Thursday, April 24, 2014

Prayer to the Last Sainted Pope

I have titled this post "Prayer to the Last Sainted Pope" because I realized that after this Saturday that title will no longer apply to the great Pope St. Pius X. Let us humbly invoke his intercession as we continue to move forward through this Valley of Tears.

O glorious St. Pius X, hammer of modernists, humble shepherd of souls and pastor of the universal Church, last sainted pope, pray for us and for the Holy Catholic Church in this dire hour.

Pray to the Lord for us, poor sinners, who have not fully appreciated your teachings and have rejected your counsels. We have seen your vision of where we are and where we are going and have shrunk back, preferring compromise with the world to the robust combat with the forces of evil that our Lord calls us to.

Intercede for your Church, that her pastors and princes will come to a profound realization of the truths enunciated in your great teachings Pascendi, Lamentabili Sane and the Oath Against Modernism. Pray that we will all see Modernism for what it is and understand what chaos it has already wrought in the Church and world.

Through your glorious intercession, may God, in His mercy, avert His wrath from us and instead turn and heal us. Let our hearts be turned that we can repent; let our minds be flooded with light that we may reject the errors of our age. May God in His mercy say that our exile is at an end, that our cup has been drunk to the dregs, that debt has been paid in full
.

May we again value truth above all else, and reject the imprudent and false dichotomy that seeks to erode truth at the expense of a false tolerance. May our liturgies be ceremonies of reverent and humble of our Creator, our theology grounded in sound principles following the path laid out by the great St. Thomas. May our witness be bold and sure, our charity be fervent, and may souls flood into the Church.

May our leaders in the Church and State be deeply moved by the vision you set for the Church, and may God, in His great mercy, lead us towards a true repentance and restoration of the Catholic Church.

St. Pius X, last sainted pope, pray for us! May God have mercy on us.


Thursday, April 17, 2014

Canonization and Papal Infallibility

There has been much discussion as of late on the question of the relation between canonization and papal infallibility, encouraged by the recently published interview wherein the Italian historian Roberto de Mattei opined that John XXIII is not a Saint, and that this is an okay position for him to hold, because canonization is not something that can carry the charism of infallibility which the Pope possesses.

Modestinus offers a sincere thought on the subject in his post, here.

We here at USC have dealt with this question in depth before; however, since the conversation has now begun to devolve a bit in the blogosphere, we thought it would be good for a bit of clarity on the matter.

In order to exercise an act infallibly, the Pope must meet the conditions laid down at Vatican I:
"when the Roman Pontiff speaks EX CATHEDRA, that is, when, in the exercise of his office as shepherd and teacher of all Christians, in virtue of his supreme apostolic authority, he defines a doctrine concerning faith or morals to be held by the whole Church, he possesses, by the divine assistance promised to him in blessed Peter, that infallibility which the divine Redeemer willed his Church to enjoy in defining doctrine concerning faith or morals. Therefore, such definitions of the Roman Pontiff are of themselves, and not by the consent of the Church, irreformable.". (source)

Now, let us look at an example of the Bull proclaiming a person to be a Saint (from the declaration of Kateri Tekakwitha):
"To the honor of the Holy and Undivided Trinity, for the exaltation of the Catholic faith and the building up of Christian life, by the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, of the blessed Apostles Peter and Paul, and of Ourselves, after mature deliberation and having frequently implored the divine assistance, and with the council of many of Our Brethren, we declare and define that ... Catherine Tekakwitha ... is a Saint, and we enroll her in the Catalogue of Saints, commanding that she ought to be venerated among the Saints with pious devotion in the universal Church. In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit." (Translation by Anselm)
Here, we find that the Pope exercises his own authority over the universal Church in declaring and defining that someone is a Saint. This meets all of the criterion for infallibility, except perhaps the question "is the fact that a particular person is in Heaven a matter of faith or morals?"

In the original USC article we referenced St. Thomas, as well as Ott, saying:
"when we confess a certain member of the Church to be among the blessed, this belief is an extension of the confession of faith (Quodl. 9,16). If we can say in the Creed that we believe in the 'communion of saints', it necessarily follows that the Church must maintain some means for distinguishing who is among the saints that we believe in and confess. This is why the canonization of saints is bound up with the Church's infallibility; or, as Dr. Ott says, 'If the Church could err in her opinion [of canonized saints], consequences would arise which would be incompatible with the sanctity of the Church' (ibid)."
The fact of the canonization of a Saint, then, is what is referred to as a "secondary object" of the Faith - one that is not dogma itself, but is intricately bound up with the divine revelation, and so to deny it would be to lead one toward the direction of denying an element of the Faith itself.

So it seems, then, the declaration of Canonization does in fact follow the formula for the exercise of infallibility by the Pope, and we can therefore have assurance that whomever the Pope does in fact canonize (while following the formula for an infallible act) will in fact be a Saint in Heaven, and we should have rest in that certainty.

By virtue of this fact, the second aspect of the person's canonization, that they are a person of heroic virtue who should be seen as a model for the faithful is not a question that is at all up for dispute. Simply because a Saint makes mistakes in his life, or even makes objectively wrong choices, has no bearing on the matter. A Saint is not a person who lived their whole life perfectly; but rather, a Saint is a person who, by the end of their earthly pilgrimage, demonstrated the fact that through God's grace they were able to attain to an eminent degree of perfection. For this reason they should be seen by all as a model for the faithful of heroic virtue, and the fact that they have been canonized dispels any doubt there might be in the matter.

This is not to say that elements of the pontificates of John XXIII or John Paul II are not problematic; they certainly are. This is for history to assess. Because of the changes in the process and the manner in which these canonizations are proceeding, it has been the position of this blog that there is an unfortunate confusion in modern canonizations when it comes to saints who also held ecclesiastical office vis-a-vis the question of whether a saint who was personally holy but had significant failures in the exercise of their office should be considered a model of heroic virtue (see here and here). Without reopening that argument, it suffices to say that a saint must always be a role model for heroic virtue in so far as we are talking about their personal holiness, which is the fundamental reason for their canonization. In the case of John Paul II, Cardinal Amato said very plainly that the canonization is based on the late pontiff's personal holiness, not how he administered his papacy or the impact he had in the world. We may not appreciate that distinction or think it is helpful, but at least in making this statement the Vatican has, in a certain sense, sorted out the question of whether John Paul's canonization means he was also a model pope. The answer is clearly no, and Cardinal Amato's answer thankfully allows us to maintain this point whilst simultaneously affirming the legitimacy of his canonization as a true exercise of the infallibility of the pope.

If you are interested in reading in greater detail on the question of papal infallibility, Our long-time friend John Joy wrote his license thesis on this question in the book Cathedra Veritatis, defending his position masterfully, and we are privileged to have the book version available in our web store - please consider buying a copy and supporting his livelihood!


*a great thanks to both Anselm and Boniface for a rousing discussion on the subject

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Question on Antiquarianism


One of the biggest shams that has been foisted on the Catholic people in the wake of Vatican II has been the errant philosophy of antiquarianism, also called archaeologism. Archaeologism fundamentally denies the living nature of the Church, placing greater value on traditions that came earlier chronologically and rejecting those which came later as unnecessary "accretions." Pius XII, in Mediator Dei, wrote that:
"The Church is without question a living organism, and as an organism, in respect of the sacred liturgy also, she grows, matures, develops, adapts and accommodates herself to temporal needs and circumstances, provided only that the integrity of her doctrine be safeguarded. This notwithstanding, the temerity and daring of those who introduce novel liturgical practices, or call for the revival of obsolete rites out of harmony with prevailing laws and rubrics, deserve severe reproof." (Mediator Dei, 59)
Some time ago, we published a lengthy article addressing the dangers of archaeologism on the Unam Sanctam Catholicam website ("What is Archaeologism?"). In response to this article, a reader of the website - and a new conver - sent me the following inquiry:

Just read your article on Vatican II and antiquarianism. If this is the case and antiquitarianism is bad, then does that mean that the OF is not a valid Mass? I am a recent convert and am still sort of confused by this.

It has always been the position of this blog that the Ordinary Form of the Mass (the "Mass of Paul VI" or the "Novus Ordo") is a legitimate, valid Mass. That being said, it is undeniable that the Novus Ordo Mass was certainly influenced by antiquarian ideas. This is especially seen in the push for "simplification" of the rites that we see advocated in Sacrosanctum Concilium chapter 50:

"The rite of the Mass is to be revised in such a way that the intrinsic nature and purpose of its several parts, as also the connection between them, may be more clearly manifested, and that devout and active participation by the faithful may be more easily achieved. For this purpose the rites are to be simplified, due care being taken to preserve their substance; elements which, with the passage of time, came to be duplicated, or were added with but little advantage, are now to be discarded; other elements which have suffered injury through accidents of history are now to be restored to the vigor which they had in the days of the holy Fathers, as may seem useful or necessary."

When the Novus Ordo was promulgated in 1969, we saw, for example, the reduction of the amount of times the Sign of the Cross was used, the elimination of the Last Gospel, prayers at the foot of the altar, etc. This elimination of rites stems from a view of the organic developments of the liturgy as accretions that are of "little advantage" to the faithful - like barnacles on a ship. A further evidence of the trend towards antiquarianism was the positive predilection for "ancient" prayers and disciplines in the reforms following the Council. For example, the promulgation of Eucharistic Prayer #2, which was supposed to be based on an ancient Jewish table blessing. In fact, the historicity of this prayer is questionable (see here).

This is an example of how many of the things introduced after Vatican II that were supposed to be "restorations" of ancient practices were nothing other than modern interpretations of ancient practices. The modern catechumenate and RCIA process were predicated on ancient practices, as were communion in the hand, the permanent diaconate, and the national episcopal conferences, but in each case the modern application was entirely different than the ancient prototypes upon which they were allegedly based. Archbishop Athanasius Schneider of Kazakhstan has written an excellent book on this phenomenon and how it relates to communion in the hand in his book Dominus Est: It is the Lord. So that there was a proclivity towards archaeologist interpretations of history in the Vatican II era is undeniable.

That being said, the fact that archaeologism influenced some of those working at Vatican II does not invalidate the New Mass. The influence of archaeologism in the minds of some of the Fathers who drafted the Novus Ordo does not mean that heretical elements per se have been introduced into the liturgy. This is because archaeologism, though extremely damaging, is not a heresy properly understood, but is more of a flawed approach to history - a fallacious historiographical trend within Catholic thinking. The fallacious thinking has led to the very disorders which Pius XII predicted, but here we are dealing with problems on a "macro" level - philosophical approaches to history, assumptions we bring to the study of liturgical tradition, and so on. The validity of a particular liturgy, on the other hand, is something usually considered on the "micro" level - what are the particular words being used in the rite, what is the form of the sacrament, is the minister doing what the Church intends to be done, etc. None of these particularities are effected by the fact that some of the Vatican II fathers harbored archaeologist assumptions.

That is not to say that validity is all that matters; I have frequently argued on here that to view a Mass simply in terms of whether or not it is valid is horrendously reductionist. The validity of Holy Communion is not the only consideration.

So, please do not mistake me as saying that the prevalence of archaeologist thinking at Vatican II is not problematic; it certainly is. But I would not say that this renders the Ordinary Form Mass invalid. A historiographical-philosophical assumption cannot invalidate the Mass, even if it is a damaging historical approach. If anything, it is simply an argument why the Extraordinary Form is more consonant with Catholic Tradition.


Tuesday, April 08, 2014

"The Principle" Controversy


So I guess there is a lot of controversy brewing over Robert Sungenis' documentary The Principle, which is apparently an apologia for a human-centered universe, including geocentric propositions. That is not the sole source of the controversy; it appears that Sungenis was a little deceptive in describing the purpose of the film to those who participated in it (scientists Lawrence Krauss, Michio Kaku, et al) - he even managed to hire Kate Mulgrew of Star Trek: Voyager fame to narrate the entire documentary while keeping from her its geocentric propositions! Now that the documentary is public, these individuals are all understandably upset that their names are being linked to promotion of geocentrism. Denials and repudiations are flying all across the web.

So...whatever. I understand this sort of subterfuge is not uncommon in documentary film making. I personally do not care that Sungenis is a geocentrist. I was once talking with a good Catholic friend about this issue and we came to the conclusion that, if you dig deep enough, probably every person has some theory or hypothesis or conspiracy that they believe in that the wider world would think insane if they were to find out about. So, it's really neither here nor there to me that Sungenis believes in geocentrism. If this message is what he wants to be known for, he can go right ahead. I just don't care.

What does grate on me a little is the resources he seems to pour into this single message. The Principle was not an inexpensive movie to make; I would assume he probably spent close to a million dollars on it. If I personally had a million dollars in disposable income and wanted to do something positive with it, I am not sure stressing geocentric cosmology would be the best use of those resources. The vehemence with which Sungenis has pushed geocentrism and the amount of money he has put into it almost suggests that he views geocentrism as the most important aspect of the Gospel. I'm not sure if this is accurate or not, but that's the impression I get - which is disturbing because most Catholics would strongly object that geocentrism is part of Divine Revelation at all; and even if it were, for the sake of argument, does its importance in the hierarchy of truths merit so much money, time and attention? If I had access to a million dollars to do some sort of evangelical apostolate, it certainly would not be on some peripheral point that is not even part of Catholic doctrine.

Just my opinion. 

Sunday, April 06, 2014

USC Videos: Faith Magazine

If you live or have lived in the Diocese of Lansing, you know my pain. Faith Magazine. Oh, Faith Magazine. Why does it have to be this way? It could be so much better.


Related Articles:
Faith Magazine's Definition of Inspiration
Communion Straw Men

Monday, March 31, 2014

Reproaches and Tribulation

“And on the one hand indeed, by reproaches and tribulations, were made a gazingstock; and on the other, became companions of them that were used in such sort.”  Hebrews 10:33

This is part 2 of  a two blog posts on insolent speech

There is not a shortage of drink in the cup of bitterness today is their my friend? Perhaps if I was with you or we lived close to one another I could offer you a drink, a comfortable chair and some time to hear your woes, to shake my head at the cruelty of the approaches and insults leveled against you.  What insults? The names leveled against you: fool, pharisee, reactionary, protestant, nutter, crazy, loathsome, pharisaic, prideful etc.  The exaggerations and caricatures used to distort what you say. The suggestions of either subtle or explicit evil in all of your words.  The guilt by association used to discredit you before you even open your mouth. 

We could perhaps include the titles of rad trad, neo con, and the such like, which, are used like a brush to paint your opinions offering a sloppy and quick condemnation without even hearing or reading you.  Please my friend, suffer me not to argue with me that these titles are a just thing, my point is not to argue about the justice of the use of titles, but to point out that titles should not be used to be dismissive to silence and not consider someones words.

Charity seems to be preached from all sides, which is good, but there can seem to be a lack of good examples.  One side condemns an evil action and the the other side condemns the people who condemned the evil for condemning and then the first party condemns them etc.  Or, perhaps in weakness a soul expresses doubt, he is forthwith condemned for faithlessness.  A person, perhaps to casually lets off steam, or pleads for the attention when he has been neglected, instead of being comforted he is mocked and ridiculed and held up to scorn.

And of course as sins of the tongue and hatred is en-kindled on all sides, charity will be constantly invoked with indignation.  It seems that to their guilt, many people are truly blind to the sins of the tongue and judgement.  Lord I am blind, I wish to see!

There has been much discussion about whether we should criticize the Pope, and the Bishops. If every member of the Church is part of the body of Christ, I think it would be better to discuss how we should deal with one another. If we cannot be kind to who we sit next to in the pew or suffer them with patience we will lack the understanding on how to approach those people who are set apart.   How are people to know that we are Christs disciples? It is by the love that we show one another. John 13:35

I hope that I can offer some practical advice for how to deal with these situations when they occur, to help you suffer, or rather, to suffer together in patience.

So let us sit beside our Lord Jesus, mocked with a crown of thorns, abandoned by friends, struck with a reed, jeered at by enemies.  We will ask him in his affliction to comfort us who are so weak, who struggle to rejoice when we bear with contempt and insolence of others and teach us His wisdom.

Lets start with David, the man after Gods own heart. 1 Samuel 13:14

“Semei, the son of Gera, and coming out he cursed as he went on, And he threw stones at David, ...And thus said Semei when he cursed the king: ...And Abisai the son of Sarvia said to the king (David): Why should this dead dog curse my lord the king? I will go, and cut off his head. And the king said: What have I to do with you, ye sons of Sarvia? Let him alone and let him curse: for the Lord hath bid him curse David: and who is he that shall dare say, why hath he done so? ...let him alone that he may curse as the Lord hath bidden him. Perhaps the Lord may look upon my affliction, and the Lord may render me good for the cursing of this day.  2 Samuel 16

We see here a living faith.  God is a loving Father that counts every hair on your head, we must not think that when he allows another to injure us with words that he does not know about it. 

“Had it been an evil thing to suffer wrong God would not have enjoined it upon us.”  St John Chrysostom, Homilies from the Fathers for Lent Vol 4

Look at Davids great trust: that God will repay him good for bearing the cursing in patience. God did and Semei that mocked him when David returned had to beg for his life. 

“Hath thy neighbour wronged and grieved thee, and involved thee in a thousand ills.  Bet it so, yet do not prosecute vengeance on thine own part, lest thou be treating thy Lord with contempt! Yield the matter to God, and He will dispose of it, much better than thou canst desire.. Never canst thou so avenge thyself, as He is prepared to avenge thee, if thou givest place to Him alone.”  St John Chrysostom, The Right Use of Lent, Homilies of the Fathers for Lent Vol 4.

We must have faith that God has willed us to suffer the evil, and that he will avenge us and grant us a reward if we bear it with patience. 

So we are insulted, and that terrible fight within us comes upon us like a beast, to keep our patience to win the crown? How shall we subdue it?

“What didst thou wish? To be avenged. Hast thou forgotten that when He was being crucified, He said, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do?"  He who is asleep in thy heart did not wish to be avenged.”  St Augustine, Christ Asleep, Homilies of the Fathers for Lent Vol 4

The remembrance of our Lord being crucified and His love for his enemies shall be our weapon  against our own wrath.  We will awake him, we will call on the name of the Lord, we will repeat those words “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do!”

And yet our hearts are still troubled: We see that God has willed it, and that we can obtain a great crown through patience, we have recalled the patience of Christ and remembered his passion, but the cruelty of the words cut deep!

Wait… Let us consider the cruelty of the remarks.  

"When you hear anyone spoken ill of, make the accusation doubtful if you can do so justly.  If you cannot, excuse the intention of the accused party.  If that cannot be done, express sympathy for him [and] change the subject of the conversation"  St Francis De Sales, Introduction to the Devout Life pg 205

Can we see if perhaps the words were meant to injure, or that the person meant good but failed to deliver? No? Is the person perhaps to be pitied in some way and that in the poor circumstances of the sorrows of there life they just lashed out?  I give you these considerations from the Doctor of Charity to continue in our fight.

Not enough yet?

Despite all of these things you still feel overcome and filled with rage.  

“It is not said merely, forgo wrath, but retain it not in thy mind; think not on it, part with all thy resentment...thou art tormenting thyself and setting up rage as an executioner within thee in every part.”  St John Chrysostom

Our suffering is real, what shall we do?

I say change the conversation with your own heart: go out to dinner, have a beer, go fishing, look at your favorite picture,  hold the evil remarks of others with contempt, look not on the remark, think not on the remark. A weed without water, light or warmth will die, so too will the insolent remarks fade from us if we put them out from our mind.  Wounds heal better when they are not licked.  

One day God willing my friends you and I will obtain to that perfection that suffers. Nay prefers insults and contempt! To suffer all things for Christ sake for: “Blessed are ye when they shall revile you, and persecute you, and speak all that is evil against you, untruly, for my sake: Be glad and rejoice, for your reward is very great in heaven.” Matt 5 11-12

Amen. So may it be.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Is the Novus Ordo a New Rite of the Church?

The term Novus Ordo is often used by “traditionalist” Catholics as a sort of pejorative, but it is most interesting to note that Paul VI himself referred to his new Mass as the “Novus Ordo”. [1] In light of this fact, I think we can charitably make use of the term as a means of distinction. But is the Novus Ordo a new rite of the Church?

The Vetus and the Novus, as Pope Emeritus Benedict has said, are “two expressions of the Church’s Lex orandi” [Law of praying]. Benedict sees that, while there is one law of prayer, it finds two expressions in the one Roman Rite. He says that their relationship is such that it “will in no way lead to a division in the Church’s Lex credendi [Law of believing]. They are, in fact two uses of the one Roman rite.” [2]

From this quote, it seems the question posed is all but answered. And yet, how can Paul VI be correct and Benedict XVI also be correct? Is it a new rite, as Paul VI has said, or is it merely another form of the same rite, as Benedict has said? The two seem to be in contradiction on the matter. Perhaps in order to resolve the conflict we should look more deeply at what a "rite" in fact is.

For Catholics in the West, to speak of the Roman Rite and the Latin Church is synonymous. However, it is important to note that in the East, a “church” refers to a particular people who are legally autonomous, and so they refer to a “church sui juris” (of one’s own right). There are multiple churches sui juris that share a common rite. It may be easier to see in terms of genus (rite) and species (church) - Under the genus, “Byzantine”, there are the species of Ukranian, Melkite, Ruthenian, Romanian, etc., all of whom, while sharing a common liturgical patrimony, are in fact legally autonomous from each other. In addition to the churches of the Byzantine Rite, there are also other rites, such as the Alexandrian, Antiochene, or Chaldean rites, and which are composed of various autonomous churches.

The Eastern Code of Canon Law defines a rite as thus: “A rite is the liturgical, theological, spiritual and disciplinary heritage, distinguished according to peoples' culture and historical circumstances, that finds expression in each autonomous church's way of living the faith.” [3]

In the West, we have used the word “ritus” to mean something different. Historically, we have referred to the one Latin church sui juris (whose Patriarch is the Bishop of Rome), with many “rites”, or liturgies, attached to it. So, we find that there was once not only the Roman Rite, but the Gallican Rite, or the Carmelite Rite, or the Sarum Rite - in effect, rite and church have the opposite hierarchical structure in the West from what is found in the East! We also use the word to speak of particular liturgical ceremonies, such as the "rite of baptism" or the "rite of communion", etc. The Old Catholic Encyclopedia treats of “rite” in this manner, defining it as “comprising the manner of performing all services for the worship of God and the sanctification of men” - in effect, a particular type of liturgy. [4]

If we take rite to be used in the Western sense, as defined by the Old Catholic Encyclopedia, we would have to say that Paul VI is entirely correct in calling the Novus Ordo a "new rite" of the Church. From this, can we conclude that Benedict in Summorum Pontificum was simply in error on this distinction - that the Novus and the Vetus should most properly be referred to as two rites, and not one? There are many canon lawyers and Bishops, who, following the Pauline definition of ritus, would say that Benedict was simply not a good canonist, that there are manifold problems surrounding the legislation Summorum Pontificum, and use this in order to prevent its implementation. However, to simply do this is not only incorrect, it is to miss the real genius behind the motu proprio given to us by Benedict. Let's take a closer look.

Returning to the definition for the word given in the Eastern Code of Canon Law, we find that in order to refer to something as a rite, we not only have to evaluate the liturgical patrimony, but also the “theological, spiritual and disciplinary heritage, distinguished according to peoples' culture and historical circumstances” in order to make a determination on the issue.

In light of the greater qualifications necessary for the constitution of a rite as laid down by the Code, we should perhaps endeavor not to speak equivocally of the word “rite”, and try to harmonize these two different definitions in order to see that, in fact, Paul VI and Benedict XVI are speaking of the same reality, albeit with different things being signified by the word "rite". In harmonizing the two, Benedict gives us a different word, “use”, as the more proper term pertaining to the various liturgies of the West, since he understands "rite" as having a more broad scope. As “particular liturgical usages” of the Roman Rite, the Vetus and the Novus should witness to the same “lex orandi” of the one Roman Rite. This distinction which Benedict is making between the two forms of the Mass has great implications, far beyond the liberation of the traditional missal, although they may not at first be apparent. These implications, I think, lie in the other qualifications of the constitution of a rite (as given in the Eastern Code), and bear greatly on our question, "is the Novus Ordo a new rite of the Church?"

Dear friends, I don’t think that I have the space in order to adequately explicate and argue one way or the other for the answer to this question - perhaps we are still too close in history to the Council to be able to judge such a thing. However, please allow me to make a few observations. After the Council, we were given a new liturgy, formed, not organically, but by a committee of “experts”. The substantial difference between the Tridentine Missal and the Missal of the post-Vatican II reform is sufficient enough for nearly all to agree that the Novus Ordo is in fact a formally new, albeit perhaps materially similar, usage of the Roman Rite.

But not only were we given a new liturgy, we were also given a new Code of Canon Law, adopting the legal language of modern political theory. Furthermore, the seminaries almost universally dropped St. Thomas from their formation programs in favor of modern philosophy and a “new theology” based upon the foundation of these modern philosophies.

In the implementation of all of these changes, an euphoric “spirit” of the Council was adopted as the new path to holiness in the modern world, throwing off the shackles of a “repressive” spirituality obsessed with peoples’ sins and medieval devotions while replacing it with an “all you need is love” sort of spirituality - one which could be summed up by the phrase “who am I to judge” as the modus vivendi for the Church in the modern world.

Fifty years after the Council, we are at a critical time in the history of the modern era of the Church. The answer to the question, “Is the Novus Ordo a new rite?”, I fear, is still very much an open one, and while the friction may rear its head most heatedly in the discussion of the Tridentine Mass versus the Mass of Paul VI, we should take care to have greater reference to the theological, spiritual, and disciplinary traditions in order to resolve the question. Benedict saw that, while a new rite could never be created de jure in the Church, [5] if things did not change dramatically, the West was well on its way to celebrating a new rite de facto.

This, I think, is the real mens behind the legislation Summorum Pontificum, and the particular genius of a Pope who, by his taking part in the reforms of the Council saw the dangers that accompany the adoption of a doctrine of progress. It is for this reason that we need Catholics who are not only devoted to the traditional liturgy, but also to the theological tradition accompanying the liturgy - to do anything less is to live a sort of duality within one’s own soul that will ultimately sow utter confusion and discord.

Benedict proposes that we must understand these new theologies, liturgies, and disciplines in the light of a hermeneutic of continuity. This, of course, is true - it is the only way to maintain the integrity of the one Roman Rite; and with regard to the Mass, it is the only way in which "These two expressions of the Church's Lex orandi will in not any way lead to a division in the Church's 'Lex credendi'". But especially with regard to those things which do not bear the charism of infallibility, perhaps the surest and most direct path to continuity with the patrimony of the Roman Rite that is given to us in the tradition is to be begin to discern which of those branches of the vine have not born the fruit that had been hoped for, and begin the pruning process, so that the whole vine might begin to bear good fruit once again.

The particular legislative genius of Summorum Pontificum has not yet been fully realized or appreciated - the recent unprecedented moves on traditional religious orders and academic institutions witnesses to this fact. I think that, in light of the particular reality that the Latin Church has found itself in at the beginning of this new millennium, Pope Benedict has shown us that the only way to stave off the natural schism (a “hermeneutic of rupture”) that occurs from two fundamentally opposed philosophical foundations is to be found in forming an intentional relation, a hermeneutic of continuity, between the Vetus Ordo and the Novus Ordo (and their accompanying theologies) as two forms of one rite.

The "auctoritas" [6] that the usus antiquior possesses will become the anchor for authentic liturgical renewal and reform, and, in turn, since lex credendi follows on lex orandi, the renewal of Catholic theology and life will continue to be enriched - proportionally, I would say - by the regularization of the particular theological and spiritual patrimony of the Vetus Ordo into the life of the Church as a whole.

The answer to the original question, “Is the Novus Ordo a new rite?” should be a simple one: “no, of course not!” The means of making this answer true lies in the work ahead, moving forward in faith, hope, and charity, and using the blueprint given to us by Benedict in his theology, his pastoral praxis, and in what will be perhaps the legacy of his pontificate, Summorum Pontificum.


[1.] Address of Paul VI at the Consistory for the naming of Cardinals, 24 May 1976.
[2.] Summorum Pontificum, a. 1.
[3.] CCEO 27
[4.] Griffin, Patrick. "Rites." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 13. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1912. 21 Jan. 2014 <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/13064b.htm>.
[5.] The rites all have their origin in apostolic foundations, and thus, a truly new rite could never legitimately be erected.
[6.] Pope Benedict refers to the “auctoritas” possessed by the Vetus Ordo when he says “What was sacred for prior generations, remains sacred and great for us as well, and cannot be suddenly prohibited altogether or even judged harmful.” The question of what “auctoritas” the Novus Ordo might possess could be a fruitful subject for future reflection.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Looking for Great Blogs to Link Up



I suppose it is about that time to update the blog roll, since I have not substantially modified it since June of 2007. A lot has changed on the blogsophere since then, and I think it's time I included some new additions. Do you have a Catholic blog you would like featured on this site's blog roll? If your blog is:
  • Centered on history, theology, spirituality, social teaching or current events from a traditional Catholic perspective,

  • Well written, well thought out, and not displeasing aesthetically,

  • Updated at least twice per month,

  • And you are willing to link this blog or website on your own blog roll.

Then please post your name and a link to your blog in the combox for this post (I will not make it public), as well as an email where I can follow up with you. I will check it out and link it up if it passes muster.

In case you despise the power of cross-linking, it was just such a link that put this blog on the map. Back in 2007, this blog was only getting like 20 hits per week; then Ryan Grant from Athanasius Contra Mundum linked it up on his site and I think the traffic tripled in less than a month (this is the post that caught Ryan's attention). Then a link to this story on NCYC from Fr. Zuhlsdorf in 2007 probably quadrupled the readership again. Then, sometime in 2008, Rorate Caeli put this blog on their blog roll and that really did the trick. Since I first started tracking analytics in January 2011, Rorate Caeli's link on their blog roll has sent 11,354 users to this site and is responsible for 29.7% of all my referrals, for which I am very grateful. Thus every great leap in this blog's readership has been associated with being linked up on the blog roll of some other site. Today, the Unam Sanctam blog and site are viewed an average 24,450 times per month. Deo gratias.

Since this blog was helped in its infancy by generous folks like Ryan Grant, Fr. Z and the guys at Rorate linking it up, I'd like to return the favor to any other excellent Catholic blogs out there.

Similarly, if you are already on my blog roll, I will be going through this week and deleting any blogs that have not been updated in the past six months.

I should mention, no Sedevacantist sites please.

Blessings and grace.

Boniface
Founder, Webmaster USC

Friday, March 21, 2014

On Right Reading of the Old Testament (part 2)

Continuing on in our series on right reading of the Old Testament, we come today to some very practical questions. Having established the first principles that the Old Testament is truly the Word of God, that there is no one interpretive scheme that fits the whole Old Testament, and that assigning a high value to the Old Testament texts was a characteristic of patristic exegesis, we can go on to consider some further questions in our approach to these sacred books.


To what degree are Old Testament principles applicable in the New Testament age?


Our first query is to what degree Old Testament principles are applicable today, in the New Testament age? There are many disputes on a range of topics that Old Testament passages can be invoked for. Let us look at some examples of how Old Testament principles may be invoked in contemporary debates.

A great example is the question of whether or not parents should employ corporal punishment in the discipline of their children. A great passage to cite is Proverbs 13:24, 

"He who spares the rod hates his son, but he that loves him chastens him earnestly." 

Or suppose the question is on the justice of levying interest on loans. In that case, Psalm 15:1-2 may be invoked: 

"O Lord, who may abide in your tent? Who may dwell on your holy hill? Those who walk blamelessly, and do what is right,and speak the truth from their heart; who do not lend money at interest,and do not take a bribe against the innocent.

Perhaps we are debating whether there is a moral obligation to speak to friends and family we know to be committing grave sins. Then Ezekiel 3:18-21 is very appropriate: 

"If I say to the wicked, “You shall surely die,” and you give them no warning, or speak to warn the wicked from their wicked way, in order to save their life, those wicked persons shall die for their iniquity; but their blood I will require at your hand. But if you warn the wicked, and they do not turn from their wickedness, or from their wicked way, they shall die for their iniquity; but you will have saved your life. Again, if the righteous turn from their righteousness and commit iniquity, and I lay a stumbling block before them, they shall die; because you have not warned them, they shall die for their sin, and their righteous deeds that they have done shall not be remembered; but their blood I will require at your hand. If, however, you warn the righteous not to sin, and they do not sin, they shall surely live, because they took warning; and you will have saved your life."

It is not our purpose here to answer these particular inquiries, but rather to point out examples of arguments in which Old Testament passages may be relevant.

The question then becomes "How relevant are they?" Some do not treat them as relevant at all. Suppose you are in a debate about whether parents ought to use corporal punishment and you cite Prov. 13:24 in support of the proposition. Now suppose your interlocutor says, "I hardly think we can settle the argument by quoting a passage from Proverbs." The interlocutor clearly has a dismissive attitude towards the contemporary relevance of Old Testament texts.

It is true that, in many parts of the Old Testament, doctrine is not strictly established. This is because of the provisional and incomplete nature of Old Testament revelation itself. We cannot build a complete doctrine of God from the Old Testament alone, since there is no revelation of the Incarnation or the Trinity. 

But the fact that the Old Testament is provisional or that certain doctrines are shadowy or incomplete does not mean that no doctrinal or ethical conclusions can be drawn from it at all. Sure, there is no revelation of the Trinity in the Old Testament, but there are very clear affirmations of God's omnipresence, omniscience and omnipotence. In fact, if I had to argue those attributes of God from the Bible, I would take the text of Psalm 139 as my starting point. The whole truth might not be affirmed, but what is affirmed is certainly true. Thus, the Old Testament is very valuable for serving as a foundation or jumping off point for particular theological discussions.

This brings us to the answer to our question - while the whole truth might not be asserted in the Old Testament because of its provisional nature, what is asserted must be held as the Word of God and therefore most assuredly true. The Church has never suggested that assertions of the Old Testament are somehow not binding because they are found in the Old Testament. Leo XIII famously taught:

"It is absolutely wrong and forbidden either to narrow inspiration to certain parts only of Sacred Scripture or to admit that the sacred writer has erred... For all the books which the Church receives as Sacred and Canonical are written wholly and entirely, with all their parts, at the dictation of the Holy Ghost" (Providentissimus Deus, 20).

Now it often happens that an Old Testament teaching must be completed or clarified in the New, like the laws regarding divorce or polygamy. These are cases of behavior tolerated (but never affirmed) in the Old being specifically proscribed in the New. But if something is positively affirmed in the Old, then how can we argue it is not relevant now, since every book of the Scriptures is inspired "with all their parts"?

Thus, if someone says corporal punishment is always wrong, I believe they err, and that they err precisely because Proverbs 13:24 specifically commends it. When Aquinas is formulating the classical Catholic doctrine on usury, he appeals to Exodus 22:25 and Ezekiel 18:17 as his scriptural basis. (STh, II-II, Q. 78). These positions can be established on Old Testament foundations.

What we must realize is that while the Old Testament overall is provisional in nature, not every particular Old Testament maxim is provisional; some are universal - "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, all thy soul and all they strength" (Deut. 6:5), for example. The Old Testament contains many principles that are reflections of natural law or very basic theological truths (the immorality of adultery, the right of parents to discipline children corporally, the omnipotence of God, etc). Because these principles do not cease to be true just because they are found in the Old Testament, they are always valid, and saints and scholars, such as Aquinas, have never balked at citing them not only in support of their arguments, but as the centerpiece of their arguments.

Aquinas would have never envisioned an argument in which his teaching on usury was thrown out because it cited the Old Testament. He had a much more unified approach to the Scriptures than we.

How to distinguish between the temporary, ceremonial law and the permanent moral law?

Our previous answer presumes that we understand that there are some things in the Old Testament which are temporary in nature and others which have permanent validity. How is the Catholic to distinguish between the two?

We mentioned above the provisional nature of Old Testament revelation. This means it is fundamentally incomplete; it awaits the New Testament and Christ for its fulfillment. But nevertheless, it still is a real and true revelation, and to say it is incomplete is not to say that things fundamentally change in the New Testament. After all, "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever" and God has "no variation or shadow due to change."(Heb. 13:8, Jas. 1:17). This is why Old Testament principles can retain a permanent validity, especially when they touch upon issues of the natural or moral law (For example, Malachi 2:16, '"I hate divorce', says the Lord").

The major exception to this, however, is if we are looking at passages of the Mosaic Law specifically. Too often the Old Testament is equated with the Law, as if the entire Old Testament were nothing but the Law. The Law, however, refers specifically to the ceremonial statutes enjoined upon Israel by God in the time of Moses, as found in the Books of Exodus, Leviticus, Deuteronomy and Numbers. If something, say a particular law or regulation is specifically part of the Levitical Law, we may safely assume it has been superseded by the New Testament. Examples of this are prohibitions on pork, the practice of circumcision, regulations about Temple worship, etc. These have all been superseded because they concern the Levitical law exclusively.

Principles that are part of the moral law, natural law, or are teachings on the very nature of God Himself retain a permanent validity, whereas principles that relate exclusively to the Levitical law of ancient Israel are no longer binding. Inability to make this distinction is the source of many errors, for example, the argument that Old Testament condemnations of homosexuality are invalid because the Old Testament also prohibits the eating of shellfish (see here).

It sometimes happens, however, that we see a regulation of the Mosaic law encapsulating or affirming a universal moral principle. These situations can be particularly vexing. For example, the passage "Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live" (Ex. 22:18). If someone asks if this passage is still valid, then the answer would be both yes and no. Yes, insofar as God hated witchcraft then and He still hates it now, and it is just as sinful now to participate in witchcraft today as it was then; but no insofar as we are no longer under the Mosaic law, and as such, the particular injunction to put the witch to death as a civil crime is no longer in force.

So we see that there are occasions where just because the particular law or regulation has passed away does not mean that the principle is invalid. Ex. 22:18 teaches that witchcraft is not pleasing to God; this has not changed, even if the particular discipline of how it is handled has. Thus, a person would be in grave error if they tried to argue that witchcraft was now pleasing to God based on the fact that we no longer are commanded to put witches to death.

We will continue with more on this topic next time.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

God is not impressed by numbers


In the time of Noah, humanity had grown so wicked in its sins that God, in His great justice, decided to make an entire end of the entire human race. Thus came the Great Flood and took them all away, save for the eight souls who were saved on the Ark of Noah. This is one of many instances in the Bible when God displays His preference for working through 'remnants', that is, through small groups of people who are faithful to God despite massive apostasy going on around them.

We see the same story again and again in Scripture: God has called for fidelity, but when the majority refuses to heed God's command, he wipes them away and continues with a very small minority - in Noah's case, a single family. Let us look at some of these 'remnant' scenarios in Scripture and then draw some practical conclusions from them.

After the story of Noah, we see this principle in the time of Moses. After going up to receive the Law on Mount Sinai, the Israelites rebel and worship the golden calf. Angered at this, God is ready to consume the entire Israelite nation. Let us examine the passage:


"And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying: "Go, get thee down: thy people, which thou hast brought out of the land of Egypt, hath sinned. They have quickly strayed from the way which thou didst shew them: and they have made to themselves a molten calf, and have adored it, and sacrificing victims to it, have said: 'These are thy gods, O Israel, that have brought thee out of the land of Egypt.'" And again the Lord said to Moses: "See that this people is stiffnecked: Let me alone, that my wrath may be kindled against them, and that I may destroy them, and I will make of thee a great nation."


But Moses besought the Lord his God, saying: "Why, O Lord, is thy indignation kindled against thy people, whom thou hast brought out of the land of Egypt, with great power, and with a mighty hand? Let not the Egyptians say, I beseech thee: 'He craftily brought them out, that he might kill them in the mountains, and destroy them from the earth': let thy anger cease, and be appeased upon the wickedness of thy people. Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, thy servants, to whom thou swore by thy own self, saying: I will multiply your seed as the stars of heaven: and this whole land that I have spoken of, I will give to you seed, and you shall possess it for ever. And the Lord was appeased from doing the evil which he had spoken against his people" (Ex. 32:7-14).

Here we see God was about to wipe out all the Israelites and begin again with Moses alone. Moses' intercession saved them - an intercession, we ought to note, based not on pleas for mercy for the people but on an appeal to God's own reputation and glory.

After the sins of the Kingdom of Israel, who followed in the idolatry introduced by Jeroboam, son of Nebat, God wipes away the ten northern tribes and allows only the two southern tribes of Judah and Benjamin to remain in the land. Then later, when King Manasseh of Judah outrages God by sacrificing children to Moloch in he Valley of Hinnom (2 Ch. 33:6), God swears to destroy Jerusalem as well, saying of His holy city: "I will wipe away the people of Jerusalem as one wipes a dish and turns it" (2 Ki. 21:13). How frightening a thing it is when God says of His own city, the home of His own temple, that he intends to wipe it away as one wipes a dish!

Nevertheless, He promised a small remnant would remain faithful and return to the land. In the prophet Isaiah, God says:

"And it shall come to pass in that day, that the remnant of Israel, and they that shall escape of the house of Jacob, shall lean no more upon him that striketh them: but they shall lean upon the Lord the Holy One of Israel, in truth. The remnant shall be converted, the remnant, I say, of Jacob, to the mighty God. For if thy people, O Israel, shall be as the sand of the sea, a remnant of them shall be converted, the consumption abridged shall overflow with justice" (Isa. 10:20-22).

God's promise to Israel will come to pass, despite their infidelity - but it will be fulfilled by means of a faithful remnant. Further prophecies about this remnant can be found in Isaiah 11:11, 11:16, 37:31-32, as well as Jeremiah 23:3, which says, "And I will gather the remnant of my flock out of all countries whither I have driven them, and will bring them again to their folds; and they shall be fruitful and increase."

The small remnant does return, as narrated in Ezra-Nehemiah. Of that small remnant that is brought back to Jerusalem, only a tiny remnant of that remnant accepts the teaching of our Lord Jesus when He appears on this earth, a "remnant saved by grace", as St. Paul says in Romans 11:5. Our Lord, as well, affirms that God works through remnants when He says, "Many are called but few are chosen" (Matt. 22:14). When our Lord delivered His hard sayings on His Real Presence in the Eucharist and the multitudes and many disciples began abandoning Him, He did not try to prevent their leaving; He merely asked if the Twelve also intended to go away. He was concerned with His remnant.

The lesson of all this is that God is not impressed by numbers. Yes, our Lord wants all men to be saved. But they will be saved on His terms, and if they will not heed Him on His own terms, He is willing to wipe them away and start all over again. He has delivered His truth and His commands, and if people are not willing to keep them, He will blot them out - even if He has to blot out an entire nation or even a race and start all over again from scratch. In none of these historical examples does God ever suggest that He will mitigate His law, relax His discipline, or soften His demands just because a large - sometimes very large - portion of His people are living in disobedience. He would rather wipe out the huge amount of dissenters and start fresh than relax even a single point of His commands on their behalf.

This is extremely relevant given current discussions about mitigating the Church's long standing discipline of denying communion to people living in adulterous "second marriages." The contemporary wisdom, exemplified by Cardinal Kasper, suggests that because there are so many Catholics living in this state who cannot receive communion, there is an "abyss" between Church practice and the real experience of couples in concrete circumstances. If the Church were to continue to deny these people communion, we might lose a lot of people. Therefore, we need to accommodate their rebellion by softening our discipline.

This is not the way God works. God is not impressed by the number of people living in "second marriages", nor is God afraid to lose them all and work again from a remnant. Reflect again on that passage from Exodus; God had done wonders to bring these people out of Egypt and had given them the Law in a manifestation of divine glory unsurpassed in the Old Testament. According to the census at the time of the Exodus, Moses led 603,550 men out of Egypt (Num. 1:46)a massive throng of humanity! Even so, when they all rebelled, He was prepared to destroy them all and start all over again with a single man - essentially, go back to the starting point he had established with Abraham centuries before. He was not impressed with the numbers of the rebels; no angels made the argument that an abyss existed between God's demands and the concrete pastoral circumstances of the Israelites that needed to be bridged; they held no committee meetings on the "problems" of Israelite religion. "Let me alone that I may consume them." God was ready to destroy them all and start over again with a single man. And note that it was not by pleas of mercy for the Israelites that Moses' intercession saved them, but by appealing to God's glory and His own word.

You see, God is not afraid of working through a remnant. Cardinal Kasper is.

When God saw that the vast majority of Israelites were worshiping the golden calf of Jeroboam, He did not decide look for a new pastoral solution to the "problem" of Israelite idolatry by applying the medicine of mercy to idolatrous Israelites in concrete pastoral situations. God was not scared by the prospect of losing ten out of twelve of the tribes, which, by the way, works out to be 83% of His chosen people. When a progressive prelate sees 83% of Catholics are contracepting, he frets about how we can soften discipline and retain those 83%. When God sees 83% of the Israelites committing idolatry, He says, "Oh well. I still have 17% left to work with."

Again, if Jesus sees the majority of His followers deserting Him, He does wring His hands and talk about the disconnect between His teaching and the experience of His followers, nor posit that the problem is with His message. He merely turns to the disciples, the faithful remnant, and asks what their plans are.

Let us remember, too, the Catholic Church in the days of Pope Clement VII was willing to lose the entire Kingdom of England, and create an innumerable host of martyrs in the process, rather than compromise on one point of doctrine. The Church in that day did not care about the "abyss" between Henry VIII and the Church's teaching; if an abyss existed, it was created by the sins of those who valued their own lusts above the teaching of our Lord.

To return to Scripture, let us recall the instance when Elijah had to flee from Ahab and Jezebel to Mount Horeb. There, alone in the cave, he lamented to God. The tale is told in 1 Kings 19:

"Then there came a voice to him that said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” He answered, “I have been very zealous for the Lord, the God of hosts; for the Israelites have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword. I alone am left, and they are seeking my life, to take it away.” (1 Ki. 19:13-14).

Elijah is mourning the almost universal apostasy in Israel; following the example of the evil monarchs Ahab and Jezebel, the Israelite people have forsaken God and served the Baals. God responds by commanding Elijah to anoint a new king and a new prophet and then says that He will pass judgment on the house of Ahab. But if all Israel has apostasized, who would be left to execute this judgment? God says:

"Yet I have reserved seven thousand in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him.” (1 Ki. 19:18).

Again, a small, faithful remnant. Seven thousand men who had not corrupted themselves with Baal worship; and not only has God reserved this remnant, but He plans to use it to judge the unfaithful mass! By the way, this is the very passage St. Paul cites in Romans 11 when explaining why so few Jews have accepted the Savior: because in cases of mass apostasy and infidelity, God works through remnants.

Our Lord Himself hints that, in the end, the masses will fall away and only through a remnant will faith be preserved:

"Many are called, but few are chosen." -Matt. 22:14
"Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road is easy that leads to destruction, and there are many who take it. For the gate is narrow and the road is hard that leads to life, and there are few who find it." -Matt. 7:13-14
"And because iniquity hath abounded, the charity of many shall grow cold." -Matt. 24:12
For there will rise up false Christs and false prophets, and they shall shew signs and wonders, and even the elect will be deceived, if it were possible." -Mark 13:22
"But when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?" -Luke 18:8

The constant focus of God's action, in the Old and New Testaments, is on the remnant. When all Israel is ready to apostasize and stone Moses, it is Moses God is concerned with; He is ready to consume the unfaithful. When ten of the twelve tribes go after foreign gods, God sends them away into oblivion. When Jerusalem sins, God wipes them away like one wipes a dish but encourages the small remnant who remains to be faithful. It is the remnant that must be encouraged, the remnant that must be strengthened, the good of the remnant which must be preserved. It is the remnant which will fulfill God's will; it always has, whether that remnant was 7,000 men, as in the case of Elijah, or a single man, in the case of Moses.

The modern Church is fundamentally afraid of entering into a remnant scenario; petrified of a circumstance when the world scoffs and laughs at her, in which she loses all relevance. And therefore she tries everything to postpone or avoid this state of affairs, even to the point of compromising very basic Catholic disciplines and inventing ingenious ways around doctrine. Ultimately, it is because they do not trust God. They care about numbers; "What are we going to do about declining Mass attendance?" "What about these abysmal baptismal statistics?" God doesn't care about your numbers; He cares about truth. Just preach the truth. Let God worry about the numbers. If hearts are soft, they will repent and come back by the preaching of the truth. If not, the truth will serve as a sword against them, and they shall go forth, and God will wipe them away as one wipes a dish, and the 7,000 who have not bowed the knee to Baal will rise up in judgment against them, and the Lord will start over again if He needs to, working out His mysterious providence through the remnant that He has chosen by grace.

God works through remnants. And He doesn't care about the numbers. He will wipe everything out and start over if He has to. He's done it before. It's the way He operates.

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Wednesday, March 12, 2014

A Solemn Warning to Catholic Bloggers

Damned for Sins of Tongue
Have you ever had the great grace to read something that stirs up in you great fear enough to intensely exam yourself. Recently I had one of those experiences and it caused in me fear for myself and for everyone who practices their Catholic faith and participates in discussions about it on the internet.

I doubt anyone has not noticed the contentious atmosphere, the constant conflict, the impatience and quarrels that have arisen among Catholics on the internet especially in the last week.

If you think that this is not a problem look up almost any Catholic thread on: creationism vs theistic evolution, Vat II and its interpretation, SSPX confessions being valid or invalid, the liturgy, etc. I am not going to address any of the controversies but wish to befriend you in the fear of God that you and I can help each other on our way to salvation.

The Eternal Truth himself has warned us that to show contempt or insolence for our brother puts us in danger of going to hell. "And whosoever shall say, Thou Fool, shall be in danger of hell fire." Matt 5:22

Before, dismissing that as hyperbole St John Chrysostom, Doctor and Father of the Church, taught that this was not hyperbole (he gives an in depth explanation in the Homily Danger of Evil Words available here in Volume 2 of the Church Fathers for Lent free to download).

Lets look at a few things he said about this line of scripture

“For there is nothing, nothing in the world, more intolerable than insolence, it is what hath very great power to sting a mans soul” The Danger of Evil Words Homily

“Think it not a light thing to call another fool. For when of that which separates us from the brutes, by which especially we are human beings, namely, the mind and the understanding, when of this thou has robbed thy brother, thou has deprived him of all his nobleness” From Vol 2 of the Church Fathers for Lent

This calling our brother a fool can take on many forms. It could be direct of course, but also in being dismissive, speaking down to him as an idiot,calling him a nutter or mad, and so on. I am not saying that a person could not take a firm stance, but that he should avoid trying to make the other out to be a fool but rather to “being ready always to satisfy every one that asketh you a reason of that hope which is in you. ” 1 Peter 3:15

If we were able to look at our neighbors ability to understand things more in terms of grace and gifts we might not be so impatient and indignant with our neighbor when we do not see eye to eye. After all, we are nothing more than temporary custodians of the various things God has given us; whether it be wisdom of the Holy Ghost,our intelligence or our ability to even communicate with others “for every best gift, and every perfect gift, is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no change, nor shadow of alteration.” James 1:17

St John Chrysostom points out in other places in that homily how insolent words are what causes thoughts of murder, and who has not encountered someone still reveling in some insolent remark perhaps even made years ago? If one of our insolent remarks has caused our brother to lose his soul through rage, then we will be held accountable to it and according to Our Lord it will be the most terrible reckoning.

Let us not forget in this age of communication where anyone can blog, post to forums or scan documents to the internet that many people make haphazard remarks that will now never die. These remarks often times are judged from the outside not considering whom it was that the author spoke to and to what audience would read them. So it can also fall of our words and writings and as such it just simply is not enough to be right with what we say, if what we say seems false and wicked.

Together lets be converted unto Christ and put away all insolent remarks and exercise our charity through patient, considerate and brief speech. Who does the Holy Ghost say is the perfect man? The man who offends not in word: “For in many things we all offend. If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man” James 3:2

My friends, we need to be on guard moving forward. The world is full of insolence and the demons reveal and roll in the insolence against God like the filthy pigs they are. It will be easy to find bad examples to follow, it will be tempting to let our new found discipline be carried down stream. However, with the guidance of the Holy Ghost and the channels of grace through good spiritual reading like the Holy Scriptures we can have many good examples of the meekness and loving kindness of Our Lord Jesus Christ and His Saints.

Please come back next time for an article on what we should do when we are treated with insolence.

Pone Domine, custodiam ori meo - Set a watch, O Lord, before my lips, Amen.

Friday, March 07, 2014

On Right Reading of the Old Testament (part 1)


In 2 Timothy 2:15, the Apostle Paul admonishes Timothy, "Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that need not to be ashamed,rightly dividing the word of truth." To "rightly divide the word of truth" means to approach Divine Revelation prudently and in keeping with the principles of the Gospel, or in modern parlance, "thinking with the mind of the Church" in how one interprets the data of Revelation. In St. Paul's day, this "word of truth" would have primarily been the oral preaching of the Apostles and the Old Testament, which were the only real "Scriptures" in existence in the immediate apostolic period. The man of God thus needs to be able to "rightly divide" the Old Testament as well as the New Testament revelation.

The sad truth is, most Catholics simply do not know what to do with the Old Testament. The Psalms may be consulted for spiritual solace, the historical books for edifying stories of God's intervention in history, the tales of the Exodus for interesting typological connections to the New Testament sacraments, but beyond this, many Catholics are baffled as to what to make of the rest of the Old Testament corpus. The problems are many. For example:
  • To what degree are Old Testament principles applicable in the New Testament age?
  • How to distinguish between the temporary, ceremonial law and the permanent moral law?
  • How much authority to Old Testament verses retain in contemporary arguments?
  • How to understand questions of historicity relating to the authority of any Old Testament book or passage?
  • What do we derive from passages where the Old Testament morality seems to be at odds with current Church teaching?
The inability of most Catholics to satisfactorily answer these questions leads to a hazy vision of the Old Testament - an unfamiliarity with its texts and, even more unfortunate, the relegation of Old Testament passages to the status of mere footnotes in contemporary theological discussion.

I have been ruminating on this problem for awhile. As I have been participating in different online discussions about different points of theology, I have frequently cited Old Testament passages in my arguments, only to see them dismissed with comments like:

"Yeah, but that's from the Old Testament. As you know, there's many Old Testament laws no longer in force today."
"I hardly think Christians can base their behavior today on stories from the Old Testament."
"Yeah, but that was before the coming of Christ. Things are different in the New Covenant."
"A lot of Old Testament books are not meant to be taken literally."

Basically it comes down to, "You're argument is invalid because it cites the Old Testament as a source." Has anyone else experienced this? It is unfortunate, and it comes from a kind of uncertainty of how the Old Testament is to be approached today.

Let us then examine the problem, and come to a consensus, in light of Tradition, of how a Catholic is to "rightly divide" the Old Testament, utilizing it in a manner consistent with Church Tradition.

Before we answer the above questions, we need to establish three preliminary assumptions. Any discussion about how to handle the Old Testament will only make sense if we acknowledge these three principles. First principle:

The Old Testament is truly the Word of God.

This seems evident, but many do not admit the ramifications of this. If the Old Testament is the Word of God, then every single word of it is divinely inspired. This means every passage, even "difficult" ones, need to be dealt with in some manner and fit into the larger context of Divine Revelation. When we come across a passage we do not understand or which may not seem convenient to our particular argument, it is not sufficient to simply say, "Yeah, but that comes from the Old Testament." The passage in question is part of Divine Revelation and needs to be given equal consideration. Nobody would write off one of Christ's parables by saying, "That's only a parable of Jesus!" Neither should these passages of Scripture be so summarily dismissed.

There is no one interpretive scheme that can be applied to the entire Old Testament.

Many want the Old Testament to fit into a very simple interpretive category. This would make dealing with challenging texts easy. Unfortunately, there is no one method that can be applied uniformly, other than the Church's four-fold approach - start with the literal, then look for allegory, moral lessons, etc. But just what the literal meaning is can be greatly disputed. Historical books need to be read differently than wisdom literature, and these different from the prophets or the Mosaic Law. Each needs to be examined separately. The fact, for example, that most components of the Mosaic Law have passed away does not mean that the moral teachings of the Book of Proverbs have.

The Fathers make generous use of the Old Testament in establishing their arguments.

This is too broad a point to be established in a single paragraph, but anyone who has ever read the Fathers knows this to be the case. For example, if we look at the first five chapters of the early second century "Epistle of Barnabas", we see the following citations:

Jer. 7:22
Zech. 8:17
Isa. 58:4-10
Ex. 31:18
Ex. 34:28
Ex. 32:7
Deut. 9:12
Isa. 5:21
Isa. 53:5
Gen. 1:26
Zech. 13:7
Isa. 50:6-7

This trend continues throughout the book. The Old Testament is cited dozens and dozens of times, even obscure books like Haggai and Zephaniah. The New Testament is cited only eight times. See for yourself here. Pope St. Clement I, in his First Epistle, cites liberally from Deuteronomy, Wisdom, Isaiah and many others. These passages are cited for the purpose of establishing his arguments; in other words, they are assumed to have a binding and relevant meaning for the infant Church. Let us look at just one chapter of Clement's First Epistle, Chapter 8, to see how Old Testament passages are used; I have highlighted his citations so you can see how much of his writing is drawn directly from the Old Testament:

"The ministers of the grace of God have, by the Holy Spirit, spoken of repentance; and the Lord of all things has himself declared with an oath regarding it, "As I live, says the Lord, I desire not the death of the sinner, but rather his repentance" [Ezk. 33:11]; adding, moreover, this gracious declaration, "Repent, O house of Israel, of your iniquity" [Ezk. 18:30]. "Say to the children of my people, Though your sins reach from earth to heaven, and though they be redder than scarlet, and blacker than sack-cloth, yet if you turn to me with your whole heart, and say, Father! I will listen to you, as to a holy people." [Isa. 1:18]. And in another place He speaks thus: "Wash you and become clean; put away the wickedness of your souls from before my eyes; cease from your evil ways, and learn to do well; seek out judgment, deliver the oppressed, judge the fatherless, and see that justice is done to the widow; and come, and let us reason together. He declares, Though your sins be like crimson, I will make them white as snow; though they be like scarlet, I will whiten them like wool. And if you be willing and obey me, you shall eat the good of the land; but if you refuse, and will not hearken unto me, the sword shall devour you, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken these things." [Isa. 1:16-20]." Desiring, therefore, that all His beloved should be partakers of repentance, He has, by His almighty will, established [these declarations].

This is normative for most of Clement's epistle, as it is for many other of the Fathers. The point is that the Fathers quoted very generously from the Old Testament, presuming that it had a permanent validity and that Old Testament passages were immediately relevant to the lives of New Testament Christians. Furthermore, they presumed, by their abundant citations, that all Christians implicitly understood this. This means that we, too, should realize and appropriate this truth. Pope St. Clement would be puzzled if the Christians of Corinth were to respond by complaining that so many of his citations came from the Old Testament.

Having thus laid the groundwork, we will shortly take up the questions raised above, beginning with the question of the degree to which Old Testament "principles" are applicable today.

Thursday, March 06, 2014

Recommended Lenten Reading from USC



Lent is upon us, with all of the obligations and calls to penitence and spiritual growth that go with it. One common Lenten practice is more intensive spiritual reading or study of the faith; why not fulfill part of this duty by reading some of the great articles and resources brought to you this winter by Unam Sanctam Catholicam? Some of you may be giving up Internet and blogging for Lent; I commend you for this! But for those of you who aren't, may I humbly suggest the USC website's series of winter posts?

This series of posts is also notable for the availability of two great resources.  Shortly after the new year we made freely available an excellent 11 page instruction on Gregorian notation, courtesy of the Parish Book of Chant, which allows free copying and distribution to facilitate the broader use of Gregorian Chant. Then in late January a seminarian made us aware of the previously published but not widely circulated work of Fr. Joseph Komonchak of Marquette University who had translated five of the original nine schemas of Ottaviani's Preparatory Commission. These translations reveal the sorts of documents originally envisioned by the Roman Curia prior to the rebellion of the German-speaking bishops and the subsequent rejection of the original schemas. The differences between the original schemas and the documents we ended up getting are striking.

We also began offering two wonderful new books. Hermits and Anchorites of England is a new edition of the classic 1914 work by Rotha Mary Clay on the eremitic life of medieval England. Containing over 50 illustrations and a new introduction, this work is an invaluable resource for those interested in medieval spirituality. It is a very high quality edition, not a generic OCR reprint.

The Gospel Illustrated by Duccioby John Joy, a long time friend of USC whose other books on papal infallibility and penal substitution already grace the USC bookstore. The Gospel Illustrated by Duccio is a unique creation designed to celebrate one of the greatest artistic masterpieces of the high medieval period while also bringing to life the Gospel story with over fifty images of scenes from the lives of Jesus Christ and the Blessed Virgin Mary. It is a very welcome alternative to the banal wilderness of "children's bibles." The book includes the complete extant cycle of images from the Maesta Altarpiece, which Duccio di Buoninsegna completed in 1311 for the Cathedral of Siena, Italy. Introduce children to the Gospel through classical Christian art - what a concept!

Though it is not new, I would also like to remind readers of our article from Lent, 2013 on the Art of Fasting, delving into the purpose and methods of efficacious fasting, according to St. Robert Bellarmine. The article, The Spirit of Lent, is also recommended to remind us of the proper dispositions we ought to have as we proceed through Lent.

Now, new articles on the Unam Sanctam Catholicam website from Winter 2013-2014:

Religion and Culture in Frankish Syria: Unique as a Latin outpost in a Muslim east with an orthodox Christian minority, the religious culture of Frankish Syria was an eclectic mixture of contradictions: zeal and laxity, politics and religion, the highest moral ideals and the loosest of moral standards - a religious culture that was neither European, nor Eastern.

Christ Dying at Every Mass: Whether through malice or ignorance, many Protestants mistakenly assume that Catholics believe Christ is actually put to death at every Mass. This is neither true theologically nor historically.

Our Lady's Knowledge: Following Pope Francis' comments in his homily on December 20, 2013 that the Blessed Virgin Mary may have felt "cheated", deceived or weakened in faith when confronted with her Son's crucifixion, there has been a lively interest in the topic of our Blessed Lady's knowledge. What exactly did she know about her Son's mission, and when did she know it? This is an interesting question, one in which we can easily fall into extremes. As always, it is best to begin with Tradition.

Original Vatican II Schemas: Majorly important article on the original Vatican II schemas; the ones prepared by Cardinal Ottaviani and rejected by the liberal-progressive bishops for being too rigid and scholastic. Read the actual English translations of the documents and see the Council that could have been

Why Do We Bless Our Meals? To thank God, obviously...but did you know the simple table blessings are also meant to be minor exorcisms? This story of the possessed lettuce will make you approach meal time with a whole new appreciation for table blessings.

Free 11-Page Guide to Gregorian Chant! A comprehensive guide to reading Gregorian notation, freely available from the Parish Book of Chant (available under Creative Commons Attribution License 3.0)

Collegiality: The Church's Pandora's Box: Learn the history behind the most controversial teaching of Vatican II and see why the doctrine of collegiality was fiercely contested by many Council Fathers.

Standing around the altar during consecration? While most readers of this blog do not go to parishes where this is a problem, it is good to know the particular legal and liturgical rationale for why this practice is not in keeping with the spirit of the liturgy and is in fact a grievous abuse.

Philosophies of Nature: Catholics have always argued that that virtue is to simply act in accord with human nature; proponents of immorality and homosexual so-called marriage also argue from acting in accord with nature. How are the secularist and Catholic concepts of "acting in accord with nature" fundamentally different?

Truth About the Kyrie: Repost of an old article from Athanasius Contra Mundum; the Kyrie does have its origin in Greek, but it is not because the Roman liturgy used to be in Greek. In fact, it was not introduced into the Roman liturgy until the 6th century.

Meletius and St. Peter of Alexandria: A lesson from the Great Persecution about being in union with the Church and how much this really matters.

Grandchildren for God: A primer on the theological rationale behind the Catholic practice of infant baptism (Note: This article deals only with theological, not historical considerations).

Movie Reviews

We're the Millers (2011)
The Lego Movie (2014)
War of the Vendee (2012)
We Bought a Zoo (2011)
Secret Life of Walter Mitty (2013)
100th Film Review: Jesus Movies

Sancti Obscui
St. Darerca of Ireland

One last thing; in January, we announced two new contributors to the USC blog and website. This means content is going to be going up with greater frequency, both on the blog and site. Please follow us on Facebook or consider subscribing to this blog in order not to miss anything.