Thursday, February 26, 2015

One Million Pageviews

Actually, 1,034,255 pageviews, exactly. I remember when I first began this meager effort with Anselm in June of 2007, I never thought I would be doing it for eight years, let alone that we'd ever get a million pageviews. I recall being thrilled when I saw that 30 people had read an article!

Thank you all for your patronage of this blog and website, for your comments and insight. Hopefully we'll be around for two million!

Friday, February 20, 2015

No Trad Magisterium

Some time ago I came across an interesting article on Eponymous Flower (one of the few blogs i read daily, by the way). The article, by guest author Clement Victor Odendorf and entitled "Faithful Catholics and Theological Positions: A Difference Which Must Be Overlooked",  explores the tendency of Traditionalist Catholics to arrogate Magisterial authority to themselves, which leads them over time to conflate their own opinions with orthodoxy itself, with the obligatory condemnations of those outside their own niche.

The example given by Odendorf is that of an SSPX priest who preached on the Feast of Christ the King that Extraordinary Form Masses celebrated by the FSSP were "unacceptable for Catholics" because the FSSP had condoned - or at least remained silent - about the "errors" of Vatican II. Hence they had been compromised and their masses were "unacceptable". This priest went on to pronounce the same about other priests who celebrate the EF under the provisions of Summorum Pontificum

Odendorf notes the implication of the SSPX priest's homily: it is not only participation in the Novus Ordo that was to be rejected, but also every Mass in the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite not celebrated by the SSPX. In essence, this particular SSPX priest had assumed a kind of magisterial authority about the importance of the Society, its positions and its Masses. 

That particular argument is not what this post is about. The SSPX priest may have had a point; some priests celebrating the EF under Summorum Pontificum do not have a comprehensive view of tradition and the problems in the modern Church. But that's beside the point. The point is there is no traditionalist "Magisterium" that has the authority to bindingly declare what is an is not an acceptable incarnation of traditionalism. 

There is tremendous variety among traditional Catholics. Some like the Divine Mercy Devotion, others do not. Some believe in the Great King and Era of Peace, others don't. Some are Distributists, others ardent Capitalists. Some attend the EF Mass exclusively while others (like myself) go to the EF sometimes and the Novus Ordo sometimes. Some trads are monarchists, others are not. Some traditionalists are deep into the culture of smoking tobacco and drinking fine wines and beers, a kind of 'classy Catholicism', while others couldn't care a lick for smoking or drinking. Some are willing to openly criticize a sitting pontiff, others believe this crosses the line. Some argue women should never wear pants, others aren't so strict on this. Some pray in Latin, some don't. Some attend SSPX Masses, others want nothing to do with the Society. Some are Thomists, some Augustinians or followers of other theological traditions. Some think the failed Consecration of Russia is the crux and center of all the modern Church's problems, others see this only as a small part of a larger picture. You get the point.

There are many, many differences among trads, and with them all comes a variety of opinions on a whole host of matters. And our Tradition allows room for these sorts of diversifications. It's not that these differences are inconsequential; I have very strong opinions on most of these points, but I am not so certain in them that I would accuse those who don't agree with me of being subpar traditionalists. What I reject, as what Odendorf rejects in his article, is the idea that there is some sort of Traditionalist "magisterium" that can authoritatively define what a Catholic traditionalist ought to look like and proclaim those who do not adhere to this version of traditionalism to be "unacceptable."

The very existence of traditional Catholic blogs attests to the fact that there are many out there interested in examining Tradition, defining what a traditionalist is, and promoting a return to traditional Catholicism. But there is no one website or blog, no organization, no one author, no one order or society, no one publication, no one prelate, no one individual who authoritatively speaks for Catholic traditionalists, and whom to disagree with is to risk ostracism. There is no trad Magisterium.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

The Perfecting of Every Work and the Holy Car Ride

"A certain man being in anxiety of mind, continually tossed about between hope and fear, and being on a certain day overwhelmed with grief, cast himself down in prayer before the altar in a church, and meditated within himself, saying, 'Oh! if I but knew that I should still persevere,' and presently heard within him a voice from God, 'And if thou didst know it, what wouldst thou do? Do now what thou wouldst do then, and thou shalt be very secure.' And straightway being comforted and strengthened, he committed himself to the will of God and the perturbation of spirit ceased, neither had he a mind any more to search curiously to know what should befall him hereafter, but studied rather to inquire what was the good and acceptable will of God, for the beginning and perfecting of every good work." The Imitation of Christ, Of the Zealous Amendment of our whole lives.

It is a fair assumption with Ash Wednesday being upon us tomorrow that many if not all of our readers have already figured out what penances, mortifications, and spiritual exercises they intend to do during Holy Lent. Whatever additional burdens you have chosen for yourself to expiate your sins, I think it is a worthwhile endeavor to examine every part of our day and ask "is this work perfect?"

The thought of perfection is enough to make most of us shudder.  Whether considered from strictly a technical point of view (perfecting the action) or an interior point of view (perfecting the intention) our fallen natures and weak bodies resist the discipline under which we put ourselves.

If it was not so sad, it would be laughable that so many people in the devout Catholic subculture are so worried and guarded today about fasting too much. Those people who observe a technical rigor with their lent are scorned, as if a person was incapable of fasting strictly and overcoming sin at the same time.

I admit there is a danger in such a thing, though I am not sure how frequently anyone actually approaches that danger today.  Yet it is a pitiable thing that we toss out the treasure we might store up in the kingdom during Lent with our meager penances by still allowing ourselves many sins and imperfections.    

The Fathers (who kept and preached rigorous fasts) also saw the absurdity of giving up food only to endure in vices.  "Fasting consists not in abstinence from food [only], but in a separation from sinful practices; since he who limits his fasting only to an abstinence from meats, is one who especially disparages it. Dost thou fast ? Give me proof of it by thy works."  St. John Chrysostom, On Fasting, Homilies of the Fathers for Lent.

If I could extend a challenge to you for this Lent, I would suggest that you work on perfecting every good work.  What do I mean?  I mean the pursuing in your Lenten observance - side by side with your penance -  of a pure intention in the execution of your duties (i.e. those which are given to you by your state of life).  For workers that means diligence in labor, for children attention at study, etc. To sanctify those daily moments, those places where we are forced to spend so much time, and to focus on redeeming it rather than waiting for holiness to happen.  In other words, sanctify your "trips in the car".

How can we sanctify our trips in the car?  We must fill our cars with the Spirit of God. Pray the Rosary, listen (or sing along) to holy music, listen to Catholic audio-books and the such like. For the perfect, perhaps sitting in silence, focusing on the presence of God.  Do these things in addition to the prayers you already say, and the reading you already do.  It would be going backwards to go from praying your Rosary on your knees to praying it just in the car; but, it is redeeming the time to go from listening to the radio, to listening to St. Augustine. This does not mean that listening to music is bad, but that we choose something better and more pleasing to God.

Whatever you do, don't try it because you think it is too easy.  People today are more likely to cease being your friend if you insult their favorite band than if you insult their religion.  Our cars are oftentimes quite comfortable, people carefully select their music, and time in the car can be quite pleasant.  It may be easy to fully give car time to God once in a while, but what about every day?

"Now shalt thou labor a little, and thou shalt find great rest, yea everlasting joy. If thou shalt remain faithful and zealous in labor, doubt not that God shall be faithful and bountiful in rewarding thee." Imitation of Christ

This Lent Alleluia Audiobooks (possibly for a very limited time depending on how things go) is offering to send a 6 volume set of the Homilies of the Fathers for Lent playable on any CD player (and of course free to download) to those who ask, more details are available here.

You can also check out our last years Catholic Audio Resources for Lent

Sunday, February 08, 2015

Book Review: "On The Marks of the Church"

Many of you are aware of Ryan Grant's Bellarmine Translation Project, which is the most prominent literary endeavor of Mediatrix Press, the publishing arm of the Athanasius Contra Mundum blog apostolate. If you are unfamiliar with this project, you can listen to Ryan's podcast here explaining the rationale for this mammoth undertaking.

But, to sum it up, St. Robert Bellarmine, S.J. (1542-1621) was a pillar of the Counter-Reformation and one of the greatest theological luminaries in the Church's history. Along with the work of other great saints of the era like Philip Neri and Charles Borromeo, Cardinal Bellarmine's theology helped establish the direction of the post-Tridentine Church, especially vis-a-vis its engagement with the deficient theologies presented by Protestantism.

Like St. Paul, we may say of Bellarmine that though his bodily presence was weak, his writings were voluminous and powerful. Though Bellarmine was not the most innovative or profound theologian ever, the sheer universality of his knowledge and scope of his writing makes him unique among Catholic authors - perhaps occupying a plane with St. Augustine and a few others. Bellarmine not only knew every aspect of Catholic theology exhaustively, but also had read and understood all the arguments of the heretics as well, often demonstrating an astonishing ability to cut through the polemic and isolate the most fundamental characteristics of each heresy.

His pivotal work was De controversiis, a encyclopedic synopsis of all the heresiarchs of the Reformers and their doctrines, along with refutations of their errors. St. John Fisher had undertaken a similar work against Luther; Bellarmine picks up where Fisher left off, making invaluable new contributions along the way - for example, in being the first Catholic theologian to undertake a systematic refutation of Calvin. Thus De controversiis is a work of astounding breadth and great importance, both as a work of theology and as a historical cross-section of the state of the Protestant movement in the first generation after Trent.

Given this, it is very odd that this important work of Bellarmine was never translated into English. There are various reasons for this; but our dear friend Ryan Grant at Athanasius Contra Mundum has undertaken to rectify that with the Bellarmine Translation Project, an effort to make the great works of Robert Bellarmine available to an English audience for the first time.

The first project in this undertaking has just been released: On the Marks of the Church. This work was originally a sub-section of De controversiis, but it may be considered one of the most important portions. In On the Marks of the Church, Bellarmine evaluates the teachings of various reformers on the characteristics of the Church. He refutes them and responds by identifying the true marks of the Catholic Church.

There is a great introduction by Ryan introducing the work and explaining what the nota or "marks" of the Church are - in the words of Bellarmine, "testimonies or signs which discern her from every false religion of the Pagans, Jews, and Heretics", those characteristics or aspects of the Church which "cause it to be evidently believable." Of course, we profess four marks of the Church every week in the Nicene Creed (One, Holy, Catholic, Apostolic); but those familiar with only these four may be surprised that Bellarmine identifies not four but fifteen marks.

Latin translation is always a tricky thing, especially with medieval and early modern Latin, which tends to be overly wordy with a lot of subordinate clauses ("therefore"..."furthermore"..."moreover", etc) and any translator runs the risk of producing a translation that, while being slavishly literal, is not very readable. If you want to know what I mean, check out our very literal rendering of the bull Dum Diversas of Pope Nicholas V (1452). Ryan, an erudite Latinist and experienced Latin teacher, avoids these dangers and gives us a translation that is faithful to the Latin but is eminently readable.

I highly recommend not only this particular work, but your support of the Bellarmine Translation Project in general. You can donate to the project at Ryan's Go Fund Me Page. He has raised over $5,000 so far and will need much more to plough through the remaining works of the great Bellarmine.

Below are the links where you can read about and purchase On the Marks of the Church:

Click here for the product page at Mediatrix Press.

Click here to purchase on Amazon ($15.99 USD)

Thursday, February 05, 2015

Jack Tollers on Francis the Argentine

Some time ago I did an article entitled "First Impressions" in which I asked readers to submit what they recalled were their very first 'gut reactions' upon hearing of the election of Jorge Bergoglio to the Chair of St. Peter. We got 82 testimonies, and anyone who takes the time to read them all will notice an eerie similarity among them all. I encourage you to view the original post "First Impressions" and browse the comments. Very interesting.

At that time I was contacted by Argentine traditionalist Jack Tollers. Jack is a casual reader who has occasionally popped in and out of my comboxes over the years. I first met him when doing some research on the great Argentine priest Fr. Castellani. Jack has translated some of Fr. Castellani's works and self-published several books on items of interest to traditional Catholics; he also has his own Spanish-language website called Et Voila!

Anyhow, Jack offered his own insights on the election of Jorge Bergoglio from the perspective of an Argentine who intimately knew who this man was and how he operates. For the vast majority of Anglos, Bergoglio was somebody we only heard about for the first time the day he was elected. But Argentines have a long history with him. Jack brought an interesting perspective to the discussion and I asked him to compose a brief essay on understanding Bergoglio in light of Argentine culture.

I posted this on Facebook some time ago but somehow never got it up on the blog, so now you have it. If you have been struggling to understand the character of the current Pontiff or make sense of some of his erratic actions, this essay should help fill in some gaps. It is a troubling sort of essay, but a necessary one.

I want to thank Mr. Tollers for composing this essay for Unam Sanctam. Please see his excellent works on Fr. Castellani.

UPDATE: Interest in this post led to another interview with Mr. Tollers, this time from the blog From Rome. Please view this interesting addendum to this post at the From Rome blog.

Tuesday, February 03, 2015

St. Albertus Magnus Center 2015 Summer Course

For many years Unam Sanctam Catholicam has collaborated with the good folks of the Albertus Magnus Center for Scholastic Studies in Norcia, Italy, to promote their wonderful summer theology courses. The Center is happy to announce the theme for the 2015 course: "Light Unto the Mysteries of God: St. Paul's First Letter to the Corinthians." The substance of the course will be undertaking a thorough reading of the Letter, following St. Thomas's commentary upon the epistle as our guide. The Epistle offers the opportunity to explore in depth the subject of grace as it is found principally in the sacraments.The two week course will be held in Norcia, Italy, from July 12-July 25th. Cost is €675, which does not include airfare but does include lodging and two meals per day. The course also includes excursions to Assisi, Cascia, Norcia and Rome.

The Albertus Magnus center is an organization dedicated to the revival of higher studies in theology undertaken according to the mind and method of the great scholastics. The Albertus Magnus center is also a recognized 501(c)3 non-profit charitable organization.

The mission of the Center is realized principally through the regular hosting of two-week long Summer Programs, in which participants are invited to an intensive course of studies in Catholic theology presented in the form of the great universities of the high Middle Ages. Unique to these programs is the combination of scholastic form and content, namely the study of St. Thomas Aquinas in the way that St. Thomas himself would have studied. Hence the dedication of the Center to his own teacher, St. Albert the Great. These programs thus take as their central focus the three tasks of the medieval masters of theology (praedicatio, lectio, disputatio) together with the course of studies undertaken by medieval students of theology, which involved commenting on the theological textbook of the day, e.g. the Sentences of Peter Lombard.

From the website of the Albertus Magnus center, describing how a typical day at the course is structured:

Praedicatio (preaching). In our programs, this task of the master of theology is generally fulfilled in the context of the daily Mass which participants are invited to attend.

Lectio (lecture). One or several keynote speakers are invited to fulfill this task of the master of theology by delivering a series of academic lectures throughout the program on the principal academic topic, which varies each year.

Disputatio (disputation). The culmination and highlight of our Summer programs is the holding of an authentic scholastic disputation in which participants are invited to pose arguments and objections for and against a disputed question of theology, after which one of the masters organizes the arguments, presents his definitive respondeo (response), and answers each of the objections raised on either side.

Commentaria (commentary). The academic portion of our programs is then rounded out by two or three further courses in theology which consist of daily seminar style discussions of some of the great texts of the great masters in theology, principally Thomas Aquinas’s Summa Theologiae, which has long since replaced Peter Lombard's Sentences as the textbook for ‘beginners’ in theology.

In addition to the central academic focus, our programs seek to integrate a wider experience of the Church's culture and history. For this reason, while making sure that participants have plenty of time for careful and fruitful reading of the texts to be discussed in class, some days are set aside for excursions and cultural activities.

The folks of the St. Albert Center work on conjunction with the Benedictines of Norcia; the lay organizers are theologians in their own right from the International Theological Institute in Tramau, Austria, the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas, and Wyoming Catholic College. They are also good friends of this blog and of myself personally. In fact John Joy, one of the Directors of the St. Albertus Magnus Center, has published two theology books exclusively available through Unam Sanctam Catholicam - Poena Satisfactoria (2011) on St. Thomas' doctrine of the atonement, and Cathedra Veritatis (2013) on the extension of papal infallibility.

You can visit their website here for more information or to register; I will also be featuring an advertisement on the sidebar of this blog throughout the year.