Friday, August 31, 2007

Growing Christian population in Arabia

Sandro Magister, “The Christians Are Coming Back to Arabia – Fourteen Centuries after Mohammed” (www.chiesa, August 31, 2007):
They could soon become the majority of the population in the United Arab Emirates. And in Saudi Arabia, too, their numbers are increasing. Who they are, where they come from, and how they live. A report from Dubai and Abu Dhabi.
  • The Holy See established diplomatic relations and exchanged ambassadors with the United Arab Emirates on May 31, three months ago to the day.
  • The United Arab Emirates has the greatest Christian presence of any Islamic country -- a new and growing presence -- virtually the reverse of what is happening in other regions in the Middle East like Iraq, Lebanon, and the Holy Land, where Christian communities of very ancient origin and nearly face extinction.
  • Foreigners now make up more than 70 percent of the Emirates' more than 4 million inhabitants, and more than half of these foreign workers are Christians.
  • Adding up the figures, Christians account for more than 35 percent of the population of the United Arab Emirates. Around a million of them are Catholic.
  • Estimates suggest that there are also about a million Catholics from the Philippines in Saudi Arabia.
Sandro Magister asks: "But how do these Christians live in Arab lands? What does this young, growing Church look like? What scope for freedom does it have?" Read the report and see.

Jazz -- a fringe benefit of urban living

Not everything about urban living is nice. But there are some amenities. This evening after dinner, while my wife went off to work, I took my daughter three or four blocks from our apartment down Woodward Avenue towards the river to the Campus Martius Plaza where we walked into a throng of people listening to Detroit's internationally renowned jazz violinist, Regina Carter, and Chicago's Grammy-award winning jazz pianist and composer, Herbie Hancock. They were kicking off the 2007 Detroit Jazz Festival, which lasts through Monday evening. Vetran jazz artists include Dave Brubeck and Bettye LaVette, and a host of other performers (the Stanley Jordan Trio, Scott Henderson Trio, Marcus Belgrave Experience, Poncho Sanchez, Kenny Garrett Quartet, Charles Tolliver Big Band, Dominik Farinacci Quartet, Julliard Jazz Ensemble, Gerald Wilson Orchestra, Spanish Harlem Orchestra, Maria Muldaur and James Dapogny's Chicatgo Jazz Band, and many, many more), a good number from Chicago, with whom Detroit is apparently doing some sort of visiting artist exchange this year.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Fear mongering?

Earl Shorris has written a volume, The Politics of Heaven: America in Fearful Times (Norton, 2007), which serves up all-too-easy answers. Shorris claims that fear is at the root of both conservative politics and conservative religion. This might have made for an interesting exploration. However, his thesis is, essentially, that a fear-based alliance between neoconservative politics (motivated by fear of political tyranny) and right-wing religious believers (motivated by fear of death and doom) have threatened to undermine the natural optimism that undergirds American democracy.

The discussion is all-too simple and superficial. One Amazon commentator's review as entitled "No cause too obscure, no solution too esoteric." Indeed, Tim Rutten, in his Los Angeles Times review of the book, says: "It's not a very satisfying or particularly useful analysis." He notes, among other things, that it fails to speak to the actual lives of Sunbelt Evangelicals who furnish the majority of the religious right's political leverage. These Sunbelt Christians are, if anything, poster children for ebulliently optimistic capitalism and Americanism. The author apparently tries to conceal his ignorance of the history and actual practice of American religion beneath an avalanche of facts about political philosophers.

Refreshingly macabre

My friend, Dr. Kenneth J. Howell, has two doctorates and is Director of the Institute of Catholic Thought and Adjunct Associate Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Previously, he was professor at Reformed Theological Seminary in Jackson, MS, before converting to Catholicism prior to the turn of the millennium.

In a recent newsletter as Director of the Institute of Catholic Thought, he offers what in this era of consumerist self-indulgence and distraction can only be described as a refreshingly macabre suggestion. He suggests that although many people seem genuinely to be seeking God, that their spiritual progress might be assisted and deepened by the practice of meditating on death. He writes:
I have discovered through my 9 years of working here at St. John’s that most people on the koinonia list are genuinely seeking God. However, we who live at the advent of the 21st century have lost some venerated Catholic practices which animated the lives of Christians for centuries. One such form of prayer is meditation on death. It was recently pointed out to me by a priest who has been in Africa for over fifty years that North Americans try to expunge death from our consciousness but the reality remains. We will all die. Facing one’s death can be a spiritually health-giving exercise.

It is at death that we shall see life at its truest dimensions for there we shall see how ugly and threatening are death and the sin which caused it. But there too the sweet scent of heaven will waft through the air and draw us inexorably to life eternal. That moment will reveal the inner tension — fear of the eternal God, fear of judgment and yet love for that which we fear. At the moment when we are at our lowest, when we are the helpless victims of life’s harshest oppression, God’s loving attachment and grace sweetens our bitterness by beckoning us heavenward through a corridor in the shape of a cross. If we can trust Him at our most vulnerable moment, why can’t we trust Him more today?
Thank you for this reminder, Dr. Howell, of that neglected wisdom of the ages: momento mori!

Monday, August 27, 2007

Coddling underachievement, neglecting genius

In my grandfather's day (actually, even in my 90-year-old father's day) it was not expected that every youngster from the midland farms or urban centers was destined for a liberal arts degree. When you look at the time frame during which liberal arts colleges began popping up like poppies across the country, you can see how relatively recent the expectation of such a college education is. Only for the last two or three generations has nearly every parent expected his children to complete a college education. My prognosis is that this expectation will be relatively short lived, and the possibility of fulfilling the expectation briefer still.

Have any of you who are educators noticed how many memoranda from the administration these days carry attachments with protocols and programs for students with disabilities? I'm not referring here primarily to those with unambiguous disabilities such as hearing impairment or confinement to a wheelchair, about whose conditions I have little question. I'm referring to those, often self-diagnosed, who claim disability status in terms of ambiguous quasi-medical expressions like "attention deficit disorder," "dislexia," "text anxiety syndrome," and the like, which, I'm sorry to say, seem to cover a multitude of sins from sloth, lack of preparedness, and simple intellectual incompetence, in addition to, in some cases, genuine psycho-medical problems. Have you noticed how many otherwise ordinary and able-looking students approach you with forms notifying you of various disabilities and disorders they reportedly have? Even among your otherwise "normal" underachievers, have you noticed how many of their parents pummel you with irate phone calls when their children fail, when, after all, they say, they have paid full tuition for them? (Never mind the fact that they've slept through most of their courses hung over from their nocturnal frat parties constituting their actual raison d'etre at college.)

A recent issue of Time magazine carries an article by John Cloud entitled "Failing Our Geniuses" (Time, August 16, 2007 online; August 27, 2007, print). The subtitular description reads: "In U.S. schools, the highest achievers are too often challenged the least. Why that's hurting America -- and how to fix it."

The good news is that of the 62 milion school-age kids in the U.S., 62,000 have IQs of 145 or higher. But the good news stops there. According to the article, one study shows that 40% of the top 5% of high school grads fail to finish college. Most damning, however, is the fact that U.S. schools spend $8 billion -- that's eight BILLION dollars -- a year educating the mentally retarded, By the most generous calculation, says cloud, we spend no more than 10% of that on the gifted. What kind of sense does it make to spend 10 times as much trying to bring low-achievers to bare proficiency as we do to nurture those with the greatest potential? In fact, it's worse than that: those with the greatest potential are practically marginalized, on the assumption that they will succeed willy-nilly, but all too often merely left to fall through the cracks. It's not merely that the intellectually gifted have emotional needs as real as those of anyone else, including the mentally challenged. It's far worse: motivated by a false sense of compassion, we are pouring the greatest part of our national educational resources massively into programs for our mentally handicapped and disabled, while neglecting our gifted with whom our national future lies. I'm no Darwinian and I don't cotton to the Zarathustrianism of Nietzsche, but this faux compassion has no future.

I once had a student who earned a failing grade in one of my classes. Whe was incapable of putting together a coherent sentence in an essay, let alone a paragraph. I mean this literally: my two-and-a-half-year old can put together words to form a proper sentence with grammatically correct syntax. This student could not. Yet this student challenged my decision in the school's appeal system on the grounds that she had received "A" grades in other college courses -- courses in which, as I learned later, she had only objective tests and quizzes (true/false, multiple choice, matching) and was permitted, because of her claimed disability, to have these tests and quizzes orally administered to her, and was never required to submit any assignment in writing. Umm-hmmm ... You see what I mean. In the college appeal process, a prominent citizen took her part as a legal advocate. She had at her disposal every legal and financial advantage. But then, at the last hour, she was required to undergo a clinical psychiatric test and was found to suffer from significant mental retardation. What was she doing in college in the first place? What, in fact, have nearly half of my students at Lenoir-Rhyne College been doing in college over the last decade? At best, most of these should have been in community colleges undergoing training in a marketable trade. Liberal arts courses are demanding. At least they require reasonable intelligence. Students with extraordinary endowments of intelligence deserve more support than they often get -- especially at the preparatory, pre-college levels of education.

Of related interest:

Average U.S. SAT scores at lowest since 1999 according to Yahoo! News. AP Education Writer, Justin Pope reports, in "Report: Average SAT Scores Dip Again" (Yahoo! News, August 28, 2007):
Combined math and reading SAT scores for the high school class of 2007 were the lowest in eight years — a trend the College Board attributed largely to the good news that a more diverse pool of students is taking the exam....

Scores also fell three points on the writing section, which is still in an experimental stage ….

But the College Board, the nonprofit membership group that owns the exam, insisted Tuesday that the declines were within normal historical fluctuations and not significant.
[Hat tip to E.F. for Yahoo link.]

Sunday, August 26, 2007

J.S. Bach and the regenerative properties of music

There is an interesting article by Avis O. Gachet, "A Walk with the Master" (Charlotte Observer, August 8, 2007), which carries the subtitle "In times of trouble, teens turn to music. Let's hope it's Bach." Gachet, a personal friend from far back in Hickory, relates how the music of Bach -- especially his Concerto for Two Violins and Orchestra (BWV 1043) -- sustained her during her dark night of the soul many years ago. She says that Bachs music had a healing and regenerative effect on her, not only elevating her spirits, but sorting out her priorities and consoling her soul. "I am talking about something alsmost mystical," she says. She then contrasts the music of Bach with the genres popular with the younger generation today, worrying that they lack the guiding capacities of the old Master, of whom she says: "He did not lead me astray." In light of Plato's reflections on the power of music in the Republic, I cannot help wondering whether Gachet has hit upon something profound. One thing is certain to me, and that is the truth that good music is more than what one happens to like. What makes music good or bad lies significantly in the objective properties of the music itself.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Is indifference to an Apostolic decree appopriate?

A few days ago we referred to Fr. J. Scott Newman's post, “And how would you like your Mass today? 1970 or 1962?” (Random Thoughts, July 10, 2007), in connection with our discussion of "Mershon's response to Fr. J. Scott Newman" (Musings, August 19, 2007). As is typical of Fr. Newman, it is consummately witty and clever ("Hi, I'm Bob, and I'll be your Presider today") and insightful in terms of the political winds within the Catholic world. However, there is one thing about the piece in particular that raises a question for me. Fr. Newman asks: "Will Summorum Pontificum be DOA [dead on arrival] in the same way as Veterum Sapientia [Pope John XXIII's Apostolic Constitution mandating the teaching and preservation of Latin in the Church]?" -- and he answers: "I honestly don’t know, and to tell the truth, I don’t much care one way or the other."

My question concerns this dismissive nonchalance toward a pope's decree. I am nothing more than a simple pew peasant -- to borrow a wonderful locution from Grega, one of my readers -- but I wonder whether such indifference toward a Pope’s Apostolic Letter and the question of whether or not it will have any effect in the Church would not be a trifle inappropriate for any Catholic, let alone a priest. Shouldn’t Catholics, who are taught to pray for the intentions of the Holy Father (sometimes with the added incentive of indulgences, pace Luther), be solicitous of their fulfillment? Shouldn't they be concerned with trying to understand the intentions that animated the Holy Father's Apostolic Letter and with assisting the Pope as far as possible in realizing these intentions? Note that I am not here questioning Fr. Newman's sincere interest in supporting the Pope's initiative in any way he can, any more than I am questioning the accuracy of his liturgical forcasts. I am simply noting a question that arose in my mind as I read his post from the impression it conveyed.

Journet's theology of the Church

A reader points out that Charles Cardinal Journet's The Theology of the Church has just been marked down by Ignatius Press (Amazon has marked down its price as well). "This great contemporary theologian has few readers," he writes. "The translation is seamless." His favorite quote thus far:
How will the faithful as a whole elevate themselves to the Christian usage of exterior goods, of marriage, of liberty, if, from their midst, there do not continually arise some Christians who, in order to affirm with a brilliant intensity the primacy of spiritual ends, choose to renounce completely these very goods? Only the love that moves one to renounce all can, in the Church, sustain that love which makes an instrument of all. And as for those who, being primarily engaged in the broader way of the legitimate use of earthly goods, marriage and liberty, find themselves suddenly stopped short in their momentum and rejected by misfortunes as outcasts from life, if they cast a glance on the marvelous examples of renunciation that the Church makes shine forth around them in every epoch, are they not able to comprehend that God, who seemed to want to break them in his power or abandon them to life's trials, in fact is only calling them in his love to a holier and more sublime vocation, of which they themselves would never even have dreamed? (p. 270)
He also points out that a 31-page Journet article on the Mystery of the Eucharist, Le mystère de l'eucharistie (Cardinal Charles Journet) (Paroisse du Christ-Roi, Fribourg), is a veritable summary of Journet's great work on the Mass.

[Hat tip to A.S.]

Major work on Pope's ecclesiology

As Christopher points out in his post, "New Books by Pope Benedict XVI / Joseph Ratzinger" (Against the Grain, August 21, 2007), Maximilian Heinrich Heim's new book, Joseph Ratzinger - Life in the Church and Living Theology: Fundamentals of Ecclesiology (Ignatius Press, October 2007), at a hefty 500 pages, looks like a major work in Ratzinger scholarship. The publisher's description reads:
This is a major work on the theology of Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, by a highly regarded German theologian, priest and writer. Since his election to the Papacy, Ratzinger's theology, and in particular his ecclesiology (theology of the Church), has been in the limelight of theological and ecumenical discussions.

This important work studies in detail Ratzinger's ecclesiology in the light of Vatican II, against the ongoing debate about what Vatican II really meant to say about the life of the Church, its liturgy, its worship, its doctrine, its pastoral mission, and more. Has his theology of the Church changed since Vatican II, or has it continued to develop consistently? Is the Catholic Church one church among many churches? Is she the object of hope or a historical reality?

Ratzinger the theologian figures centrally in this investigation, not as the former Prefect for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, but as a thinker and as a writer.

[Hat tip to C.B.]

The Kurds' 9/11

Sandro Magister, "Kurdistan's Twin Towers: The Massacre of the Yazidi" (www.chiesa, August 24, 2007), writes:
It is the most horrible terrorist attack carried out by al-Qaeda since September 11, 2001, striking a religious minority group accused of heresy by the orthodox Muslims. The religious nature of bin Laden's "holy war," analyzed by professor Vittorio E. Parsi.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Mother Teresa's dark nights of the soul

Time magazine yesterday carried an article by David van Biema entitled "Mother Teresa’s Crisis of Faith" (August 23, 2007). It was based on a recently published book by the Rev. Brian Kolodiejchuk, entitled Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light (Doubleday), and consists of an edited collection of correspondence between Mother Teresa and her confessors, spiritual directors, and superiors over 66 years. The focus of the book is on the dark side Mother Teresa -- her doubts, her dark nights of the soul when she lacked the clarity of vision and faith purportedly belied by her outward cheerfulness and life of service to others. The highlighted quotation in Van Biema's article is a statement she allegedly made to the Rev. Michael Van Der Peet in September 1979: "Jesus has a very special love for you. As for me, the silence and the emptiness is so great that I look and do not see, listen and do not hear."

The link to the piece was sent to me by one of my daughters-in-law. I told her that I had heard some years ago about Mother Teresa's "desert experiences," and that these seemed to fit what St. John of the Cross describes as the "dark night of the soul" in his writings -- an experience undergone by the soul -- often far along on the path of sanctity in the pilgrimage toward one's last end. Many American and western Christians might rarely if ever undergo such experiences, since they tend to wade in the shallow puddle of commercialized religious experiences in which they nearly always seek only that which is subjectively felt to be therapeutic. Catholic traditions of ascetic theology show that deeper spiritual life requires a trifle more.

I had not heard of Kolodiejchuk's book in conjunction with this examination of Mother Teresa, however, and it may be quite interesting, even if the Time article seems a bit sensationalist.

Of related interest:
Carol Zaleski, "The Dark Night of Mother Teresa" (First Things, May 2003)
[Hat tip to S.F.]

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Ted Nugent to run for governor?

From Detroit and known as the "Motor City Madman," Ted Nugent, who has performed nearly 6,000 concerts in his career and plans to release his 32nd album, "Love Grenade," on September 4th, contemplates following celebrities such as actor Arnold Schwarzenegger or wrestler Jesse Ventura, and running for governor of his home state. According to a recent article sent me by son, Christopher ("Ted Nugent May Run for Gov. of Michigan,", Aug. 20, 2007), "Ted Nugent is exuberantly excited most of the time, but he grows even more animated when asked if he ever tires of playing 'Cat Scratch Fever,' the 1977 hit he's played thousands of times in a 40-year career. He shouts repeated obscenities, then picks up a guitar and plays part of both 'Cat Scratch Fever' and his 1975 song "Stranglehold" with unbridled enthusiasm." One wonders what he would be like in political office. Taegan Goddard’s "Political Wire" quoted the Miami Harald two years ago on his political platform:
"To show you how radical I am, I want carjackers dead. I want rapists dead. I want burglars dead. I want child molesters dead. I want the bad guys dead. No court case. No parole. No early release. I want 'em dead. Get a gun and when they attack you, shoot 'em."
According to Goddard, he is most recently the author of Kill It and Grill It. Wonders never cease.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Anti-Catholicism of Golden Compass escapes Kidman

CathNews had a story yesterday quoting Nicole Kidman saying that the new movie she stars in, The Golden Compass, is not anti-Catholic ("My new film not anti-church, pleads Catholic Kidman," Catholic News, August 19, 2007):
Kidman told the magazine: "I was raised Catholic, the Catholic Church is part of my essence."
Umm, okay, sure.

But American Papist thinks otherwise. A little research, he suggests, reveals that Philip Pullman, the author of the book which inspired the movie, is an anti-Catholic atheist who has marketed his thinly-veiled strain of bigotry as children’s fantasy (The Golden Compass is pointing towards anti-Catholicism," August 19, 2007). Parents, caveat emptor.

[Hat tip to T.P.]

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Tridentine troop surge

The parochial administrator of a metro Detroit church has an article entitled "17 ... And Counting" in today's parish bulletin:
We couldn't resist a headline reminiscent of the announcer from a James Bond film, counting down the launch of a doomsday weapon. The number 17 refers to the number of priests in the Archdiocese of Detroit whom we have learned are considering starting a Tridentine Mass of one sort or another. That's 11 more than we knew about three weeks ago. We believe this is the second highest interest level of any diocese in North America.
Even such ebullience couldn't prevent the cool caveat of realism, however:
Of course, many if not most of these will not pan out, and those that do may not start for several months.
Still ... much better than driving for two hours or more to escape the horrors of standard AmChurch fare. It's a nice change to go to church expecting to encounter Christ and not come away, as Martin Mosebach says, a theater critic.

Mershon's response to Fr. J. Scott Newman

Brian Mershon has recently published a piece responding to Fr. J. Scott Newman's statements about the Traditional Latin Mass in general and the Society of Saint Pius X (SSPX) in particular. It is called "SSPX in schism? You can believe Fr. Newman... or you can believe the Church," and subtitled: "South Carolina pastor warns flock SSPX attendance 'morally illicit' and 'gravely sinful'" (Renew America, August 7, 2007).

Fr. Newman has been to Lenoir-Rhyne College many times, twice or more as an invited presenter at our annual Aquinas-Luther Conference. I have considerable respect for him and count him a friend. I was therefore pleased to see Mr. Mershon begin his article this way:

Noted author and commentator George Weigel's book Letters to a Young Catholic highlights St. Mary's parish, under the direction of Fr. Jay Scott Newman, JCL, as a particularly bright beacon in the continuing wasteland of the post-Vatican II devastation. St. Mary's is a steadily growing parish with lots of young families, and many who are open to life and attempting to lead holy, Catholic lives of discipleship.

Indeed, a handful of families have even moved to the Greenville area, in part at least, due to Weigel's endorsement of Fr. Newman and St. Mary's. While there is no Traditional Latin Mass offered at St. Mary's, the Novus Ordo is offered somewhat along the lines of those who advocate "the reform of the reform" of the 1970 Bugnini missal, with very High Church Anglican qualities, which is often quite edifying to those Catholics who have experienced abuses and banality in their own parish churches across the country.
Mr. Mershon says that he finished his aricle the day after Pope Benedict's motu proprio freeing the Traditional Roman rite of Holy Mass was issued on July 7, 2007. He notes that Fr. Newman , exactly one week earlier, in his parish bulletin letter to the 2,500 families of St. Mary's, said: "Whatever else may be the case, there will certainly be no changes made in the present way we celebrate the Missal of 1970 in our scheduled liturgies, and pending a careful study of the document, I do not anticipate that a regularly scheduled Tridentine Mass will be celebrated here at St. Mary's."

Perhaps Fr. Newman, one of three priests at St. Mary's, did not anticipate the precise content of Summorum Pontificum, according to which no qualified priest may be forbidden from offering the Traditional Latin Mass whenever he desires in private, and must accommodate any lay faithful who desire to attend the Traditional Mass, even when said privately. Indeed, who could have anticipated the precise content of the Pope's motu proprio? But Mr. Mershon infers that "Fr. Newman, one of orthodox and 'conservative' pastors is obviously gearing his congregation up to inoculate them against any potential effects it might have on his parish by his two bulletin letters of June 24 and July 1, in which he begins to 'prepare' his congregation for the freedom of the extraordinary Roman rite." He writes:

Fr. Newman's opposition to traditionalist Catholics and things "traddy" (like "effeminate" lace and Roman vestments) is well known in the Upstate (Greenville-Spartanburg) of South Carolina and to readers in blogdom. Fortunately, for those attached to Tradition in the Upstate, the Holy Ghost has been working wonders with Baptists and other converts at St. Mary's, and with two who have been ordained priests — and others seriously considering vocations. There are others too, and nearly all of them have positive dispositions toward offering the Traditional Latin Mass and sacraments, as well as toward traditional theology. Many of them got their start at St. Mary's with the reverence and solemnity found there.

On June 24, the Feast of the Birth of St. John the Baptist, Fr. Newman took up his entire bulletin letter to warn his congregation about the Society of St. Pius X (SSPX) and those Catholics in the Upstate whom he has apparently heard have been frequenting chapels of the Society of St. Pius X on those Sundays when the Traditional Latin Mass is not available at the indult parish of Prince of Peace in Taylors.

The full text of Fr. Newman's letter can be found online at St. Mary's website at Fr. Newman remarks on Pope Benedict's intention to publish the motu proprio freeing the "Tridentine" Mass, as he calls it. Fr. Newman explains that he will "take great care to explain" the meaning of the document to the liturgical life of the Church once it is issued, but devotes the rest of his letter to a concise history of the Society of St. Pius X, warning his parishioners about this "group of renegade bishops and priests who are leading people out of full communion with the Catholic Church in the name of the old liturgy."

Mr. Mershon takes issue with Fr. Newman's view of the SSPX. First, he notes that Darío Cardinal Castrillón, Prefect of the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei (PCED), at the May 16, 2007 Conference of Latin American bishops, explained how the PCED was fully engaged with bringing the SSPX bishops and priests into full canonical regularization, and called them "brothers," not "renegades."

Second, while acknowledging the irregular status (suspended faculties) of SSPX bishops consecrated by Archbishop Lefebrve, Mershon notes that Cardinal Castrillón describes SSPX priests and lay faithful neither as excommunicants nor heretics. Rather, Cardinal Castrillón says, "The bishops, priests and faithful of the Society of St Pius X are not schismatics. It is Archbishop Lefebrve who has undertaken an illicit episcopal consecration and therefore performed a schismatic act. It is for this reason that the Bishops consecrated by him have been suspended and excommunicated. The priests and faithful of the Society have not been excommunicated. They are not heretics." (In fact, as Mershon points out, there are no lay faithful who are members of the SSPX, which is comprised of priests, four bishops and some religious.)
Mershon devotes a substantial part of his article to the argument that there is no known public or private correspondence from the PCED declaring that Catholic laymen who attend SSPX chapels out of the desire to fulfill his Mass obligation according to the Traditional Latin rite are in "imperfect communion." In fact, he states, the only repeated correspondence from the PCED reads that a Catholic incurs no sin for attending SSPX chapels, as long as the reason for doing so is not to formally separate one's self from his pastor, bishop or the Pope and/or the teaching of the Church. The PCED, in fact, states that Catholics may fulfill their Sunday obligation by attending a Mass celebrated by a priest of the SSPX and even advises that they may contribute to the collection at such Masses (see the official correspondence from the PCED's Secretary Msgr. Camille Perl, which can be found in its entirety at

Third, Mershon raises a further question: if Catholics were in fact being led out of "full communion," or in the traditional ecclesiology, "out of the Church" -- "then wouldn't it be an act of pastoral solicitude on the part of Fr. Newman to offer his parishioners a 'wide and generous application' of the Traditional Roman rite on a regular basis in order to keep his flock in 'full communion' as Pope John Paul II requested 19 years ago?" Now that we've all had the chance to read Summorum Pontificum, I would argue that quite aside from the SSPX question, this would represent the heart of pastoral solicitude in any parish where there are those who desire the Traditional (or "extraordinary") Roman rite. I say this as someone who frequented the once-per-month Traditional Latin rite at the indult parish of Prince of Peace in Greenville, SC -- a two hour drive from our home in the Diocese of Charlotte, NC, which has no indult parish.

Fourth, Mershon asks whether Fr. Newman's warnings against illicit and invalid traditionalist Masses also applies to Catholics who routinely participate in illicit and invalid Novus Ordo Masses. While the Holy See has never explicitly declared that it is gravely immoral to participate in SSPX sacraments, it is clear by every canon of the General Instruction of the Roman Missal that, to quote Mershon, "a Catholic often runs as great a risk of 'imperfect communion' by attending many Novus Ordo parishes in dioceses in 'full canonical communion' with the Church through illicit or invalid Masses and/or sacraments." Mershon writes:
One example of this paradox was recently told by a father and mother this week who wished to remain nameless. They were recently on vacation in an unnamed diocese and witnessed an invalid baptism (due to improper form) and most likely, two invalid Masses (due to improper form), with every single Mass they attended being illicit due to the pastor making up words not in the Missal or changing or omitting words in the official Missal. Each and every Mass celebrated in the Novus Ordo which does not adhere strictly to the wording and ceremonies authored by the Church is also in fact illicit.

Some friends of theirs, prior to joining them on vacation, heard this story about the multiple parishes their friends attended in this diocese, and upon arriving, decided to take the safe and sure route by driving an hour and a half to the nearest SSPX chapel, where their family had a valid and spiritually grace-filled Mass, albeit "illicit." The difference of course was that at the SSPX Mass, the Holy Eucharist was truly confected.
The ironies compound, according to Mershon:

Illicit or illegal Masses and sacraments occur often even at "conservative," "reform of the reform" churches by priests who sometimes substitute the correct vernacular translations (e.g.,"I pray that this sacrifice, both yours and mine, may be acceptable to God the Almighty Father") instead of using the incorrect translations provided by ICEL with the approval of the USSCB and the Holy See. In other words, a priest who corrects even one phrase or word in the Novus Ordo to align it more accurately with the original Latin, is in fact celebrating an illicit Mass, even though he is being more faithful to the Latin and the intention of the Church by doing so.
In summary, this is not even the first of many discussions of this sort that will need to be initiated and enjoined over the next months and years in order for the objectives of the Holy Father's motu proprio to become settled and established in the collective mind of the Church. Only then, if at all, will the late Pope John Paul II's call for a "wide and generous application" of the Traditional Latin Mass become more than wishful thinking. Only then, if at all, can the liturgical life of mainstream contemporary Catholicism become substantially reconnected with the liturgical tradition of the Church, from which it is now substantially alienated. Only then, if at all, will the "reform of the reform" become more than the rare privilege of the exceptional few who happen to be lucky enough to have pastors who celebrate the Novus Ordo as beautifully and reverently as Fr. J. Scott Newman.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Bush blamed for Anglican turmoil

Kari Jenson Gold as written a piece entitled, "Blame It on W" (First Things, Tuesday, August 7, 2007). It begins like this:
We play a game in my family called Blame It on W. At first, we were a little slow to understand the rules, but, living on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, we pretty soon got the hang of it. To take an obvious example, even if Bush didn’t actually fly the planes into the Twin Towers (and the jury’s still out on that one,) he certainly was responsible for getting the guys so worked up in the first place. Or here’s another one: It wasn’t immediately clear to us that W had caused Hurricane Katrina. But then we remembered that he had refused to sign that Kyoto thing and was, ipso fipso, responsible for global warming and hence Katrina. You see how this is played? Turns out he really is The Decider. About everything.

For instance, if my local grocery store runs out of duck confit, there is no doubt in my mind that this is because Bush has allowed the store’s employees to live in deplorable conditions without universal health care—thereby causing them all to call in sick last Wednesday. Do I even need to mention the effects of global warming on ducks?

Call me naïve, but it hadn’t immediately occurred to me that the dissolution of the Anglican Communion should also be laid directly at the feet of George Bush....
And ends like this:
Finally, Bishop Roskam adds this, “The preoccupation with male homosexuality has to do with issues of maleness. . . . The undergirding issue is patriarchy.”

Now do you get it? “Our country’s recent aggression in the Middle East,” and “issues of maleness” (W, Cheney, Rummey, et al.) are the real causes of the turmoil in the Anglican Communion. George W. Bush—J’accuse!

[Hat tip to E.E.]

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Leave of absence

I will be taking a brief leave of absence from Blogsville until mid-August. We are moving to Michigan where I will be teaching at Sacred Heart Major Seminary.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

A birthday present from the Holy Father

Most of you would agree that 7/7/7 is a significant world-historical date -- the date of the publication of Summorum Pontificum, Pope Benedict XVI's Motu Proprio on July 7, 2007.

The other significant date is indicated by the last sentence of the Holy Father's Apostolic Letter:
We order that everything We have established with these Apostolic Letters issued as Motu Proprio be considered as "established and decreed", and to be observed from 14 September of this year, Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross, whatever there may be to the contrary.
The 14th of September, the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross, just happens to be my birthday. Thank you, Holy Father! Thanks again. Molti ringraziamenti!

Another side of Iraq you probably won't see in the news

Michael J. Totten, "In the Wake of the Surge" (July 27, 2007).

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Ambiance, decorum, manner and utterances at Mass should all speak powerfully of another world

The following excerpt is from an article by Fr. John A. Kiley, entitled "Mass should be enlightening and elevating, not a cookie cutter ritual" [PDF, scroll down] from the “The Quiet Corner” column on page 18 of the July 26, 2007 issue of Rhode Island Catholic, the weekly newspaper of the Diocese of Providence:
Bishop Donald W. Trautman of Erie, PA, has taken great exception to the proposed new translation of the Mass into English. In a recent article in America magazine, his Excellency quoted the following Advent prayer as an example of the new rendering of the text: “Accept, O Lord, these gifts, and by your power, change them into the sacrament of salvation, in which the prefiguring sacrifices of the Fathers have an end and the true Lamb is offered, he who was born ineffably of the inviolate Virgin.”

Apparently references to the prefiguring sacrifices, Christ’s ineffable birth and Mary’s inviolate virginity stuck on the prelate’s tongue. What will John and Mary Catholic make of these phrases, he asks.

The bishop takes exception to other phrases employed by the English translators: God, who suffused blessed John with the spirit of mercy; Cyril, an unvanquished champion of the divine motherhood; consubstantial to the Father; incarnate of the Virgin Mary; sullied; unfeigned; gibbet; wrought; thwart.

The bishop points out that elsewhere in the liturgical translations the priest is provided with a sentence eleven lines long and a phrase totaling 56 words.
The article is worth reading in its entirety.

[Hat tip to R.Q.]

Sungenis removes Jewish material from CAI website after contact from bishop

It has come to our attention that in a PDF document entitled "Catholic Apologetics International and its Teachings on the Jews," Robert Sungenis, President of CAI, reports that as a result of a letter from his bishop, the Very Reverend Kevin C. Rhoades of Harrisburg, PA, and a follow-up meeting with his vicar general, the Very Reverend William J. King, JCD, along with the executive director for ecumenical and inter-religious affairs of the USCCB, the Reverend James Massa, he has removed controversial material about Jews and Judaism from the CAI website. "Since our apostolate, in both name and content, publicizes itself as a Catholic institution that teaches the Catholic faith," and since "I am a faithful son of the Catholic Church," who takes "their wisdom and counsel with the utmost seriousness," as "from God himself," says Sungenis, "I consider it a privilege to obey them." Mr. Sungenis deserves our gratitude for this gesture and our prayers for fortification in his resolution to remain faithful to Mother Church. Deo Gratias.