Daily Archives: July 19, 2010
A couple of years ago, I was visiting a market town together with a group of friends. It was a saturday, near Christmas time and the town was bristling with activity. We were a group of a dozen people. We were informed by a flyer that the local Anglican church was inviting for the afternoon. “Come in and relax”, was the message. It was a bit like a marketing exercise for Starbucks: “tired by your shopping and the excitement of the day? Spend a quiet 30 minutes with us!”.
I must admit that I was curious. It was clearly not a Mass (that was explicitly said) and it was clearly not a party. It must be – we decide – a “sermon light”, with no fire or brimstone in sight. An Anglican take on the Christian faith. We decide to split in two groups and I choose the Vicar.
At the appointed hour, a man and a woman come in. Both wear dark suits but there is nothing in their appearance saying “I am a Vicar/I am a Vicarette”. They introduce themselves and yes, that’s what they are. To a Catholic this always makes a strange impression; it is a bit as if a man in shorts would knock at the door and say “I am from the undertakers’ “.
The two start to talk about the stress of modern life and how they understand how so terribly tiring it is to spend a saturday in a market town. Captatio benevolentiae, we’d have called it at school, but it is clear they have captured the audience already.They are impossibly nice.
Then they start cracking jokes. A lot of them and all rather brilliant. They act in a double like stand up comedians, are well-trained and professional; the end result is highly entertaining. It goes on this way to the end. There is no attempt to present Christianity as something alternative to secular mentality. There is nothing controversial, or even thought-provoking. There is, of course, absolutely nothing which might have caused some of the people looking for a bit of “relax” to get offence. There are two (they might have been three; but I think they were two, really) fleeting mentions of Jesus, of the “Jesus liked to see happy people around him too”-sort. There is no mention of, say, a parable or an episode of Jesus’ life and his significance. There is no attempt I do not say to convert, but to even instruct. There is not one single train of thoughts with Jesus at his centre.
It is as if the two felt compelled to slip His clearly embarrassing name somewhat in, but were sending the message that this, unfortunately, must be; we beg your forbearance; normal service will be resumed shortly.
But they continue to crack jokes. Brilliantly. It is obvious that the routine has been rehearsed because they are beautifully synchronised and assured in the delivery; not one hesitation or interruption. They end their performance after the promised thirty minute, expressing the hope that they have delivered on their promise to relax us. They most certainly have.
Once out, we immediately comment on the entertainment value of the double act (very high) and on its Christian content (slightly below zero). We can’t call it a sermon, because it isn’t. This, none of us had expected. As Catholics, we are accustomed to a priest saying that he talks about Christianity even when he talks nonsense.
I re-read the invitation flyer and at that moment it dawns on us. This wasn’t meant to be a sermon. It really wasn’t. The “Vicar and Vicarette”-duo didn’t want to talk about Christianity, at all! When they said “come in and relax” they meant… just that! Come in and be entertained by us! Come in and get something for the money you pay at Christmas and Easter! Come in and be assured that we will not make you uncomfortable with obnoxious Christianity! Come in and we will amuse and delight you! Come in and see that we are not entirely useless!
This episode seems to confirm what appears clear from many other signs: Anglicanism is nothing much to do with Christianity anymore. It has transformed itself into a strange body seeking (financial) support from a largely agnostic audience and careful not to upset them by actively promoting Christian values. Social work and entertainment is now all they want to offer.
I have reported some time ago about Dr. Ken Howell. Dr.Howell’s Catholic courses at the University of Illinois were terminated after the complaint of a student and the “concerns” of the – unbelievably, truly existing – “Office of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgendered concerns” about, well, what Catholicism teaches.
Fortunately, the reaction of many Catholics (a facebook support group with 1600 members, the University obviously bombarded with protest emails) are producing some effects. The American Papist blog reports that the University of Illinois now at least pretends to be interested in protecting Catholic freedom of expression from the fanaticism of deviant groups.
In another positive turn, we are informed that the relevant Diocese of Peoria has taken action with the University, though this had not been made immediately public and had therefore given cause to concern and criticism.
I will continue to follow this unbelievable story, which seems taken directly out of Philip Roth’s The Human Stain. This is certainly not going to be the end of the politically correct madness and of the thought control aspirations of a bunch of perverts but there is some hope that, at least in this matter, reason will in the end prevail.
Sincere, orthodox Catholics are all too frequently afflicted by the many signs of decadence and corruption that have contaminated – as so often in Her history: the Latin saying ecclesia semper reformanda is neither new nor without ground – a large part of the Church. I have reported on this blog some of the most striking recent episodes and will, no doubt, have to sadden you with many others.
Still, we are not left without blue skies. One of the most striking phenomena observable in the post “spirit of V II”-era is that the emphatically progressive religious orders are generally dying, whilst the clearly conservative ones – often heavily inspired by pre-V II spirituality, following traditional pre-V II rules and using pre-V II liturgy – thrive.
Today I’d like to introduce you – courtesy of the excellent Forest Murmurs blog – to one of these examples. A new community of Carmelite Monks has been recently constituted in Wyoming. They follow the traditional rule of their order and their liturgy is pre-V II. What is remarkable in this new monastic community is that if you visit their internet site and browse a bit around to discover what their plans are you have the distinct impression that the “aggiornamento” has been wilfully ignored and that those who think that way do not fare badly at all.
First, let us look at the community. Seven monks at the moment. Expansion planned up to forty. Huge interest with 500 (five hundred) enquiries of potential novices last year alone, people leaving in the middle of Obama-America and considering to spend the rest of their lives devoting themselves to work and prayer in an isolated place in the Rocky Mountains.
Secondly, observe that money seems not to be a huge concern, as you can clearly see from the scale of the proposed works. This is a huge task of course and one to be realised during many years of prayers for the necessary financial resources, but you won’t find any such confidence in the future in, say, those dying communities of new-age, diversity-appraising, soi-disant religious sisters so concerned with being “inclusive”, that they forget to be Christian.
Thirdly and lastly, please observe the appearance (at the same time ideological stance) of the proposed works. Nothing “modern” here, no trace of “spirit of Vatican II” whatsoever. If the entire place had been planned several centuries ago, the differences would have been rather secondary.
I will leave you to visit the internet sites for yourself. They exude a solid faith, a very clear idea about how to do things (that is: keeping “aggiornamento” out of the main entrance), a strong confidence in the future and an obvious resonance among sincere seekers.
This seems to me a clear sign that even in the middle of the orgy of feel-good, everything-goes, non-judgmental, fuzzy attitude of too many representatives of today’s Church, the Holy Ghost quietly attends to the repair works to the Barque of Peter made necessary by half a century of “aggiornamento” follies. This is a slow and often hidden process but not a timid nor, I believe, a reversible one. We see the same tendencies towards the “old religion” slowly emerging a bit everywhere, among religious orders as well as among the laity, in the pews as on the internet. At the same time, the Vatican hierarchy very slowly but, I think, irresistibly steer the course towards more orthodox, authentically and unapologetically Catholic waters. It is as if the geyser of Catholic Truth would start bubbling again below the layer of mud deposited since the Sixties, biding its time and gathering energy for the eruption of renewed spirituality that in the life of the Church always followed periods of corruption and decay.
We certainly have grounds for rightful indignation but we have no reasons for pessimism or, worse, despair.
Some of you will be already acquainted with Michael Voris. He is one of those extremely outspoken religious commenters uniting an undoubted Catholic orthodoxy with affirmations of shocking harshness which, if taken out of context, could even seem to invite to open revolt against the See of Peter (which is very obviously not the case).
Father Z has linked to his latest video here and invited to a poll without making any comment. After listening to the video (the usual mixture of spoken word and written repetition of key words) I have participated to the poll voting the second option, “he got a few things wrong but in the main I agree”. To my surprise, it turns out that I am clearly in the minority, with “that video was dead on target” taking more than two and a half votes for every “I agree in the main” vote.
As it is not necessary to be logged in to vote, I would invite the readers to visit Father Zuhlsdorf’s beautiful Internet site, listen to the video and cast their vote.
Read on American Papist the incredible story of Ken Howell, an adjunct professor at the University of Illinois. Mr Howell has been told that he will not be able to teach about Catholicism because his course “Introduction to Catholicism” mentions that Catholicism condemns homosexual acts; also that he has been so cheeky as to follow up with emails on the subject, after one student’s strong opposition to this Catholic teaching.
The episode is disconcerting for several reasons:
1) The course is about Catholicism. You can’t ask Catholicism to be what it is not. You either “introduce people to Catholicism” or you don’t.
2) The University in question has – as it appears from Mr Howell’s letter – an “Office of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgendered concerns”. I kid you not. No trace whatsoever of an “Office of Catholic concerns”. The world has probably gone mad. Some universities certainly have.
3) The idea that people against a certain religion may find any “concern” about what that religion teaches is preposterous. Pure thought control. Not even I would have dreamt of saying that I have “concerns” with Hindus believing in reincarnation or Buddhists subscribing to metempsychosis.
4) Mr. Powell’s reaction is also entirely disconcerting. He presented the argument that if Catholic teaching about homosexuality is offensive, than he should be advised not to touch the matter in his course! This is an astonishingly weak reaction and one which defeats itself from the beginning. If you accept the idea that Catholicism may be censored, you can’t complain when it is. The idea of an “Introduction to Catholicism”excluding the controversial bits is as ridiculous as saying that there should be no “Introduction to Catholicism” if one is so bad as to……talk about Catholicism.
As always, the United States leads the way in political correctness gone mad. The case is now under judicial review and I do hope that the stance will be on the harsh side of “we are ready not to talk of anything which is of concern to lesbians, homosexuals, and other deviants”.
Kudos to the “American Papist” for having the guts to relate such extraordinary events instead of hiding behind the “we don’t discuss controversial topics” stance of so many Catholics, who are interested only in a quiet life and “going along to get along” with everyone.
I came across this interesting Elizabeth Scalia’s article on “First Things” (an interreligious pro-life internet site) illustrating some points in a forceful way.
I would see the most relevant as follows:
1) The refusal of radicalism (understood as blind fanaticism) and the honest admission that in this some Christians are not entirely free of fault. Thankfully, we Catholics have the Tradition to guide us and to keep us away from fanatical fringe positions under the excuse of a bible quotation or two, taken out of the context.
2) The fact that many of the fanatics believing in some golden calf (the environment, say, or the so-called “right to choose”) end up organising themselves, thinking and acting as if they were one of the very religious organisations they condemn.
3) The appalling self-serving cynicism of a Weltanschauung by which what is convenient becomes the only criterium for the decision about a right to kill an innocent life and this is admitted candidly and without any shame. On this third and in my eyes most important point, the author Elisabeth Scalia quotes from Antonia Senior writing – unsurprisingly – in the London’s “Times”. Please read her words attentively:
“I could think of one cause I would stake my life on: a woman’s right to be educated, to have a life beyond the home and to be allowed by law and custom to order her own life as she chooses. And that includes complete control over her own fertility. […] Any other conclusion is a convenient lie that we on the pro-choice side of the debate tell ourselves to make us feel better about the action of taking a life”.
There is no effort to wear a mask here: the ability to “order her own life as she chooses” is the rationale of the abortion and every other consideration is – as it is honestly admitted – a “convenient lie that we on the on the pro-choice side of the debate tell ourselves to make us feel better about taking a life”.
You may now ask: how can it be that the willful suppression of an innocent life is fully recognised, but no consequences drawn? Simply in this way: that what is not convenient for the mother ceases to have status and dignity of a human life. To put it again in the words of Ms Senior,
“That little seahorse shape floating in a willing womb is a growing miracle of life. In a resentful womb it is not a life, but a foetus — and thus killable”.
This is the most honest explanation I have ever read from so-called “pro choice” activists and at the same time the most chillingly inhuman: if it doesn’t suit the mother, the very same foetus loses any right to be called a life.
One doesn’t know what is more appalling: the cruel consequences of such a thinking or the ability to fully recognise its cruelty and still give it one’s full assent.
Bored of the Catholic Mass?
Can’t stand sitting there in the pew without anything practical to do?
Think you are just wasting your time?
Fancy a “Costume Mass”, where you can sport your new western costume?
No time in your life for sensible things like smoking, eating and drinking beer?
Or perhaps not a Catholic, but you’d like to have a Catholic Communion – for a change – nevertheless?
We have what you want! Cardinal Schoenborn is your friend! This year he has expressly authorised (for the third time) our new and beautiful…… Western Mass!
Look for yourself on Gloria.tv how modern, relevant, hip and FUN Catholicism can be!
“Things cannot remain as they are”. This is not I, dear friends, saying so. Who am I to say such things? Why would you ever believe me? No, this is the Cardinal himself! What a jolly good fellow he is…..
Come visit us next year! You’ll be able to sit at a table in a pleasant Biergarten whilst a western band plays some beloved evergreens. You’ll be able to take a sunbath with your little child, have a chat with your friends and in general have a lot of FUN, all whilst the Mass goes on. No time losses, no boring queues, no having to listen, no inconvenient fast times anymore! You’ll exchange the “sign of peace” across the tables. At Communion time, just go up and get your host in your hand; try not to have ketchup on them but hey: you’re eating, right? Just please stand up when the priest asks you to, you’ll feel very pious. And oh, please do, do try to be somewhat silent during Communion. We are very reverent.
Look at the video: how happy everyone is! How satisfied! Particularly the priest, entertaining you about the necessity to “change the way the Church does things” and to “reach out to everyone”. Capital fellow. So nice.
If you’d like to participate next year, please do give a look at the video and see that we are not telling lies. The video is in German (Austria, again; lots of fans in the area; beer is good, too), but we trust you’ll have a clear picture of what is happening anyway.
Before you look at the video, please send the children to bed and do not show this to sincere Catholics of an advanced age, or with a heart condition. We must take care, in a non-judgmental manner, of our less fortunate brothers who are unable to understand that we have to change and reach out to everyone.
Father Z references a letter (in German) dated June 21st from Ecclesia Dei stating that
the celebration of Holy Mass in the Extraordinary Form envisages the reception of Holy Communion while kneeling, as the Sacred Host is laid directly on the tongue of the communicant. There is no provision for the distribution of Holy Communion on the hand in this Form of the Holy Mass.
One would think that in a Tridentine Mass the reception of Holy Communion kneeling and on the tongue would be obvious, but apparently this is not the case.
I thought that this letter would be worth a little hurrah.
I was born and raised in Italy. In those years, Catholicism was the “Official Religion of the State” and this was anchored in the Italian Constitution. A Crucifix adorned every classroom. This was, besides its obvious religious significance, a most natural cultural factor. The mere idea of questioning its presence would have seemed bizarre in the extreme.
Then came the (disgraceful) “Revision of the Concordate”. Catholicism was not the Official Religion of the State anymore, but the State recognised the “cultural role” played by the Church in Italy’s life. The Crucifix remained on the school walls, but in “superior schools” at the beginning of the year the teachers had to ask whether there was opposition to it. In my school of twenty classes, opposition never came.
Mind you, this was not because of the absence of atheists (sometimes rather vocal ones; Communists were, after all, still around), but because even the Communists and Atheists would have been ashamed of asking for the removal of something so naturally part of the country’s cultural backbone. It would have been a bit like declaring pasta “fascist” and in those years even the Communists possessed the basic decency to respect commonly and widely spread religious feelings. In short: even those who insisted in being wrong took care not to appear stupid.
There might have been exceptions. I am sure they weren’t many.
Not anymore, you might say, but you’d be wrong. The support for the Crucifix is still widely spread within the Italian society. The biggest party of the Centre-Right coalition (yes, that one!) and the biggest party of the Centre-Left coalition (yes, the one with the ex-Communists in it!) are both in favour. So are many of the smaller parties. So is, in his overwhelming majority, the Country. The Crucifix, some years ago challenged by a Muslim father because – hear this – it “scared his child” was even upheld by the Italian Constitutional Court.
All right, then? Well, er, no. A not-so-well-known organ called Europe’s Human Rights Court (constituted by an even-less-known supranational organisation called Council of Europe, nothing to do with the EU by the way) has decided that the Crucifix has to go. What the tradition, the people, the political parties and the judicial system of the country all consider right is actually, we are informed, wrong.
The Italian government has now presented an appeal, together with another dozen or so countries. Even if they should lose the appeal, I do not doubt that as long as the Centre-Right coalition is in power they will do whatever they please for as long as they please. Italian governments have this down to a fine art and the Italian electorate – always fond of the “furbi” – would like it a lot. I can’t imagine that they would just give up. They might even be hoping to lose the appeal and reap a rich harvest with the opposition to it, but that’s just me.
Still, I must reflect on a couple of things (three, actually):
1) this is what happens when a government consents to participate to feel-good initiatives only meant to create jobs and to show some humanitarian activism. Italy is no Zimbabwe. No, really. It knows a thing or two about human rights, democracy, and Crucifixes. Yes, even the actual Prime Minister 😉
2) I am fed up (as many of you I am sure are) with delegation of Sovereign Powers (at least nominally) to supranational organisations. If you ask me, it means to put your cultural patrimony at the mercy of a bunch of feminists (of whatever sex) and atheists largely of other countries. You don’t want that.
3) This must be reversed. Italy must (as every other European country) proudly re-claim the *right to decide for itself* in matters like this. It can’t be that a bunch of judges start to remould the cultural fabric of an entire Country against the will of its Parliament, Judiciary and people.
If we don’t wake up, we’ll all end up in the hands of a bunch of social nannies playing God at our expense.
It is some months old now, but I would like to mention this very interesting article from Brendan O’Neill.
Brendan O’Neill is an atheist. As such, the “press consensus” fed us by the BBC would want him outraged at the paedophile priest scandal and – as he has been raised as a Catholic – probably to consider himself a victim of some mild form of abuse in the form of Catholic brainswashing.
But if you read his article you’ll discover that an atheist can still maintain a rational attitude in front of a scandal (grave in itself, no doubt!) concerning a religious institution.
He doesn’t try to minimise any crime. He doesn’t whine. He doesn’t predict the end of the Catholic Church or try to say that Pope Benedict’s Papacy is in tatters. He doesn’t tell the Catholic Church how She should change to comply with his own standards.
Instead, you find that he mentions his sources; that he reads them; that he looks at actual numbers and sets them in the broader context of society and societal changes; that his analysis goes beyond the easy barking and shouted sensationalism so typical of those only bent to exploit the “theme du jour”; that his refusal of emotional language and easy headlines is – admirably – as total as his opposition to atheist anti-Christian fanaticism.
Of course, we as Catholics cannot agree with everything he writes and our analysis would be different from his. Still, the honesty of his approach is to be commended.
Please read the (longish) article in its entirety. It is certainly worth the time. I will here only mention its conclusion:
“Whatever you think of the Catholic Church, you should be concerned about today’s abuse-obsession. Events of the (sometimes distant) past which nobody can change are being used to justify dangerous trends in the present. A new kind of society is being solidified on the back of exposing abusive priests, one in which scaremongering supersedes facts, where people redefine themselves as permanently damaged victims, where freedom of thought is problematised, and where parents are considered suspect for not adhering to the superior values of the atheistic elite”.
Excellent contribution from the “Catholic Herald” (also reported from Father Z) regarding the Extraordinary Form in the imminence of the completion of the three years assessment period. The author is Father Gary Dickson, parish priest, Sacred Heart and English Martyrs, Thornley, County Durham.
The article contains many interesting points of discussion. Personally I would choose the following as particularly worthy of mention:
1) The “full, active and conscious” participation is “first and foremost internal”. No need to make a circus of everything. This is in line with V II documents on the matter.
2) On the opposition to the EF, the author says:
“Some say the obstruction comes from bishops, but this is unfair. The problem seems to lie within the Church as a whole, being an aversion to formal, God-directed worship in favour of a liturgy that entertains with cheerful hymns, is undemanding to follow and casual in celebration. This aversion harbours resistance not only to Summorum Pontificum but even to the new translation of the New Form”.
Not sure that the bishops are so innocent, but they certainly are not the only ones to be guilty of wilful neglect of the EF.
3) On the “readers”, please note this observation:
“Undoubtedly the lay ministry of Lector (Reader) was built into the New Form so as to facilitate lay activity in the rite itself (Extraordinary ministry is not built-in; it was established for use only in exceptional circumstances), but this seems to have created a sense that unless one has a ministry one does not participate”.
4) On the future of the EF, the author also has some impressive statements to make (emphases mine):
“I believe we can no longer refuse the Extraordinary Form and for two main reasons. First, because the Church declared it to be sacred, and while the Church has all authority to forbid what is evil she has no authority to forbid what is sacred; her authority is “to build up rather than destroy” (1 Cor 13:10). Second, this Form is the rightful heritage of future generations; one to which we have no moral right to deny them access. Use of the Extraordinary Form is then a matter of recognising and promoting the holy, and an act of justice towards future generations”.
Could one say it more beautifully than this, I wonder.
Several other interesting issues are discussed in this impressive article but I will stop here. I wish we had more priests as committed, perceptive and ready to defend Catholic tradition as Father Gary Dickson.