Sunday, December 31, 2023

"I Carefully Block My Ears With Wax": Marcel De Corte to Jean Madiran

Today is the final day of 2023. What a momentous year it has been, for better and certainly for worse. But rather than offer my poor commentary, I'm going to post a correspondance from the respected Belgian philosopher Marcel De Corte (1905-1994) to French journalist Jean Madiran. De Corte was a neo-Thomist who taught philosophy at the University of Liège, specializing in ancient philosophy and moral philosophy. Like many Catholic intellectuals, Marcel De Corte was deeply troubled by the reforms following Vatican II. In February 1970, he wrote a letter to his friend, the journalist Jean Madiran (1920-2013), who at that time was chief editor of the traditional Catholic journal Itineraries, which Madiran had founded in 1956 to combat the errors of progressivism. The following letter was published in Itineraries, wherein De Corte describes his disgust with the New Mass as he witnessed it's early implementation in Belgium in the fall of 1969 and his disillusionment with the pontificate of Pope Paul VI, whom he sees as a man of frustrating contradictions.

Thursday, December 28, 2023

Bad Humanae Vitae Parallels

In the wake of scores of bishops rejecting Fiducia Supplicans globally, popesplainers have resorted to comparing Fiducia Supplicans to Humanae Vitae as a way to deflect criticism of the document. The hyperpapalist website Where Peter Is has said that critics of Fiducia Supplicans "need to be reminded of the reception of Humanae Vitae...before asserting that the public reactions to magisterial documents are markers of its "failure.'" Then there is this little gem, which was followed by a piece from the same influencer on all of the similarities between Fiducia Supplicans and Humanae Vitae

Sunday, December 17, 2023

Six Books I Worked On This Year

Happy Advent brethren! I wanted to take this opportunity to draw your attention to several excellent new books I've had the privilege of working on this year in an editorial capacity. Some of these are original works, others  reprints of Catholic classics, but all are excellent additions to any Catholic library. These were all published through my publishing imprint Cruachan Hill Press over the course of 2023.

Sunday, November 26, 2023

How to Tell Christian Prayer from New Age Meditation

A "Centering Prayer" group, encrusted with Boomers as to be expected

We live in a world which rejects Catholic tradition while simultaneously professing great interest in spiritualities influenced by the New Age. Christians have been traditionally reluctant to embrace such practices, as they contain elements that are fundamentally opposed to the most basic tenets of Christianity. Some, however, have merged various elements of eastern mysticism and New Age neo-paganism with traditional Catholic spirituality, thrown in some Christian vocabulary and are now peddling these practices as compatible with Catholicism. For example, the method of "Centering Prayer" promoted by the late Cistercian monk Basil Pennington is a good example, but there are others. These practices are promoted as Christian forms of "contemplation", and Catholics are encouraged to participate. In this article we will look at how to discern whether a spiritual practice is authentically Catholic or just New Age esoteric mysticism in a Christian veneer. We will use the 'Centering Prayer' spirituality developed by Fr. Thomas Keating and Basil Pennington as an example, but what we will say can be applied to any questionable spirituality.

Thursday, November 23, 2023

In What Sense is the Pope Above Canon Law?

A common refrain when from hyperpapalists when the pope disregards canon law by his actions is, "So what? He can do that. The pope is not bound by canon law." 

It is, of course, true that the pope is not bound by any human law, including ecclesiastical law. Not only is this due to the pope's status as the supreme juridical authority within the Church, but also because the pope himself is a source of canon law. Since canon law is subject to the authority of the Supreme Pontiff, it is clear that is cannot be bound by it in any coercive sense.

Does this literally mean, however, that the pope can break canon law at will as a normal exercise of his authority? When the pope violates canon law, is this to be understood as a legitimate exercise of his juridical authority?

Sunday, November 12, 2023

"Strict Consistency with the Past"

Whilst casually flipping through my old copy of the 1929 New Catholic Dictionary, I looked up its entry for "Pope" and found an interesting little nugget. After a rather boiler-plate explanation of papal authority (universal, immediate, perpertual, etc.), it addresses the question of whether pontifical power is to be understood in an absolutist manner. After discussing the pope's practical dependence on the curia for his governance, the article answers the question in the negative: 

Sunday, November 05, 2023

The Last Gasp of Our Akhenaten

Pope Francis's new motu proprio Ad Theologiam Promovendam has called for a "paradigm shift" in Catholic theology, citing the "profound cultural changes" of the modern world as the justification. The pope insisted on a "courageous cultural revolution" within Catholic thought, calling for our theology to become "fundamentally contextual." Among other things, he called for theology to be primarily "inductive," focused on "dialogue and encounter between different traditions and different knowledge, between different Christian confessions and different religions, openly engaging with everyone." He contrasted this new approach with "abstractly re-proposing formulas and themes from the past," which the pope characterized as "desk bound theology." 

Monday, October 16, 2023

A 1971 Proposal for a New Form of First Confession for Children

Bishop Pieter Jan Antoon Moors of Roermond, who in 1964 became one of the first bishops to revise how the Sacrament of Penance was administered to children.

[Oct. 15, 2023] Franz Heggen (b. 1930) is a Dutch theologian who was a peritus for Bishop Pieter Jan Antoon Moors of the Diocese of Roermond, Netherlands. Before the Second Vatican Council had even ended, Bishop Moors (1964) issued directives in his diocese for a reevaluation of how penance was administered, asking priests to consider preparing children for confession in stages through prayer and song rather than traditional catechesis (1). Franz Heggen was a part of these discussions and an advocate for a restructuring of the sacrament in such a way that absolution was conferred collectively in order to stress the communal character of the sacrament.

Sunday, September 24, 2023

Another Older Catechism on Capital Punishment

[Sept. 24, 2023] Back in June of 2019, Dr. Peter Kwasniewski published a piece at Rorate Caeli exploring on how pre-Vatican II catechisms treated the subject of capital punishment. Entitled "What Good is a Changing Catechism?", the article demonstrated a consistent teaching on the liceity of the death penalty going back to Council of Trent at least. I also published an article on the subject ("Pre-Vatican II Catechisms on the Capital Punishment") arguing the same. These collections of pre-Conciliar catechism quotes are important pieces of evidence displaying an indisputable continuity of the Church's teaching across the generations.

Thursday, September 14, 2023

An Injustice from the Beginning

[Sept. 14, 2023] I was baptized Catholic as a baby in an ethnically Catholic household (Sicilian-Irish-Polish), where getting children baptized was just what one did. But I never saw the inside of a Catholic Church, nor received any instruction or sacraments as a child. I had, in every respect, a totally secular upbringing.

Sunday, September 03, 2023

Book Review: Blosser & Sullivan's Speaking in Tongues: A Critical Historical Examination

[Sept. 3, 2023] It is getting tougher and tougher for me to get around to book reviews these days what with the sheer quantity of material that people send me, not even counting my own voluminous "to-read" pile that seems to grow larger no matter how much reading I accomplish. But when I received the book that is the subject of today's post, Speaking in Tongues: A Critical Historical Examination, by Philip Blosser and Charles Sullivan, I knew I had to make the time for it. Speaking in Tongues (published by Pickwick Publications) is the first in a three volume series dealing with the subject of tongues. Volume 1 is subtitled The Modern Redefinition of Tongues and concerns how the understanding of tongues has been revolutionized in modern Christianity.

Saturday, August 26, 2023

The Church's Historical Blindspot

[Aug. 26, 2023] If you have never read it, I highly recommend my readers pick up a copy of the British historian R.I. Moore's 1977 book The Origins of European Dissent. Moore's book focuses on the emergence of heresy in Western Europe between 1000 and 1200 and chronicles the Church's attemps to respond to the rising tide of heterodoxy, with emphasis on how the increasing challenge posed by heterodox sects went beyond the ability of local bishops to manage, leading to the eventual interventions of the papacy and civil authorities. It is a very scholarly work that I think is integral to anyone interested in the origin of medieval heresy.

Sunday, August 13, 2023

On the Superior Merit of the Traditional Mass

[Aug. 13, 2023] I just reviewed an old article by Fr. Chad Ripperger entitled "The Merit of a Mass." The article originally appeared in the Summer 2003 edition of the Latin Mass Magazine.

The article concerns the question of the "merit" of the two forms of the Roman rite. Fr. Ripperger concludes that the Traditional Rite of Mass is objectively more meritorious. He argues that
Since one of the primary obligations of those in authority in the Church is the glory of God through the salvation of souls, they have the obligation to encourage, and, in some cases, require the ritual of the Mass which is most efficacious.

Thursday, August 10, 2023

Stop Using This Word So Recklessly

[August 10, 2023] Imagine the spectacle of members of the laity proclaiming, based on their own convictions and by their own authority, that Pope Francis has lost the papacy or is not the validly elected pope. How ridiculous! How arrogant! How absurd! 

Now imagine, if you will, the spectacle of members of the laity proclaiming, based on their own convictions and by their own authority, that certain fellow Catholics (who have never been censured or labeled as such by the Church) are in the canonical state of schism and under anathema. How equally ridiculous! How equally arrogant! How equally absurd! 

Tuesday, August 08, 2023

"The Pope's Authority is Bound to the Tradition"

[Aug. 8, 2023] Just a friendly reminder that the idea of the pope's boundedness to Sacred Tradition is not some invention of Trad Catholic bloggers. Going back 23 years to the publication of Joseph Ratzinger's pivotal work The Spirit of the Liturgy, we find the following:

Saturday, July 29, 2023

The Obedience of St. Padre Pio

[July 29, 2023] I was recently privileged to publish a book entitled Wounds of Love: The Story of St. Padre Pio (TAN Books, 2022). Wounds of Love is a dramatized historical fiction novella about the life of the great St. Pio of Pietrelcina, written for teens but enjoyable for adults as well. I spent months immersed in the life and writings of Padre Pio and learned a ton about this amazing modern saint. Padre Pio has been in the news a lot lately with the release of Abel Ferrara's smutty and underwhelming film; for anyone looking for a more wholesome and spiritually edifying dramatization of Pio's life, I humbly recommend getting a copy of Wounds of Love (here is an excellent review of the book on Gloria Romanorum if you'd like to learn more). It does a good job of covering the major points of Pio's life while introducing readers to his deep spirituality in a narrative format.

Monday, July 17, 2023

Tucho Fernández's "Essentialist" View of Scripture

"There are biblical texts that should not be interpreted in a 'material' way, I don't want to say 'literal'. The Church has long understood the need for a hermeneutic that interprets them in their historical context. This does not mean that they lose their content, but that they should not be taken completely literally. Otherwise, we would have to obey St. Paul's command for women to cover their heads, for example." (Archbishop Víctor Manuel Fernández, July 15, 2023)

★ ★ ★ ★ ★

[July 17, 2023] It is, of course, true that the Sacred Scriputres need to be interpreted in context, with attention to the literary genre being employed and the intention of the sacred writers. This is nothing new; St. Augustine says as much, and so affirms the entire Catholic tradition. And this is emphatically not what "Tucho" Fernández is suggesting in his now infamous July 15 statements to the journalist Ale Villegas, as reported by Rorate Caeli (here are the English and Spanish translations of his comments).

Saturday, July 15, 2023

The Cardinalate's 80-Year Rule—A Critique

[July 15, 2023] Most Catholics are familiar with the rule that cardinals lose their right to vote in papal conclaves if they turn 80 before the papal throne falls vacant. [1] This rule comes from Paul VI's 1970 motu proprio Ingravascentem Aetatemwhich stated that cardinals "lose the right to elect the Roman Pontiff and therefore also the right to enter the Conclave" upon the completion of their eightieth year. [2] According to the motu proprio, this rule was instituted because—

Sunday, July 09, 2023

A Template for Great Homilies

[July 9, 2023] I was vacationing this week and attended the diocesan Traditional Latin Mass at St. Anne's in Hamilton, Ontario. The celebrant was Fr. Ian Duffy. I have been to the TLM in Hamilton before, but this was my first experience with Fr. Ian. I am happy to say that Fr. Ian not only delivered a splendid homily, but that it was so solid that it could serve as a template for good homiletical practice in general. I wanted to highlight the four qualities I found so refreshing about Fr. Ian's homily:

Saturday, July 01, 2023

Pius XI, Pope of the Missions

Pius XI presides over the inauguration of the Collegium Urbanum in 1926

[July 1, 2023] Today I am happy to present a guest post by my friend and brother in the Lord, Konstantin Stäbler, on the missionary work of the great twentieth century pontiff Pius XI (1922-1939).

Thursday, June 29, 2023

Anniversarius Sextus Decimus

The Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul has always been a special day for Unam Sanctam Catholicam, being the anniversary of the day I launched the blog in 2007.

Over the years, many of you have reached out to me and expressed gratitude in particular for the articles on subjects like spirituality, maintaining faith, and dealing with disappointment or doubt. I am humbled that the reflections posted here have been a source of edification to many.

It is especially fitting, on this 16th anniversary of Unam Sanctam, therefore, that I take a moment to speak about the first ever compilation of USC essays in book form. Arouca Press (which has been a luminary of traditional Catholic publishing since its launch in 2018) has taken a collection of the spiritual essays published here over the years and compiled them into a book called The Way of Life: Spiritual Essays from Unam Sanctam CatholicamThe Way of Life is a collection of forty short essays on spirituality, faith, and Christian life. Most are taken from articles published here over the years (reworked, expanded, and re-edited), although it does include several never before published essays, as well as a few from my friend and sometimes contributor dom Noah Moerbeek, CPMO.

Sunday, June 25, 2023

Death Penalty: Miscontextualizing Pope Nicholas in Fratelli Tutti

In this essay, I will demonstrate that Pope Francis's 2020 encyclical Fratelli Tutti miscontextualizes a quote from Pope Nicholas I (858-867) on the subject of capital punishment, making it look as if Pope Nicholas affirmed something beyond what he actually did. Our study will take us through a fair amount of history and textual analysis, but it will all serve to make the point clear in the end.

Saturday, June 10, 2023

Post-Conciliar Turmoil Memorialized in Stone

I recently paid a visit to Belmont Abbey in Belmont, North Carolina. Belmont Abbey was founded as a Benedictine monastery back in 1876; there is still a functional Abbey there, though today it is better known as the site of Belmont Abbey College.

Sunday, May 28, 2023

A Pentecost Miscellany

[May 28, 2023] Happy Pentecost brethren! I have had so many things in my mind recently, but as I am sure I will not have time to flesh most of them out, today I am presenting you with a miscellany of my recent ruminations. I may develop these further in future posts, but who knows. Enjoy my brain dump!

Saturday, May 20, 2023

Response to Julian Kwasniewski & Rob Marco on Men's Groups

[May 20, 2023] Earlier this month, Mr. Rob Marco published an article at Crisis called "Why Your Catholic Men's Group Will Eventually Fold." It is an excellent piece that reflects the author's dissastisfaction with Catholic men's groups and speculates on why they seem to be characterized by shallowness, posturing, and ephemerality. Robert Greving wrote a follow up called "Why Your Catholic Men's Group Should Eventually Fold," building on the reflections of Mr. Marco with what I would call a more sociological approach, observing that men's groups reflect the modern tendency to try to programitize and officialize things that are meant to be organic. Both of these articles are thought-provoking and I recommend you read them both, especially before perusing the rest of my piece.

Saturday, May 13, 2023

Newman's Development of Doctrine

[May 12, 2023] I was recently privileged to join Steve Cunningham on the Resistance Podcast on the Sensus Fidelium channel to talk about St. John Henry Newman's Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine. It was an excellent discussion on a very timely subject. If you'd like to listen to the talk, you can do so here. The entire video is around 55 minutes long.

Wednesday, May 03, 2023

Losing Our Liturgical Innocence

[May 3, 2023] One of the most formative books in the development of my own thought on Catholic liturgy and tradition was The Heresy of Formlessness by German author Martin Mosebach (Ignatius Press, 2006). Though relatively unknown in America at the time, Mosebach is a well-known voice for Catholic Tradition in the German speaking world. After seventeen years, Heresy of Formlessness remains an illuminating book that puts the liturgical rupture of the past four decades in perspective from the point of view of the layman in the pew. 

Saturday, April 29, 2023

Bishop Huonder and the SSPX

[Apr. 29, 2023] The big news this week has been the revelations by Bishop Vitus Huonder, retired Bishop of Chur (Switzerland) that Pope Francis had told him privately that the Society of St. Pius X are not in schism. 

Traditional Catholic media sources have been abuzz with essays and podcasts jubilantly framing these revelations as a vindication for the position of the Society and traditional Catholic media, who have consistently maintained that the SSPX is not in a state of schism. 

I, on the other hand, believe this to be a nothingburger, for three very important reasons:

Sunday, April 23, 2023

Repetitions of the Sign of the Cross in the Mass

[Apr. 23, 2023] One of the changes made by the post-Vatican II reformers to the Mass was the elimination of many of the signs of the cross, which were seen as superfluous and repetitive.

Now, it is the case that the Extraordinary Form of the Mass contains abundantly more signs of the cross than does the Novus Ordo—forty-eight times! (I have also heard forty and fifty-two) But does the fact that this sacred gesture is repeated so often mean that it is superfluous? Is it a medieval "encrustation" that has been uselessly repeated and multiplied until it has lost all meaning?

Wednesday, April 19, 2023

Three Types of Scandal

"Woe to the world because of scandals. For it must needs be that scandals come: but nevertheless woe to that man by whom the scandal comes", our Lord tells us in the Gospel of Matthew (18:7). Scandal has been defined in the Church's tradition as an act or omission on our part that, through our bad example, leads another to commit sin or lose faith. Our Lord warns us in the above cited passage that to do such a thing is particularly heinous; as if it is not bad enough that we destroy our own souls, scandal causes us to drag others down with us into the mire of our sin, sometimes by actively leading others into sin, sometimes just by causing them to be shaken in their faith by our poor example. Jesus levels dire consequences against those who lead believers to sin, warning that it would be better to have a stone about our neck and be drowned in the depth of the sea than be guilty of scandal.

Sunday, April 16, 2023

Statistics on Motu Proprios 1978 - Present

[Apr. 16, 2023] A few days ago I saw an interesting tweet by Matthew Hazell noting that in 2023 alone Pope Francis has already issued 50% more motu proprios than Pope Benedict had throughout his entire pontificate.

The point got me wondering what subjects have occasioned motu proprios in recent history. I began reviewing the motu proprios of the last three popes, comparing not only how many but their purpose. The following are some statistics my cursory research revealed. 

Saturday, April 15, 2023

Pius VI and the Synod of Pistoia

]Apr. 15, 2023] One of the most brazen attempts to undermine the traditions of the Church prior to the post-Conciliar age occurred at the Synod of Pistoia in 1786, held in the region of Florence under the presidency of Bishop Scipio de Ricci, Bishop of Pistoia and Prato.

The Synod of Pistoia was the last gasp of the Gallican movement, which attempted to detract from the authority of the Holy See by transferring much of the governance of national churches over to their respective governments and synods of local bishops. It asserted radical innovations in Church governance and proposed sweeping reforms that touched on everything from monastic discipline to the sacramental theology to the order of the liturgy. In many places, the acts of Pistoia anticipate the thinking of the theologians of the Nouvelle théologie responsible for the calamities that followed the Second Vatican Council.

Tuesday, April 11, 2023

Are Traditionalists "Rebels of Korah"?

[Apr. 11, 2023] Bad biblical analogies are the bane of modern religious discourse, and those wielded by opponents of traditionalism are among the worst. Case in point is the comparison of trads to the rebels of Korah from the Old Testament Book of Numbers. Numbers 16 tells us that Korah was a Levite and relative of Moses who resisted Moses' authority. Korah and his partisans were smitten by the power of God as punishment for their rebellion; in the New Testament, certain "ungodly persons" who "reject authority" are compared to the rebels of Korah (cf. Jude 1:8, 11). 

Sunday, April 09, 2023

Four Reasons for the Resurrection of Jesus

[Apr 9, 2023] "If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain" (1 Cor. 15:14). The Resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead is the centerpiece of the Faith, what St. Paul called the matter "of first importance" (1 Cor. 15:4) in Christian preaching. In this article, we shall consider various reasons why, in God's infinite wisdom, He ordained the Resurrection of Christ in the grand plan of salvation history.

Sunday, April 02, 2023

It Is Not Wrong to Assume Someone Has Gone Straight to Heaven

We are all familiar with the modern spectacle of funerals as immediate canonizations rather than occasions for prayer and penitence for the deceased. Contemporary discomfort with the doctrines of hell and purgatory—and a profound lapse in catechesis on the gravity of sin—has transformed funeral masses into a "celebration of life," in such a way that the bereaved are not enjoined to pray for the dead. Everybody just seems certain that grandma is among the choirs of angels and doesn't give it a second thought.

Sunday, March 12, 2023

Some Nonsense from Cardinal Cupich

[Mar. 12, 2023] Back on February 27, Cardinal Blaise Cupich published an article in America Magazine entitled "Critics of Pope Francis' Latin Mass Restrictions Should Listen to JPII."  In this essay the good Cardinal accused traditional Catholics who resist Traditionis custodes of a plethora of faultsingratitude to the generosity of Benedict XVI and John Paul II, undermining the See of Peter, resistance to the Holy Spirit, and, that most tiresome canard, rejection of the Vatican II. He attempts to tie embrace of the Novus Ordo with acceptance of Vatican II.

Sunday, March 05, 2023

The Church as a Barnacle Encrusted Ship

[Mar. 3, 2023] It has frequently been observed that the liturgical reform of the mid-twentieth century was founded upon false principles of archaeologism or antiquarianism, a fallacy whereby something is held to be better or purer the older it is. If you are not familiar with the concept of archaeologism, I humbly recommend my essay "What is Archaeologism?" on the Unam Sanctam Catholicam website.

Sunday, February 26, 2023

"Preserve His Church from Falling Into Error" — The Canonization of St. Bonaventure

I was recently made aware of a fascinating text from the pontificate of Pope Sixtus IV (1471-1484) with import to the infallibility of canonizations. The text in question is the 1482 Superna caelestis, the canonization bull for St. Bonaventure. 

Sunday, February 12, 2023

Review: "The Once and Future Roman Rite" by Peter Kwasniewski

[Feb. 12, 2023] When Peter Kwasniewski's The Once and Future Roman Rite was announced (TAN Books, 2022), I was a little confused. Angelico Press had only recently published Reclaiming Our Roman Catholic Birthright (2020), a fantastic apologetic for the Traditional Latin Mass. I wrote a review of Reclaiming Our Roman Catholic Birthright on Unam Sancam Catholicam, describing it thus:

Monday, January 30, 2023

The Pope's Reductive Structuralism

[Jan. 30, 2023] When he issued Traditiones Custodes, Pope Francis argued that the Traditional Latin Mass was no longer needed because its constituive elements had all passed in to the Novus Ordo. Ergo, anyone who values the traditional rite should celebrate the new, for the heart of the old rite has been translated into the new. Pope Francis said in his accompanying letter to Traditiones Custodes that "all the elements of the [traditional] Roman rite" can be found in the Novus Ordo.

Sunday, January 15, 2023

Let Us Rejoice in 2023

[JAN. 15, 2023] This New Year was quite somber in the Boniface household. The death of Pope Benedict XVI on New Years Eve aside, I was completely wiped out with Covid, an ordeal from which my strength has not yet fully recovered. Personal and ecclesiastical events seemed to portent 2023 as a year of sorrow and penitence. Time will see if this prognostication is correct.

Sunday, January 08, 2023

Farewell Reflections on Benedict XVI

Normally on the New Year I post a list of what I consider the most important Unam Sanctam articles over the past twelve months. However, given the recent passing of Pope Benedict XVI, I thought it fitting to devote my first piece of 2023 to the memory of the late pontiff. This essay will be longer than most, for which I beg your indulgence, but it is difficult to sum up what I think and feel about this man with anything approaching brevity. Therefore, bear with me, I pray, as it is fitting that I should be allowed a bit of pontificating in an article about a pontiff.