On the Church and Language

3 12 2009

Or: On Pizza, Beer, Machine Guns, Transliterated Greek Words, Argentine Sedevacantism, Taxi Cabs and Other Attractions of My Theological Freak Show

This essay was originally posted here

Sometimes I think that there is no such thing as Roman Catholicism. Rather, there are Roman Catholicisms. My religious experiences with Mexicans and Argentines seem so far removed from any conversations about religion that I have in this country among “non-Latins”. There is an antiseptic, dry quality to everything that is said in the United States about the Roman Catholic Church. This quality even penetrates to the fringes and extremes of any Catholic phenomenon in this country.

When we were occasionally let out of seminary in Argentina, I would sometimes be able to go into the actual city of Buenos Aires to see the sights and take a break from the usual diet of gruel and water. A few times, I went out with my best friend Nico, another bohemian who had no business being an SSPX seminarian, to spread clerical terror in the land of the porteƱos. One of my favorite things to do was to go to San Telmo, the old part of the city, and have some beer and pizza. Now, Argentine pizza is different from the pizza we have here: it is much less greasy, the crust is thicker, and it has less of a sense of being a type of fast food. And it goes wonderfully with a nice Argentine beer.
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Fr. John Allen Peek, SSPX – R.I.P.

14 09 2009

peek

-Fr. Peek, staring into the camera, as a seminarian

Recently, I was in the Society of St. Pius X bookstore in Kenner after I had attended Sunday Mass in the adjacent chapel. The books I found there were standard fare for such establishments: lots of lives of saints, Fr. Dennis Fahey, books on why the New Mass is inherently evil and television rots your brain… you know, the stuff you know in your heart of hearts is true but don’t want to write about on your blog out of fear that people will think you are some sort of reactionary weirdo… Truth be told, I spent too much time in that bookstore and bought only one, very reasonably priced book which I will review of on this page in the coming weeks. Spending too much time in that space exacted its price on me, for behind the counter was a rather snarky, and dare I say, bitter older woman who seemed to not have a nice thing to say about just about anyone. In the space of five minutes, she single-handedly condemned one person to Hell, excommunicated 99.9% of the priests of the Catholic Church, and managed to give creedence to every reactionary conspiracy in the book, all before morning coffee. But that is what I was expecting I guess. Truth be told, I don’t know what is scarier sometimes, my occasional trips to botanicas or these kinds of visits to my so-called “co-religionists”.
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Catholic Traditionalism

25 06 2009

elevation

An excerpt (the whole essay is well worth reading):

The error of Ultramontanism is easy to see, with hindsight, because it is rejected not only by Liberals and Trads but also by the Pope and the Papal Magisterium. In the chaotic decades which have followed the Council, Papal teaching has often been a lifeline for Catholics who wanted to see traditional teachings reiterated; it is natural that Conservatives have clung on to it. It is understandable, but obviously wrong, to take this to an extreme and start saying that whatever the Pope, or some Vatican department, makes a friendly off-the-cuff remark about must be imposed on everyone by next Tuesday, and the Popes themselves would regard this attitude as absurd.

Hence we find a frequent contrast between what Popes have said about their own positions, and how Conservatives have applied those positions. So Paul VI said that Natural Family Planning can be legitimate in certain circumstances. And you get Catholics who regard themselves as Conservative saying that all Catholics preparing for marriage should be drilled in it. John-Paul II said that the Luminous Mysteries of the Rosary might be found helpful, and Conservative presses suddenly pulp all their books on the Rosary so they could add the new mysteries, and conservative parishes insist on having them. Benedict XVI carefully explains that his books are not papal teaching, but his opinions as a private doctor, but Conservatives promote them without such a warning and they are printed wrapped in the papal colours.

And in other news, those crazy kids in Winona just keep on keeping on:

Sometimes I just like to stick it to the Man.





Realized Eschatology – Part II

18 05 2009

dinoscopus1

The Return of the Bishop

Not quite. He never really went away. From his exile in disgrace outside of London, Bishop Richard Williamson of the Society of St. Pius X continues to write down his thoughts for the world’s consumption. Due to this medium called the Internet, he is able to keep us informed of what he is thinking, and I would suspect that the hype has died down enough that few people are really concerned about his ideas. Being an alumnus of one of his former seminaries, I try to stop by his blog once in a while. What he wrote most recently, however, brought back some keen Lefebvrist memories of why I was once involved with them in the first place.
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Magisterialism as error

25 03 2009

chair-of-st-peter-large

from Father Chad Ripperger, F.S.S.P., in the essay, Operative Points of View, in reply to this thread:

…in the document of Vatican II on ecumenism, Unitatis Redintegratio, there is not a single mention of the two previous documents which deal with the ecumenical movement and other religions, viz. Satis Cognitum by Leo XIII or Mortalium Animos by Pius XI. The approach to ecumenism and other religions is fundamentally different from the approach of the Vatican II document or Ut Unum Sint by Pope John Paul II. Moreover, the problem is not just with respect to magisterium prior to Vatican II but even with the magisterium since the Council.

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

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

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

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





SSPX reconciliation?

24 01 2009

econe04

As much as I hate to comment on stuff that is too “news worthy”, as one of the only bloggers who has a fairly ambivalent attitude towards the Society of St. Pius X (SSPX) and who has had some personal history with them, I think it only appropriate to write a few words about the lifting of the excommunications against the four SSPX bishops.

Firstly, I will say that I think Archbishop Lefebvre was not in the wrong for doing what he did back in 1988. Regardless of what I think now of the movement he started, I still feel that his actions were necessary for the preservation of tradition and the well-being of the Church. So as far as I am concerned, any canonical action taken by the present Pontiff is a non-issue.

Secondly, there seems to be some controversy going around regarding Bishop Richard Williamson’s Holocaust denial. I am far from being sympathetic to right-wing quacks, and wouldn’t mind if they locked this guy away in a monastery so that he can bark his conspiracy theories to the walls. He came to La Reja for ordinations the year I left seminary there, and he gave some rather bizarre and apocalyptic spiritual conferences, and I thank God everyday and twice on Sundays that I didn’t have to be a seminarian under him. (He took the reins six months after I left.) Nevertheless, his views do not affect the Holy Father’s canonical decision, as many have pointed out.

Thirdly, I think this really does make the Catholic Church into a case of “here comes everybody”. My own feelings of alienation from the Church often stem from the fact that my experiences of the Catholic Church have been so radically different from the typical American Catholic, liberal or conservative. I was raised in a fairly liberal parish with a heavy dose of Mexican charismaticism and underground folk Catholicism. Intellectually and in terms of piety, I was also heavily formed by the SSPX itself, and the way it and other traditionalists function when compared to “normal” Catholics is basically the difference between night and day. While ideology inevitably turns traditionalists into a sect within a larger Church, at least they still do the same things that were on the books in pre-Vatican II Catholicism. That is worth something, at least in my book.

While Pope Ratzinger cannot help having profound esteem for the Second Vatican Council, it is hoped that some day we will live in a Church where it is but one council among others. While the SSPX may reject most of what has happened in the Church in the past fifty years, let us remember that we dwell in a Church now where large sections of people reject what has happened in the Church in the past 2,000 years. One does not get brownie points for good behavior or “loyal rhetoric” to the hierarchy, but rather for keeping the Faith once delivered to the Apostles that is supposed to be preserved and protected by the aforementioned hierarchy. It is clear that in what was once the homeland of Christendom this is often no longer the case. May the Society of St. Pius X, with all its flaws and nutcases, continue to contribute to the restoration of the Church.





Dissing the Traddies

14 08 2008

Okay, so I admit it. I read Mark Shea sometimes. We all have our strange habits, and this is one of mine.

So anyway, he decided that he wanted to write an essay criticizing traditionalist Catholics as being judgmental, nasty, and mean. Anyway, just because some of you might be interested in my response, here is what I wrote as a comment to the article:

There is a saying in France that when leftists get together to form a firing squad, they form a circle. The same could be said about devout Catholics, and Mark Shea’s essay here illustrates that.

Perhaps some of the most cultish and strange Catholics I have met were more involved in Marian apparitions and extreme ultramontanism than with Catholic traditionalism. Are traditional Catholics insular and judgemental? Yes, in general, I have to say that many of them are. Does that mean “Neo-Caths” (if we are going to use such labels, though I loathe them) are off the hook and completely tolerant by comparison? Not by a long shot. One need only go on Mr. Shea’s site to see him use ad hominem attacks, invectives, and sophomoric nicknames for all the people he doesn’t like. This particular attack is only the flavor of the day apparently.

Otherwise, I am a bit tired of critics of traditionalism saying that the “Trads” overlook what’s important: “It’s all about the Gospel, man! It’s all about evangelizing!” Evangelizing what? We are not Presbyterians last time I checked. We are not passing out copies of the KJV and the Westminster Catechism on street corners. Catholicism is not some sort of “ad campaign” where we “get out the message”. The liturgy, the sacramental life, and the traditions of the Church ARE the message, and debates about them are far more important than the credit you give them here. We are not trying to proclaim to the world some minimalist reduction of the Gospel and modern ecclesiology (“allegiance to the Pope by any means necessary”), but rather an ethos that has been two thousand years in formation. The problem with the Church since the 1960′s is that such an ethos has been distorted in many places. While traditionalists no doubt commit sins against charity when debating their points, the truth of their radical critique of the current state of the Church stands.

So I’ll come right out and say it: most “neo-Caths” are nice people. Most of the “trads” I know would swim through shark infested waters to help a fellow Catholic. Heck, I know a Call to Action Catholic who devotes his life to feeding and helping the homeless. If you are going to be a “hater”, you can be a hater in any of these categories. I am not going to make broad characterizations of others in the Mystical Body of Christ.





Missing the Low Mass

3 08 2008

Or: Saving 1962 Catholicism from the Cult of the Experts

I once read something on the New Liturgical Movement blog (a blog that I no longer link to because I am trying to get passed the cult of ecclesiastical porn) that really bothered me. [Danger- long footnote: Anti-Staretz once told me the story of an Anglo-Catholic monastery in England back when their church was more tolerant of them. It is said that another Anglo-Catholic went to hang out with the monks, but noticed they didn't do Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament. "Oh Father," complained the visitor to one of the monks, "if only you did Benediction. It would in my heart make me feel so good." The monk replied, "Fornication would make you feel even better, but we don't do that either".] The phrase was “saving the 1962 Mass from 1962″. I thought to myself at first, “But of course! Who wants to go back to the speed Masses, the St. Jude Novenas, the nuns who could melt you into a puddle with just one cold and rutheless gaze?!”

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