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.