate. He has even been the attempted object of outright bribery from big moneyed interest groups who have sought to buy influence in his editorial perspective. If Vree has been guilty of ad hominem attacks on others -- and he obviously has -- for every attack Vree has made on others, he has himself been the target of probably fifty or more in return. There is no equity here and people just miss this, as they did back in school when the whole class would gang up on the one kid they made the whipping boy of the entire group. If Vree has been guilty of violating the laws of civil discourse, so have many others placed in positions of far more influence and power than Vree who have used their influence and power either individually or in concert to try to sideline, shut up, or shut down NOR.

Second Point: The claim here is that Vree is mistaken about Weigel's concept of freedom. Although Christopher cites the Vree-Weigel exchange in the December 2004 issue of NOR "to illustrate" his earlier assertions about Vree, the rest of his post is not really so much an argument about Vree's incivility of manner as it is an argument against what he takes to be a mistake in Vree's criticism of Weigel's concept of freedom. The issue is raised in Weigel's letter-to-the-editor, published in NOR:
George Weigel: The rest of the country has often had reason to wonder about the contents of the Berkeley water supply. Whatever is going on in your fair city now appears to have degraded your Editor's capacity to read.

Contrary to your Editor's polemic in your September issue ("George 'Humpty Dumpty' Weigel"), I have never written that "freedom" is "another name for virtue." In the column that so offended your Editor, what I noted parenthetically was that "habit" is "another name for 'virtue.'" Those capable of reading English understood this -- except, evidently, those looking to deal the dread neoconservative beast another lick. I might also point out that my snapshot description of the meaning of freedom in that column -- "doing the right thing for the right reasons in the right way, as a matter of habit (which is another name for 'virtue')" -- leans on the work of Fr. Servais Pinckaers, O.P., one of the principal influences on Veritatis Splendor and the leading contemporary interpreter of St. Thomas Aquinas.

Before he charges his sundry bogeymen with "rhetorical witchcraft," your Editor might do them the courtesy to read what they write with that minimum of care nominally associated with the office of "Editor."

George Weigel
Ethics and Public Policy Center
Washington, D.C.
"Weigel, of course, is a bit snippety in the opening of his letter," writes Christopher, "-- there is just something in Vree's style which often provokes the worst kind of spirit in people." But why assume this? Why simply assume that it couldn't possibly have been Vree's snippety reactions in this context that have been unjustly provoked? It goes without saying that the tables could be turned, and details seem to suggest the possibility: when NOR asked the publisher of Weigel's The Cube and the Cathedral, for a review copy in order to review it, the request was ignored. Vree assumes Weigel didn't want NOR to review the book because of Vree's earlier criticisms of Weigel and instructed his publisher not to send Vree a copy. Could one not ask whether Vree was a bit snippety because he had been cold-shouldered by Weigel? Isn't what's fair for the goose fair also for the gander?

But the real issue here is the definition of "freedom" and whether Vree misinterpreted Weigel. The answer, I contend, is quite simple: Vree turns out to be right here, and it is Weigel who is fudging. Let me explain. In his original article, ("A Nation Defining Election", The Tidings, April 2004), Weigel is concerned to distinguish two senses of the word "freedom": (1) freedom in the sense of doing things "my way"; and (2) freedom in the sense "doing the right thing for the right reasons in the right way, as a matter of habit (which is another name for 'virtue)." There is nothing new about this distinction. Out of the multifarious senses of "freedom" one might distinguish (here Mortimer Adler's Freedom: A Study of the Development of the Concept in the English and American Traditions of Philosophy is probably definitive), Weigel has singled out two -- the former, a sense with modern associations stemming from the Enlightenment and Kant's notion of the autonomous executive will ("doing what I want") -- and the latter, a sense with classical associations stemming from the Greek, or more specifically, Aristotelian ideals of virtue ("doing what I should," or "acting in accordance with the inner telos of my true nature"). The latter is also susceptible of overlays of biblical understandings ("the Truth shall set you free") and Thomistic and Lockean natural law ("freedom is discerned through the naturalis ratio") and their respective modes of apprehending the Good.

Now it is true, of course, as the Catholic Encyclopedia, and Weigel, and Aristotle and all of classical thought are agreed, that 'virtue' is a kind of 'habit.' Just as by repeatedly smoking cigarettes, one acquires the habit of smoking, so by repeatedly performing acts of moral goodness (like telling the truth) or evil (like telling lies), one acquires moral habits (virtues such as truthfulness, or vices, such as untrustworthiness). This much is a given.

But now, when Weigel writes in his letter to NOR: "I have never written that 'freedom' is 'another name for virtue,'" and that what he had originally written was that "'habit' is 'another name for virtue,'" this may be true; but it is also beside the point and misleading. For the question is not whether "freedom" is "another name for virtue" -- which it isn't -- but whether it is conceptually linked with virtue in Weigel's second sense of "freedom," which it essentially and ineluctably is. Therefore it seems to me that Weigel is being not a trifle disingenuous here, probably still smarting from Vree's treatment of him in his Sept. 2004 New Oxford Note ("George 'Humpty Dumpty' Weigel") to which he obviously took strong exception. Vree's answer to Weigel sounds flippant, but it would be unwise to dismiss it precipitously as conceptually mistaken on that account, because it's not. Vree wrote:
What's not to understand? What you wrote is crystal clear: Freedom is habit is virtue. Therefore, freedom is virtue. Sorry, but there's no "plausible deniability" here. You can't wiggle out of it. You said it, and you can't pass the buck on to Fr. Pinckaers.
It's true that the terms and concepts of "freedom" and "virtue" are not identical. But in Weigel's second definition of freedom, he defines freedom in the sense of a habit of virtue; hence, Vree is entirely within his epistemic rights in concluding that, for purposes of that definition, freedom = habit = virtue. Thus Vree is the one who's got his philosophy right here, no matter how flippant he may sound, whereas it's Weigel who is blowing smoke and confusing the issue, no matter how diplomatic and scholarly he may sound. What's Weigel up to? Why would he do such a thing? Why would someone who is the object of sharp criticism react in this way? To distance himself from his critic? To give the appearance of having bested his critic in any way possible? You tell me.

I have no quarrel with Christopher's fine points about Weigel's linkage of freedom to "moral excellence" elevating him above the reproach of moral relativism or utopian delusions regarding the moral perfection of Western civilization, etc. Nor do I have a quarrel with his other points about the obvious totalitarian dangers of Islamic government (see my post of January 2, 2006: "The Challenge of Islamic Extremists"), or his appreciation of Weigel's and Cardinal Pell's finely-drawn distinctions that go beyond a simple either/or choice between a "theocratic state" or "rampant individualism" where definition of socio-moral norms are concerned. Anyone who has read my "War and the Eclipse of Moral Reasoning," knows my respect for Weigel's work. Yet I do believe that Vree is a great deal more knowledgeable and careful in his reasoning than people often give him credit for. I do also believe, as Christopher agrees, that Vree raises important questions that other quarters of conservative Catholicism may sometimes find uncomfortable -- such as where that line lies, exactly, between that coalition of Natural Law-Christian Right-Republicanism and an unbridled, secular Nietzschean imperial will-to-power.

Like Christopher, I also believe that if we could get Vree and Weigel (and for that matter Neuhaus, Fessio, and all the rest of the gang) together in a good Irish pub over several rounds on the house -- in other words, quite 'tight' together in the old English sense of the word -- we might actually get somewhere. Perhaps, my friends, the answer is not far to be sought, in the final analysis. Yes, of course, we must pray, study, read, and seek the face of God. But as Ben Franklin also said: "Beer is living proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy." I have my own ideas on what I would recommend as the best beer in the world. But buy your beer gift certificates HERE for the Catholic apologists who irritate you the most. Consider it an exercise in pre-Lenten penance of "Doing unto others as you would have them do unto you." I suspect Vree will be swimming in a vat of hops and malt before the end of the week. Who knows ... it may lead to the New Springtime in the Church for which we've all been hoping and praying.

I'm calling this post "Last call for 'Raging Pit Bull'," because I don't intend to invest any more energy writing posts on this topic beyond this or respond to comments beyond next week. With this last post, I will have said more than needs to be said: that Dale Vree -- however insulting he may seem -- is on the side of the angels, and NOR is a Catholic journal serves a valuable apostolate in contemporary Catholicism. Cheers!