Saturday, 31 May 2008

FSSP Ordinations

Fr Z has some great screen shots from the EWTN coverage of the FSSP priestly ordinations from last night:

I've included a couple here to encourage your prayers for these young men, as well as those to be ordained to the diaconate today.

Wonderful to see people making such a great commitment.

More on altar girls

So that we are call prepared for when the altar girl issue comes up next, as it inevitably will, canonist Fr Steven Fisher has prepared a useful summary of the state of Church law on the subject:

The short version, in his view, is that:

  • it is permitted for lay women to be admitted to service at the altar (even in the extraordinary form), if the bishop permits it;
  • but no one (male or female) has a right to serve at the altar; and
  • no priest can be forced to admit females to serve at the altar.

One point he makes that might be worth exploring is that a bishop could prohibit females from being admitted to service at the altar at the Extraordinary Form of Mass (by tempering his permission to serve at the altar to be just at the ordinary form) if he so wished as, of course, could the Holy See. I can see a campaign coming on...

It is worth reading the whole thing though, as it contains some fascinating material. I didn't know, for example, that the 1917 Code of Canon Law explicitly allowed women to make the responses 'from afar' in the absence of a man, provided that they did not approach the altar.

And while we are on curious innovations, ladies, if you were about to rush out and get yourself 'ordained' - or you are a bishop planning on simulating an ordination - be aware that doing so now means automatic excommunication:

Bring back the Index?

There are times when bishops must long for the good old days - when they could just prohibit Catholics from reading certain books for example.

Instead, they are now faced with demands for a detailed statement of what is erroneous in Bishop Robinson's book, Confronting Sex and Power.

At first it looked like just an isolated call, but now it is now appearing in all the usual places, including the Jesuit Journal Eureka Street:

Well, presumably at some point the Congregation for the Doctine of Faith might well put out a statement on the nature of the errors. In the meantime, the clear implication of the bishops' statement on the book was, don't read it.

What part of dangerous to the faith don't people understand? Catholics shouldn't be reading this book accompanied by a line by line summary of what's wrong in it, they simply shouldn't be reading it at all!

I mean let's start with some basics. Apparently the book argues that the roots of the abuse scandal lie in things like clerical celibacy. If that's the case, why is it that the Adelaide Anglican's have already paid out about $9m in damages claims, and are in the process of selling some of the Archbishop's inner city residence in order to fund outstanding claims?:,25197,23781250-5006787,00.html

Questions do need to be asked about how the scandals could happen, and good books do perhaps need to be written on the subject. Bishop Robinson's book clearly isn't one of them.

Victoria's abortion law

The Report of Victoria's Law Reform Commission proposing legalization of abortion has finally been tabled:,25197,23781307-5006785,00.html

It provides three options:

1. Give a doctor the authority to determine whether an abortion was necessary because pregnancy posed a risk of harm to the woman.

2. Give the woman the authority to make that determination for an abortion up to 24 weeks' gestation, after which responsibility would rest with the doctor.

3. Give women the power to choose an abortion at any stage of pregnancy.

Archbishop Hart has come out condemning the report as coming from an unrepresentative body, and calls for a full Parliamentary Inquiry:

His statement says in part:

"The Commission completely dismisses concerns about proper respect for human life. It seeks to have abortion treated as though it were any other medical procedure. This flies in the face of the fact that the life of a human being is intentionally destroyed. It also flies in the face of community concern for a woman faced with the predicament of abortion.

All three options provided by the Commission reject requirements for making supportive counselling available, requiring an independent medical opinion, reporting adverse events or restricting abortion to places that have adequate facilities for a major surgical procedure."

He is absolutely right of course.

Still, leave aside for a moment issues about protecting life - they convince you and me, but are water off a duck's back to a substantial number of people.

One can make a case even in the terms of the 'pro-choice' movement might understand that the real underlying problem is that abortion isn't treated like any other medical issue.

We know those who have abortions are likely to face severe psychological issues afterwards. Yet there is enormous reluctance to require adequate counselling.

We know there is a high risk of complications, including a risk to subsequent fertility. Yet they don't want to have adverse events reporting.

Most of all, the 'pro-choice' rhetoric around abortion talks about pregnancy as if it were a disease, a condition to be treated because it causes harm to the mother.

But what other drastic medical procedure would be publicly funded for a time-limited 'illness' which can readily be managed by other means?

When the Government decides whether or not to list a drug on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, the benefits of the drug have to outweigh the costs. In the case of surgical procedures the cost-benefit analysis is less explicit but there.

If being pregnant really is seen as a disease to be treated medically because of the potential 'harm to the woman' (under the current legislation the test is 'a threat to the child or mother's mental or physical health'), then I'd be willing to bet providing more counselling and support during pregnancy could easily be shown to be far more cost-effective than allowing abortion. And that is even before one took into account the costs of the loss of the child. Because of course in a proper cost benefit analysis, any negative impacts on the mother would have to be set against the 'loss of potential productivity' associated with the death of the child.

Taking such an approach would be economic rationalism gone mad at one level. It abstracts from the reality that we are talking about real people, real lives. But sometimes a purely rationalist approach makes the point that the emotion that clouds this issue is all on the 'pro-choice' side.

Friday, 30 May 2008

Praying for priests - and not criticising them?

Today is World Day of Prayer for the sanctification of priests, and I urge everyone to do something for this - to say a rosary, go to Adoration or by some other means lend your prayers and sacrifices for this cause.

The importance of priests

Let's face it, without priests to say the mass and forgive our sins, we'd all be in dire straits.

The priesthood is not an easy vocation under any circumstances. And most of us deal mainly with diocesan and secular priests, who have few protective structures to support them: the religious has his superior and community as a bulwark against the enemy; husbands and wives have each other; single people can have friends and family. The priest, by contrast, must stand apart to some degree from others, and is often isolated from his too busy peers. Moreover, many priests at the moment are suffering the flow-on effects in terms of loss of community esteem.

But should we ever criticise them?

All the same, I am a little concerned at some of the suggestions being made at the moment to the effect that priests and bishops should never be criticised.

Fr Mark over at Vultus Christi, whose wisdom I very much respect, talks about 'the demoralizing and cranky rants about priests that float through the blogosphere', and urges 'silence when tempted to speak ill of priests':

His advice is to surround ourselves with models of holiness and virtue in the saints. That is good advice. His comment about the degree of crankiness - disrespect might be a better word - is also fair enough. We must, after all, give due respect to the dignity of the priestly or episcopal office regardless of our views on the particular occupant!

All the same time, I would argue that there are occasions when it is both the right and duty of laypeople to speak up. And in difficult times like the present, these occasions may well be frequent indeed.

On Bishops?

The topic is also being debated over at Inside Catholic, where Francis Maier also urges Catholics not to criticize, concluding that "The more we publicly criticize our bishops, the more we put the [broader Catholic] family at risk." It is a position, I gather that is shared by a number of major catholic movements such as Opus Dei:

Maier's piece, however, is a reply to Russell Shaw's argument that it is excessive secrecy that led to the mishandling of abuse cases, and an article by Dean Hudson, which points to Canon Law as a justification for speaking up where appropriate. One commenter points out that St Thomas Aquinas concludes that

"A subject is not competent to administer to his prelate the correction which is an act of justice through the coercive nature of punishment: but the fraternal correction which is an act of charity is within the competency of everyone in respect of any person towards whom he is bound by charity, provided there be something in that person which requires correction."

When it might be ok to criticise

So when is it ok to raise concerns or criticise? 'Glenn' over there suggests three circumstances in relation to bishops:

"1) If a Bishop is teaching or promoting by words or actions anything contrary to the teachings of the Church.

2) If a Bishop commits a wilful sin that is publicly recognised with sufficient evidence, and of a grave matter and scandalous nature, a Catholic can publicly admonish him by condemning the sin itself within its context.

3) Omission (ie- the failure to do something one can and ought to do.)

I think there are a few more one could add. When they are acting in a private capacity for example.

Or, most importantly, when a priest or bishop fails to respond positively to a reasonable request from the laity in relation to their spiritual needs - for the provision of a TLM, for example, or to allow them to show their devotion by kneeling to receive.

If we want to revive the Church, and convert Australia we have to start by converting ourselves. But we also need to do what we can to convert those who fill leadership roles in our Church.

So I'd like to propose a compromise between the two positions. Whenever we 'shine a light' on the actions (or inaction) of our pastors, let us pray also.

And let us certainly make a special effort on this day of prayer for priests as we contemplate the humanity of our great High Priest in the Feast of the Sacred Heart.

FSSP Extraordinary Form Ordinations on EWTN

If you are a liturgy junkie, don't forget to turn your tv on (or set the DVD to record!) for the FSSP priestly ordinations tonight (well, early Saturday really), showing live from Lincoln, Nebraska on EWTN (you can watch it through livestreaming on your computer if you don't subscribe).

It starts at 1am Sydney time, on Saturday May 31. The ordinations will be performed by Darío Cardinal Castrillón Hoyos, the President for the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei.

And don't forget too, to pray for the two Australians being ordained as deacons for the Fraternity in Wigratzbad, Germany on Saturday, Marko Rehak and Dominic Popplewell. We hope to see them back in Australia soon!

On things FSSP, it is also worth mentioning that they have a very nice new site for their apostolate in Venice:

All in Italian though I'm afraid!

Thursday, 29 May 2008

Beer Bottle Symphony Orchestra

OK, this has absolutely nothing to do with religion (well,,except to the extent that beer is a religion in Australia!). But it is so quintessentially Australian it is irresistible...Thanks to Intentional Disciples for finding it!

And now, listen to the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra....

World Youth Day: Ecumenism runs amok again?

I have to admit that I've always had my doubts about World Youth Day. Still the attempt to carve out a corner for traddies in Juventutem where things might be a little more controlled seemed a good one.

But I really do think it is problematic when the Church appears to compromise fundamental principles in the name of 'ecumenism'. Today's news includes two stories that should send shivers down every orthodox Catholic's spine:

Islamic school to host pilgrims

First it seems some 300 pilgrims will be 'hosted' by the Malek Fahd Islamic School, a co-educational primary and high school in Greenacre.

Now correct me if I'm wrong,but I thought the objective of World Youth Day was to fire up young people in their faith - not to put them to the test! Let's hope they've selected pilgrims who are already well catechised and have their apologetics at their fingertips.

'Scripture only' Stations of the Cross

Even more alarmingly, the Stations of the Cross to be staged through the streets of Sydney have been censored - with six of the traditional stations which do not have a Scriptural basis being dropped - in the interests of avoiding any hint of anti-semitism, or, more to the point one suspects, offending Sydney's rabid 'Bible Christians'.

Give me a break.

World Youth Day is supposed to be about teaching and showcasing the Catholic faith. A faith that honours both Scripture and Tradition.

This is not a good sign of what is to come.

Get ready for Friday: World Day of Prayer for the sanctification of priests

The wonderfully activist and innovative (in a good way!) Congregation for the Clergy has asked for the Feast of the Sacred Heart to be celebrated as a World Day of Prayer for the sanctification of priests:

The aims of the day of prayer are several: first to make reparation for the faults and sins of priests; to pray for the vocations that are so desperately needed; and of course for young men to take the time to consider the possibility that they might have a vocation

But the Congregation is also asking for women from all states of life to consider becoming a spiritual mother for priests

"Independent of age or social status, any woman can become a mother for priests. This type of motherhood is not only for mothers of families, but is just as possible for an unmarried girl, a widow, or for someone who is ill. It is especially pertinent for missionaries and religious sisters who have given their lives entirely to God for the sanctification of others."

Women can often be both the physical and spiritual mothers of their sons, the Congregation notes, encouraging them to consider vocations as priests or religious, and to strive for holiness.

But all women, whether married, single or religious, can be called to this cause. One example is the Venerable Conchita of Mexico (1862-1937):

"Jesus once explained to Conchita, “There are souls, who through ordination receive a priestly anointing. However, there are ... also priestly souls who do not have the dignity or the ordination of a priest, yet have a priestly mission. They offer themselves united to me…these souls help the Church in a very powerful spiritual way. … You will be the mother of a great number of spiritual children, yet they will cost your heart the death of a thousand martyrs.

Bring yourself as an offering for the priests. Unite your offering with my offering, to obtain graces for them.” … “I want to come again into this world. … in my priests. I want to renew the world by revealing myself through the priests. I want to give my Church a powerful impulse in which I will pour out the Holy Spirit over my priests like a new Pentecost."

The document on spiritual motherhood is full of wonderful, inspirational stories. So consider it, and get ready for Friday ladies (and gentlemen)!

You can read more here:

Wednesday, 28 May 2008

Catholics have the right to kneel to receive Holy Communion

This is something of a repost (though I've added a little material).

At the request of a commenter, I've put the material on the right to kneel that I have in a side bar into post form so that it can more easily be accessed and linked to! Feel free to print it out and use it as you will.

A particular thanks to Antony for the link to the material on the Our Lady's Warriors Website, and Hugh Henry, for the pamphlet on this topic in the latest issue of Fidelity Magazine.

Catholics have a right to receive kneeling:

  • Canon law gives the faithful a right to the sacraments;

  • the right to receive kneeling and on the tongue has been specifically legislated by Rome, and is not overridden by any local legislation, even when approved by the Congregation for Divine Worship;

  • the Pope reaffirmed the virtue of kneeling to acknowledge the Real Presence by his Sermon and actions on the Feast of Corpus Christi;

  • the Congregation for Divine Worship has indicated that priests who deny the faithful their rights in this matter may face serious disciplinary action.

Canon Law

Under Canon 213, the faithful have the right to receive assistance by the sacred Pastors from the spiritual goods of the Church, especially the word of God and the Sacraments; and. Under Canon 843 sacred ministers may not deny the sacraments to those who opportunely ask for them, are properly disposed and are not prohibited by law from receiving them.

Redemptionis Sacramentum

The right to kneel was clearly set out in Redemptionis Sacramentum in 2004, which stated:

“91.] In distributing Holy Communion it is to be remembered that “sacred ministers may not deny the sacraments to those who seek them in a reasonable manner, are rightly disposed, and are not prohibited by law from receiving them”. Hence any baptized Catholic who is not prevented by law must be admitted to Holy Communion. Therefore, it is not licit to deny Holy Communion to any of Christ’s faithful solely on the grounds, for example, that the person wishes to receive the Eucharist kneeling or standing.

[92.] Although each of the faithful always has the right to receive Holy Communion on the tongue, at his choice,….”

The Sacred Congregation for Divine Worship has stated that:

“Even where the Congregation has approved of legislation denoting standing as the posture for Holy Communion, in accordance with the adaptations permitted to the Conferences of Bishops by the Institution Generalis Missalis Romani n. 160, paragraph 2, it has done so with the stipulation that communicants who choose to kneel are not to be denied Holy Communion on these grounds.” (Letter of July 2002)

Pope Benedict

On the Feast of Corpus Christi, May 22 2008, Pope Benedict said:“To kneel in front of the Eucharist is a profession of freedom: whoever bows before Jesus cannot and should not prostrate himself before any earthly power, no matter how strong. We Christians only kneel before God, before the Most Blessed Sacrament, because we believe and know that the one true God is present, who created the world and loved man so much that for his sake, he gave his only begotten Son (cfr Jn 3,16).”

Possible disciplinary action

The Congregation for Divine Worship has indicated in a past case where a catholic was denied communion on the basis that they were kneeling that "Priests should understand that the Congregation will regard future complaints of this nature with great seriousness, and if they are verified, it intends to seek disciplinary action consonant with the gravity of the pastoral abuse."

For more information see:

On receiving communion

In recent times we've seen a few important moves to reinforce the doctrine of the Real Presence.

First, late last year, the Vatican urged bishops to promote Adoration in every diocese "for the reparation of faults and sanctification of priests." As an aside, I'd be interested in knowing how many Australian dioceses have put this into practice:

Secondly, in Australia, there are the new rubrics for the Ordinary Form, requiring communicants to bow as a gesture of respect before receiving (although the accompanying attempt to dissuade reception while kneeling sends a rather mixed message).

Thirdly, we have seen a renewed encouragement for reception on the tongue while kneeling, most notably through the Holy Father's actions on Corpus Christi.

The next element needed, though, is surely to tackle the problem of those receiving without the proper dispositions.

On this front, Fr Finigan has posted a useful notice he composed for his parish bulletin. It reads as follows:

"....we should remember that to receive Holy Communion, the following are required by the Church:

To be a Catholic in communion with the Church and to believe in the real presence of Christ in the Holy Eucharist.

To be living in accord with the teaching of the Church and, if married, to be married according to the law of the Church.

To be in a state of grace, free from any deliberate grave sin that has not been forgiven through the sacrament of Confession.

To have fasted for at least one hour before Communion.

To have prepared prayerfully to receive Our Lord in the Holy Eucharist.

Nowadays, some Catholics only come to Mass every few weeks. In such a case, it would be necessary to go to confession and form a firm resolution to attend Mass every week before receiving Holy Communion again."

He also notes the possibility of making a spiritual communion instead, and provides a suitable prayer to assist this. What an excellent list!

The full text can be found here:

A saint for the discouraged? Augustine of Canterbury OSB

I know I've done a bit of a run on saints this week, but it is hard to resist the feast of St Augustine of Canterbury, famously sent to convert England after Pope St Gregory the Great (above, dispatching St Augustine) saw a group of children in the marketplace ('not angels but angels').

St Augustine and his group of monks from the Lateran (where St Benedict's monks had taken refuge) got as far as Provence before deciding that it all sounded far too difficult and dangerous. St Bede records in his history:

"Having undertaken this task in obedience to the Pope's command and progressed a short distance on their journey, they became afraid, and began to consider returning home. For they were appalled at the idea of going to a barbarous, fierce, and pagan nation, of whose very language they were ignorant. They unanimously agreed that this was the safest course, and sent back that he might humbly request the holy Gregory to recall them..."

Pope Gregory the Great, however, urged to complete their mission.

In the event, the task proved challenging,but not quite as forthan they had anticipated, for King Ethelbert of Kent had a Christian wife, and was persuaded to allow them freedom to preach. The monks set a powerful example:

"They were constantly at prayer; they fasted and kept vigils; they preached the word to whomsoever they could. They regarded worldly things as of little importance, and they accepted only the necessities of life from those they taught. They practiced what they preached, and were willing to endure any hardship, and even to die for the truth which they proclaimed.

Before long a number of heathen, admiring the simplicity of their holy lives and the comfort of their heavenly message, believed and were baptized."

St Bede records several exchanges of correspondence between St Augustine and St Gregory.
The most famous is on inculturation (via Abbot Mellitus) in which the Pope urges St Augustine to destroy pagan idols but not the temples, which should be converted into Christian churches (after appropriate purification); and to devise appropriate festivities with a Christian flavour to replace the customary pagan ones. If only the false idols of this century could be so readily dispatched and replaced!

Bishop Morgan's Funeral Mass and Sung Requiem

Bishop Morgan's funeral Mass will be held at St Paul’s Memorial Chapel, Royal Military College, Duntroon, Canberra, at 10am on Thursday, 29 May. He will then be interned in the crypt of St Christopher’s Cathedral:

In addition, a Solemn Requiem in the Extraordinary Form will be offered at Ss Peter and Paul, Garran, in Canberra, on Wednesday 28 May.

Bishop Morgan died at the age of 98 on May 21:

Please pray for the repose of his soul.

Corpus Christi in Brisbane

Thanks to Roman from Et Clamor Meus for this photos of Corpus Christi in Brisbane on Sunday, with a Mass in the Extraordinary Form for the workers who did the set up for the Procession at Indooroopilly. The mass was said by Fr Gregory Jordan SJ.

As an aside, I've ventured into the interesting world of facebook in the last day or so (I figured it had to be respectable now given that the New Liturgical Movement has set up a group there), just to see what it was all about, and stumbled over Fr Jordan's fan club, which has more than 100 members...

Anyway, for more photos, including of the procession, go here:

Tuesday, 27 May 2008

Feast of St Bede the Venerable OSB, Doctor of English History

Today is the feast day of another great saint, St Bede the Venerable. Born around 673, St Bede entered the monastery of Wearmouth in Northumbria as a child oblate (the middle ages had rather different ideas on the notion of vocation than those of today!) under the care of St Benedict Biscop. He moved to the associated monastery of Jarrow while still a boy.

This was a golden age for English monasticism, a period when scholarship flourished, nourished by a confluence of influences including the learning of Theodore of Tarsus, Archbishop of Canterbury; the determined acquisitiveness of men like Benedict Biscop, who did several monastery crawls on the continent in search of best practice, and came back with an impressive haul of books, relics, stonemasons and glaziers; and in part by the Irish tradition. It was also an age of great English missionaries, such as St Boniface.

St Bede wrote many sermons and commentaries, a number of which are used in the breviary. His most famous work, though, is The Ecclesiastical History of the English People. In it, he speaks of his delight in 'learning, teaching and writing.'

St Bede the Venerable, pray for us.

Euthanasia and other evils back on the table

And if the assault on the family wasn't enough, the Green's Bob Brown has a private members bill on Euthanasia currently under consideration by a Senate Committee.

But equally worrying is the story a friend has alerted me to, that Senator Nicola Roxon, Minister for Health, is about to be presented with guidelines from the Government's Australian Health Ethics Committee encouraging families to withhold nourishment from unresponsive patients so as to allow them to die:,23739,23755540-953,00.html#submit-feedback

According to Brisbane's Courier Mail, "Families will be encouraged by the Federal Government to let their "unresponsive'' loved ones die if their medical treatment is costly and futile."

"The guidelines centre on withdrawing treatment _ such as tube-feeding _ from coma or brain-dead patients if procedures are "risky, intrusive, destructive, exhausting, painful or repugnant" and cost outweighs benefit or success. [So continuing to feed your ageing parent or sick partner can be more 'repugnant' than starving them to death?]

The Government's Australian Health Ethics Committee has drafted separate papers for families and health professionals, and advises educating the community about treatment that can be "overburdensome". [to whom?] The guidelines only apply to patients in post-coma unresponsiveness (PCU) and a minimally responsive state (MRS). Some PCU patients, who have had a brain injury, drug overdose or stroke, appear to sleep and wake normally but show no signs they are aware or do not speak or respond. A minimally responsive state is where a patient comes out of a coma and provides random responses such as blinking or moving a finger."

Such an approach, of course, runs directly counter to Catholic teaching. In fact, in 2007, the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith made some responses to questions from the US bishops on these very questions:

The document reads as follows:

"First question: Is the administration of food and water (whether by natural or artificial means) to a patient in a “vegetative state” morally obligatory except when they cannot be assimilated by the patient’s body or cannot be administered to the patient without causing significant physical discomfort?

Response: Yes. The administration of food and water even by artificial means is, in principle, an ordinary and proportionate means of preserving life. It is therefore obligatory to the extent to which, and for as long as, it is shown to accomplish its proper finality, which is the hydration and nourishment of the patient. In this way suffering and death by starvation and dehydration are prevented.

Second question: When nutrition and hydration are being supplied by artificial means to a patient in a “permanent vegetative state”, may they be discontinued when competent physicians judge with moral certainty that the patient will never recover consciousness?

Response: No. A patient in a “permanent vegetative state” is a person with fundamental human dignity and must, therefore, receive ordinary and proportionate care which includes, in principle, the administration of water and food even by artificial means."

Get ready for the fight.

Monday, 26 May 2008

The Traditional Latin Mass is spreading: Corpus Christi at Bl. Mary MacKillop Parish in Keilor Downs, Victoria

Thanks to a correspondent for these lovely photos of Mass in the Extraordinary Form from Keilor Downs, in Melbourne's North Western suburbs, Victoria.

The occasion was a testament to the effects of the Motu Proprio in making available the treasures of the Church more widely, as the celebrant, Fr. John O'Connor, is assistant priest in the parish. The parish priest, Fr. Portelli, attended in choir.

Servers and choristers from Melbourne's Traditional Latin Mass community assisted on the night. This is nice to hear about too - evangelization in practice!

Great to see!

Bishop Power speaks out in support of Bishop Robinson

You might recall Bishop Geoffrey Robinson. He's the retired Sydney bishop currently touring America to promote his book advocating the ordination of women priests, abolition of the hierarchical constitution of the Church, and much more. The book was recently condemned as containing erroneous material by the Australian Bishop's Conference, and the bishop was asked not to speak by the bishops of a number of US dioceses (and the Vatican).

Well now another semi-retired bishop, Patrick Power, Auxiliary of Canberra-Goulburn (currently on 'long service leave'), has come out in support of Bishop Robinson. He has submitted a long and apparently 'unsolicited statement of heartfelt support' to the (a-)'Catholica' website.

It is strong stuff. He extols Robinson's Christ-like qualities, and compares him to reforming saints like Blessed Mary McKillop who were persecuted in their time:

"So many of these heroic members of the Church have been dismissed or condemned in their own day only to be fully understood and appreciated later on. I think of Blessed Mary MacKillop and Catherine Macauley as well as many distinguished theologians "under a cloud" prior to the Second Vatican Council. History has shown that immediate judgements very often are subsequently proved to be wrong."

Unfortunately Bishop Robinson is not just dealing in ground that is a matter of theological opinion. He appears to be contradicting defined dogma.

It is also full of the virtues of Spirit of Vatican IIism:

"In calling the Second Vatican Council, Pope John XXIII sought to "open the windows" to allow the winds of the Holy Spirit to renew the life of the Church. It saddens me that much of the openness which Vatican II stood for is now being shut down."

Yes, well.

Juventutem Australia's official Sydney launch

Thanks to Terra's spies for the beautiful photo of the official Sydney launch of Juventutem Australia on Saturday, above, at the splendid Church of St. Augustine in Balmain. The one below is from the ybenedict site:

It is not yet too late to register for Juventutem, or for the chant workshops being run through June as part of it!

Go here to take a look:

The New Liturgical Movement blog also has the story.

Feast of St Philip Neri

Today is the feast of St Philip Neri, one of my favourite saints.  Psallite Sapienter has actually been running a lovely series of extracts on him by Fr Faber for each day of the novena to him, and they are definitely worth a read.

My initial introduction to the saint was through the Brompton Oratory in London, and I still treasure the Catholic Truth Society pamphlet on his life by Fr Raleigh Addington that I picked up there some years ago (though I do have a couple of longer books about him now!). It rather glosses over some of the difficult patches in the saint's life, but still conveys the essence of his sanctity.

His attraction for me has always been first and foremost his Eucharistic devotion - he introduced the Forty Hours Devotion to Rome, secondly the emphasis he placed on music in his foundation of the Oratory, and thirdly his sense of humour and evident joy in life. The composers Palestrina, Anerio and Victoria were all associated with him. The story that made the deepest impression on my youthful mind about him though is this, from the CTS booklet:

"During his last years Philip was given permission to say Mass in a little chapel next to his room. When he came to the 'Domine non sum dignus', those in the chapel withdrew, the server put out the candles and lighted a lamp and went out leaving the Saint alone with God. After two hours he would come back and knock on the door. If the Saint answered he came in, lighted the candles, and Philip finished the Mass in the usual way."

There are some wonderful prayers to St Philip for each day of the week that you can find here (*link updated).

Sunday, 25 May 2008

How do we reclaim the Church?

Fr Z has an interesting piece today on how the progressives have managed to skew the agenda, and counselling patience on the part of traditionalists:

There are some things about his analysis I disagree with: he defends Pope John Paul II, for example, as a positive force, when I think most I, along with most traditionalists, would take the view that it was on his watch that the liberal agenda became entrenched (remember altar girls for example).

Where he is right, though, I think, is in insisting that change cannot simply be handed down by fiat - you need to build support for change, and act at a pace that people can cope with. Eventually, a critical point will be reached, and everything will happen very quickly. But we certainly aren't there yet!

He is also correct, I think, in observing that traditionalists often waste time squabbling amongst themselves rather than attacking the common enemy: we all need to be a little more tolerant of each others weaknesses and thologicla differences, a little more forgiving, and a little more willing to give people another chance!

Interestingly, the debate in the comments box has moved pretty quickly (correctly in my view) to the question of whether a few bishops' heads shouldn't be chopped off (an idea that has both major problems and some obvious attractions!).

I came across a great quote from Archbishop Fulton Sheen the other day, for the 'Thorn in the Pew' blog. It goes like this:

"Who is going to save our Church? Not our bishops, not our priests and religious. It is up to you, the people. You have the minds, the eyes, the ears to save the Church. Your mission is to see that your priests act like priests, your bishops, like bishops, and your religious act like religious.” (before the Knights of Columbus, June of 1972).

Sound advice for us all to ponder I think.

So let me elaborate here on some comments I've made on Fr Z's place.

Reform from above needs support from below

What is important to note about past great reform movements is that they rarely if ever happened entirely from above - rather reforming Popes build on the groundswell created by reforming monastic movements, great saints, and lay action.

Think for example of Cluny and the reforms around the beginning of the first millenium; the historical context for St Francis, St Catherine, and indeed the saints of the counter-reformation such as St Phillip Neri and St Teresa.

Support new communities

Right now, we have a very small nucleus of vibrant traditionally oriented religious communities - such as Clear Creek, Le Barroux, and so forth.

They are important in providing models of the liturgy, a support mechanism for communities of traditionalists, and above all the prayer base that is needed.

We need some in countries like Australia, Canada and the UK.

Support action by bishops and the Vatican

Secondly, we need to urge those in a position to do so to act - how can situations like Bishop Robinson's US book promotion tour be tolerated for example?

Meanwhile in Australia the liberals have already started a campaign criticising the action that has been taken by the Australian Bishop's Conference so far - so right to them in support of what has been done so far, and in support of taking further action against him.

Lay action

Lay people need to take advantage of their rights to demand the TLM, to be able to kneel and receive on the tongue, to attend a mass where the rubrics are followed, to have the traditional devotions, and so forth.

So print out the statement of rights I've put to the right of this blog, take it to a (novus ordo) mass with you, and if you get grief when you kneel to receive, hand it over! Organise a group of like-minded people to go with you. And if necessary, pursue the matter up the line.

Work to convert friends, families and colleagues.

Politely but firmly make known your views to your priest and bishop when problems occur.


Traditionally minded priests need to teach their confreres the traditional mass and encourage them to offer it. They need to help try and bring in 'independent' and SSPX priests. And they need to put aside the theological and personal differences that so often seem to divide those attached to the TLM within dioceses, and support each other against persecutors.


And most of all we need to offer our prayers and sacrifices.

I'd be interested in other ideas on what we should be doing....

Saturday, 24 May 2008

In the world and of it: oh dear!

And you thought Liberal Catholicism was on its death legs.

If ever there was an argument for the need for a clearer separation of the roles of the laity from those of priests, religious and bishops, an argument in the National Catholic Reporter arguing for the removal of barriers on political activity by priests and religious is it (albeit unintentionally):

John A. Donnangelo points to the heroic example of liberation theology of inspired (and frequently heretical) priests of the past, and sees the mandate of John 3:17 ( “God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved.”) as meaning this world, now, rather than eternal life:

“If St. Peter is exalted for being a political martyr in defense of the faith, then why today should the clergy and religious outside Vatican City be barred from being defenders of the faith as direct political actors? Is defense of the faith and the pursuit of social justice only the work of the laity? Don’t all Catholics, especially the clergy and religious, have a responsibility to make God’s work their own?

If the church hopes to inspire the development of future men and women “for all seasons,” both religious and lay, such as St. Thomas More, it must recognize that it is in the world and part of it…The church must speak for itself on public matters.”

Don’t liberals read papal encyclicals like Spe Salvi? Or even the rest of Scripture, which is filled with quotes like 1 John 2:13: "Do not love the world or what is in the world.”

And just how is St Thomas More a model for what he is advocating? Last time I heard, St Thomas was a layman.

Most of all, why on earth does Cath News (23 May) single out an item like this as of interest to Australian Catholics?

On social justice Rudd style

Now that the Budget is all but over bar lots of shouting, Mr Rudd has been busy setting up yet more commissions, boards and inquiries.

Homelessness has been on his agenda from the beginning.

Australians might recall that immediately after being elected Prime Minister, he sent out his new MPs to visit the homeless shelters in their electorates, and get estimates on how many were being turned away. Apparently the answer is around 100,000.

I actually do agree with Mr Rudd that this is a national disgrace. The prophets, after all, repeatedly warns us of the fate of nations that ignore the plight of the poor.

The real question though, is what can and should be done, and by whom.

The reality is that much homelessness in Australia today reflects the disintegration of the family. It reflects the crisis in our culture, and absence of religion, that sees people take refuge in drugs and other forms of escapism. At the more practical level, it is also the result of the dismantling of infrastructure, such as that intended to support those with mental illnesses.

It is, of course, up to us to make sure that some of these issues get an airing through the hearings and submissions process now underway:

The second new body is a 'Social Inclusion Board', which includes several prominent Catholics (its vice-chair is Msgr David Cappo of Adelaide). Social Inclusion is a jargon term that has been around for a while now, and focuses on issues such as the fact that programme delivery can be very uneven in its geographic reach, as well as the alienation of particular groups (angry young men being a particular problem in Australia, for example).

If it does its job, it could provide a useful focus on issues such as the need to rebuild the family as a genuinely supportive institution in our society. Of course, it also has enormous potential to be diverted into politically correct side-alleys. It will be interesting to see what happens:
However, there is a good case for at least one of the touted new bodies, namely some kind of Ethics Commission, to monitor what MPs and public servants are up to. The sooner the better I suspect - the Public Service Commission has been pretty much a dead letter for many years now.

Friday, 23 May 2008

Feast of Our Lady Help of Christians, Patroness of Australia

This picture comes from the Catholic Tradition site (, which gives a nice history of the statue, which now stands in St Mary's Cathedral, Sydney.

The title of Our Lady as help of Christians comes primarily from her intervention in the Battle of Lepanto against the Turkish Muslims, though the feast was in fact instituted for the papal states in 1816 by Pius VII after being freed from imprisonment by Napoleon through her intercession.

Our Lady, Help of Christians was adopted as patron of Australia in 1844, and was confirmed by the Holy See in 1852.

Australia at this time perhaps needs above all more workers for the vineyard, so perhaps this prayer of St John Bosco is the one we should adopt for the day:

Most Holy Virgin Mary, Help of Christian,
how sweet it is to come to your feet imploring your perpetual help.

If earthly mothers cease not to remember their children, how can you, the most loving of all mothers forget me?

Grant then to me, I implore you, your perpetual help in all my necessities, in every sorrow, and especially in all my temptations.

I ask for your unceasing help for all who are now suffering.

Help the weak, cure the sick, convert sinners.

Grant through your intercessions many vocations to the religious life.

Obtain for us, O Mary, Help of Christians, that having invoked you on earth we may love and eternally thank you in heaven.

What is a traditionalist? Intrinsic vs extrinsic tradition

In my earlier entries I suggested a few principles on what defines a traditionalist
  • the adoption of a hermeneutic of continuity looking at the present through the eyes of the past;
  • an attitude to the Magisterium that is loyal but not unquestioning;
  • and seeing Tradition not just as a process of handing down, but also as containing some distinctive content.

In the 'interlude' we discovered some of the principle divisions within those attached to the TLM - between the 'roundheads' (overtly political, ultramontanist in temperament but disdainful of recent occupants of the chair of Peter) and the 'Cavaliers' (more focused on liturgical piety).

Today I want to move onto another dimension of our understanding of tradition, namely the difference between intrinsic and extrinsic tradition.

This distinction is important not just to how traditionalists differ to neo-conservatives and others, but also to understanding the difference between the Roundheads (who I’m renaming the plumbers for reasons set out below) compared to those who emphasize liturgical piety.

Intrinsic vs Extrinsic Tradition

Intrinsic Tradition relates to the truths of Revelation according to Fr Ripperger:

"Divine tradition is that tradition which constitutes one of the sources of revelation, i.e. a source of our knowledge about those things which were revealed to man by God. This means that divine tradition is intrinsic to the Deposit of Faith, which constitutes all of the divinely revealed truths necessary for salvation and passed on by the Church in an uninterrupted tradition. Since it is intrinsic to the Deposit of Faith, this form of tradition is sometimes called intrinsic tradition, a prime example of which is the magisterium of the Church and the sacraments since they were established by Jesus Christ and passed on and will be passed on until the end of time."

By contrast:

"Ecclesiastical tradition is all of those things which are not intrinsic to the Deposit of Faith, but which form the heritage and patrimony of the work of previous generations graciously passed on by the Church to subsequent generations for their benefit. Because it is extrinsic to the Deposit of Faith, ecclesiastical tradition is also called extrinsic tradition, examples of which include the Church's disciplinary code as set out in canon law and non-infallible teachings of the ordinary magisterium."

Big T vs small t traditions

And here is where the big T Traditions vs small t traditions of the Catechism of the Catholic Church come in. Big T essentially means intrinsic Tradition (though there is a blurry line around magisterial pronouncements). Little t traditions are ecclesial.

The Catechism dismisses small t traditions as:

"...the various theological, disciplinary, liturgical, or devotional traditions, born in the local churches over time. These are the particular forms, adapted to different places and times, in which the great Tradition is expressed. In the light of Tradition, these traditions can be retained, modified or even abandoned under the guidance of the Church's magisterium." (CCC 83)

It is this rather curt dismissal of ecclesial traditions that leads to the neo-con tendency to dismiss things like the rosary as old-fashioned. The Neo-con view is not one that sits well with the reverence for tradition articulated in the early ecumencial councils.

The traditionalist by contrast sees these very traditions as inherent to the dignity of the Church, part of its 'magnificent heritage and patrimony'. The traditionalist also tends to see traditions as already having been subject to the preeminent test of time:

"Because God Himself entrusted the Deposit of Faith to the Catholic Church, the Catholic Church is inherently traditional. Since all men by nature desire to know, the Church cannot help but develop an ecclesiastical tradition...The members of the Church used the teachings within the Deposit to develop schools of spirituality, Church discipline and legislation, as well as all of the other things which pertain to ecclesiastical tradition. Since the teaching of Christ must govern the life of the Church, it was necessary for any authentic extrinsic tradition (e.g. Canon Law) to be consistent with those teachings. Anything that was contrary to the teachings contained in the Deposit caused the Church great affliction but over time it was cut off from the life of the Church...

Moreover, Fr Ripperger continues:

"...the extrinsic tradition was designed to aid man in his condition. For example, many schools of spirituality and rules of the religious orders were designed in order to help man overcome his proclivity to self-will and concupiscence in order to conform himself to the ideals taught within the Deposit. Those who fashioned the extrinsic tradition were often saints who were guided and helped by divine aid in establishing some custom or aspect of the extrinsic tradition which was passed on to subsequent generations."

A rethink in the Compendium of the Catechism?

Interestingly, however, the Compendium of the Catechism doesn't mention the small t/big T distinction, and gives a much broader definition of the Apostolic Tradition (its umbrella term for the deposit of faith and Revelation) than one might have anticipated. It says:"Apostolic Tradition is the transmission of the message of Christ, brought about from the very beginnings of Christianity by means of preaching, bearing witness, institutions, worship, and inspired writings." (No 12)

Either way, we can probably all agree on:

Proposition 4: Traditionalists believe that due reverence should be given to (extrinsic or small t) traditions

Bishop John Aloysius Morgan RIP

The ACBC site reports that Australia's oldest bishop, Bishop Morgan (pictured above with Archbishop Coleridge recently) died last night at the age of 98:

"Australia's first Catholic military bishop and former Auxiliary Bishop of Canberra and Goulburn John Aloysius Morgan has died. He was 98.

Bishop Morgan, who was the fifth oldest Catholic bishop in the world, died in his sleep on Wednesday night after returning from Calvary Hospital to his home at Villaggio Sant' Antonio in Canberra.

He began a long-time connection with the armed services when he became a chaplain with the Australian Army in 1941. He served in New Guinea and was present at the formal surrender of the Japanese at Wewak in September 1945.

Melbourne born, he was appointed Auxiliary Bishop of Canberra and Goulburn in March 1969. He retired as bishop in 1985, and lived at the Cathedral presbytery for 19 years. He continued to celebrate Mass regularly at the Cathedral for many years.

Funeral details are yet to be confirmed."

Bishop Morgan was a good friend to the Canberra Traditional Mass community, often saying the TLM for them in earlier times.

He was born in 1909, and ordained as a priest in Melbourne in 1934. He was appointed auxiliary bishop of Canberra Goulburn and Military Ordinary in 1969. He retired in 1985.

On his ninetieth birthday, the then Leader of the Opposition (now Chief Minister) of the ACT said:

"It is always a pleasure to meet with and talk with Bishop Morgan. His memory is as clear as a bell. He regaled us at his party with stories of his childhood. He was born in Essendon in 1909 and remains a firm fan of that particular football club.

He has an incredible memory and an incredibly recollection of the detail of incidents that occurred throughout his life.

It is wonderful to listen to Bishop Morgan speak on some of his first memories.

That he remembers troops coming home from the First World War is truly remarkable.

Bishop Morgan was confirmed by Archbishop Mannix, one of the great figures in Australian history and in the church in Australia. He is a mine of most wonderful information in relation to his life.

Bishop Morgan has, of course, devoted his life to caring for people; something that he has done nobly and incredibly well. He is one of the most humble, honest and engaging human beings I have ever met."

Though the speaker is not one I would normally quote on matters catholic, I think we can all agree with the sentiments.

Please pray for the repose of his soul.

On kneeling for communion: the next step in the Benedictine reforms?

Fr Z has two interesting items up today on what might be the next step in the Holy Father's 'Marshall Plan' for the liturgy, namely encouraging people to kneel and receive on the tongue:

He reports that at the mass for Corpus Christi, the Pope gave Communion only on the tongue only, to people kneeling on a kneeler set up before him.

In Australia, of course, the bishops have just legislated in the opposite direction, with the new GIRM saying:

"In Australia, standing is the commonest posture for receiving Holy Communion. The customary manner of reception is recommended to be followed by all...".

Certainly the leaflet introducing the latest round of changes (a bow before receiving, and more standing) clearly implies that all should stand, and makes absolutely no mention of the right to receive kneeling:

Of course, it is noteworthy that the Chairman of the Bishop's Liturgy Committee, Archbishop Coleridge, has acknowledged the right of those who wish to receive kneeling in his own recent pastoral letter, albeit without much encouragement or enthusiasm for the practice:

"If it has been their custom, it is also acceptable for people to genuflect or even kneel (with due consideration for the safety of those coming behind in the procession)."

Perhaps the Holy Father's example will prompt a bit of a rethink on this?

Perhaps we should organise large groups to attend a novus ordo mass or two and set an example in the hope that others might follow?

And while we are on rethinks, those of us attached to the extraordinary form, of course celebrated Corpus Christi yesterday - along with the Pope. Those following the Ordinary Form in Australia (and many other places) have to wait until Sunday for this great feast.

Given that it was originally implemented to help reinforce reverence for the Real Presence, something so sorely lacking in our day, perhaps the bishops should think about moving the celebration of this feast at least back to its proper day, and even making it a Holy Day of Obligation?

Thursday, 22 May 2008

On poverty and St Francis

I came across two great takes on how we should approach the spirit of poverty today, one serious, one anything but.

We are not, of course, all called to be religious, and commit to the evangelical counsels in their fullness. But we are all supposed to strive to achieve them in ways consistent with our state of life.

So first the serious discussion of Benedictine vs Franciscan approaches to poverty in this week's "Abbot's Notebook", always worth reading, from Abbot Christopher of Christ in the Desert monastery:

He makes some important points that I think are worth meditating on:

"Probably all of us who live in the "developed" countries need to meditate a bit more on our acquisitiveness. All of the spiritual paths seem to indicate that we must have detachment from the goods of this world if we hope to enter a deep spiritual life.

Detachment does not mean in some kind of dire poverty. There is no message in the Gospels or from Jesus that we must all live in abject poverty. I remember many years ago when I was told that I was trying to live Benedictine life according to the ideals of Saint Francis. How I objected to that!

Yet it was probably true. I was young and idealistic and wanted our community to have no saving and to live simply from hand to mouth. That does seem to be the idea that Saint Francis gives in his writings. But it is not the idea of a Benedictine monastery.

The Benedictine ideal is for each monk to have just what he needs, no more and no less....For the Benedictine ideal, the identification with the poor comes really through the vow of obedience.

Truly poor people simply cannot take decisions about their lives because they do not have the means to make those decisions. Monks are not able to make the decisions about their lives because they have given that right over to their abbot. The result can be the same: poverty because of the inability to make our own decisions.

A person with means can decide to start a trip today and not worry about any expenses. A poor person might dream of a trip but must plan very carefully if any trip is at all possible.....In so much of the present culture in "developed" countries, it is taken for granted that we should be able to do what we want to do and when we want to do it. The amount of "frivolous" purchases--buying things that really don't help any quality of life--is amazing in our "developed" countries. People often buy things just because they want to buy something, not because they need it. People want extra cars, extra homes, extra toys, etc. This can become a sickness in a culture."

And for a light hearted take on the same issue, let me refer you to 'Ask Sr Mary Martha', who was asked for a saint to keep neo-cons at bay (not by a traddie however!):

St Francis, she suggests, is the obvious solution:

"Francis encountered a bum on the side of the road and, itching to ditch his soldier suit, traded his duds with the bum.

Now think about that for a minute. That's a little out there, don't you think?

Say you were coming home from your job one day in your three piece pantsuit and matching pumps. Maybe you were thinking about how much you hate your job and your boss and having to wear this three piece pants suit with the matching pumps.

Suddenly you spot a homeless woman. You slam on the brakes jump out of the car and ask her to trade clothes with you.

Think her clothes are clean?

The two of you strip right there on the street and you put on her filthy, stinking old clothes and she walks off in your pumps.

When you see her all dressed up, you have another great idea.

You give her your car! Hey, you can't get back in your car in those stinking clothes anyhow. You'll ruin in the upholstery. You'll never get that smell out, even with a little cardboard pine tree hanging from the rear view mirror.

Francis was not a normal person.

Of course, his father blew up at him when he finally returned home and told him to take those stinking rags off. What his father meant was, "Get those stinking clothes off and put on your real clothes that I paid hundreds of dollars for!" But Francis just dropped his drawers and walked off naked into the sunset....

So get home in the stinking rags of the homeless woman (who is now at Starbucks in your car and pantsuit having a soy latte that she bought with the change in your car seat) and your husband says, "Get those stinking clothes off!" And your response? You strip completely and walk out the door, never to be seen again in any type of normal setting.

The next thing anyone knows you are talking to birds and squirrels and getting the stigmata."

Do read the whole thing. Its priceless.

PS Her parting advice is to lighten up on those conservatives - after all you are going to have to share heaven with them. Hmmm....

The assault on the family continues

The fight is on again in Australia, with several attempts to legislate the idea that children are either altogether irrelevant to sexual relationships, or mere commodities without rights, to be disposed of at will, in play.

In NSW, legislation to recognise gay and lesbian non-biological 'parents' of children is currently under consideration:

In Victoria, the bishops have written a pastoral letter on the attempt to legalise abortion there:

In the ACT, the 'Civil Partnerships Act' has just passed.

Of course, not all of the push is coming from outside the Church. In South Australia, the Archbishop is apparently going to give an award to a radio show on the problems that ageing queers have in continuing in their path of sin:,22606,23715308-5006301,00.html

The family is what makes us human. We do, of course, have free will, enabling us to make our own choices in life. And we all have different capacities dictated by our individually created souls.

All the same, we are not like the angels, each an individual species.

Through our parents we inherit the genes of our ancestors, going all the way back to our common ancestors, Adam and Eve. Through that heritage all humanity shares in Original Sin.

And for better or worse, the family provides the environment that can condition our responses to life. The family is integral to our humanity, not a mere accident.

For that reason, the Pope has recently reiterated the importance of defending the institution of the family, and rejecting the idea of pseudo-marriage relationships:

And see also the useful collection of quotes over at Rorate Caeli:

The defence of the family has to look to the public sphere, and the fight against legislation like that proposed in NSW and Victoria.

But, as the Pope pointed out during his American trip, there is a practical level of evangelisation and action that needs to be considered to, in dealing with the effects of dysfunctional families that certainly do nothing to aid our sanctification.

Wednesday, 21 May 2008

Feast of Corpus Christi - Solemn Profession of Margaret McHugh

On the Feast of Corpus Christi, please pray for Sr Frances Teresa a Jesu Hostia (Margaret McHugh, fermerly of Canberra) who makes her Solemn Profession today.

The mass will be celebrated according to the Extraordinary Form by Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz at the traditional Carmel of Jesus, Mary and Joseph in Valparaiso, Nebraska.

The sisters started out in a farmhouse, but moved into their current monastery in 2000. You can follow the story of the monastery's construction here:

It was finally completed and dedicated in 2002.

The monastery, the only Carmelite women's monastery with the TLM and following the original Teresian constitutions currently recognised by Rome, has 26 sisters, and continues to attract vocations. You can read about the entry of one young sister here:

What is a traditionalist: interlude

I've been talking about what a traditionalist is mainly in terms of some of the distinctions between traddies and neo-conservatives (and others).

But my attention has been drawn to a rather nice piece on the key division within what might be called broader traddiedom, and I thought I would post it at this point before I continue my own meanderings on this subject!

It is by 'O'Rattie' on the 'Total Catholic' forum:

It has to be said the author's views are a little jaundiced: the thread is about his decision to defect to the Orthodox Church. All the same it is a very interesting read.

I've added the headings, bolding and comments.

There are two main strands within traditionalist thought

"I'm anxious to avoid oversimplifying (especially as this is no longer, directly, any of my business), but I have always been aware of two distinct currents within the Traditionalist Movement, which have converged in the struggle to preserve and recover the objective tradition, but which are not, in other respects, natural allies.

The 'high and dries' or Roundheads [the author takes the view that this group, which he regards as definitely schismatic, are 'right but repulsive'. Explains why he is defecting I guess....]

The larger party by far, of which the SSPX is the backbone and which shades off at the edges into the various sedevacantist cults, is composed of old-fashioned "paleo-conservative" ultramontanists who, finding themselves under the "wrong" Popes and deploring (for example) the cult of personality surrounding JPII, cultivate an equivalent attitude of inflated adulation for his nineteenth and early twentieth-century predecessors instead. [making them much more like neo-conservatives in their approach, even though they arrive at directly opposite conclusions to them]

This tendency (which we'll call High & Dry) is not really very interested in the liturgy for its own sake.

Like its liberal enemies in mirror image, it is relentlessly ideological (and often overtly political). In this camp, the “TLM” (as mutilated by Bugnini and Pius XII) [well, I'm not sure I'd quite go as far saying mutilated in relation to the Holy Week and 1962 changes!] is taken for granted, together with an abhorrence of the Novus Ordo and everything else “Conciliar”; but one will hear very little of liturgical spirituality (indeed one might be forgiven for gaining the impression that liturgy is chiefly a branch of Canon Law) in contrast to hearing a very great deal of something called “The Social Reign of Our Lord”.

This group will tend to be suspicious of those whom it identifies as “liturgical traditionalists”, whom it considers shallow and effete.

Its favoured narrative is a dualistic account of the the pre-Vatican II Roman Church succumbing to the machinations of Modernists and faithless liberals within, and their puppet-masters - Freemasons, Jews, schismatics and Protestants - without.

To criticise the fundamental inadequacy of this narrative is to reveal oneself as belonging, wittingly or unwittingly, to the enemy camp (the logic, like that of all avowed conspiracy theorists, is inexorably circular and airtight) to which one is also inclined to consign Pope Benedict, on account of the theological company he kept in his youth, his part in the Council and his continuing failure to do theology in the integrist straitjacket. Impossible burdens are piled upon him, while never a finger is lifted to help him bear them.

The Cavaliers: wrong but romantic! [well,actually I think closer to right,but....]

The second tendency has also been present right from the beginning (even in the SSPX) but it has tended to lack articulacy within the Anglo-Saxon world until relatively recently. Its critique is essentially radical, which accounts for its relatively low profile within a movement characterised inevitably by a predominant “conservatism” of outlook and temperament, in which sensitive souls vulnerable to accusations of disloyalty or ideological incorrectness are inclined to keep their heads down.

Where the High & Drys look to the counter-Reformation and the nineteenth century Catholic Reaction as their beau idée, the latter tendency is Medievalist and Patristic. It is steeped in liturgical piety; objective Tradition is its operative norm, and it is quite unillusioned in its appraisal of the Papacy both pre- and post-Vatican II.

It is indifferent to - if not contemptuous of - mere politics. [I agree that this is a tendency within this camp, but it is certainly not universal, and needs to be fought in my view!]

It regards the High & Dry tendency as shallow, legalistic, stultifying and fraught with wilful contradictions. It may be said to include English Trad hero of the early twentieth century Fr Adrian Fortescue (who - whisper it in TradWorld - once described Pope Pius X, as "an Italian lunatic") Dr Geoffrey Hull (author of The Banished Heart) and more recently, the German novelist Martin Mosebach (author of The Heresy of Formlessness).

Among bloggers, its doyen is the artist Daniel Mitsui (The Lion and the Cardinal).

It is Orthodox-friendly, even where it remains tenaciously and vigorously Roman.

It tends to be very favourably disposed towards, and respectful of, the present Pope, even where it continues in "imperfect communion".

A manifesto for the cavaliers

One of its most minor and inconsiderable exponents was a Roman Catholic blogger who no longer exists, but who once wrote the following as part of an effort towards a kind of manifesto: [this is an interesting interpretation of what happened- does anyone know who wrote it???]

'I believe that one of the currents converging on the Second Vatican Council was an uneasy sense that something in the Church had gone too far, was becoming unsustainable and unbalanced. [I'm not sure everyone in this broad camp would agree with this view, but its an interesting perspective]

It's possible to see behind the Council's principle of Collegiality, for example, some sort of attempt at rebalancing, subverted at one level by that leitmotif spirit of bogus "democratisation" and at another, by its very prosecution as a project of the “new” Magisterium, to be pursued and imposed in an ultramontane manner, by agencies incapable of extricating themselves from an ultramontane bureaucratic mindset.

The "party line" changed - the mentality and reflexive attitudes remained exactly the same.


We can "make" our own Revolution. God is with us! It can't fail!

Throughout it all one continues to believe that the Holy Spirit has been, and is, quietly at work - perhaps never more so than in the working-out of that explosive and toxic conjunction of ultramontanism and liberalism in the fall-out of which we grope our way today.

To the ultramontane, legalist mind you need only the components – Pope, Bishops, Council - connect up the plumbing in the requisite order, turn on the tap and out comes Pentecost; but God, famously, “writes straight with crooked lines”.

The Council was not "Pentecost". In consideration of its fruits and the darkness and confusion following in its wake, the suggestion is proximately blasphemous.

Nevertheless, is it not possible that the aggiornamentist project, in its pride and folly, unintentionally set the match to an all-consuming fire – not of Pentecost but of Purgatory - from which a chastened, humbled and truly restored Roman Church can at last emerge?' [hence the project that comes up every now and then to try and look for what can be rescued from the new theology vs the outright rejection of anything past Garrigou-Lagrange by some traddies]

Roundheads vs Cavaliers

Whether one agrees with the writer or not, it is difficult to imagine Bishop Williamson touching elements of that passage with a barge-pole; that would also be the blogger's preferred level of association with His Excellency's views.It’s too easy to fall into a dependence on caricatures.

Thus, the first lot are the Roundheads (right, perhaps, but Repulsive), the second are the Cavaliers (wrong, perhaps, but Romantic); the first the blackshirts, the second the bohemians, and so on; but of course most participants in the Traditional Movement do not fall consciously into either “camp”, being simply decent, honourable, pious and not infrequently very holy Catholics, attempting to live their faith in its fullness through the most confusing and dispiriting period in five hundred years. [so true!]

However, if the second strand leads closer to Orthodoxy, the first leads, or ought to lead, back to the Pope. Insofar as it continues to refuse communion with Benedict XVI, it is certainly schismatic. (I'd mention here in a spirit of mischief, that the Pope has annulled the excommunications against the Orthodox; he has yet to do so in relation to the SSPX bishops).

My avatar, BTW, is St Nektarios of Aegina, who in common with Williamson was a bishop and one time seminary professor; there, however, all similarity ends..... "

Vote for the next AB of Sydney!

Over at what cooees call aCatholica, there is a rather bizarre poll running on who should take over from Cardinal Pell if he moves on to greater things after World Youth Day (h/t to Senire Cum Ecclesia,

Wishful thinking perhaps?

Now the whole idea of a vote of this kind speaks buckets about the mentality of that site, as does the construction of the comments around it and choices we are offered to vote for! And I hate the idea of giving their site hits.

All the same, I do think we should attempt to skew their results!

As an incentive, let me tell you that Bishop Geoffrey Robinson (whose book has recently been condemned for erroneous teaching by the Australian Bishop's Conference) is currently running equal first.

So please everyone, have some fun and scare the Catholica types by going over and voting for someone who will defend the orthodox faith:

Of the choices offered for question 2, AB Coleridge or AB Hart of Melbourne spring to mind (but I'd be interested in other proposals)!

In the first list, some of the Sydney and Melbourne auxiliaries (such as Bishop Fisher, or Bishop Elliot) as well as people like Bishop Jarrett, might have been more obvious contenders for question 2 than some of those on the list....

Tuesday, 20 May 2008

On communion in the hand, kneeling, altar girls and other novus ordoisms

The cancellation of a TLM at Cardiff Cathedral ( over the weekend over the insistence of the Dean of the Cathdral that a female altar server be present in the sanctuary highlights one of the biggest fears of traditionalists, namely that they will be forced to accept the very novus ordo practices they most dislike and disapprove of.

Altar servers

In Cardiff the bust up was over a female altar server. It is hard to see why anyone would insist on such a thing, given any priest has the right not to use women as servers.

The exclusion of women from service in the sanctuary, whether as lectors, extraordinary ministers or servers has two strong rationales: long custom and tradition; and the fact that women in these roles has served to undermine priestly vocations, and helped foster the 'women priest' movement (have a read, for example , of neo-conservative Russell Shaw's numerous writings on this subject).

Part of the problem is that, based on some of the comments on the various blogs, many traditionalists don't know where to draw the line. Let me suggest a basic principle: except in very special circumstances (such as making religious profession) women should not be in the sanctuary during Mass.

That, and nothing more, is the traditional view.

Women have long said (or sung) the responses in the Mass from the pews - in convents, in dialogue masses, in sung masses from the choir, or in the absence of a server. Women normally step in only when there is no sensible alternative.

But women (whether lay or nuns) have never, until recently, been permitted to serve at the altar (claimed counter-examples such as nuns reading the Gospel in Matins forget that they do so from within their enclosure).

So what is the solution? The English Latin Mass Society have rightly made a stand on this issue, arguing from the force of custom and the desire not to scandalise their congregation.

In the longer term, though, the only real way to defend the TLM against visitors who want to receive in the hand, stand to receive, or pressure to permit female altar servers, is not just to put up the barricades, but to work to change practice in the Ordinary Form.

Kneeling to receive

There are a range of other issues of a similar ilk that TLMers have long feared would be used to undermine the rights obtained as a result of Summorum Pontificum.

In reality it is probably the standing/kneeling issue that could provide the stream of test cases. Kneeling is important to both forms of the Mass - as the normal way to receive at TLMs (except for those unable for health reasons to kneel), and for those who wish to show their reverence for the Blessed Sacrament at Ordinary Form masses.

The latest Fidelity Magazine has a large feature on 'The Right to Kneel' , and the new GIRM instruction that appears to imply that all are to stand in order to receive.

The wording of the Instruction seems to imply that the right to receive kneeling in the Ordinary Form, which has been firmly upheld by the Sacred Congregation for Divine Worship, has been abolished. This is not, Mr Hugh Henry points out, the case.

In fact he provides a full page leaflet, replete with recent quotations from the SCDW and instructions on who to complain to in cases of violation of one's rights, for general use.

Fortunately, Archbishop Coleridge's recent pastoral letter on the liturgy lends some aid to this cause. The Archbishop appears to have broken ranks with his fellow bishops by making it clear in his instruction that the right to kneel to receive does exist and should be respected.

Traditionalists are part of the wider Church

Summorum Pontificum is a wonderful document that acknowledges that traditionalists are a legitimate and even valuable part of the wider Church. It is becoming increasingly clear though, that in the post SP world, those attached to the TLM can no longer hope to stand in splendid isolation from the mainstream, wringing their hands in horror at the abuses. Rather, we must start paying attention to what is happening in the wider Church with a view to doing what we can to help restore good practice. This is clearly the Pope's objective, and the prerequisite to the transformation of the culture of the society in which we live.

Perhaps traditionalists should consider attending as a group an ordinary form mass or two, and putting the right to kneel to the test?

At worst, they then have an issue to raise with their bishop (or if necessary to pursue further) - and they have ample ammunition for their cause.

At best, the principle will be clearly established, and others might be encouraged to follow their example.

Aux armes!

What is a traditionalist? part 4

In my earlier entries I suggested two principles on what defines a traditionalist – the adoption of a hermeneutic of continuity, looking at the present through the eyes of the past; and an attitude to the Magisterium that is loyal but not unquestioning. I mentioned the tendency of neo-conservatives to argue as if the current Magisterium was the same thing as Tradition.

Today, I want to look at another aspect of the problem, which relates to the content of Tradition. And here is the crunch-point: neo-conservatives often suggest that Tradition is about how things are passed down the generations rather than having any distinct content of its own. The traditionalist position, by contrast, as Fr Ripperger explains in his article Operative Traditions , is that Tradition has two primary dimensions. The first is the process of handing things, such as Scripture, down the generations. The second is actual content - the truths that form part of the deposit of faith.

'Prima Scriptura', material sufficiency and other interesting ideas

Neo-cons, following the work of Rahner, will argue that all of the truths of the faith can be found implicitly in Scripture ('material sufficiency'). Let me quote this summary from a contemporary theology course:
"Whatever doctrines are located in Sacred Scripture, they are handed down by Sacred Tradition, and faithfully interpreted in every age by the Magisterium.."

Now it has to be said that their view of material sufficiency is not one that would convince any Protestant: it depends on an allegorical reading of Scripture that goes well beyond the readings of the Fathers, so as to assert, for example, that even all of the Marian dogmas can be justified using Scripture alone.

It should also be noted that although he is often cited in support of this position, it is not a view that can be found in Cardinal Newman. His essay on the Development of Doctrine is quite explicit in arguing that there are a large number practices (such as infant baptism) which cannot be justified purely on the basis of Scripture, but which are stated by the Church Fathers to have been Apostolic in origin. It is Tradition that is normative in Newman's account of the development of doctrine, not Scripture.

Similarly, the traditionalist takes the view that there are and that many of these things were subsequently written down or captured, for example in the writings of the Church Fathers. But also in institutions, the liturgy, monuments (icons, statues, churches, etc) and so forth.

I'll come back down the track to the debate about the ‘material sufficiency of Scripture’ vs the 'partim partim' view of tradition and the debate on the development of doctrine, because they are big issues in their own right.

For now though, let me simply assert Proposition 3: Tradition has content that is distinct from Scripture and to the Magisterium.