Thursday, May 31, 2012

Furor over what Bishops may say

There have lately been some very odd statements made regarding the propriety of bishops' statements on our responsibilities as citizens. Some have claimed that our bishops have no right to make public statements on political issues.

Think of it. Because a man is a priest or bishop, his free speech rights are sacrificed?


I am not saying that a priest or bishop may not be constrained by the Church existing under the the rules for a 501(c)3 organization. That is a separate consideration.

What then, can a bishop or priest say to us with respect to any election? First, he may teach us what Church doctrine tells us is our moral responsibility. He can to that without naming any candidate.

What I believe he must do is to teach us from the Catechism of the Catholic Church on our responsibilities as citizens. If you have not read it, I cannot recommend strongly enough that you do. At the very least, begin with article 2234 and read through to the end of 2283. You will find essential information on citizenship in general, and on a number of specific issues, including immigration, abortion, and euthanasia.

We are not Catholic if we live only part of the faith. We are bound to all that the Church teaches. If we do not study the teachings, we cannot live them.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Vatican II as "Super Dogma"?

Today Fr. Z has an interesting article that raises the notion of Vatican II as a sort of "Super Dogma."

In my parish, most of those involved in education, whether in grades or in adult education, including RCIA, are gung-ho Vatican II fans. I am, as well, but I disagree with the others on nearly everything I have read in the documents of the Council.

How can this be?

I concluded years ago that most of the people in my parish education department are not fans of Vatican II, but fans of the Spirit of Vatican II. I suppose it's easy to enjoy that position, since it means, in essence, whatever you wish it to mean. According to these people, Vatican II gave us:

  • Mass in the vernacular
  • Versus populum celebration of Mass (priest facing the people)
  • Wide-open choices in music
  • Altar girls
  • Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion at every Mass
  • Tabernacle optional
  • Crucifix over altar optional
  • Mass as a community meal

Vatican II did none of those things.

The constitution on the liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium, said:

  • Latin reaffirmed as the language of the Mass 
  • nothing about changing the orientation of the altar
  • Gregorian chant reaffirmed
  • nothing about altar girls
  • nothing about EMHCs
  • nothing about moving the tabernacle
  • nothing about removing the crucifix
  • nothing about the Eucharist as other than the body and blood of our Lord

However, there are articles in SC which have been used as loopholes through which these changes have been driven. Moreover, the language in SC is in many places open to interpretation. Michael Davies wrote extensively about these problems with the documents. And it is not only a problem in SC, but in all the documents; I focus on SC simply because I am more familiar with it than with the other documents.

If you wish to read the articles which are most troublesome, look to articles 37-40 (emphasis added):

37. Even in the Liturgy, the Church has no wish to impose a rigid uniformity in matters which do not implicate the faith or the good of the whole community; rather does she respect and foster the genius and talents of the various races and peoples. Anything in these peoples' way of life which is not indissolubly bound up with superstition and error she studies with sympathy and, if possible, preserves intact. Sometimes in fact she admits such things into the Liturgy itself, so long as they harmonize with its true and authentic spirit.
38. Provisions shall also be made, when revising the liturgical books, for legitimate variations and adaptations to different groups, regions, and peoples, especially in mission lands, provided that the substantial unity of the Roman rite is preserved; and this should be borne in mind when drawing up the rites and devising rubrics.
39. Within the limits set by the typical editions of the liturgical books, it shall be for the competent territorial ecclesiastical authority mentioned in Art. 22, 2, to specify adaptations, especially in the case of the administration of the sacraments, the sacramentals, processions, liturgical language, sacred music, and the arts, but according to the fundamental norms laid down in this Constitution.
40. In some places and circumstances, however, an even more radical adaptation of the Liturgy is needed, and this entails greater difficulties. Wherefore:
1) The competent territorial ecclesiastical authority mentioned in Art. 22, 2, must, in this matter, carefully and prudently consider which elements from the traditions and culture of individual peoples might appropriately be admitted into Divine Worship. Adaptations which are judged to be useful or necessary should when be submitted to the Apostolic See, by whose consent they may be introduced.
2) To ensure that adaptations may be made with all the circumspection which they demand, the Apostolic See will grant power to this same territorial ecclesiastical authority to permit and to direct, as the case requires, the necessary preliminary experiments over a determined period of time among certain groups suited for the purpose.
3) Because liturgical laws often involve special difficulties with respect to adaptation, particularly in mission lands, men who are experts in these matters must be employed to formulate them.

So clearly, these articles provide for changes, even as in article 40, "radical" changes. However, as the heading which appears before article 37 is:

D) Norms for adapting the Liturgy to the culture and traditions of peoples

And as the culture and traditions of Catholics in America prior to the release of SC had been framed by the Latin Mass, weekly confession, priest facing liturgical East (facing, with the people, toward our God), traditional and reverential hymns with conventional instrumentation (organ at minimum, orchestral accompaniment in extreme cases), tabernacle on the altar, and altar boys (who may discover a vocation in this special service), it is difficult in the extreme to understand whence came these wholesale changes.

Before Mass, the nave used to be a place of quiet prayer; now it is as noisy as the parish hall. We had hymns which had been in use for hundreds of years; now anything prior to 1985 is suspect.

Consider these things, and consider whether in your own parish, you find reverence before and during the Mass. And if you do, is it within yourself, or do most of the faithful exhibit a similar demeanor?

I will write more on this....

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

NCR never changes

In her most recent article, Phyllis Zagano takes to task the entire magisterium of the Church. Apparently the recent report on the LCWR was entirely unjust, conjured by a bunch of old men:
The noise coming from Rome about American women religious is in large part just that: the blustering of old men, translated into official-looking documents by cassock-clad junior clerics who wistfully wander the Curia's halls dreaming of a more orderly church, where lace is white and lay folk are quiet.
Never mind that the study analyzed the presentations of the LCWR over a ten year interval. Nor that the issues raised were entirely on the basis of failures of the LCWR to conform to Church doctrine. Clearly, to ask women religious to remember their vows and to adhere to them is simply too much.
The whole thing is a heartbreak. I can picture the tears you've shed, for your community, for your vocation, for your very life. Please believe me, nothing was wasted.
Yes, it is a heartbreak, but not in the sense Ms. Zagano means. It is heartbreaking that the orders which stopped wearing habits and left the convent:

  • are dying, attracting no new members
  • are opting to apply new age techniques which have been condemned (Enneagrams, et al)
  • continue to lionize dissidents, such as Richard Rohr and Joan Chittister
  • continue to show contempt for the hierarchy

But on the bright side, there is good news from orders which are in full communion with Rome. Sisters in Nashville, and in Ann Arbor, to name two locations, are enjoying growth in their vibrant communities, with good numbers of young women entering the novitiate.

Like two sides of a coin. Or a trend.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Secularization and the Church

“It is no exaggeration to say that providing young people with a sound education in the faith represents the most urgent internal challenge facing the Catholic community in your country,” the Holy Father said to the bishops, who represented dioceses in Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, and Wyoming.

I am inclined to think that though the role of Catholic universities in secularization is less obvious than that of the media or government, it is more insidious. These are institutions entrusted not only with supporting our faith, but with educating our young in accordance with that faith. Thus by their failure, they are propogating a secular future, not just the near future, but future generations.

As to what Jesuits are called to uphold, one can only wonder. By their fruit you shall know them. America (magazine), Boston College, Fordham, Georgetown, Santa Clara U., USF... all are pretty sorry fruit. And Catholic? Hardly.
"In 2008, Archbishop Joseph Naumann revealed that he had asked Sebelius not to receive Holy Communion because of her support for legalized abortion." Any news on whether she has obeyed?

When I think of Catholic politicians, the list is short. When I think of CINOs, the phrase which springs to mind is latae sententiae (literally, sentence passed--often read as "by the act itself"). And while these people will ultimately answer to God for their actions, should the Church corporate not act on earth? When a commercial corporation's brand is usurped, action is taken, because the brand itself has a value which is lessened by the usurpers.

Moreover, self-excommunication is a grim thing to consider, but the lack of a formal excommunication is tantamount to an endorsement, as far as the laity at large are concerned. How are they to understand that these CINOs seem almost never to be called to account by the bishops?

Academia wants all voices to be heard. Fine. But Catholic academia has a duty to teach discernment. Let all be heard, but for the university to appear to endorse by failing to condemn is a travesty. For professors--do any still teach?--to fail to raise the topic of a local speaker for discussion and debate is to waste an opportunity for real instruction in logic and reason.

One of the greatest travesties to come from the spirit of Vatican II is the notion that (often ill-formed or unformed) conscience trumps teaching and dogma.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Registering in your parish

There is a topic on Fr. Z's blog which has erupted into a lengthy argument over the matter of parish registration.

Interesting that so many (self-appointed) canonists have come out to play. All of them are quite sure they know what Canon Law says, and some are all but indignant that they should not have to register. And many are attacking Supertradmum (full disclosure: she's a friend of mine), who is actually one of the few with any significant education or training in the matter.

What puzzles me most, however, is why so many seem rigidly opposed to registering. And they don't enlighten us on that. I understand that many operational decisions are left to the bishop, and I know that in some dioceses, the bishop is dependent on the willingness of the faithful to support the diocese. In my own diocese, that is not the case. The diocese assesses the contribution required of each parish, and it is a debt owed, so if the bishop's appeal does not receive the level of support needed, the parish budget suffers, but the diocese gets its funding. I'm not a fan of that approach, but it is apparently canonically acceptable, so there you are.

Our Church, thanks be to God, is not a democracy.

However, our Church does need our support. Without it, the Church cannot provide the services we believe it should. And although I loathe the spirit of Vatican II folks their "we are church" expression, when it comes to funding, we are indeed the Body of Christ. We cannot indulge in fiduciary neglect, then deride the bishops for failing to keep parish churches open.

Register at your parish, if you have not already.

Friday, May 4, 2012


In the blogs I follow daily, it is striking how many comments reflect the utter failure of catechesis since Vatican II. We have seen the rise of the "magisterium of nuns and theologians" decide that they know more and better than our bishops, and that their own ideas trump doctrine.

Well, we are Catholic for the good of our souls, not for the whims of political fashion. Fads come and go, but damnation is forever.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

On language...

I have borrowed the title of this post from the name of a book by George Bernard Shaw. The provocation for the article is a comment from someone on another blog:
"I was under the impression that the terms “conservative” and “liberal” properly belong to the secular-political realm, and not to the Catholic Church. Regarding the Faith, one is either orthodox or a heretic…"
Oh, how we wish to keep things simple. But of course, we cannot.

I submit that one reason that terms used in political discussion have been applied to discussions of religious views is that these views bear a striking resemblance to their political counterparts. But to dismiss the original complaint, we must bear in mind that in any living language, words are added, others go out of use, and still others suffer alteration of meaning, or are applied to different elements of life than those to which they originally referred, as in the case at hand.

In context, the term was used to describe Pope Benedict, in his nature during the time of the Council. And it is true, he was a liberal, as the term is now used. And in fact, as I recall, Rev. Wiltgen identified him as such, in his not so recent book about the Council, so using the term isn't all that novel.

What is of greater import to me than the words used is whether the comment was thoughtful. So often these days, people fail utterly to engage the brain prior to speaking. If the person in question has given the matter some thought, I am less likely to quibble over words used than when I hear or read some knee-jerk emotional response.

But that's just me....