"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)

Monday, January 27, 2014

Dear Father: what I don’t want at my funeral

Catholic Insight

Tuesday, January 21, 2014, 2:00 am

Author: Terry McDermott

Dear Father,

About that funeral I attended at your parish: I know you were trying to be nice and consoling and reassuring. But can we talk? One day, maybe soon, I’m going to die. If you happen to be the priest celebrating my funeral Mass, then I’m worried.

You know how you let the family deliver a eulogy right after the entrance hymn? I’m not an expert, but isn’t that kind of strange and wrong? By allowing the eulogy at that time, it seemed like it was part of the Mass when, of course, it wasn’t. What really concerns me is that the eulogist said things about heaven and about the soul that just weren’t true. If that were my funeral Mass, the eulogist wouldn’t have done me any favours, because most of the people in that church would now believe that I’m a canonized saint sitting right there beside Jesus. So they won’t pray for my sorry soul and I’ll be in purgatory for a very long time. Who wants that? I don’t. So if you’re the priest at my funeral some day, tell my family to give the eulogy anywhere but in the church and remind them that I still need prayers because I’m not in heaven yet.

Which brings me to my next point. Father, you said the deceased’s soul is in heaven now. How did you know that? It seems to me that you didn’t help that poor soul either. There was a captive audience in the church and not once was the need for prayers for the soul of the deceased mentioned. They were wrongly reassured that the soul is now in heaven. Really? Do you need a primer on Purgatory? Here’s what the Catechism says:

All who die in God’s grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven. … The Church gives the name Purgatory to this final purification of the elect, which is entirely different from the punishment of the damned. … This teaching is also based on the practice of prayer for the dead, already mentioned in Sacred Scripture: “Therefore [Judas Maccabeus] made atonement for the dead, that they might be delivered from their sin.” (St. Gregory the Great) From the beginning the Church has honoured the memory of the dead and offered prayers in suffrage for them, above all the Eucharistic sacrifice, so that, thus purified, they may attain the beatific vision of God. The Church also commends almsgiving, indulgences and works of penance undertaken on behalf of the dead.

At my funeral, Father, please don’t tell them I’m in heaven with all the angels and saints. God willing, I hope to be there one day, but first my imperfect soul will need to be refined in the purifying fires of Purgatory so that I can receive and give back perfect love in Heaven. I could be in Purgatory a long time. If you really want to help me, tell everyone to pray for me every day. Most importantly, have them request Masses for me. Trust me, Father, I’m going to need them.

One more thing: maybe you were just trying to be welcoming and ecumenical, but there was no reason to let everyone receive Holy Communion. There was no announcement about how only baptized, practicing Catholics in a state of grace (i.e. not in mortal sin) can receive the Holy Eucharist. Communion became a free-for-all. I was sitting at the back of the church so I had a great view. I watched as confused people who obviously didn’t know what was happening went up and received Communion. Did they know they were receiving the body, blood, soul, and divinity of my Lord—your Lord? I’ll bet they thought they were just receiving a piece of bread. At my funeral, tell them not to come up to receive Jesus in Holy Communion unless they meet the criteria for worthy reception of the Holy Eucharist. I don’t want Jesus abused.

For most of my adult life, I have tried to live from one Holy Mass to the next, looking eagerly to the next time I can receive Jesus in Holy Communion. For me, and I’m sure for you too, the Eucharist is central to our life and the Real Presence of Jesus is what sustains us and helps our faith to grow. Being able to adore Him in the Blessed Sacrament here on Earth is a foretaste of what Heaven will be like.

When I die, maybe people will miss me enough that they will come to the Mass and some of them will cry. That’s good. That means I touched lives. But what’s most important is that my funeral will be truly Catholic.

Do that for me, Father. Tell them I tried to love God with all my heart but I wasn’t perfect, so I need to spend time in Purgatory to have my soul purified. Tell them they can help me by praying for me. And tell them about Jesus in the Holy Eucharist and why they can’t all come up to receive Him. Be kind but tell them the truth. One day, God willing, if I’m in Heaven on the day of your funeral Mass, I’ll pray for you and I’ll keep praying for you until we are together there.


Concerned But Hopeful

Sunday, January 26, 2014

The Danger of Equating Vatican II and the Liturgical Reform

New Liturgical Movement



Pope John Paul II pointed out: “For many people, the message of the Second Vatican Council was perceived principally through the liturgical reform” (Vicesimus Quintus Annus, 12).

That’s just the problem in a nutshell, isn’t it? If the liturgical reform itself was bungled—and, in the wake of the scathing critiques of Gamber, Ratzinger, Nichols, Lang, Mosebach, Robinson, Reid, et alia, it is no longer intellectually honest to think that it was not, in some very important respects—and, what is worse, if its implementation was still further compromised by the prevailing secularism of the environment into which it was launched, one must ask: What version, or rather, what caricature, of Vatican II did those many people perceive whose idea of the Council came, perhaps exclusively, from the liturgical revolution?

They took in little or nothing of the authentic doctrine of the Council—the salubrious doctrine that, according to John XXIII’s intention and the very words of Vatican II itself, fully accorded with the teaching of former ecumenical councils, especially those of Trent and Vatican I. Instead of bread, the faithful were given a stone. Instead of substantive content, the faithful were given a hermeneutic, a manner of viewing the Church, her teaching, her tradition, her liturgy—and it was decisively one of rupture and discontinuity. To be Catholic in those heady days meant to be different, to be other, to be up-to-date; it certainly did not mean to be stably the same, consistent with one’s past, reliant on tradition. The Church was no longer the Mystical Body and Immaculate Bride of Christ; the Church was reform, reform without an end in sight, without even much of a plan, reform for the sake of reform. As the famous Protestant theologian Karl Barth asked in the wake of the Council: “When will the Church know that it is sufficiently updated?” I think that’s what you call a rhetorical question.

Tragically, generations of clergy have been trained in the same hermeneutic of rupture and discontinuity, including most of the world’s bishops. That is why the unexpected resurgence of traditional forms of faith and worship among young people, mounting at times to passionate commitment, is a source of bewilderment, consternation, and even anger to them. Due to their training and mental habits, such clergy equate today’s liturgy and its multitudinous aberrations with Vatican II, and hence equate a love of or preference for the traditional liturgy and the culture surrounding it with a rejection of Vatican II. This might be true for some people, but it isn't true across the board, and it need not be true at all.

It does not seem to matter that the traditional liturgy and the integral Catholic life it sustains is, in fact, profoundly in harmony with the best and greatest teachings of the Council—one need only think of Lumen Gentium, Dei Verbum, and evenSacrosanctum Concilium. It does not matter that Pope Benedict XVI, the greatest theologian to sit on the Chair of Peter for centuries, saw continuity between his own liturgical doctrine and praxis and that of the Council to which he made significant contributions. No, it does not matter, because it doesn’t look that way to Catholics ignorant of the Council’s documents, ignorant of the liturgical patrimony of the Church, and poorly formed by almost fifty years of liturgical abuse.

What is necessary today is to show, patiently, persistently, and accurately, with the humility and confidence born of careful study, that the fathers of Vatican II did notdesire or ask for the liturgical reform that came out of Bugnini’s Consilium, that theNovus Ordo Missae is not in full accord with Sacrosanctum Concilium (see here orhere), and that the teaching of the sixteen official documents of Vatican II supports rather than dismantles traditional Catholic theology and piety. The least we can do, in any case, is not to allow ourselves to be tossed to and fro, carried about by every wind of secondhand half-truths or tendentious readings that emphasize rupture, whether modernist or traditionalist in source.

It is true that there are problems, difficulties, and ambiguities in the conciliar documents. It is true that not every formulation is immune to legitimate criticism—even Ratzinger complained that parts of Gaudium et Spes were “downright Pelagian.” And it is beyond doubt that there were bishops and periti at the Council who sought to infuse modernism into the documents and, to some extent, succeeded in influencing the formulations. But it is still more certain that the final documents, reviewed so many times and passed through the crucible of papal and conciliar scrutiny, are, with few exceptions, sound in content and form; and it is most certain that they are free from error in faith and morals, being the formal acts of an ecumenical council and solemnly promulgated by the Pope. We must never, as it were, abandon the Council to the modernists; this would only play into the devil’s hands.

Pasquale Cati, Council of Trent

In any case, it is not simply this most recent Council that gives us our map and marching orders; it is the entirety of Catholic Tradition and the totality of the Magisterium for the past 2,000 years, of which this Council is but a part, and within which it is rightly understood. We know thatin principle, no reading of Vatican II can possibly be right that results in formal contradiction between past and present. We are guided by all of the Church’s teaching, not just the most recent. Indeed, we are blessed to belong to a body that, while it develops over time, cannot essentially change. The partisans of perpetual change can have their bizarre liturgies and politically correct catechisms, but they will no longer—or not for much longer—be Catholics.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Archdiocese releases documents detailing sexual abuse by priests

January 21, 2014 9:31AM

Vince McCaffrey, left, and Robert Mayer were accused of multiple incidents of sexual abuse.
Archdiocese documents: abusedinchicago.comArchdiocese documents: andersonadvocates.com

Abuse victim finds it ‘extremely hard to believe’ church didn’t cover up abuse
McCaffrey accused of molesting up to 50 while superiors helped cover up abuse
Bernardin gave priest repeated chances before forcing resignation

Updated: January 21, 2014 9:50AM

The Archdiocese of Chicago took steps to conceal sexual abuse by serial abusers, promoted and moved priests with multiple accusations against them and had victims making the allegations investigated, archdiocese documents released Tuesday reveal.

The documents cover abuse allegations against 30 priests that surfaced under the leadership of Cardinals John Cody, Joseph Bernardin and Francis George.

Conspicuously absent in many of the more than 6,000 pages of documents were any signs that many of the allegations were ever immediately reported to law enforcement authorities for their investigation.

Among the revelations in the documents:

◆ Vincent McCaffrey, who was ultimately sentenced to 20 years for child pornography, had been allowed by Bernardin and Cody to remain in ministry and relocate to other parishes after allegations of abuse. McCaffrey ultimately admitted to molesting more than a dozen victims between 1976 and 1990. He wasn’t defrocked until 2010.

◆ Bernardin agreed to appoint Robert Mayer as pastor of a Berwyn church after multiple allegations of sexual abuse were levied against him. The promotion was supported by the church’s board of vicars. After more allegations surfaced, Bernardin forced him to resign.

◆ The late priest Robert Becker, who at times was accused of abusing in tandem with the late priest Kenneth Ruge,was moved following allegations. Among one of the multiple allegations was abuse against three children in one family.

The documents were released by attorneys Jeff Anderson and Marc Pearlman, who represent clients who sued the archdiocese over abuse allegations and won settlements. The legal action resulted in an agreement for the archdiocese to release the documents to them.

Of the 30 priests included, 14 are dead and the remainder are no longer in ministry, according to the archdiocese. About 95 percent of the reported allegations occurred before 1988, and none occurred after 1996, it said.

Just before turning the documents over to attorneys last week, Bishop Francis Kane, vicar general of the archdiocese, said mistakes were made, but there was no intent to cover up.

But 62-year-old Joseph Iacono, who said he was abused by the late Rev. Thomas Kelly 50 years ago in Northlake, said “that’s very hard for me to digest.”

According to the archdiocese, before 1992, employees were expected to report sexual misconduct as part of “general personnel management,” spokeswoman Susan Burritt said in a statement. “It was not the subject of formal policy.”

Since 2002, allegations of sexual misconduct are reported immediately to civil authorities, and no priest with one substantiated allegation of sexual abuse of a minor can serve in public ministry.

Pearlman and Anderson will hold a press conference Tuesday. All documents will be available online at www.abusedinchicago.com and www.andersonadvocates.com, they said.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

We Do Not Like This Pope


Thursday, January 16, 2014

Confusion Mounts, Pope Acknowledges Critics 

by Christopher A. Ferrara

What follows is my translation of the rather sensational article by Messrs. Gnocchi and Palmari, a pair of Italian Catholic intellectuals, in which the authors leveled profound and quite scathing public criticisms of the current pontificate under a title that could not be more provocative. After the article was published in the Italian daily Il Foglio on October 9, however, Pope Francis personally telephoned Palmaro to assure him “that he had understood that those criticisms had been made with love, and how important it had been for him to receive them.”

Let that be a lesson to the neo-Catholic proponents of abject silence and submission in the face of every papal word or deed­—including those who run Radio Maria, which dismissed both authors from their positions as Catholic commentators immediately after the article appeared. Silence in the face of public scandal, even if it be the scandal of a Pope, has never been the Catholic way, as anyone with even a passing familiarity with the turbulent epochs of Church history would know.
To his credit, Palmaro did not allow himself to be disarmed by the papal telephone call. Quite the contrary, he relates that during the call “I felt the duty to remind the Pope that I, together with Gnocchi, had expressed specific criticisms regarding his work, while I renewed my total fidelity [to him] as a son of the Church.” Moreover, the article certainly contributed to a good outcome. The Pope’s now infamous interview with the militant Italian atheist Eugenio Scalfari, on which Palmaro and Gnocchi had commented, was finally deleted from the Vatican website’s collection of papal documents. As Palmaro later noted: “the removal of the interview granted by Pope Francis to Scalfari from the Vatican website makes us think that something was wrong in the contents of that text, as we had remarked, among other things.”

Not only with that text, but with the text of the later apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, which in fact only repeats and even intensifies the same disturbing themes the Pope aired with Scalfari. Here too Catholics have a right and even a duty to raise objections, as this newspaper has done. (Cardinal Burke rather diplomatically observed that he does not think the exhortation should be considered part of the papal magisterium. He was rewarded for his candor by being removed from the Congregation for Bishops.)

By raising objections to the public scandal the Pope has caused with so many of his impromptu remarks­, which have earned him the lavish praise of the worldwide media, Messrs. Gnocchi and Palmaro only did their duty as Catholics. And in so doing they were vindicated by the Pope himself. On the other hand, the neo-Catholic exponents of the conceit that the Pope Can Do No Wrong­—or at least no wrong Catholics may criticize publicly—continue to shirk their duty to the Church and to truth itself. In this time of unparalleled crisis for both the Church and the world, their false notions of loyalty and obedience continue to undermine rather than serve the Petrine office.

We Do Not Like This Pope

His interviews and gestures are a sample case of moral and religious relativism. The attention of the media-ecclesiastical circuit is directed to Bergoglio and not Peter. The past is overthrown.

by Alessandro Gnocchi e Mario Palmaro

What the cost was for the impressive exhibition of poverty of which Pope Francis was the protagonist on October 4 in Assisi is not given to us to know. It is certain that, in times when fashion trends toward simplification, the historic day had very little of the Franciscan. A script well written and well played, if you will, but without the quid that made unique the spirit of Francis, the saint: the surprise that catches the world off guard. Francis, the Pope, who embraces the sick, who gets close to the crowd, who makes jokes, who speaks off the cuff, who climbs into the Panda [automobile], who releases the cardinals from lunch with the powers that be to go to the table of the poor—which was the most obvious thing that could be expected, and it promptly took place.

Naturally, with the great cooperation of the Catholic and para-Catholic press in exalting the humility of the gesture, with a sigh of relief that, this time, the Pope spoke of the encounter with Christ. And with the secular [press] to say that, now, yes, the Church is put in step with the times. All good stuff for the writer of medium-size headlines who wants to put the paper to bed in a hurry, and tomorrow one will see.

There was not even the surprise of the dramatic gesture. But even this would have been a very small thing, seeing how much Pope Bergoglio has said and done in only half a year of a pontificate that has culminated in the winks at Scalfari in the interview with Civiltà Cattolica.

The only ones to find themselves caught off guard, in this case, would have been the “normalists” [Italian equivalent of ‘Neo-Catholics’], those Catholics pathetically intent on convincing those around them, and even more pathetically themselves, that nothing has changed. And everything is normal, and, as usual, it is the fault of the newspapers that deliberately misrepresent the Pope, who is only saying in a different way the same truths taught by his predecessors.

As journalism is the oldest profession in the world, it is difficult to give credence to this thesis. “Your Holiness,” asks Scalfari during his interview, for example, “does there exist one unique vision of the Good? And who determines it?” “Each one of us,” responds the Pope, “has his own vision of Good and also of evil. We must encourage him to proceed toward that which he thinks is the Good.” Eugenio presses Jesuitically, eager for the expected response: “Your Holiness had already written this in the letter you sent to me. The conscience is autonomous, you said, each everyone must obey his own conscience. I think that that is one of the most courageous steps taken by a Pope. “And I repeat it here,” the Pope reiterates even more eagerly. “Everyone has his own idea of Good and of Evil and must choose to follow the good and fight evil as he conceives them. This would be enough to make the world a better place.”

With Vatican II already concluded and the postconciliar period more than well underway, in chapter 32 of Veritatis splendor, John Paul II, contesting “certain currents of modern thought,” wrote that “there are attributed to the individual conscience the prerogatives of a supreme tribunal of moral judgment, which decides questions of good and evil categorically and infallibly…so much so that one comes to a radically subjectivist conception of moral judgment.” Even the most creative “normalist” would find it difficult to reconcile Bergoglio 2013 with Wojtyla 1993.

In the presence of such a turnabout, the newspapers do their honest and predictable job: taking up the phrases of Pope Francis in evident contrast with what the Popes and the Church have always taught and converting them into headlines for page one. And then the “normalist,” who always and everywhere says what Osservatore Romano thinks, brings up the context. Phrases extrapolated from the blessed context would not respect the mens of he who has pronounced them. But—and this is the history of the Church that teaches it—certain phrases with a complete sense make sense and can be judged regardless. If during a long interview someone sustains that “Hitler was a benefactor of humanity,” he will hardly be able to get away with invoking the context before the world. If a Pope says during an interview “I believe in God, not in a Catholic God,” the damage is done regardless. For two thousand years the Church has judged doctrinal affirmations in isolation from their context. In 1713, Clement XI published the Constitution Unigenitus Dei Filius in which he condemned 101 propositions of the theologian Pasquier Quesnel. In 1864, Pius IX published in the Syllabus a list of erroneous propositions. In 1907, Saint Pius X appended to his Pascendi dominici gregis, 65 phrases incompatible with Catholicism. And these are only a few examples to show that error, when error there is, is recognized by the naked eye. A review of Denzinger would not do any harm.

Moreover, in the case of the interviews of Bergoglio, analysis of context can make things even worse. When, for example, Pope Francis says to Scalfari “proselytism is solemn nonsense,” the “normalist” immediately explains that he was speaking of the aggressive proselytism of the South American sects. Unfortunately, in the interview Bergoglio says to Scalfari “I do not wish to convert you.” It follows that, in the authentic interpretation, when one defines proselytism as “solemn nonsense,” one means the work done by the Church to convert souls to Catholicism.

It would be difficult to interpret the concept otherwise, in light of the wedding of the Gospel and the world that Francis blessed in the interview with Civiltà Cattolica. “Vatican II,” explains the Pope “was a rereading of the Gospel in the light of contemporary culture. It produced a movement of renewal that simply comes from the same Gospel. The fruits are enormous. It suffices to recall the liturgy. The work of the liturgical reform was a service to the people of God as a rereading of the Gospel from a concrete historical situation. Yes, there are hermeneutics of continuity and discontinuity, but one thing is clear: the dynamic of reading the Gospel, actualizing its message for today—which was typical of Vatican II—is absolutely irreversible.” Just so: no longer is the world formed in light of Gospel, but the Gospel is deformed in light of the world, of contemporary culture. And who knows how many times this will have to happen, at every turn of cultural change, each time putting into default the preceding rereading: nothing other than the permanent council theorized by Carlo Maria Montini.

In the wake of this is rising on the horizon the idea of a new Church, “the field hospital” evoked in the interview with Civiltà Cattolica, where it seems the doctors until now have not practiced their profession well. “I think of the situation of a woman with a failed marriage in her past and who also had an abortion,” the Pope always says. “Then this woman remarries, and she is now happy and has five children. That abortion in her past weighs heavily on her conscience and she sincerely regrets it. She would like to move forward in her Christian life. What is the confessor to do?”

A discourse cleverly constructed to be concluded by a question after which one moves on and changes the subject, almost as if to underline the Church’s inability to respond. A disconcerting passage if one considers that the Church has answered this question for two thousand years with a rule that permits absolution of the sinner, provided she is repentant and commits not to remain in sin. Yet, overcome by the overflowing personality of Pope Bergoglio, legions of Catholics have imbibed the fable of a problem that in reality has never existed. All of them are there, with a sense of guilt for two thousand years of supposed outrages against poor sinners, to thank the bishop come “from the end of the world,” not for solving a problem that wasn’t, but for having invented it.

The disquieting aspect of the thought underlying such affirmations is the idea of an irremediable alternative between doctrinal rigor and mercy: if there is one, there cannot be the other. But the Church has always taught and lived exactly the contrary. It is the awareness of sin and repentance for having committed it, together with the intention to avoid it in the future, that render possible the forgiveness of God. Jesus saves the adulteress from stoning, absolves her, but dismisses her saying: “Go, and sin no more.” He does not say to her: “Go, and be at peace that my Church will not exercise any spiritual interference in your personal life.”

Seeing the practically unanimous consensus of the Catholic people and the love of the world, against which the Gospel should put us on our guard, one could say that six months of Francis have altered an era. In reality, one witnesses the phenomenon of a leader who says to the crowd precisely what the crowd wants to hear him say. But it is undeniable that this is done with great talent and craft. Communication with the people, which has become the people of God where in fact there is no longer any distinction between believers and non-believers, is only in the slightest part direct and spontaneous.

Even the huge crowds in Saint Peter’s Square, at World Youth Day, at Lampedusa or at Assisi are filtered by the media, which take charge of providing the events together with their interpretation.

The Francis phenomenon does not depart from the fundamental rule of the media game, but, on the contrary, uses it to become almost innate. The mechanism was defined with great efficacy in the eighties by Mario Alighiero Manacorda in an enjoyable little book with the most enjoyable title “The language of television. Or the deranged anadiplosis.” Anadiplosis is a figure of speech in which, as occurs in this line, the sentence begins with the principal term contained in the preceding sentence. According to Manacorda, this rhetorical artifice has become the essence of media language. “These modes are purely formal, redundant, unnecessary and incomprehensible as to the substance,” he said, “inducing the listener to follow the formal part, which is the figure of speech, and to forget the substantial part.”

With time, mass communication has ended by definitively substituting the formal for the substantial aspect, the appearance for the truth. And it has done so, in particular, thanks to the rhetorical devices of synecdoche and metonymy by which a part is represented as the whole. The ever more dizzying velocity of information imposes neglect of the whole and leads to a focus on some particular, chosen with expertise to give a reading of the complex phenomenon. Ever more frequently, newspapers, TV, websites, sum up great events in a detail.

From this point of view, it seems that Pope Francis was made for the mass media and that the mass media were made for Pope Francis. It suffices to cite the lone example of the man dressed in white who climbs the stairs to the airplane door carrying a torn black leather bag: the perfect use of synecdoche and metonymy together. The figure of the Pope is absorbed by that black bag, which annuls the sacred image handed down through the centuries by replacing it with a completely new and worldly one: the Pope, the new Pope, exists entirely in that particular, which exalts poverty, humility, dedication, work, contemporaneity, the quotidian, the closest proximity to what is more worldly that one can imagine.

The ultimate effect of this process leads to the location in the background of the impersonal concept of the papacy and the simultaneous rise to prominence of the person who embodies it. The effect is all the more disturbing if one observes that the recipients of the message receive exactly the opposite meaning: they hail the great humility of the man and think that these things bring luster to the papacy.

From the effect of synecdoche and metonymy, the next step consists in identifying the person of the Pope with the Pope: a part for the whole, and Simon has overthrown Peter. This phenomenon is such that Bergoglio, while expressing himself formally as a private doctor, in fact transforms any of his words and gestures into an act of the Magisterium. If one then considers that most Catholics are convinced that whatever the Pope says is only and always infallible, the game is over. However one might protest that a letter to Scalfari or an interview with whomever are even less than the opinion of a private doctor, in the age of the mass media the effect they will produce will be immeasurably greater than any solemn pronouncement. On the contrary, the more the gesture or speech will be formally small and insignificant, the more it will have effect and be considered unassailable and above criticism.

Not by accident the symbolism that sustains this phenomenon is comprised of lowly quotidian things. The black bag carried by hand on the airplane is an example. But also when one speaks of the pectoral cross, the ring, the altar, the sacred vessels and vestments, one speaks of the material of which they are made and no longer of what they represent: the formless matter takes precedence over the form. De facto, Jesus is no longer found on the Cross the Pope wears on his neck because the people are induced to contemplate the iron with which the object was produced. Yet again the part devours the whole, which here is written with a lower-case “w.” And “the flesh of Christ” is to be sought elsewhere and each one ends by identifying the Holocaust that best suits him. In these days, at Lampedusa, tomorrow who knows?

And the outcome is that the wisdom of the world, which Saint Paul dismissed as foolishness, is today employed to reread the Gospel with the eyes of the TV. But already in 1969, Marshall McLuhan had written to Jacques Maritain: “The environments of electronic information, which have been completely ethereal, nourish the illusion of the world as a spiritual substance. This is a reasonable facsimile of the Mystical Body, a deafening manifestation of the Antichrist. After all, the prince of this world is a great electrical engineer.”

Sooner or later we shall have to awake from the great mass media dream and return to contending with reality. And it will be necessary to learn true humility, which consists in submitting ourselves to Someone greater who is manifested through immutable laws, even for the Vicar of Christ. And it will be necessary to regain the courage to say that a Catholic can only feel himself lost before a dialogue in which everyone, in homage to the pretended autonomy of conscience, is encouraged to proceed toward his own personal vision of good and evil. Because Christ cannot be one option among many. At least for his vicar.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Fatherless Churches


Almost fifty years ago, when the Catholic Church unveiled its new rite of Mass in the Sistine Chapel, Cardinal John Heenan, then Archbishop of Westminster, remarked that if the Church used the new liturgy in ordinary parishes it would “soon be left with a congregation mostly of women and children.” In 1967, Heenan could proudly assert that in his country “not only women and children but also fathers of families and young men” regularly attended Mass.

Whether or not the liturgy played any role in subsequent patterns of church attendance, Heenan’s predictions have come true, and the drop in male church attendance has not been confined to the Catholic Church. Extensive research on English churchgoing habits, for example, shows that 65 percent of the average church congregation is made up of women and 35 percent of men, with the gap widening. In 1980, congregations were 57 percent female and 43 percent male, and since 1990, almost half of men under 30 have left the Church. If the current rate of loss continues, men will completely disappear from the Church by 2028.

Nor are these trends confined to an increasingly secular and post-Christian Europe. Despite overall church attendance remaining much stronger in the United States, Cardinal Heenan’s predictions have also come true here. Sixty-one percent of theaverage American congregation is female and 39 percent male. The gender gap is the same across all age groups and therefore cannot be explained merely by the fact that women live longer than men. Although research shows that 90 percent of American men believe in God, and five out of six men identify as Christian, only one man out of every six will attend a church in the United States on any given Sunday.

These facts and figures provide useful background to discussions about the role of women in the Church that we’ve become increasingly used to hearing since Pope Francis ascended to the papacy in March last year. Only last month, the Holy See moved to end a discussion that had begun about the possibility of appointing women as cardinals. “I don’t know where this idea sprang from,” the Pope explained, “whoever thinks of women as Cardinals suffers a bit from clericalism.” Responding to the Pontiff’s call for renewed reflection on the feminine dimension of ecclesial life, the Vatican’s newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, has inaugurated the New Year by beginning a series of articles focusing on the “theology of women.” Lucetta Scariffia, the editor, explained that this “open question” is “central to the Church today.”

In and of itself, reflecting on the prospects for a theology of womanhood is a good thing. As John Paul II noted in his Letter to Women, “women’s dignity has often been unacknowledged and their prerogatives misrepresented; they have often been relegated to the margins of society and even reduced to servitude. This has prevented women from truly being themselves and it has resulted in a spiritual impoverishment of humanity.” As the Creation narrative in the Book of Genesis suggests, without an adequate view of each gender, we lack an adequate concept of human nature as a whole. It is in his recognition of “woman” that Adam recognizes himself as “man” (Gen 2:23).

But theological considerations do not sufficiently account for the popularity of novel ideas like women cardinals (which, though it may have been slapped down for now, will almost certainly resurface). Evidence shows that the three groups least likely to be active Christians today are men, young people, and the poor. Mutatis mutandis, this means that those most likely to attend church are affluent, educated, middle-aged women. In other words, the same demographic group which dominates almost all church congregations in the English-speaking world is the group most likely to benefit from an idea like female cardinals. If a church has almost no attendees except women, it is understandable that ideas about new theologies of womanhood and new gender-inclusive ecclesial structures are going to seem much more urgent than they would in a Church with a healthier gender balance.

The claim that what the Church really needs at this juncture is a theology of manhood might seem outrageous at first. After all, in many major Christian churches there are plenty of roles that men are free to enter which are completely closed off to women. Surely the last thing hierarchically male-dominated churches need is more men bloviating about their own masculinity?

Yet most boys are not called to be bishops, priests, deacons, or pastors when they grow up. Most boys will become husbands and fathers. The West, and the United States in particular (which has the third highest divorce rate in the world) has been undergoing a crisis of fatherhood for decades, a crisis which appears to be deepening and the consequences of which we have only really begun to suffer. President Obama has spoken movingly about his own fatherless upbringing and has established a National Fatherhood Pledge to encourage fathers to take responsibility for their families. The “first step in piety,” John Calvin once said, is “to know that God is a father to us.” The crisis in religious practice in the Western world is intimately related to the crisis in fatherhood, since it is from God, as St. Paul tells us, that all paternity on this earth is named (Eph 3:15).

study of Swiss churchgoers commissioned by the Council of Europe found that if a mother attends church regularly but the father is non-practicing, only 2 percent of their children will attend church regularly in adult life. If the roles are reversed, with the father attending regularly and the mother non-practicing, the figure for regular attendance shoots up to 44 percent (higher even than the figure when both parents attend regularly). Another study found that when an American mother converts to the faith, there is a 17 percent chance that the rest of her family will follow. When the father alone converts, this figure rises to 93 percent.

It is praiseworthy that despite falling attendance rates among men, many women have steadfastly kept the faith and have often made valiant (if sadly ineffective) efforts to pass it on to their children. But the way to ensure that future generations of women continue to discover the joy of life in Christ is not by making token appointments. It is by ensuring that the Church has an adequate theology of maleness and of fatherhood, by ensuring that daughters see their fathers going to church and living lives of faith—which, incidentally, is also the way to ensure that future generations of boys might find their way back to the churches that current generations of men are leaving in droves.

Aaron Taylor, a Ph.D. student in ethics at Boston College, holds degrees from the University of Oxford and from Heythrop College, University of London. Image from Wikimedia Commons.

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Sunday, January 19, 2014

Why Women Wear Mantillas In Church

Young women wearing mantillas
Young women wearing mantillas
Chapel veils, or mantillas (which comes from the word manta, meaning cape) are typically circular or triangular shaped pieces of black or white lace that are draped over a woman’s head when attending Mass, or in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament. Traditionally, the black veils were worn by married or widowed women, while the white veils were worn by young girls, or unmarried women, but there are no hard and fast rules about this.
“Therefore ought the woman to have a power over her head, because of the angels.” (1 Corinthians 11:10)
St. Paul reminds us that as Christ did the will, and sought the honour of God the Father, so the Christian should avow his subjection to Christ, doing His will and seeking His glory. We should seek a fitting demeanour in our dress and habit, avoiding everything that may be dishonourable before the Throne of God. By covering her head with a veil (or mantilla) the woman is agreeing to her beautiful and unique feminine status. She is showing respect and reverence for the holy angels too, always invisibly present before the Blessed Sacrament, who will come to her side in love and protection. This veiling of the woman before the Lord Our God, may also be a humble imitation of the angels’ behaviour, who when they sang the praises of God, and adored and glorified his perfections, covered their faces and their feet with their wings. (Isaiah 6:2)
From the very earliest days of Christianity, wearing chapel veils as head coverings when entering a Church to pray and adore God, was a common practice among faithful women. Since the Second Vatican Council this practice has no longer been requisite for women attending the Novus Ordo Mass, yet contrary to what many believe, it is still very much supported and encouraged by the Church. Many Catholic women of all ages are now rediscovering this beautiful, age-old tradition. At Latin Masses, and in particular at the celebration of the Tridentine Mass, generally all the women in the congregation can be seen with their heads veiled as a sign of reverence, modesty and piety in their recognition that they are praying in the Sacramental Presence of God.
This act of partially concealing a woman’s physical beauty (especially her lovely hair) is so that the beauty of God may be glorified instead. A veil is both a symbol and a mystical sacrifice that invites the woman wearing it to ascend the ladder of sanctity. It is also a way of emulating the Blessed Virgin Mary, in her humility, purity and submissiveness.
Moreover, the mantilla, or chapel veil, signifies the role of women as a life-bearing vessel. The chalice holding the blood of Christ is veiled until the Preparation of the Gifts, and the tabernacle veiled between Masses. Both of these vessels hold the Eucharist – the very life of Christ. In a similar fashion, woman was endowed with the gift of bearing human life.
“This is why the female body should be veiled, because everything which is sacred calls for veiling. When Moses came down from Mount Sinai, he veiled his face. Why did he veil his face? Because he had spoken to God, and at that very moment there was a sacredness that called for veiling. Now… feminists after Vatican II suddenly discovered that when women go to Church veiled, it is a sign of their inferiority. The man takes off his hat and woman puts on a veil. My goodness, how they have lost the sense of the supernatural! Veiling indicates sacredness and it is a special privilege of the woman that she enters church veiled.” Dr. Alice Von Hildebrand
 “Reclaiming the Sacred” has three articles giving some deeply insightful thoughts about women who wear mantillas, using the captivating comparison and metaphor of the crown jewels in the Tower of London!http://reclaimingthesacred.com/2013/12/26/unwrapping-a-veil-of-mystery-the-mantilla/
Here, with a H/T to “ragazzagallese”, are some of the many websites where beautiful mantillas and veils may be purchased: Zelie’s Roses and Loving Mantillas. And this one:  http://rosamysticamantilla.com/

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Why America Is Headed Toward Bankruptcy In 13 Terrifying Quotes

John Hawkins | Jan 11, 2014

1) What would you think of a person who earned $24,000 a year but spent $35,000? Suppose on top of that, he was already $170,000 in debt. You'd tell him to get his act together -- stop spending so much or he'd destroy his family, impoverish his kids and wreck their future. Of course, no individual could live so irresponsibly for long. But tack on eight more zeroes to that budget and you have the checkbook for our out-of-control, big-spending federal government. -- John Stossel

2) John Kitchen of the U.S. Treasury and Menzie Chinn of the University of Wisconsin published a study in 2010 entitled: Financing U.S. Debt: Is There Enough Money in the World -- and At What Cost? The fact that sane men are even asking this question ought to be deeply disturbing. As to the answer, foreign official holdings of U.S. Treasury securities have usually been less than 5 percent of the rest of the world's GDP. By 2009, they were up to 7 percent. By 2020, Kitchen and Chinn project them to rise to 19 percent of the rest of the world's GDP, which they say is....do-able. Whether the rest of the world will want to do it is another matter. A future that presumes the rest of the planet will sink a fifth of its GDP into U.S. Treasuries is no future at all. But on Big Government's streetcar named Desire we have come to depend on the kindness of strangers. --Mark Steyn

3) The Federal Reserve is propping up the entire U.S. economy by buying 61 percent of the government debt issued by the Treasury Department, a trend that cannot last, Lawrence Goodman, a former Treasury official and current president of the Center for Financial Stability, writes in a Wall Street Journal opinion article published Wednesday. -- Newsmax

4) In fact, in 2006, the Census Bureau found only 2.2 million households earning more than $250,000. And most of those are closer to the Lubbock city manager than to Carlos Slim, income-wise. To jump from the 50th to the 51st percentile isn’t that tough; jumping from the 96th to the 97th takes a lot of schmundo. It’s lonely at the top. But say we wanted to balance the budget by jacking up taxes on Club 250K. That’s a problem: The 2012 deficit is forecast to hit $1.1 trillion under Obama’s budget. (Thanks, Mr. President!) Spread that deficit over all the households in Club 250K and you have to jack up their taxes by an average of $500,000 -- which you simply can’t do, since a lot of them don’t have $500,000 in income to seize. Most of them are making $250,000 to $450,000 and paying about half in taxes already. You can squeeze that goose all day, but that’s not going to make it push out a golden egg. ....Every time you raise the threshold for eating the rich, you get a much, much smaller serving of meat on the plate — but the deficit stays the same. The long division gets pretty ugly. You end up chasing a revenue will-o’-the-wisp. -- Kevin Williamson

5) Within a decade, the United States will be spending more of the federal budget on its interest payments than on its military. You read that right: more on debt service than on the armed services. According to the CBO's 2010 long-term budget outlook, by 2020 the government will be paying between 15 and 20 percent of its revenues in debt interest. Whereas defense spending will be down between 14 and 16 percent. --Mark Steyn

6) (In Pennsylvania, a) single mom is better off earning gross income of $29,000 with $57,327 in net income & benefits than to earn gross income of $69,000 with net income and benefits of $57,045." -- FromGary Alexander, Secretary of Public Welfare, Commonwealth of Pennsylvania

7) For every 1.65 employed persons in the private sector, 1 person receives welfare assistance. For every 1.25 employed persons in the private sector, 1 person receives welfare assistance or works for the government. ...The punchline: 110 million privately employed workers; 88 million welfare recipients and government workers and rising rapidly. -- Tyler Durden

8) My name’s Ronnie Bryant, and I’m a mine operator…. I’ve been issued a [state] permit in the recent past for [waste water] discharge, and after standing in this room today listening to the comments being made by the people…. [pause] Nearly every day without fail — I have a different perspective — men stream to these [mining] operations looking for work in Walker County. They can’t pay their mortgage. They can’t pay their car note. They can’t feed their families. They don’t have health insurance. And as I stand here today, I just … you know … what’s the use? I got a permit to open up an underground coal mine that would employ probably 125 people. They’d be paid wages from $50,000 to $150,000 a year. We would consume probably $50 million to $60 million in consumables a year, putting more men to work. And my only idea today is to go home. What’s the use? I don’t know. I mean, I see these guys — I see them with tears in their eyes — looking for work. And if there’s so much opposition to these guys making a living, I feel like there’s no need in me putting out the effort to provide work for them. So as I stood against the wall here today, basically what I’ve decided is not to open the mine. I’m just quitting. Thank you. -- Ronnie Bryant

9) Wyatt Emerich of The Cleveland Current analyzes disposable income and economic benefits among several key income classes and comes to the stunning (and verifiable) conclusion that "a one-parent family of three making $14,500 a year (minimum wage) has more disposable income than a family making $60,000 a year.

10) The typical husband and wife who reach age 66 and qualify for Social Security -- Starting next year, this typical couple, receiving the average benefit, will begin collecting a combination of cash and health-care entitlement benefits that will total $1 million over their remaining expected lifetime According to my calculations based on government data, such married couples will begin receiving monthly Social Security checks that will, on average, total about $550,000 after inflation. They will receive health-care services paid for by Medicare that, on average, will total another $450,000 after inflation. The benefactors will be a generation of younger workers who are trying to support themselves and their families while paying taxes to finance the rest of government spending. ...Medicare premiums paid by senior citizens once covered half of the cost of physician and related services. They now cover one-fourth. Copayments once covered nearly 40% of these services’ costs. They now cover only 20%. -- Joe Cogan

11) The CBO numbers foresee net interest payments rising from 9 percent of revenue to 36 percent in 2030, then to 58 percent in 2040, and up to 85 percent in 2050. If that trajectory holds, we'll be spending more than the planet's entire military budget on debt interest. But forget mid-century because, unless something changes, whatever goes by the name of "America" under those conditions isn't worth talking about. --Mark Steyn

12) The total present value of payments expected under Social Security and Medicare beyond what is expected to be collected under current tax laws is about $100 trillion. One way to put that amount of money in context is to note that it is about twice the amount of all the net private assets that exist in America today. To answer cw’s question directly, the best back-of-envelope estimate is that meeting this unfunded portion of our Social Security and Medicare commitments would require roughly an immediate 80 percent increase in federal income taxes, sustained forever. — Jim Manzi

13) The total fiscal overhang of our federal, state, and local governments — their combined debt and unfunded liabilities — is around $140 trillion, and growing. That is about twice the annual economic output of human civilization, and nearly the value of all the financial assets in the world. It is something close to a mathematical certainty that those debts and obligations will not be made good on at their present value. --Kevin Williamson