Sunday, March 31, 2013

Traditionalists, the Mandatum, and the Way Forward

Various thoughts on Pope Francis "disregarding" (In the words of the Vatican's spokesman) the liturgical laws on Holy Thursday:

Anyone who spent their Good Friday screaming on comboxes or whining about how the liturgical reform is dead, yup, shame on you all.  Instead of reflecting on our Lord's death, how our personal sins led to him being nailed to the cross, you were whining about the perceived shortcomings of others, just as Adam did Eve.  There was a time and place for all of this stuff.  The Triduum (especially Good Friday) was not that freaking place or time.

That being said, there's nothing wrong with a little bit of discomfort.  We are already seeing it, as priests took the advantage to tell their congregation "Benedict only washed the feet of priests, whereas Francis does for the poor, which is far better."  Others are openly flouting liturgical laws, and claiming the Pope as their model.  That one can easily defend this from a theological standpoint doesn't change the fact that there is unnecessary confusion in Catholic circles.  If you think some of those traditionalists need to shut up and grow up, you are probably right.  Just as the one making that accusation probably needs to shut up and grow up from whatever spiritual flaw they have.  There's nothing cheaper than the "pox on both houses" shtick, but in this case, it does hold.  Some traditionalists really couldn't wait to bash the Pope, and others couldn't wait to bash the bashers.

I'm going to ignore the whole debate of whether the Pope does or doesn't have the authority to do what he just did.  Men who are real canonists (such as Dr. Edward Peters and Pete Vere, JCL) are of the opinion that the Pope probably isn't bound at least from a canonical standpoint, whereas from a prudential standpoint, Dr. Peters shares his misgivings.  Let's just say in theory the Pope is bound canonically, and he has flagrantly violated liturgical laws which every priest is bound to uphold.  Traditionalists hate when someone says "are you going to put the Pope on trial?"  You can hate it, but they have a point.  There's really precious little that can be done.  Maybe people think that by typing on some blog they can start a public grassroots outcry to have the Pope change his mind.  Remember, they also think this Pope is the outright enemy of tradition, who goes out of his way to spit in the face of traditionalists.  I don't think the Pope is that in the slightest.  Yet I do think everyone needs to ask themselves before saying anything in public:  what's your endgame?  What do you hope to accomplish, other than letting off steam?  Far better to blow off steam at the gym, an adoration chapel, or a video game, preferably a first person shooter.

The Internet SSPX'ers have an endgame, and that's to fill their chapels.  They are the ones most giddy about the Pope "disregarding" liturgical disciplines the SSPX claims to love.  That should tell you all you need to know about their Internet trolls.

Now that out of the way, my thoughts.  I can understand the symbolism the Pope wished to convey.  I don't think he meant anything ill by what he did.  Yet I think that in the end, this style of governance is going to cause more harm than good.  While we do need to focus on evangelizing and going outward, there will be a time the Church needs to focus inward.  All reforms start from within. All great reform movements start with humble obedience to laws, even ones you don't care for.  So even if one has the authority to disregard those laws, it normally doesn't do any good unless there is a real special circumstance.  How are we going to get a lot of liberal prelates and the Curia to be obedient in carrying out reforms when the rules are set aside constantly at the top.  Now people will respond "But Kevin, this was a one time thing!"  Indeed it has been, and let's hope it doesn't become too common.

Answering my own question above, what's my endgame here?  My endgame is a lot smaller.  We believe that this method of governance leads to more problems than it will solve.  Yet there's also little we can do about it, other than what we should already be doing:  Get to Confession.  Live holy lives, and draw more people to the traditionalist movement.  This move caused a lot more controversy than Rome anticipated.  (When the Vatican spokesman has to come out and speak during Good Friday about why this happened, there were more people concerned than a few angry Internet traditionalists.)  There will be a lot of good Catholics and priests who don't like this, and they can be informed that here in the Extraordinary Form, all these issues are moot.  Fr. Z was right, this is an opportunity.

It would be nice if the Internet would tone down their snark and rhetoric, but this being the Internet, that's not likely to happen.  We aren't going to take advantage of that opportunity if our logical allies and converts to the cause see us as bitter and angry.  The traditionalist movement flourished over the past 5 years in the Church because people saw as happy warriors in the fight for holiness.  We've got the motu proprio now, and we've got a lot more organization.  Time to make use of it.

The Meaning of Easter (From the Vault)

For reasons that escape me, this is still the most popular article on the blog, and even two years later, more people have viewed it than any of the new stuff.  A perfect example of the way God works.  What you think was subpar he uses for great benefit.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Why the Pope Did What He Did.....

Oh wait, it's Good Friday.  You mean we should be focusing on our own sins, and how they led Christ to die on the Cross, rather than about this or that today?  I've got my thoughts on the matter.  And I think several won't like what I have to say.  Yet do we really need to be talking about this on Good Friday of all things people?  There's nothing better for us to focus on?  And with that in mind, I'm off til Monday.  So after calling you a bunch of brats and spoiled children, have a blessed Easter.  Will show up only to repost "The Meaning of Easter" that I did a few years back.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Spiritual Worldliness: Pope Francis' Challenge to the Conclave

A few thoughts on then Cardinal Bregoglio's words to the Conclave:

1.) This is how Benedict got elected Pope. Give a speech that is a tour de force and make it impossible to elect anyone but him.  That someone asked him to write those words down basically told you what way the wind was blowing after that speech.  He was Pope before the First ballot was cast.

2.) For Benedict, it was the filth in the priesthood, and the tendency for Catholics to worship themselves instead of Christ. For Pope Francis, it is the tendency of Catholics to think they are better than they are, and attempt to give our own light (which is nothing), instead of Christ. On this issue at least there is full continuity.

3.) As Pope Benedict made a point to give lengthy lessons towards the world about the Church Fathers in his homilies. (These were compiled into three books) Pope Francis brings out two very ancient references that most have no clue about: That the Church of Rome "Presides in Charity" (St. Ignatius of Antioch to the Romans) over the Church, and the "mysterium lunae" to describe how we are to live our lives as Christians.

This gives further evidence that those expecting radical change one way or the other are probably (emphasis on probably!) reading the situation wrong.  We might not get as much attention to our priorities as we want, but there won't be massive change.  

Finally, also good words for traditionalists to hear.  We've had the explosive growth of the last 5-6 years in the Church (since the Motu Proprio) precisely because we've shown how the Latin Mass and a traditionally minded spirituality provides not the weak and puny light of ourselves (which many perceived), but rather the light of Christ.  Now we just have to continue doing this.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Understanding Tradition

Since we have been on a bit of a back to basics trip lately, I think it's time to examine the proper way to look at tradition.

First, we need to understand the Biblical Concept of Tradition.  In the Bible, St. Paul commends the Thessalonians for adhering to the paradosis they have received, whether by word or letter.  (2 Thess 2:15)  In English, we know that as the word tradition.  Now in the Greek,  paradosis was simply that which was handed down.  So when we speak of tradition, we speak of that (in whatever venue) was handed down throughout the ages in the Church.

The confusion comes from the fact that, like the phrase salvation, tradition can have several different meanings, all compatible with each other.  First and foremost, there is that which is called Apostolic Tradition, which we normally know as Tradition with a capital T.  This comes from either the Bible or the Oral Teaching of Christ & The Apostles, handed down throughout the generations to the present, which is safeguarded by the Holy Ghost so that people can always learn God's truth.  Such a teaching based on Tradition would be that the Mass is a propitiatory sacrifice where the timeless Sacrifice of the Cross is made present in time to the Christian, or that there are Seven Sacraments.  These are directly matters of revelation, as well as of faith and morals which can be traced throughout history.  As such, they cannot under any circumstances be changed.  Baptism will never cease to be a Sacrament, and the Mass will never be just a communal praise & worship service, women will never be ordained priests, etc.

Another form of tradition is that which we ecclesiastical tradition.  This is tradition not neccessarily handed down from the Apostles, but which is meant to support the truths of the Christian faith.  Such examples would be the rites of the liturgy and the sacraments outside of the essentials.  These make Apostolic Tradition clearer and relevant to the Christian.  Since they are meant to communicate timeless truths to an audience in time, these can change.  Yet organized religion worshipping Yahweh is at least 5,000 years old, and these traditions have developed in just about every circumstance conceivable, and have developed organically over these millenia.  So while they can be changed, you really should have a good reason for doing them, and they should only be done through the highest of channels, lest disaster ensue.  (More on this later.)

There is finally a third instance in which tradition is used.  This refers mainly to local customs and practices which have developed over time.  These aren't universal, and more often than not they aren't even regional.  Some examples of this might be how fasting is applied in your area (which is a lot more diverse than you would think), certain devotional prayers after Mass communities have prayed, etc.  The same rules apply in ecclesiastical tradition, yet they are even more prone to change, and are frequently changed on the local level.

When properly understood, tradition is a lot less confusing than people make it out to be.  Yet based on these definitions, the perceptive reader can see ways in which today's modern audience (on all sides) really misunderstand what tradition is.  This is what we will be discussing in future posts, starting with a bit of in house cleaning:  how some traditionalists fail to properly understand tradition.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Making Christ the King Relevant

If you ask most Catholics today, they give you a blank stare when you talk about the idea of the Kingship of Christ.  Heck, talk to traditionalists and a timeless beautiful doctrine that touches everything from the individual to the role of governments becomes an apologia for early Middle Age monarchism anachronistically interpreted through a modern lens.  At most, the idea of the Kingship of Christ is presented as something simply done by governments.  We just need to wait, and one day the government will become Catholic and enact a confessional state, and all will be well.  Right.....

I think this understanding completely misses the point of Christ the King.  The Gospel makes it very clear "My Kingdom is not of this world."  While all nations should acknowledge Christ, we should be realistic in that most will not, especially as we draw closer and closer to Christ's return.

Given this reality, many modern minds simply relegate the idea of the Kingship of Christ as an eschatalogical hope, something we can simply hope for at the end of time.  Sadly, moving the Feast of Christ the King to the last Sunday of the liturgical year, and giving the readings entirely an eschatalogical feel reinforce this.

Yet the Kingship of Christ is something that is integral to the everyday life of the Christian.  While the ultimate goal is to have society acknowledge Christ, society starts with the individual and most importantly the family.

What we need to do is make sure our catechesis is mindful of this fact.  That Christ the King is not just the concept of nation states, or some eschatalogical incident at the end of time, but rather a concrete reality in this very moment.  We also need to understand that this Kingship is something we share in.  When parents order the home properly, they are participating in Christ's Kingship.  When we help convert people to moral truth in regards to matters of life, we are doing so as diplomats of Christ's Kingship.  This is how nations are conquered for Christ.  Yet even if we can't conquer America and plant the Holy Cross in the middle of DC, we can save our souls and the souls of others.

I might be wrong, but I really don't hear this kind of talk in a lot of areas where Christ the King is mentioned.

A Way Out on the Mandatum Debate

Dr. Ed Peters brings forth an idea that is simple, yet kinda brilliant:

May I suggest that discussion of this matter begin with what canon and liturgical law actually say (and don’t say) about the Mandatum rite, and that serious attention be given, if not this year then next, to eliminating this ill-conceived and merely optional rite from parish liturgies altogether and instead making it a powerful part of the bishop’s Chrism Mass?

Hmm.  I'm not too sure about the history of the mandatum, but there's something to be said here for this.  The rite is meant to symbolize Christ washing the feet of the Apostles, of the High Priest giving an example of service to the men he was about to ordain priests.  The Chrism Mass includes some very powerful symbolism of the unity between the Bishop of the diocese and his priests.  This would be a pretty Ignatian act of symbolism, and by Ignatian, I mean Ignatius of Antioch.  (Where the Bishop is, there is Christ.)

Considering that we traditionalists really don't have this problem with the Mandatum, I would of course be incredibly territorial and ask that we get to keep it.  Yet I gotta admit, I can't seem to rule out the attractiveness of this proposal, even though I'm trying to.

(via Fr. Z)

The Link Between Kingship and Baptism

Explored in my latest column at Catholic Lane today.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Parish Life Study Offers Some Good News

The Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) has released a fascinating study of the parish life of American Catholics. Some things I took away from it:

1.) There were those of the more liberal bent who claimed that bringing the Novus Ordo more in line with traditional liturgical understandings (reforming the translations, more Latin, etc) would lead to people leaving parishes, especially the young.  This study doesn't see any evidence of this.  An overwhelming majority of individuals state that their parish has changed a lot over the last five years, and only 20% strongly believe it has changed for the worse.

2.)  The generational gap is real, and it bodes very well for those of the more conservative/traditional bent.  Millenials (those of my generation) are more likely than anyone else to be incredibly selective in the parish they choose.  We are frequently told that the young generation doesn't care for reverence, traditional liturgies, doctrinal orthodoxy, etc.  The numbers tell a different story.

Millenials are far more likely (as opposed to the general parish population) to:

  • 2a.)  Be attracted to the beauty of the Church (61% to 52%)  Paradoxically, they are less likely to enjoy the overall quality of the liturgy they attend.  Or perhaps they are less likely to enjoy banal liturgies?

  • 2b.)  They are more likely to place emphasis on educating their children in the faith (56 to 47)

  • 2c.)  Are more likely to emphasize evangelization and spreading the Gospel than any other age demographic as of primary importance (the only demo to break 50%.)  They are also more likely to emphasize fidelity to Church teachings than any age demographic.

3.)  The generational gap also has some pretty curious things, namely that the newer generation is slowly but surely returning the Church towards the Pre-Vatican II days, at least according to Catholic identity.  The oldest demographic (Pre Vatican II) tends to have the strongest Catholic identity, followed by a decline in the Vatican II and Post Vatican II Generations (1943-1981), with millenials giving an increase, and sometimes sharply.

4.)  The Churches outreach to young catholics is, to quote the great philosopher Charles Barkley, turrible.    They rate RCIA programs far more negatively than anyone else, but are more likely to emphasize Church teaching.    They also don't care about the young adult programs.  These are specifically tailored to them, and they rate them favorably no more so than everyone else does. How about less life teen nonsense and more rock solid Catholicism?  Less Pizza fellowship night and more Bible Study?

Some of these differences are pretty subtle.  Yet across the demographic generations, the lines are pretty clear.  The young place a far higher importance on the quality of the liturgy, church architecture, robust defense of catholic teaching (especially marriage), and a renewed commitment to aggressive evangelization. 

What group does this describe?  If you said traditionalists, move to the head of the class.  In the traditionalist movement, there tends to be two big groups:  the elderly, and the millenial generation.  There are not that many from the Vatican II and Post Vatican II generations.

This is also why I reject the "this is 1968/1978 all over again" chant of some of my traditionalist brethren.  During those times, the demographics looked pretty grim for tradition.  The younger generation wanted to wreckovate and destroy a lot of tradition.  The priests coming out of the seminaries were almost uniformly hostile to robust Catholic identiy and traditionalism.  Today it is the opposite, and it seems with every year, the quality of our seminarians only increases.  If anything, I find it dangerously counterproductive, because it presents a reality which quite frankly does not exist.

The study is 120 pages, but full of fascinating data.  Certainly worth reading this, and anything CARA puts out.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Just Remember

It is only a "reset" to 1978 if you allow it to be a reset.


Being Faithful In Small Things

Note:  The impulse to be "simple" is all the rage with the election of Francis as the Bishop of Rome.  In a previous post I hinted at how it might do traditionalists good to play this game, and point out how a lot of what we bring to the table is rooted in that simplicity.  I'd like to start that today.

One of the frequent attacks against traditionalists has always been that we are scrupulous Pharisees, who try to make a camel pass through the eye of the needle.  (Mark 10:25)  While we get offended when we hear this, at times I think we should acknowledge it.  Sometimes traditionalists do make an idol out of liturgical discipline, and we are like the Pharisee in the temple.  We thank God that we have liturgical correctness, unlike those filthy modernists!  Concupiscence sucks.  We have a noble impulse, and sometimes we go overboard.   Everyone does this, and we aren't immune to that.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Time to Cancel My National Review Subscription

A shame.  Ramesh Ponnuru happens to be one of my favorite political writers.  Thankfully anything he and Reihan Salam write behind the paywall will eventually be available for public consumption.

Look, I get the whole giving writers a wide berth when writing about issues.  Yet Mr. Black admits he has no theological qualifications for discussing the contraception issue.  The editors of National Review are Catholics.  Kathryn Jean Lopez is even enjoying a push on the intellectual circut of American Catholicism lately.  (In fairness, she responds to Conrad Black's nonsense)  You would think the editor's would understand not to publish articles calling for open dissent from Catholic teaching, and how that could risk scandal.  Have Mr. Black go write on some other site who doesn't have an editorial board stacked with Catholics.

There's really no point in giving a critque of Mr. Black's writing.  It is long on words, little on actual arguments other than "the world hates us."

Pope Francis to Celebrate Holy Thursday Mass in Prison

Pope Francis continues to shake things up.

Fr. Z expresses worries that I think are a bit overblown.  On the technical matter, St. John Lateran is not yet "officially" the Pope's Cathedral, so he wouldn't celebrate Mass there.  Of course that could change, but meh, I can't find myself worked up about it.

The fear that the changes will be received in the wrong way is a real one.  A lot of Pope Paul VI's moves, while fully orthodox, were done without much thinking to the long game in view, and caused pain which is still be worked out almost 50 years later.  Yet forgive me for being a snide kid, but really?  He isn't changing clerical celibacy, introducing a new practice in the liturgy (let's hope not), etc.  He is choosing to instead celebrate Mass in a prison, providing the liturgy to the downtrodden.

I also agree with my good friend Diane (I have a feeling we will be discussing things like this a lot after Church socials!) that we should remember Holy Thursday is about the inauguration of the priesthood. and celebrate that fact.  Yet I'm not sure that the Holy Father celebrating Mass in a prison undermines this or sends a different message.  What does a priest do?  A priest offers sacrifice.  What does a Catholic priest of the order of Melchizedek do?  That priest offers the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.  One could celebrate the inauguration of the priesthood by immediately going out doing the work of the priest, in this case performing several corporal/spiritual works of mercy in visiting people in prison.  (Though I suppose if we were looking for symbolism, even better to do it on Holy Saturday, though I fear others not named Diane would engage in serious concern trolling then as well.)  Maybe the Holy Father could make this point specifically.

All this being said, there is one thing I worry about, and that is the washing of feet of women.  I understand why some people advocate doing this.  It isn't just washing the feet of the priests, but an act of service towards all.  As things currently stand, that just isn't what the rite is described as.  The rite is meant to be an act of solidarity between Christ and the priesthood, with lay men filling in when you don't have 12 extra priests whose feet one priest can wash.  People can argue if we should change it.  (I think we shouldn't.)  Yet in the end, things are what they currently are, and if the Pope does otherwise (as he had done in the past as a priest and bishop) it could only lead to further confusion.  Of course, the foot washing ceremony is completely optional, so maybe he will omit it.  (Though I doubt it.)

So if he does otherwise, am I going to like it?  No I won't.  It probably won't have too much of an impact on change if he does it.  Yet if one asks me, I hope he doesn't, because in the future, we very well could reach that point Fr. Z fears.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Concern Trolling Traditionalists

The Internet can be a very edifying realm where individuals exchange ideas and make things better.  It can also be a place of nothing but urine and vinegar, where egotists obsess about things said almost ten years ago as if they are fresh battles, and portray even the smallest of disagreements as lies and willful distortions of the highest order.  Everyone loves the former, and most (except those who thrive on urine and vinegar as a way to generate traffic or sometimes revenue) avoid the latter.  There's a lot of that going on in the latter, and I really have no interest in dealing with it, except to chuckle that with all the things that have changed in the past decade, a lot remains the same.

The trick is trying to figure out how to handle the things in between.  I like to do what I can to expand positive perceptions of the traditionalist movement.  During these endeavors, some good questions are asked.  Other times, it is just pure concern trolling sadly.

A classic example is when traditionalists are told not to use the moniker "traditionalist" because it implies that those who are outside those circles are somehow second class Catholics.  When I hear this, more often than not I'm dealing with a concern troll.  For the serious questioner, here is why it is concern trolling.

One of the under appreciated beauties of the Catholic Faith are the various movements and charisms that all lead to the same truth.  The faith has different spirituality's, approaches, gifts, all different ways of communicating the faith "once for all delivered unto the saints."  Yet while there are these differences, they aren't as profound as you think.  Dominicans tend to be big on preaching and scholarship.  Yet there are many great Franciscan scholars, or Benedictine preachers, and so on.

The same principle applies here with traditionalists.  There is no denying that traditionalists approach the liturgy in a certain way, with a certain emphasis that is different from others.  Our spirituality is centered on certain things, the language we use can be different, etc.  There's something about a traditionalist that makes him stand out.  That doesn't mean that they are superior in the faith to others.  Nobody approaches the Little Sisters of the Poor or the Sisters of Charity and says "hey, just because you claim to embody charity doesn't mean we aren't charitable!"  The Dominican Sisters of Mary in Ann Arbor a real puzzled look if you told them that "you know, there are those who love Our Lady outside your order!"

This is how the concern troll sounds when he says the same thing to traditionalists.  Nobody (or at least precious few people) say that you can't have reverence and a love for the liturgy unless you are 100% Extraordinary Form all the time.  In the end, we are judged on a few things.  Did we believe the Catholic Faith which comes to us from the Apostles?  Have we used the charisms and gifts we have so as to properly display faith, hope, and charity?  If so, then it doesn't matter what particular school you subscribe to, if any.

"But, but, but, buuuut Kevin!  Some mean people on the Internet in comboxes believe that if you aren't a traditionalist, you are a second class Catholic.  These .05% of traditionalists are a blight upon the entire movement, and until they are eradicated, nobody should ever listen to anything a traditionalist has to say!"  Again, enough with the concern trolling.  Internet comboxes are never the place for sanity and rational discourse.  Putting them on a Catholic website isn't going to change things.  Blame concupiscence.  Anyone who actually spends real time amongst traditionalists in our parishes, at their events, or even at dinner & drinks realizes the Internet minority is a nasty yet irrelevant crowd that most traditionalists aren't even aware of.  That's like this everywhere in all movements, and has been throughout history.  We haven't needed a Pope to come in between us and tell us to go to our respective corners like major religious orders have.  Yet those orders were still respected!

If you really want to offer advice to traditionalists about how they can better express themselves, we are always all ears.  Yet please, drop the concern trolling.

The Traditionalist Evangelization Project

When I was listening to EWTN radio a few days ago, they acknowledged something seemingly in passing that was stunning nonetheless.  Someone called in wondering if traditionalists had anything to worry about with Pope Francis and the Latin Mass.  The host gave various reasons for why he thinks traditionalists should not be worried (which I agreed with), before talking about how, even if he doesn't attend the Extraordinary Form, it impacts him.  He notes right a sizeable amount of workers at EWTN attend the Extraordinary Form, and countless priests/religious personalities involved with the network are also involved with the Extraordinary Form.

One decade ago, nobody would have predicted this.  Traditionalits were outcasts from mainstream Catholicism (especially in America), and some of the people lobbing bombs at faithful traditionalists did so while still being EWTN personalities.  While a fair amount of this was because of the motu proprio, a lot of the success has to do with individual traditionalists, not only looking to interact with the Church as a whole, but a creative attempt at winning allies to our side, and even making "converts" as it were.

As good as we have done, there's still a lot more to be done, as I think everyone can agree.  In short, we need to evangelize.  Not just in bringing in more people to attend the Latin Mass.  (Though the more the merrier!)  Even those who aren't traditionalists should be able to say they know who we are, how we go about things, etc.  There are a lot of answers the traditionalist movement can provide for the crisis as a whole, and many answers we have already provided.

Along with some of the liturgical stuff I mentioned earlier, these are some of the other things I'll be considering here at the blog.  Stay tuned.

New Column at Catholic Lane: Baptism and Prophecy

Contuining our discussion of the offices Christ has which Christians sharein baptism (priest, prophet, and King), we come upon that of being a prophet.  What does it mean to be a prophet in the Biblical sense.  How do Christians excercise the office of prophet on an everyday basis.  (Pro tip, we really should be.)  As always, comments are welcome.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Dear Traditionalists.....

Get to Rome in October!  If you can afford it, do it.  Worried that the Extraordinary Form will be taken away?  Then send a freakin message.  Pack as many of you as possible in the heart of the Vatican, and show the world a throng of obedient Catholics coming to worship as our fathers have.

If you can't afford it, then you better be praying nightly and do what you can to get others to go.

Pope Francis and St. Joseph

Leo XIII still says it better than anyone else, but I think there are a few things of importance to Catholics today that involve St. Joseph.

The Holy Father chose to have his inaurgural Mass today on the Feast of St. Joseph, and in a move perhaps seen as innovative, decided to celebrate the feast of St. Joseph, rather than the standard Mass that is celebrated upon the installation fo the Roman Pontiff.  No doubt some of my brethren will get irked at this.  I for one am okay with this, and I think it says a lot.

First, much has been made of the Pope's desire that the Church be "poor (in the sense of spiritual meekness and humility) and for the poor."  In choosing to highlight St. Joseph in this liturgy (and in placing a symbol of St. Joseph on his coat of arms), lovers of St. Joseph are reminded of, who else, Leo XIII:

It is, then, true that the condition of the lowly has nothing shameful in it, and the work of the laborer is not only not dishonoring, but can, if virtue be joined to it, be singularly ennobled. Joseph, content with his slight possessions, bore the trials consequent on a fortune so slender, with greatness of soul, in imitation of his Son, who having put on the form of a slave, being the Lord of life, subjected himself of his own free-will to the spoliation and loss of everything.   Through these considerations, the poor and those who live by the labor of their hands should be of good heart and learn to be just.
The second thing we can learn is who Pope Francis strives to be like.  Leo XIII again describes beautiful the role of Joseph:

You well understand, Venerable Brethren that these considerations are confirmed by the opinion held by a large number of the Fathers, to which the sacred liturgy gives its sanction, that the Joseph of ancient times, son of the patriarch Jacob, was the type of St. Joseph, and the former by his glory prefigured the greatness of the future guardian of the Holy Family. And in truth, beyond the fact that the same name -- a point the significance of which has never been denied -- was given to each, you well know the points of likeness that exist between them; namely, that the first Joseph won the favor and especial goodwill of his master, and that through Joseph's administration his household came to prosperity and wealth; that (still more important) he presided over the kingdom with great power, and, in a time when the harvests failed, he provided for all the needs of the Egyptians with so much wisdom that the King decreed to him the title "Savior of the world." Thus it is that We may prefigure the new in the old patriarch. And as the first caused the prosperity of his master's domestic interests and at the same time rendered great services to the whole kingdom, so the second, destined to be the guardian of the Christian religion, should be regarded as the protector and defender of the Church, which is truly the house of the Lord and the kingdom of God on earth.
  Just go ahead and read the whole thing already darn it!

Leo XIII On St. Joseph

Anything I could write on St. Joseph would be a waste of time considering what Leo XIII wrote on devotion to St. Joseph.  A safe rule of thumb is that when Leo XIII spoke on something, just shut up and link him instead.  He did it better over a century before you did.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Mark Shea Wants Moar Sane Trads

Or something.

He admits that his exposure to traditionalists tends to be just in the online world.  Here is a little piece of advice for the Mr. Shea, who was a seasoned battle hardened apologist when I first came into the Catholic Faith 13 years ago:  if you are letting your online dealings form your perception of a group of people, you are doing it wrong.

He himself tends to admit that those he meets face to face tend to be a lot better than the "urine and vinegar" wing of traditionalism online* that essentially treat him as the bane of all that is right and holy.  I think Mr. Shea should change that.  He doesn't need to become a traditionalist.  He doesn't even need to neccessarily like the Extraordinary Form.  (Though he should!)  He should just look up the parishes that have a vibrant EF community, and see if they are hosting any events.  Then he should go check them out.  Spend some time talking to them, maybe even have a few drinks.  He will find almost all of them are of the sane variety.  I'm sure his readers can find him the locations of some vibrant communities.  If all else fails, should he ever find himself traveling to Thunderdome Detroit, he can have a welcome spot at the social after Mass.  He'll certainly have far more in common economically with most traditionalists than I do!

Another way to help with this is to remember that in many cases, what he is seeing is a generational problem.  A lot of the more bitter minded traditionalists went through some pretty nasty persecution.  Not all of it (though in some cases a fair amount) was self-inflicted.  Nowadays when you walk into a traditionalist parish, the audience has been experiencing a downward trend as the congregations become younger and younger. (Compared to your normal liberal parish which is becoming older and older!)

A lot of these individuals didn't experience those dark times.  Most traditionalists who are 30 years old only know life under the motu proprio, or at least it is just a faint memory.  For me, at 30 years old, this is the first year where my attendance at the Latin Mass falls more under the Post motu proprio age than the Indult age.  As traditionalists become more and more involved with these parishes, expect the trend to only continue. 

So when you come across the U&V wing (which are just like every other troll group online), you can then say with confidence "These guys aren't like the traditionalists I know!" because you actually know a ton of traditionalists who aren't like that.

* A phrase that I coined and demand royalties for!

The Liturgy and Humility

If nothing else, the last few days have been a clarifying moment for traditionalists.  No, I'm not talking about Pope Francis.  At least not directly.  What I am referring to is the line of attack many will make against the Latin Mass.  Traditionalists need to be smart and anticipate this.

What is that line of attack?  For the rest of Pope Francis' pontificate, there will be those who will attack traditionalists the following way.  They will see an emphasis by this Pope for the poor and humble, and ask what is poor and humble about the way traditionalists celebrate their liturgy?  We will then be viewed as not being obedient to the Pope.... again.  First they said it was illegal.  Then under the Indult, we were told it was inferior, and to enjoy our position as inferior Catholics.  Then the motu proprio came out, and they've been looking for another avenue.  They think they have found it.

If the Extraordinary Form and Traditionalism is to survive, we must meet this head on.  Yet we can't do so by just mocking our friends across the way, as much as they deserve to be mocked.  From almost every indication, it is becoming clear there will be a renewed emphasis on simplicity and humility in this pontificate, and maybe even (dare we hope?) a renewed emphasis on penance.

We need to emphasize how the Extraordinary Form helps further simplicity and humility.  Fr. Z has already done a good job in giving a brief look into how the vestments of the priest and his actions, while to the untrained eye might seem pompous, are actually a great symbol of humility.  Everyone needs to do more.  We will need to do something similar for all of the Extraordinary Form.  The prayers, the postures of the faithful, even the architecture, we need to show how all of these things reinforce humility and simplicity in the soul. The liturgy of St. Francis of Assisi's time, the one he would have spent much time in, the one he would have loved, has far more in common with the Extraordinary Form than the "simple" liturgies, and this needs to be emphasized.  If the Church needs a renewed emphasis on humility and penance, then that is what the Church needs.  Yet we need to promote those things which bring about the interior renewal of these things.

Now if people think that is too alarmist, then let us suppose that we strengthen this belief (any time spent among the Extraordindary Form communities will tell you this is already believed), and become more passionate and aggressive in spreading it, and the Pope decides not to listen to the enemies of the Latin Mass, and nothing happens.  We've still managed to become more in tune with an important virtue, and we can never have a sufficient attitude of penance, so it is still a win.

That's our job.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Why do Traditionalists Care So Much About the Latin Mass?

Since the election of Pope Francis (and some of the overreactions of various traditionalists) I've had several friends ask me what at first may seem like an odd question.  Why do traditionalists care about the Latin Mass so much?  We aren't like the moonbat crowd that rejects the validity of the Ordinary Form, so what's the big deal?  If you aren't a traditionalist, it can be very tough to describe the attachment we have towards the extraordinary Form, even if we view the Ordinary Form a valid and lawful mass as we must.

When you go through dark times as a Catholic, you usually have a lot of avenues to turn to.  You have Church socials.  You have friendly priests.  You can seek encouragement from prominent Catholics that what you are doing is right.  For the longest time, traditionalists had none of these things.  They were faithful catholics persecuted in their own parishes.  Around the dioceses, they were seldom at the socials, as it was made clear they weren't welcome.  If you had a bishop who decided to offer a concession (and it was almost always a concession!) for a Latin Mass, it was typically in a bad neighborhood in a bad time that you were forbidden from advertising about.  If you found out about the Latin Mass, it was by accident more often than not.

These negative opinions were reinforced by a lot of the commentariat amongst Catholics.  It was never any surprise that the likes of National Catholic Reporter despised us.  Yet amongst magazines like Crisis Magazine, the disdain for traditionalists was unparalleled.  Janet Smith will lecture against contraception, always presuming the goodwill of those who nevertheless do a very bad thing.  Yet a traditionalist is a fossil, a relic of "yesterdays Church" who stands in the way of true progress in the spirit of the Second Vatican Council.

Considering these factors, traditionalists tended to become tight knit small communities at the Latin Masses they went to during the Indult days, even in spite of those in authority doing everything possible to keep them apart.  Things began to change with the election of Pope Benedict, albeit in subtle ways.  I would say that there was never any revolutionary change under his pontificate for traditionalists.  Instead, we slowly but surely were able to rejoin the church at large.  Most Masses were still in the city (as they were designed for that kind of Mass) but they were a lot more out in the open now.  You started having religious orders like the FSSP encounter incredible growth, to where they are just now beginning to pump out the first generation of priests where the Latin Mass was an acceptable thing to celebrate.

Once traditionalists had that all important stability (rarely do we worry anymore that a bishop might wake up on the wrong side of the bed and outlaw the mass in his diocese), we were able to develop stable communities, host events, develop homeschooling networks, and begin to pass on to others all the good we have to offer, with little of the bad.  We even have leaders in the church who are not just sympathetic to our causes (like Pope Benedict XVI was), but outright advocates of our cause.  10-15 years ago, a Cardinal Ranjith or Bishop Schneider would have been unheard of.  The Congregation for Divine Worship has been ran (or had secretaries) who could count as close allies like Cardinal Llovera.  In short, the growth of traditionalists in the last decade has been stronger than many would have thought possible before Pope Benedict.

Even with all this growth, it is still a young phenomena, and many fear that without leadership encouraging traditionalists, it will whither and decay.  I think such fears are overblown, but I can completely understand why they exist.  We are too used to the old ways and sometimes forget how much we have accomplished, and how much more we can accomplish.  Yet I ask those who aren't traditionalists to keep this in mind whenever these discussions come up.  For traditionalists, the Latin Mass has been a rock of stability in our faith lives, and nobody wants their rock taken away.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Designers Wanted

Anyone good with building a sleek template for blogger formats?  Get in touch with me.  While this template is bare bones, I'd really want something more, but that really isn't my strong suit.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Site Maintenence

Maintenence Done. Will see how I like it over the next few days, therefore this look is still ad experimentum.  Be sure to check the archives to my Catholic Lane column located to the side.

Why This (Semi) Capitalist Wants a Social Justice Pope

On Facebook and various other venues, there has been something a lot of people have noted when talking about Pope Francis.  They note his general skepticism of a lot of the way capitalism is practiced today, and wonder what the political right in America will think of that.  While it is still far too early to tell, there is a chance (so the story goes) that Pope Francis will be far less friendly to free market capitalism than one like Blessed John Paul II.

There are quite a few ways to respond to this, outside of the obvious that they probably don't know much about either Francis or John Paul II.  First and foremost, whatever happened in Argentina, a military dictatorship known for its rank nepotism could hardly be viewed as a capitalist entity.  Yet this misses the point entirely.  Quite simply, the Pope is no economist.

Now before everyone thinks I'm going to say we can just safely ignore his teaching if you end up not liking it, no, we really can't.  While there is a difference in weight one might place on issues like the immorality of contraception or abortion and the amount of government involvement in an economy, his voice should carry great weight for Catholics.  The Holy Father is a pastor of souls, and the care of souls is his primary concern.  This leads to a truth that might shock you, so take a deep breath.

How to Handle Doubt

For the moment, people seem to be calming down about Pope Francis and are back to adopting the "wait and see" approach.  Sure, there are those whining in comment boxes, but I think a lot of people got the initial surprise of the decision out of their system.  Reality has set in.  Pope Francis is Pope Francis, he is my pope and your pope.  There really is no point condemning the decision if you don't like it, unless you would like to discover just how little your opinion matters when he is still the Pope.

I've tried to do my best to point out the past few days that even if the way the guys like "New Catholic" handled this were truly atrocious, that's not to say his worry is completely unfounded.  If they go to far, I think others are doing the same when they are dismissing the existence of doubt as proof the "doubters" have a lack of faith, are enemies of the Church, etc etc.  My answer would be, maybe not.

We hear constantly in the media that the choice of a new Pope is obviously "the choice and work of the Holy Spirit."  This is not inherently true.  We pray for the Cardinals to be guided by the Holy Spirit, but any cursory reading of history (say anywhere from the year 1000 to the reign of St. Pius V) will have popes that were bad popes.  The Holy Spirit didn't directly will Benedict IX.

What the Holy Spirit was successful in doing however was keeping these popes from teaching error and leading the faithful astray.  So if we are doubting on the issue of whether or not Pope Francis is going to destroy the faith and lead the faithful Catholics into error (as some of the more unhinged commenters in some traditionalists blogs are doing), then yes, you are doing it wrong.  Yet if we doubt that a particular decision of this or any pope will always be the best decision or the best choice?  There's nothing wrong with that, and that kind of questioning can be healthy, provided it is handled in the right manner.

Doubt is a human emotion.  As it is an emotion, it is not something you can just will away.  Instead, we need to question that doubt as aggressively as possible.  As Kevin O'Brien states, we must "doubt the doubt."  I don't have to tell anyone, concupiscence sucks.  It warps natural and even healthy emotions and twists them into something sinful.  The best thing we can do is remember this fact whenever we begin to doubt.

Then we need to try and see things from the other way, and accept at least a fifty-fifty chance we could be dead wrong in our predictions.  After that, concede that even if we are 90% sure of something, that ten percent is real and it exists, and always temper our statements with that in mind.  When others take a different position on how a prediction will play out, we can view them as misguided and likely wrong, but until the event plays out precisely how we viewed it, we can't state for certain they are wrong.

Finally, when you have that doubt, go do something else.  All of this scandal would've likely been avoided had people went and had a drink, a smoke, hit the gym, say a rosary, something instead of jumping to social media in the first five minutes where we can anonymously type behind a keyboard and people who look at things precisely the same way we do agree with our outrage and heap up on the outrage in hopes more people see it and becoming even more outraged and, well you get the picture.

This kind of attitude isn't going to drive blog traffic.  Yet it will soothe your nerves and help you to focus on those things which we actually have control over.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Reverse Pope Worship (Or why the identity of the Pope isn't as important as you think)

I'm one of the old school traditionalist bloggers, if you can count "old school" as the early 2000's.  When I started Restore the Church, I wanted to provide a place for balanced traditionalist commentary.  I wanted to call things as they existed, yet doing so with respect for the Church and the papacy.  I also wanted to avoid what I viewed pope-worship by many "conservatives."  These individuals typically treated every utterance of the pope (or more often their flawed interpretation) as the inspired word of God, and if you didn't join them in such assesments, you were a heretic who resisted the Holy Spirit.  For them, they needed the permission of the Pope to go to the bathroom.

I think sometimes my traditionalist brethren do the reverse.  To them, the Latin Mass and the traditionalist movement is one papal utterance away from obliteration.  While technically true, would it really hurt to have a bit of faith in God?  We believe the Latin Mass is the most beautiful thing this side of heaven.  8 years ago we lived in Indult Ghettos.  My mass was literally in the ghetto, right across the street from a strip club, on Sundays at 4pm, in the murder capital of America, so when it was dark, barely anyone came.  We also were forbidden by the Bishop from advertising its existence.  Yet we were brave (or incredibly stubborn) and went, and from time to time it even grew.

In 2013, that Latin Mass still exists.  It is joined by two parishes in the Archdiocese of Detroit offering the Extraordinary Form every Sunday and several times throughout the week.  They are joined by a Church a few minutes across the border in Canada, and at least 3 or 4 different churches in a 15 mile radius who offer the Latin Mass at least once a month.  When it was time to choose the priest to say our nuptial mass, I could think of ten priests in the metro detroit area alone.

Now some will state that this is not a typical experience.  To which I say you are darn right it isn't.  Detroit got where it was through some outstanding priests, and a lot of really energetic laymen who were very creative in promoting the Latin Mass.  Once the Pope allowed such instances to come into being, they ran with it.  They didn't need a papal bull laying out every detail of how to do it.  When people complained about how they wished priests and the pope were even more accomodating, they snapped "well what are you going to do about it?  Complain to the choir?"

The other big contributor to the growth of the Extraordinary Form was people finally realized not all traditionalists are like the Rorate Caeli crowd.  The church at large found out that the traditionalist movement was stacked with young guns whose mind was as sharp as their wit, and all of them had broods of children who knew the Latin Mass better at age 5 than most adults did 50 years ago.  They are even becoming less socially akward!  Better yet, they weren't a bunch of cranky boogeymen yelling at people to get off their liturgical lawn.  They were too busy living out their Catholic family life to be sucked into some echo chamber on blogs and social media.

Don't get me wrong, what Pope Benedict XVI did with the motu proprio was important.  Yet the success or failure of the traditionalist movement has always resided with the people who are traditionalists.  If we believe in the beauty of the Latin Mass, God will preserve it.  Even in the remote possiblity this pope or any pope were to ban the Latin Mass or severly restrict its usage, the enemies of tradition would just learn again what they learned last time: you can't kill this mass, and you can't snuff out tradition within the souls of the faithful.  When the Latin Mass would rise again, there will be those like me, dancing a jig on the graves of those individuals who were foolish enough to try.

What We Do (and don't) Know about Pope Francis

So day one of the papacy has come and gone, and everyone is parsing it.  Sounds like a lot of fun.  Let me try the same!

First, what do we know of his past?  According to the SSPX sympathizers at Rorate Caeli, "The application of Summorum Pontificum in the Archdiocese of Buenos Aires has been non-existent."  Fr. Z and others debunked this almost immediately.  "New Catholic" (I suppose 9 years ago when he was first blogging this was appropriate, now I think its just dumb, but personal preference) then moved the goalposts back.  Okay, Pope Francis as a Cardinal did setup a Latin Mass within 48 hours of Summorum Pontificum.  However, the Mass was not celebrated as he liked it, ergo it was "non-existent."  Yet the moving goalposts aside, he presented information that is not going to make any traditionalist smile.

Now while I sound a bit flippant there, I don't want to be too hard on him.  It is obvious that the conclave did not go the way he wanted to.  Instead of doing something else, he did what anyone this age does, he went to social media to vent his frustrations.  In the course of that, he overstated his case a bit.  I don't think any traditionalist can say with a straight face that His Holiness as His Eminence was the kind of cardinal traditionalists dream about.  (Nope, our hearts are only with you, O Ranjith!)  Yet facts are facts.  He clearly stated something that wasn't true.  Combine that with something else he had an SSPX sympathizer write.  We must fear Pope Francis because "he has no Curial experience."  Belonging to the group that had such traditionalist luminaries as Cardinals Sodano and Bertone is an interesting criterion for we traditionalists to employ.  The author also stated that as a Cardinal His Holiness was weaksauce on gay marriage.  "New Catholic" had to walk that back in a later post, noting that his opposition to gay marriage, far from being weak, was "beautiful."

New Catholic probably should have hit the gym or an adoration chapel before posting.  He enraged a lot of Catholics (most of them traditionalists), had to spend the past 24 hours walking back what he wrote in haste, and now is on a recess for an indefinite time.  That's probably for the best.  Give him time to clear his head, and perhaps write with a bit more charity, but also clarity.

Dr. Taylor Marshall (a fine traditionalist is he) wants to write as much as he can about the Holy Father that is positive.  I hope to write in a balanced and truthful manner.  Fr. Z provides photos of The Holy Father's first Mass as Pope which ended the conclave.  As a traditionalist, there's no sense denying there are changes from Pope Benedict I don't like.  I don't like it going back to versus populum.  The Latin wasn't as crisp as it probably should be.  Honestly, I never liked the mass concelebrations in the Novus Ordo Mass, even when Benedict did them.  I don't think its bad mouthing the Pope to say I'm not a fan of that style, and I would prefer a style more in line with what Pope Benedict XVI did.  Then again, I could say that while I was okay with what Benedict did, I would've far rather preferred he celebrate Mass the way Pope Pius XII or St. Pius X did.  If I'm impossible to please, pray for the woman I'm marrying in under 3 months.  She will have to put up with me.

So while I wasn't too thrilled with the liturgy, his homily was borderline epic.  He stated a Church without Christ was little better than a "pitiful NGO", and that without Christ, there are priests, bishops, even popes, but not disciples.  He then rounded it out by stating he who didn't pray to God prayed to the devil, and hinted at shake ups coming.  Traditionalists might not like him, but if this is what he is about, we can talk turkey and do business with him.  I can't get too thrilled about the liturgy he celebrated.  But there's a lot to like in his homily that makes you want to see more.  Heck, see something!

And that was the whole point of yesterday.  It isn't that I don't share the concerns of the Rorate crowd, I do.  Yet if we end up ginning outrageous outrage over something that never happens, we look dumb.  We might even be guilty of scandal and leading people astray.  I go to Confession enough, and I doubt my confessor wants to listen to me constantly confessing rash judgement and causing scandal.  There are things in this pontificate I will not like, just as there were in the previous two of my life.  There will be times I would wish he does something different, and I'm certain I'll say that out loud here.  Yet in the end, traditionalists maybe make up 2% of the worlds Catholics on a generous day.  We can't even get everyone in our own parishes to do what we want (yes, even in our traditional parishes), so perhaps we should be focusing on something which is far easier for us to control and influence?  Look, either we are like the old "Neo-Catholics" who depend on the Pope's actions to breathe, or the beauty of tradition is that it is beyond any Pope, even one who does things which will at times moderately irritate you when you have to submit and be obedient about the manner.

In the meantime, there are still souls to save, and a gorgeous liturgy to promote.  So if you'll excuse me...

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Pope Francis and the Case for (Guarded) Traditionalist Optimism

If you read the Rorate Caeli guys, you'd be forgiven for thinking that our new Popes last name is Borgia.  He was a Latin American Bishops, and the Latin American Bishops weren't really that sincere in opposing homosexual unions.  It was just late in the game, and only because Rome forced him to speak up.  Evidence?  Who cares about evidence!  They might set a record in the speed with which they dumped on the new election of Pope Francis.  So far in 4 hours, they have 6 posts on what a rotten horrible choice Pope Francis is, and what a rotten horrible Pope he will be.  Yet they are still faithful Catholics who pray for him.  When you need to remind people of that, you are doing it wrong.

That isn't to say that I don't have some of the same questions they do.  How he responds to the Latin Mass is something I worry about.  It is something I would've worried about with anyone not named Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith.  Yet I'd like to lay out a case for guarded optimism about this Pope, and the future of the Latin Mass/traditionalist movement in general.

The Rorate guys prove there is no attack they wont levy when they bemoan the fact that Pope Francis has never spent time in the Curia.  You know, that Curia which protected the Legionaries, is rampant with corruption, questions about their personal holiness, and has seldom hid their outright contempt for much of what traditionalists hold dear.  Him not being a member of the Curia is a feature, not a bug!  If a few Curial officials wind up being sacked, who cares what reason he did it for?

What about the more serious claim, that in his diocese, he hindered the spread of the Latin Mass.  Almost all of this is through off the record citations, but let us take them as true.  The Latin Mass grew during the days of the Indult, when John Paul II gave an indifference towards the Extraordinary Form at best.  (Love of the Latin Liturgy is not what moved his hand in Ecclesia Dei.)  We packed our parishes with young Catholic families, even when the Mass was at 4pm in the ghetto and we were forbidden from advertising about it.

Then Pope Benedict came and gave faithful Catholics his blessing to experiment with tradition.  He really didn't do a lot beyond it.  Did he celebrate it in public?  No.  The demographic of the Latin Mass has gotten even younger, and those churches which offer it find those masses packed.  Pope Benedict made it so that everyone would leave us heck alone, and the results have been positive.

If Pope Francis strikes down Summorum Pontificium then we can start worrying.  Yet why don't we wait until that happens, and not before?  The likely scenario is he does nothing about the Extraordinary Form.  It falls to us faithful Catholics to spread the beauty of this Mass, and let its grandeur do all the work.  The young will continue to flock to it.

Yet Kevin, we need a Pope who loves the Latin Mass and promotes it!  While we don't need it, hey, it certainly would be nice.  Yet let us be real here:  we are maybe a couple million (if that!) in a Church of 1.2 billion.  I want our numbers to increase, but there's very little a Pope can do with this, for good or ill.  Our movement gets built from the ground up.  Time to make that happen.

Pope Francis is Our Pope

My latest over at Catholic Lane, where I used swiftness and stealth to beat out anyone else offering their thoughts.

And please, just remember, certain SSPX shills who write from blogs do not represent even a minority of traditionalists.  They are a minority of 3% of Catholics, twenty percent of those who read blogs.