The unpreachable god

7 03 2011

I have a great affection for far-right wing Catholic traditionalist rhetoric. Somehow, I like hearing all the ways that I am going to Hell. Since I was affiliated with the Society of St. Pius X when I was still at a tender age for a young man, I think there is some sort of bizarre nostalgia at work. I remember my scowling and nice-but-crazy professors in the seminary in Argentina talking about how the Freemasons were taking over the Church, the Jews were taking over the world, the Catholic clergy was infested with communists, etc. Indeed, for someone who considered himself a Marxist only a couple of years earlier, this was a surreal situation to say the least. Perhaps that is why I took refuge in the study of Patristics and the Eastern Church; part of me realized I had made a huge mistake (a 3,000 miles away from home sized mistake). But the entire experience has given me an insatiable appetite for right-wing Catholic rhetoric, especially the “everyone’s going to Hell (except me)” variety. Call it Jansenism, clerical fascism, or most accurately, theological snuff porn.
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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.

Source
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On the inherent superiority of Western culture

4 02 2010

Greek wisdom and Roman law were divine gifts that prepared the fullness of time for the coming of the Savior. Only this cultural treasure, after centuries of theological discussions and conciliar definitions, allowed the great Christian dogmas to be formulated with precision. And since they [the neo-modernists] like to speak of the “incarnation”: Just as only the most pure flesh of the Virgin Mary was capable of receiving the Word of God, thus only the “flesh” of Greco-Roman culture was sufficently healthy enough to be animated by the wisdom of the Gospel, and to build the cathedral of Christian cultural, the highest spire of which is the Summa Theologiae of St. Thomas. But for the mentality that has today invaded the Church, we have just blasphemed: in Africa, India, and America we have to begin anew. And since there has been a cultural revolution in the Christian West, we have a new task for the next millenium: “A new mobilization is imposed on the Church, in order to confront the task of inculturation of the Gospel in the modern world. In this matter we should embrace the concern of John Paul II: ‘From the beginning of my pontificate I have considered the dialogue of the Church with the cultures of our time an important field of work in which the fate of the world at the end of the 20th century is at play’.”

-Fr. Álvaro Calderón, La Lámpara bajo el Celemín: Cuestión disputada sobre la autoridad doctrinal del Magisterio eclesiástico desde el Concilio Vaticano II, my translation

In spite of my perennialist tendencies, my impulse to post Hindu kirtans and videos of Vodou rituals, I agree 100% with Fr. Calderon’s assessment. Christianity is fundamentally a historical religion. If there were any way to get around that, I would have found it by now. But the fact that the Gospel was written in Greek using concepts such as “logos” that had been in formation in the Greek mind for centuries is no mere accident of history. God could have been incarnated in the context of another culture, just as He “could have” been incarnated in a pearl or an ass. But He did not do that; He came into this world at a very specific time and a very specific place, as did His Body, the Church. Even the Fathers of the Church saw this, and there will always be a superiority of the Greek and Latin tongues to all others, just as the Muslims consider Koranic Arabic sacred, or the Jews Hebrew.

That being said, I think that it is profitable to study other forms of religiosity and cultures, since I do think (good crypto-perennialist that I am) that in them are embodied foreshadowing echoes of the Word of God. They also teach us concepts that we, in our sanitized, modern mentality, once understood but some time ago forgot. But this always has to be done in the mind frame of historical hierarchy. God chose to express Himself this way, and we are obligated to keep to that way as much as possible.

As for inculturation itself, it is not an easy process, and it takes centuries to happen legitimately, and not without many setbacks. I have long defended on this blog the idea that even the more “exotic” aspects of Mexican “folk Catholicism” are just as “Western” as the Pope and the Summa. Only after centuries, and not a little violence, did Catholicism become not just the religion of the State, but of the hearts and minds of even the simplest people. Indeed, if you mentioned to me the persistence of indigenous religion outside of remote parts of Yucatan and Chiapas, I would laugh in your face, as would most Mexicans, save the random New Age-style shaman trying to perform a limpia on you in the Zocalo in Mexico City. Catholicism, in its Spanish flavor with a few alterations, is the indigenous religion of Mexico, as much as that frustrates intellectual radicals who would return us to the pristine religion of “Aztlan” and the “Mexicas”.





All the Church news that’s fit to print

20 01 2010

The thought of Fr. Edward Schillebeeckx is examined in this rather perceptive article in the New York Times about the Church in the last seventy years.

I thought this quote in particular to be the most pertinent:

Like many Catholic theologians who influenced the council, Father Schillebeeckx had reacted against the neo-scholastic theology that the church adopted in the 19th century as a bulwark against hostile modern ideas. Distilled from the thought of Thomas Aquinas but frequently handed on without any examination of Aquinas’s writings or their medieval context, this neo-scholasticism articulated the faith in series of abstract concepts and propositions presented as absolute, ahistorical and immutable.

Father Schillebeeckx found alternative intellectual resources in modern phenomenology, with its meticulous attention to the actual experience of consciousness. And by studying Aquinas in his medieval context, he recovered a Thomism that expounded the presence and mystery of God in far less rationalistic and conceptual ways than did its neo-scholastic versions.

Of course, a lot of these thoughts are rather broad generalizations. But for me, they articulate again that, in many ways, the Catholicism of the pre-Vatican II Church was not all that old. Such things as frequent Communion, Gregorian chant, militant reactionary social teaching, and Baltimore Catechism-style formulations of the faith were just as much a product of modernity and its scholarship as the thought of Loisy or the public services of Taizé.
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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 porteños. 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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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.





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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SSPX update

28 01 2009

williamson

As you all know, the whole SSPX controversy is making the rounds with the secular and religious press. Now, Fr. Schmidberger, former Superior General of the SSPX, has come out denouncing Bishop Williamson’s views on Holocaust revisionism. While such things are not indicative of an immediate surrender of the SSPX into the embrace of Rome, I find at least the idea that two important figures in the SSPX coming out and openly denouncing one of the bishops that Archbishop Lefebvre consecrated to be unthinkable when considering my experiences with the SSPX. Before, at least in my perception, these bishops were untouchable, and almost treated as “primes inter pares”. Now, it seems, that is no longer the case. Does this mean some sort of change has occurred within that organization?

To those of us with a history of deep involvement with the SSPX, Williamson’s remarks were far from surprising, and we are almost scratching our heads over the whole hubbub. I entered the scene of the SSPX in the late 1990’s, when the powerful triumvirate of Fr. Peter Scott, Father Ramon Angles, and Bishop Williamson ruled the United States District turning it almost into a far right wing cult. (Stories of such behavior are legendary around the SSPX compound of St. Mary’s, Kansas.) Those were the days when the SSPX was having its crusade against television, women’s pants, and the time that they were saying that even going to any Novus Ordo Mass was a sin. Those days apparently are over, though their imprint still remains, I believe, in the SSPX.

The recent events, then, give me pause. Does this mean that the SSPX is turning around? I have to say that one weird part of me is a little sad to see them “going soft”; even if I don’t like fanatics, I wish the world had more of them, at least at the very margins to remind us that the “normal way” of doing things may not be so normal after all. Nevertheless, I would never want them to have any real power. I guess I’ll wait and see.