Monday, September 29, 2014

Two Tales of Tradition

Following the pedagogical principles of our Lord Himself, it is at times better to use parables and stories in order to make a point. Thus, I present to you two true tales from two villages - one in Austria, one in France - about the importance and power of Tradition.

The Austrian Wall

In Austria, there was a certain village which had an old wall running around the length of the place. The wall was very old, dating at least to the late medieval period and possible earlier. It had become quite scenic over the years; in many places it was overgrown with beautiful ivy and people often visited the village just to take a stroll along the scenic wall - the sort of place where men would take their girls to propose to them. What's more, from time immemorial a certain spot on the wall had been associated with 'good luck.' When walking past this particular section of the wall, it was custom to reach out and touch it. People would leave flowers at this section of the wall, and sometimes candles. Nobody knew why. It was just the custom practiced by people from as long as anybody could remember.

Eventually the wall became dilapidated in many places and needed to be repaired. The village undertook and extensive restoration project on the wall. This entailed clearing away much if the ivy, scraping away old plaster, and replacing the old, crumbling mortar with new. In the process of this restoration, it was discovered that the "lucky spot" on the wall actually hid a glorious mosaic of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The mosaic was very old, presumably from the Byzantine Ravenna period (mid-6th century), when the conquests of Justinian had momentarily reunited Italy and parts of Austria with the Eastern Roman Empire. The mosaic was apparently an object of great veneration. Over the generations, accumulation of ivy, grime from offertory candles, and just dirt from being outdoors obscured the mosaic. Eventually the whole thing was simply plastered over. But the people of the region continued to venerate the spot, though having long forgotten the reason why. Hence the association of "luck" with the location, the offerings of candles, flowers, etc.

The French Cave

Our second story takes us to France, where at the beginning of the twentieth century there was a small village at the base of a mountain. This mountain featured a series of caves, which would frequently get cluttered by mudslides, brambles, and other debris. Since time immemorial, the village had a custom of hiring a small contingent of men to go up into the caves on the mountain once a year and clean them all out in exchange for a small stipend. By the 20th century the action was seen as honorary, a quirky custom that the villagers enjoyed but which served no practical purpose.

In the years of the Depression after World War I, however, with the economy in trouble and local governments watching their purses, it was decided that the village would no longer expend public money for the annual cleaning of the caves. It had been a fun tradition, but really the expense could no longer be justified, especially since the clearing of the caves above the town provided no practical benefit to the villagers. Thus, the cleaning was omitted and the caves began to get clogged up with debris and brambles.

Well, it was not long after that - perhaps a year, perhaps more - that the town was suddenly hit with a series of mudslides and floods. The village had never suffered from anything like this in living memory, and a prompt investigation was made into the source of these disasters. It was quickly determined that the calamities had come from the mountain, and the villagers made a surprising discovery. As it turns out, the clearing of the caves was not pointless. Every year, when the snows melted, the waters flowed down into the mountain caves and off into various rivulets here and there. However, when the villagers ceased clearing the caves of debris, the passages the water ran through became clogged, and the melt off was diverted, causing a flood of water and mud to rush down upon the village. The annual clearing of the caves was necessary to prevent these sorts of natural disasters. Local historians did some research and found that the annual clearing of the caves had been going on since Roman times. The Romans, consummate engineers, understood the relationship between the caves and the floods and made sure they were kept clear, and at public expense. The Romans disappeared, but the villagers continued to clear the caves, though they had long forgotten the rationale behind the practice. As they learned, the thoughtless jettisoning of so ancient a custom proved to be disastrous in a way they had not foreseen.

And what lessons do we derive from these two tales? Both stories strongly suggest to us the power and importance of tradition. In the story of the Austrian wall and the mosaic of Our Lady, we see how the tradition preserved a valuable core of piety even despite the people who had forgotten the rationale for it. Tradition is the best preservative available to humans. Catholic Tradition preserves important elements to our faith and hands them on, and it is capable of doing this even if people forget the reasons. A great example of traditional ecclesiastical architecture, which hands on a certain core of spiritual and liturgical principles, even if the average pewsitter is ignorant of them. When tradition is junked, we lose the ability to preserve elements of our religion and culture and wind up drifting loose.

In the second story, we see the other side of tradition - not as something that preserves a valuable core, but as something that defends us from evil, even an evil that we might not be aware of. The clearing of the caves was to keep the village safe, even though they villagers themselves did not understand the nature of the evil. Similarly, ecclesiastical traditions are in place for the purpose of protecting us from certain deadly errors, even if modern man thinks the tradition serves no "practical" purpose. Or, to put it another way, "Do not take down a fence if you don't know why it was put up."

Sources: I heard the story of the Austrian wall from a priest in a homily, while the tale of the French cave was related to me by my co-blogger Anselm during my last visit with him on a cold snowy night back in February.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Request Sunday

You would think that after seven years of blogging, I would be running out of material. In fact, the opposite is true; the longer I blog, the more my ideas branch out into seeds for new articles. As of recently, every day two or more ideas has been coming to me and I have so many concepts for articles that I cannot keep them straight or prioritize them.

I also get a lot of requests; the above picture is from the inbox of this blog and website, where I have a backlog of requests for articles going back almost a year.

What do you think I should post on? I guess I'm taking requests; of course, sometimes it takes weeks or months until I get to something, but as long as the request is reasonable, I will put it in the hopper and get to it when I can.

Below you will find a list of subjects that are already in the works to a greater or lesser degree for the next six months; what else would you like to see me post on? 

  • More Heresies of Balthasar: Balthasar insists that Christ possesses the virtue of faith.
  • Modernist thought in the writing of C.S. Lewis
  • Catholic Women: Why you can't find a man
  • Comparisons of Old Testament Israelite monarchy to current Church hierarchy
  • Philippians 1 and the Communion of Saints (contra Protestantism)
  • Follow up to this Nephilim article
  • Follow up to this article on the theology of the State
  • Hesychasm
  • Satis Cognitum and Sedevacantism
  • Critiquing the "brick by brick" approach to Tradition
  • The orientation of early Roman churches [UPDATE: Complete; see this link]
  • More stuff on evolution
  • More biblical archaeology stuff
  • 2 Pet. 2:24 (contra Protestantism)
  • Catholic approach to tithing
  • More stuff about Bayside
  • Joachim of Fiore
  • Medieval penances
  • More videos (remember to subscribe to our Unam Sanctam Catholicam channel on Youtube)

Any other ideas? Follow this blog and conversation on Facebook

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Medjugorje: Thanks from a Priest

It's been a long while since we've talked about Medjogorje here. Over the years I've done a lot of posts on the subject, and though none are very recent, they remain some of the most viewed articles on this blog.

We recently received a very kind letter from a Franciscan priest laboring in Canada about how this blog and website helped him see the truth about Medjugorje. Below is the letter, edited only slightly to remove references to other individuals:

Dearest Boniface,

I would like to commend you for particular work you've presented here concerning the events taking place in Medjugorje. I am a Franciscan priest currently stationed in Canada. 

Boniface, if there was anyone who had hoped the alleged apparitions there were true, it would be me. I am convinced however, now, that after doing further reading up on the subject, I was wrong and imprudent in not only being in favour of the apparitions, but also preaching things about the scientific evidence (which now I see is not evidence of the supernatural; in fact an even greater witness against anything supernatural is occurring there) as I had seen presented, as a motive of credibility for the existence of God. I should have been more prudent. In any case, things have changed with me and in my alarm and concern for the well-being of people entrusted to me, I am now simply relating to them what the Church has thus far indicated concerning anyone's planned involvement in pilgrimages, conferences, etc. 

One of the articles which really helped me see the history as it evolved to the build up of the allegations in 1981 was the "Understanding the Herzegovina Question." I want to really thank you for that...

If you have any info that may be useful to me in my pastoral concern for these sincere people, would you please send it my way or let me know if you post an article concerning this on your website/blog? I would really appreciate it...

Anyways, Boniface, thanks for your courage in speaking the truth... let me just say it has helped me and I am one who is entrusted with helping others in the same way to be patient, and obedient to our rightful pastors, who need our prayer, loyalty and help in spreading the Truth... the good news. Blessings and peace.

And bless you, Father! The article referred to above is "Understanding the Herzegovina Question" on the USC website, which is mandatory reading for anybody serious about understanding the background of what has been going on in Medjugorje since 1981.

Another interesting post on Medjugorje that I did several years ago on Ryan Grant's old blog was on the question of John Paul II's alleged "approval" of the apparitions, as related in various second and third hand accounts. Ryan's blog went defunct, but before I did I copied the article and reposted it here, though I think it went under the radar at the time. If you have never read about John Paul II and his alleged support for Medjugorje, please check out this link. As with much else about this phenomenon, the truth is pretty far from what the Medjugorje proponents assert.

You can also view all our older posts that discuss Medjugorje here , though a lot of these come from 2007-2008 when my writing was a little less refined and are sometimes more rants than anything else.

Please pray for this Franciscan father and his mission. 

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Cohabitation: Maintaining Sanity

With the announcement that Pope Francis intends to marry couples who are publicly living in sin by cohabiting, some Catholics have sunk to a depth of denial and contradiction that I did not think possible. The scandal took place today, according to sources (here and here).

This is not some kind of hype pushed by the secular media. The fact that cohabiting couples will be among those receiving the sacrament comes straight from the press release issued by the Vicariate of Rome, which stated that among those being married by Francis "there are those who are already cohabiting", as reported by CNS. The ceremony will also include couples with children born out of wedlock.

The marriage of people cohabiting is a destructive scandal and offensive to those brave parish priests who over the years have steadfastly refused to marry couples who are living together outside of marriage. These faithful priests - who are usually in the minority and receive very little support from their bishops - understand that a couple cohabiting prior to marriage have no real understanding of the Catholic Church's moral teachings and even less knowledge of the purpose of the sacrament. They also know that marriages where couples cohabit first are much more likely to fail, inasmuch cohabiting couples demonstrate a lack of willingness to sacrifice and engender a disposition towards selfish behavior. Many of us traditional Catholics, or even just conservative Catholics who uphold Christian morality, have applauded these heroic pastors who have the guts to buck the trend and refuse matrimony to cohabiting couples.

But now that Pope Francis is doing this very thing, many of these folks don't know what to do. As is usually the case when this pope scandalizes the faithful, they have generally responded with "I don't see a problem here", "what's the big deal?", "this is really nothing new", and the like. Typical Franciscan-pontificate spin.

"Boniface, the Church has always married people who have previously been living in sin. This is nothing new."

The Church has always married people who had previously been living in sin; she has no custom of marrying people who are currently living in sin. And some of these couples are currently living in unrepentant sin, as the press release says they are "already cohabiting"; i.e., they are living together right now. Obviously, nobody has a problem with the Church offering sacraments to single mothers living chastely or people who were once notorious sinners but have repented; to offer them the sacrament while they are persisting in unrepentant sin is another matter entirely.

"But Boniface, you are being judgmental. How do you know they are unrepentant? You don't know their hearts."

In the Catholic Faith, what we do is extremely important. When the people came to St. John the Baptist asking how they could be saved, he told them "Bear fruits that befit repentance" (Luke 3:8). We demonstrate our repentance by our actions. A true conversion, a metanoia, means actively turning away from a sinful lifestyle and embracing holiness. Hence St. John Vianney withheld absolution from a man who had refused to stop dancing in the local saloon and St. Cyprian withheld distribution of alms from certain people unless they gave up attending the Roman spectacles. Can you imagine the scandal today if a priest refused to absolve somebody unless they stopped going to the bar on Fridays or if he refused to feed the poor if they didn't stop going to see R-rated movies? How Pharisaic! Yet these saints knew that a sincere change of heart would invariably be coupled with a change of lifestyle, and if they did not see the "fruits that befit repentance", they presumed there was no repentance and withheld their ministrations. A person who persists in their sin is not repentant; rather, they are like a fool, according to Proverbs: "A dog that returns to its vomit is like a fool who reverts to his folly" (Prov. 26:11).

I know a thief is unrepentant if he keeps stealing; I know a cohabiting couple is unrepentant if they keep cohabiting. Simple as that.

"There you go judging again. How can you have any knowledge of whether or not the cohabiting couples are still sinning? You don't know what goes on in the bedroom. They could be cohabiting but living chastely. We ought to presume the best."

Let me say this as plainly as possible; in fact, let me be so blunt that I am actually going to resort to using all caps, which I seldom do: COHABITING ITSELF IS SINFUL, REGARDLESS OF WHETHER SEXUAL ACTIVITY GOES ON.

The spin-doctors are essentially saying that while a couple may be living together outside of wedlock, they may be living chastely in that situation, and therefore we cannot and should not presume they are fornicating just because they are living under the same roof. We ought to "assume the best."

This position misses several things.

First, how many people do you know who cohabit but do not have sexual relations? In my twelve years as a Catholic, I can think of one. Now, how many people do you know in the world, in your family, in your workplace, in your parish - wherever - how many people do you know who cohabit and do have sexual relations? Yeah. So this mythical "chaste cohabiting couple" is in the same category as the "extraordinary minister", where the adjective is there to make us feel better but in practice has no meaning.

"Boniface, you are talking about non-believers cohabiting - worldly people. The pope is marrying Catholics."

Catholics who cohabit before marriage are being worldly and are, in some sense, non-believers, at least as regards the Church's moral teaching, which they evidently do not believe or they would not cohabit.

Furthermore, regarding "presuming the best about people", we must recall that when people are living together, we actually do not presume chastity; we presume they are sexually active, and the Church always has. This is because an adult man and woman living a common life together is a state proper only to marriage; hence, when we see a man and a woman living together and don't know differently, we default to assuming they are married - which obviously means we assume the relations proper to marriage. If a man and a woman share a house, it is presumed they share a bed; and if they share a bed, well, heh know.

In fact, it is natural for people to assume sexual relations whenever they see any male and female in any close relationship. When I was watching the winter Olympics figure-skating with my extended family this year, my 15 year old nephew remarked, "So, do you think they do it?" Given the great amounts of time the skaters spend rehearsing in each other's company, as well as the skin-tight suits, intimate poses, and emotional intensity of the profession, it was natural for him - as well as for many - to assume sexual relations between figure-skating pairs.

The Church has always presumed a cohabiting couple were having sexual relations. This is why living together outside of marriage has been referred to as "living in sin." It was never engaging in the act of fornication that was primarily known as "living in sin"; rather, it was extramarital cohabitation that constituted "living in sin". Fornication was merely - and quite rationally - assumed. We, also, are not wrong in assuming that cohabiting couples are fornicating.

Third, given that cohabitation is referred to as "living in sin", we need to recall that cohabitation itself is sinful, as I exclaimed in all caps above. There are several reasons for this; as mentioned above, because people presume you are fornicating, it becomes a scandal. This is true even in the unlikely event that no fornication happens. A blind man who walks into an adult bookstore still commits the sin of scandal by merely going in, even if his blindness means he doesn't look at pornography while he is in there. This is because anyone who sees him go in and doesn't know the particulars about his blindness will naturally assume he is looking at porn while in the store.

Besides being scandalous, cohabitation also puts couples in a near occasion of sin on a daily basis, almost perpetually, in fact. This is why we keep our teenage daughters and sons away from compromising situations with members of the opposite sex. Duh. When did this become so complicated? You take a male and a female, let them share a home, and chances are very good that they will share a bed - and if that happens, forget about it.

So, because cohabitation sends a message that sex is happening, and because there is a tremendous likelihood that sex will in fact happen, it is scandalous and sinful. Can you think of any other activity that is scandalous and a near occasion of sin but which apologists would be hesitant condemning?

"Fair enough, Boniface, but this is a pastoral call that the pope has the right to make. He has the jurisdiction to marry whom he chooses and it is not our place to call that judgment into question."

Very well. I will not judge Francis. I appeal to the words of St. John Paul II, who wrote about those who "presume that the true and proper marriage will take place only after a period of cohabitation" in Familiaris Consortio. After summarizing the variety of reasons people cohabit - ranging from economic distress to custom to mere pleasure seeking - the pope stated that each of these situations of cohabitation

presents the Church with arduous pastoral problems, by reason of the serious consequences deriving from them, both religious and moral (the loss of the religious sense of marriage seen in the light of the Covenant of God with His people; deprivation of the grace of the sacrament; grave scandal), and also social consequences (the destruction of the concept of the family; the weakening of the sense of fidelity, also towards society; possible psychological damage to the children; the strengthening of selfishness) [Familiaris Consortio, 81]

By the way, for those who are no longer accustomed to traditional theological vocabulary, the use of the adjective "grave" generally means "mortally sinful."

Also, did you notice that St. John Paul II applies all these consequences to cohabitation as such? He does not seem to envision nor give much credence to the possibility of chaste cohabitation, nor do any of the reasons for extramarital common life negate the consequences he enumerates.

So, the question becomes: If this holy, wise and sainted-pontiff states that cohabitation has serious moral, social and religious consequences, including psychological damage to children, destruction of the family, establishment in selfishness - as well as the guilt of mortally sinful scandal for those engaged in it and the deprivation of the grace of the sacrament of marriage - are these people properly disposed to be married?

If according to St. John Paul II cohabitation before marriage results in the deprivation of the grace of the sacrament, how on earth can one say that cohabiting couples can possibly be properly disposed or in any sense fit for matrimony? Let St. John Paul II judge Francis.

"Well Boniface, you make a good case, but ultimately these marriages are all valid, so this is just your opinion."

Uh...I didn't suggest they weren't valid. Is this really relevant? Dr. Peters has an interesting article looking at the validity of marriages conferred on cohabiting couples. Of course, he states that they are perfectly valid but kind of punks out by sidestepping the question of the pastoral implications of such marriages, only stating that the pastoral problems "might be a bigger deal."

That's an understatement!

I really hope we don't have to go over the whole discussion about validity and propriety again. A Eucharist consecrated on a card table at a poker game is valid if correct matter, form, minister and intent are used. That does not make it proper. It can be valid and still seriously scandalous; in fact, in the case of the Eucharist, such a consecration would be sacrilegious and scandalous precisely because the consecration would be valid.

Similarly, hiding behind the mere validity of a marriage conferred upon a cohabiting couple is no way to get around the huge pastoral implications such a practice would have. Has the world turned upside down that I am now concerned with pastoral implications?!

I would also like to opine, however, that Dr. Peters errs in one point. He says in his article quoted above:

"Canonically, this is a non-issue. No divine, natural, or canon law impedes a wedding between cohabiting persons (cc. 1083-1094) and therefore the fundamental right of the faithful to the sacraments in general (cc. 213, 843) and to marriage particular (c. 1058) should prevail in such cases. Unquestionably, these couples can, and must be allowed to wed."

Dr. Peters suggests that, unless impeded by some canonical impediment, there is absolutely no reason any Catholic couple can ever be legitimately denied access to the sacrament of matrimony. I dispute this point. It is very true that, regarding matrimony, there are no natural, divine, or canonical impediments based on cohabitation. But there is grounds for denial of the sacrament in the canons regarding administration of sacraments in general.

First, canon 843§1 states that "Sacred ministers may not deny the sacraments to those who opportunely ask for them, are properly disposed and are not prohibited by law from receiving them." Dr. Peters cites this canon in support of his argument that cohabiting couples "can, and must be allowed to wed."

However, he does not delve into what it means for a couple to be "properly disposed." Since being "properly disposed" is a condition for reception of any sacrament, it is understood by implication and practice that any sacrament may be denied to any Catholic who is not properly disposed. This is why pastors do First Communion interviews, Confirmation interviews, etc.

Who decides whether a couple is properly disposed for marriage? Canon 843§2 says, "According to their respective offices in the Church, both pastors of souls and all other members of Christ's faithful have a duty to ensure that those who ask for the sacraments are prepared for their reception. This should be done through proper evangelization and catechetical instruction, in accordance with the norms laid down by the competent authority."

In the case of marriage, pastors are to ensure proper disposition through "personal preparation for entering marriage, so that the spouses are disposed to the holiness and the obligations of their new state" (1062§2), while traditionally the laity participate by making pastors aware of any impediments to marriage; hence the traditional publishing of the banns.

Thus, there does exist a canonical rationale for a pastor to deny the sacrament of matrimony to two Catholics; that is, he can always deny it on the grounds that they are not properly disposed. Does cohabitation before marriage prove a proper disposition is lacking? The purpose of any sacrament is to communicate the grace proper to it. Given that Pope St. John Paul II stated that cohabitation before marriage results in a deprivation of sacramental grace and is a grave scandal, a pastor who refuses to confer marriage on a cohabiting couple would be justified based on Canon 843§2 and Familiaris Consortio 81, which would suggest that such a couple would not be properly disposed.

As a side note, a priest may also refuse to officiate at the marriage of "a person who has notoriously rejected the catholic faith" (1073§4). Traditionally this has been interpreted to refer to outright apostasy, though a person who rejects a certain portion of the Church's teaching could be said to have rejected the faith, insofar as the faith must be kept "whole and undefiled" (Quicumque Vult) and that "whoever breaks one commandment is guilty of breaking them all" (cf. James 2:10).

Furthermore, canon 1092§2 lists among persons "incapable of contracting marriage...those who suffer from a grave lack of discretionary judgement concerning the essential matrimonial rights and obligations to be mutually given and accepted. I believe this canon is meant to apply to persons who suffer from developmental disabilities. However, since the canon does not explicitly say that, if a person of sound mind is so dense as to either not understand or reject the Church's teaching on the exclusivity of intercourse to within the marital bond itself, one could make a case that they "suffer from a grace lack of discretionary judgment": concerning the nature of matrimony and hence should not be married. These latter two arguments from canons 1073 and 1092 are only speculative; the argument from Canon 843§2 and Familiaris Consortio 81 is much stronger, in my opinion.

So, yes, I take issue with the opinion that cohabiting couples "can, and must be allowed to wed" if they ask for it. Many pastors have presumed such couples are not properly disposed and have denied them on those grounds, as they have every right and duty to based on canon law and tradition.

"Boniface, marriage offers a way for them to regularize their situation. Do you want them to remain in sin?"

Of course not. I want them to turn their union into a sacramental, grace-filled union. To do so, they must be properly disposed to receive the sacrament. Part of that disposition is abstaining from intercourse prior to marriage, which among other things, you do by not living together. If a cohabiting couple is serious about wanting to regularize their situation, let them cease cohabitation at once and make a sacramental confession. Then let them maintain purity for the remainder of the preparatory process, which is a sign that they are serious about "bearing fruit that befits repentance." It's as simple as that.

I want every Catholic to receive communion weekly. That doesn't mean I want to dispense with the regulations surrounding who and when communion can be received; it means I want all Catholics to observe those regulations. Two Catholics certainly have a right to marry - but not on any terms they choose. Everyone understands this principle when it comes to the other sacraments. Why some Catholics are now hemming and hawing when it comes to matrimony is beyond me.

One last thought: It rubs me the wrong way that this is being done for political purposes. Do you think the pope goes out to marry twenty couples and it is a coincidence that they are all either living in sin or come from irregular situations? Of course that is not a coincidence. These people were chosen to send a message, and the fact that this is occurring so close to the opening of the Synod on the Family is very meaningful. It saddens me that these people were chosen not based on their suitability for reception of the sacrament, but in order to send a message about the pope's agenda. It is as if Francis went out and said, "Go dig up some cohabiting people for me to marry so I can make a point", just like when he went to Korea he requested whatever "the smallest car possible" was in order to make sure he looked sufficiently humble. The administration of the sacrament is being co-opted to push the envelope for the progressive attempts to loosen all the disciplines surrounding marriage.

Yes, this is a scandal. Many in the Church hierarchy may have lost their minds on this matter, but at least let us maintain sanity on this issue. Cohabiting before marriage is sinful and those who present themselves for marriage while cohabiting are not properly disposed and should not receive the sacrament until the "bear fruit that befits repentance."

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Saturday, September 13, 2014

Appeal for an Oblate of the ICRSS

In the interest of furthering the advance of Catholic Tradition and supporting, I am happy to present the profile and appeal of a wonderful young man who has just been accepted into the oblatehood of the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest in Wausau, Wisconsin. As you probably know, members of traditional priestly fraternities are required to pay the full cost of their tuition. Please read about Kevin Koski - a young man I met last year at the Catholic Identity Conference - and consider supporting his vocation financially. Here is a message from Kevin:

Salvete! My name is Kevin Koski and I am a new candidate for the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest. I am 27 years of age and was born and raised in Central Maine. A cradle Catholic, I attended a Catholic elementary school in Augusta. In 2010 I graduated from the University of New Hampshire with a B.S. in Kinesiology: Exercise Science. I went on to perform missionary work in Denver and study theology for a year at Franciscan University of Steubenville. At Franciscan, I aided implementation of the Traditional Mass on campus. It was in September 2012 that I began discerning a religious vocation. I am now entering formation due to a fervor to help build the Church back to Her former glory. Moreover, by being formed in the Institute’s charism and spirituality, I hope to be an integral part of the restoration of authentic Catholic culture by promoting the classical Roman Liturgy and the superior beauty and euphony of the compositions found in sacred music.

Checks can be made out to Kevin Koski and sent to 6 Townsend Street,Augusta, ME 04330. If you do choose to donate, please mention that you did so as a result of seeing this post. If he gets a good response, maybe we can feature more seminarian and oblate appeals in the future, as does Rorate and other traditional blogs.

Just to make sure everything is on the up and up, here is a copy of Kevin's letter of acceptance from the Institute:

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Then and Now

I have recently been immersed in a book on the history of the Cistercians called Compendium of the History of the Cistercian Order. The book was written in 1944 by an anonymous priest of that Order, who either out of obedience or humility did not reveal his identity.

I know this is kind of apples and oranges here, but when I reflected on the humility of this priest who consented to undertake this massive tome anonymously - thinking what he said more important than who was saying it - my mind could not help leaping to a contrast with something more modern.

In the anonymous Father's book, it's all about what is being said. In our latter production, it's all about MEEEEEEE!

I know things are different for a religious than a lay person...I know a television show is different than a book...I know there could be evangelical benefits to such a show, and I know this woman probably has the best of intentions.


Thursday, September 04, 2014

Summer Articles on USC Website

Summer was a very busy time for us here at Unam Sanctam Catholicam; with some of us swamped with professional responsibilities and others welcoming children into the world (congratulations, Maximus!) it is a miracle anyone posted anything at all. Still, it has been a great summer moving into our seventh year of blogging. Please check out the summer articles from the USC website and follow us on Facebook.

Truth About Celibacy and Priestly Continence - Lengthy article examining the history of continence in the priesthood and demonstrating that, while the priesthood was not always celibate, it was always continent.

Archbishop Cordileone Bulletin Insert - PDF bulletin insert summarizing Archbishop Cordileone's arguments against homosexual marriage.

Proselytism and Conversion - Step one: get everyone to agree that proselytism is bad. Step two: redefine proselytism to mean seeking to get people to enter the Church. Result: destroy the Church's efforts at evangelization.

Comparing Roman and Medieval Technology - Repost of one of Ryan Grant's old articles articulating why medieval technology is actually superior to that of the classical world.

Deconstructing the Documentary Hypothesis - Exposing the Hegelian origin of the JEDP theory of the Old Testament and debunking its historical claims.

"It's all about God" -The power the traditional liturgy can have even on the poor and uneducated.

Profit as a Just Recompense - Comparing traditional and modern concepts of "profit".

Gezer Calendar - What a school boy's exercise from 950 B.C. tells us about the Kingdom of Solomon.

Is Liturgy Really a Big Deal? - If liturgy is really not that important, why did God strike so many people dead for liturgical infractions?

The Shrines of Khirbet Qeiyafa - Little shrines found at the 11th century Israelite fortress of Khirbet Qeiyafa attest to an ancient Israelite ban on images.

Defense of the Divine Mercy Devotion: Part 3 in an ongoing series by Kasey Moerbeek defending the devotion against the objections raised by the SSPX.

Movie Reviews

Turbo (2013)
Soul Surfer (2011)
The Help (2011)

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Alternatives to Coventional RCIA

As a former DRE, problems and strategies relating to the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA) have always been close to my heart. In previous posts we have featured RCIA horror stories and thoughts on teaching RCIA. And of course, the Unam Sanctam Catholicam website has been offering free RCIA lesson plans for over two years.

In light of the many issues relating to RCIA, folks have asked me over the years about possible alternatives to RCIA. What sort of leeway do we have in the modern Church to stray outside the current norm when it comes to initiating converts into the Church? What other alternatives are there for receiving people into the Church other than RCIA?

First of all, it must be noted that there is really no legitimate way to "get rid" of RCIA. The Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults is mandated from the highest levels of ecclesiastical authority and there is no Diocese in the West where it is not pushed by the local Ordinary. Attempts to abolish or ignore RCIA will be met with stern resistance from even the most traditional minded bishops.

That being said, there is nothing prohibiting pastors from using their own discretion to bring persons into the Church in unconventional applications of the norms. Thus, we are not talking about something to replace RCIA, but other non-conventional ways of adapting it to parish life that are better or more closer to tradition. These sorts of adaptations and options are allowed in the current legislation - and Lord knows how the modern Church loves options!

The authoritative document, also called Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults, lays down a basic framework for how initiation should proceed and what liturgical commemorations are appropriate, but leaves pastors free to adapt the content of this process based on their own pastoral judgments. The document is primarily concerned with liturgical celebrations and makes only the vaguest statements about what the actual instruction is to look like. Look at the incredible leeway the document allows when discussing the actual nature and content of instruction:

"The initiation of catechumens is a gradual process that takes place within the community of the faithful" (4)

All we are told here is that it should be gradual and take place within the "community", which judging by the context of the document, means that the stages of initiation should be celebrated liturgically.

"The second period, which begins with this entrance into the order of catechumens and which may last for several years, includes catechesis and the rites connected with catechesis." (7)

Here we are simply told that there should be "catechesis"; presumably the how, when and why of this is left to the discretion of the pastor.

"During this period, a more intense spiritual preparation... is intended to purify hearts and minds by the examination of conscience and by penance" (25).

What does "more intense spiritual preparation" and the purification of "hearts and minds" look like concretely?

"After this last stage has been completed, the community along with the neophytes grows in perceiving more deeply the paschal mystery and in making it part of their lives" (37)

Again, what does it look like to help the neophyte grow in "perceiving more deeply the paschal mystery"?

"[A] period of postbaptismal catechesis is of utmost importance" (39).

Again, we are simply told that there ought to be catechesis but what it should look like is left up in the air, presumably to be adapted to the needs of each community and even individuals seeking entrance into the Church.

The point is that there is no fixed formula for what RCIA is supposed to look like, and the document itself states that part of the Council's vision was the "adaptation to local traditions" of the process of initiation. Therefore, we are on very solid footing when we suggest that RCIA need not look like the beast we have come to know it as, with weekly classes, RCIA "teams", lame reflections on the readings, service projects, etc. The contemporary experience we have come to know as RCIA is simply the method most parishes, following the USCCB, have adopted for implementing the directives of the RCIA document. But it need not be so, and there are viable alternatives.

Such as?

First, let us look at the Traditional way.

In the pre-Conciliar days, reception into the Church was a very private affair. A candidate would meet with a priest who would examine his motives and remind him of the responsibilities of becoming Catholic. if the candidate had no objections and cleared this first stage, he would begin to "take instruction" as it was called, which consisted of weekly meetings with the priest who would instruct him in the basics of the faith whilst continuing to assess and candidate's spiritual state. After an indeterminate amount of time - maybe six months, maybe two years, depending on the candidate - a small Mass would be said at which the candidate would be received into the Church. It could be at any time of year and was often on a feast day chosen by the candidate. The Mass was usually a daily Mass, small, and attended mainly by family and friends invited by the candidate.

Note the very appropriate union between the intellectual and the spiritual. The candidate is instructed by a priest who is capable of both instructing and assessing spiritual problems - and vested with the authority to take remedial action in either if need be. How different this is from the lay-dominated RCIA program today, where the layman teaches but with no competence or authority to judge the spiritual readiness of a candidate, nor the moral or canonical authority to rebuke the scandalous. For example, in the old days, if a candidate was cohabiting with a female, the priest giving instruction would have full authority to deal with the issue. But now, what happens when the layman RCIA director finds out about some scandalous behavior? He usually does not have the authority to kick the offender out of the program, nor the wisdom to really assess the spiritual state of the individual. At best he can quote Church teaching to the offender and pass the complaint on to the priest, who now must intervene, learn the facts, and make a determination in a situation he has just been briefed on about a person he has probably not had the opportunity to get to know personally. We can see at once that from a pastoral perspective, the pre-Conciliar practice was much sounder.

The great thing is, under the current legislation, this sort of initiation is still permissible, so long as the various liturgical rites are celebrated (the vast majority of these rites are made optional in the adaptations of these norms by the episcopal conferences and many are movable - for example, see #53 in the RCIA document on "pastoral reasons" for transferring presentation of the Creed). A pastor with the willingness can still require this sort of individualized initiation - of course, it takes more of the pastor's time and is much more involved, but the formation would be undoubtedly better.

Another alternative would be to have a regimented reading program with less face to face meetings. Instead of weekly meetings with the priest, a monthly book list assigned by the priest, with only a meeting at the end of each month to confirm the candidate's understanding of the reading material and offer further clarifications. I personally helped some folks come in to the Church in this manner.

At other times, a priest may not need to give much catechetical instruction. This is often the case when a very well-educated person "reads" themselves into the Church. In such cases, it is necessary simply for the pastor to assess his level of knowledge and then to ensure that a sufficient time of spiritual preparation is undertaken before reception. It need not be long. Sometimes the Holy Spirit has done all the work and it is simply the job of the pastor to stand aside and admit the individual. It is presumptuous to think that every person - no matter what they have learned and no matter how the Spirit has prepared them - is in need of a 9 month class. Sometimes a person is ready and the pastor just needs to give them a little bit of spiritual preparation.

One other option is to do the instruction entirely in a liturgical context, in the form of a series of homilies. This was a common practice among the Church Fathers. Instead of saying, "Be here for RCIA class every Thursday night at 7:00pm," tell them, "Be here for Mass at 7:00pm," and then incorporate the RCIA catechesis into the homily every week. This way the catechesis is delivered, the spiritual man is nourished, and the catechumens are trained in going to Mass regularly - which of course they should already be doing.

My point is that we need not feel that 9 months of classes taught by a lay person - or worse, a "team" of them - is the only option under the current legislation. So long as the main liturgical rites are observed, a pastor is free to come up with any sort of arrangements he wishes. And it is the position of this blog that pastors ought to do so.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The Great Pius X

Today we honor the revered memory of undoubtedly the greatest, saintliest and most visionary pope of the modern age: Giuseppe Sarto, St. Pius X, whose glorious pontificate came (1903-1914) came to a close one hundred years ago today.

When I first set up the current incarnation of this blog back in June of 2007, I really had no clue what sorts of graphics or images would work. In fact, I wasn't even really sure what my vision for this blog was or what I wanted it to grow into; at the time I just wanted a platform to vent my anger about Haugen-Haas music and complain about the lack of Latin in my diocese. I had no idea there was a 'traditionalist' movement out there, had very little knowledge about what the Traditional Latin Mass was, and was certainly not aware of a traditionalist blogging community.

Not knowing what I was trying to express, I defaulted to a powerful symbol - that of Pope St. Pius X. I was not sure what I was feeling or what I wanted this blog to be, but it all seemed to be summed up in the image of the great pontiff, whose picture I found and lovingly placed on the right sidebar with a citation from Lamentabile Sane, the great syllabus of Pius X. And there that image has remained for the last seven years, still a very fitting symbol of everything this blog and its sister site stand for.

There are many things praiseworthy about Pope St. Pius X. Indeed, he is not the patron pope of traditionalists simply because he is pre-Vatican II or because he had some wonderful insights about the dangers of modernism. This pontiff was truly saintly, and not only in his personal life, but in the manner in which he conducted the papacy and wielded the office entrusted to him. In other words, with Pius X we need make no distinction between his "personal holiness" and his conduct as pope. The two are beautifully synthesized in the person of the great pontiff.

It is beyond my skill and available time to present a comprehensive biography of Pope St. Pius X, but I would like to offer a few observations about why he was such a praiseworthy successor of St. Peter.

First I would like to highlight the striking clarity and uncompromising straight-forwardness of Pius X. This is nowhere more evidenced than in Pius' famous 1904 with Zionist leader Theodor Herzl, who came to the pontiff seeking support for the Jewish movement in Palestine. When if he would support Jewish independence in a restored Israel, Pope Pius X responded:

"We cannot give approval to this movement. We cannot prevent the Jews from going to Jerusalem—but we could never sanction it. The soil of Jerusalem, if it was not always sacred, has been sanctified by the life of Jesus Christ. As the head of the Church I cannot tell you anything different. The Jews have not recognized our Lord, therefore we cannot recognize the Jewish people"

Herzl, recounting the interview in his diary, noted:

At the outset, to be sure, I tried to be conciliatory. I recited my little piece about extraterritorialization, res sacrae extra commercium [holy places removed from business]. It didn't make much of an impression. Gerusalemme, he said, must not get into the hands of the Jews.

"And its present status, Holy Father?"

"I know, it is not pleasant to see the Turks in possession of our Holy Places. We simply have to put up with that. But to support the Jews in the acquisition of the Holy Places, that we cannot do."

I said that our point of departure had been solely the distress of the Jews and that we desired to avoid the religious issues.

"Yes, but we, and I as the head of the Church, cannot do this. There are two possibilities. Either the Jews will cling to their faith and continue to await the Messiah who, for us, has already appeared. In that case they will be denying the divinity of Jesus and we cannot help them. Or else they will go there without any religion, and then we can be even less favorable to them. The Jewish religion was the foundation of our own; but it was superseded by the teachings of Christ, and we cannot concede it any further validity. The Jews, who ought to have been the first to acknowledge Jesus Christ, have not done so to this day."

The rest of the interview is available online here.

Can you imagine a modern pontiff speaking with such clarity to the Jews about the necessity of embracing the Messiah and the Church He founded? Can you imagine any modern pontiff speaking such straight forward, lucid terms as "the Jewish religion...was superseded by the teachings of Christ and we cannot concede it any further validity"? Interestingly enough, if you click on the above link and continue to read the reflections of Theodor Herzl, he speaks about the great respect he had for Pius.

Pius X was also master at identifying the root causes of problems within the Church and the world. This is especially evident in his treatment of Modernism in the encyclical Pascendi. It might not seem evident that this is such a difficult task, but remember how varied and far-reaching are the heresies of Modernism. The Modernist heresy encompassed liturgy and history, philosophy and Scripture study, ecclesiology and spirituality, theology and music. A less astute theologian might have been tempted to see these as multiple, heresies, diverse and unrelated. After all, what commonality is there between a liturgist pushing for incorporation of more patristic elements into the Mass and an Old Testament scholar of the historical-critical school? Or what concord hath the progressive Catholic philosopher who rejects Thomism and the cleric laboring in the Pan-Christian movement? It took the particular genius of Pope St. Pius X in Pascendi to identify the common factor that drew these trends together and made them not only a heresy, but the synthesis of all heresies: that factor was what Pius called vital immanence, which essentially means that the objective data of revelation is beyond the capability of man's reason; all man can grasp are the impressions or internal effects of this on man, with the consequent that religious experience trumps religious truth and spirituality becomes a purely subjective reality. This synopsis of the Modernist heresy was so spot-on and so thorough that Modernism throughout the Church went into hibernation to lick its wounds for several decades.

Not only was Pope Pius X astute at identifying problems, but in backing up his words with powerful and decisive action. After condemning the theories of the Modernists, he goes on to  say:

"All these prescriptions and those of Our Predecessor are to be borne in mind whenever there is question of choosing directors and professors for seminaries and Catholic Universities. Anybody who in any way is found to be imbued with Modernism is to be excluded without compunction from these offices, and those who already occupy them are to be withdrawn" (Pascendi, 48).

Can you imagine Paul VI or John Paul II not only speaking out against religious errors in seminaries and universities but actually taking positive steps to ensure that these heretics are systematically removed? This kind of decisiveness can scarcely be imagined today. Regarding the sort of education Pius seeks in candidates for higher studies, he asks for a background in Scholastic theology - but he does not just ask:

"For the future the doctorate of theology and canon law must never be conferred on anybody who has not made the regular course of scholastic philosophy; if conferred it shall be held as null and void" (Pascendi, 49).

He not only expresses his will, but mandates it and threatens to nullify degrees conferred in disobedience of his will! He orders bishops "to do everything in your power to drive out of your dioceses, even by solemn interdiction, any pernicious books that may be in circulation there" (ibid., 51); clearly Pius believes pastoral admonitions are insufficient if not followed up by firm action! He institutes the Oath Against Modernism to root out heretical tendencies from the clergy on pain of sin, and establishes "Councils of Vigilance" within each diocese whose sole purpose is "noting the existence of errors and the devices by which new ones are introduced and propagated" and to make recommendations to the bishop on "the best means for suppressing the evil at its outset" (55). Unlike modern bishops and pontiffs who identify errors in only the most cautious of terms and then throw up their hands when it comes to taking action, Pius took vigorous action, right down to the diocesan level, to make sure that Modernism was rooted out and that life in the Church was made very difficult for Modernists.

Even as a priest and bishop, Pius X was known for his charity and devotion to Christ, especially in the poor. Lest anyone try to contrast our current "humble" Holy Father with some sort of alleged pre-Vatican II triumphalism, see how Pius X loved the poor and least among his flock, from the Catholic Encyclopedia:

"In 1867 he was named arch-priest of Salzano, a large borough of the Diocese of Treviso, where he restored the church, and provided for the enlargement and maintenance of the hospital by his own means, consistently with his habitual generosity to the poor."

While Bishop of Mantua he distributed copies of the Summa to poorer seminarians at his own expense and took care to see that all seminarians were formed in Scholastic theology and Gregorian Chant, for which he had a particular love. As Cardinal of Venice, he held a synod in 1898 for the promotion of Gregorian Chant - something he would later mandate in his motu proprio Tra le Sollecetudine - and promoted cooperative rural banks in accord with the social teaching laid down by Leo XIII.

To Pius X we also must attribute the consolidation of the Church's canonical tradition which led to the great 1917 Code of Canon Law.

In every way a model of holiness, clarity, zeal and vigorous action against the enemies of the Church and in promotion of the Kingdom of Christ. St. Pius X, pray for us!

"It is impossible to approve in Catholic publications of a style inspired by unsound novelty which seems to deride the piety of the faithful and dwells on the introduction of a new order of Christian life, on new directions of the Church, on new aspirations of the modern soul, on a new vocation of the clergy, on a new Christian civilisation. Language of this kind is not to be tolerated either in books or from chairs of learning" -Pope St Pius X, Pascendi #55.


Sunday, August 17, 2014

Do You Know Pride When You See It?


In the past, when I have listened to Venerable Fulton Sheen, he has made me laugh, weep, sit on the edge of my seat, filled my heart with compunction and hope, but on a few occasions he has also made me cringe.  One of those occasions is his jab at St Bernards 12 steps of humility, which he seems to hold out to a brief ridicule for its complexity, or technical nature before he starts to expound upon the simplicity and beauty of St Therese’s Little Way.

Fortunately for us, such a characterization is a straw man, in fact, it is a strawman to the extreme.  Even though St Bernard did write a work called the 12 steps to humility, what the work actually speaks of is the twelve steps to pride, which St Bernard states at the end of the book that he knows more about pride than humility.  He does point out that if one knows how to become proud, then one merely must descend the steps of pride to become humble.  A good point, and one that St Bernard makes eloquently with parables and witty vivid imagery (he likes using animal bladders to describe the proud in this work, among other things.)

If there is anything more cringe-worthy than this straw man of Venerable Fulton Sheen (whom I still love) today, it is hearing people talk of humility.  In a world where pride in sin is held out as the highest of virtue, talk on humility comes across as less than cheap.  If a person gets the wrong idea of what humility is, then he may lose the ability to humble himself before God. Lets look at what St Bernard says.

These are the twelve degrees of pride:
  1. Curiosity
  2. Unseasonable joy or sorrow.
  3. Silliness: excessive merriment and laughter.
  4. Conceit: expressed in too much talking.
  5. Eccentricity: loving ones singular conduct, often trying to attract attention.
  6. Self-assertion: believing  (and seeking to become) more  pious than others.
  7. Presumption: believing oneself to be capable of doing anything.
  8. Defense of oneself in wrongdoing.
  9. Bad Confession: especially lying to avoid punishment.
  10. Rebellion: flat-out refusal to obey the rules.
  11. Liberty to sin: a person who sins freely but is still restrained due to the fear of God or other habits of virtue.
  12. Habitual transgressor: going straight to hell and nothing is slowing you down. 

In addition to St Bernard’s teaching on humility, there is also an article on Unam Sanctam’s core website on humility in your state in life. Knowing the 12 steps are very helpful practically, this article explains how the abandonment of understanding our place in society has greatly injured our ability to make the appropriate acts to grow in humility.

One of the interesting things in St Bernard’s work which you can download or listen here on Audiobook for free is that he does not exhort us to not notice pride in others or explain it away.  If we enable our neighbors pride by praise or puffing him up we only accelerate his downfall.

Upon reflection, I also realized that the Imitation of Christ says something similar:

“Study also to guard against and to overcome the faults which in others very frequently displease you”  chapter 25, Zeal in Amending our Lives

These admonitions are connected with the correction of our own lives.  If we find that excessive speech irritates us, let us resolve to not speak excessively; or if someone is boastful of their good works, let us make all the greater effort to hide the good that we do.  The violence that it takes to overcome these faults will perhaps give us a greater ability to bear with our neighbor;  he suffers these evils because to overcome them is difficult and the world is never short of the pride of life: vulgar displays of conceit, eccentricity, defense of evil-doing, breaking the rules, etc.  Yet, if we look in the memory (in humility) we will find in ourselves these things, and even if we have rooted out every evil in us (who would be so presumptuous to make such a statement?)  we still have our past sins when ascending from pride to humility.

Jesus, meek and humble of heart, make our hearts like unto Thine.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Special Creation and the State of Completion

Some time ago I did an article on the Church's reservations about the theory of evolution pertaining to the concept of immutable substance. In discussions in person and in Catholic forums that followed, the argument came up that evolution simply explains the 'evidence' better than special creation and that affirming special creation would involve too great a divergence between what the science is telling us and what we are affirming as true. To explain the point better, I will reproduce an objection to special creation from one such forum which argues that to affirm special creation involves us in too many conundrums and effectively makes God a liar:

"With evolution, it's much easier to explain that all animals are related to each other, especially when we see the genetic evidence corroborating the degrees of physiological variance from one species to the next. For the critical thinker, accepting special creation as true would require an explanation for the evidence we see that contradicts it. Evolution explains what we are seeing. Special creation contradicts what we are seeing, and on such a grand scale that if it is false evidence, the only thing powerful enough to put it there is God himself. So if special creation is true, one must necessarily come to the conclusion that God has actively placed false evidence in the way to throw us off on the wrong course, presumably as a test to see if we will believe what the Bible says as opposed to what we can objectively measure. But it then begs the question, if God can distort all of reality to test our faith, if He is really willing to lie to us in his creation to get us to have faith, how then can we place any hope in what the Bible says as not being likewise a lie from God? There are just too many logical conundrums for a person to accept that are tied to special creation."

This is a common objection to special creation. In case the argument above is a little obtuse, allow me to provide a concrete example of what I'm talking about:

I was recently debating with friend about this - a good Catholic man who nevertheless has allowed modern ideas to soak in a little too deeply on certain subjects. He was saying that God could not have created the universe by special creation because the light from some of the stars takes billions of years to get to earth, which presumed an evolutionary time-span for the origin and development of the universe. I objected that God could have created the universe instantly with the light en route, such that all the light that was necessary was created exactly where it needed to be without having to actually traverse that distance. My friend countered by saying that this would make God into a "liar" because all our empirical observation suggests that the light has actually traveled that far and that it would be a kind of "false evidence" if the light looked like it traveled millions of light years but in fact was created en route.

Would creating the light "en route" make God into a liar or constitute "false evidence"? It is my contention that it would not. In fact, to say it is begs the question, as we shall see.

As a classic example of this, I always refer back to the creation of Adam and Eve. Tradition and Scripture are unanimous in affirming that Adam and Eve were created as adults; that is, God did not create infants, but a full grown man and woman with all the necessary perfections needed to sustain adult life. I do not know how "old" they were created to be; some Scholastics speculated that Adam was created as a 33 year old man since this was the age of perfection, based on the length of years of our Lord. Who knows. The point is, Adam and Eve were created fully formed, at least according to the Tradition.

However, what would an uninformed spectator assume if he were to encounter Adam? Suppose, for the sake of argument, that you were to come walking around a corner and run into Adam only ten minutes after he was created. Having not witnessed his creation, you would look at his stature and presume him to be a man who has been around for several decades. He is tall, he is strong, he has adult teeth and perhaps a full grown beard. Yet in fact he is but ten minutes old.

Furthermore, there is no way to tell the difference. Aside from the accidental fact that the newly created Adam would have not had any imperfections due to years of labor, wrinkles, etc., you would not be able to know one way or another. God created him complete, and that completeness entails every characteristic proper to a full grown man.

Now, my question is this - was God "lying" or providing "false evidence" to you in creating Adam like this? Is the fact that Adam is created full grown a "deception"? Is the fact that when he is one second old he already has adult stature and adult teeth a kind of "distortion of reality"?

Obviously not. It is none of that. Rather, it is simply that God willed to created Adam complete.

The fact that God wills to create him complete means that he looks the same as any other person would who was born of woman. Did God similarly will to create the entire cosmos in some sort of state of completion? Looking at the light in the universe that is constantly bombarding the earth from millions and billions of light years away, can we really tell that it has actually been traveling for billions of years as opposed to being created en route not so long ago? Again, there is no way to tell the difference.

We know that rivers were formed by the cutting away of rock by running water. We know that this can happen slowly over a very long period of time, but we also know that raging waters can carve a gorge over a mile long and 22 feet deep in only a matter of days (don't believe me? See here). If God wanted to create a river in a state of completion, the creative process which brought that river into existence could certainly have been quick and catastrophic, which would leave behind similar physical evidence (carving and erosion) as a slow formed riverbed. We know that God created the universe out of nothing, but we do not know what the act of creation looked like, or the acts of subcreation by which He ordered the raw matter He had brought into existence. Some of these things were created in a state of completion, others not.

Now, we know that the cosmos in totu was not created in a state of total completion; Genesis and Catholic Tradition affirm that there was a sequential creation - certain elements of the world were created first, moving from the more general to the more particular. Water was the primal element of life, and the water creatures came about first, the land creatures following after, and finally, mankind. So the world was not created in a state of total completion. However, the various elements within it were - each created thing was established in a state of completion with its own substance. This was taught definitively at Vatican I:

"If anyone does not confess that the world and all things which are contained in it, both spiritual and material, were produced, according to their whole substance, out of nothing by God; or holds that God did not create by his will free from all necessity, but as necessarily as he necessarily loves himself; or denies that the world was created for the glory of God: let him be anathema" (Vatican I, Session 3, Canon 1:5).

When God creates the light en route, or the river already in place, or the elephant whole according to its substance, we are not seeing God creating "false evidence" as much as God creating these things in a state of completion.

Now you may say that this explanation presupposes a special creation - that it is a form of question begging. Perhaps, but not any more so than the question begging implied in the rejection of the concept. To say that light cannot have been created en route presumes the evolutionary time frame, while saying that it was created en route fits with a special creation. Let us acknowledge that neither argument proves anything in the strict sense, though both offer explanations for what we see in the universe.

Jimmy Akin once attempted to rebut this by stating that, while God had a rationale for creating Adam as an adult - the need for him to be able to make rational decisions and take care of himself - there existed no similar rationale for doing this with the rest of creation, and therefore theories like the light being created en route are unreasonable. But again, this begs the question by assuming that God did not will to create the components of creation in a state of completion. If God did in fact will to do so - which Vatican I seems to suggest - then the same rationale exists for God to create other aspects of the material universe in a state of completion just as He did with Adam and Eve.

I know the "state of completion" argument does not solve every difficulty; no doubt many of you will post examples in the com box that do not fit with the state of completion concept. But my point here is not to argue away or explain every question relating to special creation, but merely to argue the more limited point that special creation does not "contradict what we are seeing" and make God the creator of "false evidence." To create things in a completed state is not to create false evidence any more than creating Adam as a mature adult when he is only ten minutes old is "false evidence." In many cases, we need to ask what assumptions we are bringing when we look at the universe, as well as that there may be multiple explanations for any phenomenon.

Other articles on evolution

Monday, August 11, 2014

Steel or Platitudes


It is easy to sit in the comfort of modern society and cast harsh judgements on our forefathers that have come before us.  Not very long ago a somewhat popular priest in pop culture thought he had the right to cast judgement and declare that the holy St Bernard's preaching of the crusades was wrong.  I wish the example was only limited to that but, there are countless examples going back decades of the error of pacifism creeping its unwelcome tentacles into the Church.  Diabolic Utopian sentiments are flung carelessly from our highest pulpits demanding a world without war, a world without violence.  

It was not always so though, there was a time where the Church defended her sheep with steel instead of empty platitudes and fuzzy feelings.  What do you think God is more pleased with?

Lets look at what happened during the preaching of the 2nd crusade by St Bernard:

“In every place on his journey and wrought the most astonishing and instantaneous cures : the blind recovered their sight ; to the deaf and dumb hearing and speech were restored ; the paralytic received the use of their limbs; the possessed, the lunatic, and the demoniac were delivered from the spirits which tormented them. But the greatest of his miracles was the conversion of hardened hearts and the penances to which public sinners submitted.” excerpt from St Bernard the Wonderworker - Free Catholic Audiobook

Every hear of a miracle during the preaching of pacifism? I didn’t think so, because there is not one.  I am almost sure of it, because if there was it surely would be shoved down our throat endlessly.

Yet, we know that the 2nd crusade did not end well.  Haha, our pop culture preacher might say, this is proof that it was not of God.  The facts say otherwise.

"On that on that very day, when the news came of the destruction of the Christian army, God wrought a miracle at the intercession of Saint Bernard. “It came to pass, however, that when the lamentable tidings of the destruction of the Crusaders resounded through France, a father brought his blind boy to the servant of God, to have sight restored to him, and, by many prayers, prevailed on the saint who declined. The saint, placing his hand on the child, prayed to our Lord that He would be pleased to make known, by restoring sight to the child, whether the preaching of the Crusade was from Him, and whether His spirit was with himself. While, after praying, he was waiting its effects, the child said, what am I to do? For I see! Then a great shout was raised by those who were present ; for many were present, not of the monks only, but of people living in the world, who, when they perceived that the boy saw, were greatly comforted, and gave thanks to God.” excerpt from St Bernard the Wonderworker - Free Catholic Audiobook

There is more in the Audiobook even about mystical visions confirming the validity of the crusade as well, be sure to check it out. Despite our forefathers courage in battle against our foe, they at least sent missionaries to convert the Mohammedans;  many of whom were martyred preaching Christ Crucified with bravery.  

Yet, with the passing of time all falsehoods are revealed.  The absolute savage persecutions of the Christians in Iraq has once again shown us the true face of historical and authentic Mohammedanism, not some made up religion of peace which perverts Islam's doctrines (how culturally insensitive!).   I hope Catholic intellectuals will find themselves blushing for shame for their past dismissals of Islamic terror as being  "a valid protest against pluralist secularization and materialism." 

Intellectuals, and professors wearing fuzzy sweaters coming together will not stop war.  Slashing defense budgets and removing standing armies will not end wars.  Treaties, even good ones will never end war.  War is one of the four horsemen of the apocalypse, sent to afflict mankind when we reject the Gospel.  

War will come, and war will go based on the decrees of our God.  It is absurd to believe that the God who has numbered every hair on our head is not the one actively choosing to send war as a punishment for sin, or to permit wars as a punishment for sin.  

God made the Jews fight their enemies after they left Egypt!  Our sweet savior Jesus Christ ordered his apostles to own a sword, even if they had to sell their cloak!  Our God allowed the angels to fight a war in heaven! Our God is a God of War! There will always be war on earth, until the end of the world!  

Consequently, today (August 11) is the day to begin a Novena to St Bernard of Clairvaux (you can find one here) for his feast day.  He persuaded many nobles and Kings to embrace the crusade, perhaps we can pray that he does the same from heaven to our leaders, that they might bring some military relief for the Christians of Iraq. 

Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, ora pro nobis!

SN This article does not attempt to take a position on the origin of the ISIS, the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, St. JPII opinions on those wars etc.  It does advocate for  military relief (US or otherwise) for the Christians in Iraq today, it is the opinion of the author  not necessarily the other contributors of Unam Sanctam.

Sunday, August 03, 2014

Book Review: "The Apostolic Origins of Priestly Celibacy"

For the past three months I have been immersed in The Apostolic Origins of Priestly Celibacy by the scholarly Jesuit Fr. Christian Cochini (Ignatius Press: San Francisco, 1981). The Apostolic Origins of Priestly Celibacy is the definitive work on the question of priestly celibacy in the Early Church, summarizing all the research done on this question since the Renaissance and adding truly monumental original contributions to this field by his own commentaries on Greek and Latin texts and voluminous compilation of primary sources. Fr. Cochini's magnum opus represents the last word on the question of clerical continence - and the historical sources absolutely vindicate the Tradition of the Church.

The Apostolic Origins of Priestly Celibacy aims to settle four points: (1) That there is a difference historically between the discipline of clerical celibacy and the discipline of clerical continence. (2) That the universal expectation in the Early Church was that clerics, married or unmarried, would observe perfect and perpetual continence. (3) That this was not just a pious custom but an actual law or precept, and (4) That the origins of this law go back to precedents set by the Apostles themselves. Every available text by a father, saint, pope, council, and even imperial legislation is brought to bear to prove these four points. And Fr. Cochini proves them beyond any modicum of doubt.

Honestly, until I read this book, I had not given much thought to the distinction between clerical celibacy and clerical continence. The former means the prohibition of clerics entering into marriage or of married men receiving Holy orders; the latter means abstention from sexual relations by all clerics, married or single. It is undeniable that the Early Church had married priests; some Traditionalists want to deny this plain fact of history. Don't bother. We had married priests. Get over it. In fact, Cochini devotes an entire chapter to documenting every single mention of a married bishop, priest or deacon in the Church of the first seven centuries. That we had married clerics is an undeniable fact of history and anyone who says otherwise has simply not read the sources.

However, the argument does not end there, because - and this is where the modern proponents of a married priesthood totally miss the point - while the Early Church admitted clerics to be married, it never, ever condoned clerics engaging in sexual activity. We are introduced to a plethora of texts - most of them previously unknown to me - in support of this position. For example, the Cum in Utum decretal of Pope Siricius, dating from 386:

"Moreover, as it is worthy, chaste, and honest to do so, this is what we advise: let the priests and Levites have no intercourse with their wives, inasmuch as they are absorbed in the daily duties of their ministries. Paul, when writing to the Corinthians, said, "Leave yourselves free for prayer" (1 Cor. 7:5). If lay people are asked to be continent so that their prayers are granted, all the more so a priest who should be ready at any moment, thanks to an immaculate purity, and not fearing the obligation of offering the sacrifice or baptizing. Were he soiled by carnal concupiscence, what could he do? Would he excuse himself? With what shame, in what state of mind would he carry out his functions?"

There is much more. Hundreds of citations over hundreds of pages drive the main point home: It has never been the tradition of the Church to condone a sexually active priesthood.

There are many things cleared up by understanding this discipline. For one thing, it handily explains the how the Church once allowed then prohibited married clerics while simultaneously claiming her teaching on this matter has never changed; this is because the teaching was never about whether a cleric could be married, but whether it was fitting for clerics to have sexual intercourse. Understood this way, the teaching (until modern times) has been unanimous.

It also puts the question of marriage in the Eastern Rites into a glaringly new perspective. When we understand the ancient discipline, we see that it is not, as so often asserted, that the Western Church imposed a new discipline onto its clerics while the East, which allows married priests, is preserving a more ancient practice. On the contrary, East and West both insisted on continence from their clerics. In the West, this insistence remained so strong that eventually it became clear that the only way to ensure it was to prohibit the ordination of married men (the discipline of celibacy); in the East, the observance of the ancient canons began to grow lax until after the Quinisext Council of 692, married clerics were finally allowed to use the marital rights. Thus it was the East that changed the discipline, not the West.

I highly recommend Fr. Cochini's book for anyone who wants a solid patristic understanding of this question. You can purchase it here on Amazon.

If you want an in depth but more concise synopsis of the historical arguments presented in Cochini's book, please see my article "The Truth About Priestly Celibacy and Continence in the Early Church" on the USC website, which synthesizes the most important primary sources cited by Cochini and explains their theological and historical significance.