The splendor and death of ultramontanism

15 11 2019

Reading John O’Malley’s recent book Vatican I: The Council and the Making of the Ultramontane Church in the context of the last few years of the Catholic Church is a peculiar experience. On the one hand, Vatican I shows how a Pope Francis is possible in spite of supposed centuries of settled doctrine and praxis. The Pope can do what he likes and there is no real mechanism to stop him (prima sedes a nemine iudicatur). On the other hand, the Jesuit papacy is the next stage of the backlash against Papal power that started at Vatican II (though this received a major assist from “reactionary” Pope Benedict’s casting off the Papacy in a manner unprecedented in modern times.) Previous devotees of the monarchical Papacy are now finding their “inner Gallican”, if not their barely suppressed inner sedevacantist, while rebels of the past are taking up the mantle of past defenders of the cult of the Papacy. The wheel of fortune was spun once more and turned everything upside down. Those who think that things will “return to normal” are quite mistaken in my opinion. Read the rest of this entry »





On mercy and conversion

7 11 2019

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One theme that has been persistent in my years of writing is how much I hate the modern idea of conversion. Especially in the digital age, everyone thinks their conversion to or from one thing to the other is some Earth-shaking event pregnant with metaphysical meaning. It’s as if their change of heart redefines the cosmos. I for one think that very few people’s conversions are as meaningful or edifying as what was documented in St. Augustine’s Confessions, or even of the caliber what was documented in John Henry Newman’s (not calling him “Saint” sorry) Apologia Pro Vita Sua. Most people who loudly proclaim their conversion have a long way to go in my opinion, and it shows. I don’t have anyone particular in mind; it’s more a general observation. Read the rest of this entry »





Fr. Dominique Lagneau

29 10 2019

Continuing with my informal reflections on my time in seminary, I would like to write my  remembrances of the rector of the seminary during my time there. As the cliché goes, life comes at you fast, so fast that I didn’t realize that the former rector of La Reja, Fr. Dominique Lagneau, died over six years ago now. He wasn’t an old man by any means, it seems he had a heart attack and died suddenly. He had long been transferred back to Europe, and was running an idyllic retreat center in the Alps. Perhaps a fitting assignment as his long tenure in South America was essentially an exercise in holding back the forces of chaos. Twice at least, the seminary had been robbed at gunpoint. Being in a relatively rural area, theft from the seminary was a common occurrence (one brother said that people around there would rob your last name if they could pull it off). And then there was the minor war with a local rancher who thought it was oh-so-funny to let his cattle graze in the soybean fields that surrounded the seminary, and we seminarians were often charged with rustling them out (admittedly it was great fun). Running a seminary in a Third World country – you get the idea. Read the rest of this entry »





On authority

25 10 2019

I have toyed with the idea of writing some informal reflections on my time at the Society of St. Pius X seminary of La Reja, Argentina. As this happened half my life ago, it appears now that these were among the most formative years of my life so far. You only get to be young and foolish once, I suppose. This might be of particular interest to some as I am far from a Catholic traditionalist now, though I have not discarded this identity for any other equally certain worldview. In other words, I don’t have a negative view of Roman Catholic traditionalism, or at least I don’t view it in more of a negative light than I do any other ideology. Read the rest of this entry »





David Bentley Hart’s End of History

11 10 2019

When thinking of the problem of Hell, I recall one of the only sermons that I remember from my time in the Society of St. Pius X seminary. It was an anniversary Mass of one of the priests where he began stating that the one thing that motivated him to be a priest was the idea of Hell and that people go there. This was one of the only instances when Hell even entered into my religious considerations. As a teenage hanger-on at my mother’s Legion of Mary praesidium, I remember being recounted the vision of Hell shown to the children at Fatima in connection to that apparition’s message of penance. As with many modern people, Hell is sort of always in the background but never at the forefront of what I think concerning the meaning of human life. But for many, such as that priest, it is very much front and center of who they are as followers of Christ. Read the rest of this entry »





The anti-transfiguration

5 10 2019

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In one of the most dramatic episodes of the Bhagavad Gita, Krsna’s friend Arjuna asks to see Krsna’s universal form, the visva-rupa. The universal form is how Krsna, who is Bhagavan or the Supreme Personality of Godhead, interacts with the world. The original form of Krsna, the source of all of His expansions and avatars, is just as Arjuna sees Him on the Battlefield of Kurukshetra: blueish-black, two handed, and appearing no older than a sixteen year old boy (even though by then Krsna had been on the Earth well over 100 years). Having been instructed by Krsna, and knowing Him to be the Supreme Personality of Godhead, he asks to see the visva-rupa to know better who his friend is. Srila Prabhupada translates the manifestation of the universal form as follows:

Arjuna saw in that universal form unlimited mouths, unlimited eyes, unlimited wonderful visions. The form was decorated with many celestial ornaments and bore many divine upraised weapons. He wore celestial garlands and garments, and many divine scents were smeared over His body. All was wondrous, brilliant, unlimited, all-expanding.

If hundreds of thousands of suns were to rise at once into the sky, their radiance might resemble the effulgence of the Supreme Person in that universal form.

At that time Arjuna could see in the universal form of the Lord the unlimited expansions of the universe situated in one place although divided into many, many thousands. Read the rest of this entry »





Do universalists want to make the Church into ISKCON?

28 09 2019

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I hate to keep writing things about a book I haven’t read, but as I listen to a lot of podcasts online, recently I listened to Pentecostal theologians discussing David Bentley Hart’s latest book on universal salvation. They were very positive about the book and Hart in general, and one of the theologians stated that the idea of people being tortured in Hell for all eternity was a heresy, full stop. In their view, the rejection of Hell is based on the idea of a loving God. The very meaning of who God is excludes the idea of souls being tortured for all eternity. Universalists are now coining the pejorative term “infernalists” to define those who hold the Christian orthodox position on Hell. Read the rest of this entry »





The Lefebvrist theology of the body?

20 09 2019

An old blogger acquaintance recommended the mandatory reading of an interview by the Society of St. Pius X’s new superior, Father Davide Pagliarani. It is an informative interview but it doesn’t really break new ground. In general, it represents the same entrenchment of the SSPX against “modernist Rome”. Read the rest of this entry »





On universalism again

13 09 2019

The summer has been busy so keeping up with blog posts has been difficult. In June, the Church Life Journal published Taylor Ross’s reflection on Origen’s doctrine of salvation in The Severity of Universal Salvation. Here the premise is that the doctrine of universal salvation is far from a “walk in the park,” that the process of purification by which a soul is ready to go back to God is difficult and, more often than not, very long. Ross writes:

It should not require a theological treatise, much less the anxious methods of psychoanalysis, to recognize that the human will is capable of a seemingly endless charade of avoidance. Origen infamously entertained a seemingly endless proliferation of ages because he knew, presumably firsthand, that very often the soul would rather journey on with its false attachments than be transfigured. So, if he countenanced the idea of a God patient enough to make time for fallen creatures to willingly repent, it is because Origen knew, presumably firsthand, that there is no shortcut to reformed desire. Read the rest of this entry »





A crisis of presence

4 09 2019

I had this odd dream where I was in the parking lot of the Catholic church in my hometown lecturing a couple of women about Origen and the Real Presence. I think the gist of what I was saying is that Origen perceived the presence of the Lord more in the Word than in the species of the Eucharist. As I was fast asleep, I don’t quite grasp the logic here. But I did read recently Jean Danielou’s book on Origen where Danielou states how Origen wanted to remove his listener from the carnal understanding of the Word of God and focus him more on the spiritual understanding. In that context, the traditional (modern?) understanding concerning Catholic piety of the Eucharist being the sole or only important presence of God would be something that Origen would object to. Read the rest of this entry »