Are We Walking to Heaven Backward? A Pastoral Consideration of Liturgical “orientation.”

Some years ago the theologian Fr. Jonathan Robinson wrote a commentary on the modern experience of the Sacred liturgy and entitled it, The Mass and Modernity: Walking to Heaven Backward. It is a compelling image of so much of what is wrong with the celebration of the Liturgy in many parishes today.

While Fr. Robinson certainly had the celebration of Mass “facing the people” in mind, his concerns are broader than that.

Indeed, we have the strange modern concept of the “closed circle” in so many modern conceptions of the Mass.Too often we are tediously self-referential and anthropocentric. So much of modern liturgy includes long lists of congratulatory references, both done by, but also expected of the celebrant.

Read more . . .

Ecclesia Semper Reformanda: Communion with the Church by Degrees of Fullness

A Lecture Addressed to the

Theological Students’ Association

of The Catholic University of America

by Father Jay Scott Newman, J.C.L.

Assistant Professor of Canon Law

at The Pontifical College Josephinum

18 April 2001

In his De Praescriptione Haereticorum, Tertullian famously asked with derision, “What has Athens to do with Jerusalem?”, meaning “What has philosophy to do with theology?” I begin with this reminder because, although I am here to address the Theological Students’ Association, I am not a theologian; I a canon lawyer. And some among you may well ask with derision, “What has canon law to do with theology?” It’s a fair question, so before I explore the topic at hand today, I need briefly to digress and establish something of a lingua franca for our discussion.

Because she is a human society, the Church has had law, and therefore lawyers, since her foundation, but canon law as a distinct science and course of study did not emerge until the twelfth century. Canonists reckon the Italian monk Gratian as the Pater scientiae canonicae because his work provided a systematic and logical ordering of 1000 years of lawmaking. The Decretum Gratiani, completed around the year 1140, remained an indispensable touchstone for all canonists in the Western Church until the promulgation of the first Code of Canon Law in 1917. Now, you might suppose that after nearly nine centuries of doing this thing called canon law, there would be common agreement among canonists about just what their discipline is. You might suppose so, but you’d be wrong.

Among canonists today, there are some fundamental disagreements about the nature and method of their discipline, with two of the major proposals being — for lack of more precise terms — legal positivism and juridic theology. I am not here today to describe this disagreement, let alone to resolve the dispute. But to make intelligible much of what will follow in my remarks, I must explain that I hold canon law to be a truly theological discipline and therefore to have a theological method and object. Within the one science of sacred theology we commonly acknowledge many divisions: dogmatic theology, moral theology, biblical theology, and so forth. To these, I submit, must be added juridic theology-that is, canon law understood as a theological discipline with a specifically juridic character, vocabulary, and purpose.

One of the reasons why there is disagreement among canonists about the nature of their discipline is that there is often a tension between theological language and juridic language, or to put it otherwise, making laws out of theological truths is not simple. And yet, there must be an organic connection between the two if the law of the Code is to be truly the law of the Church. Pope John Paul II addressed this point in the 1983 Apostolic Constitution Sacrae Disciplinae Leges, by which he promulgated the present Code of Canon Law. The pope writes:

“As the Church’s principal legislative document founded on the juridical-legislative heritage of revelation and tradition, the Code is to be regarded as an indispensable instrument to ensure order both in individual and in social life … the Code … fully corresponds to the nature of the Church, especially as it is proposed by the teaching of the Second Vatican Council…. Indeed, in a certain sense this new Code could be understood as a great effort to translate this same conciliar doctrine and ecclesiology into canonical language.”

Read more: via Ecclesia Semper Reformanda: Communion with the Church by Degrees of Fullness.

Papal Infallibility

Papal Infallibility was defined as a dogma of the Faith, in the year 1870, during the First Vatican Council.  While most people have heard of this dogma, few understand its true meaning and limitations.  It is not uncommon to find non-Catholics who believe the dogma extends to the moral actions of a pope, in such a way, that he is said to be incapable of sin (impeccability).

Most Catholics realize that the scope of infallibility is limited to papal teachings on matters of faith and morals, but they often err by extending it beyond its boundaries; understanding infallibility as if it were a habitual active charism that prevents a pope from erring when he speaks on the subject of faith or morals.  This misunderstanding on the part of Catholics in recent decades has resulted in two opposite errors.

On the one hand, we have those who erroneously believe that whatever a pope says, regardless of how novel it is and how far it deviates from Tradition, must be accepted as an infallible truth, since “the pope is infallible”.  On the other hand, there are some who see apparent errors in the documents of Vatican II and believe that Papal Infallibility would prevent a true pope from ratifying such documents.  In both cases, the error is a result of extending Papal Infallibility beyond the limits determined by the Church.

Before proceeding, it should be noted that the purpose of this article is not to assert that Catholics are only bound to accept what has been infallibly defined by a pope or ecumenical council.  The late Msgr. Joseph Clifford Fenton referred to this error, which was condemned by Pius IX (1), as minimism.  Catholics must give assent to all that the Church teaches, either by virtue of a solemn pronouncement or by the teaching of the ordinary and universal Magisterium.  Yet at the same time, Catholics are not bound to give assent to novelties and apparent errors, even if such novelties or apparent errors come from a pope who is not exercising his infallibility.   In the chaos that has followed the Second Vatican Council, it is necessary that the faithful have a correct understanding Papal Infallibility, as well as its limitations, lest the understandably confused or scandalized Catholic be led into error in one direction or the other.

read more . . . THE REMNANT NEWSPAPER: Papal Infallibility.

THE REMNANT NEWSPAPER: Stuff and Nonsense

(www.RemnantNewspaper.com) On the fiftieth anniversary of the Second Vatican Council, the aging conciliar diehards in the Vatican apparatus, desperate to shore up the Council’s crumbling legacy, have dared to revive and advance at breakneck speed the long dead cause for the “beatification” of Paul VI. John Paul II initiated the cause at the diocesan level in 1993, but it failed to advance any further for reasons that should be obvious. (Among the many less obvious reasons was Montini’s dismissal from the Vatican Secretariat State by Pius XII in 1954 on account of his compromising secret correspondence with Russian and other communist officials in defiance of a papal ban on relations with communist governments.)

via THE REMNANT NEWSPAPER: Stuff and Nonsense.

Trading a Bowl of Pottage for Your Soul

In today’s world a bowl of pottage might be more likened to an Obama-phone, Obama-care, free contraceptives and welfare checks. However, one’s soul is ethereal and you cannot hold it in your hand or deposit it in the bank. So it seems a profitable trade for our 21st century neighbors as Esau’s dreadful decision did to him. I guess it’s the old bird in the hand vs. the two in the bush syndrome.

However, the world is a Godless place and I suppose to some extent it always was and always will be. The Church has had its ups and downs as well, being filled with zealous believers in one age and being bereft of any semblance of a vital and life-giving faith in another. Somehow, a remnant is always left to revitalize the faith in a future age and the Barque of Peter lumbers on, laden with the heavy burdens and baggage of many who have walked Her corridors; leaving their baggage of unrepentant sins and lost lives within Her holds – lives lived in complete disobedience of the faith but confident that they would be saved by their claim of having been physically onboard.

It doesn’t take much intellect to reason out the type of age we live in at present. The world is always in shambles but the Church too has had far better days and it will again in the future. It is the ancient cycle of sin, sorrow, despair, renewed faith, God’s Mercy, and redemption. Of course, followed by another fall and once more the cycle begins again. It has been going on for countless ages and the Old Testament is full of this ever repeating history of mankind.

I totally agree with Cardinal Ratzinger’s response which he made before becoming Pope. When asked about the health of the Church, he responded that it was just fine but that the number of people in the Church is much smaller than people think. It seems that we always have a “remnant” Church but in some times we have a larger remnant than in others. So in times like these we find far more individuals who would trade their souls for a bowl of pottage than at other more happy times.

What are some of the signs (in no particular order) that we might see in a Church that is more in tune to the world than to Her supernatural end?

This past Sunday I was treated to a honky-tonk piano medley as I approached the altar to receive the Bread of Life: the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Christ. If you can imagine the scene in an old western with a gent, usually sporting a pork pie hat and a pair of dealer sleeve bands, seen playing dance hall music, you have come very close to envisioning what we had to endure at Mass. It was like sashaying up to the bar in an old time saloon to get a shot of rye and a pickled pig’s foot. There was nothing spiritual about the experience but it doesn’t seem to bother those in attendance at all. That might be a sign.

Before the final blessing we were also treated by a bevy of parishioners who wanted to tell everyone present about their birthdays, their anniversaries and achievements to a resounding applause from all who were present. I thought we were at a political rally, giving thanks and tribute to our best contributors. Perhaps that was another sign.

How about the myriad of priests who make it sound like it is easy to get to heaven: we just need to be good to one another and keep doing what we are doing and all will be fine. It’s a very positive message and very uplifting to the crowds. However, that just doesn’t square with the teachings of the Church or the Bible. So where is the teachings and condemnation of sin that was a staple of Church teaching some 60 years ago? When was the last time they confronted people with the hard sins to speak of: contraception, homosexuality, masturbation, abortion and the like? Has a pastor ever condemned governments that enslave people through socialism, Marxism or communism and given the teachings of our Popes that refuted them? Silence from the pulpit, our diocesan bishops and the USCCB are almost deafening. As humorous as are the old ads in Oxford Review that spoke of Father Flapdoodle and his silly antics, we see these priests all over the place and they are, in my opinion, a sign of the times.

When was the last time the priest spoke to the congregation concerning our belief in transubstantiation? It is unfortunate that since the Second Vatican Council, which never mentions the word in any of the documents, only makes reference to Christ in the most Holy Sacrament of the Altar in terms of the Real Presence. Now that doesn’t sound that bad does it? Unfortunately, in our ecumenical talks with other faiths we see that others, who do not believe in transubstantiation, also speak of belief in the Real Presence as well. Is this a point of agreement? Those who believe in trans-finalization, consubstantiation, trans-signification and the nebulous, “we think God is somehow present with us when we receive communion” also call it the Real Presence: but is it the same Real Presence we speak of? Are we clear when speaking to these people or are we only trying to make things look as if we have agreement when what we truly have is a disagreement on a defined doctrine of the faith? This might qualify as a sign as well.

How about the following:

  • Abortion
  • Contraception
  • Homosexual Marriage
  • Pre-marital Sex
  • Extra-marital Sex
  • Divorce
  • Euthanasia
  • Homosexual Adoptions

These are just a few of the ‘accepted norms’ or issues that will soon be accepted by a plurality of society. I think these are definitely a sign that society has already gone over the moral bankruptcy cliff.

There is not, I think much difference, to moral and fiscal bankruptcy: they each have very similar traits.

In fiscal bankruptcy, through greed and excesses in spending, we find ourselves in bankruptcy court and forced to abide by their advice and amend our spending habits. Often we must make an effort to repay our debts. So there is a way forward.

Now see how similar that is to our own moral bankruptcy. You first have to recognize that you are morally bankrupt though this is hard for anyone to believe of themselves. Their sins blind their eyes to right and wrong. Once recognized, we have ‘bankruptcy court’ called the Sacrament of Reconciliation where we can express our sorrow, receive forgiveness and seek a way to repay those whom we have wronged. We also have a way forward – thanks to God and the Sacraments of His Church.

Though we may be smug at the moment with our versions of Esau’s pottage, one may awake as did Esau to see that our entire inheritance has been squandered and that there is nothing left for us or our heritage. We have fiddled away while Rome was burning and are left bereft of our worldly goods. Sadly for those whose eyes were fixated upon the goods of this world, they stand a good chance, living in the midst of moral bankruptcy, of losing their eternal inheritance and birthright as well; the only gift that does not corrode over time. In my opinion, not such a good trade afterall.

How ignoring two little words has devastated evangelization. | Archdiocese of Washington

Just two little words in a carefully written text of the Second Vatican Council carry tremendous significance in terms of the emphasis that text was meant to convey. Two little words, so easily overlooked, add urgency to the task for evangelization, and usher in a reminder of why the task of the Church in announcing Jesus Christ is so critical.

What are these words? Simply these:

“But often….”

Read more . . .

A Call to Courage in a Climate of Crisis and Conflict. | Archdiocese of Washington

There is debate among some in Church, as I suppose there has been in every age, as to how to interpret the signs of the times. It was common in the 1970s and into the 80s for many to speak hopefully of a “Springtime for the Church” as they looked with confidence for the fruits of the Second Vatican Council to take off.

And there have indeed been many Spring fruits: a laity that is more engaged in daily Church life, a Liturgy that flourishes in very diverse ways from traditional Latin Masses, across the spectrum to more charismatic and vernacular expressions, the Catechism of the Catholic Church which has helped stabilize the content of catechesis, the bouncing back of vocations that is underway and the founding of new and reformed Orders along with the blossoming of many lay apostolates, these and other such things speak to the fruits of a kind of springtime.

And yet it is increasingly hard to argue that the temporal order is in anything but increasing disrepair,

Read more . . .

RORATE CÆLI: Terminology: is “Extraordinary Form” an acceptable name? And is it the official name?

Terminology: is “Extraordinary Form” an acceptable name? And is it the official name?.

‘We’re Starting to Get Our Act Together’ | Daily News | NCRegister.com

50th Anniversary of Vatican II

This being the case, what particular aspects of the Second Vatican Council would you like to see clarified?

This is what I did my doctoral dissertation on last year here in Rome, and this is the subject of my book that’s just been published by Eerdmans. In short, it relates to Lumen Gentium, the Constitution of the Church, Section 16. This states it’s possible under certain circumstances for people to be saved without hearing the Gospel if they’re inculpably ignorant, seeking God seriously, trying to live their life according to their conscience, assisted by grace — which is a very important point.

But then almost everyone ignores the next three sentences, which say that even though it’s theoretically possible for people to be saved without hearing the Gospel, as a matter of fact, “often men, deceived by the Evil One, have become vain in their reasonings and have exchanged the truth of God for a lie, serving the creature rather than the Creator.”

Therefore, for the sake of their salvation, it’s urgent that the Church carry out its work of evangelization. Even though it’s possible for people to be saved without hearing the Gospel, it’s not so easy, because we’re not talking about a neutral environment. We’re talking about where the world of flesh and the devil are doing their best to put people on the broad way or keep them there.

So lots of people aren’t seeking God and really do need to hear the Gospel and be called to repentance, faith, baptism and conversion in order to be saved. Christianity isn’t just about enriching somebody’s life. For many people, it’s a matter of heaven or hell. This truth needs to be brought forward at this time because all our exhortations to be more enthusiastic about evangelization, more zealous, are going to fall on semi-deaf ears unless people really believe it will make a significant difference to people’s lives. Not just for this life, but for eternity.

via ‘We’re Starting to Get Our Act Together’ | Daily News | NCRegister.com.