23 July 2006

The pace of change

Karen Hall has expressed frustration with the pace of Pope Benedict's course correction. (Thanks to Dom and Julie D. for the link.)

I empathize, and sympathize, especially since I live in the Land of Mahony.

However, I come down on the side of those who counsel patience.

The last thing - the absolute, very last thing - we need is to have another upheaval. The problems of today stem from changes made at lightning speed after Vatican II.

Benedict is proceeding slowly, carefully, thoroughly, and with exquisite tact and gentleness. However, gentleness does not rule out discipline. I think Pope Benedict has made it crystal clear that people may choose to submit to his winsome, reasonable "suggestions," or they can spend this inning on the bench.

Karen's concern for souls in the meantime is understandable, even laudable; but I join with the voices of those in her combox who counsel trust in God. He has his eye on the sparrow. He knows whether people have been misled, or lied to; he knows when they are acting from malice, or are determined to have nothing more to do with Him. He is more loving, more merciful, and more knowing that we can ever imagine. He can't be thwarted by bishops being bravely naughty about liturgy. For every bad bishop, there are legions more faithful Catholics. There are still holy religious who pray faithfully and live sacrificially to save souls.

By going carefully, I sense that Pope Benedict is allowing people to see the logic of what he's doing, and identify the right course by their own reasoning. I think he would not want to be identified as a catalyst for change. I think he sees himself in an important role but with no strength of his own beyond his ability to be appropriately submissive to the Holy Spirit.

Recovery of the sacred

Philip Blosser blogs on the book Recovery of the Sacred: Liturgy and The Loss of History. He writes: "Last month, Adoremus Bulletin (June 2006) reprinted an excerpt, "Liturgy and The Loss of History," from James Hitchcock's analysis of the liturgical reform following the Second Vatican Council, Recovery of the Sacred (originally published in 1974 by Seabury Press, reprinted in 1995 by Ignatius Press, but currently again out of print). Although Hitchcock's analysis is more than three decades old, it provides sometimes uncanny insights into the history and dynamic of the early post-Conciliar liturgical reform that make it perhaps as timely as it was when it was first published. Certainly his discussion is relevant to conversations we have been having recently on this blog. Here are a few excerpts..." (I have copied in only a few from his extensive selection):
... Among other things the most radical innovators failed to notice that few contemporary men choose to live only amid the artifacts of their own time. Well-made old houses are if anything more popular than newer ones. The antique market provides steady opportunities for decoration and investment. Proposals to destroy historic landmarks raise public outcries. Museums are crowded by people wanting to see old masters, and symphony orchestras have trouble filling their seats if they play mostly modern works. For better or for worse, a determined holding onto a good deal of the past seems to be a feature of modern man, probably because he senses how fragile these survivals really are.

* * *

A circular action was involved. which soon became a vicious circle leading to the rapid breakdown of liturgy. Liturgical innovators were vaguely dissatisfied with the traditional forms but did not realize the extent of their dissatisfaction until they began to experiment. As they peeled away the layers of historical accretions to liturgy, they found, sometimes with shock, sometimes with satisfaction, that the core of belief which underlay traditional worship was not at all the same as their own, that what was involved in liturgical reform was nothing less than a profound revolution in the nature of belief itself. The vicious circle formed, however, because if a crisis of belief provokes a crisis of worship, it is also true that a crisis of worship provokes further crises of belief. The symbols and the reality they were meant to express were so closely welded that it was impossible to alter one without altering the other.

The drive for radical liturgical innovation thus became a principal cause of the widespread crisis of faith which began to appear in the Church. In its origins this crisis affected only a relatively few persons, who were moved to begin the restless search for a truly “relevant” modern liturgy. As radically transformed liturgies began to be celebrated, however -- in colleges, seminaries, high schools, convents, living rooms, sometimes even in churches -- the crisis became more and more a public thing and began to affect more and more people. The stability of the liturgy for so long had been an effective public symbol of the stability and unity of belief and, equally important, it had been a means by which this stability and unity were preserved and reinforced. Now the diversity and sometimes the shocking unfamiliarity of liturgy became an equally effective public symbol of the instability and diversity of belief and a means of intensifying and propagating this....

... The officially mandated liturgical changes were being implemented as early as 1964 and were largely in effect before the flood of departures from the Church and from the priestly and religious life began. So long as the liturgy was stable, so was Church membership. As with other changes in the Church, the disaffection with liturgy seems to have come about not because the liturgy did not change but because it did. The sense of the meaning of tradition was broken; symbolically there had been a repudiation of the past which the fathers of the Second Vatican Council had certainly not intended but which their actions signaled to some people.

19 July 2006

and yet, for all of that ...

(in the posts immediately below, I mean) ... I find myself yearning for the kind of love for Bible study and talking about the Lord that one can find in the best Protestant churches, like this one. The Catholics are hobbled right out of the gate with the execrable NAB translation, and the lack of application commentaries. Can you imagine what a good Catholic "Life Application Bible" would be like?? Wow. It would have notes tying all the scripture references back to the Rosary, the Way of the Cross, and the saints and orders. It would show in charts the development of doctrine which Dave Armstrong points out in various places.

Hmm... some enterprising individual ought to start pitching such a thing ... I hope it's already in the works someplace. It would reap a harvest of souls... especially since it would be so nice and fat and thick and full of pictures. The Catholic Encyclopedia is great, but Protestants start in the Word, and so many are sincere, but ignorant of the implications of what they're reading. "But how shall I know...?" (Acts 8:26-39)

* * * * *

But, even as I waffle and waver, hope just insists on reviving. Look at this letter to Bishop Skylstad from Cardinal Castrillon-H (found at Open Book, here):

Congregation for the Clergy

Prot. N. 20060481

The Most Rev. William Skylstad

President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

3211 Fourth Street NE

Washington DC 20017-1194


Your Excellency,

This Congregation deems it opportune to write to you regarding the closure of parishes in the dioceses of the United States, since in recent times certain dioceses have wrongly applied canon 123 CIC and stating that a parish has been "suppressed" when in reality it has been merged or amalgamated.

A parish is more than a public juridical person. Canon 369 defines the diocese as a "portion of the people of God which is entrusted to the bishop to be nurtured by him". Similarly, "A parish is a certain community of Christ's faithful, stably established within a particular Church, whose pastoral care, under the authority of the diocesan bishop, is entrusted to a parish priest as its proper pastor (cf. can. 515)."

In this light, then, only with great difficulty, can one say that a parish becomes extinct. A parish is extinguished by the law itself only if no Catholic community any longer exists in its territory, or if no pastoral activity has taken place for a hundred years (can. 120 #1). When a parish is "suppressed" by competent authority in reality the still existing community of Christ's faithful is actually "merged" into the neighboring community of Christ's faithful and constitutes a larger community, and the territory of the extinguished parish is added to the other, forming a larger territorial unit. While the parish church and the physical parish plant may be closed and the name of a particular parish extinguished, the spiritual needs of the portion of the Faithful which once constituted that parish, must continue to be provided for in accord with their rights in law.

In the case where the portion of the Christian Faithful is reallocated among pre-existing or newly created parishes, the corresponding patrimony and obligations of the closed parishes must follow the Faithful in an equitable and proportionate fashion in accord with the corresponding responsibilities and pastoral duties assumed by the parishes ad quem. The wishes of any existing founders and benefactors must be respected, as must any acquired rights as expressed in canon 121 or 122.

Often when a bishop calls his action a "suppression" it is in reality a merger of two communities of Christ's faithful. Thus canon 121 applies: "When aggregates of persons or of things which are public juridic persons, are so joined that from them one aggregate is constituted which also possesses juridic personality, this new juridic person obtains the patrimonial goods and rights proper to the previous aggregates...." The "suppression" of a parish is in most cases then a "unio extinctiva". If a parish is divided between more than one existing parish then can. 122 would apply.

Thus the goods and liabilities should go with the amalgamated juridic person, and not to the diocese. This would also seem to be more consonant with the requirement that the wishes of the founders, benefactors and those who have acquired rights be safeguarded, In most cases "suppressions" are in reality a "unio extinctiva" or "amalgamation" or "merger" and as such the goods and obligations do not pass to the higher juridic person, but should pertain to the public juridic person which remains or emerges from the extinctive union. The goods and liabilities should go to the surviving public juridic person, that is the enlarged parish community.

In conclusion, this Congregation notes that the erroneous use of can. 123 in the dioceses of the United States is not uncommon and therefore asks Your Excellency to bring this matter to the attention of the individual bishop members of the Episcopal Conference.

I take this opportunity to renew my sentiments of esteem and with every best wish, I remain,

Yours sincerely in Christ,

/s/ Dario Card. Castrillon-H.

/s/ Csaba Ternyak

Bolded paragraph my [Amy Welborn's] emphasis. (Examples of a properly "suppressed" parish would be, say one in an area where the population had died out completely or near to it - in some areas in the Great Plains, for example. I think.)

If there's anything I appreciate about the Vatican, it's its elegant, tactful way of applying the clue-by-four.

Not traditional, not liberal

The Secular War on the Supernatural ... via the Happy Catholic:
Dr. Alice Von Hildebrand has an excellent piece about how a lack of belief in the supernatural spells out how well we are able to know and love God and His Church. Seems like a no-brainer, doesn't it? Read this anyway. You'll have your "Aha!" moment somewhere along the way.
Now let us abolish the terms "conservative" or "liberal", the terms "left" and "right" which are secularistic. I suggest that we say from now on "those who have kept the sense of the supernatural and those who have lost it". That is the great divide, that is the essence.

Do you look at the Church and her teaching, whether dogmatic or moral, with a supernatural eye, or do you look at it with secular lenses? That is the divide. Left and right confuses the issue. Let us re-discover the greatness and the beauty of the supernatural and I claim that it is so difficult in the polluted world in which we live, that if we don’t pray for it every single day, we are going to be infected. It is the air that you breathe, the newspaper that you read, the television show that you see, time and again you will see this is a fight and attack on the supernatural.
I did read it, and I agree with the quote above. There are parts in the article which make me a little uncomfortable, but it's been a long time since I was in that mindset, and Dr. Alice von Hildebrand comes to the Church from a different place than I, perhaps... see what you think.

Dave Armstrong does a satisfying round-up

... in his list, 150 reasons why I am a Catholic (revised).

Satisfying, because, as an evangelical convert, he explicitly talks about some of the things I feel strongly about... in particular, that Catholicism retains its access to mysticism, which is so lacking in many Protestant churches.

It's too long to quote, but I recommend you take a look at it yourself. Dave is clearly one of those gifted men who uses his mind with the same avidity that other men practice the bench-press. ;)
Your Famous Last Words Will Be:

"What we know is not much. What we don't know is enormous."

14 July 2006

The SSPX and the Mass

At What Does the Prayer Really Say, there is a post up entitled "Tridentine Dreamin'" (link thanks to Amy). In it, Father Zuhlsdorf describes how he thinks the SSPX could be welcomed home to Rome:
First, the excommunications of the bishops would need to be lifted: piece o’ cake - the Pope can do that with the flick of a bik. Second, a canonical structure would need to be set up: again, it’s pen stoke time - provided they can be a little creative and, importantly, pick the right guy to head it up (I have suggestions). Third, the SSPX wants to continue to exist: - again, noooo problem.

However, the Accord would include statements of a theological nature. First, they would need to agree that the Novus Ordo is valid: okay… this can be done - the hardliners will demure but most will do this especially if we all see some real liturgical discipline being inplemented in the world. Second, they will need to admit that the Second Vatican Council was vaild: yah yah… Lefebvre signed all the documents, didn’t he.

But here is where things get tough: There will be some kind of statment on religious liberty and this is where things will come to a halt with the more theologically minded on both sides.

It all sounds doable but the religious liberty issue is the real thorn here.
Father doesn't elaborate on that last statement, but when I read it, what I think is this:

If you are going to tell people they have the right to assert the primacy of conscience so that they can rationalize their way out of guilt about cohabiting before marriage, contraception, etc., then you must cease and desist the witch-hunts to purge the church of all who would cling to the liturgy which created so many saints.

One is no less disloyal than the other. And those who cling to the old liturgy are at least zealous to preserve the Church.

I like Gerald Augustinus' blog, The Cafeteria is Closed, but he's been outspoken about his opinion about the SSPX. I've had to restrain myself from cluttering his comboxes with impassioned rants. I cut him more slack than he will cut the SSPX, however; he's still a very new Catholic, and is as zealous in his own way as the SSPX is.

I have read the documents of Vatican II. It is incredible that, after all this time, people still think that council mandated the willful destruction of churches, turning the altars around, communion in the hand, banal music, stripping the churches of art, religious in street clothes, or any of the other abuses which have permeated the Roman Catholic "faith experience."

We have much to reclaim.