Sunday, February 28, 2010

Give Up Guilt for Lent

It's never too late to give up something else for Lent.

Might I suggest: Guilt.

Give up guilt for Lent! I did.

I'm the not the first to have thought of this; do a google search and you'll see the idea of giving up guilt for Lent has been discussed quite a bit before; sometimes tongue-in-cheek, sometimes in jest, sometimes from a Liberal perspective, less so from the perspective I'm talking about.

Guilt is a self-righteous feeling. A Pelagian emotion. As I discussed in my post on the Sense of Sin:
The problem with the "self-discipline" or "doing battle with oneself" discourse is actually that it usually ends up as a weird sort of dissociative dialogue. "How could I do something like that?! Bad me!" is actually phrased as a second-person address to oneself, it grammatically takes the second-person form "How could you do something like that?! Bad you!" So there is this bizarre dissociation and disconnect between the "scolding" speaker (the internalized voice of authority) and the "scolded" subject. The "superego" is identified in that moment as the "real" self, totally blameless, which is punishing this other "bad" agent inside ones mind (the "ego") for not obeying it as master, but rather doing these things that some third competing party (ie, the "id," a demon, The World, The Flesh, etc) told it to do. When really they're all the same person!!! This isn't real ownership or contrition or integration, because the voice of "conscience" that is doing the "repenting" or abnegation totally dis-identifies with the bad action and attributes it to some second-person agent and external temptation. So there is no responsibility taken, it's just exactly the same passing of blame that happened with Adam, Eve, and the snake!
So this idea of guilt, of self-condemnation or self-scolding, is really impossible without a compartmentalization of the Self that, ironically, actually preserves the self-righteous scolding voice from actually identifying with and taking responsibility for the bad action.

Guilt is not contrition; contrition actually owns the action and realizes that there can be no dis-identification with it: it happened, you can't change the just have to live with it, letting grace fill the gap. So true repentance and contrition looks towards the future, not the past.

Guilt is also not empathy. Feeling guilty for personal sins is one thing, and certainly should be discarded. Guilt for sins against other people is more understandable, and yet it is also the wrong response. If you are going to regret something you did to should be because you empathize with the pain you've caused them, not because you did something "wrong" or broke some rule. That actually is a distraction that brings attention back onto the Self at the very moment that you should be concentrating on the other person whom you hurt.

Guilt is also not the same as shame, by the way, though shame is ultimately just as unhealthy response, at least in the Christian dispensation. Though different psychologists and anthropologists disagree on the difference between shame and guilt, some common elements of descriptions of the distinction seem to be that A) shame is imagined through the eyes of society/outsiders, whereas guilt is imagined through an internalized moral code, and that B) shame believes the fault comes to inhere in the Self itself, whereas guilt focuses on an individual action or behavior abstracted from the Self as such.

Shame is imagined in terms of what other people think (or might think if they found out); so at least the Self is made fully responsible rather than being compartmentalized, because the [potential] judging agent is conceived of as an outside force (whether any outside agent really knows or not). Whereas in guilt the judgment is internalized which, as I was saying, ironically exculpates the "judging-self" from responsibility, from owning the sin.

Shame functions if people believe you did something, even if you really didn't; it can therefore be unjust in the external forum. Guilt is always just, as it is a fully internalized emotion (you know if you did something or not, regardless of what outsiders think, and feel bad or not accordingly) but the internalized scolding-voice is thus paradoxically Self-Righteous.

Shame is in some ways better than guilt inasmuch as it recognizes the Self as a whole as sinful (no "good self" gets to dissociate from the discreet bad action by condemning it). And that judgment is external. And that one's actions put oneself in a worse relational situation with that external. And that no amount of self-abnegation can change that negative status the Self has been put in: that can only come gratuitously from outside, from that external judging force.

The problem is with conceiving of that judge as "society" or as "family," as other imperfect human beings. In reality, the external Judge is God. Vengeance is His, judgment is His. It is as self-righteous and presumptuous to judge yourself as it is to judge others. This is why we must confess our sins to a priest; it concretely manifests the fact that redemption come from an external agent, not just some dialogue inside our own head (which too often prayer, especially self-blaming, becomes for the guilty type of person). You cannot talk or rationalize your way to salvation inside yourself.

Even when guilt does impel one to seek forgiveness from a third party or make amends, it is never as a true external re-ordering of relations. When guilt leads one to make amends, it is just as part of an internal requirement that guilt demands as part of its internal ritual for presumptuous self-absolution, for restoring some fragile internal balance of self-image; the guilty person doesn't apologize to a person because they really care what they think, they do it to assuage their own guilt.

But God is our only Judge, and God is merciful. When Christ saved the adulteress from stoning, he said "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone," freeing us from any worry about shame from "society" or other human judges. Only shame before God could be left, only God could be that external judge (we certainly cannot, as guilt would suggest, judge ourselves). But God said, "Neither do I condemn thee. Go now and sin no more."

So, shame is, in practice for Christians, wrong too. It is the conceptual framework we should work with rather than guilt, perhaps, inasmuch as, if Christ had not died for us, we'd simply have to live with our sinfulness before God (like the Jews today who become unclean, without the Temple). But now...well, we still have to live with it, the sort of existentialist realization you have to make is that there is no "going back," every choice we make becomes part of who we are...but now we get to live with it and grace. And grace fills the gaps. Grace doesn't erase the past, but it comes from the only external Judge who would have any right to shame us and says, "Neither do I condemn thee. Go now and sin no more."

A Flaw...

...with representative democracy is demonstrated by the following, from a news article:

"While many national polls have shown Republicans catching up to Democrats on a 'generic' congressional ballot, the numbers are different when voters are asked if they will vote for their actual representative or another candidate. CQ Politics rates about three-quarters of all 435 seats as safe."

As it's said "People hate Congress, but love their congressman"...because
their congressman represents them and their interests specifically.

As I was saying in my recent post about exploitation in world trade, one problem with US democracy is that the politicians only represent US citizens, and thus have no particularly strong incentive to considering the common good of the rest of humanity. Because who, then, would they exploit for their
own constituents' interests? If everyone was their constituent? What outsiders would be left to exploit?

Well, as the quote above demonstrates, a similar collective action problem exists with Congress even just domestically. The congressman all represent individual districts, so they are all willing to backstab other districts to get an advantage, to fight for the narrow interests of their own constituency rather than for the common good. So many people hate Congress as a whole, but loves their individual congressman.

Before people start to peg me as some sort of crazy monarchist or something based on what I'm about to say, please look back at my post on Politics where I tried to present all these issues in a level-headed and balanced way. But, I have to say, this problem of special-interests inherent in having specific separate constituencies...seems a pretty fatal flaw in representative democracy. A recipe for conflict and exploitation and stalemates.

However, if representatives were elected At Large instead of in local districts, this problem probably wouldn't exist (as the quote suggests). Then they'd truly have to work for the common good to get re-elected.

Combining the two related ideas, I have to say right now that it seems a good government for humanity would be a relatively small council of leaders elected At Large from the Whole World who would represent Everyone without distinction, and could lose their office only if Everyone (as opposed to a more local/special interest) was mad.

Of course, do they really need to be elected at that point? Surely if a majority of the world's population was mad, they would be easily deposed even if their office was hereditary. And, conversely, surely if they had such control over the military that such a deposition was impossible...they'd be able to pull something to stay in power whether they were "elected" or not.

I'm starting to think more that I learn about the exploitative methods of the world economy that Dante was right about some of the arguments he made in De Monarchia, which previously seemed a bit unrealistic to me:
as a part stands in relation to the whole, so the order in a part stands to the order in the whole. A part stands in relation to the whole as to its end and perfection: therefore the order in a part stands to the order in the whole as to its end and perfection. From this it can be deduced that the goodness of the order in a part does not exceed the goodness of the order in the whole, but rather the reverse.
It doesn't work if the parts are not ordered towards the good of the whole by some final unitive agency. This capitalist notion that everyone acting independently according to their own self-interest will somehow make the most Just situation magically demonstrably untrue. Dante points out why:
Now wherever there can be conflict there must be judgment to resolve it, otherwise there would be an imperfection without its proper corrective; and this is impossible, since God and nature never fail in their provision of what is necessary.

There is always the possibility of conflict between two rulers where one is not subject to the other's control; such conflict may come about either through their own fault or the fault of their subjects (the point is self-evident); therefore there must be judgment between them.

And since neither can judge the other (since neither is under the other's control, and an equal has no power over an equal) there must be a third party of wider jurisdiction who rules over both of them by right.

And this person will either be the monarch or not. If he is, then our point is proved; if he is not, he in his turn will have an equal who is outside the sphere of his jurisdiction, and then it will once again be necessary to have recourse to a third party.

And so either this procedure will continue ad infinitum, which is not possible, or else we must come to a first and supreme judge, whose judgment resolves all disputes either directly or indirectly; and this man will be the monarch or emperor. Thus monarchy is necessary to the world.

And Aristotle saw the force of this argument when he said: "Things do not wish to be badly ordered; a plurality of reigns is bad; therefore let there be one ruler".
Because if there is not some final authority in that regard, you wind up with the two competing rulers fighting for each of their self interests, without regard for the good of the other side. And so it becomes just a question of who has more strength, and that person can then take what they want:
To clarify the first of these it must be noted that the thing most contrary to justice is greed, as Aristotle states in the fifth book of the Ethics. When greed is entirely eliminated, nothing remains which is opposed to justice; hence Aristotle's opinion that those things which can be resolved by law should in no way be left to the judge's discretion. And it is fear of greed which makes this necessary, for greed easily leads men's minds astray. But where there is nothing which can be coveted, it is impossible for greed to exist, for emotions cannot exist where their objects have been destroyed.

But there is nothing the monarch could covet, for his jurisdiction is bounded only by the ocean; whereas this is not the case with other rulers, whose sovereignty extends only as far as the neighbouring kingdom, as is the case, for instance, with the kings of Castille and of Aragon. From this it follows that of all men the monarch can be the purest embodiment of justice.
The multiplicity of leaders for a multiplicity of why there is War at all (civil war and coups are a somewhat different matter). Because Castille can covet what Aragon has, and go to war to get it if they are confident they are stronger, because Castille's government doesnt care whether Aragon has to suffer for it. Why should they, that's not their constituency. Their constituency, according to self-interest, would just want the wealth. But if Castille and Aragon had a government that answered to both of wouldn't be willing to plunder one to enrich the other, because that would get half of its constituency angry.

If there were only one government for the whole world...there could be no more separate nations to war against each other to preserve their own relative advantage. That's a bit of a pipe-dream still, though Pope Benedict seems to hint at in Caritas in Veritate in the part where he suggests, essentially, giving the UN more teeth, some real enforcement power.

One great place to first use such power, as suggested on the VagantePriest blog, would be in creating a worldwide minimum wage. Then US companies could no longer take advantage of the gradient of strong states vs. weak states in the world in the form of cheap labor in poor countries whose State mechanisms aren't powerful enough (or can't afford economically) to require such a thing themselves.

But, on a smaller scale, if congressmen were elected At Large instead of from specific districts, they would not wheel and deal to get something that advantaged their district over and above others, since they'd represent everyone collectively.

So my point is that, ironically, the most global of governments are the ones that distribute and diffuse power the most, since their are no "outsiders" of which to take advantage.

The only thing that I worry about would be how, then, to protect minority rights and opinions. For example, if China and India got together and pooled their votes and had a majority of the world's population (not currently true, this is just an example)...might there not still be a risk of them saying, "we 51% will exploit the 49%" even though that 49% are technically still the constituents of the world council being elected? But they could just ignore them because they know they have the 51% they need on their side? Though, I'm not sure what kind of system can ever prevent something like that; in the end, if the majority is willing to be evil like that, no "system" of institutions can stop them; they'll just dismantle the system. Yet this sort of exploitation by the majority seems to be why people cling so much to the idea of representation being specific and local instead of general and At Large.

Which is why it is so ironic that, for all that paranoia, the problem with modern democracy is not in fact "majoritarianism"...but rather the tyranny of special interests, the constant warring between the self-interests of the multiplicity of constituencies. People who believe that the best or most Just situation will somehow simply emerge from such competition, the broadest appeal for the broadest number...are crazy. In reality, you just get a lot of compromises that satisfy no one, and a lot of stalemates that reinforce the status quo.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Super Flumina

We sat down and wept by the waters
Of Babel, and thought of the day
When our foe, in the hue of his slaughters,
Made Salem's high places his prey;
And ye, oh her desolate daughters!
Were scattered all weeping away.

While sadly we gazed on the river
Which rolled on in freedom below,
They demanded the song; but, oh never
That triumph the stranger shall know!
May this right hand be withered for ever,
Ere it string our high harp for the foe!

On the willow that harp is suspended,
Oh Salem! its sound should be free;
And the hour when thy glories were ended
But left me that token of thee:
And ne'er shall its soft tones be blended
With the voice of the spoiler by me!

-George Gordon, Lord Byron
adaptation of a psalm

Friday, February 26, 2010

1967 Ferial Lectionary

[Update: I finished charting the contents of the ferial readings, which chart you can now download]

Well, for a day that I should be finishing this paper, I've done three posts...oh well.

But I couldn't help it: my 1967 Weekday Lectionary arrived today!

I'll try to compile all the lessons into a chart and post that next week. Right now I'm just very excited. It turns out that the Series I and Series II "Epistles," though they were intended to be read on a two-year cycle (ie, they imagined keeping only two readings at each Mass; a lesson and a Gospel)...are in fact almost always a New Testament reading and an Old Testament reading!!!! I was so happy!

During Advent it's all Isaiah with no New Testament, and during Paschaltide it's all New Testament with no Old...but, generally, this Lectionary largely meets my dream of having three ferial readings (an Old Testament, an Epistle, and a Gospel) for the whole traditional one-year temporal cycle.

One can imagine, then, instead of alternating the readings year to year, simply doing the Old Testament one, then the Gradual, then the Epistle, then the Alleluia, then the Gospel, as was restored at the Novus Ordo (but with this totally artificial and iconoclastic three-year lectionary, ugh).

All that's missing are, somewhat ironically, Prophecies for Sundays and Feasts, and Epistles for the ferias of Lent. I'd like to see if any work has been done on the Old Roman Sunday Prophecy cycle to see if we can't reconstruct that. I also think Epistles for Lent (the one time of year at the Old Mass that has selections from the Old Testament instead of Epistles as the First Reading) could hypothetically be taken from Matins during the Weeks After Epiphany when Matins has Epistles instead of Old Testament readings (which would in turn have the effect of freeing up even more time then at Matins for even more Old Testament content).

So, I'll work on making a chart this week of the cycle. Right now, I'd just like to include some of the introductory explanatory material from the beginning of the Lectionary. It was apparently culled from a 39-page pamphlet called "The Supplementary Weekday Lectionary for the United States of America" which was published by the (then titled) National Conference of Catholic Bishops to explain/accompany the ferial lectionary (though I can't imagine what they needed 39 pages to say...)

This part explains when the lessons may be used:

This Weekday Lectionary contains the readings approved by the Holy See, at the request of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, for use at Masses of class III and class IV which do not have their own proper readings.

"This Weekday lectionary, if allowed by the Conference of Bishops in their own territory for Masses celebrated with a congregation, may also be used in Masses which are celebrated without a congregation; in this case the use of the vernacular is permitted for the readings.

"This Weekday lectionary may be used on certain class II days which are indicated in the lectionary itself, and in all Masses of Class III or IV, whether Masses of the season, of a saint, or votive Masses, which do not have their own strictly proper readings, that is, readings in which mention is made of the mystery or person being celebrated." (Instruction, Congregation of Sacred Rites, May 4, 1967, No. 2)
This explains a little more in depth, starting with the wonderfully rational option to conjoin readings if a day must be skipped due to an intervening feast:
Since the readings are chosen from successive parts of the respective biblical books, in a kind of lectio continua, it may be useful to add a reading which has been omitted (e.g., because of conflict with a feast of class I or II) on the previous day and join it to the passage appointed for the particular day. Or a reading may be anticipated in this fashion and be added to the assigned reading, if it must be omitted on the following day. In any case the unity of the biblical passage should be respected.

The lectionary provides two series of readings, designed for a two-year cycle, for the first reading (or Epistle) of Mass. In general the first series of these selections is from the New Testament, the other from the Old Testament. To preserve the continuity of the selections, one series should be used one year, the other the next year. No such cycle of choice is provided for the Gospel readings.
Though, as I said, I see no reason why it couldn't be done in a Three Lesson format like in the New Rite. Another part admits:
The readings...have been chosen always in relation to the particular seasons of the church year. Although the readings for the epistle are generally correlated with the gospels, no attempt has been made to achieve an artificial harmony or to connect each reading with a corresponding gospel theme.
Thank goodness! That would have been forced and awkward. Another part explains the logic behind the plan of the lectionary:
In the selection of the gospels, the person of John the Baptist is emphasized during Advent, the mystery of the Father and the Son during Christmas time. This is followed by passages from the life of Christ, taken from the Gospel according to Mark. (No readings are provided for the Lenten weekdays, either for the epistles or for the gospels, since these have their proper appointed readings.)

According to a venerable tradition, the sermons of Jesus from the Gospel according to John are read durng the Easter season. Beginning with the week following the First Sunday after Pentecost, the sermons of Jesus are presented from the Gospel according to Luke.

The other New Testament readings are taken from the letters of John during the Christmas season, then--according to an ancient tradition--from the letters of Saint Paul (especially Romans and Galatians) until Lent.

For the Easter season, both selections are from the New Testament: one series from 1 Peter and Ephesians, the other from Colossians and Hebrews.

Selections from the Acts of the Apostles are read during the weeks following Pentecost until the week of the Ninth Sunday after Pentecost, when the letters of Saint Paul are taken up again. Beginning with the Sixteenth Sunday, the letters of James, 2 Peter, Jude, 1 and 2 Timothy are used. Finally the concluding weeks have passages from the Apocalypse to show that the church year looks toward the second coming of the Lord at the end of time.

In the case of the Old Testament readings, two series of passages from Isaiah are listed for Advent, followed by readings from the Wisdom books during the Christmas season. From Epiphany to Lent there are readings from the Pentateuch; the story of Abraham and the patriarchs is intended as a kind of parallel to Galatians and Romans.

After Pentecost, the Old Testament passages are taken from Josue, Judges, Kings, and other historical books. Finally, beginning with the week of the Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost, there are readings from the Prophets.
So, this wasn't arbitrary or artificial like the Novus Ordo Lectionary. As I look at the cycle, it does seem to follow various traditions as they describe. From what I can tell, the Old Testament readings parallel the cycle of books at Matins, which is really the best solution.

To me, it is most important to get as much of the New Testament in at Mass as possible. But the Prophecies , on the other hand, need only be the more important passages, as Matins is really the more natural place for attempting a lectio continua of the Old Testament.

This volume looks like a great basis for expanded scripture within the traditional one-year cycle. I certainly intend to use it to structure daily lectio divina, even if we can't use it liturgically yet. But I'm considering sending a dubium to Ecclesia Dei about it, I think it looks like a really solid piece of work, firmly grounded in traditional principles. One of the few good things that came out of that transitional period.

An appendix has extra options for the readings at Requiems and Weddings, as well for the Votive Mass of the Sacred Heart (which many parishes had every Friday or at least every First Friday). I guess because these common services could otherwise get repetitive. Meh, I don't really care either way. My concern is mainly with the "official" temporal cycle of the Conventual Mass, not the votive stuff priests could do at their private Masses. I suppose this makes sense for funerals and weddings.

At the end, however, there is also a set of epistles (only one series) and gospels given for "Masses with Children," though this gives one set for each week, not each day. I don't know how these differ from the "adult" cycle, or if these lessons occur other places in the main Lectionary (I assume they do), or if they're merely shortened or dumbed-down versions, or what. But to me this seems the only really bad thing in the whole volume. It can simply be ignored, of course; you don't have to have "Children's Masses"...and yet it is perhaps an ominous first sign of the sort of Novus Ordo kindergartening of the liturgy that was to come...

But, all in all, an amazing find. I am ecstatic!!

An Interesting Quote

Quickly, just something interesting I came across in my research on Lot's Daughters, that perhaps touches on the themes of sex and power in the clergy that I was discussing in relation to the abuse crisis:

"Augustine, like so many who would come after, wants to root political enmity and social problems in bad, deviant sexual behavior. It seems much easier for aggressive men to inveigh against sex and forbidden sexual practices than against pride, ire, and greed. People seeking and wielding authority on earth through institutions live with, use, and depend upon righteous anger, ambition, moral pride, and covetousness. Naturally, it is much easier for them to rail against obsessive sexual desire than against the desire for power and authority" (Polhemus 62).

A Confession

Just a quick (and early) post today, because I have to spend the rest of it writing a paper on the history of exegesis of the story of Lot and his incestuous daughters in Genesis 19; if I come across anything interesting maybe I'll do a post about it later. But please say a prayer for me, it is going to be a stressful day, down to the wire.

Anyway, I have a confession to make: I don't particularly like Gregorian Chant. Nope.
To be honest I find much of Gregorian Chant, at least according to the Solesmes method, to be...well, incredibly boring, stiff, dull, and tedious.

However, I was recently reminded of
interpretations like that by the choir Ensemble Organum, and of the existence of manuscripts (and even attempted recordings) of the Old Roman...and they've given me hope that maybe I'm not the problem. That maybe plainchant preformed according to a better method can be made moving emotionally for me, for I find the examples I'll give just heavenly.

Though some would find their sound more "ancient" than "medieval"...I am starting to believe that this is simply based on a modern imagination of the medieval musical aesthetic created, in fact, by the modern method of performance. Unlike the literary and visual arts, we don't have preformed music lying around still, as it disappears on the wind in an instant. The question of "authentic performance," then becomes a very tricky one, and can change a lot based on the values you prioritize. Personally, I'd like to think chant sounded more like this, as when I hear Solesmes Gregorian, the medievalist in me screams out, "It couldn't have been that way!" even though I have absolutely no musicological expertise on which to base that. It's just an instinct, though one admittedly perhaps just as biased by a modern sense of the musically "exotic".

But, anyway, here is an example from Ensemble Organum:

That is simply the familiar Kyrie XI, but it is done in a way that is simply transporting, to me it evokes the medieval. The only weird thing is the way that men are doing the ison, yet women the main part alternating with a soloist. I'm not sure in what context that would have ever happened, but its beautiful nonetheless.

The Kyrie is sung using the original "tropes" from which the Mass setting "Orbis Factor" (ie, number XI) takes its name. Tropes were poetic expansions of the text that were used to fill the melismatic notes instead of simply continuing the one syllable. The Ordinary chant settings take their names from these tropes on the Kyrie, though actual troping was banned since Trent (somewhat revived in a palsied and artificial form in the Novus Ordo).
It's also a bit odd how in this recording they alternate untroped verses with troped ones, going thus well beyond the traditional 9-fold structure of the Kyrie, though I suppose they were trying to lengthen the track for their CD.

You will also notice the distinctly "Eastern" presentation of the chant. This is certainly not the reading the Solesmes method would give to the manuscripts! And yet, I like this one better, "scholarship" be damned. There is just something so mystical and transcendent about this way of singing the chant. It goes back to what I was saying about reinfusing the Latin Rite with the spirit of the East.

The history of plainchant would be worth looking into, though I'm no expert on musicology. I do know, however, that the Gregorian chant we have today is in some ways a 20th century invention of Solesmes, and that chant has been an incredibly diverse and evolving phenomenon. One need only look at the difference between the Solesmes restoration of the medieval melodies, and the "Medici Graduale" chants used since at least around the time of Trent (the last edition being Ratisbone's in the 1870's) according to a simplifying interpretation at Rome that Palestrina, the great composer of polyphony, was put in charge of implementing in the 16th century.

The history is fascinating, and I encourage you to read up on it. Of course, Solesmes based its interpretation on the living tradition in monasteries, and I think the result is generally better (and certainly spurred a revival of chant starting with Pius X) but, at the same time, I also have to wonder if there isn't supposed to be a difference between diocesan and monastic chant, and if the former maybe would do well to be simplified in many circumstances. If only so that it will be actually used more easily. After all, the "Graduale Simplex" certainly finds one wonders whether the "Medicean" version, having at least some historical precedence, might not be a more traditional "simplex'" repertoire.

Nevertheless, considered in itself, I think the Solesmes restoration of the melodies was excellent. But I cannot say I am all that inspired by their method of performance interpretation. That is where groups like Ensemble Organum give me hope.

Additionally, many people don't realize that even our "Gregorian chant" of today, is really a post-Carolingian hybrid of styles. The truly "traditional" chant of Rome, is the so called "Old Roman," which was later severely Gallicanized. I don't have time to go into detail, I encourage you to read into that yourself, but suffice it to say, the Old Roman especially can be interpreted in a way that is significantly more Eastern or at least Mediterranean:

Well, I've procrastinated long enough listening to all this beautiful music. Maybe someday we'll hear it in our churches, after the dry dusty sand of the Solesmes-method has slipped through the hour glass...

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Things To Make You Mad

So, this relates back to my post on Social Credit. Maybe soon I'll do a post on the economics of the World System in general as it relates to Catholic Social Teaching, but today simply a couple demonstrative examples I just learned. The numbers may not be exact anymore but the point demonstrated is the same either way as it's a question of relative amounts, not absolute.

The first is about cotton:

African cotton growers produce cotton at a cost of 30 cents a lb.

American cotton growers produce cotton at a cost of 63 cents a lb.

The world market price is 45 cents a lb.

So African growers could make a profit, whereas American growers are producing at a loss.

However, the US government subsidizes American cotton with billions of dollars a year, though the biggest 10% of growers, the big agro-conglomerates, get 85% of the subsidies (so there goes your talk of "small farmers").

This is of course inefficient. And leads to an overproduction of cotton in the world, beyond the amount natural supply & demand would warrant, which keeps the market price artificially down 7-10%.

No one can compete with the American cotton sold under-price. But African countries aren't allowed to place tariffs or to give subsidies of their own because of structural adjustment policies enforced on them when they took loans from the World Bank or IMF.

So, rather than buying their own domestic cotton, Africans buy the subsidized American cotton, and so there is a cash/goods drain; it flows out to the US instead of staying in that country. Which incoming wealth it uses to stay rich and allow itself to do things like give the subsidies in the first place, perpetuating the cycle.

And of course, rich countries don't have to borrow from the World Bank (in fact, the US is the one doing the lending, the Bank is just basically our appendage) we are allowed to continue this subsidizing and tariffs, etc. We are the ones overproducing, yet the surplus and its consequences are shifted in this way to the poor African growers.

The second thing involves food "aid" in the form of maize:

It's really the same basic concept. US farmers overproduce corn. Economically, it would be most efficient for some of them to stop producing and switch to some other job.

But there is no incentive. Because of this nostalgic vision we maintain of being some Jeffersonian Agrarian Republic, even though it is no longer our comparative advantage, the government subsidizes the American grain producers, this time in the form of buying the surplus.

Of course, the surplus could simply be burned; the whole reason the government buys it is to keep it off the market to stop it from driving down market prices through over-supply. This demonstrates the ridiculousness of propping-up the sector like that. It also demonstrates the stupidity of the Anglo-Protestant work-ethic; if what they're producing is so admittedly that point why not just give them the money without making them "work for it"?

But everyone agrees that to simply burn it is unseemly (though "surplus destruction" while people starve does go on a lot more than you'd think). So then, they think, we'll kill two birds with one stone and donate the food to starving countries as aid! They wouldn't be able to afford it anyway, so it won't drive down prices. It's good for the farmers, it's good for the starving people, it's good for the politicians...everybody wins!!

Except, that's not true. Since US farmers overproduce, there is actually too much grain in the world. Even when an area has a "famine" or drought in Africa, for example, other places in Africa are usually producing enough grain to provide for the area undergoing a dry spell. The most effective way to aid the poor place and to encourage development...would thus be to simply donate the cash to buy the crops locally. That way, the hungry are fed and the local agriculture is encouraged.

However, food aid bills in the United States always require everything to be bought domestically (even though it takes much longer to ship over there and is much less efficient). So, again, even though the US farmers are overproducing, the power of the US government shifts the consequences of that surplus onto the poor farmers even though they, in reality, have the comparative advantage.

But this subsidized aid food chokes out local farmers. No one can compete with free food that is simply being given away! The net effect is that the "aid" really all stays in the United States, as that's where the government's money goes. And that's all this "donation" really consists of, as we're not really giving away anything else valuable; since the corn would otherwise just be burnt, giving it away is a complete non-act on our side of the ledgers.

Of course, US politicians only answer to US citizens, so people in the rest of the world are of no consequence except inasmuch as people here care, which is never enough to outweigh the desire of the subsidized farmers for money.

This is why Imperialism likes to conquer and subjugate people...but it does not like to make them full-fledged citizens or incorporate the colonies into the central State itself, as the whole point is to exploit them for the sake of the colonizing class, not to enfranchise them. If the US totally conquered, say, Zambia and made it into a full-fledged 51st state and gave its citizens all the rights of US citizens...then it wouldn't be able to undersell them, since their farmers would then have a right to a cut of the subsidies themselves. And, by extension, if the whole world was under the one government, there would be no point to the subsidized inefficient over-production at all, as there would then no longer be any "outsiders" beyond the politicians' concern to shift the consequences of the surplus onto.

Just another example of why democracy domestically doesn't really matter if the International Order is still organized feudally.

The whole thing is really twisted.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

O Felix Culpa!!

In a class today, we were discussing the question, much debated by theologians through history, of whether there would have been prelapsarian sex in Paradise. Augustine believed there would have been, and his position convinced most major theologians since, most notably Aquinas himself, but this was hardly a decided question in the early church. In fact, Augustine's position was quite novel.

It's not my intent here to get into that exegetical history; the important point to note is that the question, seemingly idle speculation at first glance, actually gets to heart of other theological speculation over nature vs grace, and ultimately of theodicy as it relates to the Fall. The answer is important to our whole understanding of human nature and salvation, as God's "original intent" has been brought to bear on other, perhaps more practical, questions.

The other major hypothetical one's answer to which likewise changes one's whole view of salvation history, even though to some it may also seem vain the question of whether God would have Incarnated were it not for sin.

Aquinas ultimately comes to the conclusion that Christ would not have come, since He came for our redemption, though he says this rather reluctantly and acknowledges that the other position is acceptable and has able defenders.

However, under theologians like Scotus, this opposite position, known as "Incarnationalism," "the Franciscan Thesis," or "The Absolute Primacy of Christ," was explicated with more precision and seems to be a position the Church has been leaning more and more towards over the centuries, albeit gradually. I wouldn't even be surprised to see it someday made into a dogma; it certainly seems to be at least implicit in Public Revelation to me.

Having said that, obviously I personally don't think it could have ever been any other way. I am convinced that all grace throughout history, even of the Angels, comes from the Incarnation, as the God-Man was predestined to grace and glory before any other question in the order of God's eternal decrees besides the procession of the Trinity Itself. Certainly including before the question of sin. I am in good company believing this. Including that of St. Maximillian Kolbe, best known for his martyrdom at Auschwitz, but also I think sometimes overlooked as one of the 20th century's greatest theologians (perhaps because of his overshadowing martyrdom, or perhaps because the New Theology would soon take center stage).

In fact, the thesis is that all Creation can be attributed to the purpose of Incarnation. God created the universe not just to love something outside Himself, but to enter into that external reality and unite it with Himself. There is also a Marian dimension here that has been explored if one also considers the idea of the "joint predestination of Jesus and Mary." God willed not only to Incarnate, but to be born of woman, the Virgin Mary specifically, who likewise thus had a destiny from eternity not dependent on sin. And thus, typologically, also the whole Church and each individual soul, of whom Mary is simply the supreme type.

So, one can see how ones opinion on Incarnationalism affects one's whole view on the meaning of life, of Creation, of human nature, of God's purpose and plan for our lives and the world...even though the "what-if" might seem to some unimportant given that sin did, in fact, happen.

Which is what I started to think about in class today. The one objection that seems to be behind the position of those who, throughout history, have rejected the "Franciscan" position (even before there were Franciscans), is the notion of the "Felix Culpa" (a phrase from the Exsultet at the Easter Vigil). The "happy fault of Adam, that won for us so great a Redeemer," which does form a powerful theodicy. Why would God allow sin except if this greater good came from it? Doesn't positing that Jesus would have come either way cancel out any redeeming value of the Fall or original sin? Isn't the beautiful thing about the story of the Fall, the promise of Redemption resultant? This is certainly the strong point of anti-incarnationalist position.

However, two points came to mind. The first is that, of course, just because God would have incarnated even if man had not sinned, this would not make Him a "redeemer," even if He was still the source of all grace. The Passion and Cross, Death and Resurrection of Christ...are still "greater goods" that can be seen as arising from the "felix culpa."

But, more importantly I started to think today, is exactly the point that the "what if" of paradise and un-fallen human just that. I started to see a certain value in the objections of those who find the very premise of such questions vain and the answers unknowable. Not that I agree with them totally; I have already said that I believe one's position on Incarnationalism affects ones whole view of the universe; but I started to consider that this doesn't necessarily exclude a certain indifference to the "what if" questions, which can (for some Catholics) just become a vainly curious hypothetical piece of trivial speculation that doesn't affect their present life in the way it is supposed to if it is to have any value.

I realized that one can still posit the Absolute Primacy of Christ, and His predestination to grace and glory before all else, without necessarily thinking of it in terms of what God "would have done" if man had not fallen. Exactly because that's a big if. God's providence is sovereign, and man did Fall, as God must have always foreseen he would. Though man is free, presumably God had infinitely many potential timelines to choose from. If He really didn't like the one with Adam and Eve falling, surely He could have created a world instead with a Jack and Jill whom He would foresee wouldn't Fall. But He didn't choose that. He chose the world where man did Fall, and where His incarnation was thus specifically as a Redeemer.

This very much goes back to my post on the Sense of Sin. Considering these things, I started having a true sense of "O felix culpa!" for the first time that was something more than it had been in the past, even as my appreciation for the Absolute Primacy of Christ, which means the absolute primacy of Love, increased. Previously (and I think this is true for many Catholics) the question was something of an awkward or embarrassing one. Theodicy, the explanation of the "greater good," takes on the tone of an apology, an explaining-away; while people pay lip-service to the idea that it "must have been for the best," there is still this sense of a demur longing for Eden, this regret that seems to subvert the entire theodicy.

But, I realized, I trust God's decisions and aren't going to harp over the past. And so, in the story of the Fall, I can now see, not some disaster that God "salvages" by making everything better, but in some sense as the privileged means by which God chose to enter into the world. Not that I'm saying God caused sin directly in the Calvinist sense, but rather, I guess, that "grace is in the gaps"...and that the greater part of the beauty in the whole story, the whole great drama, that Providence has arranged, is in the struggling and suffering.

That, from the beginning, God was in love with sinners, and that (as some of the Fathers we're reading now allude to) the Fall of Adam was both a free choice, yes, but also in some sense inevitable, "built into" the very nature of nature from the start. That the absolute primacy of Christ is not only inseparable from His joint predestination with the Virgin Mary, but also from the predestination of all mankind (I'll do a post on Catholic predestination soon enough). The Church was there from the start, and as I alluded to in my post on Ecclesia and Synagoga...the Church is necessarily a Church of sinners.

Therefore, looking wistfully to some state of Unfallen Life that "might have been," seems to me more and more to be a sort of spiritual sickness, even as speculation on "pure nature," as if it could exist without Grace, was in theological circles until the recent synthesis on this question. It may sometimes serve as a useful foil for exploring the prioritization of various ideals, but it is something that, at least in the condition we do find ourselves in, mainly seems to propagate that self-righteous myth of "innocence" and the delusion of the primal "good self."

But no, we are sinful. We're born screaming terrified infants with absolutely unformed chaotic minds and uncontrolled alien bodies. We are brought into being by those (human and divine) who know the world is filled with pain and evil, who know the challenges and tortures we are going to have to endure, and who nevertheless have chosen to love us into being, who love us before we even exist, for love's sake, who love us not only "in spite of" but for our weaknesses, and yet prior to any consideration of them. It reminds me again of the last chapter of Chesterton's The Man Who Was Thursday, which I quoted in a not entirely irrelevant earlier post.

Somehow, by the grace of God, we are able to grow and learn and integrate, to work at the Herculean labor of building a cohesive personality, of rightly-ordering our soul. And at a certain point in that monumental task, you come to realize that the growth is the whole point, and come to be thankful for the gaps, for the imperfection, for the flaws, for the brokenness, for the utter fragility of the meaning we construct...because that's where God comes in, that is where the light shines through, that is precisely the means whereby God chose to enter into the human experience, the place "where," as Lawrence Ferlinghetti put it, "in the darkest night/of everybody's anonymous soul/He awaits again/an unimaginable/and impossibly/Immaculate Reconception/the very craziest of/Second Comings"...

Thank God for human weakness!!!! I glory in my infirmities; His grace is sufficient for me.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Make It Easy For People

I discussed in an earlier post a frustration at the lack of active protest or advocacy on the part of trad when it comes to, say, ending communion in the hand or other such issues. When it does happen, it has taken the form of "schismatic acts" that, while actually probably effective in terms of asserting leverage, also alienate many of us and make it impossible for us to participate in a common effort, divided by disagreement over such methods.

However, I was going through a backed up pile of mail today, and I had all sorts of letters from vaguely "conservative" political causes and groups, which I mainly tolerate for the sake of the Pro-Life effort, whatever other nonsense the Right-wing is associated with.

But, many such groups do seem to have lobbying down to a science. They don't ask you to come out and picket. They don't ask you do anything radical. They simply include a return envelope and a pre-written card that you simply have to sign and put in the envelope and send off with the rest of your outgoing mail. It's easy. It's painless. Someone else has done all the work. They maybe ask for a donation to help cover the costs of the mailing campaign, but it's not required. Hard paper mail seems to still impress people more than e-mails.

But I'm thinking, if we want to end communion on the hand, for example, which people talk and talk about but never seem to do anything about...why not try such a mailing campaign to the bishops or at least to get people energized and so lay the groundwork for a movement. Political movements seem to rely on 99% passive "arm-chair" support, and really only a small percent of activists who do the big visible work by invoking the legitimacy of all their "lazy" supporters.

Does a "trad mailing list" exist? Has anyone bothered to compile such a list? I get all sorts of "Catholic junk mail". How did I get on these lists, and is there any way a Catholic group could acquire such information? People need to be spoon-fed. Ideas for a letter-writing campaign usually fall flat unless you send the people an addressed envelope (pre-paid is best!) and a little card they can sign.

Just thinking ahead...

Update: a poster on that WDTPRS post has created a petition. I've signed it, I encourage you to do the same.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Re-Attempt the Reform

There is a lot of talk in some circles about a "reform of the reform." Usually it comes from that bizarre but influential category who waffle between trad positions and neoconservative ones. People who clearly "highly sympathize" with traditionalism, but are unwilling to publicly portray themselves as purists.

The idea is often that "liturgical abuse" is the cause of most of the problems in the New Liturgy, and that simply by dressing it up, by approaching it with a better 'ars celebrandi' we can make it at least tolerable and more what "Vatican II intended" (a meaningless concept, as I discussed in a recent post). Just do it in Latin, ad orientem, with nice vestments, use chant and incense, always use Eucharistic Prayer #1, and voila!

Now, it's true that there is nothing about the Novus Ordo that requires that it be celebrated in a patronizing vernacular translation in polyester vesments as a "four hymn sandwich."

But, a lot of the problems are inherent to the rite itself, especially the removal of numerous little gestures and details. So, the "reform of the reform" crowd will tell you...the solution is simply bringing back the maniple ("which was never abrogated!"), re-inserting genuflections ("which aren't specifically called for, but maybe they're not forbidden either?!"), having the priest hold his fingers together after the consecration until the ablutions ("he could still do that just voluntarily!"), etc.

But, even then, there are problems inherent to the text itself; the butchered Offertory, of course, the cut Prayers at the Foot of the Altar and Last Gospel, the totally artificial three-year lectionary, the Frankenstein reworking of the Collects, a very blithe reworking of the calendar, and an unnecessary multiplication of sometimes poetic, but nevertheless untraditional, Prefaces. Well, they'll tell you, maybe the priest could re-insert the Prayers at the Foot of the Altar as a "private devotion" before Mass, and likewise for the Last Gospel after. There is talk of the "mutual gravity" of the "extraordinary form" someday leading the Vatican to allow for the more substantial Offertory or the restoration of certain calendrical features like Septuagesima or Ember Days, but as for the new Lectionary and Collectary, at this point people seem to defeatistly believe we're pretty much stuck when it comes to the extent of the "Reform of the Reform."

But, we're also told, somehow the "final product"...will eventually resemble the Old Rite more than it resembles the New. However, even this is always fatalistically placed at some ridiculous distance into the future; "decades" or "generations" or "centuries," as if, though the revolution took only a few years, the restoration can only be some eschatological event at the end of a brick-by-brick rainbow.

But I always have to wonder, if the final product is going to resemble the old more than the new, why not just take the Old as our starting point, seeing as it has "less distance to travel," as it were? Rather than trying to salvage the new like some sort of Ship of Theseus until it is, practically, the Old again...why not just go back to the Old, and start from square one? I suspect some notion of saving face is involved.

This is where my notion of a "Re-Attempt at the Reform" comes in. It's not that I deny improvements could be made to the Old Rite or that there aren't some unstatisfying gaps there. But rather than committing irrevocably to the "first attempt" at the project (ie, the Novus Ordo)...why not start from where the liturgy was in, say, 1900, and then have a "Redux Reform," based on what we've learned from the reforms of the 20th century, keeping the good, discarding the bad, maybe even trying some parallel ideas of the Liturgical Movement that never quite made it into practice? There is no shame in admitting that the first attempt at an experiment wasn't perfect the first time around and that we need to learn from our mistakes and try again.

I think one major fault of the Novus Ordo was touching the texts and gestures themselves substantially. Structurally changing the body of the liturgical rites themselves, re-writing the Ordinary and Propers, changing the choreographic rubrics, etc. I think they should be changed only with extreme caution and very minimally, if at all (organic development of new local rites and usages is a different question that I hope to explore more in a later post).

However, there are numerous things that I still imagine could be the subject of a "Re-Attempt at the Reform" of the Old Rite without touching the body of the Missal itself:

1) Vernacular. As I said in my earlier post, I think allowing a nice hieratic vernacular translation of the Old Rite (ala the Anglican Missal and Anglican Breviary) would cause a huge explosion in its popularity, and remove 95% of the objections and hesitance people have to it. The Ordinary chant parts (Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, Sanctus, Pater Noster, Agnus Dei, Ita Missa Est), as well as the silent Canon itself, and the minor dialogue parts (Dominus Vobiscum, etc), could probably familiar enough even now to keep in Latin, besides the fact that references to their Latin forms are ubiquitous in art, architecture, and literature and thus should be familiar to Western Catholics (and educated people in general). New Liturgical Movement had an article today announcing that MusicaSacra has finally gotten up scanned copies of the famous Palmer/Burgess English plainchant books, which are amazing resources (those Anglo-Catholics were incredibly prodigious at one point!) inasmuch as they parse the Propers of the traditional Mass (and the Magnificat Antiphons from Vespers!) in nice hieratic English, but largely retain the authentic melody from the Graduale Romanum, making only minor changes to suit the peculiar characteristics of English (other attempts at settings of English propers usually compose essentially new melodies). I bet in the Romance languages it would be even simpler to simply make that adaptation.

2) Audibility. As I've also said before, allowing the now-quiet Offertory and Communion prayers to be spoken aloud would make people a lot more comfortable with the Old Rite and engage them more. I imagine the Canon would remain quiet.

3) Scripture. The lectionary could be expanded within the one-year cycle, without touching the traditional cycle of pericopes. For example, by providing lessons for the ferias, ala the 1967 Ferial Lectionary that I recently discussed. As I said there, use of the Commons could be reduced, a Third Reading from the Old Testament could be added (ie, reconstruct the old Roman Prophecy cycle), and the lessons at Matins could be expanded so that whole books were read instead of just incipits. I haven't come up with a concrete proposal yet, but just for reference I will include links to charts I made of the traditional Matins lectionary and the Mass lectionary.

4) The Calendar. Though the Novus Ordo went way too Spartan with it, the problem of the Sanctoral cycle swallowing the Temporal has long been an issue. Allowing those ferial readings, like the ferial psalter, to take precedence on lower class feasts is one good thing. Having gone back to the calendar as it existed in, say, 1950 as a starting point...I would probably also re-work the rankings of the various feasts, and then make only the higher classes universal. The rest (which would have been the simples and semidoubles and even many of the less important doubles) would remain the Local Calendar for Rome itself, but other localities would create their own calendar with Saints important to local devotion (certainly in the Old World most countries could fill a whole calendar with local simples and semidoubles, and don't need to be clogged up with obscure local Roman martyrs...just look at all the proper feasts for the British Isles in the back of your hand missal!) The old Octaves eliminated in the 1950's were admittedly clunky, but they could probably have been kept as commemorations, at least; commemorations are easy and don't stop anything else from happening. Also, any reform of the calendar should take into account Eastern practices for things, like, the feasts of the Apostles which some ecumenical negotiation might be able to bring into alignment. I would even go so far as to say that a universal Martyrology for the whole Church should be compiled by cross-referencing Eastern and Western sources (individual local churches would then pick which, if any, of those saints to celebrate as a feast on a given day; but at least when a saint was celebrated in multiple localities, it would be on a consistent day).

5) The Psalter. Moving into the Breviary, besides going back to the pre-Urban forms of the hymns, I do believe that even the Pius X revisions need to be re-examined. While shortening the number of verses said at Matins (especially on Sundays) and getting rid of the repetition at the Little Hours was very necessary...I think the rigid application of these principles to the other hours was unnecessary, and led to a very untraditional weekly cycle of psalms. I have made a suggestion of a "more moderate" reform of the Psalter here. The Athanasian Creed should also be brought back for every Sunday at Prime instead of only after Pentecost or (as it finally was cut back to in 1960) only on Trinity Sunday.

6) The Antiphonary. As I discussed in another post, I was very surprised to learn originally that the antiphons of the psalter were butchered and confused in an entirely arbitrary seeming way under Pius X, with little or no explanation; so I did a little research and made some charts (links to which are included) comparing. Pre-1911, there were 141 unique antiphons in the psalter. Post-1911, there were 220. Yet, when compared, only 66 antiphons are recognizably the same between the two sets; and even then, sixteen are of those changed by expanding them, adding words, or removing words or clauses, or both. Many of the overlapping ones are just the ones for the special seasons (Advent, Lent, Passiontide), not the per annum ferias. So there were 75 antiphons unique to the pre-1911 Breviary that were simply lost, and 154 unique to the post-1911 Breviary that were simply introduced to the liturgy with no explanation as to their origin. This should be re-examined.

Where the old music went or where the new music came from for these even more mysterious. In total, between the two psalters, you can find 295 unique antiphons (just in the psalter; not counting Propers and Commons, which thankfully didn't change). All this massive change disturbs me. I've seen the Pius X changes deconstructed and critiqued, but the massive changes to the psalter antiphons (which in the chanted Office form a significant part, hence the "Antiphonale")...I've never seen discussed. The traditional Roman antiphonary seems quite destroyed by 1911. The Invitatories for the various days of the week were switched around a bit too, randomly, as are a few versicles.
I suspect it may have something to do with Solesmes and the manuscripts they were using for their musicology during the chant "restoration."
There was, of course, the Ratisbon antiphonale in three volumes from the late 19th-century, which could be consulted to see the old melodies for these old texts, but they are very rare books, and anyway would not be restored according to Solesmes, which changed the chant in such a way that many melodies were interpreted very differently anyway (NLM had an article about this with "Simile Est" as an example in 2008). Though I'd tend to agree with most people that this musicological restoration by Solesmes was for the better, I've made this psalter proposal for the Antiphons that would incorporate most of the antiphon texts from both pre- and post-1911 into the psalter.

7) Other expansions. As a liturgical maximalist, my reform ideas tend to favor expansion over reduction. There are many things that could be added to the traditional liturgy that have precedent. The psalm verses should definitely be restored to the chanting of the minor propers; many chant choirs (including my own) have already started this, Deo Gratias! Restoring the various processions (the Entrance, Gospel, Offertory) would give a liturgical purpose to these psalms/antiphons rather than "singing over" silent parts, which I really don't like. They also could bring back more medieval Sequences or the troped/litany form of the Kyrie. They could restore some form of Bidding Prayers, though not the awful ad libbed kind from the Novus Ordo (I imagine they'd be fixed petitions more like on Good Friday). They would need to add a Common of Doctress Virgins now, of course. Just as the "Gallican Prefaces" were allowed in the 50's to fill certain gaps (like Advent)...a limited number of logical categories of new Prefaces could be added (perhaps corresponding to the different categories of Saints from the Commons). Taking a cue from the Ambrosian Rite, after the Apostles in the two lists of Saints in the Canon...the Saints of local Roman importance might be replaced by Saints of local importance in other dioceses. The traditional rites of Holy Week from before 1955 should largely be restored (the ICRSS already has this privilege, apparently) though there are things that could be re-expanded that had gone vestigial even then (for example, they could restore the practice of two Masses for Palm Sunday), and I do sort of like the principle of eliminating later accretions from the liturgy for Holy Week itself, making it more bare and primitive. Some of the other liturgical books like the Rituale and the Pontificale could be organized in a more logical fashion, and I probably wouldn't care if they insisted on collapsing the double Confiteor in the prayers at the foot of the altar (and at Prime and Compline) into simply one Confiteor with the pronoun "nos," though I don't see why some people think that is so necessary either (it's not like it takes that much more time to do it double).

8) Attitude. High Mass and Solemn High Mass with all the ministers should be re-emphasized, as should public celebration of the Office in parishes, especially on Sundays. It would probably start with Vespers (either First Vespers on Saturday evening or Second Vespers on Sunday), which could be celebrated in conjunction with Compline. But it would also be great for pastors to try doing Lauds before Mass. Or even Matins-Lauds together; the East always precedes the Divine Liturgy with Orthros, after all. The "Low Mass mentality" was the thing more in need of reform than anything; Catholics need to lead an organic liturgical life in their community, that's the whole point. I imagine this would include having the bishop (and at Rome, the Pope himself) actually celebrate the Cathedral liturgy (Mass and Office) with the chapter of Canons (at least much more often than they currently do), and do all the traditional Stational Masses, etc. If an abbot can celebrate the public Office and run a monastery, the bishops could do it and run a diocese too. The liturgy has to be the priority, it's what all the other structures exist to enable! Yet it's a priority bishops and the Pope have not made for centuries (when was the last time a Pope celebrated the whole daily Office at the Lateran?), concentrating sadly on managing the existence of a bureaucracy-for-its-own-sake as if that were an end in itself. But it's not. The clergy exist for the liturgy, not the liturgy for the clergy.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Fornication and the Natural Law

Someone asked me, based on my post on how people who are already promiscuously fornication should at least protect themselves, how exactly fornication was against the Natural Law in itself.

They could see how something like sodomy or contraception was a logical contradiction in the nature of sexuality, ordered as it is towards procreation, but did not understand how simple fornication, if open to life, could be "unnatural" in itself. They were willing to accept that it was forbidden by a revealed positive Divine Law, but the connection to Natural Law was less clear to them.

Now, the fact that fornication is a mortal sin is binding on Catholics. But that it is so not just because of a positively revealed Divine Law, but because of Natural Law specifically...I do not think is necessarily binding. Catholics are required to accept the moral teaching in itself as taught by the Church, not any particular theory of its epistemic origins. Nevertheless, I do accept the traditional position that fornication is against the Natural Law as opposed to just a positive Divine Law, and I thought my answer as to why might be able to help people answer similar questions/objections.

I started by explaining how there are "primary precepts" and "secondary precepts" of Natural Law. The former refer to things that are absolutely a contradiction in terms (like sodomy, contraception, etc) which even God Himself could not dispense from without contradicting logic/reason. The secondary are against the well-ordering of human life and society, but not so absolutely contradictory or necessary that God couldn't dispense for a good reason (at least according to some theologians).

As Catholic Encyclopedia says:

"As regards the vigour and binding force of these precepts and conclusions, theologians divide them into two classes, primary and secondary. To the first class belong those which must, under all circumstances, be observed if the essential moral order is to be maintained. The secondary precepts are those whose observance contributes to the public and private good and is required for the perfection of moral development, but is not so absolutely necessary to the rationality of conduct that it may not be lawfully omitted under some special conditions. For example, under no circumstances is polyandry compatible with the moral order, while polygamy, though inconsistent with human relations in their proper moral and social development, is not absolutely incompatible with them under less civilized conditions."

Catholic Encyclopedia also discusses how this applies to polygamy and divorce. To be honest, I'm not sure whether "simple fornication" (ie, without contraceptive acts or attitudes) would be in this same category, as in some way's it is simply the inverse of divorce; ie, pre-excluding the indissoluble aspect rather than post-excluding it:

"Neither polygamy nor divorce can be said to be contrary to the primary precepts of nature. The primary end of marriage is compatible with both. But at least they are against the secondary precepts of the natural law: contrary, that is, to what is required for the well-ordering of human life. In these secondary precepts, however, God can dispense for good reason if He sees fit to do so. In so doing He uses His sovereign authority to diminish the right of absolute equality which naturally exists between man and woman with reference to marriage. In this way, without suffering any stain on His holiness, God could permit and sanction polygamy and divorce in the Old Law."

The Catechism explains fornication's connection to the natural law by saying:

"It is gravely contrary to the dignity of persons and of human sexuality which is naturally ordered to the good of spouses and the generation and education of children."
Which I think is the important point: sexuality is not just naturally ordered towards procreation considered in a vacuum, in a reductionist way, but towards the Family specifically and everything good for the child to be born. Though whether it is possible that the former (ie, procreation itself) is of the "primary precepts" of the natural law, and the latter (ie, conditions favorable to the child) of the merely secondary...I don't know.

Aquinas explains it in the Summa however with reference to the good of child that could possible be born, whose conception is an implicit possibility in the act:

"The sin of fornication is contrary to the good of the human race, in so far as it is prejudicial to the individual begetting of the one man that may be born."

And also explains that it is not just "procreation" that sexuality is naturally ordered towards, but towards a more holistic "good of the offspring":

"First, in relation to the principal end of matrimony, namely the good of the offspring. For nature intends not only the begetting of offspring, but also its education and development until it reach the perfect state of man as man, and that is the state of virtue. Hence, according to the Philosopher (Ethic. viii, 11,12), we derive three things from our parents, namely "existence," "nourishment," and "education." Now a child cannot be brought up and instructed unless it have certain and definite parents, and this would not be the case unless there were a tie between the man and a definite woman and it is in this that matrimony consists."

I think this holistic emphasis is very important. Too often Christians these days, when arguing against homosexual relations or contraception or whatever...fall into the trap of concentrating in a reductionist way on the mere mechanical fact of procreation itself, which I think weakens our position. The view of the nature of human sexuality involving more than just fertilization, but rather being ordered towards the good of the person created for their whole life, is much more holistic. It also helps to answer the sophomoric argument that, "If it's all about procreation, why let old people or the infertile marry?" And a large part of the answer is that it is not "all about" procreation. By being rooted in the natural bond that leads to procreation, such a marriage still creates a union of the sexes that forms the building block of a cohesive society that respects both, and so there is this implicit fertility to such a union even when not explicitly actualized in procreation. For just one example: as a man and woman, they still have everything nature demands to raise a child, even if it is not their own biologically. Too much concentration on the fact of procreation in itself can lead to forgetting the broader point that the union between man and woman is ordered by nature for reasons far beyond the mere moment of fertilization; it's not as if once that is done society could carry on being organized however and raising children in any which way. No, the "natural" extends beyond that, to all of human nature and society.

Now, I do remember reading from some medieval theologians who argued that "simple fornication" was only so strictly forbidden as grave matter by revealed Divine Law, and that among non-Christians, who have only the Natural Law, it might only be a venial sin against the secondary precepts but not the primary.

Nevertheless, Aquinas seems to argue against that opinion:

"Now simple fornication implies an inordinateness that tends to injure the life of the offspring to be born of this union. For we find in all animals where the upbringing of the offspring needs care of both male and female, that these come together not indeterminately, but the male with a certain female, whether one or several; such is the case with all birds: while, on the other hand, among those animals, where the female alone suffices for the offspring's upbringing, the union is indeterminate, as in the case of dogs and like animals. Now it is evident that the upbringing of a human child requires not only the mother's care for his nourishment, but much more the care of his father as guide and guardian, and under whom he progresses in goods both internal and external. Hence human nature rebels against an indeterminate union of the sexes and demands that a man should be united to a determinate woman and should abide with her a long time or even for a whole lifetime. Hence it is that in the human race the male has a natural solicitude for the certainty of offspring, because on him devolves the upbringing of the child: and this certainly would cease if the union of sexes were indeterminate.

This union with a certain definite woman is called matrimony; which for the above reason is said to belong to the natural law. Since, however, the union of the sexes is directed to the common good of the whole human race, and common goods depend on the law for their determination, as stated above (I-II, 90, 2), it follows that this union of man and woman, which is called matrimony, is determined by some law. What this determination is for us will be stated in the Third Part of this work (Supplement,050, seqq.), where we shall treat of the sacrament of matrimony. Wherefore, since fornication is an indeterminate union of the sexes, as something incompatible with matrimony, it is opposed to the good of the child's upbringing, and consequently it is a mortal sin.

Nor does it matter if a man having knowledge of a woman by fornication, make sufficient provision for the upbringing of the child: because a matter that comes under the determination of the law is judged according to what happens in general, and not according to what may happen in a particular case."

Now, Aquinas's opinion here isn't dogma. I might be able buy the argument of those other medieval theologians that the mortal sinfulness of simple fornication is a positively revealed Divine Law for Christians, but that it might be only a venial sin (against the merely secondary precepts of the Natural Law) when it comes to the question of non-Christians who don't have Revelation, who only have the Natural Law. Again, assuming the act was still open to life. But, as I argued in that condom post, except in some sort of concubinage or common-law marriage situation...fornicators usually don't want to get pregnant, they exclude it mentally at least. And at that point...the point is moot anyway. As it is for Christians generally, since we do have Revelation either way.


So, this is rather strange.

A publicist from Penguin contacted me through the blog and offered me a free copy of some book called Angelology, some sort of mystery thriller involving a nun, I think. I haven't done to much research because I want to read it fresh, without any outside opinions or preconceptions.

The idea is that they hope I'll review it once I read it and, I guess, they hope it will get publicity that way. For some reason they think that my audience would like it. Or, perhaps, they hope my audience will find it disagreeable and controversial and so will complain and word-of-mouth will spread virally that way (like with The Da Vinci Code, which became only more popular from the controversy).

I accepted the offer and the book should arrive soon. But I will try not to be a whore. Hey, free stuff is free stuff, right? I feel rather accomplished, this blog is finally paying off, lol...

[Update: Well, she never sent the book, so I don't know what happened. Oh well, it probably wasn't that great... ]