27 September 2010


Emily Witt discusses the phenomenon of young fogeyism in Great Britain.
Young fogeys wear tweed, smoke pipes, and revere the monarchy. They fight to repeal the Hunting Act, carry handmade umbrellas, and evince nostalgia for a past they have never actually experienced. Their political sensibilities, for the most part, track their aesthetics: Sharpe, a former chairman of the Cambridge University Conservative Association, describes his own politics as "paternalistic."

Fogeyism has no manifesto or ideology, Sharpe insists, and young fogeys don't announce themselves as such -- to do so would be counter to what Sharpe has called their "studied indifference." But, he admits, "one thing that is of great concern is the overdemocratization of things at the moment -- that whatever is popularly thought good is what's good." The young fogey, says Sharpe, has faith in authority: Bach is superior to Lady Gaga [Um, duh? Was this ever in doubt? Even for a second?]; Alberti is preferable to Frank Gehry; and police chiefs should be appointed, not elected. As the ruling Conservatives present their agenda of government decentralization and sweeping budget cuts on relatively tenuous political ground, this refusal by some young conservatives to adhere to the party's reformed image is inconvenient at best.
The rest here.
French New Wave Bossa Nova--I'm in lurve...

Medjugorje Mumbo Jumbo

Yes, I know scores of people claim to have benefited from the messages, and that there have been conversions and reignition of the faith--but that doesn't change the fact that two successive bishops of the diocese have decreed the apparitions not authentic, and the Catholic Church has deferred to the bishops' judgment on the matter, forbidding any diocese from publicly sponsoring pilgrimages there, or from publicly inviting the seers to speak. (And, contrary to popular opinion, Pope John Paul II never approved of the apparitions, privately or publicly.) In any case, there have also been bad fruits from Medjugorje, including rampant disobedience from the community of Franciscan priests. After 30,000 so-called private messages from Our Lady in Medjugorje, common sense might tell you that there's something a bit suspicious about the whole thing. The best resource on the subject--a thoroughly researched, well-written compendium of the events in Medjugorje--is Donal Foley's Understanding Medjugorje: Heavenly Visions or Religious Illusions?

In flagrant disregard of his fellow bishops' decree and the stance of Holy Mother Church, Cardinal Schönborn (why are we not surprised?) recently hosted the Medjugorje seers in his cathedral. They spoke in front of a gawking crowd before launching into public recitation of the Rosary, interrupted midway by their regularly scheduled visitor from on high. (Te Deum gives a blow-by-blow account.) Two items of note: (1) the seers' expressions during the "vision" contradict each other, and (2) the vestments are the sort to be expected at gatherings like these.

Say it with me: the visions are false.

26 September 2010

I'm always puzzled when so-called forward-thinking individuals claim the Catholic Church's teaching on sexuality is outmoded and obsolete. That claim, of course, implies that at one time Catholic moral teaching was relevant and appropriate and that, as time has passed and as sexual mores have loosened and gender roles grown nontraditional, the Church's teachings no longer apply.

The most appropriate reaction to such piffle is to box the speaker on the ears. But if one prefers not to touch the heretic, kindly lead him to the nearest history textbook, and open it up to the chapter on PAGAN ROME: SEXUAL MORES.

Remind him that pagan Rome was the birthplace of Christianity, and that the Church's battles against 21st-century American sexual ideals is a walk in the park compared to its struggles in 1st-century Rome. Remind him that modern American culture--as degraded as it may be--doesn't hold a candle to the decadence of Rome (or of Greece, for that matter). Remind him that Christian bishops had no easier a time teaching their flock to remain chaste then than they do today--but teach it they did, faithfully, in the face of ridicule, unpopularity, and even martyrdom. And the early Church surely had her dissident few who thought they could make the faith more palatable to secular Rome if only the Church would relax a bit on her sexual teachings, who argued that Catholic morality couldn't compete with the rampant adultery, concubinage, homosexuality, and pedophilia. Remind him, however, that, not only did it compete, it conquered, and once-pagan Rome became the seat of the Holy See, the head of the universal church, and the leader of the largest religious group in the world.

That should shut him up.

25 September 2010

And on a lighter note...

The funniest photoshop fails of all time...

19 September 2010

Pope at Westminster

Could the Holy Father have been any clearer on Eucharistic theology in his sermon at Westminster Cathedral? (You can read the sermon plus analysis here.) Again and again he emphasized the sacrificial nature of the Mass, that it is Christ Himself, truly present Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity, in the Eucharist, offered to God in atonement for our sins. Ever since our Lord instituted the sacrament, it has been the center and heart of the Mass. It was the target of especial hatred by the Protestant reformers, who attempted to eradicate all mention of the Oblation from the liturgy. Archbishop Cranmer, architect of the new Lord's Supper in Reformation England, introduced revisions to the Catholic Mass that, bit by bit, chipped away at the sacrificial character of this central act of Catholic worship and replaced it with a bland symbolism. One can truly say that the Church's ancient Eucharistic theology was the root and source of division between Catholic and Protestant theologian during the British schism. It was for this belief--lived out in the Mass said by fugitive priests--that many Catholics died.

Fast forward 500 years or so, and we see a modern Church whose Eucharistic understanding is less than clear, and whose defense of the Eucharist from desecration stands in pitiful contrast to that of the martyrs of the past. There isn't enough space here to discuss what's transpired over these centuries to get us to this lamentable state, but it's no secret that the liturgical revolution of the 1970s played some part. Consider, among other things, the 1969 General Instruction on the Roman Missal, whose theology so scandalized Catholics that Pope Paul VI required that it be revised. What in particular was wrong with the first Instruction? Precisely this: that it obscured the Church's ancient and venerable teaching on the Eucharist. Instead of Christ's actual Body and Blood being offered on the altar as an oblation to God on behalf of His people, the Instruction emphasized that the "Lord's Supper" was the offering of God's people together with the bread--a uniquely Protestant notion. True Catholic doctrine, however, teaches that although God's people are indeed offered in the Holy Sacrifice, they are not the essential or central offering--it is, rather, Christ's real Body and Blood that are being offered for the Church, regardless of those present.

How could a papally approved document be so full of error? Archbishop Bugnini--known to be the architect of the Novus Ordo--was also the driving force behind the new Instruction. He disobeyed Pope Paul VI by failing to submit the draft of the Instruction to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith--and reaped the consequences. The public outcry at the scandalous new Eucharistic theology was so great that the Pope ordered the revision of the Instruction, which emerged the next year, correcting the errors of the first.

Still, in spite of this, catechesis in seminaries and churches suffered, and we found more and more priests teaching that the offering on Catholic altars is that of the bread and wine together with the people, and not much more. The emphasis fell increasingly on us as the people of God, and less on Christ as the sacrificial Lamb. (Incidentally, this is really what is at the heart of traditionalists' concerns about the Novus Ordo. It is not ultimately the music, the bells, the incense, the sermons, or even the Latin. It is, rather, the clarity of Eucharistic theology in the Mass. Once that clarity is gone, so goes the liturgy. Beautiful, reverent liturgy is an organic outgrowth of true belief in the Real Presence; if it really is the spiritual and physical presence of the Lord of the cosmos in that little golden tabernacle, then His sanctuary had better be worthy of Him! Then the music had better be worthy of Him! Then our reception of Holy Communion had better be worthy of Him! Then our liturgy as a whole had better be worthy of Him! And the language ought to be a sacred tongue worthy of the mystery; just as our Lord used the liturgical language of Hebrew when He instituted the Eucharist at the Last Supper, rather than His everyday Aramaic, so it's fitting that our priests should use the liturgical language of Latin for the sacred mysteries.) Just the other day, I was alarmed by an otherwise orthodox-sounding priest explaining the Eucharist as a memorial, a calling to mind of Christ's sacrifice, comparing it to the memory of a loved one recalled at his graveside. But the only way such an analogy would work is if, instead of simply recalling the memory of our loved one at his grave, the deceased literally rose from the dead and stood right in front of us! That is how present is Christ's Body and Blood in the Sacred Host. It's not mere memorial. It's not mere "calling to mind." It is actual physical presence.

That's why the Holy Father's sermon at Westminster Cathedral, in once-Catholic England, in the presence of the Archbishop of Canterbury--whose office historically played such a role in eradicating Eucharistic understanding throughout the fair isles--was significant. The Holy Father knows that the false ecumenism that has been the root of so much harm to the faith, that has served to temporarily placate non-Catholics, to the detriment of true Catholic doctrine, is untenable. As he said at the ecumenical meeting at Lambeth Palace, inclusiveness cannot come "at the expense of Christian truth." It was that central belief of Christian truth--the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, offered on Catholic altars the world over ever since that night in the Cenacle, and so much abused of late--that Pope Benedict proclaimed without compromise. True ecumenism, he understands, requires speaking the truth, as challenging as that truth may be, in the hope that it will be embraced and the soul reconciled to God and thus saved.

17 September 2010

If you feel so inclined, please join in a novena to Bd. Elizabeth of the Trinity on behalf of Philip Johnson, former Navy officer and seminarian, diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor.

Oh God, Who loves souls so much as to make them Your dwelling-place, we thank You for having enriched during her life on earth Your humble servant Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity by granting her a deep insight into this ineffable reality. If it should enter into Your adorable designs to glorify with the honors of Holy Church her who longed to be even on earth a 'Praise of Glory', grant we beg You to show by external signs the favor she enjoys with You, that she may extend the Kingdom of Your Love in souls.

Through the intercession of Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity we ask for a miraculous healing for Philip Johnson.

Glory be to the Father... (three times).

16 September 2010

How endearing to see our Holy Father don the specially created St. Ninian Tartan scarf during his papal ride in Scotland on this day, the Feast of St. Ninian. Ladies, does he not wear a scarf well?

Matthew Newsome, creator of the new tartan, explains the design:
The design incorporates white and yellow (the colors of the Vatican), white and blue (the colors of Scotland), white and red (the colors of John Henry Newman's arms, who will be beatified by Pope Benedict XVI during the visit), and green for the lichens growing on the stones at Whithorn, site of St. Ninian's church.

There are also 8 threads in the wide white line, one for each of the Catholic dioceses of Scotland, and exactly 452 threads pivot to pivot in the thread count, one for each Catholic parish in Scotland.

Kumbaya in the Key of G

A former nun, now married, discusses the part she played in post-Vatican II changes and reveals the true motives behind some of them:
Who thought it was a good idea to turn the Roman Catholic liturgy on its heels—to tear out the magnificent pipe organs that accompanied solemn, meditative, Gregorian chant and replace them with a couple of guitars and folk music?

Well, I did.

And there I am with my “choir” on a Catholic campus in New York, in 1967. And, yes, those are staples down the centerfold of a religious magazine. The young man in black on my right, Bob C., was a seminarian at the time. He was lead guitar. I led the singing.

This Little Light of Mine. Kumbaya.

No kidding.

After the second Vatican council (1962-1965), we who embraced its spirit couldn’t be held back. The liturgy was one facet of Catholic life that has never been the same.

Before Vatican II’s aggiornamento—”bringing up-to-date”—priests in flowing vestments stood at the altar, their backs to the congregation, saying mass in Latin. After Vatican II, we held liturgies in apartments and at picnic tables; priests in Irish knit sweaters sat with us and consecrated bread from the deli. If a tasteless wafer of unleavened bread could be turned into the body of Christ, why not a brownie?

It made sense: The priest either had special powers or he didn’t. If he could transform bread and wine, he could transform danish and coffee. The scholarly priests among us told us that we weren’t being irreverent, but rather returning to the true spirit of the gospel, to the earliest days of the liturgy. With great delight, we believed them.

Campuses especially welcomed the changes. Chapels built for individuals in rows of pews were taken apart and remodeled to accommodate groups of people who hugged often while praying.

Many resisted, regretting the loss of Latin in the liturgy. Better a universal language that no one understands, they said, than the vernacular, like English, that only some understand. The vernacular prevailed.

The religious habit and lifestyle were also casualties of Vatican II. I was on a legislative council, much like Congress, who voted on big issues, like whether we’d modify our bonnets so we could get drivers licenses. [Last week's photo shows me in the full bonnet; above, five years later, I'm in a bonnet with its blinder sides cut away.]

I remember long hours of lobbying and heated discussions at meetings over the length of the habit skirt. What was the breakeven point between religious and lay? And by the way, did we really need that rule of silence at meals? Didn’t Jesus enjoy a good chat with his disciples?

Every day there was a new theology book to talk about, a new idea of God, a new cause to embrace. We believed sweeping the streets of the inner city had as much value as saying the Office. There was excitement--and maybe a false sense of heroism--as we bustled about, doing the work of Jesus the Social Worker.

The resisters warned us that once we removed our veils and shortened our skirts, soon we’d be in lay clothes with only a lapel pin to indicate that we were nuns.
Slippery slope, we cried! A fallacy! That will never happen!

But they were right. I was a member of the order for almost eighteen years. By the end of that period, I wore nothing distinguishing except a small cross on my lapel.

I lost track of Bob C. and don’t know where he is today. Maybe he’s a bishop in New Jersey, or maybe he’s a husband and father of three living in Philadelphia. Looking at the stats, the chances are very great that, like me, he’s no longer in religious life.

There’s a sadness to aggiornamento--we were never able to complete it. We managed to pick away at the externals of both the liturgy and religious life but we never got to the real issues. New popes intervened and called a halt just as we were about to tackle the exclusion of women from the leading sacrament, intolerance of the gay and lesbian lifestyles, outdated notions of birth control and other matters of life and death.

We fought to change the Church and then walked away, leaving those who loved it as it was with the remnants of our botched attempt.

I have to wonder if we should have started the revolution at all.

13 September 2010

Apparently, in England, the Mass is a gig.

If you don't think the British should have to suffer such nonsense, write to those responsible for the pamphlet:



08 September 2010

It has been said that monarchy’s death knell sounds once it becomes necessary for a monarch to be competent: this is because the monarch, in the old sense, is legitimated by his birth, not his talent. This observation is even truer in the case of the liturgy: liturgy’s death knell is sounded once it requires a holy and good priest to perform it. The faithful must never regard the liturgy as something the priest does by his own efforts. It is not something that happens by good fortune or as the result of a personal charism or merit. While the liturgy is going on, time is suspended: liturgical time is different from the time that elapses outside the church’s walls. It is Golgotha time, the time of the hapax, the unique and sole Sacrifice; it is a time that contains all times and none. How can a man be made to see that he is leaving the present time behind if the space he enters is totally dominated by the presence of one particular individual? How wise the old liturgy was when it prescribed that the congregation should not see the priest’s face – his distractedness or coldness or (even more importantly) his devotion and emotion.
--Martin Mosebach, The Heresy of Formlessness

07 September 2010

The Angelus, Jean-François Millet, 1857-59. Oil on canvas.
When a pastor has been afraid to assert what is right, has he not turned his back and fled by remaining silent? Whereas if he intervenes on behalf of the flock, he sets up a wall against the enemy in front of the house of Israel.
Therefore, the Lord again says to his unfaithful people: Your prophets saw false and foolish visions and did not point out your wickedness, that you might repent of your sins.
The name of the prophet is sometimes given in the sacred writings to teachers who both declare the present to be fleeting and reveal what is to come. The word of God accuses them of seeing false visions because they are afraid to reproach men for their faults and thereby lull the evildoer with an empty promise of safety. Because they fear reproach, they keep silent and fail to point out the sinner’s wrongdoing.

--Pope St. Gregory the Great

06 September 2010

Mass of the Ages

Thirty-three-year-old priest Father Christopher Smith asks the question, Why am I so "into" the Extraordinary Form of the Mass?, and provides a beautiful and touching answer.

04 September 2010

While I am glad for the new and more accurate translation of the Mass, which is not perfection but closer to it than one deserves in an imperfect world, a far more important reform would be the return of the ad orientem position of the celebrant as normative. It is the antidote to the tendency of clerisy to impose itself on the people. When a celebrant at Mass stops and says, “This is not about me,” you may be sure he thinks it may be about him. It would be harder for him to harbor that suspicion were he leading the people humbly to the east and the dawn of salvation.

John Henry Newman was the greatest master of English letters in his century of brilliant English, but he gave no countenance to his vernacular replacing the sacral tongue. That is another matter for another day. But he knew the meaning of cupio dissolvi, and he taught that without such self-abnegation the gift of personality reduces the Passion to pantomime. It was because his priestcraft was also soulcraft, that he solemnly invoked the Sacred Heart at the altar in order to speak "heart to heart" with the people in the street:

'Clad in his sacerdotal vestments, [the priest] sinks what is individual in himself altogether, and is but the representative of Him from whom he derives his commission. His words, his tones, his actions, his presence, lose their personality; one bishop, one priest, is like another; they all chant the same notes, and observe the same genuflections, as they give one peace and one blessing, as they offer one and the same sacrifice.

“The Mass must not be said without a Missal under the priest’s eye; nor in any language but that in which it has come down to us from the early hierarchs of the Western Church. But, when it is over, and the celebrant has resigned the vestments proper to it, then he resumes himself, and comes to us in the gifts and associations which attach to his person.'"

--Fr. George Rutler, The Liturgical Experts’ Long Tassels

The article is worth reading in toto.