Sunday, October 31, 2010

Roll over Bugnini: It's Halloween!

All-Hallows-E'en (or All-Hallows-Eve), the night before All Hallows Day (or All Saints Day), immediately precedes All Souls Day, when Requiem Masses (see post immediately below) are celebrated on November 2 under the traditional Roman calendar.

Why is this so cool? Because, like the now debased and secularized "Halloween," All Souls Day has all sorts of scary cool stuff associated with it as traditionally memorialized, which is all-but-forgotten in these Barney and Friends times. But unlike stories that are merely scary, the story here turns out to be totally true. The Church offers salvation from actual hell and damnation. Let's ponder this exhilarating subject!

I Googled Dies Irae ("Day of Wrath") just to see what would come up, and there was the predictable Wikipedia article. But, Lo! There was an interesting tid-bit!
Those familiar with musical settings of the Requiem Mass -- such as those by Mozart or Verdi -- will be aware of the important place Dies Irae held in the [traditional] liturgy. Nevertheless the "Consilium for the Implementation of the Constitution on the Liturgy" – the Vatican body charged with drafting and implementing reforms to the Catholic Liturgy ordered by the Second Vatican Council – felt the funeral rite was in need of reform and eliminated the sequence from the ordinary rite. The architect of these reforms, Archbishop Annibale Bugnini, explains the mind of the members of the Consilium:
They got rid of texts that smacked of a negative spirituality inherited from the Middle Ages. Thus they removed such familiar and even beloved texts as the Libera me, Domine, the Dies Irae, and others that overemphasized judgment, fear, and despair. These they replaced with texts urging Christian hope and arguably giving more effective expression to faith in the resurrection.
It remained as the sequence for the Requiem Mass in the Roman Missal of 1962 (the last edition before the Second Vatican Council) and so is still heard in churches where the Tridentine Latin liturgy is celebrated.

Now back to the cool stuff -- meaning all the stuff Abp. Bugnini and the Concilium thought we were mature enough to cut out now, since we had come of age and outgrown the need for tales about the terrors of hell and other ghost stories, and could comfortably feed now on a steady diet of tea and crumpets with gentle words from Barney and Friends about love and love and more love since, of course, God is love.

But are we really so "mature" as all that? And are these terrors of yesteryear's liturgy really mere ghost stories for the "immature" in faith? Are the sentiments of the terrible words of the Dies Irae really something that ought to be abhorred as pathologically disturbed, as representing a deformed and negative spirituality? Please. What does the writer of Proverbs call the "beginning of wisdom"? Yes, precisely: the FEAR of the Lord (Prov. 1:7).

Why does the love and mercy and compassion of God no longer mean much of anything these days? The answer is not far to find. I remember seeing spray painted on a railroad trellis above an underpass: "Christ is the answer!" Beneath it was spray painted in another hand: "What is the question?" Indeed. The "Gospel" is no longer "good news" because the context of hell and damnation are missing today. So more hell and damnation, if you please!

Now, is it only my perverted sentiment, or are these musical settings to various pieces from the Dies Irae sequence of the Requiem Mass, not totally cool?

The Requiem Mass

Tridentine Community News (October 31, 2010):
The Extraordinary Form of Holy Mass provides many opportunities throughout the year for special Masses to be celebrated for the faithful departed. All of these take the form of a Requiem Mass, a slightly shortened form of the regular Mass, optionally followed by the ceremony of Absolution, the blessing of the body. The black-framed altar cards and the thin black altar missals you see, and the Silver Missals for the congregation are specially designed for the unique aspects of the Requiem Mass. The missals include the ceremonies before and after Mass.

The first and primary form of Requiem is the Funeral Mass. The ceremony begins with prayers and chants accompanying the formal reception of the body at the door of the church. Holy Mass follows, at the end of which is the ceremony of Absolution, which is conducted at the casket if the body is present, or at a Catafalque if the body is not present. A Catafalque is a structure resembling a casket that stands in for the deceased person. A black pall (cloth) covers the casket or Catafalque, and six candles surround it. Finally, there is the optional concluding blessing given at the gravesite or other place of final disposition of the body. The ceremonies of the Funeral Mass were described in detail in our September 2, 2007 column, which is available on-line at the web site listed at the bottom of this page.

The Masses of All Souls Day are the second form of Requiem. The Church provides three separate sets of Mass Propers for All Souls Day and has long permitted her priests to celebrate three Masses that day instead of the usual two. This Tuesday, St. Josaphat will offer a Missa Cantata in the Extraordinary Form. Assumption-Windsor will offer the traditional three Masses of All Souls, the first two of which will be Low Masses celebrated at the side altars; the third will be a Solemn High Mass at the high altar, followed by Absolution at the Catafalque.

In the third place, there is the Daily Mass for the Dead, more commonly referred to as a Memorial Requiem Mass. At both St. Josaphat on Mondays at 7:00 PM, and Assumption-Windsor on Tuesdays at 7:00 PM, you may request a Requiem Mass to be celebrated for your departed friends and family. The intention can be for one or multiple people, as there are Propers to accommodate either option. Requiem Masses are permitted on weekday Ferias of the Fourth Class outside of Christmastide; please consult a (Tridentine) Liturgical Calendar to see the dates on which these occur. Use the regular Mass intention request form and indicate that you wish a Requiem Mass. You may request Absolution at the end of Mass for an additional stipend of $10. These will ordinarily be Low Masses, however at Assumption we offer the option of a High (chanted) Requiem Mass for an additional stipend of $40.

Format of the Daily Mass for the Dead

The priest wears a black chasuble, somberly ornamented. Black is the liturgical color for everything except the ciborium veils, which should be white; the chalice pall, which should be white or violet; and the tabernacle veil, which should be violet. Our Lord is ever-living; our most penitential color cannot be used in conjunction with the Blessed Sacrament.

As in Passiontide, Psalm 42 (Júdica me) is skipped; the Prayers At the Foot Of the Altar go from the Introíbo directly into the Confíteor. The altar servers’ liturgical kisses are omitted. There is no Glória, as that joyful hymn would be out of place. Between the readings, the choir chants the best-known part of the Classic Requiem Mass, the Sequence Dies Iræ, which begins:
“Day of wrath, O Day of mourning, Lo the world in ashes burning: Seer and Sibyl gave the warning.
O what fear man’s bosom rendeth, When from heaven the Judge descendeth, On Whose sentence all dependeth!”
A sermon may be preached. Mass proceeds with a few differences: The Credo and the Glória Patri at the Lavábo are omitted. At the Agnus Dei, “dona eis réquiem” (grant them rest) replaces “miserére nobis”, and “dona eis requiem sempitérnam” (grant them eternal rest) takes the place of “dona nobis pacem”. The prayer for peace that follows the Agnus Dei is omitted, as is the Kiss of Peace in Solemn High Masses. At the end of Mass, “Requiéscant in pace” (May they rest in peace) takes the place of “Ite, Missa est”. The Final Blessing is omitted.

If Absolution follows the Mass, the Last Gospel is omitted. The celebrant changes into a black cope and goes to the entrance to the sanctuary where the Catafalque is placed. If the individual(s) being memorialized are priest(s), were the body present, the head would be toward the sanctuary, facing the flock he lead. For others, the feet are closest to the sanctuary, as the deceased person is facing his Lord on the altar. The Crucifer stands where the deceased’s head would be. The priest stands where the deceased’s feet would be and recites the Absolution: “Enter not into judgment with Thy servant, Lord...” The choir sings the responsory Líbera me (“Deliver me, Lord, from everlasting death in that awful day: When the heavens and the earth shall be shaken: When Thou shalt come to judge the world by fire.”). The priest recites the Kyrie and Pater Noster while passing around the body twice, once with Holy Water, and once incensing it, then says a final prayer. The choir sings In Paradísum (“May the Angels lead you into paradise...”) as the priest and sacred ministers exit.

Tridentine Masses This Coming Week

Mon. 11/01 7:00 PM: High Mass at St. Josaphat (All Saints)

Tue. 11/02 6:00 PM: Two Low Masses at Assumption-Windsor, followed by a Solemn High Mass at 7:00 PM (All Souls)

Tue. 11/02 7:00 PM: High Mass at St. Josaphat (All Souls)
[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 October 31, 2010. Hat tip to A.B.]

Saturday, October 30, 2010

John Lennon's hymn to original sin

Every once in a while Mark Shea gets something so right that you have to notice. As the person who called this piece to my attention said, "His take on John Lennon is finger-to-the-trigger accurate." Indeed. Mark P. Shea, "Thinking, Not Imagining" (InsideCatholic, October 27, 2010), writes:
Sometime back, I wrote a little piece about John Lennon's hymn to original sin (aka "Imagine"), expressing my bafflement at the fact that people (including Catholics who ought to know better) regard this as a hope-filled anthem of the Coming Great Rosy Dawn and not as what it is: Music to Accompany the Machine Gunning of the Counter-Revolutionaries.
The article is substantial and through-provoking, about those who love this stuff, the kids who came of age in the 60's and are now the majority at the levers of power in Congress. Well ... at least until Nov. 2. But when those who love this stuff are large enough in number to elect Bill and Barack, you know you're in deep dodo. Read it and think.

[Hat tip to J.M.]

Bishops' voting advice: the good, the bad and the murky

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Can a truly successful modernistic church be built?

Matthew Adlemann, "The Lonely God: Oakland Cathedral in the Light of Tradition" (The Institute for Sacred Architecture, Vol 15), offers a thoughtful and penetrating analysis of a recent attempt at designing and building a successful modernistic church building. For those interested in liturgical architecture and aesthetics, it's a thought-provoking study. There is much here that calls for careful reflection.

Adlemann writes: "Much of the initial planning occurred during Bishop Cummins’ tenure, but ground was not broken until 2005 under Bishop Vigneron, who had succeeded the late Bishop Cummins more than a year earlier."

He concludes: "Bishop Vigneron’s guidance has led to a far more liturgically orthodox interior, for all its flaws, than many other churches being built today, including Los Angeles’s Our Lady of the Angels. Coming in to a project in progress, he may have done all that was possible to recast the interior."

[Hat tip to J.M.]

A generation's loss of "moral vocabulary"

Denver Archbishop Charles Chaput tells the story of how classroom reactions to Shirley Jackson’s famed short story “The Lottery," have changed over the last several decades. The story – set in rural 1940s America – "features the tale of a small town that gathers every year to implore an unnamed force to grant a good corn harvest the people. Each year, town members draw a piece of paper from a wooden box to see who will be chosen for human sacrifice. A young mother ends up drawing the ominous black slip and is stoned to death by the community as part of the annual ritual."

Chaput cites Kay Haugaard's analysis of reactions to the story in academic settings over the last decades. She said that "in the early 1970s, students who read the story voiced shock and indignation," but that sometime in the mid-1990s,"reactions began to change.” One classroom discussion she described, he says, disturbed him more than the story itself. "The students had nothing to say except that the story bored them."

This reminds me of a subtle yet decisive shift I first became aware of in the late 1990s in a different context. Until then, conversations about abortion (which I had followed since Roe vs. Wade in 1973) turned on the question of whether the fetus was a "human being" or not. Then, one day, it dawned on me that the ground had decidedly shifted beneath me, as I listened to a female student at Lenoir-Rhyne College tell me that the question was no longer about whether the fetus was a "human being" ("... Everybody knows that," she said), but rather about when it's morally okay to kill a human being.

Around that time, I remember reading Walker Percy's sequel to Love in the Ruins (1971), The Thanatos Syndrome (1987), and thinking how reminiscent it was of Walter Miller's A Canticle for Leibowitz (1960), and how prophetic some books can be.

[Hat tip to J.M.]

So you Want to Get a PhD in the Humanities

[Hat tip to S.F.]

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Historic Church Bell Discovery

As you can see, this made the front page of the Windsor Star.

Tridentine Community News (October 24, 2010):
In the process of preparing for the restoration of Windsor’s Our Lady of the Assumption Church, architect Jason Grossi climbed up into the nether regions of the bell tower. Like St. Josaphat, Assumption has a tower bell which is rung at the Consecrations of the Extraordinary Form Mass.

While up there, Jason noticed that above and to the side of the main bell, there was a second, smaller bell. Long disused, the bell had no rope or other activating mechanism attached, however as you can see in the adjacent photo, it was mounted on a frame clearly designed to allow it to be rung.

Jason invited organist and University of Michigan Professor of Campanology Dr. Steven Ball to examine this bell. Steven was able to identify it as having been cast in the late 1700s, likely in France. This qualifies the bell as one of the oldest, if not the oldest, usable church bell in metro Detroit and Windsor. It may be from the original Assumption Church that was located on the parcel of land immediately south of the present church, closer to the Detroit River. Old though it is, the bell is in fine condition, so Steven attached a rope. Once its mounting is stabilized, it will be regularly rung along with the main bell. In a pleasant surprise, CBC Television (Channel 9), the Windsor Star newspaper, and two radio stations have already learned of this bell discovery and found it newsworthy enough to seek out Dr. Ball for interviews.

Main Bell Swings Again

One generally thinks of a church bell as a swinging object. Mounted on a wheel or rotating frame, the swinging of the bell causes the clapper to strike the bell and make the ringing sound. One bell in a tower often also has a “toller”, a hammer that strikes the bell while it remains in place. The more somber and slower ringing of a toller is traditionally used for funerals. The bells at St. Josaphat, St. Joseph, St. Albertus, and Sweetest Heart of Mary Churches are all swinging bells, one of which at each church has a toller. The accompanying photo by Richard Harmon (not of Assumption’s bell) is a clear depiction of a swinging mechanism and toller.

For some reason, Assumption’s main bell had been secured so that it would no longer swing. A special, faster-paced toller was installed to emulate the sound made by a swung bell. Whether one pulled the rope in the room behind the organ in the choir loft, or the automatic timer kicked off the 6:00 PM Angelus, it was the toller that was making the sound. To those of us familiar with the sound of St. Josaphat’s swinging bells, it was evident that something was unnatural about the sound of Assumption’s bell.

After determining that there were no structural issues preventing the main bell from being swung, Steven refurbished and reactivated the original swinging mechanism and connected a new rope to it. If you remember how the bell used to sound, you will notice that there are differences now: First, the bell does not instantaneously start (or stop) ringing, as the swinging mechanism has to build up momentum until the clapper begins to strike the inside of the bell. Second, you will notice a more distinctly “traditional” bell sound, caused by the Doppler Effect of the bell moving closer to and away from you as it swings.

Alongside the motor that drives the toller, there is a second motor in the tower that appears to have originally driven the swinging of the bell. In the next phase of the bell restoration project, the original motor will be reconnected. The plan is to acquire another motor to operate the second bell, and to upgrade the automatic timer to a model which can handle two bells. In the end, Assumption’s two bells will both be ringable by manually pulling the ropes, by automatic timer, and by remote control. The toller on the main bell also remains functional. If you would like to see how the bells are rung at any of our churches, please see one of the altar servers after Mass.

Someone Had To Do the Dirty Work

As is often the case in bell towers, bird guano covered most every surface. Jason and his staff removed over 1,500 pounds of guano in preparation for the bell restoration. The louvers in the tower will eventually be covered with screening to make it more difficult for birds to enter. Underneath the guano, the workers discovered a copper floor. The combination of the copper plus the absence of the sound-absorbing guano results in a brighter and more reverberant sound for the bell.

Bells in the Liturgy

As we have discussed in previous columns, bells have an historic role in the life of the Church. They call people to prayer at certain times of the day, and they alert the faithful of sacred actions taking place within the church. Rubrics specified that tower bells were to be rung at the Consecration in the era before hand “Sanctus” bell sets became popular. Bells serve a joyful purpose when rung for weddings and major feast days, and as a reminder to pray for the deceased when tolled for Requiem Masses.

Tridentine Masses This Coming Week

Mon. 10/25 7:00 PM: Low Mass at St. Josaphat (Ss. Chrysanthia & Daria, Martyrs)

Tue. 10/26 7:00 PM: Low Mass at Assumption-Windsor (St. Evaristus, Pope & Martyr)

Thu. 10/28 7:00 PM: High Mass at St. Josaphat (Ss. Simon & Jude, Apostles)
[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 October 24, 2010. Hat tip to A.B.]

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Archbiishop Burke's bombshell speech in Rome

Why simple clarity should be perceived as a "bombshell" is a commentary on our time in itself, but here is a heads-up commentary by an observer who was there, Michael Voris (, on soon-to-be Cardinal Burke's recent exceptional speech in Rome:

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Theology of the Body: Janet Smith replies to Alice von Hildebrand

Janet Smith, "The Need to Read Carefully: A Response to Alice von Hildebrand's Critique of Christopher West" (Catholic Exchange, October 18, 2010). The treatment is thorough and erudite, and the tone is as gracious as the topic can be nasty (reader advisory). Certainly a must-read for anyone following the controversy involving Christopher West's interpretation of Pope John Paul II's Theology of the Body and treatment of human sexuality.

[Hat tip to J.S.]

"Scrutonizing" modern philosophers ...

Christopher Blosser offers a bit of humor ("Scrutonizing the Moderns," Against the Grain, October 18, 2010) from a book he just finished re-reading by Roger Scruton, entitled A Short History of Modern Philosophy: From Descartes to Wittgenstein. Scruton, he says, has a dry, sardonic (characteristically English?) wit. Several examples:
  • On Fichte: "Fichte's philosophy rests not so much in argument as in impetuous explosions of jargon, in which that fabricated verb "to posit" (setzen) kaleidoscopes into a thousand self-reflecting images."
  • On Schopenhauer: "Schopenhauer enjoyed his pessimistic conclusions too much to convince the reader that he really believed in them; and his sardonic assaults on popular prejudice reveal a far greater attachment to life than to the renunciation he officially favored."
  • On Heidegger: "[T]he reader has the impression that never before have so many words been invented and tormented in the attempt to express the inexpressible."
Nevertheless, such quips are not to be taken as outright dismissals, he says, since Scruton does take painstaking effort to read and explicate the chief ideas of each.

[Hat tip to C.B.]

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Bishop Boyea’s Extraordinary Day

Tridentine Community News (October 17, 2010):
Intrepid Diocese of Lansing Bishop Earl Boyea devoted his entire day to the Extraordinary Form last Sunday, October 10. In the morning, he celebrated the opening Mass for Lansing’s Blessed John XXIII Community in the modest crypt chapel of St. Mary Cathedral. Approximately 150 people were in attendance. As we have reported before, this is the first Tridentine Mass Community in our region which has been given the possibility of evolving into a full parish if numbers warrant.

Later the same day, His Excellency celebrated a Pontifical Low Mass at Flint’s All Saints Church for the 21st Anniversary of the Flint Tridentine Community. [not the 20th Anniversary as previously reported.] Deacon Richard Bloomfield, altar servers from St. Josaphat, and the choir from Assumption-Windsor assisted with the Mass. In case you are wondering, those aren’t scoreboards judging Bishop Boyea’s attention to the rubrics; All Saints Parish is celebrating its 100th anniversary. (Photos by Paul Schultz)

In other news from the Diocese of Lansing, on Sunday, October 3, another Extraordinary Form Mass was held at Ann Arbor’s Old St. Patrick Church. Readers may recall that Bishop Boyea asked for this Mass to be initiated. Call the parish to inquire about the schedule for future Masses.

Bishop Boyea Speaks About Summórum Pontíficum

After Mass, Bishop Boyea attended the Flint Tridentine Community’s annual Anniversary Dinner and spoke briefly about Pope Benedict XVI’s Motu Proprio, Summórum Pontíficum.

His Excellency began by stating that he had recently re-read the Motu Proprio. He was struck by our Holy Father’s cover letter intending to quell fears of divisiveness that might arise over the classic Liturgy. He explained that learning to celebrate the Extraordinary Form at St. Josaphat a few years ago has affected his own celebration of the Ordinary Form of Holy Mass. He discovered a “sacrality” in the Traditional Mass which is too often missing in today’s vernacular Masses. The Tridentine Mass makes it clear that the Church’s Liturgy is not about “us”, but about offering worship to Almighty God. Having the EF as a valid liturgical option should remind clergy and laity to strive for reverence in all Masses, both Ordinary and Extraordinary Form.

He mentioned that Pope Benedict envisions the Ordinary and Extraordinary Forms enriching one another, and gave the example of the possibility of adding Prefaces and new Feasts to the Traditional Mass, and expanding the readings used.

His Excellency stated that any priest in his diocese is welcome to start offering the classic Liturgy. He told a questioner that if she would like it in her own parish, that she should talk to her pastor. He did, however, caution against having too many small Low Mass sites. He would rather there be fewer, but larger and better quality Mass sites, offering High Masses with music programs befitting the Extraordinary Form.

All Souls Day Masses at Assumption-Windsor

On Tuesday, November 2, the traditional Three Masses of All Souls Day will be celebrated in the Extraordinary Form at Our Lady of the Assumption Church in Windsor. At 6:00 PM, two Low Masses will be celebrated on the side altars of the church by Frs. Patrick Bénéteau and John Johnson. At 7:00 PM, a Solemn High Mass will be celebrated by Fr. Peter Hrytsyk at the high altar, followed by Absolution at the Catafalque. This will be the first time in approximately 40 years that the historic side altars will be used for the celebration of Holy Mass. This will be a special day of prayer for the Holy Souls in Purgatory. A Plenary Indulgence may be gained that day by reciting one Our Father and one Credo in church.

Assumption Church is located at 350 Huron Church Road, at University Avenue, adjacent to the Ambassador Bridge. For directions or information call (519) 734-1335 or e-mail

Tridentine Masses This Coming Week

Mon. 10/18 7:00 PM: High Mass at St. Josaphat (St. Luke)

Tue. 10/19 7:00 PM: Low Mass at Assumption-Windsor (St. Peter of Alcantara)
[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 October 17, 2010. Hat tip to A.B.]

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Earthquake in Anglicanism: Bishop of Fulham converting to Rome

Bishop Broadhurst: resigning to join the Ordinariate

Authentic ecumenism at work: Damian Thompson, "Earthquake in Anglo-Catholicism: Bishop of Fulham to convert to Rome; Forward in Faith 'not part of Church of England'" (, October 15, 2010):
Bishop John Broadhurst, Bishop of Fulham in the Anglican diocese of London, is to resign his post later this year to join the Pope’s Ordinariate. The Catholic Herald’s Anna Arco broke the story, also revealing that Bishop Broadhurst will stay as chairman of Forward in Faith, which he says is “not a Church of England organisation”. It sounds as if traditional Anglo-Catholicism is undergoing a major shift (or crisis) of allegiance, because FiF, though not representative of everyone in that constituency, was the main body for Anglo-Catholics in the Church of England opposed to women bishops and priests. Now it seems to be heading towards Roman Catholicism.

Bishop Broadhurst made his announcement at Forward in Faith’s national assembly in London today. I’m told that the mood was very sympathetic towards the Ordinariate scheme. Update: Since writing this post, I’ve listened to a clear and elegant speech on the FiF website by Fr James Patrick (in secular life, His Honour Judge James Patrick) explaining that the Ordinariate is “at the heart of the Pope’s mission” and encouraging those who are committed to joining the structure to form part of the “first wave”. Fr Patrick refers to a “Lenten journey”. Do I detect a hint that there could be mass receptions into the Catholic Church at Easter?
There is much more news in Thompson's post in his original article worth reading.

One of my daily morning petitions offered to the recently Blessed Cardinal Newman for his intercession is for the re-conversion of the British Isles back to her traditional Catholic Faith -- and what a glorious tradition, with saints like Augustine of Canterbury, Cuthbert of Lindisfarne, Aelred of Rievaulx, Venerable Bede, Thomas A'Becket, St. Ambrose ...

[Hat tip to C.B.]

Just for fun

"Waking up is hard to do" (Not Totally Rad, November 19, 2009):
"If these 5 Minnesota anesthetists can pass gas as well as they can sing, I want my next surgery in their hospital."

[Hat tip to J.S.]

Friday, October 15, 2010

St. Paul on the Lake Hosts Tridentine Funeral Mass

Tridentine Community News (October 10, 2010):

It is a paradox in life that sometimes a sad occasion can also be an occasion of joy. Such a situation took place last Saturday, October 2, when the first Extraordinary Form Mass in over 40 years was held at Grosse Pointe Farms’ St. Paul on the Lake Church. The Liturgy was a funeral Mass for Thomas Ambrose Carey, the father of Brian Carey. Brian and Anita Carey and their family are members of both St. Paul and St. Josaphat Parishes.

St. Paul is yet another one of our area’s beautiful historic churches. A restoration of the church undertaken in 2002 won an architectural design award. It still retains its High Altar, Side Altars, Communion Rail, plus a rather new pipe organ. One interesting change made to the building was the replacement of hanging light fixtures with high-intensity lights recessed in the ceiling. While not exactly traditional, the result is a bright church, with lighting reminiscent of the great Roman basilicas.

As its name implies, St. Paul is located on Lake St. Clair, nestled between the grand mansions of Lake Shore Road. Its expansive parish campus encompasses an elementary school, separate parish offices and priests’ residence, and the adjacent, independent Grosse Pointe Academy, a Montessori, elementary, and middle school originally known as the Academy of the Sacred Heart.

The funeral rite began with the reception of the casket at the entrance to the church, followed by a Requiem Mass at which the Dies Iræ was sung. Absolution at the casket followed, after which In Paradísum was sung as the casket was removed from the church. At the cemetery, concluding prayers were said from the Extraordinary Form Ritual. The celebrant for the Mass was Fr. Peter Hrytsyk, assisted by choir members and altar servers from St. Josaphat and Assumption-Windsor.

Special thanks must go to St. Paul pastor Msgr. Patrick Halfpenny, who graciously permitted the use of his church. Msgr. Halfpenny is a former rector of Sacred Heart Seminary and is currently the Archdiocese of Detroit’s Episcopal Vicar overseeing the Office for Clergy and Consecrated Life. As many of our readers know, Msgr. Halfpenny has celebrated the Tridentine Mass at St. Josaphat Church. Thanks are also due to Assistant Pastor Fr. Mark Hamilton, who efficiently helped to set up the church for the Mass.

Special event Masses, especially in our historic churches, serve the important purpose of demonstrating continuity with our liturgical heritage. High Altars are more than decorative stands which surround a tabernacle, though that may be the experience which many Catholics have of them. Communion Rails have a real function of separating the actions of the Sacred Liturgy from the profane and mundane. Special event Masses give clear visual evidence why the traditional church layout and architectural elements specified by St. Charles Borromeo in the sixteenth century should be preserved in this post-Summórum Pontíficum era.
[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 October 10, 2010. Hat tip to A.B.]

Monday, October 11, 2010

Must the "Catholic vote" be stupid?

With the November elections only weeks away, we've just received the link to this article by Fr. Richard Perozich, "O Stupid Catholics, Who Has Bewitched You?" (Courageous Priest, October 8, 2010), by way of Creative Minority Report (We laugh because we believe ...), which says of Fr. Perozich's article that it "does a great job of collecting the words of priests who are willing to speak out no matter the cost. This one's a real barn burner."

[Hat tip to J.M.]

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Catholic radio: gratitude for Blessed John XXIII and Vatican II

I had the radio tuned to Ave Maria Catholic Radio this afternoon as we drove to Flint for a special anniversary Mass celebrated by Bishop Boyea. Some programs and speakers hosted on this Catholic radio station I have found genuinely substantive and interesting. At some point, between programs, when the station inserts some short promotions, there was about a half-minute spot in which a gentleman's voice came on the air, not as a caller on a program, but as a featured spot, and said that he wanted to take just a moment to reflect on how grateful we should all be for the Second Vatican Council and Blessed Pope John XXIII whose vision led to it.

Needless to say, that grabbed my attention. A couple of thoughts crossed my mind. I couldn't imagine that one of retired Bishop Gumbleton's trendy-lefty gang would be on Ave Maria radio offering his take on the Council, although one never knows. After all, I'm a tyro in these parts of Eastern Michigan. What do I know? What I sincerely hoped for was someone like John Lamont with something genuinely sensible, positive, substantive, new and interesting to say. No such luck.

Now keep in mind that this is not a transcript of a digital recording or anything, but merely what I can reconstruct from memory -- and that the on-air spot could not have been longer than a half-minute, or maybe a minute at the most.

What the gentleman said is that we all owe a debt of gratitude to Blessed John XXIII and to the Council born of his vision for the gift of something new and indispensable, which the Catholic Church would not have had were it not for them. The gift of the Pope and his Council, he said, is the ability we now have to communicate the Gospel in a new, "pastoral way" (his term), so that the modern world can hear and readily understand and receive it.


I can think of some positive statements on Vatican II that I've read and would be willing to endorse, but this is not quite one of them. This guy made it sound as if the Church had never heard of the need for evangelization or translating the Gospel into language intelligible to foreign cultures prior to Vatican II. Which makes me wonder how he thinks our pagan European ancestors became Christians. As for modern times, what about the massive network of Jesuit and Franciscan missions in India, China, Japan, Brazil, Bolivia, Paraguay, Uruguay, and Argentina in the 17th century, which occurred well after the Middle Ages and voyages of global discovery in modern times. What are people thinking nowadays when they say such things?


Friday, October 08, 2010

How not to win converts

This takes me back nearly twenty years to my own reception into the Church and the difference I then marked between fellow-converts of two stripes. One was grateful for the fuller understanding of truth and unity with Christ found through the Catholic Church, but continued to express profound appreciation for the nurturing background he had experienced in his erstwhile Protestant communion. The other seemed to spend all his time defining his newfound Catholic identity in terms of how it differed from his erstwhile Protestant communion, which he routinely denounced for its errors, narrow-mindedness, and general stupidity. In my experience, examples of the former included Louis Bouyer and Thomas Howard. The latter was exemplified by Franky Shaeffer, Jr., who, although he converted to Eastern Orthodoxy rather than Roman Catholicism, eminently typified this kind of dismissive and critical attitude toward his parents' religious affiliation.

With this distinction in mind, I read Francis J. Beckwith's "The Perils of Intra-Christian Apologetics" (The Catholic Thing, October 1, 2010), from which I now present just a few excerpts:
In March 2006 one of my graduate assistants, a Baylor doctoral student, visited my office to discuss with me his personal journey in the direction of Catholicism. An alumnus of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and an ordained Baptist minister, this student, I’ll call him Joseph, told me that he and his wife were on the brink of choosing to seek full communion with the Catholic Church. He wanted to know from me, President-Elect of the Evangelical Theological Society, if I could give them any reasons why they should not make the move. Much to Joseph’s surprise, I said “no.”

Although I was a year away from my own Catholic moment, I had reached a point in my Christian journey where I began to see more peril than promise in intra-Christian apologetics....

There is a question here that many Catholics eager to evangelize other Christian brothers and sisters may not appreciate. As someone who now has been on both sides of the Tiber, I need to explain precisely what I mean. I could not in good conscience provide what Joseph requested. For I did not know whether, at that time in his journey, Catholicism was becoming to him the only Christian tradition that he thought plausible to believe. Because he was a follower of Jesus and cared deeply about his walk with Christ, I had to treat Joseph’s inquiry with a certain delicacy, making sure that I did not place in his path a stumbling block. Months after meeting with me, he and has wife were received into the Catholic Church, and I soon followed.

But we often forget that no one comes to the question of intra-Christian dialogue and disputation with a blank slate. Consider, for example, the poorly catechized cradle Catholic who finds herself confronted by one of the many itinerant and irascible “Protestant apologists” whose polemical and superficial tomes are published for the very purpose of shaking the faith of such Catholics. The goal, of course, is to get the papist prey to “accept Jesus in her heart” and to become “born again.” But what if the Catholic, overwhelmed and ill-equipped, thinks of Catholicism as really the only legitimate Christian option, even though she does not know it very well? And what if the arguments against the Catholic Church simply destroy all of Christianity for that person? In that case, the Protestant apologist, though winning the argument, cooperates in the loss of a soul.

Similarly, imagine the case of the prodigal Protestant, an Evangelical college student who encounters on campus young and enthusiastic Catholic apologists. They spend most of their time with their Evangelical friend trashing the Protestant Reformers and contemporary Evangelicalism in such a way that the student, rather than entertaining Catholicism, considers abandoning his Christian faith altogether. This is because the student grew up an Evangelical Protestant in a vibrant ecclesial community that was the center of his family’s social, cultural, and religious life for generations. For such a person, Catholicism is not even on the conceptual radar. Thus, his Catholic friends, though intending no harm, contribute to his loss of faith in Christ.
Read more.... and see what you think.

[Hat tip to J.M.]

"Living the joy of the liturgy

Sue Ellen Browder, "Living the Joy of the Liturgy" (National Catholic Register, November 9, 2009):
The Divine Liturgy is received at St. Peter’s [an Eastern rite Catholic Mission tucked away in the Yokayo Valley of northern California], not just as one more duty to rush through so one can “get on with things,” but as the heartbeat of the Church, an astonishing gift from God to be treasured. Wonderstruck by the reverently joyful services at St. Peter’s, pilgrims often remark that it’s plain the liturgy is the center of people’s lives here. This is as it was meant to be. For Father Anderson says, “Liturgy is not to be distanced from life. Liturgy is the image of life.”

Subdeacon Nathaniel Slinkert suggests people are drawn to St. Peter’s “because they recognize our services present a stark contrast to the empty routine this world has to offer.” As the joyful celebration unfolds, worldly cares melt away, and worshippers find themselves on a journey from the clock-watching angst of this world into the fullness of time of the new creation. As Christ renews time, human rhythms jangled by the frenzied pressures of modern life are soothed and restored to peace and harmony with God and with neighbor. Emphasizing the “richness of the faith expressed in worship and song,” Slinkert observes, “the daily celebration of the holy services at St. Peter’s offers an abundant feast to all who desire the fruit of divine gladness.”

Although much effort has obviously gone into beautifying St. Peter’s services, Father Anderson continually reminds worshippers that man is invited to the liturgy not to perform some ancient and colorful ritual, but to participate in totality — mind, soul, heart and body — in the very life of God. At St. Peter’s, people experience a clarity about life the modern world has lost. Through the liturgy, they live the intuitively compelling truth that man is first and foremost a worshipping being who becomes joyful only when he is in right relationship with the one true God who created everything.
[Hat tip to A.S.]

Sunday, October 03, 2010

I love my German Shepherd

From a reader's email:
Francis Phillips in the Catholic Herald, writes of the Pope's visit in England, and sees "the Rev Ian Paisley as he used to be known, gripping some railings and looking discomposed in his belligerent Belfast fashion. Someone once told me that the Rev used to refer to the then incumbent of the chair of St Peter as 'Old Red Socks.' I don’t know whether this is true or not, but I wonder what he made of Pope Benedict’s footwear."

... Earlier, Australia's traddie Christian Order complained in strictly Roman terms of "the impossibly fuzzy mixture of orthodox, heterodox and heretical ideas found in some neo-conservative works today [that] clearly owes much to the filtering down of Cardinal Ratzinger’s more progressive ideas, promoted through his numerous books, as explained in the Larson series."

Joseph Ratzinger does manage to ... sometimes surpass his compadres like De Lubac, Rahner, and von Balthasar for verbose, opaque fuzziness. Or at least he has in the past. Despite all the absolutely ludicrous talk of God's Rottweiler. (We might as well talk of Obama's essential conservatism).

But read the [Catechism of the Catholic Church], read his homilies, and listen to him as Pope. It is a glorious, and amazing, experience to witness Truth defended in the modern age. And who, really, would have suspected that from one of the starry-eyed architects of Vatican II? Really?!

So, when my Evangelical friends bewilderedly ask me how on earth I can be Catholic, I think maybe I ought to point first to the might-as-well be gay Rowan Williams, and then the might as well be Nancy Pelosi, Brian McLaren. Or the churches everywhere that really are simply Young Life for adults. And THEN point to a shy, 20th century German theologian, who says things like this:
Fidelity to the word of God, precisely because it is a true word, demands of us an obedience which leads us together to a deeper understanding of the Lord’s will, an obedience which must be free of intellectual conformism or facile accommodation to the spirit of the age. This is the word of encouragement which I wish to leave with you this evening, and I do so in fidelity to my ministry as the Bishop of Rome and the Successor of Saint Peter, charged with a particular care for the unity of Christ’s flock.
Really and truly, what but divine providence can account for such words being spoken by a man shared secrets with Hans Küng at Vatican II, has been perpetually buffeted by the liberal and cultural faux Catholicism that defines the Vatican, came out of a liberal German university, and apparently just wants to be a nice guy, liked by everyone and his cats? We have all the likely heroes crumbling, and the soft-spoken, Euro Vaticanista who should love all the clerical sellouts towing the inescapable orthodox line. Even when mauled by the intimidating universal Media presence.

A miracle. And a testimony to the truth on the unlikely claim of Petrine succession.

I'm just sayin'...

For which I say Praise The Lord.
[Hat tip to Anon.]

Abp. Chaput's American Cultural History 101

Charles J. Chaput, "Catholics and the Next America" (On the Square, September 17, 2010):
One of the key myths of the American Catholic imagination is this: After 200 years of fighting against public prejudice, Catholics finally broke through into America’s mainstream with the 1960 election of John F. Kennedy as president. It’s a happy thought ... They’ve climbed, at long last, the Mt. Zion of social acceptance.

So goes the tale. What this has actually meant for the direction of American life, however, is another matter....

... “I shop, therefore I am” is not a good premise for life in a democratic society like the United States. Our country depends for its survival on an engaged, literate electorate gathered around commonly held ideals.

... As Catholics, like so many other American Christians, we have too often made our country what it is through our appetite for success, our self-delusion, our eagerness to fit in, our vanity, our compromises, our self-absorption and our tepid faith.

... In the name of tolerance and pluralism, we have forgotten why and how we began as nation; and we have undermined our ability to ground our arguments in anything higher than our own sectarian opinions.
These excerpts are from a long and substantial article by the Archbishop of Denver, and we cannot begin to do it justice here, but only offer these brief quotations as an invitation to read the entire piece. The discussion of Puritanism is interesting, as well as the evolution of the Catholic presence in public life, for better or worse.

[Hat tip to J.M.]

Fr. Ulysse Lefaive, RIP

Tridentine Community News (October 3, 2010):
Your prayers are requested for the soul of Fr. Ulysse A. Lefaive, a priest of the Diocese of London, Ontario, who passed away on Saturday, September 25. One of Metropolitan Detroit’s most vocal and energetic advocates of the Extraordinary Form, Fr. Lefaive was the Chaplain of the Windsor Tridentine Mass Community from 2001-2006. Below we reprint, with updates, some biographical notes about Fr. Lefaive that originally ran in this column in 2006.

Ordained in 1949, this holy and humble priest came from an era when classes at London’s St. Peter Seminary were taught in Latin. You read that right: The classes themselves were conducted in Latin; unimaginable in our day. The Latin language and love for the traditional liturgy were in his bloodstream.

Fr. Lefaive began serving the Windsor Tridentine Mass Community during a low point: The Mass was held in the modest chapel of the Villa Maria Nursing Home. Shortly after he started, the SARS epidemic broke out; you could not enter the nursing home without signing a form declaring that you had not been in contact with SARS patients, or even traveled to Toronto or the Far East, where breakouts had occurred. Even more humiliating, you had to be sprayed with a disinfectant before being allowed into the building. Morale was affected and attendance plummeted to barely 15 people, but Fr. Lefaive urged the community to continue on, even refusing a stipend when finances were in peril. The mustard seed of the then-tiny Windsor Tridentine Mass Community has since produced many direct offspring, the first of which was St. Josaphat’s Tridentine Mass, whose inception greatly pleased him. He always believed the Traditional Liturgy would regain popularity.

It wasn’t just the Sacred Liturgy that Fr. Lefaive defended; he was one of the few advocates of traditional ecclesial architecture after Vatican II. His greatest legacy in this arena was during his pastorate of Windsor’s historic St. Alphonsus Church [pictured below], located at the entrance to the Detroit/Windsor Tunnel. Fr. Lefaive resisted pressure to rearrange the interior of the church after Vatican II, and instead pushed through a restoration of the interior to its original condition. Thanks to his foresight, as the adjacent photo makes evident, St. Alphonsus today stands as one of our region’s architectural jewels, its ornate altars, oil paintings, and stencilwork stunning in an era of forgettable modernization jobs elsewhere.

St. Alphonsus Church, Windsor

Fr. Lefaive took his love for Holy Tradition across the border, as well. As a member of a “priest’s club” in Detroit, he promoted the Tridentine Mass to fellow clergy on both sides of the river and softened some obstinate hearts in the process.

When Fr. Lefaive’s health began to decline, he set an example for the rest of us by soldiering on. At St. Michael’s Church, the next home of the Windsor Tridentine Mass, he even continued to set up the church for the Extraordinary Form every week on his own. He was a remarkably positive individual: in over five years of working with Fr. Lefaive, this author cannot recall a single complaint coming out of the man’s mouth. What an example for so many of us who whine so easily.

A Funeral Mass for Fr. Lefaive in the Ordinary Form was celebrated at his beloved St. Alphonsus Church on Thursday, September 30 by Diocese of London Bishop Ronald Fabbro. A Requiem Mass in the Extraordinary Form will be scheduled at Windsor’s Assumption Church soon. Let us pray for the repose of the soul of this dedicated, courageous, and pioneering priest.

Réquiem ætérnam dona ei Dómine, et lux perpétua lucéat ei.

Bishop Boyea to Celebrate EF Masses Next Sunday

Next Sunday, October 10, Diocese of Lansing Bishop Earl Boyea will celebrate two special Holy Masses in the Extraordinary Form. At 11:00 AM in the crypt chapel of Lansing’s St. Mary Cathedral, His Excellency will celebrate the opening Mass of the Blessed John XXIII [Latin Mass] Community. At 4:00 PM at All Saints Church in Flint, Bishop Boyea will celebrate a Pontifical Low Mass commemorating the 20th anniversary of the Flint Tridentine Mass. All Saints Church is located at 4063 W. Pierson Road, one block east of I-75, on the north side of Flint.

Tridentine Masses This Coming Week

Mon. 10/04 7:00 PM: Low Mass at St. Josaphat (St. Francis of Assisi, Confessor)

Tue. 10/05 7:00 PM: Low Mass at Assumption-Windsor (Requiem Mass for Emily Hrytsyk with Absolution at the Catafalque)

Wed. 10/07 7:00 PM: High Mass at St. Josaphat (Our Lady of the Rosary)
[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 October 3, 2010. Hat tip to A.B.]

The Celebrated Matthew Shepard & The Forgotten Mary Stachowicz

By Barbara Kralis

How many of us American Catholics are willing to admonish the sinner (which is one of the Spiritual Works of Mercy) and to evangelize? Not many. But Mary Stachowicz was willing, and for doing so she was brutally murdered. The crime was committed in Chicago on November 13, 2002, the feast day of St. Frances Cabrini — virgin, and the first U.S. saint to be canonized.

Mary, the gentle, devout 51-year-old Catholic mother of four asked a homosexual man, Nicholas Gutierrez, 19, “Why do you want to have sex with boys instead of girls?” Gutierrez said she began to counsel him about his problem.

Gutierrez confessed that he became furious when Mary asked him the question. Allegedly, he brutally punched and kicked Mary; next, he mutilated her body with multiple stab wounds. While Mary was still alive, he shoved a garbage bag over her head, strangled her, and jammed her body into the crawl space under the floor of his Chicago apartment, located above the Sikorski Funeral Home, where they both worked. The Funeral Home is right across the street from Mary’s parish, where moments before she had received Holy Communion.

Her mutilated body was discovered three days after she was slaughtered.

Mary, a Polish-English translator, was witnessing to her Catholic faith and was murdered — martyred — for it.

The mainstream secular news media don’t want to touch this story, because it’s about homosexuality.

Legislation has been passed in certain states to make it a punishable criminal offense to speak out against homosexuality. In New York City, “tolerant” Democrats have made it a crime to condemn homosexuality using Bible verses. In Canada, it’s illegal to speak one’s convictions concerning the practice of homosexuality. TV, radio, and print media in Canada cannot use Bible passages that condemn homosexuality without penalty. Some Canadians have already been jailed for their convictions.

Most Christians are already timid about teaching God’s truth on the mortal sin of sodomy, without the added fear of being imprisoned for doing so. Mary wasn’t intimidated.

The allegedly Catholic Senators Tom Daschle and Ted Kennedy are co-sponsoring a bill that would increase the federal government’s ability to prosecute “hate crimes,” that would give homosexuals more protection under federal law than heterosexuals. In other words, a heterosexual person isn’t worth as much as a homosexual person.

That Mary cared enough to intervene didn’t surprise her pastor. “She was a very intense person concerned about the good of the parish, always seeking things for the poor as well as the spiritual welfare of people,” said Fr. Francis Rog of St. Hyacinth Catholic Church.

Alas, Mary is forgotten, even though her murder was less than six months ago. Where’s the outrage from Christians? From Catholics? From America’s bishops?

The two Chicago dailies treated the story gingerly: Of Mary’s murder, the Chicago Sun-Times on November 18 carried the headline, “Arrest in Funeral Home Death.” The day before it said, “Body Found in Funeral Home Was Stabbed.” The Chicago Tribune carried the headline, “Body Identified as Missing Woman.” The final piece published in the Tribune was subtly headlined, “Quarrel Preceded Slaying, Officials Say.” The subhead, in small print, gave the only hint about what took place: “Suspect’s Lifestyle Allegedly at Issue.” In almost every other city, the story was censored. Homosexuals have preferential treatment in the media. Within a 30-day period, in 1998, over 3,000 articles were written about Matthew Shepard, the homosexual college student killed in Wyoming. What a double standard!

Reactions to the murder of Mary on homosexual websites and chat lines have been reported to range from “She deserved what she got” to “Where do I send a check for Gutierrez’s defense?” to “Maybe this will send a message to the religious zealots to mind their own business.”

Peter LaBarbera, senior policy analyst for the Culture and Family Institute for Concerned Women for America, said: “If a gay man had been murdered for trying to convince someone to be gay, it would be a national news story and deemed a hate crime. But when a gay man murders a woman who tried to convince him to change, the media spike the story. If Matthew Shepard’s murder deserved national media attention, then why not Mary Stachowicz’s?… It’s going to be hard for people to say this is not an anti-Christian hate crime committed by a homosexual activist.”

Mary Stachowicz’s death is similar to that of St. Maria Goretti, her namesake. St. Maria was brutally stabbed to death as she resisted Alessandro Serenelli’s sinful, lustful advances. Will we ever witness the repentance and return to God of Mary’s murderer, as we witnessed the dramatic conversion of Alessandro Serenelli, Maria’s murderer? Alessandro spent the rest of his life traveling the world to witness of God’s mercy and forgiveness until his death in 1970 at the Capuchin convent of Macerata, where he lived out the final days of his life in reparation. Above all, will we ever see Mary Stachowicz recognized by the American bishops for her courage?

[Barbara Kralis, former editor of the Catholic newsletter Semper Fidelis, directs, with her husband, Mitch, the Jesus Through Mary Foundation in Howe, Texas. The foregoing article by Barbara Kralis, "The Celebrated Matthew Shepard & The Forgotten Mary Stachowicz" was originally published in New Oxford Review (May 2003), and is reproduced here by kind permission of New Oxford Review, 1069 Kains Ave., Berkeley, CA 94706. Barbara Kralis may be reached by email at]

Related: The Blagojevich connection.

Where has Kathleen Parkers been?

Our HBCU correspondent we keep on retainer just wired in this item from somewhere on the Atlantic Seaboard:
Kathleen Parkers asks:
How did we get here? How could anyone think that another's most private, intimate moment was fair game?
1. WHERE has she been?

2. Does she know anything about college student culture?
Although Clementi was filmed with another man, one can imagine as easily a roommate spying on a heterosexual encounter.

The emergence of social media, combined with mass access to technology -- camera-equipped cellphones, pocket-size video cameras and blogospheric distribution -- has enabled an insatiable market for spying and gossip. The result has been a cultural breakdown in decency and a blurring of the boundaries of what should be private and public.

Even this discussion feels like an invasion of privacy, given the unbearable pain the Clementi family must be enduring. But...
That BUT says everything... Now what's up with Lindsay Lohan? I mean, I really think...

Oh, snap, I almost forgot: How did we get "here'?, or

[Hat tip to J.M.]

Theology of the Body goes comic

This just keeps getting weirder and weirder: Mary Victrix, "Theology of the Body and the Mystical, Magical Train" (, August 5, 2010).

[Hat tip to J.M.]

Friday, October 01, 2010

Banished Heart redivivus!

From a reader who said he tracked down a copy a couple years back when the few remaining were in Australia, notice of this timely reprint:
Banished Heart: Origins of Heteropraxis in the Catholic Church,T&T Clark Studies in Fundamental Liturgy (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, October, 2010).
It's available from Pro Multis for $35.95, but from Amazon for $25.26 and free one-day shipping for the next 17 hours and 16 minutes.

[Hat tip to J.M.]

C.S. Lewis & T.S. Eliot on Contraception

Two Dubious Anniversaries

By Gregory K. Laughlin

This year offers a fitting opportunity to look back at two pivotal events in the life of the broader Christian community and in the moral and social life of the United States. Eighty years ago, and forty-five years ago this summer, respectively, were dates that changed the course of human history. A bit of background: In 1908 the world's Anglican bishops, meeting at their periodic Lambeth Conference, enacted a resolution that expressed "alarm" at the "growing practice of the artificial restriction of the family, and earnestly call[ed] upon all Christian people to discountenance the use of all artificial means of restriction as demoralising to character and hostile to national welfare." Twelve years later, in 1920, the Anglican Communion again affirmed consistent Christian teaching by "utter[ing] an emphatic warning against the use of unnatural means for the avoidance of conception." Yet, a mere ten years after that, in 1930, the Anglican bishops gathered again at Lambeth Palace and there, by a majority of 193 to 67, approved Resolution 15, which read, in part:
Where there is clearly felt moral obligation to limit or avoid parenthood, the method must be decided on Christian principles. The primary and obvious method is complete abstinence from intercourse (as far as may be necessary) in a life of discipline and self-control lived in the power of the Holy Spirit. Nevertheless in those cases where there is such a clearly felt moral obligation to limit or avoid parenthood, and where there is a morally sound reason for avoiding complete abstinence, the Conference agrees that other methods may be used.
Then, in 1965, thirty-five years after that fateful Lam­­­beth Conference, the U.S. Supreme Court, in Griswold v. Connecticut, struck down as unconstitutional the last remaining state laws prohibiting the use of contraceptives by married couples, finding for the first time a "right to privacy" located in "penumbras, formed by emanations from [the] guarantees" contained in the Bill of Rights. Griswold and its "right to privacy" has been relied upon repeatedly to strike down, among other laws, statutes restricting access to contraceptives by unmarried adults (Eisenstadt v. Baird) and unmarried minors (Carey v. Population Services), and statutes criminalizing abortion (Roe v. Wade) and sodomy (Lawrence v. Texas). It has also been relied upon by state courts, which have recognized a right of members of the same sex to "marry" (e.g., Goodridge v. Dept. of Public Health).

These twin anniversaries — 1930 and 1965 — offer an appropriate opportunity to consider the misgivings of two prominent Anglicans with regard to the use of contraceptives and with the actions taken by the Anglican bishops gathered at Lambeth Palace eighty summers ago. While neither Anglican writer was willing to condemn the use of contraceptives explicitly, both recognized that serious moral issues were at stake. As we live today in a world ravaged by the tragic consequences of these two pivotal events, we would do well to ponder their words.

In the preface to Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis wrote, "Ever since I served as an infantryman in the first world war I have had a great dislike of people who, themselves in ease and safety, issue exhortations to men in the front line. As a result I have a reluctance to say much about temptations to which I myself am not exposed." One of these was the use of contraception. "I am not a woman nor even a married man, nor am I a priest. I did not think it my place to take a firm line about pains, dangers and expenses from which I am protected; having no pastoral office which obliged me to do so."

In a letter to his brother, Warren, in 1931, Lewis expressed a similar sentiment, writing, "We had tea at Wheatley, Barfield denouncing birth control. I could not help thinking, though I hardly cared to say, that a man married to an obviously barren woman was in this matter an arm chair critic." In a letter to Mrs. E.L. Baxterin in 1947, he wrote that he had never taken "a general position about contraception. As a bachelor I think I shd. be imprudent in attacking it: on the other hand I shd. not like the job of defending it against almost unbroken Xtian disapproval. But it isn't my business." And in another letter, addressed to a Mrs. Johnson nine years later, he wrote simply, "Birth control I won't give a view on; I'm certainly not prepared to say that it is always wrong."

A casual reader, if he even noticed these remarks, would conclude that Lewis had little to say on the subject (the C.S. Lewis Readers' Encyclopedia does not mention it at all) and, if anything, approved of the practice.1 Yet his treatment of contraception in his other writings stands in stark contrast to these explicit refusals to condemn it.

A Sensible Practice

Lewis first wrote about contraception in The Pil­grim's Regress, published in 1933. The book recounts a dream about a boy — later a man — named John and his journey through life, in which he explores a variety of alternative worldviews, represented by characters encountered on the journey, before finally accepting Christianity.

One of the characters John encounters is Mr. Sensible, who tells him, "To cut off pleasures from the consequences and conditions which they have by nature, detaching, as it were, the precious phrase from its irrelevant context, is what distinguishes the man from the brute and the citizen from the savage."

Mr. Sensible approves "the Roman emetics in their banquets" and "the even more beneficent contraceptive devices of our later times…. That man who can eat as taste, not nature, prompts him and yet fear no aching belly, or who can indulge in Venus and fear no impertinent bastard, is a civilized man. In him, I recognize Urbanity — the note of the centre."

Given Lewis's attachment to natural law, which he believed to be universal, objective, and of divine origin, and his offering of Mr. Sensible as one alternative to Mother Kirk (Christianity), one can deduce Lewis's disapproval of this justification of contraception, if not of contraception itself.

Later in his journey, John meets Mr. Broad, who represents modernist religion and describes Mr. Sensible as his "oldest friend" and his "quite near neighbour." One cannot help but wonder whether, in describing Mr. Broad, Lewis had in mind factions within his own Anglican Communion, including those who had approved of Resolution 15 just three years earlier. Mr. Sensible lives north of the "long straight road, very narrow" way of Christianity, an area representing "tension, hardness, possessiveness, coldness, anaemia."

Lest there be any doubt about Mr. Sensible, Lewis returns to him as the first character whose true nature is revealed to John as he begins his journey along the long and narrow road of Christianity. John's guide describes Mr. Sensible as "so near to nonentity — so shadowy even as an appearance — that he is now invisible to you."

A New Morality

That Lewis understood the potential consequences of the widespread use of contraceptives is illustrated in The Abolition of Man, published in 1945 and written in defense of the Tao (the natural law) and against the "Innovator," the one who rejects natural law and seeks to reshape mankind to his own purposes. He begins his discussion of contraception by noting that "there is a paradoxical, negative sense in which all possible future generations are the patients or subjects of a power wielded by those already alive." He continues:
By contraception simply, they are denied existence; by contraception used as a means of selective breeding, they are, without their concurring voice, made to be what one generation, for its own reasons, may choose to prefer. From this point of view, what we call Man's power over Nature turns out to be a power exercised by some men over other men with Nature as its instrument.
Elsewhere, Lewis notes that "the modern situation permits and demands a new sexual morality" because "the old taboos served some real purpose in helping to preserve the species, but contraceptives have modified this and we can now abandon many of the taboos." In words that now appear prophetic, Lewis observes that with the acceptance of contraceptives, sexual desire, "being instinctive, is to be gratified whenever it does not conflict with the preservation of the species. It looks, in fact, as if an ethics based on instinct will give the Innovator all he wants and nothing that he does not want."

The Innovator and Mr. Sensible share a common worldview. The former's ethics give him "all he wants and nothing that he does not want." The latter's ethics permit him to "cut off pleasures from the consequences and conditions which they have by nature." Thus, both "can indulge in Venus and fear no impertinent bastard."

Lewis recognized that contraception permitted the abandonment of other taboos guiding sexual conduct. "Now that contraceptives have removed the most disastrous consequences for girls, and medicine has largely defeated the worst horrors of syphilis," he wrote in a letter to Rhona Bodle in 1955, "what argument against promiscuity is there which will influence the young unless one brings in the whole supernatural and sacramental view of man?"

Human Will vs. God's Purpose

But Lewis's concern was not limited to the impact that permitting contraception would have on sexual ethics. For example, in a dialogue in That Hideous Strength, the last of his "Space Trilogy," Merlin, appearing in twentieth-century England, describes the young academic Jane as "the falsest lady of any at this time alive…. For, Sir, it was the purpose of God that she and her lord should between them have begotten a child by whom the enemies should have been put out of Logres for a thousand years." Ransom, the leader of the resistance against the evil threatening England, replies that Jane is only recently married, to which Merlin responds:
Be assured that the child will never be born, for the hour of its begetting is passed. Of their own will they are barren: I did not know till now that the usages of Sulva were so common among you. For a hundred generations in two lines the begetting of this child was prepared; and unless God should rip up the work of time, such seed, and such an hour, in such a land, shall never be again.
"The usages of Sulva" is a reference to an earlier passage in which Sulva is identified as the Moon, where, by choice, "the womb is barren and the marriages are cold," and "their real children they fabricate by vile arts in a secret place." Here, Lewis can be seen as anticipating the use of reproductive technologies common in our own time. Ransom tells Jane that she is neither "a Christian wife" nor "a virgin." Her use of contraception appears to be one of the characteristics by which Lewis illustrates this. In the closing chapter, Ransom tells Jane, "Go in obedience and you will find love. You will have no more dreams. Have children instead." ("Dreams" refers to Jane's visions of events at which she has not been present but which in fact occurred.)

Compare these passages from That Hideous Strength and, in particular, the advice Lewis had his fictional character Ransom deliver to Jane with an admonition Lewis himself gave to one of his own friends, Shel­don Vanauken. In his award-winning autobiography, A Severe Mercy, Vanauken reproduced eighteen letters written to him by Lewis after the death of Vanauken's wife. In one of those letters, Lewis admonished Vanauken for his "voluntary sterility" and for having denied his wife the experience of maternity. Lewis wrote: "Chris­tians…would of course agree that man and wife are ‘one flesh'…. But surely they would add that this One Flesh must not (and in the long run cannot) ‘live to itself' any more than the single individual. It was not made…to be its Own End. It was made for God and (in Him) for its neighbours — first and foremost among them the children it ought to have produced."

In the preface to That Hideous Strength, Lewis discloses that his novel has "a serious ‘point' which I have tried to make in my Abolition of Man." His misgivings about contraception are not that point, of course, but are related to it: the rejection of natural law and the reshaping of humanity to serve the desires of a few.

Two Worlds Contrasted

In the first book of Lewis's Space Trilogy, Out of the Silent Planet, Ransom raises the issue of overpopulation with his hrossa host and the potential for war with other hnau over food. (Hnau is the collective name given to all sentient, ensouled beings on Malacandra, the "Old Solar" name for Mars in Lewis's Space Trilogy. Hrossa are one of those species.) His host, Hyoi, responds by asking why the hrossa should have more young, and Ransom in return asks, "Is the begetting of young not a pleasure among the hrossa?" It is "a very great one, Hman," he replies. "This is what we call love." Ransom explains that humans want to have the pleasure over and over again, even if it produces more children than they can feed.
It took Hyoi a long time to get the point. "You mean," he said slowly, "that he might do it not only in one or two years of his life but again?" "Yes." "But why? Would he want his dinner all day or want to sleep after he had slept? I do not understand."
Although this dialogue demonstrates that Lewis was concerned about overpopulation, what is significant is that he did not offer contraception as the means by which the hrossa control their population. Indeed, the hrossa seem never to have considered the issue, and their natural practice of abstinence after procreation regulates their population sufficiently, without artificial means.

The hrossa and the other hnau of Malacandra live in a world that is not "bent" — that is, in a world uncorrupted by sin. In contrast, Jane and the people of the Moon who practice contraception in That Hideous Strength live in "bent" worlds.

Lewis, then, associated natural methods of population control — i.e., abstinence — with a sinless world, and artificial methods of preventing conception (and causing it) with a sinful world. It is hard to believe that Lewis did not intend this.

Thus, Lewis, while never explicitly condemning contraception and, indeed, explicitly refusing to do so, treated the subject on several occasions, always in a negative light. Despite his reluctance to condemn contraception, Lewis's writings, taken as a whole, demonstrate an antipathy toward its indiscriminate use, and a recognition that its use is against both natural law and "almost unbroken Xtian disapproval."

Serious Questions

Today, the concerns raised by C.S. Lewis are rarely recognized. He apparently did not agree with the teaching of the Catholic Church that contraception is inherently sinful and always forbidden, yet he realized that it raised serious moral issues meriting serious consideration and pastoral guidance, the latter being implicitly recognized by his noting his own lack of pastoral obligation in this regard.

Lewis was not alone among Anglican intellectuals who were troubled by the indiscriminate use of contraception. In a pamphlet titled Thoughts After Lambeth, published in 1931, T.S. Eliot expressed his misgivings over the Anglican bishops' passing of Resolution 15 approving of the use of contraceptives. Again, the resolution provided, in part,
In those cases where there is such a clearly felt moral obligation to limit or avoid parenthood, and where there is a morally sound reason for avoiding complete abstinence, the Conference agrees that other methods may be used, provided that this is done in the light of…Christian principles.
The bishops concluded with a "strong condemnation of the use of any methods of conception control from motives of selfishness, luxury, or mere convenience."

Many Anglicans opposed the resolution. Others stressed the resolution's limitations. K.E. Kirk, then a professor of pastoral theology at Oxford University, for instance, considered "the number of cases in which it could be treated as legitimate to be very small indeed."

Eliot supported the bishops' position, but he was critical of the manner in which they had acted, or rather, failed to act. Eliot opined that the Anglican bishops were "right and courageous to express a view on the subject of procreation radically different from that of Rome," but he regretted that they "placed so much reliance upon the Individual Conscience…. Certainly, anyone who is wholly sincere and pure in heart may seek guidance from the Holy Spirit; but who of us is always wholly sincere, especially where the most imperative of instincts may be strong enough to simulate to perfection the voice of the Holy Spirit?"

Letting each couple ask for counsel only if they are "perplexed in mind is almost to surrender the whole citadel of the Church," Eliot continued. "Considering the extreme disingenuity of humanity…only a very small minority will be ‘perplexed'; and…the honest minority which takes ‘competent advice' (and I observe that the order of the words is ‘medical and spiritual') will have to appeal to a clergy just as perplexed as itself."

The bishops had not given adequate instruction, leaving unanswered the questions: "When is it right to limit the family and right to limit it only by continence?" and "When is it right to limit the family by contraception?" Eliot stated further, "It is exactly this matter of ‘spiritual advice' which should have been examined and analysed…. Here, if anywhere, is definitely a matter upon which the Individual Conscience is no reliable guide; spiritual guidance should be imperative; and it should be clearly placed above medical advice."

Thus, while approving in general the liberalizing of the official Anglican position on contraception — a liberalization that, however, did not envisage the unquestioning use of contraception — Eliot recognized that contraception raised moral issues and implicitly considered contraception not to be morally permissible in all cases. With greater prescience than the bishops, he recognized that, without more explicit guidance, couples would soon stop thinking about the nature of marriage and procreation and treat contraception as an integral part of Christian marriage.

A Solitary Voice in the Wilderness of Choice

Lewis and Eliot were writing in the years immediately following the Anglican Communion's change in teaching regarding contraception. It was then still an issue hotly debated among Christians, and these debates were often covered in the national media. During the remainder of Lewis and Eliot's lives, however, practically all Protestant denominations followed the Anglican Com­munion's lead in this matter. In our own time, the vast majority of all Christian couples, whether Protestant, Orthodox, or Catholic, have used or are now using artificial contraceptives.

Neither Lewis nor Eliot was willing to condemn all uses of artificial contraception, yet both had obvious concerns about the moral implications of its use. There were Anglicans (and other Protestant and Orthodox Christians) then — as there are now — who were willing to stand by the historical Christian condemnation of the practice. Today, however, the Catholic Church stands alone in her unbroken condemnation of a practice which, until a lifetime ago, all Christians condemned. We would do well to consider the concerns raised by Lewis and Eliot and to return to the constant teaching of historic Christianity prior to that fateful summer a mere eighty years ago.


  1. Lewis had another interesting exchange that relates tangentially to this subject. In "Answers to Questions on Christianity," from God in the Dock, Lewis addressed the following question: "What justification on ethical grounds and on the grounds of social expediency exists for the Church's attitude towards Venereal Disease and prophylaxis and publicity in connection with it?"

    When Lewis asked for clarification, the inquirer added, "The view of some is that moral punishment should not be avoided."

    Lewis responded, "I haven't myself met any clergyman of the Church of England who held that view: and I don't hold it myself. There are obvious objections to it. After all, it isn't only Venereal Disease that can be regarded as a punishment for bad conduct. Indigestion in old age may be the result of overeating in earlier life; but no one objects to advertisements for Beecham's Pills. I, at any rate, strongly dissent from the view you've mentioned."

    It is not clear from what view Lewis dissented. From the context, it appears that he objected to the view that "moral punishment should not be avoided." However, he did not state his opposition to the use of prophylaxis to prevent the spread of venereal disease. In fact, this passage could be read as his approval of such use. [back]

[Gregory K. Laughlin serves as law library director and as associate professor of law at the Cumberland School of Law, Samford University, in Birmingham, Alabama. His article, "Two Dubious Anniversaries," was originally published in New Oxford Review (July-August, 2010), and is reproduced here by kind permission of New Oxford Review, 1069 Kains Ave., Berkeley, CA 94706.]

Janet Smith responds to Dawn Eden's thesis

Janet Smith, "Engaging Dawn Eden’s Thesis" (Catholic Exchange: Theology of the Body, September 29, 2010). Verdict: more work to be done ... Christopher West is misrepresented, his work deserving of support.

[Hat tip to J.S.]