Saturday, June 25, 2022
Wednesday, June 15, 2022
The Dicastery in reference is run by de Aviz and Carballo, whom Dr. Kwasniewski referred to as "progressivist thugs", a sentiment I completely agree with. The chances of any traditional association receiving the requisite institutional approval from these gatekeepers is nonexistent.
I offer a few reflections on this development:
1) The Total Overthrow of Institutional Credibility
But if no more traditional institutes are allowed to be erected by bishops on their own initiative, how shall we escape the letter of the law? The answer is simply that we will have recourse to organizational models not envisioned by the current canonical strictures. I refer you to an article called "Into the Woods" I wrote in 2018 in the aftermath of the Congregation for the Institutes of Consecrated Life document Cor Orans, which essentially revolutionized the way women's religious communities governed themselves. The gist of the essay is that as the institutional Church becomes more untrustworthy under the current zeitgeist, traditional movements will be more about living a certain lifestyle than obtaining any specific ecclesiastical status. The Vatican might regulate the episcopal erection of new religious institutes, but it can do nothing against a group of individuals living together and making their own private vows. It may prohibit the creation of a new priestly society dedicated to the Traditional Latin Mass, but it cannot prohibit priests who love the Traditional Latin Mass from organizing on their own outside of official channels. It may prohibit the Latin Mass being said in diocesan parishes, but it cannot prevent it being said in private venues. The Church can shove the NAB and the Liturgy of the Hours at me as much as they please, but they can't prevent me gathering with likeminded men to pray the traditional Divine Office in Latin. Whatever we want done, we are going to have to do it ourselves—not by going "against" ecclesiastical authority in any schismatic sense, but by merely operating in spheres where ecclesiastical authority has no say. This is how Christendom was built; St. Benedict had no episcopal letter when he clambered up the slopes of Mount Subiaco and wandered into a cave.
In case anyone had any shred of doubt left, this should make it perfectly clear that Pope Francis's ideas about "decentralization" and "synodality" are farcical. The same pope who allegedly wants to allow local bishops' conferences to make true doctrinal judgments also wants to tell bishops what organizations they can and cannot erect in their own dioceses. This is the same pontificate that, in the explanatory letter after Traditionis Custodes, purported to tell individual parishes what they could and could not advertise on the parish website or in the parish bulletin. The same pontificate who has systematically dismantled the independence of various religious orders and trampled on their charisms. Decentralization and synodality indeed!
4) We Follow the Way
For us, though, this is ultimately about a way of life, not who has institutional control. I don't mean to downplay the importance of institutional control; and God willing, one day, the institution will be better, the ship's course will be righted, and mother will not be drunk anymore. Until that happens, however, what we are seeking is a way of life. In the New Testament and the earliest Christian writings, the Catholic faith was referred to as "the Way," and Christians were called "followers of the Way." This sort of thinking has greatly benefitted my own spiritual life during these difficult times. I am seeking a city whose builder and maker is God (cf. Heb. 11:10). The regime the Church finds itself under can annoy me, make me drive a little farther, make me jump through a few more hoops, make me roll my eyes, but it can't ultimately stop me from following the path our Lord Jesus has laid out. It cannot stop me from living the Faith of our ancestors and loving our traditions.
Wednesday, June 08, 2022
Thursday, June 02, 2022
The image for this post is taken from my diocesan magazine. The article interviews five women who are married to permanent deacons and discusses how that affects their marriages and their work in their parishes.
A few out of context quotes do not give the big picture, so I encourage you to read the articles linked above.
First, I understand that none of these statements imply there is any sort of institutional "deacon's wife ministry." And some of them can be taken innocuously enough; obviously before a married man enters the permanent diaconate, he and his wife together should discern what that vocation would mean for their marriage. So I don't mean to make a mountain out of a molehill, or infer nefarious meanings to these statements that the women clearly do not mean. Even so, one cannot deny there is a substantial blurring of the lines between clergy and laity demonstrated here. While a husband and wife must discern together what a diaconal ordination will mean for their marriage, it is the husband alone who has the vocation to Holy Orders. While a deacon's wife may be laudably engaged in parish volunteer work, none of this constitutes "participating" in the husband's diaconal ministry. While being married to a deacon may give a woman more visibility in the parish community, she is not thereby admitted to a "unique role" that necessitates active ministry. While a permanent deacon's wife should support her husband in his ministry, but that does not translate into his ministry becoming a "couples ministry."
Second, this critique should not be construed to devalue the very good things these women do in their parishes. They are certainly not lukewarm Catholics. Most of them have decades of volunteer work serving the poor and sick and clearly take their obligations to God and the Church very seriously (even if some of it, like serving as an EMHC, is misguided). They should be commended for this, so I would hope nobody considers this article disparaging these women or tearing them down. I pray that when I am their age I might even have half as much time spent volunteering for my parish as they.
The issue is not with the women, but with an ecclesiastical philosophy that urgently wants to replace the traditional, celibate male only priesthood with something—anything—else. That philosophy did not begin in the humble parishes where these women serve, but in the high echelons of the Church bureaucracy years ago when old men, stricken with the sickness of the age, theorized that the Church's traditional model of the priesthood needed to be drastically reformed. Until the Church recovers a clear and compelling vision of who a priest is, what he does, and why we need them, the effects of these deviant philosophies will continue to ripple outward.
Sunday, May 29, 2022
I mentioned in a previous post that I am getting ready to launch a revamped Unam Sanctam Catholicam sister site with an entirely new and attractive layout (Deo gratias). I also stated that the movie reviews section would be going away; I've already started deleting them, as a matter of fact. But before I toss in the hat on movie reviews altogether, a viewer asked me to give my opinion on The Chosen series. This reader said that "it seems really cheesy" and "the fact that it's universally acclaimed by evangelicals" made them more skeptical.
I am so glad I persevered. The writer's of The Chosen clearly understand the difference Jesus makes in a person's life, and it is the only Jesus movie or series I've ever seen that successfully wields typology to show how the New Testament is hidden in the Old and the Old Testament is revealed in the New.
Are there little gripes I could make? Yes, of course. Every now and then there's some cheesy lines. Some of the sets—especially in Season 1—are a little low budget (they make the miraculous catch of fish happen in about two feet of water). John the Baptist's beard totally looks like its glued to his face. Now and then the characters talk like Protestants. But these things are all minutiae in my opinion, and not the sort I am going to gripe about. Afterall, the writers of The Chosen have also gone out of their way to incorporate Catholic elements into the storytelling as well. Season 2 Episode 6 has a beautiful scene that symbolically demonstrates the intercessory power of the Blessed Virgin Mary. And, as I mentioned, the typology is positively Catholic. And the operation of grace is depicted masterfully.
As for the acting, I want to single out for praise three in particular: Jonathan Roumie (who is a practicing Catholic) as Jesus, Paras Patel as Matthew, and Elizabeth Tabish as St. Mary Magdalen. All the actors are good, but these three really carry the show, in my opinion. There are some excellent interviews on YouTube with Dr. Scott Hahn (who is also a big fan of the show) talking to Jonathan Roumie; I found these very edifying. Oh, and Eric Avari completely nails it as Nicodemus, who is a major character. I only wish he were in more episodes.
Now, I know there are Trad Catholic criticisms of The Chosen out there, some by popular priests. I am already aware of them and have read them, so please don't post them in the comments asking me to respond. All I can say is I find these Trad critiques without merit, focusing too much on matters of little import, or else making mountains out of molehills (like the critique I read where the Trad viewer objected to the fact that the infant Jesus in the Nativity was depicted wet after being born—as if its a matter of dogmatic faith that we must believe Jesus emerged from the womb of Mary entirely dry! What nonsense! I am not aware of a single point in which The Chosen deviates from any Catholic dogma, nor has any Trad criticism I've read of it been convincing. In fact, some of the Trad critiques I read made me think, "What is on earth is wrong with us?"
As to the issue that "evangelicals are excited about it therefore I am suspicious," while I understand the hesitancy when you see Protestants going gaga over something, I don't think that's ultimately a justification for skepticism. In 2004 Catholics were going gaga over The Passion of the Christ; had a Protestant said they were skeptical of it for that reason, would you have found that a compelling argument? I would hope not. Of course, sometimes Protestants get excited about something because its Protestant nonsense; but sometimes they get excited about something because its good. I say The Chosen is the latter.
One final thought: As some of you know, I was not raised Catholic. I was baptized Catholic as an infant, but I never made a First Communion until I was 22, didn't start practicing until I was an adult. I had what I consider to be a dissolute and debauched youth. When the Lord snatched me from the snare of the fowler—when He looked at me and said "Follow me"—it was life changing. And I've never looked back. The Chosen has brought me back to that place of remembering what it is like to be redeemed. Yes, I know every Catholic, even cradle Catholics, are redeemed, need to be forgiven etc. But I mean that sense of being totally lost, totally mired in darkness, and then you see the light, and you hear His voice, and He summons you, lifts you up, turns your heart of stone to flesh and calls you His own. The Chosen continually reconnects me with that experience. It continually reminds me of the difference that Jesus makes, and it challenges me to love better.
But hey, that's just my viewpoint, and maybe my perspective on this show is colored by my experience, which is different from yours. Some of you will probably disagree; some of you probably watched it and couldn't stand it for various reasons. Some of you will think I'm a sentimental schlub for liking it. That's fine; I am a sentimental schlub. De gustibus non est disputandum and all that. I would say, if you're not positively predisposed against it, at least watch to the end of Season 1. You might find an unexpected gem.
Friday, May 13, 2022
As I pondered this, I realized something about the traditional Roman rite: even though the traditional Low Mass is simple, it is never informal. A Low Mass is a rather simple affair: the priest approaches the altar, he works his way through the prayers (with the laity participating with whatever manner of quiet devotion seems best to them), and Sacrifice is offered, Holy Communion is distributed, and Mass ends. It is extremely straightforward. It is simple. But it is elegant. It is noble. It is dignified. The much touted "noble simplicity of the Roman rite" the liturgical reformers lauded was always present in the traditional Low Mass. It is a liturgy capable of rising to the occasion when offered in a glorious basilica—but also of elevating the occasion when offered elsewhere, like on the hood of a Jeep on a World War II battlefield, or a hastily constructed wooden altar in the wilderness of Brazil. It is a kind of simplicity that has a universal appeal, admirably reflecting the omnipresence of God whose glory is present in the grandest cathedral and the vilest slum.
When it comes to the Novus Ordo, however, the reformers fundamentally confused simplicity with informality. In seeking a "simplified" Mass, they crafted one that was shockingly informal. Informality in the way it addresses God, in the commonplace language of the prayers, in the gestures, in the way it clumsily drags the congregation into the dialogue-responses. It is an informality that is capable neither of rising to the majesty of a beautiful church, nor of elevating the surroundings when offered elsewhere.
Simplicity can still be grand. Informality is not. Simplicity can still lift us out of the workaday world and orient us towards God. Informality merely reminds us that we are still in the workaday world. The traditional liturgy never made the mistake of conflating simplicity with informality. It may have had rites that were simple, but they were never informal. Never humdrum. The Novus Ordo sought to create "noble simplicity" but instead created ho-hum informality and its progenitors were too inept to tell the difference.
The Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Wisconsin is an absolutely beautiful structure situated in beautiful surroundings. It is a place of beauty through and through. I wish it had more liturgies suited to the grandeur of the place.
Tuesday, April 19, 2022
That being said, you can expect some changes on the new site:
(1) More Exclusive Focus on History. When I first created the Unam Sanctam sister site ten years ago, I envisioned it as a kind of clearinghouse for articles on all manner of subjects Catholics might take interest in: history, economics, moral problems, theology, liturgy, and even pop-culture. However, the way my own interests and professional life have developed since then, it's become clear that history is my strongest field by far. And honestly, whereas ten or fifteen years ago I happily prattled on about theology or canon law, time has honed the edges of my self-assurance to the point that I have recognized I am not competent to speak on many of those matters. So, on the new site, I will mostly stick to history and leave the theology to the theologians, canon law to the canonists, etc. The old classic articles on these subjects—like "Balthasar and the Faith of Christ" or "Collegiality: The Church's Pandora's Box"—will remain, but I will likely not post new content of that sort. If I do create such articles, they will probably be guest-posted on other websites more suited to these sorts of essays.(2) The Movie Reviews are going away. One consequence of this new focus is that the movie reviews will be eliminated. I don't think anybody reads these anyway, and to be honest I have not really updated them regularly since 2017, so they are woefully out of date. And I simply no longer have time to write about them anymore (although, if you've ever met me in person, you know I still love to blather on about cinema whenever I can). But, since I will not be updating them anymore, is there anyone out there who wants the current batch of reviews? I think there are about 165 individual write ups. Is there any Catholic out there who has a film review site or is hoping to get one started and would like to adopt these 165 reviews for their project? If so, please email me at email@example.com.(3) Higher Quality of Content. The essays on the sister site were always of a more scholarly nature than on this blog, but the new site is going to up this even further in terms of scholarship. It is my intention that the new site become an encyclopedic repository of highly researched, academic articles that are suitable to be cited as sources or used for research purposes. I'm really excited about some of the new stuff I've been writing and I can't wait to share with you all. I've got some fascinating stuff on St. Hildegard, the Annals of Fulda, Pope Gregory VII's reform of the sacrament of penance, the first regional synod in the Philippines, and much more.
In a recent article ("The End of Pop-Apologetics", Apr. 10, 2022), a commentor stated that "Blogging is nearly obsolete as a content delivery system. People want to have a video or audio file running in the background while they're at the gym or working from home. Few have the patience to read even something as short as this post." I don't know whether that observation is correct or not. But I do believe there will always be a need for and interest in thoughtful, well-written articles. However the Internet continues to unfold (and I can only assume it will just get stupider) I pray that Unam Sanctam Catholicam will continue to be a beacon of knowledge.
One final word: If anyone would like to be a contributor on the new site, I am always willing to collaborate. If you are like to write scholarly essays on historical subjects, I'd like to hear from you. You can help me make USC the biggest and best repository of original Catholic historical essays in the English language! Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you want to help.
Blessings and grace friends!
Founder and Webmaster of all things USC
Sunday, April 17, 2022
On this day we celebrate the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. The Resurrection is the greatest miracle and the principal testimony to the truth of our Lord's teaching, for, as St. Paul says, "if Christ be not raised, your faith is in vain; you are still in your sins" (1 Cor. 15:17). This is a potent reminded that it is not merely the crucifixion of Christ that saves us; our salvation is incomplete without His resurrection to glory. Jesus was "put to death for our trespasses and raised for our justification" (Rom. 4:25). His rising also serves as a pledge that we, too, shall be raised to life again, adoring God forever in our glorified flesh. Christ is "the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ" (1 Cor. 15:20-24).
"The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men. They will kill him, and after three days he will rise. But they did not understand what he meant and were afraid to ask him about it" (Mark 9:31-32). Christ spoke plainly of the Resurrection to His disciples ahead of time, but the meaning of His words was veiled from them. The reason for this is uncertain; perhaps God deliberately obscured this truth from their minds, or perhaps they misunderstood through a defect in their own natural faculties. Whatever its cause, the Resurrection remained indiscernible to them before the fact. Thus, the death of Christ shattered their imaginings; the finality of the crucifixion must have made their squabbles about who would be the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven seem childish and naïve. We can imagine what disappointment they must have had. A hint of this disillusionment can be heard in the voice of the nameless disciples Christ encountered on the road to Emmaus after the Resurrection: telling Him about the events surrounding the Crucifixion, they say, "we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel" (Luke 24:21) the pluperfect "had hoped" signifying that they had once hoped, but now hoped no longer.
The Resurrection, then, was not a foregone conclusion to the disciples. We may presume the Blessed Virgin Mary to have nurtured this hope in her Immaculate Heart, but for the rest of His followers, we can assume they were as dejected as those Christ met on the Emmaus road. The Gospel of John tells us that after the Crucifixion, Peter and the other disciples returned to Galilee and went back to their lives as fishermen (John 21:1-3); this is not the sort of behavior we'd expect from men who were anticipating an imminent Resurrection of their Lord.
How glorious and life-changing, then, must have been the realization that the Lord had risen indeed! How excited Peter must have been when, hearing Christ's voice from the shore, he leaped from his boat into the sea to swim to His Master. How stupefied the disciples must have been as they sat around the fire on the beach in stunned silence watching the Resurrected Messiah munching on roasted fish. But if these moments were astonishing, it was only the apparent finality of His death that rendered them so. For had He not truly died, His sudden reappearance would not have been as stupendous. Suppose Christ had not died, but merely been wounded and escaped; His reappearance would have been welcome, to be sure, but not astounding and certainly not life-altering.
The Lord's ultimate demonstration of His power did not prevent suffering; it came rather after the evil had been done. This is the locus of the Resurrection for us as well. There is no rising to life if there first be no death. For every Christian, this entails a "dying to sin" so we can rise to "newness of life" (Rom. 6:4). This is the spiritual Resurrection that every Christian undergoes. But all of us work through many smaller "resurrections" throughout our lives. I am speaking of the "death" we all undergo whenever we suffer in any sense. The sufferings we undergo are manifold: abuse by others, destructive behavior from ourselves, or agonies of nature. God's power to "deliver us from evil" does not often free us from the experience these things; it turns them to good. The only way out is through; this is the lesson of the Resurrection. In a sense, every little victory of grace is a resurrection: when I finally divest myself the burden of resentment towards someone who has wronged me, that is a resurrection. When I overcome a bad habit, that is a resurrection. When I speak a word of comfort to a wounded spirit, or deny myself some pleasure for the good of my soul, or find God in the deepest midst of my suffering and ignorance, these are little resurrections. But, like the Resurrection of Christ, we find they do not come save in the aftermath of some chaos, some evil, some catastrophe.
Thus, with Job, I say, "I know that my Redeemer lives, and at last he will stand upon the earth; and after my skin has been thus destroyed, then from my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see on my side, and my eyes shall behold, and not another" (Job 19:25-27).
Sunday, April 10, 2022
The 1990s and early 2000s was the golden age of professional Catholic apologetics. If you wanted to get schooled about apologetics, you tuned into the Catholic Answers Live every afternoon. You read the tracts of Mark Shea, Karl Keating, and Jimmy Akin. You listened to the Al Kresta Show syndicated through Ave Maria Radio. You watched Fr. Mitch Pacwa on EWTN and owned sets of Fr. John Corapi's lectures on cassette. You probably owned several books and VHS tapes by Dr. Scott Hahn. These professional defenders of Catholic truth were the resources to turn to when you wanted to learn how to respond to objections to the faith, especially those leveled by evangelical Protestants.
Those who have gone down this path—and admittedly, it is not all, but still a fair amount—have fallen in the same pit that many have today, which is to assume one's positions are so secure, so unassailable, so self-evident, that those who disagree with you are not simply mistaken, but are morally bad. As someone who formerly admired and learned from these people, it has been extraordinarily disappointing to see them behaving like the worst of the blue checkmarks. I'm not calling anybody out by name, but we have all seen them lurking around in comboxes and Twitter feeds and Facebook threads, spitefully belittling people whose only offense has been to disagree.
Whatever it's cause, it is clear that the age of pop-apologetics is over.
Sunday, March 06, 2022
The life of faith will bring forth many such struggles, and this is unavoidable. But God wants us to have peace, even in the midst of struggle. "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you" (John 14:27). His peace is meant to be an abiding peace; not a peace "as the world gives" that is taken away as soon as conflict emerges. We are meant to have peace, even in the midst of the "wrestling" that is inherent in faith. What kind of peace would Christ offer if we were thrown into turmoil every time we encountered something we couldn't reconcile? Clearly, our Lord means for the peace of our faith to be maintained even in the midst of uncertainty. But how can we accomplish this?
To do this, remember that you do not need to resolve your difficulties in order to maintain faith.
Let's recall a bit about the nature of faith: it is trusting, provisional, and imperfect.
What does this mean concretely?
Now, I can foresee some critiquing this concept by saying that I am suggesting we just believe blindly even though our mind can no longer assent; that I am telling people to just stuff their difficulties and proclaim CREDO! despite their faltering heart. This is not so. Faith is fundamentally an act of trust, and if that trust has been so compromised as to become unsustainable, then faith is impossible, and it would be wrong and cruel to tell someone to simply ignore it. I am, however, suggesting that those of us who have faith give up thinking that we need to cross every jot and tittle; let go of the idea that being a strong believer means working out all the answers intellectually. Learn to rest in not knowing. You will not be denied heaven because you did not have a fully worked out intellectual synthesis of some disputed issue. If you find yourself in those moments of "wrestling," acknowledge the struggle, embrace it, and offer your ignorance to God.
"All I have written is like straw," said Aquinas, after experiencing a vision of the Divine. No matter how brilliant we are, how much we think we know, or how hard we work to educate ourselves, we are all "seeing in a mirror dimly", as St. Paul says. The dimness may be frustrating at times, but it is part of faith. An essential part. We should learn to take comfort in that and embrace the tension. At least I have.
Sunday, February 20, 2022
I am prompted to write this post after years of seeing Catholics misuse the word "Gnostic" in online discussion. This is not in response to any specific articles or comments, just something that has been on my mind for awhile. "Gnostic" is a very common pejorative, a term as ubiquitous in intra-Catholic debates as "racist" is in secular diatribe—and, like the word racist, it becomes increasingly meaningless the more it is wielded. Indeed, I am convinced that most Catholics, even traditional Catholics, don't really know what it means for something to be "Gnostic."
What, then, is Gnosticism? Let us summarize the system in five points:
1. God Creates Through Emanations
2. The Sub-Emanation of the Aeons
3. The Corruption of the Material World
4. The Human Ascent to the Pleroma
5. Gradual Revelation Through Myth
Then the disciples came and said to him, “Why do you speak to them in parables?” And he answered them, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. For to him who has will more be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who has not, even what he has will be taken away. This is why I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand...But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear (Matt. 13:10-13, 16).It is understandable that people misuse the terms "Gnosticism" and "Gnostic"; after all, the Gnostic heresy is complex and not easily summarized in a single handy term. Hopefully it will make you stop and think before you call somebody "Gnostic" online for adopting what you consider an elitist attitude towards a certain body of knowledge. Hopefully we can be a little more discerning and accurate with how we speak.