Saturday, November 25, 2017

The "Illogic" of an Absolutely Intolerant Pluralism - Viva, Cristo Re!

For all you Italian speakers, I wish to recommend this little video from La Nuova Bussola Quotidiana. It's classic, secular Italian "wisdom", but always superior to what the market of today pretends to offer.

So many of my neo-Catholic or Conservative friends seem incapable of translating the old principles of social or national identity which held in the terribly anti-clerical or anti-Catholic Risorgimento or in another form of common sense argumentation, as registered in an essay from the 1930's, proposing T.S. Elliot's counsel about the need for an established church in England for the sake of social cohesion. They can't quite grasp that the old logic, which inspired the religious liberty hypothesis was just that and no more. It has not stood the test of time, leaving us as Catholics, or as Christians generally in the world, exposed at best to bitter discrimination and too often, beyond scorn, to genuine and unrelenting persecution. 

Popular wisdom passes on to us that the "superior" experience of religious tolerance and pluralism as a founding or constitutional value of the American experience would be what still holds today as the social paradigm for western society. Sorry, folks, open your eyes and look around.

I am not going to dot the i's and cross the t's of the video's author. Making appeal to the "good sense" of the "tolerance" dictated by the Risorgimento is to a certain extent ingenuous. The false peace of an established principle of religious or social pluralism is as wanting as its sad European forerunner: Cuius regio, eius religio. Both run roughshod over the notion of truth as something objective.

As I have argued somewhere before (don't ask me when or where). Tolerance vis à vis other people or persons is a negative. I can tolerate pain or inconvenience, I can tolerate another's defects, but as a Christian, I don't tolerate others, I respect them. I hope they will respect my values, my faith, my vision of truth. I respect them, without necessarily conceding that their position must perforce also in some way be true. Again, truth is one and there are not many truths.

Jesus Christ, the Eternal High Priest and Universal King, is the Way, the Truth and the Life. With the great saints of all times, I can accept that many in error indeed seek the fullness of truth. I dare not deceive either them or myself into believing that the quest for truth can take another path or stop short of Jesus, my Savior and my God.

Nostalgia has nothing to do with my argument or my quest. The bottom line is and has always been spousal fidelity to the Bridegroom. He comes at an hour you do not expect; trim your lamp and rise to meet Him, for fear of being left in the darkness outside.


Saturday, November 11, 2017

Secretum Meum Mihi: From Parrhesia to Piety

The Binding Force of Tradition.
Ripperger, Chad.  
Sensus Traditionis Press. Kindle Edition. 

My first cold of the season had me sort of dumbed down the other day and made concentrating on a couple work projects wearisome. So, when I received an email invitation to participate in an online questionnaire in exchange for a 5$ Amazon gift certificate, I jumped at the distraction and in a matter of minutes had gained some easy money. I spent my reward right away on this little book which I thoroughly enjoyed for the clarity and orderliness of its thought.

Because the language of the book is nigh unto classic scholastic, many might find it tough going, but I found it particularly thought provoking when it comes to analyzing the fruits of Vatican II and its aftermath. The chapter on sins against faith, hope, charity, justice and religion is particularly thought provoking.

After watching a video lecture by a fine young church historian recently, who is also a friend, I asked him if ecclesiology and the notion of spousal faithfulness couldn't enlighten his approach to the contemporary controversy over tradition and doctrinal development. His answer indicated to me that in most circles we are fighting an uphill battle against (shorthand) modernist cliches, which tend to pull the legs out from under the tradition as of the essence of the rule of faith, thus furthering the idolatrous relationship too many have with the goddess Progress.

Just one quote from Ripperger's treatise:

"St. Vincent essentially establishes that the principle of judgment about what we are to believe is that which we have received from “our holy ancestors and fathers.” In effect, it is tradition, i.e. that which has been handed on to us, which constitutes what we are to believe. For there is no aspect of what we believe as Catholics that was not passed on to us from those who went before us." (p. 20)

This author and many other Catholic authors in this Luther Year, when people, mostly journalists, glibly make apologies for his 500 year old cry of sola scriptura as the rule of faith, are hard pressed to bring home the ancient teaching of St. Vincent of Lerins on how the development of dogma can be properly understood. The more I read, the more convinced I become that St. Francis de Sales and countless other doctors and approved authors defended the only viable option in their strict adherence to things as handed down without modifying or omitting either a jot or a tittle:

"The Arians, as S. Augustine tells us (De doc. Chris. iii.2), corrupted this sentence of S. John i.1: In principio erat verbum, et verbum erat apud Deum, et Deus erat verbum. Hoc erat in principio apud Deum: by simply changing a point. For they read it thus: Et verbum erat apud Deum et Deus erat. Verbum hoc, &c.: instead of: Deus erat verbum. Hoc erat in principio apud Deum:. They placed the full stop after the erat, instead of after the verbum. They so acted for fear of having to grant that the Word was God; so little is required to change the sense of God's Word. When one is handling glass beads, if two or three are lost, it is a small matter, but if they were oriental pearls the loss would be great. The better the wine the more it suffers from the mixture of a foreign flavour, and the exquisite symmetry of a great picture will not bear the admixture of new colours. Such is the conscientiousness with which we ought to regard and handle the sacred deposit of the Scriptures." [de Sales, St. Francis. The Catholic Controversy (pp. 91-92). Veritatis Splendor Publications. Kindle Edition.] 

The ancient serpent's temptation of our first parents to snub God as if His commands were petty and to take liberties with His law in the name of their own personal dignity is ultimately the modernist lie, which continues to wreak havoc, as a whole class of people seek to shout the equivalent of their own "non serviam" and tear themselves loose from the embrace of our glorious Bridegroom. We have sinned and, like the Old Testament account goes about the discovery of the lost book of the law in the Temple, we need to recover the tradition and through repentance find therein the cause of our joy.

Among the good Catholic lay people whom I know there are few who are deceived by the supposed straight-talk rhetoric, parrhesia, where the speaker on the first account appeals to himself as authority (protesting his genuineness and sincerity), while disparaging what has been handed down and those who seek to remain faithful to what always and everywhere was. But on the other hand even among these good people, given the tenor of our times and a certain obsession with material progress or gain, it is rare to find the sort of fearful piety which once was and which accords to God in His Church the rule of faith which is our salvation.

This line of argumentation makes sense with strict adherence to the tradition properly cast in the framework of spousal faithfulness. Ripperger argues the point also from the point of view of human psychology:

"As one views the generations upon generations which held the same faith, died holy deaths and sacrificed to provide for subsequent generations, great hope is engendered in the believer. But when the sands of teaching are constantly shifting and when the monuments are destroyed or attacked, the stability of the faith is lost and hope will decline." (p. 46). 

His point is well taken and a goodly number of popular apologists from the world of Catholic neo-conservatism would do well to review their premises in the light of the role properly belonging to the tradition as our rule of faith.


Sunday, November 5, 2017

Totally Gratuitous! Sure Blame the Motor Car!

At First Things on October 31, Carl Trueman blamed the Reformation on Henry Ford, saying that the whole thing never took off until after the motor car became part of our lives, rendering religion (?), no, he must mean church going just one more consumer choice.

I'm sorry, Carl, but get serious. If you live in small town or rural USA then parking lots have been part of church going for all my life and all they sort of conditioned was the length of Father's Sunday sermon which had to be such as to get people in and out of Mass within an hour so that the lot could be cleared in time for the next full parking lot and Mass.

I remember in Trinidad that because of the low price of gasoline, people had the luxury to follow their favorite priest around the island of a Sunday, but that was usually done out of personal affection or loyalty, if you will. 

No, Carl, the reformation-like revolution of the last fifty years cannot be linked to vehicles. It came about as a result of the loss of necessity. Cars haven't the slightest to do with the loss of shame at being a fallen away Catholic or as the articulate permit such folk to describe themselves as "nones".

From the time of St. Justin Martyr, Sunday Mass was that without which we could not exist. Cars didn't change that sentiment or undermine that truth.

Look again, Carl!

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Irresistible Force

An article in the blog ABYSSUS ABYSSUM INVOCAT / DEEP CALLS TO DEEP which took on the notion of "mutual enrichment" caught my eye. This partly because of a recent personal reflection I made concerning Pope Benedict's use of that term in setting the Vetus Ordo free for unrestricted use by priests, encouraging them and bishops to generosity in responding to requests for celebrations according to the 1962 Roman Missal.

The blog entry would have the challenge of the two forms mutually enriching each other likened to squaring the circle. I do not think that is the case. Whether Benedict would agree or not, I think he has set the stage for the needed "reset", for that restoration of the Roman Rite which would enable the organic development of the Divine Liturgy which we were deprived of by the committee which hijacked the process after the council.

We can see how irresistible this movement is among the young and not so young, when caught by surprise by the rightness and beauty of the Old Mass rediscovered and celebrated as it ought to be.

Mutual enrichment must not per force lead either to a common compromise rite or to the continuance of the Novus Ordo. If nothing else, these forty plus years of options and worse are an eloquent statement on what organic development is not and cannot be.

I don't think that my own longing for the Vetus Ordo is either idiosyncratic or a minority report with an ideological background. I am not necessarily convinced that a benevolent acceptance of the old celebration as a part of seminary formation would yield a hundred fold, but it could bring on some essential discussion about rediscovering for our day and time the breadth of Catholic life which has been so sorely missing over the last decades.

Were the Mass of the Ages, the Holy Sacrifice, once again there as the source and summit, a much more natural and complete life of devotion and prayer among us would find the same anchor of reference and sense as we find it having in the writings of the saints over the course of the centuries.

For now, I'll just double dog dare bishops and seminary rectors to loosen up and examine intellectually and practically what a restoration could mean for integral and vibrant Catholic living in the 21st Century.


Thursday, November 2, 2017

Time and Eternity - Dies Irae

Preces meæ non sunt dignæ;
Sed tu bonus fac benigne,
Ne perenni cremer igne.
Worthless are my prayers and sighing,
Yet, good Lord, in grace complying,
Rescue me from fires undying.

On this All Soul's Day, I was struck by a childhood memory or maybe not, which is just that and perhaps nothing. 

The sequence from pre-Council days with which I was most familiar was the Dies Irae  from singing in the grade school choir at parish funerals and although I found it the most difficult piece of the Requiem to sing as a child I never found it long or tedious. The novus ordo relegates this sequence to a hymn option for the divine office and it is no longer an obligatory (or for that matter optional) part of the first Mass of All Soul's.

Don't mind me! It must be just a nostalgia attack. How could things have been so right, righter than now, that they had to be abolished? It doesn't make a bit of sense, now, does it?