Sunday, January 30, 2011

500 Posts!

I hit 500 posts earlier today without even noticing it. I'd like to thank my readers again for all the support!

I also got up to #31 out of ~6750 religion blogs on Technorati! (And in the Top 100 out of almost 34000 in the "Living" category). I don't know how long that will last, but it's a nice achievement

"A Problem, Not a Crisis..."

A friend sent me this quote from a report on clergy shortage in the Episcopalian Church in the USA, which makes a telling comparison to the US Catholic Church:
Do we face a shortage of priests as severe as that seen now in the Roman Catholic Church? This is certainly not the case. As of the year ending 2000, the Roman Catholic Church had roughly 45,000 priests for its 50 million adult adherents, a ratio of 1 to 1,100. By contrast the Episcopal Church had roughly 6,000 parish priests to serve 3.5 million adherents, a ratio of 1 to 583. Moreover, the 45,000 figure is for all priests of all types and of these priests, roughly a quarter of whom are over seventy years of age. By contrast, if we count all active priests, and all ordained, though inactive priests under age sixty-five, the Episcopal Church has 9,500 priests for its 7,500 parishes. The Church can also call upon many “active retired clergy”, almost 2,000 of whom are between the ages of sixty-five and seventy and thus younger than many active Roman Catholic priests. The Episcopal Church would also be able to call upon Canon IX priests who can serve in rural communities [...] Due to these factors, one can conclude the severity of the priest shortage in the Episcopal Church is nowhere near as serious as in the Roman Catholic Church. Moreover, it is unlikely that Episcopalians will face the same moment of crisis, in which access to the celebration of communion is itself in doubt, now afflicting Roman Catholics. In short, the Episcopal Church has a problem, not a crisis.
I think that's hilarious! Compared to us, the Episcopalians have merely a "problem," not a "crisis." Meaning we do have a crisis. Just keep reminding your fellow Catholics, priests, and bishops: half of all active priests currently in ministry are over age 60, and half of all priests currently in active ministry expect to retire in the next ten years!!!

Even the German cabinet is taking notice; which makes sense, 2/3rds of parishes in Germany may not have a priest by 2020! And yet crazy conservatives are digging themselves in just a deeper hole arguing that priestly celibacy is "dogmatic," or that even permanent deacons with wives must abstain from all relations...

I must agree with the young Joseph Ratzinger, unless there is a miraculous reversal in the next few years (and there won't be; they couldn't even handle a huge influx of seminarians if it did happen), then the Catholic Church “quite simply has a responsibility to take up certain modifications” on celibacy and that if they don't change them, then the hierarchy will “create the impression that it did not believe in the strength of the Gospel recommendation of a celibate life for the sake of heaven, but rather only in the power of a formal authority.”

I Like the Big Pallium

I'll confess, I found the "new old Pallium" Benedict was using at the beginning of his papacy rather fetching:

The "new new old[ish] Pallium" that replaced it isn't terrible, but then I don't really see the point of making it different from the Archbishop's palliums in such a minor way:

I think it was certainly bizarre to change the official papal portrait in St. Paul's basilica just to reflect the change:

Sure, people were accusing it of being "archaeologism" based on a portrait of Innocent III that was apparently itself anachronistic:

But I don't see why recovering fuller forms is always a problem. To me, archaeologism is only an issue when it is used to justify cutting later developments or make things lesser. When it's used to restore fuller forms, I'm all for it. This is how the pallium was in the early Middle Ages, just look how St. Patrick is often depicted:

The only thing I'd say about the new old pallium (the big one) is that I would prefer if it had been pinned so as to hang down the middle rather than to the left. This was a very early development and sensible. It is also the main justification for the pins. When Benedict was using the new old pallium, he put the three pins on both sides and the middle, but traditionally they went one on the back, one on the left shoulder and one on the breast, because this made the bands hang down in the middle rather than the left, maybe something like this (an edited picture):

Finally, I wanted to share this picture I'd never seen before of Pope John Paul II wearing a "big pallium" once (it was apparently never seen again). I don't mind this one, but I liked Benedict's better:

Saturday, January 29, 2011

The Crisis of Modernity

I've posted a few articles I've found through friends from this blog before, and I thought this one was good too:

The “Crisis” of Modernity

By fatherstephen

What do you call a Christian whose mind is so constructed that belief in God is almost impossible?

Answer: a modern man.

I occasionally make allusions to the crisis of modernity (in one form or another), as in a recent post in which I made reference to Florovsky’s term, the tragedy of Western Christianity. The crisis is not financial, though financial stumbles do reveal some of the cultural weakness within modernity. In many countries, it appears that very little is required to fill the streets with violent protest (though often the protest is itself without clear guidance or purpose).

The tragedy of Western Christianity is often shared by Eastern Christianity: that tragedy is the failure of the Church. I certainly believe Christ’s words that the “gates of hell” would not prevail against His Church. Despite its tragic failures, the Church has not disappeared (for thoughts on the historical problems within the Eastern Church, I reference an article by Met. Hilarion Alfeyev).

Much of Christian practice today has fallen into the individualism of modernity. The Christian life as a common life, lived only in the context of Christ's Body, the Church, is, for many, a concept that has little content beyond a sense of camaraderie with other Christians. Such an appropriation of Christianity renders the faith as simply one of many modern “life-style choices.” It is therefore not surprising that many “life-styles” that are traditionally rejected by the Scriptures are easily embraced within a Christianity that exists only as a set of “choices.”

The earliest Christians understood the true nature of the Church and did so in the context of a hostile, pagan culture. Modern Christians, even those that perceive the Church properly in its fullness as the Body of Christ, do so in a very strange society – a secular world that is “post-Christian” rather than simply pagan and hostile.

The “post-Christian” aspects of our culture make belief in Christ, as traditionally given by the fathers and the Church in its fullness, nearly impossible. To say that Christianity is “a way of life” is not the same thing as saying that Christianity is “a life-style choice.” Many modern Christians would be hard put to explain the difference.

Answer: a life-style choice is a set of actions based on decisions of an individual. A way of life (in its true meaning) refers to the fact that true union with Christ is the only means of true existence – all else is death or a movement towards non-existence.

In the post-Christian world, institutions have become ephemeral, based, at best, on the raw, coercive power they possess and can threaten to wield. That a pope could bring the Holy Roman Emperor (Henry IV) to his knees in the snow is now a tale of things past (and was not much of a tale at the time). Christians speak, issue statements to various governmental bodies, usually to no avail. The Church is not as strong as an opinion poll.

To approach Christianity as a “way of life” is to reject the Post-Christian world itself – to recognize the emptiness of secularism – and to set one’s life on a path that has no particular public standing in the world in which we live. To recognize Christ as the very source of our existence and well-being is to place nothing ahead of Him, or in competition with Him. It is to recognize that our true life is constituted by love of God, love of neighbor, and love of enemy. Everything else is subsidiary and of less significance. It is to place our life under the judgement of the End of all Things, rather than any other time or place.

The world which we now call the “modern” is simply one of many cultural arrangements that people have used for their daily intercourse. There is nothing inherently good or true in its constitution, nothing which demands our loyalty. Though “God” has been assigned a place within the secular order, such a place is not occupied by God, but only things which “stand” for God, and therefore are modern idols. A real God, is the end of all that secularism professes.

The crisis of our present world order is that it has no particular relationship with the God Who Is. It has established itself as superior to all else and the judge of the utility of all things. As such, it can have no true God.

To reject modernity and secularism sets a Christian on a path of conflict and difficulty. It requires that we see modernity for what it is (simply another human construct) and secularism for what it is (another human effort to relegate God to a relative station). It is a path marked by tension and struggle and much misunderstanding. But this is the struggle of our time, the crisis and tragedy which belong to our age.

May we have the wisdom to know our own age, and to know the true God in the midst of all things and to discern His voice from all of the delusions which seductively call to us.


Friday, January 28, 2011


More of this:

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Chant for Matins

A friend recently asked "Where can the chant for Matins be found," as he was unable to find everything he needed in the Liber Usualis. I wrote up a someone extensive answer and thought it would be useful to post here for anyone else searching around the internet for the answer to similar questions:

The Liber Usualis doesn't contain everything. The full chants for the Office are contained in the Antiphonale Romanum (for the day hours) and the Nocturnale Romanum (for Matins). Actually the full titles for the Solesmes era editions are, I believe, "Antiphonale Sacrosantae Romanae Ecclesiae Pro Diurnis/Nocturnis Horis."

At no point after Tra le sollecitudini did Solesmes ever actually get around to publishing a complete Nocturnale compiling their full restoration for Matins, not for the Roman/Diocesan Office at least (as opposed to the Monastic). And after 1970 it was, of course, considered superfluous to do so.

That a restored Nocturnale for the Old Rite exists at all (Deo gratias!) is thanks to the work of one dedicated chant scholar named Peter Sandhofe who typeset an edition published in 2002 before dying at a young age. The Nocturnale is available for sale here.

This is actually the one post-Pius-X chant edition for the Old Rite that I don't have yet (I have a 1949 Antiphonale, which is quite rare; the edition you usually see is 1912), besides the Passion chant books (I am always conflicted about whether to buy the pre- or post-Holy-Week-reform editions), though I saw a copy of the Nocturnale once at a traditional Religious house.

Now, in terms of pre-Solesmes-restoration chant (you can read up on the story of chant editions since Trent here), the Roman Antiphonarium was formerly divided into three separate books that are very hard to obtain in their most recent editions (by Ratisbon in the late 1870's and early 1880's). I mention these only because I have suggested before that, though I vastly prefer the "medieval" restoration of Solesmes, they are rather harder to sing, and these "Medici" versions could perhaps be used as a traditional "Simplex" repertoire for parish churches (rather than versions entirely new to the Roman liturgy).

These books are also the only place to find any official music whatsoever, albeit unrestored by Solesmes, for the Antiphons of the Office as they existed prior to Pius X's edition of the Breviary (see #6 here; besides just rearranging the psalter, for better or worse, as most people know about, the Antiphonary of the Roman Office was altered beyond recognition by the Divino Afflatu reforms, something rarely mentioned when that reform is discussed...)

In this Ratisbon edition, one volume contains the day hours, the other two contain Matins. I found two of the volumes through the interlibrarly WorldCat, but I think they were non-circulating. The day hours are here, published 1879. The volume for Matins of the Proper and Commons of Saints is here, published 1884. The other tome (Matins for the Proper of Seasons) was very hard to find, was not even found in any of the WorldCat libraries. However, I do know that the Latimer Library of the college run by St Vincent's Archabbey in Latrobe, Pennsylvania has a copy (though not of the other two) in their library (which I have been privileged to visit once), found here.

MusicaSacra has the pre-Solesmes Graduale and many other good chant editions (such as books with the verses for the Offertory, Introit, and Communion), including most of the volumes corresponding to the traditional liturgy from the 20th-century. But it does not have the Ratisbon/pre-Solesmes Antiphonary yet in any of the three tomes. So I think it would be worth getting those scanned and put online if someone could. (As for the 2002 "new Old Nocturnale"...I think there are copyright issues given that it was published so recently, but it would be worth owning, I think.)

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

For a Friend

Prayers please!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

New Recommendations

I have updated my "Recommendations" list in the sidebar. I have removed some blogs which shut-down or went private and added a few new ones.

One is the blog "Sweet Lime Madras," the photo-chronicle of one my best friends while she lives in India as part of some pre-grad-school psycho-anthropological research she's doing. It's pretty cool, check it out if you have time.

I also found a blog called "Love the Tradition, Loathe the Traddies," which I thought sounded a lot like our message here, and a blog by Tim Muldoon called "The Holy Desire" which seems pretty good and of a "tone" similar to what I like.

Finally, the blog "Teachers are Students" has recently been started by a member of my cohort in my teaching certification/Masters program. We are on a cluster model, meaning we take most of our classes together as a group with all the same people, and he came up with this idea last semester that it would be really cool to document the careers of all 20-something of us as we set out, given that we all started out in the same program, in the same cohort, taking the same classes together. Sort of like the "Up!" documentary series (tracking the same group of kids every 7 years throughout their life), I guess.

We'll see how long it lasts, I hope it does. It's neat because we're a diverse group, mostly men (which is rare, we've been told), but of many ages and different points in our careers; from people right out of college/undergrad (I'm the youngest) to career changers in their 40's and even early 50's. He finally set up the blog and invited us all tonight, and only has one introductory post so far, but we're all going to try to add to it as we move forward into student-teaching in the spring and beyond. Check it out every so often. Once we get everyone registered as a contributor (anonymity is apparently a concern), I'll update this post with my specific username, so you can find my posts specifically.

Finally, not to toot my own horn, but I was proud to recently have made it into the Top 50 Religion Blogs on Technorati (out of over 6600 in the category). As high as #42 actually, as of writing this post, and I would like to thank my readers for letting me achieve this. It has also put me into the Top 100 in the entire "Living" category (out of almost 33000)! I suppose this puts me into the category of the "parallel magisterium of Catholic bloggers" that the Vatican is apparently concerned about...

Monday, January 24, 2011

Lay Cults

The most recent post on Reditus references this post from another blog, which I think describes a phenomenon with which I am familiar:

Where to not be a member of that particular Catholic lay organization is to be less than fully Catholic. And where all Catholics before the advent of that cult, and all those now who are not a member of that cult are suffering from not being a member because only through that membership can one be fully Catholic.

And where leaving that same cult is viewed by other cult members as apostasy from the Faith where ostracism is the typical response.

Which is not to deny the good those cults serve. For instance, a fair number of Italian college kids embraced the Faith through Communion and Liberation, but those same college kids in turn invariable held that it was only through C.L. that the Faith could be fully lived. I know, I mistakenly helped found C.L. in my hometown, and spent hours fruitlessly attempting to explain to them that the Faith was not perfected in C.L.

And that experience with C.L. I discovered was common among others I have talked to who associated with the other Catholic lay cults.
This also makes me think of groups like the Neocatechumenical Way, but I think college kids are particularly susceptible.

At the Newman Center where I lived in college (which, while deeply imperfect, was nevertheless still excellent and a great experience) there was one such group. I think it may have been officially two separate groups; there was an accompanying Retreat initiation that may have been separate administratively but which got a person into that same basic social network.

We called them the Sunshine Squad, for their stereotypical impossibly "peachy keen" demeanor (and, because we were sort of dicks, made bumper-stickers in opposition once...)

The Group seemed almost like The Party of a one-party-state. Sure, there was a theoretical difference between The Group and the Catholic Church on campus or the Newman Center...but it was clear that The Group had a virtual monopoly on positions of leadership, on the social life of the dorm, on the public agenda.

Other more traditional leaning factions, including the Knights of Columbus themselves, and our little Renegade Trad group (who served the private Old Mass of a priest there each morning, made antependia and cerecloth, were the chant schola for the Latin Novus Ordo, organized an assembly-line for making chapel veils, had sit-ins to end communion on the hand, etc) were marginalized or looked upon rather suspiciously as "divisive." To the point that, I found out sadly, the chaplain banned ad orientem in the main chapel this year after we succeeded in a brief restoration last year.

The Group, on the other hand, acted exactly as this article describes. Yes, it brought a bunch of people to the Faith, produced some vocations. But then they also spoke as if their experience was the be-all and end-all of the Faith and the best and only way to live it in the modern world, looking suspiciously on anyone who didn't join it as if they were spoil-sports or weren't really part of the Catholic community as they understood it.

Even though it was basically Evangelical Protestantism with a very neoconservative Catholic veneer.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Simple Low Mass

A few days ago I saw a comment on a thread somewhere discussing the "clarification document" for Summorum Pontificum that it is supposed to come out soon. People were giving their ideas about what they hope is included, or what they think should be. Sometimes this amounted more to a sort of delusional wish-list. I love playing, "If I were Pope..." as much as any good little lay cleric, but some of these people were acting like some impossible things were going to happen. Oh well.

Anyway, one suggestion I saw was interesting. The guy basically said that, especially if it were in the vernacular, and maybe there was a ferial lectionary, that people wouldn't mind the Old Rite for daily Mass. But that the problem is that (if not mumbled at incomprehensible speed) even a daily Low Mass can take 45 minutes, whereas people now only have time for daily Mass to be no more than a half-hour, like the Novus Ordo. He thus suggested that there be options for things like dropping the Prayers at the Foot of the Altar and Last Gospel. This got me thinking, along the lines of Re-Attempting the Reform about a potential option for Low Mass which would shorten it by eliminating a lot of the accretions that were originally private devotions of the priest. A "Simple Low Mass" as it were.

I thought this made a lot of sense, maybe. Priests in the old days used to try to say Requiems for their Low Masses anyway, since the Requiem was shortened (especially if the optional Dies Irae was omitted) by omitting the Judica Me, the lack of a Gloria, etc. And in some ways it makes sense if a monk has already participated in a full Conventual High Mass, to not have to repeat so much in his private Low Mass. Furthermore, the 1965 liturgical books apparently attempted something like this too; removing certain accretions and putting in the vernacular.

I don't know much about the 1965 books, but for me it would be important that any such adaptation not add any new text to the Missal. That, like the 1960 reform of Matins lessons, it would only involve the application of rubrics, the omission or slight rearrangement of things already in the Missal, without removing or adding anything (except possibly these rubrics regarding the process to simplify). If only because the simplification would only be optional; a priest could still say a full Low Mass if he wanted, and High Masses should certainly still contain everything (if people don't have the time for these traditional parts of the Mass, then they don't have time for music, as I see it.)

So here is basically the plan I would propose for such a Simple Low Mass. It is disturbingly close to the Novus Ordo in some ways, but whatever:

The Mass would start with the Introit (as at High Mass, and as the "Entrance Antiphon" in the New Rite). Rather than reading it after the Prayers at the Foot of the Altar, the priest would process in, go up to the altar with the chalice, lay out the corporal, go over to the missal to make sure it was set. As at some churches, he could then announce, "This holy sacrifice of the Mass is offered for such-and-such an intention. Mass as is on such-and-such a day." After a brief pause he could then read the Introit (possibly without the Gloria Patri or the repetition), and return to the foot of the altar.

As at a Requiem he would start with the Sign of the Cross and the antiphon with the server, "Introibo ad altare Dei..." but the Judica Me would not be said and he would go directly to the "Adjutorium..." The Confiteor would not be doubled (ie, one for the priest then again for the servers/people), rather it would be prayed in the "all together" form found in the Breviary. The rest would continue the same (though I lean against this, I could see permitting the priest to omit the silent prayers upon ascending the altar) up until the Kyrie. The Kyrie would be said immediately upon ascending the altar rather than after an Introit, since the Introit was already said at the beginning.

The Gloria is not said on most Ferias anyway, but I do think there needs to be some reform of the calendar so that many fewer feasts are Doubles, so that there is a pruning of more obscure feasts, and so that some distinction is made that would allow many more minor feasts to not have a Gloria (or the Te Deum at Matins, for example, but that's a tangent). Then the rest of Mass would proceed as usual up until the Offertory (though again I lean against this, I could see allowing permission for the priest to omit the Munda Cor Meum).

The Offertory, though I'm inclined to make it audible, would be somewhat shortened in the following way. The "Suscipe, sancte Pater..." would be maintained for the offering of the host, the "Deus, qui humanae..." would be kept for the filling of the chalice, and the "Offerimus tibi, Domine..." for the offering of the chalice. However, then the priest would move immediately to the Lavabo, which would be shortened to the first verse of the psalm and the Gloria Patri only. He would then pray the two previous prayers from the Offertory (the "In spiritu humilitatis..." and the "Veni Sanctificator...") in place of the "Suscipe sancta Trinitas..." (whose basic points are already hit in the "Unde et memores..." of the Canon, and the "Libera nos...")

Mass would then continue as normal until after the Agnus Dei. The priest's private prayers before communion would be omitted (though priests could choose to add one of the latter two quietly and quickly after the Agnus Dei). The priest would move right to taking the host and paten in his fingers and say the "Panem coelestem..." and then, rather than going into a separate priest's "Domine non sum dignus..." the people's Communion Rite would be integrated directly into the Mass (as at the Novus Ordo). So he would then turn around, say the "Ecce Agnus Dei..." and then, turning back around, the priest and people together would do the triple "Domine non sum dignus..." The priest would then continue with the usual prayers for his reception of the host, cleaning of the corporal, and reception of the chalice.

He would then read the Communion verse and go immediately into distributing communion (the people may have already been lining up at the rail during his reception). If there are more than 10 communicants, he could use the simple formula "Corpus Christi" rather than the longer one for the distribution of communion, and wouldn't have to make the sign of the cross over each person with the host. I think this would make distribution of communion go much faster (and reduce calls for EMHCs, etc).

The ablutions and post-communion would go on as normal. Then the dismissal would be like the Novus Ordo: "Dominus vobiscum," the blessing, and the "Ita Missa est." The Last Gospel would be omitted, the priest would be encouraged to pray the "Placeat tibi..." on the way back to the sacristy.

So, that's how I'd go about such a simplification, not that my opinion really matters. I think it's pretty similar to some things in the 1965 books. Except, I'd make it only optional (not mandatory) and only for ferial or private Low Masses. For Low Masses which were serving as, say, one of the Sunday Masses in the parish, I would not encourage this. The only changes out of these I would transfer over to High Mass is integrating the people's Communion Rite into the Mass itself rather than doubling the "Domine non sum dignus..." The Mass is, after all, a Sacred Banquet as well as the Holy Sacrifice, and though only the priest's communion is "essential"...treating the people's communion as just an "interruption" in the liturgy, as a separate Rite accidentally inserted into the liturgy, seems contrary to the spirit of the Mass. I might also allow, optionally, the "combined" Confiteor at the beginning instead of the separate ones (but only optionally!) and the use of the shorter formula "Corpus Christi" during the distribution of communion to more than 10 communicants. Otherwise, this simplification would only be optional, and only for ferial Low Masses.


The Pope, speaking on the subject of annulments, has recently reminded the Roman Rota that no one has a right to marriage. Meaning, apparently, that priests shouldn't just agree to marry every couple that walks in asking for a church wedding. To some extent I agree; if a couple comes to a parish and the priest thinks “this is a trainwreck, this is clearly never going to work”…he doesn’t have to marry these people, and probably shouldn’t. If I were a priest and a just-18 boy and girl showed up at my office asking to be married, I’d probably say, “Come back in 4-6 years.” This makes total pastoral sense. I’d be negligent to do otherwise.

Then again, do we really expect people to abstain from sex for that long? Well, I've already laid out most of my thoughts on dealing with the questions of marriage, divorce, and annulment in the Church in these two posts that address the issue relative to the Eastern practice. I summarized them again and elaborated a little in a comment I made on another blog:

Might it be possible to change the canons so that two Catholics who get married by a justice of the peace are validly naturally married, even if not bound in that case by the indissoluble Sacrament? Might not my 18-year-olds contract a merely natural marriage and have licit sex that way, start their family, but still have an "escape clause" (since the dissolution of natural marriage is possible, though unideal), and then seek the absolutely indissoluble Sacrament later when it was more clear their relationship was going to last?

I know there is a theological position that says, “No, the marriage between two Christians is either the Sacrament, or it is nothing, merely ‘putative’ marriage.” But I wonder whether this is really dogma, or just a theological opinion based on the way Canon Law has worked in the West for so long. Ott considers it sententia certa (ie, an opinion theologians believe follows implicitly from dogmas) but I don't exactly see which other dogmas about marriage imply this necessarily, and in any case the Church has not definitively spoken on the question.

Now, two Catholics deliberately seeking out such a "merely" natural as opposed to Sacramental marriage might still, in itself, be considered sinful…but, at the same time, it would at least still be recognized as a natural marriage as opposed to merely “putative." Meaning in practice: the children would be legitimate (without needing the special canonical exemption they added for children of “putative” marriages), and their sex would be recognized as not sinful. Except in extreme cases like incest or where it turns out two people were of the same sex...the concept of a "putative" marriage is a rather bizarre and inelegant canonical animal.

There would probably also then exist the concept that such a Catholic couple is morally obligated to convalidate the natural marriage into the full Sacrament eventually. Still, after they confessed the initial sin of contracting a natural marriage without the Sacrament, they would then have some time to fulfill the requirement to get it "Sacrament-ized." The obligation would be a "soon enough" sort of thing, like getting a baby baptized after birth, but in the meantime they wouldn't be considered to be fornicating. Because it would still be a valid natural marriage, they wouldn't be "living in sin."

Now, if the obligation to make it a Sacrament was neglected too long, this neglect could become a sin too. But how long is "too long" a delay could be subject to (lenient) pastoral interpretation according to need. If a pastor or bishop thought the marriage was not likely to last, then making it the full Sacrament right away might not be the best idea, and he might permit them to wait longer (though, on account of the natural marriage, they wouldn't be morally obligated to cease normal marital intercourse either). "In the meantime" could last quite some time...

And if this natural marriage did break up before being made into the Sacrament, then at least there is no need for annulments or anything, seeing as natural marriages are dissoluble in theory (though it's still a tragic thing and subsequent marriage ceremonies might take on some sort of "penitential" elements, like in the East).

The Sacrament would be recognized as coming only from the church ceremony. The marriages between Protestants would then not be recognized by canon law as the Sacrament (but merely natural marriages) and, as always, some marriages that did take place within the church ritual might still be found later (ie, the concept of annulment) to have not reached the level of the full Sacrament. But they would nevertheless still be seen as true natural marriages as opposed to “nothing” or merely “apparent” or "putative" marriages.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Three Points

I found these in the comments (by "catholicmidwest") on this post over at Fr. Z's and thought they were great. The Vatican and the bishops really need to get this through their heads:
1) Continuing to do exactly what you’ve been doing but expecting the outcome to be totally different = the definition of stupidity.

2) The best parental advice: Don’t ever threaten anything you don’t intend to do. {If you do this, your children will ignore you, 100% sure.}

3) Pay now or pay later. There are no free lunches in this life. If you put off the work that needs to be done, you will do it later, only it will be uglier and bigger and have more bacteria in it. Just do it and get it over with.
#3 especially makes me think of the impending demographic collapse of the priesthood (ie, the fact that half of all active priests currently in ministry are over age 60, and that half of all priests currently in active ministry expect to retire in the next ten years!!!) and the need to introduce married secular priests and other reforms to the diocesan clergy. It's going to happen; you might as well start the process now. Rip the band-aid off in one quick motion! Don't dawdle and leave it to the next generation just because you don't want to face the upheaval. The longer you wait, the worse it's going to get.

Every So Often...

...I write another post that is basically the same rant regarding clichés about Vatican II that annoy me. Well, here's another version, more concise, this time taken from something I wrote as a comment somewhere else.

There's been much talk in the blogosphere lately of Bishop Athanasius Schneider's call for a new "Syllabus of Errors" to counteract "misinterpretations" of Vatican II. There is much traddie excitement over this concept, but I personally have to agree with Arturo Vasquez:

Calling for a new Syllabus of Errors strikes me as one of those paradoxical statements, such as “no freedom for the enemies of freedom”. For a council that explicitly aimed to convince rather than condemn (seen in the tragicomic governing style of John Paul II – except if you were a Marxist), the final farcical act would be to use authority for anti-authoritarian purposes (“I said be convinced about our communion of love, dammit, or you’re out of the Church!”)
There is all this concern with showing that Vatican II was in continuity with previous teachings, but maybe it wasn’t. There are some matters (like how to interact with other religions) which are mere prudential questions of diplomacy/politics/administrative tactics etc. On these, the institutional church can and clearly did make a 180-degree turn.

And we should just admit that rather than try to do all these mental gymnastics to square the circle and “reconcile,” say, Dignitatis Humanae, with the Syllabi. Just admit this is a mere prudential question, that the two approaches are very different, but that both are potentially valid opinions (especially in different historical circumstance), and that Catholics are free to disagree about what is the best approach for the modern day, about whether the approach called for by Vatican II and used since is still best (or even whether it was ever prudent).

Let’s not try to “spin” continuity into existence where there isn’t any. Some things just changed (but they weren’t the unchangeable dogmatic sort of thing). There can be no discussion about whether these were good changes (or, on the other hand, bad changes) until we admit they were huge changes. Let’s get it over with.

We don't have to discard the Council. It was an ecumenical council to be sure, and infallible (inasmuch as it didn't declare any heresies; then again, it didn't declare any dogmas either). But one that is perhaps largely irrelevant. It is my constant plea: can't we just move on already? It's almost 50 years later, can we please stop using that as our constant reference point, prooftexting all decisions with references to it?

As I will once again quote Ratzinger himself as saying, "Not every valid council in the history of the Church has been a fruitful one; in the last analysis many of them have been just a waste of time." And obviously, we move "beyond" Councils all through history. Vatican II itself was an attempt to "move beyond" the ethos of Trent and Vatican I, which dominated the Church for 400 years.

Then again, I've obviously come to appreciate some of the "attitude change" in the Church when it comes to what we might call a greater freedom of thought and opportunities for lay (intellectual) involvement. So it wasn't all bad. My blog certainly would not exist under the regime of the Syllabi!

Furthermore, let’s not pretend the mere disciplinary suggestions of the Council were some sort of mandate which tie our hands until…when? The next Council? No. That’s why talk of trying to create the “true” liturgical reform that Vatican II called for irks me to no end. The "true implementation" can only be the one the Pope approves.

Paul VI approved the Novus Ordo. Did the committee go seemingly beyond what was called for in Sacrosanctum Consilium? You bet. But then, the Pope is free, on purely disciplinary questions like this, to go further than a council suggests, to be more conservative than a council suggests, to modify a council’s suggestions, or to ignore them completely, when it comes to the liturgical implementation.

I’m not saying I support the Novus Ordo, just that “what the Council ‘really’ intended” is a meaningless concept; there were 4000 bishops there! Some (like Lefebvre) probably imagined nothing more than some minor changes, maybe vernacular propers. Others (like Bugnini) obviously did have the Novus Ordo in mind. Other bishops probably imagined something like the 1965 books. Many probably had no particular concrete vision and just signed onto vague notions of “reform.”

As such, rather than worrying about trying to implement “the true liturgy of the Council” the Pope should worry about what is best liturgically for the Church's needs today. Who cares whether that’s "what the Council 'really' envisioned” or not!?!?! And that goes for all the "pastoral" decisions of Vatican II: if "what the Council 'really' intended" wouldn't or doesn't maximize the glory of God through the salvation of souls, then why should it be any sort of standard for us today? The Council existed for the good of the Church, not the Church for the good of the Council…

Thursday, January 20, 2011

And a Designer Dress...

The Catholic League is all furious about this song. Fr. Z has called Denis Leary "scum" because of it. I listened to it and found it to be just the sort of critique the institutional church needs thrown at it! I don't see it attacking the religion itself anywhere in there.

It's certainly vulgar, and the part about communion especially could be taken as irreverent (though not nearly as much as letting molesters remain priests and consecrate the eucharist with the same hands they used to abuse children, which really does profane It like that). And some might also argue that the flippant tone is insensitive to the victims themselves. Some might also be of the opinion that the song really isn't all that clever or funny...

But, at the same time, satire is sometimes the best weapon. If we are allowed to use it against politicians, why not against prelates? Maybe you'll conclude differently, but this seems to almost entirely attack the dysfunctional institution and its pathological personnel, not God, nor Saints, nor holy things, nor dogmas, nor the sincere faith of your average Catholic (many of whom are just as angry at what has been done). And in that case, I don't really see a problem.

And now, as a final slap in the face, the video has disappeared from Youtube. Just like that "Pepsi and Doritos Communion" video. I can't say for sure why, but I have my suspicions. Is this really the sort of pressured censorship that the conservative Catholics want to promote??? Thanks for the great discussion, though, everyone.

Madness vs Evil

I think this article makes some really good points we should all keep in mind:
My morale, however, is not lifted by this conflation of the terms "mad" and "evil." On the contrary, I find it depressing that so many smart people choose to see mental illness as a moral failing.

"What ever happened to evil?" wonders Politico's Roger Simon, as though that word had not been applied to Loughner by everyone from Perez Hilton to John Podhoretz. "[I]n our modern times,'' Simon asks, "are we embarrassed by the term 'evil'? To some, it seems too primitive or too religious or both. And we would much rather believe that all sick people can be cured by medical intervention.''

To which this deeply Catholic primitive replies: Who doesn't believe in evil? Sometimes, evil is political, as per the remote-control detonation of mentally disabled women strapped with explosives and sent into crowded Baghdad markets. More often, it's less murderous and messy than that, and sometimes it's very well dressed.

One of my favorite references to everyday evil comes from the Albert Brooks character in the movie "Broadcast News," who says of his substance-free rival for Holly Hunter's affections, "Please don't take it wrong when I tell you that I believe that Tom, while a very nice guy, is the Devil. What do you think the Devil is going to look like if he's around? Nobody is going to be taken in if he has a long, red, pointy tail. No. I'm semi-serious here. He will look attractive and he will be nice and helpful and he will get a job where he influences a great God-fearing nation and . . . he will just bit by little bit lower standards where they are important.''

Yet it's the Christian underpinnings of my view of evil, in a world in which we do have free will, and sin, which in all cases involves a choice, that makes it impossible for me to ever see those who suffer from schizophrenia as an embodiment of moral evil. We don't know for sure that Loughner has schizophrenia, though his paranoia and references to "mind control" are classic markers. But those who are so afflicted haven't chosen their delusions and hallucinations; a stand-out even in the pantheon of dreadful diseases, theirs is an illness no one would choose.


Serious mental illness regularly leads to self-medication and homelessness, though as David Brooks has pointed out, it only rarely leads to violence. Yet persistent as these related problems are, frustratingly little has changed since I covered mental health issues in the mid-'80s. Even then, the seriously mentally ill were no longer being warehoused in inhumane institutions. But most still aren't getting sufficient treatment in their communities, either.

An even knottier challenge than the chronic under-funding of community mental health services is that one symptom of schizophrenia is that the sufferer truly believes he isn't ill and that those who are trying to treat him are involved in a plot to hurt him. Then as now, there is no way a loved one can get an adult involuntarily committed unless he is deemed a threat to himself or others – a standard that is often impossible to meet until it's too late; I've seen some incredibly sick people pull it together long enough to fool a judge in a commitment hearing, and if you think that's the "evil" criminal mind at work, well, you should see them when they fall apart. Also then as now, even if the person is hospitalized, it's only briefly, until he is "stabilized" on medication, at which point he's released to "the community" to go off his meds and get sick all over again.

Roger Simon writes that we "medicalize" evil so we can pretend it doesn't exist, but I see us doing just the opposite -- writing illness off as "evil" to justify our inaction. "Madness can be treated,'' he says. "All we need is early intervention and clinics and more resources devoted to the problem. And we would much rather believe that all sick people can be cured by medical intervention.'' Only they can't be, unfortunately. Schizophrenia can be treated -- and with great difficulty, managed -- but not cured, or not yet, anyway. And as long as we confuse mental illness with wickedness, I'm not sure how that's going to change. Decades after deinstitutionalization, we have barely started the conversation.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

This Again...

Most of you have heard of this by now, but it's obligatory I post it. Lie upon lie, in other words: not surprising at all.

Is it wrong that this invigorates me for some reason? Not that children got abused or that it got covered up, of course, but now, after the fact, that they're falling so mightily for it? This is a happy day! Justice can be done now, and this will surely be yet another victory for the cause of structural reform. Every time something like this is revealed, they lose a little bit of ground on disciplinary issues, like mandatory celibacy, designed to protect their weird structures of power.

People are talking so much these days about keeping our discourse civil and toning back the violent rhetoric, but maybe the reason those in power are so easily able to abuse it is because our rhetoric isn't violent enough. Why should Benedict do anything? He's in no danger of losing his head (or even his silk underwear) and will die in the lap of luxury. What incentive does he have to change things?

I don't doubt his sincerity, but he's so entrenched in the system as to be functionally delusional. Probably he'll give us some more crocodile tears on the advice of his court eunuchs and hope we'll all be fooled yet again and move on. Well, I hope people aren't so stupid as to fall for it.

The Catholic hierarchy has so little legitimacy these days, it's stacked like a game of Jenga. Why aren't a contingent of cardinals and bishops (or a good old fashioned Roman mob) staging some sort of administrative coup?? It really couldn't be that hard to walk in there and tie up some of these sniveling Curial weaklings (I bet many have the hand-cuffs and gags in their desks already...)

These horrible perverted old men cling so tightly to their corrupt ways, but at last perhaps the good will shatter their bony bejeweled knuckles and take the reigns from their effete and bloodied hands.

And still, they deny, deny, deny:

A newly disclosed document reveals that Vatican officials told the bishops of Ireland in 1997 that they had serious reservations about the bishops’ policy of mandatory reporting of priests suspected of child abuse to the police or civil authorities.

The document appears to contradict Vatican claims that church leaders in Rome never sought to control the actions of local bishops in abuse cases, and that the Roman Catholic Church did not impede criminal investigations of child abuse suspects.

Abuse victims in Ireland and the United States quickly proclaimed the document to be a “smoking gun” that would serve as important evidence in lawsuits against the Vatican.

“The Vatican is at the root of this problem,” said Colm O’Gorman, an outspoken victim of abuse in Ireland who is now director of Amnesty International there. “Any suggestion that they have not deliberately and willfully been instructing bishops not to report priests to appropriate civil authorities is now proven to be ridiculous.”

But a spokesman for the Vatican said that the document, while authentic, was further proof that past missteps on handling sexual abuse allegations were corrected by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, a top official in the Vatican before he became the current pope, Benedict XVI.

The document, a two-page letter, was first revealed by the Irish broadcaster RTE and obtained by The Associated Press.

The letter was written just after a first wave of scandal over sexual abuse by priests in Irish Catholic schools and other facilities — a scandal so big it brought down the Irish government [but not the current Vatican regime?!?] in 1994.

By 1996, an advisory committee of Irish bishops had drawn up a new policy that included “mandatory reporting” of suspected abusers to civil authorities. The letter, signed by Archbishop Luciano Storero, then the Vatican’s apostolic nuncio — or chief representative — in Ireland, told the Irish bishops that the Vatican had reservations about mandatory reporting for both “moral and canonical” reasons. Archbishop Storero died in 2000.

The letter said that bishops who failed to follow canon law procedures precisely might find that their decisions to defrock abusive clerics would be overturned on appeal by Vatican courts.

“The results could be highly embarrassing and detrimental to those same diocesan authorities,” the letter said.

Jeffrey S. Lena, a lawyer for the Vatican, said in a statement that the letter “has been deeply misunderstood.” He said that its primary purpose was to ensure that bishops used proper canonical procedures to discipline their priests so that the punishments were not overturned on technical grounds. He said the letter was also intended to question the validity of the Irish bishops’ policies, because they were issued merely as a “study document.”

Mr. Lena added, “In stark contrast to news reports, the letter nowhere instructed Irish bishops to disregard civil law reporting requirements.”

The Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, said that the letter represented an approach to sexual abuse cases shaped by a particular Vatican office, the Congregation for the Clergy, before 2001. That year, Pope John Paul II charged the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, then led by the future Pope Benedict, with handling such cases.

“It refers to a situation that we’ve now moved beyond,” Father Lombardi said. “That approach has been surpassed, including its ideas about collaborating with civil authorities.”[Great. That doesn't address the question of justice for past victims, nor the question of how this was even possible in the first place.]

He played down the idea that the letter was a smoking gun. “It’s not new,” he said. “They’ve known about it in Ireland for some time.”

But Mr. O’Gorman said that the letter was not known until its disclosure on Monday by RTE.

Martin Long, a spokesman for the Irish bishops, said that the revelation that the bishops had faced Vatican disapproval for resolving to report abuse cases to the police as far back as 1996 had prompted an outpouring of supportive e-mails and phone calls.

“The church in Ireland did receive a great number of public calls that reflected the public welcome for the fact that the Irish bishops have been so proactive for so long in working to improve child protection guidelines,” he said.

Mr. Long would not comment on the letter, but he reflected a widespread feeling among church officials that the Irish bishops had borne an unfair share of the recriminations that have been heaped on the church.

He noted that the Irish church had adopted a policy of mandatory reporting of all cases of child sexual abuse to the civil authorities in 1996, and said the policy had been progressively strengthened since then, despite the fact that mandatory reporting in such cases was not required by law in the Irish Republic.

An investigation by the Irish government that took nine years and was released in 2009 found that abuse was “endemic” in church-run schools and orphanages for decades, and that thousands of children were victims.

Pope Benedict sent a pastoral letter to the church in Ireland, accepted the resignations of some bishops and ordered an investigation, known as an “apostolic visitation,” of Irish seminaries and several dioceses. Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan of New York, who is in charge of the seminary visitation, announced that he would spend about three weeks from now until early February interviewing seminarians in Rome and in Ireland. [There should be an outside, independent, lay investigation, however.]

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Reflections on a Bucket Bath

Like anyone with a sensitive conscience, I've often felt guilty about not doing anything, positively, for the poor or suffering, and dreamed of doing more. Avoiding active sin is one thing, but getting it together to motivate myself to engage in positive works of virtue or charity, works of mercy corporal and (besides in fickle bursts of dedication) something that always comes back to nag at me when I think of my relatively luxuriant lifestyle. A bee in my proverbial bonnet.

Certainly, charity starts at home, and there are many things I could do even within my regular life to help. Living simply. Doing good and reaching out to the children in my own job as a teacher starting next year. Dedicating my time within the community through after-school programs and tutoring and other local volunteer activities (there are many in need even in the First World). Volunteering in the local church and working to make things better, liturgically and otherwise. "Ministering" informally to people I meet through being a good example, acting authentically rather than trying to hide my own weaknesses, sharing my love of Christ, and being a supportive and caring friend. Praying and fasting for all. Working through advocacy and voting to reform the system structurally. Donating a large portion of my salary to charitable causes. Perhaps all this would even be the most "efficient" way to do the most good in terms of absolute cold calculations.

Then again, I feel like there is something to be said for those who go into the realms of squalor in other parts of the world to help full-time in a hands-on personal way, even if this is not the most "efficient" way economically. That there is something morally salutary about such volunteerism both for the soul of that volunteer and the moral fiber they have to build up in making such a commitment with its accompanying sacrifices, as well as for those who get the human touch on the other end, building up bonds of friendship and peace across the world.

I read a book early last year called Monique and the Mango Rains: Two Years with a Midwife in Mali about the experiences of a young Peace Corps volunteer and a village health official (Catholic, coincidentally) and was somewhat inspired. Oh, I'm not saying I'd join the Peace Corps itself necessarily, a specifically Catholic alternative might be preferred (especially since a major thread in the book was giving women birth control pills, and behind their husbands' back at that; not that I don't appreciate the circumstances some of these women find themselves in.) But reading about the good such people are doing always humbles me.

Last night I saw a special on the Peace Corps again. It was actually rather negative; apparently a lot of women have been raped or attacked and the Peace Corps has tried to hush it up, hasn't been particularly helpful, gave minimal counseling resources when they returned, tried to show the women how it was "their fault" for "breaking the rules" even when many expressed anxiety about their situations and asked to be removed before their attacks. Not a very nice picture was painted of the Peace Corps, it was shown as a bureaucracy trying to protect its own image (and don't they all?) Ironically, though, it got me interested again; I'm not a woman, after all. Male victims of such things seem rarer (and I could always sneak a taser over somehow, maybe.)

Whatever I'd decide, I certainly wouldn't be heading off right away. I need to finish my Masters and teaching certification program by this summer, and work at least a couple years to get some experience, pay off some student loans, and save up a little money. I'd also like to get into really good shape before heading off on such an adventure in the Third World.

But, there's a few other things. For one, heading off totally alone does frighten me. Sure, one can get hand-crank generators and satellite cards for communications, but the Peace Corps doesn't assign anyone with friends; only husband-wife pairs are allowed to request being kept together. Perhaps a Catholic alternative, some religious order or charitable organization, would be more obliging in this regard. Still, who's to say I could find a willing companion, and even this anxiety I think I could get over, especially in a couple years time. When I need to be, I can be very independent.

This may sound extremely fussy but, really, the thing that for a long while was keeping me back from truly considering such ideas (or even just things like camping trips, lol) was the question of bathing and hygiene. I need to bathe every day or I just don't feel right. I get very physically uncomfortable, and after even just a few days I'd go crazy, I think. Laugh all you want, it's the effects of modern conditioning.

However, after this special last night, I did some research and found out that bathing is possible and looked into how exactly bathing does happen among volunteers in such situations. Apparently out of a bucket of water, possibly heated in a fire, with a small cup. So I decided to try it today, with some recommendations from a friend who has apparently taken bucket baths for a Lenten discipline before. Here are my initial practical thoughts about the experience:

1) Overall, I was quite pleased. It's awkward at first, but I could definitely get used to it. It certainly is satisfactory enough that, if I at least had a bucket bath like this available reasonably often, I would be comfortable and wouldn't go crazy. I did feel clean afterward and what took longer in time certainly saved a lot, I'm sure, on water and heating costs. I may well make a habit of practicing this in order to get used to it, as a little sacrifice, or at least alternating every other day with a regular shower.

2) During the initial wetting of my body, before soaping up, a lot of water just runs off and can be aimed back into the bucket rather than wasting it. I limited myself to the one bucket and am sure that, with practice, I'd learn to use the limited water much more efficiently. Except for the shampoo, it might even be possible to rinse over the bucket instead of losing all that water, though I don't exactly like the idea of rinsing with "dirty" water. But perhaps I could get the soap off that way first, and save just a bit of totally clean water in another small bucket for a final "clean rinse."

3) I wasn't cold. My dad was worried I would be in the winter (even though the house is heated!), but with the water warm (out in the field, this would have to be done over a fire or on a camp-stove, I assume) it wasn't bad at all. The evaporative effect made things a little chilly, I think, but it was totally tolerable.

4) As I expected, when it came to the hair, I felt like it would definitely be easier if I had had a buzz-cut (and I do assume I would keep my hair buzzed if I went on such a trip, if only so it would be low-maintenance like this). I would have needed to spend a lot less of the water wetting and rinsing the hair if it were buzzed, and at that point might even be able to tolerate just using soap for the top of my head rather than shampoo.

5) I was a bit paranoid that, without water pressure, the soap wouldn't rinse off. That I'd be left feeling like there was a film all over me, or suds in my hair, or like the dirt and oil and dead-skin really hadn't been washed off. In reality, it turned out fine, though I think the power of suggestion has left me feeling a bit worried, especially around the nooks and crannies. It would probably have been better and used less water if I had scrubbed with a wash-cloth or sponge or loofa more for the initial rinsing and, likely, if I used a plain soap rather than the thick Dove moisturizing bar I'm used to...

6) The last thing left, then, in conquering the practical limitations my obsessions about hygiene place on the question of shaving. I simply refuse to grow a full beard (though, because I'm lazy, I often let 3 or 4 days worth of stubble grow in before shaving). I'd like to find a good battery-powered dry shaver to cut down on the time and effort I put into shaving on the days I do, but I suspect one doesn't exist that would satisfy me. I'm sure something could be figured out, though, maybe a good straight razor (though not for weird traddie reasons!)

Friday, January 14, 2011

A Little Bit of Everything

This post, though largely just referencing a few other things I found today, touches a bit on many of my favorite themes: crazy repressed seminarians, good preaching, love of sinners, and emphasizing grace over guilt.

There is a good post over at Vox Nova addressing the accusation that the Church is "sex obsessed" (while admitting that many on the Right and Left are indeed). I occasionally get teased or have cyber eyebrows raised at me on some traddie boards for having "psychosexually integrated" be a defining feature of the ethos of this blog...but there is no denying that it is a huge unresolved issue in the collective psyche of Catholics (and the source of much insanity and spiritual sickness).

The Vox Nova post is worth a read in itself, as I agree with what it says, but it also led me to a very good article by Fr. Robert Barron of Word on Fire Catholic Ministries. I actually am blessed to have him say Sunday Mass and preach at my parish very often, as he is truly one of the best speakers I've ever found among priests (because, let's face it, Catholic priests aren't usually very good preachers). I'm not sure how favorable he'd be to the idea of the traditional liturgy, but I encourage you (if you're not already familiar; he's on EWTN too) to check him out, if only for his able preaching style.

This particular article has what I think is a hilarious wry little anecdote at the beginning about an obviously messed-up seminarian, followed by a very good message about the true nature of Christian conversion afterward:
The biggest difficulty is the obsession with sexual issues which bedevils, not only the secular media, but too many within the church itself, both on the left and the right. About ten years ago, the New York Times Magazine ran a story on the new generation of seminarians. It demonstrated their vigor, their enthusiastic orthodoxy, and their eagerness to preach the Gospel. But when the reporter asked one young man, soon to be ordained to the priesthood, what topic he especially wanted to proclaim from the pulpit, he responded, “I want people to stop masturbating!” [ROFLMAO!!!!!!] Now say what you want about the morality of masturbation, I think that you’d be hard pressed to read the Gospel of Matthew or Paul to the Romans or the book of Revelation or the book of the prophet Isaiah and conclude that the central point is “don’t masturbate.”

Though you’d never guess it from most discussions in the media (or many in the church), the central point is grace and divine friendship. On the Biblical reading, the spiritual thing always begins with grace—the offer of the divine life—and grace leads to joyful transformation. It doesn’t commence with moralizing. In his opening speech in the Gospel of Mark, Jesus says, “The Kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe the Good News.” Notice that the kingdom—the inbreaking of God’s love—comes first and the call to moral conversion follows. In his encounter with the woman at the well, Jesus did not immediately call the woman to change her immoral ways; rather, he invited her into a relationship with him. Then, in the warmth and light provided by that friendship, she was ready to listen and to change. Joyfully, she set down her bucket (symbolic of her addictive patterns of life) and went into the town to proclaim the one “who told her everything she’d ever done.” When the spiritual project begins with moralizing, it ends in fruitless guilt and resentment. When it begins with grace, it ends in enthusiastic conversion.

The Pope understands this dynamic perfectly—which is precisely why the bulk of his interview is about God and God’s offer of love. What particularly vexes Benedict XVI is that many in the West have either denied or conveniently forgotten about God. And this has conduced, he sees, to deep alienation, isolation, and spiritual drift—even in the midst of much material wealth. When God is brought back to the center of our concern, when we enter into friendship with God, then spontaneously we want to change; we want to live lives of radical love. And this is where the moral teaching of the church—including and especially its sexual teaching—comes in. Everything that the church says about human sexuality is designed to conduct people along a path of ever greater self-gift—in response to the God who has given himself to them. But abstracted from grace, the sexual teaching of the church will seem to most, almost certainly, as fussy, puritanical moralizing.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Questions About High Mass

After attending a High Mass together, a friend recently asked me some questions about what we witnessed and why traditional High Mass, as usually done, can feel so disjointed and incoherent. I try to explain:

"At a High Mass, what is the purpose of the choir?"

The choir (originally/ideally a true choir of clerics) sings the Propers and leads the congregation in the Ordinary chants.

"Why do they sing over the priest and servers' parts?"

Bad taste. In my opinion, at least. And an attitude of rushing and laziness.

"Is it necessary and why was this originally done? What are the possible historical alternatives?"

It's not necessary in the sense of required rubrically, I don't think, though most places seem to do it.

Historically, there are two factors to be considered.

The first thing to realize is that many parts of the traditional Mass (especially the parts that trads love so much, but which were removed in the Novus Ordo) like the Prayers at the Foot of the Altar, the long and multiple Offertory prayers, the priest's prayers before communion, etc...started out as merely private devotions of the priest. While the choir and congregation were singing their Agnus Dei or whatever, priests started to add these private devotional prayers to pass the time for himself. They were later codified as an official part of Mass, but they were originally just private devotions of the priest. These are the things most often (and most legitimately) "sung over," since they are potentially silent anyway.

The second is a sort of laziness or sloppiness and a desire to rush Mass. For example, the ideal proper place for the Introit, as I understand it, would really be during the entrance procession. But...since they stopped having a procession longer than just a few steps from the sacristy door (or, when they do have a procession, started liking to have vernacular hymns)...they sang the Introit over the Prayers at the Foot of the Altar (originally private-devotional in character anyway, mind you). When there is an Asperges, the priest could possibly return to the sacristy to change from cope into chasuble (rather than doing it at the chair, which always seems rather awkward to me) and then have the real entrance procession, but I don't think you'll ever see this in practice.

Likewise, there used to be an Offertory Procession. Now, since there's not, they just sing the Offertory verse before the offertory prayers. But since the priest isn't required to sing along, he usually just begins those prayers while they're still singing. Same thing (most egregiously) with the Canon and the Sanctus. The priest isn't required to sing along or wait for the choir to finish (he just reads the Sanctus quickly to himself, an imposition from Low Mass) and so he starts the Canon, often, while they're still singing.

This is likewise why the priest will often sit down during the Gloria and Credo (which, thank God, he is at least required to intone). This is a practice which causes much confusion in terms of when the laity is supposed to genuflect and when we're supposed to sit down. Do we do it when the priest genuflects? or when the choir sings that part? Do we sit down with the priest? or after genuflecting with the choir? I'm sure there is some official etiquette, and more precise priests will wait standing until the choir gets to the genuflection, do their "I'm going to sit down" genuflection at the same time the congregation is doing our "et homo factus est" genuflection, and then we all sit down together (which still doesn't really answer the question of whether or not we genuflect with the priest at his "et homo factus est" genuflection.)

Still, all these things are what I would consider bad liturgical praxis (heck, at one place I know they even sing the Gradual and Alleluia over the Epistle at High Mass. It's insane! The Alleluia, I think, was meant for the former Gospel Procession.) They are very common, almost universal, Baroque practices from the post-Tridentine era. In the Medieval ideal, I believe, the priest would have stayed standing and sing the Gloria and Creed (and all the Propers) with the choir and congregation rather than reading them quickly and moving on with his other prayers, or at least wait for them to finish.

The "modern" practice basically turns the High Mass into just a Low Mass of the priest with the choir layering a "soundtrack" over it, and this is, I think, a very sad development. This is what leaves the whole thing feeling rather disjointed, hard-to-follow, confusing, and like there is a "priest's mass" and then a separate "choir's mass" going on. It is also, I think, one of the major reasons why the traditional Mass does not catch on more (besides the language barrier question). Even for trads like me...the traditional Mass often seems to look better "on paper" than it does in practice for these reasons, to the point that I often end up feeling like I prefer (gasp!) Low Mass, since at least it doesn't have two parallel things going on.

I've only actually seen the "good way" done at one place. Even they'll do the later practices sometimes, but I've at least a couple times seen that priest stand and sing along with the Gloria and Credo rather than reading them through to himself and then sitting down while the choir is still going. He also waits for the Sanctus and Agnus Dei to finish before moving on to his parts, thank goodness (but then, that's easier to do when you use the chant settings from the Graduale rather than elaborate drawn-out polyphonies...) The Prayers at the Foot of the Altar and Offertory are still usually sung over by the Introit and Offertory verse, but eliminating those other practices made it all feel much more coherent and satisfying liturgically.

Other priests, though...well, they're in a rush apparently, so they move onto other prayers (or sit down; because they are apparently delicate men who can't stay on their feet for very long...) while the choir is still singing. To me it makes no sense and is just an example of institutionalized liturgical laziness. Why would we stand for half a Gloria or Credo??? It's bad practice, plain and simple, and causes the "genuflection confusion" to happen every time.

Still, some of this "singing over" is more egregious than others, in my mind. Singing over the Epistle (like at that one place) seems a downright abuse. Singing the Sanctus over the Canon (often split into two parts; before and after the consecration with an absurd "pause" for it) is awful. On the other hand, when there is no entrance procession or offertory procession...singing the Introit or Offertory over those originally private-devotional prayers doesn't bother me as much (nor, for example, the priest praying his private Gospel preparatory prayer while the alleluia is finishing, etc) since those parts are originally private devotional in character and potentially quiet anyway.

Still, it would be nice if the original Processions were restored to Mass or if the priest would sing along with the choir, or at least stand and wait for the choir to finish before moving on!
Of course, that would be made more necessary if they made the priest's quiet prayers (except the Canon) audible (which I generally support) rather than silent.

"Is it always necessary to have a hand missal to fully participate in the Mass?"

Oh goodness no. Some of the most fruitful Masses I had were when I was serving rather than trying to read along.

Hand missals can be a major distraction, and obviously people didn't have them for most of history. Once you become familiar with the Ordinary, at least generally, there is no need to follow along for most of it (though I still do occasionally just to make sure I keep my memory of it fresh).

At that point you could just, say, read through the translation of the Propers when they comes along (or even just before Mass), and otherwise focus on being prayerful. And even the Propers...I'm not sure I particularly remember all that much after reading them. They are prayed first and foremost as worship to God more than for their content, after all (though the content can certainly be edifying).

It would be nice if, even if they keep the Ordinary in Latin, the Propers could be in a nice "Anglican English" "thees and thous" translation. If that were done, I'm not sure I'd ever use a hand missal again. It is distracting and can lead the obsessively inclined to have our noses buried in a book for most of Mass rather than focusing on the aesthetics of the experience and watching the choreography of what's actually going on in the sanctuary, at the altar.

"If the choir is singing (or server and priest praying), then wouldn't the single most important thing to have simply be a tranlsation of the main parts or a lectionary? I know my grandfather just had a lectionary but no a missal."

They usually read the Epistle and Gospel in English at the homily anyway, but some little prayer books for the laity I've seen from that era do include just the Ordinary and then the Epistles and Gospels for the Sundays of the year.

Of course, Summorum Pontificum approves (for better or worse) actually using a vernacular for the Readings even during the Old Mass...but I'm not going to open that can of worms.

"Does the laity have to follow the priest word for word, or could they have separate private devotions in preparation for Holy Communion (such as the ones in the Missal itself)?"

They definitely could. The liturgy itself is the best source of prayer, but what's most important is uniting ourselves interiorily with the mystery that's happening at Mass rather than following every external word.

Of course, the words are salutary too, and there is some argument for the actual liturgical prayer being objectively the "best" we can use...but that's not necessarily, subjectively, what everyone is going to find most helpful. I've seen little collections of prayers from the good (or bad) old days that provide a private devotional prayer for the laity corresponding to every part of Mass (if anyone wants a copy of these, just email me).

"Is it necessary to know the meaning of the Latin, or simply have a general understanding of the Mass by Catechesis and spirituality?"

Correct, a general understanding definitely suffices. Until the 19th or 20th century, after all...most Catholics did not have hand missals, were not even literate, and certainly not in Latin.

Like I said, the introduction (as the Eastern churches do) of some nice hieratic vernacular could help make a better balance in this regard...but "active participation" or positive literal understanding of the words in themselves certainly is not necessary.