Thursday, December 19, 2002

Christmas break
I'll be back on December 30!
Traditional Catholic
The incomparable Peter Vere and Shawn McElhinney say pretty much what I mean in "What makes us Catholic traditionalists".
Fifth, Traditional Catholics worship according to a rite of Mass permitted by the Bishop of Rome. Some of the more common approved liturgies within the Latin Church are Pope Paul VI’s reformed usage of the Roman Missal, the 1962 Indult permitted by Pope John Paul II, and the Anglican Usage in the Roman Liturgy. As Traditional Catholics we do not impugn any of the Church’s approved liturgies. Rather, in keeping with Catholic Tradition, we adhere to the seventh canon on the Sacrifice of the Mass from the Council of Trent.

Wednesday, December 18, 2002


Alas, TCR is no more. I've read them almost daily for a couple of years now. I, of course, didn't agree with every jot and tittle, but they will be missed by those of us who were committed to orthodoxy, and not just conformity. Besides, Hand gave me publicity! :)
An exception to the rule
I usually don't do the "See this great post on so and so blog" type entry, but this one on the difference between conformity and orthodoxy is so good, I can't resist.
God is love, and since we are trying to bring people to God, we must bring them to Love. This is quite a different task than conquering someone in an argument.
This one may only be of interest to Packer fans
Here's a new one: Gotcher posting on SPORTS!

I get tired of the "I hate Bill Schroeder" crowd. He just another typical, mouthy [insert vulgar epithet] NFL player as far as I can tell. So he was kind of lippy and a little undisciplined in his play. Which would have been okay, of course, if he were a better receiver. No one would mistake him for pro-bowl status, but he WAS a walk-on, for heavens sake! I think the problems he had with the Pack say as much about the immaturity of Favre and the jerkiness of Holmgren than anything. Favre doesn't have the class of Montana. He flips people off after the game, etc. Montana (ND '78) would never do that. And Holmgren isn't dead last in the poll for favorite NFL coach for nothin'. Maybe I should replace Steve "The Homer" True on WISN radio. I like Duke Tomato, too, or at least did in the 1970s when he was with the All-Star Frogs.
The Two Towers
Even though I saw The Fellowship of the Rings I don't plan to see this one. I like the books too much. This is too bad because my kids are all gaga about the films (they are going tonight) so I miss out on an opportunity to share the fun. Well, I'll see the video when my daughter gets it. Maybe.

On the other hand, I disagree with Steven Greydanus when he says:
By almost any standard, The Two Towers is an immensely accomplished film; but the standard this film must be judged by is first of all Tolkien’s book....
As far as I'm concerned any film adaptation is an artistic reinterpretation of the original story and so is an opportunity for the director to put his own voice, his own values into the story. Kind of like how Virgil and Homer dealt with the Trojan War from slightly different perspectives. So, these films ought to be judged on their own artistic and interpretive merits, not on how accurately they reflect the ethos of the books. If Jackson wants to change Faramir, more power to him, but lets see what he does with him, whether it improves the story, or reflects important or true values.

The reason I don't want to see the film is not because it is not a slavish reproduction of the books, but because I don't agree with some of the new (Jacksonian) values that the films present. For one thing, he somewhat feministizes it, esp. concerning Arwen and Aragorn (Why can't we just have a strong, unangstridden hero in a film that women are supposed to enjoy?). Also, I REALLY think the Marian allusions in Galadrial are important in the original and making her into a witch was an interpretive mistake (especially since one the important aspects in the original was the discovery that the belief on the part of some characters that she was a witch was mistaken). From what I read of Greydanus' review, I don't think I'd be any more happy with the Two Towers.

Tuesday, December 17, 2002

Popcak's true colors
That cuts it! I've just bought two of Greg's books. Now I'll have to tear them up and throw them away. Or burn them. Or give them to E.O. Wilson. Or something. Next thing I know he'll be saying he doesn't like Star Trek!

At LEAST they could have criticized the text itself
Kevin Miller says,
Funny how the correspondent doesn’t actually take the trouble to identify any of the current missal’s alleged “theological problems.” It’s all a guilt-by-association screed.

And while I haven’t read Cranmer’s order, I’m somewhat skeptical that it denied that worship is “not a worship of God.”

The Missal of Pope Paul VI
After blogging about Buchanan I got a very strongly worded critique of Vatican II and the new missal, including the following:
the novus ordo Mass was designed by a "fifth columnist", Msgr. Annibale Bugnini, who in fact was a freemason, and when this fact was found out Pope Paul VI shipped him out to Iran to be the papal nuncio to the Shah. Bugnini was assisted by six protestants, representing Anglicanism, Lutheranism, the World Council of Churches (a front group for the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, by the way) and Taize. I invite you to compare the traditional Latin Mass (i.e., "tridentine" rite") with Cranmer's Godly Order, the heretical Anglican Mass formulated circa 1552, and today's novus ordo "liturgy". You will find that there are even bigger theological problems with the novus ordo than there were in Cranmer's Godly Order, which openly took the view that Anglican worship was a "meal" and a "memorial", not a "propitiatory sacrifice", and that worship was an "assembly of the people", not a worship of God.
I get so tired about all this carping about the defects of the new Missal. Whatever I might think about how the new Missal might have been composed (and I have lots of opinions about it), what we have is THIS one. And it is in its own way quite rich and deserving of our sustained meditation. The scripture readings are from the Word of God, for heaven's sakes! And so are the antiphons! We would all benefit from stopping all the carping and spending some time just quietly reflecting upon the ordinary, propers of the seasons and the commons of the Mass. Believe me, you can get every bit as deep a spiritual sustenance from these texts as you did from the old texts. So, I thought about spending a little time going through the new Missal (in Latin, because of the widely acknowledged defects in the ICEL translation), and try to plumb its depths. But I'm too lazy and I have a lot of obligations. So, I'll just settle for telling you all to QUIT CARPING AND BEGIN THE MORE BENEFICIAL TASK OF REFLECTING UPON THE LITURGY THAT DIVINE PROVIDENCE HAS GIVEN THE ROMAN CHURCH IN THE WAKE OF VATICAN II!

There! I feel much better.

Thursday, December 12, 2002

The web that is woven over all the nations
On this mountain the LORD of hosts will provide for all peoples A feast of rich food and choice wines, juicy, rich food and pure, choice wines. On this mountain he will destroy the veil that veils all peoples, The web that is woven over all nations; he will destroy death forever. The Lord GOD will wipe away the tears from all faces; The reproach of his people he will remove from the whole earth; for the LORD has spoken. On that day it will be said: "Behold our God, to whom we looked to save us! This is the LORD for whom we looked; let us rejoice and be glad that he has saved us!" (Isaiah 25:6-9)
The image of the web of death that is woven over all the nations, from the funeral liturgy, is a haunting one. This is precisely how I feel much of the time when I think of the culture of death in which we often find ourselves immersed. I look forward to the day when the web of abortion, euthanasia and capital punishment is lifted from our land and we can celebrate with "a feast of rich food and choice wines, juicy, rich food and pure, choice wines."
Buchanan on Catholicism
Pat Buchanan is dissing Vatican II again. The problem is, Pat Buchanan is on record as rejecting Vatican II. Thus, he puts himself outside the pale of Catholicism. One cannot reject an ecumenical council and call oneself Catholic.

The statistics Buchanan cites are true, but how does one interpret them? Is the statistical decline because of faithful implementation of Vatican II or because of dissent and a hijacking in the United States of the reform by priests, religious, lay people and sometimes even bishops of the authentic meaning of the documents of the Second Vatican Council?

A counterexample of the U.S. case is the diocese of Krakow in Poland. When Karol Wojtila implemented the Council it led to a flowering of Church life in his diocese. Why? Because his implementation was faithful to the letter and spirit of the Council.

I read these documents every year with my seminarians, and I am nothing but inspired by them. The vision that the documents themselves promote of the Church in the 21st century is one of exploding evangelization in word and deed. What the Council wanted was for the light of Christ to shine forth more clearly from the Church before all nations.

Let me go on record as unabashedly and enthusiastic standing behind (in fact, under) the Second Vatican Council.

Read the documents!

See also TCR's comment.

Wednesday, December 11, 2002

Hey, loan rates dropped again!
If you were thinking of refinancing....Note: I am not licensed to give financial advice.

Tuesday, December 10, 2002

And furthermore....
Kevin Miller adds in an e-mail:
As far as attempts at making this a matter of theological principle are concerned, though, I especially don't buy the "can't represent the bridegroom" thing, and I think you're right to say it's a form of Donatism (hadn't thought to put it that way, but makes sense). It's not like someone with ssa can't understand the meaning of nuptiality. We're talking an affective disorder, not an intellectual one (though it may have some intellectual consequences). Besides, does someone with heterosexual lusts really live nuptiality (yet)?
This kind of clear thinking is one of the reasons why his is ONE of my favorite blogs.
On ordaining men with same sex attraction

As someone who teaches at a seminary, I might be expected to have an opinion on this one. And those who are concerned with orthodoxy might expect me to take a certain position on it. Sorry to disappoint.....

From what I can figure out, there are a disproportionate number of seminarians who have significant same-sex attraction. I have no way of knowing just what percentage there are, but I'm sure it is much higher than the much less than 10% of the male population that have a chronic, engrained same-sex attraction. So, if an absolute prohibition were instituted, it would significantly affect seminaries.

I'm not so sure I agree that there should be an all-out ban on ordaining men with same sex attraction. First, I think it would be impossible to enforce. I agree with those who say that the only way for someone who has such a problem to deal with it is to address it squarely and honestly. A policy like this would probably result in a significant amount of duplicity, I think. There is already too much duplicity in seminaries (and in academia and in Church life in general) as it is.

Second, and more importantly, I don't think such a policy acknowledges the diversity that really exists in sexual attraction. Same sex attraction is a disordered desire, but there is not a monolithic type called "homosexual" or "gay." Some may have some same-sex attraction, but also have a significant amount of opposite-sex attraction. For some, it is a whole way of life (people who identify themselves as "gay," for instance.). For some, it is NOT their identity, but a very trying aspect of their overall humanity. Where does one draw the line? If you have ever in your life had a same-sex attraction or even an encounter, no matter what the circumstances, are you automatically excluded? I think the important points of discernment are a) homosexual attraction and the seminarian's attitude towards it, b) his enthusiastic acceptance of Church's teachings on sexuality and c) his demonstrated ability to live chastely ought to be a point of discernment, but I don't think there should be a comprehensive ban.

There are other questions people bring up, like whether there would be too much temptation in a seminary environment or the "boy's club" of the presbyterate and whether a seminarian that does not have a strong heterosexual attraction can represent the bridegroom. As for the first, well, isn't a parish setting quite a tempting environment for a lonely celibate heterosexual man? With all those women all over the place being involved in almost everything? As for the second, I think the Donatist controversy cleared that one up. Neither a priest's personal moral condition nor what disordered desires he experiences affect his ability to celebrate the sacraments validly. Remember, we all experience disordered desires. No one really knows for sure what causes them in us or in men with same-sex attractions (save that it is one of the effects of original sin). And even if we did know, would it really make a difference? I think not.

Oh, and for those who will think I'm "soft" on men with same-sex attraction because I've had these feelings myself, all I can say is, it ain't so. I don't remember ever having any same-sex attraction at any point in my life, even at my all-boy's boarding high school, where one might expect such a thing to happen to even a mostly heterosexual boy. I've always been attracted exclusively by women. You amateur Freudians out there can make of that what you will.
Mea culpa....
Did I say my favorite blog was Kevin Miller's? What I meant to say was that one of my favorites was Kevin's. The other, of course, is HMS Blog. There, Greg. Am I forgiven?
The Winter Sky
I find the winter sky to be much more beautiful than the summer one (although I really like the summer constellations a lot). Maybe it has something to do with the optical properties of cold air. Oh, I know, it really isn't winter yet, but when I was standing outside Sunday night looking at the clear sky, it was 11 degrees out. For a great site on stargazing, see Sky and Telescope web site. They have one of those nifty sky chart programs that lets you generate a map of the sky at any location at any time. It includes the planets.

Monday, December 09, 2002

A Kinder, Gentler Blog
In light of TCR's trenchant criticism of blogs, I'm hoping that my resurrected blog will avoid some of the worst offenses which Stephen Hand (?) enumerates. One thing for sure, though, is that blogs are often ego trips. (See the previously cited satire on Kairos). So is any publishing. And the young are especially susceptible to the lure of noteriety. My favorite blog, of course, is Kevin Miller's, which usually avoids the trap of trying to be simply clever.

Two things will be different about my new efforts. First, no comments boxes. You can e-mail me, though. This helps me avoid constantly trying to fish for comments. Second, I won't keep track of my stats via sitemeter. It is a waste of time. If you want to read, read! Otherwise, I'll just think of this as a kind of personal journal that I leave lying around.

Friday, December 06, 2002

Starting up again?
It is quite possible that at least during the Christmas break (which begins on Monday and ends in the middle of January) I may feel inclined to blog a few entries. Although, since my average readership has dropped to four, maybe it won't be much worth it!

Wednesday, October 09, 2002

Okay, just one more post, but you'll understand why....

Kairos on blogging. He was apparently peeking over my shoulder.

Tuesday, October 08, 2002

As much as I regret to do it, I am going to take a hiatus from blogging for an extended period of time to tend to some important matters at home and work (no crises, just setting my piorities straight). I had hoped to be able to engage in blogging and keep up with my other obligations, but I don't seem to be able to do blogging the kind of justice I want to and keep up with home, work and scholarship, so, until I can get my act together, I'll see you in the comments boxes! If and when I come back I'll let you know. Thanks to you loyal readers, the faithful 40 and thanks to you who have linked to my site. It was fun.

Monday, October 07, 2002

Structural Change
John Mallon asks Can someone please explain to me what is meant by "working for structural change within the Church"? My answer:

Okay, I don't like VOTF for about the same reason that John doesn't, but I do have a question: One of the reasons why this got out of hand was because appropriate canon law was not enforced by the bishops and their minions. The evidence that it wasn't JUST malicious malfeasance or dissent, but perhaps structural as well is that the problem is so widespread in diocese that are known to be all over the board theologically.

Question: is there some nonconstituative structural change one could make in the diocese that would compell the bishops or their underlings to be accountable, to actually use the canons we have? This wouldn't require change in Church doctrine or constitutive change in the structure of the Church. See what I mean? And I don't mean the Dallas protocol. That is structural change with a sledgehammer.

I'm no canon lawyer, and so have no proposals of a just solution to this question.
Ambient noise
I know I've mentioned this before here and here, but one of the things that sets our age apart from the past is the technological noise that we continuously hear 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Even at the retreat house you couldn't get away from it. There are all kinds of electrical hums, motor noises, engines, fans, etc. that keep our technological paradise running, but I'm convinced also keep us more on edge and more distracted than, what was I saying? Oh, yeah, that keep us more on edge and more distracted than we would be if we were actually able to experience real quiet or natural noises with no mechanical or electrical background noise. My body almost aches for this kind of peaceful, quiet experience.

By the way, Pippin survived the weekend thanks to the able help of Joey Vasquez, our sixteen-year old neighbor.
Modern Art
I spent the weekend at St. Joseph's Retreat Center in Bailey's Harbour on the Door peninsula of Wisconsin. It is a beautiful location, which is further enhanced by the beautiful artwork throughout the buildings. I was especially struck by a series of paintings of Jesus and Mary painted as American Indians. Sometimes this kind of thing can be irritating, but these paintings were beautiful and had a depth that some modern art is devoid of. I especially liked one of Mary with Jesus in a papoos at her feet. There was also one of Jesus breaking a loaf of bread and one of Jesus the Teacher. Somehow the stoic expressions on the reminds me of Byzantine icons.

There is also on display a serious of large bas relief wood carving by Fr. Herman Faulk, S.C.J. which were modern in style, but quite moving. Most of them were biblical narratives, such as the creation of Eve from Adam's rib, but there were two that depicted events of 9/11.

Finally, more evidence that my artistic tastes are not always simply classical, there is a small chapel there on the second floor that is built in an old cement silo. It is a wonderful meditative place. The altar is one of those bailing wire spools with a flat board on top. At the center is an open Bible. In front of the bible is a little log with the tetragrammaton engraved in it. To the left is an unusual tabernacle which is a kind of 2 foot high glass "hut" with a ceramic pyx in it. On the right is a burning sanctuary light. There are hurricane lamps handing from wooden beams that separate the chapel from the top part of the silo. Depite its lack of classical motifs and artistic style, I find this place to be very moving and can experience the presence of the Triune Mystery by sitting Indian style in front of the tabernacle and Bible.

Friday, October 04, 2002

In Vatican II: 40 years later: Grateful for Vatican II, even when we ‘get it wrong’, Weigel says:
Kraków had perhaps the most extensive and effective implementation of Vatican II in the world [Under Karol Wojtyla]. It began, not with consultants and experts and a vastly expanded ecclesiastical bureaucracy, but with reading: Thousands of Poles, from all walks of life, met together for two years, to pray over and read the actual texts of the Second Vatican Council before they began to think about the question, “What are we going to do about all this?” By the time questions of action were on the table, those people had made the council’s texts their own. In the jargon, they “owned” the council.
I weep for the Church in the United States.
Weekend Report
This weekend the faculty here at Sacred Heart go on a weekend getaway at a retreat house run by the Priests of the Sacred Heart in Bailey's Harbor, which is in the beautiful Door County, Wisconsin. I hope the weather breaks so I can go on a rowboat ride across the lake (can't remember its name).
I hope I'm not biting the Hand that links me on this one, but…
Stephen Hand just published a strongly worded critique of trends in contemporary theology, much of which I am in agreement with. As, for instance, when he says,
It is the fusion of nature and grace, especially, which reduces revelation to experience, and which makes so many Catholic teachers today essentially subjectivists, in the sense that mans interiority now becomes the source of revelation.
I especially like his affirmation of the close link between altar and tabernacle, even if the tabernacle does not need to be on the altar of sacrifice.

I’m wondering, however, whether he intends a blanket condemnation of all historical-critical study of the Bible when he says,
So-called historical criticism of the Holy Scriptures, to which these subscribe, likewise compromises the traditional understanding of objective, supernatural revelation.
The Church herself approves of historical-critical research so long as it is not burdened by philosophical presuppositions that contradict the faith and doesn’t claim to be the only method or the best method to get at the meaning of the Bible. H-C research does not per se compromise the supernatural.

It is clear, and maybe this is Hand’s point, that more than historical-critical research must be done to get beyond simply “what the author intended” to “what God intended” (which would not contradict the former, but may easily go beyond it).

See Dei Verbum 12.
12. However, since God speaks in Sacred Scripture through men in human fashion, (6) the interpreter of Sacred Scripture, in order to see clearly what God wanted to communicate to us, should carefully investigate what meaning the sacred writers really intended, and what God wanted to manifest by means of their words.
To search out the intention of the sacred writers, attention should be given, among other things, to "literary forms." For truth is set forth and expressed differently in texts which are variously historical, prophetic, poetic, or of other forms of discourse. The interpreter must investigate what meaning the sacred writer intended to express and actually expressed in particular circumstances by using contemporary literary forms in accordance with the situation of his own time and culture. (7) For the correct understanding of what the sacred author wanted to assert, due attention must be paid to the customary and characteristic styles of feeling, speaking and narrating which prevailed at the time of the sacred writer, and to the patterns men normally employed at that period in their everyday dealings with one another. (8)
But, since Holy Scripture must be read and interpreted in the sacred spirit in which it was written, (9) no less serious attention must be given to the content and unity of the whole of Scripture if the meaning of the sacred texts is to be correctly worked out. The living tradition of the whole Church must be taken into account along with the harmony which exists between elements of the faith. It is the task of exegetes to work according to these rules toward a better understanding and explanation of the meaning of Sacred Scripture, so that through preparatory study the judgment of the Church may mature. For all of what has been said about the way of interpreting Scripture is subject finally to the judgment of the Church, which carries out the divine commission and ministry of guarding and interpreting the word of God.
I’m not saying that Hand is contradicting this, but just that his language, in its vehemence, may have been imprecise.

I also would caution against too absolute a condemnation of neologisms. Sometime neologisms are necessary for the progress in our understanding of the deposit of faith. For instance, both homoousion and Transubstantiation were neologism proposed by theologians at one point, but were eventually absorbed into the dogmatic structure of the faith. Purgatory is another example of a neologism that was eventually accepted.

As noted, I'm in substantial agreement with much of what Hand says here.
Pope Gregory IX in On the canonization of St. Francis of Assisi
Behold how the Lord, when He destroyed the earth by water, saved the just man with a contemptible piece of wood (Wis. 10:4), did not allow the scepter of the ungodly to fall upon the lot of the just (Ps 124:3). Now, at the eleventh hour, he has called forth his servant, Blessed Francis, a man after His own heart (I Sam 13: 14). This man was a light, despised by the rich, nonetheless prepared for the appointed moment. Him the Lord sent into his vineyard to uproot the thorns and thistles. God cast down this lamp before the attacking Philistines, thus illumining his own land and with earnest exhortation warning it to be reconciled with God.
Does this sound like Zeffireli to you?

Pax et bonum!
On this wonderful solemnity I have nothing better to say that what Gerard Serafin has been saying on his blog. Also see the quote from St. Catherine on Kevin Miller's blog.

Kevin Miller suggested we get our kitten blessed to protect it from the owls, coyotes and trucks in our neighborhood. Maybe a good idea since he can get out the back door on his own (the latch brock and I haven't been able to fix it). We should get our bunny blessed, too.

Thursday, October 03, 2002

What I see in the mirror all the time
I like this from Mark Shea
The chief sin of the chattering classes is intellectual pride. They really believe they are smarter--and therefore better--than the mass of humanity. Sin darkens the intellect or, in plain language, it makes you stupid. And pride, the source of all the other sins, does it faster than anything else.
Fellowship of Catholic Scholars convention
I haven't said much about the convention last weekend, but it was great to be among faithful, intelligent Catholic scholars. And for those who think that orthodox Catholic scholars must be some sort of fringe group in academia, look at this list of speakers. Not a lightweight among them and several very heavyweight scholars. Also, it is nice that, although there is a fundamental agreement about the faith, there was a lot of legitimate disagreement about various issues, as their ought to be in the world of the academy.

I especially liked the talk by Sen. Rick Santorum, who was receiving the Cardinal O'Boyle Award. He spoke about how he came to fight the partial birth abortion battle on the senate floor and told very moving stories about he and his wife's own struggle with their severly handicapped son, Gabriel, who died two hours after birth. I'd like to read his wife Karen's book Letters to Gabriel.
Beautiful meditation on the divinity and humanity of Christ by one of the Church Fathers
This is from St. Gregory of Nazianzus' Third Theological Oration On the Son:
XIX. For He Whom you now treat with contempt was once above you. He Who is now Man was once the Uncompounded. What He was He continued to be; what He was not He took to Himself. In the beginning He was, uncaused; for what is the Cause of God? But afterwards for a cause He was born. And that came was that you might be saved, who insult Him and despise His Godhead, because of this, that He took upon Him your denser nature, having converse with Flesh by means of Mind. While His inferior Nature, the Humanity, became God, because it was united to God, and became One Person because the Higher Nature prevailed in order that I too might be made Goal so far as He is made Man. He was born-but He had been begotten: He was born of a woman-but she was a Virgin. The first is human the second Divine. In His Human nature He had no Father, but also in His Divine Nature no Mother. Both these belong to Godhead. He dwelt in the womb-but He was recognized by the Prophet, himself still in the womb, leaping before the Word, for Whose sake He came into being. He was wrapped in swaddling clothes -but He took off the swathing bands of the grave by His rising again. He was laid in a manger-but He was glorified by Angels, and proclaimed by a star, and worshipped by the Magi. Why are you offended by that which is presented to your sight, because you will not look at that which is presented to your mind? He was driven into exile into Egypt-but He drove away the Egyptian idols. He had no form nor comeliness in the eyes of the Jews -but to David He is fairer than the children of men. And on the Mountain He was bright as the lightning, and became more luminous than the sun, initiating us into the mystery of the future.

XX. He was baptized as Man-but He remitted sins as God -not because He needed purificatory rites Himself, but that He might sanctify the element of water. He was tempted as Man, but He conquered as God; yea, He bids us be of good cheer, for He has overcome the world. He hungered-but He fed thousands; yea, He is the Bread that giveth life, and That is of heaven. He thirsted-but He cried, If any man thirst, let him come unto Me and drink. Yea, He promised that fountains should flow from them that believe. He was wearied, but He is the Rest of them that are weary and heavy laden. He was heavy with sleep, but He walked lightly over the sea. He rebuked the winds, He made Peter light as he began to sink. He pays tribute, but it is out of a fish; yea, He is the King of those who demanded it. He is called a Samaritan and a demoniac; -but He saves him that came down from Jerusalem and fell among thieves; the demons acknowledge Him, and He drives out demons and sinks in the sea legions of foul spirits, and sees the Prince of the demons falling like lightning. He is stoned, but is not taken. He prays, but He hears prayer. He weeps, but He causes tears to cease. He asks where Lazarus was laid, for He was Man; but He raises Lazarus, for He was God. He is sold, and very cheap, for it is only for thirty pieces of silver; but He redeems the world, and that at a great price, for the Price was His own blood. As a sheep He is led to the slaughter, but He is the Shepherd of Israel, and now of the whole world also. As a Lamb He is silent, yet He is the Word, and is proclaimed by the Voice of one crying in the wilderness. He is bruised and wounded, but He healeth every disease and every infirmity. He is lifted up and nailed to the Tree, but by the Tree of Life He restoreth us; yea, He saveth even the Robber crucified with Him; yea, He wrapped the visible world in darkness. He is given vinegar to drink mingled with gall. Who? He who turned the water into wine , who is the destroyer of the bitter taste, who is Sweetness and altogether desire. He lays down His life, but He has power to take it again; and the veil is rent, for the mysterious doors of Heaven are opened; the rocks are cleft, the dead arise. He dies, but He gives life, and by His death destroys death. He is buried, but He rises again; He goes down into Hell, but He brings up the souls; He ascends to Heaven, and shall come again to judge the quick and the dead, and to put to the test such words as yours. If the one give you a starting point for your error, let the others put an end to it.
Shea on the Family
Have I already pointed out this wonderful essay by Mark Shea on the centrality of the family in Catholic social teachings? You don't need to answer that. Just read the essay.

Wednesday, October 02, 2002

"We have met the enimy and the enimy is us" -- Pogo
"If you heed his voice and carry out all I tell you,
I will be an enemy to your enemies and a foe to your foes"

Great! There are a few people I'd LOVE for God to fry about now! Let's see, there's....

Oh yeah, I forgot: my first enemy is my own sinfulness and ignorance. That is what God's mercy and saving grace will deal with first and primarily.
Fathers as priests
Long ago (1961) Clayton Barbeau wrote a wonderful book called The Head of the Family: A Christian Perspective. In it he points to one of the responsibilities of the father of a family that is not often talked about in ths solutions-based culture of ours: father as priest. One of the primary responsibilities of a father is to intercede for his family--his wife and children. I'd guess (and I have no anecdotal evidence to back it up since I'm so inconsistant about it), that if the father were to pray earnestly and regularly for the specific needs of his children, for their vocations and for their protection, there'd be less struggle about "issues" in the family. Why? Because we'd be relying more on the activity of the Triune God in the family and less on our own ability to figure out clever solutions or, worse, our own exercise of raw power. Since family is rooted in marriage and since marriage is a sacrament for Christians, there is an abundant river of graces available just for the asking.

I'm sure something similar could be said of mothers, but I also have a not-too-well-thought-out-or-defensible-at-this-point hunch that the father's priestly activity is unique. Can you tell I studied German in college?

By the way, I keep wanting to talk about the father's priestly "role" or "function," but both of those words are too extrinsic, as if the priestly responsibility were kind of coat that could be taken on or off just like a role or a function. The word the Church uses in this case is munus, which implies that the "role" flows from the very nature of the thing in question, and which has no English equivalent. For a great discussion of the significance of the word munus, see Janet Smith's Humanae Vitae: A Generation Later (Washington, D.C.: The Catholic University of America Press, 1991), pp. 136-148.

Tuesday, October 01, 2002

As promised, my liturgy post. Hang onto your hats: It is long.
I had hopes of writing a well-developed, somewhat scholarly post on liturgical reform, but realize I don’t have time, so I’ll just make the following reflections.

First, I think we can go very far toward renewal of the liturgy by simply using the missal we have now properly. Sacrosanctum Concilium makes the clear point that education is as important a means of renewal of the liturgy as reform of the missal. Even though some things have been lost in the 1969 missal, there are still many riches, and there have even been some gains, such as a richer selection of readings. Prayerful meditation on the missal, guided by reliable explanatory literature, could significantly deepen our experience of worship of the Triune God.

So, I’d say the first step in a reform is to a) make sure priests and communities are celebrating the 1969 missal properly and fully and b) to make sure that the priests and the people are properly educated as to the meaning of the various texts, gestures and symbols of the liturgy. Although I am strongly in favor of a more faithful retranslation, I don’t even think that is necessary for most people to have a much greater appreciation of the Mass. The lay people ought to be encouraged to use the gestures that are presently called for and priests ought to do all of what the missal says, not what they want, especially at the Consecration. For instance, if the rubric says to speak the words of institution into the cup, that is what the priest ought to do.

Following that, I have a few suggestions, most of which don’t require one iota of change in the current missal.

First, I’d suggest is that those aspects of the liturgy that are open to diverse expressions ought to be used to make the meaning of the liturgy more clear. For instance, hymns ought to be focused on the Triune God and the Incarnate Christ, etc. Petitions ought to be petitions for the needs of the Church and the world, not little sermons meant to inspire us to conform to some PC notion of what proper Christian activity in the world is.

As for art, churches ought to be well decorated in a manner that brings out dignity of the liturgy, as well as the symbolic element of the art. This includes for instance the shape and layout of the Church, as well as the incidental decorations and, for instance, the sacred vessels and vestments. I don’t favor one form of architecture over another. I’ve seen some pretty neat-o modern Churches that seem to bring out and enhance the mystery of the Mass. My personal preference, of course, is more classical. What would you expect from a blogger who names his blog what I did?

Music ought to be dignified and convey a sense of wonder and awe. Side note: I don’t mind guitars in Church so long as the songs are prayerful and meditative, even when joyous. For instance, I deeply appreciate the liturgical music of John Michael Talbot. I even like some of the St. Louis Jesuits stuff.

Finally, I am absolutely in favor of the ad orientem celebration of the Mass. I think that one change could go far towards recapturing for the faithful (including the priest) the sense of the mystery which we celebrate.

A note on language: I love Latin and would just as soon worship in it as English. It is a very beautiful and its use in the liturgy carries the rich theological and spiritual tradition of the West in a way that the English translation does not. Yet, I agree with the Council in opening up the liturgy to the use of the vernacular. I think Latin ought to be always used and available to a greater or lesser degree depending on the circumstances of the particular celebration (in other words, depending on whether the use of Latin will in fact, given the state of the congregation’s formation, enhance their ability to enter into the Mass (participate fully and interiorly). I think the faithful ought to be catechized to use Latin. I think there should be a restoration of much of the Church’s musical patrimony that is in Latin. I will always think, though, that in most cases at least the readings ought to be in English. Finally, I do think it would help a great deal to scrap the ICEL translation in favor of a more literal one. I like sacral language!

In a later post I will discuss the things I would change in the 1969 Missal, although I don’t think any changes are necessary or pressing.
Committee work
When one is on a committee one often has to develop policy which must take into consideration two legitimate values which seem to be in conflict. In such case I suggest the following procedure: First, one must hierarchize the values. Second, inasmuch as both values have essential elements for the policy, one must come up with a compromise that does not nullify whatever the essential elements. In doing this, one should first try to develop consensus on the issues involve. Then, if that is not forthcoming, one needs to invoke or exercise a legitimate authority to break any stalemate.

What do you think?
A rose by any other name....
St. Athanasius, in his Orations Agains the Arians uses any and every argument he can think of to counter the Arian threat. In Book I, 2, he uses the argument that Arius must be a heretic because his disciples are named after him. So, they are "Arians," not Christians. Athanasius uses the Marcionites and other heretics as parallel examples.

I've heard similar arguments made re: Lutherans. An analogous argument might be made concerning "Anglicans." I'm wondering, though, what one does with the Catholic insistance on being in communion with Rome and being, in a sense, a Petrine Church, especially in light of St. Paul's discussion in I Cor. 1:12 about saying "I belong to Kephas." Of course, we didn't come up with the name "Roman Catholic." I think Protestants came up with that for us. We prefer just plain "Catholic," and have traditionally preferred "Orthodox" as well, although since 1054 we don't use that as much.

Any thoughts?

Monday, September 30, 2002

Philadelphia Cathedral
How beautiful and rich! And the choir at the 11:00 Mass was stunning (even if the sound system made them sound tinny). It was nice hearing Bishop Martino both here and at the FCS convention. I felt like I was in Europe again.

The only slightly jarring things was the juxtaposition of ancient and modern art. For instance, the monuments to St. Katherine Drexel and to the 1976 Eucharistic Congress seem flat and uninspired compared to the older murals. Also, the reposatory wall for the Holy Oils is quite nice, but the modern approach seems a little out of place in a baroque setting. I've seen churches where such stylized statuary is perfectly consistent with the overal form of the building. Not here, though, I think.

I also liked the chapel, which is right next to the main church. It even has an altar rail (which they didn't use)!
Being in Philly this weekend brought 9/11 home in a special way. I've never been there before. It was moving to be on the very spot where the Declaration of Indepence and the Constitution were written, to walk the same streets as Jefferson, Washington, Adams, Franklin, Carroll, etc., and to think, while scarcely two feet from the Liberty Bell, that what this represents is precisely what is under attack, even if American foreign policy is self-serving, etc.

It was also nice being where so much Catholic history has occurred. The tombs of Ss. Katherine Drexel and John Neumann reminded me that the Catholic Church has a long history of holiness in this country. In Oklahoma, where I was born, Catholic history seems so remote. In Philadelphia it is part of the air you breath.
Latin Friday
If you don't catch Lady of Shalott's Latin Friday every Friday, I'd highly recomment it.
Lots to say
I have lots to say after such a full weekend at the Fellowship of Catholic Scholars convention in Philadelphia this weekend.

But first, to calm all fears, Pippin survived the weekend. No owls, coyotes, trucks or planes threatened him.

Thursday, September 26, 2002

The Cat
By the way, the kitten's name is Pippin, as in Peregrin Took. Our kids named him.
Ta ta!
I'm going to Philadelphia for the weekend for the Fellowship of Catholic Scholars conference, so no blogging for three days, rather than the customary two days. I'll try to write some of the promised posts on liturgical reform while gone.
Gospel of St. Thomas the Real Jesus?
I just read a review of a new book by John Dart and Ray Reigert called The Gospel of St. Thomas: Unearthing the Lost Words of Jesus (Berkeley: Seastone, 2000). The Introduction of the book is by the Jesus Seminar guy, John Dominic Crossan. One thing the reviewer points out dispassionately is that the editors believe that the Gospel of St. Thomas gives better access to the Real Jesus (a Gnostic) than the canonical Gospels. There are many people out there who agree, some of whom I know to be in very influential positions in the Church. For instance, I know a youth minister in a Catholic parish who prefers the gnostic Gospels to Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.

My main comment is that to believe that another gospel gives us a better Jesus is not Christian The Christian belief is that the New Testament gives us the most complete, accurate picture of who Jesus was and what he did than any other possible source, whether it be another gospel, the findings of historica-critical research, or some visionaries writings. Whatever the Bible says of Jesus squares with the historical reality of Jesus. Nor am I claiming a photojournalistic realism for the NT. No, many of the events and words of Jesus are elaborated upon, rearranged, interpreted, etc. The point is, though, that the reworking of the raw material itself by the evangelists enhances the fundamental accuracy of the Gospels.

Luigi Giussani makes this point in At the Origin of the Christian Claim. Some people, for instance, claim that the Gospels are distorted because they were written by people who knew Jesus and therefore were biased. Giussani says just the opposite is true. What they say of Jesus, especially of his character, is more likely to be true because they knew Him. That is why, for instance, Plato's portrayal of Socrates, esp. in the Apology, the Crito and Phido, is more accurate than Aristophanes' Socrates in The Clouds.
The wilds of suburbia
As I was walking through the woods on the way to work this morning I heard an owl hooting off in the distance. Interestingly, I was awoken in the middle of the night to the sound of a pack of coyotes baying. It seems that wild nature is still lurking on the margins of American suburbia.

The other thing one hears constantly at our house is the roar of Highway 100 (about a half mile away) and the rumble of the big trucks on Forest Home (about 1/4 mile away). Then, at about seven, the planes on their way to Mitchell International begin to fly overhead at about 30 second intervals.

This is quite exciting for someone who has a brand new kitten and doesn't want it eaten by coyotes, snatched by an owl or run over by a truck.

Wednesday, September 25, 2002

I have been waitinig for this moment for a long time....
Fresh from the comments boxes at Mark Shea's and other blogs, my very good friend, Kevin Miller, has his own blog called De Virtutibus. Kevin is a professor of theology at Franciscan University of Steubenville. He says,
I'm creating this blog in the hope that it will be a modestly useful resource for those interested in hot (or even not-so-hot) topics in moral theology - both practical issues, and, sometimes, theoretical ones - and perhaps especially (though not only) ones that have been treated in contemporary Catholic teaching.

Then he lists a bunch of issues he intends to tackle. Blog on, friend!
Gratitude corner
I am receiving enough notice in the blogosphere that I have, at the suggestion of a friend, added one of those "noticed by" lists at the left. If you link to me or mention me on your blog or site, let me know and I'll add you. Thanks.

Tuesday, September 24, 2002

Canon law! Yippee!
I'm a canon law junkie. Today in class we got into a discussion about a situation where a priest is invalidly ordained because of some impediment, then goes on to minister for 20 years. What about all the sacraments he's celebrated? I gave my opinion in class, which turned out to be close to the truth. I then asked one of our wonderful Milwaukee canonists, Zabrina Decker, about the situation. She affirmed that the sacraments would be invalid and that it would cause a great deal of havoc. She then turned to the principle that the Church supplies (ecclesia supplet) from Canon 144. It MIGHT apply in this case, depending on the details. Then she pointed out that the usual answer to questions of canon law is "It depends" because one must know every single detail before rendering a judgment.

The canon reads:
Can. 144 §1 In common error, whether of fact or of law, and in positive and probable doubt, whether of law or of fact, the Church supplies executive power of governance for both the external and the internal forum.

§2 The same norm applies to the faculties mentioned in cann. 883, 966, and 1111 §1.

By the way, on Miss Decker,
CLSA Selects 1999 Scholarship Awardee

The CLSA extends warm congratulations to Ms. Zabrina Decker, recipient of the 1999 Canon Law Society of America scholarship. This year's recipient is a 1988 graduate of Mundelein College, Chicago, with a B.A. in Religious Studies and a 1990 graduate of Loyola University, Chicago, with a master’s degree in Religious Education. Since the fall of 1997, Zabrina has worked full-time as a procurator-advocate in the metropolitan tribunal of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee. She entered the JCL program at the Catholic University of America in Washington, DC, in the summer 1999 semester.

I'm always willing to publicize the good work of our canonists.
Repeat after me, "V. Deus † in adjutórium meum inténde. R. Dómine ad adjuvándum me festína. Glória Patri, et Fílio, et Spíritui Sancto. Sicut erat in princípio, et nunc, et semper, et in sæcula sæculórum. Amen. Alleluja...."

This is awesome!
Why Catholics Can't Think (with apologies to Thomas Day)
I've so often wondered why there seems to have been a percipitious decline in Catholic intellectual life since the Second Vatican Council. Now I think I have an explaination. It comes from none other than Archbishop Fulton Sheen in this article on the decline of controversy. He says, for instance,

The Catholic Church perhaps more than the other forms of Christianity notices the decline in the art of controversy. Never before, perhaps, in the whole history of Christianity has she been so intellectually impoverished for want of good sound intellectual opposition as she is at the present time. Today there are no foe-men worthy of her steel. And if the Church today is not producing great chunks of thought, or what might be called "thinkage" it is because she has not been challenged to do so. The best in everything comes from the throwing down of a gauntlet--even the best in thought.

Here, here!

Monday, September 23, 2002

Essential Readings 2
A friend points out:

Three out of four of the liturgical essentials may be had with a subscription to Magnificat. Admittedly, the Hours found in it are abbreviated, but the material within is first-rate.
Kneeling Again?
Only long enough to recommend this insightful post by Fr. Jim Tucker pointed out by Emily Stimpson HMS Blog.

Jacques Maritain comments on this point in a chapter of his book Liturgy and Contemplation called "The Liberty of souls."

Against the pseudo-liturgical exaggerations it behooves one to defend the liberty of souls. This is what the Pope, Father and pastor of all, did, when he said in moving terms: "Many of the faithful are unable to use the 'Roman Missal' even though it is written in the vernacular; nor are all capable of understanding correctly the liturgical rites and formulas. So varied and diverse are men's talents and characters that it is impossible for all to be moved and attracted to the same extent by community prayers, hymns, and liturgical services. Moreover, the needs and inclinations of all are not the same, nor are they always constant in the same individual. Who then would say, on account of such a prejudice, that all these Christians cannot participate in the Mass nor share its fruits? On the contrary, they can adopt some other method which proves easier for certain people, for instance, they can lovingly meditate on the mysteries of Jesus Christ or perform other exercises of piety or recite prayers which, though they differ from the sacred rites, are still essentially in harmony with them."[17]

". . . It is perfectly clear to all," Pius XII writes again,[18] "that in the Church on earth, no less than in the Church in heaven, there are many mansions (John, XIV, 2).... It is the same Spirit Who breatheth where He will (John III, 8); and Who with differing gifts and in different ways enlightens and guides souls to sanctity. Let their freedom and the supernatural action of the Holy Spirit be so sacrosanct that no one presume to disturb or stifle them for any reason whatsoever."

Rome has always been vigilant in opposing any attempt to regiment souls. She knows that the spirit of the liturgy requires respect for the Gospel liberty proper to the New Law. On the contrary, in holding as valid one single form of piety, that in which each one acts in common with the others, and in demanding of all that by word and gesture they obey the liturgical forms with a military precision; in challenging or putting in question private devotions, nay even the adoration of the Blessed Sacrament outside of Mass, those who confuse liturgy and pseudo-liturgy impose on souls rigid frameworks and burden them with external obligations which are of the same type as the observances of the Old Law.

Another Week of Rollicking Blogging Begins
I'm back after the usual weekend hiatus. Unfortunately, I just don't have good enough internet connection at home to permit the luxury of blogging there.

Friday the Marquette Communio circle met at the Jes Res. We discussed Brian Daley's article about Patristic exegisis of the Scriptures taken from the Spring 2002 issue. The upshot for us was that whatever method one uses to read the Sacred Scripture, the goal is to allow the reader to more deeply enter into the mysteries revealed there. The idea is for the world of the Sacred Scripture to become more and more our world, the words to become our words. Inasmuch as the historical-critical method can help us do that, it is good.

On another note, I plan soon to start a series of entries on what I think would be a good idea in a effort to reform the reform of the liturgy. Stay tuned! I'm opinionated on this one! Think of this as a series like Emily Stimpson's Why the Church Rocks Even When Her Children Bite? series or Michael Dubruiel's series on the 73 Steps to Communion with God. I'm beginning to compose the entries now, but won't start until I get a few good entries under my belt.

Friday, September 20, 2002

HMS Blog is having a slugfest over the genuflecting before receiving Communion issue. What do I prefer? I prefer to kneel at the altar rail to receive Communion. That's my favorite act of reverence and one that has centuries of history behind it. When I have to queue, I prefer the profound bow because a) it is recommended and b) it doesn't call undue attention to myself, whose otherwise lack of obvious piety might be a scandal to others.

A story, I once made the mistake in a Roman parish of crossing my hands across my breast to receive Communion. This is the traditional act of reverence for Eastern Catholics (and a gesture I really like) Apparently, though, in the West this gesture means "I'm not going to receive, just give me a blessing," so the priest tried to give me a blessing and I had to tell him, "I'm receiving." It was a little embarrassing.

Probably what turned me off to kneeling to receive in a situation when most others stand was a woman I knew when I was volunteering in Appalachia in the early 1980s. She was a very ostentatiously devout middle-aged woman who was always trying to convert us recent college grad volunteers to her brand of piety. She wore a rosary around her neck, wore a veil to go to Mass, recited all 15 decades of the Rosary daily, etc. She changed her name to reflect her Marian devotion (I won't tell you her name, but it was different than the one she was baptized with). She also knelt to receive Communion when the rest of us (often admittedly lacking in devotion and piety) young people would walk up as we had done in our parishes at home. Well, I just couldn't warm to her zealotry. It seemed to be all about her and her spiritual superiority and not about Christ and His love for us inept spiritual schleps. What did I think of her at the time? I thought she was a flake. Why did I think that? Because, she was a flake.

Now, before you get all bent out of shape, I am not saying that people who genuflect or kneel are flakes. As a matter of fact, I agree with Greg Popcak that if they were to recommend or mandate it, I'd be the first to comply. It REALLY seems like a good idea to me. I just think that people who are unnecessarily ostentatious about their own piety distract others from what they should be focusing on.

Decorum may not be the highest liturgical value, but it is a liturgical value.
Telepathy and the Lidless Eye
I am simply amazed at the telepathic ability of so many Catholics. They seem so at ease explaining the motives for the behaviors of those they criticize that they must have an inside track into interior life of those unfortunate enough to be visited by their withering gaze. Two examples from liturgical piety should suffice to illustrate my point.

Receiving Communion in the hand: Is it really a sign of irreverence? How do we know the interior attitude of those who receive Communion in ways other than our preferred way? I received Communion in the hand for about 25 years before I returned to the more traditional practice. I switched with hopes that the practice would increase my sense of reverence and devotion, which at the time seemed somewhat attenuated. What I have found out is that my sense of reverence does not seem to have improved after taking up the "old" practice. In fact, I am still not comfortable with it, even though I've been doing it for several years now. I am much more comfortable (and am perfectly able to have a reverent attitude) when receiving in the hand. Will I return to receiving in the hand? Probably not. My family receives on the tongue and I would not want to stand out like that. But I will never assume that people who receive in the hand are more likely to have less reverence or less belief in the Real Presence than myself. Why? Because I know that I haven't changed much in that regard since taking up the traditional practice.

Eucharistic fast: Here's a good one. Some people still fast from midnight before receiving Communion. This is a very worthy and commendable practice, one that I should probably take up. But, those of us who don't practice it, and who pretty much stick to the 1 hour fast, are not automatically less devout than those who fast from midnight. It would be a shame for someone who fasts from midnight to see someone scarfing down a donut an hour before going to Mass and saying, "Gee, he's not very devout."

Obedience to legitimate authority is a perfectly good act of devotion. The Church, of course, does not demand that we eat before receiving Communion, but the freedom of the Sons of God leaves it up to us to work out how best to approach the Altar within the confines of the minimal demands the Church makes. Maybe, just maybe we should leave the judging to God, who knows the interior lives of those we'd like to condemn to additional centuries in purgatory for their impiety.
MUST HAVE books for Catholics
Here is a list of books that ALL Catholics ought to own, be familiar with and use regularly. A copy of each should exist in every Catholic household:

A Catholic translation of the Bible
A Sunday missal with readings
A weekday missal with readings
A one-volume Divine Office includes a complete morning and evening prayer
(The four volume set for the really hard core among you)

The Documents of the Second Vatican Council
The Catechism of the Catholic Church
The Code of Canon Law
A comprehensive, historically responsible lives of the saints.

I feel a STRONG compulsion to add The Lord of the Rings, (I'm beginning to feel like Dr. Strangelove.)

Note how much of this is available on line! So, if you are reading this, you practically have the whole library at your fingertips.

Am I missing anything? Comments, anyone? Or anytwo?

Thursday, September 19, 2002

Mercedes re-revisited ("all over again" to quote Yogi Berra)
First, it was nice to see that Emily Stimpson (in apparent ignorance of my post here) was looking to Brideshead Revisited in an effort to better understand Greg's point.

Second, I think the whole question of how high to raise the bar is a red herring. The bar should be only as high as the reality of the Church requires. Period. I really think that is what Greg is saying. In other words, a lower bar than the nature of the sacraments and the life of the Church requires is a betrayal of the reality of the Church and of the Gospel. And this is what happens a lot these days.
Reverence for Christ in the Blessed Sacrament

Emily Stimpson asks on HMS Blog:

In the days before the Council, was there a deep desire among Catholics to rip out the altar rails, stand before the priest, and receive the Eucharist in the hands? How did people react when that change came?

I only ask, because the University, in response to a recent statement from the bishops, is cracking down on students who genuflect before or kneel during reception of the Eucharist. The majority of students here are not happy about that. We all grew up doing the shuffle, shuffle routine and find genuflecting or kneeling far more helpful in preparing our bodies and souls to receive Christ. I still haven’t quite figured out why the Church did away with this form of reverence in the first place, and am curious to hear your thoughts, memories, etc.

From what I understand, the norms call for an act of reverence prior to receiving the communion. They don't say what that act of reverence is. The bishops have the authority to regulate that norm. They have ruled that kneeling or genuflecting is not an appropriate act at that time because it is disruptive and calls too much attention to one's self (at least it would at most parishes).

Prior to Vatican II the act of reverence was to kneel at the altar rail and stick out your tongue. After the Council many parishes did away with the altar rail and began the queue. I'm fortunate enough to attend a parish that still has and uses the altar rail, although I'm not adverse to using the queue, especially here at the seminary where there is no rail.

What are acceptable acts of reverence? For one of the Church fathers it was holding your two hands together in the shape of a cup in which to receive and worship our Lord. For myself, I prefer a (permissible) profound bow when I have to use the queue.

I am actually of the opinion, though, that the kneeling and reciting of the "Domine non sum dignus" qualifies as an act of reverence.

This reminds me of a debate that erupted in the early years of the Charismatic Renewal in the Catholic Church. The question arose: If the bishop were to tell a prayer group to stop praying in tongues, should they stop? There was a fairly heated debate about this one, some groups opting for (theoretical) defiance because tongues was so obviously from the Lord. The other group (whom I agree with) said, "No, as Catholics we have to submit to legitimate pastors, then if we disagree with their pastoral judgment we need to take advantage of legitimate channels to voice our disagreement."

Long and short of it: The bishops have the authority to regulate this norm and the students and others owe them the obedience due legitimate pastors. They also have the canonical right to express their concerns about the regulation to their pastors. I think it is not a legitimate option to publicly defy the clear directive of the bishops

Wednesday, September 18, 2002

The Church in the hands of the potter
Today we had a special reading at Mass from Jeremiah (18:1-6). It makes a good meditation for those of us who are "uncomfortable" with the "reshaping" the new "House of Israel" is going through these days:

1 This word came to Jeremiah from the LORD:
2 Rise up, be off to the potter's house; there I will give you my message.
3 I went down to the potter's house and there he was, working at the wheel.
4 Whenever the object of clay which he was making turned out badly in his hand, he tried again, making of the clay another object of whatever sort he pleased.
5 Then the word of the Lord came to me:
6 Can I not do to you, house of Israel, as this potter has done? says the LORD. Indeed, like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand, house of Israel.

Especially note the line, "Whenever the object of clay which he was making turned out badly in his hand, he tried again, making of the clay another object of whatever sort he pleased." Is this not precisely what the Church in America is going through?


What's stopping all Christians from being united?
A phrase from a hymn we sang at Mass today speaks of "You are the Word who calls us to be one." It occurred to me when I heard that line that God has given us EVERYTHING necessary to be united in Christ. If there is disunity among Christians, it is not because we don't have the supernatural resources to overcome our divisions. It is certainly not because Christian unity is a process that is not meant to be fully achieved until the parousia. Through the death and resurrection of Christ Jesus and in the Holy Spirit God has "broke down the dividing wall of enmity" between peoples (Eph. 2:14). All that is preventing us from being one is our own sinfulness and stubbernness. For some it is an intellectual sin, for others it is an attachment to a moral defect. At any rate, we are all accomplices inasmuch as we are not yet saints.
Mercedes Revisited (with apologies to Evelyn Waugh)
One correspondent writes:

The example Robert gives about telling somone they "will have to 'regularlize' your marriage and go to confession" is a false offering. This assumes their marriage can be regularized. What about the Mercedes of, you will have to break off your adulterous relationship (that is, your second marriage) and go to confession? Why is it that the bar is only being set a certain height. (After all, the indissolubility of marriage is the absolute hinge for Brideshead Revisited).

I don't know in what sense it is a false offering since it is a true experience of mine.

The example the correspondent offers is a different one and, of course, more difficult, since in order to regularize his relation to the Church he'd have to get a civil divorce, if an annulment of the first marriage were not possible. The solution is for the person to continue to attend Church, but not receive the sacraments. This is a very difficult position to be in psychologically and would require a great deal of pastoral sensitivity on the part of the pastors of the Church. But it would not involve the kind of nod and wink that Cardinal Kasper seems to want for the Church in Germany (My apologies if my understanding of Kasper's position is erroneous).

I often think of the example of one of my favorite professors in college (requiscat in pacem!). His love for the Church was very evident. He could think of himself as nothing but Catholic. Yet, he did not agree with the Church's teachings on birth control, and so--get this--stopped going to the sacraments. His integrity did not allow him to approach the altar while at the same time engaging in a practice that was explicitly condemned by the Church's magisterium. Would that others had as much integrity! I can only hope and pray that the good professor's obedience of his conscience was in good faith and that God will honor his commitment to the truth as he saw it.

Keep in mind that Grace is bigger than the sacramental system. God's knowledge of people's interior state is such that He may well shower with grace those that the Church falsely deprives of the sacraments. For all we know, they will have seats of honor in the Kingdom.

It seems to me that access to the sacraments is not a universal human right, but is a right for those who are either a) in a state of grace or b) interested in being in a state of grace. For the latter, one must have a clear intention of trying to conform one's life to the demands of the Church. I don't think canon law contradicts that.

I'd also say that the priest in The Power of the Glory is a special case because he is a minister as well as a member of the faithful.
Names for God
As Fr. John Courtney Murray points out in The Problem of God, one of the recurring questions that haunts mankind is, "What do we name God?" The story I read from Genesis about Jacob wrestling with the angel in the desert (Gen. 32:23-32) is relevant here.

I'm also reminded of my childhood. My grandmother and grandfather on my mother's side were Ruth and Bernard. They lived in a white, two-storey house on a five-acre plot just north of the Capitol building in Oklahoma City (aka Redneck City). We always called them Munder and Burnder. These names of affection came from the typical three-year-old blunder of my older sister. When she was little she used to hear my grandmother call from the kitchen for her husband in the barn. She'd say "Bern-ERD!" So Helen would call him "BurnDER!" Then when Burnder would call "Mo-THER!" Helen thought he was saying "Mun-DER." as a kind of similar word to Burnder. Thus, terms of affection are born!

This is like our theological and religious language for God. It is our attempt to articulate what we hear God saying of himself. We get it kind of right. So the words we use somehow reflect the reality of who God is, of his real name, but because of our limited understanding, it is not the full and proper name. But then, the words we do use reflect not only our feeble attempts to understand, but our affection for God and in a sense His affection for us. It helps establish an intimate relationship with God as we use our "special" language for the One we love, the best language we can come up with.

This is like Jesus using the word "Abba" or "daddy" when referring to His Father.
Dorothy Day on the Poor
Has she been canonized yet?
Mercedes Principle
There is a debate going on at HMS Weblog about what Greg Popcak calls the Mercedes Principle. This is a principle from sociology that holds that people are more attracted to things if they are more costly. In applying this to Catholicism, Greg makes the point that in America we often softpedal the demands of the faith in order to get or keep people in. (I see this happening all the time in regards to young people, especially the Church's teachings on sexuality and abortion.) Amy Welborn is concerned, however, that such a principle is often used to punish misbehavior on the part of marginal people.

A extended meditation on the Mercedes Principle in action is Evelyn Waugh's Brideshead Revisited. In this story a wealthy English family struggles with the hard (but ultimately compassionate) demands of the Catholic Church. Each member of the family must reconcile what he has made of his life with what he knows the Church demands of him, often leading to very messy and traumatic events. One gets the impression that if it weren't for the Church and her demands, the family would have simply imploded. Or would have been a shell with a rotten core. One of Waugh's side themes, by the way, is that this is precisely what those who do NOT cling to the Church do. They either become beasts or hollow men. This is a kind of sideswipe at Anglicanism, I believe.

I especially think of the deathbed scene when the family brings a priest to the father who has been estranged from the Church for years because he has been living away from the family with a mistress. The, you'll just have to read it.

I'd say in the end that the Church must be true to herself in her efforts to transform individuals. So, yes, there are some demands that many people, though people of good intent, will not be willing to make. As long as the Church acts with compassion (and compassion is part of the message), she has to leave with the Triune God always active in the world the kind of response people will make to her overtures. Not all will enter. Not all will stay in. Those that don't will not be denied the grace necessary for their salvation, should they choose to cooperate with it.

Note: I know many people who are in irregular situations in regard to the Church. One thing I find difficult is challenging them to return to the Church when at the same time the pastors of the Church are giving them Church Lite. So I say "Start going to Church again, but you'll have to regularize your marriage and start going to confession before you can receive communion," but that is NOT the message they get from the pastor, who seems to have a kind of "don't ask, don't tell" policy about people's personal lives.

Tuesday, September 17, 2002

Jung and Christianity
My daughter is doing a senior paper on Christian womanhood (Ah! the glories of home schooling!) As a resource for her I checked out a book by Ronda Chervin called Feminine, Free & Faithful. One thing I notice is that she relies somewhat on the wholeness theory of Carl Jung. Over the years I have become very skeptical about the applicability of Jungean ideas to Christianity, especially after having read Richard Noll's The Jung Cult. I've had arguments with some fellow orthodox theologians about this. I also noticed that those charismatics who relied most heavily on Jung also tended to drift into a kind of new agy spirituality, with a lot of imaging and dream work and all that. What do you average of 15 who read me daily think about this?

By the way, does anyone have any other suggestions for resources for my daughter's paper? I've had her read Mulieris Dignitatem.

Monday, September 16, 2002

Baby Boomers replace Ideals for Virtues thus completely mucking up the whole end of the 20th century and beginning of the 21st
Of course, I didn't think of it, Kairos did:

So much of what has gone wrong with America’s ability to lead in the world stems from the substitution of “ideals” for “virtue,” as in the replacement of “Justice” with “peace.” Ideals in and of themselves have little or no moral value. “Peace” cannot be understood as either good or bad without modification: “just” or “unjust;” whereas justice either is, or is not.
Venerable teachers
There is one thing that I simply cannot be is a venerable teacher. I can be a good teacher, perhaps (I'm not saying that I am, but it is theoretically possible for a young teacher to be a good one). But, to be a venerable teacher (and hence a great one), one needs to mull over his material for years. As James Schall says in the essay cited below:

There is a kind of "anti-wisdom" in academia today. The concern is with young professors, new things. And there is nothing more exhilarating than a young man or woman just out of graduate school, someone who has really learned something. I just read a doctoral thesis on Strauss from the University of Adelaide in Australia that was positively thrilling. But there are some things that require years of going over again and again. Plato died when he was 81.

I have read the CCC about four times now. I've read the four constitutions of Vatican II about 4 times. This does not qualify me to be an expert on them. I don't imagine that I will be truly insightful about them until after about 20 years of teaching them. They are SO rich!

The archetypal venerable teacher for me was Edward Cronin, of the Program of Liberal Studies at Notre Dame. He had mulled over the great books for decades and was so immersed in them that almost every word he said about them was a pearl of wisdom. One was especially in awe when he commented on the text of Ulysses, his specialty. He was inside the story. One could really feel his sorrow over Joyce's apostasy.

With grace and perserverence I hope to be a venerable teacher in a few decades.

Friday, September 13, 2002

Canon Law
There is a headline guaranteed to excite people! Actually, I have always found canon law to be fascinating, even exciting. I have never found it to be dry and remote, but quite pastoral. Everything in it seems to be geared toward creating a community that most clearly gives witness to the Good News about Jesus. Canon lawyers are SO sensible and not subject to hyperbole or being derailled by some strange extreme position.

Exhibit A would be Fr. Paul Hartmann, a canon lawyer of my acquaintance here in Milwaukee who was the administrator of our parish, St. Anthony's, while we waited for a new pastor and who teaches canon law here at Sacred Heart School of Theology.

Exhibit B would be the incomparible Peter Vere, who gives us this wonderful reflection on Canon 212.

Thursday, September 12, 2002

The most important institution in society is a) the individual, b) the family, c) the state, d) the corporation.
Mark Shea is at it again! He's saying what I think, but 1000 times better.

I'm not an apologist for multinational corps. I think they do often treat people wretchedly (Nestle's among them). As a Catholic, the center of my social theory is the family, not the individual (the fetish of libertarians), the state (the fetish of leftists) or the corporation (the fetish of the leaders of the Stupid aka Republican party)....Insofar as something is good for the family, it's good. Insofar as it harms the family, it's evil.

He should be a writer. No, wait, he IS a writer!

Wednesday, September 11, 2002

Percy and sola scriptura
Walker Percy, in The Message in the Bottle, gives what seems to me to be the best argument against sola scriptura that I've ever heard. First, he distinguishes between two types of statements, knowledge and news.

Knowledge is information that can be verified by the reader sub species aeternitatis, It that can be arrived at by anyone, anywhere, any time. For example, "lead melts at 330 degrees." Or "Man is a rational animal."

News is “A synthetic sentence expressing a contingent and nonrecurring event or state of affairs which event or state of affairs is peculiarly relevant to the concrete predicament of the hearer of the news.” For example, “There is a war party coming from a neighboring island.”

Next, Percy points out that the canon for acceptance of news are a) the relevance of the information for the predicament of the hearer and b) the credentials (trustworthiness) of the newsbearer. Then he states that:

The message in the bottle, then, is not sufficient credential in itself as a piece of news. It is sufficient credential in itself as a piece of knowledge, for the scientist has only to test it and does not care who wrote it or whether the writer was sober or in good faith. But a piece of news requires that there be a newsbearer. The sentence written on a piece of paper in the bottle is sufficient if it is a piece of knowledge, but it is hardly sufficient if it is a piece of news.

Clearly, if what the Bible presents us is good news, it not only has to be relevant to our predicament, but it has to be given to us by trustworthy newsbearers. And one cannot determine their trustworthiness from the text of the Bible itself! How do we know that the Apostles are trustworthy? Their trustworthiness is attested to by.......?

Note: In At the Origin of the Christian Claim, Luigi Giussani makes the point the the Apostles are more trustworthy, not less, because they knew Jesus personally.
One would hope that a theologian would have something theological to say about the one year anniversary of the terrorist attack (not "tragedy") on the United States. Well, I don't. The only thing I can think of is, as James Schall says, "We refuse to inquire whether there is anything about Islam itself that might be the origin of the problem." More specifically, does Islam (as Christianity does) have any resources in itself that can be used to authoritatively renounce terrorism? Quoting passages in the Qu'ran about civilians doesn't seem to help. The terrorists considered their victims to be "combatants" in the American economic and cultural war against Islam. Still, as Schall also points out,

Is there hope in dialogue? In "peaceful" means? This is the official line of the Church, even when Christians are under direct attack in Muslim countries. If there is any Islamic state that deserves to be attacked on humanitarian grounds, it is the Sudan. But we prefer martyrs to war.

A preference for martyrdom is not in itself lack of courage. In fact, it is quite courageous. But, a preference for martyrdom should not be a smokescreen for lack of resolve. Sometimes we are obliged for the sake of justice to engage in war. Do we have the courage to engage in a just war (assuming it can be sufficiently demonstrated to be just)? And to engage in it with the focus and energy necessary to win? Are we willing to make the sacrifice necessary (in lives, even) to secure a firmer peace for the whole world? If not, perhaps Schall is right that the soul of the west is sick. "The final lesson is that most democracies fail not because of some outside enemy, but because of something enervating in their own souls." By turning away from traditional values and virtues we have weakened our souls so that we sometimes can't even recognize, much less fight our real enemies.

Requiescat in pacem!

Tuesday, September 10, 2002

St. Paul on the ball
Boy, if today's first reading from 1 Cor. didn't give the Church in America a lot to chew on. Everything from "Christians don't file lawsuits against one another" to "sodomites don't enter the Kingdom." Where does one begin?
For those of you who despair of the future of the Jesuits, lets not forget that they have gems such as James Schall, Robert Spitzer, Joseph Koterski, Raymond Gawronski, William S. Kurz, and Michael W. Maher (no link available). Especially read the essay by Schall, pointed to by The Lady of Shalott which makes a non-Great Bookie case for reading classic literature.

Monday, September 09, 2002

Pet liturgical peeve #2489432
Buzzing flourescent lights in a church or chapel. Or those other kind of blueish lights like that have in the chapel here. I hate going into a chapel for silent mediation only to be faced with the nerve-racking flicker of flourescent lights (which I can see) or that "zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz
that goes on forever. Give me incandescent lights any day. Their color much more approximates candles anyway. They are softer and more "natural." Even if hotter and more expensive. Plus, I don't like blue-tinted liturgies.

Is this important? Not really.

Wednesday, September 04, 2002

Classical Education
Gosh! The very moment I foreswear blogging, this comes along! Classical Education. Now I REALLY will stop posting...unless something comes up.
Because of the pressures of beginning the school year at home and at the seminary I'm going cease posting for a few days. I'll miss you, too!
On a more personal note...
We academics actually have our own version of the "substitute x for personal holiness" trick mentioned in the previous post. We tend to substitute the generation of "great" ideas (or blog entries) for the performance of acts of love. We get wrapped up in our projects and act like beasts to those closest to us. I know of people, for instance, who have paid for their Ph.D. programs in theology with a divorce. This is a clear example of disordered priorities. I think those warnings in The Imitation of Christ against intellectual pride are right on. What good does it do to be able to define a virtue if you aren't living a virtuous life?

Tuesday, September 03, 2002

Diamond in the Rough
Forrest Gump is not a consistently great movie and I’m not sure what it really stands for, but one scene stands out as a true analysis of the relationship between personal holiness and the struggle for justice. I’m thinking of that scene at the Vietnam rally on the Mall in which the radical boyfriend of Gump’s childhood friend smacks her and blames it on anger at the poverty, violence and injustice in the world. The wisdom of the Church, and the best argument against the worst of liberation theology, is that the promotion of justice cannot be accomplished by those who are not pursuing personal holiness.

Walker Percy points out in Lost in the Cosmos, that in Nietzchean America, when all commitment to the truth is jettisoned, all that is left is the power of violence and lust. If we are under the sway of violence or lust, our efforts at improving society will ultimately lead to an equally unjust, if not more unjust replacement. That is one of the reasons it is an act of social justice to fight pornography, premarital sex, adultery, and other abuses of human sexuality.

The other reasons it is an act of social justice to fight sexual misconduct is that an act of sexual impropriety itself is a social sin as well as personal one. When I was in college (1977-81) I had a couple of friends who conceived a child out of wedlock. They were told by a priest that, considering all the poverty, violence and injustice in the world, what they did wasn’t so bad.

In once sense, this is true. Even the Church Fathers considered Anger to be a greater sin than Lust, primarily because of their anthropology. Lust issued from a lower part of the body, Anger from the middle part, and Pride from the mind. So Pride was the worse sin. Still, Lust is one of the Capital Sins.

At any rate, at the time my faith was completely unformed, after umpteen years of CCD and religion in Catholic high school, so I didn’t know how to respond. I have come to believe, however, that every abuse of our sexual powers is not only a personal sin, but a time bomb that explodes in the fabric of society. Adultery, for instance, is an act of social injustice.

As a result, the government, in its efforts at promoting the common good, has a vested interest in regulating sexual activity (even if sexual sins can never be eliminated). That is why, for instance, divorce should be made difficult. Society has an interest in all but truly abusive or fictitious marriages staying together.

Note: I am not simply equating divorce with adultery. Obviously some divorces are justified on a civil level. Adultery never is. But I do believe that divorce is a blight on American society and should be inoculated against at every opportunity. The best way, of course, is to promote truly holy marriages through adequate preparation, not only just prior to the marriage, but throughout the education of the young by home and school.

Of course, anger and the resulting violence are equally, if not more inimical to the pursuit of justice than lust and sexual sin. If we fall easily into anger and violence, we not only put our friends and neighbors in danger, but run the risk of ruining our efforts at promoting justice.
What ties your guts in a knot?
One thing reading about the patristic period is how seriously they took Trinitarian theology. All that business about processions and homoousion was not just an academic exercise, but seemed to be a matter of life and death, something which occupied their whole hearts, not just their minds.

Also noteworthy is the prominence that bishops played in the development of doctrine. They didn't just hang out in the wings and wait for professional theologians to duke it out, then "approve" of the winner after the fact.

In our day what seems to exercise people the most are liturgical questions, esp. those having to do with "inclusive" language. Grrrr. See? My stomach is in a knot already? There is a connect, however: the language used in the liturgy has to do not only with theological anthropology (What is man?) but, as Hans Urs Von Balthasar has pointed out, with the doctrine of God. What does it mean to call God Father? Mother? Parent?

Will future generations look at the liturgical battles of our era and thank God for the doctrinal developments that come from them? Will they see bishops taking the lead and actually courageously teaching the true faith in the name of Christ? Inquiring minds want to know.