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Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Proper Worship

Over at Southern Orders, I read a post regarding Vatican Council II and orthodoxy.  It was a very interesting read.  I responded in the combox with the following, as questions to the post.  Read on:

I understand where Fr. Barron is coming from.  I understand where you are coming from, Father.  But, I think that there is something afoot here that has been afoot for a long time, within the post-Conciliar life of the Church.

That is justification.  It seems that almost 50 years after the Council, there is still some sort of justification going on with regard to it.  It seems that with each new generation of priests which come after the Council, there is a justification of the Council, in a way that almost tries to legitimize it.

That is a big issue.  Why must there be a constant apologia for the Council.  The Council by its own admission is pastoral.  Fine.  There is nothing wrong with that.  But those who have followed the Council have tried and tried to defend it dogmatically and doctrinally since.  There is no need.  That wasn't the point.  According to John XXIII, there was nothing doctrinal or dogmatic about the Council.  So, why try so hard to make it so...

Then we come to worship.  The Church had/has a very mature view of what worship is.  It has been the central discussion of the Church since the beginning.  Saints wrote volumes on it and they were all consistent, from Augustine, to Aquinas, to John of the Cross, to Don Bosco, to the Little Flower...yet since the Council, there has been an ongoing melee of "how we worship...blah, blah, blah."

If how we worship is the same yesterday, today, and forever, why try to re-invent the wheel?  I have been banging the "proper worship" drum for near 20 years.  And it is a boring drum, because I'm not trying to say anything new.  But then again, I don't need to.  It is perfectly clear and perfectly understandable.

1.  We lay our prayers at the foot of the altar
2.  The priest gathers the prayers at the foot of the altar and carries them forward
3.  He offers the Sacrifice of the Mass on our behalf, properly.
4.  We worship in a way that most closely draws us to the Lord.  That can take any number of can be meditating on the Life of Christ; the PDR; the Stations of the Cross; the Virgin Birth, or it can be as simple as making a series of pious (albeit quiet) ejaculations, such as the Anima Christi or Salve Regina; it could be praying the rosary or any number of chaplets; or it could be following the Mass itself.

All of these things lead one to proper worship.  But all of these things are mostly set aside now, in favor of active participation.  And that is sad, because how one participates isn't incumbent upon how loudly one sings or how far in the air one makes the orans position at the Pater Noster, or how much of a show one makes of carrying the Lectionary or gifts during a procession, yet that is what "proper worship" has been reduced to in 99.999999% of churches in the Catholic world.

You say that Fr. Barron talks about the Council not in a way of modernizing, but being missionary.  I disagree with him.  I think that the Council was about modernizing.  That was a stated aim.  That was part of the point.  What is the title of Gaudium et spes?  As for the rest of the documents, they all speak to a greater or lesser degree about modernizing the Church.  There is very little to do with being missionary.  I think that is something that has been inserted after the fact.

This begs the question, if we wipe away Vatican Council II from the history books, what harm is done the to the Church?  In contrast, if we wipe away a previous Council, what harm is done to the Church?

I think that is what is more pressing than continually defending the Council.  I think that to ask the very hard questions about Vatican Council II are more needed than trying to justify the Council and re-imagine it into something that it was never intended to be.  It was never intended to be a missionary Council (whatever that is) or a dogmatic/doctrinal Council.  It was intended to be a pastoral Council, which leads me back to an earlier question on this blog...was it "really" a Council, as understood by the Church or was it a rather well attended universal consistory?

I don't doubt the validity of Vatican Council II.  I just question the constant re-defining of the premises...Let's just call the Council what it is and move on.  There was nothing defined, there was nothing which held the Church to the floor, there was nothing definitive about it, but rather it was a subjective pastoral action....

The Church needs pastoral actions, but not necessarily to the extent that Vatican Council II went and not necessarily to the extent that the reformers took it afterward and not necessarily to the extent that each generation constantly tries to re-define and re-imagine it.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Understanding Where the Issue Really Lies

I think that any serious Catholic takes the Council seriously. I think that any serious Catholic understands the gravity of the Council and what came from it. That being said, I think that is why it has come under such scrutiny from the right.

When those of us who are traditional look at the Council, we don't see a Hydra, but rather we see an attempt to do something that was never attempted. We see an attempt at the leadership of the Church to steer the direction of the Church in an overt way and in a way that had never been done before.

Ecumenical Councils were previously called to define dogma or to fight heresy or to clarify doctrine. This Council didn't attempt any of that. It didn't try, that wasn't the point, that wasn't an aim. To be totally honest, I think that John XXIII really didn't understand the purpose of an Ecumenical Council. Essentially what he did was to hold a consistory and call it a Council. If there was an idea floating around about calling a Council during Pius XII's time, I think that it wasn't to do what John XXIII did.

Now, we have had the Council. We can't change that. But what we can do is to properly understand it. And the liberals don't like that. They don't like the fact that we are trying to understand the Council. The liberals are still trying to couch the Council as something socially radical. To a degree it was, but not nearly to the degree they took it to following the Council. Paul VI lost control of the leadership of the Church following the Council. Many pass off Humanae Vitae as the reason he was ultimately dismissed. I disagree. There is nothing earth shattering in HV. It simply defines what the Church always taught. No big deal. What was truly defining for Paul VI is that he allowed his cardinals and his bishops to run wild with social change and he did NOTHING to stop it. He actually embraced part of it.

This is most evident in the most visible aspect of the Church, the Mass. The Mass went from being a solemn and High event, to being a shell of it's former glory. AND THE LIBERALS WANTED IT THAT WAY!! There is no disguising it. There is no justifying it. The liberals wanted the Mass to become exactly what it has become. A closed circle wherein the priesthood is redefined as a "priesthood of believers." When that took over, the whole theology of the Mass shifted and we now have what we have.

Taking back the Mass and "reforming the reform" cannot start with the Mass. Shocking to hear from me, I know...but it must start with a fundamental return to understanding the priesthood. When we realize that the ministerial priest has a different function than the faithful with regard to Mass and that he doesn't preside, but rather he is the one doing to celebrating, then and only then can we start discussing the Mass.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

We Are Not Actors at Holy Mass

I mentioned about a week ago that I was having a conversation with a fellow Catholic about the Mass and how it is viewed.  You can read about that HERE.

During the course of that conversation another Catholic piped up and said the following:

You (the first Catholic I was speaking to) convinced me in the last long thread that your understanding of the term "acting" is valid, but it isn't exclusively so, and nothing prohibits its overlapping with a simultaneous use in Andy's sense in the Mass, and that is unfortunate. 
Given the ubiquity of performance art, especially in its televised and cinematic forms today, versus populum is going to strike a responsive chord in the congregation that is not at all desirable. Most of the congregation will have been socialized and conditioned by big and small screens to see versus populum through the filter of modern visual media that are heavily devoted to programming at odds with Catholic doctrine. It's inescapable, except perhaps for the blind, who are a very small segment of the population.
The very fact of turning the priest to face in the same direction of the population, on the other hand, will serve as an immediate visual cue that the Mass is fundamentally different from cinematic and other such experiences. 
My response to this is as follows:

I think that I agree with (the second poster) regarding the ad orientem position on one hand, but on another, I think that it can be developed a little more.

He says, "The very fact of turning the priest to face in the same direction of the population, on the other hand, will serve as an immediate visual cue that the Mass is fundamentally different from cinematic and other such experiences."

The Mass is fundamentally different from "acting." There is action taking place to be sure, but those in the sanctuary are not acting out a role. That is to over emphasize the idea of participatio activa. Are they merely doing something or are they completing an action? 

That's the real question here and one that has been ignored. The answer is that they are doing both, but that does not constitute that they are acting. Because I am writing this post doesn't mean that I'm a writer. It means that I am writing this post. I am completing an action.

However, the more important thing to understand in this is that the Mass shouldn't be seen as something akin either positively or negatively to the cinema, the stage, or television. No. The Mass is an action which is completed not by those playing a role, but rather by those who are genuinely completing an action. They are actually doing something, not just being active. And that is what is being misunderstood.

There is a fundamental difference in posture. The priest is mediator. That is precisely what he does when he acts in persona Christi. He is mediating between God the Father and the faithful worshipping in the pew. Nothing more, nothing less. He isn't presiding, he isn't proclaiming, he isn't acting. He is BEING a mediator. His soul is marked for this and for this primarily. He is not acting, he is being.

When the priest faces the same direction as the people, several things are happening...

1. He is leading the faithful as Moses led the Israelites.

2. He is offering on behalf of the faithful. Speaking to God the Father as one of them, but specially called to do so.

3. He is making an offering which is private. It is not for "all to see." It is the priest's offering on behalf of the faithful. It is not something which is necessarily seen as communal, primarily, but rather it is a time for the priest to gather the intention of the faithful and for him (in persona Christi) to offer the unbloody sacrifice.

The communal aspect comes from the fact that the faithful gather to worship as one while the priest offers the Mass. What happens outside the rail has little to do with the ritual action inside the rail. In other words, if my mother meditates on the Mass and I meditate on the life of Christ and my girlfriend meditates on the PDR and her sister meditates on the Immaculate Heart of Mary...we are all worshipping as a community, but that in no way changes what the priest should be doing on our behalf. It is how we unite to him prayerfully, not how he proclaims to us publicly.

The idea that the Mass must be a communal and cinematic experience is directly in conflict with the purpose of the Mass. The priest and his ministers are not acting. He is BEING and they are assisting. That is why it is most proper that we assist at Holy Mass, from the pew.  

The 50-70 something Blue Hairs Won't Like This....

So, we are 5 1/2 years removed from Summorum Pontificum and by and large we have seen no applicable change in the attitude of mutual enrichment. The question is why?

I have my ideas, but I already know that most people disagree with the assessment that I make, citing, that there hasn't been enough time to see the fruits...I call BS on that.

There has been ample time, but the resistance to the mutual enrichment has been so great, by the liberal "50-70 somethings," that nothing can take place. They just refuse to see the broader picture. They are close minded and rigid. Were they authentically open to reform, they would see that the way to enrich the Novus Ordo isn't to resist, but to embrace. Isn't that what they preached all through the 70s and 80s? Now that the script has flipped, they are looking like those whom they accused all these many years.

Bottom line, if pastors and curates are truly interested in the "reform of the reform" then they will take aspects of the TLM and apply it to the Novus Ordo. They will catechize as to why and they will make the change.

1. Use Latin
2. Turn the altars around
3. Eliminate profane music and improper/forbidden instruments
4. Restore all male altar servers
5. Restore Communion on knees and eliminate Communion in the hand
6. Sing the Mass
7. Use all of the ceremonies for the principal Mass
8. Open the confessional before Mass
9. For God's sake, celebrate both forms of the Roman Rite in each parish.

I firmly believe that the clergy are afraid of the "50-70 somethings." I firmly believe that they don't want to offend them in any way, but have no problem offending the fastest growing segment of the Church. Why?

Bottom line, MONEY. Pastors are afraid the money will shut off if they stop using guitars and pianos. If they stop singing Haas and Farrell and Joncas. If they start treating the Mass less like a community organizing event and more like a sacrifice. Bottom line, MONEY. I can tell you, there are a lot of "20-40 somethings" who make good money who would pick up the slack, if these priests would have the cojones to do enrich the Novus Ordo.

Until that happens, this will be nothing more than an academic exercise and that is too bad, because the reform of the reform will fail until there is action behind it.

Until then, I will send my monies to places which support traditional practices and not to my parish. If they don't want to take the time to listen, then they don't deserve my energy and my tithe. Sound familiar? Sad thing for those priests, I am the future of the Church. The "50-70 somethings" are the past, they just don't know it yet.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

How Soda and the Mass are Related...

I recently read an article about the Mass and how it relates to Catholics.  In the article, the conversation was a compare and contrast between how the Church has handled the "reforms" after Vatican Council II, liturgically and how a certain soda company tried to make a "ground-breaking" change in 1985.

Let me elaborate.

In 1985, Coca-Cola attempted to change the landscape of the so-called soda wars wherein Pepsi had been on a strong marketing campaign utilizing the stars of the day, most notably Michael Jackson.  In order to compete, Coke decided to change it's formula from the traditional formula to a new formula.  Coke did focus  groups and study panels and all sorts of research.  In the end, something like 80% of those tested said they liked the new product.  So, Coke took it to market, in 1985.  The New Coke came out and the Coke Classic was being phased out.  By October, Coke Classic was essentially gone an the New Coke was all that was left.  People were outraged!!!  The drinkers of Coke were up in arms demanding a return to the old formula.  It was really bad, as my memory serves and by early 1986, the original formula had returned and by 1990, New Coke was gone.  Those who were faithful to traditional Coke had ruled the day.

In 1969, by contrast, the Church changed the landscape of the liturgical life of the Church, wherein there had been a strong campaign started in 1948 to reform the Mass.  This campaign was headed by a group of churchmen known today as "The Consilium."  With the authority of Pope Paul VI, the Consilium decided to "reform" the Mass in order to make it new and fresh.  The Consilium did focus groups and study panels and all sorts of research.  They had some favorable responses, but they also had some very unfavorable responses as well.  But the Consilium took it to Pope Paul VI anyhow and by 1969, they had affected a change in the liturgical life of the Church.  By 1975, the old Mass was phased out (mostly) and the New Mass was all that was left.  The Consilium even went so far as to throw around the term abrogated.  We know now this was mere propaganda, as the current Pontiff has made clear.  Many in the Church were outraged, some were dispondent, some approved and many just wondered why.  There were some though that went up in arms and demanded a return to the old formula.  By 2007, the original formula had returned and the fastest growing segment of the Church is not the New, but the Old formula.  Those who are faithful to the traditional Mass are starting to rule the day.

When we compare the two pieces of history, many will say that it isn't exactly the same.  They are right, but it is close enough that the compare and contrast can be made.  The life of the Church moves more slowly than marketing in modern America, but the lesson learned by Coke can be applied, in total to the liturgical life of the Church.

In short:  If it ain't broke, don't fix it!  I'm just sayin'....

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Cardinal Burke and Monsignor Schuler: A Conversation Recollected

I was recently approached by another blogger, Fr. Allan McDonald of Southern Orders and asked to comment upon a conversation I was part of in the mid 1990s.  I obliged he posted it on his blog.  I am going to repost now here, so that those of you who don't read Fr. McDonald's excellent blog may read and share in the experience as well.

A little background first, though.  I had seen a video of His Eminence Cardinal Burke speaking on the issue of the Novus Ordo v. TLM.  He was speaking rather pointedly and it reminded me of a conversation that I was part of in 1995, with Mons. Richard Schuler (of happy memory) and His Eminence, then the newly consecrated bishop of LaCrosse.  That conversation was very similar to the interview that Raymond Arroyo had with His Eminence.  Here is the video, Cardinal Burke's interview starts at 19:08 and following:

My recollection of the conversation follows:

When I was a younger Catholic than I am now, 17 years ago, I had the privilege of living for a time with a saintly priest, Mons. Richard Schuler, then-pastor of St. Agnes Church, in St. Paul, MN.  I didn’t realize it at first, but it was through the Monsignor’s gentle hand and strong nature that I turned to Traditionalism.
I was privileged to meet many famous and now famous Catholic persons while living at St. Agnes.  Of them, His Eminence Raymond Cardinal Burke, then-bishop of LaCrosse in Wisconsin was one that I met on several occasions.  I was allowed the distinct honor of being able to be his MC (master of ceremonies) more than once.  After the celebration of Pontifical Mass, the Monsignor would always invite then-bishop Burke and his secretary over for lunch after Holy Masses were concluded, roughly 1pm. 
The following is my recollection of a conversation between the Monsignor and Raymond Card. Burke, with several seminarians, priests and the sacristan present around the dining room table in the rectory.  While it will not be a perfect recollection, it did take place almost 20 years ago, the effect it had on me was profound and my recollection of the discourse is still clear in my mind.Monsignor began the conversation by asking the good Bishop what he thought of the state of affairs in the Church.  His Eminence laughed and responded that Monsignor had a better grasp on that than he did, but that he noticed a few things.  First, the Church would one day be made up of the young and the old.  The middle aged would become lukewarm and apathetic, because they had no proper catechesis.  Monsignor agreed.  H.E. Burke went on to say that the state of the liturgical life of the Church was in such a shambles that it would take the next generation (at that time the 20 somethings) to recover the sacred. 
--at this point, I would like to interject that the concept of recovery of the sacred was unheard of in most circles.  The idea of instruare sacra was as taboo as using the word ineffable.  It simply wasn’t used.-- 
Monsingor Schuler then spoke at length to that, speaking about participation and the utter lack of understanding with regard to the Mass and the life of Holy Mother Church.  He essentially spoke about participatio actuosa being hijacked in favor of partipatio activa.  But, it was through constant vigilance and dedication to the idea that actual participation in the Mass is what is needed rather than active participation.  Monsignor Schuler spoke to the idea that if we participate with our whole mind, our whole heart, and our whole soul, it didn’t matter what our body was doing, because that was the true end of worship.  Whether Mass was in Latin, or in English, or in Swahili (he liked the Africans, he used to say), if one properly worshiped at Holy Mass, then the experience was fulfilled by how one meditated upon the Mass, in any number of ways…through the Life of Christ, through the Stations of the Cross, through the Passion, Death and Resurrection, the rosary, or through meditating on the Mass proper.  It was then that one truly communed with God.  Not whether one was acting like the Pharisee and making sure he did things….Oh, he would say that doing things was noble, but it was not the right of the people to do so, it was the right of the ministerial priesthood.

At that Card. Burke interjected.  He spoke about the tradition of keeping a male sanctuary as key to continuing the proper idea of what Monsignor was talking about.  The ministers were simply extensions of the priesthood and as such they should be male.  Wherein he made the caveat of a cloistered convent, but was clear to make the distinction that the female nun would not enter the sanctuary, but remain at the rail.
As lunch and the afternoon wore on, we broke for Solemn Vespers at 3pm.  We continued the conversation afterwards, wherein Card. Burke spoke about the need to recommit to proper liturgical catechesis.  He spoke about posture.  He spoke about language.  He spoke about mentality.  And he spoke about form.  Remember, this was early 1995.  Card. Burke spoke about how the Novus Ordo was broken.  That it didn’t have a foothold in the Church because it was not rooted in tradition, but rather that it was a wholly new endeavor started in the 1960s.  He was quick to distinguish between validity and licitness though.  To be valid is to understand that there isn’t a complete break with the 2000 year history of the Church, he would go on to say, but that the actions were not consistent with the laws set forth in the rubrics.  And that made it illicit.  And that is why he liked going to St. Agnes, because the Mass was said licitly.  There was no deviation from the rubrics.  Mass was ad orientem.  Mass was sung.  Mass was Solemn.  Mass was in Latin.  Mass was ceremonially licit.  AND the communicants still received at the rail, on their knees and without the use of their hands.

--at this point, I would like to interject that St. Agnes has kept the traditions of the Church alive based upon actual implementation of the Council, as it happened.  Monsignor’s Bandas and Schuler thought it best to implement the changes as they happened and to stay consistent.  First by Bandas’ leadership then through Schuler’s, after being weekend assistant to Bandas and eventually pastor, in 1969.-- 
Card. Burke spoke about the importance of Latin.  He commented that the language of the Church is Latin; that it is the most efficient, complete and universal way that all priests can be united in solidarity throughout the world.  He spoke to the idea that the Latin language is perfect for the Church, because the meanings of the words cannot be misunderstood, unless they are intentionally misunderstood, because it is not a daily speaking language.  And he said that the poetry of the language simply fit.  In a nutshell, Latin is the best option for celebrating the Roman Rite of the Latin Rite of the Catholic Church.Both Monsignor Schuler and Card. Burke spoke about form.  They spoke about how if the Mass was celebrated properly and with no deviation from the rubrics that the substantive changes would be minimal and the restoration of those things which were found questionable would be minimal.  They both spoke about three things….they both spoke about the prayers at the foot.  And the importance of the preparation that took place.  They both spoke about the Offertory and how it was not a presentation of gifts to the ministers from the people, but a presentation of the gifts from the ministers to God the Father; a nuance to be sure, but a VERY important one.  And they both spoke about the abandonment of the altar.  The priest spends very little time at the altar in the Novus Ordo as opposed to the TLM, Monsignor said.  Of course he was and is right. 
--to interject, it is this idea of being presidential which has wrought much damage to the sacrifice in my eyes.  The priest doesn’t preside, he celebrates.  The faithful don’t celebrate, they worship.  This changing of theology with regard to the liturgy has changed how the liturgical experience comes to the masses.— 
The idea exists that if the Mass was celebrated the way that the Council intended, the liturgical ceremony would be minimally changed.  That is true.  The big problem as both saw it was that the liturgical theology was now in jeopardy and that the reform would spiral out of control.  Largely it has.  We are now in the third edition of the revised Missale Romanum.  At the time this conversation was had, there was only one revision, 1975.  And since Mass was not in English, but in Latin, the translation issue was moot.  A point to which both spoke, because of the major translation issues (for all, as opposed to for many) only the offertory was a problem.  Something both acknowledged as being an important point of reform and something not to be overlooked.As the conversation was winding down, Card. Burke thanked all of us for our time.  He thanked Monsignor Schuler for being faithful to the liturgy and holding the line.  He expressed his wish that someday he might be able to do the same.  In my eyes, I’d say he’s holding the legacy pretty closely. 
There are a precious few who really understood what was said that day.  I know that I didn’t understand it all.  What it did do though was send me down a path that I am glad I went down.  It taught me that understanding the liturgy was to understand why we are Catholic, above all other things.  Through several more years of living with Mons. Schuler and listening to men talk like now-bishops LeVoir, Sirba, and Sample, I have a better understanding of the life of the Church.  By listening to priests like Frs. Zuhlsdorf, Skeris, Pasely, Fox, Groeschel, Hardon, and Altier, I learned about the various spiritual necessities to fight the good fight and not become disillusioned by roadblocks. 
The Mass is the source and summit of our faith.  It isn’t bible studies, it isn’t ice cream socials.  It isn’t service organizations, but it is worshipping the One True God.  To worship God the Father, through the sacrifice of the Mass, in an unbloody way, with the compunction of the Holy Spirit is the best way and the truest way we can accomplish our ultimate end as Catholics and as Christians.  If the Mass is to be understood in the context of one form enriching the other, then must be understood that the older must inform and teach the younger, as was the case in this conversation between two learned churchmen and a number of young priests, seminarians and houseguests. 
It is my opinion that the Novus Ordo is so damaged that it cannot be solved by a mere reform of the reform.  But rather that it must be illumined by the TLM in a way by which the Novus Ordo can sustain some legitimate organic growth.  Only then, can there be illumination backward, most obviously through an expansion of the calendar of saints.
I continued to live with the good Monsignor for another few years after that first meeting with then-bishop Burke.  I met His Eminence several other times and I can honestly say that I learned more in the 20 or so total hours of listening to those two holy men speak than I did in most of my years as a Catholic child coming through Catholic Schools in the 1980s.  Cardinal Burke is doing what Monsignor Schuler did.  It isn’t popular.  It isn’t fair to the man, but it is right and the reward of seeing a good work done is worth it in the end.  
As Our Lady said to St. Bernadette; I do not promise to make you happy in this life, but only in the next.

There are those of us who lived "on the Farm."  We were privileged enough to be able to witness conversations with important churchmen and those churchmen had a profound effect; at least on me.  I have heard and been privy to conversations which at the time were considered "earth shattering."  They were also at the time, considered to be purely hypothetical.  Slowly (sometimes too slowly, in my estimation), the Church moves.  I don't think that anyone that day thought that Cardinal Ratzinger would be Pope.  I don't think that anyone that day thought that then-bishop Burke wouldn't someday be a cardinal.  Sometimes it is obvious.

Cardinal Burke has the right idea.  Liberals will bemoan it and demonize it, but his understanding is honest, clear and it is with pure orthodoxy.  Had the Church gone the way that Cardinal Burke and the Monsignor were speaking, on that day in 1995, there would be far fewer problems.  As it is...we continue to fight the good fight.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Liturgical and Musical Reforms: An Honest Assessment

My mentor, Mons. Richard J. Schuler wrote the following article for Sacred Music Magazine in the winter of 1990.  It can be found in vol. 117 no. 4.  He addresses the reforms which came out of Vatican Council II.  I think that they are as salient today as they were when he wrote the article.  Mons. Schuler was one of the preeminent musicologists of the 20th century and lived in St. Paul, MN.

Read on:

In all honesty one must make a judgement at various times in life when reviewing a project or development. The building inspector must judge whether the plans of the architect have been carefully and rightly carried out; the music critic must judge if the performers have artistically reproduced the intentions of the composer; the dressmaker, the cook, the barber and the teacher must all judge if their products are in conformity with the pattern or recipe or prospectus or order that was the model for working. The judgement must be honest, or else we are like the emperor who had no clothes. One cannot fool all the people all the time. The truth must be acknowledged. The blueprint, the pattern, the plan and the directions remain and the product must be compared to them. Humility, which is truth, must admit to conformity or lack of it. For twenty-five years, we have had a pattern, a set of directions for reforming the liturgy and its music. The Second Vatican Council, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, and with the full authority of the Magisterium of the Catholic Church, has clearly indicated its will, and the Holy See has given the world the authentic manner in which these decrees are to be implemented. The pattern is certain and clear. How well does the product measure up? Can the inspector approve of the results? Are we fooling ourselves when we proclaim the reform to be a great success? Evidence continually is making it clear that the decrees of the Vatican Council have not been successfully implemented in the United States, and this failure has, in fact, led to many unfortunate results harmful to religion and Catholic life. Studies of Mass attendance reveal a drastic drop in attendance at Sunday worship; decrease in vocations to the priesthood and religious life continues; school children know less about their faith than ever before; knowledge of right and wrong, no longer learned through sermons at Sunday Mass, has become confused; the artistic quality of liturgy and music has fallen to an incredible level in the majority of churches, even those which before the council had fitting worship; ignorance of liturgy in its history or in the demands of the present reform, even in so-called professional liturgists, musicians and composers, exceeds all bounds. How can the Church in our country extracate itself from the mire into which its liturgy has fallen? Who can clean the Agean stables? Roman decrees will not accomplish it, since we have had decrees for twenty-five years which have been ignored and deliberately disobeyed. Those decrees depend on the bishops to implement. But the bishops give their obligations over to their "experts" who put into operation what they have learned in the propagandizing centers of liturgical study. The process of reversal is an educational one. It must begin with the schools. This means that bishops must demand graduate centers for true liturgical studies and seminaries where the future clergy are will be correctly instructed about the intentions of the Church given by the council and the documents that followed. Bishops must seek competent and true teachers for their institutions and seminaries. Pastors must hire only those who have been correctly and competently trained and who exhibit a willingness to "think with the Church." The unfortunate performers, the inferior compositions, the lack of reverence and open violations of liturgical law and spirit must all be removed from our churches. It will be a long path to implementation of the conciliar decrees, because we are beginning now from a position that is farther removed from the true goal than we were before the calling of the council. The last twenty-five years have witnessed an almost total collapse of the sacred liturgy, causing the problems cited above. The regulation of the liturgy on the local level is the immediate task of the bishop. Especially in the seminary and the cathedral, but also in his parishes he must see to it that the requirements of the council and the documents following the council be put into careful observance. He may be assisted by properly trained musicians and liturgists. But therein lies the cause of the present debacle. Too many occupying posts in diocesan and seminary musical and liturgical establishments are poorly trained, victims of propaganda peddled by centers of liturgical studies and some periodicals, ignorant of the regulations called for by the Church for its liturgy. Until that situation is rectified, our liturgy will continue to disintegrate and with the liturgy, the practice of the faith.

As I said, Mons. Schuler wrote this in 1990.  The same issues which plagued him then, plague us today.  We are still in a vocational crisis, both in the priesthood and religious life.  We are still faced with drastic drops in attendance at Sunday worship.  We are still trying to find new ways to educate our school children, who are becoming increasingly ignorant of their faith, as witnessed by a lack of understanding between right and wrong.  We are still subjected to sermons and homilies which have less to do with the Sacred Scriptures and more to do with Aunt Molly down the street or her dancing poodle and how that dog makes us feel.  And the quality of Sacred Music is at an all time low, including the so-called "new arrangements."  The arrangements make us feel as though we're at a Broadway musical rather than at Holy Mass.

Mons. Schuler asks quite pointedly, "How can the Church extricate herself from the mire?"  He makes the assertion, quite properly that it must fall on the bishops and priests.  But that is a bit of a misnomer, because now that we are 40 years removed, there are fewer priests.  It must fall on us, the faithful to stand up and demand that we have proper liturgical actions and proper liturgical music.  Proper liturgical action is carried out by following the rubrics.  It is plainly clear.  We must implore, ask and even sometimes demand that our priests offer Holy Mass properly.  Follow what the rubrics say.  Don't deviate, don't improvise.  Just follow the rubrics.  There are some changes which must be made in order for this to happen, but they are not out of the ordinary (as far as the 2000 year history of the Church is concerned).

1.  Offer Holy Mass with all the ceremony that can be mustered
2.  Follow the rubrics
3.  Orient the Mass, so that the rubrics can be followed, properly
4.  Sing the Mass
5.  Follow the rubrics
6.  Do the red
7.  Say the black
8.  Use the proper language for Holy Mass
9.  Follow the rubrics
10.  Do what the Church asks 

When the priests and bishops start properly celebrating the Mass, with no deviation from the rubrics, then we will start to see a renaissance.  Until then, we will be mired in mediocrity.  To be valid is not enough.  To offer the Mass both validly and licitly is what the faithful have a right to expect.

With regard to music, the Church is clear.  The organ is the proper instrument for use during Holy Mass, to support that which is most proper, the human voice.  Chant has pride of place.  It should be afforded as such in the churches we assist at.  To not avail ourselves to Gregorian chant is to NOT fulfill that which the Church asks of her parishes.

There are instruments and styles which are forbidden.  They have been documented within the last century and affirmed by Popes as recent as John Paul II and Benedict XVI.  What I cannot understand is why these Popes are being ignored.  If Pope St. Pius X states that bands (guitar, drums, bass) and pianos are forbidden and John Paul II affirms this, why do they persist?  Why wouldn't the bishops, priests, and liturgists simply comply?  What is the motivation?  I can think of only two.  First, pride.  To not follow the direction of the Holy Father, when the request is legitimate is prideful. It sets up the parish church as being "more Catholic" than the Pope.  This is an argument which liberals often times levy against conservatives, but in actuality, when one acts in defiance of the teachings of the Church who is really walking outside the lines?  Second, is ignorance.  And that is really the big problem.  If the liturgist in the parish is ignorant of the teachings of the Church on music and the liturgy, why are they there?  Are they there to forward an agenda or are they there to do what the Church asks?  If they are there for the latter, then it becomes incumbent upon them to know what the Church expects.

We as the faithful, have a right to the Mass celebrated properly.  We have a right to the Mass of Paul VI celebrated according to the rubrics and in the style and language in which it was intended.  We must ask ourselves, do we know what that is?  If we don't, why not?  If we think we do, does it line up with what the Church actually teaches?  

We also have a right to the Mass according to the 1962 Missale Romanum.  However, in today's churches, by and large we are not being afforded that right.  Priests are saying that the faithful don't want it.  I disagree.  What is the fastest growing movement in the Church today?  Traditionalism.  What Mass is being attended with a growing number every week?  The TLM, the 1962 Missale Romanum.  When parish churches are emptying in droves, the TLM is growing.  Why would we not want to cater to that?  Why wouldn't the leaders of the Church recognize that unless there was an agenda afoot?  Some argue that these priests are not able to celebrate the Mass in Latin.  I call BS.  Every one of these men have advanced degrees.  They are not unintelligent men.  They have the capacity to learn.  Every one of them.  This is a matter of agenda.  If the younger priests can learn the TLM, why can't the established priests?  This is a matter of agenda.

As Mons. Schuler points out, "...until [this] situation is rectified, our liturgy will continue to disintegrate, and with the liturgy, the practice of the faith."

He was right in 1990.  He is right today.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Why The Mass?

I was in a conversation recently with a fellow Catholic who made the following statement:

When the mass is celebrated, there are four "actors." Christ, the Church, the Priest, the Congregation. For whom, among these four, do the elements become the Body/Blood of Christ? Who is the "us" in the "for us"? 
Bread and wine do not become Christ's Body and Blood for Christ. They do become the Body/Blood for the Church, the Priest, and the Congregation - for our salvation. (They become these elements for the same reason Christ sacrificed Himself on the cross.)

I must take issue with this view.  Here is how I responded:

  With all due respect, I cannot agree to the premise. He says:
"When the mass is celebrated, there are four "actors." Christ, the Church, the Priest, the Congregation.""
I cannot agree with this sentiment. There are no actors. There is a celebrant. The priest and there are those who are there to worship. The faithful. There is nothing more, nothing less. Why make it more complicated than it needs to be? There need be no more than two persons, a priest and one layman to have Holy Mass. Yet, you start making things immediately more difficult by including Christ as an actor? The Church as an actor? No Father, the Church is present insofar as the Church militant gathers, but the Church doesn't have an acting role. And Christ, while present in an unbloody way, is not an actor, He is the sacrifice.

He then asks:
 "For whom, among these four, do the elements become the Body/Blood of Christ?"

I knew he would disagree 100% with this, but the answer is, for God, the Father. That is who the Mass is offered for. It is not offered for man. That is the change in theology which has burdened the Church. Holy Communion is not a necessity save once a year for the faithful. The sacrifice, in an unbloody way, is for God the Father. And the faithful worship God, the Father at Holy Mass while the Sacred Host is being immolated. Once the sacrifice is complete, we may share in it, through Holy Communion. But it is in our joining to God, the Father that we are able to share in that sacrificial banquet.

He then states:
 "Bread and wine do not become Christ's Body and Blood for Christ. They do become the Body/Blood for the Church, the Priest, and the Congregation - for our salvation. (They become these elements for the same reason Christ sacrificed Himself on the cross.)"

This is true, but the re-presentation of the sacrifice at Calvary in an unbloody way is first a sacrifice to God, the Father. Why would we sacrifice something to ourselves? That makes no sense, from any sort of religious point of view.

Yes, Christ sacrificed Himself for us on the Cross. But that happened one time. He doesn't die over and over and over. The unbloody re-presentation of Calvary is a commemoration of that event, on our behalf to God, the Father.

I'll spell it out as clearly as I can. The sacrifice of the Mass is not "for us" in the manner that it is being presented. It is for God the Father. We participate in that sacrifice insofar as we worship. But, to presume that it is for us is to misunderstand the intention of the Church.

How does the Canon start again? We come to you Father....

The whole of the Canon is aimed not toward us, but toward God. Where it rightly belongs. We worship. We lay our prayers at the foot of the altar. The priest gathers those prayers and he takes them to the altar and offers them on our behalf, as he offers (celebrates) the Mass.
I can't be any clearer. Sure there are parts of the Mass where we recognize what we are doing, but the Mass is not "for us" it is "for God." If that were not the case, then there would be no need for a heavenly liturgy. Yet there is one. And the Mass is the re-presentation of that heavenly liturgy on Earth. 

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Ah...the Glorious 60s, How I Hate Them....

A priest acquaintence was recently speaking about the merits of Vatican Council II, as he saw them:

It is easy to see the fly in the ointment concerning some of the deleterious practices that developed out of the wrong implementation of the splendid documents of Vatican II. So there is plenty wrong with the wrong-headed, liberalizing, false egalitarianism of spirit of Vatican II ecclesilogy. Music in the reformed Liturgy has been the biggest sore thumb and the iconoclasm that went with what was proposed as renewal. But with that said, this is what has been good about Vatican II.
1. Catholic adults are asked to be Catholic adults and to live their lives as adults, responsible for their faith and their salvation. Gone are the days when only the priests and religious were understood as "church" and everyone else as inferior children who needed a paternalistic approach to them from priests and sisters. What many are doing here in terms of offering ideas and even challenging the authority of the Church is a result of Vatican II, but I would say some have gone to the extreme in that they reject a council which is anathema!
2. People are taking ownership in the local parishes, contributing as adults, and appreciate Catholic Stewardship and the Church's call that they use their talents for building up the Church and local parish, such as in ministries like Daybreak, Fam, St. Vincent de Paul, the RCIA and numerous other ministries and people are empowered to do these things. This would not have happened in pre-Vatican II times except for running bazaars and fund raisers.3. The RCIA as we have it today provides for a recovery of an early Church practice with all the liturgies and prayers associated with it. This was totally lacking in the pre-Vatican II Church.4. More pastoral flexibility and understanding the human condition a little bit better, more mercy than punishment. 5. Liturgy that is more accessible and without having to do cartwheels and handstands to understand it. I attribute this to the vernacular and I do feel that for the Mass itself, a total revamp was not necessary, but vernacular was/is and the expanded lectionary. I simply do not buy that a one year cycle was all lay Catholics need. That is a red herring to say the least and no one should lament the loss of the one year cycle, although I wouldn't mind it as a particular year.

I responded thusly:

1.  I also have to disagree with your assessment of Catholic adulthood.  It is elist to think that Catholics prior to Vatican Council II were somehow oppressed children who left their faith to priests and nuns.  I disagree 100%.

The role of the priest and the nun is to guide Catholics through their faith and to help them understand it.  But we don't have to have a perfect knowledge of that faith.

There is something to be said about having the faith of a child.  We should be able to look to the Church as our mother.  We should be able to look to the Church in a way where her priests and religious are leaders and we shouldn't have to rely on strict "freedoms" and "adult thoughts" to get us through.

We can and we should speak to the Church as adults, when we are so, but we should always look upon her with the wonderment and eyes of a child.  To lose the sense of mystery and the sacred is to lose a great portion of what it means to be Catholic.  Sure, one can understand that a Sacrament is an outward sign instituted by Christ to bring about grace.  But is there more that needs to be known, or is that enough?  For centuries, that idea of sacrament is what got billions to heaven.  But since the Council, it isn't enough?  There is a real problem in that way of thinking.

2.  People took ownership in their parishes.  The Knights of Columbus.  The building of 1500 seat parish churches out of stone and mortar.  The advent of various clubs and organizations.  The ownership in parish life is not just the spiritual, but the temporal working with the spiritual in harmony.  There is so much more to ownership than just the is knowing that the parish church is home.  It is where we go to bury, to marry, to baptize, to cry, to laugh and to love.  It is a place in heart, mind and deed.  But is not just what Vatican Council II babies think, when it comes to "ownership."  This all existed well before the Council and it has largely dried up since.  The world has taken the place of the parish for the center of Catholic life and that is a huge problem.  Schools are closing.  Parishes are closing.  Membership in service organizations are dwindling....not because of what happened before the Council, but after.

3.  Interesting to note that the "early Church" references that keep popping up sure seem like archealogicalism.  What about development?  What about the definition of dogma and doctrine which happened in the two millinea between the early Church and Vatican Council II?  And where does one start defining "the early Church?"  100? 325? 1000? 1054? 1570? 1854? 1961?  It is a complete misnomer and misleading to use the "early Church."  The Church has grown since then and there have been organic and necessary changes.    The education that Catholics got catechetically prior to Vatican Council II puts to shame any RCIA program today.

4.  More mercy than punishment?  I don't ever recall my mother or grandmother being punished for being Catholic.  Archbishop Sheen taught mainly before the Council...and he was full of merciful teaching....As was Pius X, as was the Cure D' Ars, as was Therese of Liseiux.  But they also understood that there were consequences for actions.  Something we have lost in this generation.

5.  Cartwheels to understand the Mass.  The Mass doesn't need to be literally understood, but I can guarantee you that most traditionalists understand the TLM a lot better than Catholics understand the Novus Ordo.  This is about language.  And the idea that if it "ain't in English" it "ain't good."  I call BS on that.  The Mass particular is where the priest communes with God on behalf of the faithful in the pew.  It matters not whether the faithful hear one word of what the priest says, Latin, English, Russian or Greek.  He should be focused on worshiping God the Father through the sacrifice of the Mass.  That can be achieved by any number of means, meditating on the Life of Christ, the Stations of the Cross, the Nativity, or following along in the hand missal, which allows a person to (gasp) understand.

Bottom line Father....the destruction wrought after Vatican Council II wasn't because of Vatican Council II.  It was because Vatican Council II opened the stage for men to hijack that which was beyond them.  They took the Divine and made it profane.  And now it falls on my generation to pick the pieces up and start re-building brick by brick.  And we are none too happy about the fact that our glorious Church is in shambles, because aggiornamento needed to rule the  By tuning in, turning on, and yes, Father....dropping out.

We're not dropping out...we're coming back...but we don't want the banal and on the spot.  We want authenticity as the Church gave it to us from time immemorial through all of the Councils, including today.

More Questions Than Answers....

I recently re-read an article of Fr. Robert Fox's which speaks toward Vatican Council II.  It can be found here at:  Catholic Education Resource Center.

It is clear what Vatican Council II did not do.  It isn't so clear what Vatican Council II did do.  That is the "tip of the spear," so to say.  And while all of Fr. Fox's words are nice and all; they don't really address the question that is being asked by traditionalists and conservative Catholics.

What did Vatican Council II do for the Church?  We know what it attempted to do.  We know what the reformers AFTER the Council have done, but what exactly did Vatican Council II do for Holy Mother Church?

This is the ultimate question.  This is all the traditionalists want to know and it is all that they have been searching for, these many years.  While it hasn't been asked that way, that is the question.

We know that the documents speak one way and the actions of the reformers after the Council did something totally different.

While there are some who flat out reject Vatican Council II, I think that it can be a little overboard to say that because some question the Council, they are heterodox.  We have to, because the reformers after the Council made it so, including Paul VI, JP II and their cardinals.

The statements of the hierarchy haven't exactly been consistent.  And even stating that we should look at it as Fr. Fox does and just accept it, well....that's a problem.  We shouldn't have to just accept it.  That was one of the whole tenants behind aggiornamento, that we were to exercise religious freedom?  Where is the freedom in that attitude?  The renewal which aggiornamento called for is not an authentic renewal, no, it is a contrived way of, as Fr. Fox puts it, the Magisterium asserting itself.  Pope Pius XII didn't, as Fr. Fox asserts, start this all "years before."  It was the liturgical movement started by progressive Benedictines in the 1930s, latched on to by curialists (including Roncalli, Montini, Tisserant and others) in the 1940s, taken over by Fr. Bugnini and his cohorts beginning in 1948 and finalized in the late 1960s with the calling of the Council.

Just because some say that the Church was acting too fast and some say that the Church was acting to slowly doesn't justify aggiornamento, but rather it compounds the problem.  It is far better to wait and be more certain than it is to "bull rush" ahead and create problems because the china cabinet has been ruined.  And the most obvious jewel ruined was the Mass.

Fr. Fox shows the troublesome language of the documents of Vatican Council II, but rather than take issue with them, he supports them.  How can one find salvation only inside the Church, yet belong to another ecclesial communion?  Openness, charity and humility became the buzzwords for the Conciliar age.  But was it authentic?  Is it authentic to just accept error and allow it to continue in the name of Ecumenism?  No, but that is exactly what has happened.

I don't accept all that Fr. Fox has to say and I can guarantee you that I am not heterodox.  I don't disagree with him 100%, but I certainly don't agree with him 100% either.  And that's ok.  Within Holy Mother Church there can be a diversity of ideas, but that diversity needs to be rooted in tradition, not in something wholly new, contrived, banal and on the spot.

So, I'll bring it all back around and ask the question the traditionalists really want to have answered:

What exactly did Vatican Council II do for Holy Mother Church that hadn't been defined, discussed or addressed before this Council was convened by John XXIII?

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Circle the Wagons

Over at Southern Orders, Fr. McDonald makes the following assertion:
"However, the Church prior to Vatican II had a "circle the wagons" mentality to protect it from the Protestant Reformation. But the type of godless secularism that is much more dangereous for Catholics needs to be acknowledged and protection from it is necessary. There should be a greater fear of godless secularism compared to Reformed Protestantism."

I must disagree with the good Father.  The godless secularism is easy enough to deal with...the Church conquered that once before you know.  However, reformed Protestantism is a completely new concept which has wrought upon God's creation so much strife and disdain for the Church which Christ gave to the whole of humanity.

When we look at modern godless secularism, it comes directly from reformed Protestantism.  For ultimately what is Protestantism if it is not humanism veiled with the trappings of religion.  The so-called enlightenment found it's roots in Protestant Europe and gained it's foothold not by causing Catholics to abandon Catholicism, but rather by coercing Protestants to stop believing in that which is true.  In other words to take off the veil of relgious trappings and expose humanism in it's fullest sense.

As I see it, Vatican Council II, addressed nothing.  All it did was to allow the liberals a forum in which they could complete their ideology.  John XXIII gave them the stage and Paul VI let them dance on it.  Thankfully, the dance is winding down.

We, as Catholics, should be circling the wagons.  We should be protecting the Faith, because that is what we are called to do.  We are called to catechize the Catholic and the Protestant.  We are called to be ecumenical with the Orthodox and we are called to evangelize the non-Christian (pagan).  This is how we have circled the wagons in all of history.  It is how we should do it today.

Vatican Council II, while being a Council did nothing to further Catholicism.  It simply was.  It did nothing to help the Catholic achieve the 3 ends of which I just spoke.  In the end, Vatican Council II was a non-starter, because there was nothing started...except the liberal mindset being forced upon the average Catholic during the reforms after the Council.  And that was harmful.

Father also says,
"The Church has had a two thousand year history and there is always great fomment and great strife after Ecumenical Councils and when there is religious, political and social upheaval."

There was no foment and strife after most Councils.  The path was straight and the vision was clear.  Dogma was defined and Doctrine was made to be understood.  While there was a curve to application, because of the correspondence of the time, that does not equate to foment.  There was a clear understanding of what must take place.  And a new Catholic Renaissance became the norm, until the need for another Council in 1870.

Father, don't misunderstand, I think that Catholics should be Catholics.  I just think that Protestants should be too.  That is our goal and Vatican Council II just didn't account for that.  And that is the great downfall of the latest Council.

Some Further Thoughts on the Ordinariate...

I think that those Anglicans who employ the use of the Knott Missal have it right, with regard to the liturgical action, if this is the direction you'd like to see the conversation go.

Essentially the Knott employs hieratic English.  It has a set chant scale and it closely translates the TLM into the vernacular.

Obviously, there are some options which include the Book of Common Prayer, but they are just options and can be omitted in favor of retaining the Catholic identity of the liturgy.  With the only things missing being valid Orders and the valid intent of Consecration itself.

Otherwise, it is hard to think of the Knott being anything other than the best option for those who wish to be part of the Ordinariate.  This however, is a long way off.  I am close to a priest of the Ordinariate and he has made it clear that the the Knott Missal (English/American Missal) is a long way off from being approved.  The Book of Divine Worship Form I and II are the two which will be employed moving forward, for the foreseeable future.

The translation of the Knott Missal is at:

I spoke about this at length at Ars Orandi:

Ultimately, I think that the idea of the New Liturgical Movement within the Ordinariate is being undermined.  The bill of goods which was being sold before they entered is not what is coming to fruition, at least from where I sit.  The Book of Divine Worship is akin to the Novus Ordo celebrated at any parish.These are my initial views and they can be amended.  I am certainly open to any holes which are in my thought process, but ultimately I cannot assent to the idea that the TLM is not part of the Anglican Patrimony.

A few other words....It is clear that I am critical of the Novus Ordo.  I think that it is banal and on the spot.  However, I do not question it's validity.  I feel exactly the same way about The Book of Divine Worship.  I feel it to be a compromise, as most of the priests of the TAC and ACA who came into the Church never celebrated it as a regular practice.  It smacks of Conciliarism.

Also, I do fully support the idea of the TLM retaining it's glory as it is.  There is no need to change (save adding the saints who have been canonized since the 1962 Missal), likewise I feel that the use of the Knott Missal (English/American) is most appropriate for the Ordinariate, based upon practical use and application which was widespread.

Insofar as the Ordinariate has their own tradition of using hieratic English, I am supportive of it being retained for their use, but I cannot say the same thing for the applications to the TLM.  There is no basis for it and there is no real need, save the participatio activa of the faithful, to which I have spoken ad nauseam.I feel that if we are to retain our heritage as Roman Rite Catholics, then we should be working to embrace the TLM as it is set forth traditionally.  To bring hieratic English into the picture does not speak to authentic heritage for Catholics, but rather a compromise with the Protestants in a development which is neither warranted or needed.  The fastest growing segment of Catholicism is the traditional movement.  This  isn't being done from a sense of nostalgia, but rather from a sense of right thinking.

My cry is leave the English to the Anglicans...leave the Latin to the Romans.  For the vast majority of Catholics (in this discussion), we are Roman.

Monday, August 6, 2012

A Great Weekend...

I spent Saturday and Sunday in the Twin Cities.  Most of you know that I went to college at the University of St. Thomas, in St. Paul.  What many of you may not know is that I lived in the rectory at St. Agnes, in St. Paul for most of my years at St. Thomas.

It was a glorious time and it was a time that set me on the path to becoming a traditional Catholic.  I came to first understand my faith and I came to first know what the Church expects, not only from her priests, but also from her laymen.  I was witness to arguably the greatest liturgical musicologist in the USA during the 20th century and he became my mentor, Mons. Richard J. Schuler.  I got to know some men who have become the beacon of Catholic thought, in the Church today.  I got to know Raymond Card. Burke, while he was bishop of LaCrosse.  I got to know Bishop Alexander Sample, while he was a priest of the diocese of Marquette.  I got to know Bishop Paul Sirba, while he was a priest of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneaoplis, I got to know Bishop John LeVoir, while he was a priest of the same diocese.  I got to know Fr. Paul Marx, OSB; founder of Human Life International.  I got to know Frs. John Echert, Robert Altier, Robert Fox, Thomas Dubay, S.M., Adian Nichols, O.P., John Hardon, S.J., and the ineffable Fr. John T. Zuhlsdorf.  These men helped to form me and gave me perspective on what it means to hold the Catholic line at all costs.

Yesterday, I had the wonderful privilege of being able to assist at St. Agnes again for the first time in several years.  The new pastor, Fr. Mark Moriarty sang his first Missa Cantata in the Extraordinary Form.  I have been witnessing Mass sung at St. Agnes for years and years.  This past Sunday was a reminder to me that if a parish holds the line, there is no need for anything more or anything less than the expectation of Holy Mother Church.

Fr. Moriarity understands that the faithful clamor and want the Mass celebrated properly.  He understands that the role of the celebrant is to commune with God for the laity worshiping in the pew.  He understands that he is charged with doing the very best the Church expects.  And he expects the same from all who assist at St. Agnes.

This has been the expectation of the pastors of St. Agnes from her inception in 1888.  It is the expectation of the pastors today.  As I was reflecting while Fr. Moriarty was singing the Mass, I couldn't help but put my hand missal down and just take it in.  Take in the splendor and revel in the fact that this is how Holy Mother Church wants it done.  She wants it done in Latin.  She wants it done oriented toward God with the priest leading.  She wants it sung.  She wants all the ceremonies.  She wants the faithful to be free to worship while experiencing the full beauty and majesty of the liturgical action carried out to it's fullest.  She wants the faithful to approach the rail, to kneel, and to receive the Blessed Sacrament with humility and a true sense of need, both spiritually and temporally.

I know that I am biased.  I know that I am "a homer" for St. Agnes, but I can tell you honestly, that there is no other diocesan parish in the world who has been so UN-affected by modernism.  This was accomplished because the long line of pastors starting in 1888, moving through Mons. Bandas and Schuler and now being continued by Fr. Moriarty lead one to know the sacred.  Had every parish been as diligent as St. Agnes, the troubles of the Church would not exist to the extent they do today.

St. Agnes isn't perfect.  No place is.  There are quibbles and there are peccadilloes, to be sure...but when it comes to the life of Holy Mother Church brought forth through the liturgical life of the Church, St. Agnes puts them aside for the GREATER GLORY OF GOD.  Now you know why I sign off AMDG+.

God Bless Fr. Moriarity.  God Bless St. Agnes Catholic Church.  May her patroness continue to look down upon her and shine upon her majesty and greatness.

Friday, August 3, 2012

More on Pro-Life...

The bottom line is this...this is a matter of choice.  One can choose to either support life 100% from conception to natural death or not.  It is a matter of philosophy on who one things deserves to be called a human person.  We all agree that one who is outside the womb is a human person.  However, the debate is ultimately is the one who is inside the womb a human person.  My contention is that it is.  My contention is that because life does begin at conception (it cannot be proven that it does not), that the person in the womb should be afforded the very same rights as any other human person.  That being said, there is no right for anyone, mother, doctor, nurse, father...whomever, to take that life.  To take that life is murder.  For what is the definition of murder?

To kill or slaughter inhumanly or barbarously.

Abortion fits that description.  If you have seen the way that an abortion takes place, it is 100% undeniable.  So this becomes the glaring elephant in the room that pro-aborts do not want to discuss.  Why?  Because they cannot, no matter the rhetoric, the data, the empirical proof, determine when life does actually begin.  Again, it is my contention that life begins at conception.

I can provide site after site.  And the argument isn't a medical one, for medicine is just science.  And science is merely one way of several to prove things.  So, when a proof is offered, it must be offered in total.  Life does begin at conception, not just medically, but also philosophically, theologically and ethically.

That being said, the question becomes the following.  Why should the mother have a right to kill her child in the womb?  Some will argue that it is the woman's body and because the unborn child is dependent upon the mother's body for life, it does not assert control over himself.  That logic is faulty.  There are many times in life wherein a human person is dependent upon the mother for life.  Immediately after childbirth until such time as the child can fend for himself and survive.  That is but the most obvious, but there are others.  Catastrophic injury, infirmity, old age, and the list goes on.

So, as we can see, the abortion issue doesn't really stand up very well, except to say that it is incredibly selfish on the part of the mother to kill the unborn child in her womb.  Why is this done?  In most cases it is done for either economic or emotional reasons.  Either the mother cannot fend for the child or the mother does not feel capable of caring for the child.  Neither of these reasons are valid.

With this idea, we see that the mother really isn't making a choice, but she is pressured by society to abort the child due to influences which surround her.  This is a radical shift in thinking regarding children.  Today's world does not look at procreation as a gift or as necessary, but rather as a want or a planned action.  Also, this view espouses that the right of the man is necessarily secondary, in the vast majority of cases.  While it is true that the mother must carry the child to term, it is the responsibility of both parents to raise the child.  If life begins at conception, then this rearing should begin immediately.  The role of the father should be that of support and nurture to the woman and the unborn child through the gestation period.  So, to say that the father has no role or that it is secondary, or even to argue that the impotice should absolutely lie with the woman alone, because it is her body is an absurd one.  Because of the bond that sex has between mammals, on a biological level and the bond that sex has on a couple rationally in humans, there is a very important role to be played by the father from the moment of conception to natural death.

Often times it is argued that because one supports the idea of natural death with regard to the lives of the mother and child that he is not compassionate or that he is at a minimum dispassionate for the mother.  This could not be further from the truth.  In actuality, there should always be an attempt to save the life of both the mother and the child.  However, culpability does play a part in this line of reasoning.  If all has been done to protect the life of the mother and the unborn child and one or both die naturally during the process, then there is nothing more which can be done ethically.  However, if the child is killed to save the mother or vice versa, then there must be a moral and ethical inquiry into why that person was killed.  In short, there is nothing that we can do to prevent death, but there is something that we can do to prevent killing.  This is probably one of the most compassionate views that can be taken.  It is also morally acceptable and it is ethical in its practice.  For what is the oath that a doctor takes?

I swear to fulfill, to the best of my ability and judgment, this covenant:
I will respect the hard-won scientific gains of those physicians in whose steps I walk, and gladly share such knowledge as is mine with those who are to follow.
I will apply, for the benefit of the sick, all measures [that] are required, avoiding those twin traps of overtreatment and therapeutic nihilism.
I will remember that there is art to medicine as well as science, and that warmth, sympathy, and understanding may outweigh the surgeon's knife or the chemist's drug.
I will not be ashamed to say "I know not", nor will I fail to call in my colleagues when the skills of another are needed for a patient's recovery.
I will respect the privacy of my patients, for their problems are not disclosed to me that the world may know. Most especially must I tread with care in matters of life and death. If it is given to me to save a life, all thanks. But it may also be within my power to take a life; this awesome responsibility must be faced with great humbleness and awareness of my own frailty. Above all, I must not play at God.
I will remember that I do not treat a fever chart, a cancerous growth, but a sick human being, whose illness may affect the person's family and economic stability. My responsibility includes these related problems, if I am to care adequately for the sick.
I will prevent disease whenever I can, for prevention is preferable to cure.
I will remember that I remain a member of society with special obligations to all my fellow human beings, those sound of mind and body as well as the infirm.
If I do not violate this oath, may I enjoy life and art, be respected while I live and remembered with affection thereafter. May I always act so as to preserve the finest traditions of my calling and may I long experience the joy of healing those who seek my help.

Abortion does not follow from what a doctor must do.  If one argues that this oath was abandoned in the US in the 1870s, fine, however the principle remains and a shortened version is used today.

I solemnly pledge myself to consecrate my life to the service of humanity;
I will give to my teachers the respect and gratitude which is their due;
I will practice my profession with conscience and dignity;
The health of my patient will be my first consideration;
I will respect the secrets which are confided in me;
I will maintain by all the means in my power, the honour and the noble traditions of the medical profession;
My colleagues will be my brothers and sisters;
I will not permit considerations of religion, nationality, race, gender, politics, socioeconomic standing, or sexual orientation to intervene between my duty and my patient;
I will maintain the utmost respect for human life; even under threat, I will not use my medical knowledge contrary to the laws of humanity;
I make these promises solemnly, freely and upon my honour

Abortion still doesn't follow.

Regarding contraception, the very same principles as above follow, with the addition that to knowingly contracept is ethically unsound.  The main reason being that it closes the sexual action to what it was designed to do.  It attempts, imperfectly to relegate the act of sex to that of a purely pleasurable endeavor.  This was never the intention, biologically, ethically, morally, or intellectually.  There must be a purpose to sex.  That purpose, philosophically is that sex fulfills, for the human person a complimentarity which exists on several levels.  First, it is procreative.  The main reason for sex is to perpetuate the species.  Secondly, it is a matter of fecundity.  It promotes within the female the role of being able to be fruitful.  This is a very important psychological mode for a woman.  Thirdly, it is a matter of fidelity.  It brings a couple together in a way which is wholly and completely giving on oneself to another, while continuing the bond which exists rationally.

When contraception is involved, there is a loss of one or more of these reasons of complimentarity.  Whereas, today's society doesn't necessarily accept these as being absolute, the truth behind them remains.  If the sexual action is to fulfill a purpose, any unnatural action which interrupts that is unjustifiable.

Speaking to responsibility of action leads one to understand that this is not merely an instinctual endeavor.  It is not merely rational either, but it is a compliment of both within the human person.  To corrupt one is to destroy the meaning behind it.  I am not saying that sex shouldn't be pleasurable.  It absolutely should be.  I am not saying that sex must be a negative.  To the contrary, it is a very positive and necessary thing.  However, to flip the script and accuse the proper application of sex as being negative is to misunderstand the very nature of what sex is.

Very strongly related to responsibility is the idea of abstinence.  Wherein one must be responsible in applying the sexual action, one must also realize that there is a time and a place where it is warranted and where it is not.  This is not expressly stipulated for sex, but also for any action.  To abstain from an action is not a negative, but rather in most instances it is neutral or positive.  With regard to sex though, the idea that one must abstain is often considered absurd or unattainable.  Why?  If abstinence is taught properly, it is the most viable way of preventing unwanted pregnancy, teaching proper sexual ethics, and understanding the importance of the bonds of the sexual union.  While there is most certainly a religious undertone regarding abstinence until marriage, that is part of what keeps the sexual action licit.  Marriage is, by it's very nature religious.  It isn't just Christian or Jewish or Islamic or Taoist, but it is religious.  Some view it as more sacrosanct than others, but the constant that remains is that it is a bond by which a man and woman give themselves to another.  This has perpetuated through all of history.  And the action which most properly binds that is sex.  This achieves the twofold end of marriage of which I have been speaking: the good of the spouses themselves and the transmission of life. These two meanings or values of marriage cannot be separated without altering the couple's spiritual life and compromising the goods of marriage and the future of the family.  The conjugal love of man and woman thus stands under the twofold obligation of fidelity and fecundity. Abstinence fits in this because it follows with the principle of chastity.  The alternative is clear: either man governs his passions and finds peace, or he lets himself be dominated by them and becomes unhappy. "Man's dignity therefore requires him to act out of conscious and free choice, as moved and drawn in a personal way from within, and not by blind impulses in himself or by mere external constraint. Man gains such dignity when, ridding himself of all slavery to the passions, he presses forward to his goal by freely choosing what is good and, by his diligence and skill, effectively secures for himself the means suited to this end."  (Gaudium et Spes 17)

I do understand that this is not an easy task, but I also understand that it shouldn't be.  Self-mastery is a life long challenge and one which requires intimate growth and understanding.  I also understand that it can happen.  The human person is capable of accomplishing this and to simply assume that he cannot is to sell short the incomparable mind of the human person.  Chastity represents an eminently personal task; it also involves a cultural effort, for there is "an interdependence between personal betterment and the improvement of society."  Chastity presupposes respect for the rights of the person, in particular the right to receive information and an education that respect the moral and spiritual dimensions of human life.  While not all will embrace this ideal, that doesn't mean that one should just give up on promoting it.  If contraception can become the norm over time, why can abstinence not replace that, knowing the odds.

I'll close with this.  The negative connotation doesn't come from the pro-life movement, regardless of what some will say.  The pro-life movement has as it's agenda one thing and one thing only.  To promote life from conception to natural death.  The pro-life movement doesn't see sex as an oppressive endeavor, nor does it seek to limit those who wish to have sex.  To the contrary, the pro-life movement wants to see that sex is perpetuated.  However, the pro-life movement does support proper sexual ethics and the moral application of those ethics, as defined classically through contemporary society.  The perceived demonizing which takes place is that the pro-life movement holds accountable the actions of those who would not normally expect to be held accountable and that causes friction.  Society doesn't like to be told that it's practices need to be changed, especially when those practices lead to economic gain and control of a person's actions.

The pro-abortion movement does not seek the good of the person.  The movement advocates a morally questionable practice to limit births, to trivialize sex and to exact political and economic gain for the sole purpose of population control.  The pro-abortion movement is not looking out for the best interest of the woman, but rather the pro-abortion movement is looking to fund it's programs and it uses women to this end.  It has been said that nobody likes an abortion and that nobody wants to go through an abortion.  This comes from both sides.  If this is the case, then why does one side continue to provide them?

If contraception is not about population control, what is it about?  If contraception is not an outreach of the pro-abortion movement what is it's goal, standing alone?  If the end of sex is to procreate, how does contraception fit into that?  What is ultimately left at the end of the pro-abortion stance are questions.  What is ultimately left at the end of the pro-life stance is an answer.

I'll choose the answer.