Wednesday, May 29, 2013

On Leave

I'll be on leave from Common Sense Catholicism for the next two to three weeks.  The reason why is that this Saturday, I will be celebrating the sacrament of marriage with my bride to be Amy Walton.

See you guys in Mid June.

Pope Francis and the Latin Mass: There is no "There" There

Anyone who thought Francis was going to repeal Summorum Pontificium was a fool.  It was a reasonable document, and while the Pope might theoretically have the authority to set it aside, there's almost nothing to gain from him doing so, even if he were a sworn enemy of the Latin Mass, as some traditionalists believe.

This really shouldn't surprise anyone.  Apparently it did, since some people only live their faith on blogs, for better or ill.  This isn't "good news", nor is it "bad news".  There's nothing here.  Some really bad bishops have some really rotten priorities.  Pope Francis simply says their priorities are not his, calls for both the Ordinary Form and the Extraordinary Form to exist side by side, and that he doesn't view those of a traditionalist mindset as his enemy, but they can actually help him. 

Now a lot of people wanted to look at this Pope in the worst case possible, and for these people, this should calm their fears.  It won't though.  These people look at them in the worst possible way, and  they always will.  To those faithful traditionalists, the story is still the same:  We have to make our own way, and that's how it should be.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Applying Jeremiah to the Modern Jeremiad

Have you heard about how America is an evil nation, opposed to God, and destined to be judged?  Or how about how rotten the majority of the Catholic Church is for its lack of fidelity to the Gospel, and how God will judge them for that?  Or maybe you've read and took comfort in the fact that there's nothing we can do to stop these judgments.  Thankfully, we shouldn't worry if you follow the words of today's jeremiads, since when Christ returns, most of the world will be apostate anyway.

They will explain their rationale for speaking boldly by referencing the prophet Jeremiah, frequently viewed as a "prophet of doom" or a prophet of lamentation over the sins of Israel.  I really don't have a problem with this approach per se. I certainly sympathize with it. Evil has to be condemned, sometimes with maximum rhetorical force.  The Gospel is just as much about the dignity and justice of God (and how He ultimately used that dignity to satisfy that justice) as it is about the dignity of the human person.  So when you read this, don't take me as someone who is a liberal squish who is downplaying the need to condemn sin.  Yet I think we need to tell the whole story with our jeremiads, and the best place to look for that story would be the Prophet Jeremiah.  The best place to start is when God formally makes Jeremiah his chosen voice:

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Were Things Really That Bad Before Vatican II?

Sometimes while bored, I like to sit back and reflect upon what used to pass for discourse on matters surrounding traditionalism.  Heck, it's something Pete Vere and myself do on at least a weekly basis.  As a behind the scenes voice in a lot of matters on the blogosphere for now 11 years, I've seen a lot.  Some of it I remember fondly, even if I didn't agree with it.  Other things I remember with nothing but disdain.

One particular argument that makes me want to deliver the Cubito Aequet occurs whenever traditionalists like to point out that, all things being equal, the Church of the Early 20th century was kind of in a golden age, whereas the Church after Vatican II most certainly has not, even by the admissions of every Bishop of Rome since the closing of the Council.  This really isn't rocket science, the data speaks for itself.    By just about every objective criteria, the Church was in healthier shape.  That isn't to say the aftermath of the Council is solely to blame, but when even Pope Francis talks about how a bunch of selfish bishops resisted the Holy Spirit and in their arrogance implemented their own ideas rather than Catholic truth, why on earth are we even arguing this still?

One sees this kind of argument in a recent post by Steve Kellmeyer.  There are things that I like about this post.  He is correct in pointing out a lot of the bad narratives that crop up in some circles about the Second Vatican Council (the "infiltrate narrative") which usually results from a bad reading of objective facts.  (Vatican II had this going for it, no Bishops were physically assaulted and injured during its proceedings, which cannot be said for Trent!)  I also agree with him that a lot of the trouble (as is often the case) comes down to individual Catholics.  We get the Church we build, and a lot of us have been far too busy building our own works alongside those of Christ's.

All this being said, is it still right to say what Mr. Kellmeyer says:

The bishops and priests who wanted to reform what is now the Extraordinary Form of the Mass wanted to do so for a very good reason: the EF sucked wind. It stank. It was at least sub-optimal. In fact, it was so substantially flawed that it required reform.
Even allowing for his typical verbal pomposity, is there something to what he says here?  Do we traditionalists really bury our heads in the sand and act like everything was perfect, when in reality it was quite the opposite?  While you might find a few traditionalists who think this way, the majority of right thinking (and even wrong thinking) trads don't seriously advocate this.  When traditionalists celebrate things like the Anti-Modernist Oath and the various framework around it that for the most part was obliterated following the Council (and after which heresy became rampant amongst the clergy in public), they are recognizing (even on an implicit level) the following:  that the average individual priest was prone to act badly either out of malice or human weakness, so good governance required structures in place to keep him on the proper path.  When we attack the constant innovations and liturgical abuses rampant within the Ordinary Form, we celebrate the liturgical rubrics and discipline that made 95% of those abuses impossible within the Extraordinary Form.

In the end I think it was things like this that truly helped bring about the golden age.  During the pontificates of Blessed Pius IX up to Paul VI, we had a church that internally was thriving, intellectually and spiritually.  The mere fact that you had 6 (or 7 depending on your count) very good popes in a row makes it somewhat of an anomaly in church history.

That doesn't mean everything was perfect.  Of course it wasn't.  Even during a golden age you can see the seeds of a fall sometimes centuries in advance.  At the height of the Kingdom of Israels power (Solomon), you can easily see the seeds of collapse centuries later.  From a secular standpoint, the Principate which worked so good in Ancient Rome during the time of the Five Good Emperors contained the seeds for Rome's eventual fall.  (Indeed, once Marcus Aurelius died, the empire went to hell for the next century.)

The last example is particularly instructive.  Nobody denies that the Rome of those 96 years wasn't a golden age, and one of the most peaceful times of world history.  Likewise, even during the time right before Vatican II there were the seeds of crisis.  Sometimes this crisis even came about because of good policy.  For example, under the framework of the Anti-Modernist Oath, a lot of heretical influences really couldn't gain a wide following.  Yet unfortunately, some good voices also suffered under this regime, thought of as heretical and persecuted even though they were later vindicated.  The attempt to correct this balance after the Council clearly failed, yet that doesn't mean that on the whole, the system in place worked.  The same with the liturgy.  In some places the Latin Mass wasn't being done as devoutly as before, or people weren't able to draw upon the richness the way they should have because of various difficulties.  The liturgy needed gradual reform.  During the days of the Indult and now Summorum Pontificium, traditionalist communities have largely shown what an authentic liturgical reform looks like, as the average Catholic there knows probably ten times more about the liturgy now than their ancestors did even though the liturgies are about 90% similar.

The problem with what came after the Council was that we didn't get a gradual reform.  We got a reform that attempted to change everything, and relied upon commissions of experts thousands of miles away rather than pastors who had a sound knowledge of the needs of their parish on the local level while still adhering to the same general framework everyone else was.  I have little doubt that had this kind of regime been in place during that golden age of the Church, the exact same result we see today would've happened.

This isn't to say that we can just 'turn back the clock' to the days before the Council and expect everything to be good again.  Of course we can't.  Yet in building the Church of today up, there really is a lot we could learn from the lessons of history.  Not just with what didn't work (the "conservatives" out there today can tell us all about that), but what did work.  An honest reading will tell us that the answer is "quite a bit actually."

Friday, May 17, 2013

Leo XIII, Catholic Society and the Freedom of the Gift

One of the things I have always loved about Catholicism is her rich social teaching.  I also find it is this same social teaching that allows me, a traditionalist who loves the Latin Mass, to speak on areas of common cause not only with Catholics who are not traditionalists, but those who aren't even Catholic, but who nonetheless find various aspects of Catholic social teaching appealing.

Yet it is also this same Catholic social teaching that I feel is the least understood.  Whenever the issue is discussed, I always question people as to what the purpose of Catholic social teaching is.  Several recent blogposts here at Common Sense Catholicism have attempted to answer these questions using two sources:  the papal encylicals of Leo XIII as well as John Paul II's Wednesday Audiences Man and Woman He Created Them.  (Also known in Catholic circles as the Theology of the Body.)  In a previous installment , I argued that this purpose was for man to find union with God.  In the next part of the series, I laid out the case that man is called out to live in society as a way of finding God, since as God said "it is not good that man be alone."

Knowing that we are called to live in society, how should we do so?  It is this one question that Catholic social teaching concerns itself with the most.  When discussing these very things, Leo XIII makes the following point in the apex of Catholic social teaching thus far, Rerum Novarum:

The rights here spoken of, belonging to each individual man, are seen in much stronger light when considered in relation to man's social and domestic obligations. In choosing a state of life, it is indisputable that all are at full liberty to follow the counsel of Jesus Christ as to observing virginity, or to bind themselves by the marriage tie.

When reading an encyclical that condemns socialism (as well as viewing an unrestrained capitalism a flawed economic model), one might find it a little odd that Leo XIII begins by discussing celibacy and marriage.  Considering the small amount of time he spends on the subject in this encyclical, an answer is not readily at hand.  While one can search elsewhere throughout the works of Leo for an answer (I would suggest reading Arcanum), I believe special insight is provided by Pope John Paul II in his Wednesday audience:

The human body, with its sex, and its masculinity and femininity seen in the very mystery of creation, is not only a source of fruitfulness and procreation, as in the whole natural order. It includes right from the beginning the nuptial attribute, that is, the capacity of expressing love, that love in which the person becomes a gift andby means of this giftfulfills the meaning of his being and existence. Let us recall here the text of the last Council which declared that man is the only creature in the visible world that God willed "for its own sake." It then added that man "can fully discover his true self only in a sincere giving of himself"...  From this aspect, it is indispensable in order that man may be able to "give himself," that he may become a gift, that he will be able to "fully discover his true self" in "a sincere giving of himself" (referring to the words of the Council).
According to John Paul II, Catholics live out their existence through their relationship to others, and the best way to live that relationship is by being a "gift", that is, by living our life at the service of others.  Only when we live at the service of others do we find out what it means to be truly alive.  His audiences also demonstrated convincingly that the highest example of the "gift" is manifested either through marriage or through celibacy, especially celibacy for the kingdom.  The Pontiff termed the ability to live this gift through our bodies the freedom of the gift.

With this in mind, we can return to Pope Leo's encyclical.  Let us return to that quote, but insert the lesson we just learned:

The rights here spoken of, belonging to each individual man, are seen in much stronger light when considered in relation to man's social and domestic obligations. In choosing a state of life, it is indisputable that all are free to live the gift according to the counsel of Jesus Christ as to observing virginity, or to bind themselves by the marriage tie.

Only when one lives according to the counsel of Jesus Christ (the freedom of the gift) can he live truly within society. The point behind Leo's encyclical is that the various economic systems of the day were impeding mans ability to live out the gift, because they impeded his ability to exist within the family.  It is for this reason I submit that Rerum Novarum has had such an enduring legacy:  the only encyclical to be solemnly commemorated by 4 different pontiffs over the span of 90 years.  The encyclical, way ahead of its time, contained in one form or another most of the developments of social teaching the Catholic Church has taught since the encyclical's promulgation. 

I hope that this re-reading of Rerum Novarum  has helped some unfamiliar with it to gain a new appreciation into it.  Lord willing this will be a subject returned to frequently.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Leo XIII and the Universal Call to Holiness

When people are asked what one of the greatest teachings of the Second Vatican Council is, we are told that the universal call to holiness is chief amongst those teachings.  An accurate summary is provided in the Dogmatic Constitution Lumen Gentium:

Therefore in the Church, everyone whether belonging to the hierarchy, or being cared for by it, is called to holiness, according to the saying of the Apostle: "For this is the will of God, your sanctification". However, this holiness of the Church is unceasingly manifested, and must be manifested, in the fruits of grace which the Spirit produces in the faithful; it is expressed in many ways in individuals, who in their walk of life, tend toward the perfection of charity, thus causing the edification of others; in a very special way this (holiness) appears in the practice of the counsels, customarily called "evangelical."
Unfortunately, this statement has far too often been treated as some "new" teaching of the Church.  George Sim Johnston had this passage in mind when he wrote in the pages of Crisis Magazine that the Church was finally telling Christians to take their vocations seriously, something the Church before the Council would never do.

As I have attempted to show with my previous writings on how to integrate modern teaching within the tradition of the Church, this kind of attitude is utterly destructive.  If you take this kind of mentality, you are not only wrong, but you are taking an approach that guarantees you will be missing out on a lot.  Most importantly, you will be missing out on the things that caused the fathers of the Council to teach as they did upon this call.

In the case of the universal call to holiness, we see it receiving special attention during the 1860's at the First Vatican Council.  The Dogmatic Constitution Dei Fillius states the following:

All faithful Christians, but those chiefly who are in a prominent position, or engaged in teaching, we entreat, by the compassion of Jesus Christ, and enjoin by the authority of the same God and Savior, that they bring aid to ward off and eliminate these errors from holy Church, and contribute their zealous help in spreading abroad the light of undefiled faith.
Far too often people have this conception of the Church as an institution, comprised of the clergy, to which the faithful "belong" only in the sense that they go to Mass on Sundays.  This could be viewed as the universal call to laziness.  This is something we modern Catholics absolutely excel at.  Blame the liberals, blame the bad lobbies, blame the Curia, blame the Pope, we are experts at making sure everyone else takes responsibility.  In this, we are only following our father Adam, who threw Eve under the bus the first chance he could find.

A common misconception is that this kind of holiness was strictly based upon doctrinal teaching. When writing about this passage from the Vatican Council, Pope Leo XIII said the following in Sapientiae Christianae:

Let each one, therefore, bear in mind that he both can and should, so far as may be, preach the Catholic faith by the authority of his example, and by open and constant profession of the obligations it imposes. In respect, consequently, to the duties that bind us to God and the Church, it should be borne earnestly in mind that in propagating Christian truth and warding off errors the zeal of the laity should, as far as possible, be brought actively into play.
One has to remember the context from which Leo writes.  For the first time in 1300 years, the Bishop of Rome no longer had a kingdom on Earth.  In lands which were still supposedly Catholic, the truths of the Catholic religion were slowly but surely leaving.  Simply stating the same truths over and over again really won't work.  Catholics needed to be out there living those precepts of the Gospel, and living them boldly.  In that same encyclical Pope Leo viewed a vast "army" of Catholics following the Gospel in public as one of the things the enemies of Catholicism feared most.

When seen from this light, the Second Vatican Council's treatment on the manner makes perfect sense.  they were taking a teaching that had been a central theme of the pontificate of the first pope after the Vatican Council (and several popes afterwards) and looking to give it a more in-depth treatment, with plenty of concrete examples on how Christians should live this universal call to holiness.  We can also see that in the end, doctrine only makes sense when it is lived out visibly, in time and in space, and that is the entire essence of Pope Leo's pontificate and the message he had for the entire world.

Friday, May 10, 2013

If you live in Michigan....

Do your best to attend this.

If you don't live in Michigan, consider praying for everyone involved in this, as well as for +Paul Schultz who does a lot of this work.

What Should We Confess: New CL Column

After what seems like a billion columns on the sacrament of confession, wrote the last one today.  (At least for now!)  There was some things I would have loved to get to, but i'll admit, I'm burned out on that particular topic.  Expect some more here on the blog in the future.  One example:  Paul VI stated confession was the key to living Ephesians 5, which both Leo XIII and Blessed John Paul II viewed the essence of the Christian mystery.  Why?

Today's column covers two topics:  should we confess only mortal sins, and how often should we go to confession?

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Leo XIII, John Paul II, and the Purpose of Society

In a previous essay, I introduced a point that some found surprising:  When trying to understand Blessed John Paul II's Man and Woman He Created Them, one should look to the Catholic Social teaching of Leo XIII for insight.  The root of both Leo's social magesterium and Blessed John Paul's Wednesday audiences stem from the fact that man was created in the image of God, and hence for union with God.  I would like to continue in that vein of thought today.

Why does society exist in creation?  Even amongst the beasts of the earth there exists hierarchies within their circles.  As the highest of animal creation, the society of man is far more advanced than those of beasts.  Why should such a society exist?  In his encyclical Immortale Dei Pope Leo gave the following profound insight:

Man's natural instinct moves him to live in civil society, for he cannot, if dwelling apart, provide himself with the necessary requirements of life, nor procure the means of developing his mental and moral faculties. Hence, it is divinely ordained that he should lead his life -- be it family, or civil -- with his fellow men, amongst whom alone his several wants can be adequately supplied.

Man exists in a society because he must by his very nature.  He is not perfect, and as a result will always lack in some things which others will complement him in.  From this simple insight flows all of Catholic social teaching.  The Social Magesterium of the Church teaches how individual Catholics interact with civil society, government, and vice-versa for both.

Blessed John Paul II takes this insight and probes even deeper.  He asks his audience to ponder why this is the case (why can man only find satisfaction through the other), and believes the answer is found in man's creation as male and female:

When God-Yahweh said, "It is not good that man should be alone," (Gn 2:18) he affirmed that "alone," man does not completely realize this essence. He realizes it only by existing "with someone"and even more deeply and completelyby existing "for someone."
According to John Paul, the mystery of creation sheds new light on this timeless truth explained by Pope Leo.  It is not enough that man simply live in a society so that only his needs are taken care of.  Such a society cannot last because it is full of nothing but selfish individuals.  As a result, Pope Leo speaks of the necessity of people living for the common good. (ID 3)  For John Paul, the only way one can live for the good of society is by living "for" that society, and at its most basic institution, the society of marriage, where two become "one flesh."

Through our relationship with others as male and female, we discover the truth of our existence.  John Paul II references the Second Vatican Council when he states the following:

 Let us recall here the text of the last Council which declared that man is the only creature in the visible world that God willed "for its own sake." It then added that man "can fully discover his true self only in a sincere giving of himself".
Pope Leo XIII discusses the nature of man in different terms, but terms I believe are essential to understanding John Paul's teaching:

Nature and reason, which command every individual devoutly to worship God in holiness, because we belong to Him and must return to Him, since from Him we came, bind also the civil community by a like law.   (ID 6)

Now as you read this, you might go:  these two aren't alike at all.  There's absolutely no relation!  John Paul II is concerned with the gift of self, and Leo is concerned with the worship of God as a result of our roots.   The answer to this conundrum is Jesus Christ.  Christ lived a life of complete sacrifice and self-donation when He left His heavenly home to become man.  He showed the depths of that self-donation when he died for our sins on the Cross, and because of that self-donation, returned to His heavenly home.

When Christ calls us to self-donation as He did, He calls upon us to return to our original calling, and through that calling, return to the Father.  The purpose of John Paul II's Wednesday audiences is to provide insight into how recognizing the truth of our creation as male and female can lead to the Father.  In this one could say he is providing a legitimate development of Leo's profound insight.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Leo XIII and the "Ends" of Marriage

Whenever the issue of the ends of marriage is discussed, the issue will normally be defined in the following way, no matter who you talk to. Before the Second Vatican Council, the Church allegedly focused almost solely on the procreative ends of marriage. After the Second Vatican Council, the Church in a legitimate development of doctrine, decided to focus on the unitive ends of marriage alongside the procreative. The one thing remarkable about this interpretation is how consistent it is across the ideological spectrum. Individuals like Dr. Jay Boyd (professed traditionalist and believer that natural family planning is destroying marriage) bemoan this turn of events, while those like Christopher West and Dr. Janet Smith (who snidely refers to this set of circumstances as "yesterdays church") celebrate it.  I'm not just of the opinion that both sides are wrong.  I'm of the opinion that this debate is for the most part pointless.

Revisitng the "Westian Wars"

When the so-called "Westian Wars" erupted in 2010, I found myself working together with those like Dawn Eden and Fr. Angelo Geiger in attempting to critique some of the more outlandish views of Christopher West in his presentation of Blessed John Paul II's "Man and Woman He Created Them."  If one looked at the tale of the tape, this really was David versus Goliath.  One popular author and several relatively unknown bloggers waging a combox war against one of the biggest Catholic speakers in America, one of the foremost experts on Humanae Vitae, one of the most prominent Catholic publishing companies, as well as the one of the largest Catholic Web Magazines.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Charity Reigns Within the House of God

For all of the good that social media has given us, one cannot deny the negatives that have come with it.  One of the biggest negatives is the way we dehumanize those we disagree with on the blogosphere.  One would think that Catholics would be above this.  One thinking this would also be incredibly naive.  Sadly, some of the most well known Catholic bloggers are professionals at little else nowadays than dehumanizing those they disagree with.  When you rebuke them, others will rebuke you, reminding you that "they also do a lot of good which you don't see, so you should let it go."

While we should always make accommodation for fallen human nature, we shouldn't hesitate to realize what we are doing is making an accommodation.  These types of individuals do just as much damage to the gospel as the benefit they do from that positive work.  St. Cyprian elaborates on this issue in On the Unity of the Church:

Therefore also the Holy Spirit came as a dove, a simple and joyous creature, not bitter with gall, not cruel in its bite, not violent with the rending of its claws, loving human dwellings, knowing the association of one home; when they have young, bringing forth their young together; when they fly abroad, remaining in their flights by the side of one another, spending their life in mutual intercourse, acknowledging the concord of peace with the kiss of the beak, in all things fulfilling the law of unanimity. This is the simplicity that ought to be known in the Church, this is the charity that ought to be attained, that so the love of the brotherhood may imitate the cloves, that their gentleness and meekness may be like the lambs and sheep. What does the fierceness of wolves do in the Christian breast? What the savageness of dogs, and the deadly venom of serpents, and the sanguinary cruelty of wild beasts? We are to be congratulated when such as these are separated from the Church, lest they should lay waste the doves and sheep of Christ with their cruel and envenomed contagion.
The people that St. Cyprian has in mind are primarily heretics, but it is interesting that he first slams them for horrible morals in their lack of charity, not horrible doctrine.  (He touches upon the doctrine in the next segment.)  In the mind of this great saint, a lack of charity has no place within the Church.  By her very nature as an evangelical church, charity is part of the Catholic Churches nature. 

Some will counter "well sorry, I believe that error needs to be condemned as error, and we shouldn't be having a tea party with evil people."  Of course nobody is saying you cannot condemn error.  Indeed, St. Cyprian is very strong in condemning error in this and several other treatises.  The point is instead to stick to issues, not the person as much as possible.  Whenever you bring up the defects of another, ask yourself "is this relevant to the argument."  If it isn't, then don't bring it up.

Another point is to show charity to those within your own house.  You don't have to like them.  Yet to hold those as less than Catholic than you are (especially when the Church has not specifically said so) is a sin against charity, and this damages the effectiveness of your message.  To treat anyone as somehow less than human because of said disagreements is beyond shameful, and it doesn't matter how much good that individual has done over the years for the cause.

Catholic Social Teaching: From Leo XIII to the Theology of the Body

I'm doing a somewhat thankless task.  For one reason or another, traditionalists do not like John Paul II's Man and Woman He Created Them, popularly known as the Theology of the Body, hereafter TOB.  More often than not, this is done because a lot of the top evangelists of TOB are from a certain school of thought which looks with disdain upon most if not everything before the Second Vatican Council.  Hence Janet Smith, Fr. Thomas Loya and others speak with derision of "yesterday's Church" which wasn't very good at a lot of things, except repressing the truth about sexuality, which they excelled at.  Traditionalists rightly realize this is a load of crap, but all too often ignore Blessed John Paul's teaching about this subject as well.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Latest at Catholic Lane: Why Go to Confession?

At Catholic Lane I offer a bit of biblical study on why we go to confession, and why I think our catechesis towards the sacrament is flawed and ineffective.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

The Evangelical Purpose of the Church

Why are we Catholic?  What's the point?  I think this simple point is lost in a lot of the technical discussions Catholics (especially those in the blogosphere) engage in.  This point is lost to the detriment not just of our souls, but of Catholicism as a whole.  Indeed, one of the biggest problems we suffer in the Church today comes from getting the answer to these two questions wrong.  The comforting thought is that the problem we are experiencing today is something that Christians throughout history have confronted.  If we are to solve this problem, we should look to these sources.

On. St Cyprian

As soon as I enter the whole TOB/NFP discussion again, I find myself immensly bored by it.  Time to do stuff I find more fun and edifying.  Over the next week or so will be doing a bit of commentary on St. Cyprian's On the Unity of the Church and how it offers lessons for Catholics today about how to look at the Catholic Church.