"It is...Our will that Catholics should abstain from certain appellations which have recently been brought into use to distinguish one group of Catholics from another. They are to be avoided not only as 'profane novelties of words,' out of harmony with both truth and justice, but also because they give rise to great trouble and confusion among Catholics. Such is the nature of Catholicism that it does not admit of more or less, but must be held as a whole or as a whole rejected: 'This is the Catholic faith, which unless a man believe faithfully and firmly; he cannot be saved' (Athanasian Creed). There is no need of adding any qualifying terms to the profession of Catholicism: it is quite enough for each one to proclaim 'Christian is my name and Catholic my surname,' only let him endeavour to be in reality what he calls himself." -- Pope Benedict XV, Ad Beatissimi Apostolorum 24 (1914)

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Conservative vs. Traditional Catholicism

by Fr. Chad Ripperger, F.S.S.P. - Spring 2001

Distinctions with Philosophical Differences

In 1996, a group of friends had lunch in Rome at the Czechoslovakian college. One of the priests who offers Mass according to the new rite was a bit dumbfounded. He had written an article in which he had discussed certain aspects of the liturgical reform. His puzzlement came from the fact that traditionalists had attacked his article and he could not understand why. A traditionalist seminarian said to the priest, “We agree that something has to be done about the liturgy, but we do not agree on what should be done.” Traditionalists and neoconservatives often find each other mystifying, and the reason for this has to do with the relationship each position holds with respect to ecclesiastical tradition.

The term “traditionalist” has two different meanings. The first is the heresy condemned by the Church, i.e., a philosophical/religious system that depreciates human reason and establishes the tradition of mankind as the only criterion for truth and certainty. This heresy denies the ability of reason to know the truth and thus maintains that truth must be gained through tradition alone. It is different from the current movement in the Church which clearly recognizes the ability of reason to know the truth but which sees the good of the tradition of the Church and would like to see it re-established.
The term “neoconservative,” on the other hand, refers to those who are considered the more conservative members of the Church. More often than not they hold orthodox positions, but they would not assert that it is strictly necessary to reconnect with ecclesiastical tradition. The prefix “neo” is used because they are not the same as those conservatives in authority in the Church immediately before, during and after the Second Vatican Council. The current conservatives, that is, the neoconservatives, are different insofar as the conservatives of the earlier period sought to maintain the current ecclesiastical traditions that were eventually lost.

All of these labels have a certain inadequacy, of course, but since they are operative in the current ecclesiastical climate we will use them here in order to denote certain theological and philosophical positions. It should be noted, however, that the term “liberal” is often misleading. Many “liberals” are, in fact, unorthodox and do not believe what the Church believes. One can legitimately be a liberal if and only if one upholds all of the authentic teachings of the Church and then in matters of discipline or legitimate debate holds a more lenient posture. But often liberalism is merely another name for what is really unorthodox.

In classical theological manuals, textbooks and catechisms, the word “tradition” was given a twofold meaning. The first meaning of the term “tradition” was taken from its Latin root –  tradere – meaning “to pass on.” In this sense, the word tradition refers to all of those things that are passed on from one generation to the next. This would include all of the divine truths that the Church passes on to subsequent generations, including the Scriptures.

The second, or more restrictive sense of tradition, refers to a twofold division within what is passed on and not written down. In this case, Scripture is distinguished from tradition as Scripture is written, whereas tradition, in the stricter sense, refers to those unwritten things that were passed down. Tradition in the stricter sense, then, is divided into divine tradition and ecclesiastical tradition. Divine tradition is further divided according to dominical tradition (that which was given directly by Our Lord while on earth) and apostolic tradition (that which the apostles passed on under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost).1
Divine tradition is that tradition which constitutes one of the sources of revelation, i.e., a source of our knowledge about those things that were revealed to man by God. This means that divine tradition is intrinsic to the Deposit of Faith, which constitutes all of the divinely revealed truths necessary for salvation and passed on by the Church in an uninterrupted tradition. Since it is intrinsic to the Deposit of Faith, this form of tradition is sometimes called intrinsic tradition, prime examples of which are the Magisterium of the Church and the sacraments, since they were established by Jesus Christ and passed on and will be passed on until the end of time.2

Ecclesiastical tradition comprises all of those things that are not intrinsic to the Deposit of Faith but which form the heritage and patrimony of the work of previous generations graciously passed on by the Church to subsequent generations for their benefit. Because it is extrinsic to the Deposit of Faith, ecclesiastical tradition is also called extrinsic tradition, examples of which include the Church’s disciplinary code as set out in canon law and non-infallible teachings of the ordinary Magisterium. This would include such things as those contained in apostolic exhortations and encyclicals in which infallibility is not enjoyed – such as, for example, when Pope Leo XIII in Immortale Dei asserts that the Church is a perfect society.
Because God Himself entrusted the Deposit of Faith to the Catholic Church, the Catholic Church is inherently traditional. Since all men by nature desire to know,3 the Church cannot help but develop an ecclesiastical tradition. Once man was given the Deposit of Faith, he naturally reflected upon the Deposit resulting in a greater understanding of it. That understanding was then passed on. This also means that the Church herself would pass judgment upon the Deposit in magisterial acts and these magisterial acts become part of the ecclesiastical tradition. The ecclesiastical tradition, therefore, was formed over the course of time, in the life of the Church throughout the twenty centuries of its existence. This also indicates that one must distinguish between that which pertains to the Deposit and that which does not. The Church sometimes passes judgment on the Deposit of Faith in order to clarify the teaching contained within the Deposit for the good of the Church, such as when Pius IX declared the Immaculate Conception of Our Lady. Other magisterial acts are merely extrinsic to the Deposit of Faith and do not necessarily point to anything within the Deposit, but which may be connected to the Deposit in some way. This would include some ordinary magisterial acts as well as matters of discipline. However, more is contained in ecclesiastical tradition than just the acts of the Magisterium.
Historically, ecclesiastical (or extrinsic) tradition developed according to two principles:
The first principle was the Deposit of Faith itself. Catholics used teachings within the Deposit to develop schools of spirituality, Church discipline and legislation, as well as all of the other things that pertain to ecclesiastical tradition. Since the teaching of Christ must govern the life of the Church, it was necessary for any authentic extrinsic tradition (e.g., canon law) to be consistent with those teachings. Anything that was contrary to the teachings contained in the Deposit caused the Church great affliction but over time was cut off from the life of the Church. Here we have in mind those who develop heterodox teachings of their own (heresies), as well as spiritualities and customs which are contrary to the teachings of the Church.
The second principle was the nature of man. Scripture itself tells us a great deal about man, and as philosophical systems advanced in an understanding of the nature of man, especially in the medieval period, the extrinsic tradition was based upon the knowledge of that nature. Furthermore, it was known to be a wounded nature, that is, one affected by Original Sin, so the extrinsic tradition was designed to aid man in his condition. For example, many schools of spirituality and rules of the religious orders were designed in order to help man overcome his proclivity to self-will and concupiscence in order to conform himself to the ideals taught within the Deposit. Those who fashioned the extrinsic tradition were often saints who were guided and helped by divine aid in establishing some custom or aspect of the extrinsic tradition that was passed on to subsequent generations. The extrinsic tradition came to form the magnificent patrimony and heritage of all Catholics.
As the Modernist crisis grew under the impetus of modern philosophy, the extrinsic tradition was eroded and subverted due to several factors. The first was a change of view about the nature of man. With the onslaught of rationalism, then empiricism and later Kantianism and other modern innovations about the nature of man, the Thomistic, realist view of man was supplanted. At first, this occurred outside the Church and was kept at bay by formal teaching within the Church that maintained a proper view of man. The Protestants, not having an intellectual heritage, quickly succumbed to the modern philosophies. As the Modernist crisis spread within the Church and the curiosity and fascination with modern philosophy grew, the view of man held by Catholics began to change in the latter part of the nineteenth century and during the twentieth.
Rationalism also changed how man viewed revelation. Since rationalists do not believe that one can come to true intellectual knowledge by means of the senses, then that which pertained to the senses was systematically ignored or rejected. Since revelation is something introduced into sensible reality, revelation came under direct attack. Moreover, if one is cut off from reality, then one is locked up inside himself and thus what pertains to one’s own experience becomes paramount. After Descartes came Spinoza, who systematically attacked the authenticity of oral tradition regarding the Scriptures,4 and through his philosophy he began to change people’s view of the world. As empiricism rose, the view of man as simply a material being led to fixing man’s meaning in the “now” or always in the present. Since for the empiricist man’s meaning is found in what he senses and feels, this development led eventually to a lack of interest in the past since the past as such (and the future for that matter) can neither be sensed nor fulfill our sensible desires. With the advent of Hegel, who held that there was only one existing thing in a constant state of flux, the intellectual groundwork was laid for a wholesale lack of interest in and distrust of tradition. The coupling of the Hegelian dialectic with the skepticism of Spinoza regarding the sources of Scripture, the past (including all forms of tradition) came to be considered outmoded or outdated and tradition distrusted. As a consequence, those who wanted to impose some religious teaching based upon tradition or history became suspect.

At the same time in which the intellectual underpinnings for trusting tradition collapsed in the minds of modern intellectuals under the impetus of modern philosophy, a growing immanentism arose. Immanentism is a philosophy that holds that anything of importance is contained within the individual; the individual becomes the measure or standard by which things are judged. Immanentism essentially holds that exterior reality is not important except to the extent that we can express ourselves in it. What is really important is what is within ourselves. Immanentism came from many sources but three are of particular importance:

The first was Kant, who, through an epistemology that was founded on Cartesian and empirical skepticism regarding the senses, left one locked in his own mind, logically speaking. This meant that everything was within oneself or his own mind, which in turn meant that man’s experiences were essentially immanent – that is, they are within or remain within himself.
The second source of immanentism was the location of the theological experience within the emotions. This was developed by Friedrich Schleiermacher. For Schleiermacher, religion was primarily an expression of piety, and piety was to be found only in the emotions. Religion could not be satisfied with metaphysical treatises and analysis – that is, a rational approach – but rather had to be something emotional. This led to the immanentization of religion since piety or religious experience was viewed as something within the individual. We often see this immanentization today: people expect the liturgy to conform to their emotional states rather than conforming themselves to an objective cult which in turn conforms itself to God.
The third source that led to immanentization and therefore provided an intellectual foundation for acceptance only of the present and a rejection of the past was the work of Maurice Blondel. Blondel held:
[M]odern thought, with a jealous susceptibility, considers the notion of immanence as the very condition of philosophizing; that is to say, if among current ideas there is one which it regards as marking a definitive advance, it is the idea, which is at bottom perfectly true, that nothing can enter into a man’s mind which does not come out of him and correspond in some way to a need for expansion and that there is nothing in the nature of historical or traditional teaching or obligation imposed from without that counts for him.…”5
For Blondel, only those things that come from man himself and which are immanent to him have any meaning. No tradition or history has any bearing upon his intellectual considerations unless it comes somehow from himself.

These three sources of immanentism as they influenced the Church during the waning of an intellectual phase of Modernism in the 1950s and early 1960s6 provided the foundation for a psychological break from tradition as a norm. As Peter Bernardi observes, Blondel was “working at a time when the Church was just beginning to become conscious of a certain break in its tradition.” The work of Blondel and the influx of the other modern philosophical points of view, which were antithetical to the ecclesiastical tradition, had a drastic impact on Vatican II.7 By the time Vatican II arrived, the intellectual foundation was in place for a systematic rejection of all aspects of ecclesiastical tradition.

In summary: Blondel and others, under the influence of modern philosophy, thought that modern man could not be satisfied with past ways of thinking. They provided an intellectual foundation upon which the Church, with a Council as a catalyst, could “update” itself or undergo an “aggiornamento.” With the foundations for the extrinsic tradition having been supplanted, the extrinsic tradition was lost. In other words, since the view of man had changed and since the view of the Deposit of Faith was subjected to a modern analysis, the extrinsic tradition, which rested upon these two, collapsed. We are currently living with the full-blown effects of that collapse. Catholics today have become fixated on the here and now, and in consequence the Church’s traditions have come to be treated not only as irrelevant but also as something to be distrusted and even, at times, demonized.

This has had several effects. The first is that those things that pertain to the extrinsic tradition and do not touch upon the intrinsic tradition are ignored. This manifests itself in the fact that some ecclesial documents today do not have any connection to the positions held by the Magisterium prior to the Second Vatican Council. For example, in the document of Vatican II on ecumenism, Unitatis Redintegratio, there is not a single mention of the two previous documents that deal with the ecumenical movement and other religions: Leo XIII’s Satis Cognitum and Pius XI’s Mortalium Animos. The approach to ecumenism and other religions in these documents is fundamentally different from the approach of the Vatican II document or Ut Unum Sint by Pope John Paul II. While the current Magisterium can change a teaching that falls under non-infallible ordinary magisterial teaching, nevertheless, when the Magisterium makes a judgment in these cases, it has an obligation due to the requirements of the moral virtue of prudence to show how the previous teaching was wrong or is now to be understood differently by discussing the two different teachings. However, this is not what has happened. The Magisterium since Vatican II often ignores previous documents which may appear to be in opposition to the current teaching, leaving the faithful to figure out how the two are compatible, such as in the cases of Mortalium Animos and Ut Unum Sint. This leads to confusion and infighting within the Church as well as the appearance of contradicting previous Church teaching without explanation or reasoned justification.

Moreover, the problem is not just with respect to the Magisterium prior to Vatican II but even with the Magisterium since the Council. For instance, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) in 1975 (Declaration on Certain Questions Concerning Sexual Ethics, as found in the official English translation of the Vatican by The Wanderer Press, 128 E. 10th St., St. Paul, MN 55101) asserts the following regarding masturbation: “The main reason is that, whatever the motive for acting this way, the deliberate use of the sexual faculty outside normal conjugal relations essentially contradicts the finality of the faculty.” This indicates that regardless of one’s intention or motive, the act is in itself gravely immoral. Then, in the Catechism of the Catholic Church,8 a definition is given that seems to allow for different intentions to modify whether such an act is evil or not: “Masturbationis nomine intelligere oportet voluntarium organorum genitalium excitationem, ad obtinendam ex ea veneream voluptatem” (“by the name masturbation must be understood the voluntary excitement of the genital organs to obtain venereal pleasure”). The last part of the definition therefore includes in the act of masturbation a finality – “to obtain venereal pleasure.” This appears to contradict the prior teaching of the Church as well as the teaching of the CDF. If one does not do it for the sake of pleasure, does that mean that it is not masturbation? For example, if one commits this act for the sake of determining one’s fertility, does this justify it? One can rectify the situation by arguing that when it is done for the sake of pleasure it is an instance of masturbation, but that the actual definition is what the Church has always held. Clearly, however, this example is testimony to how careless the Magisterium has become in its theological expression.

This type of behavior, coupled with the modern philosophical encroachment into the intellectual life of the Church and the bad theology resulting therefrom, has led to a type of “magisterialism.” Magisterialism is a fixation on the teachings that pertain only to the current Magisterium. Since extrinsic tradition has been subverted and since the Vatican tends to promulgate documents exhibiting a lack of concern regarding some previous magisterial acts, many have begun ignoring the previous magisterial acts and now listen only to the current Magisterium.

This problem is exacerbated by our current historical conditions. As the theological community began to unravel before, during and after Vatican II, those who considered themselves orthodox were those who were obedient and intellectually submissive to the Magisterium, since those who dissented were not orthodox. Therefore the standard of orthodoxy was shifted from Scripture, intrinsic tradition (of which the Magisterium is a part) and extrinsic tradition (which includes magisterial acts of the past, such as Pius IX’s Syllabus of Errors), to a psychological state in which only the current Magisterium is followed.

Neoconservatives have fallen into this way of thinking. The only standard by which they judge orthodoxy is whether or not one follows the current Magisterium. As a general rule, traditionalists tend to be orthodox in the sense that they are obedient to the current Magisterium, even though they disagree about matters of discipline and have some reservations about certain aspects of current magisterial teachings that seem to contradict the previous Magisterium (e.g., the role of the ecumenical movement). Traditionalists tend to take not just the current Magisterium as their norm but also Scripture, intrinsic tradition, extrinsic tradition and the current Magisterium as the principles of judgment of correct Catholic thinking. This is what distinguishes traditionalists and neoconservatives

Inevitably, this magisterialism has led to a form of positivism. Since there are no principles of judgment other than the current Magisterium, whatever the current Magisterium says is always what is “orthodox.” In other words, psychologically the neoconservatives have been left in a position in which the extrinsic and intrinsic tradition are no longer included in the norms of judging whether something is orthodox or not. As a result, whatever comes out of the Vatican, regardless of its authoritative weight, is to be held, even if it contradicts what was taught with comparable authority in the past. Since non-infallible ordinary acts of the Magisterium can be erroneous, this leaves one in a precarious situation if one takes as true only what the current Magisterium says. While we are required to give religious assent even to the non-infallible teachings of the Church, what are we to do when a magisterial document contradicts other current or previous teachings and one does not have any more authoritative weight than the other? It is too simplistic merely to say that we are to follow the current teaching. What would happen if in a period of crisis, like our own, a non-infallible ordinary magisterial teaching contradicted what was in fact the truth? If one part of the Magisterium contradicts another, both being at the same level, which is to believed?

Unfortunately, what has happened is that many neoconservatives have acted as if non-infallible ordinary magisterial teachings (such as, for instance, the role of inculturation in the liturgy as stated in the Catechism of the Catholic Church) are, in fact, infallible when the current Magisterium promulgates them. This is a positivist mentality. Many of the things that neoconservatives do are the result of implicitly adopting principles that they have not fully or explicitly considered. Many of them would deny this characterization because they do not intellectually hold to what, in fact, are their operative principles.
As the positivism and magisterialism grew and the extrinsic tradition no longer remained a norm for judging what should and should not be done, neoconservatives accepted the notion that the Church must adapt to the modern world. Thus rather than helping the modern world to adapt to the teachings of the Church, the reverse process has occurred. This has led to an excessive concern with holding politically correct positions on secular matters. Rather than having a certain distrust of the world – which Christ exhorts us to have – many priests will teach something from the pulpit only as long as it is not going to cause problems. For example, how many priests are willing to preach against anti-scriptural feminism? The fact is that they have adopted an immanentized way of looking at what should be done, often from an emotional point of view. Coupled with political correctness, this has incapacitated ecclesiastical authorities in the face of the world and within the Church herself where the process of immanentization, with its flawed understanding of the nature of man and his condition as laboring under Original Sin, has severely undermined discipline. Even those who try to be orthodox have become accustomed to softer disciplinary norms, which fit fallen nature well, resulting in a lack of detachment from the current way of doing things and a consequent reluctance by neoconservatives to exercise authority – precisely because they lack the vital detachment required to do so.

All of the aforesaid has resulted in neoconservative rejection of the extrinsic tradition as the norm. This is why, even in “good” seminaries, the spiritual patrimony of the saints is virtually never taught. Moreover, this accounts for why the neoconservatives appear confused about the real meaning of tradition. Since it is not a principle of judgment for them, they are unable to discuss it in depth. In fact, they ignore extrinsic tradition almost as much as do the “liberals.” Even when neoconservatives express a desire to recover and follow the extrinsic tradition, they rarely do so when it comes to making concrete decisions.

It now becomes clearer why there is a kind of psychological suspicion between neoconservatives and traditionalists: they have fundamentally different perspectives. The neoconservatives have psychologically or implicitly accepted that extrinsic tradition cannot be trusted, whereas the traditionalists hold to the extrinsic tradition as something good, something that is the product of the wisdom and labor of the saints and the Church throughout history. For this reason, the fundamental difference between neoconservatives and traditionalists is that the neoconservative looks at the past through the eyes of the present while the traditionalist looks at the present through the eyes of the past. Historically, the mens ecclesiae or mind of the Church was expressed through the extrinsic tradition. That is to say that the Church, since it receives both its teaching from the past and the labor of the saints and previous Magisterium by tradition, always looked at the present through the eyes of the past. In this, she looked at the present not as man under the influence of modern philosophy looked at the present, but through the eyes of her Lord Who gave her His teaching when He was on earth (i.e., in the past). Only at the time of Christ was it possible to look authentically at the past through what was then the eyes of the present, since Christ was the fulfillment of the past. But once the work of Christ became part of history and He ascended into heaven, we must always look back to Christ and to our tradition for an authentic understanding of the present.

This fundamental shift in perspective has left traditionalists with the sense that they are fighting for the good of the extrinsic tradition without the help of and often hindered by the current Magisterium. Liturgically, traditionalists judge the Novus Ordo in light of the Mass of Pius V and the neoconservatives judge the Tridentine Mass, as it is called, in light of the Novus Ordo. This comes from Hegelianism, which holds that the past is always understood in light of the present; the thesis and antithesis are understood in light of their synthesis. This outlook leads to a mentality that newer is always better, because the synthesis is better than either the thesis or the antithesis taken alone. Being affected by this, the neoconservatives are often incapable of imagining that the current discipline of the Church may not be as good as the prior discipline. There is a mentality today that holds that “because it is present [Hegelianism], because it comes from us [immanentism], it is necessarily better.”

Furthermore, neoconservatives’ very love for the Church and strong emotional attachment to the Magisterium cause them to find it unimaginable that the Church could ever falter, even with regard to matters of discipline. Like the father who loves his daughter and therefore has a hard time imagining her doing anything wrong, neoconservatives have a hard time conceiving that the Holy Ghost does not guarantee infallibility in matters of discipline or non-infallible ordinary magisterial teaching. Traditionalists, confronted by a Church in crisis, know that something has gone wrong somewhere. As a result, they are, I believe, more sober in assessing whether or not the Church exercises infallibility in a given case. That, allied to their looking at the present through the eyes of the past, helps traditionalists to see that the onus is on the present, not the past, to justify itself.

The dominance of Hegelianism and immanentism also led to a form of collective ecclesiastical amnesia. During the early1960s, there existed a generation that was handed the entire ecclesiastical tradition, for the tradition was still being lived. However, because they labored under the aforesaid errors, that generation chose not to pass on the ecclesiastical tradition to the subsequent generation as something living. Consequently, in one generation, the extrinsic tradition virtually died out. By the late 1960s and early 1970s, seminary and university formation in the Catholic Church excluded those things that pertained to the ecclesiastical tradition. Once the prior generation had chosen this course – not to remember and teach the things of the past – the tradition was never passed on and thus those whom they trained (the current generation) were consigned to suffer collective ignorance about their patrimony and heritage.

A further effect of what we have considered is that no prior teaching has been left untouched. In other words, it appears as if more documentation has been issued in the last forty years than in the previous 1,960. Every past teaching, if the current Magisterium deems it worthy of note to modern man, is touched upon anew and viewed through the lens of present-day immanentism. The impression is given that the teachings of the previous Magisterium cannot stand on their own and must be given some form of “relevance” by being promulgated anew in a current document. Moreover, the current documents often lack the clarity and succinctness of the prior Magisterium, and, with relatively few exceptions, are exceedingly long and tedious to read in their entirety. As a result, the frequency of the documents, taken together with their length, have eroded their authority because, as a general rule, people simply do not have the emotional or psychological discipline to plow through them.

In summary, then, the differences between traditionalists and neoconservatives are rooted in their respective attitudes to extrinsic or ecclesiastical tradition. Even if a neoconservative holds notionally9 that the extrinsic tradition is of value, nevertheless in the daily living of his life and in his deliberations he simply ignores a large portion if not all of it. But there is hope, even outside the circles that hold to tradition. Many of the young, even those in neoconservative seminaries, are no longer weighed down by the intellectual baggage that afflicted their counterparts of the previous generation. Because they have been taught virtually nothing about religion, they lack a perspective that might influence them negatively in favor of one particular view of extrinsic tradition. Many of them are eager to learn the truth and do not have any preconceived ideas about the current state of the Church. As a result, if they are provided with or are able to arrive at the knowledge of their patrimony, many seeking it out on their own, then we can be assured of a brighter future. But this requires knowledge of the problem and the willingness to adopt or connect to the extrinsic tradition by embracing it as something good. It is unlikely that the role of ecclesiastical tradition will be sorted out soon, but we can hope that its restoration is part of God’s providential plan. 
1 Christian Pesch, Praelectiones Dogmaticae (Herder & Co., Friburgus, 1924), vol. I, p. 397f.
2 Vatican I, Pastor Aeternus, ch. 2 (Denz. 1825/3058).
3 Aristotle, Metaphysics, Bk. I, ch. 1 (980a22).
4 David Laird Dungan, in his text A History of the Synoptic Problem (Doubleday, New York, 1999), recounts how Spinoza developed the historical/critical exegetical method and that from that point on, Scripture studies began to deteriorate outside the Catholic sphere. Later, these same problems would enter into the Church with the uncritical adoption of the same methods.
5 "Letter on Apologetics” as found in the article by Peter J. Bernardi, “Maurice Blondel and the Renewal of the Nature/Grace Relationship,” Communio 26 (Winter 1999), p. 881.
6 The heresy of Modernism has occurred in four phases. The first was the initial phase, which began around 1832, when it was called liberalism, until the beginning of the First Vatican Council in 1869. The second phase was the intelligentsia phase in which it began to infect the Catholic intelligentsia more thoroughly. This occurred from 1870 to 1907, at which time Pope St. Pius X formally condemned Modernism. Then from 1907 until about 1955 to 1960, the underground phase occurred, in which the Modernist teachings were propagated by some of the intelligentsia in the seminaries and Catholic universities, though quietly. Then, in the latter part of the 1950s, a superficial phase began in which the intellectual energy was exhausted and what was left was the practical application of the vacuous teachings of Modernism, which occurred during the period in which the Second Vatican Council was in session and persists until this date. Vatican II was the catalyst or opportunity seized by the past and current superficial intellectuals who teach things contrary to the teachings of the Church.
7 Bernardi observes this but in a positive way in loc. cit.
8 Editio typica, Libreria Editrice Vatican, 1997, para. 2352.
9 In philosophy, a distinction is made between notional and real assent. Notional assent is when the person may make an intellectual judgment that something is true, but it does not really determine his action or thinking. Real assent is when a person makes an intellectual judgment about the truth of some matter and actually lives and thinks according to it.
Fr. Chad Ripperger, F.S.S.P., is a professor at St. Gregory’s diocesan minor seminary and Our Lady of Guadalupe seminary, both in Nebraska.  
© 1999 – 2007 Keep the Faith, Inc. All Rights reserved.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Miley Cyrus: Bellwether of Cultural Progress?

AUGUST 30, 2013

by Austin Ruse

Miley Cyrus’s gyrations on the Video Music Awards are hardly new. In fact, Miley is getting whupped by the black community for a white performer once more taking a cultural artifact from the black experience.

Some have gone so far as calling Miley racist for taking on-stage twerking into the white mainstream. You probably did not know that this kind of thing is such a staple of hip-hop videos, you could even call it “old-school.” Elvis did this first by taking black dance gyrations and making millions in the process. Here’s its happening all over again. Oh, the humanity!

What is twerking? I had to look it up myself. It’s that thing where a woman dancer bends over and jams her derrière into the privates of a male dancer and then grinds. Twerking.

And did you even know that Miley Cyrus had a six-inch tongue? A tongue like a weapon she has, one that she flapped all over the stage with the standard satanic leer. She even had little pigtails like tiny horns.

She also wielded a foam finger, like you see at football games, and used it to pleasure herself and her “singing” partner Robin Thicke who has a massive hit song out this summer called “Blurred Lines” with a video of naked cavorting and barely post-teen girls.

Keep in mind that Miley is 20 and Thicke is 37. In case you don’t know, Robin Thicke is the son of plain vanilla entertainer Alan Thicke. Robin Thicke’s mother said she “could never unsee” the Miley spectacle.

All this was enough to give Mika Brezinski on MSNBC’s Morning Joe an aneurism. Except when she’s going after the Second Amendment, I have never seen Mika so exorcised. She’s calling for boycotts and firings of the twirps on MTV who let this happen. And she wants Miley to get psychiatric help.

She’s not the only one. They say the celebs in the audience were shocked, too. Rihanna looked bored but the thing about Rihanna is she does much the same thing as Miley, even more so. She was probably cranky that racist Miley had invaded her turf.

Will Smith and his family were caught with shocked looks on their faces but their handlers have backed way off and said their priceless expressions were a combination of nose scratches and yawns and after all their expressions were from watching the rather tame (this year) Lady Gaga and not Miley.

During the same news cycle there was another spectacle, far worse, happening in a field in rural Illinois. Have you ever heard of Insane Clown Posse? They are a white rap-metal band, or whatever, that paints their faces with lurid clown make-up. They have quite a following that each year gathers for something called The Gathering of Juggalos. “Juggalos” is the name the band’s followers call themselves. This was the 13th year the Juggalos have met.

Miley Cyrus ain’t got nothing on these girls and guys.

There is a picture of a man without any arms, Satan make up, with a heavy bucket suspended from a hole in his lip. The Juggalos are cheering. There are photographs of young girls all lined up and mostly naked though some have on stripper regalia. There is something called the “drug bridge” where all manor of pills are purchased, though this year it was at least temporarily closed when a young Juggalo over-dosed and died.

Perhaps the most famous picture from this year’s Gathering, though, is of a sick young man who was sent to the Gathering by the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Seems he’s a big Insane Clown Posse fan and he and his family, from rural Vermont, have never been to a concert of any kind. There is a picture of him getting a naked lap dance by a lithe young teenager. The Riverfront Times of St. Louis reports that she just happened by, had heard the sick boy was there, and simply dropped her clothes and twerked. Finished—without a word—she left.

Knowing these stories I feel like Lazarus come from the dead, come back to tell you all. Did Lazarus need a shower?

Look at the progress we have made.

Fifty-seven years ago Ed Sullivan shot Elvis from the waste up so as not to offend middle class sensibilities with his pelvic gyrations. A few years later, Sullivan made the Rolling Stones change their lyrics from “Let’s spend the night together” to “Let’s spend some time together.” Forty-four years ago Midnight Cowboy got an X rating. Have you seen Midnight Cowboy lately? It’s the story of a male prostitute and his homeless buddy. It hardly showed anything truly offensive but it got an X in 1969! It would hardly get an R today, maybe even PG-13.

Are we better off morally today than we were in 1956 or even 1969?

At the same time as the Miley Cyrus and the Juggaloe story, another story made the news. An Irish girl—now know as the Slane Girl—was photographed performing sex acts on a triumphant-arms-raised-drunken-punk at a concert by white rapper Eminem. Her act has gone viral. Pictures. Video. Everything.

She now claims her drink was spiked. Her defenders are outraged that anyone would criticize her and wonder why the boy has not come under the same withering attack. They say her critics are trying to “shame” her. Oh no, not shame.

It is hard to say what is driving her critics. They most likely come from her social caste—sadly adrift, probably drug-addled, culturally and morally bereft. Still, perhaps there is a vestigial aversion to what she did. Maybe way down deep they can make moral judgments, and not only that, they can pronounce them, too. Maybe not.

But who knows, maybe after the rat-a-tat-tat news of Miley Cyrus, the Juggalos, and the Slane Girl comes a moral resurgence. I mean even Mika Brezinski’s upset. It’s a start.

(Photo credit: Evan Agostini / Invision / AP)

Tagged as: Cultural Decline, Insane Clown Posse, Mika Brezinski, Miley Cyrus, MTV
The views expressed by the authors and editorial staff are not necessarily the views of
Sophia Institute, Holy Spirit College, or the Thomas More College of Liberal Arts.

By Austin Ruse

Austin Ruse is president of C-FAM (Catholic Family & Human Rights Institute), a New York and Washington DC-based research institute focusing on international legal and social policy.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

The Mindset of the Left: Part III

Thomas Sowell | Jul 04, 2013

Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institute and author of The Housing Boom and Bust.

Editor's note: This is Part III in a series. Part I can be found here. Part II can be found here.

The fundamental problem of the political left seems to be that the real world does not fit their preconceptions. Therefore they see the real world as what is wrong, and what needs to be changed, since apparently their preconceptions cannot be wrong.

A never-ending source of grievances for the left is the fact that some groups are "over-represented" in desirable occupations, institutions and income brackets, while other groups are "under-represented."

From all the indignation and outrage about this expressed on the left, you might think that it was impossible that different groups are simply better at different things.

Yet runners from Kenya continue to win a disproportionate share of marathons in the United States, and children whose parents or grandparents came from India have won most of the American spelling bees in the past 15 years. And has anyone failed to notice that the leading professional basketball players have for years been black, in a country where most of the population is white?

Most of the leading photographic lenses in the world have -- for generations -- been designed by people who were either Japanese or German. Most of the leading diamond-cutters in the world have been either India's Jains or Jews from Israel or elsewhere.

Not only people but things have been grossly unequal. More than two-thirds of all the tornadoes in the entire world occur in the middle of the United States. Asia has more than 70 mountain peaks that are higher than 20,000 feet and Africa has none. Is it news that a disproportionate share of all the oil in the world is in the Middle East?

Whole books could be filled with the unequal behavior or performances of people, or the unequal geographic settings in which whole races, nations and civilizations have developed. Yet the preconceptions of the political left march on undaunted, loudly proclaiming sinister reasons why outcomes are not equal within nations or between nations.

All this moral melodrama has served as a background for the political agenda of the left, which has claimed to be able to lift the poor out of poverty and in general make the world a better place. This claim has been made for centuries, and in countries around the world. And it has failed for centuries in countries around the world.

Some of the most sweeping and spectacular rhetoric of the left occurred in 18th century France, where the very concept of the left originated in the fact that people with certain views sat on the left side of the National Assembly.

The French Revolution was their chance to show what they could do when they got the power they sought. In contrast to what they promised -- "liberty, equality, fraternity" -- what they actually produced were food shortages, mob violence and dictatorial powers that included arbitrary executions, extending even to their own leaders, such as Robespierre, who died under the guillotine.

In the 20th century, the most sweeping vision of the left -- Communism -- spread over vast regions of the world and encompassed well over a billion human beings. Of these, millions died of starvation in the Soviet Union under Stalin and tens of millions in China under Mao.

Milder versions of socialism, with central planning of national economies, took root in India and in various European democracies.

If the preconceptions of the left were correct, central planning by educated elites with vast amounts of statistical data at their fingertips, expertise readily available, and backed by the power of government, should have been more successful than market economies where millions of individuals pursued their own individual interests willy-nilly.

But, by the end of the 20th century, even socialist and communist governments began abandoning central planning and allowing more market competition. Yet this quiet capitulation to inescapable realities did not end the noisy claims of the left.

In the United States, those claims and policies reached new heights, epitomized by government takeovers of whole sectors of the economy and unprecedented intrusions into the lives of Americans, of which ObamaCare has been only the most obvious example.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Standing Around the Altar


Answered by Colin B. Donovan, STL

Although there is no precedent in Catholic liturgical tradition the question of whether it is permissible for children, youth or adults to stand around the altar during the Eucharistic Prayer continues to be asked. The argument often given by those who encourage this practice is to foster "community". In 1981 the Congregation for Divine Worship addressed this question in its official journal Notitiae. In an official interpretation of no. 101 in the General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM) it responded as follows:

Query: At the presentation of gifts at a Mass with congregation, persons (lay or religious) bring to the altar the bread and wine which are to be consecrated. These gifts are received by the priest celebrant. All those participating in the Mass accompany this group procession in which the gifts are brought forward. They then stand around the altar until communion time. Is this procedure in conformity with the spirit of the law and of the Roman Missal?

Reply: Assuredly, the Eucharistic celebration is the act of the entire community, carried out by all the members of the liturgical assembly. Nevertheless, everyone must have and also must observe his or her own place and proper role: "In liturgical celebrations each one, minister or layperson, who has an office to perform, should do all of, but only, those parts which pertain to that office by the nature of the rite and the principles of liturgy." (SC art. 29). During the liturgy of the eucharist, only the presiding celebrant remains at the altar. The assembly of the faithful take their place in the Church outside the "presbyterium," which is reserved for the celebrant or concelebrants and altar ministers. [Notitiae 17 (1981) 61]

The necessity of preserving the proper distinction of roles was again addressed in 1997, as part of a larger problem of growing confusion between the roles of the ordained and the non-ordained. In that year, the Roman Congregations of Clergy, Doctrine of the Faith, Bishops, Divine Worship, Religious, Laity and Evangelization, as well as the Pontifical Council for the Interpretation of Legislative Texts, jointly issued a document intended to recall the Church to the practice of a clear distinction between the role of the laity and that of the clergy. Called the Instruction On Certain Questions Regarding The Collaboration Of The Non-Ordained Faithful In The Sacred Ministry Of Priest it noted the confusing practices present in the Church today which do not respect the theological distinction between those in Holy Orders and those who are not. On the one hand the activity of the laity is a sign of the vitality of the Church in attempting to live the teaching of Vatican II, which calls us to an active role in the liturgy and a greater role in the mission of the Church. On the other, it is a sign that some have forgotten necessary and basic distinctions that reflect the different sacramental meanings of different vocations in the Church.

Lets start with the role of the clergy. Those who have received Holy Orders have the sacramental role of representing Christ. The meaning of their vocation is that they are signs, masculine signs as the Pope has reminded us in recently years, of Jesus Christ, who is on one hand Head of His Mystical Body the Church, and on another, Bridegroom of His Bride the Church. Their sacramental role, and the authority that goes with it, is to constitute order within the communion of the Church. Thus, we speak of a hierarchy, an ordering of authority among otherwise equal Christian persons in the Church, just as there is a hierarchical order within the Trinity, despite the equality of the Divine Persons, each of whom is equally God. On the one hand we can speak of the imagery of the Head with respect to the Body; and on the other, of the Groom with respect to the Bride. Both images speak of hierarchical order within a communion of life and love.

The laity, by virtue of their baptism, are constituted members of the Body of Christ, or of the Bride. They are sacramental signs of Christ to be sure, but in relation to those in Holy Orders, as to Christ Himself, they are the beneficiaries of order. This enables the whole Body to work together harmoniously.

The situation of the liturgy is very special. In the Mass the roles and relationships within the Church attain their clearest sacramental expression. The church building has a presbyterium, sanctuary, that sets off the main body of the Church from the place where the priest offers the sacrifice. Thus, even architecturally, and even in the absence of the assembly, the distinction between Head and the Body is present. This was foreshadowed biblically in the Temple, which had an inner court of the priests, and an outer court of the people. This becomes ever clearer during the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist. The Eucharist is the high point of the Church's life. It sacramentally reflects the whole Church, Head and Body, Groom and Bride, and it brings it into being and nourishes it. When each person present fulfills their proper role, the unity, as well as the distinction of roles, in the Church is manifest.

Consider the Chrism Mass of Holy Thursday, or any Mass where the bishop, all his priests and his deacons, are all gathered in the sanctuary, marvelously showing the complete hierarchical order of the local Church. When in the main body is seen both sexes, the variety of cultures, ethnic groups and races within the local Church, the universality of salvation as found in the variety of members, is shown forth. What if all the participants gathered in the sanctuary? The amorphous body that would result would not be a sacramental body. It would be a wonderful manifestation of human unity, but would be lacking the very sacramental character that sets the Church off from society, the Eucharist from a fraternal meal. These are the theological grounds which require all but the ministers necessary to the service of the liturgy to remain outside the sanctuary.

Among the practices which the above mentioned document criticized and asked to be ended were:

a. using lay extraordinary ministers to supply for ordinary ones by multiplying "exceptional" cases over and above those so designated and regulated by normative discipline,

b. assumption by the laity of titles such as "pastor", "chaplain", "coordinator", " moderator" or other such similar titles which can confuse their role and that of the Pastor, who is always a Bishop or Priest.

c. preaching of the liturgical homily, by other than the bishop, his priests or his deacons, or other preaching by the laity in a church or oratory that is not in accordance with the prescriptions of the bishops' conference, as confirmed by the Holy See.

d. having non-priest members of presbyteral councils,

e. granting more than a consultative voice, to parish councils and finance committees; having someone other than the pastor preside

f. appointment of non-priests to head deaneries, or to assist in heading them

g. in liturgical celebrations:

- pronouncing by laity or deacons of prayers reserved to the priest,
- use of gestures or actions proper to the priest celebrant,
- quasi-presiding by the laity, leaving only the essential priestly functions
to the celebrant,
- non-use of prescribed vestments by celebrants,
- use by the laity of sacred vestments reserved to priests or deacons,
- Sunday celebrations, in lieu of Mass, lead by the laity without the
special mandate of the Bishop,
- the insertion of elements proper to Mass in such celebrations, such as
the Eucharistic Prayer,
- extraordinary ministers receiving Communion apart from the other
faithful, as though concelebrants, [Note: The 2000 GIRM states that
EMEs do not approach the altar until after the priest's communion and
do not self-communicate.]
- the habitual use of extraordinary ministers of Communion at Mass thus
arbitrarily extending the concept of "a great number of the faithful

h. in ministry to the sick, the laity anointing with the Oil of the Sick, or any other oil,

i. except where the necessary conditions are verified by the diocesan bishop, laity receiving marital consent on behalf of the Church

j. widely interpreting the reasons permitting the deputation of a lay person as an extraordinary minister of baptism.

From the abuses pointed out by these 8 Roman dicasteries, it is clear than a practice which blurs the distinction of priest and people, such as everyone standing around the altar, is contrary to the sacramental nature of the Eucharistic liturgy as a sign of the Christ and the Church.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Six Obstacles to Being Authentically Catholic

The Integrated Catholic Life

August 22, 2013 | By Randy Hain | Reply

Photography © by Andy Coan

Why is it difficult to be the same person at work, home, church and with our friends? I have observed this problem for several years, but lately I have become more aware of the challenges people have with consistently being “real.” In a few recent discussions with friends, I received blank stares and perceived a lot of discomfort when I advocated for being the same person at all times and for being transparent about our lives with others. Why is authenticity, especially Catholic authenticity, so uncomfortable?

My instincts and own experience lead me to think the root cause of this occurred for many of us at a young age. The first time we felt pressure to “fit in” with a particular group in school, we began down the path of conformity that only accelerates as we grow older. In college, we may have heard from our professors (or our parents) that we need to keep work, faith and our personal lives separate. We may have feared being judged or criticized in those early jobs for sharing anything personal which only hardens into a compartmentalized mindset as we grow in our careers. I want to believe that deep down most of us desire to consistently be our real selves, but don’t know how to get there.

Logic should tell me that it is inevitably harmful to suppress my true self for a sustained period of time, yet many people perceive there is no other option. Do you love being a parent, but feel awkward about discussing your kids at work? Do you desire to spend more time with your family, but worry about speaking about this with your boss? Is your Catholic faith important to you, but perceived intolerance among friends and work colleagues keeps you from discussing it? Have you ever been faced with a difficult ethical or moral dilemma, but remained silent or chose the easy way out rather than advocate for doing the right thing?

Obstacles to Authenticity

Let’s address some of the obstacles that may prevent us from being authentic Catholics. I am making a base assumption that you agree with me on some level that authenticity is important and that many (though not all) people have a desire to be more open, transparent and authentic. Here are a few of the obstacles that prevent this from happening:
  • There could be a lack of self-awareness. Do we even know that there is a problem?
  • Fear of people not liking the real us. Fear of not fitting in. Fear of being judged. Fear of persecution for our religious beliefs. Fear of not moving up the career ladder if we don’t fit the right corporate mold.
  • Lack of confidence in our opinions. Lack of faith in our convictions. Lack of courage to defend the truth. Lack of knowledge about our faith.
  • Attachment to an income level and lifestyle that requires unhealthy compromises.
  • Conforming to society’s march towards political correctness, universal tolerance and acceptance of things which are in direct conflict with our faith, values and principles.
  • Relaxing our standards because it easier to go along with the crowd than take a stand.

This list may be as painful for you to acknowledge as it is for me or you may have a different list. The questions I have been asking are unsettling, but necessary if a more authentic life is to be pursued and embraced.

To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.” (Ralph Waldo Emerson)

Embracing the REAL You

Have you ever replayed pivotal moments in your life over in your head and regretted your actions or words? Ever feel a twinge when your mouth said one thing and your heart/head felt another? Perhaps these feelings are your conscience trying to get your attention. It could be the Holy Spirit. Maybe, just maybe, it is time to consistently let our true selves be seen by others. But, is there an upside to having the courage to embrace who we really are?

The answer is a simple yes, because we are made for Heaven and not this place. We are here to help ourselves, our families and everyone else get to Heaven.

I am writing this article from the perspective of my Catholic faith, although I believe anyone can find value in what I am saying. As a Catholic reaching out to other Catholics, I challenge all of us (including myself) to show real courage and step up in our defense of Christ and His Church. The Church is under siege on multiple fronts and is often attacked for its unflinching defense of Christ’s teaching. We can no longer remain passive and be Catholic only at Mass on Sundays, but somebody different the rest of the week. Consider the words of Archbishop Charles Chaput in Render Unto Caesar: “Don’t lie. If we say we’re Catholic, we need to prove it. America’s public life needs people willing to stand alone, without apologies, for the truth of the Catholic faith and the common human values it defends. One person can make a difference – if that individual has a faith he or she is willing to suffer for” (pg 197). We can and should make a real difference through our prayers, our voices, our writing and at the ballot box.

After you read this reflection, please prayerfully consider if you need to be more authentically Catholic. I don’t know many of us who couldn’t stand some improvement! Let’s ask the Holy Spirit to guide our actions and give us courage. Let’s be joyful and set a good example for others by being unafraid to be our true selves. What is required of us is not easy, but our Lord will help us if we offer up our burdens and concerns to Him in prayer. He gave His life for us on the Cross. This sacrifice requires a faithful and courageous response from His followers.

With confidence and purpose, with our ultimate destination in mind, let’s all try to be a little more authentic today.

Looking for a Catholic Speaker? Check out Randy’s speaker’s page and the rest of the ICL Speaker’s Bureau.

Randy Hain, Senior Editor and co-founder of The Integrated Catholic Life™, is the author of The Catholic Briefcase: Tools for Integrating Faith and Work which was released by Liguori Publications. The Catholic Briefcase was voted the Best Catholic Book of 2011 in the About.com Catholicism Reader’s Choice Awards.

Randy Hain’s exciting new book, Along the Way: Lessons for an Authentic Journey of Faith was released by Liguori Publications in November, 2012. Along the Way was recently named Runner-Up in the About.com Catholicism Reader’s Choice Awards for Best Catholic Book of 2012. Learn more here. His third book, Something More: A Professional’s Pursuit of a Meaningful Life, was released in February, 2013. All of Randy Hain’s books can also be purchased at your local Catholic bookstore, Amazon or www.liguori.org.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Liturgy at the End of Era

Msgr Charles Pope, Diocese of Washington

August 25, 2013

Some years ago (2009) I published on this blog a recollection of my youth in those critical years of the changeover from the “old Mass” to the “new” Mass. And, while I recall some puzzlement in those years about the changes and how they violated my training, I do not recall big protests from adults to the changes.

And while many people today who prefer the Traditional Latin Mass speak of the changes forced on us after the Council, I do not recall big protests, or objections as the changes came in swiftly in those years from about 1965 -1975. Granted, I was a pre-teen kid. But I do not recall protestors outside with signs, any even any vocal objections, that reached me at the time.

It is my recollection that the objections to the new Mass came largely about ten years later (mid to late 70s). By that time radical priests and nuns had abandoned all show and were either leaving in droves or were staying and causing all sorts of trouble with dissent and rebellion.

At any rate, I am interested in your experiences if you are a bit older, say 55+ and recall the changeover. My thesis is that the true reaction did not happen on “Sunday 1″ when the altar was changed to face the people etc. Rather the negative reactions came later. For those were times when “Father says…” was enough to quell most concerns or protests. Only later when, for many “Father” had left with “Sister” to get married or, if he stayed he was misbehaving and commanded little respect, only then did the protests from some mount.

Anyway, tell me your experiences. It is also helpful if you can point to anything written at the time (65-75) that documents concerns.

What follows are my own recollections and a cool (strange) video from the era.

I received my First Holy Communion in 1968 on my knees at the altar rail in our parish church of Our Lady of Perpetual Help in a suburb North of Chicago called Glenview. I received from a very elderly pastor, Fr. Dussman, whose hands shook from Parkinson’s. It was an awesome and fearsome event. I was more nervous since Father’s hands shook and receiving communion from him could be a challenge, especially for the first time.

I remember well how seriously we took Church in those days. We had special Church clothes (always a coat and tie), special Sunday shoes and approaching the altar rail was something quite wonderful but very formal: hands folded before the chest, fingers straight, right thumb crossed over left. Kneeling and waiting for the priest and altar boy to pass by was a time of anticipation, a kind of distracted prayer, alert and ready, don’t make the priest wait! Suddenly a altar boy slid a Paten under your chin. Head back, tongue out (not too far!) just over the lower lip! The priest spoke in an ancient language (Latin). Only years later did I learn exactly what he said. I am sure the Sisters taught me but I couldn’t remember(I was only 7 going on 8): Corpus Domini Nostri Jesu Christi custodiat animam tuam in vitam aeternam (May the Body of our Lord Jesus Christ guard your soul unto life eternal). And suddenly there he was, Jesus in Holy Communion. Pretty awesome, very special, beyond my comprehension but no doubt this was holy, this was serious and sacred.

But little did I know I was at the end of an era. Within a year strange things began to occur that I did not understand, things that did not comport with my training. I remember my mother telling me that we were going to a special youth mass. I had heard of a school mass, but not a youth Mass. We got there early and I noticed something that confused me. “Mom!” I whispered, (you always whispered in Church in those days), “What are those drums doing there? Right in front of the Mary Altar, behind the rail too, were electric guitars, a drum set and chairs. Then out came these guys I had never seen before, a couple of them were wearing jeans too (a major no-no in the old days).

After Church my mother asked me if I liked it. I said no and she was surprised. “But Mom, I don’t know those songs and they were so loud.” I was confused. The sisters said we should dress well, be very quiet in Church so others could pray and only talk or sing when it was time to do that. It all seemed “a violation of my training.”

But little did we know (I would argue) that it was the end of an era. Something was taking the place of what came to be call the “old Mass.” But none of us call it that then. And if some one were to mention in those days the Missal of 1962, blank stares would have resulted. These were all later terms and distinctions. We certainly talke about Mass in the vernacular etc. But it was Mass. And yet little by little the familiar gave way to the new. The transition was at times startling, at times exciting. But I don’t remember a lot of protests at first. That came later when for some “a bridge too far” had been reached. Anyway I am interested in your remembrances and experiences from that time if you’re old enough to remember.

I do not write this post to “bash” the liturgical changes. Just to document an experience. I have become quite accustomed to the “new” Mass. I am also privileged to say the Traditional Latin Mass. I guess I am blessed to enjoy the best of both worlds. I am proud of the of how the new Mass is celebrated in my parish. We have a wonderful gospel choir which also does classical very well. There is great joy at every Mass. I am also so happy to be able to celebrate ancient Latin Mass that reminds me of the joy of my youth (qui laetificat juventutem meam). I merely document here, I leave the judgements to you my faithful readers.

The following video depicts a Mass in the year 1969. It is from an Elvis movie entitled “Change of Habit.” What an amazing little video for me! It’s just as I remember it as the changes set it. Notice the still strong presence of traditions: people all dressed up for Church, nuns in traditional habits, the priest at the high altar facing east. But notice too the guitars and “informality” of the musicians. The music is up front not back in the choir loft. And many struggle to understand the new lay of the land. It was 1969. It was the end of an era. But I wonder if we knew that?

Sunday, August 25, 2013

In Catholic Church Architecture, Tradition Shouldn’t Be Ignored

Some American architects are looking to the past in order to remedy the defects of the modernistic designs of recent decades.


Mass being celebrated at the central altar of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church in Littleton, Colo.

– courtesy Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church.

WASHINGTON — When a ranking Vatican official criticized modernistic church architecture in June, James McCrery was glad to hear it. An architect who works just blocks from the White House, McCrery devotes his career to reversing a trend he describes as decades of church design that does little to glorify God or inspire the faithful.

“It’s a big-time problem,” McCrery said of architecture that dismisses centuries of Tradition and most symbolism of the Catholic religion.

He spoke with the Register after Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, head of the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Culture, expressed similar concerns.

“The lack of integration between the architect and the faith community has at times been negative,” said Cardinal Ravasi. “Sometimes it goes wrong.”

Cardinal Ravasi’s words were made following the June 1 inauguration of the Vatican’s first art exhibit at the Venice Biennale. The exhibit focuses on the Book of Genesis through photography and paintings by Los Angeles artist Lawrence Carroll.

The Telegraph newspaper reported that Vatican officials hope the show might heal “what they call a century of ‘fracture’ between religion and art.”

“The problem is that, in Catholicism, unlike Protestantism, things like the altar, the images are essential, while architects tend instead to focus on space, lines, light and sound,” Cardinal Ravasi explained.

McCrery said modern architecture short-sells human beauty and Catholic imagery to indulge the imaginations of self-aggrandizing architects. He speaks of late 19th-century and 20th-century churches — particularly those built in Europe — that are nearly devoid of statuary. Some feature nondescript altars, stained-glass nature scenes and rounded pews that focus Catholics on one another instead of the altar and the Eucharist.

“We don’t have a big of a problem as in Europe, especially France and Italy, because our culture has not drifted as far toward modernism, theologically or architecturally,” McCrery said. “But we do suffer substantially from this problem.”

Architectural Renewal

McCrery said pockets in the United States have started a return to traditional architecture over the past decade or two, mostly because of respect for Church Tradition by younger bishops and priests. He points out that other regions, most notably the West Coast, continue to build churches more amenable to styles of worship common among Protestants.

Modernistic architecture isn’t an issue at the brand-new Our Lady of Mount Carmel parish in Littleton, Colo. The church is in the Archdiocese of Denver, where new construction of more traditional churches has become the norm.

Denver Archbishop Samuel Aquila praised the traditional design of Our Lady of Mount Carmel after a March 23 inauguration and blessing of the building. The pews face worshippers toward a 24-foot-tall, 26,000-pound altar, with inlaid mosaic detail. Two marble altars stand parallel to the central altar, and all three are constructed of Carrara marble, the rock used by Michelangelo to carve David and other sculptures in the 16th century.

“It focused me on the Mass as sacrifice,” said Denver attorney Steve Fleischer, who attended the Mount Carmel dedication with his wife and their six children. “I felt that I was at the foot of Calvary with Mary. I just had this sensation that I was going forward to the altars and then up to heaven.”

After the inauguration, Archbishop Aquila told the Register that traditional design adheres to an honest interpretation of the Second Vatican Council’s Sacrosanctum Concilium (Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy), which calls for a focus on the Blessed Sacrament and the altar.

“I believe we are seeing a restoration to what the Second Vatican Council calls for,” the archbishop said.

Modernist ‘Starchitects’

“The trend in Catholic church architecture in the United States is definitely, without question, becoming more traditional,” said Denis McNamara, an architectural historian specializing in American church architecture at the University of St. Mary of the Lake/Mundelein Seminary in the Archdiocese of Chicago.

Like McCrery, McNamara criticizes much of 20th-century church design and redesign as modernistic. Most of it, he contends, does little to inspire Catholics or to remind them about the history and meaning of the Church and its teachings.

He describes the past century and a half as an era in which it became trendy to hire modernist-inclined “star” architects, or in the traditionalist architect’s vernacular, “starchitects.”

“With the exception of a few recent cathedrals on the West Coast, the era of hiring a famous modernist star architect is over,” McNamara said. “The momentum has definitely moved to finding ways to invigorate traditional architecture while incorporating the authentic contributions of the liturgical movement and the Second Vatican Council.”

McNamara points to some of the more notable examples of new traditional Catholic architecture, including the Motherhouse Chapel of the Nashville Dominican Sisters, Our Lady of Walsingham Church in Houston, St. John the Apostle Church in Leesburg, Va., St. Michael the Archangel Church in Leawood, Kan., and St. Paul the Apostle in Westerville, Ohio.

“Just as Scripture provides perception of God for the ear, liturgical art and architecture offer it to the eye,” McNamara explained. “And it is precisely by viewing the church building as an image of heaven that we become accustomed to heavenly things. … The church building is intended to be a sacramental image of heaven and earth united at the end of time when the effects of the Fall are completely eradicated and God and humanity are united perfectly.”

Matrimonial Imagery

This is the image described in the Book of Revelation, when the new city of Jerusalem comes down and is met by its bride, the Church.

“All properly developed architecture through the ages has used this image as the foundational model for church architecture,” McNamara explained. “And since heaven is radiant, perfected, glorified and populated with angels and saints, so are our church buildings” when properly designed.

Like attorney Fleischer, McNamara and McCrery grew up in suburban environments attending modern churches often referred to as “in the round,” in which pews face inward rather than straight toward the altar. McNamara said a truly “in the round” church comprises a full circle of pews that surround the altar. Far more common, he said, is “gathered seating,” typically also referred to as “in the round,” in which straight or rounded pews form part of a circle and focus much of each worshipper’s attention on other people in the assembly.

McCrery said “in the round” and “gathered seating” came about because of modern misinterpretations about the Mass and Catholic doctrine. The concept is grounded in a mistaken belief that the mystical body of Christ is no more than the people on earth, who, during worship, should focus on one another.

“That is a woefully narrow understanding of the mystical body of Christ,” McCrery explained. “The altar is the focus of the sacrifice of the Mass, and the ambo is the focus of the word. The church becomes the physical and visual manifestation of the body of Christ during the Mass. So the church building ought to do what it can to do the work of assembling the entire mystical body of Christ at the Mass.”

And it should focus the assembly on the mystical body, he said, without the distraction of forcing worshippers to look at one another rather than the altar sacrifice they came to worship. All church art, including the stained glass, should depict God, heaven and the Holy Family. Trees and other symbols of nature, he said, are better viewed live the moment one exits a church.

Traditional Logic

McCrery said the logic of his philosophy, which advocates a return to traditional church architecture, is simple.

“Tradition didn’t just all of the sudden happen,” he said. “It has been in the works for thousands of years. A chemist would not come to the elements with a fresh look every time, deciding the elemental chart is of no use or interest whatsoever in the modern era and that his personal creativity is something more valuable.”

Added McCrery, “That would be absurd. But it’s exactly where we’ve arrived after a century and a half of architectural lunacy.”

Wayne Laugesen writes from Colorado.

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