Friday, July 28, 2006

"The Church in Spain Is Sick, but It’s not Zapatero’s Fault"

I read this provocative article by Sandro Magister, but wasn't going to post anything, as I was about out of time before my trip. But a reader emailed me with the link and some comments, so let me at least call it to everyone's attention. The article, at www.chiesa July 28, 2006, carries the following summary:
The sickness is the loss of faith among the people, and the poor instructors are above all the progressive theologians. The accusation comes from the Spanish bishops. In a document coordinated with Rome, as a model for other episcopates
Read on and enjoy commenting!

Off to Oxford for 8 days ...

I leave this evening for Oxford, England, for 8 days, and expect to be back, Deo volente, August 5th. (Jon, if you read this, I've not forgotten your birthday on the 4th, you rascal!) Please keep me and my family in your prayers as I travel and must be apart from them during this time, which is always a hardship. I will be delivering a paper at a conference on the respective roles of religion and the state in university education. I will be addressing the challenges as well as the benefits of religiously-affiliated university and college schools such as one finds in Catholic higher education -- referencing, among other sources, Newman, John Paul II, as well as some relatively recent articles by Nicholas Wolterstorff, one of my erstwhile professors, in Academe, the Bulletin of the American Association of University Professors. Keep the Blogville fires burning!

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Hermeneutics of sacramental fittingness: altar girls?

In our series of discussions on "the hermeneutics of sacramental fittingness" on the various liturgical innovations since Vatican II, the next topic I would like to introduce for public consideration is that of altar girls. When the Vatican approved the use of "female altar servers" in 1994, it was careful to state that this was in no way to be construed as a move in the direction of the ordination of women (see the Vatican communique of March 15, 1994). This was because the position of acolyte was traditionally understood as a minor order in the Church preparatory, if distal, to becoming a priest. With the position open to girls, however, two things seem to be at play. On the one hand, the traditional understanding of the position has been undermined by the official position the Church has taken on the matter, amending the minor order of 'acolyte' to be understood now as 'altar server,' inclusively so as to include also females, to whom the priesthood remains closed. On the other hand, well before the Vatican approved the use of "female altar servers" in 1994, the use of altar girls was already being actively promoted by those interested in leveraging the Vatican into accepting the ordination of women, since getting altar girls approved was seen as a case of getting the proverbial camel's nose into the tent. These two understandings of the position are clearly at odds with one another in ironic ways -- the Vatican's new position backing away from it's traditional view of the acolyte as a transitional minor order en route to becoming a priest, while the dissenters' view actually embraces that transitional undestanding as a ticket to women's ordination. It remains an open question as to what extent the Vatican's decision to approve the use of altar girls in 1994 was influenced by the widespread disregard of its prohibition of them that represented the immediate status quo ante. The question before us, however, is another question -- not the question of legitimacy which has been settled by the Church. Our question is this: what is the fittingness of having the priest served at the altar by girls? Is this a matter of indifference, as many would suggest? Is it altogether unfitting, as others would insist. Why? What think ye? Have at it!

Fellowship of Catholic Scholars - 29th Annual Convention Schedule

Sacrosanctum Concilium and the Reform of the Liturgy

September 22-24, 2006, Kansas City

Hilton City Airport Hotel (Missouri)

All main sessions will be held in the Ballroom.
A convention bookstore and exhibit tables will be available.

Friday, September 22nd, 2006

10:00 AM Registration begins
Principal Celebrant and homilist: His Excellency the Most Reverend Robert W. Finn, Bishop of Kansas City-St. Joseph, Missouri
2:00 PM Welcome from the President of the Fellowship of Catholic Scholars

12:00 PM Convention opens -- Votive Mass of the Holy Eucharist
Dean Bernard Dobranski (Ave Maria School of Law)
Introduction to Conference
Helen Hull & James Hitchcock (Co-chairmen, Program Committee)
2:10 PM Address to the Fellowship
Archbishop Malcolm Ranjith Patabendige Don (in absentia) Secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments
To the Heart of the Mystery
2:40 PM Session I: Musicam Sacram
Father Samuel Weber, OSB (Wake Forest University)
Singing the New English Liturgy. Continuing the Plainsong Tradition
Father Chrysogonus Waddell, OSCO (Gethesemani Abbey)
Sacred Music in a 12th century Monastery -- Any Lessons for Us Nowadays?
Susan Treacy (Ave Maria University)
The Music of Cosmic Liturgy: How the Vision of Benedict XVI's Vision for Sacred Music Might Sound in an American Parish
4:15 PM Break

4:30 PM Discussion/Practicum on Sacred Music

5:30 PM Dinner Reception -- Sponsored by Franciscan University of Steubenville

7:00 PM Keynote address: James Hitchcock (St. Louis University)
Sacrosanctum Concilium and the Recovery of the Sacred
8:30 PM Compline -- Father Samuel Weber, OSB, presiding

Saturday, September 23rd, 2006

7:30 PM Mass -- Father Joseph Koterski, SJ, Celebrant

9:00 AM Session II: Opera Artis -- Domus Dei: Sacred Art and Church Architecture
Denis McNamara (Liturgical Institute, Chicago)
Image as Sacrament: Rediscovering Liturgical Art
Duncan Stroik (Notre Dame School of Architecture)
Domus Dei et Domus Ecclesia: the Church Building as a Sacred Place
10:30 AM Break

10:45 AM Session III: Liturgiam Authenticam -- Translation Matters
Father Paul Mankowski, SJ (Pontifical Biblical Institute)
Language in Biblical Translation
Kenneth Whitehead
Learning How to Do Liturgical Translations
12:00 PM Lunch

1:45 PM Session IV: Redemptionis Sacramentum -- A New Era of Liturgical Reform
Monsignor James Moroney (Exec. Dir., Bishops' Committee on the Liturgy Secretariat)
In Pursuit of an Ars Celebrandi: Presuppositions and Possibilities
Helen Hull Hitchcock (Adoremus)
Beginning the 'New Era of Liturgical Renewal'
3:00 PM Break

3:15 PM Panel Discussion on Sessions II and IV

4:30 PM Membership Meeting

6:30 PM Cardinal Wright Banquet
The Cardinal Wright Award will be presented to Patrick Lee, Professor of Philosophy, Franciscan University of Steubenville

Dessert Social to follow Banquet and Awards
Sunday, September 24, 2006

8:30 AM Mass -- Monsignor Stuart Swetland, Celebrant

9:30 AM Session V: Ecclesia de Eucharistica -- Liturgy and Mission
Monsignor Stuart Swetland (Mount St. Mary's, Emmitsburg)
Liturgy and Social Justice
Russell Shaw (Author, Journalist)
Liturgy, Laity and the Sacramental Sense
11:30 AM Closing Prayer -- Convention Officially Ends

Resister Online Here!

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Rev. Phillip Johnson, to be received into the Church

The Rev. Phillip Max Johnson, Pastor of St. Paul Lutheran Church in Jersey City, NJ, and a Senior member of the Society of the Holy Trinity, a conservative Lutheran ministerium dedicated to the renewal of Lutheran ministry and church, will be received, Lord willing, into full communion with the Roman Catholic Church, together with his wife, by Fr. J. Scott Newman, of St. Mary's Catholic Church in Greenville, SC, on August 20, 2006. His son was one of my students, at the top of his class, which accounts for my added interest in him.

I found a couple samples of his writing in the Newsletter of the Society of the Holy Trinity (Societas Trinitatis Sanctae) online -- one entitled "WITH OUR BROTHER PRIESTS IN THE ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH" (Volume 5, Number 2, Pentecost 2002), the other "HOLY LEARNING" and "STS FOR ROMAN CATHOLIC PARISH PRIESTS?" (Volume 5, Number 1, Lent 2002). In the latter, he wrote (in 2002): "As an evangelical catholic, I continue to believe the way ahead for “Lutheran confessional renewal” leads away from all self-contained “Lutheranism” and toward a deeper lived baptismal solidarity with other orthodox Christians, most urgently with Roman Catholics." Prophetic.

In a personal email communication, Rev. Johnson tells me that he will be studying at the John Paul II Institute (at Catholic University in Washington, D.C.) following his reception into the Church. He ways that he expects to continue "to ponder the glories of the humanum, especially the rootedness of human love in the Love of the Blessed and Holy Trinity." As to the future, he says, "My vocation is, of course, in the Church's hands. There is plenty of fear and sadness in 'starting over.' But it doesn't compare to the relief of finally starting" -- a relief to which other converts, from Newman to Chesterton, have likewise testified. And, in a personal note, he adds that Nathan, his son and my former student, is currently up in Nova Scotia, serving in the L'Arche community there. He also states that August 13th will be his final Sunday at St. Paul Lutheran Church in Jersey City, where he has served for 18 years. Please remember him in your prayers for that doubtless difficult day.

May God bless Philip Johnson, his family, and all recent newcomers to the Catholic Church, and also make them a blessing to the Church they've come to serve.

Hammer & Fire, back in print

I just received in the mail, courtesy of John H. O'Leary at Zaccheus Press, a copy of a reprint of Hammer & Fire by Father Raphael Simon, O.C.S.O., M.D. (The new cover, by the way, for which there is no online image yet available, is more colorfully attractive than the one shown here from the 1987 St. Bebe's edition.) In his cover letter to me, O'Leary writes: "This book proved to be a real blessing when I first discovered it about 15 years ago, and I am hoping that it will be able to find an audience among Catholic book readers today. With its focus on the interior life, it's a bit of a departure from the more theologically oriented titles we've published to date." He goes on to state that currently, on the Zaccheus Press webpage, Hammer is only available to ZP email list subscribers, but will be made available to the general public on August 1st.

The publisher's statement about the book includes the following remarks:
"There is a way to happiness that is meant for all, but the path is known by few. It is a tradition that has existed in Judeo-Christianity from the beginning, founded on the Scriptures, and nurtured by the Church. It is the way of prayer and contemplation, and its goal is to become fully human and alive, integrated and mature, through a transforming union with Jesus Christ through which we become truly ourselves. This book is about that transforming union -- God's plan for our happiness."
Another blurb, by Roy Schoeman, author of Salvation is From the Jews, reads:
It seems that God raises up, for each era, a spiritual master to write a guidebook for those who desire to make progress in the spiritual life. Past eras have had Thomas à Kempis' Imitation of Christ, St. Teresa of Avila's Way of Perfection, and St. Francis de Sales' Introduction to the Devout Life. Today we have Father Raphael Simon's Hammer & Fire, whose author, a Jewish psychiatrist turned Trappist monk, integrates the wisdom of past spiritual classics, his own experience as contemplative monk, and a deep knowledge of contemporary psychology, to produce a spiritual guide uniquely suited to our time. This eminently practical guide is an invaluable resource for the man or woman of today who is seeking to find the one true happiness in this life -- union with God."
Suzanne M. Baars, M.A., of In His Image Counseling, writes:
"With its message of God's fatherly love and affection, Hammer & Fire is a blessing for every reader. The author's compassionate advice for those who suffer emotional ills addresses the necessary integration of the spiritual and psychological dimensions of the human person. As a psychotherapist who specializes in the treatment of emotional-spiritual afflictions from a Catholic perspective, I highly recommend this timeless work."
Joseph Nicolosi, Ph.D., of Thomas Aquinas Psychological Clinic, writes:
"In its discussion of sin, virtues, happiness, and prayer we return to basic Catholic teachings which are the underpinnings of mental health. As such, this classic may be even more relevant today than when it was first published."

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Benedict and the lavender mafia

An editorial by Dale Vree getting considerable discussion lately is that from the June 2006 issue of New Oxford Review, entitled "Is the Catholic Church Going the Way of the Episcopal Church?" In the first part of the editorial, he addresses the purging of the topic of homosexuality from our lectionaries (the longer as well as the shorter forms), which we addressed in a post entitled "Lectionary Censorship" (July 11, 2006). In the subsequent portion of the essay, he draws disturbing parallels between the direction the Episcopal Church has taken in the United States over the past several decades and the direction the Catholic Church could be taking today, particularly in revisioning its traditional opposition to homosexuality in a 'gay-friendly' milieu. First, he notes that Fr. Richard J. Neuhaus, Editor of First Things, seems particularly dismayed by the scandal of homosexuality in the priesthood and episcopate (citing First Things, Feb. 2006, pp. 55-61):
In a take-off of the dictum Roma locuta est, causa finita est ("Rome has spoken, the case is closed"), Fr. Neuhaus says regarding the document on homosexuals in the seminaries, "Rome has spoken and the question is anything but settled." Neuhaus speaks of the "Truce of 1968" where "many theologians and priests...rejected the teaching of the 1968 encyclical on human sexuality, Humanae Vitae [reiterating the Church's rejection of contraception]." In 1968, says Neuhaus, "Rome caved." Indeed, it did.
Now, says Vree, Neuhaus is worried that there will be a "Truce of 2005" regarding the document on homosexuals in the seminaries. He continues:
Neuhaus is mighty concerned that Rome will "cave" once again. Neuhaus calls on Benedict to issue a "discernable and decisive response" to the document on homos in the seminaries. An Editorial in Commonweal says Fr. Neuhaus has "issued an ultimatum" to Benedict, and even taunts Neuhaus: "Even some of his admirers may be taken aback by the ferocity and sweep of the petition he has just nailed to Benedict's door..." (Feb. 10). Shades of Martin Luther, who nailed his petition to the pope on the door of the Schlosskirche in Wittenberg, and as Commonweal points out, Fr. Neuhaus was "once a Lutheran." Truly, a cheap shot.
Maybe so. Vree thinks there is little likelihood that Benedict will issue a "decisive response." And he says that Neuhaus surely knows this, since he says that Benedict is a "gentle man and averse to unpleasantness." Neuhaus says that for Benedict "there is the fear of schism," but Neuhaus counters with "where would the rejectionists go?" "We agree with Fr. Neuhaus," writes Vree. "Benedict needs to get some courage, and let the chips fall where they may."

Vree thinks that the Vatican has been far too ambiguous and wishy-washy in its treatment of the question at issue. In fact, he suggests that the first thing Benedict should do is to withdraw "the murky and open-ended document" on homosexuals in the seminaries and "start again." He argues that homosexual priests cannot be spiritual Fathers, that they cannot discipline, that they "nuance" all sorts of things, that their "love" is permissive and unconditional, and pastoral to the point of being contentless. That's a bold, broad-brushing of the issues, certainly, but there you have it.

What is really the most interesting -- and potentially controversial -- part of the editorial is the exposure Vree grants to the lavender spin doctors of Pope Benedict's encyclical, Deus Caritas Est, particularly the spin offered by Fr. James Alison, a London-based theologian who, in 2003, identified himself as an unpartnered homosexual priest.

But first, a little background on Fr. Alison. The San Francisco Faith (April 2006), reporting on a conference in San Francisco on February 12th, sponsored by the (Jesuit) University of San Francisco's Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Questioning Caucus and the University's Lane Center for Catholic Studies and Social Thought, stated that "Alison called for patience from the gay and lesbian Catholic community because society at large is on the verge of endorsing ... homosexuals." Alison is quoted as declaring that homosexuality is "being taken out of the sphere of doctrine and left where it belongs, in the sphere of the human sciences, with all the consequences that will follow from that." The article reports: "One of those consequences, according to Alison, is that the Church will be compelled to change, and in fact is already changing, its position on homosexuality." (Sound familiar? For readers of this blog, this language will doubtless be redolent of the so-called "Spirit of Vatican II.")

Vree comments that we can already see these tendencies in the document on homosexuals in the seminaries, where once no homosexuals of whatever kind could be admitted, but now just about anything is permitted in the way of homosexual seminarians, depending on how the bishop or the major suprior chooses to interpret it.

And then we come to the encyclical:
Fr. Alison cites as an example Benedict's first encyclical, God Is Love. Alison says: "It leaves room for us, and I suggest that we read it as an invitation for us to work out what the rich elements and gifts of same-sex love can be. How we are to set creating a Catholic culture of same-sex love."

The Church, says Alison, will accept homosexuality slowly, "in a way that keeps everybody on board," so as to avoid "schism." In God Is Love, Benedict has "subtly begun this process," the story reports Alison as saying. Alison calls our attention to God Is Love, where Benedict makes reference to Plato. Benedict quotes Plato: "man was originally spherical" (#11). The story quotes Alison as summarizing the reference: "there are some people who are spherical, formed of one part male and the other part female, and there are some people spherical formed of one part male and the other part male, and there are some who are spherical formed one part female and one part female. And that these people will always be looking for their other half." We went back to Number 11, where Benedict says that "only in communion with the opposite sex can he become 'complete.'" This would seem to contradict what Alison is saying. Or is this a matter of Benedict's subtlety?

Andrew Sullivan, the "gay" activist, notes that in God Is Love, Benedict rests his support of eros on the ancient Greek philosophers, who Sullivan says embraced "gay" love. Indeed, Benedict acknowledges that eros does not appear in the New Testament (God Is Love, #3)....

According to the San Francisco Faith: "Alison gave other examples [not listed], which, he claims, show that the pope will eventually write an encyclical acknowledging the anthropological validity of homosexuality and homosexual relationships." Alison is quoted as saying that the Vatican is "trying to work out write the encyclical which finally says, 'as the Church has always taught....'"
Again, sound familiar? To readers of this blog, it certainly should. Fr. Joseph O'Leary (a.k.a. "Spirit of Vatican II") is notorious for this sort of spin, as most of you know. However, as my son, Christopher (Ratzinger Fan Club), says, anybody can spin an encyclical. As he demonstrates amply, countless liberals have done so -- it is their modus operandi to selectively quote and provide justification for their agenda with every document that comes out of the Vatican. See, for example, the following links:As Christopher notes, it seems that whoever tries to put a liberal spin on the encyclical will be at pains to square that with Benedict's strong position on the family as traditionally defined, as he reiterated it in Spain recently in responding to the Spanish gay marriage campaign (see John Allen, Jr., "Benedict offers Spain gentle, unambiguous defense of tradition," NCR, July 9, 2006).

All of which raises the question as to what Vree is up to in 'playing up' this sort of 'spin' in his editorial of June 2006, rather than offering a critique of it. Does Vree really doubt Benedict? I find it hard to think so. I think he is clearly frustrated. This comes out in his language at points, as when he says the following: "The defining moment of Pope Benedict's papacy so far has been the document on homosexuals in the seminaries, and he flubbed it." One of my readers wrote me with the express concern that this seemed frightfully disrespectful of the Holy Father. I understand and share his concern. I also understand and share Vree's frustration. Vree also wrote:
Benedict appointed George Niederauer to be the Archbishop of San Francisco, who said, regarding the Church's opposition to "gay marriage," that he could not foresee that "evolving anytime soon" (see our New Oxford Note, May). Anytime soon? But maybe later! If homosexuality is accepted, it will happen slowly, so the laity won't notice, so as to keep everybody on board.
This kind of language, coming from the bishops, the shepherds of the sheep, is hardly helpful. I think Vree's 'playing up' of the 'spin-doctors' interpretation of the encyclical is a reflection of his frustration -- a sort of prognostication and warning: here's where things are headed unless we correct our course, folks. Vree concludes his editorial with the following words: "We are asked to pray for Pope Benedict at every Mass. But we are not told what to pray for. We suggest praying for Fortitude, one of the Gifts of the Holy Spirit and one of the Cardinal Virtues." A heartfelt 'Amen' to that. I would only add -- and here I echo voices wiser than my own -- if we do take issue with the ideas of our bishops and, especially, of our Holy Father, as perhaps sometimes we must, let us endeavor to do so with all due respect and charity.

By the way, the Editor of New Oxford Review has now made it possible for readers to post online comments to his editorials, in case any of you are interested. I would encourage any of you, especially those readers most vociferious in their protestations of my earlier posts defending of Dale Vree and the New Oxford Review against their critics, to avail themselves of this avenue of direct communication with their brother-Pit-Bull-in-Christ. Cheers!

[Hat tip to Christopher and other, anonymous correspondents in various witness protection programs]

Monday, July 24, 2006

Alasdair MacIntyre update

In late 2005 Sheed & Ward, an imprint of Rowman and Littlefield Publishers, published Alasdair MacIntyre's latest book Edith Stein: A Philosophical Prologue: 1913-1922. Stein, canonized by John Paul II, was born into a devout Jewish family, became an atheist in her teens, then took up the study of philosophy under the famous phenomenologist, Edmund Husserl, during which period she also came into contact with Dietrich von Hildebrand and Max Scheler. Later she converted to Catholicism and entered the Carmelite order, and lost her life in Auschwitz to the Nazis. In his book, MacIntyre traces the neglected importance of Stein's philosophical development up to her conversion. Robert Sokolowski, a well-known phenomnologist in his own right, an professor at The Catholic University of America, comments that MacIntyre shows "how the word 'philosophical' can be said of a life as well as a doctrine. He describes the people, events and ideas in whose company Edith Stein lived in the decade that led to her baptism in 1922, and he defines phenomenology not as a method but as a dispotition to let the truth of things come to light."

In April of this year, Alasdair MacIntyre was also elected to the American Philosophical Society, the nations oldest learned society, founded by Benfamin Franklin in 1743 and headquartered in Philadelphia -- a singular privilege and honor. Alasdair MacIntyre is Senior Research Fellow at the University of Notre Dame's Center for Ethics and Culture.

A media revolution to displace film industry?

Remember when you first experienced one of those world-historical moments when you knew you were witnessing history being made, even if it was something like the announcement of "stereo surround sound" or "word processors"? Well, here, perhaps, is the latest: made for Internet independent, downloadable 'films'. Many of these are simply goofy, but here's one that will (despite the bad acting) blow you away. It's called "Star Wars Revelations," and here's what the producers say about the movie:
Revelations was started with a hope and desire to create a low-budget independent film with a big-budget production value. With affordable technology and a pool of talented artists around the world, we wanted to see how far Panic Struck Productions could take it. Everyone involved in the film is a volunteer and no one was paid to work or be involved in this project. The film is a combined effort to artists, industry professionals, and fans, all working together in a dedicated effort to produce a high-end film.

First off, "Revelations" is a non-profit film. That's right, we cannot make money from "Revelations" nor would we want to. Star Wars is a registered trademark of Lucas Film LTD. and it is through George Lucas' kindness he allows young filmmakers to play in his wonderful world. Being huge fans ourselves we would want, if anything, to promote and share the magic and love of the star wars films and what it's creator brought to the industry and audiences around the world.

Revelations will be FREE for everyone to download (and hopefully enjoy) here online.
Read about how this guy used people in his neighborhood, his own garage, and only a few thousand dollars to create this really quite impressive movie. See it to believe it.

The other wonder is -- you guessed it!! -- Star Trek New Voyages, the creation of an Elvis impersonator who likes Star Trek and used (what was it? a car lot?) as his production studio. Instructions on how to burn your own disk. Again, see it to believe it. The wave of the future? Cheers.

Friday, July 21, 2006

"I Had a Dream: The Music of Palestrina and Gregory the Great Had Come Back"

An exclusive interview with maestro Domenico Bartolucci. Who strangled Gregorian chant and polyphony – and why. And how to bring them back to life. Benedict XVI? “A Napoleon without generals.” (Sandro Magister, www.chiesa, July 21, 2006)

Some excerpts:
ROMA, July 21, 2006 – The concert conducted in the Sistine Chapel at the end of June by maestro Domenico Bartolucci, in Benedict XVI’s honor and with his attendance, has certainly marked a turning point in the dispute over the role that music has, and will have, in the Catholic liturgy.

But for now, it is a merely symbolic turning point.

The new direction has been indicated with authority. “An authentic renewal of sacred music can only come follow in the pathway of the great tradition of the past, of Gregorian chant and sacred polyphony,” Benedict XVI said on that occasion. This is a pope whose “great love for the liturgy, and thus for sacred music, is known to all,” Bartolucci emphasized in his greeting of introduction.

But the goal still seems a long way off. Bartolucci, in his nineties, is a first-rate witness to the misfortunes that have plagued sacred music over the past half century. An outstanding interpreter of Gregorian chant and of the polyphony of Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina, he is at the same time the victim of their near annihilation.

When the curia of John Paul II planned and carried out the dismissal of Bartolucci as director of the papal choir of the Sistine Chapel, only Joseph Ratzinger, then a cardinal, was on his side.

Now, with the election of Ratzinger as pope, there is a real chance that the course of this drama will be reversed, and that Gregorian chant and polyphony will be returned to their central place in the Church. But neither Benedict XVI nor Bartolucci are so naïve as not to perceive the extreme difficulty of this undertaking.

For the Church to draw once more from the treasury of its great sacred music, there is, in fact, the need for a formidable effort of reeducation, and for liturgical reeducation even before musical.
This is what Bartolucci makes clear in his interview with “L’espresso” no. 29, 2006, reproduced in its entirety in Sandro Magister's post. In it he says, among other things: “I am an optimist by nature, but I judge the current situation realistically, and I believe that a Napoleon without generals can do little.” And that is certainly what the Holy Father is at this point, a "Napoleon without generals." Forty years of revolution directed at overturning the mainstays of Catholic tradition have left him with few supporters. There are likely many more who would rather see the last supporter of Renaissance polyphony strangled with the guts of the last supporter of Gregorian chant. While there are many reasons for hope, one would have to be hopelessly naive to think that those who regard the pontificates of John Paul II and Benedict XVI as hopelessly reactionary, are not, like the European left-leaning intellectuals who hijacked the last Council, already busy planning their strategy for the next conclave and beyond. Moreover, John Paul II was hardly a liturgical traditionalist! In fact, there's some reason to believe that the symbolic 'turning point' in liturgical music effected by Benedict's pontificate might be little more than a swan song of the great classical tradition of Catholic music -- something like the brief reign of Mary Tudor in England, which briefly restored Catholicism in England, before the tital wave of anti-Catholic persecution under William and Robert Cecil during the reigns of Bloody Elizabeth and her successors obliterated Catholicism in England. Of course, if God can make a camel can pass through the eye of a needle, all things a certainly possible, and there is always reason to hope, and pray, and resist the philistines.

Speaking of which, whom does Bartolucci blame for the strangulation of the Gregorian chant and polyphony? One might wonder whether it was Perosi, the so-called restorer of the Italian oratorio. But of him, Bartolucci says only that he was an "authentic musician," a man "utterly consumed by music." He says that "he had the good fortune of directing the Sistine at the time of the motu proprio on sacred music, which rightly wanted to purify it from the theatrics with which it was imbued. He could have given a new impulse to Church music, but unfortunately he didn’t have an adequate understanding of polyphony in the tradition of Palestrina and of the traditions of the Sistine. He also entrusted the direction of the Gregorian chant to his vice-maestro! His liturgical compositions were frequently noteworthy for their superficial Cecilian style, far from the perfect fusion of text and music." He imitated Puccini, whom Bartolucci calls an "intelligent man," and whose fugues, he says, "are greatly superior to those of Perosi." So who is the real villain? Was Perosi in some sense the harbinger of the current vulgarization of sacred music? Bartolucci replies:
Not exactly. Today the fashion in the churches is for pop-inspired songs and the strumming of guitars, but the fault lies above all with the pseudo-intellectuals who have engineered this degeneration of the liturgy, and thus of music, overthrowing and despising the heritage of the past with the idea of obtaining who knows what advantage for the people. If the art of music does not return to its greatness, rather than representing an accommodation or a byproduct, there is no sense in asking about its function in the Church. I am against guitars, but I am also against the superficiality of the Cecilian movement in music – it’s more or less the same thing. Our motto must be: let us return to Gregorian chant and to polyphony in the tradition of Palestrina, and let us continue down this road!
Another relevant question, assuming Gregorian chant could be resurrected is whether the assembly of the faithful should participate in singing the Gregorian chant during the liturgical celebrations. Bartolucci says:
We must make distinctions in the performance of Gregorian chant. Part of the repertoire, for example the Introits or the Offertories, requires an extremely refined level of artistry and can be interpreted properly only by real artists. Then there is a part of the repertoire that is sung by the people: I think of the Mass “of the Angels,” the processional music, the hymns. It was once very moving to hear the assembly sing the Te Deum, the Magnificat, the litanies, music that the people had assimilated and made their own – but today very little is left even of this. And furthermore, Gregorian chant has been distorted by the rhythmic and aesthetic theories of the Benedictines of Solesmes. Gregorian chant was born in violent times, and it should be manly and strong, and not like the sweet and comforting adaptations of our own day.
Interesting! But what is one to make of any of this in the face current trends. Doesn't Bartolucci see that musical traditions of the past are disappearing? He comments:
It stands to reason: if there is not the continuity that keeps them alive, they are destined to oblivion, and the current liturgy certainly does not favor it... I am an optimist by nature, but I judge the current situation realistically, and I believe that a Napoleon without generals can do little. Today the motto is “go to the people, look them in the eyes,” but it’s all a bunch of empty talk! By doing this we end up celebrating ourselves, and the mystery and beauty of God are hidden from us. In reality, we are witnessing the decline of the West. An African bishop once told me, “We hope that the council doesn’t take Latin out of the liturgy, otherwise in my country a Babel of dialects will assert itself.”
There's much more to the interview, well worth reading in full. Comments?

Ultramontane Catholic Rap

Wonders never cease. A reader and friend who shares my interest in Scheler wrote recently to share another interest: a friend of his who is a Catholic rapper. He writes that he's not sure how much of this blog's readership listens to hip-hop, but that he hopes that this example of a Catholic rapper might at least assure readers that a new springtime of evangelization can be found breaking forth in some quarters among the Catholic youth of this country. Perhaps it may also show Fr. O'Leary, he suggests, where the future of the Church resides: " will never attract the young by making Christianity easy; but a good many can be attracted by finding it difficult: difficult both to the disorderly mind and to the unruly passions." - T.S. Eliot

His website is (check it out and listen to some samples online).

Some of his lyrics are quite powerful and unapologetic:
From "Ultramontane":

I pledge allegiance to the Pope and his
Holy Regiment of eminence, never mind
Me, myself and I and all the pride on the side
Obedience and orthodoxy on the minds eye
Knee bends to the rock, which stood the test of time
Its David vs. Goliath/godless politicians
Filibuster this, cut you with the sword of truth
The word of God's more strong, than what you mere men
Constitute, you want to challenge the Church
Yo that's the wrong thing to do
Ignorant fools, brood of vipers, hypocrites,
Your going to lose, misinterpret everything
Just to suit your views, We will stand for it no more

From "Freedom" (a song dedicated to Terri Schiavo):

Many spiritually enslaved and claim America's free
But all I see is rotten fruit from a rotten tree
The 5 non-negotiables, diabolical deeds
Christ, provided us with everything that we need
His body and blood, his word and his Church
the meaning of freedom and peace
It's disobedience and unbelief, the chief cause
Leaving nations deceased, yes, lost and beat
During tragedy the nation falls to its knees
Praying God please, oh God, Please! but
Once the moment passes by they back
To scandals and lies, singing God Bless
America, and at the same time, everything Holy's
Banished from the public eye, 40 million
Babies have died, who wants a slice of this American pie?

From "Crusade II":

Get ready for a Crusade! Christians wield the Word
Like double-edged blades
Get ready for change
It's us vers' the culture of death
The faithful vers' the things that's got this country a mess
The Church Militant won't settle for less
We're here to save a country in distress
Badly oppressed by sin
And those who whisper: "God is dead."
Secularists, and liberal theology
Ya'll need ta bend your knees and give God a giant apology

Our battle cry: "Smash lies!"
Bring forth the truth that's Adonai
In God we trust, with God we ride
In his laws we abide
Fight against the Devil's rebellion and pride
In an army full of men of fire
Ridding the country of false promises
Diabolical darkness
Highly volatile contents
Burning souls like arsonists
We coming through because we can't stand idly by
While thousands upon thousands of babies die
Better yet: check out some of the samples you can listen to online. Some are quite good for the genre.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

NCR worried about SSPX reconciling with Rome

In a New Oxford Note entitled "Everyone Is Intolerant At Some Point" in the July-August 2006 issue of the New Oxford Review, Dale Vree observes:
An Editorial in the National Catholic Reporter (April 7) is mighty worried about the possibility of Archbishop Lefebvre's Society of St. Pius X (SSPX) reconciling with Rome. The Editorial says: "Though unity is always a good thing, it must not come at the expense of clarity about what we believe.... Leaders of the Society of St. Pius X have demanded a formal 'right to dissent' from these elements of the teaching of the council [Vatican II: religious liberty, ecumenism, and interfaith relations] as the price of returning to the fold.... Benedict XVI must make it crystal clear that the price of admission is unambiguous assent to Vatican II, whole and entire. This is an opportunity for the pope to show the world that his emphasis on Catholic identity is...a principled insistence on 'thinking with the church'...."
How the NCR can say this with a straight face is anyone's guess. The NCR has been promoting homosexuality, contraception, priestesses, and dissent from defining doctrines of Catholic faith and morals for years. Nobody in his right mind would call NCR the 'go to' journal for "Catholic identity," "doctrinal clarity," or "no right to dissent"! What a joke! And here we have NCR speaking up for "clarity," "Catholic identity," "a principled insistence on 'thinking with the church,'" and no "right to dissent"! Well, glory be!!! My guess is that we've got some something like the old Trilemma going on here (remember? "Liar, Lunatic, or Lord"?). Only this one goes "Liar, Lunatic, or Leery" -- either (a) NCR is not being honest with itself or with the public (Liar), or (b) it's on crack cocaine (Lunatic), or (c) it's taking its cues from O'Leary (Leery). Then again, in some possible steamy 'hot tub' worlds, I suppose these could all be one and the same.


Over at Rorate Caeli, New Catholic furnishes the following translation of an Italian article by Andrea Tornielli entitled "Lefebvriani, l’accordo è più vicino" (il 7/13/06), which he titles: "Lefebvrists: the agreement is closer - The pact is ready, but Fellay has not yet decided":
All is ready for the agreement between the Holy See and the Fraternity Saint Pius X, founded by the "rebel" Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre. The Vatican forwarded several weeks ago precise propositions to reach peace [a peaceful solution] and the reentrance of the Lefbvrists into full communion with Rome.... (Read more.)

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Recovery of the Sacred: Liturgy & The Loss of History

Last month, Adoremus Bulletin (June 2006) reprinted an excerpt, "Liturgy and The Loss of History," from James Hitchcock's analysis of the liturgical reform following the Second Vatican Council, Recovery of the Sacred (originally published in 1974 by Seabury Press, reprinted in 1995 by Ignatius Press, but currently again out of print). Although Hitchcock's analysis is more than three decades old, it provides sometimes uncanny insights into the history and dynamic of the early post-Conciliar liturgical reform that make it perhaps as timely as it was when it was first published. Certainly his discussion is relevant to conversations we have been having recently on this blog. Here are a few excerpts:
Within a few years of the Second Vatican Council, staff members of the Liturgical Conference were quoting with approval a jazz musician who complained, “what good does it do for a minister to show a good film and speak about the relevance of the Church in our daily life if we are going to follow the sermon with a hymn from another century? Right away we have effectively reminded the congregation that we are protected and separated from the world”....

... Among other things the most radical innovators failed to notice that few contemporary men choose to live only amid the artifacts of their own time. Well-made old houses are if anything more popular than newer ones. The antique market provides steady opportunities for decoration and investment. Proposals to destroy historic landmarks raise public outcries. Museums are crowded by people wanting to see old masters, and symphony orchestras have trouble filling their seats if they play mostly modern works. For better or for worse, a determined holding onto a good deal of the past seems to be a feature of modern man, probably because he senses how fragile these survivals really are.

* * *

A circular action was involved. which soon became a vicious circle leading to the rapid breakdown of liturgy. Liturgical innovators were vaguely dissatisfied with the traditional forms but did not realize the extent of their dissatisfaction until they began to experiment. As they peeled away the layers of historical accretions to liturgy, they found, sometimes with shock, sometimes with satisfaction, that the core of belief which underlay traditional worship was not at all the same as their own, that what was involved in liturgical reform was nothing less than a profound revolution in the nature of belief itself. The vicious circle formed, however, because if a crisis of belief provokes a crisis of worship, it is also true that a crisis of worship provokes further crises of belief. The symbols and the reality they were meant to express were so closely welded that it was impossible to alter one without altering the other.

The drive for radical liturgical innovation thus became a principal cause of the widespread crisis of faith which began to appear in the Church. In its origins this crisis affected only a relatively few persons, who were moved to begin the restless search for a truly “relevant” modern liturgy. As radically transformed liturgies began to be celebrated, however -- in colleges, seminaries, high schools, convents, living rooms, sometimes even in churches -- the crisis became more and more a public thing and began to affect more and more people. The stability of the liturgy for so long had been an effective public symbol of the stability and unity of belief and, equally important, it had been a means by which this stability and unity were preserved and reinforced. Now the diversity and sometimes the shocking unfamiliarity of liturgy became an equally effective public symbol of the instability and diversity of belief and a means of intensifying and propagating this....

If radical experimentation has not succeeded in forging an authentic and viable new form of Christianity, one of its first and most important effects was a massive loss of contact with the Catholic past, a fact which was often not noticed at first or was even denied, but then just as often came to be celebrated as a blessing and a liberation. There was consistent, sometimes aggrieved, talk about the meaninglessness of traditional rites, with the jettisoning of a good deal of this tradition regarded as a prerequisite to liturgical renewal.5 (Sometimes the traditions thus dismissed were among the things which liturgists before the Council had regarded as beautiful and important.) These traditions were rejected on the grounds that they were either literally meaningless, sometimes even explained as the neurotic repetition of compulsive acts, or as expressing false meanings -- too closely tied to a traditional theology of the supernatural. It is no exaggeration to say that many innovators came to hate the Church’s past as largely a history of tyranny and superstition and especially came to hate the Church’s immediate past, the milieu in which they themselves had been formed and which they now saw as a deformation, a perversion of real Christianity, an immense burden to be shed. There came to be a good deal of bitterness about the present state of the Church, cynicism about its past, and malicious ridicule directed even at things which had previously been considered sacred. Often these feelings surfaced in people who had earlier given few hints of such dissatisfaction, who may even have seemed like serene believers. Many who did not share these feelings nevertheless found them understandable and saw no cause to protest against them.

* * *

Several further principles with regard to the sacred are now becoming evident:
The radical and deliberate alteration of ritual leads inevitably to the radical alteration of belief as well.

This radical alteration causes an immediate loss of contact with the living past of the community, which comes instead to be a deadening burden.

The desire to shed the burden of the past is incompatible with Catholicism, which accepts history as an organic development from ancient roots and expresses this acceptance in a deep respect for tradition.
Every people has a past, and contact with this past can be kept alive in various ways -- by study, by a conservative social structure, by preserving old artifacts, by referring new problems to older precedents for solution. All of these have been utilized by the Catholic Church in various ways, but none has been so important as ritual worship itself. Since liturgy is the great central activity in which all members of the Church participate, it is the uniquely effective vehicle by which the Church’s historical identity is preserved....

Most significant was the attitude toward Scripture. Dissatisfied Catholics often criticized the Church for being too unbiblical, for espousing a traditionalism which could countenance radical departures from the Scripture. The Second Vatican Council aimed to be, among other things, a reaffirmation of the importance of Scripture in the Church and an erasing of any opposition between Scripture and tradition. This, it was hoped, would provide a salutary cleansing and purifying of the life of the Church, through renewed contact with its roots. To some extent it did. However, soon the ardent biblicism of avant-garde Catholics began to change, through an increased acceptance of the “demythologizing” of Scripture urged by the German Protestant theologian Rudolf Bultmann. Little in the New Testament was now to be taken as historically accurate.

While an attitude of reverence was not jettisoned altogether, the attitude of scholarly detachment began to supersede it. Scripture was conceded no absolute authority, in that the insights of modern man came to be the basis on which the continued relevance of various passages of Scripture was judged. Finally, although the Church’s list of canonical books of the Bible had been devised originally to designate which were suitable for reading in the divine liturgy, the Bible was increasingly superseded in experimental liturgies by readings from other sources. It came to have no more (though also perhaps no less) importance than a great range of writings both religious and secular.

Ironically, the Church which had been accused of not paying enough attention to the Bible continued to read the Scripture from its lecterns each day, while the underground church more and more proclaimed Henry Miller or The Village Voice. Another principle had become clear:
The attempt to begin over again by returning to the community’s ancient sources tends to result in the discovery that the sources themselves are not fully relevant; the locus of the search then shifts to contemporary culture itself.
... If the old liturgy aimed to create a profound order, much of the new liturgy precisely tended to create disorder. Part of this was in the naked assertion that liturgy, which had long been considered sacred and thus to be tampered with only cautiously, was now considered a human invention entirely, to be manipulated for human purposes. This was supposed to assure man of his new freedom and creativity. Instead, in many cases it deprived him of his sense of belonging to a cosmic order, of his ability to reach beyond time and culture.... Another principle had been clarified:
The attempt to achieve freedom by escaping from the burdens of tradition tends to result in a new enslavement to a chaotic present.
... Both Victor Turner and Louis Bouyer, among others, have suggested that a fixed ritual serves the function of preserving deep spiritual truths through periods when they are not fully understood, until such time as they once again become meaningful.... (The liturgical revolution involved, among other things, a shift in emphasis from the liturgist as a man of deep learning and profound understanding of the Church’s traditions to the liturgist as innovator in empathetic contact with modern culture.) ...

... The officially mandated liturgical changes were being implemented as early as 1964 and were largely in effect before the flood of departures from the Church and from the priestly and religious life began. So long as the liturgy was stable, so was Church membership. As with other changes in the Church, the disaffection with liturgy seems to have come about not because the liturgy did not change but because it did. The sense of the meaning of tradition was broken; symbolically there had been a repudiation of the past which the fathers of the Second Vatican Council had certainly not intended but which their actions signaled to some people.

* * *

The bitterness of many of those caught in this historical trap was due in part to the inescapable dosage of self-hatred which was part of it. They had been intimately involved with the old Church. It had been their spiritual nurture and had done much to form them. At one time they had perhaps been happy and purposeful within it. Like the rejection of one’s parents, it proved to be impossible to reject the old Church without also rejecting a large part of oneself....
Traditional liturgy helps men to free themselves from historical determination by making accessible to them modes of Christian life from other ages than their own. It proclaims that no man is bound simply by the customs of his own time, and hence its “irrelevance” is in certain ways its glory.
The religious revolution of the later 1960s aimed to be, among other things, a turning from the past (Christians were thought to be too conservative, inclined to look backward at a supposedly more religious era now gone) and a turning to the future. In that sense, if one dimension of history was being lost, another was being recovered. The eschatological aspect of Christianity was given renewed emphasis, the expectation of a transformed future world in which the will of God would at last be fulfilled. Christians were to emancipate themselves from the past, but thereby were enabled to take responsibility for the future.

An orthodox Christian notion was made to fit too easily with frenzied and euphoric fashions, however. For a brief time it was possible to think that “revolution” was occurring, whose locus was primarily on the college campuses ....
The rejection of tradition focuses the worshippers’ attention on the narrow and incomplete community of present believers and shatters their sense of membership in the widest Christian community, which is the Communion of Saints.
I would encourage you to read the entire selection, which is available online (see links).

[Acknowledgements: James Hitchcock, "Liturgy and the Loss of History," from Recovery of the Sacred, reprinted in Adoremus Bulletin (June 2006), pp. 3-6.]

The gutting of liberal Christianity

Charlotte Allen, the Catholicism editor for Beliefnet and author of The Human Christ: The Search for the Historical Jesus, wrote a provocative piece a while back for the Los Angeles Times entitled, "Liberal Christianity is paying for its sins" (July 9, 2006), about out-of-the-mainstream beliefs about gay marriage and supposedly sexist doctrines gutting the old-line faiths of mainline denominations:
The accelerating fragmentation of the strife-torn Episcopal Church USA, in which several parishes and even a few dioceses are opting out of the church, isn't simply about gay bishops, the blessing of same-sex unions or the election of a woman as presiding bishop. It also is about the meltdown of liberal Christianity.

Embraced by the leadership of all the mainline Protestant denominations, as well as large segments of American Catholicism, liberal Christianity has been hailed by its boosters for 40 years as the future of the Christian church.

Instead, as all but a few die-hards now admit, all the mainline churches and movements within churches that have blurred doctrine and softened moral precepts are demographically declining and, in the case of the Episcopal Church, disintegrating.

* * *

As if to one-up the Presbyterians in jettisoning age-old elements of Christian belief, the Episcopalians [at their general convention in Columbus, Ohio] overwhelmingly refused even to consider a resolution affirming that Jesus Christ is Lord. When a Christian church cannot bring itself to endorse a bedrock Christian theological statement repeatedly found in the New Testament, it is not a serious Christian church. It's a Church of What's Happening Now, conferring a feel-good imprimatur on whatever the liberal elements of secular society deem permissible or politically correct.

You want to have gay sex? Be a female bishop? Change God's name to Sophia? Go ahead. The just-elected Episcopal presiding bishop, Katharine Jefferts Schori, is a one-woman combination of all these things, having voted for Robinson, blessed same-sex couples in her Nevada diocese, prayed to a female Jesus at the Columbus convention and invited former Newark, N.J., bishop John Shelby Spong, famous for denying Christ's divinity, to address her priests.

When a church doesn't take itself seriously, neither do its members. It is hard to believe that as recently as 1960, members of mainline churches — Episcopalians, Presbyterians, Methodists, Lutherans and the like — accounted for 40% of all American Protestants. Today, it's more like 12% (17 million out of 135 million). Some of the precipitous decline is due to lower birthrates among the generally blue-state mainliners, but it also is clear that millions of mainline adherents (and especially their children) have simply walked out of the pews never to return. According to the Hartford Institute for Religious Research, in 1965, there were 3.4 million Episcopalians; now, there are 2.3 million. The number of Presbyterians fell from 4.3 million in 1965 to 2.5 million today. Compare that with 16 million members reported by the Southern Baptists.

When your religion says "whatever" on doctrinal matters, regards Jesus as just another wise teacher, refuses on principle to evangelize and lets you do pretty much what you want, it's a short step to deciding that one of the things you don't want to do is get up on Sunday morning and go to church.

* * *

Despite the fact that median Sunday attendance at Episcopal churches is 80 worshipers, the Episcopal Church, as a whole, is financially equipped to carry on for some time, thanks to its inventory of vintage real estate and huge endowments left over from the days (no more!) when it was the Republican Party at prayer. Furthermore, it has offset some of its demographic losses by attracting disaffected liberal Catholics and gays and lesbians. The less endowed Presbyterian Church USA is in deeper trouble....

* * *

Still, it must be galling to Episcopal liberals that many of the parishes and dioceses (including that of San Joaquin, Calif.) that want to pull out of the Episcopal Church USA are growing instead of shrinking, have live people in the pews who pay for the upkeep of their churches and don't have to rely on dead rich people....

* * *

As for the rest of the Episcopalians, the phrase "deck chairs on the Titanic" comes to mind....

* * *

So this is the liberal Christianity that was supposed to be the Christianity of the future: disarray, schism, rapidly falling numbers of adherents, a collapse of Christology and national meetings that rival those of the Modern Language Assn. for their potential for cheap laughs. And they keep telling the Catholic Church that it had better get with the liberal program — ordain women, bless gay unions and so forth — or die. Sure.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

The concept of 'freedom'

Of recent interest has been some discussion about the concept of 'freedom'. Mortimer J. Adler has a massive tome of nearly 700 pages, The Idea of Freedom (1958), devoted to the topic, which he says (and shows) is one of the most complicated ideas in the pantheon of 'great ideas' to which he devoted his lifetime exploring. The notion of unhindered liberty to do as one pleases is but one of the most elementary, banal, and singularly uninstructive notions associated with the idea of "freedom."

Wolfhart Pannenberg differentiates a number of stages in the development of western notions of "freedom" from its early Christian associations. He writes:
"Very much at the heart of modern culture we find ambiguities that result from a sometimes curious admixture of Christian and non-Christian ideas. The most important example is the modern idea of freedom. There is clearly a Christian root in the belief that all human persons are born to be free and that such freedom should be respected. There is the biblical teaching that human beings are created in the image of God and created to enjoy communion with God. In fact, it is only communion with God that actually makes us free, according to Jesus (John 8:36) and Paul (2 Corinthians 3:17). While every human being is created to enjoy the freedom that comes from communion with God, it is only in Christ that such freedom is fully realized through redemption from sin and death. Such is the Christian idea of freedom.

"The modern idea of freedom, most effectively proposed by John Locke, differs from the Christian view in that it focuses only on the natural condition of man. It differs also in drawing upon ancient Stoic ideas of natural law. The Stoics taught that the original freedom and equality of human beings in the state of nature was lost because of the necessities of living in society. Locke thought that the Reformation doctrine of the freedom of the Christian made it possible to reclaim the original freedom as an actuality in this life. In contrast to later libertarian views of individual freedom, Locke believed that pure freedom is necessarily united with reason and therefore positively related to law. In Locke's position there is an echo of the Christian understanding that freedom depends on being united with the good and, therefore, with God.

"The prevailing idea of freedom in our societies today, of course, is the idea that each person has the right to do as he pleases. Freedom is not connected to any notion of the good as constitutive of freedom itself. Because of the incompleteness of human existence in history, any idea of freedom involves the risk of abuse. But it does make a very big difference whether the distinction between the use and abuse of freedom is observed. When it is observed, it is possible to challenge the equation of freedom with license. The ambiguity built into the modern idea of freedom helps us understand secular culture's ambivalence when it comes to values in general, and our cultural nervousness about affirming the contents and standards by which the culture itself is defined. With respect to values and cultural traditions, as with truth claims, a consumerist attitude prevails. Each chooses according to his preferences or perceived needs. The disengagement of the idea of freedom from an idea of the true and the good is the great weakness of secularist societies." (Wolfhart Pannenberg, "How to Think About Secularism," First Things (June/July 1996), p. 62.)
It must be conceded that John Locke's natural law theory is only a thin ghost of the more substantial understandings of natural law that preceded him. The Scholastics believed that even though man's fixed essence and natural end derive ultimately from God, we can nevertheless infer from this essence and natural end a doctrine of natural law and human rights without appealing directly to God's will. But as Jeremy Waldron (by no means a religious right-winger) notes in his book, God, Locke, and Equality, John Locke was an Enlightenment-era Protestant who abandoned the medieval Scholastic notions of an objective human essence and natural ends, and, with them, the traditional basis of belief in natural law and natural human rights. The question he faced, then, was the serious problem of how to justify belief in human equality. His solution was to appeal to the idea that even if there are no fixed limits to human nature, human beings at least have the ability to reason, which is adequate to lead them to belief in God, and thus -- in a roundabout way -- to grasp the idea that they are His creatures and therefore responsible to Him for how they treat others. Hence, Locke had nothing left but God's will to which to appeal, since, in his view, we can't know anything about human nature as such that will tell us that we have any rights. We are thus thrown back on the knowledge that we are God's property -- that we belong to Him -- and thus that we would be violating His rights if we harmed one another. For this reason, Locke abhorred atheism. This is often forgotten. Although Locke is often celebrated as the preeminent theorist of religious toleration in early modern philosophy, he emphatically denied that toleration could be extended to atheists, for he regarded atheism as a cancer that would undermine the very possibility of any justifiable belief in equal human rights.

I am not here defending Locke's theory of natural law, but pointing out its deficiencies. The Aristotelian conception of a common human essence or nature, coupled with the Judeo-Christian conception that this human nature is created bearing God's very image, serves as the most powerful imaginable foundation for natural human rights and for a system of civil rights based upon it. Take away either notion, and what basis for human rights have you left? The best you may be able to do is some analogue of John Locke's notion, or the broader Protestant Divine Command theory, which bears the clear stamp of late medieval nominalism and voluntarism -- and the potential arbitrariness of the potestas Dei absoluta, with the potential for translating into the abritrariness of the Prince or state Leviathan. But as the track record of the philosophies from those periods shows, they veer precipitously toward the arbitrary will of those who happen to be in power, as seen in Thomas Hobbes' deft gesture of basing what he called 'natural law' upon the positive law of the state!

An adequate understanding of freedom can never be divorced from an apprehension of the good, which requires an apprehension of the nature of things, including human nature. If we are Christians, we know that true self-knowledge comes only through knowledge of God, not only because He is our highest good and end, but because He reveals to us the truth about our own nature and its true good. Hence, the fullest, richest, truest, most personally liberating sense of 'freedom' is found in slavery to Christ our King. Paul knew this. Many of us understand this. Just as the beginning of wisdom is found in something most people find counter-intuitive (to wit--fear: the 'fear of the Lord'), so freedom is found in something most people find counter-intuitive (to wit--slavery: 'slavery to Christ').

The Transfiguration of "Spirit"

I recently went to Fr. O'Leary's blog site looking (in vain) for his commentary on Pope Benedict XVI's Encyclical, Deus Caritas Est. (Perhaps he can direct me to it, if he still has it online.) I know that Charlie Curran and others have said some pretty interesting and sometimes bizarre things about the encyclical, and I wanted to see just how far our resident rainbow sash commentator would try to push his 'hermeneutic' of the homo-eroticization of agape-love in his reading of the Holy Father's missive.

And lo and behold -- I discovered that the familiar photograph of our friend, Fr. O'Leary, had been removed, and the image of a golden Buddha substituted in its place -- either that, or the "Spirit of Vatican II" itself (himself? herself? h'or'sh'it'self?) has been transfigured and elevated miraculously into the Buddha nature! Anyone have an explanation for what happened?

Monday, July 17, 2006

Back in print

Roman Catholic Books, based in Ft. Collins, Colorado, has reprinted Monsignor Klaus Gamber's modern classic, The Reform of the Roman Liturgy. Until recently, used copies of this volume were going for over $100 on Amazon. Roman Catholic Books, which sports the description "Reprinting Catholic Classics for the Next Century," is now running a promotion for a softcover edition of the book for $24.95. You may call the publisher at the online website for Roman Catholic Books.

In the Preface to the volume, Msgr. W. Nyssen remarks that the former Cardinal Ratzinger, shortly before Msgr. Gamber's death, described him as "the one scholar who, among the army of pseudo-liturgists, truly represents the liturgical thinking of the centre of the Church." (p. xiii) Ratzinger, of course, authored the Preface to the French edition of Gamber's work, a Preface in which he is notoriously and outspokenly critical of the post Vatican II artisans of the New Rite of the Mass.

In connection with recent posts on this blog in our series on the "hermeneutics of fittingness" of various innovations of the Novus Ordo Missae, Gamber's book is highly relevant. For example, in reference to the question of the versus populum stance of the priest during Mass, he minced no words. He wrote:
"One would look in vain for a statement in the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy of the Second Vatican Council that said that Holy Mass is to be celebrated facing the people." (p. 142)
Again, more generally addressing the question of worship, the Mass, and the Eucharist -- recently much in the forefront of our discussion in these parts -- the good Monsignor declaimed in more definitive language:
"A real change in the contemporary perception of the purpose of the Mass and the Eucharist will occur only when the table altars are removed and Mass is again celebrated at the high altar; when the purpose of the Mass is again seen as an act of adoration and glorification of God and of offering thanks for His blessings, for our salvation and for the promise of the heavenly life to come, and as the mystical reenactment of the Lord's sacrifice on the cross."
For those who can't wait for the Ft. Collins promotion and would prefer to order directly online, you can order decent used copies now from Amazon for only a few dollars more. Just click on the following link: The Reform of the Roman Liturgy and compare prices. By the way, Roman Catholic Books does offer a free gift though, whatever it's worth to you.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Move over Mr. Bush, here's Billy the Rambo Democrat!

"The Israelis know that if the Iraqi or the Iranian army came across the Jordan River, I would personally grab a rifle, get in a ditch, and fight and die."

-- Former US President Bill Clinton, July 31, 2002

[Hat tip, Christopher]

Friday, July 14, 2006

Hermeneutics of Fittingness: Hand-Holding during the Our Father

In the combox to the post, "Parish vs. Church?" (July 10, 2006), I let slip the remark "hand-holding during the Our Father, and such giddy nonsense", to which a notoriously liberal Irish priest responded with the predictable comment: "many find this practice deeply expressive of our togetherness before God as his children in Christ." I said then that I was thinking of a future post on this issue, because I think what he wrote expresses what is wrong with a lot of popular sentiment and sentimentalism in Catholic parishes today.

Checking back at that combox today, I noticed that many of our readers have already jumped the gun, beginning a thread on this very topic in that combox. As the interest seems to be there, let me open the topic up for more general comment with this post. Once again, the over-arching question (in this series on the "hermeneutics of fittingness") concerns the fittingness of hand-holding during the Our Father within the context of the Sacrifice of the Mass.

Karl Keating has commented on what he sees as the inappropriateness of hand-holding (more 'intimate' than a hand-shake) before the point in the Mass where the sign of peace comes (usually a nod of the head and/or shake of the hand with a "May the Peace of Christ be with you"). Keating asks, "What would you do if you were standing in line to buy a ticket at a movie theater and some stranger came up and wanted to hold your hand?" Coming from a background in Japan where I grew up, I know that any touching between strangers is exceedingly uncomfortable and avoided where possible. It was difficult, twenty or thirty years ago, for Japanese businessmen to begin learning how to shake hands rather than bow when greeting a foreign visitor from the West. In Japanese Catholic churches, the sign of peace is expressed with a bow toward one's neighbor, not a handshake. A fortiori, the prospect of reaching out one's hands to hold hands with complete strangers on either side of you in church during the Our Father is something any traditional Japanese person would find wrenchingly inappropriate and invasive. Likewise an Englishman. Likewise a Scandinavian. The practice -- which did not originate in the hispanic milieu, or Africa, where it might at least be intelligible -- becomes understandable in the West, if at all, perhaps only as a product of the cultural milieu of the 'Age of Aquarius' and paisley-clad, psychedelic-tripping, bell bottom-sporting, tie-dye-wearing, "Blowing-in-the-Wind"-singing background from which all these sorts of post-Vatican II developments, including the Charismatic Renewal, emerged.

I wouldn't for a moment deny that one could find this practice "expressive of our togetherness before God as his children in Christ." I've heard people, not all of them heterodox liberals, express such sentiments before. As far as I'm concerned, however, the question isn't whether such a gesture is expressive of such a sentiment (it can be), or whether such as sentiment is a good sentiment (it obviously is), or even whether it's good to cultivate it (it surely is). The question is whether this particular gesture, this act, this sentiment, and whatever else it involves (clammy palm-consciousness? thoughts about the person standing next to me? why are my hands being squeezed in this way?) belong in and are appropriate to the collective act which is the work of the people (Gk. leitourgia -- i.e., the 'liturgy') in the Mass. There are countless other things -- good in themselves -- that one could easily think of that would not be appropriate during Mass -- reading a novel, text messaging a friend, dancing a Tango, eating an ice cream sundae ... So what about hand-holding?

Here are what some readers have already been saying in the earlier combox, to prime the pump:
  • I would like to know a) where and how this gesture originated in the context of the Mass, b) what it signifies in other communal-spiritual contexts, and c) whether its signification is truly fitting within the meaning of the Catholic liturgy. [Dave]

  • Perhaps the Catholic Charismatic movement is the origin of the hand-holding? [Spirit of Vatican II]

  • Perhaps the gesture of holding hands during the Lord's prayer COULD be a fitting expression of our collective self-sacrifice, assuming that we have a shared understanding of the essence of the liturgy as sacrifice in the first place. Yet what if that shared understanding is lacking? Worse, what if the "tradition" of hand-holding was introduced precisely to UNDERCUT that shared understanding? What if it was introduced to reinforce the errant theological opinion that our "togetherness in Christ" is the essential meaning of the Mass? [Dave]

  • Adoremus has already spoken on the issue of various shenanigans during the Our Father. Upshot is that, after the usual fumbling, stumbling, and misstating, nothing has been said officially, which to luminaries like Fr Joe means that anything goes. Here's a quote from their article, which you can get by typing adoremus orans posture into your browser:

    "At their November 2001 [USCCB] meeting, the bishops discussed "adaptations" to the new Institutio Generalis Missalis Romani (or GIRM) of the new Missal (reported in AB February 2002). The proposal to introduce the orans posture for the people was not included even as an option in the US' "adaptations" to the GIRM.

    Furthermore, the bishops did not forbid hand-holding, either, even though the BCL originally suggested this in 1995. The reason? A bishop said that hand-holding was a common practice in African-American groups and to forbid it would be considered insensitive.

    Thus, in the end, all reference to any posture of the hands during the Our Father was omitted in the US-adapted GIRM. The orans posture is not only not required by the new GIRM, it is not even mentioned."

    The orans posture is the bit of priest-aping whereby members of the congregation raise their hands palms up, imitating the priest, or Charlton Heston in "The Ten Commandments". Sometimes they sway gently, like palm trees in an ocean breeze, an affectation of ecstasy, an imitation of Alfred E Newman saying "what, me worry?", you be the judge. [ralph roiter-doister]

  • On hand-holding during the Lord's Prayer at Mass, my former Archbishop confirmed your surmise that this comes from the charismatic movement. I found the practice particularly problematic as a catechist. We taught that the liturgical changes stripped away accretions and revived ancient practices, like the Sign of Peace. But pointing out that the new accretion of hand-holding overshadowed the revived Sign of Peace was to no avail. Hand-holding was claimed to be more in accord with .... the Spirit of Vatican II. [Terrence Berres]

  • Terrence,
    Exactly how does the sign of peace conflict with holding hands? Why assume that the fig leaf, "revived ancient practices", grants a special cachet, especially since no one knows exactly what those practices consisted of? Maybe the disciples held hands too.

    In truth, both are distractions from the substance of the "Our Father". [ralph roiter-doister]

  • I'm reporting the description of the conciliar liturgical reform from the course materials provided at my parish. We can all have opinions, but that doesn't create instructional materials to replace what we currently have to work with.

    By overshadowing I mean that shaking hands with someone doesn't seem as significant after you've just been holding hands with them.

    As to distraction, the hand-holding is during the Lord's Prayer, while the Sign of Peace is not. [Terrence Berres]

  • What one is doing at the time of both the recitation of the "Our Father" and the sign of peace is prayerfully meditating on the sacrifice of the Son of God for our redemption. This will culminate in our reception of the body and blood, in which that sacrifice is embodied.

    Holding hands and waving to each other distracts us from that meditation.

    You could say it detracts from the idea of the mystical body, transforming it into a social gathering, with the "mystical" portion is eclipsed by the "social". [ralph roiter-doister]

  • What, then, would be fitting gestures at the recitation of the Lord's prayer and the sign of peace? I would opt for hands folded reverently during the Lord's prayer.

    What if at the sign of peace we turned to our neighbor and blessed them with the sign of the cross? [Dave]

  • Sorry Dave, but I don't think the neighbor should be in it at all at that point. It is between God and each member of the mystical body, not among individual members themselves.
    The time for individual members to recognize one another, I think, would be at the beginning of the Mass, around the time at which we meditate on our sins and pray for mercy. That, after all, is our common plight. [ralph roiter-doister]
Alright, go to it!

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Bug fixed in comboxes

Many apologies. The comboxes were down for nearly two days; and after receiving a number of emails inquiring about what happened to them, I thought I should post a note. I couldn't figure out the problem and contacted the folks at, who discovered a bug in the comboxes, and fixed it for us. So there were are again, up and running. Sorry for the inconvenience, folks; but we're back in operation again. Happy commenting!

-- Pertinaciously yours, Pertinacious Papist

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Lectionary censorship

Who makes the decisions on what to censor in the lectionary? That's what carving up the lectionary up into a "Shorter Form" and "Longer Form" amounts to, when some passages presumably judged to be politically incorrect are omitted from the "Shorter Form," and sometimes even from the "Longer Form" altogether. What this means is that, all too frequently, Catholics are not only not hearing the Law of God expounded to them in their homilies; they're not even hearing it read in their churches. "Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ," said St. Jerome.

"Yes, but what's all this negative harping about Law and sin and judgment but so much guilt mongering! Isn't there enough negativism in the world? Why not accent God's grace, the open embrace of the Gospel, the warm, personal hot tub of Jesus' love?" The answer to that, my friends, is all around us. God's love and grace don't even mean anything in a context where they have been eviscerated of their proper content. "Love" in the New Testament always has a content. It's not a free floating sentiment. It's tied to specifics. Jesus said, "If you love me, keep my commandments" (John 14:15). Gospel cannot be divorced from law. A Lutheran knows that much. Ask Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the author of The Cost of Discipleship, who railed against "cheap grace." By biblical accounts, the wisest man who ever lived knew a thing or two about wisdom. He was no sophist. He was a lover of wisdom in the profoundest sense; and he tied wisdom to -- of all things -- fear. The hot tub folks over with Barney and Friends aren't going to like this, but wisdom doesn't begin with Andrew Sullivan's editorials or Sr. Joan Chittister's diatribes against Vatican's patriarchal authoritarianism. Neither does wisdom begin with self-aggrandizing notions of self-empowerment, self-esteem, or self-assertion. No, the wisest man who ever lived says that the key -- oh, rue the day! -- is fear: "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom" (Prov. 1:7).

Now what in the world has happened to the FEAR of the Lord in the Catholic Church? If our Lectionary is any indication, someone has been making a concerted effort to keep us from finding anything to be fearful of, much less offended by, in the Bible. In his New Oxford Notes back in January of 2003 and November of 2004, Dale Vree offered a brief review of how the "Shorter Form" in the Lectionary omits some politically incorrect sayings of the New Testament (Mt. 22:1-14; Mt. 25:14-30; Ephesians 5:21-32) having to do with Hell and with wives being (woe! woe! woe!) subordinate to their husbands (although they do appear in the "Longer Form"). These are worth studying in their own right, and the findings are, I'm sad to say, disturbing. [By the way, Tony Esolen has a great article on the subject of headship, showing that when read correctly, it is the more sobering to men, who are called to lay down their lives. I think it's in Touchstone.]

But then, when it comes to the Gay "Spirit-of-Vatican-II" Lobby's favorite subject of homosexuality, Vree points out that there are passages in the Lectionary that are completely omitted (not to be found in any "Longer Form"). He writes in the Editorial of the June 2006 issue of New Oxford Review:
In the Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, First Reading, Cycle C, in the story of Sodom and Gomorrah (Gen. 18:20-32), the Lord says, "their sin is so grave," but we're not told what that grave sin is. The following chapter does make it explicit -- the sin of active homosexuality -- but the Lectionary omits it. In the Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Abraham bargains with the Lord. Abraham says, "Suppose there were fifty innocent people in the city...." The Lord replies, "If I find fifty innocent people in the city of Sodom, I will spare the whole place for their sake." Abraham continues to bargain, and at the end, Abraham says, "What if there are at least ten there?" The Lord replies, "For the sake of those ten, I will not destroy it." The reading ends here on a happy note.

The Lord's raining down fire and brimstone on Sodom and Gomorrah is not found in the Sunday Lectionary. Only in the Weekday Lectionary will you find it (Gen. 19:15-29), and only one percent (at a maximum) of Catholics attend weekday Masses. But again we're not told what the sin of the people of Sodom and Gomorrah is. It's made explicit in Genesis 19:4-7, the same chapter. It's the sin of active homosexuality, but the Lectionary editors chose to omit it.

With the biblical illiteracy of so many Catholics, how many will know it's the sin of active homosexuality?

You will not find Jude, verse 7, in either the Sunday Lectionary or the Weekday Lectionary: "Likewise, Sodom, Gomorrah, and the surrounding in sexual promiscuity and practiced unnatural vice, [and] serve as an example by undergoing punishment of eternal fire."

In the Weekday Lectionary, the Twenty-Eighth Tuesday in Ordinary Time, First Reading, Year I, you will find Romans 1:16-25. But verses 26-27, where the Lord condemns homosexual acts, are left out: "Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion."

Apparently, for the editors of the Lectionary, homosexual acts are not serious sins, if they are indeed sins at all. Oh, but they are. The traditional "Sins Crying to Heaven for Vengeance" are: willful murder, sodomy, oppression of the poor, and dishonesty in wage payments to workers. Homosexual acts are mortal sins, which can send you to Hell for ever and ever.
Vree goes on to comment:
The homosexuals and their fellow-travelers are deeply imbedded in our Church, apparently able to censor out scriptural verses in the Sunday and Weekday Lectionaries. With the new ambiguous document on homosexuals in the seminaries, nothing will change with regard to admitting homosexuals into the seminaries (see our Editorial, Feb. 2006). And as long as homosexuals are in the priesthood and episcopate, our Church will continue to slide downhill.

Yes, we Catholics have faith that the Gates of Hell will never prevail against Christ's true Church, but they could prevail in the U.S. and Europe, just as they prevailed in North Africa.
Of course, the Gay "Spirit-of-Vatican-II" Lobby has its own pet hermeneutic for its alternate, sanitized way of reading all of these passages, which turns these offenses from "Sins Crying to Heaven for Vengeance" into mere venial offenses against hospitality and so forth. But this is patent sophistry and a vain howling into the wind.

But back to the central topic: Who has authority over the editing of the Lectionary? This whole politicizing of Scripture is unconscionable. Let Scripture be Scripture. Let God be God. Fear Him. FEAR Him. Find peace. Find joy. "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom" (Prov. 1:7).

Monday, July 10, 2006

Parish vs. Church?

I've noticed an interesting phenomenon. Among many good Protestant friends of mine -- especially members of the ELCA (Evangelical Lutheran Church in America) with which my academic institution is affiliated -- I've noticed that there is an antipathy to the denomination as a whole that seems proportional to the affection for the local parish and its community and fellowship. On the other hand, I've noticed among a good many Catholic friends of mine the opposite phenomenon -- a frequent antipathy for their local parish that seems proportional to an affection they hold for the Church as a whole. The Protestant seems to be saying (though this is an obvious overstatement): "I love my parish: it's my church I can't stand," while the Catholic seems to be saying: "I love my Church: it's my parish I can't stand." I know there are exceptions and caveats. But the patterns seem to be there. Comments?

Why some scientists accept patent absurdity

Harvard population biologist, Richard Lewontin, an atheist who thinks that matter is all there is, writes in the New York Review of Books:
"Our willingness to accept scientific claims that are against common sense is the key to an understanding of the real struggle between science and the supernatural. We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs, in spite of its failure to fulfill many of its extravagant promises of health and life, in spite of the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated just-so stories, because we have a prior commitment, a commitment to materialism. It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our own a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, not matter how counterintuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is absolute, for we cannot allow a divine foot in the door."
Again, the well-known philosopher, Thomas Nagel writes in his book, The Last Word that much of contemporary subjectivism may be due to "fear of religion," citing his own fear of religion as a case in point:
"I speak from experience being strongly subject to this fear myself: I want atheism to be true and am made uneasy by the fact that some of the most intelligent and well-informed people I know are religious believers. It isn't just that I don't believe in God and, naturally, hope that I'm right in my belief. It's that I hope there is no God! I don't want there to be a God; I don't want the universe to be like that .... My guess is that this cosmic authority problem is not a rare condition and that it is responsible for much of the scientism and reductionism of our time. One of the tendencies it supports is the ludicrous overuse of evolutionary biology to explain everything about life, including everything about the human mind. Darwin enabled modern secular culture to heave a great collective sigh of relief, by apparently providing a way to eliminate purpose, meaning and design as fundamental features of the world."
There's some disarming honesty about atheists not being honest with themselves! If Nagel is right, then those who say that theism is a crutch have got it backwards, at least for certain sectors of our intellectual culture. For these portions of contemporary intellectual culture, it's atheism that serves as a crutch!

[Richard Lewontin, "Billions and Billions of Demons," New York Review of Books 44:1 (January 9, 1997): 28-32; The Last Word (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996), 130-131; cf. J. Budziszewski, What We Can't Not Know, pp.62-64.]