Saturday, November 22, 2014

Lisa Ling's "Called to the Collar," featuring our own seminarians

Many of you may find this video interesting, featuring a notable exception to the lamentable declining number of priestly vocations: in the Diocese of Lansing, there has been a consistently high number of vocations over recent years, with the seminarians coming through Sacred Heart Major Seminary and going on be ordained in their home diocese. Some inspiring stories here about some men "close the the heart," as they say at Sacred Heart; like Fr. Todd and Fr. Gary, the identical twins who both heard the call to the priesthood but initially kept it a secret from each other.

Watch their answers to Lisa Ling. Some are notably clever, sometimes amusing, Ling's questions during the interviews often seem perfectly positioned to invite a teachable moment. There's even a shot of Ling having a beer with our seminarians inside O'Berg's, the seminary pub.

On the whole "death with dignity" thing

From Guy Noir: "A Protestant sermon on Euthanasia that is essentially Catholic moral theology.

"Well-done; and far more connecting in its directness than a polite interview with Rev. James Martin, I daresay."

John Piper, "We Are Not Our Own: On God, Brittany Maynard, and Physician-Assisted Suicide" (Desiring God, October 31, 2014).

[Hat tip to JM]

"Canonizing the Second Vatican Council"? -- the Vindication of Paul VI

[Advisory & disclaimer: See Rules 7-9]

In an essay from this past spring, "Paul VI and John Paul II on the Council and Its Interpretation -- and Fatima" (Saint Louis Catholic, April 29, 2014), the article's author writes [added emphasis is his]:
I've been struck in the last several days by the observation of many that by the canonizations and beatification of this year that Pope Francis was in effect "canonizing the Second Vatican Council". This effort has been obvious to me for some time, but for some reason the phrase kept sticking with me last weekend.

Therefore, I was more than usually struck by comments I recently read from these popes themselves about the Council they are being used to "canonize", and of its consequences.

This first passage is from Paul VI [during his 1967 pilgrimage to Fatima], and I actually feel very sorry for him-- his worry and disillusionment come through. And note he comments about the Council's interpretation and then speaks of Fatima:
... The ecumenical council has reawakened many energies in the bosom of the Church.... What an evil it would be if an arbitrary interpretation, not authorized by the Magisterium of the Church, were to transform this spiritual renewal into a restlessness which dissolves the Church's traditional structure and constitution, substituting the theology of true and great teachings with new and partisan ideologies which depart from the norm of faith, that which modern thought, often lacking the light of reason, neither comprehends nor accepts, finally transforming the apostolic anxiety of redemptive charity into an acquiescence in the negative forms of the profane mentality of worldly customs. What a disenchantment, then, would be caused by our effort at a universal approach!

This thought carries our memory at this moment to those countries in which religious liberty is practically suppressed and where the denial of God is promoted... We declare: the world is in danger. Therefore we have come by foot to the feet of the Queen of Peace to ask for the gift that only God can give: peace.... Men, think of the gravity and the greatness of this hour, which could be decisive for the history of the present and future generation. The picture of the world and of its destiny presented here is immense and dramatic. It is the scene that the Madonna opens before us, the scene we contemplate with horrified eyes."

-- from the Homily of Paul VI, at Fatima, May 13, 1967 (emphasis added [by SLC])
St. John Paul II also echoed these thoughts fourteen years later:
We must admit realistically and with profound suffering that Christians today feel lost, confused, perplexed and also disappointed; there are diffused ideas in contrast with the truth as revealed and always taught; there are diffused true and proper heresies in the field of dogma and morals [...] the liturgy has been altered; immersed in intellectual and moral relativism and therefore in permissiveness, Christians are tempted by atheism, by agnostics, by agnosticism, by a vaguely preached illuminism and by a sociological Christianity, deprived of definite dogmas and moral objectivity. It is necessary to begin all over again.

The Final Solution: No Jews, Not One

One of the greatest crimes against humanity was perpetrated in meeting of just over an hour in a Berlin suburb in a villa at 56–58 Am Großen Wannsee -- an exemplification of what Hannah Arendt called "the banality of evil" -- horrific, diabolical evil -- and how it can occur under conditions of business as usual among common bureaucrats.

A very good film, entitled Conspiracy (2001), directed by Frank Pierson, and starring Kenneth Branagh as Reinhard Heydrich and Stanley Tucci as Adolf Eichmann, is obligatory viewing. Michael Voris draws parallels to spiritual battles looming in our own day, about which we do well to bear in mind that spiritual battles often spill over into the material world through portals of political power.

In case you missed it: an interesting correspondence between Ross Douthat and Fr. James Martin

"James Martin and Ross Douthat on Pope Francis, the Synod and the Demands of Law and Mercy" (America, November 18, 2014).

Granted, it's an online conversation between a New York Times religion columnist and the Culture Editor of the Jesuit magazine America. Yet there are some provocative moments. For example, this, in which Douthat responds to an earlier correspondence by Martin:
Dear Father Martin,

I’ll start with your provocative question of whether some matters can be too dangerous to even discuss, where I think the answer is no and yes: Mostly no in the casual context in which you and I are debating, but absolutely yes when the person encouraging the discussion has supreme teaching authority in the church. Would it be advisable, for instance, for the pope to invite a discussion among the faithful on whether to strike ten stanzas from the Nicene Creed? Or whether to discard transubstantiation in favor of a Zwinglian understanding of communion? Or whether to strip the Gospel of John from the canon? Or—to pick some debates from the not at all distant past—whether to integrate theories of racial and eugenic hierarchy into Catholic moral teaching? Read more >>
[Hat tip to E. Echeverria]

Tridentine Masses coming this week to the metro Detroit and East Michigan area

Tridentine Masses This Coming Week

Friday, November 21, 2014

Dust up between Jamie K. A. Smith and Eduardo Echeverria over religious epistemology

Jamie K. A. Smith, author of Who's Afraid of Postmodernism?: Taking Derrida, Lyotard, and Foucault to Church (2006), has authored another book in his series echoing the title of Edward Albee's 1962 play, "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" -- namely, Who's Afraid of Relativism?: Community, Contingency, and Creaturehood (2014).

Sacred Heart Major Seminary Professor, Eduardo Echeverria, who is well-versed in both continental and analytical traditions of philosophy, has published an article-length critical review of this book in the latest issue of Calvin Theological Journal, as Smith reveals in his blog, where he offers his own response to Echeverria, entitled "Responding to a Common Critique of 'Who's Afraid of Relativism?'" (Fors Clavigera, November 12, 2014). Smith's post features both Echeverria's full critique as well as Smith's own response, entitled, with deliberate irony: "Echeverria's Protestant Epistemology: A Catholic Response" (formally, Echeverria is the Catholic and Smith the Protestant).

Predictably, Smith's "response" in turn provoked yet another response by Echeverria, this one posted on the blog of the Tyndale University College and Seminary site, "A Response to James K. A. Smith, by Eduardo Echeverria" (Every Thought Captive).

The chief questions at issue in the debate concern religious epistemology and whether some sort of realist epistemology is still viable, as Echeverria holds, or not, as Smith insists. Smith has clearly drunk deeply at the well of post-modern philosophers of the sort he's been writing about and teaching for upwards of the last two decades, while from Echeverria's perspective of the perennial philosophy, Smith's well appears more like a shallow puddle. See for yourselves.

[This article is permanently archived at Philosophia Perennis]

2 convert to Catholicism after hearing Lutheran Bach

An elderly independent scholar told me recently at lunch that he knows of two Catholic converts whose journey into the Catholic Church was sparked by listening to the St. Matthew Passion (BWV 244) by Johann Sebastian Bach, a Lutheran.

Those of us who have fallen under the spell of Bach's music can readily appreciate it's unspeakable profundity and beauty. How it could lead one to Catholicism is not immediately apparent, particularly given the contemporary state of Catholicism in the world today, as attested in a heart-rending story by Jennifer Mehl Ferrara, "Becoming Catholic: Making It Hard" (First Things, January 1999). But for those versed in the history of sacred music and who understand something of How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization, it's quite possible to see how one might see historical Catholicism in certain respects as the font of beauty in Christian tradition.

I've quoted Karl Barth before, who said: "It may be that when the angels go about their task praising God, they play only Bach. I am sure, however, that when they are together en famille they play Mozart." Yes, indeed. However Barth's saying can be inverted as well to read: "It may be that when the angels are together en famille playing music for themselves, they play Mozart. I am sure, however, that when they play for God, they play only Bach."

"Visiting a Crowded Room in the Field-Hospital" ... a Laser Diagnosis

Pat Archbold, "This 'Hermeneutic of Continuity' is a Band-Aid to a Self-Inflicted Wound" (NCR, November 17, 2014) [emphasis from JM]:
I used to be a big fan of the “Hermeneutic of Reform in Continuity,” or as commonly shortened, the “hermeneutic of continuity.” But I think that perhaps its day has passed.

For those unfamiliar, a hermeneutic is a certain way of interpreting a text. It is a lens, if you will, which allows you to interpret a text beyond just the words on the page.

Pope Benedict XVI famously contrasted "a hermeneutic of discontinuity and rupture" with "a hermeneutic of reform in continuity." The Pope criticized "a hermeneutic of discontinuity and rupture" which views the documents of Vatican II as a break from all that had come before, as if Church teaching was being created anew. The Pope rejected this interpretation and instead called for "a hermeneutic of reform in continuity." In short, we must view the letter of the documents in light of and in continuity with all the magisterial teaching that came before it.

Of course, that a hermeneutic is necessary to properly understand the documents of Vatican II is the cause of many of the debates of the last fifty years. Moreover, it is truly necessary to have such a hermeneutic because certain few passages of several documents, read at face value, seem potentially to be in contradiction to previous teaching.

That a hermeneutic of continuity is necessary to properly interpret the documents of Vatican II, its use is necessary and proper, even if lamentable.

But I think it is fair to say that such hermeneutics are merely a Band-Aid to a self-inflicted wound, a wound of ambiguity. But the common usage of ‘hermeneutic of continuity’ extends its use beyond as just an interpretive lens of the council.

Today, it has become a crutch and a cudgel. It is a crutch in that the hierarchy of the Church no longer feels obligated to clarity in its communications, but regularly unitizes and embraces ambiguity out of laziness or even possibly sometimes with more nefarious motives. The bottom line is there is no understood obligation on the part of the magisterium to teach and communicate in the clearest and most unambiguous way possible.

Rather, too much communication in recent years has gone beyond mere ambiguity approaching clear contradiction, leaving it up to those few still concerned with continuity to develop a lens suitable to a proper catholic understanding. If you have to squint, turn your head left 45 degrees, and stand on one foot to view a modern church communication as Catholic, well then you had better do it bub. In this way, the ‘hermeneutic of continuity’ is a rhetorical cudgel used to beat anyone who dares to notice any discontinuity.

"O, for heaven's sake": Guy Noir on the wisdom of Mighty Joe Young

I received a strange missive from my Atlantic seaboard correspondent, Guy Noir - Private Eye, today. It went like this:
"O, for heaven's sake."


There was a Synod on the Family, a Bishop's Conference, and now a Marriage Conference in Rome much ballyhooed across the board. The latter looks to have had some strong spoken affirmations. Rick Warren spoke! A Mormon spoke! Who knows who else got the spotlight. Oh yes, Francis spoke! And he too was good, even if as usual you need a Catholic code book to follow some of it all. Even so, I have to say I found Mighty Joe Young's comment over at CWR [in response to the article on Bishops & the Media] to be quite on point. In this case I can't help but feel exhausted by it all and concluding that now we are probably "Organizing Ourselves to Death."

Young writes:
O, for heaven's sake. How many more Committees will it take before it dawns on the Bishops they must discharge their Duties to Teach, Rule, and Sanctify?

There is a greater chance that one will be hit by falling space debris than one will hear a sermon condemning contraception.

It was over a decade ago that the USCCB publicly confessed that they had not been teaching the faith and they promised to do so in the future and here we are today.

Lord have mercy.
The family is basic. To get family life right, though, we now need programs and policies and postage stamps and papal symposiums? Good grief. Vatican II prolixity is now the expectation and norm. Despite the fact so few have the attention span or analytical prowess to process it all. Who cares as long as it all makes us feel better. Even as we gear up for more and speedier annulments. And a new and inclusive insistence that Gay is OK, as long as sex is kept out of it. None of that makes at the least bit of sense without mental gymnastics, but all of it feels very, very "nice."

"Speak English please ..." Pope Francis complies, sort of ...

Mark Tooley writes: "Francis challenges anti-life Western secularists good and hard."

Two excerpts from the Holy Father's words:
Do not fall into the trap of being swayed by political notion. Family is an anthropological fact — a socially and culturally related fact. We cannot qualify it based on ideological notions or concepts important only at one time in history. We can’t think of conservative or progressive notions. Family is a family. It can’t be qualified by ideological notions. Family is per se. It is a strength per se. I pray that your colloquium will be an inspiration to all who seek to support and strengthen the union of man and woman in marriage as a unique, natural, fundamental and beautiful good for persons, communities, and whole societies.
... And, again:
We are living in a time of experimentation with life. But a bad experiment. Making children rather than accepting them as a gift, as I said. Playing with life. Be careful, because this is a sin against the Creator: against God the Creator, who created things this way. When so many times in my life as a priest I have heard objections: “But tell me, why the Church is opposed to abortion, for example? Is it a religious problem?” No, no. It is not a religious problem. “Is it a philosophical problem?” No, it is not a philosophical problem. It’s a scientific problem, because there is a human life there, and it is not lawful to take out a human life to solve a problem. “But no, modern thought…” But, listen, in ancient thought and modern thought, the word “kill” means the same thing. The same evaluation applies to euthanasia: we all know that with so many old people, in this culture of waste, there is this hidden euthanasia. But there is also the other. And this is to say to God, “No, I will accomplish the end of life, as I will.” A sin against God the Creator! Think hard about this.
[Hat tip to JM]

Bill Murray, St. Vincent, and the Latin Mass

Go figure. Rod Dreher, "Bill Murray Misses The Latin Mass" (The American Conservative, November 20, 2014):

Dreher writes: "If you didn’t already love Bill Murray, here’s something sure to make you repent: check out this excerpt from a Guardian piece on him and his new film":
His parents were Irish Catholics; one of his sisters is a nun. This conspicuous religion adds to his broad church appeal (there’s a citation from the Christian Science Monitor on his golfing memoirs). You don’t need to ask if his faith is important to him. He talks about how 19th-century candidates risk not getting canonised because the church is keen to push ahead with the likes of John Paul II and Mother Teresa. “I think they’re just trying to get current and hot,” he smiles.

One new saint he does approve of is Pope John XXIII (who died in 1963). “I’ll buy that one, he’s my guy; an extraordinary joyous Florentine who changed the order. I’m not sure all those changes were right. I tend to disagree with what they call the new mass. I think we lost something by losing the Latin. Now if you go to a Catholic mass even just in Harlem it can be in Spanish, it can be in Ethiopian, it can be in any number of languages. The shape of it, the pictures, are the same but the words aren’t the same.”

Isn’t it good for people to understand it? “I guess,” he says, shaking his head. “But there’s a vibration to those words. If you’ve been in the business long enough you know what they mean anyway. And I really miss the music – the power of it, y’know? Yikes! Sacred music has an affect on your brain.” Instead, he says, we get “folk songs … top 40 stuff … oh, brother….”
Dreher concludes: "Sit quoque cor nostrum beatum!

"And may the heart of the reader who sent this item to me also be blessed."

[Hat tip to C.B.]

Pharaoh speaks: so let it be written, so let it be done

Defying both the Congress and the voting booth, Pharaoh Ramses Obola issued an amnesty decree that will provide an estimated 5 million illegal immigrants with the exact benefits Congress rejected, in violation of federal law. No matter: Pharaoh is confident that he can count on the predictable indifference of the majority of his subjects. Are they naive enough to think Pharaoh is motivated by compassion? Pharaoh, the baby-killer? Pharaoh, who buys the complicity of African-Americans with baubles and cell phones and allows them to sink yet deeper into poverty? Yes, of course: the happy-clappy self-congratulatory "enlightened" people who elected him.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

For the record: Cardinal George: Pope Francis, "What are you doing here?"

Cardinal George, interviewed by John L. Allen Jr., "Chicago’s exiting cardinal: 'The Church is about true/false, not left/right'" (Crux, November 17, 2014) [emphasis added]:
Crux: Until the Synod of Bishops in October, most mainstream folks in what we might loosely call the ‘conservative’ camp seemed inclined to give Francis the benefit of the doubt. Afterwards that seems less the case, with some people now seeing the pope in a more critical light. Is that your sense as well?

Cardinal George: I think that’s probably true. The question is raised, why doesn’t he himself clarify these things? Why is it necessary that apologists have to bear that burden of trying to put the best possible face on it? Does he not realize the consequences of some of his statements, or even some of his actions? Does he not realize the repercussions? Perhaps he doesn’t. I don’t know whether he’s conscious of all the consequences of some of the things he’s said and done that raise these doubts in people’s minds.


Crux: You’ve now mentioned twice things you’d like to ask the pope. It sounds to me as if you’d really like to have some face time with him.

Cardinal George: I would. First of all, I didn’t know him well before he was elected. I knew him through the Brazilian bishops, who knew him well, and I asked them a lot of questions. Since the election, I haven’t had a chance to go over for any of the meetings or the consistories because I’ve been in treatment and they don’t want you to travel. I haven’t been to see him since he was elected.

I’d just like to talk to him. It’s less important now, because I won’t be in governance, but you’re supposed to govern in communion with and under the successor of Peter, so it’s important to have some meeting of minds, some understanding. Obviously, I think we’re very different people. I always felt a natural sympathy with Cardinal Wojtyla, with John Paul II … a very deep sympathy, on my part anyway. He had that capacity to do that with thousands of people. With Cardinal Ratzinger, there was a distance but also a deep respect. I don’t know Pope Francis well enough. I certainly respect him as pope, but there isn’t yet an understanding of, ‘What are you doing here?’
[Hat tip to N.C.]

Who are the real "Promethean Neo-Pelagians" today?

One of our astute readers recently pointed out that the confusion over recent statements about "self-absorbed promethean neo-pelagians" might be allayed a bit by referencing the following reflections on the issue by a reputable Catholic priest, posted by Adfero, "Confused how some Catholics can be labeled 'Pelagians'?" (RC, August 4, 2013).  [Adfero's introduction (in blue), the priest's reflection (in red)]  The first part of the reflection reviews the historical heresy known as "Pelagianism."  The balance of the article is devoted to noting contemporary instantiations of "Pelagianism" that come from some perhaps unexpected quarters:

Recently, there's been a lot of fingerpointing at traditional Catholics. Some of it is the same old, same old (insert stale Pharisees joke here). Some of it, however, is very new and very confusing. 

Some Catholics have recently been identified -- more than once -- as "Pelagians." 

This will undoubtedly bolster the morale of other Catholics while, yet again, making life next to impossible for the traditional-minded parish priest who is, now more than ever, being accused by his flock of putting himself "above the Church" by his devotion to reverence in the liturgy and traditional Catholic teaching.  

Below, you will find a very interesting retort (notes) from a Catholic priest, who is in full communion:
11th Sunday after Pentecost 
“by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace in me has not been fruitless.”
Recently, there has been some mentioning of the ancient heresy called Pelagianism. I have heard this term used a number of times in recent months and it seems some confusion has surrounded its employment. So, without passing any judgment on those who are using the term, let us take some time this Sunday to look into this ancient heresy. If we do this well, we might be surprised at how relevant this matter really is today.