Calling Spades Spades

There is a belief, held by some, that one day the Roman mass as promulgated under Pope Paul VI will one day be rolled back and the “Traditional Latin Mass” restored as the only Rite of the West.  Aside from the fact that the pre-existing Rites of Milan and Toledo make this an impossibility (unless these traditionalists wish to squash venerable tradition), reality makes this an impossibility.  The Reformists in the Vatican like Cardinal Sarah and those who they will inevitably form will have no desire to try to restore the Rite of Trent and wind the clock back to 1570 (or 1870) and will instead likely work on fixing many of the deficiencies in the Roman Rite.

Maybe we will live to see Septuagesima imported into the Roman Rite or enforcement of Ad Orientum worship.   Maybe there will be grounded and logical rules for when to use Eucharistic Prayers I-III while either making the never-used Eucharistic Prayer IV extinct or giving it the same treatment the Byzantine Rite gives to the Anaphora of St. James: extremely restricted but venerated use.  Maybe Communion in the hand will be recognized as the bad idea it is and maybe… the ancient tradition of Infant Communion can finally be restored (one can dream) instead of ecclesiastics trying to push for communing the divorced and remarried (I could rant for hours on this point).

The Rite of Trent is here to stay, as is the Rite of Rome.  The two will exist side-by-side in the same Church with priests likely having the liberty to say either.  The Rite of Rome will develop and might even work in older rituals from the The Rite of Trent, but to think that it will be cast aside by a Pius IX returning from his grave is pure fantasy.  Those who hold on to such beliefs will go the way of the sedevacantists, the conclavists, or Bishop Williamson and his “resistance”.

This is not without precedent either.  The same thing happened in the Muscovite Church and is still the rule.  Those wishing to hold to the Old Rituals may do so in that church and those who believe that church fell when the New Rituals were adopted have remained in their own severed (and sometimes priestless) communities.  This allowance of different rituals even extends into the tiny Russian-Greek Catholic Church and has ever since Pius X welcomed them in.

Everything new is old and everything old is new again.

Besides, Old Believers do it better than 1950’s obsessed Latin Massers anyway

What further solidifies the poly-Ritualist nature of the Roman Church is the emergence of a new and beautiful Rite few could have foreseen:  that used by the Anglican Ordinariates.  When attending this Rite’s Masses I have wondered if this was what Bouyer and Jungmann imagined when they undertook their liturgical movement, but one can never know.  If circumstances ever require me to leave Kievan Byzantium for a time, then I sincerely hope it is either to here or a reform-minded Roman Rite parish.  I am personally forever done with the Rite of Trent, or rather, the culture and polemics one must deal with in most such communities.

Traditionalists will one day learn to live with this reality God has willed.  If they do not, they will forever condemn themselves to the fate of the still severed Old Ritualists or to 1950’s American caricatured liturgical and cultural ghettos.

And is a ghetto truly what Christ had in mind when he said to “go out and preach to all nations”?

The Problem with being a Vigilante

“I don’t know about sides. I go my own way; but your way may go along with mine for a while. … Wizards are always troubled about the future. I do not like worrying about the future. I am not altogether on anybody’s side, because nobody is altogether on my side, if you understand me: nobody cares for the woods as I care for them, not even Elves nowadays. Still, I take more kindly to Elves than to others … And there are some things, of course, whose side I am altogether not on; I am against them altogether: these — burárum” (he again made a deep rumble of disgust) “— these Orcs, and their masters”

 – The Two Towers, JRR Tolkein

There is no “crowd” in the Catholic Church into which I fit conveniently.  No stereotype describes my position and there is no article that details the ground on which I stand.  I am where I am through my own choices, at the command of my own conscience, and as a result of my own conclusions.  Many others in life have had great impact on me, providing me with knowledge of which I knew not and giving me invaluable resources from to learn. Every time though, I have drawn my own conclusions whether it agreed with their own or not.

However, I am beholden to no faction or clique in the Church.  “Trads” generally consider my views too “liberal” and Ratzingerian, but I would undoubtedly be cast as a “Rad Trad” in the average diocesan parish.  I am sympathetic to many things about the SSPX and will defend their sacramental validity, yet I find their understanding of the problems in the Church to be incomplete and too narrowly focused.  I have little opinion of Taize, have skepticism towards the Charismatic movement, rejoice at the reintroduction of the Chalice for Communion but loathe Communion in the hand, am a proponent of Intinction, have absolutely no opinion on the “issue” of communing standing or sitting, believe the reintroduction of Deacons as more than just senior seminarians in the Latin Church was a good step that didn’t go far enough, believe worship should be ad orientem (which would include allowing it to “face the people” if it means facing east), believe that the trads should allow more vernacular but that the mainstream parishes should introduce some Latin, am in favor of lay readers but not lay Eucharistic Ministers under most circumstances, hold the belief that most of Vatican II is good minus a couple unfortunate documents while Vatican I is technically correct but caused even more damage than its sequel, and finally believe that both past and present popes both can and have been heretics.

With these beliefs, I hope it is easy to see why I gravitated so naturally towards the Christian “East”.  There are issues there, to be sure, but far less of the above variety.  Those will burn anyone out as they burned me out.  There is really no place in the Roman Church where I would feel fully at home as a disillusioned former “Trad” and be able to escape always hearing about these controversies (perhaps the Anglican Ordinariate, perhaps… or a remote monastery).

I have had to consider this recently as the possibility of a life-changing event that could potentially force me to consider attending a “regular” parish has entered the realm of possibility.  I will need to pray for God’s guidance on this, but such an event would be a long way off.  It could also be subject to change.  Who knows?

God’s will in all things, I suppose.  Whatever that may be…

Mid-Lent Update

This Great Fast has been a fruitful one that has brought out much direction for me spiritually, physically, and even emotionally.  There is a great Lenten prayer I have found helps me in the times where my own personal sin assaults viciously.

Nicene Creed

Our Father

Three Ave’s

Glory Be

The Agony in the Garden

Our Father

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner x10

Glory Be

The Scourging at the Pillar

Our Father

Lord Jesus Christ, scourged at the pillar, have mercy on me a sinner x10

Glory Be

The Crowning with Thorns

Our Father

Lord Jesus Christ, crowned with thorns, have mercy on me a sinner x10

Glory Be

The Carrying of the Cross

Our Father

Lord Jesus Christ, condemned to death, have mercy on me a sinner x10

Glory Be

The Crucifixion 

Our Father

Lord Jesus Christ, crucified for us, have mercy on me a sinner x10

Glory Be

Salve Regina


Use it if you want and continue to persevere in the Fast.

The Virtue of Patience

Patience is long forgotten in our time.  The era of television, bad public education, sexual deviancy, and quick gratification has been followed by the epoch of pornography, the internet, mental insanity, and instant gratification.  In current man’s and woman’s desire to have everything they want and once there is little thought given to those affected by their rushing.  The scene of the public highways are a demonstrable illustration of this, where everyone believes they need to get where they are going before everyone else.

Sometimes, I see this spill over into our spiritual life as well.  Some chase shallow emotionalism and sensationalism in religion (see the Taize and Charismatic movements or those who chase any “apparition” that pops up), others want distractions like children banned from the church building lest their silent prayer is disturbed (“If only children were not making noise, we could float like Giuseppe of Cupertino or have ecstasies like Teresa of Avila!”), and others like myself are often angry and frustrated whenever we fall into the same sin that haunts us over and over again (“Why am I so sinful?! Why cannot I be like Anthony of the Desert or Theophan the Recluse?!”).  Ultimately, all three of these have the same cause: the desire for immediate results.  They also have the same painful cure: looking upon and admitting our own failings, realizing that sanctification is a long process, and years of consistent perseverance in fighting our personal sins.  Occasionally failing at this, as impossible as it is to ignore, should not be cause for discouragement but should be expected with the understanding that we will be working to reduce the occurrences.

Lent and a taste of monasticism are excellent weapons against this virus of selfish impatience.  A peaceful afternoon in a remote location where there is only a monastery, the monks, you, the other guests, and some animals is a welcome break from the noise and superficial fun of a metropolitan area.  Closing the hatches and diving for forty days without pleasures we take for granted (meat, alcohol, tobacco, elaborate meals, modern entertainment, etc.) can show us how unhealthily attached we are to these things and how little we really need them.

My own return to mead-making has reminded me of this.  It is beautiful to watch the honey, fruit, and other ingredients ferment with the knowledge that they will one day become something delicious, but it is aggravating to know that the process will take many months, several rackings, and several-week infusion of oak spirals before this happens.  Tom’s post on the Divine Office is applicable to this and many other things.

In conclusion, let’s all look at how badly we practice patience this Lent and work on doing something about it.

“For looking is the food of the eyes, but if this be such as is unlawful or forbidden, it mars the fast; and upsets the whole safety of the soul; but if it be lawful and safe, it adorns fasting. For it would be among things the most absurd to abstain from lawful food because of the fast, but with the eyes to touch even what is forbidden. Dost thou not eat flesh? Feed not upon lasciviousness by means of the eyes.
Let the ear fast also. The fasting of the ear consists in refusing to receive evil speakings and calumnies. “Thou shalt not receive a false report,” it says.
Let the mouth too fast from disgraceful speeches and railing. For what doth it profit if we abstain from birds and fishes; and yet bite and devour our brethren? The evil speaker eateth the flesh of his brother, and biteth the body of his neighbor.”

-St. John Chrysostom, Homilies on the statutes

Pre-Lent, The Time of Preparation

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Two days into no meat and I am already dreading the long fast ahead.  But I would not wish to give up this week of Meat-Fare even if the Church abolished it.  To jump from no fast to forty days of total fast would be an act of sheer madness.

One of the great shocks when growing up to learn what was in the spooky “Novus Ordo” was learning of the abolition of Septuagesima season.  These three weeks had always been (for the Vigilante anyway) a necessary part of the Lenten package, with the faster dipping into his penance gradually before Ash Wednesday arrived.  Similarly, the Byzantine Rite has the four week stretch of Pharisee and Publican Sunday, Prodigal Son Sunday, Meat-Fare, and Cheese-Fare which stress:

  1. Repentance and a warning against worthless fasting
  2. Repentance and a reminder of God’s infinite mercy
  3. The Last Judgement and the beginning of some fasting
  4. Forgiveness, lest we enter Lent without Charity, and the plunge into the Fast

The Orientals and Non-Chalcedonian have their own tradition as well: a three day “Fast of Nineveh” a few weeks from the start of the Fast to remind them of its approach.

Having never spent this time of the liturgical season in the New Roman Rite, I cannot imagine what a lack of Septuagesima must have done.  Could this be part of the reason the Roman Church only has two required days of fast and abstinence?  Is it just another part of the long process of softening traditions and fasts that has been underway since the legalistic aftermath of Trent?  Or is it just another bout of American laziness and aversion to suffering?

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Notably absent: Pursuit of truth, virtue, or anything beyond this life

I am glad to have  a preparation before the fast and genuinely feel sorry or those who lack it.

The Disaster Part II: Sources for Postmortem

“It is better that scandals arise than the truth be suppressed.”

— St. Gregory the Great, Homilies on Ezekiel

Here, I will give brief thoughts on three pieces that directly or indirectly addressed the scandals.  Each piece has its merits, but two of them have their limitations.

Conservative Catholic Attack:  Goodbye, Good Men

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As scandals emerged but before the levy broke, Michael Rose released his bombshell ‘Goodbye, Good Men’.  This book was huge at the time, finding a common audience with traditionalist and conservative Catholics alike.  Finally, someone was addressing the “pink palace” culture and heterodox inquisitions in seminaries like Holy Trinity in Dallas (once an epicenter of gay seminary activity) head on and taking no prisoners.

The book is excellent and diving into the rot in seminaries and giving specific examples.  Where the book falls short is that it really doesn’t address the roots of the problem.  Like most conservatives, Rose can point to the pre-Vatican II days as a time when seminaries were full and blame the implementation of changes in the mid-1960s for the decline.  Little to no mention or acknowledgement is made that the state of things before then was already rotting, with rings of pedophiles in places like El Paso or Davenport taking advantage of a clericalist faithful.  Furthermore, later developments have made this book obsolete in some regards.  Pedophilia is barely touched upon as it was originally published in 2002 before the full scope of the scandals could have been known.

Useful for its time but outdated, ‘Goodbye Good Men’ will break little new ground for a Catholic aware of the scandals aside from giving an insight to the corruption of seminary culture.

Hollywood Expose: Spotlight

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I will not lie, I turned this movie on thinking it would be an all-out assault on the Catholic Church.  For the 5 total minutes where characters who are non-practising Catholics (notably the one played by Mark Ruffalo) vent their frustrations at the Church it is.  Beyond that, it is a very accurate retelling of how the Boston Globe’s “Spotlight” story of Catholic sex abuse scandals in the archdiocese developed.

The film follows the pattern of an investigative thriller, with new developments being discovered at every turn and myriad legal obstacles to overcome to get the information required.  There are pressures to stop pursuing the story, legal technicalities, a culture of “good old boy” networks to overcome  (as someone unfamiliar with the culture of Boston I cannot speak to the accuracy of this element and will defer to anyone who lived in Boston during that time), and the culminating fact that the characters presented had what they needed for the story years ago.  With a little tweaking and clever editing, large chunks of this film could be retooled into a Mafia film.  As is, the movie is gripping, interesting, and masterfully made.

Even more to the movie’s credit is how much they get right.  The methods used by perps like Geoghan, the fact that most of the predators were found to be psychologically stunted at the level of a 12-14 year-old,  the devastating effects of the abuse on the victims, the hard work done by many Catholics running the ineffectual treatment centers to warn of the problem, the deafening and shameful silence of much of the laity who were in the know, and the efforts of the auxiliary bishop to stop the abuse only for him to be transferred out, all of these are detailed in a way that shows just how rampant and deep the corruption went.  All of it matches up perfectly with the other sources that tackle the subject (like the one below).

The single greatest flaw of the film is how it treats (or rather fails to treat) the role of homosexuality in the abuse.  The approach taken is to start with Geoghan, a known “true pedophile” who was heterosexual and targeted vulnerable fatherless young boys, and then accurately point out that homosexuality had nothing to do with it.  The topic of homosexuality is never brought up again except during the interview of a very effete gay victim of abuse.  The issue with this is that it deceptively tries to lead the audience to believe that homosexuality had nothing to do with any of the abuse, which is simply not true.  If Geoghan of the Boston Archdiocese is the prime example of the “true pedophile”, an opportunistic sexual predator with a preference for females and the feminine attributes of small children of both sexes, then the Diocese of Dallas had Rudy Kos, a textbook example of a homosexual ephebophile pursuing post-pubescent young men for their youthful male features.  To tackle so accurately one category of predator while ignoring the other category shows that the negligent filmmakers were either terrified of angering the “gay community”or were not interested in portraying anything that could cast a negative light on that particular subculture.

Overall, Spotlight is worth a watch for those genuinely interested in what went wrong so they can ensure it never happens again.  It does have one or two shortcomings, but if the viewer goes into the film knowing of them then those flaws can be overlooked in favor of the many more raw facts and insights the film has to offer.

Expert Analysis of a Betrayed Catholic: Sacrilege

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Leon Podles authored The Church Impotent: Feminization of Christianity to positive-to-mixed reviews.  While I mostly agreed with his analysis, I found his purported link between scholasticism and the feminization to be the weakest point (and this is from someone who thinks the Western Church became too obsessed with scholasticism after Trent).  I might reread it sometime to pick up on things I may have missed.

He then dropped this bomb which I believe every Catholic with the stomach for it should read.  Even i one does not have the stomach to do so, the information contained here is too important to not know.  One need not know the lurid horror stories of priests in Davenport taking children to look at corpses as a means of corruption to be educated on the profile of predators.  The quality of information here is so vital that it makes me wonder if there is a way an edited and distilled version could be made from parts of the book to result in “The Profiles and Methods of Child Abusers”.

One admirable point of the book is the unwillingness of the author to try to lump all the criminals into one basket or stick to any narratives.  Think you that priests who do the Old Mass are safer?  He gives an example of a predator who said it.  Think you that a more liberal church will result in less abuse?  He gives an example of a priest who used his “rad approach” to build a cult in his parish that defended him even when his guilt was clear.  Think you that a rare instance of an unusually masculine priest can’t be a predator?  He gives an example of one such priest in rural Louisiana.  Think you that pedophiles are an aberration of the post-Vatican II Church?  He details the 1940s-50s rings of abusers in Davenport, Iowa and El Paso, Texas. And so on, and so on…

Pick up this book if you want to know the truth and if you think knowing the truth will be of any use.  I cannot give it justice in this measly blog post, so I ask that you pick it up yourself.

Onto less depressing topics!  Hopefully…

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Dang it…

The Disaster: Part I

A series of scandals rocked the Catholic world in the beginning of the 21st century.  The publicity started in Boston and spread until pedophilia “jokes” about priests became as commonplace as the cold.  The most appalling aspect to the affair was not that rapists had infiltrated the Catholic Church at every level (any position that has access to minors the way priesthood does will invariable attract those who seek to exploit this fact… the American public education system is reportedly full of such issues), but the systematic cover-up of the affair.  Bishops – rather than denounce, defrock, and excommunicate priests who had committed such acts to children and minors – chose instead to shuffle them to other parishes, send them on sick leave to treatment centers, or “donate” them to dioceses that were hard pressed for pastors.  Payments, hush money, assurances to victims that this would never happen again were the order of the day.  Long forgotten was the statement of Christ about millstones around the necks of those who would hurt the little ones.

How was this allowed to happen?

Everyone had their own explanation.  Conservatives blamed homosexuality, others proclaimed that this was the end result of mandatory celibacy, heretics jumped at the chance to push for female “priests”, and traditionalists considered the affair further proof of the decadence and failings of the “conciliar church” (the Society of St. John and their scandal in Scranton notwithstanding).  On inspection, none of these tell the whole story or paint a complete picture.  I would claim that the factors that led to this debacle included:

  1. Clericalism. Because priests were held to absurd and unrealistic levels, the laity became too comfortable in trusting men of the cloth without condition.  Long forgotten were Chrysostom’s sermons on his own frailty.  Priests were the elect and the laity were lowly sheep who were to listen to their every word.  To be in the presence of a priest was an honor akin to receiving Christ.
  2. The bureaucratic structure of the Post-Tridentine Church.  The end result of 500 years of centralization, opposing Protestantism, putting down Gallicanism and Jansenism, defeating Febronianism, opposition to Vatican I forming a schismatic group of churches that crumbled, Eastern Catholics being pushed proverbially out of sight, and separation from larger Orthodox Eastern Churches was a monolithic Roman Church where everything went to and through Rome.  Or, rather, everything went through some institute in Rome.  Many bishops lacked any sense of leadership as they had been picked for their low likelihood of causing trouble.  In this environment, there was no room for a potential spiritual successor to St. Nicholas.  Bishops were more concerned with avoiding problems than fixing them.
  3. Wrong ideas of sexuality and emotion.  The Pre-Vatican II Church had a large problem at times with prudish avoidance of sexual topics or of openness with emotions.  This led to a degree of stunting, self-repression, and fear of the very things God gave us to moderate and master.  On the other hand, the Post-Vatican II Church erred in the other direction.  Shallow and meaningless emotionalism was reflected in both liturgy and theology, dangerous modern theories in psychology were experimented with, and emphasis on self denial was heavily retracted.  This was at its worst in the sixties and seventies when the new errors were fresh and appealing while the old ones were still firmly entrenched in the minds of many laity.
  4.   Lack of awareness.  It was not until relatively recently that abuse of minors by adults has become a concern, as the true scope of it was unimaginable to those in “more innocent” times (and is still not fully known, as rumors abound of it being widespread in public schools, the entertainment industry, and among the wealthy western elite).  The tactics employed by predators were not known, the number of them was far higher than was thought, and there was a degree of trust put in those in exalted positions (see point 1 above).

The idea that abuse by priests started in the 1960’s is a notion that should be killed before it can begin to form.  Instances of priests committing sexual sins is well documented in Church History (with medieval councils prohibiting priests from visiting convents too frequently or demanding that any priests with concubines turn them out immediately) and occasional scandals with children is known to have happened at least a few times (as happened to the Piarists when a group of abusers decided to infiltrate them due to their mission of educating impoverished children).  There are statistics and testimonies backing up that rings of these clerical child-rapists goes back to the 1940’s and beyond.  There was a rise in the 1950′, a steep rise in the 1960’s, and the apex in the 1970’s and 1980’s. As scandals came to light and people became more aware, the opportunities for these crimes decreased.  Eventually, Cardinal Ratzinger was elected pope and was able to put into effect many reforms that he had been unable to previously.

Now, any who work with children and minors in dioceses (like the Vigilante himself) are required to be trained in “Safe Environment” classes.  In the current environment children of Catholics are likely far safer than they were 40 years ago.  However, it is essential we never relax our watch and never take anything for granted.  It is also essential to understand the modus operandi of predators and what drives them.  As I have researched the issue more, I have come to realize that these people cannot be detected as easily as popular perception would have us believe.  They come in many shapes, sizes, sexual “orientations”, mannerisms, and backgrounds.

Next, a few works that deal with the issue…