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 is, of course, 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 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 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 is 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, much less 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.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Torture our Enemies with the Truth

St. Cecilia
Today the Sacraments are greatly under attack: marriage, confession and Holy Communion.  The attack is simple: they wish to take our Lord and deliver him over into the hands of his enemies (adulterers), and in order to do that they need to lie and deceive (grant phony absolution to adulterers who will continue in adultery). The idea of admitting the unrepentant to approach communion basically trying to be more Catholic than the Apostles who have forbidden such a sacrilege in the most clear and direct language from the very beginning of the Church.


So what is the battle plan on the good side, what can we use to stop such a vicious attack?  Scripture? Tradition? The Teaching of the Fathers and Doctors? The teaching of the Magisterium? All of these things are against our opponents.  Any book on sacramental theology would condemn them, even a children's catechism for first Holy Communion.

Yet, as a Church we have gotten in the habit of ignoring these things.  Take the Death Penalty for example: the Holy Scriptures support it in both the New and Old testaments, the Fathers upheld the right of the State to use it, the Doctors such as St Thomas Aquinas explained how it was just, and the Popes even used the Death Penalty themselves when they had temporal authority.  Want another example? Female altar servers, which can in no way be justified from tradition or historical evidence.
So these things are being ignored, or not even considered in the light of the teaching of the Church, at least collectively.  What is driving the desire for changes in the Church?  Public opinion.  Should we care about public opinion? No.  

What can we do?  We must let the light shine before men, we must shout the gospel from the rooftops, we must point out how erroneous and evil such an idea is.  Are we going to be faithful rocks, or reeds shaken in the wind.  The more we have to lose for it, the greater the reward is in having lost it for the sake of the truth.

The book Remaining in the Truth of Christ was a good effort by the authors, now we must add our efforts. Rather than trying to convince ourselves that someone who is an adulterer is ignorant of their sin and therefore in some odd theologically nuanced way might be able to go to holy communion, we must rather advance  as much and firmly as possible that there is no inheritance in the kingdom of Heaven for adulterers, nor for those who approve or support them in their sin and that receiving Holy Communion in a state of sin will not only lead to greater punishment in the next life, but also in this one.  We must be ready to greet false teaching with the teachings of our Lord Jesus Christ and the Fathers and Doctors of the Church.  

“You wish us to pronounce a lie; but in speaking the truth, we inflict much greater and more cruel torture upon you than that which you make us suffer” St. Cecilia, from the Audiobook the Life and Martyrdom of St Cecilia 

Let us kindly, but boldly declare that we do not belong to a religion made up on whims and public opinion, but to the religion passed onto us by the Apostles.  "Hold firmly that our faith is identical with that of the ancients. Deny this and you dissolve the unity of the Church." St Thomas Aquinas, Disputations Concerning Truth. 

Friends, are we cowardly Catholics, pious and observant until the possibility of harm and conflict show up? If we cannot stand up for the truth in all of our modern comforts and at most risk losing the graces of someone in the Church with power, a few friends, and the ridicule of Catholic bloggers, how will we ever be able to endure torture and death for Christ sake?  

Let us not be gymnasts seeking applause for the complexity of our leaps and bounds to please the world or even leaders in the Church by theological half truths, nuance and platitudes;  rather let us be rocks upon which God can build His Church, Heavy in faithfulness, immovable in fidelity, steady under pressure and stable in Tradition and strong enough to take the crashing of the wave of worldly pressure or the assault of heresy.  It is time for he who has not a sword to sell his cloak at get one.  

"Blessed be the Lord my God, who teacheth my hands to fight, and my fingers to war." -Ps. 144:1
Amen.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

The Mass is not the Faith and Other Items


Recently I posted an article in which I stated that "The Mass is not the Faith. The Faith is bigger than the Mass." I initially thought this concept would be readily agreed upon by my readership, but on our Facebook thread a rather sizable dispute erupted over the phrase. Some misunderstood this phrase to mean I was saying the Mass wasn't important, or that it did not affect our faith, or that it was disposable; others disagreed and argued passionately that the Mass and the Faith were identical. I wanted to take an opportunity to explore this phrase further and clear up some other issues from the last article.

By the way, thank you for the thoughtful and (for the most part) charitable comments. I learn very much from them and never object to being disagreed with - it has not infrequently happened that a revolt in my combox has led me to reevaluate and change my position subsequently.

So, what is the Faith? What is the Mass? Why is it right to say that the Mass and the Faith are not the same thing?

When we speak about "the Faith", we typically refer to the Catholic religion in its totality. This would include everything a Catholic believers and everything he does. In the words of the Catechism, the Faith is "all that she herself is, all that she believes" (CCC 78). Let us examine what this entails.

First, the deposit of Divine Revelation, included both in the Sacred Scriptures and in the Sacred Tradition.
Second, all theological traditions and interpretations associated with the doctrines of Divine Revelation, as summed up in the Creeds of the Church and the canons of the Ecumenical Councils.
Third, all of the sacraments and liturgical functions and rites of the Church; how the Church worships.
Fourth, all of the Church's disciplinary customs (the Lenten Fast, no communion for divorced and remarried, etc.)
Fifth, the Church's hierarchical constitution.
Sixth, the spiritual heritage of the Church, from great prayers such as the Pater Noster and Rosary down to the smaller devotions that have come down to us.
Seventh, the heritage of the great saints who have all gone before us; the example of their lives, their profound writings, their contributions to doctrinal development, and their intercession from heaven.


Eighth, all of the Church's artistic heritage, both in her sacred art, sacred music and sacred architecture.
Ninth, the historical papal-magisterial corpus of writings.

We could probably include more - for example, great works of Catholic literature like the Divine Comedy or Everlasting Man; Hilaire Belloc, when writing on this question, tended to include European Christian culture as such - hence his famous statement, "Europe is the Faith; the Faith is Europe." But let us not cast our net too far abroad; everyone has their particular focus, but the above nine items would be the core of what I think most Catholics speak of when they refer to "the Faith."

It is a very broad thing, the Faith. It encompasses much more than a few propositions or ceremonies. It is a totality; it is in fact the fullest way of being human.

What is the relation of the Mass to the Faith?

The Mass is absolutely integral to the Faith. Remember the principle Lex Orandi, Lex Credendi, Lex Vivendi. There is an intimate union between Catholic belief, Catholic life and Catholic worship. The Eucharist, the heart of the Mass, is the "source and summit of the Christian life" (CCC 1324). As such, it is the irreplaceable foundation from which Faith is built up and the end towards which it tends. It is difficult to overstate its intimate connection to the Faith. While it is possible to maintain the Faith without access to the Mass (like in Japan), the Faith without the Mass cannot long endure, at least not in its fullest form.

But the Mass is not the Faith itself. The Mass is to the Faith what a heart is to the body, or what an engine is to the car. It is integral. It is the center. The rest is of little value without it. It is that which gives vitality to the whole.

And yet, it is not the whole. Just as it would be foolish to present someone with a car engine and suggest you were giving them a whole car, or display a human heart and suggest you were displaying an entire human person, so it would be very reductive and inaccurate to suggest that the Mass itself is the Faith. Remember, the Faith can exist without the Mass. Did Cardinal Kung lose the Faith when imprisoned for 30 years without the Mass? Some of the Desert Fathers simply did not attend Mass because of their physical isolation. Nobody would accuse the founders of monasticism of not having the Faith. So the Mass is extremely important, but it is not the totality.

Msgr. George Agius in his 1928 classic Tradition and the Church states that the liturgy of the Church is the principal type of constitutive tradition. That is, of all the content that is uniquely passed on via Tradition, the liturgical rites of the Church hold a pride of place. This is because, while the Mass is not the Faith, the Mass sums up the Faith and itself instructs us in all of the fundamentals of the Faith.

Consider our list above. All of these are touched on in the ideal Mass. The Sacred Scriptures are read and expounded, the liturgy of the Church carried out for the glory of God; the Creed of the Church is professed and the Holy Eucharist is administered; the existence of the hierarchy is evidenced and the greatest spiritual treasures of the Church are demonstrated in the Pater Noster and other ancient prayers of the Mass. The saints are invoked and commemorated in an atmosphere of the Church's artistic and musical heritage. All is done in conformity with the Magisterial direction of the Church. All of this is summed up and offered with the most august sacrifice of the Son of God and presented to God the Father.

So the Mass touches on and sums up everything that is integral to the Faith. It reaches into every dimension of the Faith and incorporates each into its rites. It represents the core of the Faith, its most vital heart. But there is more content to the Faith than just the Mass. Yes, the Mass focuses in on those most essential elements and in doing so provides the most perfect form of instruction in the Christian faith. In a way, it crystallizes the most essential elements of the Faith for us in one singular, glorious act.

But the Faith in its entirety is not contained in the Mass. It would be absurd to try to claim, for example, that the entire historic papal Magisterium is some how included in the Mass. Or consider the sacraments - baptism, anointing of the sick, penance, all traditionally done outside Mass. Clearly, the Mass, though central, is not and was not meant to be all-encompassing. In fact, one complaint traditionalists have often made about the Novus Ordo rites is that it tends to try to make the Mass a "one-stop-shop" for everybody's spiritual needs. Baptisms, anointing, penance and everything else is incorporated into Mass, often (at least in the case of the last two) with deleterious results. The Mass was never meant to be a "one-stop-shop", and it is certainly not equivalent with the Faith itself, no matter how important.

It is therefore a little off center when Traditionalist Catholics focus on the Mass to the exclusion of everything else. There are a variety of ways this can happen; I don't want to cite examples for fear of possibly offending some other bloggers. But it definitely happens.

Can too much be made of the Mass? Well, yes and no. No in the sense that the Mass is the offering of Jesus Christ and has infinite merit; this cannot be emphasized too much. But yes if we give the Mass a position it was not meant to have, such as the "one-stop-shop" approach of the post-Conciliar era that is objected to by some traditionalists.

There is perhaps nobody in the Church who knows more about Tradition than Fr. Chad Ripperger, FSSP. Fr. Ripperger wrote the introduction to the modern reprint of Msgr. Agius' Tradition and the Church, which is admitted by all to be the pivotal work on the doctrine of Tradition. Fr. Ripperger has spoken and written copiously about tradition and has noted that it is a very common pitfall among Catholic Traditionalists to assume that faithful attendance at and devotion to the Extraordinary Form is an adequate substitute for knowledge of Catholic Tradition. In many cases, he says, so-called "Traditionalists" are entirely ignorant of the Tradition they profess to venerate. This is because they assign a role to the Mass it was never meant to have - i.e., assuming that the Mass suffices for everything, and that no further reading, study, etc. is necessary. Consequently they are woefully ignorant of Catholic tradition. You can listen to Fr. Ripperger's homily on this subject here, although the quality of the recording is very poor. His argument is that Traditionalists sometimes think mere attendance at the EF Mass is sufficient and that no further knowledge is necessary; or that mere attendance at such Masses imparts one all the knowledge of tradition they need.

Thus, the fundamental question: Should a priest who has been saying the Extraordinary Form Mass exclusively, upon being ordered to cease by his legitimate superior, obey this order?

I answer, absolutely. Yes. It may be an illegitimate order, but one must obey even illegitimate orders so long as they do not lead you to commit sin - and not saying an EF Mass is not a sin. If the legal channels are open to a priest to seek incardination elsewhere in a more friendly environment, that is a legitimate option open to him. In the meantime, a cleric is bound to observe any canonical penalties imposed by a superior - even if imposed errantly, or based on untruths. The Catholic Encyclopedia states that when a person is censured, even unjustly, "the censure has valid effects in that forum and must be observed externally, to avoid scandal and for good discipline." Therefore until the situation is resolved, or until that cleric becomes incardinated somewhere else, he is bound to observe the censure. 

What he ought not to do is declare that he is going to go off and keep on doing what he wants anyway because somehow the Old Mass just trumps everything no matter what. That is scandalous, to me at least. Am I not scandalized when bishops and members of the Magisterium crack down on good, faithful, traditional priests? Yes. I am horribly scandalized by it. Which is precisely why I do not want my scandal to be made worse by seeing these traditional priests play around with disobedience as a recourse to their difficulties.

Seeking transfer is a legitimate thing to do - in my last article too I stated that "it is certainly legitimate to seek legal redress to these problems through appropriate canonical channels." Even so, I don't think doing that is the most perfect form of obedience. The most perfect form would be to humbly and quietly submit to whatever was dished out to you, per the Apostle Peter:

"For one is approved if, mindful of God, he endures pain while suffering unjustly. For what credit is it, if when you do wrong and are beaten for it you take it patiently? But if when you do right and suffer for it you take it patiently, you have God’s approval...who is he that can hurt you, if you be zealous of good? But if also you suffer any thing for justice' sake, blessed are ye. And be not afraid of their fear, and be not troubled" (1 Pet. 2:19-20, 3:13-14).

What do these passages from 1 Peter look like lived out in the life of a priest or order unjustly under attack for doing good? That is what I am trying to sort out. I think - especially since March, 2013 - we all are grappling with this. It will probably be sloppy. There will be a lot of collateral damage. But I do believe in my heart that the Church will not be saved by a bunch of people with the "I would like to be obedient, but" attitude.

I'm not bringing these things up because I "like" them or like thinking about them. But we are in strange times and we all need to sort these things out. May God be gracious to us all!

Saturday, November 15, 2014

I'm probably gonna lose readers with this one


If any priest I knew told me that he felt called by God to say only the Extraordinary Form of the Mass, I would be overjoyed.

But suppose that priest were commanded to cease saying the Extraordinary Form exclusively, or were put on "sabbatical" because of it. Were he to then tell me that he was contemplating transferring out of the diocese, leaving his vocation, or perhaps disobeying his superior, or going over to the SSPX, I would be appalled. Yes, appalled.

The Mass is extraordinarily important, but the Mass is not the entire deposit of Faith. The Mass is not synonymous with the Christian faith in such a way that a command to cease saying a particular form of the Mass constitutes pressure to deny the Faith. A priest who has been asked by his legitimate superior to stop saying Mass - of whatever form or rite - cannot make the argument that the bishop is making him choose between God and his vow of obedience. A priest derives his faculties from the Bishop. When it comes to faculties, the bishop giveth and the bishop taketh away. 

Perhaps he taketh away unjustly. I admit that happens all the time. We can argue about that. But a priest under obedience must conform to the legitimate demands of his superiors, at least in the external forum. 

The Mass is an integral part of the Faith, but the Faith is greater than the Mass. The Mass is a gift from God. He can give the Mass and He can take away the Mass. He took away the Mass from England, save for a few isolated homes where it was said secretly. He took it away from Communist China, where a similar situation prevailed. And socialist Mexico. Remember Japan; God took the Mass away from Japanese Christians for centuries. But the Faith did not die there, because the Faith is not the Mass. 

Though their treatment has been extraordinarily unjust, it wounds me when I hear members of the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate seeking to be dispensed from their vows or transferred to other orders because their access to the Extraordinary Form has been curtailed. Do the have the right to do this? Yes. Is it the most perfect course of action? No. To whom did they take vows? Did they take vows to their order, or to a particular form of the Mass? Was their commitment to their order contingent upon what form of Mass was being used? I think of Jesuits like Fr. James Schall, Fr. Mitch Pacwa or the late Fr. John Hardon who remain loyal to their order despite the ungodly amount of insanity that continues to spew forth from the Society of Jesus. Who of us would not sympathize one hundred percent with Father Schall if he requested to be dispensed from his vows to the Society of Jesus? Yet he remains, as did Fr. Hardon. As they should.

Thus, while I love the Extraordinary Form of the Mass and while I see its growth, promulgation and eventual restoration as the only hope for the Church, I do not equate the Mass with the Faith itself in the absolute sense.

In other words, the sine qua non of our spiritual and sacramental life cannot be "the Extraordinary Form Mass no matter what or nothing." God gives the Mass and God can take it away, and those who think it is permissible to walk away from obedience - or seek dispensation from it - for the sake of continued access to the Extraordinary Form - I think - do not help the cause. If anything, it reinforces Trad stereotypes that we are all quasi-schismatics and precludes us from reaching out to groups who, although sympathetic to tradition, have not yet been adequately introduced to it.

It is certainly legitimate to seek legal redress to these problems through appropriate canonical channels. But, if they would take the more perfect route, it seems that until this is settled, the FFI priests and brothers should obey and just stay where they are at. We all need to stay put and wait out the storm. The most perfect form of obedience is not to seek legal channels to get out of an unpleasant situation, but to stay where one is planted and endure, counting it a blessing to suffer for the sake of the truth.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Peace in Christ and Peace of the World

In two previous articles we looked at the concept of Catholic unity as symbolized by garments in the Sacred Scriptures (here) as well as accusations that frank commentary on problems facing the Church today constitutes the sins of 'discord' and 'contention' (here). Today we will examine the question of how the peace that Christ commands us to have is different from worldly peace.

This is a very relevant question. Our Lord says plainly in the Beatitudes, "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God" (Matt. 5:9). But as we have seen in our previous articles, remaining faithful to the truth sometimes means that falsehood must be contended against or that men of equally good standing will disagree on the best approach to something. 

In other words, the necessities of the Christian life mean that there is no escape from argument, debate, and disagreement - at least for most of us. This is why one cannot simply say that contention is bad; as we saw in our examination of Aquinas, contention for the truth is praiseworthy. It depends upon the nature of the contention. This is why St. Paul condemns contentiousness in Titus 3:9 ("avoid foolish questions, and genealogies, and contentions, and strivings about the law; for they are unprofitable and vain") but why St. Jude in Jude 1:3 encourages Christians to be contentious in striving for the Faith ("I found it necessary to write appealing to you to earnestly contend for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints"). If contention simplex were always bad, St. Jude could not appeal for Christians to contend.

The question then becomes one of peacefulness. How can we fulfill the appeal of St. Jude to earnestly contend for the faith while also obeying Christ's command to be a peacemaker? Are not disagreement and peacefulness contradictory?

Again, we must examine what our Lord means by "peace" and "peacemaker." It would be simple to assume that peace means the simple cessation of hostility; that promoting "peacefulness" means bringing together, and therefore whatever unites is good and whatever divides is bad. But is this what our Lord means?

Our Lord's exhortation to peace in the Beatitudes should not be understood apart from his other comments about peace in Matthew 10 and the Gospel of John chapter 14. 

In Matthew 10:34, our Lord says:

"Do not think that I have come to bring peace to earth; I come not to bring peace, but a sword."

What does this "sword" refer to? It refers to the fact that adherence to the Gospel brings division; its sets men apart from others, both in their belief and their conduct, sometimes even within their own household. This is why in verses 35-37 of the same chapter Jesus goes on to say:

"For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man’s foes will be those of his own household."

The Faith is a kind of boundary that sets the Church apart from those outside it. Those outside its confines not only do not understand it but are hostile to it. Hence our first Sovereign Pontiff observes:

"They [the non-believers] think it strange, that you run not with them into the same confusion of riotousness, speaking evil of you" (1 Pet. 4:4). 

They find our beliefs and morals strange, even incomprehensible, and so revile us for them. Thus Matthew 10 reminds us that adherence to the truth necessarily sets one apart from others. Interestingly enough, Aquinas quotes this passage in his comments on discord and how discord is not always against charity (STh II-II Q. 37 art 1).

That truth divides provides an obvious corollary to the fact that is also unites. When we draw a circle around a group of people and define ourselves as "in" that circle, there is unity among those who are inside - but this implies a disunity or a separation from those outside. That circle is our Creed. And, as Chesterton says, a creed does not unite men by itself. It is differences in creeds that unite men - boundaries that distinguish one creed from another. Paradoxically, the boundary that separates also unites:

"It is not merely true that a creed unites men. Nay, a difference of creed unites men—so long as it is a clear difference. A boundary unites." (G.K. Chesterton. What's Wrong with the World, Part I. Chap 3, "The New Hypocrite").

So to think of Christian peace in terms of simply "bringing people together" - that is, in the manner which the progressives tend to think of it - is seriously deficient. In John 14, our Lord reminds us that the peace He gives us is not the peace of the world; it is something drastically different:

"Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you" (John 14:27).

What is the difference between the peace of Christ and the peace of the world? Aquinas defines "concord" simply as a union of wills (II-II Q. 37 art. 2); peace is union of wills but also a kind of right ordering of appetites, even within a single man (II-II Q. 29 art 1) which presumes man in right relation with God. Worldly peace takes no consideration of man's relation to God. Worldly peace then is a simple union of wills. Christian peace, on the other hand, would be a union of wills of men in right relation with God; that is, joined together in the truth. Worldly peace ignores the question of truth and is content with mere union of wills in the cessation of hostility; Christian peace seeks for a union of wills, but subservient to and in the truth, and is willing to sacrifice temporal peace for the sake of eternal truth. Worldly peace, on the other hand, is willing to sacrifice truth for the sake of temporal advantage. This is in fact one of the characteristics of the End Times:

"For when they shall say, peace and security; then shall sudden destruction come upon them, as the pains upon her that is with child, and they shall not escape" (1 Thess. 5:3).

Jeremiah 6:14 and Ezekiel 13:10 also associate a misguided notion of temporal peace with a corrupt society on the verge of judgment. Let us examine ourselves and see if we have not allowed the world's definition of peace to color our thinking. There are many things in the world, some good, some bad, but in general, my approach is to view worldly issues in the context of James 4:4: 

"Adulterers, know you not that the friendship of this world is the enemy of God? Whosoever therefore will be a friend of this world, becomes an enemy of God."

Being a peacemaker cannot mean promoting peace in a purely worldly sense without reference to the truth, and here the advocates of a Christianity dedicated to merely fixing social ills and speaking out against war, etc. go astray. Truth is supreme. Where there is no truth, there can be no unity. It does not matter what other external circumstances we are dealing with. Let us recall the story of St. Peter of Alexandria and the heretic Meletius from the days of the Roman persecutions. St. Peter and Meletius were both imprisoned in the same cell and awaiting death during the time of Diocletian. Yet when St. Peter found that Meletius was an adherent of a heretical sect, he put up a curtain in the prison cell to separate himself from the heretic. Even when both were awaiting death int he same cell, St. Peter wanted to make it clear that there was no semblance of unity between himself and a heretic. 

Christians are certainly called to work towards temporal peace, as temporal peace provides the necessary social tranquility necessary for men to be able to think about and work towards saving their souls. For this reason peace is said to proceed from charity (STh II-II Q. 29). We should always promote and work for tranquility and those things that will best affect tranquility, but always in subservience to the truth. Because without truth, there can be no peace. The first consideration of a Christian is for adherence to the truth. We are not called to die for peace. We are called to die for the truth.

Thus, the Christian becomes the most docile laborer for peace when it is sought in the truth, but the most intransigent and obstinate foe of every work contrary to truth.

The Christian is the most humble and most willing to serve others in his household and his work, always willing to take upon himself unpleasant or difficult tasks without complaint - but is also willing to die rather than compromise his conscience by one jot or tittle when it comes to performing some work that is displeasing to God.

The Christian rejoices at the thought of all men joined together in one worship and one communion giving praise and honor to the true God, but would prefer to see the entire universe obliterated than tolerate God being dishonored.

The Christian is silent and willing to let faults and wrongs go unrequited without raising a voice in protest, but when he sees God being blasphemed or the Church being assaulted he becomes the most vocal of opponents. In other words, he is willing to suffer for the sake of the Bride but does not stand by idly while the Bride is ravaged.

One final thought: Aquinas says it is possible to construct a worldly concord based simply on a union of wills. but for there to be true peace, individual men must be in right relation with God. Therefore, if we really want world peace, the best thing we can do is bring people to Christ. This is how we build a peaceful world. Yes, unbelievers are excluded from the circle, but we should work to make the circle as big as possible, because all men are called to enter the circle. This work will not be easy; at times it will mean that the Gospel will actually divide. We will be called "divisive" because the truth itself is offensive. But this is the great work. To be peaceful is to labor patiently in service of everything that advances the truth, and to be the most intractable opponent of everything that keeps men from the truth. There can be no harmony between truth and error.

"What concord hath Christ with Belial? Or what part hath the faithful with the unbeliever?" (2 Cor. 6:15)