Wednesday, April 30, 2008

What I meant to say...

Sometimes, I run across another post on a better blog that says more clearly and concisely what I was poorly trying to say on mine. Please head over to the Cornell Society for a Good Time and look at this write up of Ben Stein's Expelled by blogger Clara for an evaluation that is much more in depth and succint than mine was. If you don't feel like reading the entire article, here is a brief quote from it, echoing my sentiments on the film:

Having seen it, I would neither advise others to see it nor discourage them. If you want to enjoy cheap laughs at the expense of the minions of scientism (a perfectly respectable form of entertainment in my view), you should see it. If you mainly want to get some clarity on the crazy debate surrounding Darwinism, don’t.

I intend to begin looking into some of the specifics of Darwinian evolution, along with the traditional Catholic view of the matter, this summer when I have some more time. In the meantime, check out Clara's post for a good analysis of this controversial film. The Cornell Society for a Good Time can always be found linked up on the sidebar.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

More on NCYC

As many of you recall, my report on the National Catholic Youth Conference in November, 2007 created quite a stir on the Net and got this blog about 10,000 hits in a week. At that time, I tried desperately to find some video of this event (known as NCYC) to put up on the blog, but it was so soon after the fact that none was available. But, I knew that if I waited a few months, stuff would start to trickle out, and so it has.

Here is a video of several snippits of NCYC 2007 in Columbus, Ohio, brought to my attention by blogger Zach (thanks!); I will not make any comment on this because there is so much that could be said. Just watch and leave your comments in the comment box if you want.

Here are two videos of two different songs performed at NCYC, which emcee Steve Angrisano ignorantly described as being sung in the "African language," as if there were only one in Africa! The first was from day two, the second is "Nza mu ran za" which was a kind of theme song that was played every time the kids were supposed to pray.

Last but not least, here is a video of Fr. Tony Ricard of the New Orleans Diocese dancing:

Click here for the original post on NCYC from November, 2007

Monday, April 28, 2008

Ways of seeing Vatican II

In some sense, the essence of Traditionalism in the Catholic Church today completely hinges on the position one takes towards the Second Vatican Council. If there had not been a Second Vatican Council, the label "Traditionalist Catholic" would be redundant, because (presumably) we would still be continuing on the course charted by centuries of saints and doctors and simply to be Catholic at all would be to be a Traditionalist. After Vatican II, this heritage disappears, and exactly what role the Council played in this disappearance defines where one falls on the spectrum of traditionalism.

There are several positions Catholics take on the Council; I can think of four, which I will enumerate here:

1) Spirit of the Council: The Council was inspired by the Holy Spirit to usher in a new age of freedom from old contraints, out-moded moralities and dusty scholastic doctrines. The Council allowed us to rethink who we are as Catholics and create our Church anew, unencumbered by the reactionary baggage of past centuries. Everything is open to revision: liturgy, doctrine, morals. After all, man and culture evolve, and so must the Church. Anything is permissible if done in this spirit.

2) True Implementation: The Council was a good idea, and the Church was in dire need of reform in the 1960's. The documents and decisions of Vatican II themselves are sound and good, some of the most profound things ever to come out of ther Magisterium. However, after the Council was over, unscrupulous persons hijacked the implementation of the Council and twisted the documents to their own end, winding up with a reform quite different from the one envisioned by the Council Fathers and one detrimental to the Church. What is needed is a true implementation of the Council, going back to the documents themselves.

3) Bad Idea: The Council, while being a validly convoked ecumenical council, was a bad idea and was unneccesary. The Church was doing fine until the Council came along. Not only were the documents and decrees of the Council hijacked in their implementation after the Council ended, but the Council itself, in its convocation, deliberations, statements and decrees, was run by liberals and heretics through and through. Thus, not just the effects of the Council, but the documents and decisions of the Council itself are flawed, ambiguous or just plain stupid. Therefore, it will not help us to "go back to the documents." What is needed is not a true implementation of the Council, but a return to Catholic Tradition as it stood before the Council, and an interpretation of all Council documents in light of that Tradition.

4) No True Council: The Council was not a true Council. It was convoked illicitly by a pope who was a heretic and who thus could not convene a council. Its decrees are not binding; in fact, they are filled with heresy and contradict the Church's perennial Tradition.

Now, we can easily recognize in position 1 ("Spirit of the Council") the modernist, liberal interpretation of Vatican II that we all despise so much and that for many of us is the actual cause of our Traditionalism.

Position 2 ("True Implementation") is the position taken by our conservative friends in the Church. This position appears strong because it upholds orthodoxy and acknowledges the torrent of abuses that occurred after the Council. However, it puts itself between a rock and a hard place by attempting to divorce these abuses from the Council itself. This position commits the conservative to strike out at abuse but to stalwartly defend the Council which makes those abuses possible. This is the position I held for many years. What are some things that go along with this position?

For one, I committed myself to defending every aspect of every document the Church issued out of the Council. I had to force myself to believe that Gaudium et Spes was a profound and enlightening document, that Dignitatis Humanae was perfectly keeping with the evangelical spirit and that Sacrosanctum Concilium was a great idea. These documents were sacred and inviolable: only their implementation was faulty. But why was the implementation so universally faulty? In the education courses I take at my University, they teach us that if a student gets a question wrong on his test, he may not have understood the material. But if your entire class gets the same question wrong, then there is probably something wrong with the question itself. If it is only a problem of implementation, how is it that everybody gets it wrong? Could it be because the documents themselves are ambiguous and lend themselves to misinterpretation? If so, could it be that they are this way on purpose?

This also commits one to the notion that the Council itself was a good idea or even that it was inspired by the Holy Spirit. Maintaining everything the Church believes about ecumenical councils, nowhere are we constrained to believe that the calling of any given council was prudent, or that God wanted it at that time and in that way. Whether or not the Holy Spirit wanted the Council, we cannot say, but we can say that the Church most emphatically did not need an ecumenical council in 1962. When a conservative says that the Church was in need of reform and you ask, "Why? What was wrong?", they will inevitably say some vague jargon about the pre-V2 Church being too "impersonal"; perhaps they will repeat the same things about old ladies mumbling rosaries and all that. These are not real critiques, just misunderstandings or matters of taste: hardly material that needed a Council to deal with!

I take position 3 ("Bad Idea"), that the Council, while being a true Council whose documents are legitimate decrees of the Church Universal, was nevertheless a bad idea, and that these documents themselves are ambiguous, confusing, often shallow (but not errant or heretical); furthermore, I maintain that they were rendered this way on purpose by theological liberals for the exact purpose of hijacking the Church.

The difference between a conservative and a Traditionalist is simply this: for the former, the hijcaking after the Council is the cause of our current woes; for the Trad, the post-Conciliar hijacking is merely a consequent of the Council itself, which is the source of these troubles.

If the difference between the True Implementation position and the Bad Idea position is the difference between a conservative and a Traditionalist, then the difference between the Bad Idea position and position 4 ("No True Council") is the difference between a Traditionalist and a Sedevecantist or schismatic-Traditionalist.

I once defended the Council and tried hard to persuade my mind that the Church was really better off now than in 1962. I tried to convince myself that the emperor was wearning glorious clothes, that I was basking in the new springtime of the Church and reaping the rich fruits of the Council.

I firmly maintain that Vatican II was a true Council, and that whatever the Council declared must in some way be the truth. But that doesn't mean the truth is spoken clearly, or in the right way, or in the right time, or by the right mouths, or that it is interpreted correctly after the fact, or that it is seen in context of a larger tradition. And this is the source of so much criticism.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed

Yesterday I went and saw Ben Stein's documentary on Intelligent Design in academia, "Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed." I know many Catholics have shown interest in this film (it has been advertised on New Advent for the past several weeks) and it is especially pertinent because evolution is something Catholics are horridly confused on.

This movie is quite excellent and I can highly recommend it. It's only short coming is that it does not go far enough in debunking Darwin. The first half of the film consists of interviews with professors who were dismissed from their jobs for mentioning Intelligent Design. These were all high ranking and prominent doctors with excellent credentials; one who was interviewed, a Dr. Berlinski, had taught at Princeton, Stanford and many other of the most prestigous schools in the country. Many of them themselves had doctorates from Princeton, Oxford or Cambridge. All of the persons interviewed were fired for inquiring into ID. It is important to point out that they did not teach ID or expound it, but merely mentioned it as an existing hypothesis. The first doctor interviewd, Dr. Richard Sternberg, was fired simply because he reprinted an article from somebody else who mentioned Intelligent Design. These interviews revealed that a considerable degree of academic censorship exists within academia, something anybody on my blog should already know. But it is nice to see third party evidence confirming your views!

Ben Stein next examines the ethical implications of Darwinism in the second half of the movie, drawing an excellent and relevant connection between Natural Selection and Nazism, and demonstrating that Hitler and the Nazis were very much influenced by Darwin. Nazism is Darwinism followed to its logical conclusion, so the film says. Here Stein does an excellent service to all Americans when the film goes from Nazism right to a shot of a Planned Parenthood magazine. The whole sordid history of Margaret Sanger is exposed, with its eugenic and racist program, as well as its Darwinist origins, something Americans desperately need to know about.

Interspersed throughout the movie are interviews with several prominent atheists, like Richard Dawkins. It is amusing to see the other hypotheses they put forward to Ben Stein's simple question of how nature could, on its own, make the ontological leap from non-life to life. More than one said they thought that aliens could have "planted" life on earth. Another evolutionist thought that life originated on the backs of crystals; these are the alternate explanations offered by the most prominent Darwinists on how life began. To these absurd theories, Stein comments, "I thought I would get science by talking to these people, not science fiction." He also successfully exposes the anti-religious agenda of many of these atheist-scientists. One even calls religion "evil."

The only shortcoming of the film is that it lacks any criticism of Darwinism itself. Stein interviews tons of people who were fired for questioning Darwin, but does not himself demonstrate why Darwin should be questioned. He doesn't bring up the lack of transitionary fossils, or the fact that a textbook geologic column does not exist. We are left feeling that Intelligent Design should be more thoroughly investigated, but are not told what is so false or wrong about Darwin's views. If you are looking for a film to debunk evolution, this is not it.
But, I think that it was not Ben Stein's point to debunk Darwin. He was essentially trying to show two premises (1) there is an active academic persecution of those who question Darwin, and (2) Darwinism has agendas that go beyond simple science. As far as demonstrating these two points, this film is excellent.

Throughout the film, the image of the Berlin Wall is evoked as a metaphor: the wall is there to keep out threatening ideas, in this case, the idea that Darwin could have been wrong. The task this film attempts is to make people know that the wall exists, and warn us all where this type of censorship can lead us. I encourage everybody to go see this film.

I give it two out of three papal tiaras.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Tell me what's wrong

Hey everybody! I am sorry I am so busy this week and have not hand much time to post. I have kids to prepare for First Holy Communion and am quite preoccupied. By the middle of May I should be back to posting daily (hopefully), and we will see much more from Anselm as he wraps up his first year at the International Theological Institute in Gaming, Austria.

In the meantime, I thought I'd like to put your theological skills to the test. Please watch this three minute video (courtesy of Mr. S) and then comment on why the view of salvation presented here is faulty (or, if there is anything positive in the video, point that out as well).

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Too much humility or too little?

I have often wondered to myself, is the problem with people's spiritual lives (including my own) that we think too highly or that we think too lowly of ourselves? Everybody has an interior voice, a voice which consists of a continual commentary of everything we do and say. For some people, the voice is saying, "You are no good, you are a failure, you'll just screw up again." To others, the voice says, "You're the best, better than that other guy. You deserve all the credit." I wonder, which of the two is more common? More importantly, which of the two is more dangerous?

These days, it seems to me that modernist-conventional wisdom is saying that having too low and opinion of yourself is the more dangerous thing. There is a great solicitude, both in the world and in the Church, to make sure that everybody has positive self-esteem, is at peace with themselves and doesn't feel bad about the things they have done. Even if Confession is encouraged, we are admonished to forget all about our sins afterwards and be at peace with ourselves. Has any body noticed anything like this? This falls a little short of the secular-psychological insistence that we "forgive ourselves," but it is in thr same vein as far as promoting self-esteem as an unconditional positive good.

I tend to think that most people's problem is that they think too highly of themselves, at least that is the temptation for me. Furthermore, I think this is a bigger danger than the opposite defect (thinking too lowly of oneself), for several reasons:

Scripture: The Scriptures contain innumerable admonitions to be humble and abase oneself, but I cannot think of one place where they dissapprove of someone being too humble.

Spiritually: It is safer to be too low and have to be raised up than to be too high with pride and have to come down. As the Gospel says, "He told a parable to those who had been invited, noticing how they were choosing the places of honor at the table. "When you are invited by someone to a wedding banquet, do not recline at table in the place of honor. A more distinguished guest than you may have been invited by him, and the host who invited both of you may approach you and say, 'Give your place to this man,' and then you would proceed with embarrassment to take the lowest place. Rather, when you are invited, go and take the lowest place so that when the host comes to you he may say, 'My friend, move up to a higher position.' Then you will enjoy the esteem of your companions at the table. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted" (Luke 14:7-11).

Tradition: Let's look at what some Catholic authorities have to say about humility:

Catholic Encyclopedia: Defines humility as"A quality by which a person considering his own defects has a lowly opinion of himself."

St. Francis of Assisi: "Who are You, O blessed Lord, and who am I—Your servant and a worm of earth."

Pope Clement XI: "Give me, good Lord, a love of You, hatred of myself, zeal for my neighbor, contempt of the world."

St. Bernard: Defines humility as "A virtue by which a man knowing himself as he truly is, abases himself."

St. Jose-Maria Escriva: This saint's seventh sign of a prideful heart is "Not to recognize that you are unworthy of all honors and esteem, not even of the earth you walk on and the things you possess." St. Jose Maria Escriva

St. John Climacus: Referred to himself as "so miserable a sinner, destitute of every sort of virtue."

If these are the sort of things the saints said about themselves and about humility, who are we to water down their definitions, gained by spiritual insight after much penance, for the sake of appeasing modern pop-psychobabble?

There are many more examples than this, so many so in our Tradition that it is tedious to list them all. But, the Scriptures, principles of spirituality and the writings of the saints speak clearly: the ideal in Christian life is to have a lowly opinion of oneself, even to the point of contempt and disgust for our sinfulness, so that in this humility, Christ can tell us to "come up higher." Nowhere are we exhorted to forgive ourselves, worry about positive self-esteem, or be afraid of having a too lowly opinion of ourselves. Those opinions are novelties.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Boyea's Apostolic Succession

One week from tomorrow, on the Feast of St. Catherine of Siena, my diocese will have a new bishop installed, Bishop Earl Boyea, formerly Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Detroit. I'm sure many of you know about this site already, but at Catholic Hierarchy you can look up every member of the hierarchy, see their biographical information, follow up on what bishops died and are appointed every single day and get many other interesting tidbits of episcopal minutae.

Most interesting to me is that this site gives each bishop's "episcopal lineage," or their geneaology of apostolic succession. I looked up Bishop Boyea and was surprised to find that his succession comes through Pope St. Pius X. Have a look (dates are of ordination) :

Earl Boyea ordained by Cardinal Maida (2002)
Cardinal Maida ordained by Pio Cardinal Laghi (1984)
Cardinal Laghi ordained by Cardinal Cicognani (1969)
Cardinal Cicognani ordained by Cardinal Rossi (1933)
Cardinal Rossi ordained by Cardinal De Lai (1920)
Cardinal De Lai ordained by Pope St. Pius X (1911)
Pope St. Pius X (Giuseppe Sarto) ordained by Cardinal Parocchi (1884)
Cardinal Parocchi ordained by Cardinal Patrizi Naro (1871)
Cardinal Patrizi Naro ordained by Cardinal Odescalchi (1828)
Cardinal Odescalchi ordained by Cardinal della Somaglia (1823)
Cardinal della Somaglia ordained by Bl. Hyacinthe-Sigismond Cardinal Gerdil (1788)
Bl. Cardinal Gerdil ordained by Cardinal Colonna (1777)
Cardinal Colonna ordained by Pope Clement XIII (1762)
Pope Clement XIII (Carlo della Torre Rezzonico) ordained by Pope Benedict XIV (1743)
Pope Benedict XIV (Prospero Lorenzo Lambertini) ordained by Pope Benedict XIII (1724)
Pope Benedict XIII (Orsini de Gravina) ordained by Cardinal Albertoni (1675)
Cardinal Albertoni ordained by Cardinal Carpegna (1666)
Cardinal Carpegna ordained by Cardinal Caetani (1630)
Cardinal Caetani ordained by Cardinal Ludovisi (1622)
Cardinal Ludovisi ordained by Archbishop Sanvitale (1621)
Cardinal Sanvitale ordained by Cardinal Bernerio (1604)
Cardinal Bernerio ordained by Cardinal Santorio (1586)
Cardinal Santorio ordained by Cardinal Rebiba (1566)

The list ends at Cardinal Rebiba. Try looking up your bishop!

St. Anselm, Bishop, Confessor, Doctor of the Church

Today is the III Class Feast of St. Anselm, and it is also the 99th anniversary of Pope St. Pius X’s Encyclical Letter Communium Rerum (On St. Anselm of Aosta), itself issued on the 8th Centenary of St. Anselm’s death in 1109.

I lieu of writing any meagre words of my own in honor of this great saint, whom I have chosen as a theological patron, I offer to you some selections from the saintly pontiff Pius X (do follow the link and read the whole encyclical though).

The pope highlights two things in particular about St. Anselm: his tireless fight for the liberty of the Church (he lived in the era of the investiture controversy), and against false philosophy. The pope sees in Anselm a man for our own times, in which also the Church is besieged by those within and those without. The enemies of the Church without (especially in the late 19th and early 20th centuries) set the rights of the Church at naught and the enemies of the Crhuch within spread the pernicious heresy of modernism everywhere they go.

5. ...We have examples of this in the Saints of other centuries, whom God raised up to resist by their virtue and wisdom the fury of persecution against the Church and the diffusion of iniquity in the world. One of these We wish especially in these Letters to commemorate, now that the eighth centenary of his death is being solemnly celebrated. We mean the Doctor Anselm of Aosta, most vigorous exponent of Catholic truth and defender of the rights of the Church, first as Monk and Abbot in France. and later as Archbishop of Canterbury and Primate in England...

12. Recalling all these things, venerable brethren, with special interest during the solemn commemoration of the great Doctor, we shall find in them splendid examples for our admiration and imitation; nay, reflection on them will also furnish Us with strength and consolation amid the pressing cares of the government of the Church and of the salvation of souls, helping Us never to fail in our duty of co-operating with all our strength in order that all things may be restored in Christ, that "Christ may be formed" in all souls (Galat. iv. 19), and especially in those which are the hope of the priesthood, of maintaining unswervingly the doctrine of the Church, of defending strenuously the liberty of the Spouse of Christ, the inviolability of her divine rights, and the plenitude of those safeguards which the protection of the Sacred Pontificate requires.

[regarding the threat to the Church from without]

13. For you are aware, venerable brethren, and you have often lamented it with Us, how evil are the days on which we have fallen, and how iniquitous the conditions which have been forced upon Us... For what more unnatural sight could be witnessed than that of some of those children whom the Church has nourished and cherished as her first-born, her flower and her strength, in their rage turning their weapons against the very bosom of the Mother that has loved them so much! And there are other countries which give us but little cause for consolation, in which the same war, under a different form, has either broken out already or is being prepared by dark machinations. For there is a movement in those nations which have benefited most from Christian civilization to deprive the Church of her rights, to treat her as though she were not by nature and by right the perfect society that she is, instituted by Christ Himself, the Redeemer of our nature, and to destroy her reign, which, although primarily and directly affecting souls, is not less helpful for their eternal salvation than for the welfare of human society; efforts of all kinds are being made to supplant the kingdom of God by a reign of license under the lying name of liberty...

[regarding the threat to the Church from within]

15. But with no less severity and sorrow have We been obliged to denounce and to put down another species of war, intestine and domestic, and all the more disastrous the more hidden it is. Waged by unnatural children, nestling in the very bosom of the Church in order to rend it in silence, this war aims more directly at the very root and the soul of the Church. They are trying to corrupt the springs of Christian life and teaching, to scatter the sacred deposit of the faith, to overthrow the foundations of the divine constitution by their contempt for all authority, pontifical as well as episcopal, to put a new form on the Church, new laws, new principles, according to the tenets of monstrous systems, in short to deface all the beauty of the Spouse of Christ for the empty glamour of a new culture, falsely called science, against which the Apostle frequently puts us on our guard: "Beware lest any man cheat you by philosophy and vain deceit, according to the traditions of men, according to the elements of the world, and not according to Christ (Colos. ii. 8).

16. By this figment of false philosophy and this shallow and fallacious erudition, joined with a most audacious system of criticism, some have been seduced and "become vain in their thoughts" (Rom. i. 1), "having rejected good conscience they have made shipwreck concerning the faith" (I Tim. i. 19), they are being tossed about miserably on the waves of doubt, knowing not themselves at what port they must land; others, wasting both time and study, lose themselves in the investigation of abstruse trifling, and thus grow estranged from the study of divine things and of the real springs of doctrine. This hot-bed of error and perdition (which has come to be known commonly as modernism from its craving for unhealthy novelty) although denounced several times and unmasked by the very excesses of its adepts, continues to be a most grave and deep evil. It lurks like poison in the vitals of modern society, estranged as this is from God and His Church, and it is especially eating its way like a cancer among the young generations which are naturally the most inexperienced and heedless. It is not the result of solid study and true knowledge, for there can be no real conflict between reason and faith (Concil. Vatic., Constit. Dei filius, cap. 4). But it is the result of intellectual pride and of the pestiferous atmosphere that prevails of ignorance or confused knowledge of the things of religion, united with the stupid presumption of speaking about and discussing them. And this deadly infection is further fomented by a spirit of incredulity and of rebellion against God, so that those who are seized by the blind frenzy for novelty consider that they are all sufficient for themselves, and that they are at liberty to throw off either openly or by subterfuge the entire yoke of divine authority, fashioning for themselves according to their own caprice a vague, naturalistic individual religiosity, borrowing the name and some semblance of Christianity but with none of its life and truth.

[regarding Anselm's intellectual contribution to the preservation of Doctrine]

45. Without entering here in detail into the intellectual state of the clergy and people in that distant age, there was a notable danger in a twofold excess to which the intellects of the time were prone.

46. There was at the time a class of lightminded and vain men, fed on a superficial erudition, who became incredibly puffed up with their undigested culture, and allowed themselves to be led away by a simulacrum of philosophy and dialectics. In their inane fallacy, which they called by the name of science, "they despised the sacred authority, dared with impious temerity to dispute one or other of the dogmas professed by Catholic faith . . . and in their foolish pride considered anything they could not understand as impossible, instead of confessing with humble wisdom that there might be many things beyond the reach of their comprehension. . . For there are some who immediately they have begun to grow the horns of an overweening knowledge - not knowing that when a person thinks he knows something, he does not yet know in what manner he should know it - before they have grown spiritual wings through firmness in the faith, are wont to rise presumptuously to the highest questions of the faith. Thus it happens that while against all right rules they endeavor to rise prematurely by their intelligence, their lack of intelligence brings them down to manifold errors" (S. Anselm., De Fide Trinitatis, cap. 2). And of such as these we have many painful examples under our eyes!

47. Others, again, there were of a more timid nature, who in their terror at the many cases of those who had made shipwreck of the faith, and fearing the danger of the science that puffeth up, went so far as to exclude altogether the use of philosophy, if not of all rational discussion of the sacred doctrines.

55. ...Anselm laid the foundations of the true principles of philosophical and theological studies which other most learned men, the princes of scholasticism, and chief among them the Doctor of Aquin, followed, developed, illustrated and perfected to the great honor and protection of the Church. If We have insisted so willingly on this distinction of Anselm, it is in order to have a new and much-desired occasion, venerable brethren, to inculcate upon you to see to it that you bring back youth, especially among the clergy, to the most wholesome springs of Christian wisdom, first opened by the Doctor of Aosta and abundantly enriched by Aquinas.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Dalai Lama in Ann Arbor, MI

While Pope Benedict has been visiting the United States, the Dalai Lama has been visiting Ann Arbor, MI., very close to my home. I have largely ignored his visit, but the local papers have done quite a bit of reporting on it. I wanted to relate a story I heard:

I saw a Catholic woman today who told me she had just come back from seeing the Dalai Lama. I jokingly asked her if she had thrown some water on him when he wasn't looking and said the words of baptism. She laughed, but told me that in his talk today (4/20), he related to the crowd how he had visited to shrine at Fatima to venerate Mary. There, he claims that the statue of the Blessed Virgin turned her head and smiled at him (!). Then, he followed that story up with these astonishing words: "I am a Christian!"

Obviously, he does not understand what being a Christian means if he says that yet simultaneously maintains to be the 14th reincarnation of the enlightened "Tulku" Buddhist Masters. It is not surprising to me, either, that given the modern state of the Church, he felt welcome at Fatima and claimed that the Blessed Virgin smiled at him. I have no corroboration for this story other that the words of this woman who heard them from his mouth today. Any thoughts on it? UPDATE: PLEASE SEE COMMENTS FOR CLARIFICATION AND CORROBORATION OF THIS STORY

Three Stages of Tradition

[Apr. 20, 2008] So much is said about Tradition in the Church, either for good or ill. Customs are said to be traditional or not traditional, along with whatever positive or negative connotations those phrases may carry depending on the speaker. Songs, books, prayers, music, devotions, and liturgies can be labelled as traditional or not. We are all sufficiently familiar to understand what is meant in this context of the word Tradition: whether or not something is in keeping with what the Church has always done and believed. But as I reflected on this word "Tradition," I thought about it in its larger context, that is, not just Catholic Tradition, but Tradition as such. What do we mean in general when we use the word tradition to refer to something?

There are many definitions we could give; the 2006 Random House Dictionary says tradition is "the handing down of statements, beliefs, legends, customs, information, etc., from generation to generation, esp. by word of mouth or by practice." But, on an even more basic level than that, we could define tradition this way: Tradition is simply what we've always done.

Isn't this what somebody means when they say, "It's tradition!" The thing in question is something that has simply always been done. The word "simply" is very integral to the definition, almost as important as "what we've always done," because as I thought about tradition, I realized something: tradition is reflexive. That is, it is unthinking, or "simple." It is not "what we've always done," but "simply what we've always done": what we've always done reflexively, unthinkingly, because it was less about what we do as much as a part of who we are.

In looking at tradition, we can identify three stages in the development of any tradition.

Stage 1) Reflexive Tradition

When we carry on any tradition because we have always done it, the tradition does not seem like a tradition to us at the time. Rather, it seems like just what we do, part of our daily lives and bound up intimately with who we are, culturally, personally, ethnically, or whatever. For a Catholic in the Middle Ages, abstaining from meat on Friday was not a tradition (though it was in the strict theological meaning), but was to the people living then simply a part of life, as normal and predictable as paying taxes or going to the bathroom. Only when traditions are done reflexively, without thinking, can we be certain that the tradition is still in its most virile stage of development. This is because, when traditions are lived, they define who we are and how we think of ourselves, and thus become a part of our very identity.

It is important to point out that in this stage of the devlopment of tradition, nobody rises up to protect the tradition; in fact, nobody even has to consciously hand it on, for it is done automatically. This is because nobody thinks of it as a tradition, either to be attacked or defended or consciously passed on. A tradition of this order right now is shaking hands. Everybody shakes hands; we cannot imagine a world when people do not shake hands. But let's say that in a few decades, hand-shaking starts to become old fashioned and is replaced by some new greeting. Only then will we identify hand shaking as a tradition, and only then will people rise up to defend this venerable tradition of hand-shaking, examine its origins, point out its merits and attempt to foster a return to it. But by that time it is already on its way out.

So, tradition is originated and passed on reflexively without it being identified as tradition.

Stage 2) "Traditional" Tradition

By and by, as cultures change, there comes a time when traditional practices and beliefs begin to be at variance with the popular culture. At this point, those things we have always done change from being "what we do" into the "traditional way of doing things." To put it bluntly: as soon as we realize that something is traditional, that tradition is already on the path to extinction. Once we identify something as tradition or traditional, it is already out of the common experience of life. We may still study it, replicate it, experience it, but it is outside the mainstream by this point.

Think about all the things we identify as being traditional: a traditional family (working dad, stay at home mom), traditional folk-music (almost now non-existent), traditional farmstead, traditional Christmas (no TV, singing hymns around the piano by firelight). Everything we think of as traditional is something that, while it may still exist in little pockets here and there, is for the most part gone. Sure, we can still get together all our relatives at Christmas, shut the TV off, play piano by firelight and sing hymn while grandma cooks desserts from scratch in the kitchen, but if we wanted to do so, it would have to be quite intentionally and with much effort and coordination. It certainly would not be reflexive; and thus we have lost our traditional innocence, where we could do these things just because that's what we did.

It is important to point out that during this stage, traditions, while identified as traditions, are still highly valued and even seen as the ideal. This is the change: the traditions have gone from being the norm to the ideal, from reality to exemplar. Consider how many women nowadays say with longing, "I wish I could stay home with my kids." The tradition is acknowledged, but as something afar off that can at best be grasped after or only replicated with great effort in a minority of circumstances. America from the 1940's to today may serve as an example of a culture in this middle stage of the development of tradition.

Stage 3) Historical-Tradition

During the third stage, it becomes more and more obvious that the highly praised ideal traditions are so far removed from the current reality and lifestyle of most that they cease to even be ideals to be strived after and start to become pieces of history. As they move into history, they tend to acquire a negative connotation, for the new mentalities that have replaced them can only find validity in denegrating what they are replacing. Culture has shifted so much that there is a radical break with what came before, and people look with befuddled confusion and derision upon their own traditions. There may be some who stubbornly cling to the traditions, but the hostility to tradition in the culture forces them to become full-time apologists for their position, knowing it intimately in every detail, being able to masterfully explicate every pro and con and skilled at debating for the tradition out in the public forum. They may win admirers or converts to their position, but even if they do, this is the farthest thing from real tradition that you could imagine: tradition originally is reflexive and unthinking, here in its final stage it is dogmatically defended with great intentionality and mental effort. This is because as the culture falls farther and farther from their origins, the amount of mental work it takes to convince people of the validity of their tradition is greater in proportion to the distance between the traditional way of life and the status quo.

In the end, the adherents to the traditions become so inconsequential that they begin to look like obscure throwbacks to a bygone era, like the Amish of Southern Michigan and Ohio.

Catholic Implications

What does this imply for us? Well, no matter what we say, there can never be a restoration of tradition. It cannot happen, for a restoration comes only at the expense of great effort, and a tradition imposed with great effort is no real tradition; at best, it is a replica of a tradition, the difference between the true Renaissance and a Renaissance Festival. We can have a Renaissance Festival where all the costumes of the Renaissance are worn, where Renaissance lingo is spoken and Renaissance style is supreme, but we do not have the Renaissance, only a bunch of people playing like the Renaissance is still going on.

Similarly, we can never get back to where we were, not in our generation at least, and probably not for ten generations, even if we started doing things correctly right now. We can restore discipline, dust off our old books, pick up where we left off, but only with great effort and much resistance from the culture (or dare I say it, Church) at large. But we will not be reinserting ourselves into Tradition. Tradition is a plant, which takes millenia to grow but can be plucked up by the roots by one snobbish child. It will take a long time for another plant to grow.

So is our case hopeless? No, but it is a much bigger task than we understand. We are struggling and praying and fighting just to do things right. But, once we start doing them right, we'll have to do them that way for a long time. How long? So long that they are passed on to our children unthinkingly, and from them to our grandchildren in a similar way; until our Tradition becomes simply who we are, and until people do not see us as Traditional Catholics anymore but just Catholics; until so much time has passed that nobody can imagine a time when we would have done otherwise; when modernism in the Church and liturgical progressivism sound as far off and as foreign to our ears as the bizarre worship rites of Bacchus among the ancient Greeks sound to us today. Will it require two millenia? I don't know, but it will take many generations. But we are in no hurry. The best we can do now is get our own minds and hearts in the right place and set future generations off on the right track, then urge them on with our prayers and intercessions from heaven.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Two Good Articles

First, my new article is up on The Contrarian's Review, entitled Understanding & Tolerance. Please check it out here, and remember to look at the excellent articles by the other contributors, including my friend Athanasius from Athanasius Contra Mundum.

Second, relating to our discussion on here the other day about whether or not the old Mass was capable of giving more grace than the new, Anselm has obtained permission from Latin Mass Magazine to post an online copy of an article by Fr. Chad Ripperger, FSSP, entitled "The Merit of a Mass." This is an excellent article that goes into exactly what I was talking about the other day. Anselm got special permission to put it up, so click here to read the only available version of it on the web.

Benedict's Address to Catholic Educators

I was originally going to post the Pope's address to Catholic educators, but I saw that Athanasius already posted it, I'll just link it up here. Enjoy.

Pope Benedict's Address to Catholic Educators here!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Benedict's Washington Address

Here is the text of Pope Benedict's speech in Washington DC this morning at the White House:

Mr. President,Thank you for your gracious words of welcome on behalf of the people of theUnited States of America. I deeply appreciate your invitation to visit thisgreat country. My visit coincides with an important moment in the life ofthe Catholic community in America: the celebration of the two-hundredthanniversary of the elevation of the country's first Diocese – Baltimore –to a metropolitan Archdiocese, and the establishment of the Sees of NewYork, Boston, Philadelphia and Louisville. Yet I am happy to be here as aguest of all Americans. I come as a friend, a preacher of the Gospel andone with great respect for this vast pluralistic society. America'sCatholics have made, and continue to make, an excellent contribution to thelife of their country. As I begin my visit, I trust that my presence willbe a source of renewal and hope for the Church in the United States, andstrengthen the resolve of Catholics to contribute ever more responsibly tothe life of this nation, of which they are proud to be citizens.

From the dawn of the Republic, America's quest for freedom has been guidedby the conviction that the principles governing political and social lifeare intimately linked to a moral order based on the dominion of God theCreator. The framers of this nation's founding documents drew upon thisconviction when they proclaimed the "self-evident truth" that all men arecreated equal and endowed with inalienable rights grounded in the laws ofnature and of nature's God. The course of American history demonstrates thedifficulties, the struggles, and the great intellectual and moral resolvewhich were demanded to shape a society which faithfully embodied thesenoble principles. In that process, which forged the soul of the nation, religious beliefs were a constant inspiration and driving force, as forexample in the struggle against slavery and in the civil rights movement.In our time too, particularly in moments of crisis, Americans continue tofind their strength in a commitment to this patrimony of shared ideals and aspirations.

In the next few days, I look forward to meeting not only with America'sCatholic community, but with other Christian communities andrepresentatives of the many religious traditions present in this country.Historically, not only Catholics, but all believers have found here thefreedom to worship God in accordance with the dictates of their conscience,while at the same time being accepted as part of a commonwealth in whicheach individual and group can make its voice heard. As the nation faces theincreasingly complex political and ethical issues of our time, I amconfident that the American people will find in their religious beliefs aprecious source of insight and an inspiration to pursue reasoned,responsible and respectful dialogue in the effort to build a more humaneand free society.

Freedom is not only a gift, but also a summons to personal responsibility.Americans know this from experience – almost every town in this country hasits monuments honoring those who sacrificed their lives in defense offreedom, both at home and abroad. The preservation of freedom calls for thecultivation of virtue, self-discipline, sacrifice for the common good and asense of responsibility towards the less fortunate. It also demands thecourage to engage in civic life and to bring one's deepest beliefs andvalues to reasoned public debate. In a word, freedom is ever new. It is achallenge held out to each generation, and it must constantly be won overfor the cause of good (cf. Spe Salvi, 24). Few have understood this asclearly as the late Pope John Paul II. In reflecting on the spiritual victory of freedom over totalitarianism in his native Poland and in easternEurope, he reminded us that history shows, time and again, that "in a worldwithout truth, freedom loses its foundation", and a democracy withoutvalues can lose its very soul (cf. Centesimus Annus, 46). Those propheticwords in some sense echo the conviction of President Washington, expressedin his Farewell Address, that religion and morality represent"indispensable supports" of political prosperity.

The Church, for her part, wishes to contribute to building a world evermore worthy of the human person, created in the image and likeness of God(cf. Gen 1:26-27). She is convinced that faith sheds new light on allthings, and that the Gospel reveals the noble vocation and sublime destinyof every man and woman (cf. Gaudium et Spes, 10). Faith also gives us thestrength to respond to our high calling, and the hope that inspires us towork for an ever more just and fraternal society. Democracy can only flourish, as your founding fathers realized, when political leaders andthose whom they represent are guided by truth and bring the wisdom born offirm moral principle to decisions affecting the life and future of the nation.

For well over a century, the United States of America has played animportant role in the international community. On Friday, God willing, Iwill have the honor of addressing the United Nations Organization, where Ihope to encourage the efforts under way to make that institution an evermore effective voice for the legitimate aspirations of all the world'speoples. On this, the sixtieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration ofHuman Rights, the need for global solidarity is as urgent as ever, if allpeople are to live in a way worthy of their dignity – as brothers andsisters dwelling in the same house and around that table which God's bounty has set for all his children. America has traditionally shown herselfgenerous in meeting immediate human needs, fostering development andoffering relief to the victims of natural catastrophes. I am confident thatthis concern for the greater human family will continue to find expressionin support for the patient efforts of international diplomacy to resolveconflicts and promote progress. In this way, coming generations will beable to live in a world where truth, freedom and justice can flourish – aworld where the God-given dignity and rights of every man, woman and childare cherished, protected and effectively advanced.

Mr. President, dear friends: as I begin my visit to the United States, Iexpress once more my gratitude for your invitation, my joy to be in yourmidst, and my fervent prayers that Almighty God will confirm this nationand its people in the ways of justice, prosperity and peace. God blessAmerica!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Are they really the same?

Occasionally, I listen to the Catholic Answers radio program on my local Catholic AM station (which I can only get when I am within ten miles of where it is broadcast, and then only between dawn and dusk). Catholic apologist Jim Blackburn was the host. A woman called in and asked about the merit of the Traditional Latin Mass. She said she had run into a lot of Catholics who seemed of the opinion that the Tridentine Mass was better than the Novus Ordo and that, to quote her, "going to it made you a better Catholic."

Blackburn answered with two standard replies of the conservative crowd, neither of which were well thought out at all. First, he said that neither Mass was more meritorious. They are both exactly equal, and, as he put it, the one who goes to the Tridentine Mass does not receive any more grace than one who goes to the Novus Ordo. Second, he said that it really was not important which form of the Mass one went to because the same Eucharist was received at either Mass, which as the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Christ, was just as efficacious in either form of the Mass.

This argument makes two mistakes: first, it assumes that the only grace received through the Mass is the ex opere operato grace associated with the Sacrament; second, that the whole reason we attend Mass is to receive Holy Communion.

As to the first argument: conservatives never tire of pointing out that the sacrament is just as valid in either Mass. Okay, we can concede this point (of course, it is questionable in some cases where there is grave liturgical abuse concerning the form and matter of the sacrament itself). However, we must remember that grace offered objectively through the sacrament does not always benefit us subjectively (ex opere operantis). How much we benefit from the Mass has much to do with our dispositions. Given this point, we ought to ask: which form of the Mass promotes a better disposition to receive the Eucharistic Lord?

The answer to this must clearly be the Traditional Latin Mass, which even conservatives admit is more reverent. The more reverent the music, liturgical actions, prayers and postures, the more recollected we will be on the divine reality of what is going on at the altar. The more recollected we are, the more worshipful we are, and the more worshipful we are, the more open we are to receiving the grace of God, and therefore, we actually do benefit more ex opere operantis from the sacrament in a more reverent rite (incidentally, it is irritating to hear some speak of reverence as if it is incidental to the Mass: "Sure, the old rite is more reverent, but the Eucharist is the same in either form." If you acknowledge that one rite is more reverent, why on earth would you want to frequent one that you admit is less reverent?).

The second point that is often brought up by conservatives, and was hit on by Blackburn on Catholic Answers, is that we ought not to get too worked up about liturgical matters because, after all, we are still receiving the Body and Blood of Jesus into our souls, and that is ultimately more important than whether or not rubrics are followed or what type of music is used.

While the Eucharist is certainly a very important part of the Mass, we must not confuse our recption of the Eucharist with the Mass itself, as they are not the same. The Mass can exist without us there to receive the Eucharist (many people who are ignorant of history, are often surprised when I tell them that thousands of Masses used to be offered in private). The primary act of the Mass is the offering of Christ to the Father, not our reception of Holy Communion.

The Mass, though intimately connected with the sacrament of the Eucharist, the Sacrament of the Eucharist is something essentially different from the Sacrifice of the Mass. The Eucharist performs at once two functions: that of a sacrament and that of a sacrifice. Though the inseparability of the two is most clearly seen in the fact that the consecrating and sacrificial powers of the priest coincide, and consequently that the sacrament is produced only in and through the sacrifice of the Mass, the real difference between them is shown in that the sacrament is intended privately for the sanctification of the soul, whereas the sacrifice serves primarily to glorify God by adoration, thanksgiving, prayer, and expiation. The recipient of the one is God, who receives the sacrifice of His only-begotten Son; of the other, man, who receives the sacrament for his own good. There are other differences between the Mass and the Eucharist as well.

The unbloody Sacrifice of the Eucharistic Christ is in its nature a transient action, while the Sacrament of the Altar continues as something permanent after the sacrifice, and can even be preserved in monstrance and ciborium. This difference also deserves mention: communion under one form only is the reception of the whole sacrament, whereas, without the use of the two forms of bread and wine (the symbolic separation of the Body and Blood), the mystical slaying of the victim, and therefore the Sacrifice of the Mass, does not take place.

Therefore, when we look at the Mass, we do have to distinguish Sacrament from Sacrifice. Because the notion of Sacrifice is so often downplayed nowadays, even in conservative circles, it is no surprise that Blackburn would see our reception of Holy Communion as the most important moment of the Mass. But we know that the Mass is beyond us, even beyond our reception of Christ: it is Christ's eternal offering to God the Father.

The very fact that this reality can be obscured by certain types of liturgy should take us back to our first point: these supposedly "accidental" liturgical aspects of the Mass really do affect how much grace we are open to receiving and even whether or not we understand what is going on.

Sweetest Heart of Mary TLM Pics

Here's some pics from a recent TLM at Sweetest Heart of Mary parish in Detroit, courtesy of my new friend Chris at the Detroit Latin Mass Community:

Friday, April 11, 2008

China on Human Rights

The Olympics have been in the news this week with the dowsing of the Olympic torch in paris followed by the massive demonstrations in San Francisco earlier in the week. All of the protests revolve around the fact that China has a terrible human rights record. Protestors feel that as a result, at the very least certain nations ought not to attend the opening ceremonies, and at the most China ought to lose the Olympics.

It is true that China's human rights history is abysmal. As I listened to the radio this week and caught interviews with various protestors, I came up with this comprehensive list of the top reasons why these people are out there protesting China's human rights problems:

1) Chinese suppression of Tibet and the Tibetans aspirations for autonomy.

2) China's steadfast but unpopular support for the Sudanese government in the Darfur crisis.

3) China's repression of intellectuals within China and its censorship of Internet access.

4) It's persecution of the ethnic Hmong minority.

5) China's support for the repressive military regime in Burma.

Well, if we are talking about human rights abuses, did anybody notice a glaring omission in this list? Out of all the interviews and articles I looked at on this, not a single person mentioned China's horrendous one-child policy and their barbaric practice of forced abortion. China's own government estimates that it has aborted 250 million children since the instituion of the one child policy in 1979 (they use the phrase "prevented births"). It is unknown how many of these abortions are forced, but the stories of women being forcibly dragged to abortion clinics are many. A recent photo smuggled out of China, which showed a still-warm corpse of a dead female infant lying in a gutter in Hunan province, caused outrage around the world. Note on the below map, that in China's most populated areas, almost 50% of all pregnancies end in abortion.

However, none of the protesters have made an issue out of this most obvious and fundamental of all human rights abuses. Why? I'm not sure, but I looking at the other grievances (Darfur and Tibet), I see that they are issues that liberals tend to take up, and liberals certainly are not going to get out in the street about Chinese abortion. It is classic liberal mentality to get outraged about the oppressed Hmong of China but not care about the oppressed Christians of Turkey. They can enthusiastically wave "Free Tibet" signs but would balk and the demand to "Free Constantinople."

Unless people, of any political stripe, are willing to call China on the carpet for its barbaric abortion policies, then any other gripes about human rights abuses are farcical and hypocritical.

Parish charged $72,000 for TLM

Here is a story I picked up on the Catholic Answers forums earlier this week (courtesy of Mr s). I am not sure what to make of it entirely, and many are already accusing the Diocese involved of simony. Here are the details:

This comes to us from the Diocese of Portland, Maine, where a TLM community is being asked to pay for their Mass. They are to be charged $72,000 per year, with an initial $18,000 down payment being due on or before July 1st, only a little over 2 1/2 months from the time this is being written. The 72-grand will go toward the priest's salary and benefits, office supplies and, astoundingly, rental of the church. Should anyone think this a joke or simply too outrageous to be believed, the following is presented:

3 April 2008

Dear Members of the Latin Mass Community: Christ is Risen & Lives Forever!

As Msgr. Marc Caron, the chancellor of the Diocese, announced to you some weeks past, Bishop Richard Malone has honored me with the newly created position of Chaplain to the Latin Mass Community in south-central Maine effective 1 July 2008. I look forward to serving and working with the faithful who are attached to the extraordinary form of the Roman liturgy. Initially, I will be celebrating Holy Mass in the extraordinary form every Sunday at 8:00 AM at the Basilica of Ss Peter & Paul in Lewiston and at noon at the Cathedral Chapel in Portland. Once the Chaplaincy is underway, additional Masses will be scheduled at other locations as the need increases and other priests are available. I also will be available to you for the celebration of the sacraments and sacramentals, including funerals, as needed.

I am happy to announce that the Bishop has accepted a request for a patron for the Latin Mass Chaplaincy. We will now be known as the:

St. Gregory the Great Latin Mass Chaplaincy

As Bishop Malone announced, the Chaplaincy will be funded by those benefiting from this ministry, and the Chaplaincy will continue only if there is sufficient funding to meet its expenses. The initial annual budget has been prepared, which I have approved and accepted. The budget for the first year is $72,000.00 and includes salary, room & board, health insurance and pension, travel expenses, church rental, office expenses, and other ministy (sic) expenses.

Prior to 1 July, and before the Chaplaincy will begin, we are required to raise from contributions one-quarter of our annual budget, or $18,000.00. This initial funding is necessary to ensure that we will be financially independent and able to meet our weekly ongoing expenses as the Chaplaincy begins and grows. We must begin our fundraising efforts immediately to raise this initial amount. We have established an account at TD Banknorth in Lewiston that will be used exclusively for the Chaplaincy. Contributions to the Chaplaincy should be made by check payable to "St Gregory (the Great) Latin Mass Chaplaincy" and sent to the following address: Latin Mass Chaplaincy, Department of Ministerial Services, P.O. Box 11559, Portland, Maine 04104. Please be as generous as your means allow.

After 1 July collections taken up at all the Masses of the Chaplaincy will go totally to the support of the Chaplaincy. Also the faithful will be able to register with the Chaplaincy and will have their own envelopes come the New Year. I will also be making regular financial reports to the community.

I will be able to join you and address you after Mass on Sunday 20 April 2008 at the Cathedral to enlist your support for the many important tasks we must undertake in order to build the Chaplaincy so that it will be a vital, growing, and long-lasting ministry in the Diocese. I also hope to answer any questions you may have. Unfortunately I may arrive during the Mass as I must complete my duties in Sabattus first. I hope you will be able to stay for a short reception after Mass so that we may become personally acquainted.

I thank all the priests who have served and who will continue to serve you. They have been a blessing from God. I look forward to meeting and serving you. May God prosper the work of our hands.

Sincerely yours in Christ,

Rev. Robert A. Parent

Now, many are saying that this amounts to simony: buying and selling of spiritual goods. However, since the cost is listed as being for upkeep, rental of the Church, stipends, etc., I'm not so sure that it qualifies as simony canonically. But, a few things come up: first, are Spanish Mass communities or Vietnamese Mass communities being charged similarly? The answer is a resounding "no." In the parish in my home town, there is a weekly Spanish-language Mass for the Hispanic community in my region, many of whom do not belong to the parish where the Mass is held. This is provided for them free of charge because there is a priest on hand fluent in Spanish. Were the Diocese to charge these Hispanics $72,000 per year, there would be all kinds of accusations of racism, insensitivity, etc.

Some may argue that the Spanish Mass communities or the regular NO communities are already paying their way in tithes and offerings, but then again, so are the Traditionalists, most of whom end up frequentling and tithing to NO churches who are traditional enough to be tolerable but not traditional enough to be satisfactory.

What do you think: does this case amount to simony? Either way, it seems to be a definite road block being thrown in the way of the TLM in the Diocese of Portland. How should Catholics best respond to this situation?

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Homeschooling & Dating

In recent weeks, I have had the opportunity to get to spend a lot of time talking with various Catholic homeschool families in my community about things such as when a teen should be allowed to start dating, whether they should "date" at all (some preferring to substitute dating for a similar but different idea of "courtship") and how much exposure a teen ought to have to members of the opposite sex. As a homeschooling parent and father of girls, these issues affect me in a very personal level.

I generally support homeschoolers in all that they do. God knows I would never entrust my kids' upbringing to the choas in the public schools, where they will be taught to denigrate Christianity, admire Mohammed and learn vice from an early age. For many homeschooling parents, the decision to keep kids home reflects a disillusionment with the system of public education, not only with regards to curriculum, but especially in the area of morality and ethics. Homeschoolers are just as concerned that their children will be exposed to bad kids as they are that they will be exposed to bad teaching. In the public schools, lack of adequate supervision and discipline, coupled with a secular mindset, peer pressure and an infatuation with pop culture tends to sexualize our children and introduce them to sexuality and sexual activity well before and outside of marriage.

I sympathize with these concerns greatly, but I have noticed in homeschooling families the tendency to react to these conditions by taking the approach that their kids will not be allowed to investigate the opposite sex at all until they are at adult age. So, for example, if in public school kids are starting to date and have sex at age 15 or 16, then the homeschool solution is to just keep their kids away from dating or from the opposite sex in general until they are at least 18 or 19. The rationale for this is that kids of this age are far too young to be thinking about relationships and that it is best to keep them away from any type of dating or courtship until they are legal adults. The core idea is a reaction against making kids grow up too fast. Furthermore, this idea is put forth as if it were "traditional" morality.

I think it is admirable to want to protect kids from impurity, but I disgaree with the premise that we don't want to make kids grow up too fast. As a matter of fact, I think in our culture kids are forced to grow up too slow. Kids are subject to something called "infantilization," which means an artificial extension of childhood. This means that they are treated as children while they are biologically adults, which leads to role confusion and teen angst as teens question their place. Consider this: traditionally, a child was said to reach adulthood when he passed puberty, and in traditional cultures, this was celebrated with various coming of age rites. You went right from childhood into adulthood. You could pinpoint the day you became a man.

Contrast this with our culture, where kids come of age through a long, drawn out and indeterminate period of time known as "adolescence" which can begin as early as 12 and go on into the 20's. Over 60% of traditional (that is, not industrialized) cultures have no word for adolescence. A child is regarded as an adult as soon as he passes puberty, and usually the new adults rise to the challenge and take on adult responsibilities with vigor and success (online source). It is only in modern culture that adulthood is postponed until 18 or 21, that childhood is drawn out, and that teen angst develops.

Given this fact, the reality is that traditionally, kids are introduced to courtship and sexuality earlier than in modern America, the only difference being that it is done within the context of courtship, betrothal and marriage. A girl is marriable at 14, a boy at 16. In many cultures, a girl not married by 21 was considered an old maid.

How does this relate back to the homeschooling issue? Well, it means this: while I appreciate the approach taken by homeschoolers of wanting to put off dating until 18 or 20, the fact of the matter is that this is just another symptom of our modern culture. If we really wanted to adopt "traditional" morals, we would be encouraging our kids to think about marriage at age 12 or 13, to get betrothed at 14 and married at 16. But many parents recoil with horror at the idea that their kids be involved with the opposite sex at so young an age.

What is my point in all this? I'm not sure. I am certainly not suggesting that we start marrying our kids at age 14, nor I am suggesting we adopt the public school "kids will be kids" permissiveness. I am simply pointing out that when we decide to keep our kids away from dating until they are 19, let's not pretend that we are being traditional. We are not. We are doing something completely novel that has no precedent in traditional morality.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Wife symbolizes God??

While preparing an RCIA lecture on the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony, I was a little bit stunned and confused to come across the following paragraph in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Notice the last sentence:

Holy Scripture affirms that man and woman were created for one another: "It is not good for man to be along." The woman, "flesh of his flesh," his equal, his nearest in all things, is given to him by God as a "helpmate; she thus represents God from whom comes our help (CCC 1605).

I have read this section in the CCC before, but I never really noticed this passage before. Is it asserting that in marriage, the woman represents God? If this is the case, I think this would be a very novel application of symbolism to the Sacrament of Marriage. Of course, in Scripture one thing can represent various other things, as a serpent can represent the devil or also Christ (as in the case of the bronze serpent of Moses). But what is the traditional symbolism attached to the marital union and is it consonant with the CCC's assertion that the wife represents God?

If we look first to St. Paul's famous passage from Ephesians 5, we read the following:

Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything (v. 22-24).

From this passage, St. Paul makes two points: first, that the husband represents Christ and the wife the Church. Second, that the wife is to be in submission to the husband as Christ is to the Church. He goes on to reaffirm the husband's symbolic representation as Christ:

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church— for we are members of his body. "For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh." This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church (v. 25-32).

I think it is painfully obvious that the man represents Christ. As such, the woman is said to be in submission to the man. Now, here is the question: if it is clear that the man represents Christ, if the woman represents God, as CCC 1605 says, then what type of symbolic imagery are we creating? If we take the CCC's passage on the wife and St. Paul's passage on the husband representing Christ, then we are left with the absurd symbolism of God being in submission to Christ, as it clearly says that the wife (who "represents God") is to be in submission to the man (who represents Christ).

When, in Scripture or Tradition, is God ever said to be in submission to Christ? Though Christ is the Second Person of the Trinity and co-equal with God the Father, as pertains to His mission He is always said to be in submission to God, both on earth, in heaven now and in the Kingdom to Come, as St. Paul says in 1 Corinthians:

Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death. For he "has put everything under his feet." Now when it says that "everything" has been put under him, it is clear that this does not include God himself, who put everything under Christ. When he has done this, then the Son himself will be made subject to him who put everything under him, so that God may be all in all (v. 24-28).

In looking at these passages, in which Christ's submission to the Father is emphasized, one can see the absurdity of equating the woman with God in the marriage. Tradition has constantly asserted (following Paul's plain words in Ephesians 5) that the wife represents the Church, not God, and that the husband represents Christ. Otherwise, the wife's submission to the husband would not make any sense; why would "God" submit to "Christ"?

I don't know what the writers of the CCC were thinking when they said that the woman represents God. I don't think it is heresy to make such an assertion, for when we talk about biblical symbolism we are not talking about dogmatic statements. But I do think it is a reckless and stupid conclusion to draw and not consonant with the clear words of Scripture and the way the Fathers and the Church has always interpreted the relationship of man and woman in Matrimony.