Monday, August 31, 2009

Lutherans Join The Lemming Rush

We've seen Calvin's children stampeding off the cliff here and here. Luther's folks, not to be outdone, have decided to join them, per NPR.

Leaders of the nation's largest Lutheran church voted Friday to allow sexually active gays and lesbians in committed relationships to serve as clergy.

Gays and lesbians are currently allowed to serve as ministers in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America only if they remain celibate. The proposal to change that passed with 68 percent approval.

The Reformed communities are basically turning into a sort of Modernist Studio 54. How weird. I'm sure Martin would be quite proud of his theological progeny.

Providing the punchline for all this foolishness:

The Rev. Katrina Foster, a pastor in the Metropolitan New York Synod, pointed out that the church has ordained woman and divorced people in violation of a literal interpretation of scripture.

"We can learn not to define ourselves by negation," Foster said. "By not only saying what we are against, which always seems to be the same — against gay people. We should be against poverty. I wish we were as zealous about that."

And so the sola scriptura merry-go-round has come full circle. "Scripture alone" is now admitted to be "my personal interpretation of Scripture alone." And the majority have no problem with that.

Weirdness abounds.

This Sucks, Too

It looks like Bishop Martino is stepping down. I'd been hearing for a while that his health was in decline but had hoped that it wasn't true.
We're big fans of his here, so this is bad news overall. I love that picture. Reminds me of the excom scene in Becket.

Pray for His Excellency and for the Holy Father to appoint a worthy successor.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Why reception of Catholic Sacraments is a public issue

Who cares if pro-abortion politicians receive communion, or get Catholic burial masses, or take part in the general sacramental life of the Church? Is it any of our business? Isn't it between them and God?

To say such things is to misunderstand the nature of salvation. It isn't a private matter at all, but a communal salvation. To "go to heaven" (an unfortunate turn of phrase) is to become fully a part of the mystical body of Christ, and what is more unified than to be part of the same body? This is the language Scripture uses to describe marriage, that the two become one flesh. To be one body is to be really unified, and to be unified in a mystical body is to be even more unified.

To be a part of the Church is not, therefore, some private arrangement between me and God, but is a public and real relationship between me, God, and the Church. I have responsibilities and duties to all three. Therefore, if I don't fulfill those duties, the Church has the right and even the duty to make it clear. To do less is to damage me and the Church.

In other words, participation in the sacraments is not a right, but is a privilege granted to me, and implicit in this privilege is the approval of the Church on my actions. If I am unrepentant (that's important, that I be unrepentant) then it needs to be clear, for my sake and for the good of the Church, that I am _not_ in union with the mystical Body of Christ.

There isn't anything private, except perhaps hell.

Following Karl: Should Kennedy Even Get A Church Funeral?

Sort of an off-shoot of the "politicians receiving the Eucharist" stuff:

From the Code of Canon Law:

Can. 1184 §1. Unless they gave some signs of repentance before death, the following must be deprived of ecclesiastical funerals:

1. notorious apostates, heretics, and schismatics;
2. those who chose the cremation of their bodies for reasons contrary to Christian faith;
3. other manifest sinners who cannot be granted ecclesiastical funerals without public scandal of the faithful.

§2. If any doubt occurs, the local ordinary is to be consulted, and his judgment must be followed.

Can. 1185 Any funeral Mass must also be denied a person who is excluded from ecclesiastical funerals.

I guess since Obama is speaking at the funeral, though, we have Divine Assurance that Kennedy repented.

Edit: Make sure you check out Turgonian and Joe's comments.

Friday, August 28, 2009

God help us

Apparently Barack Obama will be delivering a eulogy (which aren't supposed to happen at Catholic Masses, but always do) at the funeral of Ted Kennedy.

Cardinal O'Malley?

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Vatican II And The Curia

Last time we made a stop in this series, we discussed the various reactions to the conciliar summons from Pope John. We also became somewhat familiar with the side of the innovators, progressives, or whatever you want to call them. By the accounts of all the commentators we are examining, they were a group who were unified by their desires to change Church teaching on one or more subjects.

Opposing this group at Vatican II was the Curia. Let's clear something up real fast, though. When any of our commentators mention "the Curia," they are really only talking about one part of it. The Curial boogeyman for all these guys, as well as the innovators at Vatican II, was the Holy Office. That's right, The Inquisition. If you can narrow it down to a single person, the Big Bad was Cardinal Alfredo Ottaviani (shown above), Secretary of the Holy Office.

Why was this guy and his particular part of the Vatican machinery such a huge threat? It's quite obvious. These were the doctrinal enforcers. It was their job to examine and sanction heresy whenever and wherever they found it. Naturally, if your party is planning to come in with your primary intention being to change Church doctrine, you are going to have the Holy Office as a huge problem.

Naturally, our commentators share the view that the initial conflict at the Council was between the Curia/Holy Office and the innovators, while granting that further organized resistance emerged as the sessions progressed and it became clear to all parties that the Rhine group was working as a unified body. Everyone should appreciate the frankness of our authors here. It allows us to see the battle lines clearly and understand that the source of the conflicts was the idea of a true Magisterium, as opposed to the vacillations of Modernism.

Consider the Protestant view expressed by Robert Brown that conciliar conservatives were guys "who had spent most of their lives in Rome, nurtured in the tight, defensive patterns of Vatican I."

MacEoin is even more harsh, claiming that the "close-mindedness" among many of the Council Fathers was the result of being "raised in the seminaries established on the instructions of the Council of Trent" and how such seminaries were "giving students only the official side of a question." Disregard whether this is even an accurate description. It's clear that the real problem is that they were being taught orthodoxy and how to defend it. The problem for guys like MacEoin (in his own words) was that "the result was not genuine education but indoctrination." Try to figure out why Catholic indoctrination is bad. Then reflect upon all the great post-Tridentine saints, and ask yourself why MacEoin is so eager to attack such wise and holy people.

Two paragraphs later, he identifies this group as the "hard core of the opposition." "These were the men who in the Holy Office were charged with preserving the purity of the faith by banning books and silencing lecturers . . ."

If this isn't enough, MacEoin actually quotes from Hans Kung as his authority by saying that the greatest hindrance to the progress of the Council is the "fundamental antagonism which has become evident in all things, an antagonism which is not so much between the majority of the Council and a group of the Curia, which, although small in number and without any backing of the faithful, is exceptionally powerful in that it finds itself in possession not only of the most important key positions of the Curia but also of the Council itself."

This opens the door to another remarkable item that we'll see regularly. Our three anti-orthodoxy commentators (MacEoin, Blanshard, and Brown) all portray a great curial conspiracy behind every curtain, while somehow, the innovators consistently win. We'll see the specifics of how this plays out as we go along. Consider, though, that MacEoin has an entire chapter devoted to this topic (Chapter 8) and even concludes the book with an ominous tone by saying that the Council will have accomplished nothing if the Curia is not radically reformed, if not completely abolished in its present state.

Even when Brown talks about Pope John, he can't help but take the stuff the Holy Father did in favor of the traditional faith as Curial machinations contrary to all goodness:

It is impossible to tell how Pope John would have fared had he lived through the duration of the council. Some feel that his charismatic gifts would have been sufficient to lead the council to unprecedented heights. Others argue, with some plausibility, that he would have been hopelessly outmaneuvered by his own curia, as he had been, for example, on the earlier occasion when he signed the document Veterum Sapientiae, a wholly unrealistic demand that all seminary instruction be given in Latin- a demand that was almost universally ignored, even though appearing over the papal signature.

Yep, no way Pope John could have actually meant what he signed, especially since he did so with rather extraordinary trappings, putting the instruction in an apostolic constitution and signing it on the very altar of St. Peter's. It was all a big curial conspiracy. Keep all this in mind, though, because this whole line of thinking is bent to the singular purpose of showing that Pope John's real "goodness" was in letting the innovators have their way.

Cardinal Ottaviani is described by Brown as a "seasoned opponent of change." As such, he and his comrades were high-profile targets for attack, especially since nobody was going to go after the Pope himself. Blanshard admits that "there was no frontal attack in St. Peter's on . . . papal infallibility" but "nevertheless, there was a strong tangential attack on the operations of the Roman papal machine" with critics preferring "to aim their barbs at the most vulnerable part of the Roman apparatus . . . the Curia."

This is best demonstrated by Cardinal Frings of Cologne (a staunch member of the Rhine group) providing "the most dramatic moment of the second session," per Brown. This oft-forgotten bit of history may be one of the most far-reaching elements of the whole Council.

Frings basically said that the procedures of the Holy Office were a "scandal to the world" and (laughably, in my opinion) "a source of harm to the faithful and out of harmony with modern times." Yeah, because so many practicing Catholics were spiritually wounded by not being able to pick up the latest crap from Matthew Fox. This whole shpiel came about because the Holy Office could basically condemn a book without actually talking to the author about it. I have no idea why this is so scandalous, since ambiguity is of itself reason enough to be condemned. Due process might be something we are entitled to under the Constitution, but I'm not sure that it has any roots in Divine Law.

Cardinal Ottaviani retaliated by saying that Frings's comments were a "reflection on the Vicar of Christ," especially since the Pope was de facto the prefect of the Holy Office. Personally, I think this is a legitimate argument. All these folks lining up to praise John XXIII and condemn Ottaviani should ask themselves how His Eminence got into such a position of power in the first place.

You guessed it. Pope John put him there. Why would "The Good Pope" appoint such a monster to so high a position? Maybe because he agreed with him a lot and thought he would do a hell of a job. I'm just sayin'.

Even Blanshard admits that, though the "view of the Holy Office as the voice of the Pope is correct," in reality, it is "the Vatican center of intellectual terror."

By the way, most folks attribute Cardinal Frings's speech against the Holy Office as being written by a young theological expert from Germany. Maybe you've heard of him- Fr. Joseph Ratzinger. I don't have time here to go into the evolution of the current Holy Father's perspective on things, but you can get a good idea from David Gibson's book The Rule of Benedict (which certainly isn't meant as a work of praise) or Fr. Aidan Nichols's work The Theology of Benedict XVI. If you want the historical events, it's probably best to go with the former. Still, it's pretty ironic to look back and see those same criticisms that were lobbed at Cardinal Ottaviani be laid on Pope Benedict's doorstep back when he was with the CDF.

Ultimately, it was for good reason that Fr. Wiltgen, who gives the most unbiased historical account, had an entire section in his book entitled "The Roman Curia Under Fire." I close this section with an account delivered by Fr. Wiltgen regarding the schema on the liturgy. Read this and you'll have a good idea of the respective players:

On October 30, the day after his seventy-second birthday, Cardinal Ottaviani addressed the Council to protest against the drastic changes which were being suggested in the Mass. . . (quotes omitted). . . Speaking without a text, because of his partial blindness, he exceeded the ten-minute time limit which all had been requested to observe. Cardinal Tisserant . . . showed his watch to Cardinal Alfrink (a Rhine group guy whose imprimatur somehow wound up on the heretical Dutch Catechism), who was presiding that morning. When Cardinal Ottaviani reached fifteen minutes, Cardinal Alfrink rang the warning bell. But the speaker was so engrossed in his topic that he did not notice the bell, or purposely ignored it. At a signal from Cardinal Alfrink, a technician switched off the microphone. After confirming the fact by tapping the instrument, Cardinal Ottaviani stumbled back to his seat in humiliation. The most powerful cardinal in the Roman Curia had been silenced, and the Council Fathers clapped with glee.

The Curia would eventually develop allies as the other Council Fathers began to note the Rhine group's concerted actions. This would eventually lead to the formation of the "International Group of Fathers," composed mostly of bishops from Italy, Spain, Portugal, and Latin America.
With the stage now set, we will begin our endeavor of tracking each session, each schema, and each final document.

Stay tuned.

On The Maronite Stuff

It was very interesting, and I'm glad we went. To answer the question posted below, this wasn't an actual Maronite church. Instead, it's a Roman church that usually hosts the Pauline Mass. There's a Maronite community there that gets there own liturgy every once in a while. This probably knocked the experience down a couple of pegs, as it was a very modern structure and not so much what an Eastern rite is meant for.

A few other observations:

This is the first traditional liturgy (which for reasons I'll describe next, might not be the best term) that I've been to where the majority of the congregation was significantly older than me and my family. And yes, a lot of them appeared to be of Middle Eastern descent.

"Latinized" is a misnomer. I don't know what you call it, maybe "westernization" or "modernization." If it was latinization, the priest would still be facing liturgical East, in other words, facing God and not the people. There were some other items like this in the music (non-chant hymns) and so forth. This was somewhat disappointing, but it's not like it ruined the whole thing. Of course, having only seen pictures and video of this liturgy, I don't know exactly how much was actually changed.

When they did sing the traditional music, it was quite beautiful.

The consecration was reason enough for making the trip.

On the same point, the consecration occurs very early (for lack of a better word). All kinds of stuff came afterwards ranging from the epiclesis to the intercessory prayers, so you had Jesus there for these things and an increased anticipation for actually receiving Him.

Maybe I was imagining things, but the Maronite liturgy seemed to focus a bit more on the hypostatic union than others I've seen. Whereas Eastern liturgies in general have the Trinity all over the place, this one seemed more specifically geared to the Incarnation. My favorite example:

You have united Your divinity with our humanity. You have joined Your Imortality with our mortality. You have taken what is ours and given us what is Yours for our life and salvation. . .

Which reminded me of this quote from St. Gregory Nazienzen:

What is not assumed is not deified.

Or something like that.

Anyways, if you have the chance to participate with our Maronite brothers and sisters in the offering of the Holy Sacrifice, do so.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Going Maronite Today

Never been to a liturgy with them before. I hope it's not all latinized.

Reports to come.

Friday, August 21, 2009

A Forgotten Genocide

From the Religious Information Service of Ukraine:

The deputy head of the State Archives of the Security Service of Ukraine, Serhii Kokin, said in an interview to the German Wave that the archives of Ukraine contain over a thousand documents confirming that the top leadership of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union was involved in the destruction of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, UNIAN reports. RISU’s Ukrainian-language web site posted this story on August 5, 2009.

How many history lessons bother to tell you about this? I'm wagering not too many.

Kokin says that historians have already declassified 240 documents of the workers of security service of USSR, who watched priests, interrogated and tortured them, and wrote reports for Khrushchev on the basis of their testimonies. He is convinced that the historic truth should be restored. However, he could not say if it will be possible to initiate proceedings and sentence the perpetrators on the basis of these proofs.

How many martyrs, I wonder?

“According to Rafael Lemkin, the liquidation of a national church is an attribute of genocide, as it is aimed against a certain group of people. The question arises why exactly the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church was liquidated when there were also other denominations,” noted Kokin.

Because it was Catholic. And Catholicism and communism don't mix. Next question.

Say a special prayer tonight for our Ukrainian brethren. Things haven't gotten a whole lot better for them. Their usurped churches are still in the hands of those who took them. They are squeezed by the Orthodox and seem almost abandoned by Rome at times. Oh, and if you are in Dallas, go see Fr. Vasyl at St. Sophia in the Colony.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Another Reason Why The Church Fathers Are Awesome

Their ability to glorify God in everything.

This seems rather obvious, I suppose. What really rang the bell for me is the following that I found in reading through the works of Lactantius. The particular treatise in question is called On the Workmanship of God. What he's writing about here is how spectacular a creature man is, even when compared with the animals that seem so much more gifted than himself due to their strength, speed, or whatever. Naturally, he spends a lot of time on man's soul and reason, but he gives a great break-down on the parts of the body as well.

This was the part that really struck me:

For the parts of the intestines which receive the food and drink from the belly are more open than the other coils, and much more delicate. These entwine themselves around and encompass the bladder; and when the meat and the drink have arrived at these parts in a mixed state, the excrement becomes more solid, and passes through, but all the moisture is strained through those tender parts, and the bladder, the membrane of which is equally fine and delicate, absorbs and collects it, so as to send it forth where nature has opened an outlet.

A patristic writer describing the act of pooping. Not only that, but take a look at another passage:

How is it with respect to the other parts of the body? Are they without order and beauty? The flesh rounded off into the nates, how adapted to the office of sitting!

Translation: Our butts are engineering marvels.

I'm not making fun here. This is illuminating. When was the last time you were in such awe of humanity that you even noticed these kinds of things? Not only in awe, but finding that awe so great that you were drawn to reflection on God's majesty and how wonderful it was that He made things so?

Lactantius even contemplates God in examining those parts that he doesn't even know what they do.

As, therefore, we perceive that we hear with our ears, that we see with our eyes, that we smell with our nostrils; so assuredly we should perceive that we are angry with the gall, that we desire with the liver, that we rejoice with the spleen. Since, therefore, we do not at all perceive from what part those affections come, it is possible that they may come from another source, and that those organs may have a different effect to that which we suppose. We cannot prove, however, that they who discuss these things speak falsely. But I think that all things which relate to the motions of the mind and soul, are of so obscure and profound a nature, that it is beyond the power of man to see through them clearly. This, however, ought to be sure and undoubted, that so many objects and so many organs have one and the same office— to retain the soul in the body. But what office is particularly assigned to each, who can know, except the Designer, to whom alone His own work is known?

I think this is a good example of the extraordinary Faith of the Fathers. To see God in so much and to consider so many things as showing forth His glory. In an age where the body is chiefly considered as a means to pleasure and man, in general, is lowered to the same level as any other animal, this view is refreshing.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

From Showgirls To Our Lady Of Guadalupe

Joe Eszterhaus has done a lot of growing over the last decade or so. He is now planning a movie based on Our Lady's appearance to St. Juan Diego.

With that in mind, I began thinking of the various Catholic epics that would freaking rule if they were ever given the appropriate big screen treatment. We used to be able to get away with this on a decently regular basis. Man For All Seasons and Becket come to mind. Sure, there's Passion of the Christ, but let's be real about it. Gibson got that one to be a big hit by promoting it to the Protestants. You aren't going to be able to make that sort of play with St. Thomas More and St. Thomas Becket.

Anyways, here are my top 5 wishes for good Catholic movies:

1. St. Pius V, Don Juan of Austria, and the Holy League at Lepanto

2. The Confessions of St. Augustine

3. The Council of Nicea

4. The Life and Times of Pope Pius VII

5. The Life and Times of Pope Leo the Great

What say you? What did I leave out?

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Caritas in Veritate, Part 5

Rolling right along, we come to the chapter entitled "The Cooperation of the Human Family." I'll admit right now that this is where things seem to get a little weird.

The whole first section is about the poverty of isolation.

Poverty is often produced by a rejection of God's love, by man's basic and tragic tendency to close in on himself, thinking himself to be self-sufficient or merely an insignificant and ephemeral fact, a “stranger” in a random universe. Man is alienated when he is alone, when he is detached from reality, when he stops thinking and believing in a foundation.

This resonated with me on a big level, mostly because I'm currently going back through the works of Walker Percy (which I highly recommend). I just finished Lost in the Cosmos. The Pope here is still focusing his entire concept of development on the centrality of God and the supernatural.

Pope Paul VI noted that “the world is in trouble because of the lack of thinking”. He was making an observation, but also expressing a wish: a new trajectory of thinking is needed in order to arrive at a better understanding of the implications of our being one family; interaction among the peoples of the world calls us to embark upon this new trajectory, so that integration can signify solidarity rather than marginalization.

It's this kind of stuff that made Populorum Progressio so difficult to begin with and why this encyclical, to this point, has done such a good job in returning the emphasis to what Paul VI sort of left by the wayside. It seems to me that the world is in trouble because of a lack of faith. If you read what Pope Benedict has written thus far, even in the immediately preceding paragraph, he appears to be saying the same thing. All the metaphysics and theology in the world won't help without faith. After all, without faith, it is impossible to please God.

In this regard, reason finds inspiration and direction in Christian revelation, according to which the human community does not absorb the individual, annihilating his autonomy, as happens in the various forms of totalitarianism, but rather values him all the more because the relation between individual and community is a relation between one totality and another.

Again, this is all very good stuff as the encyclical consistently returns the issue of development to Divine Revelation and its indispensableness (assuming that's a word).

The theme of development can be identified with the inclusion-in-relation of all individuals and peoples within the one community of the human family, built in solidarity on the basis of the fundamental values of justice and peace. This perspective is illuminated in a striking way by the relationship between the Persons of the Trinity within the one divine Substance. The Trinity is absolute unity insofar as the three divine Persons are pure relationality. The reciprocal transparency among the divine Persons is total and the bond between each of them complete, since they constitute a unique and absolute unity. God desires to incorporate us into this reality of communion as well: “that they may be one even as we are one”. The Church is a sign and instrument of this unity. Relationships between human beings throughout history cannot but be enriched by reference to this divine model. In particular, in the light of the revealed mystery of the Trinity, we understand that true openness does not mean loss of individual identity but profound interpenetration. This also emerges from the common human experiences of love and truth. Just as the sacramental love of spouses unites them spiritually in “one flesh” and makes out of the two a real and relational unity, so in an analogous way truth unites spirits and causes them to think in unison, attracting them as a unity to itself.

Here's some of the weirdness. The first sentence here talks about this human community being built on stuff like solidarity, justice, and peace. That sounds really nice, but it seems to completely contradict the underlying theme of the entire encylical, namely, that we're supposed to be building on supernatural values that order us towards God, rather than each other. The remainder of the section discusses the Trinity and how the Church is a sign an instrument of the unity desired by God of all people. However, this is precisely because the Church is based on those supernatural things, rather than the temporal ones described in the first sentence.

The Christian revelation of the unity of the human race presupposes a metaphysical interpretation of the “humanum” in which relationality is an essential element. Other cultures and religions teach brotherhood and peace and are therefore of enormous importance to integral human development. Some religious and cultural attitudes, however, do not fully embrace the principle of love and truth and therefore end up retarding or even obstructing authentic human development. There are certain religious cultures in the world today that do not oblige men and women to live in communion but rather cut them off from one other in a search for individual well-being, limited to the gratification of psychological desires. Furthermore, a certain proliferation of different religious “paths”, attracting small groups or even single individuals, together with religious syncretism, can give rise to separation and disengagement.

Ok. We have the point here that the Church is superior to all other religions. This is good, though I cannot understand why we can't simply call such religions false. When you throw around comments about their being "of enormous importance" and how "some. . . do not fully embrace the principle of love and truth," the waters are considerably muddied. The fact is that if its the Gospel that is the only real path to "integral human development," which has been the point of the entire document up to now, these other religions are all impediments to that development. It should go without saying that all non-Catholic religions do not embrace the principle of love and truth. They are, by definition, false.

One possible negative effect of the process of globalization is the tendency to favour this kind of syncretism by encouraging forms of “religion” that, instead of bringing people together, alienate them from one another and distance them from reality. At the same time, some religious and cultural traditions persist which ossify society in rigid social groupings, in magical beliefs that fail to respect the dignity of the person, and in attitudes of subjugation to occult powers. In these contexts, love and truth have difficulty asserting themselves, and authentic development is impeded.

This bit clarifies some of the problems with the preceding paragraph, but the spectre of false religion still lingers. Picking this negative aspect out of all the others seems to dodge the main issue of their falseness and leave the potential interpretation that the falseness can be ignored as long as syncretism is avoided.

For this reason, while it may be true that development needs the religions and cultures of different peoples, it is equally true that adequate discernment is needed. Religious freedom does not mean religious indifferentism, nor does it imply that all religions are equal. Discernment is needed regarding the contribution of cultures and religions, especially on the part of those who wield political power, if the social community is to be built up in a spirit of respect for the common good. Such discernment has to be based on the criterion of charity and truth. Since the development of persons and peoples is at stake, this discernment will have to take account of the need for emancipation and inclusivity, in the context of a truly universal human community. “The whole man and all men” is also the criterion for evaluating cultures and religions. Christianity, the religion of the “God who has a human face”, contains this very criterion within itself.

The problem continues. Indifferentism is bad. Discernment requires charity and truth. Development of peoples is at stake. We've already established that integral human development requires the Gospel. Discernment requires emancipation (whatever that means) and inclusivity.

I don't get it. If development requires the Gospel, then inclusivity should be the last thing on the list. Including these religions that are contrary to the Gospel is only going to obstruct development. I have no idea how to reconcile this with the rest of the encylical.

Granted, the last part seems to indicate again the Christianity is the only religion that can provide development, but that doesn't explain the "inclusivity" language.

And it doesn't stop there.

The Christian religion and other religions can offer their contribution to development only if God has a place in the public realm, specifically in regard to its cultural, social, economic, and particularly its political dimensions.

Other religions? What happened to the Gospel and Truth being indispensable for integral human development? And if falseness prevents development, as has been stated/implied multiple times, shouldn't it be ok to suppress said falseness?

Denying the right to profess one's religion in public and the right to bring the truths of faith to bear upon public life has negative consequences for true development. The exclusion of religion from the public square — and, at the other extreme, religious fundamentalism — hinders an encounter between persons and their collaboration for the progress of humanity.

I suppose it can, if such exclusion creates a greater evil than the toleration of the false religion allows. Still, this is all way too vague and, in some ways, completely inconsistent with the message thus far that I can't see it helping the cause very much.

Reason always stands in need of being purified by faith: this also holds true for political reason, which must not consider itself omnipotent. For its part, religion always needs to be purified by reason in order to show its authentically human face. Any breach in this dialogue comes only at an enormous price to human development.

This would have been a lot better if it had specified the Catholic faith. I'm sure that's what Pope Benedict is referring to, but when it's mixed in with all this blander stuff, it's a problem. This is the kind of stuff that gets exploited by the whack-jobs out there.

Fruitful dialogue between faith and reason cannot but render the work of charity more effective within society, and it constitutes the most appropriate framework for promoting fraternal collaboration between believers and non-believers in their shared commitment to working for justice and the peace of the human family.....

This is what gives rise to the duty of believers to unite their efforts with those of all men and women of good will, with the followers of other religions and with non-believers, so that this world of ours may effectively correspond to the divine plan: living as a family under the Creator's watchful eye.

This is, by far, the most problematic point of the encyclical. So far, I've mentioned a couple of times when things "seem" to be going off track from what I would call the major point of this document, namely, the subordination of temporal ideas of development to the supernatural.

Look at what happens here. The emphasis is now the opposite. The "divine plan" itself is defined by the secular goods. I'm going to ask some friends of mine to take a look at the Latin here. I'm convinced this has to be a crappy translation or something.

The next few bits of the encyclical are about subsidiarity.

By considering reciprocity as the heart of what it is to be a human being, subsidiarity is the most effective antidote against any form of all-encompassing welfare state. . . In order not to produce a dangerous universal power of a tyrannical nature, the governance of globalization must be marked by subsidiarity, articulated into several layers and involving different levels that can work together.

Nothing much to see here, except that it leads to this part, which lays the groundwork for what others find to be the most controversial thing in the whole document.

Globalization certainly requires authority, insofar as it poses the problem of a global common good that needs to be pursued. This authority, however, must be organized in a subsidiary and stratified way, if it is not to infringe upon freedom and if it is to yield effective results in practice.


Not too much earth-shattering for while after that. He spends some time on solidarity, the need for equitable trade between countries (especially in allowing poorer countries access to markets), and the importance of respecting the cultures of developing countries. This latter lends itself to some quotable moments, especially in light of the willingness of so many to criticize the Church's evangelism efforts as arrogance.

The Christian faith, by becoming incarnate in cultures and at the same time transcending them, can help them grow in universal brotherhood and solidarity, for the advancement of global and community development.

You'd think I'd be happy with this. I probably should be. Maybe it's my greediness, but I'm not. Sure, we're back to focusing on the Faith again. That's good, though not entirely jiving with the immediately preceding sections. Ergo, more confusion.

The really bad part is that we've gone from the Faith as being necessary for growth and development and all that good stuff to just something that "can help." This seems to water down the prior statements.

Here, the Pope launches into a laundry list (and occasionally a weird one) of stuff that he feels needs some work. First, he says that richer countries should allocate more resources to helping poorer ones. What's significant about this? Check this out:

One possible approach to development aid would be to apply effectively what is known as fiscal subsidiarity, allowing citizens to decide how to allocate a portion of the taxes they pay to the State. Provided it does not degenerate into the promotion of special interests, this can help to stimulate forms of welfare solidarity from below, with obvious benefits in the area of solidarity for development as well.

While I think this would freaking rule, I know there's not a chance in heaven, hell, or anywhere else that it's going to happen. Let's just note here that the Pope isn't necessarily giving practical or realistic ideas.

After this, we get discussion of education, tourism (huh?), human migration, unemployment, the need for workers to earn living wages, labor unions, financial markets, and consumer empowerment.

I'll be frank. I don't know why most of this stuff is in here. It's very odd. It all really comes down the principle of it's bad to screw people over. I think we all get that.

Anyways, I don't want to drop things so abruptly, but this is as good a place as any. I don't think there's much of a need to go into the laundry list with any detail. Plus, we've finally arrived at the infamous Section 67, so I'm looking at handling that as best as I can. That means starting fresh at the next post.


Friday, August 14, 2009

Is This For Real? You Be The Judge!

Every now and then, we find some articles that are so mind-blowingly stupid, we are forced to consider if the author was serious in the writing or if this is some bizarre form of journalistic fake vomit, something hurled into the public for the purpose of creating a stir of activity.

Such is the case with Ted Rosean's recent effort over on US Catholic. If the dumbness of this article of his registered on the Richter Scale, Mr. Rosean would have single-handedly destroyed all of North America.

Where to begin?

At one end of the archdiocese where I live, a Mass is held in a gymnasium every Sunday, and a group of lively folk musicians accompany the assembly through a relaxed and informal liturgy. The mood reflects the music. Because it's a gym, children seem to act less restrained, feeling free to roam a bit. Folding chairs are set up in a semi-circle around a portable altar that this group has used for many years.

There are no kneelers, of course, reflecting to some extent the impracticality of portable kneelers, but reflecting to a greater extent the theology of those gathered: These are "looking up to God in trust, not bowing down to God in fear" Catholics, nurturing a view of church and theology that was born at the Second Vatican Council.

You knew it was coming. The obligatory "Vatican II changed all that" reference. What's great is how he builds on this.

I know many of these Catholics and consider them to be very good people. Their liturgy is, I believe, a scandal.

But why? If it's reflecting all this Vatican II goodness, how can it be a scandal?

At the other end of the archdiocese, a priest adorned in shimmering vestments murmurs prayers in Latin, facing the tabernacle, his voice barely audible to the assembly of worshipers kneeling behind him. Many of these are silently and privately praying the rosary. At certain moments there is an exchange of words between the priest and the assembly. These words are in Latin.

The atmosphere is reverent, reflecting to some extent the mood naturally created by silence, candles, and Latin, but reflecting to a greater extent the theology of those gathered: These are "kneeling before God in awe, not back-slapping brother Jesus" Catholics, preserving a view of church and theology set aside at the Second Vatican Council.

"Set aside" at Vatican II? Where? Can you cite the relevant portions of Vatican II setting aside these views of Church and theology?

I know one of the people in the assembly to be one of the finest human beings alive-my father-but his liturgy is, I believe, a scandal.

A scandal. The Mass celebrated by almost every single saint of the Latin rite of the Church is a scandal.

Somehow, this is starting to remind me of something. Oh yeah. Now, I remember. Rosean does get to his point, though.

This is what makes these liturgies scandalous. They represent such polarized expressions of worship that they drift from the central purpose of liturgy as stated in the introduction of Sacrosanctum Concilium, the Second Vatican Council's Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy: "to be a sign lifted up among the nations, to those who are outside, a sign under which the scattered children of God may be gathered together until there is one fold and one shepherd." A church practicing such divergent forms of worship will hardly unite the scattered children of God.

It's really awesome how this guy completely manufactures the meaning of this quote from SC. This citation has no context as "the central purpose of the liturgy." It's doubtful Mr. Rosean read past the introduction. If he had, he might have noticed something hitting a bit closer to that whole central purpose thing:

Nevertheless the liturgy is the summit toward which the activity of the Church is directed; at the same time it is the font from which all her power flows. For the aim and object of apostolic works is that all who are made sons of God by faith and baptism should come together to praise God in the midst of His Church, to take part in the sacrifice, and to eat the Lord's supper.

Currently we are many folds under a shepherd who last year stirred the pot with his apostolic letter Summorum Pontificum (Of the Supreme Pontiffs), sanctioning wider use of the old Latin or Tridentine Mass. Besides allowing individual parishes to conduct Latin Masses at the pastor's discretion, secondhand reports suggest that Pope Benedict XVI would like to see a Latin Mass offered at every parish. Upon hearing this, I felt a rumbling that I'm certain was Pope John XXIII, who opened the Second Vatican Council, rolling in his grave.

So Pope Benedict is promoting schism. That's a shame. Not only that, but Blessed John XXIII would be upset with all this. Here's a newsflash for you, Ted. The current Traditional Latin Mass is offered according to the Missal of 1962. Guess who the Pope was who promulgated it?

The guy you portray as "rolling in his grave." That rumbling you felt must have been a bad burrito or something as it would make a bit more sense that Pope John was rejoicing from heaven at seeing his Missal being allowed common use again.

By the way, read this. It will remedy some of your ignorance on the Pope and his view of things.

The problem with the gym mass is not the gym, or the folk music, or even the lack of kneelers. The gym liturgies I've participated in mostly adhere to the rite promulgated by the Second Vatican Council. The scandal is the fact that 100 yards from the gym, a splendid church sits where liturgy is celebrated by the other 90 percent of the parish every Sunday.

Vatican II promulgated a rite? Where? And where in this alleged rite is the promotion of gymnasiums, folk music, and the removal of kneelers?

Or is Mr. Rosean just speaking from a lower orifice here?

And why is he participating in liturgies that he believes to be scandalous?

In the zeal that followed the council, many well-intentioned but liturgically ill-informed experiments cropped up in parish liturgies. Some progressive liturgies went too far and abused the intent of the council's changes.

Given that he's really ok with the gym liturgy thing, I wonder what he considers too far. I've noticed he hasn't really given anything as to what these Vatican II changes were or what the intent was.

Many of these alternative practices have fueled the reaction of extremists who now want to rewind church history and drop us all back into a Bells of St. Mary's world, as black and white as the cassock and surplice of a 10-year-old altar boy. At one end of our church, progressives dance to the beat of their very own drummer, while at the other end nostalgic traditionalists turn back the hands of time.

"Extremists." Does he use such polemical language to describe the gym liturgists? I don't think so. Even those who he admits crossed the line of propriety are called "well-intentioned." Clearly, if you wish to attend a reverent Traditional Mass, you are an enemy of the Church. If you want a liturgy that makes an abuse of the Pauline Mass, you are just swell, albeit misguided.

In my judgment, the progressive, alternative Masses are much less troubling than the return of the Tridentine Mass. As mentioned, gym liturgies are mostly faithful to the changes promulgated in the council. While they may cross the line at times, at least they seem to be reaching in the direction the council members were pointing us toward.

Hey, at least he admits it. It's too bad he's so dishonest on everything else. Does anybody honestly think that the Fathers of Vatican II were pushing us towards gym Mass? Maybe Rosean should try to find out what really happened at the Council. How is a gym Mass remotely similar to what Vatican II says.

Meanwhile, think of your patron saint. Unless you have an Easterner, your saint was nurtured by the Traditional Latin Mass. Your saint is the product of a "troubling" liturgy.

And let's face it, my generation, the flower-power gang, is, well, beginning to push up daisies. Progressive liturgies are fading away as the jingle-jangle of our tambourines increasingly exits stage left.

And isn't that a big honking shame.

What is scandalous about this practice is not the Latin. After discussing the issue with theologians and liturgists Keith Pecklers, S.J. and Mark Francis, C.S.V., both independently made the distinction between the Tridentine Mass, celebrated by Catholics between 1570 and approximately 1965, and the post-conciliar rite practiced in the Latin language.

The reformed liturgy is flexible enough to allow the use of Latin at times. Many parishes replace the "Lamb of God" and the "Holy, Holy, Holy" with the Agnus Dei and the Sanctus during the season of Lent. Besides being in complete conformity with the changes promulgated by the council, this appropriate use of the Latin can often deepen the spiritual tone of the liturgy and underline the gravity of the season. But limited use such as this is far different from a complete 180-degree nostalgic return to an outdated rite.

Ok. Remember this. It's not about the Latin.

The Tridentine Mass is not simply the current Mass (the one promulgated by Pope Paul VI in 1970) spoken in Latin. The Tridentine Mass, which dates from 1570, reflects a very different-and incomplete-understanding of the early church. Francis argues that "the 16th-century framers [of the Tridentine Missal] lacked adequate historical resources, as they were unable to refer to manuscripts dating earlier than the pontificate of Innocent III, around 1216."

Actually, Ted, your "experts" should have told you that the Traditional Mass actually goes back almost unaltered to about the 6th century.

The large text really makes it clear, though. The Pauline Mass is better because we are allegedly smarter than every single saint, Pope, and Doctor of the Latin Church who ever offered a Mass for 1500 years or so. Geez. Glad we aren't being arrogant or anything.

A church digging in its defensive heels at the peak of the Reformation developed the Tridentine Mass, taking shots at pagans, heretics, schismatics, and "perfidious" Jews. The rich revelation of the Old Testament is mostly absent, and the participation of the laity barely exists.

Here's an idea, Mr. Rosean. How about you tell us how the Tridentine Mass differed from the prior rite of Mass? I know that doing so will expose you as ignorant or a liar, but just give honesty a try.

The Second Vatican Council had some very good reasons to call for an end to the Tridentine Mass and to promulgate a new rite. More sophisticated research uncovered a fuller understanding of how liturgy was celebrated in the early church. Improved scripture scholarship developed into a new lectionary with a wider selection of readings. Better historical research removed fictional saints from the liturgical calendar.

Where did Vatican II call for an end to the Tridentine Mass? Where did it order the promulgation of a new rite?

Ted isn't very good with this honesty stuff.

Here's another item being ignored. The Eastern liturgies. Does the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom, which holds comparable antiquity to the Traditional Latin Mass, bear all that much resemblance to the Pauline Mass, much less a gym Mass? Or does it more closely resemble what you'd see in the 1962 Missal?

The fictional saints bit is simply untrue. All the saints from Christopher to Philomena are very much real. I'm not sure why Mr. Rosean thinks it's ok to say such things about people that God has accepted into heaven.

Perhaps most important for the average Catholic, the Mass was celebrated in the language of the people. Interestingly, while the Tridentine Mass began to be used in 1570, Masses were celebrated in Latin as early as A.D. 350. Originally, the Latin replaced Greek because people understood Latin, and using Latin allowed more people to understand what was going on. In 1965 the church once again came to the seemingly obvious conclusion that people should understand what is being said in Mass.

In other words, it really is about the Latin.

The stakes are high. We participate in the liturgy to praise God and to be transformed so that we can transform the world. We need to do this together. We cannot gather the scattered children of God together if we ourselves are scattered.

For all you Easterners out there, too freaking bad. Pope Ted has spoken. Your rites are scandalous, just like gym liturgies and Traditional Latin Masses. In fact, since they are old and actually involve reverence, they are probably worse than gym Mass. You do use the vernacular most of the time, though, so you aren't as bad as those FSSP extremist lunatics.

Ruthenians, Maronites, Chaldeans, Syro-Malabars, etc., you are called upon to abandon the horrors of your ways! Repent of your scandal! Pay no attention to Vatican II! The power of Ted compels you!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

The Flowering Of Tradition

And the graying of the innovators.

Thanks to Dave Hartline at The Catholic Report for uncovering this one.

It's a New York Times piece about how the new nuns and priests are ethnically diverse, but united in their return to tradition.

A new study of Roman Catholic nuns and priests in the United States shows that an aging, predominantly white generation is being succeeded by a smaller group of more racially and ethnically diverse recruits who are attracted to the religious orders that practice traditional prayer rituals and wear habits.

“We’ve heard anecdotally that the youngest people coming to religious life are distinctive, and they really are,” said Sister Mary Bendyna, executive director of the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate. “They’re more attracted to a traditional style of religious life, where there is community living, common prayer, having Mass together, praying the Liturgy of the Hours together. They are much more likely to say fidelity to the church is important to them. And they really are looking for communities where members wear habits.”

Wait a minute. I thought young people wanted Disco Liturgy and pizza parties. Something I've noticed is that, in all this talk about "Church youth," it doesn't seem like many people have asked the youth anything. Or, at the very least, even attempted to expose them to something other than the MTV Mass. It's sort of like the old yarn about how all older Catholics secretly loathed teh pre-conciliar Church because the Mass was in Latin. I still haven't found any of those people, and I've been looking for them for over a decade.

The article does mention retention problems:

Of women who recently entered religious orders, the average age is 32; for men, it is 30. But retaining new recruits is a challenge. About half of those who have entered religious orders since 1990 have not stayed, and almost all who left did so before making their final vows.

This actually doesn't bother me so much. The fact that so many are considering it in the first place is a big deal. Not to mention that most of the other reports I recall hearing have said that the recent surge in vocations overall wasn't until 2003-2006 or so.

Regardless, this is good news.

Completely Beyond Scientific Explanation

This is the description of Our Lady's image on St. Juan Diego's tilma in Guadalupe. Maybe someone can forward this story to Hillary.

Per CNA:

Researcher and physicist Dr. Aldofo Orozco told participants at the International Marian Congress on Our Lady of Guadalupe that there is no scientific explanation for the 478 years of high quality-preservation of the Tilma or for the miracles that have occurred to ensure its preservation.

A couple of examples:

However, eight years later, the copy of the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe was thrown away because the colors were fading and threads were breaking. In contrast, Orozco said, “the original Tilma was exposed for approximately 116 years without any kind of protection, receiving all the infrared and ultraviolet radiation from the tens of thousands of candles near it and exposed to the humid and salty air around the temple.”

Dr. Orozco then discussed the Tilma’s fabric. He noted that “one of the most bizarre characteristics of the cloth is that the back side is rough and coarse, but the front side is ‘as soft as the most pure silk, as noted by painters and scientists in 1666, and confirmed one century later in 1751 by the Mexican painter, Miguel Cabrera.”

There are some other items in the main article, so it's well worth reading, especially given that a lot of folks aren't aware that the tilma has undergone scientific analysis of any kind

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Concern Over Division

In meeting with some of my fellow parishioners after Mass this past Sunday, I was given pause to think for a moment. I attend a Pauline Mass and basically always have. I've attended maybe 10 traditional Catholic liturgies in my lifetime. That's Traditonal Latin Masses and Eastern Catholic liturgies combined. I would attend one on a regular basis if it was offered.

That being said, I am still somewhat of an outcast in my own parish where I was baptized, received First Communion, was confirmed, and was married, simply because of my desire to attend a liturgy that is not a "banal fabrication" to use then-Cardinal Ratzinger's words.

I do understand, then, the concerns of many over how the liberation of the Extraordinary Form could result in "divisions" within a parish. For those who might not know what I'm talking about, check these articles out. I've been divided out of mine just for inquiring about it. For example, one of the above-mentioned parishioners was kind enough to inform several other members of our small church that promotion of the Traditional Mass was contrary to the wishes of the Pope and essentially rebellion.

Why don't we see these kinds of concerns when the Mass is explicitly divisive? Not even just divisive either, but purposefully so. How many parishes have a "Youth Mass" where the general norms of sacred music are scrapped in favor of Hair-Band Hymns? Such things are often encouraged and made the focal point of the ministry. Yet they are liturgies that are deliberately constructed (fabricated) for the tastes of some and the disregard of others. Somehow, this is ok. Even if we ignore the fact that it is a Mass catering to just a minority of individuals, is there no accounting for bad taste and irreverence? It seems not.

What a strange world where something as venerable and holy as the Traditional Latin Mass is feared and despised to the point where mere inquiries can get you labeled as a schismatic. Meanwhile, your run-of-the-mill Disco Liturgy is not just ok, but the most hailed event on the parish calendar.


Sunday, August 9, 2009

The Irrelevance Of Truth

I was listening to a Protestant pastor yesterday. He is probably not overly well-known right now, more of an up-and-comer in the charismatic movement.

He's one of these guys who regards himself and his congregation as above denominational labels and beyond religion. In fact, he presents religion as the biggest threat to Christianity today. Of course, he doesn't exactly define what religion is. At least, I've never seen him do so.

His comment from last night that most drew my attention was in the context of lamenting all the problems people have in the world today: depression, spiritual hunger, financial issues, etc. He then said that the worst thing around was for something "of God" to happen to help these people, while others refuse to be happy about the help given because "it didn't happen in their church or as part of their ministry."

He went on to say that if anyone just gets "one little itty-bitty-bitty-bitty bit better" that we should be happy for them regardless of the religious affiliation in which this betterness occurred.

What an asinine statement. Does that mean that I'm supposed to be happy if someone opts for Scientology over Christianity? Hey, it helped Tom Cruise's dyslexia. He got better. I guess that makes Scientology ok then. Or if someone is having financial problems and decides that a congregation that supports criminal activities is the way to go and his problems are solved, should I be happy? Who the hell cares if they are running drugs? The person is better now, right?

These statements sound extreme, but think about the logical extension of this pastor's foolishness. Truth has been sent to the back of the bus so that good feelings and apparent temporal success can sit in front. Who cares if the person is being taught that there is no Trinity? Or that Jesus was a space alien? Or that God is the God of the Eucharist?

As long as they are comfortable or feeling better, I suppose. I can't help but think of Matthew 7.

Many will say to me in that day: Lord, Lord, have not we prophesied in thy name, and cast out devils in thy name, and done many miracles in thy name? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, you that work iniquity.

Feeling better or "doing good" doesn't cut it. Wouldn't a guy who said "I am the Truth" have a certain interest in the promotion of what is actually true?

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Reactions To Pope John's Summons

Kicking this series off, we looked at the conciliar summons from Blessed John XXIII and how it is completely opposed to the caricature of him that many in the post-conciliar era have constructed.

Now, I’d like to take a look at what the reactions were by folks who were paying attention, or at least say they were. We’ll do this throughout the series, mostly from the following sources. I picked these because they are not only available without a whole lot of looking around, but they also represent a number of different perspectives. I want to point out now that I don't think any of the Catholic authors on this list would be considered as “radical traditionalists” or sedevacantists or any other epithet that gets thrown against anyone who questions the success of Vatican II. Our commentaries are:

1. Speaking for traditional Catholic doctrine, we have Iota Unum by Romano Amerio, a theologian for the original conciliar preparatory commission and a peritus (theological expert) at the council.

2. For the more “innovative” Catholics, there’s What Happened in Rome? by Gary MacEoin, journalist.

3. The secular view is represented by Paul Blanshard at Vatican II by Paul Blanshard, a journalist that many will recall is a bigoted jerk.

4. The Protestant theological perspective will come from The Ecumenical Revolution by Robert McAffee Brown, a Presbyterian theologian and one of the Protestant observers at Vatican II.

5. Finally, the most purely historical account is The Rhine Flows Into the Tiber by Fr. Ralph Wiltgen, priest and journalist, who was at least sympathetic to the views of “innovative” Catholics.

Just pointing out here that, with the exception of Amerio, these guys will disagree with me on most things Church-related. That’s why they make the best witnesses.

Anyways, let’s see what they think of Ad Petri Cathedram and the idea of a council.

Brown gives the encyclical a grand total of one citation, that bein on page 64. The substance?

"This in itself will provide an outstanding example of truth, unity, and love. May those who are separated from this Apostolic See, beholding this manifestation of unity, derive the inspiration to see out the unity which Jesus Christ prayed for so ardently from His heavenly Father."

Pretty tame statement to focus on in light of the rest of what Pope John said. I have some doubts about whether Mr. Brown even read the encyclical, as the cited portion he gives is footnoted to a secondary source and is translated a bit differently than what we see in Section 62 in the Vatican version linked above.

Regardless, Mr. Brown focused very little on the formal conciliar summons, something that most folks would think was pretty important. He does, however, lavish a large amount of praise on Blessed John, mostly related to creating the Secretariat for Christian Unity and "releasing the ecumenical concern" which bore so much "good fruit" during the Council. In fact, the snippet above was made it "apparent that more could be expected than a perfunctory gathering of bishops to rubber-stamp ideas emanating from pope and curia, and that while the council was called primarily to deal with internal Catholic matters, its import would be ecumenical as well."

Thought experiment. Compare Ad Petri Cathedram to Iam Vos Omnes, the invitation by Blessed Pius IX to Protestants prior to Vatican I. See if you can find a whole lot of difference.

For a more frank assessment, we look to Mr. Blanshard, who was paying a lot more attention. Page 22 of his book remarks on the language of APC and Pope John's coronation as "strange" considering "John's later reputation as the greatest ecumenist of modern times." The encyclical itself was "ecclesiastically egocentric."

Amerio really doesn't go into the encyclical. Instead, he chooses to spend most of his time talking about the general expectations for the Council and other events in the lead-up. This is a bit disappointing, but not overly shocking, since he tends to focus on things that he views as problems, rather than what he agrees with. He does mention on page 59 those who "dare to attribute to John XXIII the intention of blowing up the Stalinist monolith of the Catholic Church from inside" are pushing a "catastophal" interpretation of the Council, which he defines as foreseeing and pursuing a "radical change in Catholicism." Such an idea, while "confused," was "embraced both at the popular level and in the activity of organized groups which imposed important elements of their thinking on the council."

So we are left with the question of who these groups were and what their motivations might have been. For that, we go to Fr. Wiltgen.

Fr. Wiltgen begins in his preface by commenting on the lament of Juvenal that Syrian culture had begun to pentrate that of ancient Rome.:

What happened in Juvenal's day on a cultural level happened in our own day on a theological level. This time, however, the penetrating influence came from the countries along the Rhine- Germany, Austria, Switzerland, France, and the Netherlands- and from nearby Belgium. Because the cardinals, bishops, and theologians of these six countries succeeded in exerting a predominant influence over the Second Vatican Council, I have titled my book The Rhine Flows Into the Tber.

The public has heard very little of the powerful alliance established by the forces of the Rhine, a factor which greatly influenced Council legislation.

Wiltgen quotes a great deal from APC without much comment, as is his habit throughout the book. As an aside, I think he is very good at leaving his own opinions out of the mix. Anyways, he does this as repitition and not part of a narrative. What is significant, however, is the reaction to the summons on the part of this Rhine group.

On page 15, Wiltgen describes the German bishops as already meeting in the residence of Cardinal Frings in order to discuss memberships on the Council's ten commissions that would be responsible for drawing up the schemas (draft documents) for consideration.

Considerable agitation was caused when someone reported that the Roman Curia had prepared a list of candidates for distribution at election time. To counteract this move, it was proposed that each national episcopal conference should be permitted to nominate candidates from its own ranks for each commission.

This idea was agreed upon by Cardinal Lienart of France, and "both cardinals agreed upon a plan of procedure for the opening day" of the Council.

This is all still just set-up, and I apologize if I move a bit slowly through all this. I think it is very important, though, to get a good picture of Pope John's intentions for the Council, what acts were done in preparation for the Council, how these things changed once the Council started, and who the parties were that were involved.

Our next two installments will be a discussion of the Council's own preparatory work, including the Synod of Rome, and of the Curia, who hold their own respective positions in the views of our commentators.

Stay tuned.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

This Is What A Catholic Politician Sounds Like

And he's from Louisiana. Naturally, I've had a tough time finding this story on a mainstream news outlet.

Rep. Anh “Joseph” Cao, (R-New Orleans), the first Vietnamese-American congressman and a Catholic, announced this past weekend that, because of the “stealth mandate” for abortion still present in the Health Care bill, he prefers to “save his soul” rather than vote in favor of it. . .

“At the end of the day if the health care reform bill does not have strong language prohibiting the use of federal funding for abortion, then the bill is really a no-go for me,” said Cao, who spent time in formation to be a Jesuit priest.

“Being a Jesuit, I very much adhere to the notion of social justice,” Cao said. “I do fully understand the need of providing everyone with access to health care, but to me personally, I cannot be privy to a law that will allow the potential of destroying thousands of innocent lives,” he explained to the Louisiana newspaper.

Holy smokes. What is more shocking: an apparently orthodox Catholic politician or an apparently orthodox Catholic who spent time in formation to be a Jesuit?

“I know that voting against the health care bill will probably be the death of my political career,” Cao said, “but I have to live with myself, and I always reflect on the phrase of the New Testament, ‘How does it profit a man's life to gain the world but to lose his soul.’”

Contrast this fortitude with guys like Kmiec.

On a somewhat side note, this whole thing reminds me of a great bit from Man For All Seasons. You'll need to go to the 3:50 mark or so:

How many these days are opting for not even so much as Wales?

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Caritas in Veritate, Part 4

The next chapter of the encyclical is about “The Development of People, Rights and Duties, The Environment.” The discussion starts with the simple point:

Many people today would claim that they owe nothing to anyone, except to themselves.

“I am my own man.” “Look out for number one.” “It’s hard out here fo’ a pimp.” Feel free to include your own clich├ęs. What is needed, the Pope says, is for a redirection of emphasis.

Hence it is important to call for a renewed reflection on how rights presuppose duties, if they are not to become mere licence. On the one hand, appeals are made to alleged rights, arbitrary and non-essential in nature, accompanied by the demand that they be recognized and promoted by public structures, while, on the other hand, elementary and basic rights remain unacknowledged and are violated in much of the world.

This is a point that we’ve made many time. Pontiffs for the last 200 years or so have been decrying the modern concept of “rights.” There’s no better example of this than the alleged “right” to homosexual marriage. Where does such a right come from? From God? Hardly. From the people? It doesn’t seem so given the fact that the vote in California has been blasted by gay-rights activists as somehow invalid. The simple answer is that it derives from the subjective desires of the individuals in question. This is hardly a basis for government, not to mention morality.

A link has often been noted between claims to a “right to excess”, and even to transgression and vice, within affluent societies, and the lack of food, drinkable water, basic instruction and elementary health care in areas of the underdeveloped world and on the outskirts of large metropolitan centres. The link consists in this: individual rights, when detached from a framework of duties which grants them their full meaning, can run wild, leading to an escalation of demands which is effectively unlimited and indiscriminate. Duties set a limit on rights because they point to the anthropological and ethical framework of which rights are a part, in this way ensuring that they do not become licence. Otherwise, if the only basis of human rights is to be found in the deliberations of an assembly of citizens, those rights can be changed at any time, and so the duty to respect and pursue them fades from the common consciousness. Governments and international bodies can then lose sight of the objectivity and “inviolability” of rights. When this happens, the authentic development of peoples is endangered. The sharing of reciprocal duties is a more powerful incentive to action than the mere assertion of rights.

Remember when folks thought that certain rights were inalienable and granted by the Creator? I really wish Pope Benedict would have spent more time on this issue and been more clear that the rights we are talking about come from God. It’s pretty clear from the rest of the encyclical that this is the case, but too many secular humanist types will take this kind of stuff out of context and use it to justify the further elevation of man at the expense of God by rooting such rights in some sort of (still arbitrary) formula centered on man.

This is made more likely by the talk of “anthropological and ethical framework” lingo. I don’t really know what that means and its vagueness could be used against the Church. I realize that there are always going to be folks that twist the words of the Magisterium. I don’t know if it’s ever been as bad as in modern times, though.

This next part is interesting because the Pope basically takes the standard view of population growth and turns it on its head:

This is a very important aspect of authentic development, since it concerns the inalienable values of life and the family. To consider population increase as the primary cause of underdevelopment is mistaken, even from an economic point of view. Suffice it to consider, on the one hand, the significant reduction in infant mortality and the rise in average life expectancy found in economically developed countries, and on the other hand, the signs of crisis observable in societies that are registering an alarming decline in their birth rate. The Church, in her concern for man's authentic development, urges him to have full respect for human values in the exercise of his sexuality. It cannot be reduced merely to pleasure or entertainment, nor can sex education be reduced to technical instruction aimed solely at protecting the interested parties from possible disease or the “risk” of procreation. This would be to impoverish and disregard the deeper meaning of sexuality, a meaning which needs to be acknowledged and responsibly appropriated not only by individuals but also by the community. It is irresponsible to view sexuality merely as a source of pleasure, and likewise to regulate it through strategies of mandatory birth control.

See how many of your Obama-is-in-line-with-Church-thinking yahoos discuss this section in their attempts to tilt Church teaching in their direction.

Morally responsible openness to life represents a rich social and economic resource. Populous nations have been able to emerge from poverty thanks not least to the size of their population and the talents of their people. On the other hand, formerly prosperous nations are presently passing through a phase of uncertainty and in some cases decline, precisely because of their falling birth rates; this has become a crucial problem for highly affluent societies. The decline in births, falling at times beneath the so-called “replacement level”, also puts a strain on social welfare systems, increases their cost, eats into savings and hence the financial resources needed for investment, reduces the availability of qualified labourers, and narrows the “brain pool” upon which nations can draw for their needs.

This has been discussed in much detail just about everywhere. A good portion of Western Civilization is contracepting itself into oblivion. Russia and China, too. Nobody really seems to care either. When you see groups amongst the Orthodox signing on to the contraceptive mentality (without censure and contrary to the unanimous consent of the Fathers), you know things have gotten bad.

I’ve seen a couple of sources that criticize the Pope’s apparent promotion of social welfare systems. This is another point where I don’t understand the hub-bub. It’s pretty easy to read this in pari materia with other Church statements on social justice. The State may, or will, occasionally have to intervene to correct certain societal problems, especially when the ower orders have failed. Granted, in the modern US context, much of our problems are attributable to the already pervasive higher level intervention, but again, we shouldn’t read papal documents as relating specifically to our situation unless the document itself says so. If this contradicts Centessimus Annus, I’m not sure how.

Striving to meet the deepest moral needs of the person also has important and beneficial repercussions at the level of economics. The economy needs ethics in order to function correctly — not any ethics whatsoever, but an ethics which is people-centred.

I know what you are thinking. Here we go again with the anthro-centric stuff that is going to create problems. A-ha, says the Pope. Not this time.

Much in fact depends on the underlying system of morality. On this subject the Church's social doctrine can make a specific contribution, since it is based on man's creation “in the image of God” (Gen 1:27), a datum which gives rise to the inviolable dignity of the human person and the transcendent value of natural moral norms.

Much better. I am greedy, though. What would have been really awesome is if the Pope would have continued his discussion of the heightened degree of human dignity brought about by grace and the sacraments. You can’t always get what you want, I guess.

As the encyclical moves (drags?) on, I am forced to admit that he loses me for a while. The next couple of sections discuss the formation of new business types that don’t look at profit as their end, but rather, profit as the instrument for helping people. Such businesses would then feed the creation of person-centered “development programs” in 3rd World-ish places. These sections have a lot of writing but I can’t derive a whole lot of meaning out of them.

I will include this next bit because it is easy to understand and applies just as much to the prior sections and the reliability of state action.

International cooperation requires people who can be part of the process of economic and human development through the solidarity of their presence, supervision, training and respect. From this standpoint, international organizations might question the actual effectiveness of their bureaucratic and administrative machinery, which is often excessively costly. At times it happens that those who receive aid become subordinate to the aid-givers, and the poor serve to perpetuate expensive bureaucracies which consume an excessively high percentage of funds intended for development.

So we’re back to man screwing things up again.

Speaking of screwing things up, we finally get to the much-ballyhooed environmental portion of the encyclical.

Today the subject of development is also closely related to the duties arising from our relationship to the natural environment. The environment is God's gift to everyone, and in our use of it we have a responsibility towards the poor, towards future generations and towards humanity as a whole. When nature, including the human being, is viewed as the result of mere chance or evolutionary determinism, our sense of responsibility wanes. In nature, the believer recognizes the wonderful result of God's creative activity, which we may use responsibly to satisfy our legitimate needs, material or otherwise, while respecting the intrinsic balance of creation. If this vision is lost, we end up either considering nature an untouchable taboo or, on the contrary, abusing it. Neither attitude is consonant with the Christian vision of nature as the fruit of God's creation.

Pretty basic stuff. I get that. Here’s what I get even more, though.

But it should also be stressed that it is contrary to authentic development to view nature as something more important than the human person. This position leads to attitudes of neo-paganism or a new pantheism — human salvation cannot come from nature alone, understood in a purely naturalistic sense.

Again, I’m greedy. It’s good to see the Pope pointing out that humanity is more important than the rest of the natural world. I wish he would have popped in a few more lines about the latter part on the incapability of achieving salvation by our natural powers.

This having been said, it is also necessary to reject the opposite position, which aims at total technical dominion over nature, because the natural environment is more than raw material to be manipulated at our pleasure; it is a wondrous work of the Creator containing a “grammar” which sets forth ends and criteria for its wise use, not its reckless exploitation.

The weird part here is that it seems that this issue is a lot worse in less industrialized nations. You probably don’t see a lot of environmental protection concerns in India. China’s problems have been well-publicized.

Time for another bit of honesty. I was lost on the next few bits. The Pope talks about the problem of energy production and how more developed countries should lower their consumption and help out their worse-off neighbors. I’m not real sure what the deal is here. Preaching solidarity is one thing. I’m not real sure how wise it is to start laying out these kinds of guidelines. It’s not like a Pope condemning a specific activity like, say, the publication of pornography. That’s pretty basic. Energy production is a lot more complex than that and is the sort of thing that policy-driven reductions might make worse.

The rest of this chapter is equally confusing. The remaining few sections goes from problems associated with materialism to concerns about deteriorating crop lands to wars to embryonic research. Ultimately, I think he’s saying that the breakdown in our overall culture results in abuses of humanity and the rest of Creation. If that’s the case, I wish he would have just said that. Read it for yourself, then come back and explain it to me if I’m wrong.

He does salvage things a bit with this capstone, returning us to the real point of ordering things toward God and everything else working out as a consequence of that.

Truth, and the love which it reveals, cannot be produced: they can only be received as a gift. Their ultimate source is not, and cannot be, mankind, but only God, who is himself Truth and Love. This principle is extremely important for society and for development, since neither can be a purely human product; the vocation to development on the part of individuals and peoples is not based simply on human choice, but is an intrinsic part of a plan that is prior to us and constitutes for all of us a duty to be freely accepted. That which is prior to us and constitutes us — subsistent Love and Truth — shows us what goodness is, and in what our true happiness consists. It shows us the road to true development.

All that, and we’ve still got another 12 pages of stuff, and the most controversial stuff at that, to work through. I promise that we will, along with the next installment of the Vatican II series.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009


Our brethren are dying. Same old enemies, too.

In Pakistan, it is Islam:
Muslims burn 6 Christians to death after false allegations

In Viet Nam, it is the communists:
Violence continues as authorities in Vietnamese city seek to create a ‘No Catholic Zone’

In India, though, a new problem has sprung up. We've documented the Hindu persecution of Catholics there in prior posts like this one and this one. Now, the Protestants there are trying to get in on the action:
Protestant intimidation in India holding back ‘flood’ of conversions to Catholicism, bishop says

If you are reading this, please offer a prayer to St. Michael and a Glory Be to the Holy Trinity for the protection of our fellow Catholics.

Monday, August 3, 2009

SSPX Talks Are Set To Begin (maybe)

Rorate Caeli with the story again.

Per Bishop Fellay:

There is not date set for the beginning of the dialogue, but we may assume that it will be in the autumn. I will be in Rome for that period, but there is nothing yet detailed. The Commission is already formed, by 3-4 people, but we cannot yet mention the names, even if to avoid any kind of pressure.

As to what he thinks of Vatican II compromises:

We will not make any compromise on the Council. I have no intention of making a compromise. The truth does not tolerate compromise. We do not want a compromise, we want clarity regarding the Council.

Clarity would be nice. Compromises, not so much. I can definitely agree with that, though His Excellency and I probably have different views on the subject.

And finally, a cause for optimism:

We certainly see in the Pope an authentic will to reach the core of the matter, and we cherish this with all satisfaction. We pray, and we hope, that with grace of the good God we will reach something that is good for the Church and for ourselves. . .

He is an upright man, who regards the situation and the life of the Church most seriously.