The past I never lived but prefer to forget

5 04 2020

As an introverted teenager, I watched a lot of TV. Watching TV in the 1990’s without cable (too poor for that), you didn’t just watch snippets of things here and there. If something was on and you wanted to watch it, you ended up watching the entire series, some episodes multiple times. One of the basic cable channels we got was A&E, which became my second favorite channel after PBS. It was on this channel that I binge-watched the 1981 Australian series, The Brides of Christ. The story of the mini-series follows two young women who enter the novitiate of a religious order during the Second Vatican Council. They get to experience the changes in Catholic life happen over a very brief period. Both women are faced with the choice of staying in the order (and perhaps the Church itself) or leaving altogether. Overall, it’s bad melodrama in the same league as a Hallmark Channel movie or Mexican soap opera. Having grown up with the latter, I can stomach such maudlin story lines, but I would still counsel conservative and traditional Catholics to look into watching this mini-series. Read the rest of this entry »

Notes on liturgical maximalism

30 04 2019

Just some unconnected thoughts I’ve had recently.

As you may know, I was connected to the Society of St. Pius X for a number of years in my youth. This experience was quite formative to me. My experience of the traditional liturgy was thus somewhat minimalistic and combative. Back in the late 1990’s, you were lucky to find the old Latin Mass anywhere. It was either relegated to the basement, to a time that was equivalent to the basement, or it could be found in little chapels or in groups that were considered “schismatic”. In the SSPX in particular, it was made clear to us that the liturgy was just the tip of the iceberg. Ecumenism, religious liberty, the New Theology, really it was opposing these things that brought me into the traditionalist sphere in the first place, at least initially. Later I would become much softer on these issues (wishy-washy?) but I never forgot that all of this was connected. The modernists also grew up in and celebrated the traditional liturgy for years before they got to change it. The traditional liturgy was thus never a panacea for me. Read the rest of this entry »

The alternative Catholic future

15 04 2019

I read a review in Harper’s Magazine of a new book on Thomas Merton and his personal foibles. Having resisted the urge so far to read Merton, I will probably not read this biographical expose either. On the other hand, this article was of interest to me in that it also describes the trends at the time within the Catholic milieu. From Archbishop Fulton Sheen to Evelyn Waugh to a nascent Liturgical Movement, there was a genuine optimism of message within the general pessimism toward materialist modernity. Catholics could be in the world but not of it, and the world would still listen. Merton’s own Seven Storey Mountain was a cultural phenomenon that influenced everyone from devout Catholics to the beatniks. Only with Vatican II and the 1960’s did the script definitively flip: in opening to the world, the Church showed that it feared it, or rather, that it feared being ignored by it. In the meanwhile, the world began to ignore the Church (except for chances to slander it). It continues to ignore it to this day. Read the rest of this entry »

On the Divine Office

10 04 2019

I have followed sedevacantist priest Fr. Anthony Cekada’s writings for almost two decades now, and I am quite fond of his approach to theological and liturgical questions. I am most appreciative of his mischievous humor as well when he is polemicizing. A recent piece of his from some years back praising St. Pius X’s reform of the Divine Office (known in the current Church as the “Liturgy of Hours”) was brought to my attention. He brings up the main issue of the pre-Pius X office not reciting all 150 Psalms a week as well as its length and complexity. Cekada thus thinks the reform was a good idea and not without historical precedent. Archimandrite Robert Taft, for example, produced an exceptional book on the Divine Office indicating that its reform had been an issue for centuries prior to St. Pius X. Read the rest of this entry »

Notes on liberal religiosity

6 12 2018

I was listening to a lecture of a “liberalizing” tendency of an unspecified religious tradition, and saw parallels to reform-minded tendencies in other religious traditions that I am more familiar with. For the sake of not entering the fray of an argument where I don’t have all sides of the story, I will keep this rather vague. I am referring here specifically to externals. In Catholicism in particular, the last half century has seen a rather thorough attack on all things deemed medieval and triumphalist. Though a vocal minority seems to defend the old ways, for the most part, they have been discarded as remnants of a world that no longer exists and no longer makes sense to the common person of today. This is most evident in the design of churches, the dress of clergy and religious, the language of prayer, and so on and so forth. The now very familiar reasoning states that these externals were preventing people from coming to the essential message of Christ and his Church; that focusing on rules and insignificant details prevented people from seeing the forest from the trees. Read the rest of this entry »

The fruits of the Spirit

30 11 2018

I have a love hate relationship with Catholic charismatics. On the one hand, they are very nice people. On the other hand, I can’t stand how they worship. Nevertheless, I have been growing soft on them through the years. There are so many things I don’t care about anymore that I used to care about, and I have grown to understand the real need of people to have a religious experience that appeals to them on a very personal level. Believers of a more traditional bent generally want a sober and impersonal experience, one that makes the average person slightly uncomfortable. I have written about this before, however, I am beginning to understand these people as the years pass. Read the rest of this entry »

From one of my ex-professors

16 09 2009

altar seminario

El Espíritu Santo nos asegura que los obispos no pueden errar cuando imponen su autoridad, pero nada nos asegura cuando la deponen. Quedan siempre en pie las promesas de la indefectibilidad de la Iglesia –las puertas del infierno no prevalecerán–, pero muy empequeñecido quedará el rebaño de Cristo si los pastores siguen adorando al sentir de su grey, cada vez más inspirado por el espíritu nada santo del actual aparato publicitario.

El magisterio conciliar no ha recurrido nunca al ejercicio de la infalibilidad por modo extraordinario, ni puede alcanzar nunca la infalibilidad del magisterio ordinario universal mientras se crea obligado a ejercer su oficio de modo subordinado a una inexistente infalibilidad del sentido de la fe del común de los creyentes.

La Lámpara Bajo el Celemín, de Alvaro Calderón, págs. 50-1.

The Holy Ghost assures us that the bishops cannot err when they exercise their authority, but nothing assures us of this when they have put it aside. The promises of the indefectibility of the Church always remain – the gates of hell will not prevail- but the flock of Christ will become very small if the shepherds keep adoring the opinions of their flock, everyday more inspired by a non-so-holy spirit of the current publicity apparatus.

The Conciliar magisterium has never had recourse to the exercise of infallibility in its extraordinary mode, nor can it ever achieve the infallibility of the ordinary universal magisterium while it feels itself obligated to exercise its office in a way subordinate to a non-existent infallibility of the sense of common faith of believers.

-Fr. Alvaro Calderon (La Reja, Argentina), in his book, The Light Under a Bushel Basket: Disputed Question Regarding the Magisterium of the Church after Vatican II

(I am trying to get this book, but since it is published by a small publisher in Argentina, it is hard to get, apparently. Any ideas for me?)

While obviously this is only one of the few excerpts I can find from this book, I will speculate to develop what he is trying to say. I think that what he is saying is that “authority” is not an automatic, charismatic mechanism that is simply given in the Church because one holds a particular office: one is obligated to assent to a number of limitations in order to exercise it. In other words, the only bishops who govern well are the bishops who govern wisely, and that means taking into consideration the perrenial doctrines and practices of the Church, and knowing when to discern that certain trends will only lead to destruction.

Thus, bishops (and popes) who follow the zeitgeist, ever reading the signs of the times and ever anxious to adapt the Catholic Faith to the latest fads of the faithful, are the ones who have really put their authority aside. That is my understanding at least. I am very anxious to get my hands on the rest of this book.

On putting the genie back in the bottle

20 08 2009


The Holy Office presides over the entire church and curbs everyone with its interventions: this supreme, inflexible Gestapo whose decisions cannot be questioned.

-Yves Cardinal Congar

This was written in the personal journal of the wayward theologian before the great awakening and “new Pentecost” known as Vatican II. He also said regarding his superiors “not getting” him: “I am not a man of the tragic, but it is painful to be the victim of stupidity.” A professor in seminary, also a Frenchman, once read me a line from Congar’s memoires about how the Dominican saw it fit to express his displeasure at the Holy Office by relieving himself on the side of its building in Rome. A great start for the “New Evangelization”, I must say.

He was far from being the only one who was in trouble with the law in those days. Hans Urs von Balthasar used to get through his classes in seminary by putting wax in his ears, sitting in the back of the class, and reading St. Augustine instead of listening to the lectures. Dom Beauduin had one of his monasteries suppressed for playing too much ecumenical footsy with some questionable people. Chenu was removed from his school of hip theology, Le Salchoir, and so on. And we need not say much about even our present Pontiff and his youthful, theological indiscretions.

The problem with revolutionaries is that they make notoriously bad governors, as students of Third World history can no doubt tell you. For Papa Roncalli, at one time accused of having questionable affinities to some bad books, waltzed into the Holy Office soon after his election and wrote large on his file, “I am not a heretic”. Indeed, la tradizione sono io. But what is to stop all of those “progressive Catholics”, those who believe that artificial contraception is okay, that women should be elevated to the rank of priest, and so on, from aspiring to do the exact same thing as Congar, and get a new, shiny red hat out of it? Indeed, even the “conservatives” of the Church are children of revolution, sticking their finger in the crack that they themselves pounded into the dyke. If Congar, von Balthasar, Chenu, and Co. didn’t give a hoot about ecclesiastical authority prior to the Council, why should “enlightened” Catholic theologians give a hoot about it now? Revolutionary snowballs are very difficult to stop. As I cited on one of the first on-line essays I ever posted:

In articles about Pope Benedict XVI, much has been made of his experience of student unrest at the University of Tübingen in 1968. Many see that experience as the best explanation of the apparent intellectual about-face that turned the young progressive theologian of the Second Vatican Council into the poster-child of conservative reaction in theology and in church politics. There is something to this, and Joseph Ratzinger was not the only European intellectual to have been deeply affected by the excesses of the fascists of the left at the time. (We all know the definition of a neoconservative: a liberal who’s been mugged.)

Scramble as they may, but these intellectuals, having bought into the revolutionary paradigms of development and progress, will not be able to put Humpty Dumpty back together again. They have let the genie out of the bottle, and I doubt their ability to put it back in.

Quote of the Week

1 07 2009


From the Gregorian Rite Catholic blog:

Cardinal Giovanni Battista Montini, the then archbishop of Milan and future Pope Paul VI, went to that final meeting of the Central Commission and said that mercy, charity, and Christian witness — not anathemas and condemnations — were the way to reach the modern world. Realizing that Cardinal Montini spoke with the authority of the Pope, Cardinal Alfredo Ottaviani, one of the Council’s more conservative voices and Secretary of the Sacred Congregation of the Holy Office (today called the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith), was heard to murmur: ‘I pray to God that I may die before the end of the Council — in that way I can die a Catholic’ (Vatican II: Forty Personal Stories, Twenty-Third Publications, 2003, 6).

I feel his pain. Seriously.