Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Mr. and Mrs. Teófilo Celebrate 20 Years of Marriage

Yea-ee, us!

Folks, today we celebrate 20 years of holy matrimony. Look at us! The dashing U.S. Air Force enlisted man, the joyful bride. Wow, were we young! Look at all the promise, the dream of a life together that was just starting. We've come a long way! Our lives, blessed with two children--three, counting the wife of my oldest son...all the sacrifices, all the joys, the sorrows, it has been all worth it. The best is yet to come!
O Lord, omnipotent and eternal God, we give you thanks and we bless your holy name. You created man and woman in your image and blessed their union, so that each would be for the other a help and support. Remember us today. Protect us and grant that our love may be in the image of the devotion and love of Christ for his Church. Grant us a long and fruitful life together, in joy and in peace, so that, through your Son and in the Holy Spirit, our hearts may always rise to you in praise and goods works. We ask this through Jesus Christ Our Lord. Amen!

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Pope Meets With Head of Schismatic Group

Folks, I want to close this cycle of emphasis on the travails of the so-called Catholic traditionalist movement--those loyal to the Holy See and the schismatic sort--with these recent news and some commentary:
VATICAN CITY (AP/Yahoo News) - Pope Benedict XVI met Monday with the head of the ultraconservative schismatic movement founded by the late Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, and both sides said they had agreed to take steps to resolve their differences.

Both the Vatican and Bishop Bernard Fellay, superior general of Lefebvre's Society of St. Pius X said the meeting was held in a spirit of love for the church. But the society has spurned previous efforts by the Vatican to bring it back into its fold.


ust months before the excommunication order was made, Benedict, who was then
Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, signed a protocol with Lefebvre that had indicated reconciliation of the society with Rome was imminent. Lefebvre later rejected the accord.

With Benedict now pope, some have speculated that there might be a new push to bring the society back under Rome's wing.

Fellay, for example, welcomed Benedict's April 19 election, saying there was a "gleam of hope" that the new pope might find a way out of what he called the "profound crisis" in which the Catholic Church finds itself.

Fellay had said he would ask Benedict at the audience, which he requested, to rescind the excommunication order and also to allow Catholics who wish it, to celebrate Mass in Latin without having to ask permission first. He said those were preconditions for returning to negotiations.


In a recent interview with the international Web site of the Society of St. Pius X, Fellay said a return to the Latin Mass would mark the start of a "change of atmosphere and spirit in the church," which he believes has been spoiled by the Vatican II reforms.

The pope has said he supports greater celebration of the Latin, or Tridentine Mass, but said that alone won't resolve the problems of the church.

"I am of the opinion, to be sure, that the old rite should be granted much more generously to all those who desire it," he said in his 1997 book "Salt of the Earth." "But a simple return to the old way would not, as I have said, be a solution. Our culture has changed so radically in the last 30 years that a liturgy celebrated exclusively in Latin would bring with it an experience of foreignness that many could not cope with."

Another excommunicated bishop, Bishop Richard Williamson, has warned against any reunion with Rome. In an Internet newsletter earlier this month that announced Monday's meeting Williamson said the "resistance" movement would carry on without the society if it were to rejoin Rome.
Commentary. I am of the opinion that healing the schism will give the SSPX the credibility necessary to pursue what it sees as its mission for the Church. The SSPX may join all the other ecclesial movements, prelatures, and secular institutes, etc., in their pursuit of their proper charism and renewal mission. The SSPX may become a powerful force in the Church by helping restore traditional Catholic piety and culture in parishes throughout the world. Filial and humble obedience to the Vicar of Christ will help the SSPX to become influential in matters running from church architecture to music, and of restoring the place of both liturgies in the life of Catholic Christians.

If only it were that easy.

Nevertheless, SSPX's sin of schism needs to be atoned for and reparated. They will do this in part by stopping their wholesale attacks against the Novus Ordo and by focusing themselves on preserving the Old Rite and by improving the New Rite without seeking to undermine or destroy it. The SSPX also should accept the full binding dogmatic authority of the Second Vatican Council and renounce all attempts to nuance, downgrade, subordinate, and/or diminish its Constitutions and Declarations through sophism and subterfuge. What is required of the SSPX is simple: that they embrace and love the Church NOW, and stop making an idol of an ideal Church of the past that frankly, never was.

Finally, regarding the defiant stance of Bp. Williamson, what he's really saying is that he is threatening to remain in schism even if the SSPX were to be reconciled with the Holy See. My take: so be it. He will then become an apostrophe to a footnote in the history of the Universal Church and only so much background noise. The choice before him is clear: assume a constructive posture, or become irrelevant.

Bp. Williamson's animosity towards Pope Benedict XVI is not new. Read here (you may have to scroll down a little) what Bp. Williason wrote about then Cardinal Ratzinger on February 9, 1999. Here's a quote:
Your Eminence, if ideas did not matter, you might be a good Catholic, but since the virtue of faith is seated in the mind and not in the heart, then so long as your mind swings between Tradition and modernity you are, despite yourself, in your position as Guardian of the Faith, a terrible enemy of the Catholic Church.
When I accuse SSPX leaders of hubris, arrogance, and pedantery, this is what I have in mind.

So, let us pray for reconciliation between the SSPX and the Holy See, that by rejoining the Mystical Body of Christ may the life of the Spirit once again course through them; may we all rejoice in the arrival of the prodigal son, for if once they were dead, when they return Home, then they will be alive again.

Monday, August 29, 2005

The Truth served shaken, not stirred

Where Teófilo serves the Truth to another traditionalist acquaintance.

Folks, I received an e-mail of yet still another Traditionalist Catholic acquaintance yesterday, which I now I share with you. When he quotes me from a previous e-mail reply, that will be in green and in italics; when I quote him from his last e-mail, his are in blue and italics. His original message was entitled Contradiction, served on the rocks, hence my witty riposte, entitled The Truth served shaken, not stirred.

First, you have to understand that I'm not "SSPX" in the common usage of the term by the general Catholic populace. Obviously I'm not a priest of the order known as the SSPX... what I mean here is that I go to the indult. That's just what I do, so in that sense, I'm not an "SSPXer" in the generally used sense.

Good for you, friend. You're in a better position than what your statements against me had led me to believe. I ask your forgiveness for my previous belief.

But open up your ears for a minute. Listen carefully, if you will, for honesty's sake. I guess what I was hoping for was to try to point you towards a more honest response. Let me point out what I mean...The SSPX does not deny the validity of the Novus Ordo. The proposed heresy of "denial of the full ecumenical authority of V2" is so very fuzzy a phrase that if it were truly a heresy, one would have trouble committing it! lol! It is not heresy to point out that V2 was not a dogmatic council... we cannot elevate a pastoral council to a sort of honorary status of a dogmatic council.

The SSPX, for all practical purposes, denies the validity of the Novus Ordo. That's what drove them to schism. If their language is not heretical, then it is heresia proxima, in regard to their statements against the 1970 Mass and the Sacramentary.

Their denial of the full ecumenical authority of Vatican II has nothing "fuzzy" about it. You know very well that Ecumenical Councils, presided by the Successor of St. Peter, are exercises in the extraordinary magisterium of the Church and therefore protected by the same infallibility and vested with the full authority of the Church, when it comes to matters of faith and morals. That Blessed Pope John XXIII intended to call, and in fact called, an Ecumenical Council is beyond dispute; that he wished the Council to be "pastoral" in no way changed the character and binding authority of the Council; that Pope Paul VI considered it so and closed it on his own authority, is a fact of history.

Those who question, nuance, or minimize the authority of the Second Vatican Council do so by manufacturing a distinction without a difference, in order to justify a spirit of selective obedience no different than the one imbuing that other wing of the Church which invokes the "spirit of Vatican II" to justify every kind of excess. Their goals may be different, but their attitude is the same.

It is not that I "don't listen." It is that I have listened too much to these arguments and in the past, they led me to shipwreck the Faith of my Fathers.

Did I ever tell you that I, for about 4 years, was Eastern Orthodox? Not Eastern Rite, but the "schismatic" variety?

I have a complete and full appreciation of the "traditional" arguments against the Novus Ordo Mass; but in my case, I went East. There, the Lord taught me many things about Christian spirituality and the normative value of Tradition, albeit on a different key. He also taught me the value of an ancient Liturgy, one older by over one thousand years than the one the Sixto-Clementine reformers had to clean up from so many medieval accretions back in the 16th century. I now can pray in Greek and Slavonic, as well as in Latin, English, and Spanish. What a blessing!

Yet, the Lord also made patent to me my hubris, my spiritual and intellectual pride, nay, arrogance, and the fundamental weakness of a Catholic Church acting without a real Primate endowed with power and jurisdiction, and the pitifulness of one man who pretended to defend such a stance as one more authentically "Catholic".

My little "traditionalist" adventure ended in crisis and then healing, for Our Eucharistic Lord brought me back to where I met him first, to Mass, and the Sacraments, as I have known them throughout my life. He is there, friend, and since He is there, nothing is lacking, nothing is absent. I lack nothing in the Church today. I am not looking for something beyond what I can find in the Church now.

I am a Roman Catholic Christian with Initial Capital Letters. The Lord has confirmed me in His Church. After 7 years of self-imposed silence, I decided to share my humble experiences with whoever cares to listen to them, which is what brought us together. I don't have to justify what I am except to the Lord, my confessor, and my wife and children. Those outside of this circle who choose to read what I write, should take my word for it.

So please, please, spare me the invitations to consider "something better." I am not going to revert to that kind of mindset! I respect the Tridentine Mass and I hope and pray that the Bishops be more generous when it comes to apply the indult. Those who adhere to the "Old Mass" are as part of the Church as I am; they are not over the Church, they are not parallel to the Church, they are not a "remnant" of the Church. They are in the Church and as such need to be guided, ministered to, and taught to like any other Catholic. But they are not going to turn back the clock either, nor are they going to lord it over the rest of us. Away with their pedantry!

This is an afterthought. Does the Novus Ordo need some modifications and perhaps restructuring? By all means, sure! But its essence is sound, you see? The accidents are the ones that need some tweaking. Perhaps we can agree on that.

Teo: please, in charity, take the time to think through these things before declaring heresy where there is none. I have no problem crying "heretic" myself, but by all means, make all claims in reference to the principles of our Faith. You haven't done so here. One is a false claim, the other is a fuzzy sort of imagined thing, and as for the rest of the sacraments, no, they have not denied their validity either. Truth, Teo. Speak the truth.

If you are in communion with the Holy See, and already attend the indulted Mass, why do you care about what the SSPX has to say? You are getting what you need where you need, in the right Church. Limit yourself to pray for their reconciliation with the Holy See and don't triangulate yourself between them and the Church! Defend the Church! Stay in the Church! Love the Church!

I am willing to qualify my statements about the SSPX, sure. If they are not in formal heresy, then they're close to it, as I said before.

"Schism, well you know that better than I do and scandal, it seems to always attach itself to both heresy and schism. So there it is. But you didn't ask me about these two."

Not necessarily so. Yes, schism most often eventually allows for the introduction of heresies as well, but this is not a necessary consequence such that to say if you find schism, you'll necessarily find heresy as well. This is not the case.

Sure. As a former Eastern Orthodox I can definitely sympathize with this assertion and appreciate its attraction. But you know, a pope may be a jerk personally and in the way he carries himself and church policy. Yet, like St. Catherine of Siena said, the Pope is also the "sweet Christ on the earth." To oppose him, to ostracize him, to ridicule him, to mock him may not be heresy, but it is a profound sin against Christian charity liable of eternal damnation, for he who lacks love, knows not God. I think that's how Saint John put it on his first Epistle. One may be a schismatic and not be guilty of material heresy and still go to hell in a hand basket.

"As for the second question, I haven't incurred any heresy, so you are not going to have the satisfaction to see me "recant" either in public or in private on this issue."

But Teo, let's be honest. You said you held the exact same position which has already been condemned by Pope Pius IX in his Syllabus of Errors. To state otherwise is merely denial on your part. Would it not be best to submit to the judgment of the Church, which has already been clearly and previously rendered? The answer of course, is a resounding "yes".

I am being honest. Honest! The thing is that the declarations of the popes should be applied with due attention to Natural Law and Right Reason—by who? By other popes and the bishops, primarily, and then by others outside the Teaching Church. They cannot be taken fundamentalistically by laymen like propositional truths out of their original context.

Yet, the Syllabus itself is a collection of propositions also wrenched out of their original context; they are quotes from other independent documents. That's why the Syllabus' binding authority is more problematic than the Constitutions and Declarations of the 2,500 Fathers of the Second Vatican Council.

Besides, a fundamentalist reading of sacred and/or doctrinal texts is problematic enough outside the Church; don't bring this mindset into the Church, please?

"In my thought, I adhere very closely to the reasoning found in the 1909 Catholic Encyclopedia, entitled, "State and Church," particulary its fourth section, "Union of Church and State," which you may read here. In fact, read the entire article. It is quite illuminating."

Teo... this was not the position which you put forth. I read what you put forth on your website.

You originally objected to a phrase you found in my little personal manifesto I have on line. That document was a declarative document, not an explicative document. You never asked me —charitably—for an explanation of my stance until today. You contented yourself to declare me a heretic and then set out to prove that I was one via pretty mean statements in the AngelQueen boards. Only the earnestness that you have shown today by approaching me in private and your appeal to charity have saved our dialogue. See the difference? But consider this too:

When I write something I have the expectation—a naïve expectation, perhaps—that first, readers will understand that my statements are not devoid of careful reflection and that they are in fact the product of such reflection. Second, I expect from every reader—again, another naïve expectation—the benefit of the doubt, that whatever I say be interpreted in the best possible manner in light of the surrounding context and evident good intent. This expectation of mine gets particularly acute when fellow Catholics are doing the reading. My expectation then grows to be to almost a demand.

What I received from some fellow Catholics was not only the worst possible reading and interpretations of what I wrote, believed, expounded, etc., I also got verbal traps thrown my way in the manner of the Pharisees of old in order to "confound" me and expose me for the alleged fraud I was. Is that what I should expect from fellow Catholics? I don't think so. Yet, there it is.

Don't blame me if I am a wee bit miffed and avoided an online conversation with you for these reasons.

"My support for this separation should be read within that context pretty much, as well upon the clear observation that establishing the Catholic Church in a modern pluralistic society where the majority of the population is not Catholic will engender more evil than those the establishment seeks to cure. Double-effect comes to the fore, choose the lesser of the two evils."

But you still support the separation, and this is in violation of the declared position of the Catholic Church. A similar argument to yours: "observing the commands of the Church in regards to contraception in our hedonistic, sex-slaved, materialistic society where the majority of the population is not Catholic will engender more evil than... etc." What's the difference? The teaching of the Church in this example, as in yours, is still rejected. Reasons are given, yet the rejection is still a rejection.

Your argument doesn't hold water, because it mixes categories. The power and relationship of the state vis-à-vis the Church is one thing; the moral demands of the Natural Law and the Gospel as presented by the Church and which all men should follow, independently of how they govern themselves, are quite another. You cannot reason in the same manner through both of them. As you know, this is an informal fallacy, an error in informal logic.

There is another error here, one of substance. You imply that in your model of church-state union the state would have the power to enforce a contraceptive ban, for example, say, through legislation which would authorize the use of coercive means such as incarceration and/or fines. Now, is the state obligated to follow the political mandate of the Church on this matter? How does that square off with the Church's own view of the independent sphere proper to temporal power? How is this going to be enforced? You don't tell me either.

You want to jump from tight, moral one-liners to general, public legislation right away, with no mediating steps, all by mere fiat. This is the "vibe" I get when you speak of your ideal church-state relationship.

So, how do you say? Let's be honest here. You haven't thought this through. I can tell. You're missing primary source material in your reasoning; you haven't developed your theory of church and state relations on the basis of the centuries old tradition of the Church on this subject. You only have one proposition from the Syllabus of Errors to push your view, and nothing else.

Is that it? One single proposition interpreted outside Natural Law and Right Reason by one individual? Please…

"This is also the view of Fr. Austin Fagothey, S.J., in his great book entitled Right and Reason: Ethics in Theory and Practice Based on the Teachings of Aristotle and Saint Thomas Aquinas:

"The separation of Church and State is not the theoretical ideal, but it is often the best working arrangement. If a religion holds that it is the only true Church, its theoretical ideal can be nothing less that all men should be members of it; in a country in which all the citizens belongs to the same religious body a separation, not merely a distinction, between the two would be a pointless fiction; but even here provision would be necessary for the toleration of possible minority groups. But in countries such as ours [the U.S.A.], where the people profess many different religions and are split up into any number of sects, a practical separation of Church and state seems to be workable arrangement. As the facts of history show, it has succeeded admirably." (p.427)."

You may obtain Fr. Fagothey's work from TAN books.

Pius IX has condemned the separation of Church and state, whether it is justified in a TAN publication or not.

I can tell you didn't like this quote from a recognized authority. I knew it, I expected it. I'm not gloating, though. I'm just observing.

You can't dismiss Fr. Fagothey's work so cavalierly. His work was used to train seminarians and was part of the curriculum of Catholic Universities well before Vatican II, nor can you dispute his conclusions drawn from Natural Law and Right Reason and made in the spirit of St. Thomas Aquinas' own reflections just by waving your hand and clinging to your one-liner.

To extract one-liners from the Syllabus—a questionable endeavor to begin with—in order to hammer them, and your interpretation of them, over your fellow Catholics' heads is repulsive, contrary to the Spirit of Communion and Charity keeping the Mystical Body of Christ together, and spiritually presumptuous. It makes you equal—in accidents if not in essence—to those Protestant, anti-Catholic, King-James-Only believers who by quoting just one verse from Scripture, think they are able to prove that the Catholic Church is the Whore of Babylon.

So now you know pretty much where I stand. Where do we go from here, friend? Is this going to take us closer to Christ? Because if it doesn't, don't bother trying to sway me again. I've already wasted too much time in my life following my own whims, albeit dressed as "Catholic concerns," to start again in another wild-goose chase.

I'm done exploring "traditionalist" arguments. What I'm doing now is trying to live a Catholic Christian life according to my given state in life—that of a married lay man.

If our dialogue will make us grow in Christ, fine, let's keep talking. That's what fellow-travelers are for. Otherwise, this will be my last communication to you, although you will always remain in my thoughts and prayers. The ball is in your court.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Archbishop Dziwisz installed in Krakow

...and speaking of the Polish Church...

John Paul Aide Named Krakow Archbishop. YahooNews/AP: Pope John Paul II's longtime aide, who worked with the pontiff for 40 years and cradled him in the popemobile after a 1981 assassination attempt, was installed Saturday as archbishop of Krakow, the post once held by the late pontiff.

Pope Benedict XVI, who appointed Stanislaw Dziwisz to lead the important diocese in June, described him as "the best person to hold this position" in a papal bull read out by Rev. Jan Zajac during a ceremony in Wawel Castle cathedral.

"By now, the faithful have come to know your responsibility and dedication and I am sure they will be obedient to you," the bull said.

Dressed in a white-and-gold robe and miter, Dziwisz walked in a procession to St. Mary's church, surrounded by hundreds of priests and bishops in white robes, nuns and city officials. He held a silver-and-gilded staff given to Karol Wojtyla — the future John Paul — when he became archbishop of Krakow in 1958.

Dziwisz (holding the late Pontiff shortly after the 1981 assassination attempt in the picture to the left) blessed the crowds as he walked through the city, smiling as he repeatedly made the sign of the cross. Tens of thousands of people who lined the streets under the scorching sun responded with applause and shouts of "Bravo!"

Dziwisz was to deliver a homily in a service outside St. Mary's, a double-spired brick church that is a city landmarks.

Dignitaries in attendance included Pier Ferdinando Casini, president of the lower house of the Italian parliament, and Cardinal Camillo Ruini, the vicar of Rome and a longtime collaborator of John Paul's.

Please, read the entire Yahoo News article here.

Catholic-phobia equals Polish-phobia among Russian Orthodox

Brothers and sisters, this is my second observation today of Russian Orthodox attitudes against the Catholic Church.

In an interview curiously entitled "We are not enemies" given to the Russian Interfax news agency by Archpriest Maxim Kozlov, professor at Moscow Theological Academy, author of the study on Orthodoxy and Western Christianity, rector of the church of the Holy Martyr Tatiana at Moscow State University, had this to say about historical relations between the Catholic Church and the Russian Orthodox Church:
-Father Maxim, you described Benedict XVI as direct successor to John Paul II. Can this succession be also applied to the Catholic proselytism on the Russian soil?

- Of course, if we look back at the history of the Catholic Church beginning from the second half of the 19th century in her relations with Russia, we will see how two tendencies alternated. One tendency - psychologically understandable but ecclesiastically and politically very superficial - is to play mean tricks on Russia as an Orthodox power by defending the Poles (as was the case during Polish rebellions in the 19th century), playing other minor dirty trick of diplomatic and political nature (as, say, during the Russian-Turkish war). Another tendency - a wiser one - is to come to agreement with the supreme Russian administration in the awareness that we are not enemies in principle in the context in which Europe is developing now.

John Paul II, as a man who experienced that confrontation between East and West as capitalist and socialist systems and a man who went through an atheistic system as a bishop, was certainly impelled to take the former path in everything. And he did take it. Perhaps I will now express a paradoxical point of view, but it was for us an act of God’s providential permission in some way, because to stake on the Polish Catholicism in Russia is always a complete dead-end. It was also providential that throughout the years of our weakness as state and church in the early 90s when the initial growth of our churchliness was only instinctive, the Catholics in Russia were headed by Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz and most of the clergy were Polish priests not of the best kind, who were not very much wanted in Poland herself and came here either to be as far away from the episcopal authority as possible or that authority readily sent them away from its territory. They brought over traditional snobbism towards local God-searchers and were accepted mainly by some Russian intellectuals who for some reason believe that Catholicism is a kind of liberal Christianity. More people repelled than accepted them. And all those extremely unfortunate steps they made establish dioceses in place of apostolic administrations… What have the Catholics acquired except for a radical aggravation in relations with the Russian Orthodox Church and Russian State? Well, nothing, except for Kondrusiewicz’s supposed intentions to bring them closer to a cardinal’s cap. There are no other rational reasons visible behind these actions.
Commentary. Methinks that the strong aversion against the Catholic Church prevalent in Orthodox Russian circles is as racial as it is theological. These cultural inheritors of the old Tsarist past cannot accept the fact that Poland kindly refused to croak and die, rejecting Russify steadfastly after being invaded by Russian armies and partitioned twice in the 19th. and 20th. centuries.

Russian panslavophiles cannot stomach this cultural and religious defeat at the hands of a militarily and politically less powerful and fellow Slavic adversary. Anything smacking of Polishness has to be opposed to save the face of All the Russias and her Orthodox faith. The worst affront came to be after a Polish man became Pope of Rome. For Patriarch Alexis and many in his circle, that circumstance became a pleonasm of evil. The Catholic Church had to be opposed because of the Polish Pope. Now that the Pope is a German, they sound like they want to talk business, while looking for signs that Pope Benedict XVI wishes to maintain the course set by Pope John Paul the Great to regularize the Catholic Church in former Soviet territory. At that point, the Russian Orthodox will pack up and go home, which, in my humble opinion, belies their good faith.

Union of Orthodox Citizens appeals to Alexy II to break all relations with the Vatican

...and start missionary work in Europe and America.

Folks, according to the Russian news agency, Interfax:
Moscow, August 23, Interfax - As the Uniates have become more active in Ukraine the Orthodox public have appealed to Patriarch Alexy of Moscow and All Russia to end all relations with the Roman Catholic Church and begin missionary work in Europe and America.

‘It is necessary to accept in the fold of the Orthodox Church all the Old Catholic communities who wish to join it, to establish a Russian Orthodox school for training Latin-rite clergy for service in Europe and America and to develop intensive Orthodox missionary work there’, an appeal of the Union of Orthodox Citizens to Patriarch Alexy states.

The authors of the appeal, the text of which was given to Interfax, believe that any relations with the Vatican should be interrupted since the Catholic Church is believed to use them only for her own purposes.

‘In our view, any agreement with the RCC pursues exclusively the Vatican’s interests and prevents the Church of Christ from carrying out the service commanded by the Lord. There is only one way to beat a card-sharper - not to sit at a card-table with him’, the Union of Orthodox Citizens maintains.
Commentary. Am I surprised by this Orthodox group's attitude?

Nope. Not when they define "proselytism" as anything smacking them of Roman dominion and affronts.

At least, they are consistent. For this extreme wing of the Orthodox Church, the Catholic Church is no real Church--pretty much the same stance of the Catholic Church's own extreme wing--often a schismatic wing-- which thunders the same anathemas against the Orthodox Church, *and* the rest of the Catholic Church, to say nothing about their attitudes against Protestants and Jews. It's funny how much they resemble each other when one place them side-by-side.

This Orthodox "Union" have lost sight of the Royal Path of Orthodoxy and that will be its eventual downfall. Their is "a zeal not according to knowledge." Patriarch Alexis may find them useful for a while before tossing them aside in his own pursuit of geopolitical interests. That's the lot of useful fools.

Sure, they may increase or decrease according to the ebb and flow of human passions but in the end, these groups will disappear, simply because they'll devour themselves. Sad thing is that, if Love doesn't triumph, others will come in and take their place.

They are a dour, dark, absolutistic, ethnocentric bunch, for whom the Church has to meet stern, narrow parameters not in accordance with the Love of Christ in order to be "the real Church." A Church built according to their sad, artificially solemn image, I hope and pray never comes. Clearly, the Stone these builders have rejected, must become again the Corner Stone. Otherwise, their building is sure to collapse. For the looks of it, it will happen, too.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

The Perfect Catholic Philosopher, according to Thomas Merton

Speaking of his friend Dan Walsh in his bestselling biography, The Seven Storey Mountain, Trappist Monk Thomas Merton draws a composite of what a Catholic philosopher ought to be from Dan Walsh's example:
For [Walsh], like Gilson, had the most rare and admirable virtue of being able to rise above the petty differences of schools and systems and seeing Catholic philosophy in its wholeness, in its variegated unity, and in its true Catholicity. In other words, he was able to study St. Thomas and St. Bonaventure and Duns Scotus side by side, and to see them as complementing and reinforcing one another, as throwing diverse and individual light n the same truths from different points of view, and thus he avoided the vil of narrowing and restricting Catholic philosophy and theology to a single school, to a single attitude, a single system.
You know, this is a true observation. Oftentimes we get mired in so much inane controversy, without exploring how the Church's different schools of theology and of life reinforce one another. Assuming a shared in word and in practice, orthodoxy, it is fair to say that God wants all of them in the Church, because God want to reach us where we are. If a person dislikes Opus Dei, he might go to the Focolare; if Communion and Liberation is not your bailiwick, then perhaps the Schoensttat Apostolic Movement is your thing. Perhaps another person finds the Charismatic Movement incompatible with her rearing or personality; perhaps the San Egidio Community is a better fit.

These are all pretty modern movements, but of course, the injunction also applies to the older ones. Too tired of Franciscan informality? Try the Dominicans. Want the security of a big building and hospitality of monks? Become a Benedictine Oblate, like I want to be—and I've also being a Charismatic, which is a good starting point to start living as a Catholic; and attended Schoensttat while living in Puerto Rico, as well as meditations sponsored by the Opus Dei in their House near the college campus. And I was privy many times how people from some group misunderstood the other: "Pentecostal heretics," some in Schoensttat called the Charismatics; "Mariolaters" the Charismatics sniped in return. These were the same people who sat side by side to pray the Rosary in their home parish, without really knowing the memberships of the others! It was nonsensical, all of it.

God wants all these things, all these movements, all these "tents." He wants you to be full. There's no excuse for Catholics to whine that "there's nothing in the Church that attracts me or that I like." There's plenty of food for the taking at the Church's table, plenty of evangelical ways of living. It is just a matter of asking the Lord to show you where He wants you to be.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Words of Wisdom by Blessed Mother Theresa of Calcutta

A clean heart is a free heart. A free heart can love Christ with an undivided love in chastity, convinced that nothing and nobody will separate it from his love. Purity, chastity, and virginity created a special beauty in Mary that attracted God’s attention. He showed his great love for the world by giving Jesus to her.

There is a terrible hunger for love. We all experience that in our lives - the pain, the loneliness. We must have the courage to recognize it. The poor you may have right in your own family.
Find them.
Love them.

Before you speak, it is necessary for you to listen, for God speaks in the silence of the heart.

Give yourself fully to God. He will use you to accomplish great things on the condition that you believe much more in His love than in your own weakness.

Speak tenderly to them. Let there be kindness in your face, in your eyes, in your smile, in the warmth of your greeting. Always have a cheerful smile. Don't only give your care, but give your heart as well.

The more you have, the more you are occupied, the less you give. But the less you have the more free you are. Poverty for us is a freedom. It is not mortification, a penance.

It is joyful freedom. There is no television here, no this, no that. But we are perfectly happy.

I pray that you will understand the words of Jesus, “Love one another as I have loved you.” Ask yourself “How has he loved me? Do I really love others in the same way?” Unless this love is among us, we can kill ourselves with work and it will only be work, not love. Work without love is slavery.

Little things are indeed little, but to be faithful in little things is a great thing.

A sacrifice to be real must cost, must hurt, must empty ourselves. The fruit of silence is prayer, the fruit of prayer is faith, the fruit of faith is love, the fruit of love is service, the fruit of service is peace.

- Source: EWTN.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

"A Man Who Became Pope" - Great Television!

Folks, every now and then something comes out from TV that's a pleasant surprise.This time is a movie recently broadcast on the Hallmark channel, entitled A Man Who Became Pope: The Heroic True Story of John Paul II. I recorded it and watched it again to catch some details. Here's my review:

The movie is well done, true to life in terms of sets and costumes. This is no amateur production. The principal actors themselves are Polish: Piotr Adamczyk played Karol Wojtyla and Malgorzata Bela played leading lady, a platonic love never consumated.

Adamczyk plays a convincing Wojtyla, reacting with profound emotions and absorption to every evil he sees. This is consontant with Wojtyla's phenomenological leanings. He was able to capture the late Pope's penetrating gaze and ample smile.

Main bad guys: Matt Craven, who played Hans Frank, Poland's Nazi governor and Hristo Shopov, whose name has been grievously omitted from the Cast Biographies and the Media Kit available from the distributor's website. We all know Shopov: he played Pontius Pilate in the Passion of the Christ. The guy has a nack to play evil dudes. In this movie, he played a Polish Communist apparatchik who tries to capture Wojtyla in a fumble that would justify his arrest, but can't.

Supporting cast: Raoul Bova played Father Thomasz Zaleski, pastor of Wawel Cathedral in Cracow and a mentor of young Karol. Zaleski lost his life at the whim of Governor Hans Frank. Ennio Fantasthichini played Nowak, a mine worker Wojtyla befriended while working at the Solway quarry who became a lifelong friend and mentor of sorts. There are more, but these are the ones I have the most information for the moment. I want to say that no secondary character was wasted in this movie; all of them contributed actively to the setting, to the environment, and to the pathos of the movie.

The script: In my opinion, perhaps the one thing that could have been improved. Sometimes the character appear to be delivering one-liners that sort of "cruise" past the other. In his more pedagogic moments, Wojtyla seems to be delivering straight quotes from the Pope's own works: Love and Responsibility and the Acting Person. Adamski's delivery of these lines is magisterial and saves the day. He was able to integrate seamlessly them into a normal dialogue.

If the late Pope was like this, no wonder he is so beloved!

Anyway...Hallmark is having encore presentations this coming Saturday August 27 at 7pm. Don't miss it. I give it 4 jalapeños out of 5.

- Get more information and excellent high resolution pictures here.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Pope Benedict XVI offers the Mass before 1 million people in Cologne

Event is almost ignored or given short shrift in local US media

Sometimes, a picture is worth a thousand words. This happened last Sunday, August 21, 2005:

Picture credits: RP-Online and Yahoo News.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Teófilo replies to a Traditionalist Catholic

Folks, a traditionalist acquaintance shared with me his thoughts on my post from yesterday on the confession of St. Peter and the Apostolic Succession of Bishops of Rome. I am sharing it with you in turn, along with my answer.
I so not for one minute lack the certainty that Our Holy Father is Pope Benedict, to do so would be crazy, though I have heard some argument that makes some sense but not convincing enough

I think you and others seem to miss the entire point of those that have issues with the second vatican council and the changing of the mass, her customs, her bible, and her Mass which is the way we are meant to worship God, the reason why we have a Mass, and without a true sacrifice we have no mass as the mass is the sacrifice and vice versa

Can a Pope be Bad-Yes. Can a council be pastoral and not binding? Yes Can your Bishop disobey Rome as is happening all around? Yes.

No one is doubting the validity of the Papal seat, what is being debated is the direction of the church.

In the 1950's and 60's, those bent on liberalization of the church like Hans Kung and Rahner and ever Father Ratzinger were "outcasts" of sorts. Now they are considered mainstream. Now those that oppose liberalization are the outcasts. But pendulums always come back to their starting point and with prayer so will the church'

God bless you
Wow. You know, when I wrote this little thing, I had Protestants in mind. Not all Protestants, but certain Protestants, and I can name names, but I won't do it. None of them are Freepers anyway, so it doesn't matter. Let me address what you say point-by-point:

You say that you don't lack the certainty that Our Holy Father is Pope Benedict, though you have heard arguments to the contrary that make "some sense," but are not "convincing enough." My humble answer: any sede vacantist argument is nonsensical on its face, and never convincing. This is a temptation for you. Avoid it.

You contrast the pre-Vatican II Church's "mass, her customs, her bible," and the sacrificial nature of the Mass with, I assume, my own. You are wrong to make the distinction. The pre-Vatican II Church is my church too, and it goes all the way back to what happened in Matthew XVI, read in yesterday's Gospel. To say that Vatican II created a substantial discontinuity between the Church before and the Church after is sophomoric, and undermines the traditionalist claim of true catholicity at its roots. If this error weren't so tragic, it would be funny. Therefore, as I behold it, I don't laugh; I cry.

You say that a Pope can "be bad." No argument there, though I suspect I have Alexander VI in mind while you have Blessed John XXIII. You say that "a council be pastoral and not binding." Thing is that, when it comes to Ecumenical Councils, this is a distinction without a difference. The inequation "pastoral not binding" is a rationalization invented to justify selective obedience and when it comes to selective obedience, many traditionalist ideologues are no different than Küng and his cronies.

You say that "no one is doubting the validity of the Papal seat, what is being debated is the direction of the Church." I say that if the post-Vatican II Mass and Sacramentary are held to be near invalid or highly problematic, we haven't had a validly ordained priest or bishop since at least 1968, and that sede-vacantism is the only logical outcome of those tenets.

That way lies Gerry Matatics, for example. He worked it all out, he's an intelligent man; he's utterly wrong, of course, but at least he is consistent.

You can't have your cake and eat it too.

Finally, you compare Hans Küng to Rahner and Ratzinger--that is, Pope Benedict XVI. I humbly pose this question to you? What have you read of Küng and Ratzinger that you can make such a bold comparison? When I read Küng, I recognize a crypto-Protestant, but not so with Ratzinger, even back then.

I have nothing against the Church extending her ministering and pastoral arm to those Catholics who prefer the pre-Vatican II Mass, sacraments, and rubrics. In fact, I hope that the Holy See, but more importantly, every individual bishop, be totally generous toward this segment of the Church and provide for them everywhere and at all times. I myself would even attend this Mass on occasion, not because I have anything to prove, but because it is mine, it is part of my Catholic heritage, just as I would attend a Byzantine or Maronite Liturgy also on occasion.

Yet, notice that I said "segment of the Church." They are not "the Church," they are not even a "remnant" of the Church. They are part of the Church as a I am part of the Church. Nor do they stand in judgment against the rest of the Church, just as I lack the same standing.

I'm not in the habit of justifying my Catholic bona fides before other Catholics; I find the mere thought obscene; when I face it, I just want to move on and ignore the talker. Yet, on occasion I have to do it less a greater error prevails, particularly if the other party shows good faith in the conversation, as you have.

I just want to let you know that I won't make it a habit. ;-)

Sunday, August 21, 2005

You are Peter, and upon this Rock...

Folks, today's Gospel reading at Mass has had resonances reaching down through the centuries. It was from the Gospel according to St. Matthew 16:13-20:
When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi he put this question to his disciples, ‘Who do people say the Son of Man is?’ And they said, ‘Some say he is John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets’. ‘But you,’ he said ‘who do you say I am?’ Then Simon Peter spoke up, ‘You are the Christ,’ he said ‘the Son of the living God’. Jesus replied, ‘Simon son of Jonah, you are a happy man! Because it was not flesh and blood that revealed this to you but my Father in heaven. So I now say to you: You are Peter and on this rock I will build my Church. And the gates of the underworld can never hold out against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven: whatever you bind on earth shall be considered bound in heaven; whatever you loose on earth shall be considered loosed in heaven.’ Then he gave the disciples strict orders not to tell anyone that he was the Christ.
We can see these resonances as early as St. Irenaeus, who in his tome entitled Against Heresies, he wrote back in the Second Century A.D.:
The blessed apostles, then, having founded and built up the Church, committed into the hands of Linus the office of the episcopate. Of this Linus, Paul makes mention in the Epistles to Timothy. To him succeeded Anacletus; and after him, in the third place from the apostles, Clement was allotted the bishopric. This man, as he had seen the blessed apostles, and had been conversant with them, might be said to have the preaching of the apostles still echoing [in his ears], and their traditions before his eyes. Nor was he alone [in this], for there were many still remaining who had received instructions from the apostles. In the time of this Clement, no small dissension having occurred among the brethren at Corinth, the Church in Rome despatched a most powerful letter to the Corinthians, exhorting them to peace, renewing their faith, and declaring the tradition which it had lately received from the apostles, proclaiming the one God, omnipotent, the Maker of heaven and earth, the Creator of man, who brought on the deluge, and called Abraham, who led the people from the land of Egypt, spake with Moses, set forth the law, sent the prophets, and who has prepared fire for the devil and his angels. From this document, whosoever chooses to do so, may learn that He, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, was preached by the Churches, and may also understand the apostolical tradition of the Church, since this Epistle is of older date than these men who are now propagating falsehood, and who conjure into existence another god beyond the Creator and the Maker of all existing things. To this Clement there succeeded Evaristus. Alexander followed Evaristus; then, sixth from the apostles, Sixtus was appointed; after him, Telephorus, who was gloriously martyred; then Hyginus; after him, Pius; then after him, Anicetus. Sorer having succeeded Anicetus, Eleutherius does now, in the twelfth place from the apostles, hold the inheritance of the episcopate. In this order, and by this succession, the ecclesiastical tradition from the apostles, and the preaching of the truth, have come down to us. And this is most abundant proof that there is one and the same vivifying faith, which has been preserved in the Church from the apostles until now, and handed down in truth.
All the way down to Benedict today!

Benedict XVI is St. Peter's Successor in the Primacy of the Church. That very Catholic claim hasn't been retracted since its utterance. The Faith of Peter is the Faith of Benedict, who is also the Faith of the Church: that Christ is the Son of the Living God. By this confession, St. Peter's sucessor also holds the Lord's promise that the powers of hell and death will not prevail against her. Isn't that wonderful!

Those who lack the certainty of this promise--if you allow me to gloat just for a moment--read it, and weep.

Friday, August 19, 2005

The Church before Pope John Paul the Great

A short review of André Frossard's Portrait of John Paul II

Folks, I've been rereading a precious little book by French author André Frossard, entitled Portrait of Pope John Paul II. You may remember Monsieur Frossard as the co-author and partner in dialogue of Pope John Paul's Be Not Afraid: Pope John Paul II Speaks Out on His Life, His Beliefs, and His Inspiring Vision for Humanity and a Catholic convert from atheism with several other printed works to his credit, particularly, I have met Him: God exists, the narrative of his conversion.

The Portrait of Pope John Paul II is a series of impressions that Frossard derived from his encounters with the late Pope. The chapter entitled "Just Who is Karol Wojtyla and What Is He Going To Do?" contains a brief account of the state of the Church when Cardinal Wojtyla was elected Pope. It is one of my favorite paragraphs in the book and I hereby reproduce it, for your reading pleasure. In fact, I think it provides an interesting coda to my serial blog posts about so-called "Neocatholics":
To the disinterested observer, the Church was showing clear signs of internal disintegration. There were at least two Churches in Holland: one of them was playing at throwing its hat over the blades of the windmill and then attempting to catch it as it flew off on the other side; the other Church of Holland, the conservative one, called "anachronistic" and "reactionary", kept constantly on the defensive, even had its communications cut off by the windmill faction. In Germany, there was a theologian who persisted in calling himself a Catholic while inveighing against Rome in the manner of a Luther, but with rather less eloquence and rather more pedantry. In Spain, always very Catholic, the higher clergy let themselves float on the prevailing winds. In France, we watched the first punches thrown in the boxing match between an ultraconservative bishop so obsessed with the old liturgical formulas that he came close to branding the Second Vatican Council a work of the devil and an opposing clerical contingent manifestly ready to throw the liturgical and pastoral baby out with the bathwater, clergy who continually preached democracy and pluralism only to take refuge in their own divinely conferred rights every time they thought their authority was being questioned. This group, so easily led around by the nose that it was incredible, took the slightest objection as an insult and the meekest question as evidence of intolerable defiance.

In the United States, some of the clergy who were persuaded that the best way to combat error is to appear to partake of it yourself, meddled in every conflict in contemporary society and fabricated a pastoral approach to homosexuality over the ruins of Christian marriage. In Latin America, the "popular churches" drew themselves up in full battle array against the institutional Church, all the while insisting, of course, that they were doing nothing of the sort. And I must not leave out Central America, where the superior of a contemplative order had all his monks psychoanalyzed and thereby emptied his monastery. He himself was the first to leave, so he could tie the knot with his girlfriend, who was entirely too young to get married in the first place—assuming it would palliate my shock if he explained to me in advance that I really knew nothing about the contemplative life. Deprived of sound catechetical instruction, disoriented by theologians who instead of instead of providing clear and distinct norms praised "the courage to doubt", Christians no longer knew what they ought or not ought to believe, and they suffered all the more in the silent stampede as the faithful deserted the churches and attendance steadily declined.

Now here came this Pope. He stood in the doors of the basilica and as soon as he did, my young traveling companion and I, and thousands more besides, had not only the comforting feeling of awakening from a bad dream, but the deeper, stranger, rarer impression of having been touched by grace.
If anything, friends, I think that the Church Pope John Paul left us is in a much better shape than the one he received in 1978.

Under Pope John Paul, the German Catholic theologian was marginalized, the "popular church" in Latin America snuffed out, the recalcitrant traditionalists isolated—whereas those remaining faithful to the Chair of Peter received the pastoral care and attention they deserved—and the doubting "theologians" reigned in, but only up to a point. Of course, this is much to the anger, chagrin, and frustration of SSPXers, of Hans Küng, Joseph O'Leiry, Joan Chittister, et al., but perhaps most of us could agree that the failure of the extreme wings of the Church to hijack the Church's soul has been a good thing for all Catholics.

Much remains to be done. The late Pope's work, spanning a quarter of a century, remains unfinished and Pope Benedict XVI is a worthy successor, one who knows that the requirements of orthodoxy should be taught to a recalcitrant public with a balanced, loving, and paternal hand.

Anyway, read André Frossard's Portrait of John Paul II and discover the humility, humanity, and contemplative side of this great Pope.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

A Grief Observed

Brother Roger of Taizé, 1915-2005

I want to offer my prayers for the eternal rest of the soul of Roger Louis Schutz-Marsauche (picture right with the late Pope John Paul the Great), better known as Brother Roger, the founder and Prior of the Taizé Ecumenical Community in France. Brother Roger was stabbed to death during the evening prayer service in Taizé on August 16, 2005 by Lumini?a Roxandra Sulcan, a 36-year-old Romanian woman. His throat was cut, causing him to bleed to death within minutes. The assailant was immediately apprehended by members of the congregation and was placed in police custody.

His death, in full view of 2,500 horrified young pilgrims at the Reconciliation Church, turned a man many already believed to be a saint into a martyr.

Well done, faithful and obedient servant.

The Fire Within

Folks, continuing with the mostly contemplative emphasis I've been working on this week, I want to share with you another essay by Legionnaire of Christ's seminarian Allen Wirfel, this one entitled, The Fire Within:

A fire is a beautiful thing. A fire gives off light and warmth; it consumes as it burns. Few things so simple can captivate our attention like the colorful, flickering flames of a fire. In the Gospel we read that no one starts a fire and places it under a bushel basket, but its brilliance is for all to share.

When a person builds a fire he begins by carefully arranging all the wood, and making sure everything is dry. This image of a fire brings to mind another reality, hidden from sight, yet no less beautiful and brilliant, unable to be touched and yet burning more ardently than fire, mysterious like the dancing flames and yet giving great certainty. This fire is the specific vocation of every person. When God creates a man he begins to build a fire in his soul. All the qualities we attribute to a fire we can also use to better understand and appreciate the reality of a vocation.

A vocation is a beautiful thing. In the first chapter of Jeremiah we read the words of God to his prophet, “before I formed you in the womb I knew you; before you came to be born I consecrated you.” Of all the ideas concerning our relationship with God, few are more striking than reality that God has known each of us and had a plan for each us before we were born. He began to build the fire. A vocation is beautiful because it is a specific path given by God in order to find Him. It is a path to personal happiness. In the living out of his particular vocation the life of every man finds the fullness of life and what it means to be truly human, created in the image and likeness of God. In short, we are all called to the vocation of holiness.

“In her [the Church’s] members personal holiness is yet to be acquired: ‘Strengthened by so many and such great means of salvation, all the faithful, whatever their condition or state—though each in his own way—are called by the Lord to that perfection of sanctity by which the Father himself is perfect.’”

A vocation is a source of light. Every man from the beginning of time has sought to understand his purpose in life. Who am I? Where do I come from? Where am I going? What is the purpose of this life? The light we receive from finding our vocation is an answer to all these questions. A vocation defines a man, solving the question of who he is. He is a teacher, a priest, a doctor, a husband, a father. When a man comes to understand the reality of his vocation as coming from God all the other questions are answered. Vocation is the answer to the origin and purpose of one’s life. “You have created me for yourself and my heart is restless until it rests in you.” In other words, when one comes to the realization of his vocation, he is filled with light and understanding. He is able to see clearly the path God has laid out in front of him: where it began and where it is going.

A vocation gives off warmth. Every vocation is founded on the radiant coals of love. The most fundamental vocation for all men is to love one another. “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.” Man is incomprehensible with out love. Every vocation, whether it be to single life, married life, consecrated life or the priesthood is meant to radiate the love of God to the world.

A vocation consumes as it burns. The Gospel is full of paradoxes. We are told that those who mourn will be joyful, those who weep will laugh, and those who wish to find their life must lose it. Every vocation is at once a sacrifice and a fulfillment of self.

“God’s yoke is God’s will, which we accept. And this will does not weigh us down, oppressing us or taking away our freedom. To know what God wants (is) to know where the path of life is found…It is also our joy: God’s will does not alienate us, it purifies us—even if this can be painful—and so it leads us to ourselves.”

Responding to God’s call is to leave aside our own plans and ambitions, often what we think will make us happy, so that we will find true happiness in God. When a vocation is lived to extreme the wood of our egotism and selfishness is burned away.

A vocation is captivating. Our society today thirsts for heroes. As the recent death of John Paul II proved, the world over, people are seeking for role models to emulate, men and women who are sincere, who are living what they profess, and not afraid to proclaim it to others. In John Paul II billions of people found a hero. He lived his vocation as Christian and as a priest to the full. He was “a light shining in the darkness.” John Paul II placed his flame on the lamp stand and the people in the house of the world were captivated.

It is characteristic of man to search for meaning in his life. He hungers to answer the fundamental questions of existence, and yet he needs light to guide him. It is only in relation to God that yearnings of man are satisfied. It is important for every man to discover the path God has called him to and to cultivate the interior fire of his vocation.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Love overcomes Evil

The toughest thing to do when cultivating holiness is to tame one's worst inclinations and traits. As one gazes inward to take stock of all the components, so-to-speak, of one personalities, once the mind is quiet, once can see a river of moods, opinions, passions, and reactions, an the inner monologue sprouting from them.

The river at times runs smoothly and peacefully, but some times it finds stones and rocks; other times, it carries debris from old bad memories, sufferings and pains; then the water gets choppy and one is surprised of one's ability to hate, to lash out, to kill even if that were possible.

Only the Lord can calm the waters. This is the moment of surrender, of admitting our inadequacy to love plentifully. This is the moment to fall prostrate and ask for forgiveness, healing, and restoration. Then, watch the river flow peacefully again; the walk over the waters by His side.

Do this often and then you'll notice that slowly, steadily, new, wholesome and holier traits will come to the fore. A New Man, a New Woman starts to grow and when you look on your countenance reflected from the newly-calmed waters, you will see His Face; a new joy takes shape and a new security. The realization comes suddenly that little matters in this world of suffering except for Love, freely given and freely accepted.

Once the soul discover that Love overcomes Evil, the soul finds peace.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Before I forget...

I want to welcome Fr. Joseph O'Leary to Vivificat! He has been leaving some comments around these here parts. I am honored that he has chosen to visit St. Blog's hinterlands. Keep coming back, Father Joe! Perhaps that way you'll begin to know "NeoCaths" better.

Blessed be the Lord, my help...

Another right on psalm that came upon me like soothing balsam. Psalm 143(144), which was the second psalm after the canticle in today's Morning Prayer. The opening verses were right on target:
Blessed be the Lord, my help,
who trains my hands for battle,
my fingers for war.
The Lord is kindness and strength,
my refuge and my liberator.
He is my shield, and I trust in him –
he places my people under his rule.
Which reminded me of another verse by St. Paul:
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. (Ephesians 6:12)
These two verses from God's Word definitely made my day and strengthened me in the face of many public and private travails. Deo Gratias.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Today's the Feast of the Assumption of Mary into Heaven

From today's Office of Readings: The Apostolic Constitution of Pope Pius XII on the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary: Your body is holy and glorious.

Icon by Bro. Claude Lane, OSBIn 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.

- Icon written by Br. Claude Lane, OSB of Mount Angel Abbey.

- Also, read the timely article on the Dogma of the Assumption at The Crossroad Initiative.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

New Blog by Yours Truly

Folks, today I started another vehicle for self-expression: The Conemaugh Valley Times. If you are looking for my opinion and comments on local issues in my greater community, you may go there or click on the banner below. The Conemaugh Valley Times will include links to and comments on, my monthly newspaper op-ed columns. Enjoy!

For slow, warm, lazy Sundays, Benedicamus Domino!

Folks, today's a warm in the heights, tad less hot than yesterday, still humid. Went to Mass yesterday, when I also performed my lector duties. All the readings were aimed at us, the Gentiles, those who are not part of the Chosen People but who, nevertheless, were welcomed to the courts of the House of God, where our sacrifice was to be welcomed. That's what Prophet Isaiah said, in a nutshell.

Paul, in his letter to the Romans, contrasts the rejection by the Jews with the fidelity of the Gentiles, through which the Jews will be redeemed and in the Gospel according to St. Matthew, we heard the story of the Canaanite woman who bessech the Lord to cure her daughter, only to be rebuffed by the Lord on ethnic grounds. Yet she persisted, and the Lord saw her faith passed the test and wondered at it.

Well, this Gentile is going with his wife and his pet basset to a park nearby, to be close to nature, to exercise, and also to wonder at the goodness of Our Lord.

For slow, warm, lazy Sundays, Benedicamus Domino!

P.S. 1:40 PM EDT. Make that wet, warm, slow, lazy Sundays! There's now a deluge out there! Where did that come from? Is not even in the radar! No matter: for the waters from heaven that renew everything in their path, and bring refreshment to the heat and a calm breeze, Benedicamus Domino!

Saturday, August 13, 2005

I call on you with all my heart – answer me, Lord.

Folks, this was the first psalm in today's Morning Prayer. The reference is Psalm 118 (119): 145-152. It touched me deeply today; it says what I felt this morning.
I call on you with all my heart – answer me, Lord. I will obey your laws.
I call on you, save me so that I can keep your decrees.

At dawn I cry to you, I put all my hope in your word.
In the night I keep watch, pondering your sayings.

In your mercy, Lord, hear my voice; in your justice, give me life.
My persecutors come to do me harm: they are far from your law.

But you, Lord, are near to me, and you are trustworthy in all your precepts.
From the beginning I have known your decrees, how you have made them to last for ever.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Cause of Martyred Salvadoran Archbishop Advances in Rome

Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Arnulfo Romero's beatification process passes orthodoxy test.

Well folks, the blogfast is over, we're moving on from Fr. O'Leary and his theological "insights." Life goes on and other matters have come to the fore.

According to Catholic World News:
Rome, Mar. 21 ( - The process for the beatification of Archbishop Oscar Romero will soon resume, 25 years after he was slain in El Salvador, according to the postulator for that cause.

The Archbishop of San Salvador was shot and killed as he celebrated Mass in a hospital chapel on March 24, 1980. The assassination came at the height of the civil war in that country, and during the funeral of the beloved archbishop, on March 30, soldiers fired into the congregation, killing and wounding dozens of the faithful. An investigation under UN auspices determined that the Salvadoran military had ordered the prelate's death.

From the time of his appointment in 1977, Archbishop Romero had clashed frequently with the military regime governing El Saladaor at that time. He was killed soon after making an appeal to soldiers to disobey orders to kill.

Bishop Vincenzo Paglia of Terni, Italy, who is now the postulator for the Romero cause, says that he expects soon to complete a "position" that will be presented to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, making the case that Archbishop Romero was a martyr for the faith. This "position" would then be studied by a panel of theologians, who in turn would submit their judgment to the prelates who serve on that Congregation. That process could take roughly six months, the postulator estimated.

The cause for Archbishop Romero's beatification was opened in 1993, in San Salvador. The process began with an examination of his writings and speeches, and testimony from his colleagues and acquaintances. The results of that investigation were conveyed to the Vatican in 1997. At that point, the process was slowed by an investigation undertaken by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
Please, read the entire article here.

Commentary. As a Latin-American who remember the heady days at the end of the 70's and who has met Salvadorans who actually knew the Archbishop, I can't remain unaffected by the prophetic voice and example of the martyred archbishop.

Archbishop Romero was no socialist, he had no political agenda. His voice was that of the Church. Putting him on the same shirt with the world's first and last idealist terrorist, Ché Guevara is insulting to the memory of the Archbishop Romero and it sends the wrong message that the martyred archbishop and Guevara stood for the same principles, which they most certainly did not.

Archbishop Romero's life and martyrdom stood as an indictment against the criminal execesses of both the right and the left in El Salvador during the years of its bloody civil war. Evil has no tolerance for good; since time inmemorial, the prophetic voice is an inconvenient voice that must be silenced at all costs. The right-wing death squads in El Salvador just got lucky to get at him first.

I am happy that his beatification process is moving forward. The resumption sends the right message to the Latin American Church, which is that her suffering is understood and honored by the Holy See, that Archbishop Romero's life and death is part-and-parcel of the history and the glorious wounds of the Universal Church, that lives and deaths such as his are what we are all about.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

A neocatholic strikes back — Conclusion

Where Teófilo brings this long serial post to a timely end by attempting a little amateur psychoanalysis of his own on Fr. O'Leary, explores the implications of process theology in the thought of said priest, explores the consequences of emptying faith of its objective content, and defines "neocaths" on their own terms, finishing by wishing Fr. O'Leary the best.

At last, we've reached the end of this serial post on Fr. Joseph O'Leary's essay. The rise of the neocaths. In this serial, I've strived to question every idea, sometimes single thoughts or fragments of thoughts —corresponding to paragraphs, sentences, and phrases respectively—that I considered deserving of deeper analysis. My purpose was not merely to restate what Fr. O'Leary said, but also its implications, its contradictions, and the seeming mismatch between Fr. O'Leary's vocation as priest, and his avocation as theologian and philosopher. The latter are to support the former, and the former should suffuse the latter and yet, I don't see that happening.

Fr. O'Leary holds to theological and philosophical conclusions he shouldn't as a priest; his sacramental calling is in conflict with the insights he has gained elsewhere in his studies. Fr. O'Leary's ego—allow me to engage on some amateur psychoanalysis of my own—which is aware of the rift, has found his scholarly findings as having more sway over his intellect and will than the imperatives flowing from the sacramental paradigm he had adhered to since earlier in his life.

Fr. O'Leary's ego did what healthy egos do when confronting the choice between a healthy integration or disintegration, between absorption and individuation. Based upon the data facing him and his own subjective inclinations and tastes and particular interpretations of the data, he subordinated his priestly self to an interpretation of the findings that rewarded his reason at the expense his faith and once he achieved that, he has never let go. He individuated not as a priest who was an intellectual, but as an intellectual who happened to be a priest. (Not a bad analysis from a Neocath who, according to Fr. O'Leary, suffers from unresolved father-figure problems, wouldn't you say?). Also, consider the following:

For some, faith precedes reason even if it ends in the negation of that very same reason. Tertullian, for example, used to say of the contents of his Christian faith I believe because it is absurd. His decisions later in life show that he followed this star to extreme conclusions, finishing his earthly pilgrimage outside of the Church. This current feeds some fundamentalists to the present day, as well as a few souls among fringe "traditionalists." That way lies Gerry Matatics, for example. Fr. O'Leary is not in this camp.

For other people, reason has achieved precedence over faith in their minds. In this scenario, in the inner dialogue every man and woman of faith has within their selves, they have reached a decision that circumscribed the assumptions and demands of faith into a tight little circle within their volitions and worldview to the point faith became more of a feeling and less of a sense of knowledge . Persons in this camp grant a higher status to those conclusions reached through the inductive method of empirical science than to the unseen facts of faith reached by contemplation and study of the Deposit of Faith.

Why? These religious scholars believe that the insights of empirical science have theological consequences; they believe that in his own way, the scientist is theologizing.

The French scientist-theologian, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, held this belief, in my opinion. Devotees of his process theology—for which Fr. O'Leary has expressed admiration—hold the scientific method in high regard and in practice, they do not distinguish between God's natural and supernatural actions in the world. To them, a rainbow is as much a miracle as the multiplication of bread and fish, perhaps even more so, because it can both explained and measured and also appreciated aesthetically first-hand, whereas the miracle of multiplication of bread may be but a mythical story that accreted into the Gospel narrative by a well-meaning writer who was not a first-hand witness to the event. They shifted the meaning of ultimate things from revelation to cogitation.

The converse is not true: a theologian is not doing science, nor is a theological conclusion one that can be tested empirically. Therefore, according to this view, theologians are handicapped in their conclusions unless they bring the "higher theology" of empirical science to bear upon a given problem.

This approach satisfies many of the demands of unaided reason. In this scheme, faith is totally drained of his objective contents and subordinated to the findings of empirical science; faith only becomes "knowledge" to the extent it is informed by scientific findings, otherwise it is deemed "irrational."

Emptying faith from its objective contents leads to another practical result: no Magisterium is needed to examine, protect, and define the contents of such faith. At best, the Magisterium's job becomes merely consultative and no more binding than the word of any single talented theologian, whether ordained or not. At worst, the Magisterium may be seen as the jealous protector of obsolete metanarratives that justify the oppression of misunderstood minorities and impede the evolutionary process of belief, doctrine, worship, and church government toward its natural end—the Omega point, de Chardin would have called it. Hence, the perceived obligation by members of this camp to deconstruct and minimize all Magisterial claims to dogmatic and jurisdictional authority.

This is where, I believe, Fr. O'Leary stands. That's why he decries the Neocaths' countercultural stances in matters of sex, church authority, morality and the like. Our stance is irrational, in Fr. O'Leary's eyes, because we refuse to be informed by the higher findings of empirical science which, within the Teilhardian scheme, is but a higher way of theologizing. We refuse to empty faith of its objective content and would not abandon the certainty of our faith-based knowledge in favor of a better kind of knowledge of the scientific-empirical kind. This is a form of Gnosticism. Fr. O'Leary is a Gnostic! He just hasn't realized it yet.

In contrast, Neocaths stand with the Church and with the Church's greatest theologians, on the view of the appropriate relationship between faith and reason. Faith enjoys preeminence because it is infused directly by God and it is independent from any feeling or act of the will prior to this infusion. Once God freely infuses faith upon a person—ordinarily through Baptism—faith and reason enters into a dialogue, within their proper boundaries that preserve the independence and mutual interdependence of each knowledge domain.

Catholics—let us drop the "neo" prefix, please, for it is really meaningless—do not believe "because it is absurd," but because it is reasonable, even if judgment and understanding many times have to be temporarily suspended—not denied—while "the certainty of things not seen" is cultivated and contemplated as true, objective, albeit not empirical, "knowledge." Hence, a Catholic should know that God is Triune, with the same certainty that he or she knows that an object once released from one's hands would fall to the ground, although the reality of the Trinity lies beyond personal experience and once engaged in an I-Thou relationship, the relationship transcends any previous personal experience of created beings. That this is often is not the case is a tragedy.

Once again, "faith" is the certainty of things not seen, as the writer of the Letter to the Hebrews said (cf. Hebrews 11;1). Judging by his essay, The rise of the neocaths, Fr. O'Leary lacks this certainty and wishes everyone to be short of it too.

Fr. O'Leary has failed to understand Catholics, let alone explain away those of our idiosyncrasies that seem to grate him so much. He insulted the late Pope John Paul the Great and doesn't expect much from Pope Benedict XVI either. Fr. O'Leary has drawn an elaborate caricature that he is attempting to pass as true.

Our duty remains to define ourselves as Catholics in word and action, and let Fr. O'Leary and those in his camp to kick hard against the goads until they turn blue on their faces. Perhaps then, he might repent, and the Lord may heal him. I know this is possible first hand, for the Lord has dealt with me in this manner and if he deals thusly with me, why not with a priest who is, by virtue of his ordination, imago Christi? For I have one good thing to say about Fr. O'Leary and is that he is a priest, and that goes a long way with me. May the grace of his ordination fill him and conform him perfectly to the image of Christ and restore in him a filial obedience to Holy Mother Church.

If this is the only part of these series you've read, I invite you to click on each link to read all parts: Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV, and Part V.

Monday, August 08, 2005

A neocatholic strikes back — Part V

Continued from Part IV.

Folks, this will be the last post quoting Fr. O'Leary's comments. It's also the lengthiest one. I'll follow this one with my final thoughts on the issue tomorrow, or later on in the week.

Fr. O'Leary (in blue and italics) said, and I retort:

In fairness, the generation of John Paul II Catholics are often blessed with vibrant and joyful faith, and I have been moved and impressed by many who are adherents or products of Opus Dei or the new movements known as "the Pope's Armada". Generally, their wholesome piety is not associated with right-wing ideologies but with a love of the Church as seen through the prism of theologians like Hans Urs Von Balthasar.
A symbolic, yet condescending pat on our heads after basically psychoanalyzing us as the father-figured-needing, Mao-like-pope following bunch of uncritical anti-intellectuals.
I reserve the term Neocaths for a vocal ideological wing of the younger generation which is in alliance with older voices and organs such as The Wanderer, Catholics United for the Faith.
Ouch, Father! Those guys actually cringe at the term. From their perspective, you and I are neocaths of different flavors, but basically congenial; "neocaths" are us of the Vatican II generation. The Wanderer crowd are not "neocaths." They are traditionalists, some critical, many of them uncritical. As far as I'm concerned, no
They are particularly well represented in the blogosphere. They are led by academic mentors such as the philosophers Peter Kreeft and Philip Blosser, and some of the more flamboyant voices are those of Christopher Blosser, Jeff Miller, Jimmy Akin, Oswald Sobrino, Mansfield Fox, Earl E. Appleby, Amy Welborn, Arthur Tsui, and at the youngest (and perhaps most genuine) end of the spectrum, Apolonio Latar III.
Granted that Drs. Kreeft and Blosser display a sense of academic sobriety in their writings, befitting men of their stature and academic preparation. But, calling Dr. Blosser's son and my better-known colleagues "flamboyant"—showy, colorful, loud, flashy, gaudy, glitzy, ostentatious, those are the other words the thesaurus tells me can stand for "flamboyant"—is a crass exaggeration. Nor do I see any of them kowtowing to the The Wanderer's editorial line routinely. Nor are they people without depth: Jimmy Akin is an apologist for Catholic Answers, the nation's premiere Catholic apologetics organization; Amy Welborn is a recognized published author; Oswald Sobrino is a jurist; Apolonio is a theological child prodigy. None of them strike me as the blind, uncritical followers of a rock star-cum-pope, or of his reactionary successor.
Here are a few traits that seem to recur frequently:

The Neocaths are Catholics, with a certain prominence of converts from Episcopalianism or Protestantism. They are people of faith and piety. Their sincerity is not in question.
Good, good! Only our smarts and our psychological need for a father-figure are in question.

Father, I am a cradle-Catholic. I wish to say that I have been faithful to the Roman Church, but I can't. Thanks in part to the ministrations of a renown anti-Catholic controversialist named James R. White, I left the Catholic Church "through a Protestant door" back in 1992. I zigzagged within various Protestant churches, into the Anglican Orthodox movement and then into Eastern Orthodoxy, in my empty search for a Catholic Church without a Pope. After a spiritual crisis lasting over a year, I returned to the Catholic Church in 1998, and kept away from Catholic self-expression until last year. So, Father, I am a "reconvert," marked forever by my Eastern experience which, all truth be told, it is a Catholic tradition. Careful with your generalizations. But then again, you spoke about "prominence" so in all fairness, you did qualify your statement.
The Neocaths tend to sexual puritanism. Appalled by the consequences of the sexual revolution, AIDS, abortion, cohabitation, adultery, divorce, pornography, they retreat to the strictest Catholic doctrine as an ark of refuge. They are very vocal advocates and practitioners of a strictly-interpreted concept of sexual fidelity, with a strong emphasis on procreative sexuality. They insist that masturbation is mortally sinful, and have an especial enthusiasm for the teaching that homosexuality is intrinsically disordered and that homosexual acts can never be countenanced.
What's so wrong with all that? These are the Church's teaching on these subjects! Doesn't Fr. O'Leary believe in sexual fidelity? Shouldn't sexuality be procreative? Aren't intrinsically evil actions—like masturbation—mortal sins when done in full knowledge and freely? Isn't homosexuality intrinsically disordered? Father, are you taking the opposite stance to Church's on matters of fidelity, procreation, intrinsically evil acts, mortal sin, and homosexuality, as perhaps morally neutral, or even "good" under most circumstances?

Father Joseph, did you take this oath, or a similar one, at the time of your ordination? taking up this office promise to always maintain communion with the Catholic Church either in words that I will speak or in my way of acting.

With great diligence and fidelity I will fulfill the tasks which I hold the duties which I have with regard to the Church, whether it is the universal church or the particular church in which I have been called to exercise my service according to the prescripts of the law.

In the fulfillment of my task which has been committed to me in the name of the church, I will keep the deposit of faith undiminished, I will hand it on faithfully and defend them. I will avoid whatever doctrines are contrary to them.

I will follow the common discipline of the whole church and I will promote the observance of all ecclesiastical laws, especially of those which are contained in the code of canon law. With Christian obedience I will fulfill whatever the sacred pastors, as the authentic doctors of faith and teachers declare or which the governors of the church state and I will give faithful service to the diocesan bishops in order that the apostolic action in the name and the mandate of the Church to the exercise will be fulfilled in communion with that church.

May so God help me and his holy Gospel which I now touch with my hands.
How much weigh did you give this statement as a guide to your conscience? The question is a fair one to ask, considering your current and expressed dissent from Church teaching.
They denounce as apostasy a massive rejection of Vatican teaching among Catholics and call for bishops and priests to stand up against the tide of laxism instead of floating along with it.
Amen, brother! How come you're not?
The Neocaths are combative apologists. Their apologetics is sometimes directed against Protestantism, which they have no hesitation in branding a heresy. But it is more often directed against liberal Catholicism. They devote treasures of ingenuity to proving that the Church has never changed her teaching on anything -- not on usury, slavery, torture, the Inquisition, the Crusades, and above all not on sexual matters.
We're combative apologists, albeit some more than others and, with different degrees of success and shortcomings, like any other human group.

Do you know why we're a combative lot, Father? Because well-prepared, intellectual, academically-smart priests like you are not doing the job! They—you—seem to spend and inordinate time and ingenuity finding fault and "problematics" with received Church teaching instead.
The Neocaths are "young fogeys" -- they take a delight in sporting old-fashioned references, such as Chesterton, Belloc, C.S. Lewis, Garrigou-Lagrange, Sertillanges, and in exhibiting all the trappings of traditional Catholic piety -- the Latin Mass in particular.
I had to look the reference for "fogey" in Merriam Webster's Online—a person with old-fashioned ideas, usually used with old—so the pun was lost on me. I've got it now!

I'll tell you why I like Chesterton, Belloc, C.S. Lewis, and Garrigou-Lagrange—I've never read Sertillanges. I do because these men's joined prayer, life, and writing in one single continuum tied up with their lives. As a counterpoint, in all the works I've read by Hans Küng—the best perhaps was On being a Christian I've never once saw him write anything about how he prayed, or lived. Küng, McBrien, you yourself, are "saints" without biographies, shallow, without depths. Your lucubration stand as mere abstractions; when put in practice they seem end in doctrinal, disciplinary, and moral disasters. Not so with Chesterton et al. Their lives "tracked" with what he wrote.

Moreover, these writers were daring thinkers in their own regard. The difference between them and you is that they held the past in vital dialogue with their present, without presuming that the past was intrinsically inferior to their present. This humility before the past enriched their writings accordingly. You lack that quality, Father. For you the past is something that is condescendingly acknowledged and then cavalierly set aside in view of "new findings" and "new data."

And I have already said that I am not a "Latin Mass" Catholic, nor expect to become one in the foreseeable future. Get on with the stereotypes, Father.

Oh, and your forgot to include Fr. John Hardon in your list of Neocath preceptors, an "old fogey" who fully embraced the legacy of Vatican II.
They distrust a list of Vatican II generation writers such as Rahner, Schillebeeckx, Raymond Brown, Richard P. McBrien, whom they often hastily denounce as modernists. At their best they draw they favour those they see as "ressourcement" writers, sometimes including even Congar (a hate-object of many conservatives), over the "aggiornamento" wing (a rather dubious opposition). They often seem to yearn for an idealized church of Pius XII, a vibrant flawless Catholicism that never was.
You are confusing us with Latin Mass traditionalists and perhaps, some us are. In fact, I consider myself a "traditionalist" in that most Catholic sense that I've received and that in turn we hand down the teaching we have received from our Catholic ancestors. Believe it or not, I've read Rahner—heavy, but not unorthodox; I've read Brown—can't avoid him if one refers to the Jerome Biblical Commentary with any frequency—and I like him, although he's not above criticism.

I've also read McBrien's abridged, one-volume version of his Catholicism cover-to-cover, more than once. I underlined it several times; wrote little notes on the margins, particularly at the page where he argues that no Christological truth would be compromised if it was ever determined that Jesus' conception was entirely natural. Sure, he didn't directly deny the Church's teaching, but with a wink and a nod, he seemed to say that if the reader doubted Jesus' virginal conception, well that's OK too, nothing's really lost. Instead of clarifying doubts, Fr. McBrien and company encourage them, even water them, and watch them grow. It is the same "demythologizing" drive one observes in Bulttman, albeit on a Catholic note.

It is this kind of literary subterfuge disguised as "criticism" and "open-mindedness" that I find so contemptible from thinkers of Fr. McBrien's school, which you applaud, Father Joseph. I don't like to pick up a work by a self-proclaimed Catholic teacher and then have to parse it the way I had to parse a reply by Bill Clinton on sundry issues. I would expect calculated ambiguities from someone like Clinton, but not from a Catholic priest, yet, here we are.
The Neocaths combine biblical and magisterial fundamentalism. They argue by proof texts, in complete contempt of biblical scholarship and hermeneutics. Their ingenuity in defending their fundamentalist stances is extreme, and will draw on ad hoc hermeneutics when necessary, but they are estranged from the broad current of Catholic biblical scholarship. A Neocath who would admit, for example, that the Genesis story of the Garden of Eden in not historical would not be a worthy representative of militant Neocath ideology.
A patently false statement, and a huge generalization. My brother in Christ and contemporary, apologist Dave Armstrong (Biblical Evidence for Catholicism, Cor ad cor loquitum, would find such a broad distortion of "Neocath" scholarship laughable. Oh, I am sorry, I forgot that we're all sincere, but dopey believers.
The Neocaths are ill at ease with modernity. They feel they have seen through the myths of secular humanism, and the liberal culture of democratic discussion which they see as relativistic. They bewail confusion and uncertainty and call for a firm voice of authority to put an end to it.
Everything's correct in Fr. O'Leary's appreciation, except for the first statement and part of the second. We critique modernity and its assumptions over and over. So does the Church, the popes, the and bishops, all the time. Nor do we equate "democratic discussion" with "relativism." A society can have "a democratic discussion" without being relativistic. At least, I think Jefferson thought the same when he held the absolutes of "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" as grounded on Natural Law. I don't think Jefferson saw himself as a relativist although he at times behave like one. But that wasn't relativism, that was hypocrisy.
The Neocaths are ideological and political rightists. Issues of social justice never appear on their agendas and Church documents such as Populorum Progressio, Evangelii Nuntiandi, Octagesima Adveniens, Centesimus Annus are ignored. Their papolatry commonly goes hand in hand with Busholatry. They play down papal opposition to the Iraq War, torture and capital punishment. Some may be active on social issues, but in their internet polemics this is scarcely in evidence.
Another bold, broad stroke. "Papolatry, Busholatry," ignorance, indifference to social concerns. The broken gong of Liberalism gone mad. Where do I start answering all these charges? I can't, because I don't have the genius, the inclination, or the time. But perhaps we could refer the good priest to Michael Novak's The Catholic Ethics and the Spirit of Capitalism to get a starting point as to where many "Neocaths" stand on these issues.

And you know, I would vote for a pro-Life Democrat presidential candidate here in the U.S., willing to name pro-Life and strict constructionists judges to the Courts. Just find me one and we'll talk, even if he (or she!) weren't Catholic, I would vote for him/her. But I would never vote for one who boasted of his Catholic faith on one side, and yet stood arm-in-arm with NARAL activists singing paeans to "choice" and "reproductive rights." You know, the hypocrisy factor again. It seems that I'll be voting Republican for the foreseeable future, unless they themselves fall prey under the pro-abortion juggernaut. Then I'll look for other candidates.
The Neocaths are well organized, and have as yet no equivalent on the Catholic left. They know which lines to push and which to avoid. For instance, they will attack gays with a show of concern for the welfare of their souls, and in harmony with the letter of Catholic doctrine. At the same time they will be found bewailing the demise of sodomy laws.
The sex thing again. Let me borrow an arrow from the Liberal quiver, Father, and ask you, what the hell do you, a celibate white male, know about sexuality in general and homosexuality in particular? In my opinion, much less than what other male celibate priests who hold to the Church's traditional teaching know.

Again, do you remember ever taking an oath of obedience to the Church before or during your ordination? What good did it do?
The Neocaths are very quick to denounce liberal Catholics as heretics. Authority looms very large in their mental world, and is indeed its dominant theme. However, authoritative documents, or early utterances of Joseph Ratzinger, that go against their reactionary convictions will be whittled away. This is notably true of Dignitatis Humanae and Gaudium et Spes.
Perhaps we like and respect Papa Ratzinger better because he dared to grow up, while you are still a flower boy at heart, Father.
The Neocaths believe strongly in Hell, and play down the views of Von Balthasar and John Paul II that we may hope the Hell is empty. They insist on the physical pain caused by hell fire. They invoke Hell against liberal or what they call "dissident" theologians and against those they consider sexually deviant.
Father, if there is no hell, then one might as well not be Catholic, Christian, or even a believer. Might as well be a noble pagan, an ethical atheist. Or, maybe a Nietzschean, yeah, a thorough nihilist pursuing power, money, and sex, while squashing the little people along the way. Yeah, what difference would it make? If there's no ultimate sanction for our actions, if there's no Beatific Vision or if that vision comes really cheap, Christ's death was superfluous and his resurrection, quite unnecessary. And if He didn't rise, then we believe in vain, as St. Paul said.

I would hope that Hell would be empty, but I know it isn't. It is populated by people who deny its existence.
The Neocaths are joyfully uncharitable in their speech, trampling not only on political correctness but on the laws of libel.
"Political correctness" is now a virtue? The libel accusation is serious. Can you provide some more detail or were you "shooting from the hip"?
There is surely much more to be said about this social phenomenon. Its future evolution will be followed with interest. We can only hope that like the Neocon movement with which it has so much in common it will turn out to be an ephemeral excess.
This sounds more like a final plea for relevance in a world that have dared move forward, while leaving Fr. O'Leary and his clique behind.
Happily there is another side to John Paul II and his successor -- their concern for social justice and their ecumenical outreach -- which should ensure that the hothouse world of the Neocaths is not the future awaiting the Roman Catholic Church as a whole.
Father, I want to drink a little bit of what your having. Just a little bit, for a taste only. Apparently continuous use has a terrible effect on one's neuron count.

Now, suddenly, in the eyes of Fr. O'Leary, Pope John Paul the Great is not a Mao-like figure, and Pope Benedict XVI is not a reactionary who betrayed his first youthful impulses. Now they have "another side" which he now applauds and hopes, against all hope, that the "Episcopalianization" of the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church, continue unabated into a glorious future when doctrine would be seen as a quaint yet dangerous and divisive relic, the Bible as inspiring mythology, and Christian morality as merely suggestive and not prescriptive; and the denial of the mystery of the Church as an object of faith. Thanks, but no thanks.

How the legacy of Pope John Paul and Benedict XVI would allow for that, Fr. O'Leary doesn't explain. It is left to us to either awaken Fr. O'Leary from his stupor, or, failing that, sidestep him while muttering a prayer for God to show him as much mercy as He shows us.

Final thoughts tomorrow or later on in the week.

Concludes next.