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Thursday, July 24, 2008

Bianca Jagger?

Alright, I don't normally just link to other blogs, but this is incredible.

Bianca Jagger is petitioning in favor of the Latin Mass.

Yes, that's right.

The former wife of Mick Jagger.

Rather takes one's breath away, doesn't it?

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

War in a Cracker Box.

Last week, as my Friday radio show ended, I was discussing church architecture with my co-host and boss, Dave Palmer.

As we discussed how beautiful the old churches were, Dave mentioned that some of his friends found the Gregorian Mass boring because there were long stretches of complete silence, and they didn't know what to do during those long silences.

I thought, "Well, if you're in a beautiful church with lots of artwork, you contemplate the beauty of God."
But then I thought about our modern cracker-box churches.

They have no artwork, because they have no silences.
There's nothing to contemplate and no time to do it if you wanted to.

The Novus Ordo liturgy keeps us "busy" while the Gregorian rite does not.
The Gregorian rite architectures are "busy" while the Novus Ordo architectures are not.
The two rites show radically different understandings of what it means to actively participate in the liturgy.

The Gregorian rite expects you to be intellectually/spiritually active.
The Novus Ordo rite expects you to be physically/spiritually active.

Both kinds of activity can lead to spiritual engagement, but because they are ontologically different kinds of activity, they create very different kinds of spirituality.

We know the Church is hierarchical as is pretty much every aspect of her life.
So, the question is, is one kind of spirituality superior to another?
The Church has always held the contemplative life as the highest form of spiritual life.
But, the Benedictine motto is "work and pray", and Benedict's rule undergirds most of the Church's monastic life, so it isn't like physical and contemplative life are necessarily opposed.

I know the Novus Ordo is pretty screwed up, but I'm not entirely convinced that the Gregorian Mass has the solution to all liturgical problems.
After all, historically speaking, nearly all the heretics the Church has ever fought celebrated the Gregorian Mass in drop-dead beautiful churches.
Yeah, we have a lot of heretics today as well, but I'm not sure we wouldn't be in essentially the same boat even if we'd never had the Novus Ordo or cracker box churches.

If we have to have heretics, though, I would personally rather fight them from a Gothic cathedral with Gregorian chant than do so from a cracker box with Marty Haugen.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Inside Ten Years

Well, let's "read the signs of the times" as the Second Vatican Council says.

Last year, His Holiness’s Secretary in the Cong. for Divine Worship, Archbp. Malcolm Ranjith, wrote a preface to a book, Dominus Est: riflessioni di un vescovo dell’Asia Centrale sulla Santa Comunione, printed by the Vatican press which argues for a return to Communion kneeling and on the tongue. The book is by Bishop Athanasius Schneider of Karaganda, Kazakhstan.

On April 17, 2008, Cardinal Juan Luis Cipriani Thorne of Lima, Perua, banned the reception of the Eucharist in the hand.

On the Feast of Corpus Christi this year (2008), the Holy Father's master of ceremonies had a kneeler brought out at communion and everyone who received from the Pope did so on their knees and on the tongue.

Then Pope Benedict did it again at the public papal Mass in Leuca.
And again the next day in Brindisi.

On June 25, 2008, the master of liturgy for Pope Benedict XVI indicated that, from now on, everyone who receives Eucharist from the Pope will receive on the tongue and kneeling.

Today, Cardinal Pell indicates that the participants at World Youth Day in Australia who receive from the Pope will do so on their knees and on the tongue.

The post for the head of the Congregation of Divine Worship is expected to open as Cardinal Arinze resigns. Cardinal Arinze was not a huge fan of the Extraordinary Form of the Mass. However, he definitely saw kneeling as the normal posture for reception of the Eucharist: "Those who removed kneelers ... or altar rails... have done grave damage to the Church."

I think it is safe to say that the indult which allows reception in the hand will be going away in the next ten years.

It would be very unusual for a congregation secretary to be elevated to the head of a congregation, but if Cardinal Ranjith does get elevated to that post, I think it is also safe to say that reception in the hand will be gone within three years.

Bring back the altar rails, gentlemen.
We'll be wanting those pretty soon.
Praise God!

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Shea's Rebellion

Mark Shea has endorsed two of my books. I like the man. But over the last couple of years, I have begun to suspect that he's slightly theologically insane.

The latest evidence can be found in the June column he wrote for the National Catholic Register. (Jun 14-18), in which he said:

But, that said, I can tell you that if someone suddenly demanded, “When did Jesus know he was God?” my immediate answer would be “Beats me.”

So I can well understand how someone might get a variety of answers to that question from a variety of Catholics, including priests. Jesus has, as we recall, a divine and human nature. We know from divine revelation that he “increased in wisdom and in stature” (Luke 2:52). In short, he learned things like all humans do.

In his deity, he is omniscient. In his humanity, he asks questions because he doesn’t know things. (sic - apparently capital "H" is not acceptable in reference to God).

Mark goes on to say that he suspects somebody has answered this question in the Church's history, but he's darned if he knows who it is. And since he is puzzled by the problem, he figures it is just ducky if other Catholics are puzzled by the problem too.

In other words, Mark Shea sees himself as the standard of what good Catholics should and should not know. It's the kind of self-effacement which I've written about in other columns - sounds great on the surface, but there's a reason for it.

Sadly, that's not all. He has more to say:

However, that said, my point is this: The failure of a busy, harried priest to be a theological vending machine on every abstruse question of theology — and that at the drop of a hat — is not really an indication of something sinister or substandard going on in the pulpit.

Nor is it quite fair to relate the sudden question “When did Jesus know he was God?” to either the preaching of the Real Presence or the general question “Is Jesus God?” and suggest that failure to have sudden universal competence in the first question means neglect or denial of the other two questions.

Apparently, Mark considers the question of Christ's self-knowledge (and therefore, the question of His ability to self-reveal God to mankind) an "abstruse question of theology."

Thus, the inability to say when Jesus is capable of beginning God's self-revelation is not really related to a substandard education. Apparently, since he considers himself well-educated and he doesn't have a clue, that means his kind of ignorance is not a sign of really lousy theological formation.

As I say, Mark is a nice guy, but theologically he's somewhere short of a full deck.

It should be noted that he is correct on at least one point: someone in the Church's theological history has dealt with this question. Indeed, several someone's dealt with this, since the idea that Jesus was not always fully God (and therefore did not always know Who He Is), was central to at least a half-dozen heresies of the Church, most notably Arianism.

So, yes, the question was dealt with.


Now, to be fair to Mark, the clearest answer is given by a medieval theologian whom hardly anyone reads today: Thomas Aquinas.

And the book he wrote the solution in, although it is the only book ever to be enthroned on the altar with the Scriptures during an ecumenical council, is not always an easy read: the Summa Theologica.

Now, since this is kind of a thick book (actually, it's a collection of several books - Aquinas was something of a pedant), Mark should look specifically in Part III, Question 10, Part III, Question 11 Article 4, Part III, Question 15, Article 3.

And as the answer to Objection 2 in Article 15 makes clear, Jesus did not ask questions because He did not know things. Since God does not have a body, He lacked only experiential knowledge, the knowledge of what it feels like for something to happen in the physical body He took on in the Incarnation. Even in His human intellect, He lacked no other kind of knowledge.

Christ did "grow in knowledge," but the knowledge He grew in was experiential knowledge, not intellectual knowledge, and most certainly not in self-identity knowledge. Because, after all, if you don't know you are God, then you aren't. Period.

But wait? If Jesus knew everything even in His human intellect, then why did He ask questions? Well, for the same reason I just asked the preceding question, the same reason parents ask their children questions like, "What sound does the letter 'B' make?" or "What is five times seven?"

Now, a child may think, "Man, my parents are stupid. They don't know the answers to ANYTHING, do they?" An adult, however, recognizes that not everyone who asks a question is trying to fill a void of knowledge in himself.

Mark, for some reason, finds this to be a difficult concept to apply to God Incarnate. To be fair, his confusion is shared by a lot of well-known modern theologians, but that doesn't make the confusion any less ludicrous, especially if the jokers who taught Mark consider themselves good theologians.

A speaker asks a rhetorical questions precisely because the speaker knows the answer but he wants the audience to work it out on their own, to expand their own understanding.

In this way, the audience becomes co-creators, for they create in themselves the knowledge which pre-existed their own intellectual work. As another obscure theologian named Paul once opined, we are God's co-workers (1 Cor 3:9). God is kind of serious about us being that.

So, does the confusion about God Incarnate always possessing a complete knowledge of Himself in His human intellect from the moment of conception onward strain credulity?

No. Why would it? (note the use of a rhetorical question). With God, all things are possible.

Does this lack of knowledge indicate a neglect or fault in the theological formation of the person who suffers from it?

Absolutely. A very serious fault indeed.

Have there been a lot of seminaries which consistently mis-taught on this point over the last forty years?

Again, no question of it. Absolutely.

A theological nut-case named Karl Rahner is among the most well-known of the lunatic fringe who advanced the idea that Jesus did not possess complete self-knowledge. His works, and the works of fruitcakes like him, were very popular in seminaries over the last forty years. Indeed, in some of the less competent seminaries, his work is still studied as if it were somehow of importance.

It isn't.

But, a lot of priests, and consequently a lot of lay people, including Mark Shea, are in unknowing rebellion against the constant teaching of the Church because they allow themselves to be confused by the likes of Karl Rahner, Hans K√ľng, Bozo the Clown and Britney Spears.

Mark really should know better. If God's self-knowledge was really just an "abstruse question," the Church wouldn't have bothered to answer it, as She hasn't bothered to answer the question, "Does Limbo exist?"

The fact that She did answer the question of Christ's self-knowledge, and the circumstances in which She rather vehemently insisted on it, indicate that the question is anything but abstruse, and the answer is anything but murky.

Mark ends by complaining that he's never heard a sermon preached on the consciousness of Christ, therefore it can't be that important. The reasoning is ludicrous.

I've known a lot of most excellent priests, but I've personally heard a sermon preaching against contraception only once in my adult life. Does this mean contraception isn't really a serious sin? Does it mean the problem of contracepting Catholics is just an "abstruse question"?

I'm asking because I know the answer.
I hope the rest of you know it too.