Friday, June 27, 2008

One year anniversary!

This week is the one year anniversary of me and Anselm starting this blog (the exact anniversary will be on Sunday, June 29th to be exact). I have had much fun putting this blog together for you all and I hope you have been blessed by it as well. I again apologize for the infrequency with which I have been able to get to posting in the past several months; indeed, I fear that the days of daily postings (or even multiple postings daily) may be done while I am in college. That being said, I will continue to do my best!

In the meantime, I have put together a tremendous list of links to some of mine and Anselm's favorite and best posts of the past year. Please recall that in October, 2007 I accidentally deleted all of my pics for the blog, so the earliest posts may have no pictures with them.

The Convert/Cradle Dynamic: a look at the way Protestant converts and Traditionalist cradle Catholics view the Church differently.

Does the Church teach spontaneous Creation?: a look at some historic statements on evolution from the Magisterium and the saints.

Henry VIII divorce shocker: my unconventional historical conclusion that the marriage of Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon was, in fact, invalid as Henry asserted. He's still a jerk, though.

Dispensible Disciplines: even though disciplines are not de fide doctrine, does that mean they are just dispensible?

"We agree on essentials": ever heard Protestants say this? Well it's not true!

Wife symbolizes God??: an analysis of the odd phrase in the CCC which states that in marriage the wife symbolizes God.

Are they really the same?: a critique of apologist Jim Blackburn's assertion that the TLM is not any better than the NO is assisting in growth in personal holiness.

Reflection on Tradition: some thoughts on how traditions form and become obsolete.

Oprah Winfrey is the Antichrist: Uh...this one explains itself.

Resurrection Appearances: a review of the traditional method of harmonizing all of the Resurrection appearances of Christ.

The incredible, vanishing Rerum Novarum: why do contemporary Magisterial documents on social justice neglect to reference Rerum Novarum?

Dictation: the Church does indeed teach divine dictation with regards to the inspiration of the Scriptures.

Did anything happen in 1054?: The Eastern Prthodox are in schism, but it didn't happen in 1054!

Excellence is not showing off: for people accused of being condescending or talking down to others just because you try to do something well.

Semantics of reform: the subtleties of what people mean when they say they want to "reform" the Church.

Historicity of Daniel: the book of Daniel was not written during the time of Antiochus Ephiphanes.

Hey,Constantine!: the first Christian emperor tells us about the true Faith.

I'm back from Columbus: NCYC and everything that goes with it.

Where is the ark of the covenant?: first post in the whole series.

Rome was no accident: the headship of the Church in the city of Rome is not due to historical accident, but was part of the divine plan.

Melancholy Christmas: why Christmas songs are sad.

Ten signs you have a bad Bible commentary: ten red lights to watch out for.

At the crossroads of ecumenism: a critique of Cardinal Dulles' stupid assertion that ecumenism ought to consist of sharing our feelings.

Ever heard of epiky?: revisting an old concept from Canon Law.

Protestant and Catholic lyrics: why even Protestant lyrics are better than sappy Haugen/Hass crap.

Evangelical power of the faith: just give people the Truth on its own terms and God will take care of the rest.

The term "extraordinary": it seems that the word means two different things when applied to Extraordinary Ministers and the Extraordinary Form.

"Jobs Americans won't do": they don't exist.

Pigs and evolution: discovery of supposedly extinct species.

Strongholds of traditionalism: where is traditional Catholicism making the greatest headway?

Is reincarnation real?:definitive proof that reincarnation is in fact true (okay, not really...).

When did smoking become a crime?: a stupidity of the anti-smoking lobby.

If you're gonna do it wrong, at least do it right: banality of modern vernacular lyrics contrasted with older English hymns.

"But they're Catholic, too": why that is not a reason to support illegal immigration.

Youth groups are Protestant: sad but true (usually).

Myth of the ignorant priests: were Catholic priests in the past ignorant? Even a Protestant Englishman from the 18th century says no.

Rails not just for TLM: they work great in the Novus Ordo, too!

No alliance with Muslims: do various monotheistic religions of the world need to "unite" to fight off the greater threat of relatavism? No way!

Question on custom: when, canonically, is a custom established and what binding force does it have?

Historicity of the Flood: the anthropological universality of the flood.

Dissecting "We are Church": why I protest the use of that loaded phrase.

Trajectory argument: why the argument "we should just be happy that we're moving in the right direction" is not a good one.

Homosexuality and media culture: Batman and Robin are placed under homo-suspicion.

Should Mother Teresa be canonized?: a serious look at some of the reasons why Mother Teresa ought not to become a saint.

Is carbon dating accurate?: amuzing pics of fossilized fingers and cowboy boots and a critique of the carbon dating system.

Cult of sensitivity: people are too sensitive! Suck it up and take it like a man!

Blame it on the ignorant laity: a refutation to the charge that the laity in the pre-Vatican II period were ignorant and poorly catechized.

Position clarification: where the writers of this blog stand on the Novus Ordo Mass.

Orthodoxy is not enough: contesting the idea that good orthodoxy consists in not actively believing any heresy.

Who do so many Catholics believe in penal substitution?: how Protestant soteriology has influenced Catholic thinking on justification.

Well, is their one rite or two?: comparing Benedict's assertion of two forms of one rite with Paul VI's declaration that the Novus Ordo is a "new rite."

Hope in Latin America?: why the Church in Latin America is a joke.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

A rebuilt Temple in Jerusalem?

Every now and again I get a visit from my father-in-law (God bless him) who is what could be termed an evangelical fundamentalist. Like many evangelicals, one of his big sticking points concerns the political nation of Israel, which he believes to be of some salvific or prophetic significance in God's plan. For him, the secular state of Israel has all of the same divine perogatives (and the same mission) that Old Testament Israel had after possessing the Promised Land. You could call him a Zionist, even more of a Zionist than many Zionist Jews, because he attaches much theological importance to the current presence of Jews in Israel. A particular element of this evangelical Zionism is the belief that (a) the Jerusalem Temple will be rebuilt, and that (b) this is a good and worthy thing and Christians ought to support Jews in their efforts to rebuild a Temple.

This brings up a wide range of issues that cannot all be dealt with here. How are Christians to relate to the modern state of Israel? Will there be a rebuilt Temple? If so, should the effort be lauded or denounced? Is there any further "prophetic" or salvific role for the people of Israel in the Church age?

Let's look just as this issue of a rebuilt Temple. First of all, if you don't believe me that many evangelicals are actively seeking to fund the rebuilding of the Temple, check out this article on the connection between evangelicalism and radical Zionism. But we ought to ask ourselves: will there be a rebuilt Temple in Jerusalem? Evangelicals base this belief largely on some prophecies in Ezekiel 40-47 in which a new Temple is described to the prophet. Evangelicals (mainly dispensationalists) have argued that this prophecy refers to a literal third Temple to be built at the end of time, which will be defiled by the Antichrist.

Two things are worth pointing out: the Catholic and Orthodox Churches have always viewed this prophecy as relating to the Church, just as the heavenly city with twelve gates mentioned in Revelation describes not a literal city to be built, but the Bride of Christ. This is a no brainer, but then again, Protestant dispensationalists are not known for accepting typological intepretations of Scripture, especially ones that glorify the Church. Second, we ought to realize that not even the rabbis who lived in New Testament times and read Ezekiel in its original language understood this Temple in a literal sense. Even they realized it was not a literal Temple.

Some Fathers, like Chrysostom and Jerome, agreed and asserted that there would be no rebuilt Temple.

But, there is no doctrinal reason why there could not be a Third Temple. A symbolic interpretation does not rule out a literal fulfillment. Some of the Church Fathers believed that the Jews would one day rebuild their temple. However, Catholic Tradition has always identified a rebuilt temple as a sign of antichrist. Hippolytus, writing in 200 and drawing on earlier commentary from St. Irenaeus, wrote:

"The Savior rose up and showed His holy flesh like a temple, and he [the Antichrist] will raise a temple of stone in Jerusalem " (On the Antichrist, 6)

Origen also (Contra Celsus, 6:46) is of the opinion that the Antichrist would raise a stone temple for the purpose of claiming divine worship.

Look at this extended quotation from Cyril of Jerusalem, who believes that the Antichrist rebuild the Temple for the purpose of convincing the Jews that he is the Messiah:

"And again he says, Who opposes and exalts himself against all that is called God, or that is worshipped; (against every God; Antichrist forsooth will abhor the idols,) so that he seats himself in the temple of God . What temple then? He means, the Temple of the Jews which has been destroyed. For God forbid that it should be the one in which we are! Why say we this? That we may not be supposed to favour ourselves. For if he comes to the Jews as Christ, and desires to be worshipped by the Jews, he will make great account of the Temple, that he may more completely beguile them; making it supposed that he is the man of the race of David, who shall build up the Temple which was erected by Solomon . And Antichrist will come at the time when there shall not be left one stone upon another in the Temple of the Jews, according to the doom pronounced by our Saviour ; for when, either decay of time, or demolition ensuing on pretence of new buildings, or from any other causes, shall have overthrown all the stones, I mean not merely of the outer circuit, but of the inner shrine also, where the Cherubim were, then shall he come with all signs and lying wonders, exalting himself against all idols; at first indeed making a pretence of benevolence, but afterwards displaying his relentless temper, and that chiefly against the Saints of God. For he says, I beheld, and the same horn made war with the saints ; and again elsewhere, there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation upon earth, even to that same time . Dreadful is that beast, a mighty dragon, unconquerable by man, ready to devour; concerning whom though we have more things to speak out of the divine Scriptures, yet we will content ourselves at present with thus much, in order to keep within compass" (Catechetical Lectures, 15:15).
St. John Damascene says that the Antichrist will come a deify himself in a Jewish temple, and that this temple will have nothing to do with the true faith: "not our temple, but the old Jewish temple . For he will come not to us but to the Jews: not for Christ or the things of Christ: wherefore he is called Antichrist" (De Fide Orth. 4:26).

Furthermore, we ought to recall the famous passage from Ammianus Marcellinus (a pagan historian) who recouted the attempt of Julian the Apostate to rebuild the temple. The work had to be abandoned after a few attempts due to flames that miraculously shot out from under the stones of the ruined temple and burned the workers.

Well, of course none of this has any merit with dispensationalists, who frequently "dispense" with the Fathers as if their opinions were no weightier than any other shmuck. Nevertheless, it is good to know what the Fathers taught on this matter of the Antichrist and the rebuilt temple, which is very obscure and confusing to many Catholics. There will probably be no rebuilt temple, andif there is, it is a sign of Antichrist. How can it be otherwise? For a rebuilt temple means a resumption of sacrifices, which means that the blood of the Son of God was insufficient, and that goats and bulls are needed instead. Don't get sucked into this dispensationalist-evangelical agenda about supporting the rebuilding of a new temple. It's blasphemous and redundant, period.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Will Obama deny Christ?

In another month we will see exactly what type of "Christian" Barack Obama is, and I predict it won't be pretty. Check out this article from The Hindu:

NEW DELHI: Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama can now expect help from an unexpected quarter — Lord Hanuman.

All-India Congress Committee member Brij Mohan Bhama has organised a 11-day religious ceremony at Karol Bagh here for his success in the U.S. elections.

The idea of sending an idol of Hanuman dawned on him after friends in the United States mentioned a “prominent American politician who carried a miniature Hanuman idol in his pocket for luck,” Mr. Bhama said speaking on the first day of the ceremony on Tuesday.

“After hearing that, I decided to gift Mr. Obama a larger, gold-plated version along with the wishes of thousands of his supporters in this country,” said the leader struggling to lift the 15 kg, 21-inch brass idol.

The first-day ceremony, pranapratishta, or infusion of divine life into an idol, was performed by a dozen priests reciting mantras in tandem. It was attended by Democrats Abroad India chairperson Carolyn Sauvage, who spent over an hour at the venue.

The idol was later kept in the sanctum sanctorum of the Sankat Mochan Dham, where it will be kept for 10 more days. Mr. Bhama said several temples in New Delhi had already expressed an interest in keeping the idol for worship on their premises before it begins its journey across the Atlantic.

Along with the idol, a copy of Hanuman Chalisa, a compilation of hymns in praise of the Lord, would be sent.

“We will ensure that Mr. Obama receives the idol by August 24, a day before the Democratic National Convention in Denver, Colorado,” said Mr. Bhama.

Who exactly is Hanuman, you may ask? Well, in case you didn't know, Lord Hanuman is but one of Hinduism's 300 million gods. According to their sagas, he once impregnanted a fish by sweating in its mouth. It is this idol whom the Indians hope will grant Obama victory.

How will Mr. Obama respond to this "gift?" Perhaps some will take issue with me, but I do not see how any Christian can receive an idol of a false god with thanksgiving and gratitude. "But Boniface," some of you will object, "the Pope once received a gift of the Koran with gratitude, even though he didn't believe it was true." Well, that of course assumes that the Pope was justified in kissing the Koran, which I strenuously object to. I think it is somewhat circular reasoning anyway ("It's okay to do it because the Pope did it." Why was it okay for the Pope to do it? "Because there's nothing wrong with it!")

Have we forgotten the destruction of the prophets of Baal by Elijah, the demolition of Baal's temple by Gideon, the way God Himself threw down the idol of Dagon in his own temple! If God Himself broke the idol of Dagon, what ought Obama to do with the idol of Hanuman? I suggest to you that unless Obama sends this idol back, destroys it, or otherwise makes some comment about being unable to accept it because he is a Christian, then this is tantamount to publicly denying Christ (he ought to smash the thing and defile it with cow's blood: remember, in the Bible the Israelites not only destroyed pagan shrines, but defiled them after their destruction.).

This is not the same as the Pope receiving a book. Obama will be receiving an idol of a false god that is "worshipped" (the word the article uses), and who's believers assert has been infused with divine life and that Obama should receive it because it will bring him luck and victory in the campaign.

What do you think? Would St. Paul gratefully receive an idol of Diana as a gift? Though Obama certainly may not be the Antichrist to come, if he receives this gift I will not hesitate to call him antichrist with a small "a," as he will have publicly denied Jesus in my opinion.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Seeds of Decline

These days are days of woe. I myself have been guilty of some end of the world prognosticating, but it is difficult not to when so many social, economic and natural catastrophes pile on us one after another until we are numb to them. Many people besides myself have started speaking of the end of our civilization, or even of the entire world as we know it. These persons come from varying degrees of credibility. Some Ducth have recently been quoted as believing the world will end in 2012 (but one guy interviewed said that at least it would get rid of the Muslim immigrants that have flooded Netherlands! source). But many of the prognostications of social and economic doom are much more reputable: Alan Greenspan has predicted a more than 50% chance that the US is about to enter into a major, long-term recession (source); the world continues to be plagued by floods, earthquakes drought and other natural disasters; a recent AP story asked pointedly why everything in the world seemed to be "spinning out of control" (here), and the USA faces an ever weakening dollar against a stronger Euro and loses influence in the world to new big-time economic players like China and India.

It is not surpising, therefore, that some are speaking of the imminent crash or collapse of our civilization. If you don't believe me, try doing a Google search for the phrase "end of our civilization?" and see what comes up: people everywhere are predicting that we are done. Rather than jump on the bandwagon with more predictions, which are thought provoking but ultimately unhelpful, I decided to think on what do people mean when they speak of the "fall," "collapse," or "crash" of our civilization? What happens exactly when a civilization "falls?" How long does it take? And can we identify any certain causal connections among different factors that can enable us to sayw ith any certitude that "yes, civilization X is about to fall," or is such a prediction irresponsible and ultimately unmakeable?
It strikes me that when many people speak of the fall of our civilization, they are often speaking of a moral collapse and a political-economic collapse interchangeably. So, for example, one might cite the rise in abortions, the prominence of homosexuality, the widespread moral corruption and declining numbers of Church attendance as indicators of our decline. This is an example of a moral collapse in civilization. But then, in the same article, they may jump to talking about fuel, the weakening dollar, our impotence before the Chinese economy and our reduced role in world affairs. These are all taken as indicators of our decline as well, but they are too often lumped together with the moral indicators. But we must recognize that a moral collapse and an economic-political collapse are two different things. They are often found hand in hand, I think, but we must ask ourselves this:
Is there any necessary connection between moral degeneracy and an economic-political collapse in culture?
I think that once we draw the parallel between a moral and an economic-political collapse, we can see that the two "falls" are indeed related, though perhaps not by direct cause and effect. It has been well documented that the kingdoms of Egypt, Babylon, Persia Greece and Rome all suffered from rampant homosexuality, the breakdown of marriage, political corruption and religious indifferentism in the final days before their demise. If we take these as our models, does our current moral crisis point to an inevitable political overthrow?
If we take Rome as an example, we see that there was great moral degneracy in the 3rd and 4th centuries up until the time of Constantine. Even after the Christian period, paganism and immorality often continued unabated at the uppermost echelons of Roman society, almost until the Fall of the Western Empire in 476. However, we must ask ourselves, had Rome not been a corrupt and decadent empire in the first few centuries of the Christian era, would that have made any difference as to whether or not the Huns and the other barbarian tribes began moving to Western Europe? Everybody acknowledges that it was the barbarian invasions which sapped Rome's strength and finally did her in, yet we see that there is no direct connection between this and the moral decay of Rome mentioned above. Therefore, it is tempting to see the two declines (the moral and the political) as unrelated.
Yet I do not think this is so, for though the moral decay does not lead to political destruction, it does render the state less able to defend itself against when situations that threaten the political order arise. While political corruption and moral degeneracy did not itself bring the barbarians to Rome's borders, they did affect Rome's ability to cope with the barbarian invasions. Corruption and bribery in the army made the cost of maintaining the legions almost prohibitive. If an emperor could not afford to pay his generals and the Praetorian Guard the required donative, his time on the throne was doomed to be short indeed. Upon the accession of Septimius Severus in 193, he paid his legions an astounding bribe that was the equivalent of almost a billion dollars in modern US currency. With such bribery going on at all levels of the government, administration could not be effectively carried out and justice was frequently neglected or suppressed. As with our culture, lax attitudes towards marriage and sexuality in the later Roman Empire led to unstable home lives and a dearth of man power to fill the increasingly important Roman legions. As centralized power weakened, local power grew in the hands of generals, governors, proconsuls and local potentates.

Furthermore, religious scepticism filled people with apathy and doubt about metaphysical truth, robbing them of the almost supernatural surety of their own destiny that had characterized the early Romans up until the time of the Third Punic War and the beginning of the civil wars.

Thus, when the barbarians hit, Rome was paralyzed. It lacked man power to effectively deal with the military threat. It lacked authority to sufficiently intimidate the invading foes, who keenly saw that Rome was weak and ready to be plundered. It lacked the efficient and fiscal administration necessary to work its way out of such calamaties. Most importantly, it lacked the sense of destiny and certitude in its identity and mission that gave its people the will to fight until the bitter end, as they did when the Hannibal invaded Italy during the Second Punic War (218-201 BC). So moral laxity led to political chaos.

Another parallel can be drawn. Romans, after centuries of rule, tended to become lazy and critical of menial labor. While the earliest Roman heroes (the legendary Cincinnatus, for example) were husbandmen and not ashamed of work, later Romans viewed work as a slave's task, an increasingly chose to export food and raw materials from their provinces instead of producing them in Italy. Thus, cheap grain flooded in from Egypt and fed the Empire, but bound Italy inextricably with the fate of Egypt. Thus, when famine or war struck Egypt, Rome suffered. The moral vice of laziness and pride resulted in economic distress when food production was "outsourced" to a province remote from the homeland. Isn't this the same form of economic suicide we are committing because we are too lazy and greedy to be self-sufficient?

I think we can safely say that while moral degeneracy does not lead to political overthrow, it certainly creates conditions conducive to it. Where does this leave us? It is obvious that we are morally degenerate and culturally bankrupt. But when and how will our political overthrow come? Will we suffer a massive invasion of Chinese bent on seizing our resources for their economic leviathan, a new Yellow Peril akin to the Germanic Peril that brought down Rome? Will we simply dwindle away and suffer a slow death, as our southern border evaporates even more, vast portions of our land melt into Hispanic autonomous regions, federal authority breaks down, the dollar devalues even more and we are swallowed up in a mass of non-Christian immigrants, ever so slowly effacing our Christian origins and making us into a polygot Babel? Will some terrorist group suddenly blows us up? Or perhaps, in a desperate attempt to ward off the impending ruin around us, we will throw all our eggs into some repressive dictatorship, exchanging freedom for false security and enjoy a renewed period of power and influence for a time before flinging our national life away in some suicidal war that leaves our country laid waste, our lands polluted worse than those of Mordor, the flower of our youth slain and our government in ruins. Any one of these scenarios is possible.

So, I'd say that the prognosticators of doom are essentially correct in their predictions of the end of our civilization. But, as St. Augustine reminded us, the City of God is eternal and endures, whatever may befall the City of Man. I seek not a kingdom built with hands, but one which is above, the Jerusalem made without hands. It alone endures forever.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Pray for SSPX reunion!

The net has been buzzing with news about the possible reconciliation between the SSPX and the Holy See that is being contemplated this week. Bishop Fellay and the SSPX, who have asked for the excommunication to be lifted, have until June 28th to consider several proposals presented on behalf of Benedict XVI by Dario Card. Castrillon Hoyos. For full union, the SSPX will have to agree to five points, one of which is known to be acceptance of Vatican II as a legitimate Ecumenical Council and the Novus Ordo as a valid Mass [UPDATE: In fact, the five points say nothing about this, but these are understood to be preconditions. See here for the real five points]. Rumor has it that if the proposal is accepted, the SSPX will be organized as a personal prelature, akin to Opus Dei. The original story came through the Italian jounral Il Giornale and can be found here and here.

I am truly uncertain as to how this could play out. On the one hand, more has happened in the past year than I ever could have imagined, and there are rumors of much more to come. Think about it! The liberalization of the old Mass, the statements of Ranjith and Hoyos on the satanic disobedience of recalictrant bishops who resist the MP, the rumors that the Vatican is about to condemn Medjugorje, the appointment of the Good Marini, the recption of 3,000 Assyrian Catholics back into the Church at Pentecost, the papal Masses at which Benedict has used ad orientem posture and distributed Communion to persons kneeling, the explosion of interest in the Traditional Latin Mass all over the world, and the strong statements of Hoyos in Britain last week concerning the Pope's wish that the TLM be offered in all parishes. This is truly a remarkable time in Church history and I would not doubt it if another remarkable thing like the reunion of the SSPX came about under this Pontificate, and sooner rather than later.

On the other hand, after reading recent remarks of Bishop Fellay on the papacy, it seems to me that the SSPX have developed a mentality of schism over the past twenty years that has come to regard their irregular state as permanent and has ceased to hope for any reunion, all the while heaping up more and more unrealistic conditions for union upon the Pope (like a renunciation of the Vatican II documents on religious liberty, which will never happen).

Please pray for the reunion of the SSPX and the Holy See. Let's see what June 28th brings us.

An old tradition returns

In the metro-Detroit area where I reside, an old Catholic tradition is making a slow return at a few nearby parishes: the churching of women. Recently Assumption parish in Windsor, Canada (just across the river) had one, and St. Josaphat in Detroit celebrated a churching yesterday. The churching of women is a blessing given to mothers six-weeks after childbirth (so long as the child was born in lawful wedlock and was baptized a Catholic, though it can still be given if the child has died without baptism or was stillborn).

In the rite, the woman gives thanks to God for a happy delivery and asks for the graces necessary to be a worthy Christian mother. Sometimes the child is offered to God, reminiscent of the offering of Christ in the Temple by Mary, though the blessings and prayers are specifically ordered towards the good of the woman.

In the rite, the woman kneels with a candle in the vestibule. Then the priest, vested in surplice and white stole, sprinkles her with holy water in the form of a cross. Having recited Psalm 24 (23), "The earth is the Lord's and the fullness thereof", he offers her the left extremity of the stole and leads her into the church, saying: "Enter thou into the temple of God, adore the Son of the Blessed Virgin Mary who has given thee fruitfulness of offspring." She advances to one of the altars and kneels before it, whilst the priest, turned towards her, recites a prayer which expresses the object of the blessing, and then, having sprinkled her again with holy water in the form of the cross, dismisses her, saying: "The peace and blessing of God Almighty, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, descend upon thee, and remain forever. Amen."

In a time when even the greater devotionals like Eucharistic Adoration anf the rosary are neglected in many parishes, it is not surprising that this lovely custom should have all but vanished in the past forty years. It is good to see communities like St. Josaphat's in Detroit bringing it back, and I'm sure we'll here more accounts of this rite in the coming months.

I for one think this is a good, relatively "non-offensive" rite that a parish priest could offer if he is looking to introduce some traditional customs back into a primarily Novus Ordo parish without necessarily having to make the jump to a TLM if the people are hostile to it. While many might complain about the Traditional Mass, I can't see anyone fussing about blessing a mother who has just given birth.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Liturgy Language: Soaring Poetry vs. Bumpy Prose

Bishop Arthur Serratelli of Paterson, New Jersey

Column From Chair of US Bishops' Committee on Scripture Translations
PATERSON, New Jersey, JUNE 19, 2008 (

Here is this week's column from Bishop Arthur Serratelli posted on the Web site of the Diocese of Paterson.

Bishop Serratelli is the chairman of the U.S. bishops' Ad hoc Committee for the Review of Scripture Translations.

At their spring meeting last week, the bishops voted on a new translation of the Proper of Seasons and other texts. However, the vote was not finalized because there were not enough members present to reach the two-thirds majority required for approval. Bishops who were not at the meeting will vote by mail over the coming days.

The Language of the Liturgy: The Value of the New Translations
In Act III, Scene II of The Tragedy of Hamlet, the young prince gives this advice: "Suit the action to the word, the word to the action." Ever since the publication of the third edition of the Missale Romanum in 2000, translators have been grappling with the challenge of suiting the word to the liturgy. Translators working to provide a fresh translation of the liturgical texts face a number of challenges.

Words, like people's dress, change from one generation to the next and from one group to another in the same society. What one individual calls a "swamp," another more ecologically conscious individual calls "wetlands." A politician waxes eloquently about "public participation." His audience understands him to say "self-denial." The corporate world routinely uses the noun impact as a transitive verb. People follow happily along.

Today, politically correct as well as linguistically conscious individuals carefully circumvent the word "man" not to offend women. Past generations pronounced the word with never the slightest intention of excluding women. But times have changed. We speak now about humankind. Certainly, we have gained inclusivity. Yet, we have sacrificed language that is not so abstract.

English always has been an open language, ready to welcome neologisms. The Internet has enriched our speech with new phrases and words. Text messaging is altering our spelling and our syntax. Language is a human expression. As people change, so does the way they speak.

In his popular rhetorical guide, De duplici copia verborum ac rerum, Erasmus, the 16th century Dutch humanist and theologian, showed students 150 different styles they could use when phrasing the Latin sentence, Tuae literae me magnopere delectarunt (Your letter has delighted me very much). Clearly, no single translation of any sentence or work will ever completely satisfy everyone. Even the best of all possible translations of the new Missal will have its critics.

But there is something more at stake than pleasing individual tastes and preferences in the new liturgical translations. The new translations aim at a "language which is easily understandable, yet which at the same time preserves ... dignity, beauty, and doctrinal precision" (Liturgiam Authenticam, 25). The new translations now being prepared are a marked improvement over the translations with which we have become familiar. They are densely theological. They respect the rich vocabulary of the Roman Rite. They carefully avoid the overuse of certain phrases and words.

The new translations also have a great respect for the style of the Roman Rite. Certainly, some sentences could be more easily translated to mimic our common speech. But they are not. And with reason. Latin orations, especially Post-Communions, tend to conclude strongly with a teleological or eschatological point. The new translations in English follow the sequence of these Latin prayers in order to end on a strong note. Many of our current translations of these prayers end weakly. Why should we strip the English translation of the distinctive theological emphases of the Latin text? A slightly non-colloquial word order can lead the listener to a greater attention to the point of the prayer.

Our present liturgical texts are framed in simple syntax. The new translations use more subordinate clauses. This, in and of itself, does not render them unproclaimable. By the very fact that, in some instances, the new translations require thoughtful and careful attention to pauses when speaking helps to foster and create a less rushed and more reverent way of praying. Not a small gain for a proper ars celebrandi.

The new translation at times may use uncommon words like "ineffable." The word is not unspeakable! For sure, this word does not come from the street language of the contemporary individual. But, then, why cannot the liturgy use words that elevate the language from the street to the altar? People may not use certain words in their active vocabulary. This does not mean they will be baffled by their use in the liturgy. "If indeed, in the liturgical texts, words or expressions are sometimes employed which differ somewhat from usual and everyday speech, it is often enough by virtue of this very fact that the texts become truly memorable and capable of expressing heavenly realities" (Liturgiam Authenticam, 27).

Liturgical language should border on the poetic. Prose bumps along the ground. Poetry soars to the heavens. And our Liturgy is already a sharing of the Liturgy in heaven.

The liturgical texts that we are now using are not perfect, but they are familiar. This familiarity makes celebrants at ease with the present texts. The new texts are better. When the new texts are implemented, they will require more attention on the part of the celebrant. But any initial uneasiness will yield to familiarity and to a language that is well suited to the Liturgy.

A language suited for the Liturgy: this is the one of great advantages of the work being done on the new translations. There is more to the Liturgy than the human language of any age or any one country. In the new translations of the Roman Missal, a conscious effort is being made to suit the human word to the divine action that the Liturgy truly is. As Pope Benedict XVI has said, the "central actio of the Mass is fundamentally neither that of the priest as such nor of the laity as such, but of Christ the High Priest: This action of God, which takes place through human speech, is the real 'action' for which all creation is in expectation. ... This is what is new and distinctive about the Christian liturgy: God himself acts and does what is essential" (The Spirit of the Liturgy p. 173).

In his early work Enchiridion militis christiani, Erasmus states the obvious about human speech and the divine. He argues that words always fall short of their task of miming the Logos. Reaching back to Exodus 16, he argues that the smallness of the manna rained down on the Israelites "signifies the lowliness of speech that conceals immense mysteries in almost crude language." Until the end of history, we must be content with imperfect language that will never fully unveil the divine mystery we celebrate. But the new translations, imperfect as they are -- as all human speech will be -- are good translations that have passed through the hands of many scholars and bishops. The language of the new texts, while not dummied down to the most common denominator, remains readily accessible to anyone. Most assuredly, these new translations of liturgical texts will help us better approach God with greater reverence and awe. We gladly await their final approval from the Holy See and their use in the Liturgy!

Another memorable moment of interreligious dialogue

Taken from the Book of 2 Kings 10:18-28:

Then Jehu [King of Israel] brought all the people together and said to them, "Ahab served Baal a little; Jehu will serve him much. Now summon all the prophets of Baal, all his ministers and all his priests. See that no one is missing, because I am going to hold a great sacrifice for Baal. Anyone who fails to come will no longer live." But Jehu was acting deceptively in order to destroy the ministers of Baal.

Jehu said, "Call an assembly in honor of Baal." So they proclaimed it. Then he sent word throughout Israel, and all the ministers of Baal came; not one stayed away. They crowded into the temple of Baal until it was full from one end to the other. And Jehu said to the keeper of the wardrobe, "Bring robes for all the ministers of Baal." So he brought out robes for them. Then Jehu and Jehonadab son of Recab went into the temple of Baal. Jehu said to the ministers of Baal, "Look around and see that no servants of the LORD are here with you—only ministers of Baal." So they went in to make sacrifices and burnt offerings.

Now Jehu had posted eighty men outside with this warning: "If one of you lets any of the men I am placing in your hands escape, it will be your life for his life." As soon as Jehu had finished making the burnt offering, he ordered the guards and officers: "Go in and kill them; let no one escape." So they cut them down with the sword. The guards and officers threw the bodies out and then entered the inner shrine of the temple of Baal. They brought the sacred stone out of the temple of Baal and burned it. They demolished the sacred stone of Baal and tore down the temple of Baal, and people have used it for a latrine to this day.

So Jehu destroyed Baal worship in Israel.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

"And His kingdom shall have no end."

I have recently been reading a very wonderful book by an orthodox theologian, T.L. Frazier, entitled "A Second Look at the Second Coming" (Conciliar Press, 1999). This book takes a look at the End Times beliefs of Evangelical Protestantism and compares them with the eschatology of the patristic age, with an emphasis on Greek Fathers such as Chrysostom and Cyril of Jerusalem. It has much about the history of certain peculiar Evangelical beliefs on the End Times, especially regarding the secular State of Israel, the "Millenium," and of course, the Rapture.

I learned quite a bit from this book and hope to post on more of these topics in the near future. One interesting fact I gleaned (that perhaps some of you may have already known, but it was news to me), was that the phrase "And His kingdom shall have no end" from the Nicene Creed was added specifically to condemn the heresy of millenarianism (Latin), also known as chiliasm (Greek).

The millenarians were not a separate heretical group as were the Donatists or Manicheans, but were a group of Christians found in the Latin West and the Greek East who tended to interpret Christ's Second Coming in such a way as to assert that He would come and set up a temporal, political kingdom based in Jerusalem. From there, He would rule the earth as king of a physical realm and the world would enjoy unprecedented peace and prosperity for one-thousand years. Then, after a millenium was complete, Satan would be loosed for a time and would make war upon Christ and His Kingdom. After much destruction, this period would come to an end with the final defeat of Satan and the inauguration of the eternal reign of Christ which would never end. This reign after the defeat of Satan is differentiated from the earlier reign from Jerusalem in that it is no longer a temporal kingdom but a heavenly one. The millenarians, therefore, saw the reign of Christ as being composed of two kingdoms: one temporal that would last for a thousand years, the second and eternal one to follow the final defeat of Satan. The two most famous millenarians among the Fathers were St. Irenaeus and St. Justin Martyr.

It ought to be said that millenarianism was not condemned as a heresy until the 4th century, and one finds a small but numerable group of Fathers from the 2nd and 3rd centuries who seem to hold to the doctrine. The majority of the Fathers, however, interpreted the 1,000 year reign mentioned in Revelation as the age of the Church when Christ reigns on earth through His Body (i.e., the present age). The close of the thousand years is the Second Coming. For orthodox Catholics, the Second Coming arrives at the close of the thousand years: for millenarians, the Second Coming kicks off the thousand years. It was specifically to counter the millenarians that the Fathers of the Council of Nicea added the clause "And His Kingdom will have no end" to the Creed. If the kingdom has no end, then this precludes any notion of Satan interrupting Christ's kingdom after a thousand years and forcing Christ to inaugurate a new one after his final defeat. Once Christ comes to set up His kingdom, it is set up permanently, and not in an earthly sense from the city of Jerusalem, either.

Millenarianism is alive and well among Evangelical Protestants. In fact, it is probably the one heresy (other than Sola Fide and Sola Scriptura) that is most common among the denominations of Protestantism.

More on this later...

Monday, June 16, 2008

The One-World religion in the making?

Have you heard of this new "Church," which had over 300,000 attendants on its first service and now has over 2 million? It is deceiving millions and indoctrinating Christians in New Age teaching. Guess who runs it? You guessed. These are somewhat long, but worth viewing. I'd keep my eyes in this person, and also on this false prophet Eckhart Tolle, a minion of hell.

Here's a video exposing the occultic background of Oprah's spiritual advisors, Eckhart Tolle and Marianne Williamson (though it is a promo for a book):

On Oprah's tremendous influence and New Age interests...

Finally, here's an interesting video documenting how Oprah and Denzel Washington ask spirits to possess them before they go in front of the camera:

I have gone from only being 50% serious that Oprah could be the antichrist to being about 75% serious.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Cardinal Tauron says "all religions are equal."

In a June 10th interview with, available in its entirety here, Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauron, President of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, made the following statements regarding some new guidelines coming out from the Vatican on how interreligious dialogue is to be conducted [my comments and emphases]:

Q: Will there be a special emphasis on Islam in these guidelines?

No, it has to have regard for all religions. What was interesting about our discussions was that we did not concentrate on Islam because in a way we are being held hostage by Islam a little bit [Very interesting point. For too many, interreligious dialogue simply means watching what we say so the Muslims don't get offended]. Islam is very important but there are also other great Asiatic religious traditions. Islam is one religion.

Q. There was a sense that Islam mustn't monopolize the proceedings?

Yes, the people are obsessed by Islam. For example I'm going to India next month and I want to give this message that all religions are equal [That's funny, because St. Paul used to visit places with the intention of converting people to the true faith, not telling them that all religions are equal. Remember, this guy is the head of the Interreligious Dialogue movement in the hierarchy]. Sometimes there are priorities because of particular situations, but we mustn't get the impression there are first class religions and second class religions [So Christianity is not a first class religion compared with totemism? They are equal? Perhaps, giving the benefit of the doubt, he only means to say that in interreligious dialogue, all religions must take equal precedence, but even then it would be untrue. Our dialogue with Islam is certainly more important than our dialogue with Jainism or the Moonies].

Q. What were the main achievements from the meeting, in your view?

First of all, we stated the point that there are so many things we have in common with other believers [Is that really an "achievement?"], for example that we all believe in one God, that we profess the same sacredness of life [uhh..better define what we and the Muslims mean by that phrase], the necessity of fraternity, the experience of prayer [regardless of who the prayer is directed towards!?]. Because it's very important to stress that interreligious dialogue is not a sociological analysis or a political strategy; it's a religious activity and the language of the religion is prayer so we have always to stress this point. Also we stressed the formation of youth because we realize that in the society in which we live, in multi-ethnical, multicultural societies, the young generation are perhaps lost. So we have to give them points of reference and religions are obviously very important in that [just "religions are very important" with no reference to which one? If this does not give the idea that one religion is just as good as another, I don't know what does]. So as the Pope said in his speech, there is this necessity of formation for priests, seminarians and also ordinary people... This is something new, and it is a consequence of the world in which we live [i.e., we are conforming to the times].

Q. Issues such as identity, proselytism, and reciprocity were also raised. Is this the first time reciprocity was given such prominence?

Not really. What is good for me is good for the other, so if it's possible for Muslims to have a mosque in the West, we should have the same in Muslim countries. This is not the case in many countries. There are countries - for example, I was in Doha a week ago, and I celebrated Mass in this new church there that was consecrated a month ago. It is a very impressive building [look at the pictures of this "impressive" Church below. I won't say it's ugly, but it is kind of weird] . Now we're going to have a school there run by nuns. So this is an example of very good interreligious dialogue with very concrete effects. In Saudi Arabia, it is not the case yet.

Q. Some say that Muslim leaders want a different kind of dialogue to the one the Pope wants. They say Muslims want a dialogue where each tradition respects the other in its own sphere, whereas the Holy Father wants to go further, to reflect more deeply on freedom to seek God, and to allow conversions to Christianity if it comes to that. What do you say to this perspective?

The purpose of interreligious dialogue is to know the other better in order to understand the content of his faith, and of course the Holy Father is insisting on freedom of religion, freedom to have a religion and not to have one, and the freedom to change religion. This is something also stated in international law, and of course for the Muslims, it's not the same [This is why Traditional Catholics despise this form of interreligious dialogue: it does not even state that trying to bring people to Christ is even an implicit goal. They kind of say, "Well hey, if people want to convert, that's their business and we'll take em, but we're not looking for converts"].

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Vatican will reject Medjugorje

Andrea Gemma

This news broke about six days ago, but I wanted to add it to my collection of post on Medjugorje (my emphases and comments):

Vatican will reject Medjugorje, says bishop
By Simon Caldwell 6 June 2008 (The Catholic Herald)

An Italian bishop has predicted that the Vatican will soon declare as false the claims that the Virgin Mary has been appearing to a group of visionaries in Medjugorje, Bosnia, for nearly 30 years. Emeritus Bishop Andrea Gemma of Isernia-Venafro said that he believed the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which has been studying the claims since 2006, would not rule in favour of the six seers at the end of a review of the alleged apparitions.

"You'll see that soon the Vatican will intervene with something explosive to unmask once and for all who is behind this deceit," the 77-year-old bishop told Petrus, an online Italian Catholic journal [He believes that the seers are not just misled but are actually engaging in active deception].

Bishop Gemma, the most senior exorcist in the Catholic Church until his retirement two years ago, said he personally believed the phenomenon to be a "scandal" and a "diabolical deceit".

He said: "It is a phenomenon which is absolutely diabolical, around which revolve many underground interests. Holy Mother Church, the only one able to pronounce, through the mouth of the Bishop of Mostar, has already said publicly, and officially, that the Madonna has never appeared at Medjugorje and that this whole sham is the work of the demon" [This is interesting with regards to those who throw out the statements of the Ordinary and still claim that the Church has not ruled definitively on Medjugorje. Gemma says that the Church indeed has spoken through the Bishop of Mostar and that his verdict is the verdict of the Church. If the person closest to the events wouldn't support it, why would the Vatican?].

He said: "In Medjugorje everything happens in function of money: pilgrimages, lodging houses, sale of trinkets [see Michael Davies book where he relates how 160 people were killed in Medjugorje due to fighting between rival families over the proceeds from the pilgrimage racket. It's linked on the sidebar].

"So much so that abusing the good faith of those poor souls who go there thinking to encounter the Madonna, the false seers have organised themselves financially, have enriched themselves and live a rather comfortable life.

"Just think, one of them organises directly from America, with a direct economic interest, tens of thousands of pilgrimages every year. These don't seem to me to be disinterested persons.

"Thus, together with those who shore up this noisy deception, they patently have every interest in convincing people that they see and speak with the Virgin Mary."

Since the first alleged apparition on 25 June 1981, the seers say they have seen Mary on about 40,000 occasions during which time she has supposedly imparted tens of thousands of messages and dozens of secrets.

Medjugorje has since become a popular destination for pilgrims, attracting more than five million visitors, including hundreds of thousands each year from the UK and the Irish Republic.

Pilgrims have included Spanish tenor José Carreras, who performed a concert there, and the American actor Jim Cavaziel, who played Jesus in Mel Gibson's blockbuster The Passion of the Christ.

The Medjugorje phenomenon began when a group of children told a priest they had seen the Virgin on a hillside near their town.

An investigation by Bishop Pavao Zanic of Mostar-Duvno found the claims inconsistent with the faith and they were dismissed as false. But the seers responded by claiming that the Virgin had told them that the bishop was a "wolf" who would perish unless he accepted the apparitions as true.

Three Church commissions failed to find evidence to support of their claims and in 1991 the bishops of the former Yugoslavia declared that "it cannot be affirmed that these matters concern supernatural apparitions or revelations".

Their judgments have sharply divided Catholics and the Vatican, which banned pilgrimages to the site in 1985 and began a review of the claims two years ago.

According to the Sunday Times newspaper some of the seers have grown wealthy as a result of their claims - and so has their town. Some seers today own smart executive houses with immaculate gardens, double garages and security gates, and one has a tennis court. They also own expensive cars and have married - one of them, Ivan Dragicevic, to an American former beauty queen.

The new Bishop of Mostar-Duvno, Ratko Peric, is as opposed to the claims as his predecessor and in 2004 he upheld the suspension of Fr Jozo Zovko, the "spiritual adviser" to the visionaries [All of the Franciscan priests involved with Medjugorje, the three main ones that is, have been excommunicated or suspended. One has been kicked out of his order and impregnated a nun].

Well, I only have two comments on this article. First, it is about time. Second, now comes the moment of truth. When the Vatican makes its "explosive" decision to unmask and denounce Medjugorje, will the Medjugorje adherents obey and remain in submission to Peter, as they claim they always have? Or will they go off into schism and heresy? I believe, unfortunately, that for many intimately invested in Medjugorje, it will be the latter, because it has already happened. The Herzegovnia Franciscan's are already in a state of schism. The "Madonna" has already uttered heresy. Pilgrimages have already been banned, and people continue to go there in disobedience.

If Medjugorje is officially denounced, a great many will stop supporting it, but I think a sizeable cluster will go off the deep end and wind up like the "Mary is God Catholic Movement" or the "Army of Mary" or some of these other wacked out groups. They have already developed a schismatic mentality, and I think an official denouncement would only make it worse. Nevertheless, the truth needs to be told, and the sooner the better.

Does the Church teach spontaneous Creation?

Everybody agrees that the theory of evolution, in its atheist-materialist form, is a pernicious evil and a grave threat to the Catholic faith. However, I also find very suspect the notion of "theistic" evolution which has become popular in Catholic (and some Protestant) circles in the past few decades. I for one am distressed by the seeming joy with which Catholics embrace evolution. If one compares the Church's statements on evolution throughout the years, we see a basic shift in the way the whole notion is approached. In the pre-Vatican II period, evolution is approached with a great caution, and the circumstances under which a Catholic can entertain it are greatly minimized.

However, since the 1960's, and in part due to the corrupting yet pervasive influence of Teilhard de Chardin, the Church at large has shifted its thinking on this matter to a minimalist approach which emphasizes the execptions and the loopholes. We see a similar trend has happened regarding salvation outside the Church: while it was always admitted that it was possible for persons not formally admitted to the Church to be saved, the pre-V2 Church tended to emphasize the normative means of salvation within the Church while acknowledging that invincible ignorance or baptism of desire is possible, while the post-V2 Church emphasized invincible ignorance and baptism of desire until everyone was practically an anonymous Catholic, and the extraordinary was exalted about the ordinary.

If we apply this to evolution, modern Catholics tend to feel a sense of relief when they find out that they can still entertain evolution under certain conditions. "Whew! I am sure am glad I'm not bound to believe that six-day creation stuff!" But are you? Is theistic evolution a permissible thing to believe in?

For too many, the Church's statements on evolution are confined to Humani Generis and John Paul II's address to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, the latter of which can in no way be interpreted as an "update" of the Church's teaching. Let's look at two examples of Catholic teaching on evolution from the 19th century.

First, we have this explicit statement from the provincial Council of Cologne in 1860, which was held the year after Darwin's Origin of Species was published. In that Council, it was declared that "Our first parents were formed immediately by God. Therefore we declare that...those from spontaneous continuous change of imperfect nature to the more perfect, is clearly opposed to Sacred Scripture and to the Faith." Granted this is not an infallible statement from a pope or council, but it is a teaching of the ordinary magisterium which reflects the mind of the Church at that time. Clearly, the Church of 1860 thought that the idea of "continuous change" in man was opposed to the Faith.

Ten years later, we come to this famous statement from the First Vatican Council:

If anyone does not confess that the world and all things which are contained in it, both spiritual and material, as regards their whole substance, have been produced by God from nothing, let him be anathema.”

This statement is much more weighty than the first, as it comes from an ecumenical council and anathematizes anyone who would deny it. It's impact on theistic evolution comes with the clause "as regards to their whole substance." Clearly, theistic evolutionists do not deny creation ex nihilo, nor the special creation of man by God, nor God's creation of the immaterial along with the material. But what they do deny is that creatures, and mankind specifically, was created at once by God "as regards their whole substance."

What is implied by this phrase, "their whole substance?" This is a disputed point, but to me it seems pretty clear. Substance is the essence of what a thing is, everything that makes it itself and not something else. So, the substance of man is human nature. Therefore, Vatican I teaches, everything that pertains to human nature was created directly from God out of nothing. This implies two things: one, the first man had everything pertaining to human nature and was in all ways a whole man, "with regards to [his] whole substance." Second, that this whole substance was created directly by God out of nothing, which precludes the possibility that the body could have evolved from earlier life forms, since that would not be "produced from God out of nothing."

But perhaps one will say that everything proper to human nature (free will, intellect, and immortal soul) was created directly by God in the first man, but that the material element alone evolved (as Pius XII seems to indicate it is permissible to explore in Humani Generis). To this I would reply that we do not take a Cartesian view of man. Vatican I says man, as pertains to his whole substance, was created by God ex nihilo. Free will, intellect, and the soul are some of the most excellent things about man and pertain to his higher calling, but they are not the totality of human nature, for part of human nature is to have a body, since man is a composite being.

The human body itself is part of the substance of man, which Vatican I says was created in its "whole substance" directly by God ex nihilo. Therefore we cannot hold that one part of man's substance evolved while another was created immediately.

Therefore, it seems to me that the Church, in its official declaration of Vatican I and in the statement that came out of the Council of Cologne, condemns any evolution whatsoever, especially atheistic but also theistic. Opposition to this view from theistic evolutionists revolve around a different interpretation of that clause, "with regards to their whole substance," in sayng that it is not meant to refer to the body, but some other part of man. But it seems to me that substance encompasses the term "body" within it, since to be man is to be embodied.

I do not think the Church has ever mandated that one believe any certain time for when this Creation happened, but it seems rather likely that immediate, spontaneous Creation is a de fide dogma. Any comments?

Monday, June 09, 2008

Bishop Boyea's Homily to Musicians

This is almost three weeks old now, but I thought it was worth posting. I am very excited about our new bishop, Earl Boyea, who is a Church historian and a lover of the Traditional Latin Mass. As many of you know, he regularly celebrated the TLM as Auxiliary Bishop of Detroit before coming to Lansing.

Below is Bishop Boyea's homily to diocesan musicians from the Solemn Vespers Mass on the Feast of the Holy Trinity, May 18th, 2008 [some parts I especially like in bold]:

"In 1922 a fragment of an early Christian hymn was found at Oxyrhynchos dating to about 280 AD. Some of the very few words which survive are these: “All the glorious creatures of God should not remain silent and be outdone by the radiant stars…” The stars, in their radiance, in their power and majesty, are praising God by their very existence. We can do more. We can sing our praise and thanks, especially on this great day as we praise our Most Blessed Trinity. Thus we give praise as do the stars. However, we, by consciously acknowledging the source of all goodness, our God, Three in One, our creator and redeemer, go beyond the stars and the rest of creation by deliberately not looking to ourselves but rather to the Other, the One.

This evening I wish to thank all of you for assisting our priests in leading the people of this local Church of Lansing in their acts of thanksgiving and praise of our God. I have often told parish musicians that everything you do is like another homily or instruction. Thus the words we use in our songs and hymns and inspired songs are of critical importance.Thus, if we are singing hymns which glorify ourselves or what we do rather than give God the glory, then we clearly are not heeding Psalm 115: “Not to us, Lord, not to us, but to your name give the glory.” If we sing and celebrate that somehow we create the Church or our salvation or the goodness of the world rather than acknowledge God as the source of all and in comparison we are nothing, then we clearly are not heeding Psalm 144: “Lord, what is man that you care for him, mortal man, that you keep him in mind; man, who is merely a breath, whose life fades like a passing shadow?” In short, if we celebrate ourselves rather than our God, then we clearly are not heeding Psalm 146: “My soul, give praise to the Lord…make music to my God while I live. Put no trust in princes, in mortal man in whom there is no help. Take their breath, they return to clay and their plans that day come to nothing.”

Yes, you have a singular, vital, formative role in our Church. If it is true that Lex orandi, lex credendi, then your assistance in the life of prayer which we live out each weekend in our parishes, is truly formative of the faith of our people. This also means that you bear an awesome burden—do not teach wrongly, do not teach idly, do not teach carelessly; rather teach in season and out the great truths of our faith. We preachers need you song-preachers to assist us.For this to happen you must let the word dwell in you richly. This is the first and most important part of your ministry. To live in and with the Word of God. It is only out of that abiding with Jesus that any of us can presume to speak about the word.

Secondly, know well the Church, that bride of Christ for whom Christ shed his blood and to whom he gave that outpoured blood and his broken body as food. Now to do both of these things may require of you some more work. It is not enough that you may be skilled and technically proficient in your tasks. You need also to breathe and know Christ and his body, the Church. First of all, pray, pray, pray—know Jesus, know our Heavenly Father, know the Holy Spirit. In addition, then, read, take courses, become certified. Do whatever is necessary that you may more effectively proclaim this faith. For then you will truly be doing all in the Name of the Lord Jesus and thus giving Thanks to God. God bless you all."

I like where he tells musicians to take courses and become certified. How many parishes have as their music director just some guy who knows a little bit of guitar and who is incapable of doing truly exquisite musicial arrangements? I look forward to much more good stuff from Bishop Boyea in the future.
I got this homily from the blog Joy. Please check it out for more insights from a parish music director seeking to draw upon the Church's musical tradition in the liturgical life of her parish.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Interreligious Dialogue: A Case Study of the Columban Missions

I have been meaning to post on this for a long while, but have been putting it off because I was waiting until I had enough time to donate to making this post as coherent and academic as possible (unlike many of my posts tend to be!). As always, I remember that I am nobody, and that I do not claim my opinion has any authority that anyone is bound to agree with. And I don't want to fool myself into thinking my blog is so serious and vital to the life of the Church that I can't possibly take any criticism about it or myself; but nevertheless, I try to do as good a job as I can here with my limited time and I thank you all for your patronage. One day, when I am no longer under the employment of the Church, I will "come out" and reveal my full identity.

There is a very important point regarding the Catholic interreligious dialogue movement that I think needs to be stressed, because it is too often neglected in mainstream Catholicism and sometimes even denied. It is this:

When persons in the hierarchy make statements or actions touching upon interreligious dialogue, regardless of their intentions or the goodness of their own deeds, they have a responsibility to be cognizant of how their deeds will be perceived by Catholics at large, who may not have the same degree of precision in theological understanding that they do.

Back in November, 2007 I received an issue of the Columban Mission magazine (the publication of the Missionary Society of St. Columban) titled "Interfaith Dialogue: Tolerance, Understanding & Learning Through Words & Actions." The cover was decorated with symbols of Judaism, Hinduism, Islam, Buddhism and Christianity. I knew right away from the cover what it would be like, and I was not mistaken. I am not going to bother delving into all the horror stories about priests praying from the Koran, Catholics attending Hindu worship meetings, participating in Ramandan etc (though we'll get into some of them). We all know that these things are the reality of the farce that is called Catholic "missionary" activity. But my point is to show, through some citations fromt his magazine, how despite the fact that John Paul II may have had great intentions at Assisi and how he did not explicitly embrace pagan religions, that is how it is widely being perceived, especially in the mission field.

In the introduction to this issue, Fr. T.P. Reynolds, president of Catholic Theological Union in Chicago, writes on the contrast between Catholic views of non-Christians in the early 20th century and today. He says of his own order, the Columban Missionaries, that "like most Christian missionaries, we still viewed Asian non-Christians as "pagans" who had to be Christianized" (pg 3). This view is cast aside as being old-fashioned, and in its place Fr. Reynolds trumpets the declaration of Vatican II: "The Catholic Church rejects nothing that is true and holy in these religions."

We know, however, that there is no essential contradiction between the "old" view of converting pagans, and the Vatican II declaration that the Church denies nothing true in other religions. But Fr. Reynolds asserts that there is a discontinuity and says quite plainly that "things have changed" (ibid). In the old days,we thought X, now we think Y. This is the theology of rupture at work, and clearly Vatican II is not being interpreted properly if it is being interpreted in this manner. But where did Fr. Reynolds learn to interpret interreligious dialogue in this way? He specifically cites John Paul II: "Pope John Paul II taught us, at Assisi, how to pray together" (ibid). He then goes on to state how the articles in this issue of the magazinbe are examples of the Columban Missionaries "complying with Rome's demands." So, let's see what he thinks it means to "comply" with Rome's idea of interreligious dialogue.

Following Fr. Reynold's article, we have an article entitled "A Concurrence of Civilizations." In this article, Fr. Paul Glynn, the author, explains how modern missionary work is not about converting anybody to the Faith, but about training "young Christians and Muslims to become peacemakers in their local communities" (pg. 6). And how is this done?

"This normally consists of eight-day, live-in workshops where we explore issues of prejudice and discrimination through games, drama, role play and small-group discussions. We lead the young people in a process of self-discovery and rediscovery of the richness of their own religious traditions: Christianity and Islam" (ibid)."

Much has been made by Traditionalists about the distinction between praying together and coming together to pray, which has been raised because of Assisi. Defenders of Assisi assert that in calling leaders of other religions together to pray, John Paul II was not meaning to insinuate that all religions prayed to the same God, nor was he trying to give the impression that all religions were equally valid. I don't deny that he did not intend to do this. But how do the missionaries take it? Do these missionaries believe and teach that all religions pray to the same God? Fr. Glynn continues:

We firmly believe that a true and lasting peace must begin from the individual young people who have allowed their hearts to be touched and their minds to be inspired by the love and mercy of God/Allah (ibid).

That is exactly how God is referred to in the text. "God/Allah." Remember now, in the introduction, Fr. Reynolds said that these stories were examples of the Columbans "complying with Rome's demands," which can only mean one thing: he, and the Columbans, are under the impression that this kind of syncretism is what Rome and the Pope are commanding! As he said, "John Paul II taught us, at Assisi."

I don't think even the most ardent defenders of John Paul and Assisi would go so far as to say that it is acceptable that a priest refer to the Trinity as "God/Allah." They are not the same God: God is a Trinity of Persons Who is all good and all perfect, while Allah is at best a remnant of pre-Islamic moon-worship, at worst a demon of hell. But, perhaps Fr. Glynn, who made the above statement, was just an isolated case. Perhaps the rest of the Columbans are not on the same page?

The next article is by the Superior General of the Columbans, Fr. Tommy Murphy (pictured in the magazine wearing a blue, button-up shirt with no sign that he is a religious order priest whatsoever, let alone a Superior General). It is entitled "An Urgent Need: Engaging Other Faiths." The subtitle is "The Columban Superior General says understanding other religions helps us better understand God." He goes on to laud the beliefs of other religions, saying, "They are very religious: they are very clear about the bigger issues" (pg. 7), as if to be "religious" was in and of itself salvific. There is an interesting point in the article when he is asked, "How do you understand Catholic missionary work today?" He thinks about it for a moment and responds, "I see mission as primarily trying to engage people and trying to understand what God is doing in the world."

Fr. Murphy then goes on to deny de fide dogma and he cites Vatican II as his justification:

"In the old days, there seemed to be no salvation outside the Catholic Church. Now, we realize that such great religions are valid paths to salvation for their adherents, as Vatican II taught us. So, that means that God is doing something very good in these religious traditions" (ibid).

This is not some priest, or some uneducated layman: this is the Superior General of the entire Order of Columban Missionary Priests, and he is under the misguided notion that Vatican II teaches that all religions are paths to salvation! Extra Ecclesiam Nullus Salus is indeeed Church dogma. It has always been believed, but was formally defined at the Fourth Lateran Council (1215) in these words:"The universal Church of the faithful is one outside of which none is saved." This can be found in denzinger 430, linked on the sidebar. A more famous statement of this doctrine is in Pope Boniface VIII's bull Unam Sanctam (1302), which says: "It is absolutely necessary for every living creature to be subject to the Roman Pontiff for salvation." This teaching was restated by Pope Pius IX, Leo XIII and Pius XII in Mystici Corporis. Though one may not find the principle in such clear cut terms in the Vatican II documents (although Lumen Gentium does teach this as well), it is certaibly a de fide dogma of the Church, though of course we do not interpret it in the Feenyite sense.

Fr. Tommy Murphy, Superior General of the Columbans

Further on in this issue of the Columban Mission, we see some articles about different concrete ways that Muslims and Christians are being encouraged to come together to be "peacemakers." One story discusses a missionary priest visiting a Muslim family during Ramadan. Did he make any attempt to lead them to Christ? Let's read:

"On the last day of Ramandan, called the Eid al-Fitr, Columban Father Pat McCaffrey and I joined the family for its wonderful celebration. Fr. Pat, who spent 20 years in Pakistan, greeted them in the Urdu language...They offered us Indian miT-Thai (sweets) and the traditional samay (a noodle dish). Fr. Pat read aloud a souvenir program about Ramandan written in Urdu and said the opening verse of the Quran. They were awed, and to a certain extent, shocked" (pg. 10).

As we should be! Clearly, there is a misunderstanding about what interreligious dialogue is: but my very point with this post is that these misunderstandings were made worse by the actions of John Paul II and the statements of persons in the post-V2 Church (Cardinal Kasper). Fr. Pat McCaffrey seems to understand that here may be a bit of confusion on this issue, and tries to clear it up in another article called "Together to Pray, But Not Praying Together" (whatever that means). In this piece, he writes about interfaith meetins in Fiji:

"Since Pope John Paul II's charismatic invitation in 1987 to all faith leaders in Assisi to pray for peace, the Catholic Church has made special efforts to promote interfath prayer for peace...The distinction is made that we come together to pray, but we do not pray together. At first blush, this may seem to be nothing more than wordplay [I'll say!]. But it does express a truth: it is important to come together to pray, but it is equally important that we do not reduce our beliefs to a common denominator in prayer, thereby concealing elements of our faith [despite the fact that this is exactly what happens] each meeting, a theme is chosen for next month's prayer gathering. Each faith community is requested to choose a reading from their respective scriptures and forward this to the coordinator who distributes copies of the readings to everyone who attends...The meeting begins with a common interfaith prayer [praying in common?]. Each faith community shares a reading from their sacred scriptures. This may be a reading, hymn or bhajan (a Hindu devotional song) [devotional song to whom? to which of their 330 million gods?]. The prayer time ends with a common prayer. Then we can reflect on what we have accomplished" (pg. 11).

When we entertain the farce of praying with pagans (and I include Assisi in this), there are only a two possibilities of what is going on: either we are praying to the same god, or we are encouraging them to pray to their own false gods. Either:

(1) We are asserting that our gods are actually one and the same (syncretism). If this were the case, it would be a travesty. However, most people acknowledge that this was not what was going on explicitly (but obviously, as the Columban Missionaries exemplify, people think this was what happened).

(2) If we are not asserting that our gods are the same, then by praying in common we must be encouraging them to pray to their own false gods. If this is the case, it is a mortal sin. Remember a little something from Tradition called "Nine Ways of Being an Accessory to Another's Sin?"

It is always a mortal sin to pray to a false god (against the First Commandment). Granted, there may be varying levels of culpability, but it is always sinful in and of itself. If this is always a sin, what do we do if we encourage them to pray to these false gods? Now, what happens when someone gets together with pagans and encourages them to pray to their false gods for something like world peace? Let's look at the nine ways:

By counsel (yep, guilty of that, because we invite them together and counsel them to pray to their false gods)
By command (I guess we wouldn't be guilty of that, since no one commanded them to pray to their demons)
By consent (definitely we'd be guilty of consent, because it seems to be the idea of the Catholic party in mosty of these situations)
By provocation (again, guilty, because by providing the means, the location and the events, Catholics who participate in these interfaith travesties provoke pagans to further their idolatry)
By praise or flattery (definitely, because by consistently praising "what is true" in non-Christian religions, we praise and flatter them into remaining mired in false worship)
By concealment (yes, because these events conceal the anti-Christian dogmas and practices of these pagans and focus only on the elusive similarities, like a desire for "peace")
By partaking (guilty, because you partake by being there and encouraging it)
By silence (guilty again, because nobody participating says one word to these pagans about their need to convert and come to Christ)
By defense of the ill done (absolutely guilty, because despite all of the outrages like the ones committed by the Columbans, people still persist in defending this defunct and false vision of interreligious dialogue)

And in the end, do the Columban Missions have any success in making any converts? And if so, what types of converts are they making? When asked about the fruits of his 28 years in the mission field, Fr. Robert McCulloch says, "Year by year, I have come to understand that the real issue is to serve the love of God, not to look at what I have in my hand or what I can count" (pg. 14). This is a polite way of saying, "I haven't made any converts at all in my 28 years." Is this really surprising given the type of "missionary activity" they are engaging in?

Sr. Elizabeth Moran, in an article entitled "An Open Window For All Faiths," explains the difference between pre and post Vatican II missionary work with regards to the ecumenical movement:

"Forty years ago, the leaders of the Catholic Church, gathered at the Second Vatican Council, authorized a document called Unitatis Redintegratio, which clearly welcomed the ecumenical movement as integral to the Church's being and pastoral activity. This overturned much of the narrow Counter-Reformation outlook of the Church" (pg. 18-19).

And what are the issues that various Christians, and non-Christians, are called to come together on? "Creation issues that concern us all: world debt, trade legislation, migration, climate change, human rights, and peace issues," says Amy Woolam-Echeverria, whose article "Forward Toward Justice & Peace" winds up this issue of the Columban Mission(pg. 20). These interfaith gatherings inevitably end up focusing on worldly, temporal issues and wind up treating them as if they supercede the theological truths of the Faith. "Sure, we disagree on the nature of God, how one attains salvation, what happens after death, etc. But we all believe there should be world peace, and so we have much more in common!" This makes the supernatural truths of revelation subordinate to merely worldly goods and tends toward the heresy of activism.

It is clear from all of these highlights that these people involved in the interreligious dialogue movement have a gross misunderstanding of what the Church's call to meet people where they are really means. "But," you will object, "people are always misunderstanding Catholicism! Protestants accuse us of worshipping Mary and call the Mass worship of Isis, Horus and Set. We are going to be misunderstood!"

Well, of course we are going to be misunderstood, but here is the essential difference with the above examples and the examples afforded us by the Columban Mission: if we are misunderstood for doing things right, shame on those who misunderstand! But, if we are misunderstood because we are doing things wrong, shame on us! The reason this is being misunderstood and confused by people is because Vatican II and John Paul II have provided ample grounds for confusion to reign. As Fr. Reynolds said, "Pope John Paul II taught us."

Everybody has a responsibility to concern themself not only with their actions, but how their actions might be perceived by others. Can John Paul's interfaith prayer at Assisi be good and prudent if it is yielding these kinds of fruits? And would anyone be so bold as to say that the type of missionary work described above is the type that the Holy Spirit desires? People who engage in interfaith meetings and prayers are even more responsible for their actions if they are in positions of authority, and ought to take extra special care that no one could possibly level the charge of syncretism against them with any type of seriousness. As St. Paul said in 1 Thessalonians 5:22, "Avoid every appearance of evil."

Affirming Hindus and Muslims where they are is not good missionary work. It is in fact from the pits of hell. Sure, they may love you now, but how will they feel about you when they are cast out because you spent all your time with them talking about migration issues, trade legislation and climate change and spent absolutely no effort (and don't delude yourself: they are making no effort) at converting these people? That is not true charity, but love of the world and the world's ways. And, "He who loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him" (1 John 2:14).