Friday, October 31, 2014

Happy Deformation Day to all of my anti-Catholic friends and enemies

The most enduring, last acceptable prejudice dies hard:

As Al Kresta said on the radio recently, the notion of a single "Reformation" should be retired. (Just like the myth of "THE Inquisition," I might add.) These are myths that have long been debunked and hold no water. There were numerous self-identified "reformers" with quite differing ideas, and also a Catholic reformation (sometimes called the "counter-reformation"). What all the non-Catholic "reformations" had in common is their uniting theme of anti-Catholicism. Much of what they taught as the "Gospel" is not significantly different from what Holy Mother Church always taught, and that is where we share a common baptism and faith in the common Lord and Savior who is our only hope in life and in death. Where "reformations" become "deformation" always lies in close proximity to their anti-Catholicism.

St. John, the Evangelist, Chapter 17. The High Priestly prayer of Jesus that His disciples might all be "one."

Burke: “There is a strong sense that the Church is like a ship without a helm”

Andrea Tornielli, "Burke: 'There is a strong sense that the Church is like a ship without a helm'" (La Stampa: Vatican Insider, October 31, 2014):
After his criticisms about the Synod being manipulated and censored, the Prefect of the Apostolic Signatura, Cardinal Raymond Leo Burke, is continuing to raise concerns – in an increasingly distressed tone – about the direction the Church is taking, criticising the Pope, whilst at the same time claiming he does not wish it seem like he is speaking out against he Pope.” His latest interview with Darío Menor Torres was published by Spanish religious news weekly Vida Nueva.

“Many have expressed their concerns to me. At this very critical moment, there is a strong sense that the Church is like a ship without a helm, whatever the reason for this may be; now, it is more important than ever to examine our faith, have a healthy spiritual leader and give powerful witness to the faith.”

“I fully respect the Petrine ministry and I do not wish it to seem like I am speaking out against the Pope. I would like to be a master of the faith, with all my weaknesses, telling a truth that many currently perceive. They are feeling a bit sea sick because they feel the Church’s ship has lost its bearings. We need to set aside the reason for this disorientation because we have not lost our bearings. We have the enduring tradition of the Church, its teachings, the liturgy, its morality. The catechism remains the same.”

“The Pope rightly speaks of the need to go out to the peripheries,” the Prefect of the Apostolic Signatura said. “The people have responded very warmly to this. But we cannot go to the peripheries empty-handed. We go with the Word of God, with the Sacraments, with the virtuous life of the Holy Spirit. I am not saying the Pope does this, but there is a risk of the encounter with culture being misinterpreted. Faith cannot adapt to culture but , must call to it to convert. We are a counter-cultural movement, not a popular one.”

Plenary Indulgence Reminders for the first week in November (November 1st-8th)


Canon Alonso Lobo
Libera me, Domine (Resp. Off. Def.)

There are several plenary indulgences available for the first week in November, beginning tomorrow, November 1st, All Saints Day. They are the following:
For the faithful departed 
§ 1. A plenary indulgence, applied exclusively to the souls in Purgatory, is granted to the Christian faithful who:

1° on each single day, from the first to the eighth day in November, devoutly visit a cemetery and, even if only mentally, pray for the faithful departed; [Note: one plenary indulgence for each day, if the usual conditions are met]

2° on the day of Commemoration of All Faithful Departed [November 2] (or, according to the Ordinary, on the preceding or subsequent Sunday, or on the day of the solemnity of All Saints) piously visit a church or oratory and there recite the Pater and the Credo

(Reference: Enchiridion Indulgentiarum, 4th edition, al. concessiones.)

On ignoring doctrine, or trying to "develop" it

I read two disturbing pieces online this morning. The first was Maureen Mullarkey's "King Francis" (First Things, October 24, 2014), which related (via Paul Anthony McGavin) how Pope Francis, in his morning homilies at Saint Martha's during the Synod "hammered away every day at the zealots of tradition, those who load unbearable burdens onto men." In the early days of his pontificate, she writes, "the romance of Francis was stoked with charming stories of his humility. He scrambled his own eggs, tied his own shoes, took the bus. An ordinary Joe, just like you and me but more so. We saw nothing in the press like this:
On communion for the divorced and remarried, it is already known how the pope thinks. As archbishop of Buenos Aires, he authorized the “curas villeros,” the priests sent to the peripheries, to give communion to all, although four fifths of the couples were not even married. And as pope, by telephone or letter he is not afraid of encouraging some of the faithful who have remarried to receive communion without worrying about it, right away, even without those “penitential paths under the guidance of the diocesan bishop” projected by some at the synod, and without issuing any denials when the news of his actions comes out.
"...What bewilders me here is the precipitous end-run being made around collegiality and subsidiarity, with scant regard for the trust of the faithful in the validity of the Church’s essential moral suasion on essential matters. ... The law of unintended consequences is inexorable."

The second was by the Very Rev. [sic.] Robert Barron, "Appraising Kasper’s Proposal via John Henry Newman" (Patheos, October 30, 2014), in which he seriously suggests taking Blessed Cardinal Newman's Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine as a template for reconsidering Cardinal Kasper's proposal for Communion for the divorced and civilly "re-married" adulterers:
Well, let’s consider the proposal made by Cardinal Walter Kasper regarding communion for the divorced and re-married. Is it an authentic development or a corruption of Catholic moral teaching and practice? Might I suggest that all of the disputants in that argument take a step back and assess the matter using Cardinal Newman’s criteria? Would Newman be opposed in principle to change in this regard? Not necessarily, for he knew that to live is to change. Would he therefore enthusiastically embrace what Cardinal Kasper has proposed? Not necessarily, for it might represent a corruption. As the conversation continues to unfold over the coming months, I think all sides would benefit from a careful reading of On the Development of Christian Doctrine.
Fr. Barron is (sort of) careful not to come right out and say that Kaspar's suggestion might not be a corruption but an authentic development. But it's clearly an invitation to pause, sit down, and consider this possibility. Here, if you squint at this just right, it almost looks like it could be ... Catholic.

Related: Gloria TV report on Cardinal Marx, the German bishops, and the "principle of gradualism."

Postscript: The first commentor in the combox below gently suggests that I may be mis-reading Fr. Barron here. I heartily hope and pray that this is the case. If this is so, then I wish that he were more explicit in saying exactly what he means rather than hedging his views in repeated circumlocutions. Come to think of it, this is precisely what wearied me about the recent Synod, as well as what wearies me about the Holy Father. Fr. Blake goes so far as to say: "I must admit I still don't understand Francis. Is he the greatest thing since unsliced bread, a cunning old Jesuit, a conservative, a trad, a prophet, a fool or even the anti-Christ; a breath of fresh-air or the stench from the tomb of those rather detestable men who surrounded the Blessed Paul VI and added to his suffering?" -- certainly more than I would say, but you get the point: Does Fr. Barron really believe that hell could be empty? If he's willing to entertain that possibility, then what else might be be willing to consider? If his article here is a defence of Church teaching, I, for one, found it confusing. What we need today is clarity -- all the more because of those who do not even know what the Church actually teaches.

I groan with the weariness of all this, as I'm sure many of you do. Oremus.

Related: Fr. Richard G. Cipolla, "No, Newman cannot be used to defend Kasper" (Musings, November 2, 2014).

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Crisis of courage or conviction?

Is it fear that motivates people like President Jenkins of Notre Dame when it comes to their attitudes toward Church and state? Someone thinks not -- and suggests that, rather, the problem is something closer to indifference (toward the Magisterium).

Referencing Michael Bradley's article, "Between Magisterium and Magistrate: Notre Dame’s Choice on Marriage’s Meaning" (Public Discourse, October 28, 2014), a reader writes:
This is [what is] at the heart of all of the current tug of wars in the Church, including those involved in and emblematic of the division at the Synod.

Cowardice means abandonment or lack of courage.

But what if the problem is not fear of offending the world, but a vague feeling that the point of contention is not especially significant? That is certainly what is conveyed when, in discussing homosexuality, we think someone is articulating the key point in the marriage debate if they say something akin to, "Gay partnerships can in no way be viewed as equivalent to heterosexual marriage." You don't day!

So when someone writes, "Notre Dame signaled, with this decision, true cowardice," I can't help but think that is not at all what's going on with folks like President Jenkins. They are not operating out of fear, but out of their own convictions. The only fear at play seems to be of straight talk.

"Denying that nagging undercurrent of tension": The minefield of current Biblical studies

Here is a gem from our underground correspondent and trusty researcher, Guy Noir - Private Eye. One way for Catholics to alert themselves to the changing views of Scripture currently found in various quarters of the Catholic world is by looking at to see what contemporary liberal Protestant scholars are saying about the Bible -- sometimes even the more "conservative" ones. There is an historical pattern here. Numbers of Catholic Bible scholars began drinking the cool aid of liberal Protestant "higher criticism" back when the Protestant scholar, Rudolf Bultmann, was talking about "de-mythologizing" the Bible, and even earlier. The same pattern, ostensibly, can be seen today for those with eyes to see it:
Peter Enns, to me, articulates a very close parallel strain of thought to what passes for a Vatican II-endorsed "Limited Inerrancy" that now goes unchallenged across the Catholic world.

What people ignore is that these same ideas were central to the gradual loss of faith of Loisy and Company a century ago. Scholars like Marie-Joseph Lagrange at the Ecole Biblique, and and later English-speaking apologists like CS Lewis and Frank Sheed, may have been able to entertain a loosening of literalism without consequence in a world where the Church was always more conservative than its members, the Pope was always the most Catholic of Catholics, and even secular society had a well-developed ostensible moral code. But that was a whole different world. In today's atmosphere, questions of Biblical authority are closely bound up with all of our most contested stances, and they are not about to go away. Catholicism is not a religion of a book, we are told as we glibly dismiss Fundamentalists. But Catholicism is a religion inescapably bound to a book. Thankfully, the cadre of more conservative Biblical scholars is growing, and allegiance to the implicitly skeptical approach to Scripture is not nearly as much part and parcel of the Guild's baggage as it was a generation ago. That's an especially good thing considering the forceful re-imagining of the old -- and quite toxic -- liberal scholarship.

Which brings me to Peter Enns. Who will at some point be coming to a conversation near you.

In 2006, I read a review of his ground-breaking book, Susan Wise Bauer's "Messy Revelation: Why Paul would have flunked hermeneutics" (Books & Culture).

It made him sound sound so reasonable. And like theological Houdini who might have at last achieved the impossible fusion of orthodox brief and modern Biblical scholarship. Almost like a Protestant Ratzinger.


But from the vantage pint of eight years, it is obvious that these early ideas, heard so often and from so many well-intentioned voices, are at root opposed to Tradition. They plant seeds of doubt that inevitably take root and grow into trees bearing faith-stunting fruit. That is what this new and helpful review makes plain:
Peter Enns. The Bible Tells Me So: Why Defending Scripture Has Made Us Unable to Read It.New York, NY: HarperCollins, 2014. 288 pp. $25.99. Reviwed by Michael J. Kruger.

... Although endorsements aren’t everything (and are sometimes even misleading), they can reveal quite a bit about where a book is headed.... perhaps most illuminating was the inside flap, where the publisher describes the book’s purpose: “In The Bible Tells Me So, Enns wants to do for the Bible what Rob Bell did for hell in Love Wins.”

Not until after I read the book in its entirety did I realize how accurate this comparison actually is. Of course, Bell’s book (also published by HarperOne) challenged a core historical tenet of the Christian faith, namely the belief that hell is real and people actually will go there. Christianity has just been wrong, Bell argues, and we finally need to be set free from the fear and oppression such a belief causes. Bell positions himself as the liberator of countless Christians who have suffered far too long under such a barbaric belief system.

Likewise, Enns is pushing back against another core historical tenet of the Christian faith: our belief about Scripture—what it is and what it does. The Bible isn’t doing what we think it’s doing, he argues. It doesn’t provide basically reliable historical accounts (instead, it’s often filled with myth and rewritten stories). It doesn’t provide consistent theological instruction (about, say, the character of God). And it doesn’t provide clear teaching about how to live (ethics, morality, Christian living). Although Christians have generally always believed these things about Scripture, Enns contends that scholars now know they simply aren’t true. And when Christians try to hold onto such beliefs, it only leads to fear, stress, anxiety, and infighting. Like Bell, Enns is positioned as a liberator able to set believers free from a Bible that just doesn’t work the way they want it to.

Of course, Enns, professor of biblical studies at Eastern University in St. Davids, Pennsylvania, isn’t the first to make such arguments. In addition to following Bell’s modus operandi (and much of his writing style), Enns relies on standard arguments from Christianity’s critics over the years. There’s little new here, academically speaking. In many ways, portions of the book sound like Richard Dawkins (especially part one) and even Bart Ehrman (especially part two). But here’s what makes Enns different. When it comes to the death and resurrection of Jesus, Enns doesn’t follow either. He affirms the resurrection of Christ and, in a broad sense, affirms that Jesus gave his life on the cross as “a sacrifice for sins” (217).

Enns’s case for why we should change our view of Scripture is divided into three parts: (1) the Old Testament (OT) God is portrayed as a genocidal tribal deity; (2) the Bible’s historical accounts aren’t, well, historical; and (3) its ethical commands are confused and contradictory....


In the end, The Bible Tells Me So is a book about contradictions. Enns intended it to be a book about contradictions in the Bible. But it becomes quickly apparent that the contradictions are really in Enns’s own worldview. He claims the Canaanite conquest is immoral, yet argues the Bible provides no clear guide for morality. He claims the Bible presents a diabolical genocidal God, yet insists we still “meet God in its pages” (3). He argues Scripture is filled with reworked stories, many of which are made up entirely, yet seems to know which ones really happened and which did not. He claims the Bible provides no clear moral instruction, yet says people are “disobedient” to God and in need of the cross. He claims he’s the one reading the Bible in an ancient manner when, in fact, people in the ancient world didn’t read it the way he does.

All of these inconsistencies stem from one simple reality: Enns has fully adopted the methods and conclusions of the most aggressive versions of critical scholarship, and yet at the same time wants to insist that the Bible is still God’s Word, and that Jesus died and rose again. While it’s clear to most folks that these two systems are incompatible at most levels, Enns is tenaciously trying to insist both can be true simultaneously. While his desire to retain the basic message of the cross is commendable, it stands as a glaring anomaly within his larger system. Somehow (and for some reason), Enns has put a box around the message of Jesus (or at least parts of it)—he protects the integrity of that story while not protecting much else.

For all these reasons, Enns comes across as a man divided. By the end of the book, one senses he’s trying to live in two worlds at once. Such a scenario is ironic in a book purportedly trying to help those who are “holding on tooth and nail to something that’s not working, denying that nagging undercurrent of tension” (7). One wonders if Enns is describing others or whether he is really describing himself.
[Hat tip to G.N.]

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Articles by colleagues on recent issues

I thought some of you might be interested in seeing what two of my eminent colleagues at Sacred Heart Major Seminary have been saying about events in the recent news. I leave the commentary to any who wish to respond:

The first set is by Dr. Janet Smith, who is Father Michael J. McGivney Professor of Life Ethics, but needs no introduction.The second set is by Dr. Eduardo Echeverria, who is Professor of Philosophy and Theology, but would likely hold the chair in Ecumenical Theology if the Seminary had one.Out of personal curiosity, I would solicit in particular your thoughts on what Dr. Echeverria has to say in his last article about the "temptation" concerning "traditionalists and intellectuals" mentioned by the Holy Father in his closing remarks at the recent synod.

On whether this pope or any pope should ever be criticized: two viewpoints

[Advisory & Disclaimer: See Rules 7-9]

Two viewpoints in an ongoing "debate," the first by Michael Voris who eschews all criticism of the successors of St. Peter, the second by Michael Matt who takes the view that the faithful are sometimes called to "loyal opposition":

For the record, see the related article by the traditionalist, John Vennari, "Resisting Wayward Prelated According to the Saints" (Catholic Family News, April 3, 2014).

Remnant traditionalists comment on Synod

[Advisory and disclaimer: See Rules 7-9] - The reader will find both mordant hyperbole and interesting facts here, and will need to take care to sort one out from the other.

Monday, October 27, 2014

New York Times writer: God may preserve the Church from error by the faithful resisting the pope!

From the New York Times' only conservative religious writer, Ross Douthat: "The Pope and the Precipice" (The New York Times, October 25, 2014).

[Hat tip to JM]

Sunday, October 26, 2014

The terrible mercy & beautiful sadness of the Mass

This is not a new theme for me. It's something I've noted before, probably more than once. But once again, this time during today's celebration of the Feast of Christ the King (in the traditional liturgical calendar), I was forcibly struck by the paradoxical facets of the Mass. Perhaps the reason I noticed was because, instead of trying so hard to follow everything in my Missal, I decided to just watch the unfolding drama.

The theme of mercy was sounded right from the outset, in the Asperges: "Thou shalt sprinkle me, O Lord ... Thou shalt wash me, and I shall become whiter than snow."

This was followed immediately by the chanted Introit for today's Feast: "Dignus est Agnus, qui occisus est ..." The Lamb that was slain is worthy. Worthy to receive power and honor, and to receive our adoration and praise. Which Lamb? The One that was slain. No cheap grace here. Already that terrible theme of Sacrifice.

Meanwhile the priest and servers intone the Prayers at the Foot of the Altar, which carry their own mixture of joy and sadness: "I will go in unto the altar of God, to God Who giveth joy to my youth." God's judgment is then invoked, in order to distinguish ourselves from those who are not holy -- those who are unjust and deceitful and from whom we ask for deliverance. But then, immediately: "For Thou, O God, art my strength: why has Thou cast me off, and why do I go sorrowful whilst the enemy afflicteth me?" Then, finally: "Hope in God, for I will still give praise to Him ..."

Such a mixture of conflicting emotions in rapid succession! Why is it that I go in unto the altar of God, after all? Because the altar is a place of killing and death. But why does it "give joy to my youth"? Because it gives me hope of life. Why do I go about "sorrowful and afflicted by the enemy," and why would I ever say that God has "cast me off"? Because that is my condition when I succumb to the deceits of the Devil and allow myself to be afflicted by my Accusor. That (all of these reasons) is why I go in unto the altar of God, to church, to the Mass.

No unmixed giddy gladness here. By the same token, no unmixed doom and gloom. The message of the Mass rings true. The notes of hope speak to our aspirations without being romantically naive about the aberrations of our fallen nature. The notes of realism speak to our aberrations without being dismal or despairing about God's capacity to graciously redeem us.

Next comes the Confiteor, as the servers and the priest, each in turn, confess their sinful unworthiness to almighty God and all the blessed in heaven, reminding us of our culpability before God. Ascending the altar, the priest continues this theme, beseeching God to take away our iniquities and forgive him his sins (and, perforce, our own).

The Gospel for the Feast of Christ the King is from John 18:33-37, where even the Kingship of our Lord is cloaked by His appearance before Pilate in the form of a prisoner. All earthly power in this context appears to belong to Pilate, the Roman governor of Palestine. Nothing must have looked more pathetic to Pilate than the response of Jesus to his question: "Art Thou a king then?" This poor "marginal Jew," standing humbly bound before him, replies that He is indeed a king, though his kingdom "is not of this world." No kidding. Yet as Jesus would later tell Pilate, he would have no power or authority over Him at all were it not given him "from above." Like the rest of the secular world, Pilate was oblivious to the source and locus of genuine power and authority in the very drama in which he took part.

From the incense rising above the altar at the beginning of the Mass to the moment of Consecration itself, every gesture of priest and server, every word in the Missal, points to the mystery of the Sacrifice. The largesse of God's mercy is there, certainly, overflowing in its amplitude. But it isn't an easy, happy-go-lucky sort of thing; and maybe that's why those who assist and participate in this liturgy aren't given to expressions of personal enthusiasm such as one finds in pentecostal-type services. There is something terrible about God's mercy. There is ample reason for joy, yes; and perhaps there is a sense in which that is even the primary note here; but it is no shallow happy-clappy thing, untempered by the sorrow of sacrifice.

For there could be no mercy or joy without sacrifice -- THE Sacrifice, His Sacrifice. And why was His Sacrifice necessary? Because of our own "grievous fault." Moreover, although the mercy and forgiveness and joy made possible by His Sacrifice is wholly unmerited, there is yet another sacrifice required here: our own. Christ the King does not ask only for our observance of Holy Days of obligation or our tithes and offerings. He asks for our very life: our whole self. Certainly there is joy in all of this, but also there is the sober realization that our passport to eternal life is our own death: our death to self. Discipleship means giving ourselves over to Christ, for Him to do with what He wants. It means slavery: becoming a slave to Christ.

A point of significant beauty in the liturgy is reached in the Offertory. In the English of the new rite, this is the part where the priest says: "Blessed are you, Lord, God of all creation ..." (a prayer adapted from the Jewish Passover Seder). In the traditional Latin rite of the Church, unfortunately, the opening prayer of the Offertory is often eclipsed by the activity of ushers taking up the Sunday collection. This is unfortunate in the extreme, because the prayer is one of the most beautiful in the Mass (in fact, it can be instructive to compare it with the Novus Ordo Offertory). It is beautiful in its clarity and simplicity about what is happening in the ritual: what is being offered and why. It is the part where the priest says: "Suscipe, sancte Pater ..." In English, it reads thus: "Receive, O holy Father, almighty, eternal God, this spotless host [= sacrificial victim] which I, thine unworthy servant, offer unto Thee, my living and true God, for my own countless sins, offenses, and negligences, and for all here present; as also for all faithful Christians, living or dead; that it may avail for my own and for their salvation unto life eternal."

This is where it all happens: Jesus is the unblemished Lamb of God, "this spotless host," who takes away the sins of the world. This is our source of joy and gladness. It is beautiful. Again, however, the beauty is tempered by the deep sadness of what has to transpire in order to achieve our salvation and eternal life: Jesus, "this spotless host," this innocent and pure Lamb without blemish, has to be killed and die. The wonder of it is that He does so willingly. For us, who are anything but innocent.

I remember a criticism once made by a Protestant friend after visiting a Catholic Mass: "The people don't seem to have any joy," he said. When I asked what he meant, he replied, "They aren't smiling. They don't look happy." Now it could be indeed that Catholics sometimes look the way they do because they aren't happy. It also could be that they have been reduced to creatures of habit, simply walking forward to receive the Eucharist without sufficient attention to Whom they are receiving. But it could also be because they understand what they are doing and because Catholic worship has Sacrifice at the very heart of it: a terrible mercy and a beautiful sadness.

In The House of Von Hildebrand

The following from our trusty underground correspondent, Guy Noir - Private Eye:
I believe I sent this before, so forgive the possible repeating. It is a 14 year old interview, but doesn't read like its gathered any dust.

I know you've already noted that AvH's Memoirs of a Happy Failureis now out (what a terrific title choice!). She provides an arresting counterpoint to the current narrative of preconcilar Catholics as uptight pre-Freudian American puritans. Really, how many 80-somethings do you know who would not hesitate to go toe to toe with someone like Christopher West when the rest of us pause as he starts mouthing words like "orgasm" and "stimulation"? And how many Catholics do you know who can manage to demur from a Pope and still give an after-the-fact accounting of their audience with him that's convincingly respectful and affectionate? She is just an example all-around. She conveys class and charm.

This interview is striking because of where it is found. Christian Book Distributors is an Evangelical outfit. I can't imagine many Catholics knowing about it, much less using it. And the few interviews they have on their site are buried deep -- pretty much easier to miss than to notice. So the number of people who have seen it must be nil.

It is also striking because CBD must have had someone within its ranks who read AvH and actually became a fan as a result. There is no other explanation for this interview's appearance. As such it is an instance of the real spiritual bond that we often find does exist between a faithful Catholic and a faithful conservative Christian outside the bounds of the Church. We think of Bible Christians as demonizing us, but often when a real encounter takes place they turn and tell their friends, "Something must be there. In this regard, I recall a letter printed in the Evangelical World Magazine (ads for Ignatius Press they ran in the late 1990s proved to be small stepping stones on my own way into the Church). The writer says: "I strongly disagree with a letter published … criticizing you for carrying Roman Catholic advertisements …. My grandmother, a staunch Presbyterian, had a close friend who was an equally staunch Catholic. The two ladies had frequent and learned theological debates, each being well versed in her own creed, but neither of them ever found a chink in the other’s sectarian armor. The debates invariably ended with: 'Minnie dear, you are a Catholic and you don’t know it;' and 'Cora darling, you are a Protestant and you don’t know it!' [(Machen 1991, 22)]

Finally the interview is striking for some fascinating pieces not found elsewhere. A comparison of CS Lewis with DvH. That's something I'd love to read!

Speaking of other books, it appears Image Books will be releasing its own von Hilderbrand title this month, one that sounds like it offers a galvanizing portrait of the other Dr. Hilderbrand's years in Germany. Together these two seem to comprise a bonafide real life dynamic duo.

Extraordinary Community News: Fasting from Communion, Spiritual Communion, Month of Plenary Indulgences, Upcoming Masses

"I will go in unto the Altar of God
To God, Who giveth joy to my youth"

Tridentine Community News (October 26, 2014):
Fasting from Holy Communion: The Proposal and a Possible Alternative

On Sunday, October 19, Assumption Grotto Pastor Fr. Eduard Perrone published a thought-provoking column in his parish bulletin: He suggested that to help Catholics grow in devotion to the Holy Eucharist, they might consider abstaining from receiving Holy Communion from a while. Such an action would guard against complacency in receiving the Blessed Sacrament by fostering a greater hunger and yearning to be united with our Lord in this precious gift.

Many Catholics would agree that even when one is in the state of grace, reception of Holy Communion can become routine. If one deems oneself unworthy to receive Communion, whether because of a state of serious sin or because one simply does not feel properly disposed that day, it is only natural at that point to feel a certain longing to receive the Blessed Sacrament. That is why Holy Mother Church has long recommended making an Act of Spiritual Communion under such circumstances.

While Fr. Perrone certainly makes an interesting and laudable point, this column would like to suggest an alternative means to increase one’s resolve to receive Holy Communion worthily and without complacency: Try making a commitment to gain a Plenary Indulgence for the Poor Souls in Purgatory [one per day may be gained] for every Holy Communion you receive. Associating some extra effort with each Holy Communion will help develop a stronger devotion to the Blessed Sacrament and a greater appreciation for the gift of receiving the Real Presence. It will simultaneously provide important assistance to the Holy Souls who cannot help themselves, as well as help us recognize how significant each Holy Communion can be to ourselves and to other souls.

One of the easiest ways to gain this Plenary Indulgence is to pray the Rosary in a church. This can be done by oneself, or by praying it as part of a group, as our community strives to do before every Sunday Mass. Another easy way is to spend a half hour in adoration before the Blessed Sacrament. All efforts to gain a Plenary Indulgence must, of course, be under the usual conditions: Confession within 20 days, reception of Holy Communion once per Plenary Indulgence sought, prayer for the Holy Father’s intentions, and freedom from attachment to sin.

An Act of Spiritual Communion

While we are on the subject, it is worthwhile for all Catholics to know a formula for making a Spiritual Communion. We present below a prayer by St. Alphonsus Maria de’ Liguori. This can be prayed either when one is abstaining from receiving Holy Communion at Mass, or during the day when one is simply trying to live more united with our Lord. Making an Act of Spiritual Communion is enriched with a Partial Indulgence.
My Jesus, I believe that Thou art present in the Blessed Sacrament. I love Thee above all things, and I desire Thee in my soul. Since I cannot now receive Thee sacramentally, come at least spiritually into my heart. As though Thou wert already there, I embrace Thee and unite myself wholly to Thee; permit not that I should ever be separated from Thee.
All Saints and All Souls Day Masses

A High Mass for All Saints Day – a Holy Day of Obligation in the United States – will be offered at Flint’s All Saints Church on Saturday, November 1 at 11:00 AM. The celebrant will be a visiting priest from the Fraternity of St. Peter, Fr. Gregory Pendergraft.

High Masses for All Souls Day – Monday, November 3 in the Tridentine Calendar – will be held at 7:00 PM at two area churches: Our Lady of the Scapular in Wyandotte, Michigan, and St. Joseph in Detroit.

Because of the pending relocation of the St. Benedict Tridentine Community that week, no All Souls Day Mass will be held in Windsor this year. Speaking of which, next week’s column will address the new sites for the Windsor Tridentine Mass; the pastors of our new host churches have requested that announcements be withheld until a few remaining details are finalized. Rest assured that Sunday and Tuesday Masses in the Extraordinary Form will continue.

Month of All Souls Plenary Indulgences

Each year the Church grants a Plenary Indulgence applicable only to the Souls in Purgatory to those who visit a cemetery and pray, even if only mentally, for the dead, from November 1-8. The indulgence can be gained once per day on each day, under the usual conditions which are listed earlier in this column.

Special Requiem Mass at St. Hyacinth Church

On Saturday, November 8 at 12:00 Noon, there will be a special Requiem Mass at Detroit’s St. Hyacinth Church for the repose of the soul of Fr. Frank Skalski. Fr. Skalski was the long-time pastor of St. Hyacinth who was responsible for the church’s remarkable restoration. The celebrant will be Fr. Peter Hrytsyk.

St. Hyacinth is one of our area’s most stunningly beautiful churches and is well worth a visit. Secure, guarded parking is available in the lot behind the church.

Tridentine Masses This Coming Week
  • Mon. 10/27 7:00 PM: Low Mass at St. Joseph (Feria [Mass of Twentieth Sunday After Pentecost] – Celebrant may also choose a Votive Mass)
  • Tue. 10/28 7:00 PM: High Mass at St. Benedict/Assumption-Windsor (Ss. Simon & Jude, Apostles)
  • Fri. 10/31 7:00 PM: Solemn High Mass at Christ the King, Ann Arbor (Votive Mass of Christ the King) – Dinner for young adults age 18-35 follows Mass, organized by Juventútem Michigan
  • Sat. 11/01 11:00 AM: High Mass at All Saints, Flint (All Saints)
[Comments? Please e-mail Previous columns are available at This edition of Tridentine Community News, with minor editions, is from the St. Albertus (Detroit), Academy of the Sacred Heart (Bloomfield Hills), and Assumption (Windsor) bulletin inserts for October 26, 2014. Hat tip to A.B., author of the column.]

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Tridentine Masses coming this week to the metro Detroit and East Michigan area

Tridentine Masses This Coming Week

Friday, October 24, 2014

Kasper's Die Welt interview

Matthew Schmitz, "The German Position: 'Cultural Difference' vs. 'Christian Cultus'" (First Things, October 22, 2014). As by correspondent says: "an honest interview." And "I think we are in for a difficult decade." Indeed.

There are many good Catholics who keep on faithfully reiterating what Sacred Tradition teaches, who also insist that this is what the Church still teaches. Yes, yes. True enough. What's in the catechetical books is still substantially intact.

The difficulty we face, however, is that large factions within the Church, even among the bishops as now seems apparent, are no longer really so interested in maintaining this, but seem more interested in public opinion.


What I saw at the revolution

Was it the same event?

Point: Mark Brumley, "Synod Surprise" (National Catholic Register, October 21, 2014).

Counter-point: Alessandro Gnocchi, "Over half the Bishops (in the Synod) have already switched religion" (RC, October 23, 2014).

Perhaps we now need a Syllabus of Errors regarding the interpretation of the Synod?

[Hat tip to JM]

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Looking back: from the Synod to the Council

Pope John XXIII through the Testimony of Silvio Cardinal Oddi

By Beniamino Di Martino (Translated by N. Michael Brennen)  October 2014

Fr. Beniamino Di Martino, a Catholic priest from Naples, Italy, teaches “History of the Churches” at the Higher Institute of Religious Sciences in Benevento and “Social Doctrine of the Church” at the Higher Institute of Religious Sciences in Castellammare. He is a visiting professor at the Claretianum Institute of the Pontifical Lateran University. --------------------------------------------------------------- Michael Brennen is a freelance translator who lived in Italy for two years. He is nearing completion of a master’s degree in the philosophy of economics, with concentration on the ethical dimensions of economics. He translates in philosophy, ethics, economics, political theory, and related areas. His website is

Popes John Paul II and John XXIII were canonized on April 27, 2014, the Feast of Divine Mercy (a feast created by Pope Wojtyla during the Jubilee Year 2000). On that same feast day, on May 1, 2011, John Paul II had been beatified, six years after his death. The beatification of John XXIII had already happened a few years previously, on September 3, 2000, when John Paul II simultaneously elevated him and Pius XI to the “honor of the altars.”

Pope Francis’s decision to preside over a single ceremony for John Paul II and John XXIII came as no surprise. He had expressed this preference while talking to journalists during the return flight from the 2013 World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro. A Mexican journalist asked the Pope what model of holiness emerges from these two great figures. After illustrating some of the characteristics of the spirituality of the two popes, Francis concluded, “I believe holding the canonization ceremony of both popes together is a message for the Church.”

What might this message be? Italian journalist Antonio Socci interpreted the simultaneous canonization as “a decision that gives a sign of unity and that finally takes the Church beyond old controversies concerning the [Second Vatican] Council that characterized the second half of the twentieth century.” In other words, the simultaneous proclamation of the two saints would emphasize magisterial continuity and help set aside interpretations that in the past few decades have contrasted not only a post-conciliar Church to a pre-conciliar Church but also John XXIII to the popes who preceded him, and that have pitted “Wojtyla the Restorer” against “the Good Pope John.”


The commitment of some scholars to reconstruct the figure of John XXIII in order to purify his image and avoid any sort of “mythologizing” that could be used to consolidate biased interpretations and ideological ploys is certainly not without historical significance; several recent studies have contributed to this end. Though in a more modest and less articulated form, a further contribution can come from a witness to the times of John XXIII and the Council in the person of Silvio Cardinal Oddi. In light of the canonization of Pope Roncalli, the contrarian opinions expressed by Cardinal Oddi about the personality and tendencies of John XXIII are again of current interest. The event prompted me to dust off the notes of an interview that Cardinal Oddi granted me — in the form of a long conversation — in the now distant time of November 1991.

De Mattei: 2014 Synod retrospective; 2015 Synod prospective

"De Mattei: Heading towards the 2015 Synod - Numerical defeats never before witnessed by any Pope" (Rorate Caeli, October 22, 2014).

NPR: "Catholic media activists ..." Michael Voris: "No, secular media activists!"

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

What do Kasper's first-world elitism and the Democratic Party's anti-Catholicism have in common?

A reader has sent me the following remarkable observations, which I consider well-worth your time:
Here is a piece that needs considering by North American Catholics: Matthew Schmitz, "Africans Criticize Cardinal Kasper's Remarks" (First Things, October 21, 2014).

Not because I think Cardinal Kasper is racist. I don't. His comments don't seem race-driven, but theology-driven. He appears to feel that people who believe in "old school" Catholicism are well-intentioned but essentially colonial rubes.

Before everyone shrieks at his hateful comments, perhaps we shold check our indignation slightly. His views are exactly those of the Democratic Party, the President, the Vice President, Hilary Clinton, and most of the Supreme Court. These people are not anti-African. They are anti-Catholic. I wonder: does that bother people remotely as much as the idea that someone could be racially prejudiced?

I have extensive interactions with Historically Black Colleges and Universities in my professional life, and I witness what looks like a growing fissure between those holding older, sacred loyalties and newer, more progressive and secular loyalties in that community. Especially with Obama and Oprah as exemplars, there is a real spiritual battle going on for the soul of African-American culture. I sense that if we do not strongly support our African brethren in their defense of orthodoxy, we are in danger of loosing the faithful remnant in the African-American church. Kasper's comments reflect nothing but what is becoming across-the-board the rapidly accepted wisdom in the secular arena. He might as well be a spokesperson for Obamacare on this point as for the Catholic Church. "We can't let Third World prohibitions based on centuries-old fears dictate our modern approaches." His beliefs may not equal Modernism, but when Hell is seen as a remote and figurative possibility, when mortal sin is blurred with superstitious taboos, when law is opposed to mercy, the tilt is certainly in that direction.

As a fascinating aside to this conversation, here is a review of a recent book related to African Christianity. It is authored by Thomas C. Oden, a name familiar to many Catholics as editor of the Ancient Christian Commentary on Sacred Scripture (IVP). Oden credits on Joseph Ratzinger as among those names who helped him along his path to rediscovering orthodox Christiantity: the review is by Christopher A. Beetham, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. [Emphasis all mine -- PP]
[Hat tip to JM]

Archbishop Bruno Forte

A reader with his wits about him sent me a link to an impressively detailed article today on Archbishop Bruno Forte and his background influence. Forte, you may recall, was the principal (some say singular) initiative behind the controverted passages in the mid-term Relato of the recent Synod in Rome. Forte insists that there were others involved. Be that as it may be, it's clear he was the mastermind and ringleader of the revisionist.

The article is "Aude Sapere 006 - Meet Archbishop Bruno Forte" (October 21, 2014), complete with podcast and full transcript.

Just a few surprising highlights: he is a brilliant and widely-read scholar, he is multi-lingual, he is slippery as an eel, he has a book in English, Face to Face with Jesus: Reflections for a Disciple, with a Foreword by none other than Scott Hahn; he was an associate of Karl Rahner, Von Balthasar, Walter Kasper, and Josef Ratzinger in Tübingen; he was a protege of Kasper and the future Cardinal Archbishop of Milan, Carlo Maria Martini.

The reader should be alerted to the fact that the author of the website on which this article and podcast appears, Athanasius Contra Mundum, is a Catholic Traditionalist; the content is also very thorough and highly informative. If you want to get a true fix on this prelate, read and learn. He's not what some may think from a superficial acquaintance.

[Hat tip to L.S.]

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Positive role of faithful Catholic clergy, laity, & media in the Synod

Discerning the Church

Our undercover correspondent we keep on retainer in an Atlantic seaboard city that knows how to keep it's secrets, Guy Noir - Private Eye, writes:
John Thayer Jenson over at Called to Communion posted this fine comment:
I remember saying to my wife once, when [we] were in via, that I had felt my life as a Christian, which only started when I was 27, had been like a man walking through a fog – occasionally glimpsing some Shape appearing through the mists, and then disappearing – and wanting to know more about It – then one day things cleared more than usual and I realised that what I had seen all along was the Catholic Church.
It made me think of David Mills recent piece in NOR, "The Whole House" (New Oxford Review, October, 2014):
Some Catholics speak of sharing their faith with others as if being a Catholic were secondary and relatively unimportant, as if by being or becoming any sort of Christian a person has arrived home. I’ve heard this from Catholics of all sorts, often in reaction to something I’ve written on apologetics. Catholics have told me they would not even think about discussing Catholicism with their evangelical friends, whose faith they believe to be complete as is. I have been told twice, once by a very conservative priest, to beware of “Catholic chauvinism” because I’d suggested that, all things considered, being a Catholic is better than not being a Catholic. A goodly number of Catholics have disparaged even the idea of arguing for the Church, explaining that Catholics should witness by the way we live and that arguments will only drive people away. Some have even suggested that the Church “forbids us to proselytize,” defining the word very broadly.

... But the Catholic must still, when he can, tell his Protestant friends that they should complete their faith by entering the Catholic Church. They are in sight of home but are not home.

In the preface to Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis described the Church as a house with various rooms occupied by different traditions, including Catholicism. It’s not that good an image, even from his point of view, but it does give us one way of understanding our relation to our Protestant friends. Lewis would not have accepted this reimagining of his metaphor, but Catholics, who know that the Church isn’t merely one denomination among others, will know that the Catholic Church is the house, and the rooms are occupied by the various rites within the Church. To enter the house, one must be a member of the family. Friends may set up homes in the yard. They are within the pale, the relation the Church calls “real but imperfect communion.” Read more >>
[Hat tip to G.N.]

Helen Hull Hitchcock (August 19, 1939 - October 20, 2014) - RIP

Helen Hull Hitchcock was founding director of Women for Faith & Family and editor of its quarterly journal, Voices. She was also editor of the Adoremus Bulletin a monthly publication of Adoremus - Society for the Renewal of the Sacred Liturgy, of which she co-founded. She is survived by her husband James Hitchcock, professor emeritus of history at St. Louis University and their four daughters and six grandchildren.

She has published many articles and essays in a wide range of Catholic journals, and is the author/editor of The Politics of Prayer: Feminist language and the worship of God, (Ignatius Press 1992), a collection of essays on issues involved in translation. She has contributed essays to several books, including Spiritual Journies, a book of "conversion stories" (Daughters of St. Paul).

She also lectured in the US and abroad, and has appeared frequently on radio and television, representing Catholic teaching on issues affecting Catholic women, families, and Catholic faith and worship.

New vocations video from the Archdiocese of Detroit

For the "philosophy" behind the particular new style and format of the video, see the article by Kathy Schiffer, "Saints and Seminarians: Detroit Archdiocese Launches Vocations Video With a Lively Beat" (Patheos, October 14, 2014).

The video is reportedly the brainchild of Father Tim Birne, priestly vocations director for the Archdiocese of Detroit, and the video was produced by Brian Meldrum, the creative seminarian who, together with some help from fellow-seminarians, produced the local hit, "Detroit - A Metaphysical City (Music Video)."

This latest vocation awareness project, “True Faith, True Fame," was reportedly inspired by a song on the radio. Fr. Tim explains:
“So the song started going through my brain, and I thought, ‘We can take what the secular culture offers, dress it up, and use it for our own purposes–just as the secular culture has often used the Christian themes of love, redemption, and triumph over evil.’”
Indeed. It will be interesting to see what message various audiences take away from the video. Packaging a message in a medium of image-spin and a bed of music is always a somewhat unpredictable business. "The medium is the message," as Catholic convert and communications theorist Marshall McLuhan used to say. Nevertheless, it is clearly an ambitious undertaking.

Monday, October 20, 2014

A wonderful new book on . . . Hobbits!

Jay Richards and Jonathan Witt, The Hobbit Party: The Vision of Freedom That Tolkien Got, and the West Forgot(Ignatius Press, 2014), have apparently done a bang-up job on this new book on Tolkien's Hobbits.

So says our undercover researcher, Guy Noir, anyway, in his latest missive: "Yes, I know," he writes, "But it has to be better than the devolving series of films about Smaug!"

But wait! There's more! "See these pretty unusually full-throttle book blurbs where no one calls the authors by their first names! Thomas Howard calls it "glorious"! And the ever edgy Spengler likes it too."

Yes indeed. See for yourself!
"Beautifully written, this work gives fascinating insights into the realm of Middle-Earth. Moreover, it is a tour of the important issues of our world through Tolkien's eyes, including limited government, man's temptation to power, freedom, just war, socialism, distributism, localism, love, and death. These topics are woven seamlessly throughout, and you will leave the book with unforgettable impressions of these themes illustrated by Tolkien's imagery."
Art Lindsley, Vice President, The Institute for Faith, Work & Economics

"J. R. R. Tolkien is one of the most widely read but arguably misunderstood of the twentieth century's literary geniuses. In this book, Witt and Richards lift the veil on Tolkien and reveal a political and, yes, economic thinker who constantly surprises readers and whose insights are even more valuable for our time than his own. Tolkien fans who read this book will never think about this great author the same way again."
Samuel Gregg, Research Director, Acton Institute Author, Becoming Europe

"This book is a 'drop everything and read it' book. Richards and Witt have opened up an often ignored aspect of Tolkien's work, namely the sense in which his myth bespeaks a political and economic order that stands in stark, even violent, contrast to the presiding power structures that dominate this unhappy globe. It should be made required reading in all courses in political philosophy. It's a glorious book."
Thomas Howard, Author, Dove Descending: A Journey into T. S. Eliot's "Four Quartets"

"Witt and Richards do a brilliant job of rescuing Tolkien's literary legacy from the clutches of the cultural left. They reveal Tolkien as a profoundly Catholic thinker, with deep insights into the fundamental issue of religion, namely man's attempt to grapple with his own mortality. As a conservative’s companion to Tolkien, The Hobbit Party renews our appreciation of Tolkien’s contribution to literature and his profound impact on our culture."
David Goldman, Author, How Civilizations Die
Also interesting:

Tolken as a Soldier: Daniel Hannan, "Supposing him to be the gardener: Sam Gamgee, the Battle of the Somme and my Great Uncle Bill" (The Telegraph, April 28, 2014):
There’s a moment in the film version of The Lord of the Rings which doesn’t appear in the books, but which I find rather beautiful. Faramir, with a hint of repressed mirth, asks Samwise whether he is Frodo’s bodyguard. “I’m his gardener!” replies the little hobbit, in a manner which is supposed to be dignified, but which comes across as gnomic. When the hobbits later part ways with the Men of Minas Tirith, Faramir, now overcome with respect, tells Sam, “The Shire must truly be a great realm, Master Gamgee, where gardeners are held in high honour.”

Peter Jackson, the producer, was making overt what Tolkien had gently left as subtext. Sam, who is about to become the true hero of the story, has been dragged from a world of growth and fecundity into a blasted wasteland. Having previously tended to living things, he has been turned into the unlikeliest of soldiers.

... Tolkien was very clear that his books were not allegories. Still, his experiences as a lieutenant on the Western Front could hardly fail to suffuse them.... “My ‘Sam Gamgee’ is indeed a reflection of the English soldier,” Tolkien later admitted, “of the privates and batmen I knew in the 1914 war, and recognised as so far superior to myself.”
[Hat tip to G.N.]

Roman retrospectives

In case you missed them, here are some of the more illuminating interviews over the last few days from the Synod in Rome:

Robert Royal has been consistently clear; and here he is interviewed by Raymond Arroyo of EWTN:

George Cardinal Pell proved to be a helpful voice in the crunch as well:

Robert Royal's final word is also worth a review if you haven't seen it; very good: "Opportunities Lost: A Synod Wrap-up" (The Catholic Thing, October 20, 2014): "[M]any opportunities," he says "were lost through bungling in this Extraordinary (in several senses) Synod. And the Holy Spirit certainly didn't intend that."

[Hat tip to JM]

Sunday, October 19, 2014

A pastor thinks we may be receiving Communion too often

Pastor of Assumption Grotto parish in Detroit, Fr. Eduard Perrone, offers an interesting and thoughtful counter to Pope St. Pius X's recommendation of frequent, even daily, Communion in his weekly parish newsletter, "A Pastor's Descant" (updated weekly) (Assumption Grotto News, October 19, 2014). He writes:
... I’ve begun to think that we generally may be receiving Communion too often. This opinion – radical, controversial and much against the grain – is a reversal of the thought of Pope Saint Pius X who, in his time, encouraged the frequent and even daily reception of Holy Communion. His motives then must be seen in the context of the times in which he lived. Times have changed, however, and men’s attitudes have changed as well. What I’m proposing for consideration is that we fast from frequent Holy Communion for a time in order to make us hunger and yearn for Christ. Analogous to this would be the dietary problem of many Americans today who are eating far too much and too often, and as a consequence have health problems. In a similar way, we’re overeating the Holy Eucharist, being unmindful of Christ’s Presence therein, and being poorly suited to receive Him. The result is spiritual illness – ironic to say so – and perhaps even, according to Saint Paul again, physical sickness as a consequence (cf. 1 Cor. 11:30).

Consider those who receive Communion without a thought to Who it is they’re receiving; or take someone who frequently sins and confesses and receives Communion but without having made a firm resolution to sin no more. Saint Paul had sharp words of reproach to those who receive the Eucharist, without examining themselves as to whether they are worthy of Communion or those who communicate without “recognizing the Body.” Perhaps we should stop what we’re doing so thoughtlessly, taking “time out” from receiving Communion, in order to recover our spiritual senses. For this, a fast, that is, a refraining from Holy Communion for a while might help us to become healthier, expanding our desire for receiving Christ, becoming hungry for Him. Making acts of Spiritual Communion, prayers of desire to receive the Holy Sacrament, is useful towards that end. Hours of adoration and visits to the Blessed Sacrament may also help stimulate an appetite for a devout reception of the Holy Eucharist.

Am I proposing a new Jansenism? I think not. We’re sorely in need of a greater awareness of the Inestimable Gift of the Eucharist and of the requisite worthiness to receive It. We’ve become gluttonous children of God who need to hunger for Him....
Related: Fr. Perrone interviewed by parishioner, Michael Voris, on the mode of receiving Communion.

Well, in terms of process, last night saw a clear reversal of the Synod in regards to transparency. In the final press briefing, those present were handed not only copies of the final amended translations of the Relatio, but copies of the Popes final address to the Synod. The Pope also required an up or down vote from the Synod fathers on each paragraph of the Relatio, a reportedly unprecedented move.

Pretty much as expected and predicted, the final upshot of the Synod -- formally anyway -- has been nothing particularly surprising: no new doctrine, no revisionism, no change in Church teaching, as the liberal press (and perhaps some liberal prelates) may have been hoping. (The fall-out from the drama of destabilizing ambiguities earlier last week may be another story, but that's another matter.) His Holiness has weighed in as Pope, whose duty, as he put it, is "that of guaranteeing the unity of the Church ... [and] reminding the faithful of their duty to faithfully follow the Gospel of Christ."

Granted, he did not once mention, let alone address, the controverted issues specifically, but rather listed a series of "temptations" to be avoided, among other things portraying the guidance of the Holy Spirit as steering between -- on the one hand, the temptation to hostile inflexibility, which he identified with today's "traditionalists" and "intellectuals," and, on the other hand, the temptation to "deceptive mercy" that treats the symptoms but neglects the radically-needed cure, which he identifies with "progressives and liberals."

One of my colleagues, thrilled after reading the Pope's closing address, suggested that perhaps he had listened to Cardinal Burke (who had called for a papal intervention). It goes without saying that some will see the Pope's address as falling somewhat short of the needed intervention, since it may too much appear that he continues to straddle the fence, like Rorate Caeli site that referenced it with the question: "Via Media or Laodicea? ..." Others, such as the radical French "progressive," Odon Vallet, sees the results of the Synod as a "resounding defeat" for Pope Francis and a "huge victory" for traditionalists, which will make it difficult for Francis to advance much beyond the present point "without risking schism." A BBC report carried the amusing headline: "Catholic synod: Pope Francis setback on gay policy"

Some fear that the unprecedented confusion permitted following the dramatic mid-term report of the Synod will carry over into a more permissive latitude in respect of the implementation of the Church teaching on faith and morals, especially on the issues of divorce and "re-marriage," and "same-sex" orientation. Whether the final upshot of the Synod, along with the Pope's remarks, will help to slow the progress of confusion on these issues or not, as Michael Voris suggests, remains to be seen.

Some interesting reading of related interest follows:
  • John-Henry Westen, "Pope Benedict’s private secretary speaks on Synod, divorce, same-sex relations" (LifeSiteNews, October 14, 2014).
  • David Warren, "Rock of Ages" (The Catholic Thing, October, 17, 2014): "Call them 'conservatives' or 'fundamentalists,' as you please. It is not the rock learned churchmen are defending. They are defending us – all liberals included – against being broken upon that rock."
  • Andrew Walker, "A Church in Exile: Hillsong Shifts on Homosexuality" (First Things, October 17, 2014): "This is, as I’ve written elsewhere, a gentrified fundamentalist withdrawal rooted in the belief that the foreignness of Christianity can’t overcome the tired intellectual patterns of cultural decay."
  • Damian Thompson, "Pope Francis, please don't turn into the Dalai Lama" (The Telegraph, May 26, 2014): "Perhaps His Holiness should take a look at the full list of 'great world leaders' honoured by CNN. They include Angelina Jolie and, God help us, Bono."

Extraordinary Community News: The Deposit of Faith, Exorcism, and News

"I will go in unto the Altar of God
To God, Who giveth joy to my youth"

Tridentine Community News (October 19, 2014):
The Deposit of Faith

There has been a huge amount of press coverage of the Extraordinary Synod on the Family in recent weeks. Secular media, Catholic media, and bloggers have been weighing in on their interpretation of the discussion of the Synod Fathers. This column will make no attempt to report or comment on the proceedings, however a relevant subject is to consider how the Church guards and treats its Deposit of Faith.

Holy Mother Church moves slowly and deliberately. The official pronouncements of the Church are written and vetted by appropriate Vatican dicasteries. Even personal responses to dubia (questions) submitted by the faithful are often reviewed by at least one other official besides the one writing the response. This careful process, which can seem frustrating at times because of the slow speed at which Rome seems to operate, is intended to ensure that casual and potentially inaccurate statements do not become perceived as official rulings.

Conversely, off-the-cuff comments by Vatican officials, up to and including the Pope, must not be seen as reflecting the official Church position on matters. This is the case even when comments seem to favor the sentiments of Traditional Catholics. For example, in 2008 the esteemed Dario Cardinal Castrillón Hoyos made a statement that Pope Benedict XVI wished for the Extraordinary Form to be offered in every parish of the world. His Eminence’s statement seemed a little extreme at the time; setting aside parish politics, what would happen in parishes which are only able to offer one Mass per week? Where one priest serves multiple parishes? Logistics could make such a possibility untenable. Yet the statement had been made by the then-President of the Pontifical Commission Ecclésia Dei, the highest ranking authority in the Church on the matter of the Tridentine Mass. History has shown that it was more likely optimistic speculation rather than fact. Certainly if Pope Benedict really wished for such a thing to happen, he could have enacted legislation to make it so, though the wisdom of doing so would have been debatable.

For this reason, Catholics [as well as, perhaps, others] must be careful only to consider as official only those statements which are issued by the Magisterium, the official congregations and departments of the Holy See which speak in a formal capacity for the Pope in union with the Bishops. Press releases and interviews with Cardinals or even the Holy Father himself are not authentic teachings. This is a key way by which the Catholic Church guards its doctrine and laws, by providing a formal process by which official pronouncements are made. We should resist the temptation to be encouraged or discouraged by what are, in essence, merely discussions and speculations.

Book Review: An Exorcist Tells His Story

Fr. Gabriele Amorth served for many years as an Exorcist for the Diocese of Rome. The first of two books he has written as an account of his experiences, An Exorcist Tells His Story,is a valuable read for Catholics for several reasons which may not be evident from the title of the book. For those who harbor any doubts that Satan and his minions are real, Fr. Amorth’s personal experiences make it abundantly clear that demonic activity of various sorts, while relatively rare, does actually happen. Particularly when he relates any one of a number of stories of a demon who has possessed an individual, evidence such as the superhuman strength which can be exhibited by the possessed, or the knowledge which the demon, speaking through the possessed, has of situations and experiences that the possessed could not possibly know, leaves the reader with no doubts.

It is interesting to note that Fr. Amorth believes that the Extraordinary Form Ritual has a number of key advantages over the Ordinary Form Book of Blessings: First, he notes that the Rite of Exorcism had not yet [as of the date of publication of the book] been revised, thus he continued to employ the older form in Latin. [In 1999, the Church did issue an updated Rite, however the traditional form may still be used.] Second, he notes the advantages of the classic form of Baptism and blessing of Holy Water which involve exorcisms of the salt and water used. Why employ a reduced rite when the classic ones so effectively purge the dark forces?

The author is not shy in relaying his dismay at bishops who downplay the role of demons and who fail to provide sufficient exorcists for their diocese. A priest can only function as an exorcist at the delegation of his bishop, thus responsibility to provide this ministry rests solely with the episcopate.

Fr. Amorth emphasizes that living a prayerful and sacramental life is the surest defense against demonic influences. If one regularly avails oneself of Confession and Holy Communion, and makes prayer an integral part of one’s day, demonic possession will most likely not occur, as the devil targets those of weaker or no faith.

While the book contains a few graphic descriptions of exorcisms, it is not a horror story and will not cause nightmares. Rather, An Exorcist Tells His Story is more likely to serve as a boost to one’s faith, for in demonstrating that hell and its minions are real indeed, it likewise shows that in the majority of cases, demons flee when a Rite of the Church is used at an early enough stage of a person’s troubles. Rarely do we see the forces of good and evil facing off in such an exposed manner, with good clearly having the upper hand. We can rest assured that God, the Creator of the Universe, is infinitely more powerful than any of His creatures, even Satan, and gives us via His Church the means to triumph.

Tridentine Masses This Coming Week
  • Mon. 10/20 7:00 PM: Low Mass at St. Joseph (St. John Cantius, Confessor)
  • Tue. 10/21 7:00 PM: High Requiem Mass at St. Benedict/Assumption-Windsor (Daily Mass for the Dead)
[Comments? Please e-mail Previous columns are available at This edition of Tridentine Community News, with minor editions, is from the St. Albertus (Detroit), Academy of the Sacred Heart (Bloomfield Hills), and Assumption (Windsor) bulletin inserts for October 19, 2014. Hat tip to A.B., author of the column.]

Tridentine Masses coming this week to the metro Detroit and East Michigan area

Tridentine Masses This Coming Week

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Roman drama updates and more

Sobrino on the Franciscan antinomian revolution

Oswald Sobrino's article, "If laws don't lead people to Jesus, they are obsolete, pope says" (CNS, October 13, 2014), was called to my attention recently by our correspondent, Guy Noir, who commented:
Here is this item from CNS, that I believe highlights the motivating note behind the current Franciscan efforts at 'reform.' Conservatives need to answer this, because it is the recurring accusation that conservatism = legalism, and that God is not a God of rules and regulations but love and grace.

My question in response would be, will looser Church 'laws" lead people to a proper understanding of and encounter with Jesus, or with their culturally-constructed and self-imagined Jesus? [PP: Reminds me of Freud's promotion of a more permissive society, arguing that looser mores would serve as a valve to relieve pent up animal inclinations. On the contrary, we have seen how feeding rather than starving such appetites causes them to grow and proliferate.]

The parable of the Rich Young Ruler seems instructive if we want to balance out this being bashed over the head with Gospel anecdotes. Jesus loved him, and sent him away. The call was to sacrifice. Somehow, it is popular to judge the rich, but not those who get ensnared in vice other than money. The question of the hour is, are the suggested reforms really merciful, or simply more democratic. Will they encourage the pursuit of holiness, or simply church attendance? I don't think the two are in the least bit synonymous. In fact, attending church can easily be its own form of 'keeping the law.'
Noir also said he was reminded of evangelical singer Amy Grant's comment upon her divorce, asking if it does not 100 percent sound like Pope Francis:
Grant recalls something a counselor told her. "He said, ‘Amy, God made marriage for people. He didn’t make people for marriage. He didn’t create this institution so He could just plug people into it. He provided this so that people could enjoy each other to the fullest.’ I say, if you have two people that are not thriving healthily in a situation, I say remove the marriage. Let them heal."
The trouble here, as Noir points out, is this: "People are not the most important thing. Nor is doctrine. They are equally important. People make doctrine matter, while doctrine, ideals, these show people their worth.... Seems like current interpretations discard the wisdom of tradition. And tradition, or a contrived 'masterpiece of perfect law,' doesn't seem like it is trapping anyone much these days anyway, at least not near my address.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Breaking: Cardinal Burke's stunning declaration

Confirms that the Pope ousted him, declares that the "Pope has done a lot of harm by not saying openly what his position is," and that the Synod was "designed to change Church's teaching" (RC, October 17, 2014):

Bruno Forte is evidently the front man for the revolutionary faction, but the orthodox counter-offensive weighed in on Thursday: "such a day had never happened before, not even at Vatican II" (RC, October 17, 2014).

What is noteworthy here is not that orthodox voices will prevail, but that they should meet with such opposition within their own ranks. One can hardly say this is unprecedented, given the long sweep of Church history, but it is certainly noteworthy, to put it mildly.

  • A measured response to the Interim Report of the synod by one of my colleagues at Sacred Heart Major Seminary, Eduardo Echeverria, "The Synod’s Interim Report: Ambiguity and Misinterpretation" (Crisis Magazine, October 17, 2014).

  • In what might seem a brassy title, here's another interesting read by Rev. Dwight Longenecker, "Advice for the Pope in Light of the Synod" (Crisis Magazine, October 14, 2014).
  • Artur Rosman, "Synod14: It’s Déjà vu All Over Again!" (Patheos, October 16, 2014):
    Even Damon Linker, the usually level-headed religion reporter for The Week and appreciative critic of the truly Machiavellian Catholic Neo-Cons, speculates about the Machiavellian (yes, that’s precisely his phrasing) intentions of Pope Francis to liberalize the Church:
    Francis would like to liberalize church doctrine on marriage, the family, and homosexuality, but he knows that he lacks the support and institutional power to do it. So he’s decided on a course of stealth reform that involves sowing seeds of future doctrinal change by undermining the enforcement of doctrine today. The hope would be that a generation or two from now, the gap between official doctrine and the behavior that’s informally accepted in Catholic parishes across the world would grow so vast that a global grassroots movement in favor of liberalizing change would rise up at long last to sweep aside the old, musty, already-ignored rules.

    If this is what Pope Francis is going for, I don’t blame conservatives for beginning to express serious misgivings. It’s a brilliant, clever, supremely Machiavellian strategy — one that promises to produce far-reaching reforms down the road while permitting the present pope both to claim plausible deniability (“I haven’t changed church doctrine!”) and to enjoy nearly constant effusive coverage in the secular press.

    What’s happening in Rome isn’t yet “revolutionary change.” But it just may be what eventually prepares the way for exactly that.
  • Sandro Magister, "The True Story of This Synod. Director, Performers, Assistants" (www.chiesa, October 17 2014).

  • And, yes, Jimmy Akin, whose title I just love: "Good news from the Synod of Bishops! 12 things to know and share" (Jimmy Akin, October 15, 2014).

  • Dale Price, "The whole world groaned and was amazed to find itself Episcopalian." (Dyspeptic Mutterings, October 13, 2014).

  • Dale Price, "Here's why the Synod will likely fail" (Dyspeptic Mutterings, October 15, 2014)

[Hat tip to JM for many of these links]