Sunday, November 27, 2016

The papacy for dummies

The first condition of salvation is to keep the norm of the true faith and in no way to deviate from the established doctrine of the Fathers. For it is impossible that the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, who said, "Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church," [Matthew 16:18], should not be verified. And their truth has been proved by the course of history, for in the Apostolic See the Catholic religion has always been kept unsullied. From this hope and faith we by no means desire to be separated and, following the doctrine of the Fathers, we declare anathema all heresies, and, especially, the heretic Nestorius, former bishop of Constantinople, who was condemned by the Council of Ephesus, by Blessed Celestine, bishop of Rome, and by the venerable Cyril, bishop of Alexandria. We likewise condemn and declare to be anathema Eutyches and Dioscoros of Alexandria, who were condemned in the holy Council of Chalcedon, which we follow and endorse. This Council followed the holy Council of Nicaea and preached the apostolic faith. And we condemn the assassin Timothy, surnamed Aelurus ["the Cat"] and also Peter [Mongos] of Alexandria, his disciple and follower in everything. We also declare anathema their helper and follower, Acacius of Constantinople, a bishop once condemned by the Apostolic See, and all those who remain in contact and company with them. Because this Acacius joined himself to their communion, he deserved to receive a judgment of condemnation similar to theirs. Furthermore, we condemn Peter ["the Fuller"] of Antioch with all his followers together together with the followers of all those mentioned above.

Following, as we have said before, the Apostolic See in all things and proclaiming all its decisions, we endorse and approve all the letters which Pope St. Leo wrote concerning the Christian religion. And so I hope I may deserve to be associated with you in the one communion which the Apostolic See proclaims, in which the whole, true, and perfect security of the Christian religion resides. I promise that from now on those who are separated from the communion of the Catholic Church, that is, who are not in agreement with the Apostolic See, will not have their names read during the sacred mysteries. But if I attempt even the least deviation from my profession, I admit that, according to my own declaration, I am an accomplice to those whom I have condemned. I have signed this, my profession, with my own hand, and I have directed it to you, Hormisdas, the holy and venerable pope of Rome.
— Formula of Pope St. Hormisdas, 6th century

"The papacy for dummies": Christians believe Jesus was God and founded only one church. That church has a head bishop who under some circumstances has certain powers, such as to define doctrine. And what has he defined since roughly the time we clarified the extent/limits of those powers? Things about Mary that Catholics already believed. That's how it works. He's a caretaker, not a creator of doctrine.

19th-century Anglicans were admirably "conservative" like the Orthodox with their scruples about the development of doctrine (only a theory of Newman's, not our doctrine!) regarding the Pope. Really, I think that they imagined the 21st century as having the Episcopalians, the one true church (churchmen such as Charles Grafton believed that), holding fast to the ancient faith, creeds, apostolic ministry, morals, and all, while that madman in Rome did things such as attempt to ordain women and marry the same sex.

Western Catholicism without the Pope is a will-o'-the-wisp as the history of both Anglicanism and "independent" bishops shows, That said, I respect fellow Westerners who can't quite accept the Pope for theological reasons, not just bigotry like much of the Christian East: Continuing Anglicans and Missouri Synod Lutherans, for example, our estranged but still close cousins.

And... although classical Anglicans see us as in grave error (put on your fireproof suit to read the Thirty-Nine Articles), they claim the episcopate from us and recognize us, our bishops, our sacraments, as still Catholic too. Near me lives an Episcopal priest, an ex-Catholic, I have the utmost respect for; he is a marvelous Anglican apologist in C.S. Lewis' league. The sanctuary of his middle-of-the-road parish church has a mural from the 1950s depicting their understanding of holy orders that literally includes the Pope. I find that moving.

Pictured: St. Pius X, foe of Modernism (Protestantism on steroids, the heresy of heresies) and "founder" of the Russian Catholic exarchate (nec plus, nec minus, nec aliter: you don't have to give up your Orthodox customs to be Catholic).

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Political ramble

I like Edmund Burke from what I know of him (and I'm not that learned), but "authoritarian" is not a dirty word. Burkean conservatism is made to order for English-speaking peoples. Russia and the Hispanic world are more traditional, naturally authoritarian. I'm flexible politically. I would welcome a Ron Paul (I stood literally in the rain to see him, twice), a Francisco Franco, a prince of Liechtenstein (there's traditionalist conservatism: have lots of little countries), or an Austrian emperor. I like legitimism: different politics for different peoples at different times. (Fences make good neighbors; separate countries are good.) The Nazis of course were actually "progressive," in their arrogance wanting to bulldoze non-German European traditions and maybe even German ones. A new order for a new, 20th-century man. Sound familiar? A lot like the Bolsheviks they fought in the streets. Or our neocons (what has passed for American conservatism since World War II), who are really Trotskyite radicals wanting to knock down tradition for "progress" worldwide; "nation-building" (let's invade Iraq and turn it into California, for their own good). Authoritarianism doesn't mean totalitarianism.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Vatican II, approaches to liturgical change, and the importance of culture

The Second Vatican Council suggested changes in policy and regulations; it didn't define any doctrine.
I regret to inform you that it did. Given that it was billed as the succeeding Council to the First Vatican Council, it (V2) was granted the same infallible status as V1. (Not to mention the heteropraxis of V2, but there is more than enough material on that from both Catholic and non-Catholic sources.) The SSPX try to get around that by saying that the Council did not have the power to change the liturgy, but the reality is that if you claim to be Catholic, and worship with the Novus Ordo, then you are compelled by the teachings of V2 to uphold them.
Vatican II is infallible in theory and it would have been if it defined doctrine, but while it was intended to balance Vatican I by pointing out the powers of the episcopate (while Vatican I defined doctrine about the papacy), it didn't actually issue an equivalent of Pastor Aeternus, the document that explains (limiting, as Fr. John Hunwicke rightly says) papal infallibility. It quoted past definitions. Vatican II is rhetoric and rules, not doctrine.

We would be better off coming clean that it was a failure and shelving it. (Pope Benedict XVI — actually not conservative, just Catholic — almost did and look what happened to him.)

(Example: our archdiocesan seminary is selling its campus. "How's that 'renewal' working out for youse?")

"The SSPX try to get around that by saying that the Council did not have the power to change the liturgy, but the reality is that if you claim to be Catholic, and worship with the Novus Ordo, then you are compelled by the teachings of V2 to uphold them."

The SSPX do much good (face it; we have our Mass back in the official church thanks to them) but if this is really what they say, they're wrong on this.

The church can rewrite services, and after (not at) Vatican II it did, but historically it didn't. Churchmen didn't study the liturgy as history so they didn't know where much of it came from. Because of that, they chose to be cautious, changing the liturgy as little as possible, lest they omit something essential. The liturgy does change, but it was either minor rules (there were many tweaks to the Tridentine Mass) or very slow and non-directed (custom that eventually became rules). All of this applies to all rites (such as the Eastern ones).

I have no conscience problem with Benedict XVI's English Novus Ordo. That's right; I'm not that extreme. (I actually have little religion but what religion I have is Catholic before 1965.) I can worship in spirit and in truth at it, and going to a quiet, by-the-book celebration (like orthodox Catholics' mainstay for over 40 years; little or no attempt at music), even in liberal parishes, I appreciate what the old, orthodox liturgical renewal was trying to do. The basics: collect (troparia in the Greek Rite), epistle, gospel, offertory, consecration, and Communion; the Mass is the Mass. But the new Mass is not my home, and if my Mass were taken away and I didn't have or decided against the Greek Catholic option (which I do choose monthly), I wouldn't get any joy or identity out of church. I'd go when I was told, put my envelope in the basket (one of the precepts of the church), try to follow the teachings, and that would be that. (Yes, know Jesus personally, but losing my church culture would hinder that.) Religious obligations would be nothing more than that. I'd get all my pleasure in life somewhere else, like the normies.

(Assuming we still have Benedict's reform. Working in our favor right now: Pope Francis doesn't care about liturgy and doesn't speak English.)

I have no problem with other Catholics wanting a pared-down service (the church has several rites and sub-rites, and many cultures, signs that it's true); I do with the pathologically anti-high church mentality that Thomas Day described (a problem the Episcopalians, historically Reformed and definitely still not Catholic, long have not had anymore, ironically; old-fashioned Anglo-Catholicism is almost the right faith taught by the wrong side), which is actually historically and culturally self-hating and is often associated with heresy, a kind of Protestantism (a made-up Christianity starting in the 1500s) or worse.

I have a diocesan magazine that came out when Benedict the Great's reform was implemented, almost exactly five years ago, with an article by the seething, aging low-church liberals/heretics who are still church officialdom in many places. Forced to acknowledge the reform, they decided to headline the story "Embracing liturgical change" as though this were an objective good and the church's normal practice. Sounds Orwellian; take a people's culture away and you own them. The Bolsheviks would smile.

Dumb idea behind bad "liturgical renewal": any form of "active participation" is good, no matter how inane.

By the way, Novus Ordo is a nickname, not an official church term. Officially it's the ordinary form of the Roman Rite, but I like Msgr. Klaus Gamber's idea that while it's a valid Catholic rite, and a Western and Latin rite, because it no longer exclusively uses the Roman Canon, it's no longer the Roman Rite.