Weekly links

1 09 2010

via First Thoughts:

Too often, and for too long, American “Christianity” has been a political agenda in search of a gospel useful enough to accommodate it. There is a liberation theology of the Left, and there is also a liberation theology of the Right, and both are at heart mammon worship. The liberation theology of the Left often wants a Barabbas, to fight off the oppressors as though our ultimate problem were the reign of Rome and not the reign of death. The liberation theology of the Right wants a golden calf, to represent religion and to remind us of all the economic security we had in Egypt. Both want a Caesar or a Pharaoh, not a Messiah.


via The Conservative Blog for Peace (and along the same lines)

So says the great apostle. He stands the whole thing on its head. What worries me about so much of American Catholicism is that we have uncritically accepted the Alpha American Achievement culture. We go for show. We dress for success. We strive to be on top and be the winners (which usually means beating the other guy). There’s nothing wrong with this per se, it’s when we believe that this outward, trophy-winning, success oriented, appearance focussed thing is reality, and when we live life as if this is all that matters. This is non-Gospel. It’s exactly the opposite of the beatitudes. It’s the opposite of the apostolic life. The Catholic faith should not condone the American Alpha Achievement culture, but criticize it. Someone has said the gospel is only good news when it is subversive.Instead, what we’ve done is drafted Christianity into the whole thing as if to give God’s blessing to these worldly values.


And finally, a couple from Gregorian Rite Catholic:

It has been said that Blessed Pope Pius IX, when asked to add St. Joseph to the Canon, said: “I am only the Pope. What power have I to touch the Canon?”

Such a phrase is indicative of an epistemological shift in Catholicism. Such shifts are most evident during times of drastic change, since we see evidence there of a “combined and uneven development” of shifting attitudes. The same Pope who could stand up and proclaim, “I am tradition!” is the same one who refused to insert a name into the ancient Canon of the Mass. His successor over a hundred years later will re-write the Roman Canon altogether and make it optional.

While it is possible to make too much of this, it is pretty evident that Pius IX still had an essentially different understanding of tradition than some of his successors. For Pius IX, and Catholicism traditionally, institutional authority was spatially outside of truth and subordinate to it. It existed primarily to uphold the truth and preserve it intact. With the degeneration and unraveling of ecclesiastical hegemony in much of the Catholic world, authority became more and more detached to the idea of tradition, to the point that institutional authority serves as the primary article of faith in the Catholic consciousness. In other words, modern Catholicism is often a negative exercise of institutional power devoid of actual content. When it comes to change, anything goes, as long as it’s “approved”.

This is how we get people accusing of Archbishop Lefebvre of being a Protestant for resisting the Pope, although on his grave he had that Scriptural phrase: “I have passed down what I received”. Instead of passing down and preserving, authority’s role is to interpret, and sometimes, to radically re-interpret, what came before it. Thus, we have a dictatorship of hermeneutic, when in the past there was no such need for a hermeneutic of anything. Tradition (tradere: to pass on) becomes a legal fiction primarily based in blind obedience to the institution. Fides ex obedientia replaces fides ex auditu.

The reason I cite Pius XII here is that the Novus Ordo-ites who always advocate a wide variation in the celebration of the Holy Mass (charismatic, children’s Masses, the incorporation of praise-and-worship “music,” etc.) always rise up in horror, consternation [insert your favorite word here] when told that some little old lady is saying the Rosary during Mass. After all, we’re told, it’s inappropriate to say the Rosary during Mass. We’re supposed to be “paying attention” to what’s going on at the altar.

Talk about a penchant for uniformity. They can incorporate whatever doggerel they wish into the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, but saying a Rosary is beyond the pale.

When not singing in the schola, I can be found mumbling into my beads, mostly out of spite towards the traddies, neocons, and liberals, and often because it allows my mind to wander enough to make Mass a bearable experience.

image above found here



11 responses

6 09 2010
Jared B.

I wonder what the neo-caths would do if/when we get a really bad pope once again leading the church. That will be the real test.

That’s the real crux; the moment our streak of manageably good popes ends and we get a real bad one, they would cease to exist or get absorbed into the liberal/progressive crowd that they despise. As I read the 20th century, that is where both traditionalists and liberals came from. Pope Paul VI created sedevacantists by the perceived need to invent a new ecclesiology to explain “how that possibly could have happened!?” and Pope John Paul II was a similar crisis for liberal Catholics. That’s why trad & lib apologetics for why they can keep holding their middle finger up at the holy father sound so similar to each other. We’ve got two Catholic clubs propped up by hate, and one by obsequiousness.

(I mean if you’re defining ‘neo-cath’ as ‘defend the pope at all costs’. The more I read comments trying to reconcile all the contradictory definitions of that term, the more I’m convinced it means nothing more than ‘whomever is disliked by the traditionalists’. Then again, I’ve read an equal # of contradictory explanations of who and what is a traditionalist, so I might as well consider them imaginary too…)

5 09 2010

Although not necessarily about Catholicism specifically, I highly recommend the book America’s God by Mark Noll. Noll is an evangelical, but a fairly ecumenical one who currently teaches at Notre Dame. Noll argues that, just as the influence of Christianity tempered Enlightenment republicanism, etc. in the form that developed in America, so also, in turn, the ideas of the Englightenment greatly influenced the Christianity that developed in America–including not only its largely indigenous forms, but also even the Roman Catholicism that developed in America. Noll contrasts the forms of Christianity that were developing in America with contemporary forms back in the “old country.” This may be old hat for many of the readers of this blog, and it may seem I am stating the obvious, but this book helped a lot of puzzle pieces to fall together for me.

4 09 2010

Urfer finds the anomaly to the neoCath justification of “the policies of the current Pope by any means necessary” schema – they do it except when it comes time to question American militarism, the lust for virtually unrestrained free markets, immigration issues, or other areas in which Rome happens to present an encyclical or somesuch which deviates from Republican neocon/neo-Cath orthodoxy. Then they go to great lengths to explain how this sort of papal rhetoric dealing with economics (or whatever the deviation from neocon orthodoxy may be at hand) is not that which a Catholic is obliged to assent to, and that this sort of statement from Rome is fallible, etc.

I know an Orthodox priest who says that when Rome formally declares that Orthodox do not have to accept VatI and can even continue to reject it as false and still “unite” with Rome nonetheless, the neoCaths will then tell us how this teaching is consistent with what Rome has always taught, etc. Theirs is a religion of easy casuistry and ecclesio-political expediency.

4 09 2010
Sam Urfer

Ultramontanism is always about using the Papacy as a cudgel to get one’s own way, usually in spite of the local episcopacy. The number of times I’ve heard people defy the local ordinary (an arch-conservative, by any measure) in regards to immigrant rights by arrogantly demanding “Vatican documentation” to back it up, is astounding.

4 09 2010

It seems the cultural influences and the “neo-ultramontanism” (a term I use myself) play off of each other. The neo-cons have certain cultural (more like political) biases that are well served by adopting a neo-ultramontane outlook on the Church.

4 09 2010
Henry Karlson

I wonder what the neo-caths would do if/when we get a really bad pope once again leading the church. That will be the real test.

However, I would say many of the neo-caths will follow the pope only so far as the pope repeats what political and theological ideas they already want out of him. Notice how they ignore a major portion of Pope JPII and Pope Benedict’s criticism of the West.

As for myself, I do not see the pope as the end all. I often discuss him and his views because they at least point to issues which many do not explore.

To me the problem with neo-caths is not ultramontanism, but rather, cultural influences which they ignore as being behind many of their own biases. I know I am influenced by the culture, but I also find myself drawn beyond through my constant studies and influences.

4 09 2010
Arturo Vasquez

Say what you will about “Neo-Caths,” their penchant for the Church Fathers at least protects them from that dangerous absurdity.

Are you kidding me? These are the people who bend over backwards to justify what the Pope says no matter how ridiculous it sounds! They hide their neo-ultramontanism behind modern philosophy, the “hermeneutic of continuity”, and the “development of doctrine”, but the aim seems very clear: justify the policies of the current Pope by any means necessary. And they look to Rome for anything the same way that a fashionista would look to New York, Paris, or Milan for the latest chic garment.

At least the traditionalists are trying to go back to WHAT THEY THINK IS TRADITION (even though it isn’t really that old, and their naivete borders on culpable ignorance). The so-called “Neo-Caths” don’t give a rat’s ass about it: things are best right now, and getting better all of the time, as long as we got the Pope.

4 09 2010
Mr. Crouchback

I thought (and still think) you gave too generous a treatment to Lefebvre and other Traditionalists. I suppose I can forgive the post-Revolution Papacy; they were working with what they had and made the most of it. The French Revolution was catastrophic for the whole Church in Europe but was fatal for the system of archbishoprics and other venerable mediating ecclesiastical institutions that were as much a hinderance as a help to the Papacy. I can’t blame a prostrate Papacy (sometimes literally) for taking advantage of that power vacuum and declaring the Pope the world’s uber-bishop and convenient high-speed internet connection to the Almighty.

BUT I can blame those who actually take Pio Nono at his word and believe that *he* (and his successors) is tradition rather than the previous 1700 years of Church history. Say what you will about “Neo-Caths,” their penchant for the Church Fathers at least protects them from that dangerous absurdity.

I guess I see your point about progressives being the most traditional Catholics nowadays. But make no mistake, they like nearly everyone else, want to use the cudgel of Rome to get to achieve their particular utopia.

3 09 2010
Arturo Vasquez

I don’t know what post you read, but that is exactly what this post was about. The problem is that the process was slightly sloppier than what you describe. I am not saying that Pio Nono and Lefebvre weren’t utterly confused about some things, and fell into the errors that you speak of. But their framework in some ways was traditional, although their modus operandi often was not. In such historical processes, things are not always so clear cut. In fact, if I were to pick the “most traditional” sector of the American church, I would have to pick the progressives, if only because of their localism and utter lack of regard for what is done in Rome. In many ways, the wayward hierarchy of France is just a continuation of Gallicanism by other means, and so forth.

3 09 2010
Mr. Crouchback

Ummm, Arturo, if you can’t see the almost inevitable development from the self-consciously grandiose and positivistic “I am tradition” Papacy that developed in post-Revolution Europe to the cavalier liturgical reforms after the Second Vatican Council, then you aren’t nearly as savvy a cat as I thought.

The irony of Traditionalist Catholics is that they long for era (i.e, 1800s to mid-1900s) that (1) actually is fairly unique in ecclesiastical history and (2) laid the ground work for the very things they hate.

1 09 2010
Jared B.

That last comment on the quote from Gregorian Rite Catholic is the best explanation I’ve ever seen of the epistemological gap between TLM traditionalist & N.O. conservative Catholics: thank you! I hope that trads don’t think others dense when we do need it explained, and explained again. The more conservative Catholics are perpetually surprised to find that traditionalists don’t think we have as much in common as we think we do, so it is important to outline the differences in important areas of how one understands Catholicism.

What must have begun as a deliberate shifting away from the previous understanding of tradition, 2 generations later is just a default way of thinking, because the intervening years have made Tradition as a distinct entity less and less visible — but the Magisterium is perfectly visible. So while every good N.O. Catholic can repeat faithfully that the teaching authority of the Church is subservient to the Apostolic Tradition just as well as a traditional Catholic can, it is very difficult to shift to a way of thinking that sees the one as “outside of” the other. A few years ago, it seemed self-evident to me that Levebvrists were “Protestants in denial” because that conclusion does logically follow from a certain understanding of the relationship between Tradition and Magisterium, that each is mutually and without exception “inside of” the other.

We (conservative N.O. Catholics; I’m not discussing the ones who actually enjoy singing Marty Haugen songs) do want the Tradition as badly as traditionalists. It’s just that it doesn’t naturally occur to us to look for the Tradition somewhere other than the explicit teachings of the Church, which in practice typically means those of the current and most recent pontiffs. Traditionalists often read a deliberate contempt for the full meaning of tradition in the motivations of N.O. Catholics that really isn’t there. I’m not going to try to defend the conservative N.O. position because I don’t believe it is correct, but it’s interesting to note that this belief in no way automatically makes me a trad, for the same reason that if I started believing today that Macs are better than PCs, that does not in itself make me a Mac user. I have to go and buy a Mac, learn how to use it — mainly by points of contrast with how I use a PC, and so forth.

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