Saturday, February 27, 2010

Benedict on Luther, justification sola fide

Christopher J. Malloy (University of Dallas), whose previous work includes a critique of the Joint Declaration on Justification [Vatican website] by the Lutheran World Federation and the Catholic Church, offers a thought-provoking review in "Justification Sola Fide: Catholic after All?" (This Rock, Vol. 20, No. 7, September-October 2009). He writes:
At the close of the last liturgical year, Pope Benedict XVI made a startling proclamation: "Luther’s expression sola fide is true if faith is not opposed to charity, to love" (Wednesday Audience, Nov. 19, 2008). At first, this statement might seem to collide with Trent: "If anyone says that the godless are justified by faith alone . . . let him be anathema" (Trent, VI, canon 9). Again, "For faith, unless hope and charity are added thereto, neither unites one perfectly with Christ nor makes one a living member of his body" (Trent, VI, ch. 7).
The gist of Mally's article (and it is a detailed, analytical article) seems to be that there are differences of expression, emphasis, and insight here, but not such differences as would constitute contradictions. Luther's expression "justification by faith alone" can be understood in a Catholic way, for example, if faith is "formed faith" -- faith formed by charity.

Yet Malloy acknowledges that problems remain in accepting Luther's own formulations:
... Luther rejects the idea that at the baptismal moment of justification a man becomes truly just interiorly (LW 32:229). For Luther, the believer is always totally righteous and totally sinful. Hence, despite the beginnings of sanctification, justification itself must be simply a declaration of forgiveness and an "imputation" of righteousness (LW 26:223-236, 1963 ed.). He must, therefore, reject Catholic teaching. Luther declares, "If love is the form of faith, then I am immediately obliged to say that love is the most important and the largest part of the Christian religion. And thus I lose Christ" (LW 26:270). Luther even resorts to a curse: "Let that expression ‘faith formed’ be damned!" (LW 26:273, see also LW 27:38; on this curse, see Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Church, Ecumenism, and Politics, 104-11).

... Luther—and the Formula of Concord after him—excludes charity from the justifying role of faith. Luther consequently deflates the dramatic tension that constitutes our "time of decision for love" on earth (Phil 2:12ff; 2 Tm 4:7-8). Catholics cannot accept these teachings of Luther, which contradict the Gospel (Rom 1:16ff) as Catholic faith reads it.

Despite every effort at ecumenical reconciliation, a difficulty remains; an important obstacle must be overcome. As Benedicts shows, Catholic terminology is flexible. It is the reality of the mystery that must be upheld. Provided that justifying faith (Rom 3:28) is understood as a compact expression for faith, hope, and charity, Catholics do profess that faith alone justifies (1 Cor 13:13; on a history of the reception of Romans pertinent to this point, see Thomas Scheck, Origen and the History of Justification).
Nevertheless, there are points at which Luther's emphasis serves as a needed corrective to certain distortions in the otherwise valid notion of merit among some Catholics. Malloy writes:
There is no question, many of the points Luther made were on the money. Among these are the following: Some members of the Church were corrupt; God’s grace is totally free (Eph 2); sin still lies in wait even for the just person (Rom 7); Christ is presently a high priest interceding for sinners (Heb 4-5); good deeds are expressions of gratitude for salvation, etc.

... Above all, our eyes should fall on Jesus Christ. May these papal audiences be as oil upon the head, running down the beard (Ps 133:1ff), so that Catholics may humbly profess the fullness of the faith they do not own, so "that they may all be one" (Jn 17:21).
[Hat tip to J.M.]

APA censures Calvin College for anti-gay affiliation

A mildly livid Roy Alden Atwood, Ph.D., New Saint Andrews College’s first president and a founding member of the College’s board and faculty, writes in "Philosopher high priests excommunicate Calvin College" (On Higher Education, February 10, 2010):
The philosopher kings have become the philosopher high priests of a new orthodoxy. Academic freedom no longer includes religious freedom for the members of the American Philosophical Association. The APA’s high priests have declared Calvin College heretical for not embracing their new homosexual dogma. The APA has the audacity to claim Calvin is engaged in “a most egregious form of discrimination” when it is their own new priestly power mongering that is forcing an utterly novel orthodoxy on the scholarly association members for its own political ends. In this Brave New Academic World, secularists are working overtime to make Christian orthodoxy the new social and political heresy and to declare sexual perversion the new confession of faith. Another case of “Repressive Tolerance.”

According to the report from Inside Higher Ed, the American Philosophical Association singled out Calvin College for punishment using the association’s new pro-gay rule on APA job listings. Calvin, whose supporting denomination, the Christian Reformed Church, is fairly ”tolerant” on the homosexual question compared to many other evangelical denominations, was no doubt targeted because Calvin has long been a powerhouse in philosophical circles. Nick Wolterstorff [now retired from Yale] and Alvin Plantinga [now retired from Notre Dame] are two extraordinarily prominent American philosophers who once taught at Calvin and led the APA. This secular academic power play is likely intended to threaten and punish any and all Christian academic institutions that refuse to embrace secularism and neo-pagan sexual mores. The Sodomite-homosexual lobby has been putting increasing pressure on Christian institutions, whether through the radical SoulForce protests on Christian campuses or through professional association agitations like the APA’s. Calvin College’s prominence among evangelical and Reformed colleges and its leadership in academic circles generally has apparently made it a prime target for testing such coercion and challenging religious freedom in the academy. Homosexuals must figure that if they can whack Calvin into submission through such tyrannical means, they’ll eventually be able to force every Christian college or university to bow the knee toward Sodom. (emphasis added)
[HT to E.E.]

Convert rabbi's book on Jesus re-issued

Sandro Magister, "The Jew, Jesus, Who Changed the Life of the Chief Rabbi of Rome" (www.chiesa, February 10, 2010), writes:
ROME, February 24, 2010 – The first person he told that he had finished writing his book about Jesus was a Jewish rabbi, on the day after his visit to the synagogue of Rome, last January 18.

The rabbi is the American Jacob Neusner, and the author of the book is Benedict XVI.

The first volume of "Jesus of Nazareth" by pope Joseph Ratzinger was released three years ago. And now the second and concluding volume of the work, dedicated to the passion and resurrection of Jesus and to the infancy narratives, is ready for translation and printing.

Meanwhile, however, with significant coordination of timing, another important book about Jesus has been reprinted in recent days in Italy, entitled "Il Nazareno," written more than seventy years ago by a great Italian rabbi.

Not only that. A very positive review of this new edition of the book was published on February 20 in "L'Osservatore Romano," written by a famous scholar, Anna Foa, a Jewish professor of history at the University of Rome "La Sapienza."

And this review also marks an important new development. The author of the book, Israel Zoller, was chief rabbi of the Jewish community of Rome. And in 1945, he converted to the Catholic faith.

The stunning news of his conversion rocked the Roman and Italian Jewish community. And it responded with a silence that lasted for decades.

Anna Foa's review in "the pope's newspaper" has definitively broken this silence. Moreover, she has acknowledged that in that book, although it was written many years before its author's conversion, there already "seemed to appear between the lines a recognition of the messianic character of Christ."
Read a brief biography of Rabbi Israel Zoller, as well as Anna Foa's review, here (scroll down).

Israel Zoller, took the name Eugenio Zolli in honor of Pope Pius XII after his conversion to Catholicism. An English translation of his book is entitled The Nazarene: Studies in New Testament Exegesis(1999), and was given a very positive Review of The Nazarene by Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Cranmer meets Benedict

Charlotte Hays, "The Beginning of the Reformation's End?" (Wall Street Journal, February 26, 2010).

[HT to E.E.]

Lay ministry & vocations: food for thought

Russell Shaw (Pontifical University of the Holy Cross) writes provocatively in "Lay Ministry, Lay Apostolate, and Vocation" (Fellowship of Catholic Scholars Quarterly, 32, No. 4 (Winter 2009):
People have sometimes said of me that I'm opposed to lay ministries, but that isn't true. I support lay ministries, and I have great admiration for all those wonderful lay people who are involved in ministries of various kinds.

But I do see a problem.

In recent years, there's been a disproportionate emphasis on lay ministries, at the expense of what used to be called lay apostolate or simply "the Apostolate." And that disproportionate emphasis contributes to something very unhealthy in Catholic life.
Here Shaw illustrates with a story based on his experience, a couple of years ago, of teaching an online course about the laity to a class of adult Catholics. Some weeks after the course ended, one of his students sent him an email sharing an experience she'd had. She wrote:
Last week I gave a lecture to a group of women, and as an opening exercise I asked them to write on one side of the page all the everyday things they do in the course of a day or two. Then I asked them to write on the other side all the things they do in the same time frame that they consider to be holy.

Without exception, they made up two entirely different lists -- on the one hand, daily chores and activities, and on the other hand things associated with what they considered to be "ministry" -- serving as minister of communion or lector, attending Mass, things like that.
Point taken. Gaudium et Spes addresses the matter thus:
One of the gravest errors of our time is the dichotomy between the faith which many profess and the practice of their daily lives.... Let there ... be no such pernicious opposition between professional and social activity on the one hand and the religious life on the other.... It is [the task of the Catholic laity] to cultivate a properly informed conscience and to impress the divine law on the affairs of the earthly city (GS, 43).
As Shaw points out, that was over 40 years ago, and little if anything has changed in that pervasive attitude, which divides up our experiences and activities into two distinct compartments or regions, one holy and the other secular. "Fortunately there's a solution, if only we choose to make use of it," says Shaw. "Its name is vocation. Every baptized person has one." But in order to put the solution to work, we need a much clearer understanding of vocation than most Catholics appear to have.

Shaw distinguishes three different dimensions to the idea of "vocation," which he pictures in three concentric rings. (1) "At the center is the common Christian vocation, which comes to us in baptism and is shared by all menbers of the Church." This consists in the commitment of faith and what follows from it, loving and serving God, and one's neighbor as oneself, and so forth. (2) "The next vocational circle, spreading out from this central point, is vocation in the sense of a state in life." Here he has in mind the clerical state, the consecrated life, the state of marriage, and the single lay state in the world. (3) "the outer circle -- and the third meaning of Christian vocation -- is personal vocation." Here he means the particular unique "combination of commitments, relationships, opportunities, disadvantages, weaknesses, and strengths" that God asks us to put to use in serving Him and His Church (this idea can be found in St. Ignatius Loyola, St. Francis de Sales, Cardinal Newman, etc., he says).

Clearing up our understanding of vocational discernment is the key, says Shaw, to resolving much of the confusion over lay ministry. It involves, first, setting aside the false idea that vocational discernment is done only by those considering the priesthood or religious life; and second, the idea that vocational discernment is a one time thing. The question one seeks to answer is not "What do I want from life?" but "What does God want from me?" It isn't subjective, but guided by Christian morality. "Conscience formation comes first. A person with a well formed conscience is equipped to engage in fruitful discernment. But when someone whose conscience is not well formed tries it, the result is likely to be self-serving and not God's will."

Shaw continues:
Lay ministries, as they are called -- service roles and functions performed by lay people in church settings, especially parishes -- undoubtedly do have their place, and an important one. But their place is subordinate to the priority of apostolate carried on in and to the secular order....

I'm sorry to say that in recent years we seem to have gotten it just the other way around, assigning de facto primacy to lay ministries and downgrading lay apostolate. And although the intentions have been good, that is a bad mistake which has contributed a lot to the current problems in the Church....

I repeat: lay ecclesial ministry can reasonably be seen as one part of [the] larger picture. but to speak of lay ministry as if it were the very apex of it, the peak of the pyramid, so to speak, is an instance of the tail wagging the dog -- that is to say, it's a painfully narrow-minded view of a much larger development in Catholic life extending over the last century and a half and still taking place.
Shaw goes on to relate a hunch he has about how this is related to the sacrament of confirmation -- "a sacrament in crisis if there ever was one." The problem with confirmation, he says, is that basically "nobody really knows what it is." His idea, which he believes is both theologically and pastorally valid, is to present confirmation as a sacrament of vocational discernment -- a subject about which he hopes to produce a book someday.

With that, Shaw offers a bold assertion: "There is no shortage of vocations in the Catholic Church" -- either in the Church as a whole or the U.S. or anywhere. "As a matter of fact, a true shortage of vocations is an absolute impossibility, since every baptized individual has a vocation."

What we have instead, he says, is a shortage of vocational discernment That also is a problem, even a serious one; but it's a problem of a quite different sort. Shaw writes:
You see, if there were a shortage of vocations -- which isn't possible, but let's suppose for a moment that it was -- then the shortage of vocations would be from God. And in that case, there would be nothing we could do about it except ask God to send the vocations he'd been withholding.

But because what we have is a shortage of vocational discernment, we can be quite sure that the shortage of vocations of whatever kind comes from us. Prayer is still needed, of course, but there are a lot of other things that we can and should be doing.

And the first and most important of them is to educate every Catholic to the fact that he or she has a vocation, and that the most important thing he or she will ever do is to discern what that vocation is, accept it, and then continue discerning it and living it for the rest of his or her life.

O'Connor on fanaticism

"To a lot of Protestants I know, monks and nuns are fanatics, none greater. And to a lot of the monks and nuns I know, my Protestant prophets are fanatics. For my part, I think the only difference between them is that if you are a Catholic and have this intensity of belief you join the convent and are heard from no more; whereas if you are a Protestant and have it, there is no convent for you to join and you go about in the world, getting into all sorts of trouble and drawing the wrath of people who don't believe anything much at all down on your head."

-- Flannery O'Connor

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Watch the president's face

Paul Ryan: " Hiding Spending Doesn't Reduce Spending."

Nothing like the light of day to illumine all those nasty little dark secrets hidden in the stacks of health reform bill papers.

[Hat tip to E.E.]

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Introduction to the Spirit of the Liturgy by Msgr. Guido Marini, Part 3 of 6

Tridentine Community News (February 21, 2010):
On January 6, 2010 a landmark speech was given by Msgr. Guido Marini, the Pontifical Master of Liturgical Ceremonies, at the Year For Priests Clergy Conference in Rome. There is no need to speculate on what Rome believes is suitable liturgy when clear direction such as this is given. Msgr. Marini was appointed by Pope Benedict XVI to reform papal liturgies according to our Holy Father’s thinking. We believe Msgr. Marini’s words speak for themselves, and so we are presenting his speech in its entirety.

2. The orientation of liturgical prayer.

Over and above the changes which have characterised, during the course of time, the architecture of churches and the places where the liturgy takes place, one conviction has always remained clear within the Christian community, almost down to the present day. I am referring to praying facing East, a tradition which goes back to the origins of Christianity.

What is understood by “praying facing East”? It refers to the orientation of the praying heart towards Christ, from whom comes salvation, and to whom it is directed as in the beginning so at the end of history. The sun rises in the East, and the sun is a symbol of Christ, the light rising in the Orient. The messianic passage in the Benedictus canticle comes readily to mind: “Through the tender mercy of our God; * whereby the Orient from on high hath visited us”

Very reliable and recent studies have by now proven effectively that, in every age of its past, the Christian community has found the way to express even in the external and visible liturgical sign, this fundamental orientation for the life of faith. This is why we find churches built in such a way that the apse was turned to the East. When such an orientation of the sacred space was no longer possible, the Church had recourse to the Crucifix placed upon the altar, on which everyone could focus. In the same vein many apses were decorated with resplendent representations of the Lord. All were invited to contemplate these images during the celebration of the Eucharistic liturgy.

Without recourse to a detailed historical analysis of the development of Christian art, we would like to reaffirm that prayer facing East, more specifically, facing the Lord, is a characteristic expression of the authentic spirit of the liturgy. It is according to this sense that we are invited to turn our hearts to the Lord during the celebration of the Eucharistic Liturgy, as the introductory dialogue to the Preface well reminds us. Sursum corda “Lift up your hearts,” exhorts the priest, and all respond: Habemus ad Dominum “We lift them up unto the Lord.” Now if such an orientation must always be adopted interiorly by the entire Christian community when it gathers in prayer, it should be possible to find this orientation expressed externally by means of signs as well. The external sign, moreover, cannot but be true, in such a way that through it the correct spiritual attitude is rendered visible.

Hence the reason for the proposal made by the then Cardinal Ratzinger, and presently reaffirmed during the course of his pontificate, to place the Crucifix on the center of the altar, in order that all, during the celebration of the liturgy, may concretely face and look upon Lord, in such a way as to orient also their prayer and hearts. Let us listen to the words of His Holiness, Benedict XVI, directly, who in the preface to the first book of his Complete Works, dedicated to the liturgy, writes the following: “The idea that the priest and people should stare at one another during prayer was born only in modern Christianity, and is completely alien to the ancient Church. The priest and people most certainly do not pray one to the other, but to the one Lord. Therefore, they stare in the same direction during prayer: either towards the East as a cosmic symbol of the Lord who comes, or, where this is not possible, towards the image of Christ in the apse, towards a crucifix, or simply towards the heavens, as our Lord Himself did in His priestly prayer the night before His Passion (John 17.1) In the meantime the proposal made by me at the end of the chapter treating this question in my work ‘The Spirit of the Liturgy’ is fortunately becoming more and more common: rather than proceeding with further transformations, simply to place the crucifix at the center of the altar, which both priest and the faithful can face and be lead in this way towards the Lord, whom everyone addresses in prayer together.” (trans. from the Italian.)

Let it not be said, moreover, that the image of our Lord crucified obstructs the sight of the faithful from that of the priest, for they are not to look to the celebrant at that point in the liturgy! They are to turn their gaze towards the Lord! In like manner, the presider of the celebration should also be able to turn towards the Lord. The crucifix does not obstruct our view; rather it expands our horizon to see the world of God; the crucifix brings us to meditate on the mystery; it introduces us to the heavens from where the only light capable of making sense of life on this earth comes. Our sight, in truth, would be blinded and obstructed were our eyes to remain fixed on those things that display only man and his works.

In this way one can come to understand why it is still possible today to celebrate the Holy Mass upon the old altars, when the particular architectural and artistic features of our churches would advise it. Also in this, the Holy Father gives us an example when he celebrates the Holy Eucharist at the ancient altar of the Sistine Chapel on the feast of the Baptism of our Lord.

In our time, the expression “celebrating facing the people” has entered our common vocabulary. If one’s intention in using this expression is to describe the location of the priest, who, due to the fact that today he often finds himself facing the congregation because of the placement of the altar, in this case such an expression is acceptable. Yet such an expression would be categorically unacceptable the moment it comes to express a theological proposition. Theologically speaking, the Holy Mass, as a matter of fact, is always addressed to God through Christ our Lord, and it would be a grievous error to imagine that the principal orientation of the sacrificial action is the community. Such an orientation, therefore, of turning towards the Lord must animate the interior participation of each individual during the liturgy. It is likewise equally important that this orientation be quite visible in the liturgical sign as well.
[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 February 21, 2010. Hat tip to A.B.]

Why 'externals' matter

John Zmirak, in "All Your Church Are Belong to Us" (, February 17, 2010), writes:
"Why do you people care so much about externals?" my non-Trad friends sometimes ask me. And they deserve an answer. A few weeks back, my delightfully contentious colleague here, Mark Shea, waded into the conflict between those who describe themselves simply as "orthodox" Catholics, and those who consider themselves "traditionalists." (Just to save space in the comments box, I mean by this term people who favor the traditional liturgy -- not those who associate with organizations under ecclesiastical suspension.) This line has begun to blur more and more in the wake of Pope Benedict XVI's Summorum Pontificum, which we Trads greeted as a kind of Emancipation Proclamation -- even as many of our bishops answered it with liturgical Jim Crow.

Still, the division is palpable. It was lying right there on the table, for any who cared to palpate it, last week when I went to dinner with a Trad-minded colleague and a visiting author who'd come to speak at our college on G. K. Chesterton. (The presentation was riveting, and I highly recommend Dale Ahlquist's talks and books.) Like the good Mr. Shea, our speaker is a convert, and he shared with Mark a puzzlement at the apparent fixation traditionalists have on restoring former elements of the liturgy and other Catholic practices that are not essential, and resisting innovations that are not inherently evil. Having come from churches that didn't have the Eucharist, and remaining through God's grace flush with gratitude for the sacraments, many converts really don't understand what the rest of us are nattering on about. We who grew up privileged may seem like sulky, spoiled kids. We owe these good people an explanation.

Sometimes they think we just care about aesthetics. One visit to a Sunday Latin Low Mass without music, recited soundlessly into a marble altar, should put that idea to flight. Compared to a Novus Ordo liturgy in the vernacular, and from a purely human point of view, attending Low Mass can be dull. You feel like you are eavesdropping. If you follow along in the missal, you can feel that you are watching a very solemn foreign film without any subtitles, except that you have the screenplay. There's a reason the old rubrics relegated Low Mass to weekdays, and called (though they were rarely answered) for sung Solemn Mass on Sundays and holy days. Pope Pius X wasn't kidding when he asked for parishes to revive Gregorian chant and teach it to the laity. Nor is there any good reason why Latin Mass congregations don't give the responses along with the servers -- except perhaps the fear that this is somehow the first step down a long road that leads to clown Mass. Get over it, fratres.

* * * * * * *

I don't know a single Traditionalist who wouldn't prefer the old Mass, facing the altar, said in English, to the Novus Ordo chanted in Latin facing the people.

* * * * * * *

Other people think that we are a band of Latin scholars, desperate to put our dusty declensions to practical use. Again, one conversation with the congregants at the coffee hour will dash that infant theory against the rocks. Most of us studied Latin, if at all, as part of vocabulary practice for the SATs, and follow the English side of the missal. I don't know a single Traditionalist who wouldn't prefer the old Mass, facing the altar, said in English, to the Novus Ordo chanted in Latin facing the people. While the universal language of the Church is still to be revered for all the reasons that Vatican II prescribed in Sacrosanctum Concilium, it isn't Why We Fight.

Still more people think that we cling to the ancient liturgy as a piece of nostalgia for a Church that we vaguely remember, or heard about from our parents, whose schools drummed a stark, simplistic orthodoxy into hordes of dutiful children; whose religious orders and seminaries weren't riddled with rank heresy and extensive networks of secret homosexuals; whose bishops manfully echoed the traditional teachings of centuries without constant goading from Rome; whose buildings and services at least strove for dignity and austerity, even if they sometimes descended into tedium and kitsch.

I'm tempted to say at this point: That's right. That's exactly what we want. Or at least what we'd settle for. What faithful Catholic wouldn't, if he could right now, wave a magic wand and swap the American church of 2010 for that of 1940 -- with all its acknowledged abuses and hidden worldliness? I'll take the blustering Cardinal Spellman over the scheming Archbishop Weakland any day.

But, of course, things never work like that. You can't bring back the Habsburgs by hanging their banners in your apartment (trust me, I've tried), and we cannot undo the catastrophic "renewal" launched in the name of the Second Vatican Council (often in plain defiance of its documents) by clicking our heels and reciting, "There's no place like Rome" -- even in ecclesiastical Latin. Some confrontation between the Church and late Western modernity was inevitable, and if it hadn't happened at the Council, it would have occurred some other way. The Eastern churches didn't vandalize their liturgy; have they been spared the ravages of secularization? Not according to my Greek Orthodox friends, who show up for the last ten minutes of liturgy each week to pick up blessed bread and join their friends for baklava and gossip. The liturgy is miraculous, but it doesn't work like magic: Rev. Teilhard de Chardin had said the Tridentine Mass for decades even as he invented Catholic Scientology; conversely, his sometime housemate at New York’s St. Ignatius Loyola, the holy Rev. John Hardon, obediently switched missals with every tinkering that came to him from the bishops.

* * * * * * *

The old Mass reminds me of what they used to say about the Catholic Church and the U.S. Navy: "It's a machine built by geniuses so it can be operated safely by idiots." The old liturgy was crafted by saints, and can be said by schlubs without risk of sacrilege. The new rite was patched together by bureaucrats, and should only be safely celebrated by the saintly.

* * * * * * *

Of course, there's something to be said for a liturgy whose very nature resists and defeats abuses. The Ordinary Form can be extraordinarily reverent when said by a holy priest. I've been to such liturgies hundreds of times, and I'm grateful for every one. On the other hand, the new liturgy, with all its Build-a-Bear options, is terribly easy to abuse. The old Mass reminds me of what they used to say about the Catholic Church and the U.S. Navy: "It's a machine built by geniuses so it can be operated safely by idiots." The old liturgy was crafted by saints, and can be said by schlubs without risk of sacrilege. The new rite was patched together by bureaucrats, and should only be safely celebrated by the saintly.

There are plenty of theological arguments by men more learned than I -- such as Michael Davies and, er, the current pope -- for the superiority of various elements in the traditional liturgy, such as the priest facing the altar instead of the audience. (I use that word advisedly, given the theatrical quality that took over so many parishes since the 1970s.) There are serious objections to many of the changes made in the prayers of the Novus Ordo -- and they were made by the man who used to hold the former Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger's job at the Vatican, Alfredo Cardinal Ottaviani, who presented them to Pope Paul VI, begging him not to issue the Novus Ordo. (Imagine Cardinal Ratzinger begging Pope John Paul II not to impose altar girls. Who knows -- maybe he did!) Although I recommend reading these arguments, I won't rehearse them here, since all of them are prudential. Adopting Lutheran or Anglican language in the Mass probably didn't cause the current crisis of belief in the Real Presence, and cutting such language by eliminating all but the First Eucharistic Prayer might not do much to resolve it. (Still, it's worth a try!)

So what is the practical motivation that drives us Trads to schlep to distant or dangerous parishes, to irritate our spouses and incommode our pastors, to detach from local churches our grandparents scrimped to build? Why insist on external things, like kneeling for communion on the tongue, male altar servers, and the priest facing the altar? None of these, I'll admit for the 5,000th time, is essential for sacramental validity or credal orthodoxy; isn't being a stickler on such issues a wee bit pharisaical, even prissy? (I have encountered the odd Trad activist with an unnatural attachment to silk and lace -- pastors wearily call them "daughters of Trent" -- but they aren't the norm. Weary fathers of six or seven pack most Latin Mass pews.)

Here's what we Trads have realized, that the merely orthodox haven’t: Inessential things have power, which is why we bother with them in the first place. In every revolution, the first thing you change is the flag. Once that has been replaced, in the public mind all bets are off -- which is why the Commies and Nazis filled every available space with their Satanic banners. Imagine, for a moment, that a newly elected president replaced the Stars and Stripes with the Confederate battle flag. Or that he replaced our 50 stars with the flag of Mexico. Let's say he got away with doing this, and wasn't carried off by the Secret Service to an "undisclosed location." What would that signify for his administration? If people accepted the change, what else would they be likely to accept?

It's no accident that the incessant tinkerings with the liturgy came at the same time as the chaos surrounding the Church's teaching on birth control. As Anne Roche Muggeridge pointed out in her indispensable history The Desolate City, the Church's position on contraception was "under consideration" for almost a decade -- which led pastors to tell troubled couples that they could follow their consciences. If the Church could change the Mass, ordinary Catholics concluded, the nuances of marital theology were surely up for grabs. No wonder that when Paul VI reluctantly issued Humanae Vitae, people felt betrayed. (It didn't help when the Vatican refused to back a cardinal who tried to enforce the document, which made it seem like the pope was winking.)

The perception that the Church was in a constant state of doctrinal flux was confirmed by the reality that her most central, sacred mystery was being monkeyed with -- almost every year. I remember being in grammar school when they told us, "The pope wants us to receive Communion in the hand now." (He didn't; it was an abuse that was forced on the Vatican through relentless disobedience until it became a local norm, but never mind.) Then, a few years later, "The pope wants us to stand for Communion." A few more grades, and we heard, "The pope wants us to go to Confession face to face." What had seemed a solid bulwark of formality and seriousness was suddenly shifting with every year's hemlines -- which is precisely what the heretics conspiring to change the Church's teaching had in mind. That is why they pushed for these futile, pastorally destructive changes of "inessentials" -- as a way of beating down resistance to changing essentials. And, in a worldly sense, they almost succeeded.

The campaign of dissenting priests, nuns, and (let's be honest) bishops culminated, in America, with the Call to Action Conference, which its leading advocate John Francis Cardinal Dearden described in 1977 as "an assembly of the American Catholic community ." This gathering of 2,400 radical Catholic activists was composed of "people deeply involved with the life of the institutional Church and appointed by their bishops" (emphasis added). The Conference approved "progressive resolutions, ones calling for, among other things, the ordination of women and married men, female altar servers, and the right and responsibility of married couples to form their own consciences on the issue of artificial birth control." This is the mess made by the bishops appointed by the author of Humanae Vitae, which his rightly beloved successor John Paul II spent much of his pontificate trying to clean up. What we Trads feel compelled to point out is that he couldn't quite finish the job, and that the deformations of the Roman liturgy enacted by (you guessed it) appointees of Paul VI helped enable all these doctrinal abuses. They changed the flag.

At this point in my discussion of the gravest theological issues that threatened the faith of Catholics in this country, I wish to call your attention to a stupid YouTube video, which gave this essay its willfully illiterate title: "All Your Base Are Belong to Us."

For those of you too young to have experienced the incessant assault upon the sacred that was the liturgical "reform," or grateful converts who don't understand all the fuss, I beg of you: Please watch this video. In fact, stop reading and watch the video first, then come back to finish this essay. I can wait.

The film takes the Pidgin English from a cheesy Japanese computer game and places it everywhere: on street signs, in Budweiser ads, on cigarette packs. At first, the effect is funny, and you wonder about the geeks who spent their time doing all this Photoshop. But keep watching. Savor the effect as the same mindless, meaningless slogan is plastered everywhere, on every blessed thing. Pretty quickly, it starts to be creepy. By the end, you might feel like Japanese anime aliens have in fact taken over. You can see their fingerprints everywhere . . .

That is how it felt to be young and Catholic in the 1970s. Every sacred thing had to be changed, every old thing replaced with a new one, every complicated beauty plastered over by the cheap and the easy. The message was almost subliminal, but by that means all the more powerful: All Your Church Are Belong to Us.

And by changing back the flag, by taking back our Mass, we are saying: Go back to Hell. Our Church belongs to Christ.

John Zmirak is the author, most recently, of the graphic novel The Grand Inquisitor and is Writer-in-Residence at Thomas More College in New Hampshire. He writes weekly for
[Hat tip to A.P.]

The Rock at the funeral

A reader writes:
Attended a Catholic funeral today.

The family, typical American Catholic, which means I have no idea where they stand. The closest friend there is essentially what I would now pejoratively call an Episcopalian.

Anyway, I was happily surprised. The deceased was not canonized, and the priest said, "All the Church maintains is the historical reality of Jesus' resurrection, and the hope that we also may rise."

I would nitpick, but times as they are, I thought, Wow! Truth! The Church is not the best looking girl at the ball. She is the Rock.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The latest TLM developments in Metro Detroit

Tridentine Community News (February 14, 2010):
Gregorian Chant Workshop Scheduled

A day-long class in Gregorian Chant will be held on Saturday, March 20 from 9:00 AM – 4:00 PM at Detroit’s St. Joseph Church. (St. Josaphat is unavailable that day.) Assumption-Windsor and St. Josaphat Tridentine Mass Music Director Wassim Sarweh will lead the class, which will cover music theory as well as practice. Topics will include:
  • The Eight Modes of Gregorian Chant
  • Understanding rhythms
  • A brief history of chant
  • Singing and conducting chant
  • Understanding the many methods of chant
A sung Tridentine Mass will be held at 2:00 PM in St. Joseph Church; participants will serve as the choir for that Mass. The class will be held in the Social Hall of St. Joseph Church, and lunch will be served. Registration costs $30 per adult; students $15 each; seminarians, priests, and religious are free.

To register, please e-mail or call (248) 250-2740. Registration fees must be paid in advance to St. Joseph Church and may be mailed to the St. Joseph Parish Office, 4440 Russell St., Detroit, MI 48207. You may also drop a clearly designated check into the Tridentine Mass collection baskets at Assumption-Windsor, St. Josaphat, or St. Joseph Churches.

St. Theresa Thursday Mass Now Held Every Week

Thanks to a strong turnout during the trial period, Fr. John Johnson has decided to hold the Thursday 7:00 PM Extraordinary Form Mass at Windsor’s St. Theresa Church every Thursday from now on. As with St. Josaphat’s Monday evening Mass, this will usually be a Low Mass, with High Masses scheduled for major feast days. St. Theresa is located at 1991 Norman Road, near Tecumseh and Pillette Roads on the east side of Windsor, approximately six miles from the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel.

Assumption Church Restoration Project Meeting

On Sunday, February 28 at 3:30 PM, there will be a reception in the basement Social Hall at Assumption Church. We will have a guest speaker: John LaFramboise, the President of Assumption Heritage Trust, the diocesan-appointed entity which is heading the design of and fundraising for the restoration of Assumption Church. Refreshments will be served.

In order to gain more widespread civic and community support, the Assumption restoration project has been expanded to include the creation of an improved campus surrounding the church. As Ontario’s oldest parish and Southwestern Ontario’s oldest church building, Assumption has historical significance beyond its role as a Catholic church.

Because the Extraordinary Form Mass Community has a vested interest in Assumption’s future, including the preservation of its historic architectural features, this meeting will provide an opportunity to learn more about the plans for the church, and to express any questions or concerns about how the restoration project will affect the Latin Mass. Certain items we care about, such as the Communion Rail doors, need particular attention.

The fundraising campaign is targeting major donors to meet the majority of the project cost, as the parish cannot raise the approximately $10,000,000 required on its own. Some significant contributions have already been pledged, including $250,000 from the City of Windsor. As users of Assumption Church’s historic features, the Latin Mass Community may be able to assist the campaign in unique ways, and we will learn what those may be.
[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 February 14, 2010. Hat tip to A.B.]

Friday, February 12, 2010

Lenten reading

Shawn Tribe, in "Lenten Reading Plans" (New Liturgical Movement, February 9, 2010), reminds us that with the beginning of Lent just over a week away, this is a good time to begin considering one's Lenten exercises. He writes:
For those of you who take up the practice of daily spiritual reading during Lent, you may be interested to know that Fr. Bryan Jerabek has set up a website where he provides three different Lenten Reading Plans.

These readings plans include a Fathers of the Church reading plan, a Cardinal Newman and Father Faber reading plan, and finally a Lives of the Great Medieval and Renaissance Saints reading plan -- based on the discourses of Benedict XVI.
In view of the patronage of this our site, I am considering the Newman/Faber reading plan linked above, which looks to be quite good.

By the way, Fr. Jerabek's site also includes a St. John Vianney Lenten Reading Plan, which could be of special interest to priests and seminarians in this Year of the Priest.

Marini: Concilium "dealt with doctrine"

Fr. John Zuhlsdorf, in "The Consilium revisited" (WDTPRS, February 11, 2010), says that in his recent reading, he happened upon a passage in the small but interesting volume that came out a couple years back under the name of the former long-time papal master of ceremonies, Archp. Piero Marini (Piero Marini, not Guido Marini, the present MC). The book in question is A Challenging Reform: Realizing the Vision of the Liturgical Renewal, 1963-1975(Liturgical Press, 2007), written largely, according to Fr. Z, by Jesuit liturgist Keith Pecklers and Mark Francis, CSV. The book, says Fr. Z,
purports to tell the story of the glorious work of the Consilium, the entity established during the Second Vatican Council to implement the liturgical reform mandated in Sacrosanctum Concilium. The Consilium was headed up by Annibale Bugnini and Card. Lercaro.

The authors set out to defend the work of the Consilium and Bugnini against the dangerous encroachment of Pope Benedict’s vision, and the retrograde force he is exerting on the Spirit of Vatican II.

In presenting their uplifiting story, the authors produce an unintended consequence: they expose clearly what the liturgical reforms were actually trying to accomplish.

But enough of that.

Here is the passage I wanted to share. Context: The Consilium has just just taken a major step in moving from an informally meeting group to an officially and formally established body. They have their first plenary session.
"They met in public to begin one of the greatest liturgical reforms in the history of the Western church. Unlike the reform after Trent, it was all the greater because it also dealt with doctrine." (p. 46)
Fr. Z adds:
They succeeded. The work of the Consilium, in revising the Missale Romanum, did indeed change the Church’s doctrine. Change they way you pray and you change what you believe… and vice versa.

Change the liturgy, change the world.

Whether this was a good change or not is a matter of discussion.
Well, ... anybody's guess as to what Fr. Z thinks.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Catholic Campaign for Human Development: Enough already

Reform CCHD


Catholic Advocate - Is it Time for a Catholic Tea Party?

February 10, 2010 - LifeSiteNews - Bishop Vasa Cautiously Concerned Over USCCB Membership in Pro-Abortion Coalition

Renew America - At War with the USCCB II: the Followup

February 9, 2010 - National Catholic Register - USCCB Still Refuses to Comment on Carr Allegations

Renew America (Matt Abbott) - At War with the USCCB

February 8, 2010 - Inside Catholic - Why Did the USCCB Join this Civil Rights Organization?

February 5, 2010 - LifeSiteNews - CCHD Scandal Picks up Steam as Bishops React

February 3, 2010

Town Hall (Brent Bozell) - A New Abortion Scandal (also at Human Events)

OneNewsNow - Bishops' Contrary Ties Come to Light

The American Thinker - Top Exec with Conference of Catholic Bishops Has Conflict of Interest

LifeSiteNews - U.S. Bishops' Media Director Who Exonerated Exec Admits to Not Reading Key Report

February 2, 2010

ALL Press Release - USCCB Exec John Carr Fails to Address Findings in Report on Pro-Abortion, Gay Marriage Group

Inside Catholic (Deal Hudson) - More Disturbing News About the CCHD

Catholic News Agency - CCHD clarifies connection to activist network that opposed Stupak Amendment

LifeSiteNews - U.S. Bishops' Exec Responds to Charges of Cooperation with Pro-Abortion, Homosexualist Group

Spero Forum (Stephanie Block) - The Scandal of John Carr and the USCCB

Spero Forum (Mary Ann Kreitzer) - Catholic Bishops and Abortion: Connecting the Dots

February 1, 2010

LifeSiteNews - U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Exec Chaired Pro-Abortion, LGBT Rights Group

LifeNews - Pro-Life Group Says Catholic Bishops' Official Had Post in Pro-Abortion Group

Patrick Madrid - "A systemic pattern of cooperation with evil"

Inside Catholic - More Evidence that the USCCB Supports Pro-Abortion Groups

Catholic Advocate (Matt Smith) - A Case of Cafeteria Catholicism at the Bishops' Conference

Catholic Advocate (Press Release) - Bishops Must Immediately Suspend All Grants from Catholic Campaign for Human Development Program

Our Sunday Visitor - John Carr Responds to "Unfair Criticism"

January 11, 2010 - Inside Catholic (Deal Hudson) - Catholic Campaign for Human Development Still Funding Abortion Promoter

January 5, 2010 - LifeSiteNews - San Francisco Archdiocese Reinvestigates, Approves Pro-Abortion CCHD Grantee

November 30, 2009 - LifeSiteNews - Sixth Bishop Didn't Take Up CCHD Collection

November 25, 2009 - LifeSiteNews - Three More Bishops Look for CCHD Reform

November 25, 2009 - LifeSiteNews - Fifth Bishop Didn't Take Up National CCHD Collection

November 23, 2009 - LifeSiteNews - Four Bishops Did Not Take Up Collection for Embattled CCHD

November 24, 2009 - LifeSiteNews - Bishop Bruskewitz on CCHD: Bishop Morin Was a "Bit Too Dismissive" of Concerns

November 20, 2009 - Catholic News Agency - Archbishops Nienstedt and Chaput Defend CCHD as Criticisms Continue

November 20, 2009 - Spero Forum - Lay Catholic Coalition Scores Bishops on CCHD

November 20, 2009 - LifeSiteNews - CCHD in Archdiocese of Chicago Says it is Working to Solve Problems

November 19, 2009 - Catholic Exchange - A Time to be Heard

November 19, 2009 - The Washington Post - Conning the Conservatives

November 19, 2009 - Inside Catholic - CCHD Responds to its Critics, Chicago Responds to its Own

November 17, 2009 - - CCHD Funding Debacle Continues to Grow

November 17, 2009 - Catholic News Agency - Coalition Calls for Reform of CCHD as Annual Collection Nears

November 17, 2009 - Catholic News Service - Bishops: No CCHD Funds Go to Groups That Oppose Catholic Teaching

November 17, 2009 - LifeSiteNews - CCHD Responds to Reform Movement

November 17, 2009 - LifeSiteNews - Chicago CCHD Accuses Critics of "Partisan Politics", "Deceit", and "Hate"

November 16, 2009 - ALL Press Release: CCHD Scandal Continues

November 13, 2009 - - Church Officials, Critics Clash Over Catholic Campaign for Human Development

November 12, 2009 - Spero Forum - Money Laundering and the CCHD

October 26, 2009 - Human Events - Leftwing Radicalism in the Church: CCHD and ACORN

October 21, 2008 - National Catholic Register - ACORN's Collection Plate Money

October 15, 2009 - Wall Street Journal - HealthCare Reform and the President's Faithful Helpers

September 23, 2009 - - Catholic Campaign for Human Development Criticized, Funded Pro-Abortion Groups

September 22, 2009 - - USCCB's Social Justice Arm Caught Funding Pro-Abortion/Prostitution Groups: Takes "Decisive" Action in Response

September 2009 - Capital Research - Leftwing Radicalism in the Church

Bellarmine Veritas Ministry - National Campaign: Addressing the CCHD

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Finally, some serious news ...

[HT to S.K.]

V-II: Napoleon's council?

A reader sent the following, provocatively juxtaposed paragraphs:
"Times have changed -- times have changed! The Church must adapt and be reconciled with the Revolution." (Napoleon Bonaparte haranguing Pope Pius VII, whom he held prisoner in France. See Pope Pius VII, 1800-1823: His Life, Times, and Struggle with Napoleon in the Aftermath of the French Revolution,Robin Anderson, TAN Books, 2001, page 131).

"Let us recognize here and now that Gaudium et Spes plays the part of a Counter-Syllabus insofar as it represents an attempt to officially reconcile the Church with the modern world as emerging since the French Revolution of 1789." (Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, Principles of Catholic Theology: Building Stones for a Fundamental Theology)
Related (opposing interpretations):[HT to F.R.]

Monday, February 08, 2010

Tempest brewing over Catholic social teaching

Thomas Woods, co-author with Christopher Ferrara of The Great Façade(2002), has apparently defected from traditional Catholic social teaching to the laissez faire “Austrian school” of economics associated with Ludwig von Mises and represented by neo-conservative Catholics such as Michael Novak, author of The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism(1982).

This, at least, is the message couched in no uncertain terms by Christopher Ferrara in his open letter to Tom Woods, "Ludwig von Mises versus Christ, the Gospel and the Church" (Remnant, February 15, 2010), where he writes:
When we wrote The Great Façadetogether back in 2002, I was one of the most ardent supporters of your work. Indeed, I saw you as a big part of the future of the “traditionalist” movement in America. But I did not anticipate your public dissent from the Church’s social teaching in favor of the radically laissez faire “Austrian school” of economics, whose pretensions range far beyond economics to a comprehensive “philosophy of liberty” that cannot be reconciled with the teaching of the Magisterium on the duties of men and societies toward Christ and His Church, or even the duties of men toward each other on the level of natural justice. Nor did I anticipate that you would become a “scholar in residence” for the Ludwig von Mises Institute, a radical libertarian cult dedicated to the thought of von Mises and his “anarcho-capitalist” disciple, Murray Rothbard, both agnostic liberals who utterly rejected the role of the Church and the Gospel in the constitution of social order.

Your dissent from the social teaching has spawned a host of articles against you by reputable Catholic commentators, such as those found here, here, here
, here, here, and here, the last being a just-published five part series in Chronicles magazine under the title “Is Thomas Woods a Dissenter?” At this point, by my count, no fewer than a dozen Catholic scholars have denounced your dissent from Magisterial teaching on such basic principles as the just wage, the moral primacy of labor over capital, the evil of usury and price-gouging, the immorality of the so-called “absolute right” of private property, and the necessity of government, guided by divine and natural law, for the rule of fallen men. (You have even taken recently to advancing Rothbard’s “anarcho-capitalist” fantasy of the abolition of all government and the creation of a “stateless society.”)

Critics of the vernacular souldn't read this

Arlene Oost-Zinner has a thought-provoking piece over at New Liturgical Movement, entitled "Critics of the Vernacular Shouldn't Read This" (NLM, February 8, 2010). While I anticipate that her piece will provoke many of the usual qualifications about the meaning of active participation and the role of Latin in traditional liturgy, she raises some good questions and offers some constructive suggestions for the ordinary form liturgy. She writes:
How about we turn things on their heels? Up the ante just a bit? How about instead of just the new translations, we print the Latin, too, right next to the new responses. The way we do with the English now – for transparency purposes. People may gain some sense that the changes are not just a result of the desire to update things for our times. It might show them that language is serious business, and that the language we use at Mass carries with it an obligation to tradition.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Ignatius Insight gives 'airtime' to Vatican II debate

Carl Olsen, "Was Vatican II a triumph of naïve optimism?" (Ignatius Insight Scoop, February 4, 2010):
Two Ignatius Press authors have an engaging conversation in the pages of The Catholic Herald about that question; the conversation has been going on with an exchange of letters going back to last summer (see links below). The two authors are Moyra Doorly, who wrote No Place for God: The Denial of Transcendence in Modern Church Architecture(Ignatius Press, 2007), and prolific author and theologian Aidan Nichols, O.P., whose books include Looking at the Liturgy (1996), Hopkins: Theologian's Poet(2006), Lovely, Like Jerusalem: The Fulfillment of the Old Testament in Christ and the Church(2007), and Rome and the Eastern Churches: A Study in Schism(2010).
Readers may remember our posts on the earlier portions of this exchange in "Moyra Doorly and Aidan Nichols on the Novus Ordo" (Musings, October 30, 2009), and "The Meaning of Fidelity to Tradition: more from Moyra Doorly and Aidan Nichols" (Musings, January 1, 2010). Carl Olsen lists the prior exchanges between Fr. Nichols and Doorly back to July 3, 2009, in his Ignatius Insight Scoop post linked above.

[Hat tip to J.M.]

Introduction to the Spirit of the Liturgy by Msgr. Guido Marini, Part 2 of 6

Tridentine Community News (February 7, 2010):
January 6, 2010 a landmark speech was given by Msgr. Guido Marini, the Pontifical Master of Liturgical Ceremonies, at the Year For Priests Clergy Conference in Rome. There is no need to speculate on what Rome believes is suitable liturgy when clear direction such as this is given. Msgr. Marini was appointed by Pope Benedict XVI to reform papal liturgies according to our Holy Father’s thinking. We believe Msgr. Marini’s words speak for themselves, and so we are presenting his speech in its entirety.
What, then, do we mean by the sacred liturgy? The East would in this case speak of the divine dimension in the Liturgy, or, to be more precise, of that dimension which is not left to the arbitrary will of man, because it is a gift which comes from on high. It refers, in other words, to the mystery of salvation in Christ, entrusted to the Church in order to make it available in every moment and in every place by means of the objective nature of the liturgical and sacramental rites. This is a reality surpassing us, which is to be received as gift, and which must be allowed to transform us. Indeed, the Second Vatican Council affirms: “...every liturgical celebration, because it is an action of Christ the priest and of His Body which is the Church, is a sacred action surpassing all others...” (Sacrosanctum Concilium, n.7)

From this perspective it is not difficult to realise how far distant some modes of conduct are from the authentic spirit of the liturgy. In fact, some individuals have managed to upset the liturgy of the Church in various ways under the pretext of a wrongly devised creativity. This was done on the grounds of adapting to the local situation and the needs of the community, thus appropriating the right to remove from, add to, or modify the liturgical rite in pursuit of subjective and emotional ends. For this, we priests are largely responsible.

For this reason, already back in 2001, the former Cardinal Ratzinger asserted: “There is need of, at the very least, of a new liturgical awareness that might put a stop to the tendency to treat the liturgy as if it were an object open to manipulation. We have reached the point where liturgical groups stitch together the Sunday liturgy on their own authority. The result is certainly the imaginative product of a group of able and skilled individuals. But in this way the space where one may encounter the “totally other” is reduced, in which the Holy offers Himself as gift; what I come upon is only the skill of a group of people. It is then that we realise that we are looking for something else. It is too little, and at the same time, something different. The most important thing today is to acquire anew a respect for the liturgy, and an awareness that it is not open to manipulation. To learn once again to recognise in its nature a living creation that grows and has been given as gift, through which we participate in the heavenly liturgy. To renounce seeking in it our own self-realisation in order to see a gift instead. This, I believe, is of primary importance: to overcome the temptation of a despotic behaviour, which conceives the liturgy as an object, the property of man, and to re-awaken the interior sense of the holy.” (from ‘God and the World’; translation from the Italian)

To affirm, therefore, that the liturgy is sacred presupposes the fact that the liturgy does not exist subject to the sporadic modifications and arbitrary inventions of one individual or group. The liturgy is not a closed circle in which we decide to meet, perhaps to encourage one another, to feel we are the protagonists of some feast. The liturgy is God’s summons to His people to be in His presence; it is the advent of God among us; it is God encountering us in this world.

A certain adaptation to particular local situations is foreseen and rightly so. The Missal itself indicates where adaptations may be made in some of its sections, yet only in these and not arbitrarily in others. The reason for this is important and it is good to reassert it: the liturgy is a gift which precedes us, a precious treasure which has been delivered by the age-old prayer of the Church, the place in which the faith has found its form in time and its expression in prayer. It is not made available to us in order to be subjected to our personal interpretation; rather, the liturgy is made available so as to be fully at the disposal of all, yesterday just as today and also tomorrow. “Our time, too,” wrote Pope John Paul II in his Encyclical letter Ecclesia de Eucharistia, “calls for a renewed awareness and appreciation of liturgical norms as a reflection of, and a witness to, the one universal Church made present in every celebration of the Eucharist.” (n. 52)

In the brilliant Encyclical Mediator Dei, which is so often quoted in the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, Pope Pius XII defines the liturgy as “...the public worship... the worship rendered by the Mystical Body of Christ in the entirety of its Head and members.” (n. 20) As if to say, among other things, that in the liturgy, the Church “officially” identifies herself in the mystery of her union with Christ as spouse, and where she “officially” reveals herself. What casual folly it is indeed, to claim for ourselves the right to change in a subjective way the holy signs which time has sifted, through which the Church speaks about herself, her identity and her faith!

The people of God has a right that can never be ignored, in virtue of which, all must be allowed to approach what is not merely the poor fruit of human effort, but the work of God, and precisely because it is God’s work, a saving font of new life.

I wish to prolong my reflection a moment longer on this point, which, I can testify, is very dear to the Holy Father, by sharing with you a passage from Sacramentum Caritatis, the Apostolic Exhortation of His Holiness, Benedict XVI, written after the Synod on the Holy Eucharist. “Emphasising the importance of the ars celebrandi,” the Holy Father writes, “also leads to an appreciation of the value of the liturgical norms... The Eucharistic celebration is enhanced when priests and liturgical leaders are committed to making known the current liturgical texts and norms... Perhaps we take it for granted that our ecclesial communities already know and appreciate these resources, but this is not always the case. These texts contain riches which have preserved and expressed the faith and experience of the People of God over its two-thousand-year history.” (n. 40)
[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 February 7, 2010. Hat tip to A.B.]

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Brideshead oblivion

Thomas Howard, "'Brideshead Revisited' Revisited" (Inside Catholic, February 6, 2010):
Three years ago, my wife gave me the boxed DVD set of the British television series Brideshead Revisited. No doubt most readers of Inside Catholic will have long since read Evelyn Waugh's masterpiece and seen the filmed version. The great Catholic fiction writers of the 20th century were not particularly happy to be thought of as "Catholic novelists" -- that tag might seem to call into question the seriousness of their art: Was it really a sort of crypto-proselytizing? Hence Graham Greene (who left us all wondering just where he might wish to locate himself with regard to Catholic notions), Waugh, François Mauriac, Flannery O'Connor, and Walker Percy, to name only a few, tended to think of themselves as novelists "with Christian concerns," not primarily as "Catholic novelists."

In any event, a reader would have to be especially untutored in the art of reading if he were to miss the central point of Waugh's tale of the Flyte family in Brideshead. It is a story about sin and grace. Contemporary vocabulary can only speak of that family as dysfunctional. If this is the case, then Adam and Eve's family was dysfunctional -- as were Noah's, Abraham's, Isaac's, Jacob's, Eli's, and David's.

One of the DVDs in the box contains filmed comments by a whole galaxy of contemporary critics, commentators, journalists, and pundits of all stripes. And yet, none of them appeared to be at all familiar with the moral vision that Waugh assumed in his story, and which would be assumed by every traditional Jew and Christian, and probably by most ancient Greeks. Or, if these critics were thus familiar, they thought of the vision as at best quaint, and certainly outdated. They all descanted happily about the apparently erotic nature of Charles Ryder's fascination with Sebastian. It's a fashionable category now, and one displays one's bright contemporary colors by speaking of the matter with the same insouciance as one speaks of "sexually active" people and so forth. Not only is the matter morally neutral: It is boorish in the extreme to permit the smallest tincture of valuation to seep into one's discourse.

But I mention that detail only by way of illustrating a more general innocence of tradition exhibited by all the commentators. The best they could do with the Flytes' Catholicism was either to hold it up to bemused scrutiny or, at least by implication, to decry it. It was the Flytes' Catholicism that obstructed things and made them all miserable. Only Diana Quick, who had played Julia, the somewhat errant oldest daughter, spoke of her own curiosity about what had made Julia renounce Charles (Julia had been married and divorced, for a start, and so had Charles). She wanted to get to the bottom of things. So, she tells us, she got hold of several little Catholic leaflets ("written for seven-year-olds") and read up on things. She concluded that it all had to do with the Catholic notion of sin. There's the problem. Not just Catholic thick-headedness, nor some prim resolve to forbid pleasure to us all. Sin. So -- that's what's at the bottom of Catholic reluctance to consult mere passion in making one's fundamental choices?

Waugh, of course, is unapologetic about what he requires of his characters. Lord Marchmain must repent on his deathbed. Julia must renounce Charles. Sebastian must pay the price for his dipsomania in the redeeming embrace of a community of religious. Lady Marchmain, something of a dragon, carries the burden of her family's transgressions with her to Mass, and to her grave. And Charles, the agnostic narrator, in perhaps the most elegantly handled conversion in all of fiction, is received into the Church (offstage), and, in the very last scene, visits the chapel in the great house, and says "a prayer, an ancient, newly learned form of words . . . ."

Tom Howard is retired from 40 years of teaching English in private schools, college, and seminary in England and America. This column originally appeared in the April 2007 issue of Crisis Magazine.
[Hat tip to D.O.]