Daily Archives: April 1, 2013
The so-called Archbishop of Canterbury has involuntarily spoken some words of wisdom yesterday in his Easter homily. The Guardian informs us Mr Welby warned his audience “of the dangers of investing too much faith in frail and fallible human leaders, be they politicians or priests”.
He is, most certainly, right.
Trusting in a Mickey Mouse “church” so obviously incapable of recognising the most basic tenets of Christianity is certainly a big mistake, with potentially fatal consequences for one’s eternal soul.
Trusting, in fact, any man at all – be he a political or religious leader; even Pope – as source of Truth is a fallacy. Not even the best are exempt from mistakes, and we have many examples from history – and actually from the news – that Popes aren’t any exception, either.
Truth can only be sought where Truth is: in Him Who is the Way, the Truth and the Life, and in the One Church He has instituted so that this Truth be preserved and transmitted intact.
There is only one Church, and there is only one Truth. Donning fancy vestment like the chap above doesn’t change anything in that.
Do you remember the Seventies? The rhetoric of a new world? The idea the “existing” (a fashionable word at the time) was wrong? The invitations to “destroy to build up again”?
It would appear Father Cantalamessa is still stuck in those times, as his incendiary homily on Good Friday shows. Rorate Caeli has a big excerpt, and my heart goes out to those forced to hear the homily in its entirety.
Father Cantalamessa, all full of Franciscan Spirit, loves to play demolition man. Let us see how bad he does it.
We must do everything possible so that the Church may never look like that complicated and cluttered castle described by Kafka, and the message may come out of it as free and joyous as when the messenger began his run. We know what the impediments are that can restrain the messenger: dividing walls, starting with those that separate the various Christian churches from one another, the excess of bureaucracy, the residue of past ceremonials, laws and disputes, now only debris.
The “existing” is compared to a Kafkaesque labyrinth of bureaucracy and inefficiency. Worse still, Father Cantalamessa seems to believe that these accretions, these “walls”, these “residues of past ceremonials”, are the factors that “separate the various Christian churches from one another”. Last time I looked, there was only one Church, and Father Cantalamessa’s mental age must be approximately seven if he thinks Protestants and Orthodox are separated from the Church because the Vatican has too many walls or “residues of past ceremonials”. Truly, such utter ridiculous tosh might perhaps be forgiven in a first grade boy writing at Christmas about peace and love, but is intolerable scandal in the mouth of one who should know better.
Then the attack becomes very physical or, better said, architectonic.
Over the centuries, to adapt to the needs of the moment, they become filled with partitions, staircases, rooms and closets. The time comes when we realize that all these adjustments no longer meet the current needs, but rather are an obstacle, so we must have the courage to knock them down and return the building to the simplicity and linearity of its origins. This was the mission that was received one day by a man who prayed before the Crucifix of San Damiano: “Go, Francis, and repair my Church”.
The mental leap between “Go, Francis, and repair my Church” and “Go, Francis, and knock everything down” clearly escaped Father Cantalamessa, who is clearly unable to see the difference between “reform” and “demolition”. Or perhaps he is just so pleased with himself that he thinks he is allowed to use such childish language. Still, make no mistake: these people aren’t joking, and if they get free rein we will experience another wave of destruction of everything that is beautiful, good and holy, as in the Seventies.
Then we have the usual V II meme, “The Holy Ghost talks through my mouth”. In Father Cantalamessa’s words:
May the Holy Spirit, in this moment in which a new time is opening for the Church, full of hope, reawaken in men who are at the window the expectancy of the message, and in the messengers the will to make it reach them, even at the cost of their life.
This is the usual V II pattern: the Holy Ghost inspires us, so let us hope we are allowed to devastate as much as we can; then the more we devastate, the more the Holy Ghost is acting through us. Alleluia!
I had a different perception of Cantalamessa. How wrong can one be. Or perhaps, how do people change.
In Italian, “Cantalamessa” is translated as “Singthemass”. Perhaps “Staizitto” would have been a more fitting family name.
I have written only some days ago about the clumsy attempt at explanation given by Father Lombardi for the – it must be said – liturgical abuse committed by the Pontiff on Holy Thursday.
It is with great pleasure that I have noticed today that Edward Peters’ blog trashes Lombardi’s statement in a much better way that I ever could, but lamenting in part the same disregard of elementary logic: right or wrong doesn’t depend on whether you want to “include” someone, nor on the size of the congregation.
Ed Peters actually goes further than that, because he openly accuses the Press Office of being polluted by Antinomianism, which is a heretical doctrine.
The test of Edward Peter’s blog is reported below in its entirety, and I can hardly hide from you my satisfaction at seeing that the reaction to the shallowness and approximation of the present times – and much more so, of the last weeks – is also coming from blogs of professionals.
Before leaving the word to Mr Peters’ excellent considerations, I would only like to make two small observations of my own:
1. The Pope has committed a liturgical abuse as big as a house. This must be said loud and clear if we want this mess to stop. If the same feat had been committed by any one else, the Catholic blogosphere would have been aflame in no time, and the comments would have been, erm, somewhat less than moderate.
2. Father Lombardi, as so often, gives the idea he doesn’t know what he is talking about. But it would be a mistake to think he is the one who created the problem. Lombardi, himself a Jesuit, clearly understands zippo of proper and reverent liturgy, respect for the rules, and even orderly conduct at Mass. But I am not sure the bishop of Rome is any better than him.
If the Holy Father is smart, he will show true humility, keep Monsignor Marini near him and listen to every word he says.
Not four weeks into this Pontificate, and the “new spontaneity” is causing a mess of rare proportions. Perhaps it’s time to go back to reason before the entire planet laughs at the liturgical amateurishness (and offensiveness) of our humble clergy.
Some thoughts on the VPO statement regarding the Mandatum rite controversy
The background to this controversy is the antinomianism that prevails today.
The Church is passing through a period in which the relationship between ecclesiastical law and the life of faith is widely misunderstood and the very content of Church law is often poorly explained. My attempts to address this double problem include explaining how law is important to a faith community, but even more, I try to explain what the law is at present—for one can hardly debate how ecclesiastical law ought to read if one does not know what it already says.
The controversy over Pope Francis’ disregard of a liturgical law in the Mandatum rite exposes, I think, how many others in the Church misunderstand important aspects of ecclesiastical law and how a misguided attempt to explain Church law can actually provoke more issues for the faithful than it settles.
A Vatican Press Office statement asserts:
“One can easily understand that in a great celebration, men would be chosen for the foot washing because Jesus, himself wash[ed] the feet of the twelve apostles who were male. However the ritual of the washing of the feet on Holy Thursday evening in the Juvenile Detention Centre in Rome took place in a particular, small community that included young women.”
Such language, I fear, confuses matters.
The basic meaning of a rite, and certainly the interpretation to be given a rubric like this one, does not depend on the number of people attending the liturgy. No theory is offered to show that in large congregations Christ’s modeling of apostolic ministry is intended by the Mandatum, but in small congregations his modeling of love is intended. Asserting otherwise only sows confusion for other liturgical questions. Similarly, to say that the interpretation of this rubric turns on the presence of “young women” is to make effectively universal that odd interpretation (really: how many pastoral settings consist only of males?)
“To have excluded the young women from the ritual washing of feet on Holy Thursday night in this Roman prison, would have detracted our attention from the essence of the Holy Thursday Gospel…”
This unguarded language risks being understood as “following this Church law detracts attention from the essence of the Gospel”. I cannot imagine that this was really meant, but that is basically what is communicated. I do not think there is a conflict between Church law and the essence of the Gospel, notwithstanding that Church laws, from time to time, need to be reformed (as I have suggested the Mandatum rubric should be). In any case, this problematic language exemplifies why Vatican press statements are not vehicles of official legal interpretation in the Church. Canon law makes clear who has authority to authentically interpret Church laws (1983 CIC 16 § 1, ap. con. Pastor Bonus 154 ff., and certain congregations in regard to certain matters).
“… and the very beautiful and simple gesture of a father who desired to embrace those who were on the fringes of society; those who were not refined experts of liturgical rules.”
Again, this is unfortunate language.
The implication seems to be that rubrics are understandable by (and ultimately applicable only to) “refined experts of liturgical rules”. I disagree: many rubrics indeed reflect deep theological truths (and thus rubrics are often exercises in something more than legal positivism), but most rubrics are meant to be easily understandable by normal priests ministering in typical pastoral settings. It is a disservice to suggest that respect for Church law is primarily the concern of “refined experts” or that ecclesiastical law has little bearing on how believers should conduct their faith life.
“That the Holy Father, Francis, washed the feet of young men and women on his first Holy Thursday as Pope, should call our minds and hearts to the simple and spontaneous gesture of love, affection, forgiveness and mercy of the Bishop of Rome, more than to legalistic, liturgical or canonical discussions.”
I agree that Francis’ action achieved this good effect.
What I find distressing is the inability to recognize (or refusal to acknowledge) that this action also had other effects, effects that might not be so benign. I have argued that among those effects was the sowing of new confusion about the binding character of liturgical laws in general, about the influence of a pope on good order in the community, and so on. Now, to be sure, there are sound answers to these questions, but they are not easily offered in the middle of the Triduum and splashed across secular news stories and blogs. This whole matter should have been handled differently from the start.
Finally, this sort of language pits “love, affection, forgiveness and mercy” against “legalistic, liturgical or canonical discussions.” Thus accepted is the well-worn but false dichotomy between the spiritual goods of the Church and her legal traditions. Such a charge is often leveled against canon law today, but it was expressly rejected by Pope John Paul II when he wrote that Church law “is in no way intended as a substitute for faith, grace, charisms, and especially charity in the life of the Church and of the faithful. On the contrary, its purpose is rather to create such an order in the ecclesial society that, while assigning the primacy to love, grace, and charisms, it at the same time renders their organic development easier in the life of both the ecclesial society and the individual persons who belong to it.” John Paul II, ap. con. Sacrae disciplinae leges (1983) 16.
Law in the Church—canon, liturgical, sacramental, etc.—is not an end in itself, but instead serves greater ends. Yet, precisely as law, it cannot serve these purposes if it is ignored and/or explained away, two fates often suffered by law in antinomian times.
Edward Peters, JD, JCD, Ref. Sig. Ap
You might not have noticed it, but those who have clicked around to take the temperature of the Catholic blogosphere have become aware of a widespread unease at Pope Francis’ latest exploits. Already weeks into his pontificate a good, young priest commented on Rorate Caeli and made no mystery of the fact he was scandalised by the Pope’s behaviour; another priest promptly assured him he has the same feeling. For any two to write, there are hundreds who think the same.
In addition to simple comments, if you read around the blogosphere you will even find blogging priests – I will not make names – expressing themselves with unusual openness about the problem they see in the Holy Father’s behaviour. The cry of orthodox Catholics has become so loud than in just a few days the “Guardian”, the “Times” and the German “Spiegel” have reported, and none of them has tried to dismiss the opposition to the Pope’s feat as the rant of isolated grumpy old men. Even Father Lombardi has felt he had to intervene, and has tried to mount a very clumsy, illogical and rather pathetic attempt at explanation of the Pope’s liturgical abuse, certainly without success.
Orthodox Catholics are complaining and not only the Catholic world, but the world at large has noticed.
This is, if you ask me, a major difference with the wreckovation of the Sixties and Seventies. In those times, with the access to public information limited to a restricted number of outlet, it wasn’t easy to get the word of opposition out. Countless Catholics were, no doubt, confused and mortified by what was happening, but they did not have any outlet to express their dismay, besides talking to – and being probably mocked by – their priest. There were some initiatives, like the worldwide Una Voce or its English affiliate Latin Mass Society. But these were clearly limited in the scope of their activity and the audience they could reach, and they certainly were no worry whatsoever for the Vatican II demolition troops.
Fifty years later everything has changed, and liturgical abuses don’t go unpunished so easily anymore. The atomisation of news outlets caused by the explosion of the blogging world makes any attempt to silence the cry of orthodox Catholics utterly futile.
Of course, we must not kid ourselves into believing that as conservative Catholics pretty much rule the blogosphere, they will be perceived as the real audience the Vatican will aim at. The contrary is, I am afraid, true. This Papacy seems to be liked – I am being politically incorrect here; but then I always am – most by those who don’t care for tradition, true Catholic values, and Mass attendance, and to cause a favourable reaction chiefly among the huge mass of distracted “rosewater Catholics”. This is, it seems to me, the main audience the Pope is seeking. A superficial message to attract the superficial.
“I like the fact this Pope is one of us”, says the woman at the bakery who never cares to attend. “How nice he is”, says the man at the barber’s shop who wouldn’t waste three seconds thinking whether he/his wife should avoid contraception; “he certainly likes the young”, says the boy who couldn’t even recite the Ten Commandments if his life depended on him. All these people don’t go around reading Catholic blogs, and many of the older among them probably still do not really know what a “blog” is. Again, this seem to be the target of the Vatican’s new “popularity drive”, possibly in the very deluded hope that such an enterprise may encourage people to rediscover Catholic values. A very strange hope, if you consider that the “popularity drive” started in the Sixties is exactly what caused the emptying of the pews in the first place, so that this strategy reminds one of the man wanting to cure his alcoholism by changing vodka brand. This, of course, without considering the undermining of Catholic values put in place every time tradition is trampled, or liturgical abuses put in place in front of a worldwide audience (“I find it very good that he washed the feet of women”, says the butcher’s wife, and she has no idea why the feet are washed in the first place).
The “popularity drive” will, therefore, continue, and I am eagerly awaiting for the Pope driving the school bus, or making a night shift at the bakery, or inventing some other stunt to please the masses. Still, now the game won’t be very easy, because the voice of serious Catholicism is here to stay, and will not be silenced by any amount of consent garnered among the distracted, the tepid and the outright indifferent.
If any one of us were in the position to ask Pope Francis if he had expected to find so much resistance and criticism after his decision not to wear the Mozzetta, he would probably get the answer the Pope had expected one or two murmurs from right-wing corners, but certainly not a worldwide indignation. Similarly, the newest episode of the feet-washing has most certainly caused a criticism far above the expected measure, even putting the “new Franciscans” in the defensive. If Pope Francis thinks this indignation is going to stop, he is not as smart as we think. I am confident he is coming around to the simple reality he can’t do as he pleases.
The time of the Pinocchio Masses has gone, and continuing on that road will cause the Pontiff wild opposition and, at some point, well-deserved ridicule.
Pope Francis seems a smart man. He will, methinks, try for a while to push his “stunt” agenda, but if the Catholic blogosphere continues to pay attention and denounce his antics he will soon discover he will go down in history as an unmitigated disaster born of barely controlled pride. If he is intelligent, he will draw the consequences.
The time of the Pinocchio Masses has gone.
Easter Monday is such a beautiful day to make a solemn proposition to dump Starbucks.
In case you think it never happened before that a Pope goes around spreading heretical messages or beliefs (though not proclaiming them dogmatically; we are not there yet), this is a sobering reading from the always great priests of the SSPX.
You may want to take the time to read the SSPX “Letter to Friends and Benefactors” No. 78, of April 2011 in its entirety. You find the text in its original setting here. Please note this letter, in part, quotes an older text, which is why then Cardinal Ratzinger is called “your Eminence”.
I have allowed myself to reproduce here the parts which I think are relevant for today’s post. Emphasis in the original.
[…] On Sunday, December 11, 1983, the Pope preached in a Protestant church of Rome after having more or less invited himself to do so. […]
[…] On May 10, 1984, the Pope visited a Buddhist temple in Thailand; he took off his shoes and sat down at the feet of a Buddhist bonze, who himself was sitting in front of the altar on which there was a large statue of the Buddha. […]
[…] In his book The Ratzinger Report (1985), Cardinal Ratzinger claims that in extreme cases the other religions are “extraordinary” means of salvation. No, your Eminence: Jesus Christ and He alone is the Way, the Truth, and the Life; nobody comes to the Father but by Him! [..]
[…] In August of 1985, the Holy Father proclaimed to young Muslims in Casablanca that we Christians adore the same God as they do—as though there is a Most Holy Trinity and an Incarnation of God in Islam! […]
[…] A few days later, he went with some animist priests and their escorts to the outskirts of Lohomay, to a cult in the “holy forest” where “the force of water” and the divinized souls of the ancestors are invoked. And at least two times at Kara and Togoville—at Kara just before celebrating Holy Mass!—he poured water and cast corn flour into a dried-out cucumber skin, a gesture professing a false religious belief. […].
[…] And now on January 25, 1986, he called upon all religions to gather together in Assisi to pray for peace. According to the newspapers, the date of October 24, the anniversary of the founding of the United Nations, might be chosen. “What God are people going to pray to, who explicitly deny the divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ? Truly the devil came up with that idea,” commented Archbishop Lefebvre. […]
[…] Lastly, in the course of his journey to India, the Pope spoke only of dialogue and mutual comprehension between religions in order that they promote together human brotherhood and social well-being. […]
We could, of course, go further back in history and find other examples of Popes just as bad. Pope Liberius excommunicated Athanasius, Pope Honorius was declared a heretic by the Third Council of Constantinople with the following words:
“And with these we define that there shall be expelled from the holy Church of God and anathematized Honorius who was some time Pope of Old Rome, because of what we found written by him to [Patriarch] Sergius, that in all respects he followed his view and confirmed his impious doctrines.”
It is, therefore, clear the concept of Papal Infallibility does not cover everything that a Pope teaches. This was clearly recognised during the First Vatican Council, when Papal Infallibility was given strict and well-defined boundaries.
How is, then, a faithful Catholic to react to the antics of bad, or very bad, or outright heretical Popes? The above mentioned Letter gives us a clear, perfectly Catholic answer to this (emphasis mine):
Do you think, my dear friends, that to lay out these things gives us joy? It fills us with grief to write them down, our sole concern being the welfare of Mother Church. Similarly, we are far from wishing to judge the Pope—we gladly leave this delicate task to a later judgment of the Church. We do not belong to those who hastily declare that the Papal See is vacant, but we let ourselves be led by the history of the Church. Pope Honorius was anathematized by the Sixth Ecumenical Council because of his false teachings, but no one has ever claimed that Honorius was not Pope. However, it is impossible for us to close our eyes in front of the facts.
Being a good Catholic does not consist in becoming blind, and stupid. Things are what they are. If we have to live with a bad Pope, well we have to live with a bad Pope. It does not help anyone (not the Church; not the Pope; not one’s own chances of salvation) to stick one’s head in the sand and pretend scandal is not happening. The Pope is not above scandal. In fact, no one is so much not above scandal as the Pope.
But to refuse to stick one’s head in the sand does not mean to cry that the end is near, the sky is falling, or the See is vacant. Honorius was Pope, and we do refuse to close our eyes in front of the facts.
As always, proper knowledge of history helps us to put things in the proper perspective. Unsurprisingly, as this generation neglects history it falls pray of the opposite errors of Papolatry and Sedevacantism.
You, my dear readers, will do nothing of all this. You will remain steadfast in your faith in our One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church no matter what should happen. You know that no generation of Christians has not been challenged, and those who have been challenged the most have created a solid foundation for the faith in the centuries to come.
No panic, no desperation, and no Sedevacantism. This will be, very probably, a rough ride.
Il buon giorno si vede dal mattino, says the wise Italian: one sees the beautiful day from the morning. What kind of morning we had in the last weeks is too evident for me to waste words.
Let us be prepared for a bleak day, and pray the Lord that we may – if it pleases Him – be spared the worst punishment. If it should happen that the day is not so bleak after all, so much the better. Still, it’s wise to be prepared, and I think it’s fair to say the day of this Pontificate has no real chances of ever becoming the buon giorno we were hoping for before that fateful 13 March.
On the upper right hand side of this page is a link to an interactive Rosary, just one of the many ways you can join countless Catholics in this most beautiful devotion.
Let the Rosary by our sword against heresies and bad doctrines. We are only wretched sinners, and can do but little. Let us ask the Blessed Virgin to help us in this difficult hour.
A good Easter Monday to you all.