Monday, December 29, 2014

What took Robert Tracinski so long?

You know things are getting pretty bad when a libertarian atheist devoté of Ayn Rand links arms (albeit grudgingly) with conservative religious types. That’s just what Robert Tracinski does in his Federalist post, “Confessions of a Reluctant Culture Warrior”.

Why would it be such as surprise? Because libertarians tend to be liberal where a Christian who takes traditional Christian morality seriously ought to be conservative, and vice versa. Because many atheists, like Tracinski himself, object to select parts of traditional Christian morality, and clamor that adopting anything they don’t like into law is tantamount to enacting a “Judeo-Christian Sharia” or a “theocracy”. Because Ayn Rand’s objectivism is, as Marina Galperina so charmingly put it, “the philosophical system for people who pleasure themselves over thoughts of laissez-faire capitalism and believe that self-interest is the highest moral purpose and that’s that, the objective truth, f**k you;” Tracinski proposes it as a “third way” precisely because it isn’t and can’t be considered a religion-based ethos.

Whatever else you can say about self-interest, though, it can occasionally prompt you to recognize that precedents established to destroy your cultural nemeses can — and often will — be turned against you and your allies sooner or later. And in the struggles over the last year, from the Hobby Lobby decision to gendered toys, Tracinski, whose normal position on cultural issues was “Could we talk about something else, please?”, heard Martin Niemöller begin his famous poem with a new line: “First they came for the Christians ….”

Tracinski the libertarian objectivist atheist has finally seen the Progressivist Thought Police on the march.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Merry Christmas

Shut your computer off. Go play with your kids; eat some food; hug your spouse; go to midnight Mass ... whatever. Do something with your Christmas that isn't staring at a monitor and is engaging with the people in your house and neighborhood.

Merry Christmas, and happy New Year.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Virginity is Not Purity

Purity ring. (Photo source:
There are three posts you should read: “Christians, Stop Staying Pure Till [sic] Marriage” by Sarah (last name unknown), “I Didn’t Wait For My Future Spouse, and You Shouldn’t Either” by Daniel Wilde, and “I Kept My Virginity, But Not My Purity” by Danielle Renfrow. By no means do these young Christian writers — two single, one married — suggest that other Christians engage in premarital sex. Rather, all three are critics of the Evangelical “purity movement” and the language with which it’s been taught.

Until recently, there’s never really been an explicit Christian theology of sexuality to tie the various prescriptions and proscriptions of sexual behavior together. You could even say, with some justice, that Christianity has always been ambivalent about sex.

On the one hand, the Church long ago rejected the Gnostic position that even sex for the sake of reproduction was sinful; on the contrary, she taught that marriage, childbearing and childrearing were positive goods. On the other hand, passages from both Christ and St. Paul suggest that people could pursue celibacy “for the sake of the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 19:12), that there is something of value to celibacy that doesn’t obtain to marriage (vide 1 Corinthians 7:32-34).

This ambivalence persists about fornication. Considered strictly as sex between two unmarried people, with the implication that neither one intends or is committed to marry the other, it has always been considered a sin (e.g., St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica II-II:154:2 SC); however, as a pastoral matter, its gravity was (and still is) often underplayed. And premarital sex — that is, sex between people who do intend to marry — hasn’t always been considered a grave matter in every time by every communion.

So marriage has always been good — but not better than celibacy, while fornication has always been bad — but not always as bad as other sexual sins. Nevertheless, the idea that sex is an unclean necessity isn’t authentic to the Christian tradition. That fact, however, hasn’t stopped some Christian idiots from teaching it as a “biblical” principle. (Exhibit #2,623 in the case against sola scriptura.)

Thursday, December 18, 2014

The Final Report: three decades too late

Religious Sisters of Mercy. (Source:
Tuesday, December 16, saw the Holy See’s Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life (CICLSAL) release its long-awaited final report on the apostolic visitation of American institutes of women religious. Initiated during the pontificate of Benedict XVI, many of us saw it as the beginning of a thorough house-cleaning, while many nuns and liberals saw it as the beginning of a misogynistic oppression by a patriarchal Church.

The Final Report, however, was not the severe tongue-lashing many orthodox Catholics expected. Between the initiation of the visitation in December 2008 and its conclusion in 2012, the dicastery changed prefects, from the outspoken Lazarist Cdl. Franc Rode to the more conciliatory secular bishop Cdl. João Braz de Aviz. (Secular, in this context, simply means “not attached to any specific religious order”.) Both men have had concerns about the weakening of religious orders by liberalizing trends; +de Aviz said in an interview that he was nearly driven out of the seminary and the Church by liberation theology. Nevertheless, +de Aviz chose to take a more soft-pedaled approach with the skittish, distrusting women religious the Congregation would study.

As a result, the Final Report — which is more of a generalized executive summary — has copious praise for the work women religious have done and are still doing. Specific criticisms are presumably restricted to the reports the Congregation “foresees” will be issued to “those Institutes which hosted an onsite visitation and to those Institutes whose individual reports indicated areas of concern.”

Nevertheless, there is some steel underneath the velvet glove: not every paragraph is either laudatory or exculpating. Moreover, the report points to data which indicate that, for many American institutes, the visitation has come two or three decades too late to save them.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

The Battle at the Communion Rail

Communion rail, Church of the Holy Ghost, Tiverton, RI
(© 2012 Fr. Jay Finelli)
The new pastor of the Windy City, my fellow Omahan the Most Rev. Blase Cupich, didn’t wait too long to start the usual suspects huffing about the “Francis Effect”. In an interview with CBS News’ Norah O’Donnell, Abp. Cupich stated — or rather implied — that he wouldn’t deny participation in the Eucharist to Catholic politicians who hold positions contrary to Church teaching.

I say “implied” because, in context, +Cupich seems to be talking about an ad hoc decision during a Mass to withhold Communion: “I would not use the Eucharist, or as they call it ‘the communion rail,’ as a place to have those discussions or a way in which people would be either excluded from the life of the church.

“The Eucharist is an opportunity of grace and conversion,” he told [O’Donnell] in an interview that aired on “Face the Nation” Sunday. “It’s also a time of forgiveness of sins, so my hope would be that grace would be instrumental in bringing people to the truth.”

Naturally, this is the kind of thing that leads Huffington Post’s Carol Kuruvilla, playing the classic “good Church/bad Church” game, to gush, “Cupich’s softened approach stands in stark contrast to the position held by Cardinal Raymond Burke, a prominent conservative Catholic archbishop who has led campaigns to ban Catholic politicians who support abortions from receiving communion.” Just as naturally, it leads many in the Catholic commentariat, such as Brian Williams of One Peter Five, to wail and harrumph:

Let us hope and pray that Our Lord is not subjected to further sacrilege, and His Church to further scandal, by an outright refusal to enforce Canon 915 in Chicago. The Church loses credibility when she rightly advocates for protecting the unborn, but then gives Holy Communion to high profile, unrepentant, Catholic politicians who support the “right” to an abortion.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Are Pope Francis’ defenders missing the point?

If you haven’t been following the story of Cdl. Raymond L. Burke’s transfer from Cardinal Prefect of the Apostolic Signatura (the High Court of the Catholic Church, if you will) to Patron of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta … well, I can’t say as I blame you. Overall, the reactions have been a classic illustration of the Catholic Circular Firing Squad back in action: traditionalist overreaction, liberal jubilation, and my little group of ultramontanists — to be honest — somewhat missing the point.

There’s some fun to be had watching the Vatican Follies, and speculating over what happens backstage and in the wings. Nevertheless, I agree with Simcha Fisher: there’s much too much agonizing over the shambling monster Frank Weathers is pleased to call the KasperBurke.

A “Calamitous Pope”?

Michelle Arnold of Catholic Answers recently made the excellent point that to call St. John Paul “the worst pope ever” is to show an appalling ignorance of papal history. Similarly, to imply that Pope Francis is “calamitous”, as Rorate Caeli has done in a post uncritically copied and pasted by other rad-trad blogs, is to exaggerate hysterically.

But in our zeal to defend the orthodoxy of Papa Bergoglio against the cheers of the left and the jeers of the right, I’ve begun to think that we’ve discounted criticism we should be listening to, whether we agree fully with it or not. To put it differently, it’s past time for the honeymoon to come to an end and face the reality of Francis’ reign.

This started for me when The Blogger Who Must Not Be Named wrote a piece about the facepalm-inducing, completely Holy-Dude-what-were-you-thinking selection of Cdl. Godfried Danneels for the Synod on the Family — an appointment that could only be overshadowed in insensitivity by nominating Fort Lauderdale mayor Jack Seiler to head up the Office of Papal Charities. Whatever the choice says about Francis’ orthodoxy, it was a bonehead play.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Beast writer confuses snark with legal analysis

A Steaming Pile of Outrage Porn

Imagine you’re Crash Davis. Yes, the minor-league baseball player memorably portrayed by Kevin Costner in Bull Durham. You know you’re not going to make it to the big leagues. You even know your team is unlikely to win in the minors. But you’re a professional, and you give it all you’ve got.
This, it seems to me, is the position of Appellate Judge Jeffrey Sutton, a respected conservative thinker who’s unlikely to make it either to the Supreme Court bench or the right side of history when it comes to same-sex marriage, but who is still a judge’s judge, a consummate professional. What would you do?

This lede, from Jay Michaelson’s “All The Wrong Reasons To Ban Gay Marriage” in The Daily Beast, tells us exactly where the author is going … and it’s going nowhere pretty. Instead of offering a thoughtful deconstruction of Judge Sutton’s majority opinion in DeBoer v. Snyder, he’s going to whine, snark and ad hominem Sutton to death.

Granted, so much is to be expected from anyone who deliberately writes for The Beast, one of too many e-zines that exist simply to grunt out steaming piles of outrage porn for the consumption of a polarized, perpetually angry public. Writing for these vendors of schlock journalism must be easy — all you have to do is emote for 1,500 words or so.

But whine, snark and ad hominem arguments aren’t legal analysis. I don’t mean they’re not legal analysis because they come from a journalist or a blogger; I mean they’re not legal analysis even if Justice Anthony Kennedy does it, as he did in United States v. Windsor (2013). Whine, snark and ad hominems are a feature of playground name-calling, which is often interchangeable with political rabble-rousing and (unfortunately) certain brands of comedy.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

To a friend who is leaving the Catholic Church

A Hard Saying

I so totally admire your love of the Catholic Church Tony. I am saddened that some of the rules I can not live with and will be joining a Lutheran one that will accept me.
What could I say? Facebook is where I keep in touch with my family and friends; I don’t go there to engage in verbal fisticuffs or stand on my soapbox. And yet, I can’t help feeling the answer I gave — “Forget it, lady. You gotta do a lot worse than that to lose my friendship” — was well-meaning but unsatisfactory.

I suppose I could have been a smartass and built some quibbles based on the precepts of the Church or on canon law. But either of those sallies would have ended in an exasperated “You know what I mean!”

In fact, I do know what you meant, my friend. It’s not really the rules you can’t live with, but rather some of the teachings. It isn’t a question of whether the Catholic Church accepts you: she does, and always has. Rather, it’s a question of what you accept — or, rather, what you reject.

You’re not the first person to abandon the Church over a teaching that sticks in the craw. Read the “Bread of Life” discourse (John 6:22-66): as Jesus insists that “unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you” (v. 53), his verbs in the Greek become more graphic, switching from phagō (to eat) to trōgō (to chew, or gnaw like an animal). At the end of it, many of his disciples leave him, telling themselves and each other, “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?” (vv. 60, 66)

Monday, October 13, 2014

What’s procreation got to do with sex?

Have you seen this child lately?

Ask a Stupid Question

I wouldn’t blame you if you don’t believe me. I neglected to save the link, so I can’t prove it happened; I can’t even remember which blog it happened on (either Creative Minority Report or The American Conservative … I think). But, in the midst of a discussion a few years ago — was it about gay marriage? abortion? — an apparently intelligent and educated woman asked, in all seriousness, “Who said reproduction has anything to do with sex?”

I know — “You honestly expect us to believe that? Seriously? No one’s that dumb!”

Truly, most people, when they’re thinking about it, know that you don’t get pregnant from germs spread around the office, or from a bad batch of chicken or kale you bought at Walmart. Parents who don’t stop having children, like Damien and Simcha Fisher, can testify to this common knowledge from the many stale repetitions they get of the fake-hearty jab whenever a new baby is on the way: “You do know what causes that, don’t you?”. And God knows how many times I’ve heard other people jovially refer to the act as “making babies”, even when creation of a newborn was the last thing the participants wanted.

And yet ….

If you really pay attention to arguments concerning abortion, contraception, gay marriage and other pelvic issues, you do get the sense that many people believe reproduction to be incidental to sex, even accidental, rather than its biological raison d’être. You ever notice how many times they refer to penises and vaginas as if they were the only sexually distinct organs, as if testes and uteri had no known function to fill? And that they mention ovaries only to rhyme with “rosaries”?

In less than one hundred years, we have gone from accepting pregnancy as the natural consequence of sex to regarding ourselves entitled to sex without consequences … at least, those we don’t want just right now. So powerful is this sense of entitlement that we’re driven to treat reproduction as an unnatural “occasional side effect” of sex, or even as a disease. Reality must not be allowed to intrude upon our human right to get our freak on.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Pope Francis, Islam and jihad

A troubling passage in Evangelii Gaudium

Andrew Bieszad, a scholar on Islam, seems to believe Pope Francis is teaching error — or, at least, opiniones intolerata — about the “Ishmaelites”:

For Islamic scholars, there is a statement in the apostolic exhortation of Pope Francis, Evangelii Gaudium, which is particularly troubling:
Faced with disconcerting episodes of violent fundamentalism, our respect for true followers of Islam should lead us to avoid hateful generalisations, for authentic Islam and the proper reading of the Koran are opposed to every form of violence. (p. 253)
As the situation in the Middle East escalates, and the violence of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) spills rivers of innocent Christian blood, this statement seems incongruous with reality.

From Bieszad’s perspective, Francis is apparently taking an attitude not taken by our forefathers in the faith; to assert this, Bieszad not only quotes the defiance spoken by a big handful of martyrs, but also theological heavyweight Saints John Damascene, Thomas Aquinas, and Alphonse Ligouri, not to mention latter-day hero Hilaire Belloc. If Bieszad doesn’t go so far as to call the pope a heretic, he does manage to imply that Francis is both wrong and a Neville Chamberlain-type appeaser.

The funny thing, though, is that the Islamic scholar doesn’t directly dispute Francis’ assertion, “authentic Islam and the proper reading of the Koran are opposed to every form of violence,” with any citation of the Koran or mainstream Islamic scholars. Rather, he seems content to let the juxtaposition of Francis’ words and ISIS’ deeds do the work for him.

Another funny thing: When I began writing about eleven years ago, I was initially writing to defend the Catholic faith against the slanders and misunderstandings of Protestants and non-believers. Now, I spend an increasing amount of time correcting fellow Catholics. And thereby hangs a point.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Free-market economics and bad philosophy

Reading doctrine through ideological glasses

The most pervasive problem facing the Catholic Church in America today is our predilection for reading both Scripture and Tradition through ideological glasses. If bad philosophy leads inevitably to bad science, it leads even more quickly to bad theology.

The left has a history of trying to reconcile Catholicism with socialism, even Marxism, despite the explicit condemnations of various popes beginning with Bl. Pius IX (cf. Syllabus of Errors). The right’s version sometimes goes so far as to baptize Randian objectivism — to which Ayn Rand herself would  have objected — but more often settles for its own version of the “health and wealth gospel”; i.e., invocation of free-market capitalism.

As I’ve outlined before, “cafeteria Catholicism” on the right tends to play a game I call the “appeal to theological weight”. If a citation of pope or dicastery runs counter to a free-market position, the tactic is to claim it sits on a level of theological certainty low enough that a Catholic of good conscience can dispute or ignore it.

Even when the authority of a document, such as Leo XIII’s Rerum Novarum, is treated as authoritative, it’s creatively interpreted so that all the troublesome bits get ignored. For example, read this post in Ethika Politika, in which Gabriel S. Sanchez takes Joe Hargreaves to task for his sins of omission.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Praying for Obama

Is he really praying? Does it really matter?

Respecting the President’s Name

Living in Texas, I often have occasion to reflect on Elton John’s satirical “Texas Love Song”. The link takes you to a live version of it performed in Austin, possibly the bluest city in Texas, in 1998, with Sir Elton’s pre-performance caution, “Don’t be offended.” Probably they weren’t; many square miles of Texas hold people who still wouldn’t recognize the song as satire, and the people of Austin most likely hold them in as much contempt as did lyricist Bernie Taupin.

One line especially stands out to me right now: “And kids still respected the President’s name.” Personally, I can’t think of a single POTUS whose name was universally respected in his lifetime; even ol’ George Washington came in for some calumny during his second term, and didn’t achieve veneration second only to the Blessed Virgin Mother until some years after he passed. When Taupin wrote the song, the President was Richard M. Nixon, who had succeeded Lyndon B. Johnson — ’nuf ced; hippies weren’t totally to blame.

Still ….

Father Erik Richtsteig at Orthometer and I have a couple of things in common: 1) We’re both friends of Katrina Fernandez (and, I believe, Frank Weathers); 2) We’re both Knights of Columbus. Yesterday, attending the Knights’ annual convention in Orlando, he posted on his status:

The cold silence didn’t bother me; that was possibly the least disrespectful thing the Knights could have done in response to Pres. Obama’s message. Nor did the reactions of Fr. Erik’s followers, which all told wasn’t a Facebook “two-minutes’ hate” so much as an all-day grump, bother me … except for one:

“Let his days be few; and let another take his office.” Brrr, yikes.

Friday, August 1, 2014

McDonald’s and the Screwing of the American Worker

Protesters outside of McDonald's Oak Brook, Ill. HQ,
20 May 2014. (© Fast Food Forward)
McDonald’s is facing more problems … and I’m not referring to their relatively disappointing revenue performance. Or their ill-considered sponsorship of VH-1’s absurd time-slot filler Dating Naked.

No, the new problem is that, on Tuesday, the National Labor Relations Board ruled that the Golden Arches could be named as “joint employer” in a number of workers’-rights complaints against franchise-owned stores. AP’s Candace Choi tells us that the franchisees aren’t happy about it either. “If franchisors are joint employers with their franchisees, these thousands of small business owners would lose control of the operations and equity they worked so hard to build,” said a statement released by the International Franchise Association. And that’s no small source of worry, because franchisees have little control over their operations and equity to begin with.

For those of you without any QSR experience, let me give you my perspective on it: In one way, buying a franchise is like buying a house —the only thing you really own is the promissory note you signed for the loan. On the other hand, there are significant differences: In your house, you can have the décor, the furniture, the food and the clothes you like. When you’re a franchisee, you’re not really your own boss; the major difference between you and a regional manager is that you have assets at risk.

General managers (the ones who run individual stores) see it clearly. Choi’s story mentions the frequent visits corporate reps make “to check up on how franchisees are running restaurants, including by standing outside the drive-thru to time how quickly cars go through. Said longtime employee Richard Eiker, ‘Managers go crazy when corporate comes in for these inspections.’”

They do; I know.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Why I’m neither a conservative nor a liberal

The other night, I ran across a headline in my Facebook feed which said that Michele Bachmann had suggested the children of illegal immigrants be put into labor camps. I forgot my own rule and “shared” it; in mitigation of my own stupidity, I did ask that someone tell me the story was a distortion of something she actually said.

Not fifteen seconds after “sharing” it, I came across a status update from Simcha Fisher that said in essence, “Stop sharing the Michele Bachmann story. It’s a satire.” Quickly I took it down and replaced it with an apology and Tom McDonald’s meme (left).

Minutes later, a friend of mine who’s a member of the Omaha tribe posted yet another headline, in which Ted Nugent allegedly called Native Americans “vermin”. I told Verdel (my friend) what had just occurred with me, giving him a “heads up” that the story might not be what it appeared. In fact, it seems that the quote may have been taken out of context, and Nugent’s organization has posted an official denial on his website. I’m willing to give Nugent the benefit of the doubt because I distrust journalists more than I dislike him.

It’s not just liberals who do this. Just over a month ago, I debunked a clip that took a couple of phrases spoken by Pres. Obama in his Address to European Youth out of context, mashed them together and created a Hitleresque sentiment that, on his worst, most careless day, the man would never say in front of cameras. (He may or may not think like that, but he’s too smart a politician to ever publicly say it.)

Once upon a time, the self-dubbed electronic journalists of the new media loudly proclaimed that they would keep the mainstream media honest. Unfortunately, all they seem to do now is make the MSM look honest by comparison.

Friday, July 18, 2014

“The Mass of All Time”: Epilogue

No accounting for taste

De gustibus non est disputandum has been loosely translated as, “There’s no accounting for taste.” But when we say it like that, we imply flippantly that someone has chosen to pursue a godawful aesthetic choice despite our best efforts to point them in the right direction.

Unless there’s some objective criteria to which both sides agree, then no dispute over tastes can ever be resolved — you like what you like, and there’s an end of the matter. No matter how detailed your technical analysis, you’re not going to make a Billy Joel fan give up “the Piano Man” in favor of Elvis Costello, or force a person to get more pleasure out of listening to Metallica than to Barry Manilow. Concerning tastes there are no common grounds for disputation, and therefore no hope for resolution: you’re arguing for the sake of being ornery, that’s all.

Now, I’m not such a naïf as to believe that Anthony J. J. Mathison’s essay, which I’ve posted over the last four days, is The Last Word on the Novus Ordo Mass. People have been writing Last Words on topical issues since people have had writing, and the disputes have gone merrily on despite such thunder from the rostrum. The same is true for Catholics; we never resemble sheep so much as when we go astray, each of us turning to his own way (Isaiah 53:6). Rome may have spoken, but not everybody gets the memo that the case is now closed.[*]

What Mathison has done is clear the field of some errors, both historical and liturgical. This gives us room to consider the debate between traditionalists and “neo-Catholics” on grounds other than that of aesthetic “taste”, if you will.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

"The Mass of All Time": Part IV

[This is the last installment of a Facebook post by a Dominican novice, Anthony J. J. Mathison. I’ve done some minor detail work, such as replacing straight quotes with “smart quotes”, justification of the margins, inclusion of links, and so forth. I’ve also broken down long paragraphs into two or three smaller paragraphs for easier reading. Otherwise, I've left it pretty much as it appeared in Facebook. For this last installment, the combox will be open; I'll have my own final observations posted tomorrow.—ASL]

Part IV

“Organic Development” Reconsidered

Perhaps now it would be best to leave the weeds of this issue of “organic development” and revisit the larger paradigm; especially considering how fundamental it is to criticisms of the liturgical reforms.

I contend that the “organic development” of the Sacred Liturgy is better understood as a garden than a forest. I grew up in the country, so I ask that the reader please humor me. A forest grows wild and the changes that occur in its environment are due to natural events (storms, wildfires, animal life, etc.) which lack any human design or interference (generally speaking). A garden however is often changed due to the decisions of the gardener. Of course the gardener cannot change the nature of what he is growing or alter the substance of the herbage(!); he can and should however intervene (sometimes rather violently) in moving plants, pruning them, or even rooting them up entirely.

So it is with the Sacred Liturgy. The Pope and the Bishops alone are the stewards of the liturgical practice of the Church. Period. Like gardeners, they watch over and intervene in the liturgical life of God’s People to better allow the Sacred Liturgy to perform its intended action. If things arise in it that are detrimental to this goal, or are even simply seen as detrimental by the Magisterium, she will remove or change them as she sees fit. A Coptic Catholic helped to teach me that, so it’s not just a “Roman” thing.

Many reject this view however as giving too much authority to the Pope, but this not the case at all. To support their opinion, the critics quote Joseph Ratzinger before his election to the Papacy, but I hesitate to remind these same critics that a Cardinal’s words are not immediately given authority at the election of that hierarch to the Papacy. This especially goes for the previously mentioned and famous “banal, fabricated” quote that is used both out of context and endlessly. In any case, the quotes cited do not say what critics appear to think they are saying; but even if they did, it does not really help them. Why? Because Pope Benedict XVI said this about the OF in relation to the EF:

“There is no contradiction between the two editions of the Roman Missal. In the history of the liturgy there is growth and progress, but no rupture.” (Letter to the Bishops w/ SP)

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

"The Mass of All Time": Part III

[For the next four days, I will be reprinting in its full length a Facebook post from a Dominican novice, Anthony J. J. Mathison. I’ve done some minor detail work — replacing straight quotation marks with “smart quotes”, justification of the margins, inclusion of links, etc. — broken it into four subtitled sections because of the length (over 5,300 words), and broken long paragraphs into two or three for easier reading. In all other respects, the essay is just as it appeared in Facebook. I’ll reserve my own comments until Friday; I’ll also turn the combox off until the final post.]

Part III

The “Organic Development”

More sophisticated critics of the reform rest most of their arguments on the question of the “organic development” of the Roman Liturgy. Their contention, more or less, is that the changes made by Ven. Paul VI were too abrupt, drastic, and different from the EF to be justified. They quote both Ven. Pius XII in this matter (see above) as well as Vatican II itself, which mandated that no changes be made unless it is for the good of the Church and that such changes come organically from forms that already exist.

While it is quite true that liturgy is an organic thing (in that it grows under the guidance of the Church), there is false understanding running around lately that suggests that the organic development aspect is far more “powerful” or authoritative than it really is. Let us remember that not everything that develops organically is good. Barnacles, parasites, pathogen-borne illnesses, and genetic deviations are all natural organic developments; yet they often cause malaise or even death in the organisms to whom they attach themselves.

Vatican II understood this and openly noted that many things that had “organically developed” in the Roman Rite were simply unnecessary and even detrimental. That was a decision of the Church solemnly convened in Ecumenical Council; we must remind ourselves of this. We must also remember that the judge of what is “organic” (not to mention the interpretation and implementation of Ecumenical Councils in general) is the Magisterium: the Pope and the Bishops. Theologians and liturgists can assist the Magisterium in its work, but the latter alone has both the authority and prerogative to determine how the reforms are carried out.

Despite this, these same critics (many of them theologians and liturgists, sadly) continue their objections by pointing out what appear to be two glaring “inorganic” developments: more than one anaphora, and the new offertory prayers. Indeed, these two changes are the only ones that lacked prior Roman liturgical antecedents. In the Church’s wisdom however, she decided that their addition was both needed and laudatory. I will begin showing this by talking a little about the original Roman Canon and the new Eucharistic Prayers.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

"The Mass of All Time": Part II

[For the next four days, I will be reprinting in its full length a Facebook post from a Dominican novice, Anthony J. J. Mathison. I’ve done some minor detail work — replacing straight quotation marks with “smart quotes”, justification of the margins, inclusion of links, etc. — broken it into four subtitled sections because of the length (over 5,300 words), and broken long paragraphs into two or three for easier reading. In all other respects, the essay is just as it appeared in Facebook. I’ll reserve my own comments until Friday; I’ll also turn the combox off until the final post.]

Part II

How “old” is the “Old Use” really?

To continue to speak as though there is some intrinsically aesthetic inequality between the two uses of the Roman Rite is disturbing. It denotes the very false comparison practices that lead to misconceptions about what exactly the Roman Rite is in its most authentic character (we will revisit that soon). The long and the short of it is that we must abjure such comparisons because they are both needless and grievously misleading. Aesthetics are, in many cases, merely in the eye of the beholder. I cherish the EF (I truly do!), but I do not find in it the same grandiose reverence that devotees of it find. Yes, it is beautiful in a general sense but, for me, it is nowhere near as mystically edifying as a well celebrated OF. Of course, I don’t criticize those who find the EF spiritually more nourishing than the OF ... but I also do not brook those who make their personal preferences (anymore than I my own) quasi-equivalent to “proper” liturgy.

I believe that I can demonstrate the errors these false comparisons cause by pointing out another common objection to the OF: one that characterizes some of the older prayers in the usus antiquior as “ancient”. The reality is that only about a handful or so of the rich, layered text of the old use are really ancient (that is, pre-medieval). Many things from the old offertory prayers, to the prayers accompanying liturgical actions, to the very symbolic rituals themselves are incredibly late in their origin. Some do not even out-date Protestantism!

To use unnecessarily caustic language like “trashing”, as is often done, to refer to the removal of these prayers is a characterization that is both uncharitable and false. The Second Vatican Ecumenical Council mandated (not suggested, not speculated about — mandated) that many of the late additions that had crept in to the Roman Rite were to be removed (cf. Sacrosanctum Concilium II:50). That was the word of an Ecumenical Council — the highest expression of the Church’s magisterial authority. Ven. Paul VI and his Consilium did exactly as the Ecumenical Council asked of them and removed many of these things, while (as I showed above) keeping some of the more demonstrably valuable practices. Now, one can respectfully disagree with some of what they did to a certain extent, but, in the end, the complaints may(!) have more to do with what Vatican II asked of the Pope rather than what he actually did. One should take note of this; I had to and it was helpful.

Monday, July 14, 2014

“The Mass of All Time”: Part I

[For the next four days, I will be reprinting in its full length a Facebook post from a Dominican novice, Anthony J. J. Mathison. I’ve done some minor detail work — replacing straight quotation marks with “smart quotes”, justification of the margins, inclusion of links, etc. — broken it into four subtitled sections because of the length (over 5,300 words), and broken long paragraphs into two or three for easier reading. In all other respects, the essay is just as it appeared in Facebook. I’ll reserve my own comments until Friday; I’ll also turn the combox off until the final post.]

Part I


One of the greatest and most salutary aspects of the liturgical reforms carried out by Ven. Pope Paul VI at the behest of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council was the restoration of numerous elements of the ancient Roman liturgical rite and character that were lost over the centuries. The unique genius of the Roman Rite was recaptured and accentuated, while non-Roman elements (e.g. Gallican, Celtic, Sarum, etc.) were reduced greatly. The Holy Mass that we have today is almost a complete recovery of that used by Pope St. Gregory the Great in the seventh century A.D. It would be an error however to think that the restorations of the ancient Roman Rite consisted of a complete rejection of all post-Gallican Rite and medieval influences. Such a thing would be the very false archealogism condemned by Ven. Pope Pius XII in his encyclical, Mediator Dei (cf. no. 61-63).  

While the reformed Roman Rite of today does marvelously make visible the pure Latin liturgical character of the Western Fathers, it also maintains many of the salutary and beautiful practices gained from non-Roman Western rites, and, especially, medieval piety. For example: In the Holy Mass alone we have the “Orate Fratres” prayer;[1] the Offertory secret; the practice of genuflection; the opening sign of the Cross; the Penitential Rite; the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed; the post-consecration elevation of the Host and Chalice; the swinging of the thurible; the blessings of various objects; the priest’s private pre-communion prayers; and many more elements of the Roman Eucharist can be shown to have, often quite late, medieval or renaissance origins. Thus, not only did the Roman Rite of Ven. Pope Paul VI restore the pre-medieval character of the Roman Liturgy, it also continued the medieval piety that so richly adorned our ancestors; as well as the Gallican elements that make our liturgical heritage rightly “Romano-Frankish” (much as how the modern Byzantine Rite is “Greco-Slavic” in character).

Put more simply, the so-called “new” Roman Rite is not really “new” at all. In fact, it restores ancient, Patristic practices lost from the Western liturgy by accidents of history, but it also continues the Gallican and medieval elements that made the Roman Rite so beautiful and rich. Celebrants who utilize the modern Roman Rite alongside the pre-conciliar Roman Rite and other older liturgical uses (e.g. the Dominican Rite) will be able to see this quite clearly; hence the immense wisdom of Pope Benedict XVI in his now famous motu proprio, Summorum Pontificum.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Two lists; or, “YOLO” vs. commitment

A few months ago, Katrina Fernandez posted a list written by one of HuffPo’s “limitless supply of young narcissists”, Vanessa Elizabeth, under the title “23 Things to Do Instead of Getting Married”. After skewering Ms. Elizabeth six ways from Sunday for her “verbose, self-appeasing litany of how ‘f**king awesome’ she is,” Kat posted her own list of things young women should accomplish by the time they’re twenty-three. Let’s compare:

1. Get a passport.
1. Join the military or a volunteer organization.
2. Find your “thing.”
2. Regularly donate to a charitable organization.
3. Make out with a stranger.
3. Graduate college with a useful degree, learn a trade, or acquire a marketable skill.
4. Adopt a pet.
4. Have a job and keep it for at least a year.
5. Start a band.
5. Get at least one raise, one promotion, or some workplace accolade.
6. Make a cake. Make a second cake. Have your cake and eat it too.
6. Own grown up clothes and dress like an adult, not a perpetual adolescent.
7. Get a tattoo. It’s more permanent than a marriage.
7. Become an active member of a church.
8. Explore a new religion.
8. Stop taking money from your parents. Don’t ask for loans or bail. You’re an adult now.
9. Start a small business.
9. Move out of your parent’s house.
10. Cut your hair.
10. Have a lease in your name and fulfill your contractual obligations.
11. Date two people at once and see how long it takes to blow up in your face.
11. Purchase and maintain your own vehicle and vehicle insurance without the aid of a co-signer.
12. Build something with your hands.
12. Balance your checkbook and create a budget.
13. Accomplish a Pinterest project.
13. Open a savings account.
14. Join the Peace Corps.
14. Put aside money from every paycheck, even if it’s just $10 to start.
15. Disappoint your parents.
15. Check out your credit score.
16. Watch Girls, over and over again.
16. Donate blood often.
17. Eat a jar of Nutella in one sitting.
17. Every day tell your friends and family you love them.
18. Make strangers feel uncomfortable in public places.
18. Babysit your friend’s children … for free.
19. Sign up for CrossFit.
19. Keep a private journal.
20. Hang out naked in front of a window.
20. Learn a hobby or try out new ones till you find your passion.
21. Write your feelings down in a blog.
21. Cancel a date to spend time with a grieving friend or family member.
22. Be selfish.
22. Seek and listen to advice from your elders.
23. Come with me to the Philippines for Chinese New Year.
23. Make a habit of thanking God daily.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Burwell v. Hobby Lobby and leftist bigotry
Not a Catholic-owned company ... not that the left cares.
Has anyone else noticed how very few of the left’s attacks on SCOTUS’ decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby involve little real legal analysis of the opinion? Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised; very few journalists are lawyers, after all, and many are simply political activists pretending to report news.

Instead, what we see is a lot of unhealthy focus on the religious and sexual makeup of the bench. Forget that, of the men on the majority, at least two would continue to uphold Roe v. Wade without reservations; forget that one of those men, just over a year ago, voted to strike down DOMA in United States v. Windsor; forget that one of the two women in the minority shares the same religious self-identification as the five men in the majority. Haters gonna hate; and when they hate, facts, logic and even recent history can just go whistle.

As I said of the Windsor decision, progressivist rhetoric about “the inevitability of change” and being “on the right side of history” disappears whenever there’s a significant setback, and various activists and talking heads start talking as though every key civil right is about to be rolled back. Now HuffPo is sweating out the implications of Burwell for gay rights, while the Guardian’s Jessica Valenti is hyperventilating over the Court’s “obsession with female purity”.

And through it all are constant references to the number of Catholic men on the bench and in the majority, as if the decision had been dictated by Catholic doctrine and Y chromosomes rather than by proper legal reasoning. They forget that the six Catholics and three Jews on the bench were all appointed by Protestant presidents; the only Catholic president, Kennedy, appointed an Episcopalian and a Jew.

Leftists, you see, have their own brand of bigotry.

Monday, June 23, 2014

It’s still the wealth gap, stupid

Image source: Center for Financial Social Work, 2013.
According to former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich, some businessmen are looking at the economic data, and they’re worried. The problem, from their perspective, isn’t taxes. The problem isn’t regulation. No; from what they can see, the problem is that the middle class — the people who buy their products — don’t have enough money.

Mirabile dictu, some people are finally beginning to connect the dots.

As I’ve noted in this blog before, since 1999 real income has been declining for everyone in the bottom 80%. For those who need the explanation, you get paid today in nominal dollars; real dollars are nominal dollars after inflation has been taken into account. Theoretically, real wages stay flat when income increases match price increases, and rise when wage increases outpace price increases.

And in fact, nominal wage increases did outpace price increases throughout the Clinton Administration, such that the real wage increase by 2000 was 15.79% across the bottom 80%.[1] But from 1999 to 2012, real wages declined an average of 10.59% across the bottom 80%, until they were only marginally better than they had been in 1980; in the case of the bottom 20%, almost all gains were wiped out.

Real wages only tell part of the story. Between January 1983 and November 2013, personal savings dipped alarmingly, from 10.4% of disposable income to 4.2%, while the real consumer debt per household more than doubled, from $11,386 to $23,238. Between 1980 and 2012, the middle classes’ share of aggregate income diminished from 51.7% to 45.7%; as of 2010, the bottom 80% had only 11% of total net worth and 5% of financial wealth. And while median net worth and financial wealth decreased across racial lines, for the average black and Hispanic household such things practically disappeared between 2006 and 2010.[2]

Image source: Fed. Reserve Bank of San Francisco, 2013.

Monday, June 16, 2014

This post is for MEN ONLY!

It started life as a hashtag hoax, but
picked up some real agreement.
That’s right, ladies: I’m going to talk directly to men about man stuff. So I suggest you go read one of my friends (see my blogroll down in the right-hand column near the bottom). Or read Catholic Stand, or New Evangelist Monthly. If you do read this post, and you’re offended by anything I say — well, like the Piano Man said in the song "Big Shot", “Go and cry in your coffee, but don’t come b****in’ to me.”

*          *          *

Okay, gents, listen up: We have a problem, and it’s mostly a problem of our making. What’s the problem? Let me work up to it slowly:

I know some of you call yourselves “dogs”. Why? Because dogs can’t say “no” to sex. Dogs don’t want to say “no” to sex. A dog doesn’t care how he gets laid, when he gets laid, by whom he gets laid, or what happens after he gets laid. He gets a whiff of pheromones, and he’s going for it. A dog thinks with his gonads … if he thinks at all.

A man can say “no” to sex. In fact, there are times when he says “Hell, no!” to sex. He cares about the how and the when and the by whom and the what happens after; he thinks about these things; he thinks about what’s right, about whether the rewards are worth the risks, and what the consequences may be.

A dog is not a man. If you’re a man, you can’t be a dog about sex. If you’re gonna be a dog, don’t pretend you’re a man. Sex doesn’t make you a man. You can f**k? Congratulations; you’ve got something in common with every mammal on the planet.