Thursday, August 30, 2007

The Ecumenical Import of the TLM

If you are interested in either the ecumenical movement or the Traditional Latin Mass you might find the above linked post to be an interesting read. Its focus is Alexy II's positive reaction to Pope Benedict XVI's decision to derestrict the Traditional Latin Mass.

This called to mind a very good article written last year on this same topic by Brian Mershon entitled, Archbishop Burke, Bishop Rifan Comment: Will Classical Liturgy Aid Reunion with Eastern Orthodox?
Some excerpts from Mershon's article follow:

Bishop Rifan: "I really think that the Traditional Latin Mass widely and freely available would be, among many other good reasons, a great benefit in the field of the true ecumenism with the Orthodox," he said. "This would be primarily because the Traditional Liturgy is much more similar to the Oriental [Eastern] rites in the aspect of the sacred, veneration, and beauty."

Archbishop Burke: "It seems to me for the Eastern rites, and for those of the Orthodox Churches, the reform of the liturgy after the council and the concrete expression is so stripped of the transcendent, of the sacral elements, it is difficult for them to recognize its relationship with their Eucharistic Liturgies," he said.

Dr. Alcuin Reid (a noted liturgical scholar): "I suspect that our current liturgical state does not exactly inspire confidence in them," Dr. Reid said. "The Holy Father is, no doubt, aware of this, and most probably hopes to give a sign that Rome wishes to set her liturgy in order once again, and that indeed Rome respects legitimate traditional liturgical rites.

John Cheevers (an Eastern Orthodox layman): "Organic development in liturgy is permissible. Radical invention is not. The Pauline liturgy implicitly seems to move away from the clear expressions of faith about the sacramental nature of the Divine Liturgy commonly understood in the undivided church of the first millennium."

Fr. Jano (a Ukrainian Catholic preist): "On the few occasions when I have served the Mass in Roman Catholic parishes, I have been very surprised to discover how uncomfortable I am with praying to God while facing the congregation," he said. "Probably the most jarring example for me, to illustrate this point, is when I have seen Roman priests reading a prayer at Mass and gazing intently at the congregation while uttering the prayer. I've never understood this," Fr. Jano said. "If you have something important to say to your Father, why would you stare at your brother when you're speaking to Him?

Fr. Thomas Kocik (a Roman Catholic Priest): "The Orthodox are justly disturbed not only by abuses in the post-Vatican II liturgy, but also by approved practices such as female altar servers, Mass 'facing the people' and Communion in the hand," he said. "Given the East's intense conservatism, I think the freeing of the Tridentine liturgy bodes well ecumenically, because these problematic practices are simply not standard features of the Classical Roman rite." "The Orthodox may interpret this as evidence of a renewed seriousness in the Roman Church about the ancient maxim, 'lex orandi, lex credendi,' meaning that as we believe so we pray, and vice versa," he said. "Doctrine and worship influence each other."

Fr. Joseph Santos (a Roman Catholic priest): "Most Orthodox that I know agree that the change in the liturgy was disastrous for ecumenical relations." Fr. Santos said that the rule of "lex orandi, lex credendi" is extremely important in the Orthodox Church. "It is what binds them together as a Church that guards jealously that which has been handed down from the Apostles. If the words and actions are changed, so is the faith; especially in the minds of the laity.

The Cure d'Ars on Modernism

The Cure d'Ars, St. John Vianney, is one of my favorite modern saints. Anyone who has read his fiery sermons, heard of his personal battles with demonic forces in the Ars rectory in the evening, or admired his wit and sagacity (notwithstanding his lack of formal education) cannot have anything but admiration and gratitude for this humble saint and patron of parish priests.

The saints often have a supernatural insight into the things of God, and though they may not always have mystical revelations like Teresa of Avila or Hildegard of Bingen, they always have a poignant and succint way of phrasing deep truths that are at once simple and profound. The following story from the life of the Cure d'Ars is one of my favorites. It is paraphrased from the work The Cure of Ars Today by Fr. George Rutler.

As the fame of the humble priest of Ars had spread throughout all of France, many people of all states in life flocked to hear him preach. Priests came from miles around to get advice from the saintly Cure, and lay people turned Ars into a virtual pilgrimage sight. In those days (c. 1845), Modernism had just begun to rear its ugly head in the Church. Mens minds had been infected with the errors of the French Revolution and in 1848 there had been socialist-atheist uprisings throughout Europe. St. John Vianney seemed unmoved by all of this, however, and his life of penance, prayer and preaching went on as usual at Ars.

One day, a certain theologian came to speak with Father Vianney. The Cure, always welcoming to anyone who desired to see him, met gladly with the young theologian and walked with him around the parish grounds. While they walked, the young theologian began explaining all of the modernist theories of biblical criticism, the new morality and all of the other ideas popular in the universities of the day. Fr. Vianney walked slowly, listening intently and nodding his head as he listened to the young theologian expound the novel doctrines. When the young man finally finished, the Cure of Ars stopped and put his hand lovingly on the young man's shoulder. Then, with heartfelt charity and a great big smile, he said to him, "My friend, you are an idiot." Then he bid the young man farewell and returned to his parish.

C.S. Lewis in Screwtape Letters says the one thing that the devil hates most is mockery because it refuses to take him seriously. I think the same thing is true of modernism! We ought to view modernism the way it views orthodoxy: as a bizarre aberration and something not worth serious scholarly debate; something held by "idiots." The greatest saints of the modern era, like John Vianney, Padre Pio and Maximilian Kolbe, do not so much act offended by modernism as confused. In their single hearted devotion to God, they are confused why anybody who calls themself a Catholic would betray the faith. Somebody once told Padre Pio, near the end of his life, about all of the liturgical innovations being practiced in certain places. He shook his head in confusion and said, "Why would anybody do such a thing?" He truly didn't understand why anybody would want to tamper with the liturgy! This attitude ought to be ours as well: humble confusion!

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Is carbon dating accurate?

A fossilized human finger. According to evolutionary science, humans have not been on the earth long enough for their remains to become fossilized, a process that is supposed to take millions of years.

A fossilized foot inside of a non-fossilized boot. I didn't know they had boots 60 million years ago!

As a skeptic of evolution, I was very surprised (and delighted!) to find the following passages in a book on prehistoric Europe I am currently reading. I would not have been surprised if this passage had been in a book skeptical of evolution, but this book, Exploring Prehistoric Europe by Dr. Chris Scarre, Deputy Director of the McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research at the University of Cambridge, UK, is a solid, pro-evolutionary piece of work. Nevertheless, check out this paragraph on what the author says on crabon dating [my commentary in red] (pg. 2-3):

"Since the Second World War, the dating of archaeological sites has been revolutionized by the invention of absolute dating techniques. These make it possible to go beyond labeling things "Early Neolithic" or "Late Bronze Age" and give them instead an accurate age expressed in calendar years [okay, so he has just asserted that these new dating techniques are "accurate." Keep that in mind.]

The most famous of these new dating methods is radiocarbon dating, based on the decay of the radiocarbon isotope carbon-14. Any material that contains carbon, such as wood, bone or charcoal, can be dated by this means. Since its invention in the late 1940's, the method has undergone a series of refinements. One of them takes account of the discovery that the amount of naturally occuring carbon-14 in the atmosphere varies from time to time in response to fluctuations in solar radiation [in other words, it throws off their calculations]. This means that "crude" radiocarbon dates have to be "corrected" in order to arrive at accurate calendar ages [wait a minute, if you are carbon dating in order to find the age, how can you "correct" your findings when you don't yet know the age of the object in question? And what will you base your correction on, since if carbon amounts "fluctuate" throughout time, how will you know how much was in the atmosphere in, say, 10,000 BC? If you do not know that, how can you "correct" your findings?] All the radiocarbon dates quoted in this book have been corrected in that way, except those relating to the Paleolithic (over 10,000 years ago), for which no correction has yet been devised [so, for anything over 10,000 years, there is "no correction" for the admitted fluctuations in carbon-14 dating. Remember this].

A second problem is precision. Corrected radiocarbon dates are generally accurate-they point to the right place on the right timescale-but they are by nature imprecise-they don't give an individual year date, but a time bracket. Some of the early radiocarbon dates had ranges extending over hundreds of years, but most recent dates are precise to within a century or so. It still happens, however, that radiocarbon dates for events that are known to be successive can overlap, owing to their imprecision. The imprecision becomes greater the further back in time we go, until around 40,000 years ago when radiocarbon dating reaches its upper limit ["reaches its upper limit?" "40,000 years ago"? So, essentially you cannot date anything older than 40,000 years with any sort of accuracy, and even past 10,000 years there is "no correction" for the inaccuracies of the method. From whence comes these dates saying that man evolved a million years ago, that dinosaurs died 65 million years ago, and so on? If anything over 40,000 years is past carbon dating's "upper limit", then what the heck are scientists doing trying to offer dates for stuff before that?]."

This, however, does not stop this professor from in the very next chapter going on to talk about the Paleolithic settlements at Terra Amata, France, which he dates at 380,000 years old. Later in the book, on his chapter on the rock carvings of Coa, Portugal, he says this about attempts to date the rock:

"The first set of carbon dates showed the engravings might well be Paleolithic, and were certainly over two-thousand years old, while the second set suggested they were under two-thousand years old! Studies of erosion gave an age of up to 6,500 years, and measures of chlorine-36 (produced by the action of cosmic rays on the exposed rock) showed that the rock surface had been exposed for over 100,000 years. In sum, the whole exercise was a failure, and none of the methods provided a clear and reliable date. But there is certainly nothing about them to make us abandon the generally held view that many Coa engravings are Upper Paleolithic"

(pg. 54).

Amazing! He did say that other methods besides carbon-14 were used, but admitted that they were all contradictory, that "the whole exercise was a failure, and none of the methods provided a clear and reliable date." But then he just throws out all of the evidence and says that we should not take it into consideration when assuming that it is Upper Paleolithic (ie, older than 10,000 years). Basically, he is asserting that (1) the scientists came to the site with a pre-conceived notion that it was older than 10,000 years, (2) they tested just to confirm their preexisting notion, (3) the testing failed to confirm their notion that it was definitely older than 10,000 years, (4) so they chucked out the testing and held to their assumption anyway. Now, is that proper scientific method?

Remember this next time some scientist is claiming that stuff they have dated is so many "millions" of years old. They have no clue; by this author's admission, nothing older than 40,000 years is accurate anyway, and none of the other types of dating tests can provide a reliable date. This should demonstrate to you that the supposed "evidence" for evolution is not as strong as it first seems.

"Back to the People"

I know I am certainly not the first one to mention this, but I am so sick and tired of people referring to the Traditional Latin Mass as being said with the priest's "back to the people." The secular media and the Catholic progressive media consistently refer to the "back to the people" element of the Mass of St. Pius V. "But Boniface," you will say, "isn't it true that in the old Mass, the priest's back was to the people?" As is quite often the case, one can get the facts straight but miss the point entirely. Yes, the back of the priest did face the people. Now, first of all, what do we mean by that liturgical action, and secondly, what type of ecclesiology do we evidence when we make reference to the priest's "back to the people"? First of all, when celebrating ad orientem (the proper liturgical phrase for "back to the people"), the intent has nothing to do with shunning the people or trying to exclude them from the sacred mysteries. Rather, the emphasis is on the mystery itself: the true presence of Christ in the sacrament and the sacramental offering of Christ to the Father as our sacrifice for sins. This is why the emphasis is on the altar and not on the people. Secondly, when we say a priest celebrates "back to the people", we betray a flawed understanding of liturgy and ecclesiology. Unless there is some specific reason why a person should turn their back to something, we always automatically refer to what they are facing, not what they are facing away from. For example, when a person goes to a stadium to watch a baseball game, you do not say, "Look at all those people with their backs to the stands!" We recognize that in such an event there is a focal point, and that everybody is primarily facing the focal point; only in a secondary and remote sense could you refer to them as facing away from the stands and the other spectators. Furthermore, knowing that everybody is there to withness the game, would it not be silly if the spectators had their backs to the game and instead of participated in watching the game and cheering on the players decided to simply turn their backs on them and narrate the game to the rest of the crowd? Would anybody be content with that? Likewise, when we say "back to the people", we are making the people the focal point of the Mass. The priest's location becomes defined in reference to where the people happen to be. But since when did the people become the center of the Mass? Oh wait, I know! Around 1965-1969. But the people are most certainly not the center of the Mass. The Church has a maxim, lex orandi, lex crededni. I think we should adopt a corrolary: via orationis, via cogitationis: The way we speak will be the way we think. Remember Orwell's 1984; to alter people's minds it was necessary only to alter the vocabulary that they used, and that was enough to hedge in people's mental faculties. In the Orwellian sense, I guess you could say that referring to ad orientem as "back to the people" is double-ungood. Actually celebrating the Mass this way is double-plus-ungood.

Therefore, I am going to inaugurate a change in our vocabulary to help put us back on the right track. From this day forward, I am going to refer to versus populum ("facing the people") Masses as Masses said with the priest's "back to God." Perhaps if this picks up, it will help bring home where the true emphasis ought to lay, and why saying "back to the people" is so double-plus-ungood.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Dark Ages Follow-Up

Looks like I was not the first one to put forward the idea that modern America resembles Europe in the Dark Ages! (see article "Are We Living in a New Dark Ages?") Here is a blurb from the New Mexico periodical "Los Pequenos Pepper", which is linked on our sidebar, in which a comparison is made between modern times and the Dark Ages. The article goes a little further in its comparison than I did and says that the little enclaves of orthodoxy (monasteries in the Dark Ages) are comparable to homeschooling households in modern times. It also has some interesting stats regarding Europe and America. Here is an excerpt:

The Catholic home schooling movement is one of the great movements in history. Father Joseph Fessio, the founder of Ignatius Press, has likened the Catholic home schooling movement to the monasteries of Europe during the Middle Ages. The so-called Dark Ages following the fifth century were very similar to the age we are in now. The Roman Empire was invaded from without, and corrupted from within. From the outside, the barbarians destroyed much of the civilization that had been built up by Rome. From within, the Arian heresy, which denied the Divinity of Jesus, had damaged the Church beginning in the fourth century.

However, in the first half of the sixth century, God raised up St. Benedict, who established the first Benedictine monastery, followed by many more monasteries. These monasteries quickly spread throughout Europe, restoring the culture and making it Catholic.At the height of the Middle Ages, there were 37,000 monasteries in Europe. The population of Europe at that time was about 25 million people, approximately one-tenth the current population of the United States. If the United States had the same proportionate number of monasteries, we would have 370,000 monasteries in this country, or about 1,000 monasteries in every American diocese.
We do not have that number of monasteries in our country today, but we do have the home schooling families who are preserving our Catholic Faith and our Catholic culture. One thousand Catholic home schooling families in each diocese would surely cause a cultural revolution in this country.
The monasteries grew throughout Europe because the people were attracted to what the monks had to offer. Those who saw how the monks lived, wanted to live that way themselves. Those who saw the faith and joy of the monks, wanted that faith and joy themselves.

Today, more and more people see Catholic home schooling families and realize that they want what those families have. They want that type of committed family and home life. They want that type of active faith. They want to know where to go and what to do with their lives.

What they see are Catholic home schooling families regularly receiving the sacraments of the Holy Eucharist and Penance, saying the daily Rosary, revolving their family life around the feasts of the liturgical year. They see Catholic home schooling families active in pro-life activities. Catholic home schooling is not superficial to the life of the family, Catholic home schooling is not superficial to the life of the Church, it is not superficial to the life of the nation. It is central. Catholic home schooling is a principal cause for hope to overcome the secular values of our society. Catholic home schooling is an important key to authentic Catholic renewal.

I like the connection between homeschooling families and monasteries; it is a pretty pertinent one, I think. The point is is that it is up to us to preserve the faith. What the Church needs is saints and scholars willing to completely reject the current system of the world in order to pursue the faith with singular purpose and devotion. This is what the made the Dark Ages (particularly in Ireland) one of the brightest times in Church history.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Brandenburg on "Secular Fundamentalism"

From Zenit:

Intolerable Secularists

Interview With Author of "The New Fundamentalists"

ROME, AUG. 24, 2007 ( Aggressive relativism is the newest form of fundamentalism, according to author Deacon Daniel Brandenburg, and Catholics are called to stand up and do something about it.In this interview with ZENIT, Deacon Brandenburg, who will be ordained a priest of the Legionaries of Christ this December, comments on his book "The New Fundamentalists: Beyond Tolerance," recently published by Circle Press.

Q: In a nutshell, what is the new fundamentalism that you address in your book?

Deacon Brandenburg: When we hear fundamentalism, what normally comes to mind is religious narrow-mindedness, perhaps with an irrational or even fanatical bent, like that displayed by some Muslim followers after Benedict XVI's Regensburg address.The "new" fundamentalism that I describe in my book often displays the same intolerance, irrationality and extremism. The key difference, however, is that the new fundamentalists profess to be secular followers of no religion.

Yet closer examination shows that the relativistic dogma underlying their worldview excites more religious fervor than do many tenets of the great world religions.John Paul II's experience with Nazism and Communism -- two completely secular ideological systems -- led him to write in "Centesimus annus": "When people think they possess the secret of a perfect social organization which makes evil impossible, they also think that they can use any means, including violence and deceit, in order to bring that organization into being. Politics then becomes a 'secular religion' which operates under the illusion of creating paradise in this world."I would say that what Nazism and Communism were in the past, relativism is today in our times. The methods are different -- softer and more subtle, working from the inside out -- but the effects on people and social structures and relationships do bear some comparison.Secular religion did not die with those defunct systems.

During an address last June 11, Benedict XVI touched upon the difficulties of passing on the faith "in a society, in a culture, which all too often makes relativism its creed. … [I]n such a society the light of truth is missing; indeed, it is considered dangerous and 'authoritarian' to speak of truth."We face a new fundamentalism -- a new secular religion -- that assumes there is implicit arrogance in any statement of truth, especially if it implies a value judgment about morality or the merits of one religion or worldview in comparison to others. The relativism of our time admits no rivals and is aggressively intolerant.In the end, when truth is taken away or ignored, might makes right. That applies for any brand of secular religion.

Q: Your book opens with a case study of a college student named Jeff who is virtually blackballed on campus for standing up for his faith, even though he did so in a reasonable and respectful way. What is the urgency of combating secular fundamentalism on college campuses?

Deacon Brandenburg: Jeff's case is one of countless true stories, all of which call us to an essential point: It's not enough to understand the nature and dangers of this new fundamentalism. We also have to equip ourselves and others to oppose it, using the tools of logical argumentation and reasonable dialogue.This is of the highest urgency, since relativism has a corrosive effect on almost every area of human life, from religion to morality to the organization of social and political life. The battle is not limited to college campuses, but extends to all levels of education, the media, politics and social life.

Q: What specific solutions do you propose as an antidote to the influence of relativism?

Deacon Brandenburg: Since this new fundamentalism is both a human and a religious malady, the medicine I prescribe at the end of my book has a human and a religious ingredient.On the human level, I urge mutual respect, dialogue and honesty. This last point of honesty is vitally important, since it entails a constant attitude of openness to truth.Sometimes it is uncomfortable to be continually challenged by truth. It might seem easier to dig our heels into what we already know and just settle into a familiar landscape of facts and opinions that we feel we have mastered.But truth is not something we can possess and put in our pocket. It is something that masters us, possesses us, and constantly challenges us to grow. To avoid that challenge would be to run away from growing into our full stature as human beings ... and as children of God, who is truth.On the religious level, I believe the remedy is authentic religion: a faith rooted in the personal encounter with a God who transcends and loves us, leading to deep attitudes that build on the best of human virtues and surpass them.

For example, authentic religion builds on the principle of mutual respect and elevates it to the virtue of charity. In a similar way, faith takes dialogue to a higher level of impact by opening man to the fullness of his spiritual nature. And honesty is brought to its full wingspan when man reaches after objective truth with all his strength.Relativism and agnosticism clip man's wings by discouraging him from inquiring after the great questions and actively seeking the answers to his most profound longings. The liberation of faith is that it brings back that wide horizon of ultimate questions and sets man free to search for the answers.

Q: Your book occasionally cites insights from Alexis de Tocqueville, the early 19th-century Frenchman who wrote "Democracy in America." What do you think De Tocqueville would say if he could see the impact of relativism in America today?

Deacon Brandenburg: I think De Tocqueville saw the potential danger from the beginning. He was one of the first to say that a democracy is worth only as much as its people are, and that the character of a nation is dependent on the moral character of its individual citizens.One of the points I argue in the body of the book is that the doctrine of tolerance is having a clear and measurable impact on marriage, family and the quality of social relationships as a whole; it is weakening the people who made our nation strong.

Q: What do you think are the key concepts that help us to engage effectively in debate and action?

Deacon Brandenburg: Many people might argue that tolerance is the key to interpersonal relations, but I would venture to say that charity and truth are much more important.If I really care about a person -- charity -- I will seek the truth for them. A doctor does his ailing patient a disservice to tell him he has nothing wrong, just as a parent destroys his child's future by tolerating self-destructive activity like engaging in premarital sex or taking drugs. We need to go beyond tolerance and pursue truth; hence the subtitle of my book.We can't be afraid to say that truth exists. The relativistic ethos of our society tends to frown upon statements of objective truth because it assumes that growth in intellectual maturity runs on par with growth in skepticism.

For the modern mind, intellectual sophistication seems to require systematic doubt, an ability to see all sides without committing to any one point of view.Of course, there is no doubt that there is a legitimate complexity to many things in life and answers are not easy to find. Yet this will never legitimate the lack of absolute answers to anything.Maturity means moving from doubt to renewed conviction about what is good and true. Truth, in this context, is not just a soap box to stand on, or a state of intellectual stagnation to sit in. On the contrary, seeking after truth is dynamic, active, growing, and yes, critical and discerning, because it requires going beyond skepticism to a deepened and perhaps purified grasp of reality in all its dimensions. Again, it's a matter of allowing reality to challenge and change us.We can respect people and tolerate their right to hold their own ideas while still affirming that some ideas are true, and others are just plain out of touch with reality. Part of dialogue entails this respect for the person and the willingness to engage in debate based on the objective merit of the ideas.That's what this book is intended to drive forward: to provide the tools and means for committed Catholics -- like Jeff -- to engage in reasoned dialogue with the secular world without losing confidence in the truth they have received.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Mary says we must believe Medjugorje to be "accepted."

We know as Catholics that private revelation does indeed happen. It happened to St. Francis when he received the stigmata, to St. Bernadette, to St. Juan Diego and to Sr. Lucia of Fatima. However, such revelations are very rare and are not the norm for the Catholic believer. As Msgr. Peric of Mostar points out, "One must also recall that apparitions are always something "extraordinary", rare, and this is an important element for their discernment. If apparitions were to occur on a daily basis in the life of a believer, or if they were to continue for years, this would obviously create serious problems for the theology of faith."

Besides their rarity, we know that private revelations command no obedience on the part of the faithful. Neither does the fact that the Church has approved an apparition mean that we must believe it; it only means that the revelation contains nothing harmful to faith or morals. Catholics are perfectly free to reject the messages of Lourdes, Fatima, Guadalupe and others and still be good Catholics. A sure sign of a true private revelation is that it does not insist that others believe it and a true visionary never gets impatient when others do not believe their message. Rather, they wait for God to decide all things and offer up their trials as penance.

Now, let's look at this message from Mirjana on March 18, 1996 (at this point she was only receiving one "message" per year on her birthday). In this message, Mary tells us:

Do not reject from yourself the name of God, that you may not be rejected.
Accept my messages that you may be accepted. Decide, my children, it is the time
of decision. Be of just and innocent heart that I may lead you to your Father,
for this that I am here, is his great love. Thank you for being here!

"Accept my messages that you may be accepted?" I don't know, but this sounds an awful lot like Mary is insinuating that one must believe in the Medjugorje messages in order to be "accepted", whatever that means. It seems to imply accepted by God (ie, saved) because in the previous sentence she supposedly says "Do not reject from yourself the name of God, that you may not be rejected." Rejection by God certainly means damnation; what else can it mean? Here Mary is saying that we must accept her messages if we want to be accepted. This is a pretty bold demand! Especially since on September 4th, 1982 Mary said, "Jesus prefers that you address yourselves directly to Him rather than through an intermediary." So if we need no intermediary, how can Mary say we need to accept her messages in order to be "accepted"?

Furthermore, a true visionary does not get impatient when they are faced with trials and tribulations; they see these as the working out of God's will in their lives and trust in Him to plan all things according to His purpose. Yet on October 20th, 1981, Vicka asks Gospa: "Dear Gospa, have mercy on Fr. Jozo tomorrow during the trial. Paralyze someone; strike someone on the head. I know it is a sin to speak so, but what can we do?" Here we have Vicka asking Mary something that she admits is sinful. Does she repent? No! She pretty much says, "But what can we do?" Did any of the saints ever ask God for anything about which they said "I know it is a sin to speak so"? Did Bernadette ask Mary to "paralyze" the prosecutor of Lourdes? Of course not! These should be signs to anyone who cares to judge the evidence that these apparitions cannot be true.

It is not my intent to be "uncharitable" in pointing this out; I am merely stating what should be a red flag to any lover of authentic Catholic Tradition. There is nothing uncharitable about testing all things and holding to what it good (1 Thess. 5:21).

I remind you all that you can read all of the messages for yourself at this website, run by the pro-Medjugorje Fr. Laurentin.

Are we living in a new Dark Ages?

Could it be possible that we are living in a new Dark Ages? I recently had a conversation with a friend in which we compared and contrasted the situation in the Dark Ages with the situation today, and there were many uncanny similarities. First off, let me begin by saying that on a whole I disagree with the phrase "Dark Ages" because I think the so-called Dark Ages were a very good time for humanity; we had finally shaken off all of the baggage of pagan antiquity but had not yet succumbed to rationalism and the errors of Protestantism; our faith was bold and strong, but simple and not yet complicated by the advances (and I would say that they were good and necessary advances) of scholasticism. By Dark Ages, I refer to the period from about 450 AD until around 1066.

Now, at first you will be tempted to write off my comparison of the Dark Ages with the modern world based on the superficial difference of technological advancement and the general diffusion of knowledge. But these differences are only accidental, as I will show.

One characteristic of the Dark Ages was the lack of knowledge. The mass of the European peasantry was ignorant of much of the learning and traditions of Greece and Rome. Much of this was due to the barbarian invasions; in the East, the onset of the Muslim curtain and the destruction of the great library of Alexandria by Amr ibn al 'Ass in 645 AD. Learning was preserved only in the monastaries, where the writings of the Fathers and of the best of antiquity was preserved. Now, can it be said that the modern world suffers from a lack of knowledge? Yes, it can. But what about the information revolution? What about the Internet and the widespread availability of knowledge to anybody on the planet with an Internet hook up?

We must realize two things: first, there is a difference between true knowledge and mere information. Information is raw data; knowledge is a comprehensive understanding and synthesis of the data into a meaningful concept. The second thing we can realize is that there are two ways to lack knowledge: by excess and by defect. In the Dark Ages they lacked knowledge by defect; ie, there simply was not enough learned people out there familiar with the old works to educate the people, and the times were so tumultuous that it is doubtful any institutions of higher learning could have flourished even had they been founded. But today we suffer from want of knowledge by excess. That is, the almost infinite availability of disconnected, raw data (factoids) made available by the Internet have cloaked true knowledge and gave us the appearance of knowledge by replacing it with a mountain of interesting but disconnected facts. Suppose you wanted to destroy a nation's economy. You could do it the old fashioned way by invading and confiscating all of the material wealth of the country so that it was left with nothing, or you could flood their market with an innundation of worthless counterfeit currency in order to make the real currency more difficult to distinguish and of more doubtful worth. This is what has happened due to the Internet.

Second, though many people adhered to the Faith, there was a widespread ignorance of the doctrinal truths of the Faith. Now, I'm not knocking the Dark Ages; I love them. But it cannot be denied that the education level of the clergy and laity was lower than in the patristic era. Priests actually condoned Trial by Fire as a good way of determining a criminal case. What I am getting at is there was theological ignorance. Can anybody deny that this is the case today? Can anybody truly deny that we are ignorant when 80% of the laity disbelieve in the Real Presence, 85% of Catholic couples use contraception, and the majority of priests seem ignorant (or at least apathetic) towards Catholic Tradition and the bishops and shepherds of the Church actively stifle expressions of the Church's Tradition?

Third, the Faith was imminently threatened by the expanse of Islam, which made inroads even into the heart of Christendom until it was halted by Charles Martel at Poitiers in 732. It is undeniable that today the Muslims are just as bent on conquest as they were a thousand years ago. They are again in the heart of Europe. The question is whether of not there will be another Charles Martel to rise up and drive them out?

Finally, I think I can say that in the Dark Ages, what was preserved of the intellectual and spiritual tradition of the Fathers was preserved in enclaves: little communities of religious like St. Benedict and the monks of Ireland who went out from the world to live lives of penance, prayer and study. Thus, the faith was preserved in tiny enclaves of orthodoxy amidst of sea of pagan invasion and social turmoil. In the later Middle Ages, the faith was nourished and preserved and grown at the University level in places like Paris and Salamanca. But at this point, it remained a monastic undertaking.

While these days the monasteries are not known for being bastions of orthodoxy, we can certainly see a parallel in that the true faith is being preserved and handed on in little enclaves (and certainly, like the Dark Ages, not in our mainstream Catholic universities!), places like the parishes of the Canons Regular of St. John Cantius and the Benedictine monastrey of Fontgombault. Hopefully, the renewal going on in these places and in many more like them can flow outward to renew the entire Church, as happened in the Dark Ages as the fruit of Irish learning and spirituality rejuvenated the Church of the Middle Ages.

I think we need a Dark Ages mentality. We need to realize that of we are to preserve the faith, it needs to be done in small enclaves. We need groups of five or ten men and women who are willing (either literally or figuratively) to just go out into the woods and the crags of the mountains and live lives worthy of the divine calling, that by their example and holiness the Church and world at large might be restored.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

The Cult of Sensitivity

One thing I think is definitely true about America and about the West in general is that everybody has become way too sensitive. We often act as though being insensitive or offending somebody is the worst possible sin we can commit; we act as though "Thou shalt not judge" is one of the Ten Commandments. Furthermore, not only are insensitivity and judgmentalism considered terrible, but even the mere appearance of them is to be avoided.

Now, there certainly are ways in which we are called to be sensitive and non judgmental. When we are commanded not to judge, it means that we are not to presume to know the state of a persons' soul, nor are we to judge what their standing is before God. When we are commanded to be sensitive (actually we are never commanded to be sensitive, only charitable), it means, as St. Paul says, "rejoicing with those who rejoice and weeping with those who weep"; ie, empathy. These are the biblical ways to be sensitive and non-judgmental.

What are the false, modernist interpretations of these two terms? Modernism tends to see any firm position taken on an issue as judgmentalism. For example, if I say that religious ought to wear their habits instead of dressing like regular people, someone might say, "How can you judge them? You don't know their soul!" Of course I don't know their soul, but I am not judging their soul. A soul cannot be judged, but actions can; as Christ says, a tree is known by its fruits. So if I say that a religious ought to wear a habit, I am not judging the religious who doesn't, but I am judging the practice of not wearing a habit.

Modernism also tends to see any criticism of anything at all as judgmentalism. "How can you be against Marty Haugen songs? There are a lot of people who get a lot out of them!" Very true. I am not denying that people "get a lot" out of them. But I am free to judge the music itself (and its effects on worship) without condemning the people. This is basic Christianity: distinguishing between the child of God and the actions that child of God may commit. Modernism is offended that a Christian be against anything at all. As Chesterton once said, "These are the days when a Christian is expected to praise every creed except his own."

And what of sensitivity? The temptation with sensitivity is (as often happens with the concept of unity) to make it an ultimate good instead of a relative good. It is insinuated that a Catholic must be sensitive above all things, so that nobody may have their feelings hurt. Hurting feelings are sometimes seen to be an absolute evil, while preserving harmonious relations between people is seen to be the absolute good. Thus, if Jews are offended by a Catholic asserting that they ought to convert, then we must not say that! If Protestants are upset that the CDF says their communities are deficient and not true churches, then we must deplore this kind of language; and if liberal Catholics are upset by being called heretics, then we certainly must not upset them!

True Catholic sensitivity means being aware and cognizant of the place a person is spiritually and intellectually, and meeting them where they are; becoming "all things to all men, that by all means I might save some" as St. Paul says. It absolutely does not mean confirming people in error. That would actually be a sin. We ought to never let sensitivity override bold proclamation of the truth. After all, don't you think the Pharisees were offeneded or had their feelings hurt when Jesus called them a brood of vipers? Did the money changers like it when Jesus beat them out of the Temple with a whip? Of course not; but Jesus did not place sensitivity before truth and justice. When truth was at stake, he did and said what needed to be done and did not give notice to sensitivity.

One more thing: even if we are the one having our feelings hurt, if we are the ones who are insulted or jilted, for no matter what reason, we do not need to join the fray by crying out "Insensitive!" Just take it like a man. Of course you are going to have your feelings hurt in this world; Christ promised that and much more to those who try to live faithfully. Whether you have your feelings hurt rightfully or wrongfully, forgive and offer it up to God as penance for your many sins; God knows we all need penance! But please do not add your voice to the din of those accusing each other of judgmentalism and insensitivity.

Sensitivity and non-judgmentalism are simply the product of excessive political correctness on Catholic thought; another example of how the modern Church is letting the world define it instead of vice versa. But let's not be intimidated by the modernist-sensitive Thought Police. Let's boldly proclaim the truth in the spirit of St. Louis IX.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Hindu Persecution of Christians in India

Think all religions are just as good as Christianity? Some liberal Catholic theologians would like us to believe so. Here's an interesting article on Christian persecution by Hindus in India. I bet you have not heard about this on the mainstream media.

Karnataka, Hindu protesters incite the massacre of Christians
by Nirmala Carvalho
A leaflet, distributed in thousands of copies lists the Christians “crimes”: love for their fellow man, education of the youth, refusal of the cast system. The text, signed by Hindu nationalists, threatens death to all those who remain in the state without converting to Hinduism.

Bangalore (AsiaNews) –Christians in the Southern Karnataka state “must immediately abandon Indian territory, or return to the mother religion which is Hinduism”. If they do not “they will be killed by all good Indians, who by doing so will show their virility and their love of the country”.

These threats are contained in leaflets given out yesterday by the thousands in Chitradurga district. Written in the local kanada dialect, the text lists” the “crimes” the Christians commit: Treating everyone with love and showing compassion to the helpless, helping the poor and converting them, educating the orphans and converting them, promoting freedom to marry, organising free medical care and ignoring the cast system”.

The letter is signed by Hindu radical groups, Bajrang Dal and Hindu Jagrutika Samiti of Chitradurga district Karnataka. Sajan K. George, president of the Global Council of Indian Christians, told AsiaNews: “These handbills are being widely circulated, but it is only the last in a series of anti Christian acts that have long plagued the State”.

In fact, the activist continues, “Regularly pastors are being beaten up and prayer meetings being disrupted and our scared books are burned. Certainly this most recent act is cause for deeper concern because it incites people to murder us”.

This is why he concludes, “all right-thinking persons, the media and the government must cry a halt to the violent hate-mongering being engaged in the name of religion”.
This is how the world responds to the Gospel, and we must always keep in mind Jesus' words that those who preach the truth will be persecuted; don't be deceived by the utopian ideas of a false, worldly peace between different religions. Peace will only come when every single man, woman and child on the face of the planet becomes an orthodox Roman Catholic, and I imagine that will only happen in heaven.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Ark of the Covenant: Under the Temple Mount?

Continuing our series from last week on the whereabouts of the Ark of the Covenant, we come to the second possibility of our four theories: that the Ark is buried beneath the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. This view is adhered to primarily by Zionists, extremely pro-Israel Evangelical Protestants and certain orthodox Jews. According to this theory, the Ark has rested in a secret vault beneath the Temple Mound (in fact, beneath the exact spot of the Holy of Holies) since the days just before the Babylonian capture of Jerusalem in 586 BC. I call this the Zionist Theory.

The evidence for this theory is that the Ark was the holiest object in the ancient world, and could only therefore rest in a hoyl place. It's proper place was the Holy of Holies. However, knowing the Babylonians were coming to destroy the Temple, the Jews decided to hide it. However, wherever they hid it had to be sacred, consecrated ground. Now, according to Jewish theology, the sacredness of a space extends not only to its two-dimensional borders but to its ultimate spatial extent. Thus, all of the air and sky directly above the Holy of Holies and all the ground beneath it down to the center of the earth are just as holy as the sanctuary. Thus, the theory goes, the priests (or some say Solomon) had a chamber dug under the Holy of Holies in the event that someday the Ark would need to be hidden there.

Shortly before the Babylonian captivity, the Ark was removed and hidden in this chamber. Then, all of the priests who knew of its whereabouts were slain or died in exile, leaving the entrance to the secret chamber a mystery. Jer. 52:24 mentions that Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard captured "Seraiah the chief priest, and Zephaniah the second priest, and the three keepers of the threshold...and brought them to the King of Babylon at Riblah. And the king of Babylon struck them, and put them to death at Riblah in the land of Hamath." Now, if the chief priests and the keepers of the threshold were all executed, would anybody be left to know where the Ark was taken?

The idea that the Ark is under the Temple Mount also found support in the work of two Israeli archaeologists, Shlomo Goren and Yehuda Getz, also Rabbis. They were digging secretly in a tunnel beneath the Temple Mount when they noticed some water seeping through a wall. The wall was removed, revealing a valuted chamber with the sealed entrance to another chamber below it. This chamber, the rabbis beleive, held the Ark. However, when the Moslems discovered that there were diggings being conducted under the Dome of the Rock, they threatened a general riot and the diggings were stopped. The rabbi explains that, for the sake of maintaining peace with their Moslem neighbors, the Israelis had to reseal the entrance to the tunnel, and it remains blocked up to this day.

Another reason Rabbi Getz said that no attempt was made to remove the Ark was that there was no one in the proper state of ritual purification able to move it, especially since the Temple Mount was dominated by Gentiles; ie, they had no one who could touch it without being struck dead. Thus they are content to leave it sit until the coming of the Messiah.

This theory, though very popular among Protestants, I find problematic for several reasons.

1) As we discussed last time, the Ark was missing at least 25 years before the Babylonian captivity.

2) It is based on theological reasoning: that the Ark must be in a place as sacred as the Holy of Holies. There is no historical evidence that the Ark was ever taken to any underground chamber.

3) Furthermore, we know that it is not necessarily true that the Ark has to be somewhere sacred. We know that it rested in the house of Obed-Edom the Gittite for three month in the Old Testament. Not only was nobody cursed or struck dead for it, but "the Lord blessed Obed-Edom and all his household" (2 Sam. 6:11). The Scriptures never said that the earth could not touch the dirty ground, only that it could not touch sinful flesh.

4) The Templar Knights, when the Temple Mount was in their exclusive possession during the Crusades, did a series of excavations beneath the site of the Temple and found nothing.

5) Rabbi Getz and Rabbi Goren have not said how they knew that the Ark was in the chamber, only that they were "certain." Furthermore, their work is tied up with Israeli-Palestinian politics and the desire to build a Third Temple. Thus, it is in their political best interest to have the Ark located beneath the Temple Mount.

6) The excuse of Rabbi Getz as to why they didn't make more of an effort to retrieve the Ark (that there was no one holy enough to move it) seems suspect. There exists the modern technology to dig the Ark out and transport it without any human having to touch it.

This theory, which I call the Zionist Theory, is very controversial because, if it were true, it gives Jews a strong claim to parts of the Temple Mount. Most adherents of this view support the idea of building a Third Temple on the Mount and reinstituting animal sacrifice according to Old Testament regulations. Zionist Jews and Protestants are among these supporters; on the other hand, Catholic tradition has always seen the rebuilding of the Temple as a sign of antichrist (as in the well known story of Julian the Apostate's attempt to rebuild it in the mid-4th century).

This theory's main weakness is that it is based on a series of theological assumptions with little history to back them up, and even the assumptions themselves are questionable.

For the previous article in this series, click here.

Next time: Did Jeremiah hide the Ark on Mt. Nebo?

Confession behind the screen: more than just preference

Much energy has been expended discussing the current liturgical problems in the Church (and not without good cause; the Divine Liturgy, where Christ is offered in sacrifice to the Father, is the most important aspect of the Church's worship). However, the abuses, ambiguities and modernist innovations current in ecclesial life are by no means limited to the liturgy alone. Today I'd like to discuss them with reference to the Sacrament of Confession.

How often is the deficient argument made that those who prefer the old rite do so for merely aesthetic reasons: that either rite is just as good, and there is no logical reason why we should have one over the other because they are both equally valid (and by the way, I think people who argue on terms of strict validity demonstrate a skewed point of view; to argue from validity alone is to argue on the basis of bare minimums and exceptions instead of what is the fullness of the rite and what are the proper norms, but I digress)? And if both rites are equally valid (which they are objectively speaking), then the one solitary reason why one should prefer one over another is for mere aesthetic, sentimental, nostalgic or romantic reasons. We see this in the Bishop's statements on the Motu Proprio; that it is for those "still attached" to the old rite, never imagining that there is a small army of persons alive who were born after the Council implementations but yet desire the old form because they know with Catholic sense that it is the fullness of Catholic worship.

In the sacrament of Confession we see this false mindset regarding validity and aetshetics in the discussion between whether it is better to co to the sacrament behind a screen or face to face. In most parishes today, face to face is the norm. Parish confessionals are still supposed to be set up for behind the screen confession, but, as with kneelers, many parishes have chosen to abandon the behind the screen option all together. The confessional has turned into a small conference room, complete with table, small lamp, cushy chairs, box of tissue paper (in case the penitent starts crying) and perhaps even a glass of water (for the penitent's throat after he spends 30 minutes blabbing about everything except his sins). I'd say only the most liberal parishes have done away with the behind the screen option altogether; the majority of parishes have a behind the screen option but with an option for face to face. Only a few parishes have exclusive behind the screen confessions.

I think face to face is a big problem, and not just because I favor behind the screen for aesthetic reasons. When looking at face to face vs. behind the screen, we have to look not at preferences and what makes us feel good, but what facilitates a more thorough confession and hence a firmer reconciliation to God with the reception of more grace. As we look at the differences in the two customs, remember that we are not talking about what the faithful "get out of it," but rather what is intrinsic to the practice itself. Please don't leave a bunch of comments saying "but I get a lot out of confession face to face"; that may be true, but it is not the point. There are a lot of people who "get a lot" out of Buddhism too, but it has nothing to do with what is good for the soul. Here are some things to consider:

Downsides to "Face to Face" Confession

1) The biggest and most obvious one is lack of anonymity. Confession of sin, since the early Middle Ages, has always been anonymous (in patristic times, it had been public, before the congregation, which I don't think anybody is anxious to return to). Knowing that the priest is now able to connect a face with the sins you are confessing makes it more difficult to bring everything out into the open.

2) It creates the atmosphere of a meeting room or a psychiatrist's office. A face to face format encourages discussion; after all, in society, we are always face to face when we discuss things. Thus, from habit, we tend more to want to "discuss" our sins instead of confess them. Behin the screen, it is easy to say, "Bless me Father, for I have sinned. It has been six weeks since my last confession. I confess that I have..." It is awkward to repeat this formula while you are sitting face to face with the priest. Instead, the confession tends to sound like, "Oh Father. I'm having such a problem with my daughter! Let me tell you about it..." This is one of the biggest problems of face to face confession; instead of confession of sin, it turns into discussion of problems.

3) Flowing from the above tendency of confession to turn to discussion comes the consequent that confessions take a lot longer; it takes a lot longer to discuss things with a priest face to face than to simply make a confession behind a screen. Face to face confessions often run twenty-minutes a piece. The avergage confession made to St. Padre Pio was under two minutes.

4) It fails to give any sense of the fact that sin puts you outside of God's grace; i.e, the sacrament done face to face has very little sign value. It has the feeling of a fireside chat.
Benefits of "Behind the Screen"

1) Easier to recollect sins because of the absence of having the priest looking at you while you are trying to do it, thus rendering confession more thorough and thus more fruitful.

2) Preserves anonymity, again making it easier to recount and recollect sins. The anonymity also, in a way, symbolizes the gratuitous nature of God's grace, who gives without distinction of persons. The fact that the priest cannot see you is in a way symbolic of the fact that to God all men are equal and that He judges by the heart.

3) Keeps confessions shorter; it is harder to get into a "discussion" from behind a screen.

4) Sign value: placing yourself behind a screen with the priest, acting in persona Christi, reminds us that sin does indeed put up a barrier between ourselves and God.

5) Greater humility: when we are visible to another person, especially a priest, we will tend to try to look more impressive in our demeanor and facial expressions. Behind a screen (especially if there is a kneeler), we are enabled to forget our image and truly humble ourselves. This is the proper disposition for the sacrament and thus makes it more fruitful.

I'm sure there are many others, and this is not even taking into account the actual words and rubrics of the rite itself! So we can see that confession behind the screen helps instill greater humility, makes it easier for the penitent to recall his sins, preserves anonymity, keeps the confession time shorter (making it more practical) and, if the proper dispositions are all there, facilitates a greater reception of grace ex opere operantis to the penitent. It is no mere matter of taste. If a priest took seriously his obligation to make the greatest amount of grace available to his flock, it seems that he ought to fervently recommend confession behind the screen.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Australian Archbishop on Married Priests

Fr. Fleming, an Australian Catholic priest, is one of few Catholic priests allowed to have a wife because he converted from Anglicanism and was married prior to his entrance into the Catholic Church. For almost all other priests, celibacy remains the norm (as it should).

Here is a good statement from Archbishop Philip Wilson of Adelaide on why we should not have married priests:

ADELAIDE, Australia, AUG. 16, 2007- Allowing priests to marry is not the answer to the shortage of priestly vocations, said Archbishop Philip Wilson in a new pastoral letter on celibacy.

Archbishop Wilson of Adelaide, who is also the president of the Australian bishops' conference, wrote the letter for the National Vocations Awareness Week that began in his archdiocese Tuesday.

"You often hear it said," the archbishop started, "that 'the Church should let priests get married and then we would solve the problem of the shortage.'"

"However," he explained, "I think that it is important to reflect on the positive value of celibacy."

Community context

"We need to see a vocation as more than just an individual or personal life choice," Archbishop Wilson said. "Each vocation is a call from God in the context of the Christian community and for the service of the community.

"If we only see a vocation from the individual's point of view, we will find it hard to see beyond the thought that priests and religious are missing out on something if they are not married. John Paul II reminded us that 'No one is called to walk alone.'"

The 56-year-old archbishop continued: "The context of a loving, supportive Christian community is important. At the heart of the ministry of Jesus was the proclamation of the Kingdom of God. In fact in his very person he made the Kingdom of God present in human time and history.

"The Kingdom of God is among us and includes our human endeavors, we know that its fulfillment lies beyond us and only in the mystery of God and in the next life."

"Celibate priests and religious are clear signs of this mystery. They continually challenge us to look beyond," the archbishop explained.

Human loss

Archbishop Wilson continued: "You hear it said 'how can priests be helpful to married people and for families if they haven't experienced it themselves?'

"However, there's a deeper way that priests and religious share in the human experiences of others and so can relate to them. It is in the experience of loss and letting go."

Archbishop Wilson underlined the "deep wisdom in the Church continuing to ask priests to be celibate and in upholding the enduring religious vow of chastity."

"Of their very natures," he concluded, "these vows only exist and are possible because of God's grace. Let us not lose faith and confidence in the gift of this grace. Let us confidently pray for it."

Excellent. He points out that celibacy is a sign of the coming kingdom, where we "are neither married nor given in marriage." One thing he does not point out, on a practical level, is that it would not be fair to the wife and kids of a married priest to have him trying to live his priestly vocation and be a husband. All of the priests I know are so incredibly busy that they would have no time for family life; my parish priest works about 14 hours a day and is on the verge of a nervous breakdown most of the time. This is an often neglected practical side to the question.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Criteria for Judging Private Apparitions

Vicka during one of her visions.

In response to some of my postings on Medjugorje, I thought I might be wise to post the traditionals rules for judging alleged apparitions in the Church. I want to state up front that the tradition of the Church, as seen from Lourdes, Guadalupe and others, is for the bishops and the ecclesiastical authorities to be suspicious of an apparition until such a time when convincing evidence is brought forth to prove otherwise. In American law, a person is presumed innocent until proven guilty. In Catholic Tradition, an apparition is judged false until proven true. This is the case because in any given situation the possibility of a true apparition is relatively small. Therefore, the Church must approach all apparitions from the standpoint that they are probably false until such a time when a miraculous occurrence gives reason to believe they are true.

The Catholic Encyclopedia warns that dealing with apparitions is a serious business: “Illusions in the matter of revelations often have a serious consequence, as they usually instigate to exterior acts, such as teaching a doctrine, propagating a new devotion, prophesying, launching into an enterprise that entails expense. There would be no evil to fear if these impulses came from God, but it is entirely otherwise when they do not come from God, which is much more frequently the case and is difficult of discernment.” Notice that it says that it is difficult to discern if a message comes from God or not, but that it is “much more frequently the case” that it is false. Many supporters of Medjugorje criticize those who seek to look at the evidence in a straightforward and scientific manner. But this is a must because, as the Encyclopedia says, the truth is “difficult of discernment.”

In judging the apparitions and the messages themselves (not counting whatever is found about about the life of the seers), the Church uses a guily until proven innocent method: “To prove that a revelation is Divine (at least in its general outlines), the method of exclusion is sometimes employed. It consists in proving that neither the demon nor the ecstatic's own ideas have interfered (at least on important points) with God's action, and that no one has retouched the revelation after its occurrence.” The Church first tries to see if the apparition can be attributed to anything else: demonic activity, hallucination, etc. The Church finely combs through every detail of the supposed apparition looking for possibilities of corrupted doctrine and non-supernatural origins. Only if all of these other possibilities are ruled out is it finally admitted that the apparition may be divine. Therefore, when looking at Medjugorje, we need to finely go through every detail and scutinize it from every angle. If it is of God, then it will pass the Church’s scrutiny (and by Church, I mean the competent ecclesiastical superiors, not just the whole mass of laity. It is not the job of the laity going on pilgrimages to determine whether or not an apparition is true based on their "experiences"). A similar process is undergone in the canonizing of saints, where the burden of proof is on the supporters of the saint to prove his/her holiness, not on the Church to disprove it.

The Encyclopedia goes on to list seven questions to be examined when looking into the character of the visionary. Again, we see the process of the Church attempting to find any other explanation for the phenomenon before declaring them supernatural in origin:

(1) What are his natural qualities or defects, from a physical, intellectual, and especially moral standpoint? If the information is favourable (if the person is of sound judgment, calm imagination; if his acts are dictated by reason and not by enthusiasm, etc.), many causes of illusion are thereby excluded. However, a momentary aberration is still possible.

(2) How has the person been educated? Can the knowledge of the visionary have been derived from books or from conversations with theologians?

(3) What are the virtues exhibited before and after the revelation? Has he made progress in holiness and especially in humility? The tree can be judged by its fruits. [In looking at this criteria, check out the message from 10/20/81 where Vicka asks Mary to "Paralyze someone; strike someone on the head" in regards to Fr. Jozo's trial. She then says, "I know it is a sin to speak so, but what can we do?" Is this the words of someone making progress in grace and holiness?]

(4) What extraordinary graces of union with God have been received? The greater they are the greater the probability in favour of the revelation, at least in the main.

(5) Has the person had other revelations that have been judged Divine? Has he made any predictions that have been clearly realized?

(6) Has he been subjected to heavy trials? It is almost impossible for extraordinary favours to be conferred without heavy crosses; for both are marks of God's friendship, and each is a preparation for the other.
(7) Does he practice the following rules: fear deception; be open with your director; do not desire to have revelations?

It is interesting that the Encyclopedia goes on to list signs of false messages. Two are pertinent in our discussion of Medjugorje: the first is that “They [the apparitions] reply to idle questions, or descend to providing amusement for an assembly.” This happens repeatedly in the Medjugorje visions, where the seers ask idle questions again and again: what happened to so and so? When is so and so going to get out of jail? We haven’t seen so and so for a few weeks; where are they? (see the messages of 9/17/81, 10/30/81 and 12/2/81 for this type of idle questioning about things unrelated to spiritual things) At one point, Mary supposedly even rebukes them for their curiosity(9/30/81)! The second sign of a false message: “Finally, a revelation is suspect if it is commonplace, telling only what is to be found in every book. It is then probable that the visionary is unconsciously repeating what he has learnt by reading.” The messages of Medjugorje certainly are commonplace. Their non-stop banal drones for peace sound like they could have come from a statement by the USCCB Committee for Social Justice. I imagine the messages would tend to sound commonplace after being repeated about 35,000 times.

Finally, the Encyclopedia asks, “If any work has been begun as a result of the revelation, has it produced great spiritual fruit? Have the sovereign pontiffs and the bishops believed this to be so, and have they assisted the progress of the work?” The answer os a resounding no. The Bishop of Mostar, the one is the greatest postion to know the facts of the story and discern the truth, has frequently denied the visions any authenticity, and neither Pope John Paul II nor Benedict XVI accorded any merit of truthfulness to the visions. In fact, the Bishop of Mostar expressely forbid pilgrimage to Medjugorje: “Therefore it is not permissible to organise pilgrimages and other manifestations motivated by the supernatural character attributed to the facts of Medjugorje” (Jan 29, 1987 Communiqué of the Yugoslav Bishops Concerning the Facts of Medjugorje). Nevertheless, millions of pilgrims each year continue to disobey the Bishop and spurn his authority, something that in itself is a witness against the apparitions.

This ban was reconfirmed June 30th, 1996 by none other than Cardinal Bertone. This same document states the Vatican’s position on Medjugorje as of 1996: “The Vatican position, which also reflects that of local bishops in the former Yugoslav republic was outlined in a letter by Archbishop Tarcisio Bertone, secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Archbishop Bertone cited a 1991 report by the Yugoslavian bishops which said that, after much study, it could not be confirmed that supernatural events were occurring at Medjugorje. From what was said, it followed that official pilgrimages to Medjugorje, understood as a place of authentic Marian apparitions, should not be organized, Archbishop Bertone said. Such pilgrimages would be in contradiction with what the local bishops had determined, he added.” As for Pope Benedict XVI, in 2006, Bishop Peric of Mostar discussed Medjugorje with Pope Benedict XVI during a visit to the Vatican. In a summary of the discussion published in his diocesan newspaper, Bishop Peric said he had reviewed the history of the apparitions with the pope, who already was aware of the main facts from his time as head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. "The Holy Father told me: We at the congregation always asked ourselves how can any believer accept as authentic apparitions that occur every day and for so many years?" Bishop Peric said. Bishop Peric noted that Yugoslavian bishops in 1991 issued a statement that "it cannot be confirmed that supernatural apparitions or revelations are occurring" at Medjugorje.

These are the types of criteria the Church must follow when examining alleged apparitions. Not so-called fruits (which are always subjective), but hard evidence. Furthermore, no matter what the outcome of the Church’s decision is, one must always submit to the authority of the Bishop; in the case of Medjugorje, the Bishop (who by the way has led pilgrimages to Lourdes and loves the Blessed Mother dearly) has had his authority flounted at every turn. This in itself is enough to make the visions suspect. So let’s not get bent out of shape just because somebody is trying to examine these things rationally. We have to make absolutely certain that a vision is true before we proclaim it so; otherwise, false apparitions and false prophets, like in Old Testament Israel, are able to cause much mayhem.
This my last post on Medjugorje for awhile; I think people are getting sick of it. Read the Medjugorje messages for yourself and see how silly they are. You can find a pretty exhaustive list of them on this website run by long-time Medjugorje supporter Fr. Laurentin, including the ones I quoted above.

Bishops using the "Cinderella" method on the MP

I'm sure most bloggers remember the old Disney Cinderella movie, right? I have seen this movie too many times to count because I have two little girls who watch it on a weekly basis. At any rate, I was recently watching this movie with my five year old daughter and we came to the scene when the royal courier comes to the door and announces that the Prince is having a royal ball in which every eligible maiden is commanded to attend. The following scene reminds me of exactly what is being done to the Holy Father's motu proprio Summorum Pontificum right now by many American bishops (including, I should add, the bishop of my own diocese. Click here for an inside scoop of the Bishop of Lansing's take on the MP, and for a look into our diocese in general, click here). Now, a scene from Disney's Cinderella:

Courier: By command of the King, every eligible maiden in ordered to attend a royal ball in the Prince's honor tonite.

Cinderella: Why, that means I can go to the ball, too! After all, he did say "every eligible maiden!"

Wicked Stepmother: Why, yes Cinderella you may go; you are part of the family. That is, you may go if you finish all of your chores and find something suitable to wear.

Cinderella: Oh! Thank you, stepmother! (Runs out excitedly to prepare her dress for the evening)

Wicked Stepsisters: (Indignant) Mother! How could you let her go? Do you realize what you just said?

Wicked Stepmother: (chuckling with sinister smile) Yes. I said "if."

Wicked Stepsisters: (smiling evily) Oh! "If!" (cackling fiendishly)

Gus-Gus and Mice: Poor Cinderelli; they not let her go to the ball. They'll fix her; you'll see.

Okay, now let's change some of the names around and see how this applies to the motu proprio:

Pope Benedict: By the command of myself, the Pope, every priest is to be enabled to say the Mass according to the Missal of 1962.

Traditionalist Priest: Why, that means I can say the TLM, too! After all, it did says "every priest."

Bishop: Of course you may say the TLM, Father. That is, if you are competent in Latin and the old liturgical rubrics and can find a stable group of the faithful.

Traditionalist Priest: Oh! Thank you, Your Excellency! (Runs out ot get on Coalition Ecclesia Dei website to order all the TLM supplies)

Diocesan Liturgist: (very angry) Your Excellency! How could you tell him he could do that? This will undermine Vatican II! Do you realize what you just said?

Bishop: (sinister smile) Yes. I said, "if."

Diocesan Liturgist: (smiling fiendishly) Oh. "If." Right.

Traditionalist Laity: Poor Father. He won't get to say the TLM. They'll fix him. You'll see.

What do you think? Is this a valid comparison?

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Happy Solemnity of the Assumption



Let us beseech the Divine Guest of the Virgin's womb, the Spouse of the sacred nuptial chamber, the Lord of the Tabernacle, the King of the Temple, Who bestowed such innocence upon His Mother that His Deity deigned to take flesh and be born of her. She knew nothing of the world; and with her mind fixed upon prayer, she showed forth in her manners that purity which she had conceived at the Angel's greeting; and by her Assumption she was preserved from the corruption of death, she who had borne the Author of life. Yea, dearly beloved brethren, let us earnestly beseech our Lord, that in His mercy He would save the souls of the dead from Hell and bring them to that place whither the body of the Blessed Virgin was translated. May He deign to hear our prayer Who liveth in perfect Trinity.


It is right and just, O Almighty God, that we duly give Thee great thanks at this glorious season, on this most venerable day, whereon the faithful Israel came forth from Egypt; whereon the Virgin Mother of God passed from this world to Christ. She knew no corruption in life, no dissolution in the tomb; for she was free from all stain of sin, glorious by her Divine Offspring; and being set free by her Assumption, she was made Queen of Paradise for her dower. Ever a spotless Virgin, she was filled with joy by the fruit of her womb. She knew no pain in childbirth, no sorrow in death. Her life and her death were above the laws of nature. She was the loveliest of bridal chambers whence came forth the noblest of bridegrooms, He Who is the light of the nations, the hope of the faithful, the spoiler of the demons, and the shame of the Jews. She was a vessel of light, a tabernacle of glory, a Heavenly temple. Now, the better to proclaim the merits of this Virgin, let us compare her life with that of the first Eve.

Mary brought forth life for the world, and Eve brought upon it the law of death. She by her sin ruined us, Mary by her Divine Child saved us. Eve poisoned our very root by the fruit of the tree; Mary is the the branch whence springs the flower that refreshed us with its fragrance and healed us by its fruit. Under the curse Eve brings forth her children in sorrow, Mary gives us blessing and salvation. Faithless Eve yielded to the serpent, deceived her husband, and ruined her children; Mary by her obedience appeased the Father's wrath, merited to have God for her Son, and saved her posterity. Eve gave us to drink the juice of a bitter fruit, Mary pours upon us unending sweetness from its fountain-head, her Son. Eve's bitter apple set her children's teeth on edge, our Lady has made us the sweetest bread for our food; near her none can perish unless he disdain to feast upon this bread. But let us turn from mourning past evils to our present joy.

To thee, then, we return, O fruitful Virgin, spotless Mother. Maiden not knowing man, ennobled not polluted by thy Son. O happy one! the joy thou didst conceive thou hast transmitted to us. We were glad at thy birth, we exulted at thy pure delivery, and in like manner we glory in thy passing. It were a small thing that Christ sanctified thee at thine entrance into the world, had He not also honoured thee, O worthy Mother, at thy departure hence. Justly then did thy Son joyfully receive thee in thy Assumption, for thou didst lovingly receive Him when thou didst conceive Him by faith. Thou knewest nought of earth's bonds: how could that rocky tomb hold thee prisoner?

O soul redeemed amidst unwonted marvels! The Apostles pay thee the last sacred duties; the Angels sing thy praises; Christ welcomes thee with His embrace; a cloud is thy chariot; thou art assumed into Paradise, there to reign in glory as Queen of the choirs of Virgins.


We extol thee, O Mother of God ; for from thee was born Christ, saving all who glorify thee, O holy Lady, Mother of God, give unto us thy sanctifying graces.


Behold, O Lord God, the glorious Virgin Mary, who from the valley of tears and the desert of this world is known to have been taken up this day, leaning upon her Beloved, thine only begotten Son and her Son, even to an unspeakable height. We show, as it were, her special seal and most precious jewel, when we confess the unity of nature between the Immaculate Mother and the human Body taken of her by the Divinity. Therefore we beseech Thee, O ineffable, Most High God, that thither all our energy may turn, whither on this day precedes us in her mighty love, our worthy advocate, the most Blessed Virgin.

R. Amen.

Through Thy mercy, O our God, Who art blessed,
Who livest and rulest all things for ever and ever .