Saturday, January 31, 2009

The Four Ends of the Mass

A reader writes:
After being taken to task for negativity, I stopped and asked myself, Well, what have been the stronger positive statements of basic Catholicism I have seen? It is not like the book reviews in the NOR offer much in terms of non-technical reading or inspiring. Since Kreeft, in his helpful and encouraging Jesus-Shock, gives a nod to the Baltimore Catechism, the reference there flashed me back to Foley's citing of it here [see below].

Somewhere [Fr.] Louis Bouyer writes that the challenge now is to distill our message to fit onto a business card. What?! Almost sounds like an "I Found It!" campaign -- very, very unCatholic. And while the complexities of the Faith may indeed not be best conveyed when condensed, it does make one wonder if we have an incisive message beyond the essentially generic "Hope!" "Love!" campaigns afoot.

Foley's fourth point especially is thus one I liked in terms of how he tackled it. I think we need to hear a lot more of this sort of thing... and Pope Benedict seems somewhat so inclined.
The article to which the reader makes reference is Michael P. Foley's "The Mass and the Four Most Important Lessons of Childhood" (Scripture and Catholic Tradition, February 1, 2009). The article begins thus:
The four principal ends of the Mass are also the four most important things to teach our children—and ourselves.

One of the questions of the old Baltimore Catechism is, "What are the purposes for which the Mass is offered?" The answer given was fourfold:
  • First, to adore God as our Creator and Lord.
  • Second, to thank God for His many favors.
  • Third, to ask God to bestow His blessings on all men.
  • Fourth, to satisfy the justice of God for the sins committed against Him.
Adoration, thanksgiving, petition, and satisfaction—mention of these four ends found their way into many an old missal and are still a familiar feature of any traditional catechesis on the Mass. What is often overlooked, however, is the relation of these ends to our own concrete lives as human beings. How exactly do these four things relate to our psychological, emotional, and spiritual welfare?

One way to approach this question is to consider the four most important things that we learn to say as children: "I love you," "Thank you," "Please," and "I’m sorry." These four simple sayings are not only capable of directing both young and old onto the path toward human happiness; they also provide a useful analogy for what happens at every Sacrifice of the Mass.
The entire article is well worth reading, as any of you know who may be familiar with Professor Foley's writing.

[Hat tip to J.M.]

SSPX: from the Welborn mosh pit

A reader writes:
"Over at open book [Amy Welborn's blog, now "Charlotte Was Both"], bracing back and forths on the SSPX deal.

I attended a non-schismatic Latin Mass a while back, and was both intrigued, attracted, and a bit repelled. So I don't mean this as a Trad shout out at all. But i thought these comments in the com box by trp were on point:
The comment in question reads as follows:
The Vatican could have put together lots of neat PR packets for the press, and the headlines would have been the same. I, for one, appreciate the Vatican’s indifference to the MSM. The facts are out there, easily accessible to any journalist; it’s really their fault if they are utterly uninterested in discovering them.

The rejection by the SSPX of V2 is, for me, a non-starter. More than half of my parish rejects the basics of the Catholic faith. “The Trinity? You’ve got to be kidding me! What are you, a traditionalist or something?” Should they be summarily excommunicated? And if you are going to start with the rebellious clerics; well, there’s Father McBrian and plenty others where he comes from. If you were to distribute a doctrinal check list, I suspect that the SSPX–priests, bishops, and laity–would score better than the average Catholic in good standing.

Archbishop Williamson’s statements are foolish, probably sinful, and an embarrassment to all traditionalists. However, they cannot compare in gravity to the sins of prelates who have not been relieved of their duties. If you compare him with Abp Mahony, for example, you will likely find that the latter has done far more real harm. The secular press can continue with their nonsense, but I will not be more upset about Abp Williamson than I am about Abp Mahony. I hope that both will disappear from the scene.

Here’s the really painful point to make: the SSPX may not want full communion, and they may be right not to want it. Thanks to the brilliant and holy Benedict XVI, it is now becoming mainstream to question the idea that the authentic liturgy and doctrine of the Church was born the 1960’s, and that everything that was taught and believed before that decade was a bunch of superstitious, bigoted nonsense. We have also begun to undo some of the brutal iconoclasm that has devastated our churches, art, music, and liturgy. However, we’ve made baby steps. None of it would have been possible without the SSPX’s rebellion. I can understand why even reasonable factions of the SSPX might now be very diffident about submitting themselves to the authority of the current hierarchy of the Church. They have Pope Benedict as their ally; but he has many, many enemies who hate the SSPX, and hate everything that they have managed stubbornly to preserve.
[Hat tip to J.M.]

Cardinal: SSPX leader 'recognizes Vatican II'

Damian Thompson, "The drama continues: head of SSPX 'recognises Vatican II', says Cardinal Castrillon" (, January 29, 2009):

Now that Bishop Williamson has been punished and silenced, Pope Benedict XVI's grand design for the reunion of orthodox Catholic Christianity is going according to plan. Cardinal Castrillon, head of Ecclesia Dei, has just been quoted as saying that Bishop Fellay, head of the SSPX, recognises the Second Vatican Council. Amazing. (Hat-tip: the great Father Z.)

So, in the course of one day, we learn that a personal prelature is on offer to hundreds of thousands of members of the Traditional Anglican Communion, and that the leader of the SSPX, which in the past has portrayed Vatican II as the work of Satan, now accepts the broad thrust of the Council. (One curious detail: it seems possible that the Vatican didn't know that Richard Williamson was a gibbering Holocaust denier until after the decision to lift the excommunications had been taken. Not very clever, though I personally couldn't care less what "communities minister" Sadiq Khan has to say on the subject.)

Admittedly, there are many obstacles to be overcome, some arising from the instability of the SSPX and the TAC, and others deliberately strewn in the path of the Holy Father by cardinals and . . .

[Hat tip to New Oxford Review News Link]

Report: Pope may welcome Traditional Anglicans

Plans could mean mass exodus from the Church of England: "Healing the Reformation's fault lines" (The Record, January 28, 2009:
History may be in the making. It appears Rome is on the brink of welcoming close to half a million members of the Traditional Anglican Communion into membership of the Roman Catholic Church, writes Anthony Barich. Such a move would be the most historic development in Anglican-Catholic relations in the last 500 years. But it may also be a prelude to a much greater influx of Anglicans waiting on the sidelines, pushed too far by the controversy surrounding the consecration of practising homosexual bishops, women clergy and a host of other issues.

It is understood that the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has decided to recommend the Traditional Anglican Communion be accorded a personal prelature akin to Opus Dei, if talks between the TAC and the Vatican aimed at unity succeed.
[Hat tip to New Oxford Review News Link]

"The Coming Evangelical Collapse"

Michael Spencer, "My Prediction: The Coming Evangelical Collapse (1)" (Internet, January 27, 2009):
I’m not a Prophet or a Prophet’s Son. I can’t see the future. I’m usually wrong. I’m known for over-reacting. I have no statistics. You probably shouldn’t read this. The “Gracious God” post depressed me.

Part 1: The Coming Evangelical Collapse, and Why It Is Going to Happen
Part 2: What Will Be Left When Evangelicalism Collapses?
Part 3: Is This A Good Thing?

My Prediction

I believe that we are on the verge- within 10 years- of a major collapse of evangelical Christianity; a collapse that will follow the deterioration of the mainline Protestant world and that will fundamentally alter the religious and cultural environment in the West. I believe this evangelical collapse will happen with astonishing statistical speed; that within two generations of where we are now evangelicalism will be a house deserted of half its current occupants, leaving in its wake nothing that can revitalize evangelicals to their former “glory.”

The party is almost over for evangelicals; a party that’s been going strong since the beginning of the “Protestant” 20th century. We are soon going to be living in a very secular and religiously antagonistic 21st century in a culture that will be between 25-30% non-religious.

This collapse, will, I believe, herald the arrival of an anti-Christian chapter of the post-Christian west and will change the way tens of millions of people see the entire realm of religion. Intolerance of Christianity will rise to levels many of us have not believed possible in our lifetimes, and public policy will become particularly hostile towards evangelical Christianity, increasingly seeing it as the opponent of the good of individuals and society.

The response of evangelicals to this new environment will be a revisiting of the same rhetoric and reactions we’ve seen since the beginnings of the current culture war in the 1980s. The difference will be that millions of evangelicals will quit: quit their churches, quit their adherence to evangelical distinctives and quit resisting the rising tide of the culture.

Many who will leave evangelicalism will leave for no religious affiliation at all. Others will leave for an atheistic or agnostic secularism, with a strong personal rejection of Christian belief and Christian influence. Many of our children and grandchildren are going to abandon ship, and many will do so saying “good riddance.”

This collapse will cause the end of thousands of ministries. The high profile of Christian media will be reduced, if not eliminated. Hundreds of thousands of students, pastors, religious workers, missionaries and persons employed by ministries and churches will be unemployed or employed elsewhere. Christian schools will go into rapid decline. Visible, active evangelical ministries will be reduced to a small percentage of their current size and effort.

Nothing will reanimate evangelicalism to its previous levels of size and influence. The end of evangelicalism as we know it is close; far closer than most of us will admit.

My prediction has nothing to do with a loss of eschatological optimism. Far from it. I’m convinced the grace and mission of God will reach to the ends of the earth. But I am not optimistic about evangelicalism, and I do not believe any of the apparently lively forms of evangelicalism today are going to be the answer. In fact, one dimension of this collapse, as I will deal with in the next post, is the bizarre scenario of what will remain when evangelicals have gone into decline.

I fully expect that my children, before they are 40, will see evangelicalism at far less than half its current size and rapidly declining. They will see a very, very different culture as far as evangelicalism is concerned.

I hope someone is going to start preparing for what is going to be an evangelical dark age.

Why Is This Going To Happen?

1) Evangelicals have identified their movement with the culture war and with political conservatism. This was a mistake that will have brutal consequences. They are not only going to suffer in losing causes, they will be blamed as the primary movers of those causes. Evangelicals will become synonymous with those who oppose the direction of the culture in the next several decades. That opposition will be increasingly viewed as a threat, and there will be increasing pressure to consider evangelicals bad for America, bad for education, bad for children and bad for society.

The investment of evangelicals in the culture war will prove out to be one of the most costly mistakes in our history. The coming evangelical collapse will come about, largely, because our investment in moral, social and political issues has depleted our resources and exposed our weaknesses. We’re going to find out that being against gay marriage and rhetorically pro-life (yes, that’s what I said) will not make up for the fact that massive majorities of evangelicals can’t articulate the Gospel with any coherence and are believing in a cause more than a faith.

2) Evangelicals have failed to pass on to our young people the evangelical Christian faith in an orthodox form that can take root and survive the secular onslaught. In what must be the most ironic of all possible factors, an evangelical culture that has spent billions of youth ministers, Christian music, Christian publishing and Christian media has produced an entire burgeoning culture of young Christians who know next to nothing about their own faith except how they feel about it. Our young people have deep beliefs about the culture war, but do not know why they should obey scripture, the essentials of theology or the experience of spiritual discipline and community. Coming generations of Christians are going to be monumentally ignorant and unprepared for culture-wide pressures that they will endure.

Do not be deceived by conferences or movements that are theological in nature. These are a tiny minority of evangelicalism. A strong core of evangelical beliefs is not present in most of our young people, and will be less present in the future. This loss of “the core” has been at work for some time, and the fruit of this vacancy is about to become obvious.

3) Evangelical churches have now passed into a three part chapter: 1) mega-churches that are consumer driven, 2) churches that are dying and 3) new churches that whose future is dependent on a large number of factors. I believe most of these new churches will fail, and the ones that do survive will not be able to continue evangelicalism at anything resembling its current influence. Denominations will shrink, even vanish, while fewer and fewer evangelical churches will survive and thrive.

Our numbers, our churches and our influence are going to dramatically decrease in the next 10-15 years. And they will be replaced by an evangelical landscape that will be chaotic and largely irrelevant.

4) Despite some very successful developments in the last 25 years, Christian education has not produced a product that can hold the line in the rising tide of secularism. The ingrown, self-evaluated ghetto of evangelicalism has used its educational system primarily to staff its own needs and talk to itself. I believe Christian schools always have a mission in our culture, but I am skeptical that they can produce any sort of effect that will make any difference. Millions of Christian school graduates are going to walk away from the faith and the church.

There are many outstanding schools and outstanding graduates, but as I have said before, these are going to be the exceptions that won’t alter the coming reality. Christian schools are going to suffer greatly in this collapse.

5) The deterioration and collapse of the evangelical core will eventually weaken the missional-compassionate work of the evangelical movement. The inevitable confrontation between cultural secularism and the religious faith at the core of evangelical efforts to “do good” is rapidly approaching. We will soon see that the good evangelicals want to do will be viewed as bad by so many, that much of that work will not be done. Look for evangelical ministries to take on a less and less distinctively Christian face in order to survive.

6) Much of this collapse will come in areas of the country where evangelicals imagine themselves strong. In actual fact, the historic loyalties of the Bible belt will soon be replaced by a de-church culture where religion has meaning as history, not as a vital reality. At the core of this collapse will be the inability to pass on, to our children, a vital evangelical confidence in the Bible and the importance of the faith.

7) A major aspect of this collapse will happen because money will not be flowing towards evangelicalism in the same way as before. The passing of the denominationally loyal, very generous “greatest generation” and the arrival of the Boomers as the backbone of evangelicalism will signal a major shift in evangelical finances, and that shift will continue into a steep drop and the inevitable results for schools, churches, missions, ministries and salaries.

Next: What Will Be Left?
Related[Hat tip to S.F.]

Evening Prayer

O God, give me grace at this time duly to confess my sins before Thee, and truly to repent of them. Blot out of Thy book, gracious Lord, all my manifold acts of sin committed against Thee. Forgive me all my wanderings in prayer, my sins of omission, my deliberate sins against conscience.

Give me eyes to see what is right, and a heart to follow it, and strength to perform it; and grant that I may in all things press forward in the work of sanctification and ever do Thy will, and at length through Thy mercy attain to the glories of Thy everlasting Kingdom through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Oxford 1828

[Acknowledgement: A Newman Prayer Book (Vincent F. Blehl, S.J., 1990), p. v.]

Friday, January 30, 2009

Fr. Paul Berg (1922-2009)

One of our own priests at Sacred Heart Major Seminary, dearly beloved by the whole community, passed from this life on Monday, following a brief illness. At one time, much earlier in his life, he was the philosophy professor of Thomas Losoncy, whom I had as a professor during my M.A. program at Villanova University in Philadelphia in 1979-1980. Dr. Losoncy has long since retired, but Fr. Berg was still teaching philosophy at Sacred Heart and coaching the Seminary basketball team up into the fall semester of 2008. After games he could be seen surrounded by his students, nursing a bottle of beer in the seminarians' pub, which was affectionately named after him: O'Berg's. He was 87.

Fr. Berg was a taciturn, humble, and deeply compassionate priest. He was born and raised in Detroit, and, as far as I know, has been at the Seminary longer than anyone else now living there. He remembered details from the Civil Rights marches in Selma, Alabama in 1965. He was there. He lived through the Detroit riots of 1967, which began just blocks from the Seminary, and he knew all about the history, demographics, and race-relations of the city. He was all about the hospitality of reaching out to those in the surrounding community. He was also involved in the Irish-Catholic fraternal organization, the Ancient Order of Hibernians, was a die-hard fan of the Fighting Irish, and could be seen occasionally with his golf putter, practicing on the Seminary lawns. At the conclusion of each of his Masses at the Seminary, he would always leave us with a parting thought -- usually an apt word or phrase to help the point of his homily stick. At his funeral today at Sacred Heart, the church was packed with an overflow crowd. He will be missed.

See: Oralandar Brand-Williams, "Priest fought for civil rights" (The Detroit News, January 28, 2009): "Catholic cleric marched in Alabama, recruited students to participate; also taught at seminary."

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Philadelphia's Glorious Catholic Music History

By Lucy E. Carroll

Lucy E. Carroll, D.M.A., is organist and music director at the Carmelite Monastery in Philadelphia, where the choir, nuns, and congregation sing Latin chant and traditional music, and the choir sings old and new motets in Latin and English. She is creator of the "Church­mouse Squeaks" cartoons that appear in Adoremus Bulletin, and a frequent contributor of articles on sacred music and the liturgy. She is currently editing the Monastery Hymnal. She is also adjunct associate professor at Westminster Choir College of Rider University in Princeton, New Jersey. The historical data in this article was originally prepared for her doctoral dissertation, "Three Centuries of Song: Pennsylvania's Choral Composers 1681-1981" (Combs College of Music, Philadelphia, 1982). Some material was excerpted from her article "Hymns, Hymnals, Composers, and Choir Schools: Philadelphia's Historic Contribution to Catholic Liturgical Music" (Adoremus Bulletin, June 2004).

The Archdiocese of Philadelphia celebrated its bicentennial this year. The Catholic Standard and Times, the archdiocesan newspaper, published a special issue commemorating the two hundred years of archdiocesan history. This retrospective covered archdiocesan saints John Neumann and Katherine Drexel, and the founding of schools, parishes, and colleges. Pages and pages were given to the pride of the past two hundred years. Not one word was given to music.

Why keep our music history a secret? Philadel­phia's musical history is unique among the thirteen colonies. For decades, Philadelphia was at the forefront of Catholic liturgical music. Home to hymnal publishers, composers, musical societies, and at the center of American reform of liturgical music called for by Pope St. Pius X, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia has much of which to be proud.

Alas, the past glories put the present state of music into shadow. Contemporary, secular-style music is most prominent in this archdiocese. Not surprisingly, music is not given any pride of place in Philadelphia parishes: A survey of the archdiocesan directory, and a look at the parish Sunday bulletins, shows listings of priests, deacons, secretaries, grief counselors, business managers, parish nurses, and all manner of officers; nowhere does one find a music director or organist listed.

Some of the music of the past two centuries will sound outdated. Yet throughout its history -- before the changes following the Second Vatican Council -- Philadelphia's sacred-music leaders were trained in classical music rather than the popular song style of their day. They brought to liturgical music an excellence (in the classical standards of their time) and a sense of the sacred. Can that be said today?

So mired in musical mediocrity are today's parishes that a hope of a renewal of truly sacred Catholic music like the Gregorian renewal begun by Philadelphia's St. Gregory Guild of a century ago seems an impossible dream.

Once upon a time, Philadelphia was the only one of the thirteen colonies in which Catholics were permitted to worship openly. (Maryland was founded as a Catholic colony, but soon came under British rule and law. It became illegal to build a Catholic church in Maryland, so Catholics had to worship in private houses.) Under British rule, Catholicism was forbidden in Philadelphia, subject to imprisonment at the least. But William Penn's charter granting religious freedom in his colony continued to be honored during colonial days. Pennsylvania built the first Catholic churches in the U.S., and its music gained renown even among non-Catholics. John Adams attended a Catholic service in Philadelphia in 1774 and wrote, "Went in the afternoon, to the Romish Chapel in Philadelphia…. The scenery and the music are so calculated to take in mankind that I wonder the Reformation ever succeeded…. The chanting is soft and sweet."

High praise indeed! What would he think of today's mix of salsa, merengue, pop, and gospel? Would he think the Reformation's success bore fruit?

July 4, 1779, saw a remarkable event (remarkable, one thinks, even by today's secular standards): Official celebrations for the anniversary of the Declaration of Independence were held at Old St. Mary's Catholic Church. Among the participants were George Washington, the French ambassador Conrad-Alexandre Gérard, Gérard's chaplain, as well as several heads of state, members of Congress, and representatives of the French navy. The Gregorian chant setting of the Te Deum was sung. Can one even imagine a U.S. president today celebrating a national event in a Catholic Church, listening to Gregorian chant?

Because of its Catholic populace, Philadelphia became home to the first U.S. Catholic hymnal. Published in 1787 by John Aitken (1745-1831), the compilation was titled Litanies and Vesper Hymns and Anthems as They are Sung in the Catholic Church Adapted to the Voice and Organ. The music was scored for treble and bass; a later edition included a third vocal part. A Holy Mass of the Blessed Trinity was included, but, as was sadly customary at the time, some text was omitted and replaced with instrumental sections. Plainchant themes appeared in the Mass and some hymns, but the music -- again in the classical style of the time -- was greatly ornamented. While Aitken was not Catholic, he worked closely with Catholic leaders in preparing the book. The German parishioners of Holy Trinity Catholic Church helped to underwrite the cost of publication.

Soon thereafter, the second American Catholic hymnal appeared, by the first American Catholic publisher, also in Philadelphia. Matthew Carey (1769-1839) organized a Sunday School Society in Philadelphia beginning about 1790. Four years later, he published a Catholic catechism; later editions contained hymns.

The Philadelphia Musical Fund Society, begun in 1820, is the oldest extant music society in America. One of its founders, Benjamin Carr (1768-1831), became music director of St. Augustine's Catholic Church, which opened its doors in 1801. Four years later, Carr published Masses, Vespers, Litanies: Composed, Selected, and Arranged for the Use of the Catholic Churches in the United States of America. It was dedicated to Baltimore Bishop John Carroll (the first American bishop) and included Carr's original setting for the Mass and Te Deum. It was another landmark publication, and it introduced Adeste Fideles and O Sanctissima to American Catholics. Alas, his Mass settings also omitted some text phrases in the Gloria, a common practice at the time on both sides of the Atlantic.

The first American Sodality was begun in Philadelphia in 1841 by the Rev. Felix Barbelin (1808-1869). The Sodality movement had been approved by Pope Gregory XIII in 1684. Fr. Barbelin had been pastor of Old St. Joseph's Church for two decades. He founded St. Joseph's Hospital and was named president of St. Joseph's College in 1852. He prepared the first American Sodality Manual in 1841, which contained prayers and hymns. A plethora of Sodality hymnals appeared in the following years, such as Philadelphia's Sodalist's Manual in 1887. The Manual was prepared by E.F. McGonigle, and contained 120 hymns with music. So popular was this collection that it was reprinted in 1900, 1904, and 1905. Many of the Sodality hymns were of lesser musical quality, but they were intended for use in devotions and prayer meetings rather than the Mass, and for schools and amateur groups rather than church choirs.

Catholic music grew in Philadelphia's Catholic schools. As early as 1804 Philadelphia's Old St. Mary's Church established a singing school and a boy choir. Here is a bright light: today there is an Archdiocesan Boy Choir, directed by Tom Windfelter. Some eighty young men in this choir sing traditional Catholic choral music and chant, much of it in Latin. The choir has sung in such venues as Ávila, Spain, and Lourdes, France.

The Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur prepared The Wreath of Mary hymnal in 1884, and the Sunday School Hymn Book in 1887. While actually published by a Boston firm, the music was the work of Philadelphia nuns. Some of the hymns later found their way into the St. Basil Hymnal. Sisters of the Holy Child Jesus, also in Philadelphia, founded by Sr. Cornelia Connelly, prepared a hymnal in 1877 with over 100 English hymns and a few Latin motets, including the setting of O Salutaris Hostia by Anthony Werner, which is still used today.

Philadelphia poetess Eleanor C. Donnelly (1838-1917) published two volumes of original hymns to the Sacred Heart, in 1882 and 1912. Sentimentally Victorian in flavor, they still contained strong devotional aspects. Two of her hymn texts were "Sacred Heart, in Accents Burning" and "Like a Strong and Raging Fire."

Philadelphia was also home to a German-American immigrant who made a tremendous impact on Catholic sacred music in the 19th century. Albert RoSewig (he capitalized the "S" in his surname to be assured it would be pronounced correctly, with three syllables, not two) came to America at the age of ten in 1856 and served in the city until his death in 1929. He was director of music at St. Charles Borromeo Church for some thirty-five years. His reputation as composer and conductor was so great and widespread that he was selected as the conductor for the Centennial Chorus at the U.S. Centennial Exposition of 1876.

RoSewig wrote Masses, songs, hymns, and motets. In his day, "Little Brown Jug" and "Listen to the Mockingbird" were among Philadelphia's favorite songs. He did not, however, write in that popular song style, but in the classical style of his day, which was florid and sentimental. RoSewig had his own publishing company, and around 1880 he published Concentus Sacri. Popular in its day, it was later criticized by Catholic music reformers. As was popular in his time, RoSewig wrote romanticized rather than modal harmony for Gregorian chants, and even harmonized the priest's altar chants, something Pope St. Pius X later condemned. (Today it is still forbidden to accompany the priest's altar chants in any way.) Despite this, Concentus Sacri was a most popular publication and provided Catholic choirs with the works of such composers as Adam Geibel, Giacomo Rossini, Mozart, Donizetti, Bellini, Verdi, Gounod, and, of course, Albert RoSewig. While some of the music today may seem overly florid, it was in the best classical tradition of its day, and prompted the formation of large, musically capable Catholic choirs.

While he wrote in what he considered appropriate sacred style, RoSewig lived to hear his music condemned by Nicola Montani and the members of the St. Gregory Guild. Pius X banned overly operatic styles, and RoSewig must have been shattered to see his compositions dismissed as inappropriate for the very sphere for which they were written. He completely withdrew from the public the last decade of his life.

And what of that reform? In 1903 Pius X issued Tra le Sollecitudini, his motu proprio that restored pure Gregorian chant, encouraged polyphony, reaffirmed the use of Latin, and restricted musical style and instrumental usage for the next sixty years. In Philadelphia, Nicola Montani led the national reform of Catholic liturgical music.

Montani (1880-1949) was conductor, editor, composer, and publisher. He was founder of the St. Gregory Guild in Rittenhouse Square, spreading the message of Pius X's reform, and furnishing publications for that reform. Born in New York, he spent 42 of his 67 years in Philadelphia. He studied at Rome's St. Cecilia Conservatory in 1903, and in 1904 attended a school organized by the then-exiled monks of Solesmes on the Isle of Wight. From 1906 to 1923 he served at St. John the Evangelist Church in central Philadelphia. He also taught music at Hallahan High School, West Philadelphia Catholic Girls High School, and St. Mary's Academy. He served as editor-in-chief of liturgical music for both G. Schirmer and Boston Music Company publishers. Imagine, a Catholic music composer and editor who studied chant and read the Vatican documents. Mirabile dictu!

In 1914 Montani published the St. Gregory Hymnal and Catholic Choir Book, renewed in 1920 and 1947. He funded the cost of publication himself. In near-fanatic fervor, he also published a "White List" of recommended music, as well as an infamous "Black List" in 1922, naming music that did not meet -- in his estimation, anyway -- the high standards of Tra le Sol­lecitudini. Pius X had written that any modern music in the liturgy had to have "sanctity and goodness of form…. Contain nothing profane, be free from reminiscences of motifs adopted in thea­tres…and not be fashioned after the manner of profane pieces."

A century later, Pope John Paul II wrote his chirograph on sacred music, reminding Catholics that the 1903 work was still valid in essence: that the closer music was to Gregorian chant in form, the more suitable it was for the Mass, and vice versa. Alas, while Montani and his Society championed Pius X's 1903 document, John Paul's 2003 chirograph has been largely ignored.

Montani may have gone a bit over the line in delineating "liturgical style": He banned works by Mozart, Haydn, Schubert, Rossini, von Weber, and his predecessor, RoSewig. He did, however, edit and adapt those works, pruning them of what he considered superfluous aspects (arpeggiated chords, rhythmic accompaniments, ornamentation, etc.). It was rather like the taste of watered-down beer.

Montani's St. Gregory Hymnal received wide acceptance and influenced much of the country. Copies still appear for auction on eBay. A severely abridged version is available from GIA Publications, and the full hymnal itself is available in reprint. It can still be found in the choir lofts of a few Philadelphia churches, for it contained many accessible choral pieces in both Latin and English, arranged for two-part or four-part choirs. Montani's harmonization of chant was heavy-handed, and later criticized, and must take a back seat to the work of Achille Bragers.

Montani lives on, not only in old copies of his hymnal, but in a Guild publication titled The Correct Pronunciation of Latin According to the Roman Usage. This is still available from GIA Publications (buried deep, deep within the catalog). The manual had been recommended to all choir conductors, Catholic and otherwise, by no less a personage than the great Robert Shaw, dean of American choral directors. How ironic that this manual, designed for Catholic churches, is more often found today in the hands of secular concert choir directors.

Montani brought Philadelphia to the forefront in other ways. In 1915 his Palestrina Choir gave concerts of Renaissance polyphony in Philadelphia and New York, bringing this music to the ears of U.S. audiences. His choirs recorded this music for Victor Records, awakening an interest in polyphonic choral music in the rest of the country. He also organized the Choral Festival of Catholic Choirs and directed it for the U.S. Sesqui-Centennial Celebration in 1926. The St. Gregory Hymnal was put into Braille notation, the first hymnal of any kind to be prepared in Braille. For his work in Catholic liturgical music reform, Montani was named a Knight Commander of St. Sylvester by Pope Pius XI in 1926.

Other Philadelphi­ans also excelled in music for the liturgy. Sr. Mary Immaculée (1885-1965) of the Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (in Immacu­lata, Pennsylvania) served as music director at Immacu­lata College for over twenty years. She was affiliated with the Society of St. Gregory and became noted as a composer of sacred works for women's choirs as well as traditional four-part mixed choirs. She was influential in bringing good liturgical music to the area, particularly in schools, and helped further the cause of women composers.

Sr. Regina Dolores of the Sisters of St. Joseph (in Chestnut Hill, Pennsylvania) graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, received a Master of Arts in organ from Notre Dame, and a Ph.D. in music from the Detroit Conservatory. She also studied harp at Philadelphia's still-famed Curtis Institute of Music. An outstanding performer, she was named Chair of the Music Department at Chestnut Hill College from the year the school opened in 1924 until her retirement in 1970. She was renowned as a conductor, composer, harpist, and organist. She was an officer of the St. Cecilia Guild, and wrote for the St. Gregory Society. She was a member of the Cardinal's Commission on Liturgical Music (no longer extant) and was president of the Pennsylvania State Unit of the National Catholic Music Educators Association.

Today, the reforms called for by Pius X, the true intent of the Second Vatican Council (as opposed to the interpretive "spirit of Vatican II"), and the reminders of Pope John Paul II and then-Cardinal Ratzinger are recognized only in sporadic bits and spurts within the archdiocese. No longer a leader in liturgical music, this archdiocese, like so many others, has fallen into the inclusive, multicultural bandwagon of inappropriate, secular-style music. What would John Adams, Nicola Montani, Sister Immaculée, Benjamin Carr, even Albert RoSewig think of the mediocrity and banality of so much liturgical music today? Ah, perhaps that is why the history of Philadelphia's leadership in Catholic sacred music has been kept under wraps.

One hopes that this great archdiocese abandons the pop-and-salsa style and once again leads the people in renewal of music for the sacred liturgy -- music that is sacred in nature, high in musical quality, suitable for the altar of sacrifice, and fitting for God's house.

[The forgoing article by Lucy E. Carroll, "Philadelphia's Glorious Catholic Music History," was original published in New Oxford Review (December 2008), and is reproduced here by kind permission of New Oxford Review, 1069 Kains Ave., Berkeley, CA 94706.]

Oh, come now.


Niraj Warikoo, writing in "Vigneron installed as new Detroit archbishop" (Detroit Free Press, January 28, 2009), infers from the fact that the new Archbishop, in his homily, repeatedly stressed "the importance of strictly adhering to church principles despite the prevailing culture," that this "clearly showed his traditionalist bent."

Come now. So what's this supposed to mean -- that disobeying church principles is "progressive"? Puh-leeeze. What Warikoo says about Vigneron here tell us more about Warikoo than about Vigneron. I would have thought that conscientious obedience to Mother Church was simply the mark of a good and faithful bishop, rather than something calling for polarizing labels. Then again, we live in times when everything, even the Eucharistic Sacrifice, has been politicized. Domine, miserere nobis.

Then again, maybe this was the proverbial needle in the haystack and nothing more than an honest and innocent journalistic mistake. Yu think?!

Newman Prayer Book

A reader recently wrote asking where one might be able to acquire the Newman prayer book, from which I have been offering excerpts recently. I sent an email in reply, but it was bounced back with "fatal errors," so I post the information here for anyone interested:

Here's the data I find in the prayer book --
Vincent Ferrer Blehl, S.J., editor, A Newman Prayer Book (Birmingham, UK: V.F. Blehl, S.J., 1990).
There is also the following information:
Publisher: V.F. Blehl, S.J., The Newman Secretariat, The Oratory, Hagley Road, Birmingham B16 8UE, England.
My hunch is that I purchased the booklet on a visit in 1999 to the Birmingham Oratory to visit the Newman Library there, where he lived. I would suggest writing to the Oratory directly at the address given and inquiring about the availability of the booklet for purchase.

The Oratory also has a website: that may be worth exploring. I note that they do have a much larger collection of Newman's prayers available, listed online (though one would still have to write to them by regular mail to make the purchase). I don't see the particular prayer book I've been using listed (which is a very small booklet of only 33 pages); but it may be available if you contact them.

There is a "Contact Us" link with both phone numbers and email addresses.

The only other place I can think that I may have purchased it is the London (Brompton) Oratory, which has a book shop in the church, but no online link.

Regardless, the booklet may not be ideal. For example, the editor changed Newman's second person pronouns ("Thee," Thy" "Thine) when addressing God to "you," "your" and "yours"), which accords with the horizontalizing contemporary chumminess toward the Almighty, but is hardly faithful to Newman's eloquent (and reverent) Victorian form.

There are other books of Cardinal Newman's prayers you may prefer. In the meantime, there are some of his most memorable prayers online, if you google for them, using "prayer" + "Cardinal" + "Newman" etc.

Wish I could be more help.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Good counsel for the work of God

Are you upset? Look: happen what may in your interior life and in the world around you, never forget that the importance of events or of people is very relative. Take things calmly. Let time pass. And then, as you view persons and events dispassionately and from afar, you'll acquire the perspective that will enable you to see each thing in it's proper place and in it's true proportion. If you do this, you'll be more objective and you'll be spared many a cause of anxiety.

~ St. Josemaria Escriva

[Hat tip to L. Miller]

Living a liturgical life via the calendar

Tridentine Community News (January 25, 2009):

By now, you have likely heard the term “Octave” used with regards to a Feast in the Church Calendar. Let’s examine what Octaves are.

Holy Mother Church desires that we commemorate the most solemn Feasts of the year not only on the day of the Feast itself, but also for a total of eight days. The most famous Octave in the calendar is that of Easter. Indeed, officially, Easter is the only Octave preserved in the Ordinary Form. In the Extraordinary Form, the 1955 Calendar reform suppressed all Octaves except Christmas, Easter, and Pentecost. However, because the Calendar itself was mostly untouched, the other Octaves of Epiphany, Ascension, Corpus Christi, and Sacred Heart are still in place, even if not by name. During an Octave, certain things may be kept constant: For example, throughout the Octave of the Nativity, both a special Preface of the Nativity and a special Communicántes in the Canon are used. This liturgical continuity has the effect of reminding us about the Feast for all eight days.

Ember Days

A feature of the Tridentine calendar that is often overlooked nowadays is the four seasonal sets of Ember Days. These are a Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday of one week on which the Church calls for prayer in thanksgiving for the gifts of the earth. The old Canon Law called for fasting on Ember Days. Ember Days are observed on the weeks after December 13 (Feast of St. Lucy), the First Sunday of Lent, Pentecost, and September 14 (Exaltation of the Holy Cross).

When the Calendar was revised in 1969, Ember Days were not officially discarded, but were relegated to be decided upon by national Bishops’ Conferences. Unfortunately, they seem to have been forgotten in Canada and the U.S., perhaps because the concurrent relaxing of the fasting laws made their non-observance no longer a mortal sin. Fasting laws are matters of Canon Law, not Liturgical Law, and thus will be aligned with the Ordinary Form Calendar for the foreseeable future.

Rogation Days

Similar to Ember Days, Rogation Days occur on April 25 (Feast of St. Mark the Evangelist), and the Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday before the Feast of the Ascension. They are days of prayer of appeasement of God’s anger, for protection against natural calamities, and in petition for a plentiful harvest. A procession is traditionally held on April 25. Fasting was not required in recent times.

Regional and Secondary Feast Days

Some feast days pertain only to a region or to a particular religious congregation. For example, August 11 is the Commemoration of St. Tiburtius and Feast of St. Susanna in the Universal Calendar. In certain dioceses of the United States, the Feast of St. Philomena may also be celebrated that day, using the Common Mass of a Virgin Martyr.

Lesser-known saints may not appear in any official Calendar, but are still assigned Feast Days. For instance, May 15 is the Feast of St. John Baptist de la Salle in the Universal Calendar, but is also the Feast of St. Dymphna. Though we cannot find any specific reference, logic would tell us that like St. Philomena, her Mass would be the Common of a Virgin Martyr.

On July 4, the Archdiocese of Detroit (alone) celebrates the Dedication of the Consecrated Churches using the Mass for the Dedication of a Church. On August 15, the Diocese of London, Ontario celebrates the Anniversary of Episcopal Consecration of Bishop Ronald Fabbro via a Commemorative Collect after the Collect of the Mass of the Feast of the Assumption (a First Class Feast which cannot be displaced).

Living a Liturgical Life Via the Calendar

Taking all of the components as a whole – Feast Days, Octaves, Ember Days, Rogation Days, plus the recalling of our Lord’s life, death, resurrection, and ascension – the Extraordinary Form Calendar is a treasury of flow, form, and function.

With the de-emphasis on constructs in the Ordinary Form Calendar, it is easy not to think too much about the Liturgical Year, aside from perhaps the saint of the day. But with some study, one comes to learn and appreciate that the Extraordinary Form Calendar has structure and a systematicness to it that the Ordinary Form has lost in its attempt to simplify and make room for more saints. We believe that more saints can be added to the Extraordinary Form Calendar without losing this architecture.

The liturgical colors of the chalice veils, altar missal stand veils, and elaborate vestments that are common sights at Tridentine Masses help emphasize the role of the Calendar. Various sacramentals and rituals – Epiphany Water and Chalk in January, the Corpus Christi procession, Brown Scapulars in July, etc. – also make vivid the role of the Calendar, and we therefore make use of those traditional practices here.

In summary, Holy Mother Church wants us to integrate her Calendar into our daily lives and thoughts. Those of use blessed to follow the Extraordinary Form are provided with the tools to do just that, and thus keep our faith at the forefront of our thoughts, every day of the week.
[Comments? Ideas for a future column? Please e-mail Previous columns are available at This edition of Tridentine Community News, with minor editions, is from the St. Josaphat bulletin insert for January 25, 2009. Hat tip to A.B.]

Pope Benedict's opinion of Facebook, etc.

"Pope welcomes Facebook, but cautions" (San Francisco Chronicle, January 23, 2009: Yeah, the technology is snazzy, but obsessive virtual socializing in that nether pit of hell can turn people into 1misanthropic zombies. Hear-hear.

[Hat tip to E.F.]

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Morning Prayer

Almighty God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who day by day renews Thy mercies to sinful man, accept, I pray Thee, this morning sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving, and give me the grace to offer it reverently, and in humble faith, and with a willing mind.

I praise Thee for my birth from kind and anxious parents; for Thy gifts of health and reason; for Thy continued care of me, for my baptism into Thy Holy Church, and every measure of Thy grace granted to me; for Thy gracious forgiveness of all my sins. Also I praise and magnify Thy name for every affliction and anxiety Thou hast laid, or now laist upon me, and I acknowledge thankfully that hitherto all has worked for good.

The Venerable John Henry Cardinal Newman
Oxford 1828

[Acknowledgement: A Newman Prayer Book (Vincent F. Blehl, S.J., 1990), p. iv.]

SSPX Excommunications Lifted

By way of a letter of December 15, 2008 addressed to His Eminence Cardinal Dario Castrillón Hoyos, President of the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei, Mons. Bernard Fellay, also in the name of the other three Bishops consecrated on June 30, 1988, requested anew the removal of the latae sententiae excommunication formally declared with the Decree of the Prefect of this Congregation on July 1, 1988. In the aforementioned letter, Mons. Fellay affirms, among other things: "We are always firmly determined in our will to remain Catholic and to place all our efforts at the service of the Church of Our Lord Jesus Christ, which is the Roman Catholic Church. We accept its teachings with filial disposition. We believe firmly in the Primacy of Peter and in its prerogatives, and for this the current situation makes us suffer so much."

His Holiness Benedict XVI - paternally sensitive to the spiritual unease manifested by the interested party due to the sanction of excommunication and trusting in the effort expressed by them in the aforementioned letter of not sparing any effort to deepen the necessary discussions with the Authority of the Holy See in the still open matters, so as to achieve shortly a full and satisfactory solution of the problem posed in the origin - decided to reconsider the canonical situation of Bishops Bernard Fellay, Bernard Tissier de Mallerais, Richard Williamson, and Alfonso de Galarreta, arisen with their episcopal consecration.

With this act, it is desired to consolidate the reciprocal relations of confidence and to intensify and grant stability to the relationship of the Fraternity of Saint Pius X with this Apostolic See. This gift of peace, at the end of the Christmas celebrations, is also intended to be a sign to promote unity in the charity of the universal Church and to try to vanquish the scandal of division.

It is hoped that this step be followed by the prompt accomplishment of full communion with the Church of the entire Fraternity of Saint Pius X, thus testifying true fidelity and true recognition of the Magisterium and of the authority of the Pope with the proof of visible unity.

Based on the faculty expressly granted to me by the Holy Father Benedict XVI, in virtue of the present Decree, I remit of Bishops Bernard Fellay, Bernard Tissier de Mallerais, Richard Williamson, and Alfonso de Galarreta the censure of latae sententiae excommunication declared by this Congregation on July 1, 1988, while I declare deprived of any juridical effect, from the present date, the Decree emanated at that time.

Rome, from the Congregation for Bishops, January 21, 2009.

Card. Giovanni Battista Re
Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops

Related[Hat tip to Sid Cudiff, Rorate Caeli, and Fr. Z]

Friday, January 23, 2009

Vatican's own YouTube channel

Population control, Christophobia, and hatred of life

Frank M. Rega has an interesting little essay, "Why they fear Christmas," which begins thus:
Michael Matt's Christmas editorial in The Remnant, "From Bethlehem to Calvary," notes that a burgeoning Christophobia has launched a concerted attack on the birthday of Jesus. Mr. Matt asks just what are these grinches afraid of?

I believe one clue is to be found in the disturbing memo recently made available on the web by Randy Engel at her U.S. Coalition for Life site, In this heinous 1969 memo from Planned Parenthood to the Population Council, numerous strategies for controlling world population growth are outlined. The current implementation of many of these proposed policies from forty years ago illustrates the power and influence of the Population Control machine. For example, one of their nefarious schemes is to "encourage increased homosexuality."
Just as I was thinking about this, I remembered a book that a student of mine had recently called to my attention, with the remark that it's thesis was "depressing," which is an understatement. The title -- I am not kidding! -- is Better Never to Have Been: The Harm of Coming into Existence (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008). The book carries chapters with titles like: "Having Children: The Anti-Natal View," and "Abortion: The Pro-Death View." The fact that the head of the University of Cape Town philosophy department named David Benatar should even undertake to write a book championing his thesis of anti-natalism, let alone the fact that a publisher such as Oxford University Press should be willing not only to seriously consider but to publish such a title, is an indication of just how much momentum we've picked up already on the Culture of Death's greased skids to Hell.

Here's what the editor says about the volume:
Most people believe that they were either benefited or at least not harmed by being brought into existence. Thus, if they ever do reflect on whether they should bring others into existence--rather than having children without even thinking about whether they should--they presume that they do them no harm. Better Never to Have Been challenges these assumptions. David Benatar argues that coming into existence is always a serious harm. Although the good things in one's life make one's life go better than it otherwise would have gone, one could not have been deprived by their absence if one had not existed. Those who never exist cannot be deprived. However, by coming into existence one does suffer quite serious harms that could not have befallen one had one not come into existence. Drawing on the relevant psychological literature, the author shows that there are a number of well-documented features of human psychology that explain why people systematically overestimate the quality of their lives and why they are thus resistant to the suggestion that they were seriously harmed by being brought into existence. The author then argues for the "anti-natal" view--that it is always wrong to have children--and he shows that combining the anti-natal view with common pro-choice views about fetal moral status yield a "pro-death" view about abortion (at the earlier stages of gestation). Anti-natalism also implies that it would be better if humanity became extinct. Although counter-intuitive for many, that implication is defended, not least by showing that it solves many conundrums of moral theory about population.
Near the beginning of The Birth of Tragedy, Nietzsche recalls the ancient myth about King Midas hunting in the forest for the wise Silenus, the companion of Dionysus. At last, after many years, the King manages to capture him and asks what is "the best and most desirable thing for man." His answer:
Oh, wretched ephemeral race, children of chance and misery, why do you compel me to tell you what it would be most expedient for you not to hear? What is best of all is utterly beyond your reach: not to be born, not to be, to be nothing. But the second best for you is -- to die soon. (BT:3 [Sophocles, Oedipus at Colonus, 1224ff])
In many of his other works, Nietzsche makes a point of criticizing Christianity as being, not only "otherworldly," but "anti-earth," of being against life -- at least life in this world. It has been said of some Christians that "they are so heavenly-minded that they are no earthly good." Yet if Mother Teresa's life and the lives of many unsung individuals like her are any testimony, those who are the most earthly good may be precisely those Christians who are most heavenly-minded. Millions of faithful Catholics have an indefatigable record of being pro-life, and Christians generally have been Pro-Existence, as Udo Middelman once argued in a book by that title. By contrast, our contemporary culture has embraced the 'Wisdom of Silenus' with a vengeance. With spokesmen such as Benatar, U.S. President Obama, and Planned Parenthood pulling for anti-natalism in the limelight, it's not hard to imagine what mischief may lay in the offing as these ideas go to seed in popular culture.

Scientist: conception not a process, but split-second event; why this is important

Karna Swanson, "The Facts of When Human Life Begins: Interview With Maureen Condic of the Westchester Institute" (ZENIT, November 7, 2008)
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah, NOV. 7, 2008 ( The conclusion of scientist Maureen Condic that human life begins at a defined moment of conception isn't an opinion based on a belief, but rather a "reflection of the way the world is."

Condic, a senior fellow of the Westchester Institute for Ethics and the Human Person, published her conclusions in a white paper titled "When Does Human Life Begin?" In the report she addresses the topic using current scientific data in human embryology.

An associate professor of neurobiology and anatomy at the University of Utah School of Medicine, Condic received her doctorate in neurobiology from the University of California, Berkely. Her teaching focuses primarily on embryonic development, and she directs the University of Utah School of Medicine's course in human embryology.

In the interview with ZENIT, Condic explains why the question of when human life begins is important to address, and what scientific criteria she used to define a "moment of conception."

Q: This is the first white paper for the Westchester Institute. Why this topic? Why now?

Condic: This is an important question, with significant biological, ethical and philosophical dimensions. As I note in the paper, resolving when human life begins has important implications for a number of controversial political topics, including abortion and human embryonic stem cell research.

As a scientist and as director of a medical school course in human embryology, I have been considering the general question of when human life begins for quite a few years. The argument put forward in the white paper has grown out of discussions with philosophers, scientists and ethicists, as well as out of my own research in this area.

Yet this topic has come to the fore in the lead-up to the presidential election. While the topic of when life begins has generally been avoided by politicians and government officials, recently a number of prominent figures have offered their interpretations, making this a timely subject to consider with scientific rigor and neutrality.

Q: You define the moment of conception as the second it takes for the sperm and egg to fuse and form a zygote. What were the scientific principles you used to arrive at this conclusion?

Condic: The central question of "when does human life begin" can be stated in a somewhat different way: When do sperm and egg cease to be, and what kind of thing takes their place once they cease to be?

To address this question scientifically, we need to rely on sound scientific argument and on the factual evidence. Scientists make distinctions between different cell types (for example, sperm, egg and the cell they produce at fertilization) based on two simple criteria: Cells are known to be different because they are made of different components and because they behave in distinct ways.

These two criteria are used throughout the scientific enterprise to distinguish one cell type from another, and they are the basis of all scientific (as opposed to arbitrary, faith-based or political) distinctions. I have applied these two criteria to the scientific data concerning fertilization, and they are the basis for the conclusion that a new human organism comes into existence at the moment of sperm-egg fusion.

Q: Many in the scientific world would say that fertilization doesn't happen in a moment, but rather that it is a process that comes to an end at the end of the first cell cycle, which is 24 hours later. Why is it important to define a "moment of conception," as opposed to a "process of fertilization"?

Condic: It is not important to somehow define a "moment" or a "process" of fertilization in the abstract. It is important to base conclusions and judgments about human embryos on sound scientific reasoning and on the best available scientific evidence.

Had this analysis led to a different conclusion -- for example, that fertilization is a "process" -- I would have accepted this conclusion as scientifically valid. However, a scientific analysis of the best available data does not support the conclusion that fertilization is a "process"; it supports the conclusion that fertilization is an event that takes less than a second to complete.

The events of the first 24 hours following sperm-egg fusion are clearly unique, but they are also clearly acts of a human organism, not acts of a mere human cell.

Q: Do opinion, belief and politics have a place in defining the beginning of a new life? How is it that the topic has become an issue of debate?

Condic: The topic of when human life begins is an issue of debate because it has strong implications for public policy on matters that concern many people; abortion, in-vitro fertilization and human embryo research. How "opinion, belief and politics" have assumed such a large role in deciding when life begins is a question for a sociologist or a psychologist, not a biologist!

It is important to appreciate that the scientific facts are themselves entirely neutral; they are simply a reflection of the way the world is, as opposed to how we may wish or imagine it to be.

That is not to say that the scientific facts lend equal support to any and all views of when human life begins. While people are free to formulate their opinion on when human life begins in any manner they choose (including belief and politics), not all opinions are equally consistent with factual reality. Those who choose to ignore the facts cannot expect their opinions to garner as much respect or to be given as much credibility as those who base their opinions in sound scientific observation and analysis.

The opinions of members of the flat-Earth society should not carry as much weight as those of astrophysicists in formulating national aerospace policy. The opinions of those who reject the scientific evidence concerning when life begins should not be the basis of public policy on embryo-related topics, either.

Q: Who needs to read this paper and why?

Condic: I think every person who is concerned about the important "life-issues" of health care, abortion, assisted reproduction and stem-cell research should read this article, because understanding when life begins is the basis of a sound political, ethical and moral debate on these complex and difficult topics. Certainly, all those charged with the formation of public policy on these matters should read this argument and think seriously about its implications. If we cannot know what a human embryo is and when it comes into existence, we cannot make sound judgments regarding any of the issues surrounding the human embryo.

Q: What reactions have you received to the conclusions of your paper? What do you hope will result from its publication?

Condic: Thus far, reactions have been thoughtful and considered. I hope this will continue and that a clear understanding of the relevant scientific evidence will help ground future public policy debates over embryo-related issues in sound scientific fact -- rather than in mere "opinion, belief and politics."
[Hat tip to Z.M.]

Here we go: slouching toward Moloch & abortion 'rites'

Brian Montopoli, "Obama: On Roe Anniversary, I Remain Committed To Choice" (CBS, Political Hotsheet, January 22, 2009): The great 'uniter' and 'common ground' President issued a statement for the 36th Anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion:
"On the 36th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, we are reminded that this decision not only protects women’s health and reproductive freedom, but stands for a broader principle: that government should not intrude on our most private family matters," said the president. "I remain committed to protecting a woman’s right to choose."

"... On this anniversary, we must also recommit ourselves more broadly to ensuring that our daughters have the same rights and opportunities as our sons: the chance to attain a world-class education; to have fulfilling careers in any industry; to be treated fairly and paid equally for their work; and to have no limits on their dreams," said President Obama. "That is what I want for women everywhere" [that is, except in the womb].
Jim Meyers, "Pope Benedict, Obama Talk" (Newsmax, January 22, 2009):
... The Pope telephoned Obama shortly after Election Day to congratulate him on his electoral success, but the Obama staffer receiving the call didn't believe it was actually the Pontiff on the line and wouldn't put the call through.

Benedict was eventually able to get through, however ... When the Pope brought up the subject of abortion, Obama said simply: "We agree to disagree."
LIZ SIDOTI and MATTHEW LEE, "Officials: Obama to reverse abortion policy" (Associated Press, January 23, 2009, 1 hour ago):
President Barack Obama plans to sign an executive order ending the ban on federal funds for international groups that promote or perform abortions, officials told The Associated Press on Friday.

... Obama has spent his first days in office systematically signing executive orders reversing Bush administration policies on issues ranging from foreign policy to government operations. But, save for ending the ban, Obama has largely refrained from wading into ideological issues, perhaps to avoid being tagged a traditional partisan from the outset after his campaign promises to change "business as usual" in the often partisan-gridlocked capital.

Organizations that had pressed Obama to make the abortion-ban change were jubilant.
William Blazek, "Catholics Abandon the Unborn in the 44th Presidency" (On Faith, January 21, 2009):
A simple web search for the order of presidential succession in the newly-minted Obama administration makes clear what a profound debacle the '08 election was for the pro-life movement in the United States. The country's top leadership now looks like a Who's Who of the National Abortion Rights Action League's "100% pro-choice" club. Largely ignored in the last election, abortion remains a massively important political issue. Catholics who did so should be ashamed of themselves for voting with disregard for a ticket and party that is inimical to a central moral tenet of their Church's teaching. Abortion kills.
Alright all you Catholics who voted for Obama: look the other way.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Evening Prayer

Lord, I thank Thee that Thou hast safely brought me to the end of this day. Protect me from the perils and dangers of the night. Let me rest in peace. Let me lay myself down gratefully as if in death, knowing my spirit may this night be required of me; give me grace that whenever that time comes I may be prepared for it and that when my soul parts from this body, it may hear the grateful words, "Well done, thou good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of your Lord."

--The Venerable John Henry Cardinal Newman
April 1817

[Acknowledgement: A Newman Prayer Book (Vincent F. Blehl, S.J., 1990), p. v.]

Bork predicts Catholics will lose freedoms

As the frog in the kettle idly approaches boiling point, he absent-mindedly reads: "Jurist predicts ‘terrible conflict’ will endanger U.S. Catholics’ religious freedom" (CNA, January 21, 2009: "Former Supreme Court nominee Judge Robert Bork has predicted that upcoming legal battles will have significant ramifications for religious freedom. He names as issues of major concern the continued freedom of Catholic hospitals to refuse to perform abortions and the likely “terrible conflict” resulting from the advancement of homosexual rights."

[Hat tip to Headline Bistro]

Of 'Dominican Calvinists' & 'Jesuit Pelagians'

Leon Podles has written many provocative articles and books in his day -- from "God Has No Daughters: Masculine Imagery in the Liturgy" (Homiletic & Pastoral Review, 1995), to The Church Impotent: The Feminization of Christianity (Spence Publishing Company, 1999), to Sacrilege: Sexual Abuse in the Catholic Church (Crossland Press, 2007).

Just yesterday, I received an email from a reader with these comments:
"Catholics most certainly are not Calvinists!" I have heard the boast made many times. And the CCC does indeed condemn the idea that God condemns anyone to Hell. In fact, it seems to suggest that damnation is a very real possibilty, but also hopefully very remote for most--or at least many--of us.

That said even with Scott Hahn and Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange notwithstanding. (I'd be curious about your thoughts at some point given your Westminster experience.) Such boasting also fails to reckon with the nuance of history, since Thomism might seem closer to Calvinism than what passes for the proper understanding of the faith in many quarters.
He then referred me to this interesting little piece by Leon Podles, posted just barely over a week ago on the Touchstone Magazine blog, entitled "NYT on Calvinism" (Mere Comments, January 11, 2009):

The NYT article on the Calvinist and ultra-masculine Mark Driscoll at Mars Hill Church in Seattle is not too bad. Driscoll, by rejecting the prissiness of much of evangelical America, has some success in reaching rough young men with the gospel.

The theological analysis in the article uses stereotypes. Calvinists believe in total depravity - but so do Catholics. Calvin did not think that human nature was totally corrupt - because insofar as it is created by God, it is still good. Calvin knew his theology well enough not to be a Manichean. What Calvin thought was that all human powers, including reason, had been corrupted by sin, and Catholics believe that the will was weakened and the intellect was darkened by original sin.

Calvin's doctrine of predestination and the role of the human will is also misunderstood. In Jonathan Edward's explanation, Calvin (along with Thomists) thought that God was the cause of every human action - including sin, insofar as it was an action and had being. Evil is the deprivation of being, and does not exist, and is therefore not caused by God. This analysis is a necessary corollary of the belief that God is the maker of heaven and earth, of everything, including, in a sense, sinful actions, and therefore of salvation and damnation. God is the first mover of everything.

Edwards identified the dissenters from this concept of the will as Arminians and behind them the Jesuits, who both believed in the freedom of indifference. Edwards does not go further back to Occam and Scotus, but I think that their nominalism and voluntarism is the original Western source of the freedom of indifference.

During the controversy De Auxiliis, the Jesuits accused the Dominicans of Calvinism, and the Dominicans accused the Jesuits of Pelegianism. The pope resolved the matter by telling them both to stop accusing each other of heresy.

Of course Podles, writing here on the Touchstone blog, isn't taking the time to make all the nuanced distinctions between varieties of Calvinism (and there is no Calvinist equivalent of a central magisterium from which to derive irreformable official definitions of Calvinist doctrine), or between primary and secondary causes in his analysis of how God might be understood to be the cause of every human action, or between the details of each side in the Molinist controversy. Yet all told, it's not a bad thumb-nail sketch, if you ask me. It also has the virtue of popping some of the stereotype bubbles, even if it is true that most stereotypes also carry a germ of authenticity. I have often felt that for every example I could find that fit the caricatured references of G.K. Chesterton to "Calvinists" (e.g., the dour fanatic, Ian Paisley) I could find two who defied the stereotype (e.g., the ribald Mark Driscoll or the riotous Peter De Vries -- although De Vries has, I suppose, come to be regarded as a sort of black sheep, to say the least). For what it's worth, on the Catholic side, I have a colleague who may soon be publishing a severe critique of Hans Urs von Balthasar's Dare We Hope "That All Men Be Saved"?: With a Short Discourse on Hell (Ignatius Press, 1988).

[Hat tip to J.M.]

Remember: 36th anniversary of Roe v. Wade

Dan Gilgoff, "Catholic Group Uses Obama Bio as Case Against Abortion in Inauguration Day Ad" (God & Country, January 20, 2009):
A conservative Catholic group called has a new antiabortion ad to coincide with Barack Obama's inauguration. It attempts to use Obama's own biography to make the antiabortion case. The spot features this script flashing across the screen in between clips of a fetus in the womb:

This child's future is a broken home . . .
he will be abandoned by his father . . .
his single mother will struggle to raise him . . .
despite the hardships he will endure
this child . . .
will become . . .
The 1st African American President.
Life . . .
Imagine the Potential.

You can watch the ad here:

Imagine Spot 1
[Hat tip to Jeff Allen]

Fr. Neuhaus: afterthoughts

A reader writes:
Two good pieces on Neuhaus, from which these lines hit me. This first one was a needed reminder given my pessimistic feelings of late. The second is a challenge:
1. "The Barque of Peter is also the largest of ocean liners with a manifest vaster than any denomination. Big ships are hard to turn around."

2. "... the remarkable, and mathematically counterintuitive, ability to multiply his enthusiasm and energy while dividing it with others."
The first article: Rev. George W. Rutler, "Richard John Neuhaus, 1936 - 2009" (, January 10, 2009).

The second article: George Weigel, "A True Pastor: Remembering Father Richard John Neuhaus" (Newsweek, January 13, 2009).

[Hat tip to J.M.]

Vatican report

Hilary White, "Dissenters from Catholic Teaching Not Being Fired Often Enough from Seminary Posts: Vatican Report" (LifeSiteNews, January 16, 2008). "A Vatican report on the moral and intellectual life of US seminaries, begun in 2005, has said that the main problems lie with professors who overtly or subtly dissent from Catholic moral teaching. Such professors, the report said, are not frequently enough fired from their positions."

"Moral issues top agenda" of new Detroit Archbishop

Gregg Krupa "Obama's abortion stance concerns new archbishop" (Detroit News, January 21, 2009):
As he prepares to lead the Archdiocese of Detroit, Archbishop Allen Vigneron expressed disappointment Tuesday with the Obama administration's position on abortion. The Catholic Church, he said, must seek political alliances to counter proposed policies that may include giving foreign aid to organizations that provide abortions.

Pope to lift Lefebvrite excommunications this Sunday?

Andrea Tornielli reports, "Il Papa ha firmato la revoca della scomunica ai lefebvriani" (Sacri Palazzi, January 21, 2009):
There will be made public in the next few days a decree with which Benedict XVI chose to cancel the excommunications of four new bishops ordained by [Archbishop] Lefebvre in 1988. In addition to the four (Bernard Fellay, Alfonso de Gallareta, Tissier de Mallerais and Richard Williamson) there were also excommunicated the aforementioned Lefebvre, and the Brasilian bishop De Castro Mayer who participated in the ceremony. On that occasion, after having been on the verge of an accord with the Holy See (and after having dealt with then Card. Ratzinger and having signed a protocol of understanding), [Archbishop Lefevbre] suddenly chose rupture and consecrating as four young priests as bishops carried out a schismatic act, justified by him by a necessity to assure the survival of the Fraternity of St. Pius X. Now, with a truly magnanimous gesture, accepting the request formulated by Fellay, Benedict XVI has decided to lift the excommunication. The excommunication which, it must be clarified, always regarded the consecrating bishops (Levebre and De Castro Mayer, both for some time deceased) and the for men consecrated, but not the Lefebvrite priests much less the their faithful. [via Fr. John Zuhlsdorf, "Excommunication of SSPX bishops to be lifted within days?" (WDTPRS, January 21, 2009).]
Zuhlsdorf adds, from Paolo Rodari, "Esclusivo: Benedetto XVI revoca la scomunica ai lefebvriani." (Palazzo Apostolico, January 22, 2009):
Benedict XVI has decided. The decree containing the revocation of the excommunication for the schismatic Lefebvrite bishops is ready. It will come out in the next few days, probably by this Sunday. At the Pope’s will the President of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, Archbishop Francesco Coccopalmerio drafted it and signed it.
"Probably by this Sunday"? -- on the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul, closing of the Week of Christian Unity? On the 50th anniversary of the convocation of Vatican II by Blessed Pope John XXIII?

[Hat tip to Nathan B.]

Monday, January 19, 2009

A morning prayer

Lord, I thank Thee that Thou hast brought me to the beginning of this day. Defend me in the same by Thy mighty power, and grant as I now rise after sleep, fresh and rejoicing, so my body after the sleep of death may rise spiritualized and blessed to dwell with Thee forever.

Keep me from the perils and dangers of this day; let me fall into no sin, neither run into any kind of danger, but let all my doings be ordered by Thy governance, to do always what is righteous in Thy sight, through Jesus Christ our Savior.

The Venerable John Henry Cardinal Newman,
November 17, 1817

[Acknowledgement: A Newman Prayer Book (Vincent F. Blehl, S.J., 1990), p. iv]

Sunday, January 18, 2009

And they don't even charge admission!

Every Monday evening at 7:00pm, before my wife gets off from work, I take my little, almost-four-year-old daughter with me to Mass at St. Josaphat's. It's an old historic Polish church with an ornate, brightly illuminated altar. The liturgy is the traditional usus antiquior, and ordinarily a Low Mass, although Solemn High Masses may be offered, such as the Requiem Mass on November 3, 2008 (as reported, "All Souls' Day Requiem Mass," Musings, November 3, 2008). Moreover, the St. Josaphat Sunday bulletin today announced that on feasts of significance (such as the upcoming Feast of the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary on February 2, also known as Candelmas), a sung Mass (Missa Contata) will be offered.

In any case, I always look forward to these Masses. I like going to them. The church is always quiet, especially if you arrive early, with the slight hiss of a radiator about the only thing audible. If we're early enough, I sometimes take my daughter around to the side altars, such as the one devoted to the Infant of Prague, Whom she especially likes, and we may light a candle and say a prayer together.

The congregation is small on Mondays, although I am always surprised that as many show up as do on these cold winter nights. St. Josaphat is a "commuter church," which means that most of those who attend drive at least a thirty-to-forty minutes to get there, since the church has no sustaining residential parish community residing in the inner city. From the seminary where I teach, however, it is only a ten-minute drive.

At 7 o'clock, a bell is rung, and everyone stands, as the altar servers and priest enter. The servers are each neatly vested is cassock and surplice, and the most visible vestments of the priest include his magnificent chasuble and biretta.

Almost immediately the Mass begins, with the Prayers at the Foot of the Altar. If we sit close enough to the sanctuary, it is sufficiently quiet to hear the Confiteor being recited sotto voce in Latin, and to follow along in the Missal.

One of the things I like about this Mass, as I think about it, is that nothing distracts me from the focus of the liturgy (except, occasionally, my daughter). On the contrary, everything -- each part of the liturgy, every carefully-prescribed gesture of the servers and priest, their ad orientem disposition, their attentiveness and reverence toward the altar and the Tabernacle at its center, and even the silence -- seem to conspire to draw my attention toward the Lord. Not one gesture by priest or servers draws attention to itself, saying "Here, look at me!" but rather draws attention to what is going on at the altar in this great mystery of Redemption. Even the long reverent silences of the Canon, far from reducing me to a passive spectator, conduces to concentrate my attentiveness to what is transpiring, and so to promote -- in the truest sense -- my active participation in the liturgy.

Although it is a Low Mass, and so the Gloria and Credo are not sung, it is nevertheless a Low Mass with Hymns, and so there is some music. It isn't the Organum Chant heard here on Sundays, with the haunting ancient form of plainchant accompanied by a second voice on a single note, a drone, which always carries, for me, Middle Eastern overtones; nor is it the magnificent polyphony of the Sunday choir, with Mass settings by Palestrina or Victoria. But it is beautiful; and the music of the organ and cantor's voice floats above us from the choir at the rear of the nave, audible but out of view.

At some point in the Mass, I always feel like pinching myself to make sure I'm not dreaming. The sublime, austere beauty of this Mass touches the depths of my soul. Sometimes my thoughts avert to the question of how lucky I would feel if I were one of Detroit's homeless people who just happened to stumble upon this extraordinary purlieu. For over an hour, I could come out of the cold and enjoy the warmth of this hospitable environment, this transporting music, this magnificent altar and sanctuary, with the hushed reverence of this beautiful ritual unfolding before me. Even if I were a vagrant who didn't understand a single word or gesture of the Mass, I cannot believe that I would not find myself moved by its beauty. And they don't even charge admission!

But of course, my daughter and I are, by the grace of God, not vagrants, but profoundly privileged participants in the Mass. And just how privileged we are comes home to me at that moment when we file forward and ascend three steps to kneel at the altar rail. As the server holds the polished paten under my chin, I hear the priest say: "Corpus Dómini nostri Jesu Christi custódiat ánimam tuam in vitam ætérnam" ("May the Body of our Lord Jesus Christ preserve thy soul unto life everlasting.") ... "Amen," I think to myself, "and they don't even charge admission!" If religious were a thing that money could buy, the rich would live and the poor would die.

The Last Gospel (John 1:1-14) and conclusion of the Mass is followed by the Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament and a Novena to Our Lady of Perpetual Help. We begin our Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament with the hymn of St. Thomas Aquinas, O Salutaris Hostia, then sing O Mother of Perpetual Help during the Novena, then St. Thomas's other Eucharistic hymn, Tantum Ergo Sacramentum, before Benediction. I've come to love the Devotion to Our Lady of Perpetual Help, as well as the Latin hymns of St. Thomas Aquinas that accompany Benediction. Their melodies often continue to circulate in my memory long afterwards. The Divine Praises, too, a regular component of Eucharistic Adoration, were among the first things I remember memorizing as a Catholic, because I thought the words so mysteriously holy and beautiful.

The closing hymn is invariably No. 100 in The Traditional Roman Hymnal, which I have also come to like for its ready singability: "Adoremus in aeternum, Sanctissimum Sacramentum," sings the congregation. Then the cantor's voice soars from the choir loft to the domed ceiling in a solo chant: "Laudate Dominum Omnes Gentes, Laudate Eum Omnes Populi." Then the congregation responds with the refrain again: "Adoremus in aeternum, Sanctissimum Sacramentum"; and thus it continues through the remaining stanzas.

The priest -- usually Fr. Mark Borkowski, the parish priest and administrator of a small local cluster of inner-city parishes -- stands in the narthex or vestibule waiting to greet all the parishioners as they leave. As my daughter and I step out into the chill night air, often greeted by snow this time of year, my thoughts again return to the unfortunate homeless souls on the streets of the inner city -- and even those unfortunate suburbanites who simply don't know what they are missing. "And they don't even charge admission!" I think to myself, as we walk to the St. Josaphat parking lot, with a skip in our step and a song in our hearts. "So whaddaya say, sweetheart, shall we swing by for a hot fudge sundae at Ol' McDonalds?"