Tuesday, December 24, 2013

A little medieval English Christmas

This'll do y'all good.

Maddy Pryor will forever remind me of my Anglican friends in Halifax, some of the best Christians and most fun humans I've ever come across. Wacky, sherry-sipping, Ancient Greek-speaking, Boethius-reading, hymn-singin Christian loons, to a man.


I appear to be losing my mind... had it here a second ago...

I think it's in the sofa cushions, which is probably where my sensus fidelium got to.

Was just reading Chris's new thing at the Remnant on ... that document... and suddenly a song started playing in my head with a voice...

The JOY of the NEW Church reaches out in JOY! to the glorious newness of the NEW and JOYful world!

No more sourpuss "doctrine" or "discipline". Frownyface! Eh?

No no no! We must attract the world! Embrace the world as brothers in JOY!


Monday, December 23, 2013

When is a parable not a parable?

When it's a historical documentation of something that really happened. Something we usually call "the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves and fishes" or sometimes the "feeding of the 5000". Something that didn't have anything to do with "sharing". [Hint: it was a prefigurement of something... something important...]

(1:56) "The parable of the loaves and fishes teaches us exactly this; that if there is a will, what we have never ends."

Err... what?

Slip of the tongue, perhaps?

No, it's a reading from a prepared text that someone, presumably someone Catholic, has written and proofed.

This "loaves n'fishes = sharing n'caring" business is one old, wrinkly dried up chestnut from the apostates...err... I mean "liberal Catholics", intended to desacralise the Faith, deny the existence of miracles and possibly even reduce Christ Himself to a kind of humanistic mind-reader. This notion was first invented by a German Protestant named Rudolph Bultmann (1884-1976) who popularized it in order to deny the reality of miracles as supernatural events and ultimately the Divine nature of Christ.

Here it is described by someone on Catholic Answers, not exactly a bastion of "crypto-lefabvrianism".

One Sunday I visited a parish in another city and learned something new. The multiplication of loaves didn’t really happen. The greedy people following Jesus in the wilderness had loaves and fishes stuffed up under their robes. The disciples didn’t know about this surplus of hidden food, but this parish priest did!

Although the priest said he was taught in seminary that Jesus kept pulling bread and fish out of the basket, he learned the real truth from the natives in Mexico. They taught him that the Gospel writers misunderstood what really happened. What really happened is that Jesus preached to the crowd about caring and sharing and they responded by bringing out food from under their robes that they had been hiding from each other. Once everyone learned how to share, there was plenty for everyone with twelve basketfuls left over.

Sound familiar?

"Psst... Holy Father, real Catholics believe that was a real miracle, and always have."


The Credo of Uncertainty

Let's do a little compare and contrast, shall we? (HT and thanks for hints, tips and links to Elliot)

“In me there was no harbor for doubt. Jesus came, and my trust in God has grown by the doubts of men.”
St. Ignatius Loyola.

“[In the] quest to seek and find God in all things there is still an area of uncertainty. There must be. If a person says that he met God with total certainty and is not touched by a margin of uncertainty, then this is not good. For me, this is an important key. If one has the answers to all the questions — that is the proof that God is not with him. It means that he is a false prophet using religion for himself. The great leaders of the people of God, like Moses, have always left room for doubt. You must leave room for the Lord, not for our certainties; we must be humble. Uncertainty is in every true discernment that is open to finding confirmation in spiritual consolation"
Jorge Mario Bergoglio SJ, Bishop of Rome.

~ * ~

The Catechism of the Catholic Church places willful or "voluntary doubt" under the category of human actions that are opposed to the First Commandment and opposed to the virtue of Faith.

2087 Our moral life has its source in faith in God who reveals his love to us. St. Paul speaks of the "obedience of faith" as our first obligation. He shows that "ignorance of God" is the principle and explanation of all moral deviations. Our duty toward God is to believe in him and to bear witness to him.

2088 The first commandment requires us to nourish and protect our faith with prudence and vigilance, and to reject everything that is opposed to it. There are various ways of sinning against faith:

Voluntary doubt about the faith disregards or refuses to hold as true what God has revealed and the Church proposes for belief. Involuntary doubt refers to hesitation in believing, difficulty in overcoming objections connected with the faith, or also anxiety aroused by its obscurity.

If deliberately cultivated doubt can lead to spiritual blindness.


The Catechism of the Council of Trent, (called the Roman Catechism), Article 1:

I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth..."

– The meaning of the above words is this: I believe with certainty, and without a shadow of doubt profess my belief in God the Father… with the greatest ardour and piety I tend towards Him, as the supreme and most perfect good. …

The word believe does not here mean to think, to suppose, lo be of opinion; but… it expresses the deepest conviction, by which the mind gives a firm and unhesitating assent to God revealing His mysterious truths. …

The knowledge derived through faith must not be considered less certain because its objects are not seen; for the divine light by which we know them, although it does not render them evident, yet suffers us not to doubt them. …

[W]hen God commands us to believe He does not propose to us to search into His divine judgments, or inquire into their reason and cause, but demands an unchangeable faith, by which the mind rests content in the knowledge of eternal truth. And … since it would argue arrogance and presumption to disbelieve the word of a grave and sensible man affirming anything as true, … how rash and foolish are those, who, hearing the words of God Himself, demand reasons for His heavenly and saving doctrines? Faith, therefore, must exclude not only all doubt, but all desire for demonstration. …

We should be satisfied with the assurance and certitude which faith gives us that we have been taught these truths by God Himself, to doubt whose word is the extreme of folly and misery.

"Spiritual blindness"... Could it not be said that a succinct description of the entire Post Conciliar Church would be that its leadership, with rare exceptions, has willfully cultivated this voluntary doubt? And the new regime, Novusordoism (for short) is the religion of doubt?

If we are to take the warning in the last sentence from the CCC above literally, how can we come to any other conclusion than that a man has come to the throne of Peter, formed from the start of his priesthood in this new religion of doubt, who is now evangelising it from the bulliest pulpit in the world?

And I think it is significant beyond all measure that the catechism (and the Fathers and Doctors given as support of the assertion) have identified this cultivation of willful doubt as an offence against the first, the real "greatest commandment". Novusordoism is a religion in which the only certainty allowed about God and divine Will is doubt.

About the supremacy and rights of Man it allows not the slightest doubt... leaving the situation we have now; the Church as a social service agency at the disposal of and for the promotion of humanistic and naturalistic goals.

I do see why this kind of nonsense from the pope and others who preach it is appealing to modern people. They have all been thoroughly trained by the certainty that there can be no certainty that they don't even see the contradiction any more, and more importantly, don't see how such internally contradictory nonsense harms them.

The other day, in response to something I'd posted, I got the following comment from a man whom I know to be intelligent and sincere in his Catholicism, into which he has recently been received: "Some things cannot be made clear in the binary way you suggest, Hilary. The Truth is infinitely more than a set of black and white propositions on a piece of paper." ... and he thought that this was perfectly acceptable and sensible. He is a product of our times and as such has been cultivated in this nonsense all his life by schools, the media and other muddled people.

More importantly, he went through his entire RCIA programme with it all intact and unchallenged. It simply never occurs to anyone that an assertion like, "we can't know what's true" is not only complete bosh, but self-refuting, logically contradictory bosh. As well as bosh that will damage your ability to think clearly about anything and ultimately to hold to the Faith that will save your soul.

It is, in short, demonic, Satanic bosh.


Saturday, December 21, 2013

Feel my pain

Occasionally we have to deal with complaints that it's all "negativity" and bad news. "Can't you write about happy things? Pope Francis just wants everyone to cheer up."

Aristotle said that there isn't any drama without conflict. Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch said, "Murder your darlings". Frankly, bad news is the only good news. I really only like bad news. For the same reason I like spicy food and gummy sours and whiskey.

Every year, I'm asked to write something warm and cuddly for Christmas, and it's always a huge struggle. How do you make it not boring if it's all happy n' nice n' sweet n' stuff? Blech.

I'm off sweets and if you want to cheer up, go watch cat videos.


Friday, December 20, 2013

"A clever theologian, a good theologian."

With so many items to choose from on the ongoing freak-out smorgasbord that is our new pope, it can be hard to remember which appetisers were the first to catch one's attention.

I don't know if I'm the only cranky Catholic left in the world who remembers what kind of man Walter Kasper is. When I was going through the painful Traddification process he was my first Curial Hate. Him and Roger "the Church has two faces" Etchegaray. Shows I was destined to Trad. It never was about the smells and bells for me. It was always about the prerogatives of God and the Church's rights in the public sphere.

After what must have been a vexing exile, gnashing his gap-teeth and plotting his revenge on all things Ratzingerian - the Dol Guldur years, one might say - Kasper the Friendly Ecumenist is back, and in style these days. One of the "signal-men" on the loggia that unforgettable evening, Kasper has been maintaining a pretty high profile in the old town ever since. It seems he's back and revving up the Black Tower's engines...

Oh Lord, do not I hate them that hate thee? I count them mine enemies...


The letter gave official stature to the thesis upheld by Ratzinger in the dispute that opposed him to his fellow German theologian, later a cardinal, Walter Kasper.

Kasper was defending the simultaneous origin of the universal Church and the particular Churches, and saw at work in Ratzinger "an attempt at the theological restoration of Roman centralism." While Ratzinger criticized Kasper for reducing the Church to a sociological construction, endangering the unity of the Church and the ministry of the pope in particular.

The dispute between the two cardinal theologians continued until 2001, with a last exchange of jabs in the magazine of the New York Jesuits, "America."

But after he became pope, Ratzinger reiterated his thesis in the post-synodal apostolic exhortation "Ecclesia in Medio Oriente" of 2012:

"The universal Church is a reality which precedes the particular Churches, which are born in and through the universal Church. This truth is faithfully reflected in Catholic teaching, especially that of the Second Vatican Council. It leads to an understanding of the hierarchical dimension of ecclesial communion and allows the rich and legitimate diversity of the particular Churches constantly to develop within that unity in which particular gifts can become an authentic source of enrichment for the universality of the Church."

And Bergoglio? Once he was elected to the chair of Peter, he immediately gave the impression of wanting a more collegial governance of the Church.

And at his first Angelus in Saint Peter's Square, on March 17, he told the crowd that he had read with profit a book by Cardinal Kasper, "a clever theologian, a good theologian."

~ * ~

Now, here's some Led Zeppelin, apropos of nothing whatever...

Ah, the comparative innocence... Never thought we'd all long for the halcyon and care-free 1970s, didja?


They'd have a job of work ahead of them in Rome, I can tell you!

But wait a second...

Isn't it the feminists who are busy flying all over Europe and taking their boobs out and swinging them around for all the world to see?

To make some kind of... ummm... point, I guess... about, err... the patriarchy ...

or something...

It's so hard to keep score these days. My lefty decoder ring must be in the sofa cushions...

~ * ~

Oh wait, it's Sweden. 'Nuff said.


Thursday, December 19, 2013

Shush!! Stop for a second...!


Do you hear that?

That faint popping sound...

Ahhh, yes, I recognise it...

It's the sound of feminists' heads exploding in Spain.


Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Sweeter than honey

In an effort to encourage myself to read more books (and less Buzzfeed) here's some good bits from something I've been reading lately.

Do you ever read the Psalms? Ever come across those bits where the writer says things like "Your law, O Lord, is sweeter than honeycomb," and think it's a little weird? Well, I didn't. Those are among my favourite bits because I knew exactly what it meant instinctively. I've spent the last 15 years or so looking closely at what the world looks like when it abandons the Law of God, (that I like to call "The Real" at this 'blog) and it has been getting more and more obvious that the Pslamist wasn't just kissing up to God, he was just saying that the world without God's law is a cesspit of cruelty and horror.

The other day, I read C.S. Lewis more or less describing that same thing in Reflections on the Psalms.

"Sweeter than honey" Ps. 119:

One can well understand this being said of God's mercies, God's visitations, His attributes. But what the poet is actually talking about is God's law, His commands; His "rulings". What is being compared to gold and honey is those "statutes" which we are told "rejoice the heart"...

This was to me at first very mysterious. "Thou shalt not steal, thou shalt not commit adultery" I can understand that a man can , and must, respect these "statutes" and try to obey them, and assent to them in his heart. But it is very hard to find how they can be, so to speak, delicious, how they exhilarate"...

But the Divine Law is really an expression of the Divine Mind, and a world ordered according to it is a thing greatly to be desired:
What should a man do but try to reproduce it, so far as possible, in his daily life? His "delight" is in those statutes; to study them is like finding treasure, they affect him like music, are his "songs" they taste like honey, they are better than silver and gold. As one's eyes are more and more opened, one sees more and more in them, and it excites wonder. This is not priggery nor even scrupulosity; it is the language of a man ravished by moral beauty. If we cannot at all share in his experience, we shall be the losers....

For there were other roads which lacked "truth". The Jews had as their immediate neighbours close to them in race as well as in position, Pagans of the worst kind. Pagans whose religion was marked by none of that beauty or (sometimes) wisdom which we can find among the Greeks. That background made the "beauty" or "sweetness" of the Law more visible...When a Jew... looked upon those worships - when he thought of sacred prostitution, sacred sodomy, and the babies thrown into the fire for Moloch - his own Law, as he turned back to it, must have shone with an extraordinary radiance. Sweeter than honey; or if that metaphor does not suit us who have not such a sweet tooth, let us say like mountain water, or like fresh air after a dungeon, like sanity after a nightmare.

And here is something interesting, Lewis issuing a clear warning, that should be even more pertinent to us today:

In so far as this idea of the Law's beauty, sweetness or preciousness, arose from the contrast of the surrounding Paganisms, we may soon find occasion to recover it. Christians increasingly live on a spiritual island; new and rival ways of life surround it in all directions and their tides come further up the beach every time. None of these new ways is yet so filthy or cruel as some Semitic Paganism. But many of them ignore all individual rights and are already cruel enough. Some give morality a wholly new meaning which we cannot accept, some deny its possibility. Perhaps we shall all learn, sharply enough, to value the clean air and "sweet reasonableness" of the Christian ethics which in a more Christian age we might have taken for granted.
Reflections on the Psalms, 1961


Monday, December 16, 2013

Fun with St. Thomas

This from a Thomistic scholar acquaintance:
Anticipating her fiery demise at the stake, [N] has offered objections to the idea of roasting marshmallows at the immolation of heretics (and enemies of the state).


A "Question"

"Whether it is fitting to roast marshmallows at the pyre of a burning heretic."

Objection 1. It seems that it is not fitting to roast marshmallows at the pyre of a burning heretic. For the "stench" of heresy, being repugnant to the taste of faithful Christians, might ruin the delicate savour of the marshmallows. Therefore...

Objection 2. Further, the "savour" of heresy, adding a delicate nuance to the flavour of the s'mores, would seem to approach to cannibalism. But cannibalism is contrary not only to natural law, but also to Divine Law. Therefore...

Objection 3. Further, the Lord rejoiceth not in the death of a sinner. Neither, therefore, should Christians rejoice in the death of a sinner. But s'mores being a delight to the senses, are proper to rejoicing. Therefore...

Theology nerds...


Sunday, December 15, 2013

Rejoice in the Lord, Alway!

Today is Gaudete Sunday. 11 years ago today (liturgical time) I received the Sacrament of Confirmation at the private chapel of the Oratory in Toronto.

And today's Introit and Epistle are the text for one of my favourite pieces by one of my favourite composers, Henry Purcell.

Rejoice in the Lord Alway!


Saturday, December 14, 2013

Quick, "what is the greatest commandment"?

Jeff has spotted a good one.

"A very common error in contemporary Catholic preaching – and indeed in what passes for catechesis throughout much of the Church today – is the reduction of the Gospel to “love one another” as though this were the highest commandment of God, or even more strangely, the 'Good News' itself. It’s a perfectly understandable mistake in light of the stark anthropocentric direction of the Second Vatican Council. If you regularly attend the Novus Ordo Mass, chances are you have heard this error in one form or another hundreds of times."

“Evangelii Gaudium” (par 161):
“Along with the virtues, this means above all the new commandment, the first and the greatest of the commandments, and the one that best identifies us as Christ’s disciples: ‘This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.’ (John 15:12).”

Let's just take a quick peek at the ol' cheat sheet, shall we?

Google search: "what is the greatest commandment"


Matthew 22:36-40

Douay-Rheims 1899 American Edition (DRA)

36 Master, which is the greatest commandment in the law?

37 Jesus said to him: Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart, and with thy whole soul, and with thy whole mind.

38 This is the greatest and the first commandment.

39 And the second is like to this: Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.

40 On these two commandments dependeth the whole law and the prophets.

Now, Google: "John 15:12"

Douay-Rheims 1899 American Edition (DRA)

12 This is my commandment, that you love one another, as I have loved you.

These two passages are obviously related, but the expression "greatest commandment" is actually in scripture and was not applied to the verse Francis quoted above. And the verse it is applied to, again in scripture, was quite clear. The "greatest commandment" is about God, about loving Him, which we know means obeying Him ("If you love me, keep my commandments...").

Now, I'm no theology or exegesis expert, but as I understand it, the charism of the papacy does not include the power of correcting the Son of God or of re-writing Scripture.


But fools despise wisdom and instruction

Back when I taught catechism to 14 year-olds, we used to work very hard to counter the popular "liberal" (apostate) Catholic idea that "fear of the Lord" is somehow a mean, nasty bad idea that ought to be softened and smoothed and soothed away. Of course, it was impossible for them to get rid of it entirely since it is so bluntly and forthrightly described in Scripture. An interesting footnote has caught my attention at the website Biblegateway.com.

Proverbs 1:7 (NIV)

"The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge,
but fools despise wisdom and instruction."

The Hebrew words rendered "fool" in Proverbs, and often elsewhere in the Old Testament, denote a person who is morally deficient.

How often do we hear quoted the second half of that verse?

But it is not difficult to understand the concept as it is intended.

I explained it this way:

"Close your eyes and imagine the person you loved most in the world. The person who was always on your side and who you knew without a doubt loved you and would always be there for you. For me, this was my Grandma. I'll never forget what it was like when I was small to wake up scared at night and have her come into my room and sit with me until I went back to sleep. Or all the times she took me to the beach or taught me drawing or played games with me or listened to me...

"To this day, my idea of heaven is to spend eternity with her in her house, taking tea on the veranda, weeding the garden, painting in the kitchen, helping her put the dinner on, watching her work in the potting studio...

"Got it? The person you love the most is probably the person who loved you the most, right?

"OK, now imagine yelling at that person. Screaming at her how you hate her and don't ever want to see her again. Imagine swearing and cursing at her and doing everything you can to hurt her."

At this point, I could see the kids making a pained face. Ouch!

"It's awful, right? Even thinking of it is horrible and makes you cringe. Well, the Fear of the Lord is like that holy and correct fear of deliberately hurting and rejecting that person, and then separating yourself from her and never coming back into her presence or ever feeling her love again.

"Times a million."

Now, what's so hard to understand about that?

I will never forget the fury I felt when the bishop who came to the parish to confirm the kids in my class explicitly denied this simple doctrine, that I had been at some pains to instill and clarify, by calling the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, "wisdom, understanding, counsel, knowledge, fortitude, piety, and 'awe and wonder'". This replacement expression has, I am given to understand, become so popular with those who are more afraid of the opinion of the world than of the Wrath of God, that it is now the standard weasel-word. Such a common dodge has it become that it is even given in the Wikipedia page on the Seven Gifts: "Wisdom, understanding, counsel, knowledge, fortitude, piety, and fear of the Lord (wonder and awe)."

At the end of the Confirmation Mass, this prancing idiot bishop magnanimously stuck around for a few minutes in the parish hall to meet the kids and their families... and the teachers. I had sat through his performance - telling hockey jokes and walking up and down in front of the first pew with his microphone in his hand like a mitered game show host - growing increasingly furious. By the end of the Mass, I had not only removed my glasses so I didn't have to watch, I had pulled my mantilla so far down over my eyes that all I could see was the ends of my sharply tapping toes.

At the tea n' snacks afterwards I had intended to discuss some doctrinal matters with the bishop, but by some unfortunate coincidence suddenly found the smiling parish priest with a group of parents in tow standing right in front of me, blocking my path to his Excellency. Which group of worthies inexplicably detained me with polite chit-chat until the target of my wrath had left the hall for his next engagement.

Such bad luck!

Anyway, what prompted the sharing of this anecdote? Why nothing.

Nothing at all...


Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Pope of the Year

Already there has been a lot of backlash from traditionalist groups, conservative groups, people who feel he is moving too quickly away from the traditional style of Benedict on liturgy, on clerical appointments,” says Brian Daley, a professor of theology at the University of Notre Dame. “But that’s probably a relatively small group of people.”

Actually, I feel pretty un-stressed about this assessment.

"Lord, are they few that are saved? But he said to them: Strive to enter by the narrow gate; for many, I say to you, shall seek to enter, and shall not be able."
Luke 13:23-24

'The saved are few, but we must live with the few if we would be saved with the few. O God, too few indeed they are: yet amongst those few I wish to be!'
St. Alphonsus Maria de Liguori, Doctor of the Church

'The more the wicked abound, so much the more must we suffer with them in patience; for on the threshing floor few are the grains carried into the barns, but high are the piles of chaff burned with fire.'
Pope St. Gregory the Great, Doctor and Father of the Church

'If you would be quite sure of your salvation, strive to be among the fewest of the few. Do not follow the majority of mankind, but follow those who renounce the world and never relax their efforts day or night so that they may attain everlasting blessedness.'
St. Anselm, Doctor of the Church

'A multitude of souls fall into the depths of Hell, and it is of the faith that all who die in mortal sin are condemned for ever and ever. According to statistics, approximately 80,000 persons die every day. How many of these will die in mortal sin, and how many will be condemned! For, as their lives have been, so also will be their end.'
St. Anthony Mary Claret


Lessons learned

A while ago, I was asked to describe the problem with Modernism... I mean Novusordoism in the Catholic Church.

"Here's a lovely glass of orange juice for you. It's 99.999% delicious and healthy juice of fresh oranges.

"It's only got one teeny, weeny little teaspoon of arsenic in it.

"Just drink around the arsenic parts if you don't like them."

The battle between the Faith and Novusordoism is often small to the point of invisibility. But there are places and situations in the Church where it is being made nearly inescapable, and the religious orders are one of those places.

Some years ago, I compiled a great deal of information on what was being touted at the time as a "revival" in the religious life in the more "conservative" corners of the Church. In the course of this research, during which I accumulated about 90,000 words worth of notes, I came to an uncomfortable conclusion: that it is impossible to revive the religious life in the Church in its current condition. The Church as a whole had to choose between the World and the Faith.

All of the communities that I was using as examples were attempting the same thing: they wanted to strike a "balance" between what we have come to call the Traditionalist position and the new moral and doctrinal dispensation that has been adopted throughout the Church that I have since nicknamed "Novusordoism". They, to a man, have tried to create a detente between what are clearly two radically opposed proposals for the Church.

This Mexican standoff, which was always extremely difficult to maintain but which was made possible by supportive papacies, is now crumbling. In every case, the groups have been forced to choose a side and, unsurprisingly, nearly all are choosing Novusordoism.

Perhaps one of the reasons for this choice is the example being made of the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate who are being shown now what happens to a community that strays too far over to the "Traditionalist" side of the hair-thin line known as "conservatism". (It is to be remembered, of course, that this line is not only too thin to walk, it moves further and further to one side all the time.)

They were founded in a time when it was simply impossible to adopt the Traditional rites (and religion) of the Catholic Church. To exist as a new community in the early 80s, one had to at least pay minimal lip service to the new dispensation. Over the years, they tried to find a "middle path," allowing both within the community. When Benedict released the Old Mass, they thought their prayers were answered. Here was the pope endorsing their proposal of detente. It was an attempt to nail down "conservatism" in the Church as a "reasonable" option between the grey pony-tailed Marxist hippies and the Mad Trads.

But Benedict, as much as we loved him, was making the same mistake as the rest of the Church, (and I think in the end he understood this). The new papacy is teaching us the same old rule of Christianity: you have t pick a side eventually.

"Conservatism" is not a position in the Church. It is only a waiting room, (in the same way Newman called Anglicanism a way-station on the path to atheism) a place that until recently had been kitted out by the popes as a kind of Catholic VIP lounge where you could have a few drinks with your well-heeled Beltway friends while making up your mind about which side you might choose in the unlikely event that you had to.

The trouble that the secular world has and always had with Christianity is that it does not allow for a comfortable middle ground. And I have said it before: the last two papacies have done one bad thing to the Church: they have promoted the idea of compromise, of "mutual enrichment" between the good and the bad. They have created an illusion of a "safe," easy Catholicism where we can fit in, more or less, with the world and still be "good Catholics". And the outside world is really putting the pressure on these days. Pinch but one grain of incense to the state gods and you may believe privately whatever you like.

Gentles, "conservatism" is the incense. Do not pinch it, for the sake of your souls.

Given what is happening to the Franciscans of the Immaculate right now, I don't think we will have long to wait for a new Oath to be created that will be required of everyone who proposes to take a public position in the Church, an "Oath of Modernism". They tried to make the SSPX adhere to this new dispensation and (I'm increasingly grateful) they refused. It seems now that the FFIs are being shown the instruments of torture and offered the usual deal: conform and you will hold a high place, be honoured and lauded, coins put in your purse for all your good works.

But I think the Franciscans of the Immaculate are doing martyrs work, showing us the limits of this proposal. The time has come to choose a side.


Monday, December 09, 2013

The next asteroid

I think that with the publication of this new document, a lot of the things we've been worried about with this new papacy are made explicit. With the whole world hopping up and down over Francis's (frankly meaningless) economic witterings, and with most of the world's media having no knowledge of the real issues facing the Catholic Church, it seems to have been missed that the pope is talking about a "devolved" Church in which the papacy is no longer a doctrinal bastion against the insanity of the local bishops and national conferences.

But now that we have seen it, we know without a doubt that this pope's plans will destroy the governing structure of the Church as we have known it since the Council of Trent: give the national conferences the authority (that they have always lusted after) of deciding matters of faith and morals.

It is one of the earmarks of the Traditionalist position that we pay attention to the structures of Church governance and think them important. It worries us, for instance, that the pope is no longer crowned but instead only "inaugurated". We cringe when he behaves like a politician because we know what the papacy is and is not (is the sole defender of the Truth of the gospel; is not a political appointment). We have seen the slide over the last fifty years from a papacy that knew what it was: one man with supreme temporal, doctrinal and moral authority, granted by God and supported by the Petrine Charism, the Vicar of Christ, to a politicised office on the corporate model, a first-among-equals CEO of a multinational company.

One of the foremost criticisms of this papacy from the Traditionalist front, is one that has been largely misunderstood as a matter of a preference for a particular style, a hankering after lace and glitter. But in truth, what we dread is the downgrading of the papacy from its historic position in global affairs. And it is precisely this downgrading that this pope has indulged in from his first five minutes. When he refused to wear choir dress on the loggia, only reluctantly donning the Apostolic Stole for the few moments it took to bless the crowd, we have all been filled with a sense of dread and foreboding. We had a sense of what was coming because we were able to read the horrid signs of the egalitarian spirit in the first few gestures of this gesture-heavy papacy. (And it is not to be brushed aside that Benedict himself did a great deal to hasten this when he announced that the papacy was just another job that one could quit if it seemed too burdensome.)

It seems that a few others, now that Francis has made his plans for the democratizing of the Church more explicit, are starting to be more vocal.

On the role of the pope, Jorge Mario Bergoglio credits John Paul II with having paved the way to a new form of the exercise of primacy. But he laments that “we have made little progress in this regard” and promises that he intends to proceed with greater vigor toward a form of papacy “more faithful to the meaning which Jesus Christ wished to give it and to the present needs of evangelization.” (This statement by Pope Francis is a strong - one might even say searing - indictment of his hundreds of predecessors. He is claiming they did not act with the Will of Christ in creating the papal-centric mode of governing the Church, something many early Church Fathers I think would find rather surprising.)

But more than on the role of the pope – where Francis remains vague and has so far operated by making most decisions himself – it is on the powers of the episcopal conferences that “Evangelii Gaudium” heralds a major transition.

The pope writes in paragraph 32 of the document:

“The Second Vatican Council stated that, like the ancient patriarchal Churches, episcopal conferences are in a position ‘to contribute in many and fruitful ways to the concrete realization of the collegial spirit. Yet this desire has not been fully realized, since a juridical status of episcopal conferences which would see them as subjects of specific attributions, including genuine doctrinal authority, has not yet been sufficiently elaborated. Excessive centralization, rather than proving helpful, complicates the Church’s life and her missionary outreach.”

In the 1985 Ratzinger Report, the Cardinal warned that the national conferences - a whole-cloth invention of the Post-Vatican II Church - routinely abused their powers, and if given more authority were likely to turn the entire Catholic Church into a "federation of national Churches". With a few exceptions to the rule, all the bishops have effectively surrendered their authority to these national conferences and this has been mirrored in Rome by dicasteries who will frequently freeze out individual bishops and give preference to declarations of national conferences, even on doctrinal matters, over individual bishops (cf: the Winnipeg Statement about which nothing has been done by Rome since 1968).

Gian Maria Vian, the unfortunate editor of L'Osservatore Romano made this explicit a few years ago when the paper was in the midst of a frenzy of praise of US President Obama.

Now, Francis is determined to create a "devolved" papacy that bows to the national conferences to create "decentralised" governance and doctrinal authority.

Until now, the strength of the papacy was the last thing holding the Church together and our last bastion against the doctrinal degradation of the national conferences and wacky individual bishops. We could say, "We know the Church teaches this, and not this."

Much, much bigger trouble is coming if Francis destroys this last line of defence.


Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Brains are weird

Well, this is an interesting technology experience.

I have reconfigured my workstation to lift the screen up high and added a plug-in keyboard to use at waist height. This raises my Mac up to eye level when I'm sitting straight up in the chair, forcing me to sit up straight. No more hunching over and destroying my back and neck while I'm sitting. No more peering down and squinting at the screen while standing. It's working wonderfully, but the new keyboard experience is ... interesting.

Apparently, in case you ever wondered, you can use a foreign language PC keyboard exactly the same way as a British Mac keyboard, but everything is slightly out of whack and your brain will try to keep doing things without thinking about it, with interesting and somewhat confusing results.

I had not realised before, but you can buy an Italian keyboard and just change the settings on it to match your usual keyboarding. This will mean that all the stuff you're used to will be in the same place, and there won't be any hunting around and figuring out which things to press to make one of these @. But it means that you really have to be really good with the keyboarding and typing skills and be able to type without looking at the keys at all. As soon as you do look down, you'll be lost because nothing on an Italian keyboard is in the same place except the letters.

But in this case, it is not only being translated automatically from Italian to British, but from PC to Mac. When I went out to buy the stuff this evening, the little computer/electronics store in S. Mar was closed, so I had to go just get whatever was available at the Chinese store. And what they had was a standard PC keyboard. It does most of the things my Mac keyboard does, but you have to hunt around a lot and it is like feeling your way through a dark room where someone has gone through ahead of you and shifted all the furniture a little to the left.

It's kind of trippy.

My normal typing speed is about 60-80 wpm and I have got used to having a trackpad that doesn't work very well, so learned how to do a lot of the Mac trackpad things on the keys. In fact, I seem to have learned them so well that my fingers just keep trying to do them without my brain really noticing much. Then when it doesn't work, my brain gets all mad at my fingers for doing it wrong.

Brains are weird. So's technology. But I'm glad my back is now going to be getting better.


Monday, December 02, 2013

Quick, what's the capital of Latvia?

One of the effects of my job is to have enormously improved my geographical knowledge. In school I was hopeless at geography. Sister Norah, the principal of my school and our part-time geography and social studies teacher, despaired. I just didn't care.

I thought the entire world was made up, basically, of "the Island" and "the Mainland," and everything that was not on the Island was just not very important.

Except England, which is where we all came from, so it mattered.

And except the Chinese families who, obviously, came from China, but not for several generations. China existed in my interior geography, and I knew that it was more or less the opposite direction from England, and the families of a lot of the kids in my neighbourhood were from there, so it mattered too.

Oh, and there was America of course, but it wasn't very important, since none of them lived on the Island. (Obviously, if you lived on the Island, you'd be an Islander and not an American, even if you'd started out as one.) Mostly Americans were just the large and annoying people who came to Victoria every summer on the boat from Seattle and asked stupid questions like, "Is that where the queen lives?" Yeah. That's where the Queen of England lives. On the west coast of Canada.

I knew there was also a Rome - where the pope lived - because we were Catholic, and Africa, where they had lions, giraffes and stamps. And Pyramids, but I was a little hazy on how they worked in with the lions and giraffes and stamps.

Later I learned about the Second World War and that this had been started by Germany, and that it mostly involved Europe, and Germany was in the middle of that. I also instinctively figured out that England was not really "in Europe". Just sort of next to it. Watchfully.

In Victoria in the 70s there were, mostly, two kinds of people: English people and Chinese people. I knew theoretically about the existence of, oh, Greeks and Italians and Japanese and Scots and whatnot, but I don't think they made much inroads in my child-brain.

As soon as I started at St. Patrick's, I became much more conscious of French people, because they tried to make me learn their stupid, nonsensical language (tables have gender? Whut?). But I mostly dealt with that the most passive-aggressive way I could, by looking out the window and pretending not to hear anything the French teacher said. It didn't matter much, though, because we were on the West Coast and the nearest French-Canadians were nearly 3000 miles away, along with Pierre Trudeau whose idea it was to inflict it on us. As with most subjects in school I didn't like, I figured if I ignored it long enough it would go away by itself.

I knew about Japan, and even knew a little Japanese and could write a few words in it, but this was because my mother was studying it in university, in between her differential calculus and invertebrate zoology classes, which I think annoyed me even then.

But I still didn't know where France was, or care. It was the Mainland, and therefore irrelevant.

From this solid bedrock of geographical knowledge I understood that the world was a dangerous and hostile and uncivilised place and that sensible Islanders never went there.

For nearly 15 years now, I've been writing articles and briefs and all sorts of things about people around the world. The very first newsy writing I ever did for money was about East Timor. One of the best things about doing this for a living has been to make the rest of the world interesting and worth looking into. I have, believe it or not, actually found myself looking up the major imports and exports of small African countries. (South America remains a mist-shrouded enigma.)

Some time ago, in the course of conversation with my other worldly and cosmopolitan friends here, someone asked, "What's the capital of Latvia?" Without thinking I said, "Riga".

Bloody hell! When did I learn that? I had no idea.

It happened again today. I'm writing about Croatia and without having to look it up, I knew it was Zagreb.

If only Sister Norah had known.