Sunday, July 31, 2022

How Goodwill Was Squandered


This week our eyes were graced with the scandalous spectacle of Father Mattia Bernasconi, vicar of the pastoral care for young people of the parish of San Luigi Gonzaga in Milan, celebrating Mass on an air mattress in the water at the beach at Alfieri in Italy's Crotone region—for no reason save that "it was hot." The source for the story can be found here.

I do not draw attention to this for the purposes of making another tired old "Look how bad the Novus Ordo is" post. We all know how bad the Novus Ordo can be. And besides, if the source is to believed, this Mass was in the Ambrosian Rite, not the Novus Ordo. 

The purpose, rather, is to call this episode as witness to why traditional Catholics do not trust the modern hierarchy when it comes to safeguarding the integrity of the liturgy—of any liturgy. This Mass is the reason why nobody believes Pope Francis when he asked bishops "to be vigilant in ensuring that every liturgy be celebrated with decorum and fidelity to the liturgical books promulgated after Vatican Council II, without the eccentricities that can easily degenerate into abuses." This is why Pope Benedict's statements that the liturgy "cannot be created or amended by the individual community or by experts, but must be faithful to the forms of the universal Church" elicited only yawns, or why his post-synodal exhortation that priest demonstrate "attentiveness and fidelity to the specific structure of the rite" was a dead letter; why nothing changed after John Paul II called liturgical abuse "a source of suffering for many" and argued forcefully that "liturgy is never anyone's private property, be it of the celebrant or of the community in which the mysteries are celebrated...No one is permitted to undervalue the mystery entrusted to our hands: it is too great for anyone to feel free to treat it lightly and with disregard for its sacredness and its universality." It is why, despite the CDW's prohibition of liturgical dance back in 1975, it continues to this day.

The reason is, no matter what is said about the dignity of the liturgy, nothing ever changes. Nobody in the Church is actually going to do anything about the abuses endemic throughout the Novus Ordo. Nobody reprimanded Cardinal Schönborn—editor of the Catechism—for having an irreverent balloon Mass in Vienna. Nobody disciplined the Detroit priest who had a Detroit Red Wings logo stitched onto his vestments and intoned the scores of a hockey game during Mass. The priests who handed out Holy Communion in sandwich bags for people to take home during Covid will not be disciplined. Nobody from any Vatican dicastery or diocesan office will ever lift a finger to stop the guitars, the balloons, the banners, and all the other clown-world abominations found throughout the Latin rite. All the talk about liturgical decorum and fidelity is about as vacuous as an American politician talking about balancing the budget. 

As a thought experiment, suppose this history had all unfolded differently. Suppose that the Novus Ordo was still implemented in 1970, but imagine the Church authorities were as rigorous in enforcing its rubrics as they are in suppressing the Latin Mass. Imagine they punished liturgical abusers, quashed innovations like communion in the hand, altar girls, etc.; imagine episcopal conferences reaffirming ad orientam worship and mandating the study and use of Latin, as Vatican II specifically ordered. Imagine diocesan training offered in Gregorian Chant and a broad prohibition of secular styles and instruments as envisioned by Pius X in Tra le sollecitudine. Imagine communion kneeling on the tongue was the norm throughout the west. In short, imagine that the elusive "reverent Novus Ordo" was, in fact, the status quo instead of the unicorn it now is. 

In such circumstances, the loss of the Traditional Latin Mass would still be tragic. There would still be a traditional movement advocating for the TLM and arguing for its restoration. But—and I think this is the essential difference—there would be a lot more goodwill between traditional Catholics and the hierarchy, simply because we would all know the authorities were serious when they spoke of correcting liturgical abuses and trying to maintain a sense of reverence. The dynamic between the TLM and NO could have been very different if Benedict XVI and John Paul II had taken substantial action to correct abuses. 

Of course, that is a pipe dream. The fact is, the leadership in the Church does not care about reverent liturgy or suppressing abuse; they only care about suppressing the Traditional Latin Mass. So whenever an attack on the traditional Mass is accompanied by panegyrics about the importance of preserving decorum in Novus Ordo as well, nobody believes it. The hypocrisy is palpable. Fr. Mattia Bernasconi is not going to be disciplined; or, if he is, it will be a slap on the wrist (although, I have heard this priest actually got in trouble with the civil authorities for offending religious sensibilities; what a strange world!) 

Once again, if traditionalists are skeptical about the goodwill of the hierarchy, it is not because we are simply mean or nasty; it is because the ecclesiastical authorities have systematically dismantled that goodwill over the last fifty years and continue to do so to this day.

Sunday, July 17, 2022

Exciting News: New USC Site is Live!



I'm so happy to tell you that the new Unam Sanctam Catholicam website is up and running. After working on it for over a year—with some donations from some of you—this labor of love is finally complete...or at least, complete enough. 

My goal with the Unam Sanctam sister site is to (eventually) grow it into the biggest repository of quality articles on Catholic history on the Internet. I have consistently been uploading scholarly articles to USC since 2012 and plan on continuing for as long as I have my wits about me. To celebrate the inauguration of the new site, I'm also happy to present fifteen brand new essays for your edification. These fifteen essays represent the fifteen years of Unam Sanctam Catholicam I celebrated last month. Here are links to the fifteen new articles—

Old Articles

All of the old articles you love are available on the new site as well. To date, about 75% of the articles from the old website have been migrated over. It will still be a month or two until everything is transferred, but almost all of the most popular articles have been moved and can be found on the new site. Please note, the URLs on the new site are not the same as the old site, so the old links will no longer work. You will have to search for the article on the new site. Here are links to some of peoples' favorite essays from the old site, according to the number of hits they receive:

If you are having trouble finding an old article, I recommend using the search function. If the search function turns up nothing, it's probably I haven't migrated that specific article yet, in which case try back later; I hope to have everything migrated by September. 

Free RCIA Resources

One of the most popular things about the old site was the free RCIA outlines and power points. These are still available on the new site at the following link:

Finding Content on the New Site

One of the major changes about the updated site is that it is not structured like a blog or news site where priority is given to the most recent content. The reason I have a sister site at all is because the sister site is meant to be a repository of articles that are of a more scholarly nature, have a permanent relevance, and are much longer than what would be suitable for a blog; for example, some of the essays on the Unam Sanctam site are between 20-30 pages printed out, whereas the average blog article is only 1-5 pages printed. Furthermore, unlike this blog, most website articles are not about current events, and thus there is no need to prioritize new content.

Instead, I have chosen to structure the new site more like a Wiki or encyclopedia. You will notice, if you go to the homepage, each time you refresh the homepage, it will display a selection of articles chosen at random. Don't worry, though; there are several ways to find content, including tags, "recent posts," and the search function. I put together a video explaining how to navigate the new site and have embedded it below. If you've been a frequent visitor to the Unam Sanctam Catholicam website in the past, you might want to watch the video below (6+ minutes), since you might find the new layout very different from the previous. 



One final word

As you probably know, Unam Sanctam Catholicam is 100% independent. We don't have advertisers; we have no sponsors. Except for free will donations (which we solicit very rarely), we take in no revenue. We have no advertising budget. The extent of the advertising I do is restricted to whatever I post on the USC Facebook page.

Despite this, for many years Unam Sanctam Catholicam has consistently been ranked among the top 50 most popular Catholic blogs/websites in the English speaking world; we were even in the top ten one year back before the coming of 1 Peter 5. This was certainly not due to the support of any institution or big marketing budget; it was due to the patronage of regular readers who found what I had to say worth reading, who commented, who shared the articles, and became true peers. I am tremendously grateful for all of you.

And now I ask again for one simple favor to help the new site get on its feet: because the URLs are all different, Google has not quite picked up on the new site yet. I've got the crawlers going over it, but still, the traffic to the new site is only a fraction of old site because it is so new. And the old site is still showing up all the time on Google searches despite being offline for a month. In your charity, please send some time clicking around on the new site. Explore it, read some articles, share something on social media. This will help get the word out and build those new pathways to give the site a boost in the algorithm.

Also, I'm still working on a few glitches, so please forgive if you see something a little off. I assure you I am working on it.

Thanks for sticking with me on this long journey. In your mercy, pray for my poor soul. As always, if you want to contact me, I can be reached at uscatholicam@gmail.com.

~Boniface


Sunday, July 10, 2022

Eat Dung, Get Sick


"Whatsoever things are true, whatsoever modest, whatsoever just, whatsoever holy, whatsoever lovely, whatsoever of good fame, if there be any virtue, if any praise of discipline, think on these things."
~Php. 4:8

The Christian life calls us to vigilance against the works of darkness and the wiles of the evil one. Too much filth has been unleashed in the Church to afford anymore negligence, naivete, or head-in-the-sand Pollyanna-ism. 

This, however, must be balanced by an equal, if not greater, focus on wholesome things; as St. Paul says, our thoughts should be turned towards the true, the modest, the just, the holy, the lovely, the virtuous. We are to be children of light (Eph. 5:8) and out minds should be turned towards the light. The things St. Paul proposes for our meditation are subjects that ennoble us—they elevate our intellect, shaping it according to the designs of God. Elsewhere Paul tells us that part of faith is having a "resurrected" mindset; if we have been resurrected with Christ, our minds, also, ought to be raised: "Therefore, f you be risen with Christ, seek the things that are above; where Christ is sitting at the right hand of God; mind the things that are above, not the things that are upon the earth" (Col. 3:1-2).

To do otherwise is to damage our faith. We can only focus on the works of darkness so much before the shadow falls over us, as well. Saruman was corrupted by looking through the Palantir. He did so at first only to gain intelligence about Sauron, to be educated about the enemy's activities; but eventually it bent his mind towards darkness, causing his fall. 

Consider now what media you consume, whether secular or Catholic. Is it always focused on exposing some evil somewhere? Is it ever dwelling on the deeds of malicious agents? Is it scandal-mongering, ever purporting to be doing the dirty-work of chronicling the train of abuses and perverse deviations of the modern Church? There is certainly a place for this sort of reporting, but does the media outlet exist only to peddle scandal? And is this all you consume? Is this the entirety of your spiritual diet? 

While it is important to be "wise as serpents" about the goings-on in the Church and world, existing primarily on this sort of diet is harmful in the long run. Like Saruman gazing into the Palantir, it warps your ability to see things properly—to see things as God would have us to see. It can make us skeptical, jaded, and cynical, ultimately causing our love to grow cold. The epistle from the Traditional Latin Mass today tells us, "Be ye of one mind, having compassion one of another, being lovers of the brotherhood" (1 Pet. 3:8). The brotherhood, of course, is the Church. Do you love the brotherhood? Do you love the Church? That is, when you think of the Catholic Church—not as you wish it to be in some golden past, but as it actually exists today—is it an object of desire? Is it something attractive that moves the will? Despite the problems, despite the warts and sores, do you possess a deep and abiding affection for your first love?

I am not naïve about the Church; I know that the Church does a lot to push people away. It is undergoing some kind of catastrophe, and seeing it is like watching helplessly while one's own mother goes through a slutty, drunken, embarrassing midlife crisis. I do not suggest the Church isn't culpable for a great many things. But, that being the case, why on earth would you want the scope of your vision darkened further by drinking even more deeply of the sludge? Yes, the air is poisoned, but the poisoned air means that we must build up our immunities that much more. To do anything else is to gamble with our faith.

Remember, people who lose faith don't just stop believing. They stop loving. Then, their love having grown cold, the hope that keeps them anchored unravels, and hope being dissolved, faith dies. This is why St. Paul urges us to meditate on that which is good and pure and wholesome. It is the spiritual equivalent to eating a balanced, healthy diet. But if you eat dung day in and day out, don't be surprised if you get sick.



Monday, July 04, 2022

The Latin Mass: Even the Homeless Prefer It



A certain diocesan priest I once knew operated a homeless shelter in one of the larger cities in the Midwest. It is a humble, welcoming ministry—the kind of that goes on patiently doing good largely unbeknownst to the outside world. Every day a constant stream of homeless persons file through, looking for a hot meal and a clean bed for the evening. There is no limit on who can come or how frequently. The only condition placed upon the poor for receiving this aid is that they attend one of the daily Masses offered in the shelter’s chapel, two Masses each day. One is contemporary Novus Ordo Mass with modern music and a minimalist liturgy, the other is a Traditional Latin Mass.

Initially, the priest assumed that the homeless, who were probably uneducated in the specifics of Catholic worship and theology, would choose the contemporary Mass because of its simplicity. To his surprise, the opposite proved to be true: over the years operating the shelter, the priest saw that most of the homeless chose the traditional over the contemporary Mass.

Intrigued by this trend, the priest approached one of the homeless men before Mass one day and asked him why he chose to attend the traditional liturgy. Did he know Latin? "No," said the homeless man. Then why prefer an elaborate Mass in a language you don't understand to one in the vernacular? The homeless man replied with reverence, “I might not understand all the prayers, but I know this Mass is all about God.”

The homeless man’s pious observation highlights an important truth about the liturgy of the Church: our liturgical rites have as their primary end the glorification of God. We may think we make the liturgy more accessible to common folks by stripping it down and simplifying it, but in the experience of this Ohio priest, the common folk preferred a more traditional Mass because it enabled them to have a more authentic sense of God’s transcendent majesty—they know it is “all about God.”

The modern Church has made much of the Eucharist as a reenactment of the Lord's Supper. This is certainly part of the Eucharist, but not all, and certainly not even the most important part. The poor man reminds us that just because the liturgy of the Last Supper might have been simple does not mean we should strive for minimalism in our liturgies. Jesus’ action at the Last Supper was simple, but the profundity of this action caused later generations to layer on additional elements of splendor in order to express its magnificence. Though the Last Supper itself may have been simple, the rites and externals of the liturgy that have developed over the centuries are meant to draw attention to the focal point of the Mass: the worship of God present in the Eucharistic mystery. These rites and externals, these layers of splendor, do not detract from the simplicity of the liturgy, but rather express its profundity.

The layering of rites in the liturgy fixes our gaze on God and opens us up to His grace. This liturgical act is neither purely individualistic nor entirely communal; rather it is a symphony of breadth and depth opening itself to the grace of God, mediated through the Church to the individual through its rites, prayers, and sacraments, and through the individual to the Church, which is built up by his personal spiritual growth. The liturgy of the Church is structured to facilitate this glorious exchange of grace.

Beautiful liturgies are important in expressing the magnificence of God. This is especially true when reaching out to the poor and homeless, where the beauty they find in the liturgy might be the only real beauty they encounter. If we really want to be going to the peripheries, this is where we should start. Like the man at little homeless shelter, beautiful liturgies help us all to understand the profound truth that the Mass is “all about God.” 

"I thank thee, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast hidden these things from the wise and understanding" (Matt. 11:25)

Saturday, July 02, 2022

Fifteen Years of Unam Sanctam Catholicam


This year, the Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul, June 29, was the fifteenth anniversary of the launch of this blog. My plans for this anniversary went a little awry; I was going to announce a big launch of the new website, but of course, at the last minute there were some bugs and problems to smooth out. I held out till today but probably it's going to be a few more days until I can unveil it.

I was thinking about where the world and the Church was when I launched this blog—George W. Bush was president, we were in the middle of the Iraq War. Benedict XVI was only in the second year of his papacy; the big news was the Regensburg Lecture, which had taken place only a few months earlier. There was lots of gossip swirling on Catholic blogs about an imminent Motu Proprio coming down the pike that would change the status of the Traditional Latin Mass. Marcial Maciel had been forced to step down the year before I took up blogging; the same year I began, all the revelations about his filth began to become public, at least in the sense that people stopped defending him and for the first time there was a universal acknowledgment of what had happened.

It is strange to think that the entire Summorum pontificum era has come and gone within the span of time I have been blogging. When I began blogging there was a imminent sense that the freedom of the Traditional Latin Mass was coming soon; now there is the imminent sense that every month will bring a further blow against its adherents. The same problems still plague the Church: people are uncatechized, liturgical abuse is rife, the Vatican does nothing, bishops are by-and-large useless, and there is nothing new under the sun. But the mood is completely different; it feels completely adrift, alone in uncertain waters far off the chart, on the part of the map that says "Here be monsters." Maybe we'll get back home someday, but we will probably have to do a complete circumnavigation before we arrive, like the man G.K. Chesteron spoke of who walked around the entire earth only to arrive back at his own yard from behind, seeing it what is old and familiar from a strikingly new perspective.

Thanks for hanging in there with me, especially those readers who have been here since those early days of Benedict XVI's pontificate. I used to use this venue to complain. I still use it to complain, but I used to too. And I'm better at it now : )

Blessings and grace to you all
Uncle Boniface