Sunday, August 29, 2004

John Kerry's The New Soldier: is he suited to be Commander in Chief?

Click here to go to JohnKerrytheNewSoldier Blog I wasn't aware of the existence of Mr. Kerry's book until today, as I did my usual surf of Catholic Blogdom. I find it strange, but not surprising, that the Media has not picked up on this yet. You'll see to the left the original cover of Kerry's Magnus Opus, where his veteran buddies mock the raising of the flag in Iwo Jima by their fathers' generation. How juvenile.

Now, there are two ways to look at this issue, in the context of all the criticism Mr. Kerry has been receiving for his performance during the Vietnam War and its aftermath.

Some say that Mr. Kerry served dishonorably and that he exaggerated his combat record. I say that he served honorably, and maybe his record has been exaggerated, but hey, he served, he was there. War is hell and if a soldier/sailor/airman/marine places his/her life on the line even for 5 minutes, s/he is a hero in my book.

Since I see so many credible, honorable persons on both sides of the issue of Mr. Kerry's Vietnam service, I am forced to hold the provisional opinion that the whole, complete truth is lost to me for the moment. I consider these veterans credible because, as a veteran myself and still drilling reserve officer, I hesitate to call anyone who served our country an outright liar without extraordinary, substantial proof. I will not dishonor those who put their lifes on the line without cause, Mr. Kerry himself included.

Mr. Kerry's post-Vietnam behavior is less ambiguous. He's on the record saying all sorts of childish, immature rants:

And so a New Soldier has returned to America, to a nation torn apart by the killing we were asked to do. But, unlike veterans of other wars and some of this one, the New Soldier does not accept the old myths. We will not quickly join those who march on Veteran's Day waving small flags, calling to memory those thousands who died for the 'greater glory of the United States'...We will not readily join the American Legion and the Veterans of Foreign Wars......We will not uphold traditions which decorously memorialize that which was base and grim.
What a thoughtful, groovy thing to say.

But you know, we may also blame the times in which he lived for his fall, as well as the self-centeredness of the "Me Generation," the dawning of the Age of Aquarius, the Beatles, the Black Panthers, the Weather Underground, excessive marijuana use (did Mr. Kerry ever "inhale"?) and all the rest. But we may also blame Mr. Kerry for his inestimable contribution to the "wisdom" of that age, for having defamed his fellow servicemen with unsubstantiated hints and allegations, and dolorous but ultimately empty mea culpas. If there's an Aquiles Heel to Mr. Kerry's credibility, this is it.

The formative years of John Kerry's leadership are a valid target for inquiry, like his Sandinista sympathies in the 80's and his chiming-in with the "Dear Comandante" senators--the self-appointed experts on Latin American issues, who seriously believed that everyone dressed in fatigues and fighting as insurgents south of the border shared their boundless belief in the secular perfectibility of the human race and of society via progressive government intervention. Yeah, Nicaragua's Ortega believed the same thing, fervently, he and every other would-be leader of Latin America's proletariat. Oh, and please don't forget Mr. Kerry's decades-old Senate record.

One would hope that Mr. Kerry would have outgrown his youthful thermocephalic-induced hypoxia, but that's a false hope. The illness surfaced again on the abortion-and-communion issue, on his quotes of "Pope Pius XXIII" and on his undying support for abortion rights in spite of his own stated belief that life begins at conception. So much for the thoughtful, compassionate, coherent, and consistent politician.

Sure, some say that not embracing any position as a matter of absolute truth is the mark of a complex thinker, but in matters of life and death, be they in the field of battle or in a mother's womb, do we really want someone as Mr. Kerry making such decisions for us? "Complexity" cannot be used as an excuse for inaction and ambiguity. In the end, we may say of a person such as Mr. John Kerry that all along he had been a moral coward, the number of his accolades, honors, and wealth not withstanding.

For more information, visit

Saturday, August 28, 2004

Today is the Feast Day of St. Augustine of Hippo

Today is the Feast Day of St. Augustine of Hippo, Father and Doctor of the Church, founder of Catholic theology and piety. The introduction to his Confessions seem an appropriate conmemoration:

I. GREAT art Thou, O Lord, and greatly to be praised; great is Thy power, and of Thy wisdom there is no end. And man, being a part of Thy creation, desires to praise Thee, man, who bears about with him his mortality, the witness of his sin, even the witness that Thou "resistest the proud, " -- yet man, this part of Thy creation, desires to praise Thee. Thou movest us to delight in praising Thee; for Thou hast formed us for Thyself, and our hearts are restless till they find rest in Thee. Lord, teach me to know and understand which of these should be first, to call on Thee, or to praise Thee; and likewise to know Thee, or to call upon Thee. But who is there that calls upon Thee without knowing Thee? For he that knows Thee not may call upon Thee as other than Thou art. Or perhaps we call on Thee that we may know Thee. "But how shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? or how shall they believe without a preacher?" And those who seek the Lord shall praise Him. For those who seek shall find Him, and those who find Him shall praise Him. Let me seek Thee, Lord, in calling on Thee, and call on Thee in believing in Thee; for Thou hast been preached unto us. O Lord, my faith calls on Thee, --that faith which Thou hast imparted to me, which Thou hast breathed into me through the incarnation of Thy Son, through the ministry of Thy preacher.'"

St. Augustine would've been somewhat surprised to see today's triumph of inmorality and the enshrinement in public polity of behaviors and lifestyles inimic to any society, Christian or not. I say "somewhat" not because he would've been surprised at the ability of man to do evil - after all, he himself didn't live an exemplary life for over 30 years - but because he wouldn't have believe that Catholic Christianity, after having forged a brilliant civilization, would have failed to stem the tide of Paganism.

Vice-President Cheney, like most Americans today, does not concern himself with St. Augustine's timeless moral critique of societal mores and the causes for decay, and he did show his lack of concern, perhaps even his ignorance, when declared his support for the "right" of states to accord homosexual liasons the legal status of marriage.

"''With respect to the question of relationships, my general view is freedom means freedom for everyone . . . People ought to be free to enter into any kind of relationship they want to.

''The question that comes up with the issue of marriage is, what kind of official sanction or approval is going to be granted by government? Historically, that's been a relationship that has been handled by the states. The states have made that fundamental decision of what constitutes a marriage," he said.

If a man and a man can marry each other, if a woman and a woman can marry each other, then the begging question would be: should the state have an interest at all in regulating marriage? If freedom without constraints - which is what Mr. Cheney seems to advocate - should be the guiding principle, then why restrict marriage at all to two people? Should states ban bigamy, polygamy, polyandry? Should marriage licenses expire? Why bring the state in at all?

Mr. Cheney's remark can't be taken seriously, but that they have been said in the context of the campaign and under the banner of the Republican Party is troublesome: either the GOP means what Cheney says and the leadership is taking conservatives for a ride, or it doesn't mean what it says in which case they're pandering for votes which would be very dishonest, attempting to attract a constituency that then they will betray. Either way, Mr. Cheney's position is objectionable on moral, ethical, and philosophical.

But who said that politicians were deep thinkers?

Read a good analysis at Times Against Humanity,

St. Augustine, pray for us all and for our Nation, that our leaders may find the way of righteousness and then stick to it, just as you did so long ago.

Friday, August 27, 2004

God distributes his graces unevenly, according to his purposes

For sure, all of his children have been endowed with talents, and each son and daughter of God is responsible to cultivate those talents and gifts to help the Lord build the Kingdom. But our Lord is not an egalitarian gift-giver or task-master when distributing these talents, in spite of what political and theological liberals may think.

Apolonio Latar III Allow me to introduce to you a very talented young man, Mr. Apolonio Latar III, a high schooler, but GAAAW-LLEEEH! What a joy is to see the Lord at work in the mind, spirit, and life of such a gifted young person! Apolonio will succeed in anything he puts his mind into. I want to share with you in its totality his essay On the Liturgy and urge you to visit and bookmark his blog, Thoughts of Apolonio Latar III.

On the Liturgy (rough draft)
by Apolonio Latar III

Before I start, I would like to remind people that I am neither a liturgist nor a theologian. I am simply a Catholic who, with his limited knowledge, will give his opinion on matters concerning the Liturgy.

The Novus Ordo Mass has been attacked by both liberals and ultra-traditionalists. Liberals have abused it and ultra-traditionalists call it invalid. My position is that taking the Novus Ordo Mass in itself apart from all the abuses is a true restoration of the Western Mass rite, but it does not mean it is perfect. I also do not think that the Tridentine Rite Mass is perfect. Also, both the Novus Ordo and Tridentine prayers are not perfect. They are both pleasing to God, but not perfect. Fr. Thomas Dubay wrote:

“Everything we experience in our visible universe has limits. Even space, which is always expanding at enormous speeds, has limits, increasing though they continually are. Everything has goodness, power, and charm. But God is purest, fullest, endless goodness, power, charm, love, delight. And Beauty. How does one conceive unlimited beauty? How can we talk with our limited concepts and words about him who is utterly endless? How do we speak accurately about splendor supreme?” (The Evidential Power of Beauty: Science and Theology Meet, Ignatius Press 1999, pg. 294)

The mass on earth is a participation of the heavenly liturgy, but it is not the heavenly liturgy itself. It falls short of the supreme glory. In this way, it is not perfect. It has its limits unlike the liturgy in heaven. I say this because I have heard some ultra-traditionalist speak of the Old Mass as if it is perfect and does not need any fine tuning. The fact is that the Old Mass did have its problems and it was not perfect. Any honest person can easily admit this. If one looks at history, there was a Eucharistic/Liturgical movement going on before Vatican 2. Romano Guardini, for example, in his Spirit of the Liturgy, speaks of a Eucharistic movement going on in his time. It is known that Pius XII wanted to fix the Liturgy as well. By Vatican 2, it was evident that the Mass had to be renewed and changed in some way. Fr. Robert Taft says:

“…the perceived need for liturgical change and renewal, is obvious to anyone who was alive at that time. Present-day nostalgia for what is inaccurately referred to as the Tridentine rite is the luxury of those who, not having been around at that time, do not have their thought processes inconvenienced by such things as facts. The need for liturgical renewal was obvious to everyone at Vatican II except the foolish.” (Eastern Presuppositions and the Western Liturgical Renewal)

It should also be noted that the East had influenced the Council. Fr. Taft says:

“Anyone old enough to remember those heady days knows of the role played by the Melkite Catholic bishops at the Council. Courageous, intelligent, innovative leadership was of course not limited to the Melkite bishops. Two things were, however, peculiar to the Melkites at Vatican II: first, the disproportion between the conciliar leadership they exercised and their numbers--one patriarch and a mere sixteen bishops awash in a Latin sea; second, the truly remarkable imaginative and universal vision they showed. In addition to being among the first to state categorically that the Council should avoid definitions and condemnations, the list of important items of general import on the Vatican II and postconciliar agenda that the Melkite bishops were the first to propose is simply astonishing: liturgy in the vernacular; eucharistic concelebration and communion under both species in the Latin liturgy; the permanent diaconate; the establishment of what ultimately became the Synod of Bishops held periodically in Rome; the Secretariat (now Pontifical Council) for Christian Unity; new attitudes and a less offensive ecumenical vocabulary in dealing with non-Catholic Christians, especially the Orthodox churches; the recognition and acceptance of eastern Catholic communities for what they are, distinct churches," not just Indian reservations called "rites," an ecclesiology ultimately canonized by the Council documents concerning the eastern Catholic churches.’” (ibid.)

Many times, people complain on how much the Mass has been “protestantized”. I believe the Council and the Mass is more influenced by Patristic and Eastern theology. The manual theologians have neglected many things and limited theology to manuals. Theology became very abstract and it became impersonal. Some thomists admitted this. This is why Jacques Maritain insisted on knowledge through connaturality and intuition of being. He believed both made philosophy a non-pure abstract exercise. Fulton J. Sheen, in his book Philosophy of Religion, insisted that we start on Aquinas’ Prima Secundae, which deals with man. After the war, it became evident that there needed to be a new approach in theology, philosophy, and apologetics. Ronald Knox in Proving God: A New Apologetic says:

“I think that our Catholic apologetic, nearly all of it, strikes the modern reader as inhuman. Just because it is worked out with such mathematical precision, just because a suitable answer comes pat to every question, just because it always seem to face you with a dilemma from which there is no logical escape, it afflicts our contemporaries with a sense of malaise.”

Now, this does not mean that the approach before was not true. It was just that it was not persuasive or effective to the modern world. This is why Vatican 2 took more of a Pascal approach in its theology. Vatican 2 also looked towards the east. The east is known for being more anthropological than the west. Shawn McElhinney once noted that the west knows more about the world than the east and the east knows more about man than the west. The east also believed that we are in the presence of a mystery. They do not try to define things as much as the west does. They believe that there are mysteries and we should live out these mysteries rather than solve them. For a person who is used to the neo-scholasticism before Vatican 2, the teachings of Vatican 2 may be new to him. [1] However, a close reading of the documents of Vatican 2 and understanding of Thomas and Patrology and other great Catholic minds such as Bonaventure, St. Francis of Assisi, Pascal, Newman, etc will see that Vatican 2 isn’t at all new. It is only perceived to be new because manuals had plagued the schools. This does not mean that the manuals were bad. What was bad was that theology was limited to it. This is why some people today see the teachings of Vatican 2 as either heretical or ambiguous.

As far as the Novus Ordo is concerned, again, I do believe it is a true restoration of the Western Rite Mass. Apart from all the abuses we have seen, there are great things which came out of it. Fr. Thomas Kocik says:

“For starters, there is a greater measure of common participation in the Mass and other sacramental rites (although participation ought not be measured in decibels). The priest does not monopolize the rites as he has done for so long; rather, the people receive their proper place in the liturgical books, saying (or singing) the readings, responses, psalms, and prayers of various kinds that belong to them. The new liturgy makes more extensive use of Scripture than did the old. Concelebrations, which previously was seen only at ordinations (and in a very different form), manifests fraternity of the priesthood and is especially appropriate when the bishop is present. There is a simpler classification of feasts, with preeminence given to Sunday, the primordialis dies festus, the “foundation and kernel of the whole liturgical year”. The sacrificial and sacramental dimensions of the Eucharist are more closely held together in the reformed liturgy, at least in practice. Some use of the vernacular (in the Proper of the Mass) is desirable, I think, provided that the Latin text is faithfully translated and that at least the Ordinary of the Mass remains in Latin. Ironically, the revised rite allows greater use of chant and incense than did the old rite. Another improvement has been the allowance for certain adaptations according to circumstances.” (The Reform of the Reform? A Liturgical Debate: Reform of Return, Ignatius Press 2003, pg. 33-34)

On the Use of the Vernacular

As the Church grows, she also understands different cultures. She understands that there are things which many countries believe are important and would like to hold on to as much as possible. One of these things is language. You can see this by the immigrants in this country. Immigrants in this country do not want their children to neglect their native tongue. As the Church becomes more culturally diverse, she understands these things. When we hear the Gospel at Mass in our own language, we feel that we are at home. That is how it is supposed to be. We are supposed to be at home in God’s house. This is why I support the use of the vernacular at mass.

At the same time, this does not mean we take out the Latin. The Latin is still the language of the Church. I think we should use some Latin at every mass. This way, when I go from one mass to another, we can see that it is the same thing. Latin gives us the experience of universality. The Liturgy, which is the prayer of the Church, should have some universality. It would not hurt to have some Latin. I do think, however, that the whole Liturgy of the Word should be in vernacular. This way, they will understand the Word of God.

On the Reception of Christ

Should we stand or kneel? I think I would prefer kneeling over standing. When someone stands to receive Christ, he should at least show some reverence, preferably genuflecting. If I am not mistaken, the U.S. Bishops have mandated that it should be a bow. Since we are to obey our superiors, we should simply obey them knowing that the good will turn out to win in the end.

Should we receive Christ by hand or tongue? I believe that both are reverent. To say that receiving Christ is irreverent is to say that the early church received Christ irreverently. I do not think that this should be an issue at all.

On Active Participation

Active participation does not mean how much we can beat the drums or dance to the music. Active participation means acknowledging the presence of the Lord, to be fearful and silent for “Behold, the Lamb of God” is present. It means we are to give reverence; we kneel for every knee shall bend in the name of the Lord (Romans 14:11). It does not mean that we should run around the altar as if there is no distinction between the priest and the layman. It means we are to pray mass in our own roles.

Active participation includes silence. Silence means self-control. We are to control ourselves and know that God is present. Silence is His telephone. It is the means by which He speaks to us. Active participation also means we are to say the parts we are to say and bow at the appropriate moments like the parts of the Creed we are supposed to bow. It means that we adore God with our whole body and soul; it includes the entire person.

East or People?

I believe the priest should face east. Facing east gives the mass its parousial character. I am persuaded by the arguments for ad orientem.

On Theology of the Mass

Over the years, the SSPX have complained about the theology of the paschal mystery. This just shows their ignorance on theology. The theology of the paschal mystery is patristic. Jean Danielou in his book The Bible and the Liturgy explicitly argues this point. Many people these days talk about how the Mass isn't a meal. But it is. The Mass is a **sacrificial meal**. It is both a sacrifice and a meal. This is how the Church Fathers looked at it and that's how the Church has always looked at it. It was just that after the reformation, the Church needed to stress the sacrificial aspect of the Mass. But this led to people thinking that it wasn't a meal. For example, St. Ambrose says, "Having put out the stains of the old error, his 'youth renewed like the eagle's,' he hastens toward the heavenly banquet. He arrives and, seeing the altar prepared, he cries out: 'You have prepared a table before me'" (De Myst. 43). Cyril of Jerusalem "Blessed David makes us know the power of the sacrament (Eucharist) when he says: 'You have prepared a table before my eyes in the face of those who persecute me.' What does he mean by this, but the sacramental and spiritual table that God has prepared for us" (Mystagogic Catecesis, XXXIII).

We have Justin Martyr saying:

"Those who were saved in Egypt, were saved by the blood of the Pasch, with which they anointed doorposts and lintels. For the Pasch was Christ, Who was later immolated. And, as the blood of the Pasch saved those who were in Egypt, so the blood of Christ was to preserve from death those who have believed in Him. Does this mean that God would have made a mistake if this sign, semeion, was not found on the doors? No, but it announced in advanced the salvation that was to come by the blood of Christ, by Whom are saved (the sinners) of all the nations, when having received pardon for their sins, they sin no more." (Dial, CXI, 4)

St. Augustine says:

"The Passion of Christ was prefigured by the Jewish people when they received the command to mark the doors of their houses with blood. It is by the sign of His Passion and Cross that you must be marked today on the forehead, as on a door, and that all Christians are marked." (De catechizandis rudibus, P.L., XL, 335)

Whenever I hear objections of the Paschal Mystery, I hear something like, "Sin is not an offense against God, but injures man and therefore he needs to be restored." Of course, this is a caricature of the theology. What the theology says is this: Sin is not *only* an offense against God, but injures man as well and he needs to be restored. That is pure Biblical truth since when Adam sinned against God, he lost sanctifying grace or in the terms of the Church Fathers, "likeness of God". Sin both offends God and injures man. As far as the term "memorial", since we are talking about the Paschal Mystery, we are then to take this word in its Jewish context. In its Jewish context, it means a representation. In other words, it is a representation of the sacrifice.

Return or Reform?

Should we return to the Tridentine Mass or should we do what Ratzinger called for, which is a reform of the reform? I think that even traditional Catholics even hold to the reform of the reform. People such as Cardinal Ratzinger, Msgr. Klaus Gamber, Fr. Brian Harrison, Fr. Aidan Nichols, Fr. Joseph Fessio and J.P. Parsons all call for a reform of the reform. I think the traditionalists should give up on returning to the Tridentine Rite. I do not think it will be longer be the normative liturgy. What they can hope for is for more allowance of the mass.

My personal opinion is this. I believe that we should first clean up the mess we have. If we followed the rubrics, people may see that it is a true reverent mass after all. I am reminded of Fr. Peter Stravinskas’s words:

“Very few subscribers have ever suggested that they cannot pray the Mass since the prayers at the foot of the altar were eliminated or because new Offertory prayers have replaced the old ones. No, the difficulties for them revolve around priests and liturgists ‘making it up as they go alone’.” (The Reform of the Reform, pg. 107)

Maybe if we clean up our mess, we might like the mass we have now. Now, some theologians have suggested we looked to the east for help. Some theologians say we our Latin tradition is good enough. I say we turn to both. We can learn a lot of things from both of our traditions. At the same time, what will make the reform effective is not the prayers we add, but if we internalize the prayers in our hearts. We need to pray the prayers as if we were conversing with God. The reform of the reform depends on how people go to mass. Will they go to mass as if they are going to a party or a simple service to get their obligation over with or will they go to mass knowing that they are at the foot of the Cross, standing on Calvary? It’s time for those Catholics who persistently pray for a good mass to become good Catholics, good Catholics who have Christ in their heart and the Church in his mind. Maybe the reason why we are in a mess right now is because we have taken the mass for granted in the past. The Mass is a gift. Yes, it is a sacrifice and we are to adore God. But it is also for us, for the Sabbath is made for man. If we practice reverence in any mass, people will see it. People will see Christ in us. And an encounter with Christ means a conversion of a heart. And the more we convert hearts, the more we will pray “Our Father” as true sons and daughters of Christ.


[1] Most neo-scholastic manualists held to the tradition of the Thomism of John of St. Thomas, Banez, and Cajetan. They believed that what they said was a given fact. When Henri de Lubac challenged the interpretation of Cajetan, we see that thomists like Fr. Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange immediately attacked him and called his theology close to pantheism. The term used to label the theology of people like de Lubac and Congar was “New theology”.

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

This is My Body : Eucharist in the Early Fathers
by Phil Porvaznik

(See also my Reply to Evangelical Critics of the Eucharist and the Fathers)

Jesus told his apostles at the Last Supper, pointing to the elements of bread and wine: "This is My body....This is My blood" (Matt 26:26-28). What did our Lord mean by these mysterious words?

Most Fundamentalists and Evangelicals believe Jesus meant his words to be taken purely "symbolically" or "figuratively" -- the bread and wine are "symbols" that "remind" us of the sacrifice of Christ on the cross for our sins. After all, Jesus said, "Do this in remembrance of Me" (Luke 22:19), so the elements of the "Lord's Supper" are symbols and reminders, nothing more. This is normally called the "symbolic" or "memorialist" view by Protestants and there are several different conceptions and understandings of the Eucharist (from the Greek for "gave thanks" or thanksgiving Luke 22:17,19) in the many thousands of Protestant churches and sects.

According to this view, there is no "Real Presence" of Christ except by the "presence" of His Holy Spirit (John 14:16f; 16:7,13; Matt 28:20) in believers. To quote Reformed Baptist apologist and anti-Catholic critic James White, "No one denies that Christ is truly present in the Lord's Supper just as He is truly present with believers on a daily basis. He promised to be with His Church until the end of the age, and we believe that He is with us. We accept that Christ truly encounters us in the Lord's Supper, and that this is a special time of communion with the Lord." (The Roman Catholic Controversy, page 165)

This is probably the view of most Fundamentalists and Evangelicals today, what might be called a "real absence" of Christ, since the elements are mere "symbols," empty "reminders" of Christ with no spiritual efficacy. There are exceptions of course, such as Evangelical Lutherans, some Methodists, some Anglicans, and others who hold to a more "substantial" presence of Christ in the Eucharist, what they might call a "Real Presence."

The Catholic view affirms the "Real Presence" of Christ in the Eucharist in that Christ is "truly, really, and substantially" present and the elements are mysteriously changed, transformed, and become the body and blood, along with the soul and divinity of Christ, the whole Christ. Also, we believe the Eucharist is a true sacrifice, in that the one and only propitiatory sacrifice of Christ is "re-presented" or "made present" for our benefit and application today. I shall call this the "literal" or "realist" view. Why do Catholics (and Orthodox) believe this?

First, we believe it is a solidly biblical teaching. Second, we know it is the clear and unanimous teaching of the Church Fathers, those early Saints, Bishops, and immediate successors of the Apostles, the Christian believers for the first several centuries of Christianity. The evidence for the Catholic belief in the Eucharist is simply overwhelming. It was not until the 11th century (with Berengarius of Tours) that this belief was challenged in the Catholic Church. Many Fundamentalists and Evangelicals who hold the purely "symbolic" view are not aware of this overwhelming testimony for the literal and realist view.

John 6 and the Real Presence

The purpose of this article is to reveal this biblical and historical testimony. The first part will be an overview of the biblical evidence for the Catholic belief. The most important and well known passage that Catholics have is the statements of Jesus in John chapter 6, especially verses 51 and following. The commentary here is taken from several Catholic apologetics sources: This Rock magazine, Catholicism and Fundamentalism by Karl Keating, and Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma by Ludwig Ott.

"I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if any one eats of this bread, he will live for ever; and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh." The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, "How can this man give us his flesh to eat?" So Jesus said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you; he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats me will live because of me. This is the bread which came down from heaven, not such as the fathers ate and died; he who eats this bread will live for ever." (John 6:51-58, RSV)

There are several reasons why the Catholic Church takes the words of Jesus here literally and as referring to the Eucharist.

(1) the words used
(2) the context
(3) the difficulties created by a "figurative" interpretation
(4) the consistent teaching of the Church Fathers

The Words of John 6:51ff

First, from the actual words used. He uses the realistic expressions that His flesh is TRUE, REAL FOOD and His blood is TRUE, REAL DRINK (v. 55 alethes = ACTUAL, REAL, "INDEED" not "symbolic" food or drink). Also, the Greek word for EAT (v. 54, 56-58) is trogo = "to GNAW, to CHEW" which is not the language of a metaphor.

Please continue reading at Eucharist in the Fathers .

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

But then again, there is precedent for strong Christian polemics...

St. Polycarp tells us that the apostle John once went to the public bath in Ephesus and found inside a Gnostic teacher named Cerinthus. John ran out crying, "Let us fly, lest even the bath-house fall down, because Cerinthus, the enemy of the truth, is within."

Polycarp himself once met the heretic Marcion walking down the street. Marcion hated the creator-God of the Hebrews, and to get rid of Him had tossed out the Old Testament and much of the New and rewrote the bits he kept. Marcion asked Polycarp, "Do you know me?" and Polycarp answered, "I do know you. You are the firstborn of Satan."
See Uncharitable? Divisive? Strident? Recovering the Art of Christian Polemics By David Mills, for a refreshing essay on Christian Polemics.

Brief Essay on the Notes of the Catholic Church and its Implications to Traditionalists and to Myself

Señor Teófilo Issues a Rejoinder

Synaxis of the Holy Fathers of the Council of Nicea
I believe in...One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church. These words found in the Nicene Creed and which we recite every Sunday at Church are more than a simple declaration of fealty to the Church. They are the recognition that the Church is more than a human institution, more than a "perfect society" endowed with the appropriate powers to govern herself towards her appointed end. It is a recognition that above all, the Church is an object of faith. By saying credo, that is, I believe, we recognize the transcendent nature of the Church that cannot be reduced to its visible institution, ritual, and doctrine. These are but means to the end: the sanctification of one's soul and the transformation of the world in Christ in Word, Sacrament, and Deed leading to salvation. When we say credo...Et unam, sanctam, catholicam et apostolicam Ecclesiam, we are acknowledging the supernatural character of the Church and the will of He Who guides the Church to the perfection of Truth.

When we recite these words from the Creed, we are also acknowledging that the Church, because of her Origin and End in Christ, is ultimately indefectible. Because the Lord's salvific purpose cannot be denied, the powers of hell will not prevail against the Church. (cf. St. Matthew 15:16-17)

These individual "notes of the true Church" cannot exist isolated from the other. If the Church is not "one" neither can it be Holy, nor Catholic, nor Apostolic. Or if the Church fails to be Holy, neither can it be One, nor Catholic, nor Apostolic, and so forth through all the permutations. Either the Church is all of these, or is none of these. If we deny one single note of the Church we deceive ourselves and waste our time living in a lie, wasting our lives in an empty shell. Might as well become Episcopalians!

The central issue is orthodoxy, a word which in its original Greek means two things: True Teaching and True Worship (or "True Glory"). In the thought of the Church Fathers, True Worship is intertwined with True Teaching as intimately as the notes of the Church are intertwined with each other, so that if a church claims to offer True Worship but fails to convey the True Teaching, that church is no longer the Catholic Church, or conversely, if a church claims to teach truthfully but worships wrongly, that church is no longer the Catholic Church either. That is the the crux of the matter for traditionalists, that the Church is no longer worshipping correctly and that as such is not upholding the True Teaching. As a consequence, the contemporary Catholic Church is no longer "catholic" in that fundamental sense, since it has strayed and it needs "re-reforming" to conform itself to its former orthodox self.

The traditionalist argument is attractive on the surface because of its appeal to antiquity and to the apparent contradiction the traditionalists see between the Church as reinterpreted by the Second Vatican Council and previous dogmatic and pastoral pronouncements of the Ordinary and the Extraordinary Magisterium. The traditionalist argument becomes more convincing when those who embrace it point to the many real abuses that have taken place in the Post-Vatican II liturgical and organizational discipline, as an example of the Church's "fall." The traditionalist solution is not to seek the correction of these abuses, but to abolish the entire framework of Vatican II-inspired reform in favor of the immutable verities of the recent Tridentine past.

These Catholic traditionalists cast doubt, probably unknowingly, on the notes of the Church. I don't have to go far into my Brother Dr. Polycarp's argument to find this creeping doubt:

...The Novus Ordo could thus be viewed even as a chastisement following the sins of the preceding generations, not a signal event that precipitated the current crisis. Though its sacraments are valid, and it is often said in a licit manner following the rubrics, it consists of imprudent vernacular translations of a Latin Rite that itself fails to properly catechize and is easily abused and perverted. In its English translation especially it utterly fails in expressing the eternal truths surrounding the Sacrifice of the Mass and the role of the priesthood...

Brother Polycarp's extremely nuanced "defense" of the Novus Ordo is anything but a defense of the presently authoritative Roman Rite; characterizing the Novus Ordo as "a chastisement" undermines the unity of his essay's thrust, which I understand it to be that the Church has been facing a centrifugal force long time in the making, long before Vatican II, and there's no denying that this true as far as it goes. Brother Polycarp's implicit, but perhaps unwilled assertion is that the Church is no longer rendering ortho doxa, in others words, the Church is no longer rendering True Worship and therefore, in a fundamental sense it has ceased to be, or is in the danger of ceasing to be, the Catholic Church.

This creeping doubt is also evident in Fr. Joseph Wilson's quote of Monsignor Kelly:

The Council was a poorly-thought through disaster. Msgr George Kelly pointed out, in his "Battle for the American Church," that between the day in 1959 when he announced the convening of the Council and the opening day in 1962, John XXIII articulated in various speeches at least twenty-eight major objectives of the Council. No major undertaking, Kelly points out, will succeed without clear, direct, limited, reachable goals. The Council was the perfect vehicle for those who were determined to hijack the Church's life.

The creeping doubt is also present in Dr. Blosser's original questions that triggered my first essay, when in his e-mail to me he questioned the ability of the Novus Ordo to sanctify the Post-Conciliar Catholic faithful.

Apparently, for Father Wilson et al. the Church's charism of indefectibility came to a halt somewhere between the pontificates of Leo XIII and the election of Blessed Pope John XXIII. Sometime, somehow, the Spirit left the Church and allowed her to fall fully into a Babylonian Captivity of error and sin---the traditionalists seem to believe.

In Catholic theology and philosophy, words mean things. We cannot assail the Church and the authentic magisterium of the Second Vatican Council and at the same time affirm that the Church is "One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic." We cannot assail the basic integrity of the Novus Ordo as an authentic vehicle of True Worship and sacramental grace and simultaneously affirm the indefectibility of the Church. Either the Church is the Mystical Body of Christ since its inception, throughout history, and until its Blessed End or it isn't; either the Bishops in communion with the Successor of Peter are the witnesses of Tradition everywhere and at all times, particularly when they meet in Council, or they are not; either the Church renders True Worship at all times and at all places or it doesn't. If we answer in the negative to any or all these propositions, we fall into heresy, we deceive ourselves, and we remain in our sins. Denying the indefectibility of the Church and the authenticity of her worships leads one to deny necessarily that the Church is One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic. It's all or nothing. There is no middle ground, no space for "nuance."

I did not see anything in my brother Polycarp's essay that dissuades me from my previous assertion that I find many of the arguments favoring the reinstatement of the Old Order specious, historically naive, dogmatically unsound, and aesthetically grating. If anything, his essay reinforced my views.

The Creed I recite in Church every Sunday prevents me from falling into the cognitive dissonance many traditionalists propose as the only proper yet transitional way of contemporary Catholic assent. The Creed provides me with the ultimate reality check.

I still suffer from many faults, many sins, many weaknesses, hidden and manifest (though still unrecognized) hypocrisies that have yet to be touched by Christ's healing and forgiving grace, so I make no claim of special revelation or of any particular sanctity. My best defense is that having fallen myself into the traditionalist temptation (in its Eastern Orthodox variety) not long ago and having been rescued from it in spite of all the obstacles I placed in the way of grace, I am fully determined not to succumb to that temptation again and beseech all others, through my weak example, not to fall into it themselves.

I will continue, in spite of all my faults, to give testimony to the Truth as the Lord gives me the light to see that Truth. If that solemn duty leads me on occasion to take to task the ideological extremes of the Church, so be it. I am a faithful yet weak pilgrim walking in faith on the via media, on the Orthodox Royal Path. Here I take my stand, I can't take no other. If in the process of giving testimony to the Truth I give offense, I blame my spiritual and intellectual pride, as well as all my inadequate powers, while asking forgiveness from the Lord, from Brother Polycarp, Dr. Blosser, Father Wilson and from all my brethren in Christ's One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church.

Monday, August 23, 2004

"It all goes back to Vatican II and the New Mass"
Dr.Polycarp Begs to Differ from Teófilo

"They still do not understand the root of the problem. They are tilting at windmills, aiming their lances at the symptom, not the cause. It all goes back to Vatican II (VII) and the New Mass."

How often have we heard these words! It has become axiomatic among many "traditional" Catholics to draw the above conclusion, as they glance over a landscape littered with what once was the beauty and majesty of Roman Catholicism, seemingly reduced overnight to an unrecognizable and foreign landscape.

But is this axiom factual, based in reality, the product of a thorough analysis of our present crisis? A valid argument can equally be made that it started decades before VII and the New Mass.

The Real Thing?Every single bishop and cardinal at VII was ordained and elevated in the first half of the century, under the Tridentine Rite, by pre VII bishops, cardinals and Popes. Most of the worst child molesting priests were ordained prior to 1960. Catholics were using the pill when it was introduced in 1958 (my own parents were contracepting in 1962.) John F. Kennedy stated in his presidential campaign that his faith would not affect his politics, and he would ignore Rome, with the approval of Cardinal Cushing.

The decline of the Church was already well under way in the 1950s and 1960s, but because the facade still appeared serene, people think the trouble began with VII.

The facade indeed still stood erect, but the termites had already weakened the foundations. That is why the faith faltered so quickly following VII and the promulgation of the Novus Ordo: the foundation had been undermined well before 1960. How else to explain the disintegration of catechesis and liturgical life of the church, within the span of a single decade?

This agenda didn't just appear out of thin air in 1960. It was NOT nascent. It was present long before VII, a reality obvious to any objective observer.

Pope St. Leo XIII saw its footprint in the Church already in 1884, long before VII, and eloquently described the growing menace in Humanum Genus. See how his warnings correlate with the reality of our present malaise:

“They speak of their zeal for a more cultured refinement, and of their love for the poor; and they declare their one wish to be the amelioration of the condition of the masses, and to share with the largest possible number all the benefits of civil life.

“…that which is their ultimate purpose forces itself into view -- namely, the utter overthrow of that whole religious and political order of the world which the Christian teaching has produced, and the substitution of a new state of things in accordance with their ideas, of which the foundations and laws shall be drawn from mere naturalism…

“…That God is the Creator of the world and its provident Ruler; that the eternal law commands the natural order to be maintained …

“If these be taken away, as the naturalists and Freemasons desire, there will immediately be no knowledge as to what constitutes justice and injustice, or upon what principle morality is founded. And, in truth, the teaching of morality which alone finds favor with the sect of Freemasons, and in which they contend that youth should be instructed, is that which they call "civil," and "independent," and "free," namely, that which does not contain any religious belief. …

“Moreover, human nature was stained by original sin, and is therefore more disposed to vice than to virtue. For a virtuous life it is absolutely necessary to restrain the disorderly movements of the soul, and to make the passions obedient to reason … On the contrary, exaggerating rather the power and the excellence of nature, and placing therein alone the principle and rule of justice, they cannot even imagine that there is any need at all of a constant struggle and a perfect steadfastness to overcome the violence and rule of our passions…

“… For, since generally no one is accustomed to obey crafty and clever men so submissively as those whose soul is weakened and broken down by the domination of the passions, there have been in the sect of the Freemasons some who have plainly determined and proposed that, artfully and of set purpose, the multitude should be satiated with a boundless license of vice, as, when this had been done, it would easily come under their power and authority for any acts of daring.”

Obviously, Pope Leo XII saw the dangers of Naturalism, and may have foreseen its growing danger to and within the Church. The St. Michael prayer may be intimately bound with his perception that these traits of Naturalism were already and would continue to corrupt the Church from both outside and within.

Furthermore, Pope Pius X clearly identified the growing crisis as early as 1907. His Motu Proprio Sacrorum Antistitum, one of the main anti-Modernist pronouncements issued by the Holy See during the reign of Pius X, paints a picture of serious betrayal already deeply rooted and rapidly spreading:

“We believe that no bishop is ignorant of the fact that the wily Modernists have not abandoned their plans for disturbing the peace of the Church since they were unmasked by the encyclical Pascendi dominici gregis. For they have not ceased to seek out new recruits and to gather them into a secret alliance. Nor have they ceased, along with their new associates, to inject the poison of their own teachings into the veins of the Christian body-politic by turning out anonymous or pseudonymous books and articles. If, after a re-reading of the above-mentioned encyclical Pascendi, this audacity, which has caused Us so much grief, be considered very carefully, it will become quite apparent that these men are just as the encyclical describes them: enemies who are all the more to be feared by reason of their very nearness to us. They are men who pervert their ministry in such a way as to bait their hooks with poisoned meat in order to catch the unwary. They carry with them a form of doctrine in which the summary of all errors is contained.”

Blessed Pope John XXIII calling the CouncilVII and the New Mass were simply the foregone conclusion to -and capstone upon- the loss of faith and morals that began long before Pope John XXIII called the Council. They were clearly identified by Pope Leo XII and Pope Pius X. They were punctuated most dramatically with the protestant apostacy on birth control in 1930 at the Lambeth Conference, and by the early 1950s, the Catholic embrace of the protestant contraceptive lifestyle. The almost universal dissent on Humanae Vitae gave concrete form and face to this general malaise and loss of faith and moral decline.

The ease with which practical Catholic orthopraxis fell in the face of the contraceptive mentality is the quintessential illustration of the extent to which the foundations had already been weakened prior to VII.

Those who surmise that the decline began with VII and the Novus Ordo fail to grasp history. With VII and the New Mass it might be said we “got what we deserved” due to the sins and loss of faith, naturalism, modernism, and Americanism, of the preceding decades.

The Novus Ordo could thus be viewed even as a chastisement following the sins of the preceding generations, not a signal event that precipitated the current crisis. Though its sacraments are valid, and it is often said in a licit manner following the rubrics, it consists of imprudent vernacular translations of a Latin Rite that itself fails to properly catechize and is easily abused and perverted. In its English translation especially it utterly fails in expressing the eternal truths surrounding the Sacrifice of the Mass and the role of the priesthood.

Until we regain what we lost long before VII and the New Mass, we will NOT be blessed with a return to traditional liturgy, orthodoxy and orthopraxis. This is the number one reason that many “conservative” Catholics like myself refuse to align themselves with a traditionalist movement that simply cannot see these real origins.

“It all goes back to VII and the New Mass" is too simplistic and myopic. Those who maintain this “axiom” seem too obsessed with the Liturgical wars to be effective in the real culture wars and the war for the soul of the Church in general, a war that began and was lost long before they believe the problems originated. (Of course, it literally began with Adam and Eve.)

The homeschooling movement, the re emergence of traditional and orthodox candidates for seminary, the graying and infecund nature of the liberal movement itself, and the patient suffering of those orthodox Catholics who attend the Indult, attend the SSPX chapels out of necessity (but without imbibing the schismatic spirit of the SSPX) -or suffer patiently through the hiddenness of Christ's Real Presence in the valid but sorely lacking and often illicit Novus Ordo masses- these will be the catalyst for the reformation so desperately needed.

Failing that, we might even see the Second Coming. It is hard to see many other options, but with God all things are possible, and we must always hope.

I've shared the above thoughts elsewhere in the past, but felt they would be a good piece to accompany the comments of Teófilo below here on

Finally, here's a good analysis and further input from a great orthodox Catholic diocesan priest from Queens, New York, FR. JOSEPH WILSON, whose opinion I highly respect:

"To a certain extent, I agree with your analysis. I do think, though, that you overstate the extent of the preconciliar rot.

"That the current crisis was foreseen by Leo XIII and Pius X (and probably foretold by Our Lady of Fatima) I thoroughly agree. That there were many scholars working quiety to undermine the consensus of faith during the decades 1900-1960, I entirely agree.

"But there was widespread fidelity as well, and good clerical discipline, and good discipline in Religious Life. I suspect that a solid grounding in interior life was neglected in many communities, but even those were light years ahead of where they were today.

"I believe that a key reason for the collapse of the old Church was that its single greatest strength was its Achilles' heel -- the sense of discipleship or, if you will, obedience and discipline. Catholics were strongly formed to instinctively trust the teaching they received from the Church (and distrust other sources of information), and to obey. One is called to live the Gospel, to incarnate the Catholic Tradition. But it is not necessary for everyone to be a theologian to do so. One must simply live the life of the Church as deeply as possible.

Dr. Polycarp: "The trouble began before Vatican II"

"The Council was a poorly-thought through disaster. Msgr George Kelly pointed out, in his "Battle for the American Church," that between the day in 1959 when he announced the convening of the Coouncil and the opening day in 1962, John XXIII articulated in various speeches at least twenty-eight major objectives of the Council. No major undertaking, Kelly points out, will succeed without clear, direct, limited, reachable goals. The Council was the perfect vehicle for those who were determined to hijack the Church's life.

"But it was the discipline of the Church, her great strength, which became her Achilles heel.

"So, for example, the Council directed that within three years of its close every Religious Order in the world should have a "chapter of renewal." They prepared for this by workshops and assemblies introducing new ideas to the nuns, and there were people -- Religious and psychologists -- roaming the country doing this. So you have a community of eight hundred nuns, all having received the same training, all having made the same vows, with the same vow formula, and understanding the vows in the same way. Suddenly, they are being bombarded with ideas about 'self-actualization,' finding your meaning from within, &c.

"Well, imagine if, in your marriage, you and your wife developed diverging views of the marriage vows. The Religious were in the same situation: suddenly each sister was encouraged to find her own fulfillment in the self-actualizing of her own vision and hopes.... within two years there were 400 nuns left, and almost nothing left of conventual life.

"This pattern reproduced itself in every area of the Church, but notice: it was successful because of the obedience tradition. It was all presented as a "return to the authentic tradition," as the way the "Early Christians" did things. Once the pastors of the Church opened the Church to the influence of a fuzzy para-magisterium, priests, Religious and laity fell into confusion because they had no experience of saying to the Bishop or to the Mother General's office, "Oh, [baloney]!"

"Over the years I have heard many people say, "Well, it couldn't have been as strong as it all looked back then." I think that view needs nuancing. There was a menacing undercurrent of modernist scholarship awaiting its day. There was, from about 1955 on, the quiet but steady introduction of persons of deviate sexuality into the hierarchy. But the old Church was far, far stronger than people often say: ironically, its very strength proved its Achilles' heel." - Fr Wilson

Sunday, August 22, 2004

Brief Critique of Traditionalist Objections to the so-called Novus Ordo of the Roman Mass.

In the course of my "web surfing" across Catholic Blogdom, I sometimes find very good, thought-provoking articles on diverse issues. On a recent visit to Dr. Philip Blosser's blog, Musings of a Pertinacious Papist, I engaged Dr. Blosser in an impromptu and friendly dialogue about the relative merits and demerits of the Tridentine and the Novus Ordo Roman Rite. This is what has transpired so far. What is in blue is Dr. Blosser's remarks. There rest are my comments.

"My demurral would be that the Novus Ordo, despite the fact that it has become the defacto 'rite' of the Latin church, is not the traditional Roman Rite. The only thing Roman about the Novus Ordo is the Roman Canon, which is hardly ever used, though it goes back to the fourth century-- well before Pope St. Gregory the Great's 'reform' of the mass, not to mention the tridentine 'reform' of Pope St. Pius V, or the Gregorian reform of Pope St. Pius X."

What makes the Roman Rite "Roman" is the fact that the Church of Rome uses it. The usage of the Roman Church is the Roman, Latin Rite, by definition. What they used before was also the Roman Rite. And so forth. As far as Western Catholics of the Latin Rite are concerned, we look for the "Roman way" just as Eastern Christians look to Byzantium, Chaldeans look to Babylonian, Copts look to Alexandria, as the sees where their rites took shape and direction. The adjective "Roman" in "Roman Rite" is above all, geographical in nature.

The _Novus Ordo_ is not merely the "de facto 'rite'" of the Latin Church, as you say. It is the Latin Church's "de iure" rite. To diminish this fact is to kick against the goads. The documentation making it so is copious, to say the least.

"Also, while it may be true that the traditional Roman Mass doesn't make anyone personally holier, it may also be asked what the corporate effect of the Novus Ordo has been on the Western church. Are those generations who have been nurtured (I use the term loosely) within the ethos of the Novus Ordo holier? Do they know their faith better? Are they more reverent? Have they remained faithful and not lapsed in their faith and church attendance?"

Those are interesting rhetorical questions, Philip, your implied answer to all of them beign "no," and ergo, that would mean that the "traditional Latin Mass" was better on al these respect than the 30 year-old Novus Ordo. One may also cite the worst abuses of the Novus Ordo to make an argument for its dissolution and for the return to the Novus Ordo. All these arguments cut both ways, I am afraid.

When you ask "are those generations who have been nurtured (I use the term loosely) within the ethos of the Novus Ordo holier" my answer will be that I have seen "holy" people, daily Mass-goers, people engaging in works of mercy, who are nurtured by the Church's Eucharist and other Sacraments as they are now. It could not be any other way, for the Church, as we say in the Creed, is "Holy." It has been Holy, it remains Holy, it will be Holy until He comes.

One flaw in your argument, it seems to me, lies in the argument's inability to transcend our historical situation. You speak of "those generations," (actually, 2 generations) as if the previous generations were more fertile ground for holiness, all due to the previous Mass order and sacramental discipline. I don't think you idealize these generations in toto, but perhaps you may be thinking numerically. In my view, holiness cannot be quantified numerically, weighed in a balance, and then adjudicated, or at least, we humans lack all power and ability to do so. Only God is judge. In my view, I don't think that the general state of humanity or of Catholics in particular were any better or worse than that what it is today.

Pope John Paul at Elevation in the Liturgy - Is he wasting his time performing an empty ritual?There's another angle on the matter of holiness implied in your question that bothers me, and it is the fact that you're taking upon yourself the power to judge individual consciences. You seem to be saying that, because of the abuses of the Novus Ordo there's less holiness in the Church, that somehow these abuses have endangered this important mark of the Church, rendering the Church powerless before the world.

Neither you nor I have a window into individual consciences, neither you nor can judge the operations of grace upon a soul, their progress, nor their culmination. But as Catholics, must believe that the Lord is doing just that, because of Who He is, because of His promises to the effect. Doubt in this respect will lead one inexorably outside of the Church.

Now, I spoke of the double-edged sword nature of the argument from "holiness, knowledge, reverence, faithfulness" of today's Catholics vs. the one's nurtured in the previous order. I also asserted that this assumption lacks historical context and that it could only be advance by a selective use of evidence, that is, by concentrating solely on the abuses. This selective use of anecdotal evidence leads to red herrings: but the premises and the conclusion of this argument are falacial, therefore wrong. They sound good, because it appeals _ad populorum_ to what "everyone knows its true."

Allow me to engage in some faulty, tongue-in-cheek reasoning of my own to illustrate my point:

    • Hitler was raised by Jesuits in a Catholic home, no doubt nurtured since he was little in the Tridentine discipline. Him, and most of Austria and Germany. A whole world of good that made. Same about Mussollini, Bismarck, Napoleon, and probably the whole generation that fueled the Reign of Terror in Revolutionary France. I will say that evil people in the 4 generations prior to the adoption of the Novus Ordo killed more human beings than all the previous wars combined. To put a numerical value on it, I think that egregious sinners, even ethnic cleansers and genocidal maniacs raised in the Tridentine Mass outnumbered the saintly ones 10-to-1. Was the Church less holy then? Didn't the saints who either died or arose from that crucible make a difference?

      Rafael Trujillo, Dictator of Dominican Republic - 1930-1961.  Should we judge each other by the worst examples from our own?The worst Latin American dictators were avid Church-goers. Pinochet in Chile, Pérez Jiménez in Venezuela, Somoza in Nicaragua, Trujillo in the Dominican Republic. They all had reserved pews along with the creme of their societies in their metropolitan cathedrals. I hope and pray that the Sacrament stopped them from being as evil as they could have become, not for the sake of the thousands they killed and the millions they robbed, but for the sake of those who survived. Add to this list the Marcoses in the Philippines, and the Parks of Korea. Worst, the hierachical church was often the protector of the status quo. They problably jealously protected the integrity of the Tridentine rite as much.

      Funny thing that Cardinal Obando y Bravo in Managua Nicaragua, stood against Somoza and then against the Sandinistas, nurtured, no doubt, by the same Most Holy Sacrament consecrated in a Novus Ordo Mass. In El Salvador, Archbishop Oscar Arnulfo Romero and in Poland, Father Jerzy Popieljusko (sp?) gave their lives facing death-squads, the former while celebrating a Novus Ordo Mass, the latter one no doubt spiritually fed by one. Of course, it was the Mass that moved Lech Walesa to lead Solidarity and Vaclav Havel the Velvet Revolution. Transformation came to Europe after the Novus Ordo was 20 years old. Should we make the connection. Can I argue for such a connection, no matter how tenous it would be?

      Members of the great crime syndicates of the West were raised on the Tridentine discipline. That ways goes the Italian Mafia and the Irish gangs. Or Colombians, or Cubans, or Mexicans. Today, many of their descendants attend the Novus Ordo. Has the Church changed? Not substantially; has these mafias changed? Only on the surface. I have to say that the impact of the Mass upon these Catholic sub-cultures has been nil. That's telling on several levels, but I am going to leave these levels tantalizingly hanging. Alas, I have no more time left.
I want to conclude by saying that I find many of the arguments favoring the reinstatement of the Old Order specious, historically naive, dogmatically unsound, and aesthetically grating. My friend and renowned Catholic Apologist, Dave Armstrong, devotes a whole section of his inmense website to the treatment of so-called Catholic traditionalist objections. I don't want to reinvent the wheel, so I invite you and all the readers to continue reading here. The reader may also find a short practical Q&A roster on the liturgy at Zenit.Org.

And like Forest Gump said, "that's all I have to say about that." Thank you for your time.

Saturday, August 21, 2004

Vatican Poised to Hand Over Icon to Russian Orthodox

Might Be One of the Most Important Copies of the Lost Original

VATICAN CITY, AUG. 20, 2004 ( John Paul II will hand the icon of the Virgin of Kazan to Cardinal Walter Kasper next week, so that he can return it, days later, to the Orthodox patriarch of Moscow.

The return of the icon to the Moscow Patriarchate will take place Aug. 28, the day the Orthodox Church celebrates the Virgin Mary's dormition. The Pope will hand over the icon at a Vatican ceremony on Wednesday.

For its part, the Russian government sees in the return of the icon an opportunity to promote the national unity advocated by President Vladimir Putin, the Italian newspaper Avvenire explained.

On Aug. 13, Russian television broadcast Putin's visit to Moscow Patriarch Alexy II, who was in hospital for a medical checkup.

Viewers of the service's original audio heard that on "the 28th the ceremony will take place on the occasion of the return of the 'old' icon of the Mother of Kazan. The one that you, Mr. President, saw in Rome," during Putin's visit to the Pope last November.

"Yes, yes, I was able to see it," the Russian president replied.

The ceremony, which will be attended by Putin, will take place in the Church of the Dormition in the Kremlin, Avvenire reported. "These two facts imply that it is an important event," the newspaper said.

According to Russian experts quoted by Avvenire, the icon the Pope will return to the Moscow Patriarchate is not "just one more copy" of the most important image for Russian Orthodox, as some media reported in recent weeks.

In all probability, it is the most significant copy among the extant ones, after the destruction of the original by thieves in 1904, as stated in czarist police documents.

According to these sources, it is the copy that Czar Peter the Great could have ordered in the 18th century for the Cathedral of St. Petersburg, the new capital, dedicated to the Mother of Kazan. It is said that it was taken out of Russia in 1917, at the end of the October Revolution.


Well, I guess we're now going along with the story that the Icon is, afterall, a "copy." Let's see what transpires now.

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Patriarch Alexei Rebuffs (Again) Pope John Paul II

Russian Patriarch Alexei says renowned icon of Our Lady of Kazan is really a copy

Moscow, Aug. 13 ( - The leader of the Russian OrthodoxA011_OurLadyofKazan.jpg Church has minimized an ecumenical gesture by Pope John Paul II, claiming that an image of Our Lady of Kazan, which the Pontiff will return to the Russian Church later his month, is actually a copy, rather than a revered historic icon.

Patriarch Alexei II of Moscow told the Itar-Tass news agency that the Vatican will be giving the Orthodox Church "one of many copies" of the famous icon of Kazan. The original icon, painted in the 13th century, is among the most highly valued religious objects in the Orthodox heritage. But Patriarch Alexei argued that the icon now being held at the Vatican was a duplicate of the original, painted sometime in the 18th century.

Vatican art experts have reached a different conclusion, stating positively that the icon is the original image of Our Lady of Kazan. And in the past, spokesmen for the Moscow Patriarchate have hinted that the Vatican should never have held the icon, since it was stolen from the Russian Church. (Please, continue reading at EWTN)


Actions speak louder than words: His Holiness Patriarch Alexei holds Pope John Paul II in utter contempt, and will use any pretext to taunt the Vatican to extract any concessions.

Patriarch Alexei knows of Pope John Paul's fervent desire to visit Russia and understands full well the impact that the visit of a Slavic Pope would have in Russia. If there's to be a religious renewal in Russia, the Patriarch reasons, is going to be lead by the Russian Orthodox Church and himself and his successors and by no one else.

I spoke of "concessions" sought by the Russian Orthodox Church and the Patriarch. What might they be? The Patriarch often accuses Rome of "proselytism" in Russia, which in his view means the existence of a Catholic hierarchy in that country, along with parish churches and other service and pastoral structures. Furthermore, the Patriarch objects to the existence of the Eastern-Rite Catholic Churches (the so-called "Unia") in Russian territory as well as in the Ukraine. The Patriarch's short term objective is to limit their activities with the long range goal of dismantling them. Thus, the concessions that the Patriarch wants to extract from Rome is for the Holy See to provide pastoral care only to "historical non-Orthodox, Catholic" ethnicities across Russian territory-Baltic, Poles, and other non-ethnic Russians-and to dismantle the Greek Catholic Church in Ukraine and Russia and give its faithful the choice to enter the Orthodox Church or be absorbed into the Latin Rite. To achieve his ends, Patriarch Alexei will be as rude as he thinks he needs to be to force Rome to bow to his wishes-and what would mean to the prestige of the Russian Orthodox Church, the only one that had stood up to Rome.

Patriarch Alexei would not be doing this were he not be convinced about the singular position of the Russian Orthodox Church in World Orthodoxy. Russia is the most populous Orthodox country and all of her pastors as well as the majority of its faithful consider the Muscovite See, "the Third Rome," unsoiled by the schism and heresy into wish the "First Rome" (us) and the Second Rome (Constantinople, when it twice rejoined the Catholic West during the Middle Ages) fell. So conscious is the Patriarch of his prerogatives that he did not hesitate to erase the name of Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople from commemoration in the Liturgy in the late 1990's-an act tantamount to excommunication-due to a jurisdictional dispute involving the Latvian Orthodox Church. This is also the same man who asked Interpol to seize the icon from the Vatican not long ago, because it had been "stolen." Patriarch Alexei seems to be having problems telling truth from falsehood.

According to Dr. Marian Therese Horvat, "the Icon of Kazan has a great symbolic value in both the East and the West. There are several versions of the history of how the original Kazan icon, said to date from the 13th century, arrived in Russia. The devotion spread rapidly and came to be connected with the destiny of Russia as a nation. Carried by generals into battles, the Kazan icon ? known in Russia as the Kazanskaya, the ?Protection of Russia? ? became the symbol of Russian victory and liberty. Under this invocation Our Lady became the patroness of households in Russian families. Millions of reproductions of the icon, many covered with gold, silver and precious stones, testify to the great veneration of Russians for the icon.

"For the West there is also a great symbolism The miraculous Icon disappeared from the Basilica of Our Lady of Kazan in Moscow shortly after the Bolsheviks came to power in 1918. After stops in several countries, the icon was purchased around 1970 by the Blue Army of Our Lady of Fatima for $3 million. The purchase was made for a very noble purpose: when Russia would convert, as Our Lady foretold at Fatima, the Blue Army would return the Sacred Icon to the country. It would be a first gesture to signify the establishment of the reign of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, also prophesized by Our Lady in 1917."

Less we forget, many in the most traditional Greek and Russian Orthodox circles do not even consider the Roman Catholic Church a true Church, insisting that Catholic converts to Orthodoxy should be received by baptism! I do not know whether Patriarch Alexei holds this view personally, but it seems obvious to me who is he pandering to as he seeks to place himself as the indisputable leaders of the Worlwide Orthodox Church. Patriarch Alexei's "demotion" of the icon of Our Lady of Kazan held by Rome to the status of a mere "copy" should not come as a surprise: belittling the relic belittle its current owner and the symbolic value that the icon has for Catholic believers. Patriarch Alexei thinks that he has the interest of his Church close to heart, I just wonder if arrogance is the best way to do so.

And by the way, quoting Dr. Marian Therese Horvat as an authority does not mean I endorse her views, like when she asks "...What would a return of the Icon of Our Lady of Kazan to an unconverted Russia mean at the present moment? Would it open the doors to a rapprochement between the Catholics and schismatics, as John Paul II seems to expect?" Or her answers "It would be a great surprise...What is certain is that it would deceitfully imply that Russia has converted in fulfillment of the Fatima prophecies. This falsehood promoted by a Pope would clearly provoke the wrath of God and steer us closer to the chastisement that Our Lady warned of. Therefore, regardless of all the efforts to convince us of the contrary, the Fatima message is becoming even more timely and relevant for our times."

You know, Pope John Paul II is closer to God and to Our Lady than Dr. Horvat (ask me to explain my reasoning later). Whatever the Pope wants to do is fine by me. Neither Armageddon, nor "the chastisement that Our Lady warned of," nor the End of History, will be brought about by returning a holy relic to a Church that, wrong as it might be morally or dogmatically, its the icon's rightful owner. Takes a lot of chutzpah to accuse Pope John Paul II of deceit, intentional or otherwise. But Dr. Horvat's other theories will have to wait for another post.

Monday, August 16, 2004

China's Crackdown on Christians

Authorities Step Up Hard-line Measures

BEIJING, JULY 31, 2004 ( China seems determined to restrict the spread of Christianity in the country. Authorities are now using the same tactics against Christian churches that they deployed to quash the Falun Gong spiritual movement, the Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday.

The crackdown, ordered late last year by the China's political leadership, according to the Journal, is being carried out by an offshoot of the task force that coordinated the campaign against the Falun Gong. The main focus is on the rural zones, where religious fervor is on the rise.

"The spread of Christianity is really worrying the government, so it has become a target," said Kang Xiaoguang of the Chinese Academy of Sciences to the Wall Street Journal.

The government is targeting what it terms "cults," which are only loosely described. In practice the term is applied to whatever groups have not received official permission to operated. Apart from the continued persecution of Catholic groups that do not submit to official control, the government is particularly worried about evangelical and Protestant groups, who have been rapidly expanding.

Chronicle of persecution

Two groups active in documenting religious persecution, the Center for Religious Freedom, a division of Freedom House, and Compass Direct, have collected news on the crackdown by authorities from a wide range of sources. Among the reports from past months are the following items.

-- July 22. More than 100 religious leaders were arrested in the western province of Xinjiang. The arrests came during a meeting organized by the Ying Shang Church, a large house-church network headquartered in Anhui Province. The arrests came shortly after 40 house-church leaders were arrested while attending a training seminar in Cheng Du City in the province of Sichuan.

-- July 19. Chinese authorities detained and interrogated house-church leader Samuel Lamb after worship services on June 13. Ten of his co-workers were also detained and interrogated. This is the first time in 14 years that Chinese authorities have taken repressive steps against Lamb, who reportedly hosts 3,000 worshippers per week at his meeting place in Guangzhou.

-- July 5. A 34-year-old woman was beaten to death in jail on the day she was arrested for handing out Bibles in Guizhou province. Police arrested Jiang Zongxiu on June 18 on suspicion of "spreading rumors and inciting to disturb social order," according to the local press. Her mother-in-law, Tan Dewei, was arrested with Jiang but later released. She said police kicked Jiang repeatedly during interrogation.

-- June 23. The Vatican strongly protested to China over the arrest of three Catholic bishops -- one of them 84 years old -- in the previous month. The statement called the bishops' arrest "inconceivable in a country based on laws." The 84-year-old bishop of Xuanhua was arrested May 27. Another two bishops, from Xiwanzi and Zhengding, were detained for several days in June.

-- May 24. Gu Xianggao, a teacher in a house-church group, was beaten to death by Public Security Bureau officers.

-- May 16. Two Catholic priests, Lu Genjun and Cheng Xiaoli, were arrested May 14 in An Guo, Hebei province, by government security policemen. The priests were set to begin classes for natural family planning and moral theology courses. Father Lu was previously arrested on Palm Sunday 1998 for a short period. He was arrested again shortly before Easter in 2001 and detained for three years.

-- May 10. Chinese Christians gave evidence of persecution at a special meeting called by the U.N. Commission on Human Rights in April. The speakers testified to beatings, imprisonment, torture and harassment. Female members of the South China Church also testified to torture and sexual assault at the hands of police officers. Their evidence was supported by documents and a video showing the destruction of a church in Zhejiang province.

Religion feared

An in-depth look at the reasons behind the government's persecution of religious groups was published March 31 by the Norway-based human rights group Forum 18. The 10th National People's Congress that concluded in Beijing on March 14 included an amendment to the Chinese Constitution, stating that "The state respects and safeguards human rights."

Forum 18 observed that this new provision aroused skepticism among commentators, given that the constitution already contained safeguards protecting human rights. Those safeguards have not impeded past violations.

In fact, the report noted that on March 5, the very day the meeting opened, Bishop Wei Jingyi of Qiqihar in Heilongjiang province was arrested. And on the same day, police arrested, detained and beat Hua Huiqi, an unofficial house-church leader in Beijing.

A major factor behind the repression, according to Forum 18, can be found in the Communist ideology. Official policy bars Communist Party members from adhering to any religious belief or participating in religious activities.

And even if Communist ideology is no longer so popular, as recently as November an article in the People's Daily, the Communist Party newspaper, entitled "A Historical Study of the Communist Party of China's Theory and Policy Concerning Religion," inveighed against religion.

"To uphold the fundamental opposition in world outlook of Marxism and religion," stated the article, "it is of course essential to uphold the fundamental opposition of science and religion. Religion is an illusory, inverse reflection of the external world, whereas the task of science is to understand the objective world in accordance with reality, advocating seeking truth from facts and pursuing objective truth."

Forum 18 said that the government further fears religion because it represents a threat to the Communist Party's ability to mobilize the masses, particularly the peasantry. Officials estimate there are at least 100 million believers of all faiths throughout China, and authorities are worried that religious organizations could repeat what happened in the past, when religion was a key factor in popular revolts.

Concern over human rights

China also continues to maintain tight controls over political expression and organization. An April 14 press release by Amnesty International (AI) outlined some of the concerns over human rights in China.

-- Crackdown on Internet users: By the end of March, at least 60 people had been detained or imprisoned after accessing or circulating politically sensitive information on the Internet. According to AI the Internet censorship practiced by the Chinese government is the most extensive in the world, and many of the toughest controls have been issued since 2000.

-- Death penalty: China continues to execute more people than the rest of the world combined. Executions are carried out following trials that fall far short of international fair-trial standards. AI declared that the death penalty continues to be used extensively and arbitrarily as a result of political interference. And people continue to be executed even for nonviolent crimes such as tax fraud and pimping.

-- Torture, unfair trials and administrative detention: Ill-treatment remains widespread in police stations, prisons and labor camps. As well, those accused of both political and criminal offenses continue to be denied due process and detainees' access to lawyers and family members is severely restricted. China's economic progress in recent years has yet to be matched by advances in religious and political liberty.
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Sunday, August 15, 2004

Historic loss: Puerto Rico routs U.S. in NBA players' first Olympic defeat
Source: Sports Illustrated

ATHENS, Greece (AP) -- In an upset as historic as it was inevitable, Tim Duncan, Allen Iverson and the rest of the U.S. basketball team lost 92-73 to Puerto Rico on Sunday, only the third Olympic loss ever for America and its first since adding pros.

It was by far the most lopsided defeat for a U.S. men's team.

"I'm humiliated, not for the loss -- I can always deal with wins and losses -- but I'm disappointed because I had a job to do as a coach, to get us to understand how we're supposed to play as a team and act as a team, and I don't think we did that," Larry Brown said.

Puerto Rico, which had lost to the Americans five times in the past 13 months, led for more than 33 minutes of the 40-minute game. They were ahead by 22 at halftime and gamely held off a fourth-quarter comeback for one of the biggest sports achievements in the territory's history.

"We're a small island with a big heart," guard Elias Ayuso said.

The loss was a blow to the Americans' confidence, but it did little to hurt their gold medal chances. They need only to finish in the top four of their six-team group to reach the quarterfinals...(Continue reading at Sports Illustrated)
Man, oh man! Did you see this game? I was rivetted to the TV! I felt very proud of the Puerto Rican team. Obviously, they had better coaching and better "lessons learned" sessions than Team USA. I mean, listening to the announcers go gah-gah, unable to explain what they were seeing was, well, tragicomical. Team USA was too overconfident and thought they could play sloppily and still beat the Puerto Ricans. Man, reality probably stung them bad.

Team USA was getting pretty desperate in the end. They opted for a very aggressive man-on-man defense in the last quarter, but that was too little, too late. Team USA could not throw sqwat from the 3-point zone, a feat that Puerto Rico's Carlos Arroyo did with his eyes closed again and again and...again.

Team USA has two days to mull over this defeat, seen by everyone in the world. All the other teams have smelled the blood and will play against Team USA's weaknesses. To my compatriots in Puerto Rico, congratulations for a job well done!

And no, this has nothing to do with Catholicism except tangentially: if basketball were a metaphor for living a truly Catholic Christian life, everyone who would play it well will win the Ultimate Prize, but those who play with excellence, for the sheer joy of Being, they'll have a special place before God's Presence.
The Assumption of the Most Holy Theotokos, Mother of God
From the Apostolic Constitution of Pope Pius XII on the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary

In their sermons and speeches on the feast day of the Assumption of the Mother of God, the holy fathers and the great doctors of the church were speaking of something that the faithful already knew and accepted: all they did was to bring it out into the open, to explain its meaning and substance in other terms. Above all, they made it most clear that this feast commemorated not merely the fact that the blessed Virgin Mary did not experience bodily decay, but also her triumph over death and her heavenly glory, following the example of her only Son, Jesus Christ.

Thus St John Damascene, who is the greatest exponent of this tradition, compares the bodily Assumption of the revered Mother of God with her other gifts and privileges: It was right that she who had kept her virginity unimpaired through the process of giving birth should have kept her body without decay through death. It was right that she who had given her Creator, as a child, a place at her breast should be given a place in the dwelling-place of her God. It was right that the bride espoused by the Father should dwell in the heavenly bridal chamber. It was right that she who had gazed on her Son on the cross, her heart pierced at that moment by the sword of sorrow that she had escaped at his birth, should now gaze on him seated with his Father. It was right that the Mother of God should possess what belongs to her on and to be honoured by every creature as the God’s Mother and handmaid.

St Germanus of Constantinople considered that the preservation from decay of the body of the Mother of God, the Virgin Mary, and its elevation to heaven as being not only appropriate to her Motherhood but also to the peculiar sanctity of its virgin state: It is written, that you appear in beauty, and your virginal body is altogether holy, altogether chaste, altogether the dwelling-place of God; from which it follows that it is not in its nature to decay into dust, but that it is transformed, being human, into a glorious and incorruptible life, the same body, living and glorious, unharmed, sharing in perfect life.

Another very ancient author asserts: Being the most glorious Mother of Christ our saviour and our God, the giver of life and immortality, she is given life by him and shares bodily incorruptibility for all eternity with him who raised her from the grave and drew her up to him in a way that only he can understand.All that the holy fathers say refers ultimately to Scripture as a foundation, which gives us the vivid image of the great Mother of God as being closely attached to her divine Son and always sharing his lot.

It is important to remember that from the second century onwards the holy fathers have been talking of the Virgin Mary as the new Eve for the new Adam: not equal to him, of course, but closely joined with him in the battle against the enemy, which ended in the triumph over sin and death that had been promised even in Paradise. The glorious resurrection of Christ is essential to this victory and its final prize, but the blessed Virgin’s share in that fight must also have ended in the glorification of her body. For as the Apostle says: When this mortal nature has put on immortality, then the scripture will be fulfilled that says “Death is swallowed up in victory”.

So then, the great Mother of God, so mysteriously united to Jesus Christ from all eternity by the same decree of predestination, immaculately conceived, an intact virgin throughout her divine motherhood, a noble associate of our Redeemer as he defeated sin and its consequences, received, as it were, the final crowning privilege of being preserved from the corruption of the grave and, following her Son in his victory over death, was brought, body and soul, to the highest glory of heaven, to shine as Queen at the right hand of that same Son, the immortal King of Ages.

Friday, August 13, 2004

UN Committee Seek Legal Sanctions Against Pro-Life Countries


August 13, 2004
Volume 7, Number 34

At a meeting held late last month at UN headquarters, women's rights advocates discussed plans to strengthen the "legal backbone" of the UN women's rights treaty, including establishing abortion on demand for women and girls as an internationally recognized human right.

According to a UN press release, the committee charged with monitoring nations' compliance with the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of
Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) invited nongovernmental organizations, including the Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR), to advise the committee in the drafting of a new "general recommendation" on states' international legal obligations to end discrimination.

A representative of CRR, Pardiss Kebriaei, told the committee that "states must recognize the physical demands and need for high-quality reproductive care..Imposing or failing to remove barriers to women's access to family planning and safe abortion services discriminated against women. Among other measures, States should enact laws allowing abortion without restriction, take other legal and policy measures to ensure the accessibility of high-quality abortion services and the full range contraceptive methods."

Kebriaei went on to say that "abortion without restriction" should be available to girls, declaring that, "government failure to ensure reproductive health information and services for adolescents had a disproportionate, discriminatory effect on girls."

CRR was one of only four NGOs invited to participate in the meeting, signaling the group's powerful influence with the committee. If the new CEDAW general recommendation includes this CRR proposal, it would represent an important victory for the group in its effort to create new international abortion law through the reinterpretation of the original CEDAW convention document, a strategy that was outlined in a series of CRR secret planning memos and first exposed in the Friday Fax last December, and still available at

The committee appeared pleased with the comments made by CRR and the other NGOs. Hanna Beate Schopp-Schilling, a committee member from Germany,
said that the quality of the discussion had shown that "the Committee's decision to hold a meeting with NGOs when preparing a general recommendation had been the right one."

According to the UN press release, the committee chairperson, Ayse Feride Acar, also endorsed the "all embracing approach" proposed by the NGOs. She concluded by stating that "the discussion had helped to define the parameters of the general recommendation."

A UN official representing the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF), the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), and the World Health Organization (WHO) also participated in the meeting, and voiced no discomfort with the radical pro-abortion language.

The next step in the process of drafting the recommendation has not yet been scheduled.

Copyright 2004 - C-FAM (Catholic Family & Human Rights Institute).
Permission granted for unlimited use. Credit required.
"...If the new CEDAW general recommendation includes this CRR proposal, it would represent an important victory for the group in its effort to create new international abortion law through the reinterpretation of the original CEDAW convention document..."
Remember when everyone criticized the Vatican for suggesting that this was the goal of introducing certain language into these documents in the first place?

Under Canon Law...

"...The bishops do have individual authority to determine prudent pastoral action, but that does not absolve them of their sacred duty to uphold and to apply canon law and to follow the Pope...."

Under Canon Law...

By Michael J. Gaynor

On June 18, 2004, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops declared that decisions on giving or denying "Holy Communion to some Catholics in political life" "rest with the individual bishop in accord with the established canonical and pastoral principles." In support, they stated simply that "[b]ishops can legitimately make different judgments on the most prudent course of pastoral action."

The bishops do have individual authority to determine prudent pastoral action, but that does not absolve them of their sacred duty to uphold and to apply canon law and to follow the Pope. The authority of the bishops "must be exercised in communion with the whole Church under the guidance of the Pope" (The Cathecism of the Catholic Church, Section 895). The bishops have "no authority unless united with the [Pope], Peter's successor, as its head" (Cathecism 883).

Pope John Paul II was unequivocal in Ecclesia de Eucharista: "[I]n cases of outward conduct which is seriously, clearly and steadfastly contrary to the moral norm, the Church, in her pastoral concern for the good order of the community and out of respect for the sacrament, cannot fail to feel directly involved. The Code of Canon Law refers to this situation of a manifest lack of proper moral disposition when it states that those who “obstinately persist in manifest grave sin” are not to be admitted to Eucharistic communion.” (Emphasis added.)

On April 23, 2004, Cardinal Francis Arinze, prefect of the Vatican Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of Sacraments, authoritatively explained at a press conference in Rome that unrepentant pro-abortion “Catholic” politicians should be denied Communion. Relying on Canon 915, which specifies that "[t]hose...who obstinately persist in manifest grave sin, are not to be admitted to Holy Communion," Cardinal Arinze put it succinctly: "If they should not receive, then they should not be given.".

The Roman Catholic Church is supposed to be one, holy, catholic and apostolic, according to the Nicene Creed. Bishops are not to be independent warlords, doing whatever they want within their territory, because they can. Each bishop must follow canon law, not his personal preference.

Prudence is a valid consideration in the political context. But it is not relevant in determing what a Catholic needs to do as a matter of principal. Jesus rejected prudence and died for our sins out of love. All bishops should remember Jesus' undiplomatic warning to the complacent: “I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold or hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth.”

For decades, Roman Catholic priests in the United States have knowingly given Holy Communion to unrepentant, publicly knownm nominally Catholic abortion "rights" and/or gay marriage "rights" politicians. They have done so for various reasons: misguided compassion, political correctness run amok, fear of losing the Church's tax exemption and/or contributions from pro-abortion and pro-homosexual practices people, personal preference or culpable ignorance. But, in doing so, they have disregarded unambiguous canon law and committed a grave sin. They should repent, make a good act of contrition, receive absolution and then go forth and sin no more.

Sadly, led by Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, the most prominent Catholic clergyman in the United States, many (but not all) United States priests have continued to give Communion to such persons. Cardinal McCarrick publicly proclaimed that he has “not gotten to the stage where I’m comfortable in denying the Eucharist.”

In 1995 then Archbishop of Newark McCarrick seemed comfortable with the concept of obeying canon law. He issued a soundly reasoned, elegantly written pastoral letter on penance. The kind of letter than indicated a promotion to Cardinal was in order.

Cardinal McCarrick rightly wrote in that letter: "We know that anyone who is aware of having committed a grave sin may not receive Holy Communion, even if he or she experiences deep contrition, without having first received absolution in the Sacrament of Penance [footnote citing Canon 916]. This is true unless the person has a grave reason for receiving Communion and there is no possibility of going to confession, a situation which does not apply in the area of the Archdiocese of Newark. (Emphasis added.)

Canon 916 states: "A person who is conscious of grave sin is not to celebrate Mass or to receive the Body of the Lord without prior sacramental confession unless a grave reason is present and there is no opportunity of confessing; in this case the person is to be mindful of the obligation to make an act of perfect contrition, including the intention of confessing as soon as possible."

Obviously pro-abortion nominally Catholic politicians such as Senators Kerry, Kennedy, Daschle, Durbin and Collins, House Minority Leader Pelosi and former Mayor Guiliani can confess if they choose.

Significantly, Cardinal McCarrick faithfully noted in his letter that abortion is a "grave" sin and a "crime against innocent life." He asserted, perhaps too generously, that "[w]e all recognize that it is a grave evil to take an innocent human life" and astutely observed that "[w]e tend to find excuses."

Sadly, Cardinal McCarrick has found an excuse for the sin of disregarding Canon 915 and knowingly giving Communion to pro-abortion nominally Catholic politicans: uncomfortableness.

The Holy Father, Pope John Paul II, left no room for quibbling in Ecclesia de Eucharistia:

“The celebration of the Eucharist…cannot be the starting-point for communion; it presupposes that communion already exists, a communion which it seeks to consolidate and bring to perfection. The sacrament is an expression of this bond….both in its invisible dimension, which, in Christ and through the working of the Holy Spirit, unites us to the Father and among ourselves, and in its visible dimension, which entails communion in the teaching of the Apostles, in the sacraments and in the Church's hierarchical order….

”Keeping these invisible bonds intact is a specific moral duty incumbent upon Christians who wish to participate fully in the Eucharist by receiving the body and blood of Christ.

“However, in cases of outward conduct which is seriously, clearly and steadfastly contrary to the moral norm, the Church, in her pastoral concern for the good order of the community and out of respect for the sacrament, cannot fail to feel directly involved. The Code of Canon Law refers to this situation of a manifest lack of proper moral disposition when it states that those who “obstinately persist in manifest grave sin” are not to be admitted to Eucharistic communion.” (Emphasis added.)

Pope John Paul II could not have been clearer regarding those who “obstinately persist in manifest grave sin” -they are NOT to be admitted to Holy Communion.

Even before this Encyclical, the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts had issued an interpretation of Canon 915 that should have sufficed to resolve any issue. The Council, in agreement with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and with the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, declared:

“The phrase ‘and others who obstinately persist in manifest grave sin’ is clear and must be understood in a manner that does not distort its sense so as to render the norm inapplicable. The three required conditions are:

a) grave sin, understood objectively, being that the minister of Communion would not be able to judge from subjective imputability;

b) obstinate persistence, which means the existence of an objective situation of sin that endures in time and which the will of the individual member of the faithful does not bring to an end, no other requirements (attitude of defiance, prior warning, etc.) being necessary to establish the fundamental gravity of the situation in the Church.

c) the manifest character of the situation of grave habitual sin.”

It further declared:

“Naturally, pastoral prudence would strongly suggest the avoidance of instances of public denial of Holy Communion. Pastors must strive to explain to the concerned faithful the true ecclesial sense of the norm, in such a way that they would be able to understand it or at least respect it. In those situations, however, in which these precautionary measures have not had their effect or in which they were not possible, the minister of Communion must refuse to distribute it to those who are publicly unworthy. They are to do this with extreme charity, and are to look for the opportune moment to explain the reasons that required the refusal. They must, however, do this with firmness, conscious of the value that such signs of strength have for the good of the Church and of souls.

“The discernment of cases in which the faithful who find themselves in the described condition are to be excluded from Eucharistic Communion is the responsibility of the Priest who is responsible for the community. They are to give precise instructions to the deacon or to any extraordinary minister regarding the mode of acting in concrete situations.

“….the obligation of reiterating this impossibility of admission to the Eucharist is required for genuine pastoral care and for an authentic concern for the well-being of these faithful and of the whole Church, being that it indicates the conditions necessary for the fullness of that conversion to which all are always invited by the Lord….”

The Declaration confirms that the reception of the Body of Christ when one is publicly unworthy constitutes an objective harm to the ecclesial communion, in that it is sinful behavior that affects the rights of the Church and of all the faithful to live in accord with the exigencies of that communion...That scandal exists even if such behavior no longer arouses surprise. Indeed, that unfortunate circumstance makes it more necessary for priests to act in defense of the Holy Eucharist and the Roman Catholic faith.

Concerned that the priests of the Roman Catholic Church in the United States might actually follow the canon law that mandated them to prevent the sacrilegious receipt of Communion, 48 members of the House of Representatives who identify themselves as Catholic wrote to Cardinal McCarrick, ominously warning that refusing them Communion “would be counter-productive and would bring great harm to the Church.”

Moral authority is derived from upholding principle, even when principle is unpopular or upholding it is costly. It is diminished when principle is compromised, because it seems expedient to do so.

The Catholic Church’s moral authority suffered greatly because the problem of sexual abuse of altar boys by priests was handled as secretly as possible for decades instead of acknowledged and dealt with openly.

Will the Catholic Church’s moral authority suffer further because priests find it easier to give Communion to whomever asks for it than to follow canon law and refuse persons “who obstinately persist in manifest grave sin”?

In 1971, John Kerry's Massachusetts Senate colleague and fellow nominal Catholic, Ted Kennedy, wrote, “Human life, even at its earliest stages, has a certain right which must be recognized—the right to be born, the right to love, the right to grow old.”

Then Roe v. Wade was decided and political expediency prevailed over Catholic principle for many ambitious politicians who publicly support abortion as a legitimate choice that they personally would not make. At the same time, they claim to be practicing Catholics and line up to receive Communion as though they are fit to receive.

Priests and bishops are obligated to uphold the tenets of their faith, to identify sin, and to rebuke sinners. St. Augustine wrote: “Medicinal rebuke must be applied to all who sin, lest they should either themselves perish, or be the ruin of others…. Let no one, therefore, say that a man must not be rebuked when he deviates from the right way, or that his return and perseverance must only be asked from the Lord for him.” (Emphasis added.)

Bishop William K. Weigand of Sacramento led the call on pro-choice Catholic politicians to refrain from taking Holy Communion. He stated: “As your bishop, I have to say clearly that anyone—politician or otherwise—who thinks it is acceptable for a Catholic to be pro-abortion is in very great error, puts his or her soul at risk, and is not in good standing with the Church. Such a person should have the integrity to acknowledge this and choose of his own volition to abstain from receiving Holy Communion until he has a change of heart,” he said.

Last year, Archbishop Raymond Burke of St. Louis, then Bishop of La Crosse, Wisconsin, went further. He publicly decreed that Catholic legislators in his diocese who “support procured abortion or euthanasia may not present themselves to receive Holy Communion” and are to be denied Holy Communion if they nevertheless present themselves “until…they publicly renounce their support of these most unjust practices.” His prior private efforts to persuade had been rudely rebuffed.

Archbishop Burke emphasized that he did what a bishop is required to do. He explained that “[t]he duty of Catholic legislators to respect human life is….God’s law,” and that a bishop who “remain silent[s] while the faith, in one of its most fundamental tenets, is…openly disobeyed by those who present themselves as sincere adherents of the faith, [has] failed most seriously and should be removed from office.”

Pope John Paul II had explained in his 1988 Apostolic Exhortation:

“Above all, the common outcry, which is justly made on behalf of human rights—for example, the right to health, to home, to work, to family, to culture—is false and illusory if the right to life, the most basic and fundamental right and condition to all other personal rights, is not defended with maximum determination.”

For what has become a scandalously long time, the Roman Catholic Church has neglected to bar from Holy Communion many prominent nominal Catholics who publicly and proudly support abortion, in blatant violation of the fundamental Church teaching that human life is sacred and begins at conception.

John Kerry, a nominal Catholic, is the presumptive presidential candidate of the Democrat Party. He is supporting partial-birth abortion, calling abortion a woman's right instead of a wrong and vowing to appoint only pro-abortion justices. At the dinner hosted by NARAL Pro-Choice America (formerly, the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League) to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s decisions in Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton, Kerry proclaimed, “We are not going to turn back the clock. There is no overturning of Roe v. Wade. There is no packing of courts with judges who will be hostile to choice.”

Kerry has created a public scandal by receiving Holy Communion while flagrantly rejecting fundamental Church teaching. Therefore, the sanctioning of Kerry and his kind is necessary. Like racism, abortion is a grave sin. Its tolerance is intolerable. Like covering up child abuse, tolerating the receipt of Holy Communion by pro-abortion politicians is an abomination.

In 1975, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) described the right to life as “among basic human rights.” In 1998 it issued a pastoral letter chastizing Catholic politicians for supporting abortion and euthanasia. Bishop Wilton D. Gregory, its president, welcomed a Vatican doctrinal note denouncing Catholic politicians who support abortion, euthanasia, gay marriage, and human cloning. Bishop Gregory explained that “Catholic politicians cannot subscribe to any notion which equates freedom or de­mocracy with a moral relativism that denies these moral principles.”

In 2003, the Vatican decreed that Catholic politicians “who are directly involved in lawmaking bodies have a grave and clear obligation to oppose any law that attacks human life” and “[f]or them, as for every Catholic, it is impossible to promote such laws or to vote for them….”

On March 25, 2004, the Vatican issued a statement specifying that “anyone who is conscious of grave sin should not celebrate or receive the Body of the Lord without prior sacramental confession” when possible and that it is for “the Pastors prudently and firmly to correct such an abuse” when “Christ’s faithful approach the altar as a group indiscriminately.”

Despite authoritative Vatican opposition to the receipt of Holy Communion by persons professing to be both Catholics in a state of grace and abortion supporters, ardent pro-abortion “Catholics” like House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi “fully intend to receive communion, one way or another.” Ms. Pelosi said that receiving Holy Communion is “very important” to her. That makes good sense politically, since a Catholic who presents herself or himself for Communion thereby represents that she or he is in a state of grace and being in a state of grace (or at least appearing to be) is still a political plus.

Will America’s Catholic bishops collectively cooperate with or chastise John Kerry, Rudi Guiliani, Tom Daschle, Ted Kennedy, Dick Durbin, Susan Collins, Nancy Pelosi and hundreds of other pro-abortion “Catholic” politicians (mostly, but not exclusively, Democrats)?

That should not depend upon any fear of America's Catholic bishops that the Church's tax exemption will be lost. The First Amendment was adopted to protect freedom of religion. Thomas Jefferson explained in his second inaugural address that “free exercise [of religion] is placed by the Constitution independent of the powers of the general government.”

Unfortunately, a mixed message is being sent when complete clarity is needed. For example, Archbishop O’Malley of Boston proclaimed that “[a] Catholic politician who holds a public, pro-choice position should not be receiving Communion and should refrain from doing so.” But the Archbishop then abdicated his responsibility for protecting the Holy Eucharist by adopting a policy of leaving it “up to the individual” to decide whether or not to receive instead of denying Communion. Even though Pope John Paul II’s Holy Thursday 2003 encyclical stated: “In cases of outward conduct which is seriously, clearly, and steadfastly contrary to the moral norm, those who ‘obstinately persist in manifest grave sin’ are not to be admitted to Eucharist Communion.”

It is for those who dispense Holy Communion to follow the mandate of Canon 915. Bishops who are reluctant to embarrass prominent politicians need to recall that Jesus had no patience for those moneychangers in the Temple. Protecting the sanctity of the Temple was His paramount consideration then. The protection of the Holy Eucharist must be the bishops’ paramount consideration today.

Averting public scandal is vital. St. Thomas Aquinas explained that a distinction “must be made” between secret and open sinners, and “Holy Communion ought not to be given to open sinners when they ask for it,” because “[h]oly things are forbidden to be given to…notorious sinners….”

A priest who knowingly gives Communion to a pro-abortion politician commits the grave sin of sacrilege as well as the unfit recipient. Neither political correctness nor political expediency excuses sin.

"Sacrilege consists in profaning or treating unworthily the sacraments and other liturgical actions, as well as persons, things, or places consecrated to God. Sacrilege is a grave sin especially when committed against the Eucharist, for in this sacrament the true Body of Christ is made substantially present for us." Cathecism of the Catholic Church, Section 2120.

St. Paul was unambiguous: "Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a man examine himself, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup." 1 Corinthians 11:27-28.

"Anyone who desires to receive Christ in Eucharistic communion must be in a state of grace. Anyone aware of having sinned mortally must not receive communion without having received absolution in the sacrament of penance." Cathecism 1415. (Emphasis added.)

"The Eucharist is properly the sacrament of those who are in full communion with the Church." Cathecism 1395 (Emphasis added.)

Holy Communion was not intended to provide a photo opportunity.

The case of Louisiana racist Leander Perez illustrates why Communion must be denied to those who are publicly rejecting fundamental church teaching. In 1962 an exasperated Archbishop Joseph Rummel of New Orleans finally excommunicated Leander Perez for opposing desegregation in Catholic schools. Perez eventually repented (as did others of his ilk), and the school integration succeeded.

In 1953 the Archbishop's pastoral letter, “Blessed Are the Peacemakers,” was read aloud in the archdiocese’s churches. It declared declared "the unacceptibility of racial discrimination." Perez and his allies were unmoved. The Archbishop threatened in 1956 to excommunicate them, but they held protest rallies and withheld church contributions instead of repenting.

Interestingly, segregationist Catholics formed the Association of Catholic Laymen of New Orleans and it "asked the Pope (Pius XII) to stop Rummel from taking further steps to integrate white and Negro Catholics and to decree that racial segregation is not 'morally wrong and sinful.'" The Vatican's response was a reminder that that "the Pope had condemned racism as a major evil, asserting 'that those who enter the Church... have rights as children in the House of the Lord.'"

In 1962, the Archbishop acted decisively. He announced that in the fall, the city’s Catholic schools would admit black students. Perez and his allies persisted in their opposition, so the archbishop excommunicated them for continuing "to hinder his orders or provoke the devoted people of this venerable archdiocese to disobedience or rebellion in the matter of opening our schools to all Catholic children." They were barred from the Mass and sacraments as well as Catholic burial. By the fall, 104 black children were admitted to the city’s Catholic schools. By 1968, Perez repented and, after his death in 1969, was given a Catholic burial.

The barring of John Kerry and other pro-abortion nominally Catholic politicians has been too long delayed. The sooner the bar is imposed, the better. Perhaps they too will repent before death and receive a Catholic burial. Jesus did not pander to politicians, much less put monetary considerations (such as tax exemption) before principle.

Michael J. Gaynor

Contact: Michael Gaynor
Michael J. Gaynor - Attorney, 631-757-9452