Wednesday, February 28, 2007

New library & bookstore link

Please note the new Academy Library & Bookstore link I've added for "Liturgy and liturgical history" in the left-hand sidebar following the "Occasional Musings" links. These are intended as references for those who want a quick survey of good introductory material. I am always happy to receive further recommendations.

What do Care Bears tell us about our culture?

I had heard of the Care Bears but never given them any mental space, because we don't have a TV and never bought any Care Bear books when the older boys were growing up. But someone recently gave us a copy of Care Bears Caring Contest.

Despite its appallingly insipid title, I gave it the benefit of a hair-thin doubt and decided to read it to daughter Hannah as a bedtime story. I had read no more than a couple of pages when I, mentally boggled with numbing disbelief, broke into hysterical laughter. Here's how the 'story' (I use the term loosely) begins:
One day, Cheer Bear decided to hold a Care-a-lot caring contest. "A prize will go to the bear who shows the best way to care," she said.

The Care Bears took the contest very seriously. Friend Bear was the first to see a way to care. "I think caring means taking turns with a favorite toy," she said.
But wait! It gets better.
Share Bear cared by making sure she had enough treats for everyone. "Help yourself!" she said as she passed out yummy rainbow bars.

When Wish Bear wanted a push on her swing, Good Luck Bear was there. "Lucky you stopped by!" said Wish Bear. "Caring is helping when you're needed," Good Luck Bear replied.
And so the little book of fluff, cotton candy, gummy bears and peeps continued to unfold among Care Bears with poofy names like 'Friend Bear', 'Tenderheart Bear', 'Funshine Bear', 'Love-a-lot Bear', 'Bedtime Bear', until it had me writhing on the floor, nearly asphyxiated by all this collective furry ursine care, my daughter staring goggle-eyed at the spectacle of her father reduced to paroxysms of laughter.

But wait! Don't you want to know which Care Bear won the Caring Contest??? Cheer Bear thought all the Care Bears had done a "wonderful job of caring." But the million dollar question was: Who should she pick as winner of the contest? Surely you can guess!
Cheer Bear made her annoucement: "The winners of the Care-a-lot caring contest are ... all of you! Because everyone wins when everyone cares for others!" Then she proudly handed out the prizes.

"Now we can show how much we care by sharing these prizes with our friends!" all the Care Bears said together. And that's just what they did.

Three cheers for caring, Care Bears!
Okay, folks. Here's the deal. Clearly 'caring' is a virtue. Nancy Parent, the author of this book, apparently intends to inculcate something positive here -- the virtue of 'caring'. Surely there's nothing wrong with the intention. The question, however, is: What's wrong with this book? What's wrong with the way it endeavors to convey the virtue of caring, which might be related to what makes it so insanely funny? What does it tell us about our culture and how it understands a virtue like caring?

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

The Closing of the American Mind Revisited

This you've got to read. R.R. Reno takes a twentieth anniversary symposium revisiting Allan Bloom's The Closing of the American Mind as an opportunity to personally revisit Bloom's cultural critique of twenty years ago. Has it really been that long? In his essay, "The Closing of the American Mind Revisited," On the Square (Feb. 27, 2007), he recalls how Bloom's book was a real sensation and a surprise bestseller and says that, looking back, he can see why. He writes:
The Closing was more than a highbrow attack on contemporary academic careerism (a la Jacques Barzun), a middlebrow defense of great books (a la E. D. Hirsch), or a populist exposé of tenured radicals and puerile campus ideologues (a la David Horowitz). The gist of Bloom’s polemic—and the book was nothing if not a long, erudite, and hyperbolic polemic—was a brief against the cultural revolution of the 1960s. He said out loud what liberal elite culture could only regard as heresy: The supposed idealism of the 1960s was, in fact, a new barbarism. Whatever moral and spiritual seriousness the long tradition of American pragmatism had left intact in university life, the anti-culture of the left destroyed.

The result? Higher education has become, argued Bloom, the professional training of clever and sybaritic animals, who drink, vomit, and fornicate in the dorms by night while they posture critically and ironically by day. Bloom identified moral relativism as dogma that blessed what he called “the civilized reanimalization of man.” He saw a troubling, dangerous, and soulless apathy that pleasured itself prudently with passing satisfactions (“Always use condoms!” says the sign by the dispenser in the bathroom) but was moved by no desire to know good or evil, truth or falsehood, beauty or ugliness.
There's much more about Catholic education , the suggestion that leaders in Catholic education should revisit Bloom's spiritual diagnosis, and further comparative analysis of the relation between Bloom's analysis and that of John Paul II in Fides et Ratio. This is an essay well worth reading.


Suppose you were an idiot.
And suppose you were a member of Congress....
But then I repeat myself.

-- Mark Twain

Da Vinci Code 'archeology' gone to seed

In a marketing ploy worthy of the slickest snake oil hawker, James Cameron (pictured right) of Titanic film-making fame is producing a documentary called "The Jesus Family Tomb," narrating the discovery in 1980 of a burial spot in Jerusalem that contained 10 ossuaries (boxes of bones) which some have claimed hold the mortal remains of, among others, Jesus, his mother Mary, and his disciple Mary Magdalene. He has already enlisted the complicity of the Discovery Channel, which is announcing the completion of the documentary today.

Fr. J. Scott Newman, commenting on the duplicitous money-making extravaganza, writes:
"This sort of thing is by now sadly familiar to a world in which The DaVinci Code is taken for serious history and theology. What is sadder still, however, is this that documentary trots out for one more scandal an ex-priest named John Dominic Crossan, who is now thankfully retired from teaching at DePaul University in Chicago. Crossan is infamous for his work with a group of unbelieving scoffers who call themselves (without irony) 'The Jesus Seminar'. During the new Discovery Channel embarrassment, Crossan once again makes the tired and tiresome declaration that if the bones of Jesus were found and were established beyond all doubt to be the authentic bones of Jesus, his faith would still in no way be changed." (Your Faith is in Vain, Dr. Crossan, Random Thoughts, Feb. 25, 2007)
Apart from the silliness of such an irrational faith, emasculated of any ties to genuine scientific evidence and floating freely two feet above contradiction, is the silliness of what passes for 'scientific evidence' itself in connection with this 'archeological' find. The news, of course, is replete with references over the last few days to the "scientific evidence" involved in this case. For example, PRNewswire, in an article entitled "Discovery Channel's The Lost Tomb of Jesus Reveals New Scientific Evidence Supporting Possible Find of Jesus Family Tomb" (Source: Discovery Channel -- no conflict of interest here, of course!):
SILVER SPRING, Md., Feb. 25 /PRNewswire/ -- Scientific analysis of limestone ossuaries (bone boxes) and physical evidence found in a 2,000-year- old tomb in Talpiot, Jerusalem, provide credible new information that the tomb once may have held the remains of Jesus of Nazareth and his family. A new Discovery Channel documentary THE LOST TOMB OF JESUS, from executive producer James Cameron and director Simcha Jacobovici, exclusively reveals what might be the greatest archaeological find in history. The film presents the latest evidence from world-renowned experts in Aramaic script, ancient DNA analysis, forensics, archaeology and statistics. Among the major discoveries chronicled in the program is new evidence that Jesus and Mary Magdalene, also known as "Mariamene e Mara," may have had a son named Judah. (emphasis added)
Or take this article by Jennifer Viegas, entitled "Jesus Family Tomb Believed Found," from the 'Archeology' section of Discovery News (Source: Discovery Channel, again!):
Feb. 25, 2007 — New scientific evidence, including DNA analysis conducted at one of the world's foremost molecular genetics laboratories, as well as studies by leading scholars, suggests a 2,000-year-old Jerusalem tomb could have once held the remains of Jesus of Nazareth and his family.

The findings also suggest that Jesus and Mary Magdalene might have produced a son named Judah.

The DNA findings, alongside statistical conclusions made about the artifacts — originally excavated in 1980 — open a potentially significant chapter in Biblical archaeological history.

A documentary presenting the evidence, "The Lost Tomb of Jesus," will premiere on the Discovery Channel on March 4 at 9 p.m. ET/PT. The documentary comes from executive producer James Cameron and director Simcha Jacobovici. (emphasis added)
Now all of this dreadfully silly nonsense is practically sufficient to induce collective incontinence among the overly excited and uncritical fans of Dan Brown, John Dominic Crossan, and the Jesus Seminar. However, we have known about this tomb since it was discovered in 1980. That's nearly three decades ago. Does anyone wonder why no earth-shattering headlines have been forthcoming for all those many years? Anyone with more than bird spit for brains will reasonably suspect there are quite good reasons. Be assured that there are.

The other side of the story

Associated Press Writer, Marshall Thompson, in an article entitled "Scholars, Clergy Slam Jesus Documentary" (, Feb. 26, 2007), reports that back in 1996 when the BBC aired a short documentary on the subject of these ossuaries, archaeologists challenged similar claims.
Amos Kloner, the first archaeologist to examine the site, said the idea fails to hold up by archaeological standards but makes for profitable television.

"They just want to get money for it," Kloner said.
Stephen Pfann, a biblical scholar at the University of the Holy Land in Jerusalem who was interviewed in the documentary, said the film's hypothesis holds little weight.
Pfann is even unsure that the name "Jesus" on the caskets was read correctly. He thinks it's more likely the name "Hanun." Ancient Semitic script is notoriously difficult to decipher.

Kloner also said the filmmakers' assertions are false.

"It was an ordinary middle-class Jerusalem burial cave," Kloner said. "The names on the caskets are the most common names found among Jews at the time."

Archaeologists also balk at the filmmaker's claim that the James Ossuary -- the center of a famous antiquities fraud in Israel -- might have originated from the same cave. In 2005, Israel charged five suspects with forgery in connection with the infamous bone box.

"I don't think the James Ossuary came from the same cave," said Dan Bahat, an archaeologist at Bar-Ilan University. "If it were found there, the man who made the forgery would have taken something better. He would have taken Jesus."
One of the best reviews of the evidence I have seen thus far is Ben Witherington's "THE JESUS TOMB? ‘TITANIC’ TALPIOT TOMB THEORY SUNK FROM THE START" (Ben Witherington, February 26, 2007), who offers a withering deconstruction of Cameron's 'scientific' case. In summary, he observes that:
1) The statistical analysis falls apart under scrutiny. Statistical evidence is only as good as the numbers provided to the statistician. He couldn’t run numbers he did not have. Witherington calls to witness Richard Bauckham's statistical analysis. The results are devastating to Cameron.

2) There is no independent DNA control sample for comparing what was garnered from the bones in this tomb. We would need an independent control sample from some member of Jesus' family to confirm that these were members of Jesus' family. We do not have that.

3) The names allegedly on several of these ossuaries -- Joseph, Joshua (Jesus) and Mary -- are among the most common names in all of early Judaism. This is the ancient equivalent of finding adjacent tombs with the names Smith and Jones.

4) The historical problems are too numerous to list here, but some of the chief ones include:
A) If the ancestral home of Joseph was Bethlehem, and his adult home was Nazareth, and the family was still in Nazareth after he was apparently dead and gone, then it makes little sense that he would be found be buried (alone at this point) in Jerusalem.

B) One of the ossuaries has the name Jude son of Jesus, but we have no historical evidence of such a son of the Jesus of the Gospels, and no historical evidence he was ever married.

C) The Mary ossuaries (there are two) do not mention anyone from Migdal, but simply the name Mary -- about the most common of all ancient Jewish female names.

D) Names like Matthew on another ossuary don't match up with the list of brothers' names.

E) If the tomb of Jesus was empty, as attested by all ancient accounts (even Jewish and Roman authorities); and if it takes a year for the flesh to desiccate before a man's bones can be put in an ossuary; and if Jesus' body was long gone from Joseph of Arimethea's tomb before that time -- then one would require the hypothesis of the body of Jesus having been moved elsewhere to decompose before being put in an ossuary -- an hypothesis without a shred of historical evidence to support it.

F) Implicitly one must then accuse James, Peter and John (mentioned in Gal. 1-2-- in our earliest NT document from 49 A.D.) of fraud and coverup, of perpetrating a fraudulent myth of Jesus' bodily resurrection for which they and others were prepared to die -- all of which makes little sense.
5) The antiquities dealer (Oded Golan) from which the James ossuary was procured, attests that it came from Silwan, not Talpiot, and had dirt in it matching the soil from that location in Jerusalem, whereas the ossuaries from Talpiot came out of a rock cave from a different place, without such soil in it. "To theorize that there was a Jesus family tomb, and yet the one member of Jesus' family who we know was buried in Jerusalem for a long time did not come out of the ground from that locale contradicts this theory. Furthermore, Eusebius reports that the tomb marker for James' burial was close to where James was martyred near the temple mount, indeed near the famous tombs in the Kidron valley such as the so-called tomb of Absalom. Talpiot is nowhere near this locale."

6) James Tabor, who has been co-opted into this project, authored The Jesus Dynasty in which he said a great deal contradicting Camron's documentary, about the Talpiot Tomb and about Jesus being buried in Galilee, and nothing about an ossuary that claims Joseph is the father of Jesus.
And then, as Witherington notes, there is this:
In the Toronto Star article from Sunday’s paper, we find that the unraveling has begun before they even hold the news conference today--- here is a brief quote from the article written by Stuart Laidlaw, "Jesus tomb claim sparks furor":
“But there is one wrinkle that is not examined in the documentary, one that emerged in a Jerusalem courtroom just weeks ago at the fraud trial of James ossuary owner Oded Golan, charged with forging part of the inscription on the box.

Former FBI agent Gerald Richard testified that a photo of the James ossuary, showing it in Golan's home, was taken in the 1970s, based on tests done by the FBI photo lab. The trial resumes tomorrow.

Jacobovici conceded in an interview that if the ossuary was photographed in the 1970s, it could not then have been found in a tomb in 1980.

But while he does not address the conundrum in the documentary, he said in an interview that it's possible Golan's photo was printed on old paper in the 1980s.”
In fact, as noted earlier, the same article (in the link) reports that Professor Amos Kloner from Bar Ilan University has already told the German press “It's a beautiful story but without any proof whatsoever." As Witherington notes, his opinion is important since he did extensive work and research on this very tomb and its ossuaries and came to negative conclusions published in a journal in 1996. In short, this is old news, to which has been added only the recent DNA testing and statistical analysis neither of which makes the case the film makers want to make.

For those wanting much more on the historical Jesus and James and Mary, see Ben Witherington III, What Have They Done with Jesus?: Beyond Strange Theories and Bad History--Why We Can Trust the Bible (Harper-Collins, 2006).

For a list of various blog responses to the Tomb Theory, visit Codex: "The Jesus/Talpiot Tomb: Around the Blogosphere."


The long and the short of it is this: this is a media fabrication and a hoax motivated by the desire for notoriety and monetary gain, just like Dan Brown's Da Vinci Code. Cameron sees Brown laughing all the way to the bank and wants in on some of the action. This would not be worth another second of your precious time except for the fact that, as in the case of Da Vinci Code, millions of gullible people are falling for the dreadful nonsense and we should be prepared to disabuse them of it -- gently, but firmly -- by clearly setting out the criteria distinguishing chicken soup from chicken spit.

[Hat tip to Fr. J. Scott Newman and Fr. Al Kimel]

Update 5:20pm
For a good laugh, check out Jeff Miller's post, "The Da Vinci Tomb" (Curt Jester, Feb. 27, 2007). Among other things, he writes:
New York City resident Joe Templer is quite up in arms about this blatant attack on his faith and the faith of millions. "This claim that Mary Magdalene is buried in a tomb in Jerusalem is crazy. Everybody knows that she is really buried in the Louvre Museum in Paris." Joe Templer is not alone in his anger, many fans of the Da Vinci Code are up in arms about this claim of finding Mary Magdalene's bones. Another city resident Jean Priory is also upset about this new documentary that is getting so much attention on shows like Larry King Live and the morning news shows. "The idea that Jesus and Mary Magdalene had a child named Joshua is quite laughable. They certainly never had a son, but a daughter named Sarah. This is a direct attack on the Sacred Feminine. Why is he trying to eliminate our faith in the mystical power of the earth and mother goddess? Shame on you James Cameron."

. . . Tour operators in Paris and England are quite distraught about the economic impact on the Da Vinci Code tourism industry if this myth of Mary Magdalene being buried in Jerusalem becomes accepted.


I solicit your prayers of thanksgiving, and your prayers of petition.

First, the thanksgiving:

A while back I solicited your prayers for a friend experiencing trouble in his marriage (Prayer request, Tuesday, January 16, 2007). Since then the situation escalated to the point where the couple broke the news to their three young children that they were planning to separate. About three weeks of living hell passed with each member of the family living as though the Sword of Damocles were hanging over the family. It was so easy to see the truth of St. Paul's words that our warfare is not against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers -- in other words, that it's a spiritual battle. The spiritual blindness that descended upon the principals was palpable, if not diabolic. All we could do, and we did certainly do, was to pray.

Today the family is together, the parents reconciled, committed to going to counseling, and a peace descended upon their household that would have been unimaginable just days ago. For all ordinary human intents and purposes, this was a doomed marriage. Given contemporary trends and statistics, once a marriage heads down the road of alienation that far, there is virtually no turning back. God does miraculous work. Do continue to remember this couple and family in your prayers, nevertheless, as they will doubtless need the Lord's continued grace as they learn to 'trust' the sense of normalcy as it settles back in to their household again.

Second, the intercession.

A friend asks prayer for a dear friend and colleague for the better part of 3 decades, Helen S. She has been battling breast cancer for the past 8 months or so, and it seems she is close to ending that battle and meeting our Lord. Please remember her and her family, if you will, at this difficult time.

God bless you.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Without comment

Chiesa library of useful links

A very useful directory of links to churches and religions, from the Vatican to Mount Athos, from the Bible to the Koran. Last updated February 26, 2007. New entry: Order of Malta. Check it out: the Chiesa web (February 26, 2007).

Emily Bell presented as candidate for Easter Sacraments to Archbhishop Gregory

Over two years ago I posted something on the Bell family in Atlanta (Visiting friends in Atlanta, Monday, August 15, 2005). John Bell and I were friends from elementary school days in Japan. Like myself, he is a Catholic convert. Some of you may remember that his daughter recently resolved to become a Catholic. Last December I posted something about her (Wednesday, December 13, 2006), and I'm glad to report that she is now happily progressing through the RCIA program at St. Philip Benizi Catholic Church in a suburb of Atlanta and appears to be in good hands.

In the Archdiocese of Atlanta it is customary for the Archbishop to meet with all those being received into the Church through the RCIA process. The first meeting occurs at the Rite of Election. The Archdiocese is divided into four quadrants, and all members of RCIA programs gather in a church assigned to their quadrant where the Archbishop presides at the presentation of catechumens and candidates for Confirmation. The godparents of the catechumens and sponsors of the candidates are asked to stand with them.

As it was my privilege to stand as sponsor for John's lovely daughter, Emily, I drove to Atlanta this past weekend for the "Rite of Election and Call to Continuing Conversion" service on Saturday evening. Archbishop Wilton Gregory presided. Books containing the names of the enrolled Elect were presented parish-by-parish to the Archbishop, who received them ceremoniously. I was impressed by the ethnic diversity -- not only by the large number of Africans (in addition to African-Americans), and Hispanics, but also Asians. There was a particularly large representation of Vietnamese catechumens and candidates, including one entire Vietnamese parish, Our Lady of Viet Nam, Riverdale, GA. After the service, we saw a large group of some forty or fifty Vietnamese catechumens, candidates and their sponsors having their picture taken in the foyer of the church -- including a group of Vietnamese nuns.

John indulged our nostalgia for Japanese culinary fare and lavished us with dinners of sushi and elegant udon over the weekend. Emily also drove me out to the Monastery of the Holy Spirit in Conyers, GA, for a visit while we were there. Thank you John and Emily and family!

Please keep Emily in your prayers as she continues her way through the remaining weeks of Lent, makes her first Confession, and prepares for her reception into the Church at the Easter Vigil on Holy Saturday, April 7, just a little over a month hence.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Oscars: awards inside Plato's cave

Tonight is another night I'm glad not to have a TV: Oscar night. It might mean something if the film industry had something worthwhile to show for its annual prolific overheated productions; but when Terry Teachout resigned as Crisis magazine's film review editor because he said there was no longer anything worth his time reviewing, I felt confirmed in my prejudices that there's relatively little of value in recent vintage films. Bella Martha (Mostly Martha in the English release) in German with English subtitles is probably the only film this year that really caught my attention so far. Charming. I recommend it. If you like gourmet cuisine, good humor and romance without prurient sex, I recommend it.

Whenever the Oscars roll around, however, my mind reverts to Book VII of Plato's Republic and Plato's famous Allegory of the Cave, where those imprisoned inside the cave of ignorance are playing games down in the dark among the dim shadows, awarding prizes to one another when a shadow-world champion emerges and reacting resentfully when the freed prisoner who has ascended out of the cave of ignorance and actually seen the real outside world returns to try share what the real world is like. In Plato's account, they want to kill him -- a direct allusion to the execution of his master, Socrates, at the hands of a democratic court of law in Athens in 339 BC. There are always tensions of one kind or another -- political, sociological, psychological, epistemological, religious -- between society and Socrates -- or, in this case, between the values of Hollywood and the values of perennial philosophy, which, after all, is in vary many ways quite Catholic.

There was a time when Hollywood had directors and films sympathetic to Catholic values. Those years were short-lived, and we can't expect anything quite like them to return within our lifetimes, whatever genuinely good films may surface here and there may in our long past post-Christian culture. This is not to say that Catholics and other Christians should not work to reform and renew the film industry wherever they have some influence. My wife herself has her hand in a script writing niche and thus a vested interested to that degree.

Yet we are both past caring who wins Oscars this year. What I would like to do is come up with some sort of award to offer in the name of the Society for the Defenestration of Television Sets, if you remember my post by that name from last November. But that's a subject for another post.

Execrable expressions

The other day I read the term "gathering hymn" somewhere -- a term commonly seen in Catholic circles these days. It's no longer an extraordinary expression, though it would have been, say, forty years ago. But the terms stuck with me and I thought about it and the slight tinge of dyspeptic nausea it always gives me, and the detachment from Catholic liturgical tradition it symbolizes. Here is the yield of that thought -- a list of such expressions:
gathering hymn
gathering song
worship space
worship experience
meaningful worship experience
worshiping community
glory and praise
glory and praise team
contemporary choir
praise team
worship style
blended worship style
minister of music
music ministry
worship ministry
worship band
liturgical ministry
community life
communications ministry
stewardship ministry
evangelization ministry
ecumenism ministry
pastoral coordinator
pastoral ministry of spirituality
hospitality ministry
What do the appearance of such expressions in the Catholic parish over the last decades suggest? Your thoughts?

Update 2/27/07 (additional suggestions from commentors):
"Hymn for Going Forth" (instead of Recessional)
"Please stand & welcome our PRESIDER"
St So & So Catholic Community (sign outside the church)
What's so difficult about saying 'priest' instead of ('presider' or even 'celebrant'), 'Catholic Church' (instead of 'Catholic Community'), 'introit' or 'processional hymn' or even 'entrance hymn' (instead of 'gathering song'), 'nave' and 'sanctuary' (instead of 'worship space'), 'Mass' (instead of 'worship experience'), 'congregation' (instead of 'worshiping community'), 'choir' -- since 'schola cantorum' would probably be too hard (instead of 'praise team'), 'liturgical rite' (instead of 'worship style'), 'choir director' -- since 'choirmaster' probably wouldn't fly (instead of 'minister of music'), and so forth? I suppose it's like the difference between the term 'man' and the multifarious circumlocutions we employ to avoid using it by whatever means necessary -- spokesperson, chairperson , firefighter. Anything to avoid the singular all-too-clear simplicity of that traditionally inclusive term "man," or the Anglo-Saxon contraction of the Greek presbyter connoting exclusive masculine hierarchy, "priest." Is that it?

Friday, February 23, 2007

Papal address on natural law

"The Only Valid Bulwark Against Arbitrary Power"
"VATICAN CITY, FEB. 22, 2007 ( Here is a Vatican translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered Feb. 12 to the participants of the International Congress on Natural Law, organized by the Pontifical Lateran University of Rome.

You tell 'em, Papa!

If the mountain will not come to Mohammed . . .


What's the scoop in this? Here's the yield of a bit of investigation:
"If one cannot get one's own way, one must adjust to the inevitable. The legend goes that when the founder of Islam was asked to give proofs of his teaching, he ordered Mount Safa to come to him. When the mountain did not comply, Mohammed raised his hands toward heaven and said, 'God is merciful. Had it obeyed my words, it would have fallen on us to our destruction. I will therefore go to the mountain and thank God that he has had mercy on a stiff-necked generation.' The saying has been traced back in English to 'Essays,' (1625) by English philosopher Frances Bacon (1561-1626). It was included in John Ray's book of English proverbs in 1678. First attested in the United States in 'Jonathan Belcher Papers' (1733). In German, the phrase translates as 'Wenn der Berg nicht zum Propheten kommt, muss der Prophet zum Berg kommen." From Random House Dictionary of Popular Proverbs and Sayings (1996) by Gregory Y. Titelman (Random House, New York, 1996).
[Acknowledgements: The Phrase Finder: "Mohammed and the Mountain"]

Old Mass "missing link" in liturgical reform

Dom Christopher Zielinski, OSB Oliv., Abbot of the Benedictine Olivetan Abbey of Our Lady of Guadalupe, in Pecos, New Mexico, offers some insightful remarks on the relationship between the old and new Masses in an interview posted yesterday at Rorate Caeli, "For the Record - An abbot explains why 'the Tridentine Mass is the missing link'" (February 22, 2007). The whole interview is well-worth reading. The following is an excerpt from his concluding remarks regarding the old Mass as the "missing link" in liturgical reform:
Is there need of a new liturgical reform?

Abbot: I believe that the Dogmatic Constitution Sacrosanctum Concilium was a response to a widely held conviction that the liturgy needed a reform. The Council Fathers were seeking to bring out the community aspects of the mass, as well as make it more effective in teaching the truths of the Catholic Faith. Unfortunately, the theological necessity for a continuity in the underlying doctrine and structure of the celebration of the Mass in its preconciliar and post conciliar forms had undergone a rupture or break with Tradition. That is what we are dealing with today. The Second Vatican Council clearly called for some modest reforms in the liturgy, but it intended them to be organic and clearly in continuity with the past. The Old Rite becomes a living treasure of the Church and also should provide a standard of worship, of mystery, and of catechesis toward which the celebrations of the Novus Ordo must move. In other words, the Tridentine Mass is the missing link. And unless it be re-discovered in all its faithful truth and beauty, the Novus Ordo will not respond to the organic growth and change that has characterized the liturgy from its beginning. This is what should be prompting many of us to the founding of a new liturgical movement which will be able to give back to the liturgy its sacramental and supernatural character, and awaken in us a faithful understanding of the Catholic Liturgy.
Of related interest is Rorate Caeli's post from the previous day, "For the Record - Ranjith: regarding "timing and nature of the Motu Proprio, nothing yet is known" (February 21, 2007). In an "Inside the Vatican" interview, the Secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship, Archbishop Albert Ranjith, acknowledged the rising call for a restoration of the old Mass, suggesting that the most pressing question is not so much the 'what' as the 'how' of a pastoral attitude in implementation. Acknowledging the liturgical problems of experimentation and novelty and insipidity, he stated:
Thus, we need to recover a true sense of the sacred and mystical in worship.

And if the faithful feel that the Tridentine Mass offers them that sense of the sacred and mystical more than anything else, then we should have the courage to accept their request.

With regard to the timing and nature of the motu proprio, nothing yet is known. It is the Holy Father who will decide.

And when he does, we should in all obedience accept what he indicates to us and with a genuine love for the Church strive to help him. Any counter attitude would only harm the spiritual mission of the Church and thwart the Lord’s own will.
A further interesting study would lie in the incongruities between the subsequent remarks offered by Archbishop Ranjith about Communion in the hand and official actions taken in regard to the practice in response to the petition by the bishops of Poland (see our post, "'Development of Discipline' in the Congregation for Divine Worship?" Musings, Feb. 21, 2007).

A. Here (in the Rorate Caeli post) Archbishop Ranjith is quoted as stating:
"Communion in the hand had not been something that was first properly studied and reflected upon before its acceptance by the Holy See. It had been haphazardly introduced in some countries of Northern Europe and later become accepted practice, eventually spreading into many other places. Now that is a situation that should have been avoided. The Second Vatican Council never advocated such an approach to liturgical reform."
B. But on April 21, 2006, came the Vatican's gift to Poland:
... authorization for Communion in the hand -- something that John Paul II had never allowed in his homeland -- an authorization undersigned by Archbishop Ranjith along with Francis Cardinal Arinze, the Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship.
Small potatoes to some, perhaps; but this suggests a confusing lack of consistency with traditional liturgical law, which many will find demoralizing. It should also be recalled what the Angelic Doctor said about changing traditional laws (ST, I-II, Q 97, 2): human laws should never be changed unless the good to be gained by the change proportionately outweighs the inevitable harm done by any change by way of diminishing the binding power of the law. Perhaps the Congregation for Divine Worship could inform us pew peasants what the benefits gained by the change might be.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Cancer gone

Regarding a friend who had asked for prayer earlier, I received the following report yesterday.

The writer says that she just got off the phone with her sister, who had been diagnosed with cancer of the uterus around the middle of last year. She says that her sister had undergone several surgeries, which did not help. She was scheduled for a major surgery to have the entire uterus removed around the beginning of February, but her daughter had to have an urgent ear surgery, so she had it postponed until later in February.

She had some tests done before her hysterectomy. "She had some tests done beforehand, I mean a LOT of tests done." But then, when she was in for some tests preceding her surgery, "she was just told now that the cancer is gone!!"
"They have never seen this happen before, and have been almost embarrassed to tell my sister ... ."

"First my sister (who is not a big believer) said they must have messed up the result with me and someone else...

"I told her that we have been praying for her almost every day and it was all Gods work. She got quiet in the phone and said 'I think you are right please pass on my gratefulness to all the people there has been praying'."

". . . Thank you God for healing my sister and thanks to you all for praying."

It's always interesting to watch people react to news such as this. You can see perspectives animated by antithetical assumptions peeling away from eachother like pieces of Velcro tearing loose from a previous comfortable adhesion.

Praise be to God!

[via M.F.]

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Lent 2007

"Remember man, that thou art dust, and unto dust thou shalt return."
(see Gen 3:19)

"Repent ye, and believe the Gospel." (Mk 1:15)

Ash Wednesday

The Wednesday after Quinquagesima Sunday, which is the first day of the Lenten fast.

The name dies cinerum (day of ashes) which it bears in the Roman Missal is found in the earliest existing copies of the Gregorian Sacramentary and probably dates from at least the eighth century. On this day all the faithful according to ancient custom are exhorted to approach the altar before the beginning of Mass, and there the priest, dipping his thumb into ashes previously blessed, marks the forehead -- or in case of clerics upon the place of the tonsure -- of each the sign of the cross, saying the words: "Remember man that thou art dust and unto dust thou shalt return." The ashes used in this ceremony are made by burning the remains of the palms blessed on the Palm Sunday of the previous year. In the blessing of the ashes four prayers are used, all of them ancient. The ashes are sprinkled with holy water and fumigated with incense. The celebrant himself, be he bishop or cardinal, receives, either standing or seated, the ashes from some other priest, usually the highest in dignity of those present. In earlier ages a penitential procession often followed the rite of the distribution of the ashes, but this is not now prescribed.

("Ash Wednesday," Catholic Encyclopedia)


The Teutonic word Lent, which we employ to denote the forty days' fast preceding Easter, originally meant no more than the spring season. Still it has been used from the Anglo-Saxon period to translate the more significant Latin term quadragesima (French carême, Italian quaresima, Spanish cuaresma), meaning the "forty days", or more literally the "fortieth day."

("Lent," Catholic Encyclopedia)

Archbishop Sheen on evangelizing Muslims through Mary

The latest issue of the New Oxford Review carries an interesting article by Jim Coop entitled "In 1531, Mary Intervened to Prevent a Clash of Civilizations" (NOR, Feb. 2007), 16-20. It's primarily about Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico, but also drawing on parallels to the current confrontations between Christians and Muslims recently exemplified in the Holy Father's trip to Turkey.

The passage about Archbishop Fulton Sheen I wish to highlight from the article comes near the end:
Many years ago, Archbishop Fulton Sheen noted the difficulties Christian missionaries were having in converting Moslems to the Faith. He proposed a solution to the problem: Fostering devotion to the Virgin Mary. In his book The World's First Love, he wrote, "It is our firm belief that the fears some entertain concerning the Moslems are not to be realized, but that Islam will eventually be converted to Christianity. This will not happen through the direct teaching of Christianity but through the summoning of the Moslems to a veneration of the Mother of God.... Because Moslems have a devotion to Mary, our missionaries should be satisfied merely to expand and develop that devotion with full realization that Our Lady will carry the Moslems the rest of the way to her Divine Son." (p. 19)

21st century sex research catches up to medieval common sense -- again!

Just yesterday we posted a link to a BBC report announcing the discovery by medical experts that the media's portrayal of young women as sex objects harms young girls' mental and physical health. After reflecting long and profoundly on that announcement, our comment was: "Well ... duh!"

Today BBC has done it yet again, with a report that natural family planning is actually "as effective as the contraceptive pill." The BBC report, "Natural contraception 'effective'," (Feb. 21, 2007), describes the effectiveness of the symptothermal method (STM) traditionally used by Catholics to space children, as "comparable to the effectiveness of modern contraceptive methods such as oral contraceptives, and is an effective and acceptable method of family planning."

Well, whoop-de-doo! While the motives for using NFP (Natural Family Planning) commended by the Catholic Church are not contraceptive -- since the objective isn't to have contraceptive sex but to abstain from sex during fertile periods when there is substantial reason -- this breaking discovery about the effectiveness of NFP hardly comes as news to Catholics hoary with tradition. Mother Teresa was effectively teaching it among the illiterate women of Calcutta, according to an article of the British Medical Journal (Sept. 18, 1993), by R.E.J. Ryder, which reported a study of "19,843 predominantly poor women in Calcutta ... [among whom the] pregnancy rate was similar to that with the combined contraceptive pill --0.2 pregnancies/100 women users yearly."

[Acknowledgements: on Mother Teresa's use of NFP in Calcutta, among other sources, see A PRIMER ON NATURAL FAMILY PLANNING]

Points to ponder

"At no point in your rambling, incoherent response were you even close to anything that could be considered a rational thought. Everyone in this room is now dumber for having listened to it."

-- Principal "Billy Madison" 1995.

"The secret of the demagogue is to make himself appear as stupid as his audience so that they’ll believe they’re as smart as he is."

-- Karl Kraus

(I guess that shows, at least, that Billy Madison was in no danger of falling into demagoguery on Karl Kraus's definition of it.)

"Development of Discipline" in the Congregation for Divine Worship?

First, the following excerpt from a recent editorial by Fr. James McLucas from the latest issue of Latin Mass:
At the 1999 Una Voce International meeting in Rome, the Polish delegate addressed the assembly and lamented that, ten years after the collapse of Communism, unmistakable signs of deterioration were appearing throughout the Church in Poland. He listed various indications for this contention, but among the most curious pieces of evidence he offered was this one: "Recently some of the Polish bishops made an unsuccessful attempt to introduce the practice of Communion in the hand." Evidently, Papa Wojtyla rejected the petition of the Polish episcopate. Remember, at the beginning of his papacy, the Pontiff would not permit Communion in the hand during any papal Mass anywhere in the world.

John Paul was hardly cold in his tomb when on March 6, 2006 (11 months after his death) the Polish bishops again asked the Holy See for permission to distribute Holy Communion in the hand. In an official document dated April 21, just a little more than a month later, the president of the Polish Bishops Conference received notification that faculties for the change in the reception of Holy Communion had been granted by the Congregation of Divine Worship. Not only was authorization given, consent was offered according to the language of the official protocol, "with great pleasure" ("perlibenter" in the text).

This is continued proof that Roman Congregations tend to develop memory lapses regarding their very own paper trails. If one reads the original document which gave bishops the right to petition for an indult permitting Communion in the hand, it would be difficult to conclude that it radiated any sense of "great pleasure." Thirty seven years ago, the Congregation of Divine Worship which expressed such effusive glee to the Polish bishops published Memoriale Domini (May 29, 1969). The text was unequivocal (all emphases are mine): "This method of distributing holy communion [on the tongue] must be retained, taking the present situation of the Church in the entire world into account, not merely because it has many centuries of tradition behind it, but especially because it expresses the faithful's reverence for the Eucharist."

Not being content with that plea for caution, it continued, "Further, the practice which must be considered traditional ensures, more effectively, that holy communion is distributed with the proper respect, decorum and dignity. It removes the danger of profanation of the sacred species...."

Memoriale Domini goes on to reveal that the Holy See actually polled the episcopate around the world on this issue, and reports: "From the returns it is clear that the vast majority of bishops believe that the present discipline [reception of the Eucharist on the tongue] should not be changed, and that if it were, the change would be offensive to the sentiments and the spiritual culture of these bishops and of many of the faithful." It concludes with an ill-disguised slap-down of those who would have the temerity to petition for a change: "The Apostolic See therefore emphatically urges bishops, priests and laity to obey carefully the law which is still valid and which has again been confirmed. It urges them to take account of of the judgment given by the majority of Catholic bishops, of the rite now in use in the liturgy, of the common good of the Church." I suppose, using the universal language of progressives who witness attitudinal and policy reversals favorable to their way of thinking, it could be said that the Congregation for Divine Worship "has grown": from unambiguous reluctance to permit Communion in the hand (precisely because it removed the protective tissue of tradition) to outright enthusiasm for the idea.
Next, a bit of commentary: this editorial is not really about Communion in the hand, as such, although that is the foil used by Fr. McLucas to describe what he sees as a larger trend in the Church's liturgical discipline. Like the vast majority of the public, Fr. McLucas assumed when his editorial went to press on Jan. 9, 2007, that the expected motu proprio lifting the restrictions on the traditional Mass of Pius V was imminent. In his full editorial, he goes on to connect what he says here about incongruities concerning the Congregation for Divine Worship's declarations concerning Communion in the hand with the rubrics of the traditional rite, which (in contrast to those of the Novus Ordo) require the celebrant to keep the forefinger of each hand joined except when touching the consecrated Host. Moreover, he goes on to note that there was no clamoring among the majority of the laity for a change in the reception of Communion in Poland, but that the change sprang insistently from the ideological disposition of the Polish bishops and some members of the intelligentsia. Finally, in what he admits will be labeled by progressives as inclining toward conspiracy theories, he briefly discusses the recent resignation of the newly appointed Archbishop of Warsaw because of resignations that he had cooperated with the secret police of the communist regimes for most of his priesthood, along with the rector of the cathedral in Krakow, and a story on Radio Polonia reporting an account of the collaboration of twelve bishops with the communist secret police in the late 1970s. If you are interested in reading the entire editorial, you can do by following this link: "Still in the Dark" (Scripture and Catholic Tradition, January 21, 2007).

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

21st century sex research catches up to medieval common sense

"Sexualisation 'harms' young girls" trumpets a BBC News article today: "The media's portrayal of young women as sex objects harms girls' mental and physical health, US experts warn," the article says. Well . . . duh!

We watched Kinsey the other night -- that 2004 film lionizing the sexual pervert and phony sexologist Alfred C. Kinsey directed by gay activist Bill Cordon and starring Liam Neeson (as Kinsey) and Laura Linney (as Kinsey's wife). What a leap back into the Dark Ages of bestiality that represented, by contrast -- and it was a Hollywood whitewash at that.

Post-news leak clarification on Anglican-Catholic relations

Clarification comes from IARCCUM (Anglican - Roman Catholic Commission for Unity and Mission) after front page article in The Times, February 19, 2007, on Anglican-Catholic unity document was leaked (see "Radical plan afoot to unite conservative Anglicans under Pope," Musings of a Pertinacious Papist, Feb. 19, 2007). The clarification comes in the form of an article entitled "Anglican-Catholic committee explains unification," by Archbishop John Bathersby and Bishop David Beetge (Catholic and Anglican Co-chairs, respectively, of IARCCUM).

[Hat tip to M.F.]

Latin is dying, but liberal arts education isn't?

A thoughful reader sent me a link to a very interesting article about the dying knowledge of Latin within the Church. The article is by Malcolm Moore in Rome, for the Sunday Telegraph, and entitled "Pope's Latinist pronounces death of a language" (Jan. 27, 2007).

Latin has for years been derided by recalcitrant students as a "dead language," of course. Now, however, the Pope's top adviser on Latin has reluctantly joined their ranks, it seems:
"It is dying in the Church. I'm not optimistic about Latin. The young priests and bishops are not studying it," said Fr Reginald Foster, 68, a Carmelite friar who was appointed the Papal Latinist 38 years ago by Pope Paul VI.

He said priests were no longer compelled to study Latin at seminaries, and now found it impossible to read vital theological tracts.
Fr. Foster goes on to make some interesting observations, such his speculation that the Holy Father has no intention of implementing his motu proprio. Some of you may recall a discussion of these views over at Rorate Caeli sometime ago, the upshot of which was to cast into doubt not the motu proprio but Fr. Foster's credibility at that point.

My interest in this article does not concern Fr. Foster's reference to the motu proprio, but his reference to the dying of Latin in the Church. He does go on to suggest some ways of staving off utter illiteracy in Latin for the moment. He makes some interesting observations, such as that "You do not need to be mentally excellent to know Latin," and "Prostitutes, beggars and pimps in Rome spoke Latin, so there must be some hope for us."

But my main thought is this: Why single out the dying out of Latin for this unique attention? Granted, it's a problem. But isn't it simply symptomatic of a much larger problem -- namely the dying out of the light of knowledge of the traditional liberal arts altogether?

I have long scandalized my students who come to class with their cell phones, i-pods, MP3 Players and state-of-the-art lap top computers by telling them that we inhabit a new dark ages. Of course, they're incredulous. It's not only Latin that's dead, however. It's math, history, German, French, literature, social studies, etc. This isn't to say there aren't occasional students to be found enthusiastically majoring in these subjects, but they're exceptions. Nerds. Delightful nerds, not the norm. The norm are those majoring in "Exercise science" (I'm not kidding), "Communications," or "Education" -- and the less said about the majority (not all) of those gravitating toward these majors, the better.

In a survey conducted amoung our students (Culture Quiz, June 30, 2006), most knew who "Paris Hilton's former best friend was, who had an on-again, off-again relationship with Adam Goldstein (AKA D.J. AM)," and most could answer correctly who the newest American Idol was, but hardly any could correctly answer questions about literature, classical music, or even politics.

Even among the more serious students, majoring in Business, Occupational Therapy, and Nursing, few students state that they have a habit of reading regularly or can remember the last book they read that was not assigned for a class.

Latin is dead? Well, I'm sad about that. I would encourage Latin as a prerequisite for all liberal arts learning. Greek as well, I suppose. But the liberal arts are dead too. Ask a student where Paris is, and you'll likely get an answer assuming you meant Paris Hilton.

[Hat tip to J.M.]

Monday, February 19, 2007


My mother, Southern to the bone, once told me, "All Southern literature can be summed up in these words: 'On the night the hogs ate Willie, Mama died when she heard what Daddy did to sister.'"

-- Pat Controy, Author (b. 1945)

And I think Flannery O'Connor might nearly agree.

Radical plan afoot to unite conservative Anglicans under Pope

Ruth Gledhill, Religion Correspondent for The Times of London, writes: "Radical proposals to reunite Anglicans with the Roman Catholic Church under the leadership of the Pope are to be published this year, The Times has learnt. The proposals have been agreed by senior bishops of both churches." See his article, "Churches back plan to unite under Pope," The Times (Feb. 19, 2007).

[Hat Tip to M.F.]

Son earns 4th degree Knight

Nathan Blosser, who is currently stationed in the US Navy in Gulfport, MS, was recently awarded his 4th degree in the Knights of Columbus at a ceremony in Vicksburg. Nathan (pictured above, seated, fourth from right), hereby surpasses in rank his father (3rd degree) and other brother, Benjamin (a.k.a. Jamie, 1st degree). Nathan, who is very active in the Knights, has done a lot to show me how much more the Knights of Columbus do than pass out Tootsie Rolls in front of Wall Mart stores. Congratulations, Nate!

Artists' plans for Bowling Science Center unveiled

Old Dominion, NC (WZIP 2/19/07) -- Administration officials unveiled several architectural drawings offering alternative renditions of the projected new state-of-the-art Center for Bowling Sciences today at a brief press conference.

See detailed architectural plans at "Designs for prospective Center for Bowling Science unveiled" (Lenoir-Rhyne Onion, 2/19/07).

Reform and the iconoclastic cult of aging youth movements

The award-winning German author and film-maker, Martin Mosebach, offers a most interesting description of what happened to Saint Raphael's, a church in the Heidelberg suburb of Neuenheim from the original erection of its foundation stone in 1903 through the renovations of the post-Vatican II era, up to the present. The following are some excerpts from his volume, published with some reservations but a nevertheless supportive Foreword by Fr. Joseph Fessio, The Heresy of Formlessness: The Roman Liturgy and Its Enemy (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2006). The book is not available on Amazon. It is available through Ignatius Press, but is so thoroughly embedded in the Ignatius website that it can be found only through persistent search (the above title is linked). The following excerpts are from ch. 4: "'Tear the Images out of Their Hearts': Liturgy and the Campaign against Images."

"At first glance, what happened to Saint Raphael's church in the Heidelberg suburb of Neuenheim may seem banal enough." So writes Martin Mosebach, describing the renovation of a suburban German church, which like so many other churches underwent major overhauling after the Second Vatican Council. Of course, he notes, in one sense, nothing can be banal about renovating a church in one sense: "A church that is to house a consecrated Host, the Blessed Sacrament, cannot be banal."

"When the foundation stone for Saint Raphael's church was laid in 1903, the priest and community shared the conviction that they were building a church that should be immediately recognizable as such to everyone who saw it." Today, Mosenbach says, we can only guess what impression the church would have made at the time. The few remaining photographs give no idea of the colors of the execution. He relates the developments that were concurrently taking place in the history of art, Kandinsky's painting of his first abstract watercolor, the revolution in modern art, etc.

But then came the Second Vatican Council and the changes in its wake that reflected the times. In 1968, the parish of Saint Raphael was told that its altars, designed by Alfons Marmon after Renaissance Florentine models, were declared "controversial." Mosebach asks his readers to note the date: "1968 was an 'axis' year in Karl Jaspers' sense: there were student riots in Germany, France, and the United States; it was the beginning of the Chinese 'cultural revolution', with its millions of victims, its full-scale attack on images, and its destruction of temples and art treasures -- and it was the year of the liturgical reform. These events are connected, even if they do not seem to be. Future historiography will have no choice but to see a profound link here."

What interests me most here, however, is what follows -- particularly what Mosebach says about how "carefully prepared" the parish of Saint Raphael was for the changes by its priest. He writes:
"In Neuenheim's Saint Raphael church, however, the upheavals did not take place in a revolutionary manner. The parish priest was also parish priest of Heidelberg city. He was reputed to have 'masterfully carried out the various changes in the intellectual and spiritual life in the Church and in the external reorderings of church buildings in the wake of the Council'. At the celebrations for the fiftieth anniversary of his priestly ordination, he was praised for having 'carefully prepared the community for the change'; like an experience surgeon, he did this preparatory work before making the quick and radical incision."
The common assumption was that the Marmon altar had been constructed of plaster. This clearly proved not to be the case when the sculptures were chopped and sawn to pieces, revealing the lime timber beneath the painted surface, notes Mosenbach. "Photographs show the venerable old priest in his utterly correct clerical garb, not looking at all like an agent of vandalism, smiling serenely as he observed the results of his destruction."

This calls to mind the incongruity between the Instruction Eucharisticum Mysterium published by the Sacred Congregation of Rites on May 25, 1967, which specifically stated that “in adapting churches, care will be taken not to destroy treasures of sacred art” (par. 24), and a similar act of destruction recalled by Michael Davies in London:
"I well recollect reading in the newsletter of a parish in southeast London an account of a Protestant stonemason who had been heartbroken at having to smash an exquisitely beautiful marble altar in a convent and to replace it with what he described as 'two great hunks of stone.' As a true craftsman, he found the task utterly repugnant, particularly as he was sure that there is not a stonemason in britain who could produce such superb work today. The worthy gentleman would have been even more surprised had he been told that this act of vandalism was intended to promote the renewal of Ctholic worship. What sort of renewal can be implemened only by destroying the holy and the beautiful?" (Michael Davies, The Catholic Sanctuary and the Second Vatican Council [Rockford, IL: TAN, 1997], p. 24)
“How was this possible?” Mosebach asks.

The author then launches into an autobiographical account of his childhood memories, particularly memories from the post-Second World War years of the older generation that had been marked by its experience of the youth movements before the First World War. "For me, the 'modern' style has always borne an old face," he observes, noting the youthful style of haircuts, ponytails, and clothing worn by aging white-haired people. These were the products, he suggests, of a mindset and outlook spawned amidst the deadly crucible of Communism and National Socialism, both of which had sponsored youth movements. Mosebach next comments on the phenomenon of "the youth movement" generically:

"The youth movement fed the roots, not only of the cult of nudity, feminism, vegetarianism, neo-paganism, pseudo-Indian meditation, gay liberation, ubiquitous guitar-strumming, and the Bauhaus: it was also behind the liturgical reform. Basically all of these movements can be traced back to the burning idealism of good people who were led astray and betrayed . . . However, the delight in destruction that was once conjured by young people, their cheeks aglow in the light of the campfire as they talked and sang of their vision -- the collapse of the old system and the advent of a wondrous new age -- outlived its infantile phase and achieved an astonishingly advanced age."
Who can help thinking of the graying membership of dissident Catholic groups such as Call to Action, Catholics for Free Choice, WomenChurch, Women’s Ordination Conference, Pax Christi, We Are Church, or Voice of the Faithful? The 20th century cult of youth, says Mosebach, culminates in a "cruel curse" -- despite the irreversible aging process, the aging human being is not allowed to mature, but is condemned to play out the long-dead games of his youth until his life's end. This is most apparent in the world of art, he says where the "avantgardisms" of 1905 are still being repeated, like an ossified mantra, a hundred years later. Did some suppose, perhaps, that with her famous aggiornamento, the Church believed that, in order to survive, she had to "fling open her shutters" to such senile avangardisms?

But back to the story of Saint Raphael's in Germany. Mosebach describes the description of the renovated church in detail:
"The apse alone was completely cleared out. In the celebratory pamphlet for the parish priest's jubilee we read that 'the remodeling is harmonious, even elegant'. 'The table-altar is designed for the New Covenant community meal. . . . No communion rails impede the access of the faithful. The priest presides, as is appropriate, over the eucharistic community; . . . he is the president of the community, he leads the assembly' -- indeed he does, from the very place where, formerly, the tabernacle stood. The latter, in the form of a bifurcated bronze tooth, has been relegated to a little cupboard in a side wall. It is simply a case of a slight shift in the scale of values', the parish priest told the congregation. 'Now in the foreground stands the action of the meal and the active participation of the mature Christian'."
Mosebach comments:
"Yes, indeed, the scale of values has shifted somewhat. What did the disciples' 'active participation' consist of in the Upper Room, when they let Christ wash their feet? What was the 'active participation' of Mary and John as they stood beneath the Cross? It consisted of beholding, letting it happen, watching and praying. However, I will not waste time on a critique of the jargon of the 'reform', which has already been frequently and thoroughly exposed for what it is. Like Moses, the town parish priest was not permitted to enter the promised Land. He led his parish out into the white steppe. It was for the next generation to fill the empty space."
Update 2/20/07

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Stranger than fiction: "Lenten Yoga"

I am not kidding. The following, edited for specific phone numbers and other identifying information, was a notice found placed in our church bulletin at this morning's Mass:
Lenten Yoga

Yoga with a Christ-centered focus is being offered by parishioner Jane Doe at 'Centered Love Yoga', beginning Thursday, February 22nd from 12:00-1:00 PM and continuing every Thursday during Lent. No yoga experience is necessary and all are welcome. Come and grow the Christ-light within your heart. These sessions are offered FREE to St. Local Papist's paishioners. For more information visit [not actual website].
Why is it that my wife and I stood and laughed in our kitched over this for nearly five minutes? It's not that either of us has a problem with yoga, whose asanas I use regularly in a stretching routine. I suppose its something similar to the incongruity my friend Kirk pointed out in some of the Catholic cruises about which we sometimes read these days -- the juxtapositions of hedonism and spirituality may soon bring us to see things like: "Come and join us for the 'Catholic Apologetics and Sushi-Making' Alaskan Cruise this summer!"

But, you know, the really incongruous thing I just remember is that the church refused to publish in its bulletin an ad I submitted for the St. Olaf College Choir when it came through town a few years ago. I suggested that any parishioners who loved the traditional treasury of Catholic choral music could come and hear this superlative Lutheran choir perform it exquisitely well. (Sigh . . . ) Perhaps they found that offensive. Not because it referred to Lutherans, but because it referred to the traditional treasury of Catholic choral music. Maybe if the St. Olaf College Choir had just thought to combine their traditional repertoire with some yoga . . . or at least some Tibetan Lama-style multivocal chant ...

Saturday, February 17, 2007

What?? Blog awards???

Someone called to my attention that my Scripture and Catholic Tradition blog was nominated in the category of Best Designed Catholic Blogs for the Catholic Blog Awards for 2007. I'm never aware of these things going on -- at least not since 1995 when someone called to my attention that Musings of a Pertinacious Papist came up Finalist in the category of Most Intellectual Blog -- but maybe one of these years someone will call the event to our attention in sufficient time to mount a campaign like everyone else and even the odds in this cyberspace beauty contest. Anyway, thanks to whomever offered the nomination. It's nice to be appreciated.

"Funding of the Jesus Seminar"

Part Four of the Crisis magazine series on the Jesus Seminar examines the "Funding of the Jesus Seminar" (Jesus Seminar Critically Examined, February 17, 2007). John Burger, currently of the National Catholic Register, wrote the piece as an investigative reporter while working for Catholic New York, the Catholic newspaper of the Archdiocese of New York. Burger turned up some interesting details, facts, and figures you might find interesting.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

"Bowling Science"?

"Lenoir-Rhyne University redirects $6.1 million for new program in Bowling Science" (The Lenoir-Rhyne Onion, February 15, 2007).

Ratzinger on why we need a new Liturgical Movement

In the former Cardinal Ratzinger's volume, Milestones: Memoirs 1927-1977, one finds the following fascinating excerpt, articulating his view of the New Mass in relationship to the Old. Jacob Michael comments on this excerpt in a post, "Ratzinger on the Liturgy and its Relation to the Crisis" (LumenGentleman Apologetics), summarizing Ratzinger's views as follows: "a rupture in the history of liturgical continuity has been introduced, the results have been tragic, and a new kind of Liturgical Movement is needed today in order to reconnect what is old and what is new."

Here is Cardinal Ratzinger himself:
The second great event at the beginning of my years in Regensburg was the publication of the Missal of Paul VI, which was accompanied by the almost total prohibition, after a transitional phase of only half a year, of using the missal we had had until then. I welcomed the fact that now we had a binding liturgical text after a period of experimentation that had often deformed the liturgy. But I was dismayed by the prohibition of the old missal, since nothing of the sort had ever happened in the entire history of the liturgy. The impression was even given that what was happening was quite normal. The previous missal had been created by Pius V in 1570 in connection with the Council of Trent; and so it was quite normal that, after four hundred years and a new council, a new pope would present us with a new missal. But the historical truth of the matter is different.

Pius V had simply ordered a reworking of the Missale Romanum then being used, which is the normal thing as history develops over the course of centuries. Many of his successors had likewise reworked this missal again, but without ever setting one missal against another. It was a continual process of growth and purification in which continuity was never destroyed. There is no such thing as a "Missal of Pius V", created by Pius V himself. There is only the reworking done by Pius V as one phase in a long history of growth. The new feature that came to the fore after the Council of Trent was of a different nature. The irruption of the Reformation had above all taken the concrete form of liturgical "reforms". It was not just a matter of there being a Catholic Church and a Protestant Church alongside one another. The split in the Church occurred almost imperceptibly and found its most visible and historically most incisive manifestation in the changes of the liturgy. These changes, in turn, took very different forms at the local level, so that here, too, one frequently could not ascertain the boundary between what was still Catholic and what was no longer Catholic.

In this confusing situation, which had become possible by the failure to produce unified liturgical legislation and by the existing liturgical pluralism inherited from the Middle Ages, the pope decided that now the Missale Romanum - the missal of the city of Rome - was to be introduced as reliably Catholic in every place that could not demonstrate its liturgy to be at least two hundred years old. Wherever the existing liturgy was that old, it could be preserved because its Catholic character would then be assured. In this case we cannot speak of the prohibition of a previous missal that had formerly been approved as valid. The prohibition of the missal that was now decreed, a missal that had known continuous growth over the centuries, starting with the sacramentaries of the ancient Church, introduced a breach into the history of the liturgy whose consequences could only be tragic. It was reasonable and right of the Council to order a revision of the missal such as had often taken place before and which this time had to be more thorough than before, above all because of the introduction of the vernacular.

But more than this now happened: the old building was demolished, and another was built, to be sure largely using materials from the previous one and even using the old building plans. There is no doubt that this new missal in many respects brought with it a real improvement and enrichment; but setting it as a new construction over against what had grown historically, forbidding the results of this historical growth, thereby makes the liturgy appear to be no longer a living development but the product of erudite work and juridical authority; this has caused us enormous harm. For then the impression had to emerge that liturgy is something "made", not something given in advance but something lying within our own power of decision. From this it also follows that we are not to recognize the scholars and the central authority alone as decision makers, but that in the end each and every "community" must provide itself with its own liturgy. When liturgy is self-made, however, then it can no longer give us what its proper gift should be: the encounter with the mystery that is not our own product but rather our origin and the source of our life. A renewal of liturgical awareness, a liturgical reconciliation that again recognizes the unity of the history of the liturgy and that understands Vatican II, not as a breach, but as a stage of development: these things are urgently needed for the life of the Church. I am convinced that the crisis in the Church that we are experiencing today is to a large extent due to the disintegration of the liturgy, which at times has even come to be conceived of etsi Deus non daretur, in that it is a matter of indifference whether or not God exists and whether or not he speaks to us and hears us. But when the community of faith, the worldwide unity of the Church and her history, and the mystery of the living Christ are no longer visible in the liturgy, where else, then, is the Church to become visible in her spiritual essence? Then the community is celebrating only itself, an activity that is utterly fruitless. And because the ecclesial community cannot have its origin from itself but emerges as a unity only from the Lord, through faith, such circumstances will inexorably result in a disintegration into sectarian parties of all kinds - partisan opposition within a Church tearing herself apart. This is why we need a new Liturgical Movement, which will call to life the real heritage of the Second Vatican Council.
Cardinal Ratzinger's volume, Milestones: Memoirs 1927-1977 (Amazon link) is available from Amazon for $11.01 (new) and through Amazon marketplace (used and new) starting at $2.49.

[Hat tip to J.M. via M.F.]

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Absence from Blogsville for several days

I will most likely be absent from Blogsville for the next few days, as I will be engaged in some other activities demanding my time for which I solicit your prayer. Keep the Faith. Pray for the Holy Father. We will be in touch.

More on the Southern Poverty Law Center

Karl Keating's E-Letter of February 7, 2007 carries an interesting exposé of the Southern Poverty Law Center and extensive January 17, 2007, report on anti-Semitism within Traditionalist Catholicism. Keating's piece is entitled "A Botched Reort on a Worthy Issue," and concludes -- after some remarkable findings I don't have time to relate at the moment -- thus: "Perhaps the SPLC could use a small portion of its substantial endowment to fund an investigatory team consisting of Catholics who know the Church, its history, and the faith and who know how to conduct an investigation that will end up being factually correct. The issue of anti-Semitism within the Traditionalist movement does need to be discussed, but it should be discussed by people who know what they're doing."

Friday, February 09, 2007

Update on baby Felicity

A follow-up on our "Prayer request" of Feb. 1, 2007 regarding the unborn baby about which we received an email. The gender has been determined, an Felicity is her name. The father writes that "it was a little heartening to discover this last week that St. Felicity just happens to be the patron saint of pregnant women and also of infants facing mortal danger in the womb." He also notes that his wife, originally due in April, will very likely (because of the complications) be delivered in March - St. Felicity's feast day is in March. Coincidences? Catholics don't imagine "mere coincidences" under such circumstances!

The other slight improvement in news is that the "mass" on Felicity's heart, according to the doctor, is probably not malignant and is low enough on the left ventricle of her heart so as not to block any valves in her heart. The doctor is more confident that Felicity will be able to make it at least 36-38 weeks and have a normal (induced) delivery, allowing for post-delivery assessment and options, as necessary.

Felicity's father thanks all who have offered their prayers in their behalf and is grateful for the comfort derived from your support.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Part Three on the Jesus Seminar

Part Three in the Crisis magazine series "Deliver us from the Jesus Seminar" is an article entitled "Biblical Scholarship and the Faith of the Church" (posted with permission at Jesus Seminar Critically Examined, February 8, 2007), by Kenneth D. Whitehead, a writer, editor, translator, and a former US assistant secretary of education.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Paul V. Abbe, former Lutheran Pastor now Catholic

My colleague and good friend, Dr. J. Larry Yoder, told me sometime last year that Paul Abbe had become a Catholic. Like Philip Max Johnson (whose reception into the Church in August of 2006 by Rev. J. Scott Newman we noted in a post last year), Abbe was a member of The Society of the Holy Trinity (Societas Trinitatis Sanctus), a conservative "ministerium" of Lutheran pastors who subscribe to a "Rule" committing them to live out their ordination vows by praying the Daily Office, exercising mutual private confession, faithful pastoral practice, etc. However, neither Yoder nor I knew any real details about Abbe's story beyond the fact that he had taken the plunge and swum the Tiber.

The February 2007 issue of journal of The Coming Home Network International, however, carries the story by Abbe himself. It is called "From Shadows and Symbols," in the Journeys Home column beginning on the first page (pp. 1-7). I'm hoping the story will eventually become available online, like so many others, which can be found under the "conversion stories" tab of the CHNI website. What I can say here is that there is a good bit of historical, patristic, and theological reflection, and that Paul and his wife were both received into the Church together. He writes:
I resigned from the clergy roster of the ELCA on April 25th, 2006, the Feast of St. Mark. My wife, Marie, and I were received into full communion on September 14th, the Feast of the Holy Cross [my birthday, by the way], at St. Joseph's Catholic Church in Raleigh, North Carolina. At my confirmation, I took the name "Michael"; my sponsor was Fr. Jay Scott Newman.
Fr. J. Scott Newman appears to be a key player here in more than one story. God bless him! Abbe continues:
Do I believe the Protestant Reformation was a mistake? To borrow a phrase from the late, great Lutheran historian, Jaroslav Pelikan (who in his latter years converted to Orthodoxy), I believe the Reformation was "a tragic necessity." The necessity of the tragedy was confessed by no less a person than Pope Adrian VI, through his Legate at the Diet of Nurenberg, in 1523:
We freely acknowledge that God has allowed this chastisement to come upon His Church because of the sin of men, and especially because of the sins of priests and prelates ... We know well that for many years much that must be regarded with horror has come to pass in this Holy See: abuses in spiritual matters, transgressions against the Commandments; indeed, that everything has been gravely perverted.
Pope John Paul II, in his 1995 ecumenical encyclical Ut Unam Sint, asserted that "intolerant polemics and controversies have made incompatible assertions out of what was really the result of two different ways of looking at the same reality" (no. 38). A year later, speaking to Lutherans in Paderborn, Germany, he stated:
Luther's original intention in his call for reform in the Church was a call to repentance and renewal to begin in the life of every individual. There are many reasons why these beginnings nevertheless led to division. One is the failure of the Catholic Church ... and the intrusion of political and economic interests, as well as Luther's own passion, which drove him far beyond what he originally intended into radical criticism of the Catholic Church, of its way of teaching. We all bear guilt. That is why we are called upon to repent and must allow the Lord to cleanse us over and over.
In 1999, the Lutheran World Federation (rather, a majority of its member churches), and the Roman Catholic Church, signed The Joint Declaration of the Doctrine of Justification. That document clearly affirmed a consensus in the Gospel, echoing Eph. 2:8-10:
Together we confess: By grace alone, in faith in Christ's saving work and not because of any merit on our part, we are accepted by God and receive the Holy Spirit, who renews our hearts while equipping and calling us to good works. (JDDJ 15) ... [Emphasis mine, [Abbe]]
Over 475 years ago, because of the fault of sin, the fire of personal temperaments, and the fuel of political intrigues, a sad division arose within the Body of Christ over the theological definition of the Gospel, resulting in separation from the apostolic See of Rome "with which, because of its superior origin, all churches must agree." If indeed we have come to a consensus on the Gospel, then separation from the apostolic authority of the Bishop of Rome is no longer necessary, and if no longer necessary, then -- for the sake of the Gospel -- no longer permissible.
A note at the end of the CHNI article states that Paul Abbe is currently working at the Catholic bookstore resource center of the Diocese of Raleigh, "In His Name," while awaiting "God's perfect provision for a new career in the fullness of time." Please keep Paul and his wife Marie in your prayers as they continue to adjust to the various changes that their reception into the Catholic Church has brought into their lives. Imagine giving up your secure career at mid-life!