Wednesday, January 30, 2008

The worst Mass ever?

Today we have several candidates vying for the dubious title of being the worst Mass ever. Who will win? First, we have these photos from a Mass in France:










Then, there's this communion service led by clowns:

Then, perhaps not the worst Mass ever, but certainly still terrible, is Bishop Tod Brown of Orange County California denying Holy Communion to a woman just because she decided to reverence the Lord. It happens around 20 seconds into the scene, after which the Bishop grabs are by the arms and compels her to stand up.

Of this scene, the woman later said: "I was sitting on the side of the Church, 3rd row, where Bishop Tod Brown distributed the Holy Eucharist, (in the video, I am the woman with short brown hair and glasses, wearing a black sweater and long white skirt sitting on the opposite side (from the camera) of the aisle in the center of the church) and upon approaching the Bishop to receive, I genuflected, out of reverence for the Sacred Species and remained on one knee to receive the Blessed Sacrament. Bishop Brown refused to give me Holy Communion. Bishop Brown said, "You need to stand up."

I was in shock and didn't move or respond. He then reached out and took hold of my folded hands, attempting to physically pull me to a standing position, and said more sternly, "You need to stand."

I looked up and whispered, quietly and respectfully, "Please, bishop", and he then grabbed my arm, and pulled me, as though to physically pull me up to a standing position (although obscured, you can see where he bends down and extends his right arm to grab mine) as he stated more loudly, "Get up".Still on one knee, I then asked very quietly and with genuine ignorance, "Why?"As he stood up straight he responded, very loudly and sternly, "Because THAT'S the way we receive communion. Now, GET UP, you're causing a scene.'"

Here's another snippet from Bishop Tod Brown's Diocese of Orange County, including a homily given by a member of the teen band at a "Teen Mass."



Why a return to Tradition is sorely needed.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Rumblings from the Curia...


It appears that the vision of Benedict is seeping out into the Roman Curia at large, and we are finally starting to see some truly excellent statements come out of different congregations. Here are a few updates on things going on in the Curia, (from the website Chiesa, courtesy of blogger Maurus). All of these updates come from L'Osservatore Romano, which itself has undergone a radical change in the past three months since the appointment by Benedict of new director Giovannia Maria Vian. L'Osservatore Romano reports:

Cenacles of Eucharstic Adoration to be Established

On January 5th, Cardinal Cláudio Hummes, Prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy, announced that he had sent to bishops, pastors, religious superiors, and seminary rectors all over the world a letter to ask that in every diocese "cenacles" of perpetual Eucharistic adoration be established, with the aim of "sanctifying" priests through prayer. One aim of these cenacles that was mentioned specifically was atonement for sexual sins committed by members of the clergy. It is being reported that the letter is being accepted gladly in mnay dioceses throughout the world. I can't think of a better way to combat the damage done by the sexual problems in the Church than to turn to the Lord in Adoration. Way to go Cardinal Hummes.

Greater Caution and Accuracy in Causes for Saints

Cardinal José Saraiva Martins, Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints announced on January 9th that in February there will be a public presentation of the instruction Sanctorum Mater on the process for opening the causes for saints. The document – dated May 17, 2007, the Italian text of which was published in "Acta Apostolicae Sedis" issue no. 6, June 1, 2007, pp. 465-510 – translates into precise norms the guidelines that Benedict XVI gave to the congregation for the causes of saints in a message on April 27, 2006. The review will stress two points: caution and accuracy in looking into causes.

I am very happy about the following comment from the instruction, which says that "the seriousness of the investigations" into the alleged miracles "be safeguarded, [...] the procedures for the examination of which have, over the last twenty years, produced problematic elements." This certainly is true. Many have commented on the haphazard way in which miracles are attested in the post-Vatican II Church, as is the case going on right now regarding Mother Teresa's supposed miracle.

Greater guarantees have also been established concerning the "reputation of sanctity." It remains the case that, in order for the cause to proceed "there must emerge absolutely no element that goes against faith or good morals," so due emphasis must be given to "any findings that contradict the reputation of sanctity." This is excellent: the Church is going to adopt the traditional "devil's advocate" method of establishing sanctity by attempting to find fault with the persons presented for canonization. This ensures that whoever survives this process truly possesses sanctity.

Probably the best part (listen up, all you folks who are already praying to John Paul II) is that the instruction warns that just because an investigation into a cause is already under way does not mean that canonization is imminent, and it cautions that the Servant of God "not be the object of undue devotion." This seems to suggest a remedy to the trend of exaggerated numbers of canonizations during the John Paul II pontificate, and we should recall that one of the very first decisions of Joseph Ratzinger, following his election as pope, was that of reserving only the canonizations for himself and of delegating beatifications to others, generally in the country of origin of the new blessed.

Defense of Benedict's ad orientam Mass

On January 20th, L'Osservatore Romano issued a defense of Benedict's recent ad orientam Mass in the Sistine Chapel written by none other than Guido Marini. Marini made the following comments (my emphases):

"I believe that it is important first of all to consider the orientation that the liturgical celebration is always called upon to display: I refer to the centrality of the Lord, the Savior crucified and risen from the dead. This orientation must determine the interior disposition of the whole assembly, and in consequence, the exterior manner of celebrating as well. The placement of the cross on the altar, at the center of the assembly, has the capacity to communicate this fundamental aspect of liturgical theology. There can also be particular circumstances in which, because of the artistic conditions of the sacred place and its singular beauty and harmony, it would be preferable to celebrate at the ancient altar, which preserves the precise orientation of the liturgical celebration. This is exactly what happened in the Sistine Chapel. This practice is permitted by the liturgical norms, and is in harmony with the conciliar reform."

As to the problem of "turning his back on the people":

"In the circumstances in which the celebration takes place in this manner, this is not so much a question of turning one's back to the faithful, but rather of orienting oneself toward the Lord, together with the faithful. From this point of view, instead of being closed the door is opened for the faithful, to lead them to the Lord. In the Eucharistic liturgy, the participants do not look at one another; they look to the One who is our East, the Savior."

Marini noted that in the Pope's most recent general audience (January 23rd), he made the following comments:

"In the liturgy of the ancient Church, after the homily the bishop or presider of the celebration, the main celebrant, said: 'Conversi ad Dominum'. Then he himself and everyone else stood up and faced the East. Everyone wanted to look toward Christ."

Also reported was news from Angelo Amato, Secretary for the CDF, who gave some clarification on the coming reworking of the Good Friday prayers:

"The references to the condition of "darkness" and "blindness" of the Jewish people will disappear, while the prayer for their conversion will remain. Because in the liturgy we are always praying for conversion, of ourselves in the first place and then of all Christians and non-Christians."

Beyond all of this other good news, the coming of an explanatory letter defining how Summorum Pontificum is to be implemented was reaffirmed. It looks like there is reason for hope in 2008; let' s keep praying for Benedict XVI and for the continued return to Tradition!

Monday, January 28, 2008

Feast of St. Thomas Aquinas


Today is the Feast of St. Thomas Aquinas, the Doctor Angelicus. Everything good that can be said about this great saint has already been said by somebody somewhere, and so I will not make any commentary upon him here, for it would surely fall short of the veneration due to such an important figure in the history of our Church. All I would say is that we ought to use this day to reread the 1879 Encyclical Aeterni Patris of Leo XIII on the restoration of Christian philosophy, which Leo sees entirely in terms of study and application of the methodology and principles of Aquinas. Our Church would be much better off if we were to adhere to Scholastic precision in what we say and do rather than in the gray, misty lands of post-Vatican II ambiguity.

The following is one of my favorite quotes from G.K. Chesterton and comes not from his work on Aquinas, but from the introduction to his book Heretics, in which Chesterton talks about the tremendous disadvantage the modern world has put itself at by disregarding the patient pedagogical method of Scholasticism:

Suppose that a great commotion arises in the street about something, let us say a lamp-post, which many influential persons desire to pull down. A grey-clad monk, who is the spirit of the Middle Ages, is approached upon the matter, and begins to say, in the arid manner of the Schoolmen, "Let us first of all consider, my brethren, the value of Light. If Light be in itself good--" At this point he is somewhat excusably knocked down. All the people make a rush for the lamp-post, the lamp-post is down in ten minutes, and they go about congratulating each other on their unmediaeval practicality. But as things go on they do not work out so easily. Some people have pulled the lamp-post down because they wanted the electric light; some because they wanted old iron; some because they wanted darkness, because their deeds were evil. Some thought it not enough of a lamp-post, some too much; some acted because they wanted to smash municipal machinery; some because they wanted to smash something. And there is war in the night, no man knowing whom he strikes. So, gradually and inevitably, to-day, to-morrow, or the next day, there comes back the conviction that the monk was right after all, and that all depends on what is the philosophy of Light. Only what we might have discussed under the gas-lamp, we now must discuss in the dark.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Historicity of Daniel


One way progressive biblical scholars undermine the faith of the Church is by attacking the authenticity of the Sacred Scriptures themselves, and one of the most subtle but insidious ways of doing this is by questioning the historicity and authorship of certain books. For example, it is common in New Testament biblical scholarship to assert that the fourth Gospel was not written by John the beloved disciple around the year 90 AD, but was produced by a "Johannine community" (to use the phrase of biblical heresiarch and ex-priest John Dominic Crossan) influenced by the theology of John sometime around 150.

This type of insidious "scholarship" has several effects. First, by purporting to be true scholarship (while often being nothing other than prejudice), it instills in the faithful the idea that the opinions of contemporary "scholars" (and there is hardly a more ambiguous term than "scholar") are more trustworthy than the perennial teaching of the Church. Second, it attempts to devalue the divine origin of the books without openly denying their inspiration. It has been believed from time immemorial that the Apostles or the Prophets were inspired by God to write the words of the Sacred Scriptures. Being told later that it was not actually that prophet or apostle, but a "community" who was "inspired" by his theology or ideals, greatly dums down the sense of divine origin of the books. Though the Church has never held a verbatim dictation theory of inspiration (as the Muslims hold of the Koran, for example), the further away we get from a notion of dictation the less sacred the books become. Thus we end up having less faith in them without actually denying them.

A most pernicious manner of devaluing the sacred books is by attacking their historicity and placing their authorship much later in history than had previously been thought. Thus the Pentateuch is moved from 1200 BC to the post-exilic period, the Pslams were not written by David but by some Temple scribe of the Second Temple period, the Proverbs did not come from Solomon but from the Maccabean period, Matthew and John were composed in the 2nd century, etc. This has the two-fold effect of causing a loss of reverence for the Holy Scriptures, and more importantly, a disbelief in the teaching authority and traditions of the Church. Why? Because it comes down to us from Apostolic (and in the case of the Old Testament, pre-Christian) Tradition that certain books were written by certain people at certain times. For example, In Adv. Haer. 3.1.1, St. Irenaeus says: "Matthew also issued a written Gospel among the Hebrews in their own dialect while Peter and Paul were preaching at Rome and laying the foundations of the church." This would put the writing of Matthew around 65 AD. Remember, Irenaeus was only two generations removed from St. John. Long standing tradition affirmed Irenaeus' testimony that Matthew was indeed written by St Matthew the Apostle within a generation of Christ's Ascension.

But, arrogantly throwing out 2,000 years of Tradition and Apostolic Testimony, progressive biblical scholar Francis W. Beare says of Matthew, "[T]here are clear indications that it is a product of the second or third Christian generation. The traditional name of Matthew is retained in modern discussion only for convenience" (The Gospel according to Matthew, p. 7). What are the so-called "clear indications?" Nothing but uncertain presuppositions based on the controversial and shaky Protestant Two Source Hypothesis (formulated by the liberal German Protestant Holtzmann). So all of the sudden, Church Tradition is made to look questionable while Protestant liberal biblical scholarship is more trustworthy. The entire deposit of Tradition and Church authority is sacrificed to the most current scholarship. Nevermind that St. Irenaeus, who knew Polycarp who knew John, said otherwise: we now know better than the Church Fathers!

Fortunately, honest scholarship (the kind that takes testimony like that of St. Irenaeus at face value) has in recent years vindicated the traditional dating systems. Most commentaries today will even place John's Gospel around 95 AD and agree that it was written by John himself. But there is one book of the Scriptures that is continually plagued by liberal dating systems, even in otherwise conservative commentaries by companies like Ignatius Press. This is the Book of Daniel.


Traditional dating places Daniel around the Persian period, around 500 BC, i.e., within living memory of the historical Daniel. The problem is that Daniel makes several stunningly accurate prophecies about the fall of Babylon, Persia, the rise of Alexander the Great and, most amazingly, the exact time of the advent of the Messiah. The prophecies are all way too accurate for progressives to deal with, and so they push the authorship of Daniel forward to the 2nd century BC, in the Maccabean time, and an era when almost all the prophecy in the book had been fulfilled. In effect, they demonstrate an anti-supernatural bias. If there is accurate prophecy, it must have occured after the fact (implicitly denying that accurate prophecy can happen otherwise). For example, the Ignatius Study Bible (an otherwise excellent resource), says in the footnote to Daniel on page 736 of the Second Edition: "[T]he visions of the second part are predominantly concerned with the later Greek Empire and it is unlikely that they were composed before that time. Their literary form, too, corresponds to the apocalyptic style of lierature common in the second century B.C." It seems that "literary form" is always the best argument these people can come up with.

What is one to say about this? To refute this, we need look no further than trusty old Josephus. Remember, Josephus is trusted as a reliable historical account in all other matters, just as much as Tacitus. Knowing that, let's turn to his Antiquities of the Jews, Book 11, chap. 8, sec. 5, William Whiston translation (1981) regarding Alexander the Great's visit to Jerusalem in 332 B.C.:

And when the book of Daniel was shewed him, wherein Daniel declared that one of the Greeks should destroy the empire of the Persians, he [Alexander] supposed that himself was the person intended; and as he was then glad, he dismissed the multitude for the present . . .

Alexander was shown the Book of Daniel by the High Priest in the year 332, well before the events prophesied in the book had come to pass. Even more amazing, Alexander was inspired by these words and encouraged in his war against the Persians! Unfortunately, this passage of Josephus is sometimes dismissed as a fabrication. But we ought to ask, why? At what point to our absurd attempts to deny the historicity of certain books get us into more logical difficulties than the original position we were setting out to deny? So, let's say that the passage in Josephus is untrue. Then Josephus either lied, or somebody interpolated a later text. If Josephus lied, then why do we, and all historians, still accept everything else he said without question? If there was an interpolator, then who, and where, and why? We are embroiled in much bigger problems if we deny the legitimacy of this passage from Josephus.

This is an example of pure bias. When a record from antiquity comes up that contradicts some progressive position, it is simply written off as a fabrication. Here is a pretty good article on this same topic making the exact same point I have made (just to show you that I am not the only one who has wondered about this).

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Templar Knights Revived

Most Catholics are familiar with the glorious deeds of the Templar Knights of the Crusades, as well as their not so glorious demise at the hands of Philip the Fair of France in 1307. However, did you know that they have been reconstituted and are in existence today? I'm not talking about some weird Masonic group based on the Templar Knights, or the Templar Knights of the KKK of Rancho Cordova, California, but a bona fide Catholic restoration of the Templar Knights sanctioned by Rome.

The Templar Knights were restored to the Church in 1979 under the name Christi Pauperum Militum Ordo, also known more simply as the Ordo Militiae Templi. It was founded in Siena and blessed by the Archbishop of that city (the current Cardinal Protector of the Militia is Édouard Gagnon). It was founded by Count Marcello Alberto Cristofani della Magione, who is also the current Grand Master.

The new Templars are faithful to the perennial traditions of the Church, and their members make the following committments: recite the traditional Divine Office daily in Latin, to recite the (traditional) Rosary daily in Latin, to assist the traditional Mass as frequently as possible, to study assiduously and live out the spirituality and culture of Christian chivalry, and, in general to invest our energies in the restoration of Catholic tradition. It is open to lay persons as well as ordained and religious.

After a two year novitiate, those found worthy to join the order travel to Castello della Magione near Siena where they are formally enrolled as a Knight (or a Dame, if you are a female). The order follows a modern adaptation of the original Templar rule written for the order by St. Bernard of Clairvaux. They observe the three evangelical counsels, as well as a fourth vow to publicly defend the faith. Their current members include hundreds of Knights in Obedience (lay persons), about 30 Knights with Solemn Profession, 10 national preceptories, many local priorates and scout groups. The headquarters of the order is in the Tuscan village of Poggibonsi, in an 11th century compoud that used to belong to the original Templars. The Tridentine Mass is celebrated there daily.



The symbol of the Militiae Templi is a Red Octagonal Cross, symbol of the Eight Beatitudes of the Gospel, while the symbol is a white flag with Red Octagonal Cross. The cross is not to be confused with that of the medieval Knights Hospitaller, which is known as the Maltese Cross. The Grand Master has as its coat of arms just and symbol. The habit of the Professed Knights is white and consist of the tunic, the scapular with the octagonal red cross on the chest and a mantle with a cowl and the same cross on the left shoulder. The Knights in Obedience wear a mantle without cowl but with an octagonal cross on the left shoulder. The Ladies wear a white mantle and a white veil with the cross without the upper arm The Chaplains are dressed with a white Mozzetta with red edge, red buttons and an octagonal red cross on the left front part. The Oblati (Knights and Ladies of Devotion) have a gray mantle with the red octagonal cross on the left shoulder.

There are currently preceptories established in Italy, Australia, Austria, Canada, Germany, Switzerland, United Kingdom and Ireland, Poland, Romania, Hungary, Spain, United States of America, and Puerto Rico. The American contact for the order is Bro. Charles Adams, CPMO (he can be reached at this address: usa@ordo-militiae-templi.org. Fellow Traditionalist Francisco Romero Carrasquillo, from the excellent blog Ite ad Thomam, is a postulant in this order, and it is from him that I got much of this information. Please pray for him and his wife as they prepare to enter this more excellent Catholic order.

Check out the Templar's website here for more information.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Vatican II and Religious Liberty


I finished reading this morning The Second Vatican Council and Religious Liberty by Michael Davies (Neumann Press, 1992). The book takes a hard look at Vatican II's Declaration on Religious Liberty, promulgated 7 December 1965. This is a highly controverted document because it "appears" to contradict previous clear papal teaching. I say "appears", because the Declaration Dignitatis humanae is the teaching of the Ordinary Magisterium, and as such, even though not infallible [see below], requires that we give it every benefit of doubt. It must be remembered however that the various encyclicals of popes Gregory XVI, Pius IX, Leo XIII, St. Pius X, Pius XI, and Pius XII, which Dignitatis humanae seems to contradict, are also authoritative teachings of the Ordinary Magisterium to which we owe our loyal assent. This is a dilemma indeed.

Not having read much before on the subject of the proper relationship between Church and State, I found the author's résumé of papal teaching on the subject to be quite interesting, and especially instructive for an American. The wording is largely that of one Father Brian Harrison, but the author cites plenty of actual papal texts to support the veracity of this short summary.

1. The civitas [State] has a duty to honour God, and to recognize as uniquely true the religion entrusted by Christ to the Catholic Church. In a predominantly Catholic society this will be achieved by the union of Church and State in which false religions will not be granted the same rights as the true religion.

2. Civil authority, therefore, has the duty also to protect the true religion and the Catholic Church by restricting (to the extent that the common good requires) the free propagation of doctrinal error – both that which opposes reason or the natural law and that which opposes revealed truth. (It then pertains to ecclesiastical and civil law, mutable according to circumstances, to propose norms governing how much restriction the common good does in fact require in particular cases.)

3. In a well-constituted society, the common good will always require some degree of restriction over and above that which is necessary merely for the maintenance of public peace.

4. Civil authority can and should tolerate the diffusion of error to the extent that the common good requires, but may never give positive approval or authorization to that error, since nobody has an objective right to believe or propagate what is false, or to do what is wrong.

5. Nobody may ever be forced into embracing the Catholic faith, since the act of faith must be free.

The Authority of Vatican II

I mentioned above that the documents of Vatican II are not infallible. This was also an eye-opener for me, as I had never before encountered these words of Pope Paul VI himself spoken as a General Audience on 12 January 1966:

"In view of the pastoral nature of the Council, it avoided any extraordinary statements of dogma endowed with the note of infallibility, but it still provided its teaching with the authority of the Ordinary Magisterium which must be accepted with docility according to the mind of the Council concerning the nature and aims of each document."

It must be stressed, as Pope Paul does here, that non-infallible teaching of the Ordinary Magisterium cannot just be ignored – it is authoritative and normally commands our inward assent, but neither can the logical possibility of error be ruled out. Davies, careful as I want to be, never claims that there certainly is a contradiction, and thus a false teaching either in the previous papal teaching (which may well be infallible) or in Dignitatis humanae. He merely states that he cannot see how it is possible to reconcile them. Indeed, the propositions he finds at the core of the issue are in clear formal contradiction – they are logically impossible to reconcile.

The only way to avoid the conclusion that the teaching of the Ordinary Magisterium (exercised either by Vatican II or by many of the previous popes) on this point is false is to hold that one of the following propositions is not an accurate reflection of the respective Magisterium's teaching.

The "Apparent" Contradiction

A non-Catholic possesses a natural right not to be prevented from the public expression of error, limited only by the just requirements of public order (the teaching of Dignitatis humanae; see especially article 2).

A non-Catholic does not possess a natural right not to be prevented from the public expression of error, limited only by the just requirements of public order (the teaching of the pre-Vatican II popes; see especially Quanta cura and the Syllabus of Errors of Pope Pius IX, Immortale Dei and Libertas humana of Pope Leo XIII, Vehementer nos of Pope St. Pius X, Quas primas of Pope Pius XI, and Ci riesce of Pope Pius XIII).

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Sad but true


A priest was standing in the kitchen of his parish offices with another parishioner wondering what to do about a mouse problem. "What am I going to do?" the priest said. "We've tried mousetraps, we've tried poison and we've even tried getting a cat, and nothing seems to get rid of these mice!"

The other parishioner thought for a moment and said, "Father, I think I know a way you can definitely get rid of these mice for good."

"Well, tell me," said the priest.

"Just baptize and Confirm them all," said the parishioner, "and that will solve your mouse problem."

"Baptize and Confirm the mice?"

"Yep. Baptize and Confirm them all," said the parishioner.

The priest looked befuddled. "Baptize and Confirm mice? Why on earth would I do that? How could that possibly help?"

"Well," said the man, "after you baptize and Confirm them, you'll never see them again!"

Monday, January 21, 2008

Confirmation: Adults in the Church?

I recently attended a retreat with some kids preparing to receive the Sacrament of Confirmation, and I must say that overall it was a very positive experience. The kids were exposed to the Liturgy of the Hours (at least Morning and Evening Prayers), were all made to go to confession and all spent time before the Eucharist in prayer. Most of the talks were pertinent and uplifting, and all of the kids responded afterwards that they had experienced genuine spiritual growth and formation during the retreat.

If there was one defect in this retreat, it was that many of the talks on Confirmation seemed to refer to the sacrament primarily as a coming of age ritual in the Church, the Catholic equivalent of a bar mitzvah. At one point, I was given a small group and told to take them off and have a talk with them about the sacrament. I was given a lesson plan which said, "Make sure to stress 'Being an Adult in the Church.'" This view of Confirmation is found throughout the post-Conciliar Church, and millions of kids each year are being taught that Confirmation means becoming an adult in the Church. Is this in fact the case? First, let's look at what is being taught, and then look at what the Church herself teaches.

Kids are being taught that Confirmation is a coming of age sacrament in which they become adults in the Church. This 'adulthood' consists of two interconnected elements: one, a reaffirmation of baptismal vows, presented in the context of a voluntary validation of what was done at baptism. Second, an emphasis on practicing the Faith by one's own free choice now (as opposed to being compelled to by parents). Let's look at these two elements in depth.

The story is often presented this way: when you were young, you were baptized without your consent. Your parents did it for you. Now, by voluntarily receiving Confirmation, you are affirming and validating what your parents did in your name at Baptism. This is a very tricky position because of the subtleties involved, but there are two reasons why this is an incomplete view of the Sacrament.

First, it is true that Confirmation is a reaffirmation of Baptism, but it is much more than that: it is an unfolding and a flowering of baptismal grace. Since one is not fully incorporated into the Church until they receive Confirmation, you could call it the completion or fulfillment of Baptism, but it still has intrinsic value in itself apart from Baptism, though the two are interconnected. It is always associated with the giving of the Spirit and the day of Pentecost, when the Catholic is empowered with the Gifts of the Spirit to live the Christian life and win the battle against the world, the flesh and the devil. To say it is simply a reaffirmation or validation of Baptism is to cut it short. Simply reaffirming what was done when you were an infant is placing the focus on something that was done once before while neglecting what is occuring ex opere operato in the sacrament now.

Secondly, it is defective in what it insinuates. If Confirmation is a reaffirmation or validation of the promises of Baptism (as opposed to another, special grace on top of Baptism that helps unfold baptismal grace and live the Christian life), then what does it imply if one then chooses not to receive Confirmation? If reception of Confirmation is acceptance of Baptism, then this implies that one could theoretically reject or renounce their Baptism by not receiving Confirmation. In other words, the indelible nature of Baptism is subtley denied. What does it say about Baptism if another sacrament is needed years later to either affirm and validate or else deny and reject it? According to this view, Baptism is like a legal document that is not binding until it is "notarized" by Confirmation. I have never heard anybody espouse this view outright, but can you see how it could be implied? Confirmation is about the giving of grace, not about the reaffirmation of promises. That is a merely earth-bound view of the sacrament.

What about this idea of choosing to be an adult in the Church freely, as opposed to by parental constraint? First of all, most kids receive Confirmation around age 14. Would you trust a 14 year old to be an adult with any other serious matter? How about driving? Paying bills? Dating? Doing your tax returns? Of course not! It is common knowledge that 14 year olds are among the most irresponsible and immature of all age groups, because they are caught in the middle of childhood and adulthood and are in the midst of the most intense turmoil of the teen years. We don't trust them in a variety of secular matters, but with their eternal salvation, we are suddenly going to say that they are mature enough to become adults in the Church and choose the Faith out of their own free will? That is a recipe for spiritual suicide; no wonder Confirmation day is the end of the road for so many Catholics. What 14 year old is responsible enough to take such a responsibility upon himself? Why would we entrust a 14 year old with the procurement of their own eternal salvation when we don't entrust them with a driver's license?

Secondly, again, by saying that Confirmation means freely choosing to be a Catholic, then this implies that they could also freely choose not to be a Catholic. Again, the indelible nature of Baptism, which seals the baptized forever, is implicitly denied. You do not choose to be a Catholic at Confirmation. You can recommit your life to God, or decide to take the faith more seriously, but it is not about becoming a Catholic by choice. You became a Catholic by Baptism. Your only "choice" now is to be a good Catholic or a bad Catholic. By focusing on the reaffirmation of baptismal vows and the coming of age aspect of it, we are confusing the nature of both Baptism and Confirmation and giving the sacrament of Confirmation a merely worldly end: reaffirming some promises and becoming an adult, neither of which are supernatural in and of themselves.

What is the Church's teaching on Confirmation? The Catechism says: Confirmation perfects Baptismal grace; it is the sacrament which gives the Holy Spirit in order to root us more deeply in the divine filiation, incorporate us more firmly into Christ, strengthen our bond with the Church, associate us more closely with her mission, and help us bear witness to the Christian faith in words accompanied by deeds (1316). No mention of coming of age, but a lot about the perfection (not reaffirmation or validation) of baptism and the giving of grace.

The canons of Trent (session 7, can. 1) anathematizes the notion that Confirmation is just a simple ceremony that does not in and of itself confer grace.

The Catechism of St. Pius X says Confirmation is a sacrament which gives us the Holy Ghost, imprints on our souls the mark of a soldier of Jesus Christ, and makes us perfect Christians. The sacrament of Confirmation makes us perfect Christians by confirming us in the faith and perfecting the other virtues and gifts received in Baptism; hence it is called Confirmation. As to who can receive it, it says, To receive worthily the sacrament of Confirmation it is necessary to be in the grace of God; know the principal mysteries of our holy faith; and approach it with reverence and devotion. It says nothing about age here, by St. Pius X recommends around age 7, based purely on spiritual principles: The age at which it is advisable to receive the sacrament of Confirmation is about the seventh year, because it is then that temptations usually begin, and the grace of the sacrament can be sufficiently discerned and a recollection be had of having received it. Note that there is no comparison or reference to physical coming of age, and that the time frame Pius gives is based on spiritual reasons (that temptations begin around age 7).


St. Thomas Aquinas says that Confirmation is the maturing and coming of age of the spiritual life, but specifically points out that this is not the equivalent physical coming of age. He also points out that the graces of Confirmation are different than those of Baptism and thus the sacrament is not simply a renewal of baptismal promises: Just as Baptism is a spiritual regeneration unto Christian life, so also is Confirmation a certain spiritual growth bringing man to perfect spiritual age. But it is evident, from a comparison with the life of the body, that the action which is proper to man immediately after birth, is different from the action which is proper to him when he has come to perfect age. And therefore by the sacrament of Confirmation man is given a spiritual power in respect of sacred actions other than those in respect of which he receives power in Baptism. For in Baptism he receives power to do those things which pertain to his own salvation, forasmuch as he lives to himself: whereas in Confirmation he receives power to do those things which pertain to the spiritual combat with the enemies of the Faith (STh, III, Q. 72, a 5). Confirmation can be likened to physical coming of age as an analogy, but they are not the same thing.

Can we draw valid comparisons by way of analogy between Confirmation and physical maturity? Certainly. We do the same thing with Baptism by likening it to physical birth, because the spiritual effects of Baptism are similar to the physical effects of natural birth. But they are not the same thing. Neither is Confirmation simply the celebration of coming of age in the Church, although we can draw certain similarities between the two events, as Aquinas does. But let's get back to focusing on the giving of the Spirit and the unfolding of baptismal grace and get away from this Catholic bar mitzvah idea. It is simply a recipe to turn Confirmation into a Catholic "graduation from religious education" ceremony after which the kids feel free to leave the Church. After all, they've been taught that they are adults in the Church and are free to make that choice if they want.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Revision of the Good Friday Prayers

Ever since Il Giornale released the rumor that Pope Benedict will be altering the prayer for the conversion of the Jews in the traditional Good Friday liturgy, a wave of speculation and discontent has swept across the traditionalist blogosphere, and I'd like to put my two cents in on the issue. But before I discuss it, let's keep something in mind: this is merely a rumor at this time, and it is entirely possible that it may be on the same level with those who say that one day the Church will allow contraception, ordain women, approve Medjugorje. These are all things that will never happen, but many talk as if they are right around the corner. It is certainly possible that this could be the case.

Then again, this may in fact be true. Many of us recall in June that the date of the motu proprio's release, the first words of it as well as parts of the explanatory letter were all leaked beforehand, and all this turned out to be accurate information. This rumor about the Good Friday prayers being changed may in fact be true.

Three thoughts on the issue: first, the Good Friday prayers are taken directly from the writings of St. Paul (2 Cor. 3:13-16). When people accuse the texts and prayers of the Church are being anti-Semitic, often times they are veiled attacks against the authority and authenticity of the Scriptures themselves. In 2 Corinthians 3, St. Paul says:

We are not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face to keep the Israelites from gazing at it while the radiance was fading away. But their minds were made dull, for to this day the same veil remains when the old covenant is read. It has not been removed, because only in Christ is it taken away. Even to this day when Moses is read, a veil covers their hearts. 1But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away.

The Good Friday prayer (post-1960) reads:

Let us pray also for the Jews: that almighty God may remove the veil from their hearts; so that they too may acknowledge Jesus Christ our Lord. Let us pray. Let us kneel. Arise. Almighty and eternal God, who dost not exclude from thy mercy the Jews also: hear our prayers, which we offer for the blindness of that people; that acknowledging the light of thy Truth, which is Christ, they may be delivered from their darkness. Through the same Lord Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with thee in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God, for ever and ever. Amen.

All of these things, the blinding and veiling of the Jews as well as the prayer for their conversion, come straight from Scripture. As we have seen above, the section of the veiling of the Jewish mind comes from 2 Corinthians 3:13-16, and the prayer for their conversion is found throughout the New Testament, but is explicitly laid down in Romans 10:1: "Brothers, my heart's desire and prayer to God on their behalf is for salvation." So, if somebody says the Good Friday prayer is anti-Semitic, it is St. Paul whom they are accusing of anti-semitism, and the argument shifts to another plane.

Second, I'm sorry that the Jews are offended that we pray for their conversion, but it is in fact a charitable and righteous thing to do. Do we want all people to be saved or don't we? Do we still believe that, as Acts 4:12 says of Christ, There is no salvation through anyone else, nor is there any other name under heaven given to the human race by which we are to be saved? Do we still take Christ's commandment seriously to preach the Gospel to all men? Of course people are going to be offended when we preach the truth to them! Christ promised as much to His very first disciples. But that is the very nature of the Gospel, to be a "stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence, even to them which stumble at the word" (1 Pet. 2:8). Of course a Jew or pagan or Muslim is going to be upset when you let them know that their religion does not show them the true way to the Father. The Jews were scandalized when Christ told this to them 2,000 years ago. Nobody likes to be told that they are wrong (and of course, there is more to evangelization than just telling people they are wrong), but sometimes it must be done. The Scripture says in proverbs 13:24 that He who spares his rod hates his son, and the same is true of evangelization: if we spare them the Word of Truth, then all our talk about love is an empty sham. If we don't tell them the Gospel, then we gate them, for the Gospel brings us to the One Who is Life. This scandalized the Jews of Jesus' day, and it makes sense that it would today.

Third, if in fact the Pope does alter this prayer, I think it is very hypocritical. Nevermind that the prayer has already been altered several times since 1955, but even so, consider this: does it make sense to give us back the Traditional Latin Mass because you deplore a lack of continuity with Tradition and call the Novus Ordo is a "banal, on the spot production," and then go ahead and arbitrarily alter the prayers of the old Mass, giving us an "on the spot" Good Friday prayer? I thought the whole point of adhering to Tradition was the emphasis that the Church does not change with the spirit of the times? What could be more in keeping with the spirit of the times than altering the traditional Good Friday prayer to appease the worshippers at the altar of political correctness?

Newsflash: We want the Jews to convert. We want Muslims to convert. We want Hindus to convert. Did we forget our mandate? It is this: that every single human creature on this planet becomes a Catholic. After all, they all are in heaven. Let's stop apologizing. Are we trying to win souls or make friends? Our "friends" won't think very highly of us when they are in hell because we didn't tell them the truth.

So, to sum up my three thoughts here (1) Attacking the Good Friday prayers is actually attacking the Scriptures themselves and accusing them of being anti-Semitic, because the prayers come from the Scriptures (2) It is a charitable thing to want the Jews to convert, and (3) it is hypocritical to support Tradition and continuity only when it doesn't offend against the spirit of the times.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Saints are mentally ill, according to "The View"


Joy Behar (above) from the decadent ABC show "The View" (which a FOX article properly refers to as a "daily chafest") came under scrutiny recently for her remarks that Catholic saints of the past were mentally ill. Here are the offending comments:

"I have a theory that you can’t find any saints anymore because of psychotropic medication. I think that [in] the old days, the saints were hearing voices and they didn’t have any Thorazine to calm them down," Behar said on ABC's daily chatfest. "Now that we have all of this medication available to us, you can’t find a saint anymore."

"That’s why Mother Teresa had issues. Let’s not forget, she didn’t really believe 100 percent like those saints who were hearing voices. She didn’t hear voices. So the church said ‘OK, she does good deeds. Let’s make her a saint.’ In the old days it used to be you heard voices. You can’t do that anymore."

Behar immediately came under scrutiny for the comments, which were deemed insensitive to Catholics and stupid from a historical standpoint. Fr. Jonathon Morris, contacted to comment on the remarks, said, "Clearly she is no church historian. Saying 'she didn't believe 100 percent' is a simplistic and superficial reading of the news," said Morris. "Why would you spend 60 years in a slum in the name of Jesus out of love for God if you don’t believe in Jesus or God 100 percent?"

Behar's spokespeople defended her, saying it was only a joke and protesting that Behar was a Catholic: "She said very clearly it was just a theory — she has lots of really funny theories that she kind of gives on a daily basis. She’s a Catholic, and she loves to talk about the Catholic Church. It’s one of her favorite subjects." This is the kind of stuff she says about "one of her favorite subjects?" I wonder what kind of drivel she says about something that is not one of her favorite subjects!

Apparently we ought to just forget about the whole thing because Behar said it was "only a joke." Oh, so if we are joking then it is okay? Let me ask you a question: did the media forgive Michael Richards when he insulted African Americans in his famous 2007 nightclub tirade? Was Mel Gibson simply forgiven by the establishment when he made some drunken anti-semitic remarks? No. In both cases, the offending persons were ostracized and their careers called into jeaopardy. Now, at least Gibson and Richards made their comments in a semi-private settings (to a police man, and in a small night club). Neither Richards nor Gibson knew that the population at large would find out about their comments. But Behar makes these comments on national television, knowing she is being heard by millions of viewers! And she just wants to say, "I was only joking!" Did that cut it with Don Imus? He actually lost his job over his slip of the tongue. Protesting that it was meant in good humour did not help him.

The sad thing is, people will simply forget about this. Anti-Catholicism is the only socially acceptable form of discrimination left in America, and this is another example of it.

Please take our survey above regarding what should become of Joy Behar.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Rethinking Communion in the Hand

I just came across an excellent article by Jude Huntz in an old issue of Homiletic and Pastoral Review (March, 1997) on the issue of receiving Communion in the hand. You can read the entire article here, and I have it linked on the sidebar under Excellent Catholic Articles, but below is a synopsis of what Jude Huntz listed as the 15 reasons why Communion in the hand out to be abolished, as Huntz says, to "contribute to the day when it will only be a reference in the history books." Here is an overview of the 15 reasons.

1. The Legal Status of the Two Methods

We must remember that though Communion in the hand is the norm in the United States, this is only by way of indult, which Huntz reminds us is a grudging admission. Like many other concessions granted since Vatican II, Huntz also points out the Communion in the hand has been extended beyond the original intention envisioned by the indult. "The permission for Communion in the hand was hedged around with so many precautions, that some have concluded that even in countries where it would seem to be legal, actually, in the larger number of cases, it is still not allowed."

2. The Fragments

It is Catholic doctrine that the true and entire Presence of Christ is present in either species, but also in each particle of the species. "Very great reverence, respect and care is to be taken of these fragments. Since this is the case, why would we multiply immensely the number of persons who are handling the Sacred Host, some of whom are clumsy, or cannot see well, or don't care, or don't know, etc."

3. Clericalism?

Communion in the tongue is not a form of clericalism; Huntz reminds us that even priests are not allowed to self-communicate, except as part of the consecration. "When Pope St. Pius X, for example, was on his death bed in August of 1914, and Holy Communion was brought to him as Viaticum, he did not and was not allowed to receive in the hand: he received on the tongue according to the law and practice of the Catholic Church." We simply ought not to handle the Sacred Host unless we absolutley have to.

4. "Communion in the hand" is a misnomer

The sacrament of Holy Communion consists of eating the Bread of Life. Those who receive it in the hand do not "take Communion in the hand." Each person self-communicates, effectively becoming their own extraordinary-minister.

5. Scriptural considerations

"[I]t is certainly eminently scriptural to refrain from touching something as a sign of reverence (and not only scriptural, but even universally human). In the case of the Ark of the Covenant, it was absolutely forbidden to touch it, under pain of death. Even when it was "necessary" to do so, as it seemed to one unfortunate ark-bearer, it was still forbidden" (2 Sam. 6:6-7).

6. The Last Supper

The fact that the Apostles at the Last Supper (may have) self-communicated is no argument in favor of general self-communication because, "even if it were, though, we would point out that the apostles were themselves priests, or even, bishops." Every priest self-communicates at the Sacrifice of the Mass, the form of which was layed out by Christ at the Last Supper. Thus, the fact that the Apostles may have self-communicated is no more argument thna the fact that the priest self-communicates.

7. "Take and eat"

Did not our Lord say of Holy Communion, "Take and eat"? Yes, but these words were addressed to the apostles and not to all Christians indiscriminately. Further, even if these words had been addressed to all the faithful, they are not verified in our standardized way of receiving Holy Communion. Literalism here would require that the priest or other minister merely hold the ciborium while the faithful "took" and ate. But this practice is forbidden. (It has been practiced here and there in violation of liturgical law.)

8. The provenance of Communion in the hand

Communion in the hand came out of two sources: (1) The Protestant Reformation, and there with an intentional aim of debying the Real Presence of Christ and treating the Host as ordinary bread, and (2) In modern times, "It is well known that Communion in the hand began spreading during the early nineteen-sixties, in Catholic circles in Holland. It began, then, as an aping of the Protestant practice, or at the very least as a "false archaeologism"...We can summarize that the practice of Communion in the hand came in modern times from heresy and disobedience. Is that what the Holy Spirit would inspire to bring about some desired liturgical change? One is permitted to think that perhaps a different spirit was at work."

9. Not universally practiced in the early Church

Though many quote a passage from St. Cyril of Jerusalem regarding making a "throne" in the hand to receive the sacrament, Huntz gives us several other quotes from the Fathers to demonstrate that Communion on the tongue was the norm at least as far back as Constantine and that Communion in the hand was only practiced during periods of intense persecution. One good quote is from St. Basil: "It is not necessary to show that it does not constitute a grave fault for a person to communicate with his own hand in a time of persecution when there is no priest or deacon" (Letter 93). The text implies that to receive in the hand under other circumstances, outside of persecution, would be a grave fault.

10. Who promotes Communion in the hand?

Those who promote Communion in the hand are often the same who attack the Real Presence of Christ in the Sacrament and promote horizontalism. "Those in the mainstream liturgical establishment (and their followers) who promote Communion in the hand are the same persons who, for the most part, have a distaste in general for worship of the Lord in the Holy Eucharist, and perpetual adoration in particular."

11. Communion in the hand is too casual

Eating with our hands is something so casual that it is difficult to translate this gesture into something sacred and profound. What do we eat with our hands? Finger foods, popcorn, chips, etc. In the natural order, we at least use silverware with more refined food (hence the golden or silver spoon of the Orthodox). But with the hand? That is how we eat popcorn. How can we take a gesture that is so trivial 98% of the time and make it reverent the other 2%?

12. To possess and control God?

Holding something in our hand is a sign of possessing it, as when we buy a new car, we own it when we are handed the keys. It is therefore improper to hold God in the palm of our hand, for it implies that we "own" Him, and Scripture tells us quite the opposite: "I have carved you in the palm of My hand."

13. Ecumenical considerations

How does Communion in the hand further ecumenism when of the twenty-one rites of the Church, we are the only ones who practice Communion in the hand as the norm? Most of the other rites are horrified by such a practice. Communion in the hand does more to harm ecumenism than to help it. "Is true Christian unity promoted by the present decadent state of our Eucharistic practice, of which a significant part is Communion in the hand?"

14. Its fruits

"We must be rigorously honest with ourselves. Has this practice really strengthened and clarified our faith in the Real Presence? Has it resulted in greater prayerfulness, greater love, and a more abundant fraternal charity? Are we as a people more and more awe-struck at taking the Lord's Body into our hands? At least one fruit has manifestly not come from the introduction of this practice. And this is a feature also of the larger liturgical reform in general: unity has been injured. It seems to this writer, at least, that Communion in the hand must share part of the blame for the decline among Catholics in belief in the Real Presence."

15. The example of Pope John Paul II and Mother Teresa

Even though JP II allowed Communion in the hand, he was no fan of it. Huntz recalls this anecdote: "The most remarkable example of this last is the time when the wife of the President of France, Madame Giscard d'Estaing approached the Pope for Holy Communion with hands outstretched. He ignored those hands and placed the Sacred Host into her (astonished) mouth." Then there is this wonderful story from the life of Mother Teresa: "Wherever I go in the whole world, the thing that makes me the saddest is watching people receive Communion in the hand" (Fr. George William Rutler, Good Friday, 1989, sermon at St. Agnes Church, New York City).

In the end, the article maintains that "But this practice has been the occasion of great harm to the Church and to souls. It has expedited "indifference, outrages and sacrileges" towards Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament. It is implicated in the manifest lessening of faith in the Real Presence which we see in our times." I encourage you to check out the entire article here, and I will have it linked permanently on the sidebar.

Thanks to blogger Mr. S for digging up this article for me.

Editorial on Kneeling

Here is a great editorial piece from LifeSite by John Henry Westen on the kneeling posture for reception of Holy Communion. The article has to do with the statement of Auxiliary Bishop Athanasius Schneider of Karaganda, Kazakhstan (reported in L'Osservatore Romano) that reception of holy communion kneeling and on the tongue would be a greater aid to converting the non-believer than reception standing in the hand. The Bishop said, "If some nonbeliever arrived and observed such an act of adoration perhaps he, too, would 'fall down and worship God, declaring, God is really in your midst.'"

Beyond the commentary reported by Bishop Schneider, this article is excellent because it points out that the liturgical rift within the Catholic Church is connected to the larger culture war being waged around the globe between modernists and traditionalists in the moral sphere. Westen writes:

Although in all likelihood most Catholics are oblivious to it, the decision to receive communion on the tongue, versus in the hand and the decision to receive communion standing rather than kneeling is a significant fault line in the culture war. Modernizers who relentlessly work to have the Catholic Church move away from so-called 'archaic' positions on sexuality, (forbidding contraception, pre-marital sexual activity, homosexuality etc.) also rail against 'archaic' piety in worship.

The same people who are against liturgical excellence are against moral virtue. Westen goes on to connect the Reform of the Reform with the Pro-Life and pro-morality movements in general. What does it imply to connect the liturgical reforms coming to fruition under Benedict XVI with the Pro-Life movement and the Culture of Life? Think about it in the negative: if traditional liturgical form is connected with traditional morality and the Culture of Life, then what does that say about horizontalist, innovative, modernist liturgies? Wouldn't stand to reason that they are a manifestation of the Culture of Death? Whether or not the two are directly related, Westen is right in pointing out a connection: those parishes who insist on the most modernist liturgical innovations are the ones who stray the farthest from Catholic morality, supporting things like abortion, euthanasia and homosexuality.

Remember, this is not just about the liturgy. It goes far beyond that.

Save the Liturgy! Save the World!

The semantics of reform

It is interesting how the same word can mean two different things to different people. In linguistics this is called semantics, which means the relation between the word itself and the thing or idea that the word refers to. All words are symbols which refer to other realities. It is by a common understanding of what these symbols refer to that we can have meaningful communication. If we are using the same semantics, I can say "tree" and we both will have the same idea in our heads. But if we are operating on different semantic principles, communication becomes muddled and can even be cut off completely. For example, if I say "tree" and I think of a tree but you think of a bicycle, we are going to have a harder time communicating. Different semantics is why we cannot understand an unlearned foreign language. When somebody from Germany comes up to me and says Bleistift, I have no corresponding idea to associate with the word-symbol, and thus the word has no meaning for me (by the way, click here to see a picture of a Bleistift).

You can see how semantics are tremendously important. The Scholastics understood how important semantics were, and thus always began any discussion by defining the terms that were to be used, so that both parties were on common ground in the disputation. It was simply taken for granted that unless both parties meant the same thing by the words they were using, all fruitful discussion became not only pointless but impossible. Semantics are tremendously important.

But look at how the concept of a clearly defined semantics has been downplayed in modern culture. What do people say when you start debating over them with the meaning of the words they are using? "That's just a semantics!" they reply scornfully, as if to say that semantics were a non-essential element to conversation. For example, a Protestant might accuse Catholics of the "unbiblical" belief of Mary ascending into heaven. At this point, you stop the conversation to point out that Mary did not ascend into heaven but was assumed, two entirely different concepts. The Protestant interrupts and says, "Don't get bogged down in semantics! You know what I mean!" That's precisely the problem: unless we get bogged down in semantics, we have no way of knowing what anybody means. Ascension and Assumption are two different ideas, and the terms need to be defined and agreed upon before there can be any dialogue. Otherwise, it is just chasing shadows. Modern man downplays the importance of semantics, because it allows him and his ideas to thrive in the ambiguous land of the grayscale, of uncertainty and fluidity of meaning, the place where lies and deceit can most easily take hold because they are so easily mistaken for truth in the logical fog that is created.

Semantics is a big problem when talking about the reform of the Church. It is an axiom of Church discipline that the Church is always in need of reform, as it says in Lumen Gentium 8. But the ideas of what "reform" means to different people are so widely varied that at this point it is almost useless to speak of reform unless you are speaking with somebody who already agrees with you. There is a big difference between the reform imagined by Luther and Melancthon and the reform envisioned by St. Teresa of Avila and St. John of the Cross. This ought to lead us to ask ourselves: what does it really mean to reform the Catholic religion?

Authentic Catholic reform is always viewed in terms of a going back to our roots. Not in the false and superficial way proposed by the heresy of archaeologism, wherein we simply shed whatever legitimate and organic developments came after the patristic period, but the kind of going back to our roots where we are consistently measuring our lives and spirituality against the level set by Christ and seeing if it measures up. We look to Christ's message, and also to how it was lived out by the great saints who came before us. This is why these people are saints: by their lives and holiness they witness to the truth and power of Christ's message and serve as worthy examples for all of us to emulate. True Catholic reform means we reevaluate our modern course of action in light of the heroes of ages past and bring ourselves back to that perennial standard, just as Teresa of Avila wanted to emulate the early hermits and St. Francis wanted to live in poverty as the Apostles. True Catholic reform takes the fullness of all that was good about the past and reconstitutes it in the present for the glory of God and the life of the Church. This was the mentality of the Counter-Reformation and the work of St. Ignatius Loyola.

But what about the other definition of reform, the one used by progressive Catholics? To them, reform usually means a break from the past. This "reform" often is a code-word for a radical break with what came before, which is viewed as time-bound, too ritualistic and superstitious for modern man. This view of reform means that we reevaluate the past in light of the present, and we jettison from our Tradition whatever does not meet the perceived tastes and needs of modern man. For example, take this blog Progressive Catholic Reflections, which calls for "Twenty Church Reforms." Now, I am all for reform, but what reform does he have in mind? Well, listed among his twenty reforms are the ordination of women priests, the imposition of democratic elections of bishops, and the giving of more authority to local episcopal conferneces and synods (God forbid!). So, these ideas of reform are clearly not the same thing as the ideal of reform posed by the great saints and doctors of our glorious history. For some, reform means throwing out things, deciding what to pitch and what to keep, as if we were cleaning out an old garage full of junk. What a tragic ecclesiological view that sees God's Church not as a temple filled with treasures but as a garage in need of spring cleaning!

I do not believe I am saying anything new hear, but merely explicating what we have all noticed and been irritated with for years. All of the atrocities carried out in the name of reform, all of the altars removed, the tables set up, the heresy preached, the discipline relaxed, all in the name of a false and vain reform! Let's return to a true Catholic vision of reform, one in which we do not seek to throw away the past because it does not conform to our depraved and deviant generation, but one which weeps over the sins of our generation and humbly begs God for the grace to live up to the stature and example set by the heroes of old.

Our reform is more of a renovation, or a restoration, like a man who buys an old Victorian house and restores all of the original woodwork and trim and paints it anew so that all can enjoy the beauty that it had when it was young. On the other hand, the progressive "reform" is like a man who buys an old Victorian house, demolishes it, and builds a crappy little Pulte house in place of it that looks like every other house in the world, all the while insisting that it is "basically the same house." Our reform of the Church is nothing other than the restoration of her great heritage.

St. Teresa de Avila, ora pro nobis!

Lex Orandi Lex Credendi (part 2)

In part 1, we were looking at various examples of differences between the Traditional Latin Mass and Pope Paul VI's Novus Ordo Missae, noting especially the disconcerting similarities between the changes made by the Protestant Reformer Thomas Cranmer in England and those made by the post-Vatican II Consilium charged with implementing Sacrosanctum concilium (Decree on the Sacred Liturgy).


TLM: Roman Canon.
NOM: Abolished by Cranmer. Retained as an option in the Novus Ordo Missae, which also contains a Canon (Eucharistic Prayer II) which some Protestants consider acceptable. It makes no distinction between priest and people and does not include the word "Hostia" (victim).

TLM: The Consecration formula.
NOM: This was considerably modified by Cranmer, if indeed there was a consecration, and the Novus Ordo Missae has incorporated his most important modifications.

TLM: The prayer Libera nos after the Pater noster.
NOM: Luther and Cranmer abolished this prayer, owing to the invocation of saints at its conclusion. A modified version has been retained in the Novus Ordo Missae with no invocation of saints.

TLM: Haec commixtio.
NOM: A version of this prayer in the Sarum Missal was abolished by Cranmer. A modified version of the prayer has been retained in the Novus Ordo Missae but with the significant omission of the word "consecratio."

TLM: Domine Jesu Christe, qui dixisti.
NOM: This prayer did not occur in the Sarum rite but contains nothing to which a Protestant could object beyond the words "ne respicias peccata mea" in which the priest asks forgiveness for his personal sins. This is another prayer distinguishing between the priest and layman, and in the Novus Ordo Missae "peccata mea" has been changed to "peccata nostra" - "our sins."

TLM: Domine Jesu Christi, Fili Dei and Perceptio Corporis tui.
NOM: Modified versions of these prayers are included in the Novus Ordo Missae, one of which the priest says in his personal capacity before Communion. It is a matter for some satisfaction that such a prayer is included. Too much significance should not be attached to the use of realistic language regarding the Real Presence in these prayers. It was primarily sacrificial language which the Reformers wished to eliminate. They were able to reconcile the use of language apparently expressing belief in the Real Presence with the own theories.

TLM: The Communion Rite (a) Communion given to the laity under one kind.
NOM: (a) Communion given under both kinds in Cranmer's service. The occasions when this is done in the Novus Ordo Missae are multiplying. It is permitted at all Sunday Masses.

TLM: (b) Traditional style altar breads.
NOM: (b) the relevant rubric in Cranmer's 1549 rite states that altar breads should be: "unleavened, and round, as it was before, but without all manner of print, and something more larger and thicker than it was, so that it may be aptly divided in two pieces, at the least, or more by the discretion of the minister". Article 283 of the General Instruction reads: "Bread used for the Eucharist, even though unleavened and of the traditional shape, ought to be made in such a way that the priest, when celebrating with a congregation, can break it into pieces and distribute these to at least some of the faithful".

TLM: (c) The Host is placed on the tongue of the kneeling communicant by a priest.
NOM: (c) Cranmer retained all three traditional practices in his 1549 rite, but in the 1552 rite Communion was given in the hand to signify that the bread was ordinary bread and the priest did not differ in essence from a layman. Communion is now given in the hand in almost every Western country but the Novus Ordo Missae has out-Cranmered Cranmer [!] by allowing communicants to stand and receive from a lay minister.

TLM: Quod ore sumpsimus and Corpus tuum.
NOM: These prayers so not refer to sacrifice, but their explicit references to the Real Presence would not commend them to Protestants although Luther felt able to retain them owing to his theory of consubstantiation. The first was not in the Sarum rite, the second was, and Cranmer suppressed it. Both have been suppressed in the Novus Ordo Missae.

TLM: Placeat tibi.
NOM: The Placeat tibi was a bête noire for Protestants. This prayer alone would have rendered the Novus Ordo Missae unacceptable to them had it been retained. Following the example of Luther, Cranmer, and other Reformers, the Consilium suppressed this prayer.

TLM: Last Gospel.
NOM: There is nothing in the Last Gospel incompatible with Protestantism but its retention in the Novus Ordo Missae would have clashed with the pattern of Protestant Communion services which conclude with a blessing. The Consilium suppressed it.

All due credit for the above goes, as I mentioned, to John Wetherell and is taken from his book Lex Orandi Lex Credendi. It is a useful exercise to go back through this lengthy (but far from complete!) list of changes made to the Mass and ask oneself: Did the good of the Church genuinely [!] and certainly [!] require [!] this innovation? Vatican II stipulated after all that "there must be no innovations unless the good of the Church genuinely and certainly requires them" (Sacrosanctum concilium, 23).

Monday, January 14, 2008

Lex Orandi Lex Credendi (part 1)

I finished reading yesterday a Christmas present from my father-in-law entitled Lex Orandi Lex Credendi: An Examination of the Ethos of the Tridentine Mass and that of the Novus Ordo of Pope Paul VI by John Wetherell. The book, as you can see, is physically beautiful; it is published by the newly established Saint Joan Press, which describes itself as "a traditional Catholic publishing house producing high quality hardback books at affordable prices." If this book is any indications, there are good things to come. I found particularly interesting the third appendix, which catalogues some of the major differences between the Traditional Latin Mass [TLM] and Novus Ordo Missae [NOM] while showing at the same time the disconcerting similarities between the latter and Thomas Cranmer's 1549 communion service. Below are abour half of the comparisons made by the author.

TLM: Entitled "The Mass".
NOM: Cranmer entitled his 1549 service: "The Supper of the Lord and the Holy Communion commonly called the Mass". The Novus Ordo Missae was entitled "The Lord's Supper or Mass" in the original Article 7. The term "Lord's Supper" is still included in the revised Article 7.

TLM: Celebrated in Latin.
NOM: Cranmer's Lord's Supper celebrated in the vernacular. The Novus Ordo Missae celebrated in the vernacular.

TLM: Much of the Mass said inaudibly.
NOM: Cranmer's service one of public praise and thanksgiving and therefore said audibly, with the possible exception of the Offertory Prayers in a sung service. Novus Ordo Missae said audibly throughout.

TLM: Celebrated on an eastward-facing altar.
NOM: Cranmer's service celebrated on a table facing the people. Novus Ordo Missae celebrated on what is clearly intended to be a table facing the people.

TLM: The Psalm Judica me, unacceptable to Protestants in virtue of its reference to the "altar of God".
NOM: Suppressed by Cranmer. Suppressed in the Novus Ordo Missae.

TLM: Double Confiteor distinguishes between priest and people, which is unacceptable to Protestants, as is the invocation of the saints.
NOM: Cranmer changed and moved the position of the Confiteor. The double Confiteor has been suppressed in the Novus Ordo Missae, thus blurring the distinction between priest and people. A truncated Confiteor invoking the angels and saints is included as an option but other penitential rites containing no such invocation and thus completely acceptable to Protestants are provided.

TLM: The prayer Aufer a nobis evokes Old Testament sacrifice with its reference to the Holy of Holies which the High Priest entered to offer the blood of the sacrificial victim.
NOM: Suppressed in the Novus Ordo Missae.

TLM: The prayer Oramus te, Domine refers to the relics in the altar stone.
NOM: The use of an altar stone is no longer obligatory for movable altars or when Mass is celebrated outside a consecrated building. An altar stone is only "commended" for permanent altars (Institutio Generalis 265-6). The prayer has been suppressed in the Novus Ordo Missae.

TLM: Introit, Kyrie, Gloria, Collect, Epistle, Gospel, Creed.
NOM: Retained by Cranmer in 1549. Retained in Novus Ordo Missae.

TLM: The Offertory Prayers: Suscipe, sancta Pater Deus, qui humanae Offerimus tibi, Domine In Spiritu humilitatis Veni, sanctificator omnipotens Suscipe, sancta Trinitas.
NOM: Comparable prayers in the Sarum rite suppressed by Cranmer. All these prayers suppressed in the Novus Ordo Missae.

TLM: Orate fratres.
NOM: Suppressed by Cranmer and suppressed by the Consilium in the draft for the Missa Normativa. Restored as a result of pressure at the 1967 Synod in Rome.

TLM: Secret Prayers (Proper of the Mass).
NOM: These prayers often contain specifically sacrificial terminology. They were abolished by Cranmer but have been retained in the Novus Ordo Missae though frequently emasculated in the I.C.E.L. translations. As these prayers do not form part of the Ordinary they do not provide an obstacle to achieving an ecumenical Ordinary.

TLM: Sursum corda dialogue, Preface, Sanctus.
NOM: Retained by Cranmer. Retained in Novus Ordo Missae.

Sistine Chapel Mass

Yesterday the Pope celebrated a Novus Ordo Mass in the Sistine Chapel using the old altar and celebrating ad orientam. The story was picked up by Reuters (here is original, which is of limited usefulness). It is sad that the pope celebrating a Mass ad orientam is so rare that it is newsworthy. But this is a great example for Novus Ordo priests. Benedict is saying, "Hey, you don't have to be doing the Traditional Latin Mass to celebrate ad orientam. It is for both forms of the Roman rite." Many often forget that the rubrics of the Novus Ordo call for an ad orientam posture (which the article ignorantly calls "turning his back on the congregation"). This may be part of the much talked about spill-over theory: that the return of the Tridentine rite will spill over into the Novus Ordo and cause more dignified celebartions of the Mass of Paul VI. We shall see. Here's some pics of the Sistine Chapel Mass, at which 13 babies were baptized personally by the pope using a golden sea shell.




UPDATE! Click here for more pics of the Sistine Chapel Mass

Baptismal Liturgies



Prior to having baby Boniface baptized yesterday in the old rite, my parish priest asked me to prepare a little booklet with English translations of the Latin prayers to help facilitate a better understanding of what was going on in the sacrament, especially to those non-Catholic family members present. As I put together this little booklet, I was struck by some marked differences between the old baptismal liturgy and the post-Vatican II liturgy. Now, before I go any further, let me say what I am not going to assert: I am not in any way of the opinion that the new baptismal rite is invalid or insufficient, as some Trads have gone so far as to claim (like the anti-pope Pius XIII, a.k.a. Lucian Pulvermacher).

The old and new rite express the same reality in different ways. The new rite of baptism tends to explain the sacrament in terms of the postive: what the child is being brought into. The old rite tends to emphasize the negative: what the child is being delivered from. This is the most general difference between the two rites. In the old rite, one is being delivered from Satan, loosed from the bonds of sin and washed of the stain of Adam. These points are emphasized a little more than in the new rite (quite a bit more, actually). In the new rite, one is becoming a child of the light, being welcomed into the Christian community, being called to Christ's nuptials, etc. Again, there is some crossover between these two ideas in the respective rites, but this is the overall theme. Now let's look at some specifics.

First, the old rite underscores the role of the godparents to a much greater extent. In the old rite, the godparents answer every question posed by the priest, even the most fundamental ones. The parents do not say a single word. In addition, every question posed by the priest is addressed directly to the infant, not the parents. For example, in the new rite, we have the following:

Celebrant: What name do you give your child?
Parents: Name.
Celebrant: What do you ask of God's Church for N.?
Parents: Baptism.

Now, look at the difference in the old rite:

Priest: (Name of infant), what do you ask of the Church of God?
Godparent: Faith.
Priest: What does the faith offer you?
Godparents: Eternal life.

The role of the godparent is a legal role, not a sentimental one. In the old rite, the godparent even holds the child while the water is being poured on the infant. All of this involvement of the godparent underscores the fact that the godparent has a true responsibility to the formation of the child's faith. The godparent is a legal witness, much like the witnesses to a marriage. He promises, in the sight of God, to fulfill the duty of every Catholic to raise their child in the faith. But some may wonder: why does the godparent swear this? Isn't it the parent's responsibility? Aren't parents the primary educators of their children? Why then are they left out in the old rite?

I imagine it is because the parents already swore such an oath when they took their vows of Holy Matrimony. There, they vowed to see to the raising of their children in the faith of the Church. Therefore, at baptism, this is taken as a given, and the godparent is invoked as an additional witness to take the same vow in the event that the parents fail in their responsibility.

Looking at the exorcisms of the two rites, there are two points to be made. First, there are simply more exorcisms in the old rite. In fact, it is pretty much one long exorcism. There is an exorcism of the salt, a threefold exorcism of the infant, an exorcism of his senses. And let us not forget that bapstim itself is a kind of exorcism, where the child is delivered from a state of sin (bondage to the devil) and translated into the kingdom of the sons of God. The new rite has a single exorcism, and it is so frequently dispensed with (because it is optional) that it has really been effectively dropped from the rite de facto. Modern parents are uncomfortable with an exorcism being performed on their child. If they better understood the gift of God that was being given, many more I think would beg for more exorcisms prior to any sacramental reception.

Not only ther number but the nature of the exorcisms is different. In the old rite, the exorcisms follow the Scriptural/traditional form of abjuration of the devil by name. The devil is called out and named directly and ordered to flee. Look at these prayers:

First exorcism: Depart from him unclean spirit, and give place to the Holy Ghost, the Paraclete.

Second exorcism: I exorcise you, unclean spirit, in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, that you go out and depart from this servant of God...therefore, accursed devil, acknowledge your sentence, and give honor to the living and true God.

Third exorcism: I exorcise you, every unclean spirit, in the name of God the Father Almighty...that you depart from this creature of God.

Ephpheta rite: Be thou, devil, begone; for the judgment of God shall draw near.

The priest speaks directly to the unclean spirits with the power and authority of Christ and commands them to leave, just as the disciples cast out spirits in the New Testament. But look at how the exorcism of the new form of the rite is worded:

Almighty and ever-living God, you sent your only Son into the world to cast out the power of Satan, spirit of evil, to rescue man from the kingdom of darkness, and bring him into the splendor of your kingdom of light. We pray for these children: set them free from original sin, make them temples of your glory, and send your Holy Spirit to dwell within them.

This is a very emasculated exorcism. The priest here does not take up the authority he does in the old rite. He does not command the unclean spirits, and, if you look carefuly, he doesn't even do an exorcism at all. He simply recalls the fact that Jesus came into the world to cast out the devil, and then he prays that the child be set free from original sin. But that is not an exorcism, that's just what happens ex opera operato in the sacrament. Of course you get set free from original sin when you get baptized! Gone is any calling out and abjuration of the devil from the infant. The priest doesn't command the unclean spirits to leave: he simply recalls that Satan was defeated by Christ and then asks for the graces proper to baptism.

Does the child really need the exorcism? The old rite seems to assert this. It actually takes it for granted that there are already unclean spirits hanging around the newborn. Otherwise, how can the first exorcism say, "Depart from him unclean spirit, and give place to the Holy Ghost, the Paraclete"? In the new rite, every hint that the child might be oppressed by the devil is avoided.
But isn't that exactly what it means to be unregenerated? It means you are still in bondage to sin and in the dominion of the devil? Why then hide this fact from those bringing their child to the holy font?

Finally, the old rite mentions specifically in the second anointing that baptism saves: "May...our Lord Jesus Christ, Who has regenerated you by water and the Holy Ghost, and who has given you remission of all your sins, may He Himself anoint you with the Chrism of Salvation, in the same Christ Jesus our Lord, unto life eternal."

The prayer of the new form in the same spot says: "God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ has freed you from sin, given you a new birth by water and the Holy Spirit, and welcomed you into his holy people. He now anoints you with the chrism of salvation." But the wording is a little bit more ambiguous. It says that Jesus "has freed you from sin." When did He free us? In this sacrament? Or is it referring to His death on the cross, of which the sacrament is merely a reminder? A Protestant would have no problem with this prayer, because linking baptism with being "freed from sin" is not specific enough. Protestants make the same claim when they baptize, but for them the baptism is a profession of faith that the sin has already been remitted by faith alone. In the old rite, the word "remission" of sin is used, and it is linked with the sacrament by the phrase "Who has regenerated you by water and the Holy Ghost." Thus, no Protestant/symbolic interpretation is possible in the old form. (There is a reference to water and the Holy Ghost in the new rite, but it comes much later, as a blessing attached to the end of the liturgy).

As with many other comparisons between older and newer forms in the Church, in this case as well it is the case that the prayers of the older form speak more explicitly and clearly about what is occuring in the sacrament and take a much more authorative tone in the way they abjure Satan. In the old form, we are casting down Satan and rescuing one for whom Christ died, admitting him into the glorious kingdom of our God by remission of sins. In the new rite, we are joyously welcoming him into the Christian community where he will be a child of the light. The older rite is so much more masculine and powerful in its form, while the new one uses emasculated language that is free from any reference to battle, warfare, and (ooh!) the possibility that the devil may be trying to claim your child.

There's much more that can be said, but that's enough for now.