Friday, July 13, 2018

Comment Problem

Good day. I want to apologize to my readers who have left comments for the past few months and not seen them published. I realized recently that Blogger has not been notifying me that people are leaving comments. I don't know why; I have double checked my settings and nothing has changed, but for some reason, beginning around March, when people leave comments pending my approval, I have not been getting notified and hence not approving anything. I had kind of noticed I was not getting any comments and I just assumed it was because people had finally realized I am a crummy blogger and given up on me. I'm happy to discover it was only a glitch.

At any rate, I have not figured out how to fix it. I am currently logging in to Blogger a few times a week to look for pending comments and approving them. I have also retroactively approved all your comments going back to March.

So, if your comments have not been getting through, please accept my apologies. Things will get better now. Pax.


Sunday, July 08, 2018

Bad Liturgies Cripple Evangelism

A major problem with widespread liturgical wimpiness is that it cripples the evangelical efforts of individual Catholics who are attempting to win their friends to the faith.

I know a person who is open to the Catholic religion. They are kind of curious, but they don't know a lot about Catholicism. But they are open. Nice starting place.

Now ideally, if they are curious, my first impulse should be to tell them to go check out a Catholic Mass to get acquainted with what the public celebration of our faith is all about. However, this individual lives in another country (another continent, actually) in a part of the world whose liturgies, shall we say, don't have the best reputation. I certainly don't know the local scene; I don't know how to recommend what parish they should go to. Even if I did, does that look good for my witness to be like, "Yeah, the Catholic faith is the truth and Catholic means "universal", but I wouldn't recommend going to 90% of the parishes around you. Go to this one, specific parish that I found for you after an exhaustive search." That sounds so lame and I feel lame having to do that. It is lame.

Now, at this point the conservative Catholic jumps in ready to help and says, "It's not up to you to convert them. Just send them to Mass and let the Holy Spirit do the rest. If they aren't impressed, it's because they don't UNDERSTAND what's going on. You see, friend, they need to be EDUCATED about what the Mass really is, about the Eucharist, and about the liturgy. Once they KNOW what's happening, they will fall in love with the Mass. Here's some books by Jeff Cavins and Mark Shea."

Okay, I appreciate the sentiment. One certainly has to understand what one is doing in order to dive in to it; you can't love what you don't know.

But here's the problem...

Before one can even will to learn about something, that thing must first grab one's interest by some inherently attractive element. Knowledge can make things more interesting, but before you desire to acquire knowledge you must have some initial interest. But why would I want to learn about something was unable to generate any initial interest to begin with? Something that interests me makes me want to learn more; but does anybody feel a desire to learn more about something that is boring and uninspiring? Has anyone ever sat through a boring professional presentation and thought, "This presentation is boring. Hmm...I think if I learned more about the subject this would be less boring"? Of course not. Being bored and uninspired is the surest way to discourage people from ever wanting to learn more.

To bring this back to the liturgy, if I tell my friend to go visit their local parish and they see an ugly, minimalistic building decorated with the most horrific examples of post-modern decor, coupled with a ridiculous, limp-wristed liturgy, sappy music—presided over by a bunch of elderly women—with a pathetic homily by a socially awkward priest where the fundamentals of the Christian Gospel are not only diminished but are absolutely indistinguishable...then, what on earth would possibly possess that person to want to "learn more" about the ludicrous carnival they've just sat through? Why would they ever want to go back, let alone devote the time to reading books and studying it?

So, no, the conservative Catholic mantra of "Just learn about what the Mass is" doesn't help; who wants to invest another two hours learning about something that bored them for one hour? Who wants to watch a dull Power Point presentation at work that is ten slides long and then be told that it would be more interesting if you watched another Power Point with 20 more slides?

What some people need to get through their heads is that many Catholic liturgies today lack any sense of transcendent mystery and that this sense of the transcendent is what piques a person's interest and makes them say, "Huh. Now that was interesting. I wonder what the meaning behind that was?"—and then they want to learn more. You can't plant a barren garden bereft of seeds and then expect anything to grow upon watering it.

I fully expect if I sent this friend to a Catholic Mass at an average parish where they live that they would walk away shaking their head saying, "That was a huge waste of my time" and wouldn't find anything remotely interesting about it.

"Oh Boniface, you're just being.........NEGATIVE!!! You're projecting your own dislike of modern liturgies onto other people and stopping them from coming into the Church!" I have actually been told this by non-Catholics. I was talking to a Methodist girl I know in Texas about my faith, trying to kind of garner some interest, and she dismissively said, "Psshh...look, I've been to Mass many times. It just doesn't interest me at all." A long-time Protestant non-denominational friend of mine went to a contemporary Catholic Mass and derisively said it "seemed like a celebration of man" and that there was no way he could be nourished by something like that. And you know what my friends? I had nothing I could say back to either one of them. I mean, I could explain that "The liturgy is celebrated differently at different parishes" and "Well you see a lot has changed since the 60's" and offer all sorts of explanations for what they experienced,  but at the end of the day I can't argue with their synopsis of what they experienced.

So, yeah, the poor state of the Novus Ordo at the majority of Catholic parishes is an active, objective hindrance to bringing non-Catholics into the Church. It cripples evangelization because there is nothing in most contemporary Catholic liturgies to even pique the interest of a visitor and make them want to do the preliminary study that would lead to entering the Church. And it's absolutely useless to tell a non-Catholic who has just disgustedly walked out of a banal balloon and ballet Mass that it would make more sense if they just "studied it more."

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Friday, June 29, 2018

Eleven Year Anniversary

Today, June 29th, the Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul, is the 11th year anniversary of the launch of this blog. Since June 29, 2007, this blog and the sister site have been viewed 3,063,832 times with an average of 24,683 views per month for the previous year.

Not too shabby!

I cannot believe it has been so long; when I registered this domain name, St. John Paul II was still pope and even had a year left in his pontificate. When I started posting regularly, Benedict XVI had not yet even issued his motu proprio Summorum Pontificum. Since those early days, the two USC sites have featured over 1,700 essays. Just looking at that number kind of astonishes me—that I've ever had the time to write so much. Of course others contributed to that as well, for whom I am truly thankful.

It's surreal how much things have changed since then. Back in the old days, I felt like, even though the American Church collectively might have a profound case of rectal-cranial inversion, at the very least the Big Man in Rome had our backs. I could make a bold and determined stand against the problems that beset me because I stood with the Universal Church and the Pope Over the Water who was reigning justly and speaking the truth to a rebellious, stubborn people. Now, in 2018, the feeling is quite different.  The landscape is a littler grimmer. I feel less like a soldier making a brave stand before the walls of his city and more like a rogue wanderer, a kind of Catholic Johnny Appleseed roaming about an unsettled land scattering seeds and hoping they will take root wherever they may fall. And I am more uncertain of my own standing. That's how I feel. And note I am careful to say feeling, because obviously there is a lot of room for subjectivity here.

As always, I am sorry I could not write more. I remember one reason I had the time and initiative to begin this blog was because it was an outlet to write for fun about subjects important to me; nobody cared what I wrote and everything was just a hobby. Now I write professionally and I have so many projects bogging me down that I can't see the end of it. Don't get me wrong, I am very happy to be writing professionally now, but there is a tinge of sadness that I can't just be a hobby blogger anymore. 

That being said, I am finding myself with a bit more free time than last year and hoping to do some more writing. I'm also really wondering what to do about the other site; it's a very old Joomla platform and it is starting to get kind of glitchy. A lot of times the images aren't showing up anymore and the formatting gets off at times. I don't really have the money to invest in a new website, nor the time to transfer it all over to something new, but I also don't like the idea of the old site just continuing to get glitchier as its plug-ins go out of date and stop being supported. If anyone has any suggestions, I'd love to hear them.

One thing I am planning on doing in the near future is making an appeal to help me get my RCIA notes and outlines translated into Spanish. I have a native Spanish speaker ready and willing to do the translating work but I just need to raise the funds to pay for it. I will be doing a post or video about this in the near future; if you are interested in contributing, email me at uscatholicam[at] If this is successful, I will then go on to getting them translated into Arabic and then who knows.

Thank you again for a wonderful year; the comments and feedback I get from my readers is what makes this endeavor so rewarding. An active and well-regulated combox is a gift to readers and the blog owner alike. Even Lionel with his ridiculous spam has a soft spot in my heart.

One final thing: keep in mind, we do have a Youtube Channel with a modest amount of videos, and a Facebook page if you'd like to stay in contact other ways.

God bless you all.


Friday, June 22, 2018

"Courageous" Ideas from the God of Surprises

Earlier this month it was announced that the Vatican's preparatory document seeking input from South American prelates for the run up to the 2019 Synod of Bishops on the Amazon calls for "courageous, daring, and fearless" to combat the priest shortage in the region. Of course this language is in reference to the ordination of married men, so-called viri probati, to the priesthood. The document also calls for further inclusion of women, not just in a participatory way but in new "official ministries."

So, it looks like the 2019 Synod will dish up a whole smorgasbord of novelties from the God of Surprises. The real ironic thing about the call for "courageous" ideas to combat the priest shortage is that the contemporary Church has failed to try the most courageous idea of all—an aggressive, confident appeal to the traditional ideals and discipline of the priesthood. There are many reasons why the Church does not make this appeal; part of it is simply that the progressive wing of the Church wants Catholics to simply accept the need for married priests as a fait accompli (see "Priestless Parishes as a Fait Accompli", USC, Aug, 2008); they have no interest in stopping the vocations shortage because they want the Church to be forced to adopt married priests. In that sense, the priest shortage is artificial, like a planned famine.

But beyond the "political" policy aspect of this problem, there is an identity problem; the Church by and large has lost the sense of priestly identity. When our perception of the priest has been largely reduced to that of a pious social worker, it's difficult for young men to grasp what transcendent value there is to be found in the priesthood. Why sacrifice marriage and career for something whose identity is so obscured?

It has been proven that when Catholic identity, specifically that of the priest, is made clear, the vocations crisis evaporates immediately. For example, take these two little towns in Michigan, which together have a combined population of only 2,162 but which have produced 80 nuns and 44 priests.

The vocations crisis is contrived. It could be overcome. But the contemporary hierarchy has made no effort to; to quote Ned Flanders' parents, "We've tried nothing and we're all out of ideas."

One thing I have learned in the past few years is that what seems at first to be courageous isn't always courageous; sometimes the truly courageous choice is not what is self-evident. We must choose our cross, yes, but sometimes the cross doesn't look like the cross. Part of learning to carry the cross is learning how to identify it, and it's not always straightforward. 

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Cor Orans: Into the Woods

Earlier this month the instruction Cor Orans was released by the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life. The document makes sweeping changes to the way women's religious communities are governed.

I am not going to attempt a summary of this document, but I want to recommend to you a piece by the Remnant. It is written by Hilary White, but the crux of the article is some commentary by an anonymous Carmelite sister explaining how the new instruction essentially demolishes the contemplative nature of her order. I have heard similar observations from other individuals who know much more about religious constitutions than myself. I recommend you read the article, but more so, if you happen to know any women in contemplative religious orders, get their insights on the document.

There is one thing I want to contribute to this conversation, however: The time is approaching when those who want to live out an authentic religious charism are going to have to do so outside the framework of the institutional Church. No, I am not promoting schism or disunity in any way. I am merely pointing out that, while the Church can exercise some control over religious institutes, it does not have authority over religious life in its entirety. And an authentic religious life might need to be found outside her existing structures.

Some examples of what I mean: The Church can tell you you cannot start a religious order or cannot govern an order in a certain way; however, the Church cannot tell a man he can't retreat to the woods and live alone in prayer and penance. An ecclesiastical stamp of approval is needed for a group to start taking novices or receiving solemn vows; an ecclesiastical stamp of approval is not needed for a group of single women to move in together and live an ordered life of religious discipline. A religious rule must be approved by a pope or bishop; a religious lifestyle needs no such official approval and can be lived anytime in any place on the simple initiative of the individual.

In other words, there is no prohibition on doing the things religious do, so long as it is not formalized. And in the current ecclesiastical climate, such measures might be the best way to live out a religious vocation and renew the Church. Obviously such people cannot  make solemn vows that are recognized ecclesiastically; such groups cannot call themselves "religious orders" or lead the public to think they are. But they can live religious lifestyles in accord with what they feel called to, and that's what is most essential here.

I honestly do not think this is novel. St. Anthony neither had nor needed ecclesiastical approval to move out into the Egyptian desert. St. Benedict did not ask anybody's permission when he retreated to the caves of Subiaco. St. Francis was certainly allowed by his bishop to live in San Damiano and make repairs there, but his initial renunciation of wealth and life of begging was spontaneous. St. Ignatius took to the cave of Manresa to study and pray of his own initiative, not because some bishop told him he could.

Obviously it did not always happen this way; in many cases a new order or a reform was established through official channels. But I want to recall to our minds that this was not universal. Often times what occurred was a man or woman followed a spontaneous prompting of God to live a life of poverty, chastity, and obedience and was subsequently so influential that the Church found an official outlet for their charism.

Yes, the days are coming when a group of women who feel called to serve God in the religious life, rather than join some existing order, will look at ways to fulfill that call outside the official framework - obviously still in full unity with the Church, but in a manner that is more about living a certain lifestyle than in receiving any official status. It looks like such "official" status is becoming less meaningful these days anyway.

Can such self-initiated efforts eventually be brought under the Church's official aegis? Given their good fruits and (hopefully) a change in mentality in the Magisterium or course. But distressing news should not stop men and women from living a vocation now if they feel called to it in whatever way they are able. If you are a single woman and feel called to religious life but you can't realistically find a convent that will be faithful to traditional spirituality, then find three other woman who feel the same, rent a house, study the discipline of the religious life, and start doing it yourselves. Just act. Be the holiness the Church needs. Trust God to attend to the details.

I've always been an advocate of this kind of "into the woods" sort of approach to these things. Our civilization was built in such ways. Christendom only ever existed because men and women walked into the woods in hopes of finding a quiet spot to pray. It will only be rebuilt in a similar fashion.

Walk into the woods. 

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Renovations of St. Mary Parish, Williamston

It is a happy thing that not all news concerning the Church is doom and gloom. Though there are dark clouds to be sure, there are always small little pockets where grace is operative—little sanctuaries and oases of light. 

Something that always lifts my spirits is seeing news of renovations by faithful pastors to make their parishes more beautiful. We all know that during the 70's and 80's a great many Catholic parishes had their artistic and architectural heritage destroyed in a process of willful rupture with tradition that has come to be known as the "Wreckovation"; this horrendous destruction of our physical heritage continues in many places to this day. For those who want to learn more about the Wreckovation, the go-to book is Michael S. Rose's The Renovation Manipulation

But this post is not about destruction but about creation; not about dissolution, but restoration. About renewal in the wake of the Wreckovation.

Fr. Mark Rutherford—a most excellent priest of the Diocese of Lansing, MI. and pastor of St. Mary Catholic Church in Williamston—has made some amazing before-and-after pictures of his own restoration efforts available.

Here is the sanctuary of St. Mary's before Fr. Rutherford's renovation:

As you can see, fairly generic contemporary style reflecting the Catholic zeitgeist of the modern American Catholic Church. Minimalist wooden furniture against a drab, artless brick background. Scatter some plants about to create a natural ambiance, along with the sounds of flowing water from the overly large baptismal tub. Nothing here to suggest any kind of homage to the historic Catholic faith or the sensus fidelium.

However, in the hands of a faithful pastor, the sanctuary has been transformed. Now, the sanctuary is restored in a style that truly evokes the beauty of the Catholic faith. Look at Fr. Rutherford's pictures of the completed sanctuary restoration:

The difference is stunning! Amazing what some wood, marble, sacred art, and a genuine Catholic sensibility can accomplish.

I can already hear some trads whining that Fr. Rutherford left the table altar in the center. Whatever. Our bishop says every parish has to have one, so meh. It is certainly much more solemn than the minimalist wooden one that existed before and a definite step up. However, the restoration does also include a smaller altar against the wall atop which the tabernacle is situated (see below). Featuring the traditional typological Eucharistic symbol of the pelican, Traditional Latin Masses can easily be offered here. And Fr. Rutherford is definitely a friend of the Extraordinary Form.

One final note: Fr. Rutherford had not been at this parish very long when the plans for this restoration were put into effect. In most cases, any priest has sufficient authority within his parish to effect a similar restoration just by virtue of being the pastor, even if it's Day 1 on the job. All he needs is the will to carry it out. Funding is an issue, as such projects do not come cheaply, but in my many years in various parishes I have always been surprised how much money parishioners will step forward and contribute when the pastor wants to build something truly beautiful.  Beauty enriches everybody's lives and a beautiful parish is an investment in the faith of the community and a gift a pastor and congregation can bequeath to future generations of the faithful.

I hope this edifies you as it did me. God bless you.

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Oprah has ALL the answers!

Back when I first started this blog, I spent a lot of time ripping on Oprah Winfrey. I later moved on to blogging about more weighty matters, but I have been meaning to get back to Oprah for awhile. In fact, I still have an active Oprah tag. For a quick synopsis of some of my previous work on Oprah, see the links below. A lot of these are old articles from my early days of blogging when I was more incendiary, but I still affirm the basic principles of enunciated in these older posts:

In fact, one of my old articles on Oprah's silly comments about God's jealousy even became the core of a chapter on the subject in my work on reconciling difficult Scripture passages, The Book of Non-Contradiction.

Back when I used to suggest that Oprah was prime material for the Antichrist, I only meant this in the sense that the false "feel good" religion she preaches would be of the same sort we would see peddled at the End of Times—as well as the fact that the kind of cultic influence she has on her followers would be of the same nature as the influence the Antichrist would wield. It was a comparison by simile.

However, following Oprah's speech at the 2018 Golden Globes - for which she was lauded with nothing short of idolatrous adulation - and the subsequent speculation that she would run for president in 2020 - I am starting to think that the comparisons I have drawn may be more than just simile.

I am not positively suggesting that Oprah Winfrey is the Antichrist, and there is always a bit of "tongue in cheek" present whenever I discuss this. But I do see the trajectory Oprah's career has followed, with the virtual mind-control she exerts over her followers and the uncritical praise she elicits from pop-culture, as something very much in the mold of the spirit of Antichrist—especially as her immense social capital begins to morph into political capital.

Friday, May 04, 2018

Please Help Injured TLM Choir Director

My brethren, I am coming to you today with a request for prayers and material support for a dear friend of mine, Mr. Bill Price, who has been critically injured.

Bill has been a personal friend of mine for ten years. He is a good man with a love of God and the Traditional Latin Mass. He is a talented musician; for many years he has been the Choir Director of the Gregorian Schola at St. Mary, Star of the Sea in Jackson Michigan, cantoring at the weekly TLM. He is also a talented graphic designer; he designed the covers to several of my publishing projects, including War Against the Papacy and Hermits and Anchorites of England. Bill is engaged and planning to be married next month to his fiance, Sipkje. I've played guitar with Bill many times; just last week we were eating dinner together laughing and catching up over a few beers.

Last week, Bill fell over 20 feet from a scaffolding. He broke his right leg in three places, both tibia and fibula. The breaks are severe; the injuries are requiring multiple surgeries to correct. In the meantime, Bill is out of work for at least three months, possibly more. He has no health insurance to cover his medical bills. Obviously, with Bill about to marry and start a family, these are pressing concerns.

In your charity, please consider making a contribution to help pay for Bill's mounting medical expenses. You can click here to make a donation to help Bill and Sipkje .

God bless you my friends. Even if you can't donate, please pray for Bill. He is a dear friend and a worthy Catholic man.

Friday, March 23, 2018

Book Review: The Week of Salvation by James Monti

It’s been many years since I first came across James Monti’s voluminous Week of Salvation: History and Traditions of Holy Week. I was still a student at Ave Maria College back when it was still in Michigan—the real Ave as us small band of brothers sometimes call it—when someone gifted me this book for Lent. I remember spending hours poring through it in the college library and common room, learning for the first time, as a relatively new practicing Catholic, about the rich history of Holy Week.

Monti’s book goes through Holy Week day by day examining the history and customs surrounding each. The breadth of his study is very exhaustive; chapters typically begin with an exegesis on the relevant biblical passages and then go on to examine the patristic writings, drawing on such rich and diverse sources as St. Cyrl’s Catechetical Lectures, fragments of ancient liturgies, and the diary of the pilgrim Egeria. They frequently discuss early medieval liturgical sources, including those outside the Latin rite, such as the liturgies of the Mozarbic rite and the Chaldeans. It also covers monastic usages during and after the Cistercian reform and draws on early modern travelers’ journals for its narratives of various celebrations in the 17th-18th centuries. It typically concludes each chapter with a section on how various Holy Week celebrations are conducted in the post-Conciliar era.

One thing I particularly appreciated about Mr. Monti’s book is the attention it gives to the now lost royal liturgies associated with Holy Week in former monarchical countries. In the kingdoms of old Christendom, the monarch and his family used to play a central role in the traditions surrounding Holy Week. For example, there is a beautiful passage explaining how the Kings of Spain used to wash the feet of the poor on Holy Thursday. The following account appears in the book; it is taken from the court of King Alfonso XII of Spain in the year 1885:

Following Mass at the Chapel Royal, the king and queen would proceed to the Hall of Columns. Arriving there at two o'clock in the afternoon, the king (Alfonso XII) entered in full ceremonial uniform, decked with all his medals of state, together with his queen (Maria Christina), who was dressed in a fine down and flowing train, with a white mantilla and a diamond diadem on her head.
In the center of the hall stood two platforms; on one twelve poor elderly men were seated, clothed in new suits provided by the king; on the other platform were twelve elderly women, likewise dressed in new clothing provided by the queen. Nearby stood an altar on which was placed a crucifix and two lighted candles. The bishop, who was Patriarch of the Indies, then went before this altar and read St. John's gospel account of Christ washing the feet of His disciples at the Last Supper.

Following the reading, a small gold-fringed embroidered band was tied around the king's waist, symbolizing the towel that Christ tied around His waist on this occasion. The king now mounted the first platform, accompanied by his steward, who brought a golden basin and ewer [jug]. He then knelt down before each of the men seated there and poured water over their feet, wiped them, and kissed them.
Reading about how the monarch’s family used to be integrated into the celebrations of Holy Week really helped flesh out in my mind what the civic culture used to be like in Catholic confessional states—and what was lost when such kingdoms passed away.

I don’t know whatever happened to James Monti. Week of Salvation was published back in 1993 and I am not aware of any other titles by this author, which is unfortunate since this was such a helpful and exhaustive study. The writing style is not always the most engaging; it sometimes feels like reading a dry historical chronicle. If you’re very interested in reading cultural histories, you might enjoy this. But it’s not very engaging for casual reading. You really need to set out with the intention of making it an occasion for serious scholarly study to enjoy the book.

Still, if that’s not a problem, I definitely recommend this book. I plan on revisiting some key chapters next week as part of my preparations for the Holy Triduum. Incidentally, though this book was originally published by Our Sunday Visitor, it no longer appears in their catalog. The only copies available are used editions.

May you all be blessed in your preparation for Easter.

Click here to purchase James Monti's Week of Salvation: History and Traditions of Holy Week.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

St. Patrick was not named "Maewyn Succat"

Today is the Feast of St. Patrick, the day set aside for commemoration of the life and deeds of the grat Apostle to the Irish. Unfortunately, its also the day a lot of rubbish about Patrick get spreadall over the interwebs. For example, have you ever heard people asserting that St. Patrick's real name was not Patrick, but Maewyn Succat?

The theory is that St. Patrick was born Maewyn Succat and only took the name Patrick upon his ordination to the priesthood. I first came across this bizarre assertion a few years ago when I overheard it on the Veggie Tales St. Patrick video. Since then, I have heard it with increasing frequency, especially from writers who have this smarmy "I know better than you" attitude about St. Patrick's Day; you know, the kind of articles that are like "Ten Things YOU Didn't Know About St. Patrick!" Number ONE...he was not Irish! (mind blown!), Number TWOOOO, his name was not actually Patrick. Number THREEEE...there were never any snakes in Ireland!!!! Whoaaaaa!

Reasons for Skepticism

The general tenor and scholarship of such articles obviously gives me pause, as well as some other facts. For one thing, I am very familiar with the writings of St. Patrick. He left only two authentic documents behind, the Confessio and the Letter to Coroticus. In neither of these does Patrick give any indication that his name is other than Patrick. He begins his Confessio with the beautiful and humble phrase, "Ego Patricius, peccator rusticissimus et minimus omnium fidelium", "I am Patrick, a sinner and a simple rustic, the least of all believers." Nowhere in the Confessio or his other letter does he give his name as anything else. So at least from primary sources, there is no justification for thinking Patrick's name was anything other than Patrick.

I also knew that it would not make sense for Patrick to have some sort of Gaelic name when he was clearly Romano-British. Patrick tells us as much in the opening of the Confessio. He gives his father's name as Calpurnius and his grandfather as Potitus, both ordained men and Latin speakers. The family came from the town of Bannavem Tiburniae - a Roman settlement. Remember, Patrick was born around 387 AD, about 23 years before the Roman legions left Britain. It was still a Roman province. He was educated in Latin and came from a Romano-British family. He was thoroughly Romanized. Some even say they came from Gaul originally, which would have made a Gaelic name even less plausible.

Given this, it is extremely unlikely that his birth name would have been the Gaelic Maewyn Succat while his father was Calpurnius and his grandfather Potitus. It would be like suggesting that  a German family where the grandfather is Hans and the father is Gunter would name the next in line Gomez. Is it possible? Certainly. Is it likely? Probably not. If I had to look at that genealogy and someone told me, 'The son is known as Heinrich, but some say his name was Gomez,' I'd bet my money on Heinrich. Similarly, it does make perfect sense that a father named Calpurnius would name his son Patricius since they were Romano-British, but it makes much less sense to think they would name him Maewyn.

Shoddy Research

The Maewyn Succat theory is characterized by shoddy research and the repetition of unfounded assertions. As I searched, I found that every article or essay which held to the Maewyn Succat theory did not cite any source for their assertion; or, if they did, they cited a source which itself was a secondary source and offered no primary reference or did not assert what the authors assumed. For example, the Wikipedia page or St. Patrick says Patrick was originally named Maewyn Succat and offers a citation. The citation leads to the website Sacred Space, run by the Irish Jesuits. The Sacred Space page cited on Wikipedia gives several details about St. Patrick's life, but does not include any claim that his name was Maewyn Succat. And even if it did, the Sacred Space article is not a primary source; it's simply a contemporary article written by some Irish Jesuit. So the Wikipedia claim that Patrick was named Maewyn Succat is a dead end. Most of my other attempts to track this down were as well. People are just repeating things without knowing where they came from.

But it did come from somewhere. People did not just start repeating the Maewyn Succat theory in a vacuum. Where was this coming from?

The Hymn of Fiacc

St. Fiacc, Bishop of Leinster (d. 520) was born from a Christian family who had been converted by St. Patrick. He had met the saint personally and is known for composing a metrical hymn in honor of St. Patrick. The hymn begins with the lines:
Patrick was born at Emptur:
This it is that history relates to us.
A child of sixteen years (was he)
When he was taken into bondage.

Succat was his name, it is said;
Who was his father is thus told:
He was son of Calpurn, son of Otidus,
Grandson of Deochain Odissus.

The relation between "Emptur" and Bannavem Tiburniae is uncertain; notice also that grandfather Potitus has become Otidus, and an additional relative Odissus is added. This is an example of what I would call the extreme elasticity surrounding Patrick's genealogy that anyone who has seriously studied the saint will acknowledge.

If there is an argument that Patrick's birth name was other than Patrick, I think Fiacc's poem would provide the strongest evidence. Yet even so, I do not think this is conclusive.

The interesting thing is that even though Fiacc had known Patrick, his knowledge seems to be from hearsay. Patrick was born at Emptur which is what "history relates to us"; Succat was his name, "it is said." By the time of Fiacc's old age, Patrick had been dead for almost sixty years and a substantial body of oral tradition had sprung up around him. One would think if Fiacc had first-hand knowledge of Patrick, Patrick's birth name would have been known to him from sources other than hearsay.

Fiacc's tentative naming of Patrick as Succat based on hearsay I think reflects not so much what Patrick was actually named by his Romano-British parents as much as what he was called by the Irish or by others. This is not an uncommon occurrence when a missionary or visitor comes to anew culture; for example, St. Isaac Jogues was called Ondessonk by the Hurons. Cortez, despite all his fame, was not called Cortez by the Aztecs; they called him Malinzin.

I believe this is what we have in the case of Patrick as well, at least in the first generation. The reasons for this will be explained below, but  think Fiacc is giving an authentically contemporary account of how Patrick was referred to by Irish converts in the early 6th century, not the name Patrick was baptized with.

Notice also that even if we grant the birth name Succat, we do not see any use of the name Maewyn in Fiacc's meter. Where did we get Maewyn Succat?

Tírechán Collectanea

Through a twisting academic goose chase the details of which I will not bore you with, I eventually found myself with the Latinized version of Maewyen Succat, Magonus Sucatus. This in turn led me to the writings of Tírechán (c. 684), Bishop of Connacht in County Mayo. Tírechán produced a work known as the Collectanea, which was a loose collection of stories about St. Patrick based on oral traditions. These oral traditions were gathered from the work of Tírechán's mentor, Ultan of Ardbraccan (d. 656) who had himself written a book on St. Patrick.

The Collectanea is interesting because it is written in first person, as if Patrick himself were speaking.

In the introduction to the Collectanea, we find the following passage:
"I have found four names for Patrick in a book written by Ultan, bishop of maccu Conchubair: the saint was called Magonus, that is, famous; Succetus [Succat], that is, the god of war; Patricius, that is, father of the citizens; Cothirthiacus, because he served four houses of druids" (Tírechán, Collectanea, 1).

Thus, we have four names given for St. Patrick. Notice right away that Maewyn Succat ("Magonus Succetus") is not one of them. Magonus and Succetus are two different names, as well as Cothirthiacus, which, presumably it is so cumbersome, is usually omitted by those who want to insist Patrick's name was not Patrick. Maewyn Succat is just an arbitrary mishmash of two separate names. We might as well call him Magonus Patricius, or Patricius Cothirthiacus, or Succeus Corthirthiacus or any other combination. Ludwig Bieler, the German Hiberno-Latin scholar who first translated Tírechán in 1951, noted that there was a "dubious selectiveness too often practiced in Patrician studies" when it came to Patrick's nomenclature (source).

So the name Maewyn Succat is just an arbitrary combination of two different names. But are Magonus or Succetus even proper names at all? This is hard to discern; clearly they are given in the same list as Patrick's given name, Patricius, which seems to imply they are. If Patrick is a proper name, then the others in this list may be as well. Then again, perhaps not. These other names may be titles or nicknames. For example, Succetus, god of war, according to Tírechán. Why would Patrick's Christian family - several of whom were members of the clergy - name him after a druidic war god? More likely than not, this was a title the Druids themselves may have given to Patrick. Similarly, Magonus, a corruption of Magnus (great), means famous and could have distinguished St. Patrick ("the famous Patrick") from others of similar name.

Thus, Tírechán's list is most likely not referring to Patrick's actual proper name (as if he were really named Magonus Succetus Patricius Corthirthiacus); rather, it is a amalgamated list of all names Patrick went by, both his proper name, as well as nicknames or titles given to him by others. Not to mention these might not have been nicknames used for Patrick while he was alive; Tírechán wrote in the late 7th century and these could have easily been titles that Patrick accrued posthumously.

Muirchú's Vita sancti Patricii

A generation after Tírechán wrote, a monk of Leinster named Muirchú wrote his own Life of St. Patrick. Muirchú's Vita sancti Patricii is based on Patrick's own Confessio as well as several oral traditions. Muirchú's work exists only in fragments and his not given too much historical credence as an actual biography of Patrick.

In the introduction to Muirchú's Vita, we see the following:
"Patrick, also named Sochet, a Briton by race, was born in Britain. His father was Cualfarnius, a deacon, the son (as Patrick himself says) of a priest, Potitus, who hailed from Bannauem Thaburniae" (Muirchú, Vita sancti Patricii, I.1).

We note right away that "Calpurnius" has been butchered to become "Cualfarnius." "Sochet", however, is spelled the same in Muirchú's Latin text; presumably this is the same title as Succat-Succetus in Tírechán's work. Muirchú is repeating an oral tradition here, as he says elsewhere he is unaware of any other biography of St. Patrick, other than that of Cogitosus (which does not mention the name Sochet or Succat). So clearly Muirchú is not simply copying Tírechán.

At any rate, this obscure passage "also named Sochet" from a hagiography c. 700, almost two and a half centuries after St. Patrick died, is of very little value in determining what Patrick was actually named by his family. He may have been drawing on the meter of Fiacc; but if so, are we to believe that Patrick's Christian parents - one of them ordained - baptized him in the name of a druidic deity?


Why do I seriously doubt Patrick was named Maewyn Succat? Just to be clear, I have no stake in Patrick not having a Gaelic name or something. It's really neither here nor there; I don't care if Patrick's real name was Maewyn any more than I care that St. Peter's real name was Simon. The reason I oppose this theory is because it is based on shoddy research and arbitrary nomenclature promoted by ignorant people looking for click bait. Just to review my reasons for opposing this theory:

(1) There is no primary source evidence that Patrick was named anything other than Patrick. Zero.
(2) Fiacc's meter, written 50-60 years after Patrick's death, mentions the name Succat but tentatively, suggesting "it is said" but gives no first hand knowledge of the fact. And he omits any mention of Maewyn.
(3) It makes no sense culturally or linguistically that Patrick's Roman family would give him a Gaelic name. But it makes perfect sense that he'd be named Patricius.
(4) It makes no sense that his Christian family would name him after a druidic war god.
(5) There's no documentary reference to Patrick's ordination, let alone that he changed his name on the occasion. Stories of Patrick's ordination (sometimes said to be by St. Germanus, sometimes by Pope St. Celestine) come from later hagiographies.
(6) The only other names given for Patrick do not appear in history until over two centuries after Patrick's death.
(7) These names may not be proper names at all but titles or nicknames given by the Irish or the Druids.
(8) These names may have been given posthumously.
(9) "Maewyn Succat" is not one of the names mentioned in either source; it is an amalgamation of two other separate names (Magonus and Succetus).
(10) This amalgamation is totally arbitrary because it omits the third name, Corthirthiacus.
(11) Bieler, the translator of Tírechán, also thinks insisting on this nomenclature is selective and arbitrary.
(12) Even if Tírechán and Muirchú were actually insisting that Patrick's given name was Maewyn Succat, this comes from two 7th century hagiographies which are generally not regarded as historically reliable sources of information about the historical St. Patrick.
(13) Nobody - or at least very few people - who assert the Maewyn Succat theory bother to track down its source. They just copy and paste and move on.

No, St. Patrick was not named Maewyn Succat, and I am fairly certain it s safe to insist on this.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

On Christians Offending People

I know is one week late, but I wanted to offer a reflection on the epistle readings from last week's liturgy, the Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time in the Novus Ordo. The epistle reading was taken from the First Letter of St. Paul to the Corinthians, Chapter 10. St. Paul writes:

...whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God. Avoid giving offense, whether to the Jews or Greeks or the church of God, just as I try to please everyone in every way, not seeking my own benefit but that of the many, that they may be saved. Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ. (1 Cor. 10:31-11:1)

The Douay-Rheims has it this way:

...whether you eat or drink, or whatsoever else you do, do all to the glory of God. Be without offence to the Jews, and to the Gentiles, and to the church of God: As I also in all things please all men, not seeking that which is profitable to myself, but to many, that may be saved. Be ye followers of me, as I also am of Christ. 

What does St. Paul mean when he says "avoid giving offense", and that he tries "to please everyone in every way"? He wants to "be without offence" and hence strive "in all things to please all men."

A cursory reading of this passage might suggest that he means we should avoid doing anything a person might find offensive. That, if a person is subjectively offended by something we are doing or saying, we have an obligation to cease that offensive behavior. Now, since there are all manner of things people could be offended by, this would include a very broad spectrum of human behavior and would necessitate a very intimate knowledge of the attitudes and preferences of the people one comes in contact with. It's mind-boggling to think of the degree of egg-shell-walking we would have to perform to keep St. Paul's command understood this way.

In the minds of our progressive friends, this passage would mean we ought not to speak about the truths of the faith to somebody who might be offended by some aspect of them. These days, speaking about Catholicism to someone who is in disagreement with it is often considered inherently offensive.  For example, speaking to a Muslim about Jesus Christ. Understood this way, the passage "avoid giving offense" is utilized in the same sense as "judge not" and "do not do your works before men" - that is, as objections to any vocalization of the faith which may be even remotely confrontational.

However, St. Paul does not mean "avoid giving offence" in this sense. Let us look at three relevant Scripture passages. I think there are probably more, but three should be sufficient to make our case.

First, if St. Paul meant that Christians are forbidden from ever subjectively offending anybody, it would be ridiculous for St. Paul to  write in Romans 9:33 (citing Isaiah) that Christ is "a stone of stumbling and a rock of offence." If it is always wrong to give offence, then in what sense can Christ Himself be a "rock of offence"?

Second, if the sense of Paul's words is that we ought to always make sure we are pleasing to men, how can he say in the Epistle to the Galatians, "do I now persuade men, or God? Or do I seek to please men? If I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ" (Gal. 1:10). Clearly St. Paul does not believe we are to always make certain we never offend anyone if he identifies a disposition of man-pleasing contrary to the servanthood Christ requires.

Furthermore, when delivering the Sermon on the Mount, Christ says, "Blessed is he who takes no offense at me" (Matt. 11:6). Now, how can Christ admonish His listeners not to be offended by Him if, according to our progressive friends, it would be the responsibility of the speaker to make sure his hearers are not offended? This passage would make no sense; Christ acknowledges no responsibility on His own part to make sure His hearers are not offended by Him. Rather, He simply speaks the truth and tells His hearers it is their responsibility to not be offended by it.

Given all this, how can St. Paul say "avoid giving offense"? Of course, the answer is that when St. Paul admonishes us to "avoid giving offence", he means we should avoid doing actions which are objectively worthy of offence. He does not mean that it is always our problem if somebody is subjectively offended by our words or deeds.

Moderns forget that offense is not a totally subjective thing, even if they want to treat it as such. There are some things one is right to be offended about, other things one is wrong to be offended about. The objective cause of offense matters. One who is offended because of evil is rightly offended and has a kind of just anger; one who is offended because of the truth is in error, of which their offense constitutes a sort of evidence of their blindness. When St. Paul says we must avoid giving offense, he is essentially saying, "Do not commit evil deeds that people are rightly offended by."  He is not saying, "It is your job to make sure no person you interact with is ever offended by you in any respect." That would be unworkable practically and contrary to the meaning of other scriptural passages that mention offense.

This is related to St. Thomas' distinction between various types of scandal. We have an obligation to avoid scandalizing individuals through our sinful behavior, but it is not our concern if people are scandalized by righteous behavior, as the Pharisees were scandalized by the healings of Christ. In that case, such persons are actually guilty of their own scandal due to hardness of heart.

Incidentally - and time for a little crass self-promotion - I have two chapters in my work Book of Non-Contradiction on similar arguments where progressives take passages and try to interpret them in ways to suggest Christians should keep their faith quiet or keep their opinions to themselves.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

St. John of the Cross Academy Building Appeal

Blessings and grace!

The following is some information about Saint John of the Cross Academy, a classical Catholic academy in the vicinity of Lafayette, Louisiana. They are fundraising to construct some new facilities and asked me to promote the project, which I am happy to do.

Saint John of the Cross Academy was founded in 2015 by Tim and Nick  Trosclair and Peter Youngblood with the express purpose of implementing a truly classical and Catholic education. The three had a collective twenty years of experience in diocesan, public, and independent schools, and were frustrated by the insurmountable obstacles to actually teaching anything, let alone to implementing either a true Catholic or classical education. These obstacles resulted from at least four of the following causes: First, pure bureaucratic sloth and lack of any idea of subsidiarity, coupled with a daily dose of garden variety incompetence. Second, class sizes that demonstrate an overemphasis on financial stability (usually resulting from a board that does not understand the principles of education and prefers wealth to wisdom). Third, a clear lack of understanding of what a classical education means. Fourth, a clear lack of understanding of what a Catholic education means (these last two are the most damaging).

For this reason, we decided to remove ourselves from the modern system and place our families and pupils deep within the traditions of Holy Mother Church, as well as the classical heritage of our own western civilization.

The Academy follows four guiding principles:

● First, the Academy must set as its highest end the worship of God in the Traditional Latin Mass.Closely connected with this is praying the Divine Office, which tills the soil of the heart to better receive the infinite graces flowing from the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass (as of now we are able to daily pray the little hours from Prime to None).
● Second, the Academy must be rural and utilize the land in order to incarnate the Benedictine principle ora et labora so that the pupils may be truly immersed in the prayer and work of God.
● Third, the Academy must remain small, allowing the tutors and pupils the ability to learn from one another and grow in virtue. This is why our bylaws state that the Academy can operate at a maximum tutor to pupil ratio of one to eight.
● Four, the Academy must be classical in its very essence. This means that both the content (fundamentally the Latin and Greek languages) and the method of teaching must comply with the content and methods of those who have taught in this tradition--from Socrates to St.Thomas Aquinas and beyond.
The successes of the program have necessitated a plan for growth to get out of their current quarters (a converted garage) into something more conducive to the Academy's vision. With that in mind, the families of St. John of the Cross Academy have purchased 14 acres of land in rural Sunset, Louisiana in hopes of realizing their vision. They are trying to fund raise $40,000 to build a modest school building. 

Here is the land they have already purchased and hope to develop:

Since Tim Trosclair is a friend and long-time patron of this blog, I told him I would help spread the word about the work of St. John of the Cross Academy. I encourage you to review their materials and their appeal and consider making a donation for this worthy cause. Saint John of the Cross Academy is a registered 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization. Tax ID: 47-4658860.

Website of St. John of the Cross Academy

Click here to read more about the Academy's appeal

To make a donation, please click here.

Please share this with anyone you know who might be interested in supporting this pious endeavor, especially those who live in Louisiana and might have the prospect of getting acquainted with the project in a more personal way.

Pax et bonum

Friday, February 09, 2018

Quiet Grace

The other night, I unexpectedly had to drive my eldest daughter to her ballet class. I rarely do this as I'm usually working in the evenings and this is something that her mother is much more engaged in. But I always relish the chance of spending more time with my eldest and so set my evening plans aside to drive her to her class.

Her class was a few towns over, across about fifteen miles of open country. She has the last class of the evening, so it was already quite dark when I dropped her off at 8:30 PM. What would I do with myself for that free hour? Lately I have taken to jogging whenever I have free time, which is great for clearing my mind on top of the obvious health benefits.

Though it was only about 8 degrees, I started jogging around the town. It's a very small town; those who are from the Midwest will recognize it's type intuitively in my description. An old, Victorian era settlement with all it's historic buildings clustered along one main strip. Tall, two and three story stately brick structures with their Italianate facades, ornate cornices, and oversized rounded-arched windows, all running together. The side streets filled with imposing, Victorian homes of equal splendor, but still quaint in their own small-town USA sorta way.

I started jogging down the main strip, my breath a vaporous fog in front of my face as I moved. I passed by the dark windows of boutiques and resale shops, offices of lawyers and insurance agents, and flower shops - by now all closed. The town was still and quiet. I have always found a certain kind of loveliness in the stillness of a cold, winter night, a beauty that even the ridiculously frigid temperatures of a February winter night in Michigan cannot efface. The snow, the ice, the cold...there has always been a sort of purity about it for me.

I passed under the eerie flash of the town's solitary blinking yellow traffic light. Presently I passed out of the main section of town and saw ahead the looming spire of a church. Upon getting closer, I saw it was an incredible old neo-Gothic structure made entirely out of fieldstone. In the old days it used to be a custom that when a rural congregation was ready to construct it's permanent church, farmers would all contribute stones from their fields to the building of the church. The resulting structure would be neo-Gothic stylistically but constructed entirely out of raw, rounded fieldstone instead of brick. This is somewhat common in rural communities around the Midwest; I assume there are similar traditions elsewhere.

I was pleased to see it was a Catholic church, and even more pleased when I spied warm, yellow light glowing inside the windows. Could they possibly be open, I wondered? In this desolate, cold little village could the Catholic church alone have its doors unlocked at this time of night? I jogged over to the parish steps, huffing, and walked up. Sure enough, not only was the church unlocked, but they were having Eucharistic Adoration. Two older gentlemen were reading and praying quietly. Of course! It's a First Friday, I said to myself.

I was pleasantly surprised with the interior of the church (the pic atop this post). Sure, it had a table altar and the original high altar had been removed. But at least the tabernacle was in its rightful place. Sure, some of it had been modernized.  But by and large it was very aesthetically pleasing. And when the Lord is on the altar, everything is more beautiful.

As I walked in and crossed myself, I noticed the confessional light was on and door ajar. Could I be so fortunate? Yes, indeed! A priest was waiting in the confessional...and there was no line! I had not planned on making a confession this night, but I wasn't about to pass this up. I ducked right in there and did the best I could to make a spontaneous confession. I could tell from his voice that the priest was African. Considered naturally, how very out of place, an African priest in a town like this! But in the order of grace, it was just as it should be. I made a decent confession, received some very consoling words from the warm, slow voice on the other side of the screen, and walked out with my soul lighter.

I knelt in the pew and spent some time adoring the Lord and thanking Him for this unexpected, quiet moment of grace He had made for me here, in this unexpected place. But that's all how the beautiful things in life are. It is easy to point out the ugly, the wicked, the cold, the disappointing...these things manifest themselves easily to us and require no labor to search out. But the beautiful, the good, the unexpected little quiet moments of grace...these things are found only by the diligent who search for them, who are willing to labor on their behalf. The beautiful things in life do not yield themselves up easily, but when they do, they compensate for the ugliness fourfold.

After sometime I meandered back down the main street to my daughter's ballet studio. I was able to spend some time warming up before she came out. She's old enough now that I was able to slump into the passenger seat of my truck and let her drive me home - deo gratias!

Yes, the quiet simple moments of grace are always there. They might not always be a little Catholic parish with the Blessed Sacrament exposed and an open confessional, but grace is always there for those who are disposed to see it. Lord, give me eyes to see and ears to hear.


Saturday, February 03, 2018

Boniface hath returned from exile

Peace and grace in Jesus Christ our Lord!

As you may know, I have been on an extended vacation since November. When I decided to take some time off, I was stressed out, overworked, and had to rectify a lot of chaos in my personal life. It's been almost three months, and a lot has changed since then. Am I still stressed? To some degree. Still overworked? Oh yes. Still a lot of chaos? Yes, but much less so. I feel things are much more ordered now than they were in the fall and I am feeling a lot happier about life in general.

Ergo, I'm going to announce my official return to blogging - tentatively at least. I offer no promises on how frequently I will post, but I definitely am starting to feel the bloggy itch again.

What have I been doing with myself these past three months? A lot. Living life. In many respects, I've been doing things I should have been doing a long time ago. I do not want to go into a lot of detail out of fear of sounding virtuous, but essentially I've been working on just trying to be a better Christian in the ever-changing circumstances of my life. I've been able to spend more time with my children; I've made unexpected friendships with people I never would have probably been open to befriending before; I've stepped outside my comfort zone and engaged with people suffering from all manner of problems, sometimes being able to offer valuable help, sometimes having to stand by helplessly while I watch them destroy themselves. I got caught up writing letters to old friends. I've been able to attend to my health more and am in the best shape of my life. Rectified a lot of issues in my personal life that needed attention. And I've learned many valuable lessons about grace, honesty, love, and humility.

Professionally, things are going better than they've ever gone. Spiritually, I suppose I am responding to the continuing crisis in the Church by enfolding myself further in my own spiritual life - on letting Christ be formed in me, and worrying less and less about following up with the latest cluster at the Vatican. Earlier this month, a certain neo-Catholic apologist contacted me and asked me to participate in a debate with a well-known theologian on Amoris Laetitia and whether Francis is a good pope or a bad pope, in which I would represent the "traditionalist position." Aside from noting that what constitutes a "good" or "bad" pope can be riddled with subjectivities, I had to tell him I was not interested, because I had not even followed the debate. I haven't read Amoris Laetitia, and not following the controversy around it, I am not competent to argue about it. I'm just...past the point where I see what is going on in Rome as vitally connected with my own day to day walk with Christ.

Yes, my friends, I know the big stuff matters. I'm not suggesting it doesn't. But I do think the best we can do in times like this, if we are not to go mad, is to keep our hearts focused on the truth, maintain our integrity, perform our duties, and cling to the cross. Ultimately, my faith does not hinge on what happens in the Vatican. In the Middle Ages, there were plenty of Catholics in places like Ireland or Poland who, by virtue of their distance, might not even know who the current pontiff was, let alone be following what was going on in Vatican politics. That's what I have been as if I was a Catholic in Greenland circa 1150 AD. And living in Michigan in the winter, it might as well be Greenland. The picture atop this post is one I snapped of my yard and the field across the road last month.

So yes, dear friends, I am back and happy to bring Unam Sanctam Catholicam into its 11th year. Bless you all!

Thursday, January 04, 2018

Best Posts of 2017

Well it's time for my belated annual Happy New Year post! Another year has passed us by; 2017 was a very crummy year for me that saw a variety of personal and professional challenges. I regret I was not able to give this blog more attention, which means my annual "Favorite Posts" list is unfortunately small this year. I think I posted like twice a month on the blog and barely did anything on the sister site.

I was very busy writing for one thing, and 2017 saw the publication of two very successful books for me, first, the self-published The Book of Non-Contradiction, which is my magnum opus on reconciling discordant biblical passages; second was Heroes and Heretics of the Reformation, available through TAN, which tells the story of the 16th century through the lives of the men and women who lived through it.

That being said, 2017 was an amazing year in the life of the Church and I am happy I got time to write that which I did. I'm still on sabbatical but have some great ideas for upcoming articles. In the meantime, here are some of my favorites from the year.

Reflections on Magnum Principium: On the Holy Father's motu proprio calling for a further extension of vernacular in the liturgy.
Benefit of the Doubt Presumes Doubt: To give the "benefit of the doubt" in the face of plain evidence to the contrary becomes no longer a benefit accorded to a doubt, but rather wishful thinking of the most fantastical sort.
The Many Faces of Catholic Social Teaching: It's amazing that Catholics can have such divergent opinions on what Catholic Social Teaching actually is.
The Black Hand of the Madonna: The hand of the statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary at Fatima has turned black. 
Pope Francis & Populism: It is astonishing how Pope Francis speaks of populism as if he is totally unaware that he is the world's most eminent populist.
The Transitory Nature of the Mosaic Law: Sequel to an older post on our Lord's comment that He did not come to abolish but fulfill the Law of Moses. Explaining the "temporary" nature of the Mosaic covenant.
Current Events Round Up: Francis and the death penalty, the Institute on Marriage and Family, Burke, football players kneeling, the Filial Correction and more!!!
Political Freedom Would Make Our Parishes Stupider: In the absence a coherent Catholic social ethos, lifting the ban on political activity by churches in the USA would cause each parish become a tool of the Democratic or Republican parties, and we would see the politicization of parish life in the basest manner. Catholic social life, already anemic, would become that much stupider.
Chris Cornell (1964-2017): One of my favorite posts of the year, exploring the faith of musician Chris Cornell, who tragically died in spring of 2017.
"God cannot be God without man": In which, just for the record, I defend one of Pope Francis' confusing statements about the relationship between God and man.
Scientists Executed by the Catholic Church: Historical apologetical article deconstructing the myth of the Church killing scientists for their beliefs. 
Muller and Ladaria: Reflections on the replacement of Cardinal Muller by Ladaria at the CDF.
St. Maria Goretti: Martyr to Chastity: Reminding everybody that St. Maria Goretti is a martyr because she shed blood to preserve her chastity, not because she forgave her attacker.
"That the seat of Peter might not be dishonored by the occupancy of two bishops": The very idea of having two bishops or two popes was abhorrent to the early Roman Church. It was seen as a sign of discord.

Man-Pandering: What to do about men? If we are not de-masculinizing them, we are going to the other extreme - appealing to the silliest masculine stereotypes about them.
The Duty of the State to Honor God: An original USC video explaining the Catholic idea of the state's duty to honor God.

Thank you to everybody who has ever helped me, linked to me, read my articles with interest, corrected me, commented here, or wished me well. God bless you all.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Rosary To The Interior: For the Purification of the Church

Greetings friends! While I am still technically on vacation, my friend James Larson asked me to post the following article to promote the prayer of the Rosary on February 2, the Feast of the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary, for the intention of the purification of the Church.

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On February 2, 2018, which is the day celebrating the double Feast of the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple and the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary, there will occur throughout the United States the gathering of faithful in their parish churches to pray the Rosary for the intention of the Purification of the Church, and the Triumph of the Light of Christ over all sin and error.

While being inspired by the Rosary on the Borders in Poland, this Rosary event – titled Rosary To The Interior: For the Purification of the Church – does indeed have a different and very specific intention. Recognizing that the Catholic Church alone in this world was blessed and commissioned with the Light of Christ necessary for triumph over the Darkness of sin and error, and that this Light has now been severely obscured by the sin and errors of its own members, this Rosary asks us to turn our eyes inward in order to effect that interior purification which alone can once again make Christ’s Light manifest in its fullness to the world.

A website has now been established, which offers a more complete explanation of both the nature and structure of this event; it also a Comment forum for communication between those who are participating.  It is found here:

Sunday, November 19, 2017

I'm on Extended Vacation

So, I pretty much suck as a blogger. I remember the good old days when I used to post three times a week. Ah, yes, the blogging possibilities are endless when one does not have a life. 

But alas, life changes, and as mine has changed I have less and less time for this labor of love. I haven't even been able to write anything for over a month. I barely have time to be doing this post. I'm so swamped I don't know when I can get to this...I have books I am under contract for that are unwritten or behind, proposals piling in for more, Power Point presentations by the dozen that I have to get ready for next semester...meanwhile, my firewood sits uncut in a dreary pile in the yard, I haven't replaced the tail light I busted out two weeks ago, I haven;t yet reattached the gutter that fell off my house last summer, my inbox is full of emails I have not responded to, in addition to a whole host of other personal issues that need my attention.

I am going on extended vacation from blogging. I don't know how long it will be. I need to focus on making some space for myself and getting my priorities in order. This blog has been here for ten years and its not going anywhere; I am not retiring, but I am stepping away to bring some order to my chaos. In the meantime I will continue to monitor comments and update the USC Facebook page from time to time I can be reached at uscatholicam[at] if you need me.

Please pray for me, that the day may swiftly come when I have time to attend to this amateur passion again.

God bless you.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

The Duty of the State to Honor God

In honor of the traditional Feast of Christ the King, we present this original video on the duty of the Christian state to honor God, produced by Unam Sanctam Catholicam. 

This video was originally produced as the final section in a five installment series addressing the problem of the state's recognition of homosexual so-called marriage. For the other four videos, please see the links below; Part I and II have been featured here before, but Parts III, IV and Part V (above) have never been published.

Part I: Homosexuality and the Bible
Part II: The Ends of Marriage
Part IV:  Why Homosexual Marriage is Not a Civil Right
Part IV:
Christians and the Material Cooperation in Sin

Thursday, October 12, 2017

October 2017 Current Events Round Up

There are basically two types of articles I post on this blog: articles where I talk about how I don't feel the need to keep a running commentary on everything going on in the Church, and then articles where I offer just such a commentary.

And if such commentary is needed, it is today. My, there is a lot going on, isn't there? Let's review some of the wild events that have occurred in the past few weeks.

Pope Francis Reboots the John Paul II Institute for Marriage and Family

On September 19th, Pope Francis signed a motu proprio which effectively retooled the John Paul II Institute For Marriage and Family; well technically he abolished it. The text of the motu proprio Summa familiae cura states that the new entity, the John Paul II Theological Institute for the Sciences of Marriage and Family, will effectively "substitute" for the prior entity, annulling St. John Paul II's 1981 motu proprio.

The new institute for studying the "sciences" of marriage and family will have a broader mission than the old institute. Whereas the old institute was largely grounded in theology and philosophy, the new institute will incorporate the social sciences—in fact, elevating them to be the primary focus of the new institute. Philosophy and theology are not even mentioned in Pope Francis' motu proprio. Thus, we can assume the work of the new body will be more influenced by secular sociology. Francis has stated he wishes the new institute's focus to be primarily scientific, “expanding the field of interest, both in terms of the new dimensions of the pastoral task and the ecclesial mission, as well as in the development of human sciences and the anthropological culture in such a crucial field for the culture of life" (source). The reason for this is "to fertilize the vast field of engagement...effectively contributing to make it fully correspond to the modern needs of the pastoral mission of the Church” (ibid).

The purpose appears to be to institutionalize the teachings of Amoris Laetitia. St. John Paul II essentially did the same thing when he created the institute in 1982 for the purpose of promoting the teaching of Familiaris Consortio, a much worthier document. He hopes the new institute will work towards making Amoris Laetitia a more permanent fixture of Magisterial teaching. At the September 19th press briefing at which the change was announced, Archbishop Paglia called Amoris Laetitia the "Magna Carta" of the new institute.

Two interesting things here: First, Pope Francis said the purpose of the change was so that the teachings of St. John Paul II on marriage and family could be “better known and appreciated in its fruitfulness and relevance” (ibid); Familiaris Consortio "finds its realization" in Amoris Laetitia (source).

Of course, there is reason to fear that some of the implications of Amoris Laetitia are in fundamental conflict with the teachings of John Paul II. We are left with the irony that the teaching of St. John Paul II is being potentially undermined in the name of making his teaching more widely known! It's like a retirement party that is ostensibly to honor an employee's service but whose real purpose is to simply shove them out the door.

Second, if you are one of those people who believes Amoris Laetitia and Familiaris Consortio are in agreement with one another, then why is a new institute needed? If Amoris Laetitia is not a break in continuity with tradition, why dissolve an institution empowered to carry out that tradition? It gives leverage to those who suggest Amoris Laetitia is a document of rupture.

The Filial Correction

On August 11th, the document now known as the "Filial Correction" was delivered to Pope Francis at his residence in Domus Sanctae Marthae. This document was made public on September 24th. Originally signed by 62 scholars, that number has now ballooned to around 100 at the time of this post.

It would take too long to summarize all of the nonsense surrounding this document, both by those for and against it. Those who are ridiculously enthusiastic about it as well as those who are writing it off as insignificant are missing it, I think.

The document itself is very beautiful. I read it in its entirety the day it was released, along with the addenda. It is a splendid explanation of the Catholic tradition on marriage, reception of the sacraments, and the moral nature of our actions. I personally thought the tone of correction was very charitable and humble. It extended to Francis the benefit of the doubt, taking the "Sire, evil counselors are doing bad things in your name" sort of approach, and it made clear that the signatories did not claim any sort of jurisdiction to formally accuse the pope of anything. The title "Filial Correction" is somewhat of a misnomer; it is more a deep, impassioned plea for clear, decisive action.

The mainstream Catholic media is shrugging this off and saying none of these people have the authority to issue any sort of correction (despite the precedent of Europe's theological faculty correcting John XXII in 1333). I saw one apologist whose response to this was to impugn the signatories by trying to dredge up snippets of other comments they'd made over the years which he found objectionable, as if that somehow was relevant to the arguments put forward in the text of the Filial Correction itself.

Others are viewing this in terms of a political power struggle. "The Correction won't amount to anything because the signatories are not really clerical heavyweights." Ultimately, the Church is not a political movement; its fortunes are not measured in terms of the "power" wielded by different factions. And the fact is, to the degree that the Filial Correction speaks God's honest truth, it will bear some sort of fruit. "For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and return not thither but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes forth from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and prosper in the thing for which I sent it" (Isa. 55:10-11). God will bring some good out of this, even if it is nothing else than to edify the authors and signatories.

But...(and this is a major "but"), it may not be the good traditionalists are expecting. While I think the content of the Filial Correction needs to be considered in and of itself apart from the signatories—and while I have faith that God will use this for good and that it may be part of a larger puzzle—we are kidding ourselves if anyone thinks this is actually going to do anything. The Filial Correction's greatest strength is also its greatest weakness, the same weakness conservative Catholics have been making for fifty years: it offers a beautiful and honest exposition of the faith, but ultimately, in this struggle, words do not matter. Yes, God will not let them go unrewarded who speak His truth, as I said above.

But for fifty years conservatives have been deluded into thinking that if they just clearly, patiently, and charitably explain the truth that their efforts will prevail. That is simply not true. It's why honest, orthodox scholars who see Vatican II only as a series of documents are fundamentally missing the point. The progressives don't care what you write or how eloquently you explain it. As long as they can keep you shut out of diocesan leadership and out of important positions, you can say whatever you want. Conservatives view this in terms of speaking the truth; the liberals view it as a movement or progression of action. Conservatives have seen Vatican II as sixteen documents. Liberals have seen it as a moment in history with that moves the Church on a new historical trajectory. Whether one is right and the other wrong is sort of irrelevant because the liberal view is more dynamic. Merely saying what the truth is - especially in the face of a pontificate like Francis - is not really going to have any substantial effect in the temporal order.

Also, the historical precedent for this is a little over argued. The scholars who corrected Pope John XXII in 1333 were the most eminent theologians of Christendom, the heads of theological faculty at Europe's premiere universities. Many of them were eminent clerics. There is a marked contrast between the credentials of the men of 1333 and those of 2017. Save for a few notable names, most of the signatories of the 2017 document are obscure men, at least in the big picture. And in many cases their objection to Pope Francis' behavior comes as no surprise. Roberto de Mattei disagrees with Pope Francis! Bishop Fellay thinks the Franciscan pontificate is confusing! Call out the press! Are we supposed to be surprised by this?

Am I writing off the signatories like I just complained others were doing? No. I am not. What they are doing matters. But honestly, it would matter more if the signatories were cardinals and bishops who were not already known opponents of Pope Francis. It's true; the document would matter more if the signatories were more eminent—just like it would matter less if the signatories were merely a bunch of bloggers. A smattering of parish priests, religious brethren, and isolated professors and authors is not tremendously impressive, even less so given that Bishop Fellay is the sole representative of the episcopate on the list. They couldn't even get Athanasius Schneider to sign.

Am I belittling the effort? No. It was a worthwhile effort, the document is very well put together, and the objective ambiguities swirling around the subject made such an effort necessary. Maybe—hopefully?—it will encourage other, more eminent men to do the same. But at the same time I would like to see this in perspective, for what it really is. It's not some groundbreaking beginning; much less does it merit any sort of "So now it begins!" revolutionary gravitas. A bunch of the pope's critics got together and put together a very cogent, well-argued piece calmly explaining the truth of the faith. Effort applauded. Next.

The Reappointment of Cardinal Burke to the Apostolic Signatura

Earlier this month Cardinal Burke was reappointed to the Apostolic Signatura, although not to his previous post as prefect. From a personnel standpoint, this makes very little sense. Personnel is policy, and a leader's appointment or dismissal of personnel is a strong indicator of the leader's policy. When I was in political office, I appointed many people. And I refused to reappoint people as well. One thing I never did was dismiss somebody and then reappoint them. That just...never happened. I understand that the Church doesn't operate along the same guidelines a political body would, but the principle "personnel is policy" is true across the board for any organization, political, business or ecclesiastic. I can't understand why the pope would have reappointed Burke to the Signatura save as some sort of compromise he felt compelled to grant, probably against his own preference. It seems it was a kind of bone tossed to some faction in the Church to rehabilitate Burke, but without restoring him to his previous level of influence.

Of course, some are calling to mind the famous line of line of Vito Corleone; however, I do not think this is why Francis has reappointed Burke. I doubt its a secret plot to undermine him. I suspect it was more about making a compromise with some other faction or individual. I think, if Francis had his way, he would not have reappointed Cardinal Burke whatsoever. But who knows.

Pope Francis and the Death Penalty

In remarks commemorating the 25th anniversary of the Cathechism of the Catholic Church - a book which specifically says "the traditional teaching of the Church does not exclude recourse to the death penalty" (CCC 2267) - Pope Francis announced that the death penalty is "in itself contrary to the Gospel." The pope went on to explain that previous historical applications of the death penalty only "seemed" logical, but weren't really - this was followed by an apology for the use of the death penalty within the Papal States.

Francis did not offer any explanation as to how something that is "in itself contrary to the Gospel" can be affirmed by the Catechism as "the traditional teaching of the Church." It apparently did not strike him that this would need to be explained. I am not certain what is more troubling, that Francis says something taught in the Catechism is contrary to the Gospel, or that he feels that no explanation is needed to explain how this is possible.

Of course, the pope's homily does not supersede the Church's official teaching. But it does muddle things.

And by the way, before the situation changes, can we all go back and find articles from mainstream Catholic apologists defending the use of the death penalty and screen shot them before they try to pull them down and pretend like they never happened? After all, we are no longer at war with Eurasia. We are at war with East Asia. We have always been at war with East Asia.

Some are reporting that the pope is "changing" the CCC. This is not true. The Vatican, however, is releasing a new "commented" edition of the book in which will feature a running commentary on certain sections drawn from the preaching of Pope Francis.

Football Players Kneeling

Does anyone actually care what these football players actually think about anything? Are they not solely valued in terms of how well they throw, run, and catch? I'm serious here - does anybody actually give a damn what their opinions are about anything whatsoever? I think celebrities get this weird sense of self-importance where they think that people care them outside of their area of professional expertise. We don't. Or at least we shouldn't. Someone doesn't get a platform just because they are well known.

By the way, in case you are interested in following the things I spout off from my platform, follow Unam Sanctam Catholicam on Facebook