Sunday, December 21, 2014

Torture: Historical and Ethical Perspectives

As with many debates in the modern Church, the one currently going on over torture misses the point entirely. To that end, I have put together a very lengthy article on some historical and ethical considerations to keep in mind when discussing the torture issue. As we will see, there are some very important distinctions that need to be made which are simply not getting acknowledged.

It is not the purpose of this article to weigh in on the contemporary CIA controversy, nor to precisely nail down the level of theological certainty/authority of the statements of the modern pontiffs against torture. Rather, we hope to use the CIA controversy as an opportunity to explore the historical development of the Church's thinking on torture in order to shed light on some of the ethical considerations that are often neglected in contemporary discussions. As with many other discussions on modern moral difficulties, our study may reveal that the "difficulty" consists in framing the question in the wrong context.

The article is very long (it came out to 23 pages in a Word document). You can read it at this link on the Unam Sanctam Catholicam website, where all my hideously long and amply footnoted sorts of writings go.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Popular Carols in Latin

Looking for some new Christmas music to brighten your Advent season? I'm sure we're all tired of the same old nonsense that is played ad nauseam every year. Why not introduce something new into the holiday repertoire, promote the Latin language, and obnoxiously show off to your non-Latin speaking friends at the same time?

That's right - Latin versions of popular Christmas classics!

Rudolphus Rubro Naso (to the tune of "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer")

Reno erat Rudolphus
Nasum rubrum habebat
Si quando hic videbas
Hunc candere tu dicas.

Omnes renores alii
Semper hunc deridebant;
Cum misero Rudolpho
In iudis non iudebant.

Santus Nicholas dixit
Nocte nebulae
"Rudolphe, naso claro
Nonne carrum tu duces?"

Tum renores clamabant,
"Rudolphe, delectus es!
Cum naso rubro claro
Historia descendes!

Aquafolia Ornatis (to the tune of "Deck the Halls")

Aquafolia ornatis
Fa la la la la, la la la la
Tempus hoc hilaritatis
Fa la la la la, la la la la
Vestes claras induamus;
Fa la la, la la la, la la la
Cantilenas nunc promamus
Fa la la la la, la la la la

Procul in Praesaepi ("Away in a Manger")

1. Procul in praesaepi et sine lecto,/ en, parvulus Iesus dormit in faeno
stellaeque micantes despectant eum/ tranquillo in somno, nostrum Domino

2. Dum mugiunt boves, expergiscitur;/ nec tamen ex illo auditur murmur.
Amo te, mi Iesu! De caelo specta/ et usque ad lucem, precor, mi adsta.

3. Es, Domine, mecum, te rogo; mane/ me iuxta aeterno, et dilige me.
Pueruli omnes in cura tua/ fac uti fruantur aeterna vita.

Silens Nox ("Silent Night")

1.Silens nox, sancta nox,/ Placida, lucida,
Virginem et puerum/ Dulcem atque tenerum,
Somno opprime,/ Somno opprime.

2.Silens nox, sancta nox,/ Angeli nitidi
"Alleluia" concinunt;/ Nunc pastores metuunt;
Christus natus est,/ Christus natus est.

3. Silens nox, sancta nox,/ Candida, splendida
Fili Dei facies/ Nobis praebet novas spes;
Christus natus est,/ Christus natus est

Angels We Have Heard on High

1. Lapsi caelo super gentes/ properate, angeli,
nuntiate nunc gaudentes/ natum nostri Domini.
Gloria in excelsis Deo!/ Gloria in excelsis Deo!

2. Salve, rex concordiae,/ Salve, sol iustitiae,
Lumen, vitam afferens,/ Salutaris oriens.
Gloria in excelsis Deo!/ Gloria in excelsis Deo!

O Viri Este Hilaries ("God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen")

1. O viri, este hilares/ Et bono animo;
Salvator Christus natus est/ Hoc tempore festo
Ut nos errantes liberet/ Summo periculo.
Refrain: O laetissimum nuntium, laetissimum,
O laetissimum nuntiu

2. De caelo Pater misit/ In terram angelum,
Qui quosdam ad pastores/ Afferret nuntium,
In Bethlehem natus esse/ Ipsius filium.

3. Quo cognito pastores,/ Completi gaudio,
Relictis statim gregibus/ In imbre et in vento,
Approperant in urbem/ Visendi studio.

4. Eo cum pervenissent,/ Viderunt parvulum
Cubantem in praesaepio/ In faeno pecorum,
Dum mater nixa genibus/ Adorat Dominum.

5. Nunc collaudemus Dominum/ Omnes qui adsumus,
Amore vero inter nos/ Dilecti penitus;
Nam omnium dierum/ Hic est faustissimu.

In Dulci Iubilo

In dulci iubilo/ Cantate domino!
Nostri cordis gaudium/ Est in praesaepio
Et fulget ut lux solis/ In matris gremio.
Alpha est et O,/ Alpha est et O.

O Iesu Parvule,/ Requiro solum Te:
Meumque sis solamen,/ O puer optime!
Commune per levamen,/ O princeps gloriae!
Trahe me post Te! Trahe me post Te!

Joy to The World

Laetissimus, Accipiat
Iam mundus Dominum
Dum omnia, In corda nos
Accipimus illum, Accipimus illum.
Accipimus illum.

En canentes angeli ("Hark the Herald Angels Sing")

1. En canentes angeli:/ "Gloria Regi infanti;
Pax in terra, et Deus/ Concors cum mortalibus."
Laeti, omnes populi,/ Cum caelestibus iuncti,
Praedicate "Nunc Christus/ Est in Bethlehem natus."
En canentes angeli:/ "Gloria Regi infanti."

2. Adoratus caelitus,/ Christus, semper Dominus,
Serius advenit spe,/ Genitus e virgine;
Carne tamquam obsitus,/ Homo ex Deo factus,
Volens ut par sit honos,/ Commoratur inter nos.
En canentes angeli:/ "Gloria Regi infanti."

3. Salve, rex concordiae,/ Salve, sol iustitiae,
Lumen, vitam afferens,/ Salutaris oriens;
Gloriam deposuit,/ Humilesque extuli,
Immortales reddens nos,/ Denuo regenitos.
En canentes angeli:/ "Gloria Regi infanti."

We Three Kings of Orient Are

Reges: 1. Orientis reges tres/ Procul dona portantes
Per campos et montes imus,/ Stellam illam sequentes.

Chorus: O stella potens et mira/ Stella regalis pulchra,
Semper movens ad occasum/ Duc nos ad claram lucem.

Melchior: 2. Infans nate Bethlehem,/ Portamus hanc coronam,
Rex aeterne, sempiterne,/ Domine terrarum.

Caspar: 3. Tu Sabaeum Tibi fero,/ Tus dignum magno Deo;
Te laudantes et orantes/ Colimus in caelo.

Balthazar: 4. Myrrhum amaram defero;/ Circum te fumat caligo,
Te languentem et gementem, Conditum in tumulo.

Reges: 5. Clarus surgit, O specta!/ Deus, rex, et victima.
Alleluia, Alleluia,/ Canunt caelum et terra

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Gaudete!

From Dom Prosper Gueranger's The Liturgical Year, vol. 1:

To-day, again, the Church is full of joy, and the joy is greater than it was. It is true that her Lord has not come; but she feels that He is nearer than before, and therefore she thinks it just to lessen somewhat the austerity of this penitential season by the innocent cheerfulness of her sacred rites. And first, this Sunday has had the name of Gaudete given to it, from the first word the Introit; it also is honoured with those impressive exceptions which belong to the fourth Sunday of Lent, called Laetare. The organ is played at the Mass; the vestments are rose-colour; the deacon resumes the dalmatic, and the subdeacon the tunic; and in the cathedral churches the bishop assists with the precious mitre. How touching are all these usages, and how admirable this condescension of the Church, wherewith she so beautifully blends together the unalterable strictness of the dogmas of faith and the graceful poetry of the formulae of her liturgy! Let us enter into her spirit, and be glad on this third Sunday of her Advent, because our Lord i now so near unto us. To-morrow we will resume our attitude of servants mourning for the absence of their Lord and waiting for Him; for every delay, however short, is painful and makes love sad.

The Station is kept in the basilica of St. Peter, at the Vatican. This august temple, which contains the tomb of the prince of the apostles, is the home and refuge of all the faithful of the world; it is but natural that it should be chosen to witness both the joy and the sadness of the Church.

The night Office commences with a new Invitatory. The voice of the Church no longer invites the faithful to come and adore in fear and trembling the King, our Lord, who is to come. Her language assumes another character; her tone is one of gladness; and now, every day, until the vigil of Christmas, she beings her nocturns with these grand words: "Prope est jam Dominus: venite adoremus", "The Lord is now night; come, let us adore"

Now let us take the book of the Prophet, and read with the Church:

(Isaia Cap. xxvi)
In die illa cantabitur canticum istud in terra Juda: Urbs fortitudinis nostrae Sion; salvator ponetur in ea murus et antemurale. Aperite portas, et ingrediatur gens justa, custodiens veritatem. Vetus error abiit: servabis pacem; pacem, quia in te speravimus. Sperastis in Domino in saeculis aeternis; in Domino Deo forti in perpetuum. Quia incurvabit habitantes in excelso; civitatem sublimem humiliabit: humiliabit eam usque ad terram, detrahet eam usque ad pulverem. Conculcabit eam pes, pedes pauperis, gressus egenorum. Semita justi recta est, rectus callis justi ad ambulandum. Et in semita judiciorum tuorum, Domine, sustinuimus te: nomen tuum et memoriale tuum in desiderio animae. Anima mea desideravit te in nocte, sed et spiritu meo in praecordiis meis de mane vigilabo ad te.
In that day shall this canticle be sung the land of Juda. Sion the city of our strength a saviour, a wall and a bulwark shall be set therein. Open ye the gates, and let the just nation, that keepeth the truth, enter in. The old error is passed away: thou wilt keep peace: peace, because we have hoped in thee. You have hoped in the Lord for evermore, in the Lord God mighty for ever. For he shall bring down them that dwell on high, the high city he shall lay low. He shall bring it down even to the ground, he shall pull it down even to the dust. The foot shall tread it down, the feet of the poor, the steps of the needy. The way of the just is right, the path of the just is right to walk in. And in the way of thy judgments, O Lord, we have patiently waited for thee: thy name, and thy remembrance are the desire of the soul. My soul hath desired thee in the night: yea, and with my spirit within me in the morning early I will watch to thee.

O holy Roman Church, city of our strength! behold us thy children assembled within thy walls, around the tomb of the fisherman, the prince of the apostles, whose sacred relics protect thee from their earthly shrine, and whose unchanging teaching enlightens thee from heaven. Yet, O city of strength: it is by the Saviour, who is coming, that thou art strong. He is thy wall, for it is He that encircles, with His tender mercy, all thy children; He is thy bulwark, for it is by Him that thou art invincible, and that all the powers of hell are powerless to prevail against thee. Open wide thy gates, that all nations may enter thee; for thou are mistress of holiness and the guardian of the truth. May the old error, which sets itself against the faith, soon disappear, and peace reign over the whole fold! O holy Roman Church! thou hast for ever put thy trust in the Lord; and He, faithful to His promise, has humbled before thee the haughty ones that defied thee, and the proud cities that were against thee. Where now are the Casears, who boasted that they had drowned thee in thine own blood? where the emperors, who would ravish the inviolate virginity of thy faith? where the heretics, who, during the past centuries of thine existence, have assailed every article of thy teaching, and denied what they listed? where the ungrateful princes, who would fain make a slave of thee, who hadst made them what they were? where the empire of Mahomet, which has so many times raged against thee, for that thou, the defenceless State, didst arrest the pride of its conquests? where the reformers, who were bent on giving the world a Christianity, in which thou was to have no part? where the more modern sophists, in whose philosophy thou wast set down as a system that had been tried, and was a failure, and is now a ruin? and those kings who are acting the tyrant over thee, and those people that will have liberty independently and at the risk of truth, where will they be in another hundred years?

Gone and forgotten as the noisy anger of a torrent; whilst thou, O holy Church of Rome, built on the immovable rock, wilt be as calm, as young, as unwrinkled as ever. Thy path through all the ages of this world's duration, will be right as that of the just man; thou wilt ever be the same unchanging Church, as thou hast been during the eighteen hundred years past, whilst everything else under the sun has been but change. Whence this thy stability, but from Him who is very truth and justice? Glory be to Him in thee! Each year, He visits thee; each year, He brings thee new gifts, wherewith thou mayst go happily through thy pilgrimage; and to the end of time, He will visit thee, and renew thee, not only with the power of that look wherewith Peter was renewed, but by filling thee with Himself, as He did the ever glorious Virgin, who is the object of thy most tender love, after that which thou bearest to Jesus Himself. We pray with thee, O Church, our mother, and here is our prayer: 'Come Lord Jesus! Thy name and Thy remembrance are the desire of our souls: they have desired Thee in the night,  yea, and early in the morning have they watched for Thee.'

Pp. 199-202, Loreto Publications edition. All Text in the Public Domain.

Friday, December 12, 2014

U.S. Catholic Survey on Pope Francis


The print and online publication U.S. Catholic is asking its readers to chime in on their opinion of Pope Francis and his influence on the contemporary Church.


Now is your chance to cut through the spin of the pundits and offer your honest assessment of our current Holy Father. Please participate in this survey and share it liberally. Since the Franciscan pontificate began, too often the discussion has been dominated by media-generated talking points rather than the view of practicing Catholics.

Shout out to Tony Schiavo of Arx Publishing for notifying me of this.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

And the world gets crazier

Did you catch this litte jewel by Simcha on the transfer of Cardinal Burke?

"Have you heard the latest about Cardinal Burke? I haven't. I also haven't heard the next-to-latest, or the thing before that, or the rumors that were circulating about the possible repercussions of what might happen if the rumors that had been previously circulating turned out to be true-ish. I don't know, and I don't care. And it's been a deliberate decision not to care, and a deliberate decision not to know what's going on."

And you are supposed to be a credible go-to person for commentary on current Catholic events because...why?

As she goes on to explain, what goes on in Rome is "not important" to the layman:

"I've seen the headlines speculating, refuting, predicting, reassuring, warning, and celebrating. And I haven't read any of them. Why not? Because it's not important to me.

Me, as a layman with a job and a family and a personal conscience that keeps me busy enough all by itself. And if you were honest, you'd admit that it really isn't important to you, either -- not unless you work directly for Burke, or are his personal friend and will miss him when he moves to sunny Malta, the lucky son of a gun. It only seems important if you are addicted to following all the ins and outs of a 24-hour religious news cycle that has about as much to do with the Gospel as the schematics for the HVAC system at the Metropolitan Opera House has to do with music."

So, unless you are Burke or work directly for him, Burke's transfer - and all other news coming out of Rome - has almost nothing to do with you and you should admit it's not important (by the way, Simcha, the headquarters of the Knights of Malta is not literally on Malta; it's in Rome).

Here's the real gem:

"...It would be weird if you constantly followed the every last move a CEO makes when he decides to hire and fire and make changes in an organization that you don't work for, and it's weird when you do it to the Pope."

Except it is precisely neo-catholic bloggers and apologists who for the past twenty-years have been insisting that we do just that - pay attention to every little sneeze out of the Vatican, publish the transcript of every single papal interview and commentary, no matter how casual, and insist that the faithful hang on every word out of the pope's mouth. This has been standard neo-cath fare for decades now. Now with Francis, we are being told it's "weird" and "really isn't important" - even though under the previous two pontificates this sort of hanging on news from the Vatican was extremely important, or so the neo-caths told us so.

She goes on: 

"If you feel personally attacked or personally vindicated by something that is happening to Cardinal Burke, then guess what? You're imagining it. Nobody's doing that to you. You're doing it to yourself, by insterting [sic] your fears or desires into something you can't possibly have any inside knowledge about."

So...because something bad or good did not happen to me personally there is no longer room for consternation or rejoicing? While it is true that we don't want to have an obsessive interest in matters that don't concern us, the idea that the criterion of whether we should care about something is whether or not it touches us personally is problematic on many levels.

She ends her piece with this little diatribe:

"You, with the subscription to Whimpers in Blogvillia! You, with your Blackberry set to play "Dies Irae" every time Four Lattes Daily resets their Novus Ordo End Times Ticker. You, with the Lady Cardinal robes in your closet, still in the dry cleaner bags, waiting to be whipped out the moment it Finally Happens. You, with your all your personal clocks set to Central European Time, so you don't miss a moment before you weep or break out the Chateau de Schutte '79 every time the doorman at the Roman Curia unlocks the front door, sweeps off the doormat, and chases the homeless cats away in preparation for another day of things that never do and never could have any affect on your personal life."

Very professional.

Now let me ask you this:

Why is this sort of rambling nonsense from a typical Patheo$ blogger considered credible while an extremely professional, well-written and informational blog like Rorate Caeli is not? Rorate - a blog whose track record at breaking important stories is as stellar as any professional investigative journalism outlet - is taken as an unreliable source while the author of the article quoted above gets featured regularly on the front of New Advent, as if the above-cited ruminations are some sort of revelation of insight that the Catholic world just can't do without?

We are no longer at war with East Asia. We are at war with Eurasia. We have always been at war with Eurasia.

The Catholic world keeps getting crazier.


Monday, December 08, 2014

The Sweetest Impossibility

There is a wonderful story in the life of St. Louis de Montforte about his encounter with a rich affluent couple while visiting a friend who was staying with them.  At first the woman tried to tease and frustrate him with childish behavior.  However, through his pleasant disposition and patience, he greatly impressed her, and as a result he wound up being invited for dinner.

Despite having charmed the wife, her husband remained unimpressed until “At the dinner table Louis produced a small statue of the Virgin, this he placed in front of Mr. d’Orville, asking him if he did not love her very much, this lady who had been so good to him and his!

“The host was embarrassed. He had never been devout to Mary or God.  He had never paid homage to anyone save the King…. but something mysterious happens when Louis continued to talk about Our Lady.  He listened with profound attention.  And before he bade his guest adieu, he had promised to say the Rosary every day” Wisdoms Fool, Eddie Doherty.

If you have ever observed a relationship between a loving mother and unruly children, or between a virtuous wife and a boorish husband, you may have felt: pity for the poor woman, admiration at her dedication, indignation at how she is treated, or perhaps even perplexed at such devotion in spite of such ingratitude. When we consider the benefits and loving tenderness of our Blessed Mother (the numerous miracles and graces obtained through her intercession, her assurance of protection and final perseverance to those who wear the brown scapular, the number of times where she has hid us under her mantle when we have felt the overwhelming shame of our sins, and so many others benefits, so numerous that the Saints of God will never be able to write them all down even till the end of world) at best we can conclude that we have not loved the Virgin Mary as she ought to be loved.

Yet, if we were to love her with all of our love, would that be enough? No.   What if we were able to offer all the love of the Saints and the praise of the Angels? No, it is still not enough.  What if she allowed us to borrow her love for us?  Not even then.  The only way we can love Mary as she ought to be loved, is with the love of the All-Holy Trinity.  The Immaculate Conception of our Blessed Lady reminds us that God has loved her with a special love from the moment of her very creation. It is with this love that we must love her.  The only way to love the Virgin Mary as she ought to be loved is with the full measure of the love of God for His own Mother.  Let us not forget what she has done for us, and no matter which devotions we practice (the scapulars we wear, consecrations - daily or total - pictures we have, and so on) we never love Mary as she ought to be loved; nevertheless, let us strive to do so.

How does one try to accomplish the impossible? With heavenly aid, for all things are possible to God.  Should we ask God to love his Mother as we ought? I believe humility demands that, before approaching His Majesty with such a petition, we examine ourselves with fear and trembling.

Let us first examine if the devotions that we do in Our Lady’s honor can be improved, our Rosaries said with more attention, our scapulars more attentively worn, her songs more devoutly sung.  Let us not presume to ask God for such a great grace, if we sloppily attend to the graces He has bestowed on us to have such devotions.  Do we make sacrifices in her honor in preparation for her feasts? Do we teach our children to love her and pray to her?

Perhaps upon examining ourselves we realize that we fall short of the devotion of the Saints to Mary we have read about, perhaps our imagination has supplemented our devotion and made us think we are good servants while with a little self-scrutiny we shall the reality of our neglectfulness towards her. Have we spoken better about the Rosary than we have devoutly prayed it, or advised others to call on her when we neglect to do so?  

Such an examination is not to discourage, but rather what we need in order to make a serious prayer for help, full of humility and contrition, that God might make us more pious and devout in the service of His Blessed Mother.  More piety, more devotion, more grace, to love the Blessed Virgin as she ought to be loved, even if only gradually more, more even if it is hard.

Let us, dear reader, for our Blessed Mother’s sake, who has suffered so much for us, strive to love her more than we do. Let us humbly approach God and ask that we love her more than we do now.  If we do as much, we are heading in the right direction, towards accomplishing that sweetest of all impossibilities, to love our Blessed Mother as she ought to be loved, to love her as God Himself loves her.

We are taught by grace to love Her, but let us not forget to not stop calling upon her, and follow her to the  harbor of happiness with Our Lord Jesus Christ in heaven.  

“If you begin to sink in the gulf of melancholy and despair, think on Mary. In dangers, in distress, in perplexities, think on Mary, call on Mary. Let her not depart from your lips, let her not depart from your heart, and, that you may win the suffrage of her prayers, never depart from the example of her life. Following her, you will never go astray.” St Bernard of Clairvaux, Advent Homilies of St Bernard

Saturday, December 06, 2014

Perfectly Brilliant Christmas Gifts

Happy Feast of St. Nicholas!

I'm going to review a new product here, but let me say up front that I was not asked to do so by its creator, nor do I benefit from its sales; I didn't even get a free review copy! The editor of the volume is my brother-in-law, but the primary reason I want to tell you about this is because I think that you will actually want to know about it.

I am speaking about the Sacred Art Series' volume of the Holy Gospels according to St. Luke and St. John. The editor of the series makes the admittedly audacious claim that this is now the most beautiful and easiest way to read the Gospels. And I think he is right.

Those of you who have children, especially between the ages of 7 and 17 or so, have probably noticed the difficulty that used to exist in finding a Bible suitable for older children to read. On the one hand are all the "Children's Bibles" with abridged retellings of famous Bible stories usually with semi-cartoonish illustrations. On the other hand are the standard adult Bibles with small text, thin pages, and no images at all. How, then, to introduce young children to the reading of the sacred page in a way that is accessible to them without sacrificing any of the richness of the inspired Word? Well, here is the answer:


Here is the entire text of the Gospels of Luke and John in one easy to hold volume; but the text is divided story by story rather than by chapter and verse, and printed in a large font. The translation is based on the traditional Catholic Challoner revision of the Douay Rheims, slightly adapted for easier readability (e.g. the -eth verb endings are removed). It is bound in a nice leatherette with gilt pages and a ribbon marker. Best of all, however, as you would expect in any volume from the Sacred Art Series, there are nearly 100 gorgeous images, in full color, of artwork from many of the greatest masters in Christian history, including Fra Angelico (my personal favorite!), Michelangelo, Titian, Duccio (whose incredible works I only discovered quite recently), Giotto, Caravaggio, et al. And unlike many Bibles that have a set of illustrations grouped in the center of the book, these images are placed on the pages facing the stories they illustrate.

In fact, although originally conceived of as a way of introducing children to the practice of daily reading of Scripture, I think most adults would agree that it is actually ideal for that purpose regardless of age.

It is selling for $39.95 on Amazon.com, and you can get a 15% discount right now by entering BLOGCODE at checkout. It works for 20% off three or more copies as well.

Let me also add, in case you haven't seen these before, that the Rosary Flip Book from the Sacred Art Series is also a beautiful devotional aid worthy of sharing with friends and family.
(sizes: 8x10 or 4x5)

"The Sacred Art Series Rosary Flip Book is the perfect aid for praying the family rosary at home. It features a built-in easel so that the book stands on its own. Each page displays a full color image of one of the mysteries of the rosary. The images come from the 16th Century work of Goswijn van der Weyden, "The Fifteen Mysteries and the Virgin of the Rosary."

"The Rosary Flip Book is also great for displaying on your mantel or home altar. And even if you don't pray the rosary every day, displaying one new image each day is an excellent way to meditate on that mystery throughout the day."

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

The Real Sword in the Stone and Real Penance

Today, December 3rd, is the Feast day of St. Galgano. St. Galgano was a Knight in Tuscany who lived a very worldly and sinful life, through a series of visions from St Michael the Archangel he reformed his life,  and despaired of his salvation he said “Ah, but I could more easily plunge my sword into this stone, than obtain forgiveness for my many sins” at that he thrust his sword into the rock up and it entered like a knife through butter. (Hear more on the free Audiobook here, or purchase the text here).

The sword in the stone is still preserved today in a chapel that was built around it, the sword has been scientifically analyzed and authenticated to match the narrative of the story, read more here.  

Unsurprisingly, the world embraced the Story of the Sword in the Stone, but not as a sign of mercy and a call to penance, but rather as a sign to establish Camelot, an earthly paradise here on earth, a sign of waiting for a leader to arrive to establish justice, rather than a God already come to show us to embrace the cross.

“Assure yourself you can not have two paradises; it is impossible to enjoy delights in this world, and after that to reign with Christ.”  The Imitation of Christ, Of Judgment, and the Punishment of Sinners

Where are we in this whole mix?  During this advent I believe there are several questions we should interrogate ourselves with, before standing before God in judgement when we die, so that we are not surprised, when Jesus Christ who was crucified for our sins asks them to us in justice.

  1. Have we ever done penance for our sins?  Is this part of our regular life?  God assures us that unless we do penance we shall perish. Luke 13:3 
  2. Has our penance been worthy?  It is impossible to ever repay Christ fully for laying down His life for our sins, or even to repay the divine forbearance for not casting us into hell to do eternal penance after our first mortal sin.  But, when God numbers our penances will he only find trivial sacrifices? Will he find numbered among our works of penance, tears, fasting, prayer, bodily mortifications, humiliations, flight from worldly pleasures?  Or will he find giving up chocolate now and then and meat on Fridays during lent?  People forget that even the little way of St. Therese if you have read of both her childhood and her life as a Carmelite in detail her life was highly mortified, and she added little sacrifices on top of that.  


Today some live and teach that to do real penance is to somehow foster a doubt that God has forgiven us, or that great penance is not necessary.  This attitude is far from the truth Blessed Columba Marmion said that penance is the “greatest possible assurance of perseverance in the way of perfection – because it is, when one really looks at it, one of the purest forms of love.” Christ the Life of the Soul.

God performed a miracle to show how easy it is to forgive our sins, and St. Galgano embraced a life of penance. This is the first time translation of his life into English and was translated by Ryan Grant of Mediatrix Press, in a joint project between us.  Compare the penance that St. Galgano did with your own and then ask yourself this last question.

What am I going to do about the small amount of penance I have done up until this point?  How can do more, (especially hidden) penance?  

“Then a strict life and severe repentance will be more pleasing than all earthly delights. Accustom yourself now to suffer a little, that you may then be delivered from more grievous pains. Prove first here what you can endure hereafter. If now you can endure so little, how will you then be able to support eternal torments? If now a little suffering make you so impatient, what will hell fire do hereafter? The Imitation of Christ, Of Judgment, and the Punishment of Sinners

In my own heart of hearts I stand convicted by these questions, but I am never the less hopeful.  God helped St. Galgano become a great Saint in only one year.  It is a new Church year, my God grant us the grace dear reader to also become great saints quickly.

The Sword in the stone is real, it is still there, and  it endures as a reminder of God mercy, and mans call to do penance.  The Cross is real, it is still there and without it we will not be saved. Will we embrace it?

St. Galgano, Pray for us. 

NB There is a lot more to his story, and to find out more please listen to the Audiobook available here, or purchase the book available here, to find out more about his incredible life. 

Sunday, November 30, 2014

This is not about Chesterton

There is a very interesting article on Catholic Household by Steven Drummel on the question of Chesterton's apparent issues with temperance in food and drink and how this could affect his canonization.

The article draws on the reminiscences of those closest to Chesterton, as well as some of his biographers, to document Chesterton's lifetime struggle with sobriety and moderation in his eating habits. The implication of the article is that this behavior suggests that Chesterton lacked the virtue of temperance, which consists in the moderation of the use of earthly goods.

The article was very well written and seemed well researched; I do not know whether the picture Drummel paints is true or not. But my post is not primarily about Chesterton or this particular issue. I am more interested in an argument I saw develop in the combox and what this says about the deficiencies in our contemporary attitudes about canonizations.

Upon seeing a legitimate question raised about Chesterton and the virtue of temperance, many of the Chestertonians in the combox reacted with indignation. Some said that these considerations were completely irrelevant to whether or not Chesterton was a saint; others shrugged and took the "saints aren't perfect" approach; still others argued that anyone who could write so persuasively as Chesterton and bring so many people to the Faith could not but be a saint; one guy argued that since intemperance didn't involve being uncharitable to any other people, it wasn't an issue; others reacted with anger that Chesterton's sanctity could be questioned and regarded the inquiries about his temperance as a personal attack on the late GKC.

All of these reactions, in my opinion, evidence a misguided understanding of canonization investigations and what they are meant to accomplish.

Let's forget that this is GKC for a moment; we could be talking about any person proposed for canonization. Whether or not a person was temperate in food and alcoholic consumption is not only relevant, but absolutely central to the question of sanctity. In fact, I would go so far as to say that if a person is not temperate in food and drink and the use of other created goods, there is no way they could be a saint.

Remember, a saint possesses not only natural virtue, but supernatural virtue. This means, of course, faith, hope and charity to a heroic degree, but it also means that even the saint's natural virtues are elevated and oriented towards supernatural ends.  For example, a virtuous man has formed the habit of prudence, which is the virtue of being able to identify and pursue the good in particular circumstances; i..e, of making good decisions. The saintly man, however, not only exercises natural prudence, but also demonstrates supernatural prudence; i.e., the virtue of prudence ordered towards supernatural ends, meaning exceptional discernment and good sense in spiritual matters.

Now, since supernatural virtue is a requisite of sainthood, and since grace builds on the natural virtues, it follows that a person who lacks even one of natural cardinal virtues cannot be "saintly" in the strict sense. Natural virtue is the foundation of supernatural virtue; if a natural virtue is obviously lacking, they cannot possess the supernaturalized version of that virtue which is built upon the natural. We may still have an exceptionally virtuous person, but nevertheless one with a major defect that makes it inappropriate to classify them as a saint. A person certainly cannot possess supernatural temperance if they lack even the natural virtue of temperance.

Is this being a bit too nitpicky? Absolutely not. Whether or not a person is a saint is a question of their character and conduct on the most personal level. Traditionally, this required an extraordinary degree of scrutiny by the Promotor Fidei ('Devil's Advocate'), whose job, according to the Catholic Encyclopedia, was:

"...to prevent any rash decisions concerning miracles or virtues of the candidates for the honours of the altar. All documents of beatification and canonization processes must be submitted to his examination, and the difficulties and doubts he raises over the virtues and miracles are laid before the congregation and must be satisfactorily answered before any further steps can be taken in the processes. It is his duty to suggest natural explanations for alleged miracles, and even to bring forward human and selfish motives for deeds that have been accounted heroic virtues...His duty requires him to prepare in writing all possible arguments, even at times seemingly slight, against the raising of any one to the honours of the altar. The interest and honour of the Church are concerned in preventing any one from receiving those honours whose death is not juridically proved to have been "precious in the sight of God" [4]

Therefore, one cannot make the accusation that this level of examination is "nitpicking." It is absolutely in keeping with the degree of scrutiny traditionally undergone by proposed candidates for canonization to raise objections to things that are "even at times seemingly slight." I do not think the question of temperance is a slight one.

But I think at the heart of this is the misguided notion that if we support a particular person's cause, it is perfectly normal to be averse to their being scrutinized. As if, because I like and want someone to be raised to the altars, the proper response to inquiries about their personal life is aversion. This is totally backwards.

Look, there are lots of people I would like to see made saints. I will share one with you; the late Jesuit priest, Fr. John Hardon (d. 2000). I think his works could be of immense value to modern catechesis, his personal life was exemplary, and he demonstrated a spiritual wisdom and maturity that evidenced the work of grace to an exceptional degree. And his ministry has born exceptional fruit. I am one of them, though hardly exceptional.

Let me ask - for one who loves Fr. Hardon, what should my proper response be to critical inquiries about his personal character?

If I really believe Fr. Hardon is a saint, I should welcome these inquiries. If he truly is a saint, then I can have confidence that the objections will be satisfactorily answered, and my faith in his sanctity will be all the stronger. On the other hand, if scrutiny reveals that he is not a saint, then I do not want him to be raised to the altars, no matter how much I 'like' him. I want Fr. Hardon to be canonized, but only if he proves worthy of canonization. If his reputation cannot stand up to the scrutiny, then God save us from canonizing an unworthy candidate!

Would it make sense for me to get upset at questions about his character? Should I dismiss scrutiny into his life and works on the grounds that I am so moved by his writings that no investigation is needed, or that sanctity is so self-evident that any assertions to the contrary must be taken as ad hominem attacks?

If I boast that my son is the best math student in his grade, does it make sense to bristle with indignation at the suggestion that he actually be tested in math? Rather, should I not want him to be tested to we can more truthfully assess his abilities? Let our assertions be grounded in truth, not in sentiment.

I love G.K. Chesterton. His writings have moved me profoundly and have been very formative in my intellectual and spiritual development, both when I was a young man and to this day. Furthermore, I know countless souls who have similarly benefited from his works. But the writings do not the whole man make. This is about supernatural virtue, not profound writings. It does not matter whether it is Chesterton, or Cardinal Newman, Fulton Sheen, Mother Teresa or Paul VI. We should not be afraid of asking questions about these people, because ultimately we want God to be glorified, and God is glorified by true sanctity, not by papering over or dismissing valid objections.

What role do Chestertonians have to play in the investigations of GKC's sanctity? Chestertonians need to help this process by addressing and answering the sorts of inquiries posed in Mr. Drummel's article, not dismissing them. I don't know a lot about Chesterton's personal life. But let me say, if Mr. Drummel's article is accurate, then in my opinion this constitutes a serious obstacle to the canonization of GKC. Therefore, if you love GKC and want to see him raised to the altars, please answer these objections - don't make up reasons why they are not objections, or say they are irrelevant, or take them as personal attacks - but answer them. Mr. Drummel suggests Chesterton may have lacked temperance. It is your job, Chestertonians, to explain why he didn't.

One last note, addressing the "saints aren't perfect" rejoinder we hear from time to time. Agreed. Saints are not 'perfect.' They do have sin. But, while they are not perfect, a saint is someone we expect to have attained a degree of victory over their sin. While I would never argue that saints must be sinless, I would also argue that a person who has capitulated to sin in one aspect of their life should not be considered a saint. Saints are those who, while having sin like all of us, labor to attain victory over that sin. Mr. Drummel suggests that Chesterton fundamentally failed in his battle against drunkenness and gluttony, which signifies a lack of temperance. If what Drummel says is true, Chesterton did not have victory over these vices but rather succumbed to them - they even contributed to his death.

I am not arguing Chesterton is not a saint. This post isn't ultimately about him, as I have said, but about how we should respond to inquiries into men and women we think ought to be canonized. I would like to see a St. Chesterton of Beaconsfield, but more so I want us to be intellectually honest.

Chesterton would have never dismissed an argument the way I saw Chestertonians in the combox so doing; if you love Chesterton, live up to his legacy and address these objections head on. GKC deserves nothing less. Truth will prevail, and we should rejoice when it does, whatever that truth may be. It won't diminish my love of Chesterton one way or another, nor should it for you.

Related Post: History of the Devil's Advocate

Friday, November 28, 2014

The Art of Celebrating Advent (and in turn, Christmas) Properly

Happy Thanksgiving weekend to all of the Americans reading the blog!

Since today (Black Friday) will typically mark the great sprint toward Christmas, complete with mad dashes for discounted items, wrestling with a stranger to get that last toy on the shelf for little Johnny, Christmas tree hunting (make sure you have a valid license for your hunting area, and don't drive with a loaded gun in the car), and Football marathons; all culminating in desperate last minute shopping on Amazon in the week before Christmas, I wanted to preemptively offer an alternative to this annual "tradition" which has become the norm for so many people - even good Catholics - simply because they have never thought of doing things otherwise.

Advent as a season is a less obvious one in the liturgical calendar, other than its anticipation of the Christmas season. Yet, the first three weeks of Advent are really about Christ's second coming, the eschatological meaning of "Emmanuel", "God with us". In this light, it follows well on the month of the Holy Souls, November, in that now that we have prayed for the dead, we can properly anticipate the return of Christ and the resurrection of the body, the beginning of the final age, where all of the faithful are gathered in Heaven living in the light of the Holy Trinity and divine beatitude.

Would it not be more appropriate, then, to see Advent as the last season of the old year, and not the first season of the new year? Perhaps, but it is also entirely appropriate to view it as the first season of the new year - it acts as a sort of bridge between the old and the new. Each year in the life of a Christian is intended to be a microcosm of the whole of life. Since human acts take their form from the end which they are oriented toward, it is good to, at the beginning of our liturgical year, reflect about what our end is; namely, heaven, thus forming our intention toward that which it desires most.

In order to better form this intention, might I suggest a few things in order to celebrate Advent, and in turn, Christmas, properly this year?

1) Advent is a penitential season. Do penances and fasting in order to spiritually prepare for the return of Christ, perhaps this year!

2) Perhaps set up a Jesse Tree on Thanksgiving weekend, rather than a Christmas tree. The daily readings of Scripture accompanying the Jesse Tree re-tell the story of salvation in such a manner that one not only prepares for the birth of Christ, but also re-enlivens the meaning of the whole of salvation. (Yes, I am aware the Jesse Tree is not "traditional". But it goes to show that not everything modern is bad, right? I like my flushable toilet, too.)

3) Try to minimize the amount of time you spend thinking about shopping for Christmas. If you are really on the ball, you have already bought most of your gifts, and so can enter into the Advent season appropriately. If not, make a particular list of those things you need to buy, so you don't spend hours aimlessly shopping. Think of all of the extra holy hours you can do, since you aren't shopping so much!

4) Do NOT buy a Christmas tree until after December 17th, when the Church in her liturgy turns to preparing for the second coming by remembering the first coming. If you wait until the 24th, you'll get a heck of a deal, since Christmas trees don't keep well on the shelf until next season. Just saying.

5) Celebrate Solemn Vespers of the last week of Advent, with the glorious O Antiphons (beginning the 17th).

5) Per #4, keep your Christmas tree up until Candlemas (February 2nd), the traditional end of the Christmas Season.

Well, we can talk more about celebrating Christmas appropriately when we get there, but I thought I would get this out here quickly for you on this highest of secular feast days, Black Friday.

Stay safe out there, and God bless you!


Monday, November 24, 2014

The Great Inversion (1000th post)


This post is the 1000th article published to the Unam Sanctam Catholicam blog. Although, if you count the 497 articles on the Unam Sanctam sister site, really we blew 1000 away a long time ago. Therefore, although the 1000th post of my rambling is really nothing too celebratory, I did want to post something important on this occasion.

While the world of Christendom consisted in unity and harmony, the prime characteristic of modernity is disharmony, discord and isolation across every dimension of human existence. This is true philosophically and theologically as well as socially and politically. Some time ago I posited the theory that the greatest problem in the life of the Catholic Church was the unfortunate fracture between theology and ascesis, between spirituality and mortification.

As I have reflected on this over the past year, I see that this great divorce in the realm of praxis is mirrored by a similar disharmony in the realm of theory: that of the relationship between love and truth.

While what we see in the relationship of theology and ascesis is one of fracture or division, what we see in the relationship of love and truth is not so much a divorce as much as an inversion; an inversion, however, that leads truth to be relativized at the expense of love and hence ultimately ends up divorcing truth from love as its logical conclusion.

Most Catholic prelates and theologians do not call for love and truth to be sundered, of course. But they do invert their relationship, which leads to all sorts of mischief. In fact, the heart of the Kasperite heresy consists in nothing other than an inversion of the relation between love and truth.

In the classical tradition, our love proceeds from our knowledge. The classical dictum, attributed to Augustine but with precedents in Aristotle and Plato, is "You can't love what you don't know." The intellectual act by which we know truth precedes the act of the will by which we love it. This is why Aristotle defines the fundamental characteristic of human nature as a desire and capability for knowledge, not for loving (Meta. I.1).

The problem with inverting this relationship is it tends towards a definition of a Christian, not primarily as someone who affirms or believes a certain truth, but as one who loves

This is a very subtle problem, because love does, of course, is a determining characteristic of Christianity. The Christian life is one of love in the deepest sense. This is affirmed by the Scriptures in many places:

  • "He that loves his brother, abides in the light, and there is no scandal in him" (1 John 2:10).
  • "And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love" (1 Cor. 13:13).
  • "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' (Matt. 22:37-39)
  • "God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him" (1 John 4:16).
  • "But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which spitefully use you" (Matt. 5:44).

From beginning to end, love is supposed to characterize the Christian life. The aim of this reflection is not to deny that love is central to our faith, or that we are not called to love; God forbid! Rather, we are looking at love in its relation to truth. The problem is that - as we have seen with concepts such as "peace", "contention" and "unity" - there is a tendency to understand the concept of love apart from the content of what is loved.

In the classical tradition, reason is the highest faculty of man; it is that distinctive characteristic of human nature by which we are said to be made in God's image and what makes us specifically human. We act "according to our nature" when we act by that which is distinctly human; i.e, when we act in harmony with reason. Reason is that faculty by which we apprehend the truth about things, and through which we discern the good - that which is desirable.

The will proceeds from reason. By reason we apprehend the good and by the will we move ourselves to its attainment; when we do this, it is an act of the rational will. Willing the good of someone or something is to love it. Before we can love something, we must perceive it as a good and will the good of it. Chronologically speaking, the intellectual act and the act of willing may occur simultaneously; I know perceive my daughter as a "good" and hence love her in a single act of affection. But in logical order, the act of knowing always precedes the act of loving.

Thus, our intellect perceives the good, our will moves us toward its attainments, and our passions are ordered rightly when they are ordered based on what we rationally will. When a man is thus disposed, he is said to be in a state of 'justice' or 'integrity.'

Where do morals fit into this equation? Ultimately, we are only moral beings because we are rational; that is, because we are capable of making rational decisions, our actions are ennobled by a moral quality. A baby that pokes me in the eye does so innocently because he "doesn't know better"; a full grown man with full use of reason who jabs his finger in my eye on purpose better watch out, because he does know better. The use of reason endows actions with moral qualities. In other words, the source of morality is in our reason.

This is why St. Anselm says "Fides quarens intellectum", not "Amor quarens intellectum". The end of the life of faith is the knowledge of God. From this knowledge of God, love of God proceeds, since the supreme goodness of God, once apprehended, draws the will in love. This is also why those in heaven can no longer sin; the intellect sees God's essence in the Beatific Vision, and this vision subsequently draws the will with such perfection that it comes to rest in the summum bonum and no longer desires to roam. A Christian, first and foremost, is one who believes in the Lord Jesus Christ; This is why the Book of Acts and the New Testament refers to Christians as "the believers" and not "the lovers."

Knowledge of the truth is what begets love. But Christian love is not the same as "love" understood in the common, worldly sense. Love, or caritas, is one of the three theological virtues. It is a gift from God. In logical order faith comes initially, which begets hope, and a lively hope in God establishes caritas (see Josef Pieper's, little work Faith, Hope, Love for a great synopsis of the relation of the virtues, as well as Garrigou-Lagrange's essay "The Three Theological Virtues").

As a result, the classical view could never oppose loving our neighbor to the truths of faith. As a virtue, caritas proceeds from faith and hope and perfects them. It is love, but love in the truth, Caritas in Veritate, as Benedict XVI famously noted in his encyclical of the same name. Love is above all love of God, who is love, but who is also truth. "Your word is truth" (John 17:17), in which our Lord prayed that the Church should be sanctified. Such heresies as the Kasperite doctrine are only possible when love has been either detached from truth (qua secularists) or its relation to truth inverted (liberal theologians).

In Caritas in Veritate, Benedict XVI spoke out strongly against the tendency to detach love from truth and hence from morality:

"I am aware of the ways in which charity has been and continues to be misconstrued and emptied of meaning, with the consequent risk of being misinterpreted, detached from ethical living and, in any event, undervalued. In the social, juridical, cultural, political and economic fields — the contexts, in other words, that are most exposed to this danger — it is easily dismissed as irrelevant for interpreting and giving direction to moral responsibility" (Caritas in Veritate, 2).

A fair warning from the Pope Emeritus. However, it is ironic that Ratzinger himself has not always been free from questionable propositions about the relationship between love and truth. If we dig back into Ratzinger's early years, we see that while Ratzinger has always asserted the profound connection between love and truth, it seems that he (at least in the past) has tended to invert their relationship - love, not truth, takes precedence. This involves a re-prioritizing of will over intellect, with profound consequences. Let us look at young Ratzinger to see this inversion we speak of. This will help us trace out the theological framework from which the Kasperite heresy flows. The following comments are taken from Ratzinger's essay "What It Means To Be a Christian" from 1965, which was originally a series of sermons delivered in M√ľnster; the essay was republished in Ignatius Press's Credo for Today (2009). Quotes from the essay are taken from the Ignatius book.

The point of the essay is to narrow down, fundamentally, what it means to be a Christian. How is a Christian defined? Ratzinger begins his query by examining the parable of the sheep and the goats from the Gospel of Matthew, wherein our Lord says, "Whatsoever you do unto the least of my brethren, that you do unto me" (Matt. 25:40). One wonders why Ratzinger takes this parable as the starting point of his inquiry, rather than the traditional teaching that a Christian is one who is has received baptism; "For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ" (Gal. 3:27) - baptism, of course, being the sacrament of faith.

At any rate, Ratzinger chooses Matthew 25 as his point of departure and says:

"In this parable, the Judge does not ask what kind of theory a person has held about God and the world. He is not asking about a confession of dogma, [but] solely about love. That is enough and it saves a man. Whoever loves is a Christian" (Credo for Today, 9).

It is noteworthy here that at the very outset Ratzinger sets up an opposition between love and dogma. It is "solely" love that matters to God; love alone is "enough and it saves man." A Christian is defined simply, not as one who believes Christ is Lord, or who has been sealed in baptism, but as one who loves.

Surely Ratzinger cannot mean this without qualification? Surely we must make a distinction between natural love and the supernatural virtue of love, between love simplex and love in the truth, etc? Surely a Christian cannot be simply, one who loves, right?

Not so, says Ratzinger:

"However great the temptation may be for theologians to quibble about the statement, to provide it with ifs and buts, notwithstanding: we may and should accept it in all its sublimity and simplicity, quite unconditionally - just as the Lord posited it" (ibid., 9).

Now, to be fair, it could be said that what Ratzinger says is entirely true if we are understanding love within the traditional Catholic context, with the whole tradition we have enumerated above. It could be in this sense that Ratzinger means love, without any distinction, is what saves us. He could simply be saying what our Lord does - that we are called to love without being loved in return. But if so, why does Ratzinger go out of his way to insist that this be understood simply, without any "ifs and buts" and without any conditions?

He thus defines love "as the content of being Christian" (ibid., 10) and therefore offers the following definition of what it means to be a Christian:

"Being a Christians means having love" (pg. 11).

If we are to take the classical tradition seriously, this definition is far too reductive, especially if Ratzinger insists we understand it in the simplest manner possible. Our Lord Himself says even the pagans have love (Matt. 5:46-47), which means Christian love is something different than human love - that its definition does require "ifs and buts." But if Ratzinger is serious that we take this with no qualifications, it is problematic. Ratzinger himself understands the implications. After all, is this not the gospel according to the liberals, that if we simply be good to one another in any religion whatsoever God will be happy with us? Isn't it all too easy? Ratzinger will go on to offer a critique of his own theory:

"You will probably say, however: Well and good, that is what Jesus' message is about, and that is very fine and comforting. But what have you theologians and priests made of it, what has the Church made of it? If love is enough, why do we have your dogma? Why do we have faith, which is forever competing with science? Is it not really true, then, what liberal scholars have said, that Christianity has been corrupted by the fact that, instead of talking with Christ about God the Father and being like brothers to each other, people have constructed a doctrine of Christ; by the fact that people, instead of leading others to mutual service, have invented an intolerant dogma; by the fact that instead of urging people to love, they have demanded belief and made being a Christian depend on a confession of faith?" (ibid., 11)

If we were taking a classical approach, this would be the moment to explain that love proceeds from truth; that truth and love are wedded; that it makes no sense to promote an amorphous Christian "love" without a clear adherence to Christian truth; to explain the difference between natural, human love and supernatural charity; to state that yes, in fact, being Christian does demand belief and a confession of faith.

Ratzinger, however, says none of these things. Instead, he says that if we can facilitate a "Copernican revolution" (ibid., 12) in directing our love towards the other, we will see that a religion of "love" is not as easy as the liberals make it out to be:

"Thus, the sublime and liberating message of love, as being the sole and sufficient content of Christianity, can also become something very demanding" (pg. 12).

This statement is loaded with meaning and tells us much about Ratzinger's thought. Note the construction of the argument. Ratzinger says the content of Christianity is simply love. The liberal says, "That's easy. If all we need is love, why do we need your dogma? If religion is that simple, we don't need dogma and the confession of faith." Ratzinger's answer does not deny the fundamental liberal accusation that belief and confession of faith should not define a Christian; rather, he notes that a religion of loving others is "very demanding" and thus much more difficult than the liberal thinks.

The liberal says, "You're implying an easy Christianity where doctrine sinks into the background at the expense of love." Ratzinger responds, "It's not as easy as you think." He does not explicitly deny the first assumption - that his theory implies a Christianity where doctrine sinks into the background at the expense of love. This is why he responds with the radical reaffirmation that love is the "sole and sufficient content of Christianity." He could hardly be more clear.

But what about doctrine? What about the contents of faith as espoused in the articles of the creeds? If love is the "sole and sufficient content" of Christianity, what is the role of faith, according to Ratzinger? For Ratzinger, faith is there to shore up the defects in our love. If love is the sole content of the faith, it is true that none of us loves sufficiently. Therefore, faith is necessary to make up this "shortfall":

"For what faith basically means is just that this shortfall that we all have in our love is made up by the surplus of Jesus Christ's love, acting on our behalf...faith means nothing other than admitting that we have this kind of shortfall; it means opening our hand and accepting the gift" (pg. 12).

Notice that here faith does not mean giving assent of the mind and will to the truth revealed by God because He is God and cannot deceive; instead of assenting and clinging to the truth of God, it means admitting a personal deficiency in love. Now, certainly if we have humility, this is an important aspect of our religious profession; "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Rom. 3:23). But again, Ratzinger says not that this is an aspect of faith, but that "faith means nothing other" than admitting our personal deficiency and accepting God's free gift.

Giving all possible benefit of the doubt to young Ratzinger, it must be admitted that if he really thought that faith is "nothing other" than admitting we don't measure up and accepting God's free gift, it sounds rather much like classical Lutheranism. A fuller treatment of faith from a classical Catholic perspective might have mentioned the act of assent that is integral to faith, since faith is fundamentally believing something on the authority of someone else. "Faith is the theological virtue by which we believe in God and believe all that he has said and revealed to us, and that Holy Church proposes for our belief, because he is truth itself" (CCC 1814).

This, however, is absent from young Ratzinger's thought. In fact, Ratzinger grants no essential place to the intellectual assent as the act of faith, nor to the deposit of faith as the object of belief. His direction of thought seems to be to move faith away from an act of assent and more towards an act of love:

"Faith is thus that stage in love which really distinguishes it as love...It is only in "faith" like this that selfishness, the real opposite of love, comes to an end. To that extent, faith is already present in and with true loving; it simply represents that impulse in love which leads to its finding its true self" (ibid., 12-13).

Faith is a "stage" of love; or, to put it in the Hegelian terms commonly employed by Ratzinger, faith is a moment in the history of love. This is not the only place Ratzinger speaks in such Hegelian terms; elsewhere, when writing on evolution, he says that matter "signifies a moment in the history of spirit." So faith is really nothing other than love at a particular stage; faith has been subsumed into love. This is very interesting, because decades later, in Spe Salvi, as Benedict XVI he will teach that hope is equivalent to faith (Spe Salvi, 2). So if hope is actually equivalent faith and faith is just a stage of love, then really love is all there is.

Again, giving him the benefit of the doubt, this may just be a way of saying with St. Paul that love is the only permanently abiding supernatural virtue (1 Cor. 13:13) and the greatest thing a man can do. In the end, faith and hope terminate with our status as viators; only love abides. That would be perfectly fine.

But if he means that there is in fact no real distinction between faith, hope and love - that faith and hope are just other names for caritas under different forms - that would be a great novelty, though it would not be without precedent in Ratzinger's thought. If we consider love and truth, love is more of an interpersonal concept, whereas truth and its apprehension are more epistimological. Elsewhere in his writings, Ratzinger has evidenced a strong emphasis on "relationship" as the key to understanding God. In fact, God Himself - and hence the truth - are viewed in terms of relationship. For example, in Many Religions, One Covenant (Ignatius Press, 1998), he states:

Thus the God of the Bible is a God-in-relationship; and to that extent, in the essence of his identity, he is opposed to the self-enclosed God of philosophy” (Many Religions, One Covenant, 75).

His reference to the "self-enclosed God of philosophy" here is a reference to Thomism, by the way. "Relationship" is absolutely central to how Joseph Ratzinger views God. He goes on to say:

"In the Aristotelian table of categories, relation belongs to the group of accidents that point to substance and are dependent on it; in God, therefore, there are no accidents. Through the Christian doctrine of the Trinity, relation moves out of the substance-accident framework. Now God himself is described as a Trinitarian set of relations, as relation subsistens. When we say that man is the image of God, it means that he is a being designed for relationship; it means that, in and through all his relationships, he seeks that relation which is the ground of his existence. In this context, covenant would be the response to man’s imaging of God; it would show us who we are and who God is. And for God, since he is entirely relationship, covenant would not be something external in history, apart from his being, but the manifestation of his self, the “radiance of his countenance.” (ibid., 76-77).

In fact, Ratzinger sees the soul itself as essentially a relationship. Ratzinger ultimately denies the soul is a substance because, in his words, "the medieval concept of substance has long since become inaccessible to us", (Faith and the Future, 14). Therefore we must look elsewhere for a contemporary understanding of the soul. In his 1977 essay "Eschatology" (republished in 1988 and translated by Michael Waldstein), Ratzinger posits the soul as essentially a relationship:

The soul” is our term for that in us which offers a foothold for this relation [with the eternal]. Soul is nothing other than man’s capacity for relatedness with truth, with love eternal" (Eschatology, pg. 259).

In other words, relationship replaces being as the fundamental concept regarding the human soul. This, in turn, allows us to conceive of the soul not in terms of the hard lines associated with the concepts of being, substance, and specific nature, but rather as an evolutionary, dynamic relationship, of which the soul is "nothing other." This is shows how his emphasis on interpersonal love as the core of human nature fits in with his broader theology.

I are not interested here in continued parsing of Ratzinger's words on God and the soul as relationship (I recommend this article by James Larson for more on that subject; this one is good, too); rather, the above is cited simply as evidence for the importance of "relationship" in his theology. This, in turn, explains his apparent inversion of the relation between love and truth. Love is interpersonal and implies relationship, and if relationship is to be the ground of existence for Ratzinger, then it makes more sense for truth to proceed from love rather than vice versa.

If Ratzinger does in fact propose in an inversion of the traditional roles of truth and love, the results are not inconsequential. Essentially, it would mean that instead of allowing what is to be loved to be formed by faith, what is to believed will be formed by love. It would not mean eliminating dogmas and discipline; Ratzinger clearly does not believe there is a cleavage between love and truth; or as he said in his famous 1994 CDF letter on communion for the divorced and remarried, "understanding and genuine mercy are never separated from the truth." No, it does not mean love and sundered from the truth such that we abandon doctrine or discipline; but if there is an inversion, it means that doctrine and discipline will now ultimately be formed by our concept of love, rather than letting our understanding of love be formed by doctrine. The emphasis on love over truth reverses the directions of this movement.

And if doctrine no longer informs love, what ground does love have? It is hard to say, because the love of Ratzinger is one that evolves - remember his comments about faith being a "stage" in the evolution of love? Ultimately, he says:

"True loving necessarily passes into the gesture of faith, and in that gesture lies a demand for the mystery of Christ, a reaching out toward it--and that mystery, when it unfolds, is a necessary development of that basic gesture; to reject it would be to reject both faith and love" (Credo for Today, 13).

Love is a "development" that "unfolds" and "passes into the gesture of faith", this passage of which is a "necessary development." It is hard to pinpoint Ratzinger's exact meaning here; this is one reason why it is dangerous to write theology in terms other than those traditionally accepted. How is one to describe traditional Aristotelian-Thomist theological concepts explained in a Hegelian framework without opening broad chasms ripe for confusion?

At any rate, these 'gestures of faith' appear to be the articles of faith, the dogmas of the Church. But since these now proceed from love and are formed by it, we will see that these dogmas, far from being faithful expositions of truth, are just interpretations of love:

"And yet, conversely, however true this may be--and however much christological and ecclesiastical faith is for that reason absolutely necessary--at the same time, it remains true that everything we encounter in dogma is, ultimately, just interpretation: interpretation of the one truly sufficient and decisive fundamental reality of the love between God and men. And it remains true, consequently, that those people who are truly loving, who are as such also believers, may be called Christians" (ibid.,13).

The implications are clear. If dogmas are mere interpretations, "gestures of faith" which "unfold" in the "necessary development" of love, their grounding in revealed truth is weakened. Instead of seeing love as proceeding from an apprehension of the truth, our truth will be determined by what we love - and with this relationship inverted, the possibility of having a right idea of what ought to be loved is compromised. The source of our morality is no longer our reason, as in the classical view, but in our will, because love is an act of the will. The Christian is no longer the believer but the one who loves. We thus slip into the tendency to define love, and hence truth, based on whatever we will.

From this inversion it is only a short leap to the Kasperite doctrine and all its nefarious implications. Since our concept of love is always developing, always unfolding, we can find "moral value" in irregular relationships -after all, in the inverted order, relationship itself always retains a fundamental value. "Gifts and qualities" can be found in homosexual relationships; HIV infected homosexuals sodomizing each other with condoms on becomes a "direction of moralization". In short, the inversion lays truth at the service of an unattached and floating love that expands or contracts depending upon contemporary whims. Even Joseph Ratzinger, only a few years after his comments about love being the essential identity of the Christian, stated that adulterous second marriages could take on a "moral and ethical value" which would make it "fair" to give communion to such individuals. Such was the logical outcome of his thought.

Does Joseph Ratzinger still affirm all these things? Lately he has made moves to distance himself from the Kasperite doctrine by deleting the above referenced passages on communion for divorced and remarried from a new edition of one of his works (see here), and there was certainly no evidence of this error during his time at the CDF or as pope. On the other hand, Ratzinger has always said that he has never changed his positions since his youth. It is hard to say; again, he writes his theology in a different sort of vocabulary that makes it difficult to ascertain his precise meaning.

And what about us? What are we affirming? We are certainly not asserting so much a heresy or material error in Ratzinger; rather we are noting more of an inversion or imbalance in emphasis. We are certainly not trying to establish a historical pedigree from Kasper back to Ratzinger, nor that this inversion originates with Ratzinger; in various forms it can be traced back to Duns Scotus. It cannot be denied, however, that this imbalance in Ratzinger is related to and becomes a full-fledged heresy in Kasper, which in turn leads to all manner of wickedness. This is ironic, because Kasper and Ratzinger are known to have been on separate sides of the communion question. The irony is that Ratzinger's inversion is the necessary logical precursor to Kasper's heresy which Ratzinger now opposes.

And once love is free to determine its own good without reference to truth, where will we eventually end up? Some time ago I randomly came across this video of a man in New York City who takes the concept of love simplex as the ground of existence to its logical conclusion. I'm not being facetious; we have all heard of CCD programs where "God is love" is the sole content of religious education from K-12. What you will see below very well could be the future of Catholic theology and homiletics if a a right relation between truth and love is not restored..

Thank you for your patronage of this blog and website. May God richly bless you and yours.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Retraction, Apology & Vindication

Good day, friends!

Following the dust up that followed some of my posts earlier this week, I have had time to study and reflect on the propositions I put forward. Having done so, I do believe several statements I wrote were either in error or questionable. In this post I would like to offer a few retractions, make an apology, and share some insight from several theologians I contacted regarding one of the propositions in my previous posts about the relationship between the Mass and the Faith. I also, in the spirit of Pope Francis, want to thank you for your criticism. What I do here is certainly not dogmatic theology; I am an armchair theologian at best, a complete dolt at worst. The erudition of many of my readers and commenters puts me to shame at times. I am always edified by the comments on this blog and learn as much from my commenters as I do from other means of study.

Let me begin with some retractiones.

First, the proposition that a bishop has power to prohibit the saying of certain forms of the Mass. Upon input from several more knowledgeable readers, I am very uncertain of this proposition now. I am not ready to abandon it entirely; it seems that if the Traditional Mass is designated Extraordinary and the Novus Ordo classified as Ordinary, per Universae Ecclesiae, then the bishop may have some sort of say if the Extraordinary starts to replaces the Ordinary. Not that I want bishops to be intervening to stop the EF; I just wonder juridically where his powers lie in this question. At any rate, I am no longer willing to maintain with certitude that a bishop can prohibit a legitimate use of the Mass of the same rite. I am interested to see how Ecclesia Dei will respond to situations where this has happened. Anyhow, I retract this assertion as to its certainty but consider it an open question, the answer of which I am not competent to speculate on.

Second, regarding my statement that the bishop can prohibit certain parts of the Mass. This was an unfortunate statement and a clear error on my part. I think I was trying to make the general case that the bishop can give or retain certain faculties, but it is clear foolishness to say a bishop can prohibit certain "parts" of the Mass. That was idiotic. I don't know how that sentence came out of me. Obviously, though the homily is generally included in a Mass, the homily is not the Mass proper and the examples of Ven. Solanus and Padre Pio are strawmen that don't hold up. So, that statement was probably the dumbest one I've ever written. Please forgive me. Errare humanum est. I retract, anathematize, and apologize for this dumb statement.

Third, regarding my citation of Fr. Ripperger in my last post, many people messaged me saying Fr. Ripperger's words did not support my thesis. I do not suggest they do support the whole thesis; I cited him only in support of a very limited proposition - that traditional Catholics can sometimes have a tendency to think simply attending the Traditional Mass means they don't need to study or familiarize themselves with the tradition. Fr. Ripperger does say this plainly in his lecture. The only thing I cited him in support of was on that particular point and nothing else. Therefore, I want to clarify that I am not suggesting Fr. Ripperger "supports" my argument in general; I apologize for the confusion.

Finally, regarding my comments that "The Mass and the Faith are not the same thing; the Faith is greater than the Mass," I received a ton of backlash about this. I was pretty sure I was correct on this point, but the backlash on the Facebook page gave me some doubts, so I decided to do a little "Ask the Theologian." I selected nine individuals of varying backgrounds - two priests, five theologians, one conservative Catholic apologist, and one traditional professor of Catholic philosophy -  and sent them the following query:

Dear XXXX,

I am in need of a professional opinion. I recently caused a big dust up on Facebook and, my blog by making the following comment:

"The Mass is extraordinarily important, but the Mass is not the Faith. The Mass is an integral part of the Faith, but the Faith is greater [i.e., a broader category, more inclusive] than the Mass."

This caused a huge backlash by many of my readership who insisted that, yes, the Mass is the Faith and the Faith is the Mass and that it is impious and improper to try to suggest a distinction between the two. Therefore, I ask you:

Setting aside metaphor and the language of piety, in the strictly theological sense, it is correct to say that the Mass and the Faith are not the same thing? I want to make sure I am not in error on this point.

Before I present their answers, here is a breakdown of the credentials of the nine respondents:

Respondent 1: Graduate student with MA in Theology
Respondent 2: Traditional priest who regularly says the EF Mass
Respondent 3: Priest of the Oblates of the BVM; not sure if he says EF, but he wears the cassock
Respondent 4: Theologian with an STD from International Theological Institute who attends the EF exclusively
Respondent 5: Graduate student studying Thomistic theology at the Angelicum for an STL
Respondent 6: Dogmatic Theologian with an STL from the Pontifical University in Rome
Respondent 7: Mainstream Catholic apologist who usually disagrees with me but has some good sense
Respondent 8: Traditionalist Catholic writer with MA in theology
Respondent 9: Traditional minded Professor of Philosophy at a Catholic seminary

Here are their answers to my query on whether it is correct to say "The Mass and the Faith are not the same thing":

Respondent 1: I am presuming by “the faith” you mean the Deposit of Faith. So, according to the Catechism, the Deposit of Faith is “the heritage of faith contained in Sacred Scripture and Tradition, handed on in the Church from the time of the Apostles, from which the Magisterium draws all that it proposes for belief as being divinely revealed.” And the Catechism gives as its definition for the Mass: “The Eucharist or principal sacramental celebration of the Church, established by Jesus at the Last Supper, in which the mystery of our salvation through participation in the sacrificial and glorious resurrection of Christ is renewed and accomplished. The Mass renews that paschal sacrifice of Christ as the sacrifice offered by the Church.” 
i.e., they're not the same.

But I do not think it is so cut and dry and simple. The Catechism also says, “The Eucharist is the sum and summary of our faith.” (CCC 1327). But I would also say that one needs to think about the use of the word Eucharist, which can sometimes refer to the entire action of the Mass. It can also mean the substantial presence of Jesus Christ (who is in fact the content and object of the faith) in the Sacrament of the altar...The Mass is the mystical exposition of the entire faith. I would never say 'The Mass is not the faith', nor would I say 'The Mass is the faith.' Neither would acknowledge the necessary nuance.

Respondent 2:  I read the article and thought it was a mistake. I knew what you were trying to say, but you communicated your thoughts very poorly...Also, as a lay person, you have no idea what it is to offer the Mass. You may imagine it's just about words and rubrics, but it isn't. You have no idea how it effects the faith of the priest. Because you are not a priest, you can never know. Our connection with the Mass is profound and intimate. I could not function without the Tridentine Mass...Again, I actually know what you were trying to say. You were trying to say that the complete deposit of the faith is not contained in the Mass, but it doesn't therefore logically follow that priests should "stay put" if forced to say only the Ordinary Form of the Mass. Please don't take offense, and certainly don't take it personally. I'm simply trying to explain, in my personal opinion, where I believe you went wrong and why people (including myself) have had the reaction they have. [I had to redact some of this commentary because he went into a lot of other issues not related to the question, hence the ellipsis. This is his full commentary on the immediate question, however. -Boniface]

Respondent 3: Obviously [there is a distinction]. After all there are four parts of the Catechism and the Eucharist is one element of one part, although obviously the center of our reality. The Catechism of the Catholic Church which is the summary of the Faith and it has 4 parts of which the Eucharist is one element of one section of one part of the four parts and takes up 22 pages out of 904. (Not taking away, again, that the Eucharist is the Center of Our Reality). Of course one wants to tread lightly and phrase correctly so that there is no scandalous effect to the piety-faith of receivers. Not to mention Korea which was evangelized by laity way before any priest arrived and even after that received only baptism until the first priest arrived to give the fullness of the sacraments. Of course, the Eucharist is the ultimate goal (in our earthly dispensation as it is) of all the rest of the Faith. But, yes, your distinction is correct.

Respondent 4: In the strict sense, of course, the Mass and the faith are not identical things. The Mass is an integral part of the faith. And since a denial of any part of the faith is formally a denial of the faith as a whole, one could say that a denial of the Mass entails a denial of the faith. Again, since the Mass is the unbloody sacramental sacrifice of Calvary, one could say that the Mass is at the very heart of the faith. One could say that the Mass is the primary means by which the faith is learned, lived, and handed on from generation to generation. But one could not simply and literally say that the Mass is the faith, much less of course a particular rite of the Mass.

Respondent 5: You are not wrong when you say what you say, if you mean it in a certain sense. I understood what you meant, and found nothing objectionable about it; although, it would be good to follow up with a whole post on how the liturgy is, in a restricted sense, the Faith.

For brevity's sake, Mediator Dei lays down how the liturgy is a legitimate theological source, something which expounds the Faith, but does not necessarily define the Faith. The whole section is copied below, but the money quote is "In the sacred liturgy we profess the Catholic faith explicitly and openly, not only by the celebration of the mysteries, and by offering the holy sacrifice and administering the scaraments, but also by saying or singing the credo or Symbol of the faith... The entire liturgy, therefore, has the Catholic faith for its content, inasmuch as it bears public witness to the faith of the Church."

I think I see the liturgy in different terms than the way you express it, not as genus and species, but rather as a different expression of the same Deposit of Faith. The dogmas and doctrines express the Deposit didactically, but often this is a negative theology, stating what is not the Faith. The liturgy, however, expresses the Faith positively. Through the liturgy, we have physical, continuous contact with the Sacred Tradition. Thus, it is (or should be) the normative expression of the Tradition.

I think that the reason why your statement might be so objectionable is because for the non-student of theology (either formal or informal), the only real understanding of the Faith is that which they have through participating in the liturgies and pious devotions which they have been raised with. They have a connatural understanding of the Faith that is the fruit of a life lived in the heart of the Church, but couldn't tell you the first thing about notions or relations or persons or processions in the Trinity. But they will probably get to Heaven before me!

Respondent 6: The Mass is the mystical exposition of the entire contents of the Faith in ritual form. Therefore, one can say, ‘The Mass is everything!’ and be quite accurate. The Mass is NOT however THE faith. The Faith is typically understood to be the depositum (above). However, post consecration, the priest says, ‘Mysterium Fidei.’ The Sacrifice of the Mass represents the Mystery of the Faith. The Sacred Liturgy is meant to convey in rite what theological discourse conveys in writing. Both express the Faith in their own way.

Respondent 7: The Mass is obviously not the [whole] faith. It has very little, e.g., about the Blessed Virgin Mary and a number of other things that are part of the faith.

Respondent 8: Your position is correct, provided it is clear that the importance of the Mass is not minimized. With respect to particular locations, people can maintain and practice the faith (e.g. the Japanese Catholics for 300 years) without a priest, sacraments, or the Mass, and the faith continues. So clearly, the Faith is more than the Mass. Yet the Mass is so connected with the faith that if you excised the Mass, you excise the faith as well, for the Mass is at the same time the source and summit of the Christian life. Therefore, it appears to be a both/and.The Mass is a limited concept, embracing many of the truths of Faith and teaching them; the Faith is the broader concept of which the Mass is a part. You're suffering from Trad ignorance of higher theology. We are burdened with the fact that because Trads tend to understand their religion well, they think they understand theology, which is a science.

Respondent 9:  My two cents: On the one hand, there is a well-established tradition that links the Faith with our prayer or worship: lex credendi with lex orandi...I remember reading, somewhere in Geoffrey Hull's marvelous book, The Banished Heart: Origins of Heteropraxis in the Catholic Church (which I can't find right now), that liturgy was once referred to as "first theology."
On the other hand, even if liturgy is in many ways the font of much if not all of what we believe, it seems to me a matter of common sense that the Faith is something larger than liturgy. One could reasonably argue that doctrines like the Hypostatic Union of Christ's two natures are somehow implicit in the liturgy, but what about the immorality of contraception or masturbation, or the magisterial teaching on a "just wage"? I doubt that the Faith and the Mass can simply be equated, though I would agree that they are closely identified. My immediate response would be to agree with you that the Faith is larger than the Mass, though maybe in the way that an Oak is larger than the acorn from which it sprang.

These are the responses of the nine people I queried. Based on their answers, I feel somewhat vindicated in this question about the Faith being a broader or more encompassing category than the Mass. Some, like Respondent 1, agreed, but wanted to be very careful with the nuance. Others, like Respondent 2, reluctantly agreed with the narrow point in question but denied that anything else I asserted followed from it and thought the general line of argumentation was a mistake - which I accept (see retractions above). Most others said my assertion was more or less correct, but stressed that this should not be taken to imply a denigration of the importance of the Mass, with which I concur completely. So, all in all, though the particular angle each respondent took was different, I feel overall I am vindicated on this point.

That being said, because it caused such a backlash and confusion, it would probably be prudent to avoid phrases that lend themselves to oversimplification, like "The Mass is not the same thing as the Faith", as Respondent 1 suggested. I much prefer how Respondent 2 worded it, "The complete deposit of faith is not contained within the Mass." Although, as others pointed out (Respondent 5), the two are intimately connected and both the dogmas and the Mass express the faith but in different ways.

So, there you go. Very sorry for the dumb things I said. I will most likely delete those posts or at least heavily redact them. Thanks for correcting me and helping me get over a severe but momentary case of rectal-cranial inversion.