Sunday, August 21, 2011

Shame is Good

Whenever discussions arise surrounding how to understand Blessed John Paul's Theology of the Body, the topic of shame frequently comes up.  It is good this happens.  The proper understanding of shame not only unlocks a proper understanding of the Pope's popular speeches, but unlocks the proper understanding of everything surrounding Christianity.

Unfortunately, shame is almost entirely presented in a rather negative way.  Shame is something wrong, that occurs because we feel we have done something wrong.  There are some writers and thinkers who have made a veritable cottage industry out of mocking the "shame" of those they disagree with, implying that the existence of shame demonstrates how backwards they are in the Gospel.  Such an approach is misplaced and betrays a lack of familiarity not only with God's word, but human nature itself.

To acquire a better understanding of shame, we must turn our attention to the Wisdom literature of the Old Testament.  I have in mind specifically the book of Sirach.  In the fourth chapter (the verse itself varies depending on your translation), the wise man states:

For there is a shame that bringeth sin, and there is a shame that bringeth glory and grace
For Sirach, shame is something that simply exists.  It is not something you can do away with.  Indeed, in this context, he speaks about the futility of trying to fight the current of a river.  If one fights to eliminate shame entirely, one is engaging in a pointless battle.  Since the fall of Adam, shame has existed, and will always exist on the earth.

Yet what does Sirach mean when he says that there is a shame that brings "glory and grace?"  I submit the answer to this question comes in the key to all wisdom literature.  King Solomon tells us, before any of his proverbs, that "the fear of the LORD is the beginning of all wisdom."  While it might seem so, I am not exchanging one cryptic passage for another.  Like shame, fear is something often misunderstood.  Far from terror, the Bible understands this fear to be a sense of reverence and awe. 

Take a young boy to a baseball game.  He will stand in amazement at the green of the grass, the sheer size of the stadium. He might not understand the intricacies of the WHIP statistic (many adults don't), yet he can still just take the grandeur of the game in. When it comes to dealing with God, we are that little boy.  The beauty and grandeur of his works are something so beyond us, we can simply sit there and stare, taking it all in.

The more you take in the great things that God gives, the more you come to a realization.  That is a recognition of your own smallness.  Man, being the progressive being he is, always wants to better himself.  Yet this advancement only makes our limitations more apparent.  King Solomon acquired more wealth than hundreds of his descendants could possibly spend, yet Christ tells us a simply lily flower was adorned even greater than the King in all his majesty.

The just and the wicked alike come to this conclusion.  Both have that experience of shame within them.  (Sometimes you may have to dig deep!)  The question becomes:  how does one respond to it?  The shame which brings sin responds to such inadequacy through pride.  Solomon magnified his status to an absurd degree (gold everything, 700 wives, etc).  A man may see a woman of virtue reject his advances, and feel a sense of being diminished..  The shame that leads to sin tries to seize what needs to be offered as a gift by force.  The idea he should be denied anything is absurd.  Rather than recognizing the limits of humanity, they strive against them, believing they can change them.  Even worse, those limits come to be viewed as a hindrance towards what you can truly be, so they must be dismissed.

So how does the shame which leads to grace come about?  That shame comes from an acceptance of one's limitations, and of their smallness.  Standing before what they perceive such a great mystery, they simply accept it.  Indeed, to add anything to it of their own accord would just screw everything up.  Only when this attitude is adopted can God begin the real work within.  When such a person sins, they do not despair at it.  Yet they do not ignore it.  They realize all the better what they were called for, and how far short they fell.  It is at this point grace is at its strongest.

That is why it is absurd to speak of doing away with shame, and being without shame.  If one were without shame, one would be without humility.  If one were without humility, one could not possibly love.  As for a world without love, well, I think we see where this is going.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

The Extraordinary Form: The Meaning of the Sanctus

At the end of the Preface (depending on the Preface), various invocations of the angels and saints in Heaven are made. We are then called to join their song humbly. As I mentioned in my previous post, this is something very important to remember. When we begin the Sanctus, we are not simply saying it alone. We are moved outside of time, united to heaven in a very mystical way.

The Sanctus is a very rich prayer when we consider what exactly is going on. Two scenes are called to mind in this prayer, both of which were introductions. The first is from the Prophet Isaiah:

I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne high and elevated: and his train filled the temple. Upon it stood the seraphims: the one had six wings, and the other had six wings: with two they covered his face, and with two they covered his feet, and with two they hew. And they cried one to another, and said: Holy, holy, holy, the Lord God of hosts, all the earth is full of his glory. And the lintels of the doors were moved at the voice of him that cried, and the house was filled with smoke. And I said: Woe is me, because I have held my peace; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people that hath unclean lips, and I have seen with my eyes the King the Lord of hosts.
And one of the seraphims flew to me, and in his hand was a live coal, which he had taken with the tongs off the altar. And he touched my mouth, and said: Behold this hath touched thy lips, and thy iniquities shall be taken away, and thy sin shall be cleansed. And I heard the voice of the Lord, saying: Whom shall I send? and who shall go for us? And I said: Lo, here am I, send me.
I would like to submit that when Isaiah saw this vision, Isaiah saw the Mass. Remember, heaven cannot be measured via time, because it is outside of time. God is timeless. When he saw the angels in their chant, he was seeing yesterday, his present time, and several millennia later, right up to the present day. He states that he was in the temple. Temples are the place of sacrifice. The smoke from the incense filled the temple, and God himself was present. What he saw (but perhaps could not explain), was that God was present as both priest and victim. Recognizing the amazing event he witnessed, he saw how unworthy he was. Not only because he saw God, but rather that he saw God accomplish his ultimate plan, the salvation of the human race. As a result of this, an angel comes and purifies him, so that he can prepare worthily for the event he is about to witness.

The priest finds himself in a similar situation. After that purification (which we all receive in the Sacraments of Initiation), God asks for people to accept the calling of the priesthood. Not everyone will answer that call. When the priest does, he may ask, like Isaiah does, how long must he preach the Gospel? How long must he offer the Mass? The answer God provides is instructive:

Until the cities be wasted without inhabitant, and the houses without man, and the land shall be left desolate. And the Lord shall remove men far away, and she shall be multiplied that was left in the midst of the earth. And there shall be still a tithing therein, and she shall turn, and shall be made a shew as a turpentine tree, and as an oak that spreadeth its branches: that which shall stand therein, shall be a holy seed
In short, the priest is meant to act until the end of the world. Likewise, from the saying of the first Mass until the end of time, there will always be a priest somewhere, at some hour of the day, fulfilling the Lord’s request throughout the earth. This call remains equally true to the faithful, albeit in a different way. The Sanctus is a reminder that we too must live according to the Gospel to the end of the earth. The worship of God was meant for all creation. If one iota of creation is not yet participating in it, the job of a Christian is never done. Like Isaiah, we must realize our unworthiness to partake in the mystery of God’s redemption. This task is perfectly suited towards God. God is Holy. His very name is called Holy. When something was said three times in ancient times, it was a very special confirmation of what was being said.

Yet what makes the Canon such a holy thing? It is more than just our participation at Calvary. Through the Roman Canon, Holy Week itself is retraced.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

On True Holiness

Stop me if you've heard this one before.  (Actually don't, as this is my blog, I make the rules.)  Whenever extolling someone, you hear "he is so holy!"  This is one of the most dangerous statements around.  If one doesn't understand what true holiness is, they are giving a false assessment, and that has the potential to mislead others.  While some might view this a hard assessment, I would object.

The beauty about God is He has no desire to hide all of His works from His creation.  Sure, some things might be clouded a bit in mystery, but he points us the way to something, and faith makes up for what we lack.  So it is with holiness.  We have seen many priests disgrace their priesthood.  The shocked faithful always say "but he was so holy!"  Perhaps we need to do a more in-depth examination of what holiness is.

Our first mistake is to define holiness as something we do.  That is alien to the Biblical world.  Rather, being holy was what we are. In being holy, we are set apart.  Holiness is what we do to represent our being set apart.  Through our bodies, we carry out certain actions, and these actions can be judged as to whether they are in accord with a state of being set apart from the ordinary.  If they are not, and we are all too ordinary (like the world), that being set apart is used in our condemnation.

So in judging holiness, we must look at acts that are set apart from the "normal" ways of the world, or of our nature.  Our nature was corrupted by sin.  As a result, we stopped acting as if we were set apart to give God glory, and acted to the contrary.  Right away this eliminates marks of being holy such as eloquence in speech, or the ability to repeat intellectual propositions that can be turned into talk points.  The mouth can preach orthodoxy with great eloquence.  Yet the heart can also use that mouth to manipulate, even under the appearance of orthodoxy.  When Marc Antony spoke in Julius Caesar, he was assenting to the orthodoxy of the day from the powers that be.  Yet through manipulation, he managed to undermine those very figures.

Likewise, when Satan approaches our Lord in the desert, everything he says is true and orthodox.  He indeed was able to quote scripture with the best of them.  Yet he was using orthodoxy to undermine proper practice, or orthopraxy.  He was tempting Christ towards vanity and arrogance.  If he hooked Christ on those things, he could break Him later on the orthodoxy stuff.

That is why when we are measuring holiness, we must look for those traits and virtues which are not "of this world."  Anyone can speak with eloquence, but true Christian charity is hard to fake.  Authentic Christian faith, hope, and charity cannot come from within.  They can only come from externally.  The world cannot fake these things.

We are given a second tool outside of these main virtues, in that they are measured by how we live our vocation.  In the secular world, our profession defines who we are.  A businessman is concerned with striking the balance of making their business efficient yet still profitable.  To the extent they are both efficient and profitable, we can measure how successful a businessman they are.

God gives each and every human person a vocation, a calling.  Those vocations have certain requirements to them.  A priest is called to a life (if not always a vow) of poverty, chastity, and obedience.  Poverty comes about in not relying on the things of this world, even if we have them.  Chastity (by extension celibacy) is in accordance with the fact that they are living a life in anticipation of the Kingdom of heaven, a sign for all of us of our eventual destination.  Finally, obedience is the recognition that they are priests of something other than themselves, so what they want is not always what is best.

Another vocation exists for the married life which people are called to.  While many might not realize it, they have the same requirements, they just carry them out in a different manner.  The life of poverty calls them to cling to their spouses, the greatest created gift God has given them.  Material possessions should never take the place of primary devotion over their spouse.  In chastity, they are called to realize that they can be with their spouse only, and no other.  To the extent the eyes (and person) set themselves upon another, they are not living chastely.  Finally they submit in obedience to their spouse by realizing that their needs are no longer of paramount importance.  The benefit of their spouse is their business, and more importantly, the benefit of the family as a whole trumps all.  A businessman who increases his own efficiency and profit at the expense of the company he works for will either find himself fired or in jail for fraud.  Likewise a spouse who puts their own needs above that of the company he works for (their family) will place their souls in mortal danger.

Like those authentic virtues, they are incredibly tough to fake when viewed properly.  They are something that must be continually done.  They define who we are.  One may be able to trick themselves into leading a double life.  Yet they will be found out eventually by others, who can examine their actions over a lifetime.  Since they are not living towards their vocation in their double life, they cannot be considered as practicing holiness, even if they do great things.  Indeed, those great things become condemnations.  A husband cannot practice marital chastity for long when he places the needs of himself as paramount.  Eventually, those needs will lead to his own fulfillment.  What does his wife think?  Who cares!  He is looking out for number one.

Likewise, a priest that spends his lifetime building up material possessions will eventually come to be defined by them.  Without that character of poverty, he will not long have a character of chastity or obedience.  In addition to being incredibly hard to fake long-term, they are inseparably linked.

Finally, when we look at holiness from this perspective, one thing comes to mind.  Man is holiness hard!  That is what we should always remember when we see someone stumble.  If we look upon ourselves, we will find that, to greater or lesser degrees, we aren't following that spirit which leads to virtue.  That brings us to humility.

Humility is the hardest of all of these, yet it is also the most necessary.  If poverty, chastity, and obedience lead to faith, hope, and charity, humility is the glue that holds everything together.  Humility is our reminder that if we do this on our own, we will fail.  If we examine our consciences for but one minute each day, this will become blatantly apparent.  Poverty and chastity reach obedience through humility.  If one is not humble, he will have few of those virtues for long.  Eventually the winds of this world will blow obedience away from chastity, or poverty from obedience.  Like everything else here, the glue is something we cannot produce out of ourselves.  It needs to come from somewhere else.  That "somewhere" is a "someone."  That individual is Jesus Christ.  Later we will consider how this is to be so with a few analogies.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

A Challenge to the Church of NFP

Every now and then an article is written that doesn't so much as set the trend in the blogosphere but tells in public what many were thinking in private. As a result, serious discussion develops. Very few remember one sentence from Alice Von Hildebrand's takedown of Christopher West. What they do remember was that a lion of Catholicism had finally given some much needed fraternal correction to Mr. West. She said in her eloquence what many had been thinking.

I think Danielle Bean over at Crisis Magazine has done something similar. If nothing else, she causes me to think.

I remember several years ago I was on a first date with a lady. During that date, out of the blue, she asked "do you plan on using Natural Family Planning during your marriage?" From the love of baseball to thermometer reading and charting. This is an experience no (then) 23 year old should go through. In discussing the rather absurd and bizarre situation with a friend, he gave what was probably the best reply I've heard. "Me and my wife are firm believers in Natural Family Planning. I plan on hitting the lotto, then having my family naturally."

Like Ms. Bean, I do not intend to dog on NFP. It has always been permitted by the Church under certain conditions. My problem is with what I call "The Church of NFP", or when I'm in a slightly more polemical mood "NFP or Die."

For these individuals, NFP is not just something couples should consider prudently. To not practice NFP is to show a lack of prudence. In their mind, to not engage in NFP is to abandon "responsible parenthood." That they cannot cite one magisterial document which says every Catholic should practice NFP is irrelevant. They base their understanding on John Paul II's Man and Woman He Created Them. That John Paul II never said such a thing is once again irrelevant. (Like the defenders of the school of thought of Christopher West come to think of it!)

I cannot speak to all of the reasons Ms. Bean gives. I'm a single Catholic male, so I can't speak about "fertility symptoms", breastfeeding and all that jazz. Yet the other points she gave made me think about a lot of things.

First, those who are practicing NFP need to answer one question: Why? The Church is clear that if sufficient reasons are evident, NFP may (not must) be practiced. Yet I think Catholics should ask themselves honestly: is this really done? I would very confidently wager that answer is a negative. When they are considering economic needs, are they considering true subsistence style living, to where it would be near impossible to provide a child with basic necessities, or are they considering that they won't be able to pay a full ride at a four year university and grad school for all their children? Worse yet, are they doing it for their own selfish reasons, as having children will deprive them of worldly benefits? For mental and spiritual reasons, is there a genuine concern, or is there just uncomfortable feeling?

Better yet, are they discussing these matters with an independent third party, who can consider the spiritual reasons for why they are practicing NFP? In other words, how involved is a sound orthodox priest (preferably their spiritual director) in these discussions? People are masters at rationalizing their behavior. Sometimes we need an independent third party to tell us we are doing it wrong. Simply saying you are discussing it with your doctor isn't good enough. They may have the medical knowledge, but they do not have the knowledge of being able to provide spiritual direction. (Very few of them at least.)

If one is doing these things, these words aren't for you. If you've done these things and still arrive at the prudential consideration to employ Natural Family Planning, then such is your choice. All I'm saying is that somewhere along the way, people got the mistaken notion that to not practice NFP at all times was somehow the sign of a sinful Catholic couple.

I'd also like to talk about "responsible" parenting. Somewhere and I have no clue where, "responsible" parenting became about the number of children you have, rather than the quality of how those children were raised. Do you have ten children? Are all of those children raised in the Catholic faith, given access to the sacraments? Is a high emphasis placed upon education? Do you present your children with an environment and opportunity to practice authentic Christian virtues? Congratulations, you are doing "responsible" parenting, even if you live in a small house and the children wear hand me downs. This is just as true if you have even just one child.

On the topic of shame, Ms. Bean is even stronger. I personally do not need to hear about an individual woman's fertility cycle, mucus, etc. The only woman I will need to hear that about is when I'm married, and she is my wife. I've beaten this subject to death in the things I've written in regards to Theology of the Body/Christopher West, so I will be brief. Sharing these details so casually is a violation of the sacredness of the body and the marital embrace.

The final topic I would like to touch on would be a delicious irony, were it not so tragic. In pushing "sex is holy", the church of NFP makes it less holy. The marital embrace is only discussed about on the natural level. If husband and wife come together, there is a "risk" (oh how I hate such talk!) a child would be conceived. Many in the TOB crowd claim their critics focus too much on the pro-creative aspects of the marital embrace, and not the unitive. They rightly point out God created the marital embrace as a way of strengthening the bonds of marriage. Every time husband and wife come together, they are renewing their marital vows in a very special way. done properly, one could say it is a way of making present the grace one receives during the Sacrament of Matrimony. Out of such selfless love (where neither party seeks their own gratification), a new life is created through our participation in God's creative work.

With all the emphasis solely on child-bearing, the church of NFP robs the marital embrace of much of its power. Husband and wife coming together to renew their marital vows for their sanctification is viewed as a "failure" in abstinence. To engage in perfectly normal marital relations is not a failure. While we must always be careful to ponder our intentions (i.e. we must make sure we are not coming together for selfish reasons), it is truly scandalous that the church of NFP makes them think otherwise. Sadly, the author herself even falls into this trap. "Struggling with abstinence" in the married life is suggested as a struggle with purity. Now this may be the case. Yet why should one assume that a wife struggles with purity if she desires to engage in the marital embrace with her husband? Why should a husband be prohibited from renewing his wedding vows with the woman he has pledged to give up everything for? Because a chart says is a terrible reason. They are heeding, in a very special way, the call to become "one flesh." Now there may exist reasons and circumstances where periodic continence is advised. Yet such situations are meant to be temporary.

In the end, I fear we Catholics today have a fear of giving up control. We foolishly think we are in control of every aspect of our lives, including fertility. Yet this is nonsense. God is in control. He may choose to work through our voluntary free will in the marital embrace, but He is still in control. The idea a pregnancy should be viewed as a "surprise" or "unplanned" amongst married couples is shameful. By engaging in the marital embrace, one "planned" the possibility that a child may be born. Now one may wish to take prudent steps, in accordance with nature, to space births for various reasons, but our plans can and will go astray if God thinks the better of it. We shouldn't look at that as a bad thing. God might see the discipline and self control in a couple practicing NFP and go "You know, such restraint is a great quality in a parent, and even better in a child, so I will help them conceive."

How much of this enters the NFP discussion? Check the comments at the site of the article. All are worth reading.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

The Extraordinary Form: The Lavabo to the Preface

As we come to the end of the Offertory, a distinct tone begins to emerge. In the texts there is a growing sense of unworthiness on behalf of the priest and the faithful that they are participating in this event. The Mass is the very Sacrifice of Calvary, yet it is far more than just that. Through the Mass, heaven and earth become united, the covenant with the Father is renewed, and we partake, in our own certain way, in the mystical banquet of the Lamb’s Supper in Heaven. Sinful flesh that we are, we should be feeling a sense of unworthiness.

That sense begins with the Lavabo, which goes as follows:

I will wash my hands among the innocent, and I will compass Thine altar, O Lord. That I may hear the voice of Thy praise, and tell of all Thy wondrous works.

I have loved, O Lord, the beauty of Thy house and the place where Thy glory dwelleth. Take not away my soul, O God, with the wicked: nor my life with bloody men. In whose hands are iniquities, their right hand is filled with gifts.

But as for me I have walked in mine innocence: redeem me, and have mercy on me. My foot hath stood in the direct way; in the churches I will bless Thee, O Lord.
There are a few things to note about this prayer. The Psalm originates in a Psalm of distress. David’s claim of innocence is not a boastful claim. He feels a great moment of distress, and points to the fact that he has looked to please God in all he does. Confident of God’s mercy, he washes his hands amongst the innocent. Likewise the priest and congregation should feel a slight distress based on their current position. We are entering in a very special way into God’s presence. We are about to experience a deeply personal moment beyond those even Moses experienced with God. Our only response is to state we have looked to do God’s will to the best of our ability.

Following the Lavabo there is a final prayer to the Trinity which states:

Receive, O Holy Trinity, this oblation which we make to Thee, in memory of the Passion, Resurrection and Ascension of Our Lord Jesus Christ, and in honour of Blessed Mary, ever Virgin, blessed John the Baptist, the holy Apostles Peter and Paul, and of these [the relics in the altar] and of all the Saints, that it may avail unto their honour and our salvation, and may they vouchsafe to intercede for us in heaven, whose memory we celebrate on earth. Through the same Christ our Lord.
The sacrifice which is offered is of course first and foremost offered to the Trinity. Yet like all other offerings, the offering is also a commemoration of those who walked before us. The writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews tells us to honor those who walked before us in the faith. Yet how does honoring a saint give glory to God? Are our Protestant friends correct when they assert the mere suggestion of including honor to the saints in offering to the Trinity is blasphemous, for only the Trinity is worthy of any honor?

This is a fundamental misunderstanding of the kind of honor given. No saint in and of themselves is worthy of honor. Not even the Blessed Virgin. Only through Christ can anyone receive any honor or praise. It was only through Christ that the Blessed amongst women was preserved from sin. When we honor the saints, we honor God’s handiwork within them. (Eph 2:10-12) Since those in heaven are “the spirits of just men made perfect”, we ask for their intercession. God stated in the Old Covenant that “if even Samuel and Moses prayed for these people I would not listen” and help that sinful wicked generation. Yet we are Christians redeemed by the blood of the lamb alongside the saints, would not their prayers be of great benefit?

We then come to the Orate Fratres. Unfortunately, the modern understanding of the liturgy in many Churches has really damaged the significance of this prayer. In the extraordinary form, the priest is facing God in the tabernacle and the East (where the Risen Christ will come from) instead of the congregation. When this prayer comes, he turns to face the people, saying:

Brethren, pray that my sacrifice and yours may be acceptable to God the Father almighty:

In the context of the Mass, the priest normally turns to face the people in saluting them or blessing them. Yet this time instead he asks for their prayers. In this statement is a recognition that without their prayers, the priest will struggle going forward. One could further say, without the prayers of those individuals, something is lacking from the Mass. What could possibly be lacking from the Sacrifice of Jesus Christ? The same thing that Paul states was lacking from the Sacrifice of Christ in Colossians 1:24. The sacrifice lacks in the degree of application, since Christ does not save against someone’s own will. Therefore we pray that hearts are turned, and that the Sacrifice of Christ be applied. There is no doubt whatsoever that the Father will accept the sacrifice of the Cross during the Mass. That sacrifice is always before Him. Yet there is a legitimate doubt as to how useful the sacrifice will be for the individual faithful due to lack of faith. That is why in response, we ask that the sacrifice be for “our benefit, and that of all His holy Church.”

What is a beautiful exercise in symbolism loses a lot of significance in the modern liturgical landscape. Since Mass is said facing the people, this is no longer an externally special moment. The appearance is no different than every other moment of the Mass in such a situation. If one needs a reason to return to saying Mass ad orientam, here is a strong one.

After praying what is known as the Secret (one of the propers which is made a final urgent supplication to God), the priest begins the Preface. Unlike previous salutations, the priest says Dominus Vobsicum still facing the altar and the tabernacle. One could say, in a mystical sense, he has begun his transition into acting in persona Christi. Christ acts through Him, so that the identity of the priest becomes less and less important. We are then called to sursum corda, lift up your hearts. Where are we lifting them up to? We lift them up to heaven! At this point in the Mass, we are entering (albeit in an imperfect way) into Heaven, or rather Heaven is coming to us. At this point in the Mass, I am no longer simply assisting at Mass at my local parish. I’ve entered into communion with all the saints and angels. This moment is truly timeless, for it is outside of time. Having entered into this blessed moment, the only acceptable response is thanksgiving towards God.

This understanding is vital for the next part of the Mass. If all of the Mass is holy, the Roman canon is the holy of holies within the Mass.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

(Hopefully) My Final Words on the Corapi Affair

What follows here are just some random thoughts.

There are those comparing Fr. Corapi to a Judas, a man who betrayed his vocation and calling.  That's a little too outlandish.  A better description can be found in the Old Testament in the figure of God's anointed, King Saul.

1 Samuel 15 gives us the relevant story.  As they prepared for battle, God instructed King Saul that he was to completely raze everything his opponents had, to leave nothing alive or take nothing as loot.  His victims the Amalekites were rich.  Saul carried out the first part of God's command (route the Amalekites) but not the second.  Instead of slaying the King, he made the King his vassal, and they made away with all the choice animals and loot.  That of lesser quality they destroyed.

While God is furious with Saul for this, we have to realize one thing:  what Saul did was entirely rational.  Israel needed to survive, and she would survive with compliant subjects in other nations.  He even rationalizes to Samuel that the choice animals wouldn't be used for personal gain, but sacrificed to God.  As sacrifice is a good thing, certainly many sacrifices is great thing for him to do!

God's response through Samuel was unequivocal:

Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord?  behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams.  For rebellion is as the sin of divination, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry.  Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, he has also rejected you from being King.
Saul's sin was that he believed he knew what was best to please God.  Instead, he should have simply been obedient to God, even if it didn't make much sense to him.  It was this action that set him upon the path of becoming a tyrant who stood against God.  Yet even then, David still called him "God's anointed" and wept bitterly at his death.

That is how I feel about Fr. Corapi.  He may think he is doing good by what he is doing.  He may feel that his actions and his ministry are vital to the flock today.  Yet as the Bible shows, disobedience is not the way to go about this.  It was blatantly clear his religious superior and his Bishop has authority over him.  He has chosen to reject that authority, albeit it in a round-about way, and with the best of intentions.  Hopefully he repents.  He will always be a priest, even if he is made a layman again (the character of his soul cannot change in this regard), so one can hope and pray he returns to being a priest.

The story of Fr. Corapi further gives us instruction on how a priest remains faithful.  In his podcast of June 20th, he says the following:

I'm still a priest.  You can't take that away.  No act of the Church can take that away.  What they can remove is facultires;  that is the public ability to administer the sacraments.  I didn't do much of that quite honestly in the 20 years that I did minister.  About 90% of what I did in the past did not require ordination.
He also describes his minsitry as not "within the sacraments" but "outside of them, that is, in conjunction with them."  I submit here this is one of the key problems.  His priesthood was not centered around the sacraments.  He may have celebrated the sacraments on occasion, but they weren't by his own admission the most important parts of his ministry.  Yet for faithful laymen and faithful priests, they hear these words and cringe.  Anybody can preach on the Word.  Quite frankly, many laymen do it better than priests.  Yet only a priest can bring about the Eucharist.  Only the priest can ascend the altar of God to offer the perfect sacrifice.  Only a priest can give the assurance of God's forgivness and absolution in the sacrament of Penance.  This is a staple of the modernists.  They view social work more important than offering the Mass.  Yet without the Mass, there can be no true social work.

Daily Mass, frequent offering of the sacraments, frequent benedictions and daily adoration is not something that is accidental to a priest's ministry, so the Servant of God John Hardon tells us.  In his view, they are absolutely essential, and the primary reason a man is a priest.  It is why in charity I do not think Fr. Corapi was being honest with himself when he made those remarks.  In my view, he was trying to rationalize to himself the decision to become "the Blacksheepdog" and leave the priesthood.  A priest who cannot offer the Mass and Sacraments is cut off from his very calling in life.  The only other option is that Fr. Corapi was a liar all these years, and never really cared about the priesthood, it was simply a means to an end to make him famous.  Yet anyone who has listened to the Fr. Corapi of the past would know that cannot be true.

That is all I really have to say on the matter.  In the end, Fr. Corapi needs our prayers, as does everyone involved in this mess.  I do not think he perceived just how hard the job of being an orthodox, obedient priest was.  Fr. John Hardon gives us some absolutely excellent insight. 

Every facet of the ministry is the exercise of such influence in the lives of others that no one under Heaven is more exposed to the temptation of pride than a priest. Perhaps some people, especially in academic circles, still wonder why the Church is suffering so gravely at the hands and lips of her priests. We need not wonder. Most of the chaos in the Catholic Church today is due to the pride of priests.

We now return you to your regularly scheduled programming.

In The World, Not Of It

Like many others, I'll be wrapping up any further commentary on the Fr. Corapi matter.  There really isn't that much more to say.  His "fans" will believe what they want to believe, and his critics will only be convinced Fr. Corapi is doing the right thing when he submits to his superiors like a good Catholic priest is supposed to.  In light of his recent posting (which I'm not going to link to again), it is obvious Fr. Corapi is very troubled right now, and in deep need of prayer.  So with that in mind, I will touch upon one issue, and then a wrap-up post later concluding the whole affair, barring any major developments, and a new podcast is not a major development!

It is my hope (and hope springs eternal) that there is a silver lining in this entire fiasco.  In the end, it is how important it is to pray for priests.  It is also about how important a priestly character is to the life of priests.  Fr. Jay Toborowsky offers a rather original analysis of the issue, and one I think that is compelling.  A big problem in this entire affair had to do with property.

For those not aware, Fr. Corapi is very wealthy.  A lot of the money came through winning a lawsuit (unrelated to his priestly functions), and a lot also came from his media empire Santa Cruz Media.  One cannot fault a priest for reaping the fruit of their labor.  Yet one can question the way that fruit is spent.  I indicate here how Fr. Corapi spends his wealth:

During the course of the day, we learned that Fr. Corapi owns a home in northwest Montana which he paid for with a million-dollar lawsuit settlement. He drives a fast car with lots of horsepower and keeps a loaded .45 in the glove compartment. He also rides a fat boy Harley Davidson motorcycle, owns a boat of unspecified size, and vacations in Key West. He works out six times a week, twice with a female physical trainer, and has lost seventy pounds and increased his strength by a hundred percent in the past year. The weight loss prompted him, at his charitable best, to donate two large bags of “fat clothes” to the local Salvation Army. I can only assume that the donated clothes did not consist of old habits and clericals.
Some things need to be kept clear.  Fr. Corapi did not take a vow of poverty.  So he isn't violating any laws of his religious order by having such possessions.  Yet one should question:  of what need does a priest have for a sports car or a Fat Boy?  Throughout the history of the Church, she has suffered the greatest when her priests and religious live like the world.  The Church at the time of the Reformation is acknowledged even by Catholics to have been stupendously and scandalously corrupt.  The Pope who condemned Luther (rightly in the doctrinal sphere) rode around Rome on a giant elephant and was one of the most extravagant spenders in world history, to say nothing of Church history!

Likewise, whenever a great reform movement of the Church happened, an emphasis was given on poverty.  Even if one didn't take a vow of poverty, there was a basic understanding of simplicity.  Priests dressed in simple black clerical garb with their Roman collars.  They drove simple transportation.  They weren't jet-setting to Vegas several times a year on "vacation."

When you raise these issues, you are called a socialist and envious.  Anyone who knows my political views knows I am a proponent of capitalism in the private market economy.  The priesthood of Jesus Christ is not the private market economy.  The job of a priest is not to make money.  It isn't even to go off on this or that conference marketing products.  The job of a priest is to offer the Sacrifice of the Mass and the Sacraments.  Fr. Corapi mentioned that the Mass and Sacraments were barely part of his actual ministry, so the suspension does not effect him.  Whether or not he realizes it, he has just touched on the problem.  He, like far too many priests, are too busy with the things of this world, rather than sticking to the important points of their priesthood.

According to his superior Fr. Sheehan, Fr. Corapi was offered to return to living amongst his brother priests, to where all his needs would be taken care of during the investigation.  The only catch was, he would have to give up the sports cars, the boats, the hogs, and live in accordance with a stricter standard of discipline than he was originally living under (due to a previous agreement with his previous superior).  He turned down that invitation and chose to leave the religious life and (wanting to) leave the priesthood.  His "fans" constantly worry about "corrupt bishops" getting their greedy hands on all that money Fr. Corapi has.  Here's my question:  How much of an issue is all of this is Fr. Corapi instead lived a life not neccessarily of poverty, but simplicity?  If instead of a sports car, he had a Focus?  If he lived in a humble one bedroom apartment or two room flat?  If instead of a Harley, he had a Schwinn?  If the profits from his ministry (outside of administrative costs for himself, his staff and upkeep) went to the charity of his choice, even a private one?  I suspect things would be a lot different.

We are currently in an era of reform-minded Popes.  The great project of Blessed John Paul was on stressing greater fidelity to Catholic doctrine, especially in the seminaries.  The great project of Benedict XVI has been to awaken the proper understanding of the liturgical life, especially amongst priests.  Perhaps Benedict (or his successor) will next choose to focus on the quality of priestly life, secular and religious.

Monday, June 20, 2011

The Fr. Corapi Affair Takes a Turn for the Worse UPDATED

h/t Christopher Blosser

Fr. Gerard Sheehan, the religious superior of Fr. John Corapi has spoken with National Catholic Register.  In the report (and in a promised forthcoming statement from the Society of Our Lady of the Holy Trinity, henceforth SOLT), Fr. Sheehan offers some evidence that is, to say the least, very disturbing.

1.)  Fr. Corapi knew who his accusers are, in direct contradiction to his "BlackSheepDog" statement.  He knew because he had originally paid them to sign a non-disclousre agreement, expressely prohibiting them from speaking about any activities during their employment with his company Santa Cruz Media.

2.)  This action seriously compromised the ongoing investigation SOLT was conducting into the allegations of sexual misconduct and drug abuse raised against Fr. Corapi.  As a result of it, many witnesses they wanted to speak to they could not.  This very well could have created the uncertain proceedings Fr. Corapi complained about.

3.)  In light of the allegations made, Fr. Corapi is now suing the accuser (who he claimed to not know of) for an alleged breach of contract, not for character defamation or anything else.  This civil suit further complicated SOLT's investigation.

4.)  Due to 1-3, SOLT attempted to conduct their investigation without speaking to any of the principal witnesses, which was almost impossible.

5.)  Fr. Corapi was given an offer to return to his religious community and live with them in prayer, but declined.  Fr. Sheehan states that such a move would have neccessarily involved Fr. Corapi giving up his lifestyle and not having access to a good portion of his wealth.  One can also speculate it also meant no public ministry (speaking engagements or the like) for a long period of time.

6.)  After this refusal, Fr. Sheehan attempted to meet with Fr. Corapi without success.  Fr. Corapi's decision was made in a private letter "resigning" from the religious life and public ministry.  SOLT has confirmed that if this is what Fr. Corapi wants, they will help facilitate that process.

7.)  One can only guess that this also means he wishes to leave the priesthood and would be laicized shortly after.

I said in a previous post on the matter, I said it was very hard to presume Fr. Corapi's innocence in light of his statement.  In light of these facts, the hill becomes Mount Everest.  Could he be innocent?  Perhaps.  Yet paying off witnesses to enter into an NDA doesn't look like the behavior of an innocent man.

I also raised questions about the propriety of how funds were managed.  In light of his celebration of 20 years as a priest, a substantial discount was offered on all merchandise.  No doubt some money was also donated to Santa Cruz Media.  If the individuals who contributed/purchased were doing so with the intent of supporting a good priest, that money should be immediately returned.  Such questions are now intensified.  One has to wonder, how much of the money used to silence these witnesses came from those donations?  This isn't a matter of civil law, or maybe even canon law.  It is a matter of moral law if such funds were used.

We have to continue to pray for all involved.  Yet the revelation of these facts makes a happy ending near impossible.


Posted without comment.  There's really nothing that can possibly be said in reaction to this.


We now have the statement from his religious superior.


1.)  The suspension was standard procedure, and they foresaw it would be lifted after the investigation

2.)  The decision was made on June 3rd, by Fr. Corapi and Fr. Corapi alone, to leave the priesthood.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

On Fr. Corapi: No Good Way to Look at it

For reasons known only to himself and God, Fr. John Corapi seeks to leave the priesthood to which he was ordained.  I say "only to himself and God" because I do not think his publicly released message really sheds much light on what he is doing.  I'll hope to make that clear as I continue.

First, we must remember one thing:  we cannot know if Fr. Corapi is innocent or guilty.  We do not have all the facts.  Second, he is obviously very bitter and frustrated.  One gets a sense of weariness in his voice and words.

This does not make him innocent though.  Speaking bluntly, he places his innocence on very questionable footing with the release of his statement.  I'll be honest, the statement read to me like a politician.  He gives the impression that this decision was forced on him by two factors.  The first was an institutional Church that offers no protection for accused priests.  There is some truth to that.  The second is that it is because of the false accusations of a "deeply troubled" woman, or so he thinks.

That is the rub with this entire issue.  As Fr. Corapi himself concedes:

The identity of the accuser is not revealed. You can guess, but you don’t actually know. Nor are the exact allegations made known to you. Hence, you have an interesting situation of having to respond to an unknown accuser making unknown accusations (unknown to the accused and his counsel).

He doesn't know who the accuser is.  Yet he goes to great length to speculate to his listeners that it is a woman he has done more to "help and support her" than anyone he ever has.  In turn, because she is a "demonstrably troubled person" she made "totally unsubstantiated, undocumented" allegations.  Some will say he isn't looking to slime the accuser because he doesn't mention them by name.  Whatever his motives, he has outlined a classic case of manipulating his audience.  He wants his audience to view him as a White Knight, and his accusers as deeply troubled people.  He wants himself to be portrayed as rational, whereas he wants the bishops arrayed against him to lack the characteristics of civilized societies.  (Without of course knowing who those Bishops even are!)  His fundamental civil and human rights are being violated by a nameless, faceless "they", being the Bishops.

If Fr. Corapi is innocent, this was the worst way to go about it.

There are those who are comparing him to St. "Padre" Pio.  St. Pio suffered real injustice from false allegations, and lost several years of his public ministry because of it.  The only difference is that St. Pio did not abandon his priesthood.  Fr. Corapi said the only options available were to "quietly lay down and die" or "go on" as he sees fit.  St. Pio gave an answer of defiance.  That defiance was directed at the devil.  He chose to soldier on, humbly subjecting himself to the injustice, fully confident in the end he would be vindicated.  As a result, we call him "Saint" Pio.  Fr. Corapi could indeed be innocent, but he is not taking the path of the saints that our Catholic tradition provides us.

He also gives every indication of continuing his public ministry in spite of the events that have transpired.  I am not optimistic he will be able to do so.  Many Churches will not host him.  His EWTN ministry is obviously permanently shelved.  The first thing that needs to be answered is a harsh question, but a valid one:

Did Fr. Corapi solicit support under questionable pretenses?
How long has Fr. Corapi known of his decision to leave the priesthood?  On his website, he was offering things at reduced prices to celebrate his 20th anniversary of the ordination to the priesthood.  People were buying things many times as a way of giving a "thank you" for his priestly ministry.  A ministry he is now leaving.  To avoid any sense of impropriety, Fr. Corapi should offer refunds if charitable contributions were given to his organization before this, or if merchandise was purchased by those looking to support a priest.  I'm of the impression that this wasn't a long-standing idea.  The video and speech were far too hasty to suggest that.  I think this would be a beneficial act for him to take.

If his ministry does continue, he will be in need of some special graces and prayer.  As a laymen, he may indeed be able to contribute in some form or another.  Yet he is operating outside the "usual channels."  There was a time when Catholic Answers and EWTN were outside those "usual channels."  Yet a cult of personality didn't surround these individuals at the time either.  One does surround Fr. Corapi.  He may wish it not to be so, he may relish in it, we cannot know that.  Yet we cannot deny it exists.  His devoted fans will still see him as an authority figure.  What if that authority conflicts with the Bishops?  How can he put into practice the virtue of humble obedience given the circumstances?  Fr. Corapi has exceptional gifts.  I fear in public those gifts are compromised.

That is why in the end, for the good of all, Fr. Corapi should take a very extended leave of absence from any public ministry, be it as a priest (due to his suspension) or as a layman, or whatever is in between.  Spend that time in deep prayer and with a spiritual director who will be fully honest with him.  It is going to be very tough to continue to have a public life under these circumstances.  He claims he does not want to be in an adversarial position with the Church and the Bishops.  Yet if he continues under his new "persona" as "The Black Sheep Dog" communicating in public about matters of the faith or his own perceived injustice, such an adversarial position is inevitable.  These matters would cause more harm than good.

Finally, this is a firm reminder about the dangers of the cult of personality.  Many people are having their faith shaken by this event.  It is a reminder for us all that we cannot place our faith and hopes in men.  Even good men, whether they be laymen, priests, bishops, even Popes.  We can only place our faith in the Lord.  If it be His will, an innocent Fr. Corapi would have been vindicated.  If it be His will, a new voice in the Church will fill the void left by him.  In the end, even in spite of our attempts to obstruct it, the Church continues to nurture souls and Christ continues to save them.  Inspired by that confidence, let us pray for Fr. Corapi, and for all priests.  If this situation shows nothing else, it shows how much grace is required to be a faithful priest in today's world.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

On Homeschooling and Our Sunday Visitor

In the current issue of Our Sunday Visitor (OSV), Michelle Martin wrote what she no doubt felt was a balanced look at homeschooling and its relation to the Catholic Church.  The article has touched off a firestorm on the site and in the blogosphere as a whole.  I believe an objective reading of the article will show that it is not balanced, and that bias harms the work greatly.

1.)  On Balance

When faced with criticism, Greg Erlandson of OSV responded to the criticism on Steve Kellmeyer's blog by stating:

No publisher likes to see calls to boycott his publication, but I appreciate the strong feelings engendered by our news story on the occasional gulf that appears between home school advocates and some in the institutional Church.

I think the issue is a bit more complicated than Mr. Erlandson makes it out to be.  The article was clearly written by someone who looks down on homeschooling, or at least following an editorial position hostile to homeschooling, which has been the OSV viewpoint in the past. 

While there is an "occasional gulf" such a gulf is hardly one-sided.  The response towards homeschooling varies from diocese to diocese, even parish to parish.  Some have widely developed homeschooling networks, and these people are an integral part of the parish.  Some dioceses offer several "homeschooling Masses" a year.  Finally some do indeed act like Bishop Vasquez, to their shame.  The article quotes not one Church authority in favor of homeschooling.  If one goes off the article alone, homeschooling is not "sometimes" opposed by Church authorities.  It is always opposed.  The dioceses where it is allowed, nothing is said about why they allow it, only that they "recognize" it as an option.  As I intend to show, that position is the default Catholic position.

2.)  Insufficient Evidence

In order to defend the idea that homeschooling is contrary to the Catholic faith, proponents of such a view have to give some pretty creative exegsis.  So creative, it would get most students flunked out of a classroom.  We will only deal with one of the "proofs" cited.  Ms. Martin states:

But not all priests and bishops agree. At the Third Plenary Council of Baltimore in 1884, the bishops wrote that parents have an obligation to send their children to parochial schools, and some clergy members today say Catholic home-schoolers abrogate that responsibility.
Sadly, she left something out.  Here is the exact text, emhaspsis mine:

Title vi, Of the Education of Catholic Youth, treats of (i) Catholic schools, especially parochial, viz., of their absolute necessity and the obligation of pastors to establish them. Parents must send their children to such schools unless the bishop should judge the reason for sending them elsewhere to be sufficient. Ways and means are also considered for making the parochial schools more efficient. It is desirable that these schools be free. (ii) Every effort must be made to have suitable schools of higher education for Catholic youth.

When one includes the entirety of the statement, one finds it is a lot less sweeping than was originally portrayed.  Even judging solely on this text alone, the "obligation" is not an absolute one.  First and foremost, the Bishop can judge it not neccessary.  The price of the schools and the quality of them also must be taken into consideration.

Yet we cannot judge solely on this one piece of evidence.  The Third Plenary Synod is but a local synod of American Bishops.  Our Catholic faith teaches that such synods are not binding on Bishops, or even the faithful outright.  In the end, the documents of Popes and Councils are far more important than that of a mere regional synod of a (at the time) small Catholic population.

As far as the Popes, not much is said about the nature of Christian education until Pope Pius XI.  (Leo XIII touches on certain facets of education, but not the root itself.)   According to Pius XI, there are three spheres of society, and all three have an importance in education:  the family, civil society, and the Church.  As Divni Illus Magistri makes clear, the first of these is the family.  They possess the right of education from nature itself.  The individual family unit existed before the State, and without the family, there can be no Church.  Yet as families have obligations beyond themselves (to the common good and the Church), there are certain instances where they have a pre-eminence (but never trumping) of the family.

On matters of faith and morals, the family must be in union with the Church.  Whereas the family has the right to educate their own children by nature, the Church has the right to educate souls by Divine Commission.  Yet in keeping with the notion of subsidarity, the Church does not seek to usurp the authority of the parents.  As the Pontiff states:

The fundamental reason for this harmony is that the supernatural order, to which the Church owes her rights, not only does not in the least destroy the natural order, to which pertain the other rights mentioned, but elevates the natural and perfects it, each affording mutual aid to the other, and completing it in a manner proportioned to its respective nature and dignity. The reason is because both come from God, who cannot contradict Himself

To emphasize that he is not kidding, the Pope states:

The family therefore holds directly from the Creator the mission and hence the right to educate the offspring, a right inalienable because inseparably joined to the strict obligation, a right anterior to any right whatever of civil society and of the State, and therefore inviolable on the part of any power on earth.

 That this right is inviolable St. Thomas proves as follows:The child is naturally something of the father . . . so by natural right the child, before reaching the use of reason, is under the father's care. Hence it would be contrary to natural justice if the child, before the use of reason, were removed from the care of its parents, or if any disposition were made concerning him against the will of the parents.
And as this duty on the part of the parents continues up to the time when the child is in a position to provide for itself, this same inviolable parental right of education also endures. "Nature intends not merely the generation of the offspring, but also its development and advance to the perfection of man considered as man, that is, to the state of virtue
To end our lengthy quoting of Pope Pius, he discusses the relationship between the Church and the family when talking about education:

We have therefore two facts of supreme importance. As We said in Our discourse cited above: The Church placing at the disposal of families her office of mistress and educator, and the families eager to profit by the offer, and entrusting their children to the Church in hundreds and thousands. These two facts recall and proclaim a striking truth of the greatest significance in the moral and social order. They declare that the mission of education regards before all, above all, primarily the Church and the family, and this by natural and divine law, and that therefore it cannot be slighted, cannot be evaded, cannot be supplanted.
The Second Vatican Council confirms and even elevates this teaching when the Fathers state:

Since parents have given children their life, they are bound by the most serious obligation to educate their offspring and therefore must be recognized as the primary and principal educators
And lest anyone say that the parent does not have a choice in where to educate their children (a la Father Peter Stravinskas), the Council states:

Parents who have the primary and inalienable right and duty to educate their children must enjoy true liberty in their choice of schools.
This is but a sample of Church teaching on the manner.  It really matters little whether or not "all priests or Bishops agree."  What matters is what the Catholic church says.

3.)  Just Flat out Wrong!

Up until now, there have been certain statements which could at least be defendable from an evidentiary standpoint, and a standpoint of Christian charity.  When we pass to the statements of Fr. Stravinskas, we cannot allow them to stand.  For some reason, and we will not speculate, Fr. Stravinskas has a certain loathing of the concept of homeschooling, and this colors anything he writes about the topic of education.

First and foremost, he tells Ms. Martin:

There are several reasons to prefer Catholic schools, Father Stravinskas told Our Sunday Visitor, including that the Church Fathers made clear that catechesis is the job of the whole Church, with the main responsibility resting on the shoulders of the pastor, not the parents.

As we have seen from the evidence, this is wrong.  The Church has a special responsibility beyond that of the family or civil society.  As a "perfect society" she has a strength in her claims the family lacks.  But the right of the Church to educate does not supersede the family.  On the contrary, it strengthens it.  As Pius XI noted, the family chooses to entrust their children to the Church.  The Church cannot and does not seek to act contrary to the rights of the family.

Logically speaking this is flawed as well.  Let us say there is a child in a parish Father Stravinskas is at.  Said child ends up not being educated in the faith.  He never comes to the Catechism classes, never seeks out Father privately, etc.  This child grows up and remains in that parish, but still doesn't seek the education out.  The individual dies in a state of mortal sin, and as a result is in hell.  Father Stravinskas won't be faulted.  Yet if the parents tried to say "well we offered him the chance to go to catechism classes" they will still be held accountable.  They were the child's primary educators.  They can't pass the buck off to someone else.  That this child failed to receive an education would not be a failure of Father's priesthood.  It would however be a failure of the parents in excercising their authority properly.

And Catholic parents who choose to home-school when there is a Catholic school available at least implicitly send the message that they do not trust the Church to educate their children properly, and the children get that message.

When I hear this statement, I am reminded of the rather blunt assesment Archbishop Fulton Sheen gave towards Catholic schools during his time.  He stated that if a child wished to learn the faith, they were better off in a public school.  At least they could fight to get faith, rather than be given modernism under the appearance of faith.  Does Father Stravinskas think Archbishop Sheen was disobeying what the Church said?  It is a simple fact that in many Catholic schools today in America, Catholicism is the last thing you will find.  Nowadays, many of the teachers are laymen, not priests/religious.  This is not neccessarily a bad thing, but it must also be kept in mind.  Sometimes, they aren't even Catholic.  They act in contravention of Church teaching in the classroom. 

What Father Stravinskas sees is a reaction to a situation.  Fix the situation, do not shoot the messenger.  If you want Catholic schools to flourish, work towards re-affirming their Catholic identity, and ensure they teach the Catholic and Apostolic Faith without regret.  One could also do well towards addressing some practical concerns.

If we remember the Baltimore Synod, they wanted Catholic education to be free.  Today, education can cost even in "average" Catholic schools at $6,500 a student, per year.  Let us say you are a family with four children, paying a mortage on a house.  Between those four children, you will be spending at least $26,000 a year on Catholic schools.  Good luck trying to accomplish that if you are middle class, or if the wife is a stay at home mother.  If you have more children, this only becomes more prohibitive.  In a rather perverse incentive, smaller family sizes are encouraged if Father Stravinskas' dictums are to be held.  What about those families blessed to have 8 or 9 children?  The days where most of the instructors were religious members (which helped mitigate cost somewhat) are gone.  Combine that with a weakened economy, and Catholic schooling nowadays becomes unaffordable for those with large families.  How much tuition assistance is Father Stravinskas urging Catholic schools to provide to these kind of people?

While these previous statements were bad enough, they pale in comparison to what he says next:

That leads to a subtle anti-clericalism, he said, because the children learn that priests cannot be counted on to hand on the faith. It shows in what he sees as a dearth of vocations from home-school families. “Why would you want to join the club if its members can’t be trusted to their jobs?” he said.

The "anti-clericalism" is so subtle, it only exists in the mind of Father Stravinskas.  He "sees" a dearth of vocations in his own mind, not reality.  He cites no evidence for this, because there is none.  OSV tried to carry the water for him when one of their members posted the following in the comments section:

For those who wondered about the connection between home schooling and vocations to the priesthood -- interesting question!

I did some digging on the U.S. bishops' website, and found this statistic for all priests being ordained in 2011:
Only 4 percent of ordinands (5 percent of diocesan and no religious ordinands) report being home schooled at some time in their educational background. Among those who were home schooled, the average length of time they were home-schooled was six years

For the full report, go here:
When one goes to the report, it doesn't say what they want it to say.  Nowhere does it say that homeschooling leads to less vocations.  It simply says that out of those in the seminaries, 4% are homeschooled.  What is the percentage of Catholics homeschooled at large?  What is the percentage of those who go towards Catholic schooling (out of all those educated) who go onto the seminary?  The report doesn't say, because it isn't interested in that.  The report simply analyzed the backgrounds of those priestly candidates.

One also needs to keep something of context in mind.  The home-schooling boom is rather recent; only within the last 10-15 years has it really taken off.  To see such a small number would not be surprising.  As homeschooling continues to grow, it is only natural you will see ordinations continue to grow.

There may indeed be evidence that homeschooling leads to a lack of vocations.  OSV doesn't even try to provide it.  They simply state it, and expect their audience to believe it, based on the authority of Father Stravinskas.

In the end, that's the problem.  Father Stravinskas is setting himself up as the Magesterium.  His personal opinions are ultimately irrelevant, as are mine.  We have a Church who decides.  What Father Stravinaskas says and the Magsterium says are two different things.  Catholic parochial schools can be a very good thing.  Yet they are one option amongst many a parent can use in educating their child.

If one would want to report on a real problem, I have one for OSV.  Why is Father Stravinskas not being pastoral in trying to outline a variety of resources to help Catholic families fulfill their obligations under Divine and Church law?  Why is he instead trying to force everyone to adopt his personal opinions?  Perhaps Ms. Martin can get on that for us.

Friday, June 3, 2011

The God who does Big Things

While Ezekiel was preaching his message amongst the exiles in Babylon, his contemporary Jeremiah was giving a similar message in Jerusalem itself.  He condemned their idolatry, prophesied the coming destruction of Jerusalem, but also prophesied about Israel's future restoration.  During that prophesy he says something that, thousands of years later, still says much about our relationship with God.

Therefore behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when it shall no longer be said, 'As the LORD lives who brought up the sons of Israel out of the land of Egypt', but 'As the LORD lives who brought up the sons of Israel out of the north country and out of all the countries where he had driven them.'
We can all recount the great things God did throughout salvation history.  Do we spend much time reflecting on what he is currently doing and will do?  Do we ask Him for something beyond fame and good looks?  Jeremiah sees the time when that statement will be something done in the present.  The Jews of that time would no longer have to look back to Egypt to see God's deliverance.

Furthermore, the action God undertakes is not something small.  This isn't the God who helps me find a temporary job.  It is the God who cleanses me of sin to allow me to live out my lifelong job.  Do we view God as the God who delivers from promiscuity?  Do we speak of "As the Lord lives who delivers America from Roe vs. Wade?"  Does the traditionalist say "As the Lord lives who protected His integrity in the liturgy?"

All of these things seem far-fetched, but we are supposed to pray for precisely these kind of things.  God is not limited towards acting in the trivial and mundane.  It was precisely this attitude that led the sons of Israel to the other countries to begin with.  If God provided anything, it wasn't something that important.  The gods of the world provided far more immediate benefits.  He may have acted in the past, but times are different nowadays.

This isn't blind optimism.  It is central to our identity as Christians.  Through the Incarnation, Jesus Christ became man and accomplished the biggest deal of all.  He did not just save His people.  He did not just restore His people to what they were originally meant to be.  Such would make him no different than the great secular leaders of history, and perhaps even lesser.  No, the biggest deal of all was through His sacrifice (the entire purpose of the Incarnation), man is given all these things, and an eternal reigning in heaven with Christ.  No religion promises that.  No secular ideology promises that.  Indeed, the very notion of it can sound absurd. 

Yet the notion is no more absurd than a few thousand exiles being freed from the strongest power in the world, sent back to their homeland under their own governance, and free to rebuild their destroyed temple.  Yet we know that happened.  No more absurd than the idea that Christ, who lived and walked physically on earth, ascended into heaven, and now rules all creation, inviting us to share in His rule.  Yet we know that happened, and still happens today.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Why the Incarnation Matters: The Restoration Begins

With the Book of Ezekiel, this commentary enters into a new stage, juast as salvation history entered a new stage with Ezekiel.  He begins what could be called the literature of the Exile.  He was amongst the first wave of the Kingdom of Judah exiled to Babylon.  To understand why this is important, we need to reflect on who Ezekiel is.

We know that the prophet Ezekiel was a priest, from an upper class family of priests.  His job was to offer sacrifice.  For sacrifice to occur, it was to be connected with the temple worship.  Yet being in exile, he is deprived of that temple worship.  Indeed, the temple (along with the entire city) is sacked, fulfilling Ezekiel's prophesy.

In addition to this, he is in a foreign land.  He is essentially cut off from his vocation, his people, and his culture.  During his prophetic ministry, he would suffer constant ailments and sicknesses, as well as the loss of his wife.  Yet it was through these deprivations that Ezekiel came to understand the coming restoration, of which the heavenly temple symbolizes.  He experiences the first signs of that restoration in a rather curious incident.

He describes four figures who appeared as beasts yet also men.  These creatures are shown worshipping Yahweh.  To the prophet, this vision would have been unmistakable.  The four creatures represented the Assyrian karibu, the figures in statues portrayed guarding the royal palace.  By showing them worshipping Yahweh, God is trying to communicate to His people that He is not limited to Jerusalem, an error the people frequently made throughout history.  (One need only remember David's anguish over God not having a house of brick and mortar to dwell in.)

Yet there is something far more important towards this image.  Being the karibu, these things would be pagan.  They would be viewed as something to seperate from.  Yet by this act, they are losing their "profane" character.   The Incarnation is seen through this passage, where that which once rebelled against God now enters into God's service.  Foremost amongst this is human flesh.  Ever since the days of Eden, mankind had been in a state of rebellion against God.  In the Incarnation, Jesus takes on human flesh and serves the Father instead of rebelling against Him.

This imagery is also a recognition of God's supremacy.  If even the things of this world can be pressed into His service, what can thrwart his plans?  This is key to the understanding of the entire book.  In this book, Ezekiel makes some very bold predicitons in his claiming to speak for God.  Certainly this image helped cement in Ezekiel's mind what was to be.  These statues represented the regal authority of the King, and the strongest power in their known earth.  And yet even they act according to His divine plan.  Keep this in mind for later installments.

Friday, May 20, 2011

The Return of Friday Abstinence

As many are aware, the Bishops of England and Wales have re-instituted abstaining from meat on Fridays.  Many are also celebrating this.  My intent here is not so much to focus on that particular decision (love it!) but to relate a story.

During a homily several years ago, a local retired priest talked about the changes after Vatican II.  In his mind, all of those traditions before the council such as abstaining from meat on Fridays were a great thing.  Yet he thought it was terrible the Church has laws for such.  In his mind, the spirit of Vatican II was to renew the Church so people would no longer need to be told to fast, they would fast out of the willingness of their heart, and he encouraged us to do the same.

I remember reacting to the homily the same way I react to a Christopher West talk:  Equal parts inspiration and revulsion, normally at the same moment.  Such a view is utterly Pelagian.  The Pelagian heresey (in a nutshell) denied original sin and its effects.  Whether it be through discipline or just intellectual belief, man could eventually re-order his life without divine grace.  He was strong enough to do it on his own, he needed no outside force to conform him.

The Scriptures tell a far different story.  Even a just man like St. Paul proclaims for the good which I will, I do not; but the evil which I will not, that I do.  This is called concupisence.    As a result of original sin, there exists not only a tendency towards sin, but a tendency towards laziness.  We know we should do something.  Yet advancing in virtue is such hard work!  Why not just stay where we are?

In a world unaffected by original sin, there would be no need for any law, civil or religious.  Though James Madison wasn't Catholic, he was absolutely right when he stated that if men were angels, government would be unneccessary.  This applies just as much in the ecclesial realm.  There are indeed some who choose to do something simply out of a desire to do right.  Yet very rarely wil they make that choice consistently throughout their entire life.

As one who has gone now 7 years abstaining from meat on Friday, at times it can be harder than you think.  You do have to re-align your eating choices.  You may have to change where you go out to eat.  If a friend cooks for you, they may have to take that into consideration.  That involves a lot of work.  I might not be bound by a Church law to abstain from meat, though you are required to give up something. 

These kind of laws server ultimately as guides.  They remind people of penance, and our neccessity to perform penance. They encourage a cultural identity and unity amongst Catholics in a common goal.  Without such "laws", chaos reigns.

One could consider it a "law" that when you pray the Hail Mary, you say the words of the prayer as people understand them.  Can you imagine people gathering together in prayer for the Hail Mary and just making up the words as they go along?  Would anyone be able to pray in such a setting?  Yet the Hail Mary imposes on us certain words and phrases, which contain certain teachings.  In reciting them, we call them to our mind, and reflect upon those teachings.  Likewise with a "law" of fasting and abstinence:  eventually, we should be pondering why the Church is having us to do this, reading her justifications for it.  Through that act, we begin to ponder how this is related to our own holiness and the Gospel.

In public worship, we have rubrics that are followed in the liturgy.  Knowing what the liturgy contains, we are able to dive deeper into contemplating said worship and entering into it.  You can't enter into something you don't know about, at least not without great struggle.

This was the so called "Spirit of the Council" in a nutshell.  That it had nothing to do with the actual documents is for the moment irrelevant.  Thanks to an inflated sense of self-worth, far too many in positions of authority felt that everyone was good and holy enough to do the right thing on their own.  Their faithful were better than St. Paul.  We saw how that worked out.

I welcome reality beginning to reassert itself in the Church.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

On Praise and Worship Music: A Letter to Kevin Symonds


The following is a letter I wrote to my old friend Kevin Symonds about his article at Catholic Lane.  Mr. Symonds has been an old friend and colleague.  Indeed, he is the first of my writing colleagues.  We began work together back when I was a fresh 17 year old convert.  I think his article is certainly worth reading, as he makes some neccessary points about why some music is unsuitable for Mass. 


Allow me to offer a slightly different yet I would argue complimentary view towards your latest column on rock music. For the purposes of argument, you divided between the “sacred” and the “profane.” This is a fine distinction, and a necessary one.

But as you can guess, I think the distinction needs to be made further. As much as I might not like it, a lot of your praise and worship is “sacred” music. It is, in a certain sense, “set apart” from the world and does its best to glorify God. It can easily join the wide patrimony of worship music that has Biblical precedent.

Some of the Psalms were solemnly prayed. Others were sung in a way that could be said to be the predecessor of chanting. Still others were played with a very loud and vibrant atmosphere. Trumpets, flutes, percussion, you name it, they utilized it. So when charismatics and others say that the Church needs to have a wider exposure to music outside of just Gregorian Chant/polyphony, they have a point.

Yet it is a point that is easily countered, and I think here is where we reach the crux of the matter. The issue isn’t really with “sacred versus profane” but “sacred versus liturgical.” Let us return to our examples from the Psalms. Some Psalms were of great jubilation. Yet others were of an equally great contrition. Foremost of the latter were the so called “Penitential Psalms.” While the classification was a later invention, we do know for a fact that certain Psalms were prayed only during certain settings. The sacrifice for sin had different Psalms than other sacrifices.

We should view that as instructive to our current controversy. One of the reasons (other than those you mention in your article) the Church has chosen such music like Gregorian chant is its inherent simplicity. One need not be a musical genius to do plainchant. Yet we have also had certain times during out liturgical history where music crept in that was beautiful, but not suitable for Mass. You do not hear Mozart’s Requiem when you go to a Requiem Mass, because Requiem was made for the orchestral hall, not the parish. Yet sometimes, people tried bringing this kind of music into the everyday life of the Mass. As a result, the Sacrifice of the Altar was obscured by everything else that was going on. As then Cardinal Ratzinger stated about this phenomena:

During the nineteenth century, the century of self-emancipating subjectivity, this led in many places to the obscuring of the sacred by the operatic. The dangers that had forced the Council of Trent to intervene were back again. In similar fashion, Pope Pius X tried to remove the operatic element from the liturgy and declared Gregorian chant and the great polyphony of the age of the Catholic Reformation (of which Palestrina was the outstanding representative) to be the standard for liturgical music. A clear distinction was made between liturgical music and religious music in general, just as visual art in the liturgy has to conform to different standards from those employed in religious art in general. (Spirit of the Liturgy, p. 148)
It is for these reasons I have always wanted to push greater exposure to praise and worship music, provided it stays outside of the Sacrifice of the Mass. Yet in order to do that, we need to ask ourselves a question: what is the point of liturgical music?

You touched on this a bit in your article. Yet I think most importantly, we must emphasize that true liturgical music draws attention to the altar and what is going on. The role of liturgical music is ultimately that of a supporting role, not a role of primacy. Does a loud and raucous “praise and worship” style of music do this? Or is the attention not on the artists themselves?

Have you ever noticed, from a musical standpoint (or vocal one), how “difficult” modern music can be? What is simpler to sing? Plainchant or Marty Haugen music? If you look at it structurally, it is the former. The simplicity of Gregorian Chant allows people to sing, but with a purpose of still focusing on the altar. Their music is a piece of the sacrifice, but not the sacrifice itself.

So I think you’ve hit on a fascinating question. Yet in order for you to give it the best answer, I think you need to go back even further than I had suggested. Before we can ask ourselves “what is the point of liturgical music”, we must ask ourselves, what is the point of worship? I think the answer would surprise and enlighten your audience.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Let us Boast

"Just Remember:  The Holy Spirit is Still in Control?"

Let me be honest and say what I'm sure some are thinking:  I hate when people say that!  It ranks right up there with "At least you still have your health!"  When I say I hate it, I do not deny the statement is true.  I hate it because the person saying it is saying something utterly meaningless.

When I look at a liturgy full of abuses, I do not see the Holy Spirit at work and in control.  When I see a men in respected Catholic circles treating the liturgy is one gigantic rock concert, I am not confident of the Holy Spirit's control.  If this devastated vineyard is the best the Holy Spirit can do, why are we Catholic again?

Then I remember my sense of the Scriptures and Church History.  I remember why the Holy Spirit is in control of the Church.  Most importantly, I remember that still voice "Kevin, in order to be happy you must boast..... in the Lord."

Somehow we took the statement "let he who boasts, boast in the Lord" as "we should never boast period."  When St. Paul used to write to various churches, he would boast of the fidelity he has encountered amongst other Christians, as a way of trying to make his audience even more faithful.  The Psalmist states that his soul will boast to the LORD, and the humble will hear and be glad.

When we boast in the Lord, we boast that He is not a "god that sleepeth", as Elijah said in mocking the priests of Baal.  Our God is an active one, who will not only defend Himself, but defend those who place their trust in Him.

So with this in mind, allow me to recount a story.  I know a rather liberal parish near me.  So liberal are they, it becomes a shock when they actually follow the rubrics.  One time I assisted at Mass there, and we came to the final procession.  The priest and two servers looked towards the tabernacle, and nodded their heads .0000000005% of a degree.  That was their reverencing Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament.  No genuflection, not even a deep bow.  Heck, not even a slight bow!  When one sees things like this, it can be tough to remember that "The Holy Spirit is in control."

Then I saw another server, a young boy, probably only eight years old, or even younger.  He lowered his head, and then dropped to one knee and stayed there, then slowly pulled himself back up.  People were confused.  Yet he did what he was supposed to do.  Other times I see young altar servers going to say a prayer before the Blessed Sacrament after Mass before leaving.  I realize these are our future priests.  I hear the voice of God saying "remember those 7,000 who wouldn't bow the knee to the Baals in the form of a banal man centered religion?  You are lookin' at em."  At that point do I realize the Holy Spirit is in control.

When I see seminaries doing everything they can to make sure their future priests know nothing of the Extraordinary Form (directly contrary to the Pope's wishes), I find it tough to remember the Holy Spirit is in control.  Then I notice seminarians are learning the Extraordinary Form anyway through a variety of sources.  This immeasurable treasure of the Church will not be destroyed by man's ineptitude.  At that point do I realize the Holy Spirit is in control.

When I see the churches closing around me, I find it tough to remember the Holy Spirit is in control.  Then I realize those churches that are flourishing are those which emphasize Catholic identity, and they are full of young people.  These young people are in the process of having quite large families.  If even one-third of them persist in the faith and pass it down to their children and grandchildren, the liberals are screwed.  I remember that in times of total apostasy, Israel was pulled back from the brink by one man named Elijah.  He restored the Church of his day by himself against several thousand priests.  At that point do I realize the Holy Spirit is in control.

Even when I see Benedict XVI, a pope whom I love, my first thought is not "the Holy Spirit is in control."  Benedict is but one man, whom soon in the span of history (though not too soon!) will return to the Earth.  What one man does, another can easily undo.  Yet I look at the man he has made Cardinals like Cardinal Ranjith.  I look at men like Cardinal Llovera, who runs the Congregation for Divine Worship.  These men are "young" (in Church-speak) Cardinals whose influence on the future Church will last decades.  When I see the long term layout like that, at that point do I realize the Holy Spirit is in control.

Any deity can make a perfect world through sheer force of will.  Only God can tell those unleashing havoc that their time is numbered, for soon they will be replaced.  Why?

Because the Holy Spirit truly is in control.

Universae Ecclesiae and the Seminary

In paragraph 21, the Instruction Universae Ecclesiae says the following:

Ordinaries are asked to offer their clergy the possibility of acquiring adequate preparation for celebrations in the forma extraordinaria. This applies also to Seminaries, where future priests should be given proper formation, including study of Latin and, where pastoral needs suggest it, the opportunity to learn the forma extraordinaria of the Roman Rite.

If there is one letdown for traditionalists in the document, it is right here.  The simple truth is that for far too many seminarians, to be a traditionalist is to be one in secret.  Some seminaries people to local Extraordinary Form Masses to see if any seminarians are going to them.  While those seminarians aren't retaliated against officially, they will be monitored more closely, talked to more frequently, and extra pressure will be placed to get them away from that Mass.  Of course, it also goes without saying that the seminary will supply no training whatsoever for these future priests on learning that Mass.

Now if Fr. Z's exegesis of the Latin is to be believed (and being Fr. Z, it is), the vernacular translation of this paragraph is just downright awful.

Yet here is my question for everyone to ponder:  Do you want these same liberal seminaries who have done their best to smother the Extraordinary Form out of existence to instruct people on how to say that Mass?  The only real solution of this is to trust the power of demography to replace all these people who are setting themselves up in opposition to the Holy Father's wishes.  Yet what can be done short-term?

Friday, May 13, 2011

Universae Ecclesiae and You

Today the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei released the Instruction Universae Ecclesiae.  (Fr. Z has the text here  In layman's terms, it is an instruction about how Pope Benedict's Summorum Pontificium should be understood and applied.  What follows will be a few brief thoughts on it.

1.)  Not much really changes with this document in my neck of the woods where the Extraordinary Form is concerned.  I know of two churches by me that offer the EF more than once a week, and another that offers the EF at least once a month if not more, all within 35 miles of my apartment.  For those who aren't spoiled rotten like this humble journalist, hopefully things will get better.

2.)  The document reminds people that the motu proprio wasn't made just to placate a bunch of nostalgic curmudgeons.  The Pope wanted to liberalize the Extraordinary Form because he felt it would be a great grace for the faithful, all the faithful.  There have been some who were under the mistaken idea that since they didn't have an "SSPX problem", they didn't need to worry.  The Instruction says otherwise.

3.)  The "stable group" asking for the Extraordinary Form is not clarified by what it must be, but that it need not be certain things.  It need not be people from the home parish.  It need not be a sizable congregation.  It need not be, etc etc.  Furthermore, what constitutes a "qualified" priest is given.  In short, do you have a remedial understanding of Latin that gives you the ability to pronounce the Mass and understand what is being said?  Have you celebrated it before?  Congratulations, you are qualified!

4.)  For awhile, people have been under the mistaken understanding Bishops could still prohibit priests in good standing from celebrating the Extraordinary Form.  The Instruction says otherwise.  Any decision regarding these manners is made by the Commission Ecclesia Dei.  To the extent a Bishop has a role, they should help facilitate the decisions from the Commission.  This gives a nice reminder that while a Bishop has considerable local autonomy, he does not have such autonomy over the liturgy.  If Rome has said that priests are free to celebrate the Extraordinary Form, and that it should be made as available to the faithful as possible, then Roma locuta est. 

5.)  Now onto the things I find interesting.  First, the Motu Proprio constitutes an "important expression of the Magesterium of the Roman Pontiff."  There are those who falsely believed that what Benedict was doing was simply disciplinary.  This really isn't so.  If we remember, the point of the Motu Proprio was to emphasize that:

What was sacred for prior generations, remains sacred and great for us as well, and cannot be suddenly prohibited altogether or even judged harmful
The Council of Trent makes perfectly clear that when dealing with liturgical manners, doctrine is so intertwined, the issue of infallibility is certainly at play.  While the Motu Proprio was far from an infallible statement, in matters regarding the liturgy, this is clearly more than just a simple prudential statement.

6.)  Ironically enough, the Instruction puts to rest what used to be a "hot topic" amongst traditionalists:  the status of the Extraordinary Form.  Was it suppressed?  The Instruction says no.  It states:
The Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificium was accompanied by a letter from the Holy Father to Bishops, with the same date as the Motu Proprio (7 July 2007). This letter gave further explanations regarding the appropriateness and the need for the Motu Proprio; it was a matter of overcoming a lacuna by providing new norms for the use of the Roman Liturgy of 1962. Such norms were needed particularly on account of the fact that, when the new Missal had been introduced under Pope Paul VI, it had not seemed necessary to issue guidelines regulating the use of the 1962 Liturgy.
I argued precisely this almost 7 years ago against a certain traditionalist back when I ran the weblog Restore the Church.  It was this position that was part of me "selling out" and "moderating" my beliefs.  Simply put, Paul VI didn't abolish the Extraordinary Form.  Quite frankly, it is an open question if a Pope has the authority to abolish as forbidden something with over a millenia of usage in the liturgical tradition of the Church. (Being the principal form of worship in the Roman Rite to boot.)  Paul VI and those behind the Ordinary Form could not conceive that people would be less than thrilled with the final product, and of all the abuses that crept in.   Since this situation happened, the church had to address how the aspirations of these faithful Catholics should be met.

7.)  After having received the approval from the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei will have the task of looking after future editions of liturgical texts pertaining to the forma extraordinaria of the Roman Rite. 

While the first instinct of the traditionalist is going to be a little leery of this statement, this really shouldn't be a surprise.  The Extraordinary Form is not meant to be a "dead" liturgy.  There have been saints since the 1962 calendar was put into place, and there could be other small reforms such as the additions of prefaces, etc.  If this happens, let us just hope those in authority learned their lesson about organic reform this time.

8.)  In paragraph 28, we are told that if there was something which is on the liturgical books that conflicts with the books in 1962, we can't use those practices in our celebration of the Extraordinary Form.  Not shocking at all.  Most of us don't want thousands of "eucharistic ministers", altar girls, Evita style cantors from the lectionary, etc, at our Mass.  The Instruction simply makes sure we won't.

There are a few other things I left out (such as permission for the vernacular to be used during the readings at Low Mass), so go read the document for yourselves.  In a future post, I'd like to focus on the issue of seminaries, and what to do from here on out.  As always, Fr. Z gets it basically right.