Monday, July 30, 2007

"Regardless of design, the main altar normally stood in the east of the building, not the center."

Sandra Miesal, debunker of Di Vinci Codes and writer, has a useful and focused article ("Beyond Basilicas") on the early churches that were not build in the rectangular basilica form. She talks about the octagonal San Vitale in my favorite church touring place, Ravenna. I am grateful to Shawn Tribe for the link.

When the reformers renovated the mass after Vatican II, they had a number of assumptions or presumptions. One was that the priest faced the people in the early church. They appear to have been quite innocent of the architectural record. As Miesal says, "Regardless of design, the main altar normally stood in the east of the building, not the center." The liturgical reformers were either ignorant of or ignored this fundamental evidence enfleshed in stone.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

St. Bede Studio

St. Bede Studio is an Australian blog interested in the traditional Latin Mass.

The English of the 1965 Missal

Click on the tittle to get the mass after Vatican II before the Bugnini butchery. This link thanks to Shawn Tribe.

What About the Missal of 1965?

Adam Barnette makes some interesting arguments for reviving the Missal of 1965. There is a lot here so it will be a while before I absorb it all. You can read what I was thinking before the motu proprio.

Thanks to Jeffrey Tucker on the New Liturgical Movement for the link.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Harry Potter is Almost Here!

The hype is outrageous. I agree the publishing industry is too much about blockbusters. Harry Potter and the Death Hallows is the blockbuster of blockbusters. But when it comes to J.K. Rowling's novels, I say just read and enjoy. Just do not start one of the books when you have something due on deadline!

The Harry Potter books are fun to read. The characters are ones any teenager can identify with as can anyone who was once a teenager. They remind me of Robert Heinlein's teen novels. Heinlein, the great science fiction writer, wrote that those novels taught him his craft. He had to have a plot that would keep them reading. He needed to keep his vocabulary direct and straight forward. And in those days sex and violence were not available to make up for a lack of craft.

Some Christians shun Harry Potter books. I will not rework the arguments about whether these books are a threat. There are three excellent essays that do a better job than I would: (1) "An in-depth analysis of the literary use of magic in the works of J. K. Rowling, J. R. R. Tolkien, and C. S. Lewis" by Steven D. Greydanus. (He also reviews the films on his website; (2) "Harry Potter's Magic" by Alan Jacobs; and Charles Olson's posting, "If you thought I was anti-Harry Potter..." on Ignatius Insight Scoop.

In the Harry Potter books, the magic is a fiction. Like the devices of science fiction, the reader needs a "willing suspension of disbelief." That is not the same as believing in magic.

Rowling is very clever in the imaginative devices with which she fills her world. After decades of moral relativism and the denial of evil, it has been refreshing to have a wildly popular source of entertainment clearly describe Good and Evil at war with each other. Ditto for Star Wars.

Rowling is also an excellent craftswoman. That is not to claim she is T.S. Elliot or Fyodor M. Dostoevsky. The elite looks down its nose at her, but they look down their noses at J.R.R Tolkien and C.S. Lewis too. Rowling and I are fans of both! None of the major publishers would touch her first book. Ironically, they are now the hype masters for number seven!

Thursday, July 19, 2007

The Old Mass is More Jewish Than the New

Nicholas Frankovich on the First Things blog argues that the Mass of John XXIII is more Jewish than the ordinary form of the mass that we now use. He further argues that the new mass was adapted to allay Protestant opposition to the "Jewishness" of the old mass which corresponded more to the sacrifice offered in the temple than the rabbinical Judaism of the synagogue:

"Protestants were correct that the Mass, in its aspect as a sacrifice, could not be fully understood outside the framework of pre-rabbinic Judaism. By the middle of the twentieth century, when Rome’s wish for some thaw in its cold war with Protestantism was in full bloom, it reformed the Mass such that the visible and audible distinctions between Mass and the worship services of the mainline Protestant churches were now greatly softened. Many Catholics saw it as an appropriate ecumenical gesture. So did many Protestants. Whether that step in the direction of Wittenberg and Geneva was deliberate or unconscious, what it was a step away from was Jerusalem, from the Temple and the daily sacrifice priests used to perform there."

A carful anaysis of the structure, form, and language of the old mass would expose its true Jewishness, an analysis well beyond the scope of Frankovich's article.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Russell Kirk Named the True Enemy: Ideology

I have asked before "Why are liberals so intolerant?" I am a little closer to an answer after reading R.R. Reno reflection on Alan Wolfe's review of The Essential Russell Kirk: Selected Essays. (A New Republic subscription is required to read Wolfe's review.) R.R. Reno is a professor of theology at Creighton University and a frequent contributor to First Things.

Those we call "liberal" in the United States are mostly servants of ideology in the strict sense in which Russell Kirk used that word. As Professor Reno points out, "Kirk has a very specific definition of ideology. A political imagination is ideological, according to Kirk, when it latches on to a belief that political, economic, and social processes can be organized to create a perfect world." This definition runs counter to the conventional wisdom which tends to use the word "ideology as any intensely held political position."

Russel Kirk is often thought to be the founder of American political conservatism.

Kirk and what I would call traditional conservatism (a best a subset or tendency of the American right) deplore "the modern political tendency toward ideology." I do too. Ideology prefers abstractions to the existential challenge to dealing with real flesh and blood people. Since it does not believe in original sin, it believes (like Rousseau) that the ideal is attainable and that the only barriers are institutional. God help anyone who gets in the way or disagrees. Reno puts it well, "Love these days is much more difficult than the critical stance, which every street-corner professor retails..." Or as Peggy Noonan puts it, "I believe that such behavior results from the triumph of ideology over our common humanity."

Wolfe's intolerance and arrogance forced Reno to rethink his dismissal of Kirk: "But Wolfe’s grotesque lack of sympathy has challenged my own relatively modest lack of sympathy and brought me to a deeper appreciation of Russell Kirk. The impatient mental habits and strangely stunted emotional range of the kind of American liberalism that Alan Wolfe represents throws into sharp relief the essential and permanent intellectual obligations that Russell Kirk sought to discharge in his no doubt imperfect way.

"We do well to be reminded of the fact that we, too, inherit those obligations. We really do need to give an account of our patriotic loyalty that remains true to our greater, more permanent faiths. We need to cultivate loyalty to what our culture has given us, and do so in a way that combines the intimacy of love with the honesty of moral judgment."

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Why Does Europe Hate Us? Could It Be Its Elite's Cultural Arrogance?

Andrei S. Markovits, the Karl W. Deutsch Collegiate Professor of Comparative Politics and German Studies in the Department of Germanic Languages and Literatures as well as Professor of Political Science and Sociology at the University of Michigan, exposes the deep seated bias of European elites against America in the Chronicle of Higher Education and in his new book: Uncouth America: Why Europe Dislikes America. As David's Mediakritik points out this becomes a self reinforcing cycle: the elite and the media portray America in the worst possible light, ordinary Europeans are conditioned into anti-Americanism, this ant-Americanism reinforces the prejudice of the media.

Listen to Markovits' interview via U-Tube:

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Read the Text of Benedict's Document Motu Proprio Data "Summorum Pontificum"


VATICAN CITY, JUL 7, 2007 (VIS) - Given below is a non-official English- language translation of the Apostolic Letter "Motu Proprio data" of Pope Benedict XVI, "Summorum Pontificum," concerning the use of the Roman liturgy prior to the reform of 1970. The original text is written in Latin.

"Up to our own times, it has been the constant concern of supreme pontiffs to ensure that the Church of Christ offers a worthy ritual to the Divine Majesty, 'to the praise and glory of His name,' and 'to the benefit of all His Holy Church.'

"Since time immemorial it has been necessary - as it is also for the future - to maintain the principle according to which 'each particular Church must concur with the universal Church, not only as regards the doctrine of the faith and the sacramental signs, but also as regards the usages universally accepted by uninterrupted apostolic tradition, which must be observed not only to avoid errors but also to transmit the integrity of the faith, because the Church's law of prayer corresponds to her law of faith.' (1)

Read on....

Benedict's Letter to His Brother Bishops


VATICAN CITY, JUL 7, 2007 (VIS) - Given below is the text of the English- language version of Benedict XVI's Letter to all the bishops of the world concerning his Motu Proprio "Summorum Pontificum," which was published today:

"With great trust and hope, I am consigning to you as pastors the text of a new Apostolic Letter 'Motu Proprio data' on the use of the Roman liturgy prior to the reform of 1970. The document is the fruit of much reflection, numerous consultations and prayer.

"News reports and judgments made without sufficient information have created no little confusion. There have been very divergent reactions ranging from joyful acceptance to harsh opposition, about a plan whose contents were in reality unknown.

"This document was most directly opposed on account of two fears, which I would like to address somewhat more closely in this letter.

Read on....

The Holy See Press Office'd Explanatory Note on Benedict's Document Motu Proprio Data, "Summorum Pontificum."


VATICAN CITY, JUL 7, 2007 (VIS) - The Holy See Press Office today issued an explanatory note concerning the Motu Proprio "Summorum Pontificum". The most important paragraphs of the note are given below:

"The Motu Proprio 'Summorum Pontificum' lays down new rules for the use of the Roman liturgy that preceded the reform of 1970. The reasons for such provisions are clearly explained in the Holy Father's letter to bishops which accompanies the Motu Proprio (the two documents have been sent to all the presidents of episcopal conferences and to all nuncios, who have arranged to distribute them to all bishops).

"The fundamental provision is as follows: the Roman liturgy will have two forms ('usus'):

Read on ...

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Let's Get our Definitions Straight: What do we mean by "Church?"

We some times use the words "denomination" and "church" interchangeable. This can lead to trouble. When interpreting magisterial documents such as "Lumen Gentium" issued by the fathers of Vatican II, clarity is important.

The Vatican Press Office released a set of FAQs on what the Council meant when it explained the nature of the Church. This is an attempt to reign in some over zealous theologians and clarify the starting point for any ecumenical dialogue.


VATICAN CITY, JUL 10, 2007 (VIS) - Made public today was a document from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith: "Responses to some Questions Regarding Certain Aspects of the Doctrine on the Church." It is dated June 29, Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul, Apostles, and bears the signatures of Cardinal William Joseph Levada and Archbishop Angelo Amato S.D.B., respectively prefect and secretary of the congregation.

The document has been published in Latin, Italian, French, English, German, Spanish, Portuguese and Polish. The complete English-language version is given below:


"The Second Vatican Council, with its Dogmatic Constitution 'Lumen gentium,' and its Decrees on ecumenism ('Unitatis redintegratio') and the Oriental Churches ('Orientalium Ecclesiarum'), has contributed in a decisive way to the renewal of Catholic ecclesiology. The Supreme Pontiffs have also contributed to this renewal by offering their own insights and orientations for praxis: Paul VI in his Encyclical Letter 'Ecclesiam suam' (1964) and John Paul II in his Encyclical Letter 'Ut unum sint' (1995).

"The consequent duty of theologians to expound with greater clarity the diverse aspects of ecclesiology has resulted in a flowering of writing in this field. In fact it has become evident that this theme is a most fruitful one which, however, has also at times required clarification by way of precise definition and correction, for instance in the declaration 'Mysterium Ecclesiae' (1973), the Letter addressed to the Bishops of the Catholic Church 'Communionis notio' (1992), and the declaration 'Dominus Iesus' (2000), all published by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

"The vastness of the subject matter and the novelty of many of the themes involved continue to provoke theological reflection. Among the many new contributions to the field, some are not immune from erroneous interpretation which in turn give rise to confusion and doubt. A number of these interpretations have been referred to the attention of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Given the universality of Catholic doctrine on the Church, the Congregation wishes to respond to these questions by clarifying the authentic meaning of some ecclesiological expressions used by the Magisterium which are open to misunderstanding in the theological debate.

"Responses to the Questions

"First Question: Did the Second Vatican Council change the Catholic doctrine on the Church?

"Response: The Second Vatican Council neither changed nor intended to change this doctrine, rather it developed, deepened and more fully explained it.

"This was exactly what John XXIII said at the beginning of the Council. Paul VI affirmed it and commented in the act of promulgating the Constitution Lumen gentium: 'There is no better comment to make than to say that this promulgation really changes nothing of the traditional doctrine. What Christ willed, we also will. What was, still is. What the Church has taught down through the centuries, we also teach. In simple terms that which was assumed, is now explicit; that which was uncertain, is now clarified; that which was meditated upon, discussed and sometimes argued over, is now put together in one clear formulation.' The Bishops repeatedly expressed and fulfilled this intention.

"Second Question: What is the meaning of the affirmation that the Church of Christ subsists in the Catholic Church?

"Response: Christ 'established here on earth' only one Church and instituted it as a 'visible and spiritual community', that from its beginning and throughout the centuries has always existed and will always exist, and in which alone are found all the elements that Christ himself instituted. 'This one Church of Christ, which we confess in the Creed as one, holy, catholic and apostolic. ... This Church, constituted and organized in this world as a society, subsists in the Catholic Church, governed by the successor of Peter and the Bishops in communion with him'.

"In number 8 of the Dogmatic Constitution 'Lumen Gentium' 'subsistence' means this perduring, historical continuity and the permanence of all the elements instituted by Christ in the Catholic Church, in which the Church of Christ is concretely found on this earth.

"It is possible, according to Catholic doctrine, to affirm correctly that the Church of Christ is present and operative in the churches and ecclesial Communities not yet fully in communion with the Catholic Church, on account of the elements of sanctification and truth that are present in them. Nevertheless, the word 'subsists' can only be attributed to the Catholic Church alone precisely because it refers to the mark of unity that we profess in the symbols of the faith (I believe... in the 'one' Church); and this 'one' Church subsists in the Catholic Church.

"Third Question: Why was the expression 'subsists in' adopted instead of the simple word 'is'?

"Response: The use of this expression, which indicates the full identity of the Church of Christ with the Catholic Church, does not change the doctrine on the Church. Rather, it comes from and brings out more clearly the fact that there are 'numerous elements of sanctification and of truth' which are found outside her structure, but which 'as gifts properly belonging to the Church of Christ, impel towards Catholic Unity.'

"'It follows that these separated churches and Communities, though we believe they suffer from defects, are deprived neither of significance nor importance in the mystery of salvation. In fact the Spirit of Christ has not refrained from using them as instruments of salvation, whose value derives from that fullness of grace and of truth which has been entrusted to the Catholic Church.'

"Fourth Question: Why does the Second Vatican Council use the term 'Church' in reference to the oriental Churches separated from full communion with the Catholic Church?

"Response: The Council wanted to adopt the traditional use of the term. 'Because these Churches, although separated, have true sacraments and above all - because of the apostolic succession - the priesthood and the Eucharist, by means of which they remain linked to us by very close bonds,' they merit the title of 'particular or local Churches,' and are called sister Churches of the particular Catholic Churches.

'It is through the celebration of the Eucharist of the Lord in each of these Churches that the Church of God is built up and grows in stature.' However, since communion with the Catholic Church, the visible head of which is the Bishop of Rome and the Successor of Peter, is not some external complement to a particular Church but rather one of its internal constitutive principles, these venerable Christian communities lack something in their condition as particular churches.

"On the other hand, because of the division between Christians, the fullness of universality, which is proper to the Church governed by the Successor of Peter and the Bishops in communion with him, is not fully realized in history.

"Fifth Question: Why do the texts of the Council and those of the Magisterium since the Council not use the title of 'Church' with regard to those Christian Communities born out of the Reformation of the sixteenth century?

"Response: According to Catholic doctrine, these Communities do not enjoy apostolic succession in the sacrament of Orders, and are, therefore, deprived of a constitutive element of the Church. These ecclesial Communities which, specifically because of the absence of the sacramental priesthood, have not preserved the genuine and integral substance of the Eucharistic Mystery cannot, according to Catholic doctrine, be called 'Churches' in the proper sense.

"The Supreme Pontiff Benedict XVI, at the Audience granted to the undersigned Cardinal Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, ratified and confirmed these Responses, adopted in the Plenary Session of the Congregation, and ordered their publication."

The Responses are accompanied by a commentary which explains: "In this document the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is responding to a number of questions concerning the overall vision of the Church which emerged from the dogmatic and ecumenical teachings of the Second Vatican Council. ... The Council 'of the Church on the Church'."

"This new document of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which essentially summarizes the teaching of the Council and the post-conciliar Magisterium, constitutes a clear reaffirmation of Catholic doctrine on the Church. Apart from dealing with certain unacceptable ideas which have unfortunately spread around the Catholic world, it offers valuable indications for the future of ecumenical dialogue. This dialogue remains one of the priorities of the Catholic Church. ... However, if such dialogue is to be truly constructive it must involve not just the mutual openness of the participants but also fidelity to the identity of the Catholic faith."

"Catholic ecumenism might seem, at first sight, somewhat paradoxical. The Second Vatican Council II used the phrase 'subsistit in' in order to try to harmonize two doctrinal affirmations: on the one hand, that despite all the divisions between Christians the Church of Christ continues to exist fully only in the Catholic Church, and on the other hand that numerous elements of sanctification and truth do exist outwith the visible boundaries of the Catholic Church whether in the particular Churches or in the ecclesial Communities that are not fully in communion with the Catholic Church."

"Although the Catholic Church has the fullness of the means of salvation, 'nevertheless, the divisions among Christians prevent the Church from effecting the fullness of catholicity proper to her in those of her children who, though joined to her by baptism, are yet separated from full communion with her.' The fullness of the Catholic Church, therefore, already exists, but still has to grow in the brethren who are not yet in full communion with it and also in its own members who are sinners."


Sunday, July 08, 2007

Listen to the Dies Irae on Saint Rita's Prayer Book

Simon-Peter Vickers-Buckley is an Englishman exiled in North Carolina, a liturgical wasteland that may be in for a renewal. You can leave prayer requests there. You also hear the Dies Irae. This was the sequence for the mass of the dead for the better part of a millennium and perhaps longer. It survived Pius V's reductionist reform of the medieval mass after the Council of Trent only to fall under Bugnini's ban, the bane of the ancient rite.

He has another blog: Simon-Peter's blog.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Living in the New Liturgical Era

Fr. Martin Fox writes a blog called Bonfire of the Vanities. You can read in his latest posting how one parish priest is responding to Benedict's newest motu proprio freeing the traditional Latin mass. I find in his attitude the true spirit of Vatican II.

In the comments a few practical issues arose:

Do we have to learn Latin?

You will not need to learn much Latin. It was common practice to follow the old mass by using a missal with Latin on one side and English on the other. The Liturgical Movement and Vatican II wanted to emphasize the high or sung mass and reduce the importance of low or said mass. Thus the congregation would again sing its parts of the mass (in Latin.) The Council gave pride of place to Gregorian chant, the music of the people, to accomplish this. You do not need to be a Latin scholar nor do you need to be a great singer to chant the people's parts of the old mass. This is what the Council meant by "full and active participation" in the mass.
We presume that most communication is verbal. Yet the experts tell us that 60-90% of communication is nonverbal. You will find that the non verbal communication of the older form of the Latin rite conveys both an atmosphere and specific messages that will change your understanding of the mass.

What is Benedict trying to accomplish?

The very heart of Benedict's program is allowing the older form of the Roman rite and the newer form cross pollinate. The older use stopped developing in 1962. The motu proprio will allow normal organic change to resume in the traditional Latin mass. As individual priests learn the older mass and Catholics experience the it, the ordinary use of the Latin rite will relearn the reverence, the solemnity, and the trancendance of the traditional Latin mass. This will lead to the ordinary use moving more in line with what the Council fathers approved.

Thus the TLM will lead by example but it will no longer be stuck in 1962.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Do you want to read the motu proprio?

Benedict's motu proprio freeing the traditional mass of the Latin rite will be released 8:00 A.M. Wichita time. You will be able to read it here in Latin and the Benedict's letter here in English.

Oswald Sobrino on his blog Catholic Analysis provides a link to subscribe to the Vatican News Service's email notifications.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Benedict's Liturgical Liberalism

Pope Benedict is pro choice, at least when it comes to the liturgy.

Next Saturday, he will release his motu proprio which will allow priests to say the ancient Latin Rite mass without having to get their bishop's OK.

I do not believe that the freeing of the mass of the Missal of John XXIII is meant solely for an opening to schismatic traditionalists. The motu proprio is being released on the Feast of Cyril and Methodius under the old calendar. I read this as a signal to Eastern Orthodoxy. I do not read what the signal is however.

The Organic Development of the Liturgy

The Liturgical Movement, whose work was endorsed by the Second Vatican Council, was rediscovering the liturgical tradition of the Latin Rite, replacing less democratic music with chant, restoring to the people their legitimate parts of the mass (singing the Kyrie, the Gloria, etc.), and spreading an understanding of the mass. The Consilium commissioned to revise the missal in 1969 in its haste and, for lack of a better word, its bull-headedness, made some serious mistakes. Subsequent research has shown that many of its scholarly and pastoral assumptions were wrong. Heavy handed implementation compounded these problems.

The liturgy is supposed to develop organically. Given the break in that development, can we start afresh? Benedict seems to think so.

Benedict is asking us to replant the older liturgy next to Mass of Paul VI so that they can grow side by side cross pollinating and creating the proper fruits of the Liturgical Movement for our children and our children's children.

It took forty years for First Vatican Council to bear fruit. We will just now start to see the Second Vatican Council bear its first liturgical fruits.

You are not convinced? Read this moving account of one new priest's experience. He attended a one week training session ("boot camp") for the traditional Latin mass (i.e., according to the Missal of John XXIII.) This priest will be saying the new mass better, more reverently, and with greater effect because of his experience of the old.

Laus Tibi Dei!

Do we have the leadership and strategy to fight the "long war?"

Last Friday's Wall Street Journal had a front page story by Greg Jaffe, "Narrative Discord: Critiques of Iraq War Reveal Rifts Among Army Officers."

Jaffe writes about Lt. Col. Paul Yingling, a veteran of the war in Iraq. He tells us that Col. Yingling "poured his thoughts into a blistering critique of the Army brass, 'A Failure in Generalship,' published last month in Armed Forces Journal, a nongovernment publication. 'America's generals have been checked by a form of war that they did not prepare for and do not understand,' his piece argued." Col. Yingling argues with passion in the piece which you can read yourself.

The piece elicited significant debate within the armed forces. Jaffe, tells us, "The essay rocketed around the Army via email. The director of the Army's elite school for war planners scrapped his lesson plan for a day to discuss it. The commanding general at Fort Hood assembled about 200 captains in the chapel of that Texas base and delivered a speech intended to rebut it."

Read the whole article. It caused me to reflect and ask some troubling questions about our future as a democracy and a world power.

The Real Questions

Do we have the leadership and strategy to fight the "long war?" On a political note: would any of the presidential candidates give America the kind of war president the times demand? Would any of them dare to tell us that we at war and will continue to be at war whether we try to opt out or not? Would America elect the kind of president it needs even if he or she were on the menu?