2012-07-29

Olympic Disenchantment

I no longer care about the Olympics. The Olympic events have never been a priority in my life, but now I hold an opinion approaching disdain.

While I did not expect (or desire) an opening ceremony like that of Beijing, what we were given was awkwardly embarrassing.  I shrugged the ceremony off hoping that the sporting events would make it a distant memory. However, instead of showing clips and replays from events not broadcast through the day, we get media pimps who lace their endless banter with political propaganda, inane interviews, and more clips from the opening ceremony!

The events being broadcast are not about the athletes as much as they are about which athletes are going to make the network the most money. Does anyone actually believe that America tunes in to women's sand volleyball because of interest in the sport? The camera angles and sportswear suggests the athletes and the network know exactly what many are tuning in to watch.

I can't even get online to watch events that were not broadcast, or to watch events that were broadcast at times when I could not watch. I find myself searching for "pirate Olympic streams" and "proxy connect to BBC". The fact that it is verboten for the USA to watch anything other than what NBC and the IOC want us to see is -- perplexing.

Maybe I am just miffed that I missed the Judo competitions again.

2012-07-18

Good things and evil, are from God...

Excerpt taken from Heliotropium by Jeremias Drexel (the book is available on archive.org):
"Good things and evil, life and death, poverty and riches, are from God." (Ecclus. XI 14.)

But this truth, which is most clearly witnessed to in the Sacred Writings, must be unfolded a little more fully.

2. In this way Theologians teach that all evils in the world (sin excepted) are from God. In all sin there are two things to be considered, the guilt and the punishment. Now God is the Author of the punishment which attaches to sin, but in no way of the guilt. So that, if we take away the guilt, there is no evil belonging to the punishment which is not caused by God, or is not pleasing to Him. The evils then of punishment, like the evils of nature, originate in the Divine Will. We mean by evils of nature, hunger, thirst, disease, grief, and the like, things which very often have no connection with sin. And so God truly (and, as they say in the schools, effectively and positively) wills all the evils of punishment and nature for reasons of perfect justice, but only permits sin or guilt.

So that the latter is called His Permitting Will, the former His Ordaining Will. All, therefore, that we call evil proceeds from the Will of God. Thus Theologians teach; and this foundation must be laid as deeply as possible in the soul, for it is of the utmost importance humbly to receive, and ever to hold, as an infallible truth, that the first cause of all punishments and evils is the Divine Will, always excepting guilt, as I have said already.


2012-07-16

Hatred of truth...

Why, then, does truth generate hatred, and why does thy servant who preaches the truth come to be an enemy to them who also love the happy life, which is nothing else than joy in the truth -- unless it be that truth is loved in such a way that those who love something else besides her wish that to be the truth which they do love. Since they are unwilling to be deceived, they are unwilling to be convinced that they have been deceived. Therefore, they hate the truth for the sake of whatever it is that they love in place of the truth. They love truth when she shines on them; and hate her when she rebukes them. And since they are not willing to be deceived, but do wish to deceive, they love truth when she reveals herself and hate her when she reveals them. On this account, she will so repay them that those who are unwilling to be exposed by her she will indeed expose against their will, and yet will not disclose herself to them.

Thus, thus, truly thus: the human mind so blind and sick, so base and ill-mannered, desires to lie hidden, but does not wish that anything should be hidden from it. And yet the opposite is what happens -- the mind itself is not hidden from the truth, but the truth is hidden from it. Yet even so, for all its wretchedness, it still prefers to rejoice in truth rather than in known falsehoods. It will, then, be happy only when without other distractions it comes to rejoice in that single Truth through which all things else are true.

-St. Augustine, Confessions


2012-07-10

Men like trees, walking...

How clearly do we see the actions of Christ? Many modern scripture scholars are plagued by a self inflicted blindness that prevents them from seeing His actions.

Lord increase my Faith. Thank you Lord for the Faith you have given us.

Please listen to the Audio Sancto sermon titled: "4-for-4 and I See Men Like Trees, Walking"

2012-07-07

NFP: The Unhappy Compromise

The following article is not about the "inadequacies" of the rhythm method often highlighted in family planning literature. The author's frequent reference of the rhythm method could easily be substituted with other modern methods of performing marital relations on certain days of the month based on a woman fertility cycle. If the article had not been written in 1948, and instead had been written this month, one could easily replace 'rhythm method' with 'natural family planning' without changing the intent.

The emphasis in the following article is my own. I do not post it to place a yoke on those families which are hammered by hardships. I share this article to encourage those who feel unduly pressured by the culture of NFP in their Catholic marriage.

Rhythm: The Unhappy Compromise
by Fr. Hugh Calkins, O.S.M.
June 1948 for Integrity magazine
(Reprinted with permission from Angelus Press.)

What about Rhythm? That simple question is rapidly becoming a stormcenter of controversy. It comes up during parish missions, Cana Conferences, bull sessions on careers, even high school retreats. All too often, wrong answers are given, bum theology is handed out. Even more often, right answers are given but very imprudently. These cause confusion among the laity and lead to cynical questioning. Why don’t priests get together on this thing voices that cynicism.

This article will discuss Rhythm [NFP] thoroughly. First, the latest and best theological thought concerning the morality involved shall be presented. This will remove the guesswork of beauty shop theologians and gabfest experts who too easily settle everything with: "Oh, Rhythm’s okay. It’s Catholic birth control." Secondly, we shall present the true picture of how Rhythm is currently being used around America. It is not a pretty picture, but it’s based upon wide missionary experience and thorough research. It may surprise a few too glib advocates of Rhythm —lay, cleric, religious —to see how widely astray Catholic couples have gone on this moral question. Thirdly, we shall discuss how all this fits into a full Christian life, into the synthesis of religion and life any earnest Christian must promote, if we are "to restore all things in Christ."

Moral Considerations

Let’s understand what we mean by Rhythm. [NFP] Incidentally, we are permitted to discuss the method. The only official prohibition issued by the Church deals with the teaching and recommending of the method. Too long have we kept silent, while imprudently zealous advocates spread the method nationwide. The term Rhythm is a convenient name for a systematic method of performing marital relations on certain days of the month. The method is built around the Rhythm of fertility and sterility which occurs in the monthly cycle of a woman’s menstrual periods. Briefly, it now seems medically certain that on certain days of the month a woman is quite likely to conceive new life and on other days she is quite unlikely to conceive. The days on which conception are quite likely are called "fertile": those on which conception is quite unlikely are called "sterile." The Rhythm Method consists in following a systematic method of performing marital relations only on "sterile" days and abstaining on "fertile" days. This method is followed in order to space children or to avoid having children. Whether the method is used for a few months, a few years, or all during childbearing years, the motive remains the same. The motive in using this method is to avoid conception and pregnancy. Let’s have no talk about "virtuous continence." That’s the red herring often dragged in to confuse the issue. The people who use Rhythm are not primarily concerned about continence. They seek to avoid conception. Hence, they restrict sexual intercourse strictly to sterile days, safe periods.

Contrary to widespread misunderstanding, Rhythm [NFP] is not the same as contraception. It’s true that often the aim of the married couple is the same—they use Rhythm to avoid conception—but their method is not the same as the birth-controller. The practice of Rhythm is natural so far as the biological aspect is concerned. The practice of contraception is unnatural, against nature, a perversion just as truly as homosexuality. But just because Rhythm is "natural" doesn’t mean it is always morally good and permissible. The practice of Rhythm proceeds from a free and deliberate will—the will not to have children—that is directly opposed to the primary purpose of marital relations as ordained by God. Is such a free will choice contrary to the will of God and sinful?

Without getting too technical, there are two schools of thought [It seems the author only lists the more common opinion...] on the essential morality of Rhythm [NFP] as a system. The more common opinion, the majority opinion, holds that this method is not of itself illicit, and becomes lawful only when there is sufficient cause present for sidestepping the primary purpose of marriage. Both opinions are approved by expert theologians: you may follow either one until the Church makes an official pronouncement on the subject. But keep in mind that all theologians hold certain basic facts to be true. There is perfect agreement among theologians that Rhythm can become sinful because of circumstances and dangers involved.

Important Conditions

So we can summarize the latest and best theological thought on the subject. The Church neither approves nor disapproves of the Rhythm Method as a system to be followed. The Church merely tolerates the use of this method. Tolerates indicates reluctant permission. And the Church only tolerates this method, when three definite factors are present. These three are: First, there is sufficiently serious reason for a given couple to use this method, sufficiently serious enough to justify side-stepping the first purpose of marriage; Second, both husband and wife are truly willing to follow the method —neither one can force the other to adopt this system; Third, the use of this method must not cause mortal sins against chastity nor become a proximate occasion of such sins. The breakdown of any one of those three factors makes the use of Rhythm sinful. So the correct attitude is this: The use of Rhythm [NFP] is sometimes no sin, sometimes venial sin, sometimes mortal sin. Please stop saying, "Oh, it’s okay, the Church approves it."

Now study carefully those three factors. First, a sufficient reason; theologians admit there are at times solid reasons to justify the use of the Rhythm system. These reasons may be permanent or only temporary —poverty, poor health of the mother (real, not pretended), frequent still-births or Caesarean births, medical necessity of spacing births because of the unusual fecundity of the wife, in other words, solid and honest reasons for avoiding births for a time, or maybe for all time. But even when such honest reasons are present (and so often today they are not) it still remains true that husband and wife must both be truly willing.

But all too often in actual daily life, one spouse is unwilling and is being high-pressured by the other. All moral theologians would condemn as a grave sin the exclusive use of the sterile period when it is not a truly free agreement on both sides. If not free, a grave injustice is done the other spouse. Such dangers and such mortal sins are frequent in our materialistic age. Confessors would do well to investigate the close relationship between "cheating" by married people and their use of Rhythm [NFP]. So a good reason by itself is not enough. Circumstances change cases. A confessor’s help is advised. More about those three factors later.

Assuming there is free consent and no special dangers of mortal sin, would a couple be justified in using Rhythm for only selfish reasons? Theological opinion is divided: some say such a course would be mortally sinful, others say venially sinful. But all eminent theologians say such a course would be sinful and fraught with grave danger. The more you study the theologians on this question, the more you see how cautious priests and laity should be in advocating Rhythm. You see why the Holy See, only with reluctance, tolerates this method. It certainly has never been declared officially that the Holy See approves of the "safe period" method. Not even the much-quoted paragraph from the "Chaste Wedlock" encyclical of Pius XI can be accurately used as giving such approval. It is far more likely that Pius XI was referring to physically sterile people ("certain defects") or those who have passed the menopause ("reasons of time") and not the use of Rhythm. Yet the new supercolossal campaign for selling Rhythm devices by mail dares to quote the Holy Father in approval of such crassly commercial restriction of birth.

Face the Cold Realities

Now that we’ve laid the theological groundwork, let’s be terribly practical. Catholic couples have gone hog-wild in the abusive employment of Rhythm. Theological distinctions have been pitched completely in the utterly selfish desire to avoid conception at any cost. Too many priests are acting imprudently in the public recommendation (in classrooms and sermons) of the method which the Holy See has cautioned "the confessor may cautiously suggest." There is abundant evidence increasing daily that only spiritually strong couples can be trusted really to observe Rhythm prudently, even when a sufficient reason is present. All too many other couples say they’re using Rhythm and they really are following a system of "Don’t become pregnant at any cost." So they use Rhythm, when it "works," varied methods of contraception when it doesn’t work, and even abortion when they get "caught" (what an expression to describe the start of an immortal existence). Yet all the time such people try kidding confessors with "Oh, no, no birth control, we just use Rhythm. [NFP]"

It’s becoming a scandal to their sincere neighbors. John Doe is no theologian. He doesn’t make fancy distinctions between unnatural and natural birth control. All he sees is these selfish couples are married and don’t have kids —even brag about how they’re through having any more. He begins to wonder how they can so easily go to Confession and Communion. I’m beginning to wonder too. Even our adversaries throw a body blow at us by saying: "What’s the difference? You forbid contraception so firmly, but your couples slip through by using Rhythm."

Promoting Sterility

The thing is out of hand. A method meant to be a temporary solution of a critical problem has become a way of life, a very selfish, luxury-loving, materialistic way of life. What theologian would ever justify practices like these actual cases I now cite: parish priests giving a copy of a book on Rhythm to each engaged couple with a word of approval; preachers explaining in weekend retreats the advantages of this method for having children as you planned them; teachers in some of our best colleges teaching the method, often to girls who are well set financially; gynecologists lecturing in leading Catholic medical schools and telling classes of young doctors how to teach this method to patients, so that the doctors assume Church approval to recommend the method has now been given them; engaged couples planning their wedding day with rhythm cycle all plotted so no pregnancy results until a year or two passes, so that they can enjoy all the privileges and none of the obligations of marriage.

It is one thing to permit Rhythm reluctantly, as the Church officially does. It’s quite another to become promoters of sterility, as too many of our people have. Naturally, the commercializing of Rhythm has hit a new high. Expensive gadgets are now available —"every medical and theological student, nurse and social worker should have one," reads the blurb. So now our people have fool-proof methods of "making love by a calendar," effectively blocking God’s creative designs. It’s enough to make God vomit out of His mouth the creatures who ignore so completely the divine purposes of marriage. How will we ever convert godless America, how produce modern saints, if we won’t give God citizens for His Heavenly Kingdom? And most ironic of all, Catholics so anxious to be in on Catholic Action (which to them means anything from bingo to flag-waving) are often the most determined advocates of Rhythm. They labor so hard to get others to attend lectures, Cana Conferences, book reviews; but to have babies as God wants them to —don’t be silly. Have you noticed the heavy emphasis on Rhythm among our wealthy parishes, among our college graduate couples, our social and cultural leaders?

Rhythm Mentality

So there has sprung full-grown from pagan propaganda this vicious Rhythm [NFP] mentality —a state of mind that won’t trust God. Our moderns concede God knows how to balance the universe in the palm of His hand, knows how to harness atomic energy, can dangle stars and planets at His fingertips, but children? Oh, no, God just doesn’t know how to arrange things there. We’ll take care of that through family planning. But the planning centers about how not to have a family. So our do-gooders extol either the practice of total sexual abstinence (oh, so piously), even when the other partner is unwilling and is being unjustly defrauded, or the practice of methodical Rhythm. They don’t admit or don’t care about the mortal sins such systems produce. They are determined: No Pregnancy Now! There is the state of mind that despairs of God’s help.

These bleeding hearts, especially busybodies-in-law, and nosey neighbors, scream protestingly: "Who’ll take care of the next baby?" The simple answer is: The same God that takes care of you even when you resist His Will. "But we must give our children security and education." Just because God doesn’t give parents and children all today’s phony materialistic standards require, doesn’t mean He fails them. He didn’t give His own mother much in material security. But heaven, not security, is the goal set for the babies God sends. God established marriage primarily to give children life in this world that would bring eternal life.

Too many people are trying to play God. God alone is still the Author of new life. And God doesn’t need alarmist doctors, despairing parents, nor even thoughtless priests trying to run His affairs and deciding when new life shall be born. What God wants from us is free will co-operation with His Will. That’s the one contribution we alone can make. What God demands from married partners is willingness to have the children He shall decide to send. People go to heaven only by doing God’s Will, not by planning things for Him.

Well, then, should every couple have a flock of children? That’s up to God. Every couple should have the children God wants them to have. But they are not having them. Forty-four percent of American families have no children. Twenty-two per cent have only one child. And Catholics living in cities now have far fewer children than the families in rural areas (which are about eighty per cent Protestant). Obviously, family planners are planning families out of existence. That certainly is not God’s Will. The use of Rhythm by so-called "devout" Catholics is a major factor in that falling birth rate. You say the birth rate is up higher now? Yes, on the first and second babies. But it continues to fall steadily in the number of third, fourth and later babies.

Too Much Prudence

The Rhythm mentality has a tear-jerker argument. It’s turned on, full stops, something like this: "But God wants people to use prudence in bringing children into the world. Neither God nor His Church demands people have as many kids as possible. People should use discretion, be decent enough to plan their family. Isn’t it far better that a few kids be well fed, clothed, educated than a large family endure poverty." It sounds good, doesn’t it? People advancing this line are often quite righteous about it. With pharisaical smugness, they feel sorry for "imprudent pregnancy" of poor parents. But I’m sick of them. They’re the kind who probably pitied Mary of Nazareth, carrying a Baby God has sent, but for whom Joseph and Mary couldn’t find a home (talk about a housing shortage and tough landlords). They’re the kind who pitied my own mother, when she carried me, her twelfth child. Sweet chance I, and many another poor kids like me, would have to be priests, if Rhythm mentality prevailed. And what would the bleeding heart of another day have done about Nancy Hands carrying the Baby who became Abe Lincoln? There would have been no Bernadette of Lourdes, coming from a jail flat, nor Teresa of Lisieux from sickly parents and a mother who lost three babies in a row, and most certainly not a Catherine of Siena, a twenty-third child, if the "prudent planners" had their way. What all these extollers of prudence forget is: God’s Will is the end of man. The essence of the world: ours to do His Will. Prudence [an intellectual habit enabling us to see in any given juncture of human affairs what is virtuous and what is not, and how to come at the one and avoid the other] is a cardinal virtue, highly praiseworthy indeed. But faith, hope, and charity are supernatural virtues far more praiseworthy. And the greatest of these is charity. What nobler way to practice charity than to co-operate with God in passing on new life, when God wants it to be born, not when humans think it should? Let only God play God.

Hidden Costs

"Such a manner of using the marriage right, followed without a very serious reason during all, or almost all of the married life, is opposed to the plan of Providence for the propagation of the human race, represents a serious attack on the honor of marriage and particularly on the dignity of the wife, and creates grave dangers for the married people." So spoke the bishops of Belgium in their Fifth Provincial Council back in 1937. Their words point up the hidden costs of using Rhythm. Take that point on debasing the honor of marriage and lowering the dignity of the wife. Fifty per cent of today’s mothers are neurotic, say several leading non-Catholic psychologists. In many cases, Rhythm produces the neurosis. It made the "rejecting mother" type. She "got caught" with a pregnancy she had sedulously fled. The unwanted pregnancy results in the lonely, neurotic, unwanted child. Neurosis like this can increase sterility, so often when the "Rhythmeer" ["Contracepter"] finally wants a baby, she can’t have one. It’s odd that women can’t see the debasing results of a system that uses them systematically to satisfy sexual desires but seldom to produce children.

Advocates of Rhythm are fond of stressing how "natural" the method is. But as Fr. Lavaud, O.P., has said: "We cannot see an adaptation to nature in something which is, in effect a trick to frustrate nature." Rhythm is quite unnatural as currently employed. It requires the couple to "make love by a calendar," so charts, gadgets, graphs rule romance, not the loving desire of devoted partners. Some medical men assure us a wife’s desire for marital union is most vehement precisely during the fertile period. It appears the Jews followed a more natural procedure in abstaining during sterile periods, as the Book of Leviticus indicates. Even Dr. Ogino, the originator of the method, viewed the method primarily as a means of having children. "Rhythm in reverse," having relations on fertile days just to have children, is natural.

Another hidden cost is infidelity. Women puzzled by male misbehaving at certain time periods might well remember the desires of the flesh respect no calendar. And remember, too, man’s sexual life follows a monthly cycle of vehemence and subsidence, as well as a change of life later. Men not living a properly satisfactory sexual life with wives, too much calendar restriction, are easy victims to feminine wiles outside the home. The coolness and jittery bickering caused by Rhythm is incalculable. The fulfillment of marriage as a vocation demands that husband and wife minister to each other’s needs through tenderness and understanding often best expressed through love-making and intimate union postponed by the Rhythm calendar. How stupid to live a love-life holding your breath.

Who shall estimate the hidden costs generated in a woman’s finely adjusted emotional and psychical life through fear of having another baby. Once such fear is implanted, how difficult to eradicate it. How easily it leads to desperation about avoiding pregnancy at all costs. Be sure that Satan knows how to employ it to create despair about trusting God. Only in eternity shall we know the immortal souls denied a chance to have life because they were snuffed out through abortions caused by such fear.

The New Synthesis

What’s the answer to all this bogeyman propaganda about babies? It could be expressed in a word Vivant (let them live). One group of splendid parents in Milwaukee have taken that word as their slogan and the title of their magazine circulated among young married couples. It’s a vivid expression of the forgotten virtue of hope. God’s providence still rules the world. True Christians, mindful of their supernatural birth at Baptism, the growth of that life of grace through Mass, Sacraments and prayer know that hope not only springs eternal but it brings eternity as its reward. It devastates right here on earth the creeping paralysis of despair born of these hard times. It cures insecurity by abandoning itself to the constantly supporting arms of God. Married couples, so fearful of what to eat and wear with children arrived or coming, need frequent meditations on that famous sixth chapter of Matthew: "Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and His justice, and all these things shall be added unto you." Seeking His justice means doing His Will, doing it with hope in your heart that God will provide and reward generosity. He never is outdone in generosity, as we all should know from experience. Surprising how God fills your heart and life with pulsating affection of children, once you trust Him enough to have the children. Surprising how little warmth there is in the mink coat, the vacation, the television set, the car that you fought so hard for, while denying your arms the warm embrace of children. Or is all this surprising? God keeps His word.

It would be well to meditate frequently on Paul’s vivid reminders about "the great Sacrament" married people give each other on their wedding day. Matrimony joins two hearts and souls and lives by fusing natural and supernatural bonds that day. God and husband and wife become partners that a great vocation might be fulfilled. The virtue of hope receives a mighty increase that day through the grace of Matrimony. At every instant of their married life, the married couple has God’s assurance that His grace is sufficient for them. No obstacle is insurmountable to God.

As Fr. Orville Griese, in his famous book, The Rhythm in Marriage and Christian Morality, says:

Christian couples ought to realize that it is a singular, providential blessing to be able to bring forth new life, thus assuring man and wife of a deeper, most lasting union, offering them means of personal sanctification and of contributing to the strength and growth of both Church and State. The mere fact that the future looks a little uncertain or that the child might be frail or sickly is no reason for substituting faith in the biological computations of the safe period method for trust in God.

Addendum to the Rules for Social Media...

Earlier this week the USCCB provided a blog post on the The Gospel and Social Media. Fr. John Zuhlsdorf generalized the blog post into a list of rules. I provide the condensed list to combat white space. Emphasis mine:

1. Translate church teaching. [Know your audience, Don't fall into heresy while attempting to 'translate'. Popular speech does not always convey the sacred.]

2. Avoid church speak. [Know your audience. Some words cannot be replaced without changing the meaning of the message. Some people will find offense no matter how you attempt to phrase innocent honest speech.]

3. Use images, as Jesus did. [Know your audience. It is good to imitate Christ. I don't remember Jesus ever making things less clear with His explanations, but He certainly knew His audience.]

4. Understand that social media is social. [Um hmm...]

5. Social media sometimes calls for a suit of armor. [See #4]

6. Use the delete button if comments cross the line of decency, but, hopefully, not often. [comment deleted]

7. Spread Catholicism’s fun parts. ['Fun parts' or what might be known as the 'treasures of our faith'. For example, share lives of the saints that inspire virtue. Be sure not to treat adults like children.]

8. Remember rules are changing. [This certainly sums it up.]

9. Remember web messages live forever. [Not to be confused with being naked. It is true, don't sin on the internet, or at all for that matter. On a side note, someone should let our Holy Father know that the pictures of him hoisting a beer are still floating around the internet.]

10. Keep it short. [There is supreme value in being able to take that which provides complex philosophical ponderings, and reduce it to only the critically essential; therefore, remembering the ideals of briefness to which we subscribe, let us make every effort to curtail our words, our sentences, in short, our very paragraphs, that both the former and the latter may be quickened for the sake of our dear reader, his friends, and co-workers.]

While reading the comments on Fr. Z's post, I came across an addendum to the rules written by Jason Pascucci. I find the additional rules less obvious, but specific and practical for use by the Catholic social media users. Again, emphasis is mine.

11. Don’t eviscerate the truth in an attempt to be popular. It is the hard parts and hard sayings of being a follower of Jesus are what make it compelling to the soul.

These two go together:
12a. Avoid respect of persons.
12b. Ignore people who say “judge not lest ye be judged” as if it covered all criticism. We’ve been instructed to “judge with right judgement”. As with Aquinas, above: look for causes rather than at persons.

13. All heresy begins in disproportion of related truths. Avoid being disproportionate. Being silent on a topic which ought to be spoken of is a sin of omission against truth, if you are in a position to speak rightly and fully.

14. Niceness is not a Catholic virtue, indeed it is opposed to such. Kindness is, as is gentleness and longanimity, which are fruits of the Holy Spirit. Know the difference between those and 'nice'’.

15. Avoid adhering to those who gain approbation from "the world" or are lionized by it: chances are very high they are doing something wrong. If they are hated by “the world”, chances are they’re more reliable. It’s not an infalliable guide, but you’ll go less wrong.

16. The enemy of your enemy is probably not your friend, as it’s very possible to error on both extremes.

These two go together:
17a. Don’t mess with people who cite the Fathers, the Councils, and the Saints as authorities. Chances are, they’re right. Indeed, when dealing with other Catholics, do use this form of "Church speak".
17b. Conversely, people who quote a lay or Jesuit theologian from the last century as an authority on any topic are probably wrong. Don’t do that.

18. There is a licit range of theological opinion on many topics pertaining to the Faith. Sometimes it's wider, but these days, it’s usually vastly narrower than the range generally presented. (Pro-tip: "Tantamount to heresy" is not within the licit range.)

19. The roots of the 'liberal/conservative' split lie in modern philosophy. They are both wrong, because modern philosophy is profoundly broken. GBTA (Get back to Aristotle).

20. Don’t be humble because it is becoming and makes a good and attractive outward appearance. Be humble because you’re a sinner and too often a complete doof.

21. Don’t do theology in a state of serious or mortal sin: your mind is darkened by your illicit acts. Go to confession. They aren’t kidding about this stuff.

22. Avoid intellectual mollities: don’t overreact to the presentation, make sure you understand the heart of the matter.

For more content from Mr. Pascucci, please visit his blog: "Ex-Couchthedra"

2012-07-02

An open email to Ann Barnhardt

Ann Barnhardt is a financial industry type who is also a Catholic blogger of sorts at http://barnhardt.biz.  Today she wrote about the SSPX and got it so wrong that I just had to reply.  Here is my open-letter email to her.



Subject: It's okay that you don't understand what the SSPX is about: that's not necessary for salvation.

Dear Ann,

It's clear from your website comments that you don't understand the nature and mission of the SSPX.  You state:

"The Society of Saint Pius the Tenth (SSPX) is a group of traditionalist Catholics who broke away from Rome in 1970 after Vatican II when they were told by evil Marxist infiltrators inside the Church that they were forbidden from saying the Tridentine Latin Mass. They were led by an Archbishop named Marcel Lefebvre, hence the term "Lefebvrists" sometimes used to describe those in the SSPX."

Woah cowgirl... this isn't correct.  You don't even get points for being close because you're not.  From its inception, the only people "being led by the SSPX" (technically, just Archbishop Lefebvre at that point) were a handful of seminarians through their academic and spiritual formation to become priests.

The SSPX was formed in about 1970 with the sole purpose of training priests in the ancient and accepted traditional methods (you knew Archbishop Lefebvre started and ran seminaries in French-speaking north Africa, right? He was kind of an expert and forming and coaching up them priest-candidates).  All future priests trained by Archbishop Lefebvre were to be incardinated in dioceses in Europe (presumably in those dioceses in France and Switzerland whose bishops were so supportive of Lefebvre at the beginning).  Having been himself a diocesean bishop and former head of the Holy Ghost Fathers, he knew the SSPX would need canonical approval and the SSPX was approved by both the local bishop and by Rome (like he would roll any other way?). The tone from Rome began to change as the first class of seminarians approached their ordination date in 1976. 

"The legalisms are EXTREMELY confusing, but as I understand it..."

You got that right, sister! It's like you have to be a canon lawyer to make sense of it... and would you believe it? Archbishop Lefebvre was a canon lawyer too (bona fide and everything!).  You have written some notes on your website that there is practically no rule of law in the financial markets these days; it was worse in Rome after Vatican 2, especially for those attached to tradition.  The suspension "a divinis" of 1976 was not done according to the rules on the book so Lefebvre -- being a canon lawyer and all -- immediately appealed.  By the rules, censures are automatically void while an appeal is pending.  Rome never ruled on that appeal (that's right... the case is still pending).  The seminarians were ordained and the legal standing of the SSPX has been a point of confusion and calumny ever since.

"There have been steps toward reconciliation over the last 40 years, and as I understand it, SSPX Masses are indeed valid, but they are still not in full communion with the Church."
If you count 'since before the suspension of 1976' as being when the SSPX sought to avert any real or apparent ruptures with Rome, then yes.  

[Sidebar: the term 'full communion with the Church' is so eloquently in the spirit of Vatican 2; it suggests there can be such a thing as impartial communion when in fact one is either in communion with the Church or they are not.  I think I will start referring to my wife as being 'fully pregnant' until she gives birth to what I hope will be a being in 'full attainment of human nature.' It's not like you to speak their language, Ann, and it feels weird... like you're thinking about becoming a minister in the universal life church or something. It makes me wonder if perhaps you are unwell.  I would send you some herbal teas but you don't strike me as a tea drinker (and the good stuff can't be mailed).]

I'm not going to counter your assertion that Williamson wears a tin-foil hat (because, as he once pointed out, an aluminum foil hat is dangerous because the aluminum can cause alzheimers -- ironic, because who would notice?) or that a lot of the people who follow the SSPX are nuts.  But, if you really want to see crazy, you should check out the groups that spun off from the SSPX because they thought the SSPX was too liberal!  If you doubt me, check out the Society of Saint Pius V or the CMRI.  Or check out the website Traditio or whatever "father moderator" is writing these days.  They make Bishop Williamson look well-adjusted by comparison!

God works in mysterious ways.  He allows the Church to be eviscerated (awesome word, btw... I'm totally adopting it for my own uses) by malicious men "in the spirit of Vatican 2" and He raised a new Saint Athanatius in the name of Marcel Lefebvre to help the Holy Father restore the light of Truth whenever the Holy Father gets around to calling on the SSPX to do so (notice I didn't say the SSPX is the Truth and will act on their own... neither Lefebvre nor Fellay ever said this).

Case in point: consider the consecrations of 1988. The church was in crisis (it was before that and still is, btw).  The problem facing tradition wasn't a lack of vocations but the uncertainty that priests could continue to be ordained so that the work of tradition might carry on after Lefebvre's death.  In providing this guarantee of continued ordinations (ie: making four new bishops) a double-blessing was made to the church: a handful of priests and seminarians left the SSPX (bad from a certain SSPX point of view) to become the nucleus of the new FSSP (good from the view of people who use the phrase 'full communion').  This created a multiplication of force effect and allowed all those Catholics who sympathized with the SSPX but were too timid/unsure/chicken to directly support them to now attend a 'fully approved' Mass according to the old rite.  And the FSSP was only the first of several (many?) "Ecclesia Dei" groups devoted to the old rite of Mass and the Sacraments which were formed after 1988. Some in the SSPX circles thought (and still think) the FSSP is a tool by modernist Rome to get loyal followers of the SSPX to pulled back into the new Mass crowd.  If that was really the plan in Rome then it was a failure and I hope they keep repeating this failure over and over and over and over and never learn from their mistake.

Bottom line (a little financial-lingo for you): you don't *need* to be an SSPXer or even have an opinion about them in order to be a good, Latin-Mass attending Catholic. That and there must be some insecure idiots among my fellow SSPXers, thinking they need your endorsement in order to feel good (btw, I know who you're talking about with regard to getting emails from people who don't want unveiled women preaching... I don't like them and their branch-less family tree though I do pray for them).  But if you're going to offer opinions or even commentations against the SSPX would you at least research and get the historical facts right before you unload, reload, rinse, and repeat?  It seems you're one of those "cuddly cholerics" who don't let anything get in their way when they've made up their mind about something; please don't neglect facts before your next trip to the traddie safari.

"Yea though I walk though the valley of the shadow of doubt, I shall fear no un-researched opinion by a market analyst on the topic of religion because my God is an awesome God who set up the Catholic Church to show me the way."