Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Does Objective Beauty Exist?

I have been wondering on and off for the last several years if there does exist for humans some sort of objective standard for beauty.
I mean, ultimately speaking I definitely agree that what one person finds attractive another person may not. No argument from me there.
 But I think it is really interesting to ask if we can strip the question down to the most basic, fundamental aspects, and perhaps see something universal. To me, there seems to be a rather Catholic quality about that. It is perhaps not a popular theory in contemporary circles, but we Catholics are all about the timeless. Just to be contrarian I kind of want to argue that there does exist an objective, universal standard of beauty.
My interest in this question has grown more or less proportionally to my interest in the art of the Renaissance period. For instance, in Florence I saw this painting in person, and I was absolutely captivated by it.




 Or we could look at the statue of David, the Pieta in St. Peter's, maybe Botticelli's Birth of Venus. 





When we look at one of those, yes, we see a certain cultural mark. We see the Greek standard of beauty in David's body. There are, as I understand it, several Renaissance tropes in Botticelli's work. And clearly the Venus figure is not anatomically plausible.
 But if we separate out those cultural marks, are we left with a standard that we might consider universal? Is it simply a broadly western bias?
 I am not really sure, but I do feel a strong pull towards the objective standard position. At least in some sense of the concept. I really wish I had the time right now to study in depth some form of art criticism.



Edit:

I feel like tacking on some preliminary conclusions I have drawn after thinking about this question and discussing it today:

I think objective beauty has to be the ability to reflect the Divine, essentially. In a sense religious art and beauty are synonymous because both communicate God. That brings me then to wondering exactly how the Divine manifests itself in the human form. From there obviously we have to point to the Incarnation. Perhaps we should conclude that objective physical beauty is a consequence of God taking on human form. No beauty without Truth, no Truth without Christ.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

A Catholic Priest's Writings on Poltergeists Pt. I

I've noticed that most of my traffic comes from keywords related to Church teaching on the paranormal, especially focussed on what specifically is the Catholic doctrine related to ghosts.
I think in fact it would be safe to say that, besides some fairly simple prerequisites, there is not a lot in the way of 'official' teachings on ghosts. That leaves a lot of room for speculation, as long as we remain firmly grounded in Catholic doctrine. For instance, we accept that the soul is created by God and does not pre-exist. We accept that all humans are judged at their death without exception, that some go to hell, some to heaven, and some heaven by way of purgatory.
These things in mind, I think it may be fun to look into some of the speculative theology and speculation in general surrounding ghosts and other paranormal phenomena from a Catholic perspective. I'll start with a nice old book I picked up called Ghosts and Poltergeists by Fr. Herbert Thurston, a Jesuit priest who died in 1939. It mainly deals with poltergeist activity, and is heavily focussed on individual accounts.


Chapter 1:

A General View of Poltergeist Phenomena

[Part I, pages 1-4]

Although the German world "poltergeist" is now naturalized, and is often met with in the newspapers of both England and America, still an examination of standard dictionaries shows that it is a term of comparatively recent introduction. Few, if any, of those published in the last century will be found to contain in, and it is particularly noticeable that it is not recognized by The Stanford Dictionary of anglicized words and phrases (London, 1892), though this work was expressly compiled to registered those foreign importations into the language which had acquired rights of citizenship. The word does appear in the great Oxford English Dictionary in 1910, but the earliest illustration there given of its use dates only from 1871. It is certainly older than that. Mrs. Crowe, in her widely-circulated book The Night Side of Nature (1848), makes frequent use of it - once in a chapter heading. When the Spiritualistic movement started in America, more attention was naturally directed to such matters, but the earliest American example I have met of the use of this term occurs in an article copied in 1852 from the Boston Pilot which speaks as follows:

The Germans have long been familiar with a mischievous devil called the "Polter geist" whose delight it appears to be to enter houses and turn everything upside down, doing more mischief in an hour than a thousand monkeys would do in a day. It is not well to listen to these things, but really some respectable witnesses have testified that this same monkey ghost has troubled several families in England and America within the last few years.

The article was reproduced in a book Spiritual Manifestations, by Adin Ballou, which may claim to be the first systematic treatise on Spiritualism ever printed either in America or elsewhere. As Ballou's little volume went through several editions, and was republished on both sides of the Atlantic, appearing in London, and again in Liverpool, within less than twelve months, it may very easily have helped to give currency to a term previously unfamiliar to most writers of English. Moreover, the description supplied may be regarded as fairly accurate. A poltergeist is simply a racketing spirit, which in almost all cases remains invisible, but which manifests its presence by throwing things about, knocking fire-irons together and creating an uproar, in the course of which the human spectators are occasionally hit by flying objects, but as a rule suffer no serious injury.
In the last century several prominent members of the Society for Psychical Research - notably Mr. Frank Podmore from the sceptical standpoint and Mr. Andrew Lang in a more benignant vein - occupied themselves with poltergeist phenomena; but the most important contribution to the subject, definitely upholding the objective reality of these manifestations, is that published in 1911 by the late Sir William Barrett, F.R.S. Being himself then resident in Ireland, he had personally investigated two Irish cases, and he takes occasion to outline the features which are found to recur in other examples of the same type of disturbance gathered from all parts of the world. The points upon which he lays stress as characteristic of the poltergeist are the invisibility of the agents, the sporadic and temporary nature of the manifestations, and notably their dependence upon the presence of some particular individual - usually a young person and often a child - who must be assumed to possess strange, if unconscious, mediumistic powers. When telekinetic phenomena occur - and this is almost invariably the case - whether they take the form of missiles which seem to come from nowhere, or of crockery and even furniture crashing or flying through the air, the movement often seems to be controlled, tortuous and at variance with the laws of gravitation. Professor Barrett writes: -

The movement of objects is usually quite unlike that due to gravitational or other attraction. They slide about, rise in the air, move in eccentric paths, sometimes in a leisurely manner, often turn round in their career, and usually descend quietly without hurting the observers. At other times an immense weight is lifted, often in daylight, no one being near, crockery is thrown about and broken, bedclothes are dragged off, the occupants sometimes lifted gently to the ground, and the bedstead tilted up or dragged about the room. The phenomena occur both in broad daylight and at night. Sometimes bells are continuously rung, even if all the bell wires are removed. Stones are frequently thrown, but no one is hurt; I myself have seen a large pebble drop apparently from space in a room where the only culprit could have been myself, and certainly I did not throw it. [Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research, Vol. XXV, p. 378.]

In both the cases investigated by Professor Barrett, rappings and inexplicable noises played a prominent part. The earlier occurred in 1877 at a lonely hamlet called Derrygonnelly, nine miles from Enniskillen, in the house of a farmer who had been left a widower with a family of four girls and a boy, the eldest child, Maggie, aged about twenty, seeming to be the centre of the disturbance. Strange rappings and scratchings were first heard, then objects were seen to move, stones began to fall, and candles and boots were repeatedly thrown out of the house. Several neighbours urged them to send for the priest, but the family were Methodists and preferred to put an open Bible on the bed with a big stone on top of it. Some unseen power, however, displaced the Bible and eventually removed it from the room, tearing seventeen pages right across. The freakish disturber of their peace evinced a peculiar dislike for any source of artificial light; candles and lamps were mysteriously stolen or thrown out, and Professor Barrett recounts how the old farmer told him that "Jack Flanigan came and lent us his lamp, saying he would engage the devil himself could not steal it, as he had got the priest to sprinkle it with holy water." Nevertheless the lamp, in spite of the blessing, seems to have shared the fate of the Bible. When Professor Barrett visited the scene he heard the long continued knockings some of which were "like those made by a heavy carpenter's hammer driving nails into flooring." He satisfied himself that the noises could not have been made by any of the inmates, who were all in view, and, as already mentioned, he saw a stone fall from the void. Moreover he challenged the mysterious agent of the knockings to echo by raps the numbers which he mentally indicated; which is did. Further putting his hands into the side pockets of his overcoat, Professor Barrett asked the spirit to "knock the number of fingers he held open." The experiment was repeated four times, with varying numbers, and in each case the answer was given correctly.
The disturbances which took place at Enniscorthy in July, 1910, were more dramatic, and though in this case Professor Barrett was not personally a witness of the phenomena, still the depositions he obtained from those principally concerned are so explicit and so fully confirmed by independent testimony that it would be unreasonable to doubt the facts. Apart from hammering and other noises, the prank upon which the poltergeist seemed to concentrate his efforts was the pulling off the bed-clothes and the moving right across the floor of a heavy bedstead, which, lacking one castor, was a particularly difficult object to shift from its place. Three young men slept in the room, all of whom were reduced to a state of abject terror. The principal sufferer was a lad of eighteen, named Randall. According to his account, confirmed on one occasion by reliable investigators who sat up with them, the sheets and blankets were pulled off him, he himself was dragged out of bed on to the floor, "a chair danced out into the middle of the room without anyone near it," and when all three in their fright decided to get into one bed together, "the bed turned up on one side and threw us out on to the floor, and before we were thrown out, the pillow was taken from under my head three times. When the bed rose up, it fell back without making any noise." [Proceedings S.P.R., Vol. XXV, p. 389.]




I intend to post more of this over time, in pieces around this size.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The Great Desire Which Jesus Christ Has of Uniting Himself to Us in Holy Communion

This is the third and final part of the "Considerations on Holy Communion". The part starting with "Many excuse their neglect[...]" is, in my opinion, one of the more beautiful devotions and exhortations that I have ever read.


Page 157

Considerations on Holy Communion

3. The Great Desire Which Jesus Christ Has of Uniting Himself to Us in Holy Communion


Our divine Redeemer called Holy Thursday "His hour," because He then instituted this Sacrament, as the means of uniting Himself intimately to our souls. He said to His disciples: "With desire I have desired to eat this pasch with you." (Luke 22. 15.) This is the language of burning love. It was out of love that Jesus gave Himself to us under the appearance of food, that all might receive Him. So greatly does He desire to be united to us, that He urges us to receive Him: "Come, eat My bread, and drink the wine which I have mingled for you." (Prov. 9. 5.) He even commands us: "Take ye and eat, this is My Body." (Mat. 26. 26.) Jesus encourages us to receive holy Communion by the promise of eternal life: "He that eateth My flesh and drinketh My blood, hath life everlasting. He that eateth this bread, shall live forever." (John 6. 55.) His desire to be united to us is so great that He even threatens to exclude from heaven all who neglect to receive Him. "Except you eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink His blood, you shall not have life in you." (John 6. 54.) These invitations, promises and threats, manifest our Savior's ardent desire to unite Himself to us in this Sacrament. This ardent desire is the effect of our Lord's immense love for us. "Union is the perfection of love," says St. Francis de Sales. Jesus desires so eagerly that we should receive Him, because in this Sacrament He unites Himself most intimately to our souls. "He that eateth my flesh," He says, "and drinketh My blood, abideth in Me and I in him." (John 6. 57.)
Oh! if we only understood the great treasures concealed in holy Communion! Jesus is infinitely rich. "The Father hath given Him all things into His hands." (John 13. 3.) When Jesus Christ comes to us in holy Communion, He brings with Him immense treasures of grace. According to St. Vincent Ferrer, we can derive greater profit from one holy Communion than from a week's fast on bread and water. "Holy Communion," as the council of Trent teaches, "is the great remedy which frees us from venial sin, and even preserves us from mortal sin." This Sacrament is, moreover, the principal means of enkindling divine love in our hearts, "God is love." (John 4. 8.) He is "a consuming fire." (Deut. 4. 24.) The Son of God says expressly: - "I am come to cast fire on the earth, and what will I but that it be kindled." (Luke 12. 49.) O what burning flames of divine love does Jesus kindle in the souls that receive Him worthily in this Sacrament! St. Catherine of Sienna once saw Jesus in the Sacred Host like a furnace of love. At the sight she wondered that the hearts of all men were not inflamed and consumed bt the flames, which issued from the Holy Eucharist. "The Eucharist," says St. John Chrysostom, "is a fire which inflames us with divine love, and renders us terrible to Satan, the enemy of souls." It is the wish of the Church that we should go to Mass and Communion every day, as the first Christians did. This we see from the decrees of the Council of Trent (Sess. 22. Cap. 6.) and also from the Roman Catechism. Our Lord calls holy Communion "our daily supernatural bread."
Many excuse their neglect of Communion by saying that they are cold in the love of God; that they are unworthy to receive so often, etc. But who is worthy? No one. Neither saint nor angel is worthy to receive our Lord. You do not receive Communion because you are worthy, but because you need it. You need strength and consolation. Will you become more worthy by neglecting Communion? Just the contrary. The longer you stay away, the more faults you commit, and the more unworthy you become. You say: "I fear I am not in the grace of God." Then go to confession. Stop sinning. Receive the absolution of the priest. Do you expect God to send you an angel to assure you that your sins are forgiven? Do you not know that you can place more reliance on the absolution of the priest than on the words of an angel? It was not to an angel, but to the priest that Jesus said: "Whatsoever sins you forgive, they are forgiven them." You say you stay away from Communion "because your heart is cold and without devotion." What an absurd excuse! You are like the man who refuses to approach the fire, because he feels cold! The greater your coldness, the greater is your need of going often to holy Communion. You say: "People will notice it, if I go to Communion so often. They will laugh at me. They will call me a devotee and a hypocrite." Who will laugh at you? Not the virtuous; they will be edified. They wicked? Well let the laugh. Father Juan de Avila says those who keep others from Communion are agents of the devil. Will you neglect Communion to please the devil? Ah, you stay away because you will not give up sin. You prefer the husks of the swine to the Food of angels! Beware! Despise not the loving invitations of Jesus. At the hour of death you may crave for the grace of Communion and not receive it.
St. Francis de Sales says that "two classes of persons should communicate often ; the perfect and the imperfect. The perfect, that they may remain perfect, and the imperfect, that they may become perfect."
"Though you feel cold in divine love," says St. Bonaventure, "approach nevertheless, trusting in the mercy of God. The more you feel sick, the more you need the physician." Our divine Savior said one day to St. Mechtilda: "When you are about to receive holy Communion, desire to possess all the love which the saints have ever had for Me, and I will accept your love in proportion to the ardor with which you desire it."

Prayer

O my Jesus, so greatly enamored of souls, Thou canst not give us greater proofs of love than are found in this adorable Sacrament. What more couldst Thou invent to induce us to love Thee? Grant that I may love Thee with all my strength. Who can have greater claim to the affections of my heart than Thou, my Redeemer who, after giving Thy life for me, hast bestowed Thyself entirely on me in this Sacrament of love? Would that I had always remembered Thy love, that I might love Thee always without reserve! I love Thee, O my Jesus, above all things, I wish to love Thee alone. Banish from my heart all affections that are not for Thee. I thank Thee for giving me time to love Thee, and to bewail the offences I have committed against Thee. Mayst Thou be henceforth the only object of my affections! Assist me; save me. Let me love Thee always with my whole heart in this life and in the next. O Mary, dearest Mother, obtain for me the grace to love Jesus Christ in time and in eternity. Amen.





Tuesday, August 7, 2012

The Holy Eucharist is a Gift of Love

This is the next part of the "Considerations on Holy Communion".

Page 153

Considerations on Holy Communion

2. The Holy Eucharist is a Gift of Love


It was not strictly necessary for our salvation that the Redeemer should die, and atone for our sins by the sacrifice of His life. It was not necessary that, after dying for us He should give us Himself as our food. It was His excessive love that prompted Him to do so. St. Lawrence Justinian says that "Jesus Christ instituted the Holy Eucharist for no other purpose than to make us understand the immense love He bears us." This is also the language of the beloved disciple: "Jesus, knowing that His hour was come, that He should pass out of this world to the Father, having loved His own, He loved them to the end." (John 13. 1.) Being about to leave this world, Jesus Christ wished to give us the greatest proof of His love. He bequeathed to us the precious gift of the most holy Sacrament. It was at the very time when men were plotting to betray, arrest and condemn Him; when men were preparing the cords, the scourges, the thorns and the cross to crucify Him, that our loving Redeemer gave us this last, this enduring pledge of His love. We always remember with special love the last gift of a dying father. The Son of God was not content with uniting Himself to our human nature in the mystery of the Incarnation, He wished to unite Himself also with each one of us in the Sacrament of the Eucharist. "In no other action," says St. Francis de Sales, "can the Redeemer be considered more tender and more loving than in the institution of this Sacrament, in which He, as it were, annihilates Himself, and becomes our food in order to enter our souls and unite Himself to our hearts." "In this manner," says St. Chrysostom, "we are united and made one body and one flesh with that Lord, in whose presence the angels are filled with awe, and on whose infinite Majesty they dare not fix their gaze." "Jesus hath," indeed, according to the Royal Prophet, "made a remembrance of His wonderful works; He hath given food to them that fear Him." (Ps. 110. 4.)
The Ven. Claude Columbière used to say: "If anything could shake my faith in the mystery of the Eucharist, it is not the power, but rather the love which God displays in this Sacrament. If you ask me, how bread becomes the body of Jesus, how Jesus is found in so many places, I answer that God can do all things. But if you ask me, how it is, that God loves men so much as to make Himself their food, I can only say that I do not understand it; and that the love of Jesus for men is incomprehensible." St. Thomas calls this Sacrament, "the Sacrament of love, the pledge of love." St. Bernard calls it, "the Love of loves." St. Mary Magdalen de Pazzi was wont to call Holy Thursday, "the day of love."

Prayer

O infinite love of my Jesus, thou art deserving of infinite love. When, O my sweet Jesus, shall I love Thee as much as Thou hast loved me? Thou canst give me no greater proof of Thy love. And I, wretched sinner, have forsaken Thee, the infinite Good, for the sake of vile and worthless creatures. Enlighten me, O my God! Make me understand the love which Thou bearest me, that my whole soul may become enamored of Thee, and that I may always strive to please Thee. I love Thee, O my Jesus, my Love, my All! I desire to unite myself frequently to Thee in this Sacrament. Wean my heart from all creatures. May I love Thee alone, my Treasure, my Life. Through the merits of Thy passion assist me, O my loving Redeemer! O Mary, Mother of my Jesus, and my Mother, help me to love Jesus. Beseech Him to inflame my heart with His holy love. Amen




Sunday, August 5, 2012

New Mission Book of the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer

A few weeks ago I corresponded with a young man on Reddit, who ended up sending me several old religious books, one of which is the "New Mission Book", released by the Congregation for the Most Holy Redeemer. This copy that I have was printed in 1911 or earlier. I can't say for sure because the first couple pages have fallen out. The book itself has seen better days, but as far as I'm concerned that just adds to its charm. It's quite small, about 3''x4.5'', and just shy of 500 pages. It's divided into sections: basic instruction for Catholics, prayers during Mass, various devotions to the Eucharist, the Child Jesus, the Cross, the Via Crucis, instructions on sacramental devotions, with a focus on Communion and Confession, devotion to Mary, and to the saints, instructions on sickness, the Decalogue, marriage, parenthood, young Catholics, etc..

On the back cover is a little bit of writing. As far as I can tell it says "Mrs. James Lynch. Callis. Minn. Mission June 19th 1911. Not sure what the Callis. Minn. is referring to. Perhaps a town in Minnesota?




Overall it's a very lovely, charming book. It has the very best of the 'old book smell'. In fact, I'm sitting here with the book open beside me, and it feels like the whole room smells like an old archive or library.
I wish there were more books like this being published. They're simple and easy to use, but theologically they're nearly always solid and traditional. I've decided to start collecting, slowly, over perhaps the rest of my life, vintage Catholic prayer books and missals like this one.

Anyway, since I have a bit of spare time on my hands, I want to type up a couple sections from this little book. If I get through this one, I have a few other books like this that I can work through as well.


Page 151

Considerations On Holy Communion

1. The Holy Eucharist is a most precious Gift.

It is, according to St. Augustine, a gift so excellent, that Jesus Christ, though He is all-powerful, cannot bestow on us a more precious gift. What greater treasure can we receive or desire than the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ? If our divine Redeemer had not bestowed this gift on us, who would dare think of such a gift? Who would venture to say to Jesus: Lord, if Thou wishest to convince us of Thy love, remain with us under the species of bread, and permit us to receive Thee as our food! The very thought of such a favor looks like madness. "Does it not look like foolishness," says St. Augustine, "for a God to say to His creatures- Eat My flesh and drink My blood?"
When our loving Redeemer first spoke of giving us His flesh to eat and His blood to drink, many of His hearers left Him, saying: "How can this man give us His flesh to eat? - This saying is hard, and who can hear it?" (John 6. 53, 61.) But what man could not imagine, the great love of Jesus Christ has invented and executed.
St. Bernardine says that our divine Savior has left us this Sacrament as a memorial of the love He has shown us in His passion. This is in accordance with the saying of Jesus Christ Himself: "Do this for a commemoration of Me." (Luke 22. 19.) Our Redeemer's love for us not only prompted Him to sacrifice His life for our salvation, but even constrained Him to bequeath to us the greatest gift in His power - His own divine self. In the Eucharist, according to the declaration of the council of Trent, Jesus Christ "has poured out all the riches of His love for man." In that Sacrament of love the Son of God gives us not only His body and blood, but also His soul and divinity. "He bestowed on us" says St. Thomas, "all that He has and all that He is." Now since the Lord gives Himself entirely to us in the Blessed Eucharist, how can we fear that He will refuse us the graces we ask of Him. "How hath He not also with Him given us all things?" (Rom. 8. 32.)

Prayer

O my Jesus, what has induced Thee to give Thyself entirely to me? After this gift, what more remains for Thee to give me? Ah, Lord! enlighten me and make me understand the excess of Thy love. Since Thou givest Thyself entirely to me, it is but just that I should give my whole being to Thee. O my loving Redeemer, how could I offend Thee, who lovest me so tenderly, who hast done so much to win my love? For my sake Thou didst become man and suffer death; Thou has even become my food. What more couldst Thou do for me? I love Thee, O infinite Goodness! I love Thee, O inifnite Love! Lord, come often into my soul. Inflame my heart with Thy love. Grant that I may forget all things, and think only of Thee. O most holy Mary, pray for me. By the intercession, make me worthy to receive thy divine Son frequently in holy Communion. Amen.



Sunday, May 20, 2012

Some Thoughts on Marcel Lefebvre

Over the last 24 months or so my opinions on the SSPX situation have evolved to a more nuanced, though significantly more unsure position. Whereas in the past I might have said that Archbishop Lefebvre had many valid concerns, but was wrong in his addressing of them, today I'm not longer entirely comfortable saying even that.

Certainly he did have valid concerns. Few orthodox Catholics today will deny that a lot of things went wrong after the Second Vatican Council. As I remarked today before Mass, it's been a tough fifty years. I don't believe necessarily that all our struggles are because of the Council, though I'm also not willing to say that every aspect of the Council itself was blameless.

Archbishop Lefebvre was concerned especially about how the men of the Church understood religious liberty, ecumenism, and the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. These were all valid concerns. The issue closest to my heart is the Mass, and the utter chaos created by its wholesale renovation.

What strikes me as most concerning, most worthy of giving us pause, is that much of Archbishop Lefebvre's warnings, perhaps even all of them turned out to be true. I am very much appreciative of Humanae Vitae for this same reason; reading it today it is clear that there is a prophetic voice in that document. As much as I'm not Paul VI's greatest fan, I think he was cooperating with the Holy Spirit very closely when he wrote Humanae Vitae. However, if I respect Humanae Vitae for its prophetic voice, I'm forced also to acknowledge Marcel Lefebvre's farsightedness.

He predicted a lot of consequences that would arise from the new ways of thinking that permeated the Church in the late 50s and beyond.  He predicted great struggles in missionary territories, specifically Africa and Latin America as a result of new, fashionable schools of 'ecumenical' theology. This happened. Latin America has for a long time been inundated with Liberation Theology and the vile influence of Marxism. Africa too has struggled, when compared with the enormous success of the missions in the first half of the 20th century. Both situations are, if I understand it, on the mend, and I think in part we have our Holy Father Pope Benedict to thank for that, but they did indeed struggle as predicted.

He predicted that seminaries worldwide would struggle tremendously. They absolutely have. Everyone, at least everyone in the western Catholic world, is familiar with the vocations crisis. Many awful rumours, some rather well documented, of a culture of homosexuality and heterodoxy in seminaries, have floated around for some time. Many great priests and former seminarians, for example the illustrious Father Z, can speak about the absolute shambles many seminaries were in during their studies. The sexual abuse scandal can attest to recklessly poor formation of priests in previous decades. Again, this situation too seems to be getting better, and thank goodness, but we're not out of the woods yet.

Archbishop Lefebvre foresaw a Church where priests, and even bishops have been infected with Modernism and its many errors. If we take an honest look at the state of the Church, I think we'd have a hard time disagreeing. We've all had our experiences with priests ad-libbing the Mass, or in the confessional or at the baptismal font to suit their whims. We've all sat through homilies that are the definition of heresy. We have seen bishops abandon their flocks morally, pastorally, and even physically. Some fostered unhealthy atmospheres for their orthodox priests. Some have taught things which go against the holy Tradition of our Church. Some have been excommunicated and laicized. All of these things, of course, will happen during any age of the Church, but today it happens far too often. How many Masses or confessions have been invalidated because of a defect of form? How many souls have been scandalized because bishops have not stood up for the Church's eternal teachings?

None of the problems in the Church today are unique to our age, but the scale of the issues we are dealing with has many times been described as a crisis. Perhaps one of the most serious since the Arian crisis. Certainly the worst since the attempted heretical 'reforms' of the Enlightenment period.

Does Archbishop Lefebvre's very often accurate predictions mean that he acted correctly after the suppression of the Society of St. Pius X, or during the Econe consecrations, or afterwards? Not necessarily. But at the same time, I think the history of the Church will look much more kindly upon the Archbishop than has been the case for the last fifty years.

In reading Marcel Lefebvre's biography by Bernard Tissier de Mallerais (which, by the way, I would recommend for anyone interested in the issue) the two greatest reactions I've experienced thus far have been first of regret at how harshly he was sometimes treated at the hands of other bishops, and many of the cardinals, and second, of regret at how profoundly he might have influenced the Church through the 60s until his death, had circumstances worked out differently. His work in Gabon and Dakar especially show that he placed faithfulness to the Church and carrying out of Her mission above all other things. How many great things might he have done, had he not spent the last decades of his life in a sort of exile?

Perhaps Bishop Bernard Fellay might show us.

Going back to where we began: do I think that Marcel Lefebvre acted wrongly with regards to the SSPX? I don't know. But I think we do a disservice to ourselves and to the Church by simply dismissing him. What I am confident in saying is that the circumstances which led up to the Society's suppression, and the events surrounding the Econe consecrations, should never have been allowed to develop. No one person is responsible for those circumstances, but perhaps many different men of the Church, from the late 50s onward, had a responsibility to lead the Church more fruitfully than they did.


Wednesday, November 2, 2011

SSPX Rumours

The rumour that has been floating around for two or three days now says that the SSPX leadership has decided to reject the Doctrinal Preamble.
I don't know if it's true. I really hope it's not, though I have to confess that I have a sad gut feeling that it is.
That being said, DICI has posted an official press release reminding the faithful that these rumours are currently nothing more than that.

Press Release from the General House of the Priestly Society of St Pius X (November 2 2011)

2-11-2011 
Filed under From TraditionNews
Since the meeting of the seminary Rectors and District Superiors of the Society of St. Pius X in Albano (Italy) on October 7, 2011, several comments have been published in the press about the answer that Bishop Bernard Fellay should give to the Roman propositions of September 14th.
It has to be recalled that only the SSPX’s General House has the competency to publish an official communique or authorized comment on the subject.
Until further notice, one should reference the communique of October 7, 2011. (DICI of 11/02/11).

We've seen lots of rumours before, and many of them turned out to be false. We also know that there are a lot of people out there on both sides who do not want to see a reunion. There certainly is sufficient motive for some misguided individuals to sabotage the reunion process from either camp.

In any case, keep praying for reunion. I will not listen to these rumours until such a time as they are confirmed true or false.