Wednesday, July 29, 2009

How much chatter does "active participation" require?

One thing about the classic form of the Roman Rite that contemporaries unfamiliar with it find initially unnerving is the long periods of silence, or "dead air space," particularly during the Canon of the Mass. In the ordinary or modern form the the Rite, "dead air space" tends to be treated as something abhorrent, like an awkward vacuum to be filled with sounds. Priest and people face each other, so shouldn't someone be "taking the lead," talking, singing, directing or something ... Please!! ANYTHING so long as we don't have to just sit here looking at each other?!!

Soren Kierkegaard once wrote: "The present state of the world and the whole of life is diseased. If I were a doctor and were asked for my advice, I should reply, 'Create silence'."

Even the BAPTISTS today appear to have discerned something that many Catholics have all-but-forgotten -- that the way forward in this matter is "back to the future": Mark Dever writes, in a post entitled "Making Silence Together" (Church Matters, July 20, 2009):
One of the most frequently commented upon aspects of the morning Lord's Day service here at Capitol Hill Baptist Church is nothing we do. Or rather, it is the nothing we do. It is our moments of silence.

There's silence between various aspects of the service. I encourage service leaders to NOT do the "no-dead-airspace" TV standard of busy-ness. We LIKE "dead air space." "Dead air space" gives us time to reflect. To collect our thoughts. To consider what we've just heard or read or sung. The silence amplifies the words or music we've just heard. It allows us time to take it all in, and to pray.

... In the last century, E. M. Forster, in A Passage to India, referred to "poor little talkative Christianity"....

But in all the noise of our choirs, and drums, and electic guitars, and organs, and praise bands, where is the solemnity? Where is the dignity and majesty that is so often indicated in the Bible by a stupified silence, soaked in awe and covered with wonder?
“Be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10).

[Hat tip to J.M.]

Monday, July 27, 2009

In Defense of Individual Celebration of the Holy Mass

Tridentine Community News (July 26, 2009):
The 1983 Code of Canon Law urges priests to celebrate the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass every day. Canon 276 §2 n. 2 states: “... priests are earnestly invited to offer the eucharistic sacrifice daily ...”. (Key point: It is not mandatory.)

Priests living in a religious community, such as at a monastery, often have a regularly scheduled daily Mass. If they follow the Ordinary Form, this Community Mass can be one in which some or all of the priests concelebrate the Mass.

If the religious community, or an individual priest, follows the Extraordinary Form, concelebration is not permitted. Each priest must celebrate his own individual Mass. The below historic photo shows priests celebrating private Masses at Orchard Lake’s Ss. Cyril & Methodius Seminary, pre-Vatican II.

The above photo and the below historic one from St. Charles Senior Living Community, the former seminary of the Missionaries of the Precious Blood in Ohio, show an orderly, detailed atmosphere.

Detroit’s Sacred Heart Seminary has similar side altars lining the walls of its chapel. Older churches such as our own were constructed with side altars for the same reason, to allow the assisting priests in residence at the parish to offer their own Masses each day. In an interesting sign of the times, at the Fraternity of St. Peter’s seminary in Nebraska, priests celebrate their individual Masses in a room cluttered with mismatched side altars salvaged from various churches.

A little-known fact is that there is one time that a priest may concelebrate at a Tridentine Mass, and that is at a Mass of Ordination. Each ordinand concelebrates the Mass with the bishop. Each new priest is assisted by an experienced priest at his side, as pictured in this photo from an Institute of Christ the King ordination.

Practical Considerations

On the surface, concelebration seems to be a sensible solution in a world of too few priests having too many responsibilities. Why force every priest to take the time for his own Mass, especially in an assembly line-like atmosphere? The principal opposing argument maintains that additional graces flow from multiple individual Masses that do not comparably flow from one concelebrated Mass. We will leave it to theologians to debate this point, but we do note that more Masses allow for more Mass Intentions to be offered.

More concretely, when priests celebrate individual Masses, they can better concentrate on the Holy Sacrifice and the day’s Mass Intention. Human nature tells us that the reduced involvement of concelebrants opens up a greater possibility of mental distractions on their part. This is less likely to be the case with individual celebration, especially if each priest knows that he is under the watchful eye of a server. It is ironic that the option of concelebration arguably de-emphasizes “active participation” for priests, just as it is emphasized for the laity. Therefore, just as concelebration may offer a practical benefit in today’s world, so does individual celebration: That of improved focus on the Mass.

We also suggest that it is spiritually beneficial for priests to be in the habit of celebrating the entire Holy Mass. Just as it can be all too easy for laypeople to get out of the habit of praying a daily Rosary, we suspect that there is a slippery slope aspect to priests relying too often on concelebration. The discipline of the Extraordinary Form requiring priests following it to celebrate their own Masses provides a spiritual safety belt: A priest cannot help but grow in holiness as he develops a more intimate knowledge of the liturgical year and its Propers, and by having the opportunity to offer more Mass Intentions at those additional Holy Sacrifices.
[Comments? 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 July 26, 2009. Hat tip to A.B.]

Friday, July 24, 2009

Abp. Burke to celebrate EF Mass in St. Peter's

"Solemn Pontifical Mass in St. Peter's Basilica, October 18, 2009" (Rorate Caeli, July 23, 2009):
Rinascimento Sacro has announced that, as the culminating activity of the Second Convention on Summorum Pontificum organized by Giovani e Tradizione, a Solemn Pontifical Mass according to the classical Roman Rite will be celebrated in the Chapel of Eucharistic Adoration in St. Peter's Basilica on Sunday, October 18, 2009 at 10:00 a.m. The Mass will be offered by His Excellency, Archbishop Raymond Leo Burke, Prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura. Music will be provided by a mixed choir of Franciscans of the Immaculate.

Deo Gratias!

"The King is a Fink"

The_Anchoress, "No, you can't see the numbers; the King is a Fink" (First Things, July 20, 2009):
So, the White House is not going to give us taxpayers a timely update on the nation’s money and employment situation....

They’re just gonna keep everyone in the dark until they muscle through his unpopular Healthcare legislation – that 1,000-page, unread, undebated document – that will push our deficit into unbearable territory, give the government unprecedented control over our lives and will quickly render healthcare in America unrecognizable, for must of us ...

Obamacare will also federally fund abortions in direct contrast to what the president seemed to tell the pope, mere weeks ago....

A president without checks and balances to rein him in or overrule him, with powerful minions answerable only to him, and with control of most information venues is a president who can decide he’s going to just do as he damn pleases, is an unprecedented sort of president.

... A president who can arbitrarily decide to take taxpayer money by the greedy mittsful, without at least giving them a receipt – why, that’s a president who is barely acting like the leader of a republic at all. That’s a president who is acting more and more like ... well ... kinda like king.

And as we all know, “The King is a Fink.”
[Hat tip to J.M.]

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Dominic Kelly's "My song is love unknown"

Forget about Marty Haugen and AmChurch "hymns" for a moment, and just listen to this. Then ask yourself why we endure what we do.

Justin Taylor, a thoughtful blogger from Wheaton, Illinois, linked to this piece of music in his posting, entitled simply, "beFriended" [sic] (Between Two Worlds, July 16, 2009). There one reads:
Ray Orlund:
I cannot listen to "My Song Is Love Unknown" . . . without being moved to the depths of my being that I have such a Friend. If you have him too, you know what I mean. If you don't have him, you can. Are you willing to be beFriended?

Willingness is all he asks.

Dom Kelly on Songs of Praise 8th Feb 09. Dom is joined by Emily Ogilvie as they accompany the St Martins Church Choir, who sing "My Song Is Love Unknown".

[Hat tip to E.E.]

The usus antiquior in weddings & seminaries

Tridentine Community News (July 19, 2009):
Two Upcoming Tridentine Wedding Masses

The next two weeks will see two more Extraordinary Form Nuptial Masses. Next Saturday, July 25, Kirsten Gawronski and Mark Lanfear will be married according to the Tridentine sacramental form at St. Josaphat Church.

The following Saturday, August 1 at 10:30 AM at Sweetest Heart of Mary Church, Barbara Martin Bailey and Gregory Bailey will have their marriage convalidated according to the Extraordinary Form. This will be the first Tridentine Nuptial Mass celebrated at Sweetest Heart in over 40 years. It will be held at a side altar, as is traditional for convalidations. Mr. Bailey invites all readers of this column to attend this Mass.

As of August 1, Assumption-Windsor, St. Josaphat, St. Joseph, and Sweetest Heart of Mary Churches will all have hosted Tridentine weddings since the promulgation of our Holy Father’s Motu Proprio, Summórum Pontíficum.

Seminaries Supporting the Extraordinary Form

The long-term future for the Classical Roman Rite is in the hands of our seminarians. One might then ask, how are today’s seminaries educating them in the Extraordinary Form? There are several levels of support that a seminary can show.

At the top level are seminaries that are entirely devoted to the Traditional Mass. These include the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter’s seminaries in Nebraska and Germany, and the Institute of Christ the King’s seminary in Italy.

Second are seminaries, monasteries, and houses of formation where the Tridentine Mass plays a significant, though not exclusive role. The Norbertine St. Michael’s Abbey of Orange County, California; the Oratorians’ St. Philip Neri Seminary in Toronto; and the Canons Regular of St. John Cantius in Chicago offer such environments.

At the next level are seminaries where some degree of ongoing education in and celebration of the Extraordinary Form takes place. All seminarians at Kenrick-Glennon Seminary in St. Louis, Missouri are required to learn how to celebrate the Classic Liturgy; Mass in the Extraordinary Form is offered there twice per month (see photo above). Connecticut’s Holy Apostles Seminary, which trains second-career vocations as well as younger ones, holds weekly Masses and regular classes. The Archdiocese of Chicago’s St. Mary of the Lake Seminary in Mundelein, America’s largest seminary, holds periodic Masses and workshops. Mundelein’s affiliated Liturgical Institute even held a for-credit course from June 8 to June 26 entitled “History and Spirituality of the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite”. St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Philadelphia offers an elective class on the Mass and has held a Mass for all seminarians and faculty to attend. The Pontifical North American College in Rome celebrated its first Tridentine Mass in April, 2008 and then ordered 200 copies of the Fraternity of St. Peter’s training DVD, indicating substatial interest.

Next are seminaries where the occasional Tridentine Mass is celebrated. The Archdiocese of New York’s St. Joseph “Dunwoodie” Seminary is one example.

Some seminaries have acknowledged the growing interest in the Traditional Mass via one-time presentations on the subject. London, Ontario’s St. Peter’s Seminary held such a day for the entire seminarian and faculty body in 2008. Mount Saint Mary’s Seminary in Maryland held a similar day for its 150 seminarians. Orchard Lake’s Ss. Cyril & Methodius Seminary held a seminar for a Liturgy Class a few months ago. The Pontifical College Josephinum in Columbus, Ohio held its first Mass in March, 2009. Hopefully, these will not be isolated events.

Last are the seminaries which have not done anything formal yet, but where it is clear that interest exists among certain seminarians, faculty members, or both. Detroit’s Sacred Heart Seminary is one of these. In such places, it not uncommon for seminarians to pursue independent study of the Extraordinary Form. Fr. Lee Acervo, for example, ordained in 2008 from Sacred Heart, is self-taught on the Mass and is now a regular celebrant at St. Josaphat.

On a positive note, it is hard to keep up with the activities at each seminary. It is likely that more seminaries than we know of have begun programs of exposure, perhaps rather low-key. As more parishes begin to hold Tridentine Masses, and more seminarians study the Mass and go on to celebrate it after ordination, it is only a matter of time until those future priests bring more structured training for it into an increasing number of seminaries.

Having lived through the explosive growth of the microcomputer industry between 1975-84, this author sees some parallels in today’s rather entrepreneurial Tridentine Mass scene. It was obvious to PC pioneers that computers were going to become pervasive in society, yet the general populace did not realize this for several years. Many universities were still teaching computer programming on punch cards until around 1980 and did not incorporate microcomputer programming into their curricula until the mid 80s. Technology trends forced an updating of their course offerings. Similarly, we believe that the majority of seminaries will eventually implement programs to prepare their students to support the resurging interest in the Traditional Latin Mass.
[Comments? 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 July 19, 2009. Hat tip to A.B.]

Ecclésia Dei Commission Restructured

Tridentine Community News (July 12, 2009):
In a widely anticipated move, our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI this week issued a Motu Proprio (papal order) entitled Ecclésiæ Unitátem, which changes the Vatican’s organizational chart for the department that oversees matters pertaining to the Extraordinary Form of Holy Mass. Formerly an independent body directly under the supervision of the Holy Father, the Pontifical Commission Ecclésia Dei has been made a subsidiary of the department that handles doctrinal questions, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

This change was prompted by two developments: First, PCED President Dario Cardinal Castrillón Hoyos reached the mandatory retirement age of 80 on July 4. In May, PCED Secretary Monsignor Mario Marini passed away. New leaders had to be chosen.

Second, the pending reconciliation with the Society of St. Pius X is largely now concerned with doctrinal matters. Liturgical concerns have effectively been addressed via the 2007 Motu Proprio Summórum Pontíficum, which permits any priest to celebrate the Extraordinary Form of Mass and the Sacraments without requiring the permission of his bishop.

As part of this restructuring, the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith becomes the President of the PCED. The prelate currently heading the CDF is William Cardinal Levada, formerly Archbishop of San Francisco. In San Francisco, Cardinal Levada was one of the last North American Archbishops not to permit a Tridentine Mass in his Archdiocese prior to Summórum Pontíficum. There is no small irony in a man with this record now having the task of promoting what he once would not permit. On the surface, it appears comparable to a vegan becoming president of a steak house chain. Let us pray that Cardinal Levada accepts his duties even if they are not his personal preference. He has giant shoes to fill, as Cardinal Castrillón has been an enthusiastic promoter of the Classical Latin Rite. Indeed, even in retirement Cardinal Castrillón plans to write a book about the Extraordinary Form.

The Holy Father appointed Msgr. Guido Pozzo, a longtime staffer at the CDF, as Secretary of the PCED. Little is known about his record with the Extraordinary Form.

It appears that longtime PCED Vice President Msgr. Camille Perl will be leaving the Commission. No word yet on whether PCED English Corresponding Secretary Msgr. Arthur Calkins will keep his position.

Liturgical Oversight Possibly in Flux

Ecclésiæ Unitátem is exclusively concerned with restructuring the PCED to facilitate ongoing dialogue with the SSPX. It says nothing about liturgical matters, which don’t seem to be best handled under the umbrella of the CDF. It is reasonable to speculate that liturgical responsibilities for the Extraordinary Form will migrate to the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, the PCED’s counterpart that oversees the Novus Ordo.

The recently appointed Prefect of the CDWDS, Antonio Cardinal Cañizares Llovera, celebrated a Pontifical Solemn Mass in the Extraordinary Form on April 21, shortly after taking office. This was quite a statement for the man in charge of the Ordinary Form to make, and is perhaps a sign of changes to come. The risk of unifying liturgical oversight for the Ordinary and Extraordinary Forms under one rule-making body is that unsympathetic staffers in the CDWDS, under this or future administrations, might try to impose unwelcome changes in the Tridentine Mass. The CDWDS would need a clearly-identified advocate for the Extraordinary Form.

A Friend Among the Advisors

With such strategic events happening at the Vatican, it is only natural that the Holy Father would gather a cadre of advisors to assist him. In early June, SSPX Bishop Bernard Fellay, Fraternity of St. Peter co-founder Fr. Josef Bisig, and Institute of Christ the King North American District Superior Msgr. Michael Schmitz were all in Rome. While we are not privy to the details, it would not be illogical to presume that they were present to participate in discussions concerning the PCED restructuring, dialogue with the SSPX, or both.

Supporting this view, this past Monday, July 6, Pope Benedict met with leaders of the FSSP, just before Ecclésiæ Unitátem was made public. Standing at our Holy Father’s right in the adjacent photo is Fr. Bisig, familiar to our readers as a regular guest celebrant at the Windsor and Flint Tridentine Masses. Fr. Bisig worked with then-Cardinal Ratzinger to draft the founding documents of the FSSP in 1988; it is no surprise that he continues to be consulted on matters Tridentine.
[Comments? 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 July 12, 2009. Hat tip to A.B.]

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Irreconcilable differences -- So?

Writing in Christianity Today (September 2008), Mark Galli offers a fascinating discussion, "Irreconcilable differences -- so?" reprinted from a 2004 article in Marriage Partnership:
It didn't take long into my marriage to discover how incompatible my wife and I were. One reason I was attracted to Barbara in the first place was her apparent interest in theology. We'd spent many happy hours in college taking Bible and religion classes together; we even co-wrote a mediocre paper on the Reformation! Few people have my nutty interest in theology, so I felt especially blessed to have discovered an eligible woman who shared that interest. I proposed as quickly as I could, and I was ready to live happily ever after.

Some days into the marriage I was shocked to discover the truth about Barb. I'd just finished some weighty tome—such as Dietrich Bonhoeffer's Creation and Fall—and encouraged her to read it. She said she wasn't interested. When over the next week I suggested another theology book, and then another, and was turned down repeatedly, I asked what was going on.

"I really don't like theology all that much."

"But what about … ?" I stammered.

"Once in awhile it's okay. But most of the time I find it too dry."

I was floored. Here was the woman of my dreams telling me she wasn't really the woman of my dreams.

That was the first of many shocking revelations. As the years unfolded and we each matured in our own way, the differences became more marked. She liked to get up early; I liked to stay up late—so when exactly were we supposed to have sex? She stayed politically liberal as I became more conservative. She enjoyed being laid back; I liked to plan way in advance. She's energized by a room full of people; I'm drained. She thought the kids should be given a break for being kids; I thought they should be disciplined more. And we couldn't even argue on the same page—I liked to get things out in the open; she liked to do anything but that.

Years ago, we compared our Myers-Briggs personality scores. The literature that interpreted the results was fairly pessimistic about our future.

But surely after 30 years of marriage, things have gotten better, no? I recently took an online marital compatibility test to see whether time has made a difference. We scored a 60 percent. The test maker said, "If you're less than 70 percent compatible you may have to struggle hard to maintain a long-term relationship."

It appears that Barbara and I are simply not compatible. Some would say we have irreconcilable differences. But there's a mystery here: though we're as incompatible as ever these days, we find ourselves happier than ever, as well.

Mired in the self Like nearly every couple in self-absorbed America, Barb and I originally thought marriage was about mutual self-fulfillment. We mouthed all the Christian platitudes about serving God and each other, but when we first got married, we predictably focused on how much fun it was to be together: companionship, sex, increased income, someone to listen, sex, another shoulder to cry on, someone to go on vacations with, sex, and so on. Early marriage for most couples is very much about mutual emotional masturbation.

As long as we have so much in common, the relationship can blissfully proceed. The problem is that only the rare marriage can be continually compatible.

People grow, mature, and change—or at least we all hope they do. Invariably the person we eye across the table at anniversary 10 will be different from the person we walked down the aisle with. And that different person will just as likely be less compatible.

Though compatibility is good and enjoyable as far as it goes, it never goes far enough to make a successful marriage. That's because it stays mired in the self.

Compatibility is ultimately about finding someone who is compatible with me. Compatibility is about my feeling good about being with someone else who shares my interests, blends with my personality traits, shares my values.

Biblical marriage is something altogether different, but at the core isn't much different from the rest of the Christian life: "Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus" (Philippians 2:3-5). Jesus, in fact, had little in common with the people on planet Earth. The chasm between him and us is the difference between the infinite and the finite, holiness and sinfulness, God and man.

But he didn't count compatibility with God a thing to be grasped, Paul says. Instead he emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, of those who were markedly incompatible with him.

Lesson in martyrdom After a few years of marriage, when couples stare into the abyss of their non-compatibility, they generally panic and try to create a new compatibility. My wife increasingly demanded that I listen with deep sincerity to all the little details of her life. I really tried. Couldn't do it.

For my part, I insisted that my wife go to a driving range with me, and I tried to teach her how to hit a golf ball. We ended that experiment in spouse abuse after lesson one.

The more we tried to find areas of compatibility, the more miserable we became. I remember sitting on the bed beside her after another failed sexual adventure (an activity at which we were no longer compatible, either, it seemed). I began to mull over all our differences: politics, kids, remodeling, attitudes toward in-laws, money issues, spirituality—the list was endless. On and on my mind raced. I was overcome with a profound sense of how utterly different we were, and how it was simply impossible for us to reconcile those differences.

But Barbara and I are compatible on one thing: divorce isn't an option. So we simply decided we were going to make this thing work in spite of the fact that we were so incompatible. We didn't decide it in a day, and we didn't decide it with gusto and optimism. We simply felt we had no choice but to learn how to live with a person so utterly alien to us.

And it was in that period that we began to learn about martyrdom, about the death of the self, about giving up the desire for compatibility. If marriage wasn't about how my spouse could make me happier, we each concluded, then it must be about each of us trying to make the other happier.

One morning on vacation on the beach, she asked if I wanted to go for a walk and look at the tide pools. This isn't my instinctive idea of a good time, but she wanted companionship while she did something that was interesting to her. So I went and entered into the experience as best I could. I didn't get nearly the enjoyment from it that she did, but I was happy she enjoyed it so much.

One evening on the same vacation, after a long and busy day, she suggested we go out to eat. She was exhausted, and the last thing she wanted to do was cook over a hot stove to prepare a meal for our family and the extended family with us. I, however, grimaced about the cost of going out. She responded by saying she'd go to the store and whip something together. While this wasn't something she wanted to do, she knew it would make me happy.

These are simple, ordinary acts of martyrdom, the giving way of self for the sake of the other. Every marriage has plenty of such moments. They can be resisted with complaints—"Why don't you ever do what I want to do?" and "Why don't you consider my feelings?" Or they can be submitted to with grace.

This forsaking of compatibility is slow and painful to learn. At the end of the day, Barb and I each feel a sense of regret at not having done more for the other. But every morning there's a new vow to give it another shot.

And here's the crazy thing: the more we stop trying to get each other to be compatible, the happier our marriage has been. Instead of our differences being insurmountable obstacles to happiness, they're simply facts that make our relationship interesting—aggravating at times, to be sure, but ultimately more fascinating.

And one more not unimportant thing: the more we've learned to love each other despite our differences, the more we've been able to love and serve those outside our marriage, most of whom are different from us in so many ways.

Certainly Barb and I share many things in common. But I doubt we share any more than we do with anyone on the planet. Two human beings are going to share some things in common, no matter how different they are.

But that's not what holds a marriage together. Irreconcilable differences are key—at least how we deal with them and learn to love in spite of them.

Mark Galli, managing editor of Christianity Today, is author of Francis of Assisi and His World (IVP).
Of related interest: As one reader writes: "This nice article deserves a G. K. Chesterton salute:

If Americans can be divorced for "incompatibility of temper," I cannot conceive why they are not all divorced. I have known many happy marriages, but never a compatible one. The whole aim of marriage is to fight through and survive the instant when incompatibility becomes unquestionable. For a man and a woman, as such, are incompatible. -- What's Wrong With the World
[Hat tip to J.M. (article), to K.K. (addendum)]

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Taboo of Amaro "crumbling definitively"

Sandro Magister, "Grand Returns. "Iota unum" and "Stat veritas" by Romano Amerio" (www.chiesa, July 15, 2009):
Two outstanding works of Catholic culture are returning to the bookstores. And the taboo on one of the greatest Christian intellectuals of the twentieth century is crumbling definitively. The question he highlights is also at the center of Benedict XVI's pontificate: how much can the Church change, and in what way?

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Incomensurabile perspectives

Wilfred M. McClay has a great article in the June/July issue of First Things celebrating the republication of Sir Patrick Leigh Fermor's 1957 account of monastic life, A Time to Keep Silence. "That such a book would emerge from Fermor," says McClay, "seems about as likely as Teddy Roosevelt's producing a cookbook for vegans." Fermor was a larger-than-life figure. He fought heroically against the Nazis, parachuting into occupied Crete in 1942 in order to work for two years as a resistance organizer, living in the mountains disguised as a shepherd. He is best remembered, says McClay, for masterminding the daring 1944 operation capturing the island's German military commander. Disguised in the uniform of a German corporal, he managed to abscond with his prisoner in a hijacked staff car through fourteen checkpoints before smuggling him by boat to Cairo.

Nothing about this background would suggest a remote interest in anything like monasticism. Fermor entered the Abbey of St. Wandrille, one of the oldest and most beautiful Benedictine abbeys in France, not as a pilgrim or because of any spiritual longing of which he was aware, but on the recommendation of a friend who thought it might be a quiet and inexpensive retreat for him to work on his book.

What follows are three paragraphs I've extracted from McClay's article that reveal two incommensurable perspectives upon Fermor's entry into the abbey:
At first, the plan appears to have been a bad idea. No sooner did he settle in than a mood of unbearable loneliness fell on him "like a hammer-stroke." The place seemed to him "an enormous tomb, a necropolis of which I was the only living inhabitant." Eyeing the monks as they glided into the cloisters for vespers, their bodies concealed beneath voluminous gowns and their faces nearly hidden in the tunnels of their pointed black hoods, Fermor thought they looked "desperately sad," their skin "preternaturally pale, some of them nearly green," their faces at once haggard and smooth, with never a smile or a frown crossing their lips, eyes always downcast, no emotion visible other than an occasional flash of what looked like melancholy. In their presence, he writes, "I had a sensation of the temperature of life falling to zero, the blood running every second thinner and slower as if the heart might in the end imperceptibly stop beating." Back in his cell, overcome with gloom, he downed a flask of Calvados and brooded.

After some days, though, these feelings imperceptibly slipped away, gradually replaced by respect for what these monks were doing with their lives. Only someone who has lived in a monastery, Fermor argues, can grasp "its staggering difference from the ordinary life that we lead." The two ways of life "do not share a single attribute." The period of adjustment can be painful, but he soon came to see the abbey as "the reverse of a tomb," as his unnamed inner torments released their grip and the monks became real people to him -- lively and highly educated men who, far from being feeble and emaciated escapists, were living in "a state of white-hot conviction and striving to which their is never a holiday."

Their devotion to prayer and worship, their keen interest in science and humanistic learning, the graceful buildings and peaceful grounds they assiduously maintained: All of these, far from being signs of fearful withdrawal, were the distinguishing marks of civilization itself. In the end, he concluded, it was he and not the monks who was the escapist."
The incommensurability of these two perspectives on monastic life, which Fermor personally lived through, strike me as fascinatingly similar to the transformation of perspectives undergone in a religious conversion. Ludwig Wittgenstein liked to use the image of the "duck-rabbit" to show that the same data, viewed in two different ways, can yield completely different interpretations. All McClay says here is that after some days, Fermor's initial "feelings imperceptibly slipped away, gradually replaced by respect for what these monks were doing with their lives." This is the part that interests me: what happened during those few days when Fermor underwent this transformation. There is no algorithm for executing this transformation? It's a wonderfully mysterious process that requires a disposition of openness and receptivity, to see what is there (the data) with new eyes under the transforming influence of grace.

Monday, July 13, 2009

July 14, 2009

Please kindly remember remember me in your prayers on July 14th, which will serve as a day of decision of personal significance.

God bless you.

Kind regards,

Saturday, July 11, 2009

The One: Philosopher King or Sophist?

Peter Wehner,"Our Sophist-in-Chief" (Commentary):
While I realize my efforts to decode Barack Obama may turn into a never-ending task, I want to focus on another of his rhetorical habits: his ceaseless attempts to portray himself as America's philosopher-king, the person standing not only above country but above politics itself. Obama is, he would have us believe, uniquely able to transcend old, tired, and rutted debates, to think anew, and to bring a fresh, creative approach to the problems of our time. He alone inhabits the upper world.
Whether it's the economy, health care, education, poverty, gay rights, the word is that "... the last thing we can afford is four more years of the tired, old theory ...." On the last issue, for example, he says that "though we've made progress, there are still fellow citizens -- perhaps neighbors or even family members and loved ones -- who still hold fast to worn arguments and old attitudes, who fail to see your families like their families and who would deny you the rights that most Americans take for granted."

What should one think about this? Wehner suggests the following:
  • That what is most tired, old, and worn out is Obama's lazy rhetorical ploy. He relies on a few stock, and by now hackneyed, phrases to substitute for a serious engagement with issues.
  • That his words reinforce the impression some of us have that his most dangerous personal characteristic is his other-worldly self-regard. He seems to believe he is unlike, and better than, any others who have come before him. He sees himself as a man of awe-inspiring intellectual honesty, a mind rinsed off of prejudice and bias.
  • That "despite his pretensions to the contrary - [he] is a completely orthodox, doctrinaire liberal. His policies are strikingly uncreative and, if I might borrow from the Obama lexicon, tired, old, dogmatic, ideological, and discredited. Is a top-down, government-controlled, tax-and-spend approach to economics fresh, new, and interesting? As President, Obama has shown no intellectual boldness when it comes to his policies. Most of his reforms are hollow and non-existent... More than any president in modern times, he is deferring to barons on the Hill to steer the ship of state. Whatever that qualifies as, it is not a break with worn-out ideas and the politics of the past.
  • That Obama fashions himself as the Great Liberator - freeing us from old arguments, old creeds, and old ways. Mentioning the past is meant to evoke barely disguised contempt; it is the harbor for antediluvian prejudices. Obama alone can remake the rules and remake the world. There is something vaguely utopian and deeply un-conservative in Obama's attitude. And, I might add, deeply unwise and dangerous as well.
Wehner concludes: "Barack Obama, it turns out, is not our Socrates; he is our Sophist-in-Chief. As this becomes clearer over time, more and more people will make their way up the steep and rugged ascent, out of the cave, free of the shadows, and into the sunlight."

[Hat tip to E.E.]

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Motu Proprio "Ecclesiae Unitatem" - in English


1. The role of guarding THE UNITY OF THE CHURCH, with the solicitude of offering to all aid for responding in an opportune manner to this vocation and divine grace, belongs in a particular way to the Successor of the Apostle Peter, who is the perpetual and visible principle and foundation of the unity both of Bishops and of the faithful[1]. The supreme and fundamental priority of the Church, in every age, of leading men towards an encounter with God must be favored through the effort of promoting the common witness of faith of all Christians.

2. In faithfulness to this mandate, following the act with which Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, on June 30, 1988, illicitly conferred the episcopal ordination on four priests, Pope John Paul II, of venerable memory, instituted, on July 2, 1988, the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei "whose task of collaborating with the bishops, with the Departments of the Roman Curia and with the circles concerned, for the purpose of facilitating full ecclesial communion of priests, seminarians, religious communities or individuals until now linked in various ways to the Fraternity founded by Mons. Lefebvre, who may wish to remain united to the Successor Peter in the Catholic Church, while preserving their spiritual and liturgical traditions, in the light of the Protocol signed on 5 May last by Cardinal Ratzinger and Mons. Lefebvre"[2].

3. In this way faithfully adhering to the same purpose of serving the universal communion of the Church also in her visible manifestation and making every effort so that to all those who truly desire unity it is made possible to remain in it or to find it anew, We have desired to widen and renew, with the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum, the general indications already contained in the Motu Proprio Ecclesia Dei regarding the possibility of using the Missale Romanum of 1962, through more precise and detailed rules[3].

4. In the same spirit, and with the same commitment of favoring the overcoming of each fracture and division in the Church and to heal a wound felt in an always more painful way in the ecclesial tissue, We desired to remit the excommunication of the four Bishops illicitly ordained by Mons. Lefebvre. With such a decision, We intended to remove an obstacle which could prevent the opening of a door to dialogue, and thus invite the Bishops and the "Fraternity of Saint Pius X" to find anew the path towards full communion with the Church. As We explained in the Letter to the Catholic Bishops of past March 10, the remission of the excommunication was a decision in the area of ecclesiastical discipline which could liberate the weight of conscience represented by the gravest ecclesiastical censure. The doctrinal questions, however, obviously remain, and, until they are not clarified, the Fraternity does not have a canonical status within the Church, and its ministers cannot exercise any ministry legitimately.

5. Since the questions which must be dealt with the Fraternity are of an essentially doctrinal nature, We have decided - twenty-one years after the Motu Proprio Ecclesia Dei, and as We had planned to do[4] - to restructure the Commission Ecclesia Dei, linking it more directly with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

6. Therefore, the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei will be constituted thus:
a) The President of the Commission is the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

b) The Commission has its own structure, including a Secretary and Officials.

c) It belongs to the President, aided by the Secretary, to present the main events and questions of a doctrinal nature to the study and deliberation of the ordinary instances of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, as well as to submit the conclusions to the superior judgment of the Supreme Pontiff.
7. With this decision, We have desired, in particular, to display our fatherly solicitude to the "Fraternity of Saint Pius X" so that in the end it may come to full communion with the Church.

We earnestly invite all to pray to the Lord incessantly, through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, "ut unum sint".

Given in Rome, at Saint Peter’s, on July 2 of the year 2009, the fifth of Our Pontificate.



1. Cfr Conc. Oecum. Vat. II, Const. dogm. de Ecclesia, Lumen gentium, 23; Conc. Oecum. Vat. I, Const. dogm. de Ecclesia Christi Pastor aeternus, c. 3: DS 3060.

2. Ioannes Paulus II, Litt. ap. motu proprio datae Ecclesia Dei (2 Iulii 1988), n. 6: AAS 80 (1988), 1498.

3. Cfr Benedictus XVI, Litt. ap. motu proprio datae Summorum Pontificum (7 Iulii 2007): AAS 99 (2007), 777-781.

4. Cfr ibid. art. 11, 781.

[Hat tip to the ever vigilant New Catholic for his post at Rorate Caeli, July 8, 2009.]

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Substance, Accident, and Transubstantiation

Peter A. Kwasniewski

Abraham Bloemaert, Supper at Emmaus

The priest celebrating the traditional Roman Rite whispers in the midst of consecrating the Precious Blood: “mysterium fidei.” Indeed, the Real Presence of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in the Holy Eucharist is among the greatest mysteries of our faith. Over the millennia the Catholic Church has lovingly pondered this mystery, and her great theologians, while humbly acknowledging reason’s limits in probing what is divine and supernatural, have nevertheless been able to offer a reasoned defense of it against all objections that unbelief and heresy have hurled against it. In the modern world, where materialism, scientism, skepticism, and similar views reign supreme, the mysterious change that the Church calls “transubstantiation” has its mockers and would-be debunkers — even, sadly, conscientious or de facto dissenters within the ranks of the Church, such as the modernists who populate many a Catholic university, seminary, or chancery. As Catholics who seek to understand and live our faith more deeply, we need to make an effort to get hold of the common-sense philosophy of reality that provides the Church with the raw materials for her dogmatic definition of transubstantiation. If we do this, we stand a better chance of achieving clear (or in any case, clearer) thinking about this wondrous work of God and thus of being in a position to speak of it to others. In his encyclical Mysterium Fidei (1965), Pope Paul VI said, apropos the Magisterium’s use of philosophically refined language in formulating Eucharistic dogma:
These formulas [of the Council of Trent] — like the others that the Church used to propose the dogmas of faith — express concepts that are not tied to a certain specific form of human culture, or to a certain level of scientific progress, or to one or another theological school. Instead they set forth what the human mind grasps of reality through necessary and universal experience and what it expresses in apt and exact words, whether it be in ordinary or more refined language. For this reason, these formulas are adapted to all men of all times and all places. (§24)
This article will attempt to show just what the Church’s formulas mean and how the mystery, while never ceasing to be a marvel and a miracle past all human thought, can nonetheless be clarified to the mind so that it no longer seems a colossal contradiction or impossibility. In short, we offer to the reader a modest essay in what the Father of Scholasticism, St. Anselm, called “faith seeking understanding.”

[Read the rest of this article here: "Substance, Accident, and Transubstantiation" (Scripture and Catholic Tradition, July 5, 2009), reprinted there by permission of Peter A. Kwasniewski and Latin Mass Magazine, 391 E. Virginia Terrace, Santa Paula, CA 93060.]

Local progress of EF Mass, ever ancient, ever new

Tridentine Community News (July 5, 2009):
Welcome Fr. Ross Bartley, Fr. John Johnson, & Fr. Robert Marczewski

Windsor and metro Detroit have gained three additional priest supporters of the Extraordinary Form Mass. First, the Diocese of London has assigned Fr. Ross Bartley [pictured left] to be the Assistant Pastor of Windsor’s Assumption Church, effective June 30. This assignment was made in part to support Assumption’s merger with Holy Name of Mary Parish. Ordinary Form Masses will continue at Holy Name of Mary Church, which is now officially a worship site of Assumption Parish.

Second, Fr. John Johnson has been appointed pastor of the new cluster of St. Teresa and St. Vincent de Paul Churches in Windsor.

Frs. Bartley and Johnson were previously assigned to the northern part of the diocese, near Stratford. Both are friends of Extraordinary Form advocate Fr. Paul Nicholson and have attended training on the Mass. We hope that their presence and schedules will permit additional Tridentine Masses, and more frequent Solemn High Masses, in both Windsor and Detroit. Lest there be any misconception, however, Fr. Peter Hrytsyk remains the chaplain and principal celebrant for the Tridentine Mass at Assumption Church.

On the other side of the river, Fr. Robert Marczewski, formerly of the Philadelphia area, has moved to our region to join the faculty of Orchard Lake’s Ss. Cyril & Methodius Seminary. Fr. Marczewski is currently learning the Extraordinary Form of Holy Mass and hopes to join St. Josaphat’s roster of celebrants starting in September.

We are always looking for additional priests and deacons who are interested in learning the Extraordinary Form. They do not need to commit to helping out at our churches, though they are welcome to do so if they wish. If you know of any who may be curious, please e-mail the address at the bottom of this page, and we will arrange training.

St. Albertus Church Schedules Additional Tridentine Masses

Besides the obvious appeal of holding Holy Mass in this beautiful church, these Masses will provide the option of attending the Tridentine Mass at noon for those who may find that time convenient. On months with a St. Albertus Mass, you will have the option of noon Tridentine Masses twice per month, once at St. Joseph and once at St. Albertus. Masses at St. Albertus will not be held on the Fourth Sunday of the month, so as not to conflict with St. Joseph’s Tridentine Mass.

EWTN Uses Assumption-Windsor’s Chant Sheets

On Wednesday, July 1, EWTN broadcast a Pontifical Solemn Mass in the Extraordinary Form for the Feast of the Most Precious Blood, celebrated by Auxiliary Bishop Joseph Perry of Chicago. As one could see in one of the EWTN screen shots, Michel Ozorak’s Chant Sheets were used by the subdeacon and deacon to chant the Epistle and Gospel, respectively. This is quite an honor, and indicative of the uniqueness of his work. Michel is considering publishing a book of these sheets once more of the liturgical year has been completed.

Incidentally, it is a sign of the times that the newsworthy item here is not that a Tridentine Mass was broadcast on EWTN, or even that it was the first time that it was celebrated by a bishop. In that regard, the extraordinary has truly become ordinary.

Upcoming Special Sung Masses

St. Josaphat continues to hold Tridentine High Masses (Missa Cantata) on many of the First and Second Class Feast Days which specify a Gloria and Credo. Below is the schedule through the end of 2009, excluding Christmas Eve and Day. Unless otherwise specified, all Masses are at 7:00 PM.

Thursday, August 6: Transfiguration
Saturday, August 15 (9:30 AM): Assumption (Holy Day)
Saturday, August 22 (9:30 AM): Immaculate Heart
Thursday, September 8: Nativity of the Blessed Virgin
Monday, September 14: Exaltation of the Holy Cross
Tuesday, September 15: Seven Sorrows of the BVM
Monday, September 21: St. Matthew the Apostle
Tuesday, September 29: Dedication of St. Michael the Archangel
Wednesday, October 28: Ss. Simon & Jude
Monday, November 2: All Souls
Monday, November 9: Dedication of Archbasilica of Our Savior
Monday, November 30: St. Andrew the Apostle
Tuesday, December 8: Immaculate Conception (Holy Day)
Monday, December 21: St. Thomas the Apostle
Monday, December 28: Holy Innocents

A 7:00 PM High Mass is also planned for the Friday visit of the Pilgrim Virgin Statue of Fatima to Sweetest Heart of Mary Church this fall. Low Masses will be held for its visits to St. Josaphat and St. Joseph. Details will be announced later.

We thank those who have been attending the special weekday sung Masses thus far, as it is your support that is encouraging the continuation of this program.
[Comments? 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 July 5, 2009. Hat tip to A.B.]

Friday, July 03, 2009

Prayer request

I solicit your kind intercessory prayers on behalf of a special intention of serious personal consequence.

Thank you.

Kind regards,

Surprise! Femi-nuns Find Themselves Under the Microscope?

by Pieter Vree

The increasing number of Catholics who have been calling for the Vatican to exert more influence on the Catholic Church in the U.S. are about to get their wish.

No sooner had the ink dried on our May 2009 New Oxford Note "Song of the Boo-Birds" about the now-underway apostolic visitation of U.S. women's religious orders that it was announced that the Holy See is preparing an additional investigation of consecrated women in the U.S.

As detailed in that New Oxford Note, the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life (CICLSAL) was directed by Pope Benedict XVI to "look into the quality of life" at the general and provincial houses and centers of initial formation of women religious in the U.S. This visitation, led by the Rev. Mother Mary Claire Millea, will take an estimated two years to complete.

The new investigation, by contrast, has been placed under the purview of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), which will make a "doctrinal assessment" of the tenor and content of various addresses given at the annual assemblies of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR). The LCWR is the nation's largest organization of administrators of women's religious orders, claiming over 1,500 members, who together represent around 95 percent of the 58,000 women religious in the U.S. No small potatoes. The LCWR also happens to be the bastion of leftist feminism in the U.S. Catholic Church. The LCWR's mission statement includes this choice line: "Developing models for initiating and strengthening relationships with groups concerned with the needs of society, thereby maximizing the potential of the conference for effecting change." One of the LCWR's stated purposes is "collaborating in Catholic church and societal efforts that influence systemic change." Judging by this chirping about "change," one could easily conclude that the LCWR fancies itself the political body of the institutional revolution in religious life since Vatican II.

That a national leadership conference should be the subject of a doctrinal inquiry by the Holy See is "virtually unprecedented," says the always informative Vatican insider John L. Allen Jr. (National Catholic Reporter, May 1), because such tasks are commonly left to the competence of national bishops' conferences. Moreover, that the CDF, the highest doctrinal office in the Church, is spearheading the investigation — as opposed to the CICLSAL, which has jurisdiction over religious orders — suggests that Rome has grave concerns about the theological currents emanating from the LCWR's assemblies. Here is one instance in which Benedict's curious selection of William Cardinal Levada as prefect of the CDF will be of benefit: The American cardinal should have no trouble decoding "nuance" in the LCWR material to be scrutinized.

With three investigations concurrently underway — U.S. women's religious orders, the Legion of Christ (see the preceding New Oxford Note), and the LCWR — no one can say that the Vatican is sitting on its collective hands these days. Indeed, Rome has been a hotbed of activity of late.

The LCWR was apprised of the CDF's intent to investigate in a letter from Cardinal Levada dated February 20 and received March 10. He wrote that the investigation became necessary when, at their 2001 annual meeting, the CDF instructed the LCWR to "report on the initiatives taken or planned" to promote three areas of doctrinal concern: the CDF's 1986 "Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons"; Pope John Paul II's 1994 apostolic letter Ordinatio Sacer­dotalis, which reiterated Church teaching on the all-male priesthood; and the CDF's 2001 declaration Dominus Iesus, which emphasized the uniqueness of the Catholic Church in the economy of salvation. Evidently, in the ensuing eight years, the report was never submitted. In his letter, Cardinal Levada wrote, "Given both the tenor and doctrinal content of various addresses given at the annual assemblies of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious in the intervening years, this Dicastery can only conclude that the problems which had motivated its request in 2001 continue to be present."

After consulting with Franc Cardinal Rodé, prefect of the CICLSAL, Cardinal Levada decided it was time to take action. He tapped Bishop Leonard Blair of Toledo, Ohio, a member of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee on Doctrine, to lead the inquiry. Cardinal Rodé will assist Cardinal Levada in determining what measures will be necessary once Bishop Blair submits his completed report. (No timetable has been given.)

Donna Steichen, author of Ungodly Rage: The Hidden Face of Catholic Feminism, the groundbreaking 1991 exposé of U.S. women's religious orders, said in an interview with (Apr. 22) that she welcomes the CDF's inquiry, but that it's "at least 30 years behind the need." Steichen also pointed out that "the [religious] communities involved [in the LCWR] have almost completed their suicides, and they know it, and it gives them pause for thought."

The shaky future of women's religious orders in the U.S. was the theme of the keynote address at the LCWR's 2007 annual conference. Titled "A Marginal Life: Pursuing Holiness in the 21st Century" [PDF] and delivered by Sinsinawa Dominican Sister Laurie Brink, this talk "aroused particular concern" at the CDF, reports Jack Smith, editor of The Catholic Key, the official newspaper of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph. In her discussion of the decline of women's religious congregations in modern times, Sr. Brink identified four possible future paths for struggling congregations. The "dynamic option," she said, "involves moving beyond the Church, even beyond Jesus." This is the path chosen by what she termed the "sojourning" congregation. This type of congregation "is no longer ecclesiastical. It has grown beyond the bounds of institutional religion. Its search for the Holy may have begun rooted in Jesus as the Christ, but deep reflection, study and prayer have opened it up to the spirit of the Holy in all of creation." Sr. Brink continued, "Ecclesiastical authorities no longer fit this congregation, which in most respects is Post-Christian." Why post-Christian? Because "Jesus is not the only son of God. Salvation is not limited to Christians."

If this is the path women's congregations have chosen for themselves, it's no wonder they're dying off. Who's ever heard of a "post-Christian" vocation? Sojourning is the suicidal option.

But Sr. Brink seems to indicate that this indeed was the path chosen by a great many communities after Vatican II, and her description reads like a laundry list of heresies and errors:
  • "When religious communities embraced the spirit of renewal in the 1970s, they took seriously that the world was no longer the enemy, that a sense of ecumenism required encountering the holy 'other,' and that the God of Jesus might well be the God of Moses and the God of Mohammed…." Here we have the error of restricted indifferentism, which Pope Gregory XVI called "rotten," a "base opinion," and "a prolific cause of evils."

  • "The emergence of the women's movement with its concomitant critique of religion invited women everywhere to use a hermeneutical lens of suspicion when reading the androcentric Scriptures and the texts of the Tradition. With a new lens, women also began to see the divine within nature, the value and importance of the cosmos, and that the emerging new cosmology encouraged their spirituality and fed their souls." Here we have a warped feminist reading of the foundational aspects of the Church, as well as pantheism, which was condemned by Pope Pius IX in his "Syllabus of Errors."

  • "Who's to say that the movement beyond Christ is not, in reality, a movement into the very heart of God? A movement the ecclesiastical system would not recognize…. But a whole new way that is also not Catholic Religious Life. The Benedictine Women of Madison are the most current example I can name. Their commitment to ecumenism leads them beyond the exclusivity of the Catholic Church into a new inclusivity, where all manner of seeking God is welcomed. They are certainly religious women, but they are no longer women religious as it is defined by the Roman Catholic Church. They choose as a congregation to step outside the Church in order to step into a greater sense of holiness." Here we have a clear-cut case of willful apostasy on the part of a religious congregation that has chosen to turn away from the light of the Catholic faith. This, surely, is the unhappy end of the "sojourning" congregation: the casting of oneself into outer darkness.
St. Paul said that the Gospel of Christ "is veiled only to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ" (2 Cor. 4:4). It is no coincidence that an embrace of worldly ideologies blinds one's mind to the glory of the Gospel of Christ, leading to death — even the death of entire religious congregations.

Are we witnessing the death throes of an ill-conceived revolution gone horribly awry? Hilary White reported for (Aug. 8, 2008) that the "ideologies of radical feminism that infiltrated the women's orders represented by LCWR have been shown to be instrumental in the collapse of women's vocations. While thousands left their orders in the 1960s and 1970s, the number of young women applying to enter the LCWR communities dropped to nearly nothing and has not significantly increased." Sr. Brink too recognizes that "death" is the "default mode" of religious congregations whose "self-image is stuck in the 1970s." These she calls "zombie congregations."

Ah, but the outlook isn't all doom and despair. Donna Steichen insists that the "future clearly lies with the new and reformed young orders of, one might say, 'primitive' observance" — i.e., congregations that practice a markedly more orthodox Catholic faith. Many of these new orders belong to a smaller, newer umbrella organization, the Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious, which was given canonical status by the Vatican in 1995, and is viewed as the levelheaded "conservative" counterpart to the fatal liberal wackiness of the LCWR. As one would expect, the LCWR is openly hostile to these upstart congregations. Sr. Brink accuses them of "making choices that a generation ago would have been anathema to their members," such as putting the habit back on and catering to "seemingly conservative young adults." But, Sr. Brink admits, such congregations "are flourishing."

One of the reasons John Allen gives for the CDF's "unusual" sponsorship of the doctrinal inquiry is that since 1959 the LCWR has also had canonical status as an official entity of the Church. Therefore, the CDF has the capacity to issue "official recommendations or mandates" to the LCWR, whereas the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops can only offer "non-binding guidance." The CDF also has the ability to alter or revoke the LCWR's canonical status. "The implied threat," Allen suggests, is that the Vatican could leave the Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious as "the lone official representative of women religious in the United States."

This outcome, however remote, would accord well with Pope Benedict XVI's concept of "evangelical pruning" of institutions in the Church whose Catholic identity has been compromised. When he was elected Pope, much was made of this quote from an interview published in the 1997 Ignatius title Salt of the Earth: "Maybe we are facing a new and different kind of epoch in the Church's history, where Christianity will again be characterized more by the mustard seed, where it will exist in small, seemingly insignificant groups that nonetheless live an intense struggle against evil and bring good into the world — that let God in."

If something along the lines of the marginalization or the abolition of the LCWR were to come to pass, then we would be able to stand up and say we have witnessed the full blooming of the Ratzinger papacy.

[The foregoing article by New Oxford Review editor Peter Vree, "Surprise! Femi-nuns Find Themselves Under the Microscope?," was originally published as a New Oxford Note in New Oxford Review (June 2009), pp. 18-20, and is reproduced here by kind permission of New Oxford Review, 1069 Kains Ave., Berkeley, CA 94706.]