Saturday, May 29, 2010

Repression in Ukraine, illustrating problem with "automatic" CIC policies?

John Allen recently published an interview with Fr. Borys Gudziak, Rector of the Ukrainian Catholic University in Lviv, Ukraine, about what the Rector believes is a new repression of freedom, especially for Catholics there, on the part of the government. The interview may be read here.

The situation sounds alarming, and we should be praying and helping the Ukrainians out of a sense of solidarity with them.

As well, however, after the interview, Mr. Allen makes a point that has needed making since the 2010 onslaught of the bigotry on the "paedophilia" and Catholic priest controversy.

Catholic bloggers are by now "arm-in-arm" in the Western world, in total agreement that the Church should always and everywhere cooperate with the state in handing over (and perhaps deposing automatically) priests accused of child-abuse. There can be no dissent from this corrected procedure, and Cardinal Ratzinger led the charge in instituting these better policies.

I don't disagree with the sentiment inspiring such agreement, but I do think it is incomplete. In countries where the justice system is not corrupt it probably works, and is therefore good, but what about a system where the government is using the justice system to repress the Church, Her teachings, or even unjustly targeting political enemies?

While far from perfect, on the whole the US criminal justice system does not appear to me to be systematically corrupt; I cannot say as much for our civil law, where tort reform is sorely needed, and is only kept intact by lawyers who profit from it greatly, and support politicians who protect it.

A policy of automatic cooperation with the justice system in a country relies very heavily on that civil justice system being "just" and not corrupt. Turning over accused clerics to the civil authorities, if it is an automatic policy of the Church in any place, can be used by a corrupted justice system as a tool in its policies of intimidation. Canon Law has known this for a very long time, and it is that concern which was in the back of the minds of men like Cardinal Castrillon Hoyos and Pope John Paul II.

This is another instance where the virtue of prudence -- especially "prudence of government" -- rarely receives the consideration it deserves. Instead, we favor adopting "general policies", which have two effects: 1) they give the appearance of being "good citizens", but 2) they give decision-makers "cover" even when they do not exercise prudence. This is not dissimilar to how government regulations have the "unintended" consequence (by whom, may I ask?) of allowing business corporations to use the "I followed all the rules" defense when something bad happens. This latter effect, I believe has a name: "positioning". Is that a synonym for "posturing"?

In this world, one must truly be careful of what he wishes for, as he may get it.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Morality and the Immigration Question

Catholic News Agency recently published a very interesting interview with Archbishop Jose Gomez, who will be Archbishop of Los Angeles sometime in the next year. The interview is actually much broader than the immigration question, in that ++Gomez is asked to talk about "the future" of Hispanic Catholics.

(Note on symbols. "++Name" is a British online way of saying "Archbishop", "+Name" means "Bishop" and "Name+" means "Priest". I like it, it is short and sweet, and I'll use it.)

The most interesting general response (and relevant for non-Hispanics as well): "Hispanic ministry should mean only one thing—bringing Hispanic people to the encounter with Jesus Christ in his Church."

++Gomez also makes the following key point, which again should be of interest to all American Catholics:
I believe that in God’s plan, the new Hispanic presence is to advance our country’s spiritual renewal. To restore the promise of America’s youth. In this renewed encounter with Hispanic faith and culture, I believe God wants America to rediscover values it has lost sight of—the importance of religion, family, friendship, community, and the culture of life.
He repeats those five qualities a bit later, affirming that they are values shared by Americans new and old, Hispanic or not, thus depicting such values as unifying themes between Hispanics and other Americans.

On the immigration question, he states very clearly,
I’m not a politician. I’m a pastor of souls. And as a pastor I believe the situation that’s developed today is bad for the souls of Americans. There is too much anger. Too much resentment. Too much fear. Too much hate. It’s eating people up.
Notice, not just bad for the souls of Hispanics, but of all Americans. That's a refreshing point of view!

I am not personally convinced that "racism" is as important as he and others think it is, but that's just my opinion -- I realize that impressions are important, and if we -- American citizens -- give the impression of being racist, others will interpret such impressions to believe we are racist. It's just that personally I don't feel like race is of any importance, and I'm pretty sure "Hispanidad" is not a racial characteristic anyway, but rather a cultural one. But, those are not major points.

The interview should be read in its entirety. ++Gomez does speak like a spiritual Shepherd, and although he is not unconscious of current politics on the immigration question -- what American could be? -- his analysis is Christian and religious, and clear. And could be used for mental prayer, and examination of conscience.

One specific suggestion relates to how illegal immigrants ought to be punished, instead of deportation: "intensive, long-term community service would be a far more constructive solution than deportation. This would build communities rather than tear them apart. And it would serve to better integrate the immigrants into the social and moral fabric of America".

Perhaps it should not be so very long-term (unless eventually compensated), but that would be a remedial solution, i.e., one which provides a "remedy" rather than a "penalty", and if properly implemented, contains the promise of integrating the immigrants, much like military service has done for immigrants of all kinds, including the Irish some of whom were conscripted right off the boats during the Civil War (by both sides).

Something to think about.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

The Quintissential Apostolate of the Laity

Pope Benedict XVI spoke on May 21 to members of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, highlighting that "lay Catholics are responsible for political activity that promotes a Christian moral order" ( The complete text does not appear to be available at the Vatican website, but the Vatican Information Service ("VIS") has extended excerpts.

One point made by the Pope could bear repeating: the "technical formation of politicians" is not part of the Church's mission"; rather the Church reserves the right to "pass moral judgment in those matters which regard public order when the fundamental rights of the person or the salvation of souls require it".

To say that the mission of the Church does not include "forming politicians technically", is the same as to say that the Church is "incompetent" in the technical formation of politicians. When dealing with technical matters, the concept of "competence" or "competency" is rather important. In everyday language, the two terms may be used synonomously most of the time, but when a distinction between them must be made we note the following.

We speak of a man or woman being competent when, in light of his professional field, the person possesses the requisite knowledge and experience as determined by the profession itself. On the other hand, in a legal context, the word "competency" may be used almost to mean "jurisdiction": such-and-such a committee of Congress has competency [or, is competent] over that field, while another one does not, so hearings about the matter are conducted by the first committee.

Since the Church's mission does not have competence over "technical formation" of politicians (or other professions), the Church is incompetent in both senses: the Church does not have the requisite knowedge and experience qua Church to engage in the "profession" of politics, nor does She have the authorization from her Founder, in the legal sense, to be competent on the technical level. What the Church does have from her Founder, is the ability to judge regarding the moral suitability of "technical proposals", not qua technical, but qua conformant to Christ's vision for man and society.

The second important point here is to ask ourselves "who is this Church" the Pope is speaking about? When ecclesiastics use the word "the Church" it is often important to pick up from the context which subject they really have in mind, because the word is used in many, and sometimes contradictory ways. In my view, the Pope has two meanings in mind here for his use of "the Church". Primarily, he has in mind the Hierarchy in the exercise of the ordinary Magisterium of the Church, since he uses the verb "judge", which in the context of "the Church", would normally be thought of as the judgement of the Hierarchy ("the college of bishops in union with its head, the Roman Pontiff") in their exercise of the church's teaching authority ("magisterium"). But the "teaching authority" implies use of authority in order to teach, and Catholic laypeople and others are the objects of that teaching. Hence, it seems reasonable to me to think that the Pope also has in mind those lay men and women, competent in the various arts and professions, who being Catholics, hold themselves responsible for learning the teaching of the Church, and estimating its requirements in the exercise of their professions, and putting their understandings into the practice of their professions.

Thus, it should be possible, indeed quotidian, to find Catholic laity, along with non-Catholics, holding out what they deem to be both professionally viable as well as morally responsible, technical solutions to all kinds of problems; while the Hierarchy makes judgements regarding the moral adequacy of them in particular circumstances. Thus the whole Church is involved, each doing its proper part, there is cooperation, but not at the activist level (at least in normal times).

The Pope again:  "The spread of a confused cultural relativism, and of a utilitarian and hedonistic individualism weakens democracy and favors the dominance of strong powers. We must recover and reinvigorate authentic political wisdom; be demanding in what concerns our own sphere of competency; make discriminating use of scientific research; face reality in all its aspects, going beyond any kind of ideological reductionism or utopian dream; show we are open to true dialogue and collaboration, bearing in mind that politics is also a complex art of equilibrium between ideals and interests, but never forgetting that the contribution of Christians can be decisive only if knowledge of faith becomes knowledge of reality, the key to judgement and transformation. What is needed is a true 'revolution of love'".

"It is up to the lay faithful to show - in their personal and family life, in social cultural and political life - that the faith enables them to read reality in a new and profound way, and to transform it", he said. "It is also the duty of the laity to participate actively in political life, in a manner coherent with the teaching of the Church, bringing their well- founded reasoning and great ideals into the democratic debate, and into the search for a broad consensus among everyone who cares about the defence of life and freedom, the protection of truth and the good of the family, solidarity with the needy, and the vital search for the common good").

The Catholic Culture website labels all this "lay activism", but surely lay activism is some small subset of what the Pope is teaching. Ordinary Catholic living is the far greater matrix from which this apostolate must stem.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Some recent interesting comments on the "New Translations"

As a follow-up post to yesterday's, is today's.

There was a recent article by Fr. Robert Johansen here, "The New Missal: Disaster or Opportunity?", which argues that resistance to the corrected translations is more "ideological", i.e., more power-oriented, than theological, and notably less from "ordinary Catholics" [Fr. Johansen did 3 ad hoc polls with actual parishioners] than from "official" Catholics, i.e., priests and religious, who responded to the changes with purple prose and extreme emotionalism at another site. In passing, I will say that I believe that such latter sorts of individuals are the constituent members of what Joseph Ratzinger has called the "liturgical guild" elsewhere. Fr. Johanson's article is well worth a careful reading by anyone genuinely interested in reactions from ordinary Catholics who don't wage campaigns, or sign many liturgical petitions.

In the combox there were some comments from knowledgeable readers:

"Didn't know a thing about this new translation and welcome it heartily. I have really missed the Latin translation (sic) of the Mass and will be so glad if this new translation has some lofty language. The one we read and follow at Mass is so mundane and plain that you could forget you are are addressing and worshiping God and not a common person. I majored in English Literature and taught it and frankly miss the King James language and if this takes us back to more beautiful language as we worship together than more power to it. Good article!" -- by Irene French, May 14th, 2010 | 6:12am

Prof. Tony Esolen from Providence College [May 14th, 2010 | 9:46am]: "I am amazed that it has taken the bishops this long to implement the new translation -- or, I should say, a genuine translation, because what we have been given since about 1970 is in many instances not a translation at all, but a paraphrase." He goes on to mention that the current texts and practices with which we are familiar were not something asked for by any lay people; they were imposed from "on high", which is absolutely true. Finally, "Giving the ballgame away: no one who objects to the new translation dares to claim that the old translation was more accurate, or indeed (in some cases) that it was a translation at all."

Finally, Fr. Johansen sums it up by saying: "91 percent of respondents identified that they would find it 'easy' to adapt to this text if it were used regularly."

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Real-time Social Networking SNAFU

A curious example of a sort of real-time propagation error was recorded yesterday, May 15, 2010. Here's what seems to have happened.

a) Fr. Ray Blake of Brighton, England, posts a topic on his blog dealing with actually using the (corrected) translations of the Mass in order to carry out the catechesis which is alleged to be needed before usage. I know that sounds circular, but that's life in the Catholic Church these days. This was known back in the merry old days of liturgical innovations of the sixties as using the texts "ad experimentum". That means "to gain experience" rather than "as an experiment". Fr. Blake's post was dated May 15, 2010, at approximately 7:30 am Central Time.

b) This post from England was picked up on the Midwestern USA blog of Fr. John Zuhlsdorf, on May 15, 2010, at 9:03AM Central Time, and reproduced apparently whole there, under the title, "Using the new translation 'ad experimentum'".

c) Then, after both of these events had taken place, Fr. Blake "took down" (i.e., edited) his post temporarily, and then re-posted it later in [his] afternoon. The reason cited is not exactly crystal-clear. A friend of his who works at ICEL contacted him and said that use of the new texts was not yet approved for England.

Of course, the above narrative is mine, an "outsider" entirely of these presbyteral exchanges, and as usual, that's how things will stand. What does seem clear to me is that there was a "faux pas" committed, a false step, which was then backtracked, but the evidence of this "worm-hole" remains. Of course, eventually, the "delete key" can heal all wounds in the virtual world, and we may see that yet.

Following are both versions, first the "original" as copied at WDTPRS:
Our bishop recently said that some parishes in the diocese were already using the new ICEL translations of the Missal, he said that he had no problem with them being used ad experimentum, as they were now an official text which had received the recognitio of the Holy See.

ICEL wants these texts to be used after appropriate catechesis next year. However, this morning I used new translation of the Roman Canon, as there are the four Eucharistic Prayers in the Missal, plus the two prayers for Reconciliation, the three (is it?) for children, and then those ghastly Swiss ones we can use, I thought that no-one would object, and from the reactions I heard people thought it was a vast improvement.

We had already intended to start introducing the Communion Rite in its sung form, just to get people used to the idea that their responses are going to change too.
Other people have suggested the translations are a bit lumpy, I found them immensely beautiful, so much so that I am going to use them tomorrow at the sung Mass.
The problem I have with then is that it seems so natural to use the rubrics, the signs of the cross, for example at phrases like, "... bless these gifts, these offerings, these holy and unblemished sacrifices, ..."
I think it is going to be difficult to get people to change their responses, that is going to be the big problem, not what the priest says.
[Version from WDTPRS, i.e., the "original"]

Now, from Fr. Blake's blog:
In a conversation with our bishop recently, I thought he said that some parishes in the diocese were already using the new ICEL translations of the Missal, and that he had no problem with them being used ad experimentum, as they were now an official text which had received the recognitio of the Holy See, I had obviously grabbed the wrong end of the stick because a friend on ICEL, who had read the previous version of this post, told me Rome had not yet given permission for their use in England.

ICEL wants these texts to be used after appropriate catechesis next year. However, this morning because of my misunderstanding, I used the new translation of the Roman Canon. As there are the four Eucharistic Prayers in the Missal, plus the two prayers for Reconciliation, the three (is it?) for children, and then those ghastly Swiss ones, I thought that no-one in the congregation would object, and from the reactions I heard people thought it was a vast improvement.

Some people have suggested the translations are a bit lumpy, I found the Roman Canon immensely beautiful, so much so that I feel deprived not being able to use it tomorrow.
The problem I have is that it seems so natural to use the rubrics of the Usus Antiquior, the signs of the cross, for example at phrases like, "... bless these gifts, these offerings, these holy and unblemished sacrifices, ..."
I think it is going to be difficult to get people to change their responses, that is going to be the big catechetical problem, not what the priest says.

What amazes me is that "nobody" has had the idea of using the newly corrected translations as of yet. As I write, the entire Missal has been corrected and the changes approved by the Pope. In fact, the Catholic Herald of the UK has written several articles that touch on the following facts. When Pope Benedict visits the UK in September, and beatifies Cardinal Newman, he will celebrate Mass using the corrected texts. The Bishops have commissioned Mr. MacMillan, a Scotch Catholic and renowned composer, to write a setting for these Masses specifically using the corrected texts. So, unless there will be no concelebrations, and no congregations, then in some sense, the corrected texts have been authorized for use in England. And if England, why not the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, etc.?

There are several reasons for my amazement.

a) The "new translations" are actually long overdue corrections of the rendering of the Latin texts into English, rather than the introduction of any new rites. When do we correct ourselves? When we have made a mistake. When are we expected to correct ourselves? As soon as we notice that we have made a mistake. Unless, of course, that merely relates to the creature's relationship with God, in which case we may postpone the correction until some far future date, because it doesn't really matter!

b) ICEL ("International Committee for English in the Liturgy") apparently holds the copyright on the texts, which is what allows them to countermand any desire on the part of priests or parishes to bring their worship up to what it should be, until a grand catechesis has taken place. What can that possibly mean when the only change anybody is talking about is a change of the texts? If the text changes, don't I correct the problem by reading the corrected text? Do I need grandiose catechesis about this? Is not experiencing the difference at Mass catechesis enough?

c) I can well understand why it may take years for the various publishers, and musicians, et al., to revise their books, music, etc., to "support" the new texts. But does that mean that everyone else must mark time while they are getting their paid, professional, services up to snuff?

d) Lastly, though not least. It is a sound principle in bringing people down a "learning curve" to let them have experience of something before explaining to them what they have experienced. This is especially true in growing in our faith. As backup, I have no lesser light than the 4th century Bishop of Milan, St. Ambrose, in "catechizing" the newly-baptized at his cathedral in the week following their baptism at the Easter Vigil:
[All throughout Lent] we have been having a daily talk on subjects connected with morals, while the deeds of the Patriarchs or the precepts of the Proverbs were being read, in order that being formed and grounded by them you might get used to enter the ways of the ancients and to undertake their journey, and to obey the divine oracles. In that way, once made new by baptism, you might hold to the way of life that befits those who have been cleansed. Now the time is right to speak of the Mysteries, and to bring to light the significance of the sacraments. Were we to have been tempted to hint at it to the uninitiated before baptism, we should be guilty of having betrayed rather than having portrayed the Mysteries [i.e., "Sacraments" in modern Latin usage]. Also because the very light of the mysteries itself fills the unexpectant better than if some commentary had preceded their reception. [St. Ambrose, de Mysteriis, 1]
And I think that would break the circularity I spoke about at first.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

A Local "tradition" Recovered?

In a post on his blog, "Liturgical Notes", of Sept 3, 2009, Fr. John Hunwicke asked Was Gregory Organic?

The question raised was whether Gregory was engaging in a bit of "spin" in his replies to certain objections to recent liturgical "innovations" or "reforms", raised by someone who had visited him. The objections seem to have been motivated by "zeal" for the customs of the Roman See, or else by "jealousy" regarding those of the see of Constantinople -- it was probably all the same at that time.

This led to various interesting comments from others -- I also had some comments to make -- but one of the things I learned that day has stuck in the back of my mind. It is the rationale given by St. Gregory for moving the recital of the Lord's Prayer from some unknown location within the Mass to where it has always remained afterwards in the Latin Rite, immediately following the Canon, preceded by its introduction and followed by the embolism. Let me reproduce those prayers here in Latin for those who are not familiar with them.
Praeceptis salutaribus moniti, et divina institutione formati, audemus dicere:

Pater noster, qui es in caelis: Sanctificetur nomen tuum. Adveniat regnum tuum. Fiat voluntas tua, sicut in cealo et in terra. Panem nostrum quotidianum da nobis hodie: Et dimitte nobis debita nostra, sicut et nos dimittimus debitoribus nostris. Et ne nos inducas in tentationem.
Resp. Sed libera nos a malo.

Libera nos, quaesumus, Domine, ab omnibus malis, praeteritis, praesentibus, et futuris: et intercedente beata et gloriosa semper Virgine Dei Genetrice Maria, cum beatis Apostolis Petro et Paulo, atque Andrea, et omnibus Sanctis, da propitius pacem in diebus nostris: ut ope misericordiae tuae adiuti, et a peccato simus semper liberi, et ab omni purturbatione securi. Per eumdem Dominum nostrum.
Resp: Amen.

This is the version of the Our Father from Lk 11, 2-4.

Prof. William Tighe, in a comment, included a longish commentary on Gregory's thoughts from an Anglican liturgical authority, G. G. Willis. Among other things Willis says, "There is no doubt about the text of St. Gregory’s letter, but there has never been agreement about its precise meaning, nor is it agreed what St. Gregory found in the Mass at this point, and what exactly was the change that he made." I recommend reading the entire exchange at Fr. Hunwicke's site.

The quote from St. Gregory about which there is disagreement as to its precise meaning is the following:
Orationem vero dominicam idcirco mox post precem dicimus, quia mos apostolorum fuit ut ad ipsam solummodo orationem oblationis hostiam consecrarent, et valde mihi inconveniens visum est ut precem quam scholasticus composuerat super oblationem diceremus, et ipsam traditionem quam Redemptor noster composuit super eius corpus et sanguinem non diceremus.
the translation of which (depending on how you read certain phrases) is:

But we say the Lord's prayer immediately following the Canon (precem) for the very reason that (idcirco... quia) it was the custom of the apostles (or, an apostolic custom) to consecrate the Host of oblation by that very prayer alone, and it seemed to me grossly inappropriate that we should recite a prayer over the Offering (precem... super oblationem) composed by a learned man, yet not recite over His Body and Blood the very prayer (traditionem) which our Redeemer composed.
I must warn the reader that this is not the consensus meaning at this time, according to Drs. Willis and Tighe (q.v.), but it is how I understood the sentence the first time I studied it. Apparently, again according to the same scholars, this would accord with the reading of Amalarius of Metz/Treves (AD cc. 775-850), an influential liturgical scholar and student of Alcuin at Charlemagne's court. As the Catholic Encyclopedia says of him, however, his liturgical theology was a bit too "mystical" for modern minds. You can read the modern view expressed rather well in the comments at the original post.

I, though acknowledging my lack of expertise in this area, did mention at the time that perhaps there was a Scriptural basis for Gregory's statement, i.e., St. Jerome's rendition of the Mt 6, 9-13 version of the Our Father, where he renders v. 11 thus: Panem nostrum supersubstantialem da nobis hodie. Notice this differs from the version (from Luke) we pray during Mass, and which was inserted at this point of the Mass by St. Gregory. Although the Greek word, ἐπιούσιον, is used in both places, and is thought by scholars to have been coined by the Evangelists, Jerome decided to render the same clause differently in the Latin. I have heard that this was to acknowledge the range of meanings the word may take on. Be that as it may....

Recently, though, I have been reading J.N.D. Kelly's Oxford Dictionary of the Popes, and became curious about the "Book of the Popes", the Liber Pontificalis, which he dates from the middle of the sixth century, and in which he finds one apocryphal "fact" after another. So I decided to see if I could find some version of it online, and I did, here. On page 6 of the online edition, under the entry for "Linus", footnote 2 provides us with the following information:
One manuscript adds the following. "He [Linus] first ordained the celebration of the mass to commemorate the Lord's passion, with bread and wine mixed with water and the Lord's prayer repeated alone and the sanctifying of the holy cross, a rite which the other holy apostles imitated for this celebration."
Other editions of the Liber Pontificalis omit it, and at least one locates this sentence at the end of the entry for St. Peter himself. If this were part of the original text of the LP, made in the middle of the sixth century, i.e., before the letter written by Gregory to bishop John of Syracuse, then perhaps there was actually some sort of local tradition in the Roman Church of which Gregory was mindful, that the Apostles originally consecrated the Eucharist using Our Lord's words in the Our Father?.

For Reference: Gregory I, Letters, Book 9, Letter 12.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Benedict XVI on St. Peter Damian

Benedict XVI

GENERAL AUDIENCE, Wednesday, 9 September 2009

Saint Peter Damian

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

During the Catecheses of these Wednesdays I am commenting on several important people in the life of the Church from her origins. Today I would like to reflect on one of the most significant figures of the 11th century, St Peter Damian, a monk, a lover of solitude and at the same time a fearless man of the Church, committed personally to the task of reform, initiated by the Popes of the time. He was born in Ravenna in 1007, into a noble family but in straitened circumstances. He was left an orphan and his childhood was not exempt from hardships and suffering, although his sister Roselinda tried to be a mother to him and his elder brother, Damian, adopted him as his son. For this very reason he was to be called Piero di Damiano, Pier Damiani [Peter of Damian, Peter Damian]. He was educated first at Faenza and then at Parma where, already at the age of 25, we find him involved in teaching. As well as a good grounding in the field of law, he acquired a refined expertise in the art of writing the ars scribendi and, thanks to his knowledge of the great Latin classics, became "one of the most accomplished Latinists of his time, one of the greatest writers of medieval Latin" (J. Leclercq, Pierre Damien, ermite et homme d'Église, Rome, 1960, p. 172).

He distinguished himself in the widest range of literary forms: from letters to sermons, from hagiographies to prayers, from poems to epigrams. His sensitivity to beauty led him to poetic contemplation of the world. Peter Damian conceived of the universe as a never-ending "parable" and a sequence of symbols on which to base the interpretation of inner life and divine and supra-natural reality. In this perspective, in about the year 1034, contemplation of the absolute of God impelled him gradually to detach himself from the world and from its transient realities and to withdraw to the Monastery of Fonte Avellana. It had been founded only a few decades earlier but was already celebrated for its austerity. For the monks' edification he wrote the Life of the Founder, St Romuald of Ravenna, and at the same time strove to deepen their spirituality, expounding on his ideal of eremitic monasticism.

One detail should be immediately emphasized: the Hermitage at Fonte Avellana was dedicated to the Holy Cross and the Cross was the Christian mystery that was to fascinate Peter Damian more than all the others. "Those who do not love the Cross of Christ do not love Christ", he said (Sermo XVIII, 11, p. 117); and he described himself as "Petrus crucis Christi servorum famulus Peter, servant of the servants of the Cross of Christ" (Ep, 9, 1). Peter Damian addressed the most beautiful prayers to the Cross in which he reveals a vision of this mystery which has cosmic dimensions for it embraces the entire history of salvation: "O Blessed Cross", he exclaimed, "You are venerated, preached and honoured by the faith of the Patriarchs, the predictions of the Prophets, the senate that judges the Apostles, the victorious army of Martyrs and the throngs of all the Saints" (Sermo XLVII, 14, p. 304). Dear Brothers and Sisters, may the example of St Peter Damian spur us too always to look to the Cross as to the supreme act of God's love for humankind, which has given us salvation.

This great monk compiled a Rule for eremitical life in which he heavily stressed the "rigour of the hermit": in the silence of the cloister the monk is called to spend a life of prayer, by day and by night, with prolonged and strict fasting; he must put into practice generous brotherly charity in ever prompt and willing obedience to the prior. In study and in the daily meditation of Sacred Scripture, Peter Damian discovered the mystical meaning of the word of God, finding in it nourishment for his spiritual life. In this regard he described the hermit's cell as the "parlour in which God converses with men". For him, living as a hermit was the peak of Christian existence, "the loftiest of the states of life" because the monk, now free from the bonds of worldly life and of his own self, receives "a dowry from the Holy Spirit and his happy soul is united with its heavenly Spouse" (Ep 18, 17; cf. Ep 28, 43 ff.). This is important for us today too, even though we are not monks: to know how to make silence within us to listen to God's voice, to seek, as it were, a "parlour" in which God speaks with us. Learning the word of God in prayer and in meditation is the path to life.

St Peter Damian, who was essentially a man of prayer, meditation and contemplation, was also a fine theologian: his reflection on various doctrinal themes led him to important conclusions for life. Thus, for example, he expresses with clarity and liveliness the Trinitarian doctrine, already using, under the guidance of biblical and patristic texts, the three fundamental terms which were subsequently to become crucial also for the philosophy of the West: processio, relatio and persona (cf. Opusc. XXXVIII: PL CXLV, 633-642; and Opusc. II and III: ibid., 41 ff. and 58 ff). However, because theological analysis of the mystery led him to contemplate the intimate life of God and the dialogue of ineffable love between the three divine Persons, he drew ascetic conclusions from them for community life and even for relations between Latin and Greek Christians, divided on this topic. His meditation on the figure of Christ is significantly reflected in practical life, since the whole of Scripture is centred on him. The "Jews", St Peter Damian notes, "through the pages of Sacred Scripture, bore Christ on their shoulders as it were" (Sermo XLVI, 15). Therefore Christ, he adds, must be the centre of the monk's life: "May Christ be heard in our language, may Christ be seen in our life, may he be perceived in our hearts" (Sermo VIII, 5). Intimate union with Christ engages not only monks but all the baptized. Here we find a strong appeal for us too not to let ourselves be totally absorbed by the activities, problems and preoccupations of every day, forgetting that Jesus must truly be the centre of our life.

Communion with Christ creates among Christians a unity of love. In Letter 28, which is a brilliant ecclesiological treatise, Peter Damian develops a profound theology of the Church as communion. "Christ's Church", he writes, is united by the bond of charity to the point that just as she has many members so is she, mystically, entirely contained in a single member; in such a way that the whole universal Church is rightly called the one Bride of Christ in the singular, and each chosen soul, through the sacramental mystery, is considered fully the Church". This is important: not only that the whole universal Church should be united, but that the Church should be present in her totality in each one of us. Thus the service of the individual becomes "an expression of universality" (Ep 28, 9-23). However, the ideal image of "Holy Church" illustrated by Peter Damian does not correspond as he knew well to the reality of his time. For this reason he did not fear to denounce the state of corruption that existed in the monasteries and among the clergy, because, above all, of the practice of the conferral by the lay authorities of ecclesiastical offices; various Bishops and Abbots were behaving as the rulers of their subjects rather than as pastors of souls. Their moral life frequently left much to be desired. For this reason, in 1057 Peter Damian left his monastery with great reluctance and sorrow and accepted, if unwillingly, his appointment as Cardinal Bishop of Ostia. So it was that he entered fully into collaboration with the Popes in the difficult task of Church reform. He saw that to make his own contribution of helping in the work of the Church's renewal contemplation did not suffice. He thus relinquished the beauty of the hermitage and courageously undertook numerous journeys and missions.

Because of his love for monastic life, 10 years later, in 1067, he obtained permission to return to Fonte Avellana and resigned from the Diocese of Ostia. However, the tranquillity he had longed for did not last long: two years later, he was sent to Frankfurt in an endeavour to prevent the divorce of Henry IV from his wife Bertha. And again, two years later, in 1071, he went to Monte Cassino for the consecration of the abbey church and at the beginning of 1072, to Ravenna, to re-establish peace with the local Archbishop who had supported the antipope bringing interdiction upon the city.

On the journey home to his hermitage, an unexpected illness obliged him to stop at the Benedictine Monastery of Santa Maria Vecchia Fuori Porta in Faenza, where he died in the night between 22 and 23 February 1072.

Dear brothers and sisters, it is a great grace that the Lord should have raised up in the life of the Church a figure as exuberant, rich and complex as St Peter Damian. Moreover, it is rare to find theological works and spirituality as keen and vibrant as those of the Hermitage at Fonte Avellana. St Peter Damian was a monk through and through, with forms of austerity which to us today might even seem excessive. Yet, in that way he made monastic life an eloquent testimony of God's primacy and an appeal to all to walk towards holiness, free from any compromise with evil. He spent himself, with lucid consistency and great severity, for the reform of the Church of his time. He gave all his spiritual and physical energies to Christ and to the Church, but always remained, as he liked to describe himself, Petrus ultimus monachorum servus, Peter, the lowliest servant of the monks.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

When the Patriarch was returning (Hoste dum victu triumphans)

Fr. John Hunwicke, of Oxford, has mentioned a very beautiful Hymn, one of the favorites at St. Clements Episcopal Church in Philadelphia, called "When the Patriarch was returning". It is a translation, apparently, of a breviary hymn sung at the Vigil of the Octave of Corpus Christi, at the Abbey of Cluny, in France. It was translated into English by Fr. E. Caswall, an Anglican priest contemporary of John Henry Newman, who also converted to Catholicism in the mid 19th Century. Fr. Caswall translated a great number of such hymns from Latin into English. Many find this to be one of his best.

When the Patriarch was returning
Crowned with triumph from the fray,
Him the peaceful king of Salem
Came to meet upon his way;
Meekly bearing bread and wine,
Holy Priesthood's aweful sign.

On the truth thus dimly shadowed
Later days a luster shed;
When the great high-Priest eternal,
Under form of wine and bread,
For the world's immortal food
Gave his flesh and gave his blood.

Wondrous Gift! The Word who fashioned
All things by his might divine,
Bread into his body changes,
Into his own blood the wine;
What though sense no change perceives,
Faith admires, adores, believes.

He who once to die a Victim
On the cross did not refuse,
Day by day upon our altars,
That same Sacrifice renews;
Through his holy priesthood's hands,
Faithful to his last commands.

While the people all uniting
In the sacrifice sublime
Offer Christ to his high Father,
Offer up themselves with him;
Then together with the priest
On the living Victim feast.

The words are from the NLM site, which also has an embedded rendition sung by the congregation at St. Clements. The author of the particular article at NLM is Michael E. Lawrence, who in his introduction, has the following remark:
Save for the occasional Pange lingua or O Salutaris, most Eucharistic hymns that come to my mind which enjoy widespread popularity seem to epitomize either the 1940's or the 1970's. Alas, even the aforementioned Latin hymns can be given a kind of saccharine, "Sweet and Low" sort of flavor, depending upon the rendition.
I love Aquinas's Pange lingua, not to mention his Lauda Sion, but truer words were never spoken about the "rendition", the manner in which they are sung. These are not Broadway solo bits, and no Hymn sung during the Liturgy ought to be so introspective or self-oriented that it obscures the sense of wonder and awe that have inspired the Church (and her saints) to pen these wonderful anthems. There are too many people directing choirs who remember -- and then only dimly -- a poorly catechized sense of the place of these hymns. No wonder Catholic (men) don't sing!

Original Latin

Hoste dum victo triumphans
Abraham revertitur,
Obvius fit magnus illi
Rex Salem Melchisedech,
Vina qui tamquam sacerdos
Atque panem protulit.

Quam vetus signabat umbra,
Clara lucet veritas ;
Pontifex novus secundum
Ordinem, Melchisedech,
Pane, sub vinoque corpus
Dat suum cum sanguine.

Quo creata cuncta verbo
Mira fit mutatio:
Panis in carnem, merumque
In cruorem vertitur
Deficit sen[s]us, sed alta
Roborat mentem fides.

Qui semel Patri cruentam
Obtulit se victimam;
Singulis idem diebus,
Per ministrorum manus,
Rite nostris incruentus
Se sub aris immolat.

Ipsa quin astans sacratis
Sancta plebs altaribus,
Maximo Christum Parenti
Seque cum Christo litat
Carne posthac quam litavit
Et cruore pascitur.

Summa laus Deo Parenti
Qui creavit omnia;
Summa sit Nato redemit
Qui suo nos sanguine ;
Flamini par, cujus almo
Confovemur halitu.

Attribution (and comment by "Walter" for the Latin).

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Penance, and its uses

Bishop Thomas J. Tobin, of Providence, Rhode Island, has a good article on penance, as a reflection on the penances performed by Pope John Paul II. Toward the end, he provides us with excellent material for a preliminary examination of conscience to detect the sorts of penance that might profit us individually:
So, what are your unhealthy attachments, your obsessions? What hinders your growth in the spiritual life? What should you fast or abstain from? Food and alcohol? Money and material things? Television and technology? Gambling and shopping? Gossip and rumors? Anger and grudges? Unhealthy relationships? -- Bishop Tobin of Providence, RI [Source]
Once we focus on our unhealthy attachments (my own personal opinion about things?) and obsessions, giving them real names, we have a basis for our daily examination of conscience. But we must be truthful with ourselves, and there is no better way to ensure that, than to accuse ourselves of the sins we begin to see in the tribunal of the Sacrament of Penance itself.

Friday, February 19, 2010

To believe the same thing is to not believe a different thing?

The Council of Chalcedon (AD 451) was the fourth ecumenical council, following Nicaea I (AD 325), Constantinople I (AD 381), and Ephesus (AD 431). Below are two selections from its Acta, the first paragraph describing how they recorded the Symbols of Nicaea and Constantinople, the second declaring, after the new declarations regarding the two natures and one person of Christ, that nobody should profess "a different faith" or publish "a different symbol" but this one.
And this have we done with one unanimous consent, driving away erroneous doctrines and renewing the unerring faith of the Fathers, publishing to all men the Creed of the Three Hundred and Eighteen, and to their number adding, as their peers, the Fathers who have received the same summary of religion.  Such are the One Hundred and Fifty holy Fathers who afterwards assembled in the great Constantinople and ratified the same faith.  Moreover, observing the order and every form relating to the faith, which was observed by the holy synod formerly held in Ephesus, of which Celestine of Rome and Cyril of Alexandria, of holy memory, were the leaders, we do declare that the exposition of the right and blameless faith made by the Three Hundred and Eighteen holy and blessed Fathers, assembled at Nice in the reign of Constantine of pious memory, shall be pre-eminent:  and that those things shall be of force also, which were decreed by the One Hundred and Fifty holy Fathers at Constantinople, for the uprooting of the heresies which had then sprung up, and for the confirmation of the same Catholic and Apostolic Faith of ours.
The Creed of the three hundred and eighteen Fathers at Nicaea.
We believe in one God, etc.
Item, the Creed of the one hundred and fifty holy Fathers who were assembled at Constantinople.
We believe in one God, etc.
These things, therefore, having been expressed by us with the greatest accuracy and attention, the holy Ecumenical Synod defines that no one shall be suffered to bring forward a different faith (ἑτέραν πίστιν), nor to write, nor to put together, nor to excogitate, nor to teach it to others. But such as dare either to put together another faith, or to bring forward or to teach or to deliver a different Creed (ἕτερον σύμβολον) to as wish to be converted to the knowledge of the truth, from the Gentiles, or Jews or any heresy whatever, if they be Bishops or clerics let them be deposed, the Bishops from the Episcopate, and the clerics from the clergy; but if they be monks or laymen: let them be anathematized. [Shaff, The Seven Ecumenical Councils, pp. 262-5. (Source)]
They anathematize heterodox faiths and symbols. Does that refer to the formula, or to what the formula expresses?

Friday, February 12, 2010

Professional Ecumenism: Our work here is done.

John Allen of NCR has an interview with Anglican Rev. Ephraim Radner, a professor of theology at the Wycliffe College of the University of Toronto, who is one of those participating in the week-long conference sponsored by the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, whose prefect is Cardinal Walter Kaspar.During that interview he asked Fr. Radner:
Cardinal Walter Kasper in his opening address on Monday said that we are entering an ecumenical phase that may be less exciting but more mature. Do you agree?
I think that’s true, and I think it’s also a challenge. Lots of people know how to do the old stuff … you have a problem, you sit down and talk about it. For instance, the "Joint Declaration on Justification" is viewed as a classic case where the two traditions [Catholics and Lutherans] took a 16th century problem, worked it over, pulled it apart, and realized that they could translate language and concepts and come to a place where it all looks kind of compatible. That’s the notion, "compatible not contradictory." One of the big issues in the cardinal’s book, however, is that with many of these big issues, they’re not totally resolved, and that way of resolving them seems to have run its course.
What exactly has run its course?
This idea of taking concepts, pulling them apart, finding common language that can lie behind all these different methods. The basic notion, to take a completely different example. is what happened in the dialogue between Catholics and Oriental Christians on Christology. Lo and behold, after 1,500 years it turns out it was all a historical misunderstanding. You’re pulling apart culturally conditioned linguistic concepts. [Source]
As an example of what Fr. Radner is talking about in speaking of Oriental Christians, let's take the concept of physis in Greek, translated by the word natura in Latin, and use it to hear the term "transubstantiation". This word was essentially coined by one of the Lateran Councils, and used by it to designate "a change like no other change known to man". When Catholic non-theologians say that Christ becomes present "physically" on the altar, Greek-speakers hear "naturally", which is not what the Catholic intended to say (at least it is not what he should have intended to say); it is not a natural change, and "transubstantiation" was coined to exclude that very idea. From this exchange of "culturally conditioned linguistic concepts" both sides begin to see what the other side has been objecting to, and there is a new mutual understanding. Such new understandings are legitimately described as "compatible not contradictory".

That much I can agree with. I am a metaphysical realist, actually a Thomist, or at least Thomistic (not being a specialist), and I hold that the principle that guarantees the possibility of recognizing agreement or disagreement, is the principle of contradiction itself, and the definition of truth which is adaequatio rei et intellectus, "mutual equality of the intellect's concept and the reality outside the mind". Reality outside the mind includes facts, and "facts are stubborn things" John Adams once told a jury. Proper judgement requires a proper understanding of the facts, and not merely an attempt to dilute doctrinal realities into some kind of mutually agreed upon statements about them. The most important facts the Catholic Church deals with are given to her by Christ, and are not subject to "negotiation". Metaphysical idealists, whether Kantian or Hegelian, not only do not need facts, they believe that we cannot even know reality, so facts themselves, far from being stubborn, are totally malleable, as long as we just keep moving along.

Fr. Radner, echoing Cardinal Kaspar, raises the real issue that has many Catholics perplexed about what we are given to understand "ecumenism" is. "With many of these big issues, they’re not totally resolved, and that way [i.e., the old way] of resolving them seems to have run its course". It seems very clear to me that when one has done all the taking apart, analysis, and there remains no resolution, the parties should be said to be "not in agreement"; in fact, it might be truer to say that the parties actually contradict one another. Perhaps that should be the content of the so-called "ecumenical catechism" spoken about by Cardinal Kaspar: "In the end, we contradicted each other on the following points", followed by the long list of actual doctrines taught down the ages by the Catholic Church which its "ecumenical partners" deny.

And, of course, that catechism should be published, just like all the position statements over the decades have been published.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The Angel of Great Counsel II

On January 1, 2010, I posted on this subject. Now I find that Fr. Hunwicke has posted here, on a related subject, and quotes one of the Tractarian fathers as saying,
To the Temple sacrifice is added the perpetual intercession of CHRIST, as the Great Angel of the Covenant (compare the prayer Supplices te rogamus), that is, Christ, presents His petition amidst the smoke which rises from off the altar of gold.
The "mystery" Tractarian is Anglican Priest, Fr. John Mason Neale, well known for his translations of the ancient Latin hymns of the Latin liturgy into English, while retaining almost always the original Latin melody (if that's the right name for it).

Here is Neale's translation of the Sequence Coeli enarrant, written by Godescalcus in about AD 950, for the Feast of the Division of the Apostles which fell on July 15:
The Heavens declare the glory of the Son of God, the Incarnate Word, made Heavens from earth.
For this glory befitteth that LORD alone
Whose Name is the Angel of the Great Counsel.
This Counsel, the assistance of fallen man, is ancient, and profound, and true, made known to the Saints alone,
When this Angel, made Man of a woman, made an immortal out of a mortal; out of men, angels; out of earth, heaven.
This is the LORD GOD of Hosts, Whose angels sent into the earth are the Apostles.
To whom He exhibited Himself alive after His Resurrection by many arguments, announcing peace as the victor of death.
Peace be unto you, saith He; I am He; fear not; preach the word of CHRIST to every creature, before kings and princes.
As the FATHER hath sent Me, even so send I you into the world; be ye therefore prudent as serpents, be ye harmless as doves.
Hence Peter, Prince of Apostles, visited Rome; Paul, Greece, preaching grace everywhere; hence these twelve chiefs in the four quarters of the world, preached as Evangelists the Threefold and the One.
Andrew, either James, Philip, Bartholomew, Simon, Thaddeus, John, Thomas, and Matthew, twelve Judges, not divided from unity, but for unity, collected into one those that were divided through the earth:
Their sound is gone out into all lands.
And their words into the ends of the world.
How beautiful are the feet of them that proclaim good tidings, -- that preach peace;
That speak thus to them that are redeemed by the Blood of CHRIST: Sion, thy GOD shall reign;
Who made the worlds by the Word; Which Word was for us, in the end of the world, made Flesh:
This Word Which we preach, CHRIST crucified, Who liveth and reigneth, GOD in heaven.
These are the Heavens in which, O CHRIST, Thou inhabitest; in whose words Thou thunderest; in whose deeds Thou lightenest; in whose grace Thou sendest Thy dew:
To these Thou hast said: Drop down, O ye heavens, from above, and let the clouds rain the Just One; let the earth be opened and bud.
Raise up a Righteous Branch, Thou Who causest our earth to bring forth, sowing it with the seed of Apostolic words: through whose words grant, O LORD, that we, holding the Word of the FATHER, may bring forth fruit to Thee, O LORD, in patience.
These are the Heavens which Thou, Angel of the great Counsel, inhabitest, Whom Thou callest not servants, but friends; to whom Thou tellest all things that Thou hast heard from the FATHER.
By whose Division mayest Thou preserve Thy flock, collected and undivided, and in the bond of peace; that in Thee we may be one, as with the FATHER Thou art One.
Have mercy on us, Thou that dwellest in the heavens.

Monday, February 8, 2010

The Perils of Pseudo-Compassion

Sandro Magister has a very interesting piece here, on a false use of the concept of "compassion" around the world, and even within the Catholic Church, these days. His introductory piece is rather interesting for detailing some recent (2009) controversies at high levels of the Church, after which he publishes an excellent essay by Belgian Fr. Michel Schooyans. All this is a propos of a meeting to be held in Rome next week at the Pontifical Academy for Life:

The meeting promises to be a stormy one. Some of the members of the academy are openly questioning whether Fisichella is fit to be president. Foremost among them is Monsignor Michel Schooyans, Belgian, professor emeritus of the Catholic University of Louvain, a respected specialist in anthropology, political philosophy, bioethics. He is a member of three pontifical academies: for social sciences, of Saint Thomas Aquinas, and – most relevant here – for life. Pope Joseph Ratzinger knows and admires him. In 1997, as cardinal prefect of the congregation for the doctrine of the faith, he wrote a preface to one of his books: "L'Évangile face au désordre mondial."
At the end of his well-written review of the use of "bogus compassion" by officials of both society and the Church today, Fr. Schooyans asks a very pointed question:
A delicate, yet inescapable, question remains. Given that, under the conditions described above, Holy Communion is to be refused to a lay person, does the Code of Canon Law impose suspension measures, on the twofold grounds of scandal and heresy, on clergy who publicly express pseudo-compassion for abortionists?

Ooh, la la!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Rahnerian Inadequatism: Schlepping heresy into the Catholic Church

I recently read an article which does a good job of outlining the pros and cons with respect to forming a proper Catholic attitude toward the Medjugorje phenomenon. For those interested in that, I refer them to the article itself, which may be found here.

The article consists of an interview, with a German theologian, Fr. Manfred Hauke, professor of dogmatics and patristics at Lugano. What I found most refreshing in reading the interview was not something which the professor said pertaining to Medjugorje, but this:

According to one widespread theory, which goes back to Karl Rahner most prominently, all apparitions are "imaginative visions". According to that theory, the content of the "apparition" has a psychogenic origin, even if it can be made possible by a divine impulse. That is, God does not work in this world immediately, but only through created secondary causes (especially through the human psyche). In other words: whether someone experiences a vision of a "ship's goblin", or of his own stepmother, or of the Virgin Mary depends on the subjective psychological disposition, perhaps on unconscious mental processes, and not on objective circumstances that encounter the person from outside himself. In such a theory the question of authenticity or inauthenticity of Marian apparitions is no longer germane, in the last analysis. Against this, I would stress that to exclude the unmediated intervention of God in this world is intellectually not tenable, because then the original creation out of nothing, which goes back to God alone, would be impossible. Besides this, there are unequivocally witnessed phenomena, in which the content of what was seen comes from an extra-mental experience: for example, in the Marian apparitions at Knock in Ireland in 1879, 15 people saw Mary with other saints, and an altar, in pouring rain; the place where the saints stood remained dry despite the pouring rain. Such an event is not explicable by Rahner's subjectivistic proposal. We must always consider the subjective factor: even in genuine revelations errors can intrude, when human imagination adds something or when a statement is interpreted wrongly. And there is naturally the phenomenon of fantasies of a morbid origin, or the possibility of deception. If both are excluded, standing in the center of the interpretation of apparitions is the evaluation of its extra-mental origin: the intervention of God and heavenly personages, or instead evil forces.
 Finally, theologians are speaking sense again.

Friday, January 29, 2010

The Cole Porter Catholics

There's no argument when it comes to the joy of listening to Cole Porter music. Especially for those in the prime of life, and who are doing well. Not many questions to answer, not many concerns to worry about, not many commitments to keep. One's heart may wander, but when all is said and done:
But I'm always true to you, darlin', in my fashion
Yes, I'm always true to you, darlin', in my way.
This wonderful lyric ought to be adopted as their anthem by all those who have very strong feelings about "the liturgy", without wanting to be too concerned about the "fine print". Works for me, and in the end that's what's important, right?

Many need to remember that the Church does not teach that the Sacraments are the be-all and end-all of life, human or Christian, but rather the principle means of salvation entrusted to Her by which mankind is to be saved.

There are those who comment on blogs, especially blogs dealing with the minutiae or aesthetics of the Liturgy, especially nowadays the Traditional Latin Mass, or Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite, of whom one should be able to expect more, that Pope John Paul II was not "great" because he had a liturgical tin-ear, or because he went too far in displays of what they think of as a "false ecumenism". But now, Pope Benedict XVI, who is great (in this I agree with them), is restoring things to the way they should be (liturgically, and hopefully everywhere else).

One young Catholic philosopher, who for professional reasons had to move from one location to another, and failing to find a "traditional Catholic community" had to fall in with a "Novus Ordo" parish, but one which was faithful the the Church's liturgical norms, discovered that he and his family had nothing to fear from the "New Mass" and those who worshipped according to it. He even mentioned that he learned a few things from those fellow Christians! What this man had discovered was "peace", and he wrote an article describing his personal discovery, and published it in a well known monthly Catholic journal.

As part of his analysis of his own experience, he suggested that his prior attitude had been more that of a Gnostic, rather than that of a Catholic. Because of the injustice created when large numbers of clergy abandoned the strict adherence to the Church's liturgical norms, it became a matter of concern for any conscientious Catholic to find out what was being taught in each parish, what was being preached in each homily, how Christ was being worshiped at each Mass. There were certain outward signs that might help -- altar arrangements, vestments, etc. -- but then depending on the allegiances of the priests saying Mass, those outward signs might or might not be authentic signs of true Catholic Faith. So even among the so-called "traditionalist" groups, one had to decide for himself. You know:
In olden days a glimpse of stocking
Was looked on as something shocking
Now heaven knows, anything goes.
His use of the term "gnosticism" was justified; in many ways, it resembles a protestant attitude, where lacking the authority of a Church, one searches out and either finds, or founds, a Church that seems to address one's "issues".

The recent "revelations" of the great asceticism of Pope John Paul II (the "non-Great") recalled all this to my mind: Karol Woytyla's whole life was a testimony to fidelity to God, to authentic friendship between men, to reconciliation and reaching out to others, to authentic heroically lived human and supernatural virtues. If he wasn't a liturgical purist, who cares?

Pope John Paul II was truly Great, with the greatness that comes, not from critiquing the nits, and nats, of liturgical practice, but with the grace of God that is supposed to flow from the Sacraments, the great means of sanctification, to form us into other Christs.
I can't look at hobbles and I can't stand fences
Don't..... fence me in.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Being and not Being

I bought Peter Kreeft's Summa of the Summa for my daughter because she asked me for it. Since her mother is wont to throw any books my daughter has that appear to have any connection with orthodox Christianity in the garbage, I have been safekeeping the book at my place.

This morning I decided to read Kreeft's introduction, which I found to be excellent. Much like the kinds of comments that a good professor of Thomistic philosophy or theology would be making to students as they made their way through the arguments. For anyone really interested, I recommend simply reading the whole thing, which is rather brief to begin with, about 12 pages. On page 21 I came across this gem:

Why so many footnotes instead of longer, more general introductory essays for each section? (1) Because with St. Thomas general ideas are not adequate, though they are necessary; we need to understand him in specific detail; (2) because we need help understanding specific passages, which general introductions cannot supply; and (3) because this technique trains our minds, which all too often are accustomed to be satisfied with vague generalities, especially in philosophy and theology.
In other words, because we need the specifics, we need the specifics, and we need to avoid mere generalities! Excellent, excellent and excellent. Then he continues:

St. Thomas thought of philosophy and theology as sciences. As a philosophy teacher I repeatedly discover that science majors find St. Thomas easier (at least at first) than humanities majors (especially sociology, psychology, and communications majors).
This got me to wonder why that is. Or, to be less ingenuous, I have noticed a similar thing with respect to the level of discourse by Catholics on the Internet, and how little most voices have to offer! I mention "Catholics" because I am one, and because when I was growing up, there were far more men and women making specific, logical arguments about reality and society, than I seem to encounter these days, except in a few places.

I attribute it to the lack of formation given to most Catholics over recent decades. Unlike in my student days, when "theology majors" were rare except among those studying to be priests or religious, its seems that today, every other person who feels the need to write has a degree in Religious Studies or Theology. And most of what they say seems to have very little impact. The only group worse at communicating seem to be sociologists and communications majors!

I think it goes back to Hegel and Kant. Their deformative systems have a characteristic that is critical to this issue, and it comes right at the starting points of their "systems". (Kreeft points out in his introduction, by the way, that Thomism is systematic, but not a system.) It is easiest to see in the case of Hegel.

When Hegel speaks of "non being", he defines it as the negation of "being". In other words, non-being is an existent which merely contradicts being.

Let's try an example. "The ball is red; the ball is not red." Both propositions are about an existing thing, a ball. One asserts its color, the other denies its color. The color, an actual reality, is either red or not-red, but in both cases, it is colored. This is called univocal predication, and is the province of formal sciences, logic and its offshoot, mathematics. The question of existential predication does not come up.

Existential predication is about whether something is or is not, in actual point of fact, in reality. If Einstein asserts that Newtonian physics is fine, as long as we correct it slightly to account for special, and general relativity, he is saying that the universe is something like Newtonian physics says it is, but that the mathematics (the physical model) needs to be "corrected" in order to truly model reality, by those quantities that account for relativistic phenomena (which usually only manifest discernable differences at great distances or great velocities). Einstein is using reality to correct an existing model.

This is a statement about what is, and what is not. We are not given a choice between two ways of understanding the universe, relativistic and non-relativistic, which issue in some third understanding (the Hegelian dialectic), but a denial that the universe is really like simple Newtonian physics, and an assertion that the universe is actually Einsteinian.

An even simpler example. "the universe is large" vs. "the universe is not large" is at the level of formal predication; whereas "the universe is" vs. "the universe is not" is at the level of existential predication.

To get back to our religious topic, when Christ said "This is my body", he was not speaking as a Hegelian; he meant, "this bread" which you see, "is ontologically my body" (after the Blessing) which you do not see. Were he being purely "logical", He could only have said, "this is not my body", which was obvious to everybody within earshot, and would no more have needed saying, than it needed to be said that "this house is not my body".

I do not know how any Catholic, much less great Catholic theologians, can be anything but a realist. In fact, it must be that realism must be one of those curious things which the church has called "proxima fidei", because while not being strictly revealed, it is so close to a proper grasp of what is revealed, that it is a near "neighbor" of faith.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Liturgical Peace

There is an interesting recent essay on the Reform of the Reform movement as the second aim of Summorum pontificum emanating from a website called Paix Liturgique, i.e., Pax liturgica. I like the name since it is what Benedict XVI called for in his letter to the Bishops of the Church in promulgating the Motu proprio.

Its author is not named, so I can only reference the article itself. Its anonymity is a bit of a problem, though, since it makes some very strong claims. Does the author have the knowledge to make such claims? Who knows? I myself think more nuance is needed; not random nuance, but that of one who does have the authority to make them. Joseph Ratzinger, as Cardinal Prefect of the CDF, possessed such authority.

The author's main point, as I read it, is that the predominant (if not exclusive) influence is to be, and ought to be, that of the Ordinary Form being reformed in the light of the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite. It makes the strong claim that the Older form is to be changed in no way whatsover, that there ought not to be, nor will there ever be, a tertium quid, i.e., a third form of the Rite to eventually emerge as the ultimate child of the "mutual enrichment" the Pope spoke about.

As to the rest of the article, I am sympathetic, since it argues that what is needed is a restoration of adoration of God in the Holy Mass, greater sacrality, and asserts that the Offertory prayers of the Older form should and will replace the current Offertory prayers of the Ordinary Form.

The two problems that I perceive with the argumentation are that a) the author speaks as if the starting point, the terminus a quo, is well-known and fixed, and b) the author ignores the directives of the bishops assembled at Vatican II in the Liturgical Constitution on the Liturgy Sacrosanctum concilium (SC).

Is the Mass of Blessed John XXIII of 1962 a well-known and fixed entity? At first glance, one might think that it is: there is a Roman Missal dated 1962, and it includes the insertion of the name of St. Joseph during the commemoration of the Saints. This much is well-known and fixed.

But the Mass celebrated just before and during the Council, was not entirely contained in a book with prayers and rubrics. There were degrees of prescribed solemnity for the Sacrifice of the Mass, degrees which were not changed with the Missal itself. There was a concept of a "normative Mass", which was -- so I've been told -- the Solemn Pontifical Mass, where the Bishop was the main celebrant, and he was assisted by Deacon and Subdeacon, Master of Ceremonies, and a number of other assistants, not to mention the choir. There was a concept of a "private Mass", not that any mass is actually private, but rather that the priest was celebrating with no more than one other, a server to assist him.  There were gradations between these two, depending on many different circumstances. The proper number of ordained ministers was set; the vestments used were determined by the solemnity, as well as the liturgical solemnity of the feast or feria; etc. So far, we have gone deep into the weeds without getting any answers.

In addition, there co-existed at the time a certain freedom to celebrate Holy Mass using modalities which some have made controversial. Elsewhere, I copied some text from the introductory section of my old hand missal, which describes about six modalities for celebrating Holy Mass. That post may be found here. The different modalities involve participation by the congregation and choir. Such practices were not only entirely orthodox at the time, but even encouraged. But because some "liturgical experts" have decided that they were the camel's nose under the tent of what they regard as an almost invalid reform of the liturgy over the next decade, they deplore these modalities. On the other hand, it strikes me that what SC was calling for, included some of them. But more importantly, it seemed that way to Joseph Ratzinger in 1998 (cf. an address of his to a conference of "Eccesia Dei" participants here along with some pointed remarks by me here).

What the author does not make clear is whether or not such freedoms (permissions), dating from 1962 or before, are part of the terminus a quo he has in mind, or not.

Separately, Fr. John Zuhlsdorf, on his blog, What Does the Prayer Really Say, has been asking over the last few years what the experience of his readers has been, both those who have always tried to keep in touch with the Older form of the Mass, as well as younger people who now have the opportunity to experience it. In the last week or so, he has been publishing impressions that he requested come to him via email. I am not going to reproduce them here, though I would recommend that anyone interested in those impressions take a look at his blog. I will characterize the responses as coming from people with ages ranging from late teens to people in their 60s and older. Some have preferences between the two Forms, others do not. Some have backgrounds in Latin, others do not. It is a good mix of people.

Some have opined that they would like to respond to the priest more (that was a modality); some have mentioned that they missed praying or singing the Gloria, Creed, and Our Father (that was a modality); others have mentioned that the would prefer that the readings be in the vernacular (rather than repeating them as is done in some places) (that is a modality that Benedict XVI mentions explicitly in Summorum pontificum, though the author of this article fails to mention it, only mentioning use of some of the new prefaces). Some mention that being unable to hear the prayers during the Canon makes it hard for them "to keep up with the priest". I have seen very rude responses to such observations, things like "you don't need to know where you are, only the Priest needs to know". Such rudeness fails to realize, or feigns ignorance, that one of the examples given by the Popes in the twentieth century, in speaking of "active participation" is, in fact, following the prayers of the Mass in hand missals. After all, it is also true that only the celebrant needs to receive Holy Communion, the highest form of "active participation" in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

The point is that while the Roman Missal of 1962 is a known entity, what exactly should be taken as the norm by those desiring to effect a reform of the reform is not thereby known. It would be helpful if the terminus a quo were spelled out authoritatively, so that the Ordinary Form of the Mass might also be able to participate in the "mutual enrichment" of the two Forms for which Pope Benedict is hoping.

It's hard to applaud with only one hand.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Full Priesthood and "People's Priests"

While the title of this article may sound like something taken from the marxist ravings of some liberation theologian, it is not. I have distilled the title from a portion of Cardinal Ratzinger's response to Peter Seewald in "Salt of the Earth" (pp.198-9).

In the larger context, Seewald is pressing Ratzinger for his views about the possibility of married priests in the Church's future (pp. 194-200). For some reason Seewald, like others in our world today, has a fixation on an optionally married priesthood as a "solution" for problems in the Church. Ratzinger doesn't exactly agree with him, and cites two synods of bishops for support; both marriage and the priesthood today are in crisis due to a crisis of faith, a lack of vibrant believers.

After insisting that "celibacy is not a matter of compulsion", and truly that is a caricature foisted on us today by certain chatty Pornocrats (to use a term of Fr. Hunwicke), the Cardinal continues, asking, "That is now the question: How deeply do priesthood and celibacy belong together? And is not the wish to have only one [without the other] a lower view of the priesthood?" He then makes a brief review of ministerial service in Protestantism, Orthodoxy and Catholicism:

[I do not think] that in this matter it's enough simply to point to the Orthodox Churches and Protestant Christianity. Protestant Christianity has per se a completely different understanding of office: it is a function, it is a ministry coming out of the community, but it is not a sacrament in the same sense; it is not priesthood in this proper sense. In the Orthodox Churches we have, on the one hand, the full form of the priesthood, the priest monks, who alone can become bishops. Alongside them are the "people's priests", who, if they want to marry, must marry before ordination but who exercise little pastoral care but are really only liturgical ministers. This is also a somewhat different conception of priesthood. We, on the other hand, are of the opinion that everyone who is a priest at all must be so in the way that the bishop is and that there cannot be such a division.

In the light of the promulgation on Nov. 4, 2009 by Benedict XVI, in the Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum coetibus, of the juridical structure called a Personal Ordinariate, in this case destined for people with ties to Anglicanism, it is interesting to contemplate future such Ordinariates in the light of the distinction Ratzinger makes above regarding Orthodox priesthood: monk's priests vs. people's priests, celibate vs. married clergy.

In the immediate aftermath, it has been heart-warming to hear and read of the reception by Anglicans of that action made by the Pope, especially when one realizes how deft an initiative by the Holy Spirit it has been: the hopes of many have been raised high! And, as is fitting, many of the reflections are of the sort "what now", "what do I/we need to do now to respond to this?" In the vanguard, it seems to an outsider, are those Anglican clergy who have the most to lose by "crossing the Tiber", in the sense that being already in possession of certain "livings" (in the English sense of that word) and honors due to them for their service, they remain open to the possibilities of full reunion with the Mother Church.

Outside that group, among Roman Catholics, the popular imagination honed in immediately, and with the apparent intensity of Peter Seewald's questioning of Cardinal Ratzinger, on the matter of priestly celibacy, and whether or not this was a way of introducing married clergy into the otherwise celibate Catholic priesthood. Roman Catholics have always been known for the depth of their doctrinal acuity! As Patrick O'Brian would have said of them, they are true "sea lawyers". And who knows, the sea lawyers may be right; perhaps in the future the whole world will become accustomed to knowing that there are Catholic Priests of the Latin Rite (Anglican Use) who are comprised of (some) married clergy. If so, blessed be God! For a while, there will be those Catholics who shun the Sacrifice of the Mass offered by such priests, or if present at the Mass, who will seek to receive Communion at the hands of another (celibate) priest. I have seen the same little maneuver amongst "traditionalist" Catholics attending Mass in the Extraordinary Form, who would prefer to wait longer on the Communion line rather than to receive Our Lord at the hands of a married Deacon! St. Augustine used to speak (following the Apostles) of the parvuli and the perfecti, the babes and the adults.

The only point I wish to make here is this. The long and glorious history of the Anglican Patrimony, dating back to the times of the Anglo-Saxons, includes not just many treasures of an ecclesiastical-aesthetic interest, but also a very apostolic, missionary, thrust. One need only think of the great evangelists of the northern Germanic tribes, such as St. Boniface, from the south of England, Apostle to the Saxons (Tolkien did, in contemplating the purpose for the writing of the great epic Beowulf). And also, the great cloud of English martyrs of the Reformation period, who strove mightily to wrest back Mary's Dowry from those who would squander it. Devotion to Our Lady is very, very, very English. We English-speaking Roman Catholics must rejoice together with our soon-to-be brethren in the reconnecting of the Anglican Patrimony to its primal source.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Evolution. Status Quaestionis from circa 1909 in Catholic Encyclopedia

In the interest of informing evolutionary biologists like Dr. Richard Dawkins about what actual believing Catholic Christians have had to say about "evolution", here are the conclusions of a longish article from the Catholic Encyclopedia. Clearly, though 100 years old or so, this article has no axe to grind about the science. (And note the three components, in the author's opinion, of any future scientific theories of evolution!)

General conclusions

The most important general conclusions to be noted are as follows:—

1. The origin of life is unknown to science.

2. The origin of the main organic types and their principal subdivisions are likewise unknown to science.

3. There is no evidence in favour of an ascending evolution of organic forms.

4. There is no trace of even a merely probable argument in favour of the animal origin of man. The earliest human fossils and the most ancient traces of culture refer to a true Homo sapiens as we know him today.

5. Most of the so-called systematic species and genera were certainly not created as such, but originated by a process of either gradual or saltatory evolution. Changes which extend beyond the range of variation observed in the human species have thus far not been strictly demonstrated, either experimentally or historically.

6. There is very little known as to the causes of evolution. The greatest difficulty is to explain the origin and constancy of "new" characters and the teleology of the process. Darwin's "natural selection" is a negative factor only. The moulding influence of the environment cannot be doubted; but at present we are unable to ascertain how far that influence may extend. Lamarck's "inheritance of acquired characters" is not yet exactly proved, nor is it evident that really new forms can arise by "mutation". In our opinion the principle of "Mendelian segregation", together with Darwin's natural selection and the moulding influence of environment, will probably be some of the chief constituents of future evolutionary theories.

Source: Muckermann, H. (1909). Evolution (History and Scientific Foundation). In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Retrieved January 6, 2010 from New Advent:

Friday, January 1, 2010

The Angel of Great Council

For a number of years, I have been turning over in my mind a prayer from the Roman Canon, and a peculiar phrase there. The prayer occurs after the Consecration, and reads as follows, in Latin,
Supplices te rogamus, omnipotens Deus: jube haec perferri per manus sancti Angeli tui in sublime altare tuum, in conspectu divinae maiestatis tuae: ut quotquot, ex hac altaris participatione sacrosanctum Filli tui Corpus et Sanguinem sumpserimus, omni benedictione caelesti et gratia repleamur. Per eumdem Christum Dominum nostrum. Amen.
And in English, using the same capitalization as in Latin,
Humbly we implore thee, almighty God, bid these offerings to be carried by the hands of thy holy Angel to thy altar on high, in the sight of thy divine majesty, that all we who are partakers at the altar of the precious Body and Blood of thy Son, may be filled with all heavenly grace and blessing. Through the same Christ our Lord. Amen.

Aside from the first word of the paragraph, and the traditional conclusion, the words capitalized here are the following: God, Angel, Body, Blood, Son.

Why do I find that meaningful? Well, for one thing, earlier versions of this same prayer from the Canon of the Mass do not use "Angeli", but "angelorum". At the early times when these sources were copied punctualization (including capitalization) may not have been very significant, so "Angel" in the upper case must be a relatively late touch-up; but the change from "angels" to "Angel", which might otherwise appear to be a minor editorial change makes me think that this was to indicate that the Angel in question was the person of Jesus Christ himself, at this point in the Mass, present on the altar under the appearances of bread and wine.

I say this without being certain about it, because if that is the purpose of this phrase, i.e., to bid the Father to accept "our offering" at the hands of His Beloved Son, who was sent to us for our salvation, it must be a reference to some phrase from Scripture, and the word "angel" must be taken in its sense of "messenger", rather than referring to Christ himself as if he were of Angelic nature, which is an ancient heresy.

It is such an old heresy, in fact, that St. Paul (?) explicitly makes the case that Christ is "higher" than the angels in the first couple of chapters of the Epistle to the Hebrews! St. Paul asks: "For to which of the angels has he said at any time: Thou art my Son, today have I begotten thee? (Heb 1, 5; quoting Psalm 2).

Happily, however, I have been able to find the passage that was clanging about in the back of my mind. Today, January 1, the Octave of Christ's Nativity, I attended the Extraordinary Form of the Mass at my parish, and the Introit of today's Mass is from the Prophet Isaiah (Is 9, 6):
Puer natus est nobis, et filius datus est nobis: cuius imperium super humerum eius: et vocabitur nomen eius, magni consilii Angelus.
A child is born to us, and a Son is given to us, whose rule is upon his shoulders: and his name shall be called the Angel of great counsel.
The Latin and English here, i.e., in the Liturgy of the Mass, follow the words of the Septuagint Greek, μεγάλης βουλῆς ἄγγελος. It seems like a very good expression of the sacramental mystery of the Sacrifice of the Mass, for which Christ's Incarnation, which we celebrate today on its Octave, is a precondition.