Saturday, September 16, 2017

Triggered by Trads

Karl Keating's dislike for Latin-loving traditionalists is well known. He formed his cadre of apologists at Catholic Answers according to his own preferences during his long tenure as president. In his retirement he has published a full-length book about the imminent danger posed by geocentrists and many smaller collections of essays on apologetics and hiking. While his public Facebook page has been filled mostly with thoughts on hiking and self-publishing, most recently he could not help himself from dancing on the graves of a few newly deceased traddy friendships:
Louis Verrecchio, who once made a living explaining and defending Vatican II at parishes around the country, now decries the council, calling it heretical, and thinks the current pontiff and his immediate predecessors have been heretics. 
But he finds heretics elsewhere, too, such as in the Fatima movement. He says the Fatima Center, which was headed by the late Fr. Nicholas Gruner, has gone off the rails since Gruner's 2015 death. It has betrayed Verrecchio's understanding of the Fatima message. 
As a result, he has castigated the group and in return has been criticized by its supporters, such as Christopher Ferrara, a long-time associate of Gruner. In a post at the Fatima Center's website, Ferrara faulted the group's opponents without naming Verrecchio, though it was clear he had Verrecchio in mind. (He referred to "a grandstanding Catholic blogger.") 
In turn, Verrecchio has responded, saying that, under Gruner, the Fatima Center never would have had nice things to say about a "celebrity cardinal"--a reference to Cardinal Raymond Burke. And so on....
[F]issionble material keeps fissioning. Uranium 238, when it's done fissioning, ends up as lead. That may be a trope for what's happening among a good chunk of the Traditionalist movement. 
The unchristian glee Keating takes in the fallout of friendships among fringe figures is especially aggravating considering the fission among Catholics "in good standing" that he spent his career sweeping under the rug. The man who could never find anything negative worth saying about Cdl. Mahoney's reign of bad taste and doctrine never found himself short of words against doctrinally sound if intemperate traditionalists.

Today's Catholic Answers radio show regularly tackles tough, troubling questions like "Why do nuns but not priests take vows of poverty?", "Is it really a sin to vote in favor of homosexual marriage?", and "Why do Catholics pray to saints?" His apologists condemn the iconoclasm of mobs attacking statues of St. Joan, but never the iconoclasm practiced by the clergy. Mediocrity with a sheen of intellectual pretension is Keating's major legacy to American Catholic apologetics, swiftness to wrath against trads his minor legacy. I am convinced this man has done more damage to the traditionalist movement in America than many bishops combined:


In many ways he reminds me of E. Michael Jones, a man who prides himself on properly interpreting arcane aspects of canon law concerning the criticism of bishops while loudly slandering and defaming everyone else in sight. Karl similarly is very intelligent about a small set of outdated apologetics and extremely modern ecclesiastical legislation, while lacking a broader wisdom about the life of the Church as a whole. He is a more learned version of Mark Shea, who once had his feelings hurt by trads long ago and, just like a good Christian, never forgave and forgot.

What future is there for Catholic apologetics? If it is to pull itself out of the depths of irrelevance, it must engage with the more urgent questions of the age. I agree with Dr. Edward Feser that atheism and insufficient philosophies of being are some of the greatest threats to the Faith, but one cannot expect niche-burrowers like Keating or intellectual lightweights like his apprentices to bother engaging with these in any tangible way. Total faithlessness is on the rise, and who will stand against it? Much easier to shoot the easy targets of Protestants and trads than mount a defense against a real menace.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

The Great Blight


As far back as the 1600s winemakers were trying unsuccessfully to transplant European grape varieties to North America. For reasons unknown at the time these grapes would never grow in American soil, so they settled for cultivating local varieties and occasionally grafting European grapes onto American rootstock.

In the mid-1800s American vines were being transported to France to be grown there, and by the 1860s local vineyards were being obliterated by blight. Vines in the midst of a vineyard turned yellow and red, with the few grapes being produced yielding little good taste. The blight would spread quickly outward, with entire vineyards mysteriously drying up over a few years.

It turned out that the European rootstocks were unable to take root in American soil because of an aggressive species of aphid that European vines had not developed an immunity towards, and the newer transportation by steamboat finally allowed these aphids to survive the journey across the ocean. Once discovered, the reaction was swift but tardy. Insecticides proved slow to work, and many vintners turned in desperation to the aphid-resistant American rootstock.

The Great French Wine Blight was well under way. Over the course of 15 years about 40% of vineyards were affected, the French economy was shaken, workers in the wine industry had their pay cut in half, and many migrated to America. Because wine production dropped so precipitously, the French turned to another source of alcohol from Switzerland to whet their palettes—absinthe.

Pre-Blight wine quickly became a collector's item, and today only a few untouched vines remain. Although mocked as "Americanists" by the diminishing purist population, vintners found success by grafting the local vinifera onto the aphid-resistant American roots. This was dubbed "reconstitution" and hailed as a victory. Still, many claim that the robust flavors of pre-Blight wine were never again reproducible.

The public's taste had been greatly diminished due to their consumption of wormwood, leaving wine at least for a time to the connoisseurs. Wine makers joined the fight against the spread of absinthe, and the green devil was blamed for an increase in violence and general drunkenness. Jean Lanfray, a Swiss farmer, murdered his family in 1905 while presumably under the influence of absinthe. Many countries banned the drink, including Switzerland, France, and the United States. Only the Great War stopped the bans from increasing.

Today Americans can be found patting themselves on the back for saving the French wine industry with our rootstocks, completely forgetting the problem originated with us.

There is more than one way to devastate a vineyard, and sometimes it never recovers.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

The Last Gospel: Participatio Actuosa?

Do you have a ministry in your parish? I vividly recall during freshmen week in college the campus chaplaincy would advertise the various "ministries" available to students: reading, Eucharistic ministering, making sick visits, "singing", usher jobs, and hospitality. To the priest were reserved the words "This is my body", "I baptize you", and "I absolve you"; otherwise, it was open season on liturgical roles in this protracted state of infancy.

What if I told you that there were ways that the faithful informed the practice of the Latin liturgy without clericalizing themselves and laicizing the clerics? What if I told you that England was once an exemplar of participatio actuosa in the Mass? What if I told you that the priest's private devotion at the end of Mass was also, in many cases, the congregation's public devotion?

The medieval Roman liturgy and its local variations almost always concluded with the so-called Last Gospel, the first fourteen verses of the Johannine prologue. A 1474 printing of the Roman Missal in my possession makes no mention of it. The Dominicans did not add it until after Trent. And the last public words in the Sarum Mass were In nomine Patris et Filii et Spiritu Sancti. Amen. Yet, the Last Gospel was near ubiquitous as a private devotion before the Council of Trent. The celebrant would recite In principio erat Verbum until plenum gratiae et veritatis quietly on his way back to the vestry. The neo-Gallican rites retained this for high Mass, although they generally followed the Tridentine arrangement of low Mass. The Roman rite continued the medieval custom for Pontifical Mass and Quintin Montgomery-Wright retained it at Le Chamblac. So, how was the clerical devotion an act of lay participation?

Prior to modern printing people did not "know the Bible", but through sermons, catechesis (as far as it was available outside cathedral cities), stained glass, and mystery plays commoners could certainly be expected to know the main stories from the Old and New Testaments that the Scriptures record. The faithful often asked for particular passages to be read at the end of Masses celebrated for their specific intentions, believing that, aside from any instructional value, the readings contained a latria efficacious as prayer to God, that the readings were an act of worship themselves if done for the proper purpose.

Where do these readings appear in the Missals of the day? No where at all. They were recited at private Masses before the Johannine In principio, not in place of it. Benefactors, with the consultation of the celebrant, could select votive orations for the commemorations at the Masses they endowed, but did not alter the structure of the Mass. Instead, they had their own liturgical devotion along with the celebrant, one that they believed "especially powerful, to bring particular blessings or protection from certain evils.... Even the unlettered laity noticed, and valued such variations" (Duffy).

In those days before the 40 hour work week attendance at weekday Masses for special intentions was normal. A private Mass was not a Mass said in a private place, but rather any Mass that was not the canonical norm for the community; cathedrals, monasteries, and collegiate churches had to celebrate the Mass of the day every day, while a parish needed only celebrate the Mass of the day for feasts and Sundays. Anything beyond that—from a Marian votive Mass to an anniversary Requiem—could reasonably be called a "private Mass" and the prayers within it subject to the needs of those who asked for it (KL Wood-Legh).

The "people" valued the readings as both instructions and as a form of prayer for their own needs and so added them to the liturgy, albeit not the public liturgy, of the Church in their time. Whether or not they comprehended every word, they understood the general thrust of what was happening and valued it, knowing they did their duties as providers for their caring parsons and monks, who offered their desired votives. It is rather like the act of baking the prosphora for the Divine Liturgy.

Could there be a more grounded example of participatio actuosa? I may go down to a local parish and ask for Gospel passage of the crowd demanding Our Lord's death when I next commission a Mass for the conversion of those who worship at the Galleria shopping mall.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

The Eastern Church Five Years On, Part I: Teach Me Your Statutes

Almost five years ago, to the Sunday, I walked entered the Greek Church aloof to its mysteries and eager for an alternative to the insular world of worship which I knew. After some light digging online I found that I should not expect a holy water stoop nor a genuflection on entry to the church. I walked into a Melkite church in New Hampshire half an hour before the proper start to the Divine Liturgy, providing a sufficient cushion for getting lost. I approached the church with the trepidation one feels when leaving one’s element, like going away from home for the first time or going off to university. Vaguely, some rough, pulsating noise resonated from the opened windows of the parish; they sang words I could not discern.

As told, I found no holy water stoop upon entering the narthex nor anything toward which to genuflect. After the initial doors a stand bore an icon of the Dormition. I passed the icon and saw wonders. A great gate demanded all attention. Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Blessed Mother, John Chrysostom, and Basil the Great looked upon me in blessing from four panels. Four cantors surrounded a podium to the left of the icon screen and two deacons stood around a similar podium to the right. They continued the hymn which I heard only faintly from outside, bowing to the floor at each refrain.

Blessed are You, O Lord, teach me Your statutes

The order of the angels was amazed,
When they beheld You, O Savior, among the dead,
Destroying the power of death, and raising Adam with You,
And releasing all from Hades.

Blessed are you, O Lord, teach me Your statutes

After four or five years living in the traditionalist segment of the Latin Church I found myself uncomfortably staring at true worship with no strings attached. Like the ancient Roman liturgy I came to love there was a “flesh of my flesh” sort of devotion and worship here, but bereft of any political affiliation or symbolic status on one’s opinions. Without the positive reinforcement that comes from selecting a satisfying position against one’s imagined foes, I was left to see this act of latria in a way I had viewed no other before it, as the worship of God for God’s own sake.

Very early in the morning the myrrh-bearers ran lamenting to Your tomb,
But the angel stood by them and said,
“Do not weep, the time for lamenting has passed,
Announce the Resurrection to the Apostles.”

Blessed are You, O Lord, teach me Your statutes

Hitherto, my understanding of the Church came from a narrow set of arguments that effectively said, “What preceded 1962 was original to the Apostolic tradition and your ideas are novel.” While that generally continued to be true in the limited sense I understood the situation in the Church, I had little knowledge, and no wisdom, for the actual Tradition of the Church properly understood. Other than St. Augustine, I had not seriously engaged a Church Father. Other than the Tridentine Mass, I had not seen a traditional liturgy, and certainly not in so normative a setting; the Tridentine Mass was always the exception in parishes. Like most traddies, I was a modern Cordelia Flyte: I knew little and believed it madly.

Since you gave birth to the Giver of Life, O Virgin,
You delivered Adam from sin,
And you granted joy to Eve instead of sadness,
For He Who took flesh from you, God and Man, restored to life him who had gone astray.

Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia! Glory be to You, O God!

It is the purpose of this post and a short succeeding series to ruminate on my five years living, thinking, and worshipping in the Greek Churches. In short, it has been a slow withdrawal from the toxic political atmosphere prevalent in some corners of the traditionalist world and an introduction to wonderment at the act of worship of the Holy Trinity.

In this Melkite Church there was no sense of “right” and “wrong”, meaning that one side of opinions was right and the one I did not belong to was in error. There was simple worship of God. Having spent the past few years preaching the wickedness of removing the Introibo ad altare Dei prayers I was ill prepared to hear the Great Doxology sung at the end of the Orthros (Mattins) service and then witness the Divine Liturgy begin with such words as to arouse one’s long dormant spiritual imagination.

Blessed is the Kingdom of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,
Both now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Neo-Gallican Antidoron

Marko has directed some interest in our series on the Lyonese liturgy over here from NLM, for which we are grateful. It reminded me to post this remarkable snapshot of French parish life as it would have been before the 20th century.


This image, La bénédiction du pain by Francoise Archange, portrays the end of a Sunday Mass in the neo-Gallican rites. A first communicant holds bread to be blessed after Mass, similarly to how the remainder of the prosphora is divided for consumption after the Divine Liturgy in the Greek Churches.

The Mass is a Missa Cantata, which was quite rare before the 1960s; the Roman rite was normatively practiced as a solemn Mass with minimalist variations such as spoken or sung low Mass when three ministers were unavailable (I believe Missa cantata was never legal in the diocese of Rome, at least as of Fortescue's time). The French rites permitted local adaptations to maximize the resources of a parish, which in this case included three young boys (one looks bored) singing with three coped rulers of the choir, one of which is singing the antiphon accompanying the blessing of the bread from medio choro, the same place where the Epistle and Gospel were proclaimed in the pre-Tridentine Roman rite and where they continued to be proclaimed in the French rites.

Within the church the full span of local society sits according to rank and order. A nun teaches catechism in the Marian chapel, which houses an image of Saint Jerome in prayer. The women make their thanksgiving after the Mass. The men in the choir are likely officials such as the mayor or magistrates, which was the custom before the 20th century; all society presented itself before the Church, according to rank and duty.

This was the sort of parochial Catholicism Quintin Montgomery-Wright sustained at Le Chamblac over the course of four decades. Montgomery-Wright's parish, as well as the diocese of Campos in Brazil, are interesting experiments in what might have been if the liturgical revolution had not transpired, but Le Chamblac was also blessed with a pastor who kept a Catholic spirit alive in town which, while foppish, was not out of place or [entirely] affected. As much as the Church needs a liturgical restoration, of one kind or another, it needs a re-invigoration of parish life in the modern day, one that is genuine and humbles the world before the Church rather than one which invents lay "ministries" for old ladies in pant-suits. The old French world is gone, but there is much we can learn from it today.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Matrimony in the Post-Collapse

The news that Cdl. Burke and his now-two compatriots are slowly moving forward with the process of the dubia has us traddies in a tizzy about how slow the whole thing is, as if the Vatican has ever moved in a good direction at anything higher than a glacial pace. I do not know if the cardinals will get this declaration of orthodoxy signed or clearly rejected before the Fatimaversary is through, but doing so would help calm a lot of people down.

Meanwhile, my own experience with the married seems to be ever-increasing in variety and alarm. I know those once-divorced, once-separated, and constantly online-dating; those hastily wed after a pregnancy; those in active concubinage; those with children and an annulled marriage; and those young, in love, and getting engaged against the judgment of their parents (God bless them). Marriage is an increasingly messy proposition, but it is still the natural end of healthy adulthood. One not vowed to celibacy nor afflicted with some serious disability finds his proper and natural end in marriage and child-making, and woe to those who put stumbling blocks along the way of those who seek it.

That goes double for vocation-obsessed busybodies who demand years of prayer and preparation for the state of life in which God created our race. "It is not good for man to be alone" is not a complex maxim, and derailing a young man or woman seeking marriage with vocational retreats and the accompanying scrupulosity is to be creating an occasion of sin.

It is also true for those who spread cynicism about marriage as such, frightening young men with horror stories of ex-wives taking everything in the divorce and encouraging a culture of mistrust. Serial fornicators are made of such stuff as this.

And I think it is true also of the matrimonial spiritualists, those who elevate marriage to a state of life equal to the religious and contemplative, who gush at excruciating length about the theology of carnal bodies and birth control the "going green" way. There is a theology of matrimony, it is true, but mostly marriage is practical, down to earth, and humble. Catholic apologists do not need to spice it up with charismatic pretensions. Even the old manualist definition of the home as the "Domestic Church" veers off the rails when it demands a pseudo-monasticism instead of the perpetuation of folk traditions.

But from the beginning it was not so.

We live in an unthinkable age when people suffer simply for marriage. Chinese wives have their bodies invaded to slaughter the children within. Wedding planners and chefs are financially ruined for not supporting perversion. Governments encourage a great burden of collegiate debt on young people who simply wish to work and support a family. Subhuman fools deride mothers of more than 2.5 children publicly in the supermarket.

"Adulterers, know you not that the friendship of this world is the enemy of God?"

Now, blind clerics lead blind adulterers to the cliff. Would that Henry VIII had lived in our times, he would still be a proud papist! When Elias returns in the final days, do we think he will be condemning the Antichrist for his Satanic pacts, or will he perhaps rather be condemning him for his three divorces? Like the Forerunner who came in his spirit, Elias might very well be martyred for defending the primordial state of marriage.

"It is not good for man to be alone.... It is not lawful for you to have your brother's wife." Those are two hills worth dying on.
 

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Assumptiontide II: Te Matrem Dei Laudamus

What was the eliminated lesson from the pre-Tridentine Mattins for the Assumption? A good question deserving of an answer I could not find when parsing my 1554 edition of the Breviarium Romanum, a Parisian printing of the most complicated structure. The Tridentine reforms and modern printing brought some order to the ordinary, sanctoral, commons, and temporal of the Office. By mere chance I happened upon this troped version of the Te Deum. Doubtless, readers will be aware that the medieval dioceses troped the Kyrie according to the season, a practice which survived even in early printings of the Missal of St. Pius V. What readers may not know is that the Gloria and Te Deum were frequently troped, too, according to the feast, especially feasts of the Virgin or concerning the Incarnation. Here is a version of the Ambrosion hymn for use on Marian Saturdays.