Thursday, April 25, 2013

Crusading, Homiletics, Mysticism and More on USC!

I have not had a lot of time to write lately; a lot of things going on in my personal and professional life, but I have been doing a tremendous amount of reading and know that this will bear fruit in the near future as I get some more time to devote to writing, which is my favorite past time.

But, for now, here are some recent articles on the Unam Sanctam Catholicam website:

Books of the Liturgical Choir: The latest installation in our series on liturgical music and Gregorian Chant, examining the history and content of the Books of the Liturgical Choir of the Roman Rite.

Crusaders and Conversion: Historical inquiry into the question of whether, and to what degree, the Crusaders used violence or the threat of violence to bring about conversion of Muslims.

Introducing Liturgical Quod Libets: A new feature on the USC website in which we examine contested points in the Novus Ordo liturgy and attempt to resolve them using the Church's documents, history and common sense.

The "Wholesome Sweetness" of Good Homilies: A lesson in homiletics from St. Augustine of Hippo, taken from his classic work De Doctrina Christiana.

The Need for Theological Precision: A demonstration on the need for greater theological precision in modern Magisterial statements, using the example of the definitions of "scandal" given in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

Revisiting the Cloud of Unknowing: A brief look at the spirituality of this classic work of late medieval mysticism.

St. Blane of Scotland (sancti obscuri)
St. Hybald of Bardney (sanci obscuri)

Movie Reviews
Masada (1981)
The Bourne Legacy (2012)
Act of Valor (2012)

Some other new things coming up:

I was unaware all this time that, despite the fact that my free RCIA outlines are viewable through the Mediafire site I am storing them on, they cannot be downloaded unless you install some very questionable and spammy looking software from Mediafire. Therefore, over the Spring I am going to be converting them from Mediafire over to Scribd so they can be not only viewed but downloaded as well. Hopefully this will be complete by summer.

In other news, my article on Cardinal Kasper admitting intentional ambiguity in the Vatican II documents became the most viewed page in the history of this blog, beating out long-standing champion Is Padre Pio Incorrupt? The article was linked up both on the Remnant website and on that of National Catholic Register, which no doubt helped with the hits.

Bless you for your continued patronage of this site.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Bergoglio contradicts pundits account

Why is there so much disinformation about Pope Francis' past as Cardinal Bergolgio? I ask this not coming from any perspective, but just from the view of a layman who is trying to figure out what sort of individual our new pope is. To this day people are still disputing the status of the Extraordinary Form in the federal city of Buenos Aires; conservatives insist Summorum Pontificum was implemented with zeal by Bergoglio while Rorate Caeli has brought forward very convincing evidence suggesting that it was not, which is still being denied by many in the mainstream Catholic blogosphere.

Then there was the rumor about Pope Francis refusing the mozzetta and telling Cardinal Marini, "You put it on; this carnival is over," followed by another rumor that that first rumor was unsubstantiated. There was the story about the Pope banishing Cardinal Law, followed by vehement statements by Fr. Tomas Rosica and Fr. Federico Lombardi that this story was completely made up.

Here is the most recent case of confusion-disinformation:

When Pope Francis was first elected, this picture was circulated around the Internet, suggesting that he had participated in an ecumenical prayer gathering and allowed himself to be "blessed" by a Protestant minister. The Remnant, as well as some more mainstream blogs, chimed in and stated that Bergoglio was not in fact blessed by a Protestant minister; what really happened, they said, was that Bergoglio knelt down to receive a blessing from Fr. Cantalamessa when the Protestant minister stepped in to add his 'two cents' and blessed Cardinal Bergoglio without his explicit knowledge or permission. Everyone breathed a sigh of relief.

Now we have Pope Francis in his own words contradicting the revisionist version of the story. With the appearance of Bergoglio's 2010 book On Heaven and Earth contains his own account of the event, which he discusses in the context of speaking about undue "rigidity":

At another stage, Francis warns of the dangers of “rigid religiosity” and “fundamentalism.”

“This type of rigid religiosity is disguised with doctrines that claim to give justifications, but in reality deprive people of their freedom and do not allow them to grow as persons,” he says. “A large number end up living a double life.”

Francis acknowledges that he’s felt the sting of that rigidity himself, especially in criticism of his pastoral style over the years.

He describes once attending an ecumenical service in Argentina that brought 7,000 Evangelicals and Catholics together, where the Evangelical pastor asked if it would be okay for everyone to pray for him.

Francis says he knelt down to receive the blessing (among other things, anticipating his now-famous gesture the evening of his election to the papacy,) and the next week a traditionalist magazine carried the shot under the headline, “Buenos Aires sede vacante: Archbishop commits the sin of apostasy.” (source)

So, Bergoglio knelt down to receive a blessing from Cantalamessa and the Protestant stepped in to add his own 'two cents', unbeknownst to the Cardinal? According to Bergoglio himself, it was the Protestant who asked him if he could receive a blessing, and Bergolgio knelt before the Protestant with full knowledge of what the Protestant minister was doing.

Thus, Bergoglio himself, in his 2010 book, contradicts the accounts of the pundits who were offering the Cantalamessa excuse to explain away the event.

It is not my point here to comment upon the propriety of Bergoglio doing this. My point is to ask why is there so much misinformation about this pontiff?  It is not that two sides are disagreeing on the meaning of the facts; it is tremendously difficult to get a straight answer on what the facts are. Why is it so hard to get the facts? Why so much misinformation, and who is behind it? Even his daily homilies are only being reported anecdotally, with out the published text.

I am not in any way blaming Pope Francis for any of these ambiguities. I am voicing my frustration that well-meaning Catholics who simply want to know what kind of man the pope is cannot get straight information. This is tremendously frustrating, and I suspect the answer is that a certain group of people have  a vested interest in putting a particular spin on things. Strange times, indeed.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Kasper Admits Intentional Ambiguity

Cardinal Walter Kasper made a stunning statement in the pages of L'Osservatore Romano this past Friday. In offering some reflections on the challenges facing the Church and the continued (perpetual) problem of the "true implementation of Vatican II", Kasper, speaking with reference to the documents of the Council, stated:

"In many places, [the Council Fathers] had to find compromise formulas, in which, often, the positions of the majority are located immediately next to those of the minority, designed to delimit them. Thus, the conciliar texts themselves have a huge potential for conflict, open the door to a selective reception in either direction." (Cardinal Walter Kasper,  L'Osservatore Romano, April 12, 2013)

In the Cardinal's statements, we basically have an affirmation of a fundamental thesis of Michael Davies and most Traditionalists: that the Council documents themselves have ambiguities in them and are subject to a multitude of interpretations. This concept of Conciliar ambiguity has been denied by many conservative/pop apologists, who insist that the Council documents are plain as day and it is only the malice of dissenters pushing a false implementation that is responsible for our current confusion.

Traditionalists, however, and ironically, Kasper, too, have insisted, however, that the destruction that followed the Council can be read back into the documents themselves. Even if the Council Fathers did not intend for the disaster that followed the Council (and most agree they did not), the documents themselves were constructed in such a way as to permit progressive interpretations when put into the hands of progressive theologians or bishops. Contra the conservative mantra of "perfect documents - imperfect implementation", Kasper affirms the Traditionalist critique of "imperfect documents lead to imperfect implementation." Benedict XVI had made the same point. There is an intimate connection between the documents and their implementation.

But Kasper does more than just admit that "the conciliar texts themselves have a huge potential for conflict"; he goes on to state that these ambiguities, these potential conflicts, were part of an intentional program. He does not simply say the texts will bear various interpretations, but that these ambiguous passages were "compromise formulas" brought forth to placate two opposing sides, in such a way that they can be interpreted in an orthodox manner, but just as easily can be twisted by the progressives to lend seeming support to their mischief.

These are what the late Michael Davies called the "timebombs" in the conciliar texts. Davies wrote, "These 'timebombs' were ambiguous passages inserted into the official documents by the liberal periti or experts - passages which would be interpreted in an untraditional, progressivist sense after the Council closed." (Michael Davies, Liturgical Timebombs, Rockford, Ill: Tan Books, 2004, pg. 23). Davies borrowed the phrase "timebombs" from Archbishop Lefebvre's book A Bishop Speaks, which had basically put forward the same argument. In Kasper's interview, we have nothing less than an admission that there were not only timebombs, but that they were placed there intentionally, and in this he and Lefebvre are in agreement. This is a stunning admission.

Kasper made many other interesting statements that undermine other aspects of the conservative narrative of the Council. For example:

For most Catholics, the developments put in motion by the council are part of the church’s daily life. But what they are experiencing is not the great new beginning nor the springtime of the church, which were expected at that time, but rather a church that has a wintery look, and shows clear signs of crisis.

This is contra to the prevailing mantra from the JPII era that we are experiencing a 'new springtime" and a candid admission that there is in fact a crisis, despite the fact that some, such as Cardinal Timothy Dolan, continue to deny this plain truth. This simple admission of fact, that the Church is in crisis and is not experiencing the promised post-conciliar springtime, is of considerable importance in moving forward, and whatever else we may think of Kasper, I appreciate his sincerity here.

Speaking of the confusion that ensued after the Council, Kasper said:

"For those who know the story of the twenty councils recognized as ecumenical, this [the state of confusion] will not be a surprise. The post-conciliar times were almost always turbulent. The [Second] Vatican, however, is a special case."

This important admission, which I have also stated elsewhere, really debunks the conservative Catholic talking-point that what we are experiencing in the modern Church is normal, since there is 'always confusion after a Council.' That may be true, but Kasper notes that the confusion that followed Vatican II is "a special case", different from the turbulence of previous periods. This, too, is a point that is often made by Traditionalists, who see in the Second Vatican Council not just another ecclesial event with the standard level of confusion after the fact, but rather a new kind of ecclesial event that cannot be so easily classed alongside the Councils of the past.

Cardinal Kasper affirms the positions of Michael Davies, Lefebvre and the Traditionalists? These are strange times, indeed.

There is a paraphrase of Kasper's comments here, or you can read the original through Google translate at this blog. As of yet, the L'Osservatore Romano Englsih site has not posted the articles from the previous week, but I will link it up when it becomes available.

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Tuesday, April 09, 2013

The Flame of Endurance

I have a certain acquaintance from a few years back who was raised Protestant. He gradually came to see recognize the claims of the Catholic Church through independent study and was convinced that he needed to enter the Church. He knew very much about the "academic" part of Catholicism; that is, he could offer all the arguments in favor of the Church's claims, knew a lot about her history, and could explain Catholic theology better than most Catholics. He was willing to cross any river or burn any bridge necessary to come home to Rome. When he understood that Latin was the official language of the Catholic Church, he went off an enrolled in a two-year course in Latin to learn the language of his beloved. I was particularly moved by this; how many people, if confronted with a Church speaking a foreign language, would demand that the Church change rather than they change? But this individual's attitude was, "Well, if the Church of Christ speaks Latin, I'd better learn Latin." If only more people took this approach...

Unfortunately, the Church he studied his way into, the Church he fell in love with, in fact did not exist. He spent two years studying Latin because he thought Latin was the language of the Church - and in a technical sense it certainly is - but my friend gradually became saddened as he realized that Latin had been all but banished from Catholic liturgical usage.

The intellectual arguments he learned in defense of papal authority lost their edge as he witnessed the popes apparent embarrassment at the traditional teaching, and their subsequent consistent refusal to exercise the power that they spent centuries previously insisting upon. The boldness that characterized Gregory VII's interactions with Henry IV or Innocent III's dealing with King John had fled, or been banished, from the Vatican. The Church had insisted for centuries that it wielded a sword of spiritual power bequeathed to it by Christ - why now did it refuse to wield the sword that God gave it?

He was saddened and confused that the simple yet powerfully eloquent teachings of the saints found no parallels in modern writing or preaching, and could not understand why the beautiful structures that were the glory of Christendom were being replaced and in many cases destroyed in favor of ugly modern structures constructed on secular humanist principles. Most of all, he was distraught that the Church that had produced so many martyrs, who had suffered death in defense of the purity of the faith, was now no longer proclaiming the uniqueness of that Faith in undiluted purity, but seemed intent upon affirming non-Catholics where they were, implying to them that their own religious traditions were also salvific, and that there was really no need for formal union with the Catholic Church.

The fact that the above mention demolition of the traditions of the Church was not happening externally but was being aided and abetted by the Princes of the Church and the successors of the Apostles was especially devastating. He realized that the Church today is very weak, weak because it chooses to be. Weak because it will not clearly proclaim the message entrusted to it by Christ, weak because its people and prelates do not seek holiness, weak because the Church refuses to take up the weapons and armor our Lord left with it and instead tries to muddle through on its own.

I caught up with this acquaintance a few weeks ago. I honestly expected him to be the sort of person who would have gone over to the SSPX, but surprisingly enough he told me he was attending a standard Novus Ordo parish. We talked about the Church and the future of Christianity and what one could concretely "do" about the problems we are facing. He said that the Church ultimately belongs to Christ, and its destiny is in His hands, but when I asked him what he thought we should be doing to help restore our Faith, he said that years of anger and given way to a more peaceable reflection and realization that the only thing that would restore the Faith, the only thing that has ever restored the Faith, is saints. We need saints. "I am quietly striving for sanctity" he told me, "in my own way, taking the saints and the fathers as my guides, and in many respects, pretending like the current crisis is not happening."

He of course did not mean pretending the crisis isn't happening in the sense of denying it, but it did mean that whatever else is going on in the world, a person's life and destiny is between them and God alone. The path has been charted centuries ago, the road marks are all there, the saints are guiding us onward. This remains true whatever is going on in the Church. His attitude seemed to be, "If things are bad, well, this is another chance to practice detachment and another opportunity for holiness." In a certain sense, nothing has changed - the soul still must seek God, God still makes this grace available, and we still must respond to His grace as in every age.

I was heartened by this response, because too often the mess we see ourselves in can lead us to despair. I myself have been guilty of it- focusing so exclusively on the negatives and the things that are wrong that the virtue of hope gets eaten away until we have nothing left to go on. Ironically, the destruction caused by those who view the Church merely as a human institution to be reformed at will can have the effect of leading us to the same conclusion - the Church as a human institution whose restoration depends on human will alone.

This was part of the philosophy that led me to create this blog's sister site, a place where Catholic Tradition and history are studied and reflected upon, almost without reference to the modern crisis, inasmuch as that is possible. One can never escape the age one lives in, but it is helpful to remember that God put us here for a reason. He wanted us to exist here and now rather than in some other age, and this presumes that He has allowed us to live through these times with very good reason. It is reminder of His plan, which itself is a reminder that He is in control and that we have to keep alive the virtue of hope, by which we not only anticipate the triumph of God back actually appropriate it, making it real even now in a mystical way. This is the foretaste of heaven. This is the spark that vivifies the Church, the flame that gives endurance to the saints and will give endurance to those who remember to seek God's will in all things and desire Him above all things. We must persevere in faith, yes, but allow faith to nourish the virtue of hope, and through the fire of hope to take hold of charity.

I desire the liturgy to be restored as soon as possible. But I desire God's will above that, and if God has willed for us "seventy more years" of exile as He did for the Jews, then I love His will more than my preference. I desire the Church to be glorified and grow and win souls, but God's will. We know how it ends, and knowing this, we can enjoy true rest, true interior peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, even if the Church is in turmoil, even if the faith is forgotten everywhere other than in our own hearts, even if the very world itself collapses around us. In all this, God is in control, Christ is still on the throne, and "the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the coming glory to be revealed to us." (Rom. 8:18)