Friday, November 30, 2007

Benedict's New Enyclical

Today Benedict XVI released his second encyclical, "Spe Salvi," which people are translating as "Saved by Hope." I will spend the rest of today pondering over this encyclical and will try to have some commentary on it by tomorrow. I am pretty busy today so I probably won't post again. Here is a link to the official English version of the text. Have a blessed Feast of St. Andrew.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Benedict Responds to Muslim Letter

This morning, Pope Benedict XVI responded to last month's "Open Letter" from 138 Muslim scholars calling for a new dialogue based on love of God and love of neighbor. The document issued by the Pope today (and signed by Tarscicio Bertone) is addressed to Prince Ghazi bin Muhammad bin Talal, a Jordanian academic thought to be the leader of the effort. Before I say anything about this letter (and there are some positives and some negatives), I will reproduce it in its entirety here:

Your Royal Highness, On 13 October 2007 an open letter addressed to His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI and to other Christian leaders was signed by one hundred and thirty-eight Muslim religious leaders, including Your Royal Highness. You, in turn, were kind enough to present it to Bishop Salim Sayegh, Vicar of the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem in Jordan, with the request that it be forwarded to His Holiness.

The Pope has asked me to convey his gratitude to Your Royal Highness and to all who signed the letter. He also wishes to express his deep appreciation for this gesture, for the positive spirit which inspired the text and for the call for a common commitment to promoting peace in the world.

Without ignoring or downplaying our differences as Christians and Muslims, we can and therefore should look to what unites us, namely, belief in the one God, the provident Creator and universal Judge who at the end of time will deal with each person according to his or her actions. We are all called to commit ourselves totally to him and to obey his sacred will.

Mindful of the content of his Encyclical Letter Deus Caritas Est ("God is Love"), His Holiness was particularly impressed by the attention given in the letter to the twofold commandment to love God and one’s neighbour.

As you may know, at the beginning of his Pontificate, Pope Benedict XVI stated: "I am profoundly convinced that we must not yield to the negative pressures in our midst, but must affirm the values of mutual respect, solidarity and peace. The life of every human being is sacred, both for Christians and for Muslims. There is plenty of scope for us to act together in the service of fundamental moral values" (Address to Representatives of Some Muslim Communities, Cologne, 20 August 2005). Such common ground allows us to base dialogue on effective respect for the dignity of every human person, on objective knowledge of the religion of the other, on the sharing of religious experience and, finally, on common commitment to promoting mutual respect and acceptance among the younger generation. The Pope is confident that, once this is achieved, it will be possible to cooperate in a productive way in the areas of culture and society, and for the promotion of justice and peace in society and throughout the world.

With a view to encouraging your praiseworthy initiative, I am pleased to communicate that His Holiness would be most willing to receive Your Royal Highness and a restricted group of signatories of the open letter, chosen by you. At the same time, a working meeting could be organized between your delegation and the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, with the cooperation of some specialized Pontifical Institutes (such as the Pontifical Institute for Arabic and Islamic Studies and the Pontifical Gregorian University). The precise details of these meetings could be decided later, should this proposal prove acceptable to you in principle.

I avail myself of the occasion to renew to Your Royal Highness the assurance of my highest consideration.

Cardinal Tarcisio BertoneSecretary of State

I think this was a tolerably well-thought out response by the Holy Father. It is not as strong as I would have liked, of course (there are no calls for the Muslims to convert and accept the Gospel), but neither is there any dribble about us praying together or any nonsense like that. Let's look at a few of the strong points of the letter.

First, Benedict refernces Deus Caritas Est in the context of love of neighbor. This is a very subtle point, but very important. In Islamic theology, Allah cannot love us the way God the Father loves in our Faith. Allah relates to his people as a master to slaves, but not as a father to children. Thus, the concept of God being substantially love is foreign to Islam. Allah may be merciful, powerful, all-knowing, etc. But he is not love and he certainly is not father. By referring to Deus Caritas Est, Benedict reminds them of the vast difference in the Catholic conception of God and the Islamic belief.

The next part is what I particularly like. If you recall, the Muslim letter said that we ought to base our common ground and our dialogue on two religious doctrine that they believe we share in common: belief in one God and love of neighbor. Both of these, although common to many religions, are nevertheless religious doctrines. Now, look at how Benedict responds:

Such common ground allows us to base dialogue on effective respect for the dignity of every human person, on objective knowledge of the religion of the other, on the sharing of religious experience and, finally, on common commitment to promoting mutual respect and acceptance among the younger generation.

Notice what he did? The Muslims asked to base dialogue on the religious grounds that we worship the one God and love our neighbor. Benedict turns around and says that we can base our dialogue on "respect for the dignity of every human person, on objective knowledge of the religion of the other, on the sharing of religious experience and, finally, on common commitment to promoting mutual respect and acceptance," all of them natural, worldly things. I like the line "objective knowledge of the religion of the other," which draws a good distinction that we can have dialogue with each other without having to accept each other's faith; objective knowledge of each other's religion suffices. I am not sure what "shared religious experience" means, but I don't think he means it the way JPII did at Assisi. But what Benedict categorically did not say is, "Okay, let's base our dialogue on love of God and love of neighbor, just like you said." No; he understands that their god is profoundly different from ours and that the way Muslims "love" their neighbors (like by taxing them for being Christians?) is not the type of love Jesus mentioned. Therefore, he accepted the call to dialogue, but gave different, more worldly ground son which to base it.

This letter has many weaknesses, too. I wish he would not have invited them to a meeting. If they accept, I hope he actually preaches the Gospel to them. That would be nice. But probably it will turn into some clap-trap about mutual understanding, fruitful dialogue and reciprocal respect. I think people imagine that just learning about each other will help us get along. Well let me tell you, it is precisely because I know exactly what Islam is that I despise it so much. So, just learning about each other's religion is not going to do anything at all. Let's pray to Our Lady of Victory, St. John Capistrano and Pope St. Pius V that this"meeting" does not turn into another Assisi.

Is Sin Inevitable?

When discussing moral issues that affect society, have you ever noticed the presupposition behind many of the positions taken by liberals and modernists? Whether it is with legalizing prostitution, legalizing abortion or promoting abstinence in schools, there is a moral position that underlies all of their arguments in favor of their immoral agendas. What is this presupposition? The concept that it is inevitable that people will commit evil and therefore the only thing we can do is try to soften the blow when the evil happens.

Is it inevitable that we will all commit sin? We have to be very careful here. It is certainly not inevitable that we will all commit mortal sin; many of the saints, like St. Therese of Lisieux and St. Dominic, had their confessors testify that they never committed a mortal sin. But what about for the rest of us? It is pretty certain that we will all be guilty of at least venial sin during our life; the Apostle John says as much ("If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us," 1 John 1:8). I think you could make a pretty good generalization this way: while it is inevitable that we will all commit some sin (at least venial) during our lives, it is not inevitable that we will commit any certain sin. Because I am fallen, I am sure to slip up somewhere; but I don't think you could say that it is inevitable that I will commit slander, or theft, or gossip, etc. I may live my life without committing any of those. But I think it is certain that the best of us will slip up somewhere (Proverbs 24:16 says that even the righteous man falls seven times a day), but it cannot be said with certainty that I will fall into any specific sin.

That being said about venial sin, it is definitely not inevitable that anybody has to commit mortal sin, which is what we are concerned with here. But this is exactly what many proponents of vice would have us to believe. Look at the implications of the following statements:

"It's no use teaching abstinence. Kids will be kids, and they're going to have sex anyway. Do you want them to be totally unprepared when they do start having sex? The best thing we can do is educate them about safe sex and give them access to condoms and contraceptives."

"It doesn't make sense to outlaw prostitution. People are going to do these this anyway and you can't stop it. Just legalize it, since it's already going on."

"If abortions were illegal, women would be forced to have recourse to back alley abortionists and unsafe medical conditions that could greatly endanger them. Therefore, abortions should stay legal

In each case, the sinful activity is presented as inevitable: teens have to have sex, there's no way around it. People are going to use hookers no matter what, so it's pointless to try to curb it. And most offensive, the implication in number three, women simply must have to murder their babies; if you stop them legally, they'll find some other way to do it. Do you see how in each case the sin is presented as an inevitability? The proponents of these positions then say that all we can do is cushion the sin so that the impact of it is not so great (i.e., giving out condoms). This is not unlike the political view of many leftists during the Cold War who said we can't possibly beat Communism, so the best we can hope to do is think of ways to peacefully coexist with them. That argument was rubbish in that situation, and it is certainly rubbish when applied to the question of grave moral evils.

God said to Cain in Genesis 4:7, "Sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it." Nobody denies that there are strong temptations to sin; that much is common to all human nature. Sin does lurk behind many corners, and it does desire to ensnare us. But God tells us, "you must master it." This is what St. Paul refers to in 1 Corinthians 10:13: "No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it." Even on the natural level, God has given man a reason and a will sufficiently powerful enough to overcome the often disordered desires in us that lead us to commit sin. With the grace of Christ, it is not only possible to overcome sin but not possible to attain great heights of sanctity.

Nobody has to have premarital sex or have abortions. People choose to willingly and then try to lessen their culpability by saying that their evil act was unavoidable. Who would have thought our culture could ever have gotten to a place where people commit mortal sin flagrantly and claim that it is inevitable? But let them go their own way to their own place. For us, we will remember God's warning to Cain, that it is we who must master sin. If we don't, we run the risk of becoming like Cain, both as individuals and as a society.

"He that is unjust, let him be unjust still: and he which is filthy, let him be filthy still: and he that is righteous, let him be righteous still: and he that is holy, let him be holy still". Revelation 22:11

Latin Making a Comeback

This is actually from a few days ago, but check out this article from the Washington Post on the popularity of Latin. Especially encouraging is all the young people the article mentions as attending these Masses and how the attendance at them is a lot greater than what was expected. The Party Line of the bishops is that there is no interest in the traditional Mass; well, the only way to find out is to offer it and see who comes! If they did, I think they would be surprised at the turnout.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Various News Items...

Catholic Eco-Spirituality? I think I'm gonna hurl...

This is a link to the website of St. Joan of Arc Catholic Church in Minneapolis. This parish has an "Eco-Spirituality Committe" that is dedicated to helping people realize that "Our human journey is intricately connected with the earth and all its creatures; our way to healing and wholeness (= salvation) plays out through our inter-relationship with the living systems of the earth." I don't know what "wholeness = salvation" means, but check out their website here.

Archbishop Burke Puts Parish Under Interdict

Click here and here to read about the ongoing struggle between Archbishop Raymond Burke and the parish of St. Stanislaus Kostka Church in St. Louis. Here is the parish's side of the story.

Is Nothing Sacred? Detroit Priest Mentions Red Wings During Consecration

They say that true life is stranger than fiction. Isn't it true! I thought I had seen every type of liturgical abuse imaginable, but then I came across this picture of Fr. Pat Casey of St. Dominic's in Detroit:

No, this has not been PhotoShopped; he actually has the Detroit Red Wings logo on his vestments. This is even sadder because it is in my own backyard (and because I like the Red Wings). Click here for the whole sad story. He even "intoned" the score of the hockey game during the Mass. Grrr...

How can people see things like this and then go on to assert that we need to continue to break away from Tradition? Tradition is the only anchor that keeps us from going off into heresy (case #1), disobedience (case #2) or just plain absurdity (case #3). Only in America!

Romney on Punishment for Abortions

I have been suspicious of Governor Mitt Romney's pro-Life credentials since the beginning, and the recent comments from the Republican presidential hopeful give me more reason to question his stance. When asked in an interview whether or not he supported (if abortion were outlawed) punishing women who have abortions and doctors who perform them, Romney made the following comment:

You know, I don’t see putting doctors and women in jail. I don’t believe that’s ever been part of our history, even when states were able to put in place effective pro-life legislation. I haven’t seen provisions of that nature ever being proposed. But I do believe that the next step that should be taken is to overturn Roe v. Wade, and to no longer have the Supreme Court impose its one-size-fits-all philosophy on the entire nation. There will be steps beyond that, of course, but the next step is to overturn Roe v. Wade.

First of all, I think Romney is wrong when he said that punishing those guilty of involvement in abortions has never been part of our history. The Federal Comstock Law of 1873 stated that any person who attempted to sell any drug "for causing unlawful abortion, or shall advertise the same for sale, or shall write or print, or cause to be written or printed, any card, circular, book, pamphlet, advertisement, or notice of any kind, stating when, where, how, or of whom, or by what means, any of the articles in this section…can be purchased or obtained...he shall be imprisoned at hard labor in the penitentiary for not less than six months nor more than five years for each offense, or fined not less than one hundred dollars nor more than two thousand dollars, with costs of court." Under this law, any person who even printed information telling a person where to go to get an abortion could be sentenced to hard labor for six months.

A Connecticut State law of 1821 (and amended in 1830) made any attempt to induce abortion by either poisoning of herbal treatments punishable by life in prison (later reduced to ten years). An 1828 New York law declared that an intentional abortion be treated as Second Degree Manslaughter and punished as such, applied to the doctor who performed the abortion. In 1845 a revision charged the mother with a misdemeanor; in 1881, the law was amended again, this time charging both the mother and the doctor with Second Degree Manslaughter. So, it is nice that Romney thinks that punishing mothers and doctors for abortions has not part in our history, but it is simply not true. By 1910, every single state had penalties in place for those involved in abortion. Clearly, putting women and doctors in jail for abortions is very much a part of our legal tradition.

Well, many pro-Lifers were not convinced by Romney's answers on the matter, and so Cybercast News Service (CNS) later asked for a clarification of Romney's position and was told by a Romney campaign spokesperson: "The people who should be held accountable for violations of this nature are the people who perform an illegal abortion, the penalties of which could include anything from disciplinary action to incarceration."

Now he seems to be flip-flopping: a minute ago, he said he did not envision putting women and doctors in jail. Now he says that penalties should include incarceration. This uncertainty of how to answer the more complex pro-Life questions leads me to believe that his pro-Life position is a bit shallow. It is one thing to say that you want to overturn Roe v. Wade, but that is not all there is to being pro-Life, as Romney is painfully finding out at the expense of his credibility.

But this whole discussion begs the question: if abortion were outlawed, what penalties would be appropriate for those involved? I have my own opinion on the matter, but I'll leave it until some others have commented.

Results of Unchecked Muslim Immigration

France has again been rocked by riots, described as even worse than those that it suffered in 2005. As was the case then, media reports of the riots are referring to the rioters as "roving bands of angry youths" without drawing attention to the fact that these bands of angry youth are almost entirely Muslim. This article from the International Herald Tribune does mention halfway through that the rioters are "mostly the offspring of Arab and African immigrants," but then it goes on to absolve the rioting Muslim youth from any responsibility for the disaster and simply goes on and on about how they can't help rioting because the French government has put them in this situation to begin with, blah blah blah, boo hoo.

The fact of the matter is, this is what happens anywhere the Muslims obtain a sizeable populace. They start by trickling in, saying that they are a religion of peace and that they do not agree with the ways of their jihadist cousins (remember, in Islam it is acceptable to lie to further the cause of the religion). Then, once they obtain a solid minority they start the agitation, as they are doing now in France. Then, once they grow from a slim minority into at least a 35-45% minority, they bring on the open war and jihad will be upon that unfortunate nation that took them in. We need to get this through our head: these Muslims will eventually end up rioting no matter what. The only time the Muslims in France will stop agitating is when Arabic is the official language of France, when Notre Dame has become a Muslim mosque (or Christian museum), when the firstborn daughter of the Church and the scions of Charlemagne groan under the weight of sharia law, and when the women of the humble village of the Maid of Lorraine are forced to cover themselves or face the lash. Then they will stop agitating, but not before.

Hey Prime Minister Sarkosky, if you want to stop the problem, round em' up and deport em. Easy as that. Don't complicate the matter with a bunch of questions about the "compassion" of such an act: just do it. Do you want to know what is not compassionate? Letting Islam take root in another country. That is what ought not be tolerated. Is it narrow minded? Yes, but so were the great Catholic men of old who proclaimed with unwavering confidence in the righteousness of their cause, "Paynims are wrong; Christians are right!" (Song of Roland, LXXIX/1015)

Christmas with a Capital "C"

This is kind of cheesy (well, not kind of, really cheesy) and not the type of thing I would usually like to see, but the message is a good one I suppose. Thanks to Mr. S for digging it up.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Is this Catholic Ecclesiology?

I don't usually do this, but I want to post the comments somebody left for me on my NCYC write up last week. This person thoroughly enjoyed NCYC, thought it was a great event and thought I was being too narrow minded in my critique of it. I take all of these criticisms in good nature, although I think they are wrong, for reasons which I will demonstrate. Below you will find this person comments in their entirety (they posted anonymously, so I have no idea who they are). Please note the ecclesiological view of the Church that this person seems to hold:

I happened to have a wonderful time there. and i thnk it was just what some catholic teens needed. to get away from tradition and praise God through diverse song and worship. it saddens me to hear your immature remarks at the end of this particular blog. i beleive everyone did a great job there and my kids have come back with so many memories, new friends, and the word of God to spread to others. i hope that maybe next time you can be more open minded,or maybe just not even go. God does not focuz on denomination and while yes, i am very proud to be catholic...CHRISTIANITY is the religion, dont compromise it with denomination. God Bless!

Okay, first thing: as I told this person in my response, it is great that they had a wonderful time, but what does that have to do with anything at all? I had a wonderful time as well. Does that in any way affect whether or not the content was wholesome? Only if you hold a Protestantized view that values things for their entertainment value (and entertainment is different from true spiritual edification).

Second, you think the teens needed to get away from tradition and praise God through diverse song and worship? Okay, what tradition are they getting away from? What I mean is this: if teens are "getting away" from tradition by going to NCYC, then that presupposes that where they came from they were getting tradition. However, I bet most kids coming to NCYC do not come from traditional parishes. So where are they getting this exposure to tradition that they need to get away from? Have they ever been exposed to the tradition? I doubt it.

Furthermore, if you think that Catholic teens ought to get away from tradition, then you are not thinking with the mind of the Church. The Church itself exists because of tradition, and herself is kind of one giant Tradition. You cannot be Catholic and despise Tradition so effortlessly. GK Chesterton (whom with Aquinas is the only Catholic writer I quote from with almost complete certainty that he is always correct) said, "The Church has defended tradition in a time which stupidly denied and despised tradition. But that is simply because the Church is always the only thing defending whatever is at the moment stupidly despised." You cannot be a Catholic and seek to free yourself from tradition when to be Catholic means to hold to tradition. To despise Tradition is to think like a Protestant.

Third, this person said, "i beleive everyone did a great job there and my kids have come back with so many memories, new friends, and the word of God to spread to others." Again, with great memories and new friends, what does that have to do with anything? The Islamic kids going to Islamic summer camp could say the same thing. Also, as for the Word of God being spread to others, I don't know what "Word of God" they were hearing at NCYC, because the only message preached over and over again was that God loves you and that with God, you can do anything. That's a good, positive message, one that Joel Olsteen could be proud of. But that's all it is: merely good on a human level. And I'd say it's limited goodness was offset by the amount of quasi-heretical statements they heard.

This person's last comment is the most offensive: God does not focuz [sic] on denomination and while yes, i am very proud to be catholic...CHRISTIANITY is the religion, dont compromise it with denomination." They think the Catholic Church is just another Christian denomination! Aghhh! That is the worst thing expressed in this lamentable post. This is a Protestant view: that the real Church is spiritual and consists of all Christians united spiritually; denominations and visible institutions are just historical accidents that can be modified or dispensed with. Let's again turn to Chesterton for the remedy to this:

"It is simply a historic fact that the Roman Church is the Church and is not a sect. Nor is there anything narrow or unreasonable in saying that the Church is the Church. It may be a good thing that the Roman Empire broke up into nations; but it certainly was not one of the nations into which it broke up. And even a person who thinks it fortunate that the Church broke up into sects ought to be able to distinguish between the little things he likes and the big thing he has broken" (Catholic Church & Conversion).

The Church is absolutely not a denomination. It is the Church. Every other Christian body is some kind of break off from the Church or some kind of deviation of the Church's teaching. Let's remember that until the Reformation, Christian and Catholic meant the same thing. Regarding Protestants, Chesterton has an amusing saying: "Protestants are Catholics gone wrong; that is what is really meant by saying they are Christians."

All of this blogger's comments reveal a staggering misunderstanding of Catholic ecclesiology. That wouldn't be so bad, if it weren't for the fact that this ecclesiology is what is being promoted by NCYC and is what is being taught to young Catholics, that we are just one denomination among many and that it is "Christianity" that really counts. But once you take the Catholicism out of Christianity, what is left? A Protestantized version of the Church. Almost every view this "Catholic" person expressed was a Protestant view. If this is what people are getting out of NCYC, then we should have no part of it.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Books I'm Reading

I have a very vast library at home, compromising probably over 600 books. I have never wanted to be one of those people who have a lot of books but never read them, and so I have made it a point to always be reading at least two books at once. This week I read three short little works. Two of them were stinkers, but the third ended up being very good.

The first book I read was The Prophecies of Nostradamus by Avenel Books (1980). I knew very little about the enigmatic Nostradamus before reading this book, but now that I have read it, I can let you know that I wasn't missing anything. Nostradamus' "prophecies" are the most obscure and ambiguous things in the world. More frustrating was reading that Nostradamus had explicit interpretations for all of his visions, but he chose to intentionally muddle them by writing them in obscure verse ("quatrains"). Here is an example of one:

The divine word will give to the substance
Heaven and earth, gold hid in mystic deed
Body, soul, spirit, having all power
As much underfoot as is heavenly seen (III.2)

What the heck does that mean? More amusing is the translator's attempt at interpreting the "prophecy." Under the verse is a little note that says, "Spiritual awareness yet to come?" Here's another, from quatrain V.83:

Those who have planned subversion
On the great, invincible, unequalled kingdom
Will act by deceit, with three nights' warning
While the great one reads a Bible at the table

Because of the word "subversion" in the first line, the interpreter thought of "subversive" and thus in the margin, writes "A Communist conspiracy?" The interpretations are almost as laughable as the prophecies. There are plenty of prophecies about the popes in Nostradamus' writings, but most of them are so obscure as to be uninterpretable. Nostradamus certainly knew the value of ambiguity in obfuscating the obvious. I'm throwing this book in the trash as I write.

The second book was a bit more interesting. It is called Was Karl Mark a Satanist? by Richard Wurmbrandt (1976). This book attracted my attention simply by its title. I had never heard of this book or its author, but apparently it went through four printings in 1976 alone. In the book, the author attempts to show that Marx (and many Communist leaders) were not atheists at all but were actually conscious, practicing members of a Satan worshipping cult, in the most literal sense. He goes so far as to say that Communist economic theory was only a front to get people involved in satanic worship. Very interesting, but he has precious little evidnece to back it up, mostly writings of Marx and Engels taken out of context. One enigmatic point he brings up, however, is a quote from the memoirs of Marx's housemaid, in which she writes of Marx:

"He [Marx] was a very God fearing man. When very sick, he prayed alone in his room before a row of lighted candles, tying a sort of tapemeasure around his forehead."

The author rightly wonders what Marx, an avid atheist, could have been doing in this bizarre prayer ceremony. He suggests the possibility that the "tape measure" was a Jewish phylactery (Marx was an ethnic Jew), but says more than likely that it was some kind of demonic ritual. There is no way to be sure, but it is kind of tantalizing. Nevertheless, the author ends up making unsubstantiated claims to prove his outlandinsh point (on page 20, he says, "Have you ever wondered about Marx's hair style? Men usually wore beards in his time, but not beards like his..."); the author goes on to assert that Marx's hairstyle is some kind of proof of his belonging to a demonic cult. I don't know how he can say men did not wear long beards in the 1860's; he must have never seen any pictures of American Civil War generals. Another book in the trash.

The third book I read turned out to be very factually accurate, well written and an overall good read. It was entitled The Witchcraft Hysteria of 1692 by Leo Bonfanti of the New England Historical Series (1971). It is a simple chronological recounting of the Salem witch trials pieced together from the court documents and the memoirs of those involved. While the witch trials were a very tragic thing (19 were hung as witches), a very interesting but overlooked fact is that some of the accused witches had objective evidence against them that seemed to verify the charge that they were indeed practicing witchcraft. For example, the West Indian slave woman Tituba who started the whole scare freely confessed to being a witch and confessed to teaching the Salem girls about Voodoo. I ought to point out that she confessed to being a witch willingly without even being asked and was not pressured in any way to speak. Another woman eventually hung as a witch, Bridget Bishop, was found in possession of several rag dolls with pins stuck through them; they were hidden in a secret chamber in her cellar and found by a workman demolishing the wall. There were a few other incidents like this as well.

The author seemed to just gloss over them, starting from the presupposition that there is no such thing as witchcraft. I'm sure most of the people who sufferred as witches were innocent, but what of these instances when rag dolls with pins stuck in them are found? I started thinking that perhaps there was a kernel of truth behind the accusations, especially in regards to the slave woman Tituba who taught the kids about Voodoo and demonstrated her powers of hypnotism on some of them. It is a horrible thing any innocent person should be accused and condemned of any crime, but I can more easily sympathize with persons who errantly believed innocent persons were witches than I can accept persons today who willingly support and welcome actual witches.

Well, just wanted to let you know what was in my mind this week.

Feast of Christ the King (NO)

Today in the Novus Ordo calendar is the Feast of Christ the King. Of course, in the old calendar, this was celebrated at the end of October. In the bigger scheme of things, this feast was a relatively recent addition to the Church calendar, owing its origin to the bull Quas Primas of Pius XI, given on December 11, 1925. The feast day was ordained to counter prevailing modernist notions (both of the extreme left and of the rising fascist movements) which denied Christian faith a place in the public sphere. Contrary to this, Pius taught that "When once men recognize, both in private and in public life, that Christ is King, society will at last receive the great blessings of real liberty, well-ordered discipline, peace and harmony" (QP, 19). Against secular ideologies that claim to be able to produce an earthly Utopia, the Church reminds men that only in the Kingship of Christ and in His Kingdom can these aspirations ever come to fruition. It was a call for not just men, but governments and societies, to reverence Christ as King, even in their temporal affairs.

Christ the King is one of those many feasts that was arbitrarily shifted with the institution of the Novus Ordo Mass. I find this regrettable; the older placement speaks more to the obligations of nations on this earth whereas the new placement shoves Christ's kingship into the domain of the eschatological. But we should remember that this particular feast was only fifty years old when its date was moved. Not to suggest that newer feasts are less important than older ones, but I am pointing out that Christ the King was a relatively new feast, created to address the errors of the time and stuck in the calendar by Pius XI. Is that alright? Of course it is: the Supreme Pontiffs can and often have added new feasts to the calendar throughout the centuries. Christ the King was an admirable and worthy addition to the calendar and the focus of the feast was very pertinent and in keeping with Catholict theological tradition, as the document Quas Primas goes to great lengths to point out. I think it was a good and wholesome thing that Pius XI did in giving us this feast. Of course, this sort of thing ought never be done flippantly, and I don't think Pius did it that way; it was the product of much reflection and prayer.

Now, let's be honest, would we be so willing to accept a new feast in the calendar if a post-Conciliar pope were to add it? I was not a Traditionalist back in 2001 when John Paul II proclaimed Divine Mercy Sunday; I would be interested in hearing from anybody who can remember how the Traditionalists took the addition of this feast day at that time. My experience is most Trads are suspicious of this feast. I personally don't see anything wrong with Divine Mercy Sunday in itself, except perhaps that it obscures the traditional Low Sunday.

Likewise, recalling that Christ the King was at one time an innovation, I accept this innovation made by the Church because it was in keeping with the theological tradition of the Church's history, it was made by the legitimate authority and it was a worthy way to combat the anti-Catholic mentality of the times. It was organic and a faithful reflection of the Church's perennial teaching.

I wanted to use the feast day to exemplify a mode of thinking I go by but that I know not all Trads do: for me, I do not reject something out of hand because it is new, but only because it is bad. My whole resistance to the circus that has grown up around the Novus Ordo is not simply because the Novus Ordo is new, but because so much of it is not good.

Now, the extent to which something is bad because it is new is the degree to which the new thing breaks with Catholic Tradition. The Church has always accepted new things, but only in a slow, necessary, and organic development that was always in consonance with what came before. Furthermore, though the Church frequently added new things, it never dispensed with old things (check out 1896 Apostolicae Curae of Leo XIII for an example of how the Church accumulated but never did away with anything for fear that it might be unwittingly discarding something essential to the faith). If I were alive in 1925, I'd like to think I would joyfully accept the institution of Christ the King because it represents a truly organic and faithful addition to the Church's liturgical life.

Can we say the same thing about the arbitrary movement of feasts after 1969, as if the calendar were the private property of the liturgists who happened to be alive in the 60's? What about the invention of the Luminous Mysteries that had absolutely no precedent in tradition and actually served to obscure the earlier tradition of associating the Rosary with the psalter? What about the liturgical innovation of self-communication? None of these things are organic. I object to them not because they are new, but because to some degree they are all not good because they are not consonant with tradition (the Luminous Mysteries), or in other cases (self-communication) are positive obfuscations of Tradition.

So, new does not necessarily mean bad. When the old is so good, the bad often comes in with the new. The proper way the Church adopts new things is always from a reflection of the old, demonstrating how the new is simply a restatement of the old. If, however, someone proposes something new that is set up in contradistinction to the old and as in opposition to it (i.e., facing the people versus "back to the people") then the novelty must be condemned for the very fact that it is a bad novelty.

A woman recently asked me why I wanted a restoration of the Old Mass. I thought of lots of reasons: I thought about how it is more reverent, how the Mystery is better expressed, how the congregation could receive more grace ex opere operantis, I recalled all of the abuses of the Novus Ordo, etc. There are many reasons why the Old Mass should be preferred. But in the end, I gave her one single answer, and I think this answer ultimately is the best one to the question: Because it is what the Church has always done.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Aristotle on Democracy

It's paper writing season here at the ITI and I just finished writing a 7 pager on a particular point in Aristotle's Politics. Whilst doing some research I came across an interesting passage in Peter L. Phillips Simpson's A Philosophical Commentary on the Politics of Aristotle. He makes a rather provactive (but spot on) application of Aristotle's assertion that democracy is an intrinsically deviant and corrupt form of government:

"A modern liberal democracy does not rule for noble living (it does not use rule to make people virtuous), but rather for allowing everyone the freedom to pursue, as far as possible, their own idea of advantage (or of happiness). Thus such a modern liberal democracy is not ruling for the common advantage. It is really ruling for the advantage, or for the continuance in rule, of those who believe that the regime should not use rule to make people virtuous. It is accordingly a deviant regime and is ruling for the advantage of the rulers only. By contrast, a modern regime that did rule to make people virtuous, and used the laws to prohibit vicious and promote virtuous behavior, would, according to Aristotle, be ruling for the common advantage. Hence it would be a correct regime. The fact that it was preventing people from living as they liked, and was forcing them instead to live in ways the rulers liked, would not, contrary to prevailing modern opinions, make it deviant or unjust" (p. 153).
Click here for Boniface's post "Do Vice Laws Work?" on the question of whether or not our laws should or could be used to try to instill virtue and discourage vice.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

The Oath Against Modernism

One think I greatly lament is that the Oath Against Modernism of Pope St. Pius X has been discarded in the past generation. This is a shame; not only was the Oath a great defense against the Modernist heresy, it is needed more now than ever. The saying of Cardinal Ottaviani applies here: that the defenses of the Faith set down after Trent are even more necessary now than they were in the old days, not less. Instead of innundating you with my own thoughts and opinions on the matter, I thought I'd just post the Oath in its entirety here and let you bask in it. Remember, all "clergy, pastors, confessors, preachers, religious superiors, and professors in philosophical-theological seminaries" were required to swear this oath from 1910 until July, 1967, when the CDF did away with it. And since then, Modernism has raged uncontrollable. You'd think that the last sainted pope knew what he was doing when he instituted it! Oh well. Here it is:

I firmly embrace and accept each and every definition that has been set forth and declared by the unerring teaching authority of the Church, especially those principal truths which are directly opposed to the errors of this day. And first of all, I profess that God, the origin and end of all things, can be known with certainty by the natural light of reason from the created world (see Rom. 1:90), that is, from the visible works of creation, as a cause from its effects, and that, therefore, his existence can also be demonstrated.

Secondly, I accept and acknowledge the external proofs of revelation, that is, divine acts and especially miracles and prophecies as the surest signs of the divine origin of the Christian religion and I hold that these same proofs are well adapted to the understanding of all eras and all men, even of this time. Thirdly, I believe with equally firm faith that the Church, the guardian and teacher of the revealed word, was personally instituted by the real and historical Christ when he lived among us, and that the Church was built upon Peter, the prince of the apostolic hierarchy, and his successors for the duration of time. Fourthly, I sincerely hold that the doctrine of faith was handed down to us from the apostles through the orthodox Fathers in exactly the same meaning and always in the same purport. Therefore, I entirely reject the heretical' misrepresentation that dogmas evolve and change from one meaning to another different from the one which the Church held previously. I also condemn every error according to which, in place of the divine deposit which has been given to the spouse of Christ to be carefully guarded by her, there is put a philosophical figment or product of a human conscience that has gradually been developed by human effort and will continue to develop indefinitely. Fifthly, I hold with certainty and sincerely confess that faith is not a blind sentiment of religion welling up from the depths of the subconscious under the impulse of the heart and the motion of a will trained to morality; but faith is a genuine assent of the intellect to truth received by hearing from an external source. By this assent, because of the authority of the supremely truthful God, we believe to be true that which has been revealed and attested to by a personal God, our creator and lord.

Furthermore, with due reverence, I submit and adhere with my whole heart to the condemnations, declarations, and all the prescripts contained in the encyclical Pascendi and in the decree Lamentabili, especially those concerning what is known as the history of dogmas. I also reject the error of those who say that the faith held by the Church can contradict history, and that Catholic dogmas, in the sense in which they are now understood, are irreconcilable with a more realistic view of the origins of the Christian religion. I also condemn and reject the opinion of those who say that a well-educated Christian assumes a dual personality-that of a believer and at the same time of a historian, as if it were permissible for a historian to hold things that contradict the faith of the believer, or to establish premises which, provided there be no direct denial of dogmas, would lead to the conclusion that dogmas are either false or doubtful.

Likewise, I reject that method of judging and interpreting Sacred Scripture which, departing from the tradition of the Church, the analogy of faith, and the norms of the Apostolic See, embraces the misrepresentations of the rationalists and with no prudence or restraint adopts textual criticism as the one and supreme norm. Furthermore, I reject the opinion of those who hold that a professor lecturing or writing on a historico-theological subject should first put aside any preconceived opinion about the supernatural origin of Catholic tradition or about the divine promise of help to preserve all revealed truth forever; and that they should then interpret the writings of each of the Fathers solely by scientific principles, excluding all sacred authority, and with the same liberty of judgment that is common in the investigation of all ordinary historical documents.

Finally, I declare that I am completely opposed to the error of the modernists who hold that there is nothing divine in sacred tradition; or what is far worse, say that there is, but in a pantheistic sense, with the result that there would remain nothing but this plain simple fact-one to be put on a par with the ordinary facts of history-the fact, namely, that a group of men by their own labor, skill, and talent have continued through subsequent ages a school begun by Christ and his apostles. I firmly hold, then, and shall hold to my dying breath the belief of the Fathers in the charism of truth, which certainly is, was, and always will be in the succession of the episcopacy from the apostles. The purpose of this is, then, not that dogma may be tailored according to what seems better and more suited to the culture of each age; rather, that the absolute and immutable truth preached by the apostles from the beginning may never be believed to be different, may never be understood in any other way. I promise that I shall keep all these articles faithfully, entirely, and sincerely, and guard them inviolate, in no way deviating from them in teaching or in any way in word or in writing. Thus I promise, this I swear, so help me God.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The Term "Extraordinary"

Many bloggers have commented on the obvious contradiction being made manifest by the Bishops of the world in their use of the term "Extraordinary." As we all know, there are two primary nouns that this adjective is applied to in the Church today: Form and Minister. We have Benedict XVI referring to the 1962 Missal as the "Extradordinary Form" of the Latin rite, the Ordinary Form of course being the Novus Ordo (for now). Then, we have the use of the phrase "Extraordinary Minister of the Eucharist" to denote that army of lay people who are on call to help the priest distribute Holy Communion when for logistical reasons or time constraints the priest cannot reasonably distribute it on his own without assistance.

Now, how have the Bishops interpreted the word "extraordinary" in each case? Of course, in the situation with Extraordinary Ministers (who are not ministers at all), the word is given a very broad allowance. Originally, EMs were to be allowed only for extraordinary situations, as their name implies. Is there anything extraordinary about them today? My parish is relatively small, and we have at least three of them present at every Sunday Mass. Larger parishes have entire teams comprised of sometimes two dozen or more EM's. How frequently are EMs supposed to be used? Let's see what the GIRM says:

GIRM 162. The priest may be assisted in the distribution of Communion by other priests who happen to be present. If such priests are not present and there is a very large number of communicants, the priest may call upon extraordinary ministers to assist him, e.g., duly instituted acolytes or even other faithful who have been deputed for this purpose. In case of necessity, the priest may depute suitable faithful for this single occasion.

Notice that it says first that there must be a "very large number" of the faithful. How large is this? Well, the GIRM is ambiguous, but surely it must mean more than the 35 people that come to daily Mass in my hometown where there is nevertheless three EMs. But then again, the Bishops have always had a hard time determining where to draw the line of sufficient numbers of the faithful.

Second, the GIRM prefers "duly instituted acolytes" first and only concedes the use of other lay people if there are no acolytes (and when have we seen acolytes anywhere rceently?)

What about Redemptionis Sacramentum? It says concerning EMs:

RS 88.Only when there is a necessity may extraordinary ministers assist the Priest celebrant in accordance with the norm of law.

Again, this phrase is ambiguous. Both the GIRM and RS need interpretation by the Bishop. And how have the Bishops chosen to interpret these documents and the word "extraordinary?" Well, it seems that a "very large" number of the faithful need not be large at all, sometimes less than 30, to merit Extraordinary Ministers. Second, "necessity" is being interpreted rather lightly. I'd hardly call 95% of the times when EMs are used "necessities." It seems, therefore, that the Bishops intend that "extraordinary" and "necessity" be interpreted to mean "ordinary" and "normal," at least in the case of EMs.

Have they been consistent in interpreting Extraordinary in this light when referring to the Extraordinary Form of the Latin rite? Not a chance. In Steubenville, over 155 people wanting the TLM was not enough to constitute a stable group, though 30 people would constitute a "very large number" to justify using EMs. I personally don't mind at all of Benedict calls the 1962 Missal the Extraordinary Form as long as it becomes as extraordinary as Extraordinary Ministers! That should be our prayer: O Lord, please let the Extraordinary Form be as common as Extraordinary Ministers!

Pro-Life Parishioner Arrested

Here's a bizarre story out of California (where else?): a pro-Life parishioner who was displaying images of aborted children outside a parish was arrested by the parish priest who made a "citizens arrest" and turned the man over to the police. I can see that there are pros and cons to the tactic of displaying images of aborted children, especially when little kids are around (as they were in this case). But it is an odd story nonetheless; you can check it out here.

Muslim letter to Pope Benedict

On October 13th, a group of Muslim clerics and scholars sent an open letter to Pope Benedict XVI and several other leaders of the Christian world (Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant) in which they set forth what they claim are the great similarities between Islam and Christianity: love of God above all and love of neighbor. The first two sections consist of lengthy quotes from the Koran on how love of God above all other things is obligatory upon Muslims and follows that up with injuctions from the Koran to love one's neighbor. The scholars then quote several similar verses from the Sacred Scriptures that relate to loving God and loving one's neighbor. In this they claim that we have great similarity and a basis for common ground and thus are really allies.

How ought we react to this letter? I have little doubt that the Muslims who composed this were sincere, but the contents of the letter betray a very fundamental misunderstanding of the nature of the Christian message. I do not deny that we share love of God and love of neighbor with the Muslims. But there are two things to be said about this supposed common ground:

1) What religion is there that doesn't emphasize love of God (whatever that god may be) and love of neighbor? Have you ever heard of a religion that taught that men ought not to love God or their neighbor? These are just matters of simple justice, common to all men who have any religious sensibilities at all. Thus, the fact that both Islam and Christianity teach love of God and love of neighbor doesn't mean a thing; every religion in the world believes those two tenets in some way or another.

2) Just because we both believe that men ought to love God does not mean that we are loving the same God, and Allah is not the same God as the God of the Catholic Faith. First and foremost, their god is not a Trinity (as this letter continually points out) and the essence of our doctrine of God is precisely that He is a Trinity. Also, their god is not a Father, but Fatherhood defines what our God is. Allah was originally a pagan-Meccan moon-god, and is in no way the same god as the God and Father of Our Lord Jesus Christ. To put this another way, suppose there is one religion that adores the Sacred Square, and another that worships the Celestial Circle. They may claim, "Hey, we both worship the Supreme Shape! We have so much in common!" While they both may worship a supreme shape, the essence of what the shape is is completely different in each case.

The letter closes with this warning to Christians [my comments in red]:

"As Muslims, we say to Christians that we are not against them and that Islam is not against them—so long as they do not wage war against Muslims on account of their religion, oppress them and drive them out of their homes [okay, and where in the world right now are Christians oppressing Muslims because of their religion? Shouldn't it be the other way around here? This agreement to live peacefully sounds as sketchy as Gollum's promise to Frodo that "we will be kind to Master if Master will be kind to us"].

Finding common ground between Muslims and Christians is not simply a matter for polite ecumenical dialogue between selected religious leaders. Christianity and Islam are the largest and second largest religions in the world and in history. Christians and Muslims reportedly make up over a third and over a fifth of humanity respectively. Together they make up more than 55% of the world’s population, making the relationship between these two religious communities the most important factor in contributing to meaningful peace around the world. If Muslims and Christians are not at peace, the world cannot be at peace. With the terrible weaponry of the modern world [and which side is really the one who is most likely to resort to "terrible weaponry?"]; with Muslims and Christians intertwined everywhere as never before, no side can unilaterally win a conflict between more than half of the world’s inhabitants. Thus our common future is at stake. The very survival of the world itself is perhaps at stake [this seems like a veiled threat to me; "don't think about confronting us, because you won't win and you'll just destroy yourselves"].
And to those who nevertheless relish conflict and destruction for their own sake or reckon that ultimately they stand to gain through them, we say that our very eternal souls are all also at stake if we fail to sincerely make every effort to make peace and come together in harmony."

How will the Holy Father respond to this? I have three scenarios: what I hope he doesn't do, what would be acceptable if he did, and what would be awesome if he did.

What I Hope He Doesn't Do: Issue some kind of flowery document in complete agreement with the Muslim's claims, calling them "bretheren" and saying that we worship the same God and calling for more "dialogue." Or even worse, invite them to some kind of interreligious dialogue meeting ala Assisi.

What Would Be Acceptable: He does nothing at all. The letter is not responded to and no comments are made about it.

What Would Be Freakin' Awesome: Benedict issues a long response in which he sets forth the importance of the Trinity and delineates why Allah and God are two different things essentially. He stresses the importance of belief in the Incarnation of the Second Person of the Trinity and His atoning death on the cross (in which Muslims disbelieve); he reiterates the Christian call to evangelize and does not exempt Muslims from this call. Finally, he ends his letter with a plea for conversion from the Muslims (whom he refers to as "Mohammedans," "Saracens" and "Mussulmen") and invokes the prayers of Our Lady of the Rosary/Our Lady of Victory.

Click here to read the whole article (it is 16 pages long with 13 pages of footnotes).

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Beautiful Post on the Papacy

Here is a link to a beautiful post on the papacy that consists entirely of quotes from other authors and some beautiful illustrations. Take a minute and check it out, from the blog Traditional Catholicism.

The Papal Tiara

So what ever became of the historic symbol of papal supremacy, the papal tiara? We know it was discarded after the Second Vatican Counicl, but what was its history and where does it rest now? This is a truly fascinating story and especially pertinent to those, like myself, who see part of the present crisis in the Catholic Church to be a problem of authority. Not the authority problem the liberals would say we have (i.e., that the pope has too much authority), but a different kind of problem, a problem where the popes are steadfastly refusing to exercise the authority that they rightfully have and that has been exercised in the past since apostolic times. The sad story of the tiara is the story of the confusion of the place of papal authority in the modern Church and of the the modern popes' refusal to be associated with the authoritative papacy of the past. Everything from the liturgical crisis to the crisis in the seminaries to the vocations crisis to the drop in Mass attendance comes back to an authority issue: the Gospel is not going forth because the leaders of the Church are not promulgating it with authority. The role of the hierarchy is threefold: to govern, teach and sanctify. Now, nobody can be sanctified if the teaching is not going forth. Furthermore, the teaching cannot go forth unless it is taught authoritavely in the name of Christ; but the teaching cannot be taught with authority unless the Church is willing to govern and rule itself with authority. By the way, lest anyone say that the Church has to be humble in its teaching and not claim any authority for itself, I respond with nothing other than the words of the Gospels regarding Christ's teaching: "He taught them with authority, and not like the scribes" (Matt. 7:29). In our character we are called to be humble, because we know we are but dust. But in our teaching, we are to be bold, because we come not in our own name but in the Name of He Who sent us, Whose teaching is faithful and true.

The papal tiara is technically called the Triregnum and has symbolized the office of the papacy since ancient times (though its form has changed over the years). The first mention of any sort of distinctive papal headgear comes from the time of Constantine and it is believed to have been modeled on a headdress worn by Byzantine nobility. By the time of Pope Sergius III (c. 904), the popes are portrayed wearing a helmet-like cap with a single crown. Why the name tiara was eventually chosen is obscured; perhaps to distinguish it from the episcopal mitre, though the name tiara is first mentioned in the Liber Pontificalis of the 11th century referencing the pontificate of Paschal II (1099-1118).

When the second tier was added is disputed. It is certain that it was added by the pontificate of Boniface VIII (from whom I take my alias) who poped from 1294-1303, but it is unknown whether it was Boniface or his great successor Innocent III (1198-1216) who added the second tier, for their exists an image of Innocent III wearing a double-tiered tiara. The second tier seems to symbolize the widely held belief in the late Middle Ages that the popes wielded both swords of authority, temporal and spiritual. Indeed, no other reasonable explanation has ever been put forth. Both Innocent III and Boniface VIII were remembered for pressing these claims, so it is conceiveable that either pope added the second tier, but it was certainly there by 1303, when Boniface's successor, the short-lived Benedict XI (1303-1304) was depicted wearing it.

The third tier was added quickly after, and an inventory of papal treasures from 1316 mentions a three-tiered tiara. The third tier was certainly added by the mid-14th century (some say by Benedict XII in 1342) and the lappets (two strips of cloth hanging off of the back) were added soon after. There after the triple-tiara became the sign of papal authority for centuries. There have been many different papal tiaras, some varying in weight and design. Twenty-two tiaras remain in existence today, the largest being the one donated to Pope Pius VII in 1804 by Emperor Napoleon I, which weighed just over 18 pounds (this tiara, coincidentally, was never worn, because the crafty French emperor seems to have intentionally had it built too small for Pius Vii's head). Most of the papal tiaras were destroyed in 1798 when they were captured and melted down by the French under Berthier. The twenty-two that survived either postdate 1798 or somehow managed to survive the disaster. By far the oddest papal tiara was the tiara of Paul VI, the last pope to don the Triregnum, whose tiara had a bizarre, bullet-like shape. It was Paul VI who chose to put an end to this venerable custom that had always signified the authority of the popes.

At the close of the Second Vatican Council, Paul VI descended the steps of the papal throne in St. Peter's Basilica and (this part will really make you mad) laid the tiara on the altar in a gesture of humility meant as a renunciation of all of the papacy's earthly power. Pope Paul's tiara was presented to the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. by the Apostolic Delegate to the United States on February 6, 1968 as a gesture of Pope Paul VI's affection for the Catholic Church in the United States. It is on permanent display in Memorial Hall along with the stole that Pope John XXIII wore at the opening of the Second Vatican Council.

The renouncing of the tiara has understandably angered many traditional Catholics (myself included). No subsequent pope has taken up the tiara. Pope John Paul I (1978) was the first pope to be installed without being coronated (Paul VI had been coronated) and John Paul II decided to follow in his predecessor's footsteps. In his inauguration homily, John Paul II said, "This is not the time to return to a ceremony and an object considered, wrongly, to be a symbol of the temporal power of the Popes." I take issue with him here; I think the tiara, especially in the changes made to it by Innocent III, Boniface VIII and Benedict XII, was clearly and explicitly meant to be a direct assertion of the temporal power of the popes. Anybody who has studied the history of the popes and the temporal power in the Middle Ages (and I wrote my 94 page senior thesis on it) knows that this was the fundamental issue of the 13th-14th centuries. To say that the triple tiara does not represent the temporal power of the popes is just false. Sorry JPII, but it is simply not true.

Paul VI's 1975 Apostolic Constitution Romano Pontifici Eligendo still allowed for a coronation, but neither John Paul I nor John Paul II took advantage of it. In 1996, John Paul II issued Universi Dominici Gregis, which removed all mention of a coronation and instead called it an "inauguration" (sounds like more democratization: remove references to monarchy and replace them with more democratic terms). However, JPII still retained the tiara in his coat of arms. This has even been done away with by Benedict XVI, whose coat features only an episcopal mitre. The only time anybody close to a pope wears the tiara now is when it is trotted out on the Feast of Sts Peter and Paul and placed on the head of the bronze St. Peter statue in St. Peter's Basilica.

I obviously think Benedict ought to take up the papal tiara again. I think no single act could be so easy for him to accomplish, yet so meaningful and symbolic. Think of how the world would react were the successor of Peter to take up his crown once again. How they would writhe and twist with discomfort at the thought of a papal crown! But, we are so uncomfortable nowadays with anything suggesting regnal power. We ought not be uncomfortable; the Kingdom of God is a Kingdom, a monarchy. The modern papacy has a fundamental misunderstanding of its own place in the Church. It thinks that love alone, without discipline, is enough to rule: this was the essential problem with John Paul II. It is like these parents who say, "I'm not going to discipline my kids; I'm just going to love them and let them choose for themselves what they want to do. I'll be more of a friend than a parent." We know how those kids will end up!
By the way, the Vatican Press Office says only that the tiara represents the Pope in his three roles as "father of kings, governor of the world and Vicar of Christ" and mentions only that it was "abandoned during the Papacy of Paul VI" without any other explanation. How would the press react if Benedict XVI were to claim himself "father of kings, governor of the world and Vicar of Christ?"

Holy Father, on behalf of loyal Catholics everywhere, in the name of Sts Peter and Paul, Gregory the Great, Pius V, Pius X and all the great popes and saints who have gone before you, and in the name of Jesus Christ Our Lord Who said, "Thou art Peter, and upon this Rock I shall build My Church," take up the rightful sign of your office! Assume the Triregnum so that the Church can governm teach and sanctify in power and in the Holy Spirit! Amen.

Cuneiform Tablet Confirms Jeremiah

A cuneiform tablet recently discovered and being studied in Britain has been found to contain what some are calling the most important discovery in biblical archaeology in 100 years: an Assyrian tablet from around 595 BC (the reign of Nebuchadnezzar) mentions a certain chief eunuch of the king named Nabu-Sharrussu-ukin; so what? Well, the same name appears in Jeremiah 39 as Nebo-Sarsekim, described there as Nebuchadnezzar's "chief officer." While I am naturally excited that yet another piece of archaeological evidence has been found supporting the historicity of the Old Testament (and by the way, not a single piece has been found contradicting it), it is sad that some are so excited by this find. You see, the reason this find is so exciting to the archaeological community is because, in the words of Irving Finkel, British Museum expert, "This is a fantastic discovery, a world-class find. If Nebo-Sarsekim existed, which other lesser figures in the Old Testament existed? A throwaway detail in the Old Testament turns out to be accurate and true. I think that it means that the whole of the narrative [of Jeremiah] takes on a new kind of power."

In other words, this tablet proves that the Old Testament just might be true (*gasp!*). Notice how shocked Mr. Finkel is that something in the Old Testament "turns out to be accurate and true." It is so shocking to him as to be worthy of great attention. It sure is nice of Mr. Finkel to let us know that this little tablet proves what the Catholic Church has already been believing since the time of Christ. We must remember, those these finds are exciting and faith-building, out faith in no way rests on them at all. It is sad that the scientific community bases the credibility of the Scriptures on things as insignificant as cuneiform tablets. If he just would have asked me, I would have told him that the Old Testament was historical, just as all the saints and doctors before me would testify as well. But they never ask us.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Theology of the Liturgy

Many of you are probably familiar already with the lecture that then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger gave at the 2001 Fontgombault Liturgical Conference entitled Theology of the Liturgy. If not, I urge you to read it; if so, it bears re-reading.

I have been spending a fair bit of time with this text due to a paper that I am currently working on, so it has been much on my mind. Allow me to share one excerpt from it; although I do hope that you will read the whole lecture. It is not very long. It seems to me that it would serve us all well to be as informed as possible about the liturgical theology of our present Pontiff.

This section is entitled "Sacrifice Called into Question" [My emphases]; [my comments]

If we go back to Vatican II, we find the following description of this relationship: "In the liturgy, through which, especially in the divine Sacrifice of the Eucharist, 'the work of our Redemption is carried on', the faithful are most fully led to express and show to others the mystery of Christ and the real nature of the true Church."

All that has become foreign to modern thinking and, only thirty years after the Council, has been brought into question even among catholic liturgists. Who still talks today about "the divine Sacrifice of the Eucharist"? [Traditionalists do!] Discussions about the idea of sacrifice have again become astonishingly lively, as much on the catholic side as on the protestant. People realise that an idea which has always preoccupied, under various forms, not only the history of the Church, but the entire history of humanity, must be the expession of something basic which concerns us as well. But, at the same time, the old Enlightenment positions still live on everywhere: accusations of magic and paganism, contrasts drawn between worship and the service of the Word, between rite and ethos, the idea of a Christianity which disengages itself from worship and enters into the profane world, catholic theologians who have no desire to see themselves accused of anti-modernity. Even if people want, in one way or another, to rediscover the concept of sacrifice, embarrassment and criticism are the end result. Thus, Stefan Orth, in the vast panorama of a bibliography of recent works devoted to the theme of sacrifice, believed he could make the following statement as a summary of his research: "In fact, many Catholics [!] themselves today ratify the verdict and the conclusions of Martin Luther [!], who says that to speak of sacrifice is "the greatest and most appalling horror" and a "damnable impiety": this is why we want to refrain from all that smacks of sacrifice, including the whole canon, and retain only that which is pure and holy." Then Orth adds: "This maxim was also followed in the Catholic Church after Vatican II, or at least tended to be, and led people to think of divine worship chiefly in terms of the feast of the Passover related in the accounts of the Last Supper." Appealing to a work on sacrifice, edited by two modern catholic liturgists, he then said, in slightly more moderate terms, that it clearly seemed that the notion of the sacrifice of the Mass – even more than that of the sacrifice of the Cross – was at best an idea very open to misunderstanding.

I certainly don’t need to say that I am not one of the "numerous Catholics" who consider it the most appalling horror and a damnable impiety to speak of the sacrifice of the Mass [Neither am I!]. It goes without saying that the writer did not mention my book on the spirit of the liturgy, which analyses the idea of sacrifice in detail. His diagnosis remains dismaying. Is it true? [I'm afraid it is.] I do not know these numerous Catholics who consider it a damnable impiety to understand the Eucharist as a sacrifice [I've met a few]. The second, more circumspect, diagnosis according to which the sacrifice of the Mass is open to misunderstandings is, on the other hand, easily shown to be correct. Even if one leaves to one side the first affirmation of the writer as a rhetorical exaggeration, there remains a troubling problem, which we should face up to. A sizable party of catholic liturgists seems to have practically arrived at the conclusion that Luther, rather than Trent, was substantially right in the sixteenth century debate; one can detect much the same position in the post conciliar discussions on the Priesthood. The great historian of the Council of Trent, Hubert Jedin, pointed this out in 1975, in the preface to the last volume of his history of the Council of Trent: "The attentive reader ... in reading this will not be less dismayed than the author, when he realises that many of the things - in fact almost everything – that disturbed the men of the past is being put forward anew today." It is only against this background of the effective denial of the authority of Trent, that the bitterness of the struggle against allowing the celebration of Mass according to the 1962 Missal, after the liturgical reform, can be understood. The possibility of so celebrating constitutes the strongest, and thus (for them) the most intolerable contradiction of the opinion of those who believe that the faith in the Eucharist formulated by Trent has lost its value. [!!! The fierce opposition to the Traditional Latin Mass (and also to Summorum Pontificum?) is based to a large extent on a rejection of Trent's irreformable and infallibe teaching on the Eucharist and the Mass!!! Did I read that right?]

It would be easy to gather proofs to support this statement of the position. I leave aside the extreme liturgical theology of Harald Sch├╝tzeichel, who departs completely from catholic dogma and expounds, for example, the bold assertion that it was only in the Middle Ages that the idea of the Real Presence was invented. A modern liturgist such as David N. Power tells us that through the course of history, not only the manner in which a truth is expressed, but also the content of what is expressed, can lose its meaning. He links his theory in concrete terms with the statements of Trent. Theodore Schnitker tells us that an up-to-date liturgy includes both a different expression of the faith and theological changes. Moreover, according to him, there are theologians, at least in the circles of the Roman Church and of her liturgy, who have not yet grasped the full import of the transformations put forward by the liturgical reform in the area of the doctrine of the faith. R. Me├čner’s certainly respectable work on the reform of the Mass carried out by Martin Luther, and on the Eucharist in the early Church, which contains many interesting ideas, arrives nonetheless at the conclusion that the early Church was better understood by Luther than by the Council of Trent.

The serious nature of these theories comes from the fact that frequently they pass immediately into practice. The thesis according to which it is the community itself which is the subject of the liturgy, serves as an authorization to manipulate the liturgy according to each individual’s understanding of it. So-called new discoveries and the forms which follow from them, are diffused with an astonishing rapidity and with a degree of conformity which has long ceased to exist where the norms of ecclesiastical authority are concerned. Theories, in the area of the liturgy, are transformed very rapidly today into practice, and practice, in turn, creates or destroys ways of behaving and thinking [Lex orandi lex credendi].

Meanwhile the problem has been aggravated by the fact that the most recent movement of 'enlightened' thought goes much further than Luther: where Luther still took literally the accounts of the Institution and made them, as the norma normans, the basis of his efforts at reform, the hypotheses of historical criticism have, for a long time, been causing a broad erosion of the texts. The accounts of the Last Supper appear as the product of the liturgical construction of the community; an historical Jesus is sought behind the texts who could not have been thinking of the gift of His Body and Blood, nor understood His Cross as a sacrifice of expiation; we should, rather, imagine a farewell meal which included an eschatological perspective. Not only is the authority of the ecclesiastical magisterium downgraded in the eyes of many, but Scripture too; in its place are put changing pseudo-historical hypotheses, which are immediately replaced by any arbitrary idea, and place the liturgy at the mercy of fashion. Where, on the basis of such ideas, the liturgy is manipulated ever more freely, the faithful feel that, in reality, nothing is celebrated, and it is understandable that they desert the liturgy, and with it the Church. [Spot on, Your Eminence, I mean, Your Holiness!]

Click here for a related post on the Last Supper and the liturgy.

Friday, November 16, 2007

John Paul II Rehabilitated

I don't want to go into the details, but I run into or talk to a lot of dissident Catholics. At NCYC, I met a ton and had a chance to talk to many of them. One thing I have noted in the world of liberal-dissenting Catholicism is the rehabilitation of John Paul II. John Paul was always popular among conservative Catholics; these are the ones clamoring for his canonization and calling him "John Paul the Great." Of course, the traditionalist community has its own beef with him, though we should be thankful for the indult that at least paved the way for the Motu Proprio, among other things. But the liberals and dissenters were no lovers of John Paul II. They were angry at his strong stance against Communism, at his disciplining of Hans Kung in 1979, his 1994 Ordinatio Sacerdotalis which closed the question on women's ordination. They clamored against what they perceived as his authoritarian refusal to undue Humanae Vitae, his support of Opus Dei, his stringent opposition to Liberation Theology and his condemnation of euthanasia and abortion. The list of liberal gripes against John Paul II goes on and on, and anybody who lived through the JPII years can remember how often he was vilified by the dissenters as an autocrat and a reactionary.

But now their tune has changed! I talked to a dissenter recently who spoke nostaligically about how John Paul "reached out to all people" and was really a model Pope. What? At NCYC, which was full of dissenting Youth Ministers and priests of questionable orthodoxy, there were tributes to John Paul II to the uproarious applause of the youth. In everybody I talked to, John Paul's pontificate was looked back on as a time of progressivism and horizontalism. It seemed as if all of the sudden everybody who defied John Paul's authority while he was alive was suddenly longing for his return. Why would this be? Why is he suddenly being lifted up by a community that despised him while he reigned?

I can only imagine that it is because they dislike and loathe Benedict XVI even more than they did John Paul II. Whatever they falsely accused John Paul of (he was not authoritarian in any way) they seem to see in Benedict even more. Unlike JPII, Benedict actually is mandating liturgical change and really is undoing a lot of the abuses of the past four decades (which only got worse under John Paul II). He is doing what JPII ultimately failed to do: act. I think Summorum Pontificum was the last straw. They rejoiced when John Paul died, but after two years of Benedict, they want John Paul back! At least they could ignore him with impunity!

It reminds me of a story from history: at the time of the fall of Rome, the Roman people were oppressed by the Ostrogoths. They begged the Byzantines to come free them from Gothic rule, but when Justinian drove the Goths out of Rome, the Romans found that the Byzantines were harsher masters than the Goths and soon clamored for the return of their Gothic rulers. Perhaps this explains the recent rehabilitation of John Paul II by the progressives. This goes to prove something about John Paul: while he was alive, he did some good things, and some bad things. All of the things I mentioned above were good things (cracking down on Liberation Theology, disciplining Hans Kung, etc.), but he also did some bad things like kissing the Koran, having interfaith prayer meetings as Assisi, allowing pagan rituals at canonizations, etc.

Now, of the good and the bad, what is being remembered here? What is being celebrated? I can tell you, the progressives who are giving him tributes at NCYC are not celebrating his stance on women's ordination or abortion. No, they are celebrating that he "reached out to all people;" they are celebrating the bad things he did, and his orthodox actions are quickly being forgotten. This is why a Pope ought never try to compromise with the world and value inclusivity above truth (John Paul himself called this the heresy of "irenicism"). In the end, John Paul's compromising will be remembered and celebrated while the little bit of disciplining that he did will be quickly forgotten in the frenzied melee to take up John Paul's name in the cause of license against the present pontificate of Benedict XVI.

Maybe I'm way off on this, but it seems to be the way things are going in the liberal community. I don't know if you all have experienced this; maybe you have or haven't. But watch for it, because I predict that the degree of hatred that the progressives have for Benedict XVI will be proportional to the amount of praise we see heaped posthumously upon John Paul II.