Thursday, January 29, 2009

And now for some music

“French might be the language of love, but German is the language of anger”—Oliver Riedel

Time for a music video.

Today Melancholicus is angry, hence the music will be in German.

Introducing Rammstein:

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Fifty years on

L’Osservatore Romano, the official newspaper of the Holy See, has reported that the lifting of the excommunication of the four bishops of the Society of St. Pius X was timed to co-incide with the fiftieth anniversary of the convocation of the Second Vatican Council. Thus I have read on the blog of Damian Thompson.

The French newspaper La Croix, which claims to be a Catholic publication, still contemptuously dismisses Traditional Catholics as intégristes, and includes in its translation of OR’s original Italian—apparently in all seriousness—the amusing line:

Les bons fruits du concile sont innombrables

What fruits would those be, then?

Take as long as you need.

George Weigel on the SSPX

This from Newsweek. H/T to Fr. Zuhlsdorf, who fisked Weigel’s article (somewhat too kindly, in Melancholicus’ opinion). Some further matters bear pointing out in this piece, which is why it is further reproduced here:

Rome’s Reconciliation

Did the Pope heal, or deepen, the Lefebvrist schism?

By George Weigel | Newsweek Web Exclusive
Jan 26, 2009

What do the Cardinal Richelieu and King Louis XVI, the Bastille and the Reign of Terror, the Bourbons and Robespierre, the revolutionary depredations in the Vendée, the Dreyfus Affair, the anti-clericalism of the French Third Republic, and the World War II Vichy regime have to do with the schismatic movement that the late Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre led out of the Roman Catholic Church in 1988—a movement that Pope Benedict XVI is now trying to move toward reconciliation by lifting the excommunications of its four illegally ordained bishops on Jan. 21?

In a word: everything.

There are, of course, many different kinds of people in the Lefebvrist movement; the great majority of them are men and women who find the older forms of Catholic piety—especially the Latin Mass celebrated in the Tridentine form—more spiritually beneficial than the reformed liturgy that followed the Vatican Council II (1962-1965). And it is also true that Archbishop Lefebvre, one of the leaders of the anti-reformist faction at Vatican Council II, was very unhappy with what was done to the Church's liturgy after the council.

But Lefebvre was also a man formed by the bitter hatreds that defined the battle lines in French society and culture from the French Revolution to the Vichy regime. Thus his deepest animosities at the council were reserved for another of Vatican Council II's reforms: the council's declaration that "the human person has a right to religious freedom," which implied that coercive state power ought not be put behind the truth-claims of the Catholic Church or any other religious body. This, to Lefebvre, bordered on heresy [to be fair to the Archbishop, the Weltanschauung of the council documents is to say the least difficult to reconcile with that of the Church prior to the council. For Vatican II has since been viewed—by all factions within the Church as well as those without her—as an astonishing volte-face with respect to the Church’s approach to the secular world. Did not our present Holy Father once describe Gaudium et Spes as a “counter-syllabus”, in that its orientation ran totally contrary to Pius IX’s syllabus errorum of 1864? Surely the Archbishop is to be commended, not condemned, for questioning the wisdom of embracing the world at precisely the time that the world was energetically casting out what little remained of Christendom in its foundations?]. For it cast into serious question (indeed, for all practical purposes it rejected) the altar-and-throne arrangements Lefebvre believed ought to prevail—as they had in France before being overthrown in 1789, with what Lefebvre regarded as disastrous consequences for both church and society [in other words the Church, through Dignitatis Humanae and Gaudium et Spes had accommodated herself to modernity. This would not have been a problem were ‘modernity’ founded upon the Christian religion, but it is not, for it bases itself philosophically upon secularism, which latter can provide no faith productive unto eternal life, nor any code of morals for human behaviour which is not subject to alteration upon a whim. The social normalisation of aberrations such as homosexual partnerships and abortion are the logical consequences of modernity. In the political sphere, both Nazism and Communism are modernity’s children. She may since have disowned them, but she bore them nonetheless, and who knows what future horrors she will spring upon us?].

Marcel Lefebvre's war, in other words, was not simply, or even primarily, against modern liturgy. It was against modernity, period [this is a perceptive comment, probably Weigel’s most valuable insight in the whole of his article]. For modernity, in Lefebvre's mind, necessarily involved aggressive secularism, anti-clericalism, and the persecution of the church by godless men [not just in Lefebvre’s mind, Mr. Weigel. It is a matter of the historical record]. That was the modernity he knew, or thought he knew (Lefebvre seems not to have read a fellow Frenchman's reflections on a very different kind of modernity, Alexis de Tocqueville's "Democracy in America"); [and how’s that going, eh? Look at what democracy in America has given us—Barack Obama, a holocaust of forty million unborn souls slaughtered since 1973, gay “marriage” and a host of other abominations too numerous to mention] it was certainly the modernity he loathed. And to treat with this modernity—by, for example, affirming the right of religious freedom and the institutional separation of church and state—was to treat with the devil.

The conviction that the Catholic Church had in fact entered into such a devil's bargain by preemptively surrendering to the modern world at Vatican Council II became the ideological keystone of Lefebvre's movement. And the result was dramatic: Lefebvrists came to understand themselves as the beleaguered repository of authentic Catholicism—or, as the movement is wont to put it, the Tradition (always with a capital "T"). For 10 years, Pope John Paul II tried to convince the recalcitrant Archbishop Lefebvre otherwise; he got nowhere [one is not surprised he got nowhere. How did he expect to convince Archbishop Lefebvre while engaging in highly questionable acts like the prayer meeting of religions at Assisi, and kissing the profoundly anti-Christian Qur’an? Actions speak louder than words]. Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger then tried to mediate. But at the end of the day, Marcel Lefebvre hated modernity more than he loved Rome [pithy]. So in 1988, rejecting the personal pleas of John Paul II and Ratzinger (men who could hardly be accused, reasonably, of preemptive concessions to modernity) [hmm, this is a matter for debate], an aging Lefebvre ordained four bishops to carry on his work, without the requisite authorization from Rome. Those four bishops (whose orders, while illegally conferred under church law, are nonetheless valid sacraments in the church's eyes) [yes] automatically incurred excommunication by participating in a schismatic act—an act in conscious defiance of church authority that cuts one off from the full communion of the church. It is those excommunications that have now been lifted by Benedict XVI, in an effort to move the Lefebvrist movement toward reconciliation with Rome and toward the restoration of full communion [yes, because we’re not there yet].

That one of the Lefebvrist bishops, Richard Williamson, is a Holocaust denier and a promoter of the "Protocols of the Elders of Zion" has drawn considerable attention and commentary, particularly from Jewish scholars and religious leaders who have made large investments in Jewish-Catholic dialogue since Vatican Council II. Their concern is entirely understandable, although it has to be said that the lifting of Williamson's excommunication in no way constitutes a papal endorsement of Williamson's lunatic view of history [a very important point], or a retraction of John Paul II's 1998 statement deploring the Holocaust, or a revocation of Vatican Council II's teaching on the sin of anti-Semitism. At the same time, it ought to be recognized that Williamson's Holocaust denial and his embrace of a crude anti-Semitic canard like the "Protocols" is not all that surprising, given that Lefebvrist political ideology grew out of the same French fever swamps that produced the anti-Dreyfusards. (Even as it ought to be recognized that the hypersecularists of the Third French Republic hated Catholics as much as some anti-Dreyfusards hated Jews.) [I’m sure Williamson has some grasp of these matters, but he is not himself French, was not born in France, did not grow up there, and is hardly likely to share the keen penetration of these politico-religious questions the late Archbishop shows in They Have Uncrowned Him. Williamson has long engaged in fruit-and-nuttery, but his holocaust denial—at least at this present time—is more likely to proceed from a desire to forestall the reconciliation of the SSPX than from adherence to the Archbishop’s politics.]

Williamson's inanities, while deplorable and disgusting, are something of a sideshow, however [correct]. For the highest stakes in this drama hove into view when Bishop Bernard Fellay, the current head of the Lefebvrist movement, issued a Jan. 24 letter on the lifting of the excommunications to the movement's faithful. It is an astonishing document, declaring as it does that "Catholic Tradition is no longer excommunicated" and that the Lefebvrists constitute those "Catholics attached to Tradition throughout the world." [if Weigel has reported Fellay accurately here, the latter has made a sweeping statement of breathtaking arrogance, as though there were no Catholic Tradition at all outside the ranks of the SSPX]. The letter goes on to affirm "all the councils up to the Second Vatican Council about which we express some reservations." And it implies that the talks that will now commence between the Vatican and the Lefebvrists, now that the excommunications have been lifted, will focus on those "reservations." [it is perfectly legitimate for the SSPX to seek dialogue with the Holy See about their reservations. How many times must I say that it is fruitless to require of them a blanket submission to the teachings of Vatican II, when no-one seems to be able to define authoritatively what those teachings are? Who shall interpret the council for us? George Weigel?]

Responsible canon lawyers have raised questions about whether this arrogance on the part of Bishop Fellay does not cast into question his fulfillment of the canonical requirements for a lawful lifting of his excommunication. In any event, non-canonists will read his letter as Fellay's unilateral declaration of victory: the Lefebrvists have been right all along; the Holy See has finally recognized the error of its ways; the only things left to discuss are the terms of surrender. Ironically, but hardly coincidentally, the Catholic left (which has been clever enough to avoid formal schism while living in intellectual and psychological schism since Pope Paul VI's 1968 encyclical on family planning, Humanae Vitae) has welcomed Benedict XVI's canonical rescue of the Lefebvrist bishops, with numerous left-leaning Catholic dissidents now saying, in effect, "Where's my bailout?" [pithy. But to whom is Mr. Weigel here referring? How many of his “left-leaning Catholic dissidents” have, like the bishops of the SSPX, been excommunicated, or suffered any real punishment at all? The only such that Melancholicus can think of is the crack-potted handful of womynprysts who from time to time simulate the reception of sacred orders in synagogues or on riverboats. These can never be reconciled unless they retract their error and abjure their pretended “orders”. They are not in a situation even remotely comparable to that of the Lefebvrist bishops.]

Benedict XVI undoubtedly intended this lifting of excommunications as a step toward healing a wound in the church. Bishop Fellay's letter, in response to the pope's gesture, suggests that the healing has not taken place. Moreover, Fellay's letter raises the stakes for everyone, and to the highest level. For what is at issue, now, is the integrity of the Church's self-understanding, which must include the authenticity of the teaching of Vatican Council II [the teaching of the council and its continuity with sacred tradition MUST be clarified as a matter of urgency, not merely to satisfy the Lefebvrists but for the good of the whole Church. It is not sufficient to declare the teaching of Vatican II “authentic” and to leave it at that, when no two individuals can agree on what precisely that teaching is.]

Father Federico Lombardi, SJ, the pope's spokesman, emphasized to reporters on Jan. 24 that the lifting of the excommunications did not mean that "full communion" had been restored with the Lefebvrists [this is true. The four bishops, as well as all the clergy in communion with them, are still suspended a divinis, and lack the faculties required to absolve penitents and solemnize marriages]. The terms of such reconciliation are, presumably, the subject of the "talks" to which Bishop Fellay referred in his letter. Those talks should be interesting indeed. For it is not easy to see how the unity of the Catholic Church will be advanced if the Lefebvrist faction does not publicly and unambiguously affirm Vatican Council II's teaching on the nature of the church, on religious freedom, and on the sin of anti-Semitism [what, precisely, is “Vatican Council II’s teaching on the nature of the church” [sic] or, indeed, on any other matter? Mr. Weigel cannot say. Nor can Melancholicus, and nor can anyone else, save the Holy Father speaking ex cathedra. Let us not expect theological miracles from the leaders of the SSPX when the holy Catholic Church herself has not authoritatively defined what that teaching is]. Absent such an affirmation, pick-and-choose cafeteria Catholicism will be reborn on the far fringes of the Catholic right, just when it was fading into insignificance on the dwindling Catholic left, its longtime home [this closing remark is neo-catholicism at its very ripest, all the more so since it has absolutely no correspondence with the facts on the ground. It also betrays the cocksure smugness of the neo-catholic position, confident that he alone holds the key to the Catholic faith against the heretics and schismatics on either side of him, and blind to his own mediocrity. Since when does the political position of the Lefebvrists—however much one may disagree with it—contradict defined dogma? It is not sufficient for Mr. Weigel to argue that their political stance contradicts what Vatican II seems to say, for a case can be made that Vatican II itself seems to contradict the socio-political teachings of the Roman pontiffs from the age of the Enlightenment down to 1960. Let the teachings of Vatican II be clarified and defined with the precision of earlier Magisterial decrees before we begin accusing those who are not neo-catholics of “pick-and-choose cafeteria Catholicism”. Furthermore, since when is this pick-and-choose attitude “fading into insignificance” on the left? In Melancholicus’ personal experience, both in Ireland and the United States, this attitude is as robust as ever. The ranks of the left may gradually be thinning, but those who remain still cling to their cherished ideology as resolutely as when they were forty years younger, and they are plenty capable of doing severe damage to what remains of Catholicism in many countries before departing into that good night. They have not gone away simply because the last conclave elected Benedict XVI.]

Not a bad article overall, and quite perceptive in many respects, but Mr. Weigel exhibits two of the most frustrating traits commonly found in the neo-catholic mind. The first is this notion of the “authenticity of the teachings of Vatican II”, the acceptance of which all neo-catholics demand as a sine qua non—but none of them ever takes the trouble to explain to us what that means. Perhaps to them it is self-evident, but they cannot expect us to agree. We can affirm with them that Vatican II was an ecumenical council of the Catholic Church, validly convoked by lawful authority, whose documents were lawfully promulgated and which taught no formal heresy. But what, precisely, did Vatican II teach? The council defined no new doctrine binding upon the faithful. It proposed a plethora of policy changes and new orientations, to be sure, but these things are not de fide after the manner of doctrines of faith or morals. What does Vatican II require us—under pain of sin—to believe that we were not required to believe before 1965? Nothing! What does Vatican II require us—again under pain of sin—to do that we were not required to do before 1965? Again, nothing!

The second is Mr. Weigel’s notion that Archbishop Lefebvre’s hatred of modernity was somehow misplaced and that, with the importuning of John Paul II, he and his followers ought to have ‘gotten with the programme’, so to speak. On the contrary, there needs to be a debate at the highest levels of the hierarchy up to and including the Holy See about the opening of the Church towards the world set in motion by Vatican II. This will—and should—involve revisiting the council documents and at the level of the Magisterium clarifying the copious ambiguity therein. The post-1789 world is NOT something intrinsically good, from which the Church has nothing to fear. In his book They Have Uncrowned Him, the Archbishop traced the pedigree of this modernity: conceived at the Renaissance, brought to birth at the reformation, through adolescence in the age of Enlightenment to a ghastly maturity in the blood-soaked twentieth century and then seemingly embraced uncritically and with open arms by the Catholic Church at Vatican II, on her knees and seeking the world’s approval—on the world’s own terms!

Maybe it’s just me, but how any synod of bishops can get together less than twenty years after the most horrifying human carnage the world had ever seen and draft a document proclaiming in fulsome and ebullient terms the wondrous virtues of modern man truly beggars belief. And how could the Holy Father of the day really believe, after everything he had seen in his own lifetime and with his own eyes, that error would correct itself as though automatically, with no intervention from the Church or other external coercion?

Well, Nazism corrected itself, didn’t it? So... it wasn’t necessary for the Allies to resist Hitler, then?

And in the religious sphere, it has been nearly five hundred years now and we all know how Protestantism corrected itself in the meantime...

Olivia O'Leary, and other animals

Is there any wonder Melancholicus has ceased listening to the news and to current affairs programmes on the radio while driving home from work, when all that can be heard thereon are gloomy prophecies of impending economic catastrophe and similar woes?

However, out of curiosity he switched on Drivetime on RTÉ 1 yesterday evening, whereat he was confronted with Olivia O’Leary’s weekly radio diary.

This is not normally a trial; Melancholicus has no animus against Olivia O’Leary (at least he used not to have such), and not a little of what she says is sound common sense.

But that all changed yesterday evening, for Ms. O’Leary opened her broadcast with an entirely gratuitous attack on the Catholic religion—that’s right: not the institution of the Church, nor even the clergy—the Catholic religion itself was her target.

Those who wish to be scandalised may listen to her pomposity on the Drivetime podcast page here (at least when RTÉ get around to fixing the link, for if one clicks on the Olivia O’Leary 27 January podcast, one will, to one’s great annoyance, find Joe Duffy instead).

What does the reader think of her breathtaking statement that “other religions had, I think, a sense of justice, something to be worked out openly and rationally; we had dark confessionals and agonies of guilt”? This remark is so risible it hardly bears comment.

Her arrogant and profoundly ignorant denigration of our holy religion is all the more galling insofar as there was absolutely no need for her even to mention it, for the subject of her broadcast was not religion at all, but the economy, real estate, property tax and suchlike things.

Catholicism only made an appearance because Ms. O’Leary wanted to set the stage for all her later blather about “guilt” with regard to financial misfeasance by government, financial institutions and property speculators. Does she think it right and good to throw ugly slurs against the religion of the majority of this country’s population in order to make a point about the economy? Pleading that she is herself a Catholic is no excuse. If she is herself a Catholic, she ought to know better than to trot out such tired and shopworn stereotypes.

Of course RTÉ did not deign to edit Ms. O’Leary’s comments before they were aired yesterday evening; the editors of Drivetime either concur with her dismissive attitude or else reckon that alone among all religions, Catholicism is fair game for slander and abuse.

Now imagine she had chosen to attack not Catholicism, but the Islamic religion. What would have been the reaction? Of course RTÉ—a paragon of great cultural sensitivity—would never have permitted it to be broadcast in the first place, but let us just indulge in a little fantasy and imagine how that would have gone down.

There would have been a whirlwind of protest—but not from crazed fanatics seeking to cut off her head, for the ummah in Ireland is as yet too small to be so openly belligerent. The furious response would have come instead from the good people of Dublin Four, and from those who read The Irish Times as though it were scripture. Today Joe Duffy would be inundated with calls to Liveline by people horrified at Ms. O’Leary’s insensitive remarks; The Irish Times likewise would receive a flood of letters by decent citizens protesting against such outrageous cultural racism. The news would be reported abroad in Britain, and perhaps further afield, and Muslim groups there (the good old MCB, no doubt) would not be slow to voice their displeasure and to score political points. In the end, RTÉ (and not forgetting Ms. O’Leary herself) would be forced to make a humiliating and abject apology in order to abate the tempest.

But because Catholicism is the object of her venom, no-one shall so much as bat an eyelid.

UPDATE: RTÉ have now fixed the link. Listen to Ms. O’Leary’s ramblings here.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Le Figaro: poll shows most opposed to SSPX reconciliation

Approuvez-vous la décision de Benoît XVI de lever l’excommunication des évêques intégristes?

Le Pape a levé samedi l’excommunication de quatre evêques, frappés par cette sentence depuis 1988. Parmi eux, Mgr Richard Williamson, qui s’est notamment illustré par des propos négationnistes: il avait mis en doute l’existence des chambres à gaz dans les camps de concentration nazi. Le vote est clos. Vous êtes 13780 à y avoir participé.

13,780 votes were cast in this poll asking whether readers approved of the decision of the pope to lift the excommunications of what the French newspaper calls “the integrist bishops”. Perhaps intégriste is routinely used as a neutral term in French to denote Traditionalists in general and lacks the pejorative connotations it has in English, but Melancholicus somehow doubts it. In any case, the newspaper asks a leading question since Williamson’s denial of the historicity of the holocaust and the gas chambers is right in there.

43.3% of those who voted were in favour of the excommunications being lifted, but 56.6% were opposed, which, all things considered, is hardly a surprise.

A Magna Carta of the Holy Spirit?

Melancholicus was going to turn over a new leaf in 2009 and cease tilting at the council, even if only because his readers are probably weary with his incessant polemic. But this article expresses a view one should have hoped would have gone the way of the dodo by now. One is disheartened to find it still alive and kicking even fifty years after the council was called.

Bishop Patrick O’Donoghue is one of the more orthodox and impressive prelates in a hierarchy of wolves and hirelings. Last year he drew praise for his publications Fit For Mission? Schools and Fit For Mission? Church in which genuine Catholic doctrine is upheld in clear and unambiguous terms.

But nonsense is still nonsense, regardless of the pen whence it proceeds, and the following article written by bishop O’Donoghue for the Catholic Herald just cries out for fisking. Let the reader count the number of ebullient bursts of sunshine in his rhapsodical eulogy of the council. We might be reading Gaudium et Spes.

A Magna Carta of the Holy Spirit

Bishop Patrick O’Donoghue on why Vatican II still matters
23 January 2009

On January 25 we commemorate the 50th anniversary of Blessed Pope John XXIII’s convocation of the Second Vatican Council.

There is a story I’d like to recount that conveys something of the frame of mind that existed before the Council among some English bishops. Canon Oliver Kelly, my predecessor as Administrator of Westminster Cathedral, was in a meeting with Cardinal William Godfrey, Archbishop of Westminster (1956-1963).

Cardinal Godfrey, waxing eloquently about the purpose of the future Council, walked over to his bookcase and picked out one of the 12 bound volumes containing the draft schemas prepared for debate by the Council Fathers. Fondling the book in his hands, Cardinal Godfrey declared the schemas marvellous and suggested that nothing could possibly be added to them. “It will all be over in three months!” he said [indeed it would have been, and the Church would have benefitted from it, and Cardinal Godfrey was right: the schemas were marvellous. Precise, concise and to the point. Unmistakable Catholic doctrine. But that was before the council was hijacked by the liberal faction ON ITS VERY FIRST DAY and thus deflected from the course originally charted for it by Pope John and the commissions he appointed. The good bishop clearly hasn’t read Fr. Wiltgen, or Romano Amerio, or Michael Davies, much less Archbishop Lefebvre. So instead of theologically precise, accurate and clear documents, we had a council that passed verbose and turgid ambiguities, under cover of which toxic novelties were introduced into the life of the Church the fruit of which is all too apparent today. Bishop O’Donoghue may rejoice in this anniversary, but given the ecclesiastical history of the past half-century, to my mind it is no matter for rejoicing].

However, the reality of the Council was very different [and the rest, sadly, is history].

In November 1962, after heated debate about the sources of Revelation, the pre-prepared schema De Fontibus Revelationis was rejected by the Council Fathers, later to be replaced by the wonderful Dogmatic Constitution on Revelation, Dei Verbum [why is Dei Verbum wonderful, whereas De Fontibus Revelationis was not? Is it because Dei Verbum became one of the official documents of the council, and that is why it is so wonderful? Or is it not rather because the former schema was precise and to the point, whereas Dei Verbum is manifestly lacking in both concision and precision, instead replete with ambiguous phrasing sufficiently open-ended it can be interpreted in accordance with the prejudices of the reader?].

This willingness not to be constrained by the pre-prepared schema [willingness NOT TO BE CONSTRAINED?? What sort of a re-writing of history is this?] set the precedent for a far-reaching and creative [hah!] debate among the Council Fathers, lasting three years and producing a body of documents that are a Magna Carta of the Holy Spirit for the modern Church [that is merely your opinion, my lord bishop, and as such neither I nor any other Catholic is bound to share it]. If we truly lived by the decisions of Vatican II we would know how to balance continuity and change, ressourcement and aggiornamento [of course we would, since we would follow a council that was neither hot nor cold, neither up nor down, neither left nor right, neither truly traditional nor truly novel, neither crystal clear nor totally obscure, neither all for the Church nor all for the world, in a word, the very epitome of mediocrity].

Looking back across the years we are prone to forget, or dismiss as naïve, the sheer energy and hope of the Sixties, a decade that saw the rise of the modern world from the wreckage of the Second World War. It was the age of President John F Kennedy, the first manned space flights, the Third World’s green revolution in agriculture, the civil rights movement, and women’s rights [the ’sixties were also the age of Tsar Bomba, the Cuban missile crisis, the proliferation of mind-altering drugs, the legalization of abortion in the UK, the revolt of the youth against both morality and restraint, and a general revolt even among clergy and religious, against the authority of the Church. Surely bishop O’Donoghue does not look back on the anarchy and dissent which greeted Humanae Vitae with nostalgia? And what gives with the eulogising of John F Kennedy? Surely the bishop cannot be aware of how bad an example that profoundly disappointing family has been for Catholics, especially those involved in political life, ever since?].

The Council Fathers judged rightly that it was time for the Church to find a new language to speak the eternal truths of Faith to modern men and women. I remember the excitement when people heard the Church speaking in a way that was straightforward, biblical, personal, and pastoral [indeed so straightforward was the Church’s new way of speaking that today nearly everybody under the age of 65 has an heretical understanding of the Catholic faith. One might say that when the Church begins proclaiming Christianity in a secular idiom, she will end by proclaiming secularism in a Christian idiom. Can the good bishop deny that such has been the result of this ill-conceived experiment?].

As I wrote in Fit for Mission? Church: “It was as if we were in Galilee again during those heady days when the apostles walked with the Lord, hearing the liberating truth of His words and seeing His love, bringing miracles to all wounded by sin, sickness and doubt [the ’sixties reminded you of this, did it, my lord bishop? What on earth were you smoking?]. And the world flocked to Him, knowing that He spoke with power and authority. And the world flocked to Rome – through the media – during the Council knowing that something wonderful was happening, Christ was speaking His words of hope and healing with authority to the peoples of our times.” [No, no, no and no! Pre-programmed by the media, who exerted an undue and baleful influence on the public perception of the council, the world waited for the Church to announce she was going to change. This influence was not confined to the lay readers of newspapers and magazines in western countries; it was exerted even upon clergy and upon the very council fathers themselves. The world was not waiting for Christ to speak “words of hope and healing with authority to the peoples of our times” but for a definitive sign that after so many centuries of resisting the Weltanschauung of the Enlightenment, the Catholic Church was finally going to embrace the world on the world’s own terms—and not before time too.]

I really hope that in 2009 we all return to the documents of the Council, especially the four Constitutions, because they are our direct link to a time in the life of the Church dramatically blessed by the Holy Spirit [once again, my lord bishop, this is your personal opinion, and I do not share it. It is difficult for me, in the light of everything that took place then and in subsequent years, to regard the early ’sixties as in any way “a time in the life of the Church dramatically blessed by the Holy Spirit”. Nevertheless, you have a point, for it is important that the Church as a matter of urgency clarify the ambiguities and contradictions that abound in the text of the decrees. Until this is done definitively, the council—even in its officially-promulgated documents—will continue ever more to be a source of confusion and dissidence for clergy and laity alike.]

I have little sympathy with those who argue that we should somehow get past the documents of the Council – which they say are fatally flawed by compromise and politics – and try to re-construct the “event” of the Council in order to know the “true” intentions of the Council Fathers and periti [theological advisers]. [Hmm. Who is he attacking here? Much like the documents he so highly praises, his Grace of Lancaster’s words are ambiguous on this point and could be interpreted either way.]

Just as many scripture scholars involved in the historical search for Jesus created a “Jesus” that merely reflected themselves, there is the danger that those involved in the historical search for the Council will create a picture of the “Council” that reflects their own likes and dislikes. If Catholics really knew the documents of the Council there would not be so much confusion about what they actually say: [Yes, but how can Catholics “really know the documents of the Council”, when the documents are sufficiently open-ended as to be susceptible to widely varying and even mutually-exclusive interpretations? Does it not strike the good bishop that there must be something seriously wrong with this council if there is a danger that even the study of its official documents will create for Catholics “a picture of the Council” that reflects merely “their own likes and dislikes”? Does this not rather highlight the dangerous ambiguity present in the conciliar texts? His Grace then goes on to cite examples of policies called for by the council documents which run contrary to the popular perception—a useful illustration of how the council has been mishandled by those responsible for its implementation, but does this not illustrate the failure of the council to convey its own message when so many different (and mutually-exclusive) interpretations exist?]

1) Catholics could not continue to live lives focused on their own prosperity if they truly knew that Gaudium et Spes 69 teaches, among other things, that we must “feed the man dying of hunger, because if you have not fed him, you have killed him” [Did we need the convocation of an ecumenical council at great labour and expense just to tell us this? Has this not rather been perennial Catholic social teaching for centuries?].

2) Catholics could not say that Paul VI’s prophetic encyclical, Humanae Vitae, went against Vatican II if they knew that Gaudium et Spes 51 teaches that couples “may not undertake methods of birth control which are found blameworthy by the teaching authority of the Church in its unfolding of the divine law” [Here we have an example of one norm contradicting another within the same document, since Guadium et Spes also says (§52) “Those too who are skilled in other sciences, notably the medical, biological, social and psychological, can considerably advance the welfare of marriage and the family along with peace of conscience if by pooling their efforts they labor to explain more thoroughly the various conditions favoring a proper regulation of births” which, on the face of it, is hardly a disavowal of contraception. In fact it takes some reading and re-reading to figure out what it means, and even then we’re not sure].

3) Catholics would not mock the Mass of Paul VI if they accepted that Sacrosanctum Concilium 36 teaches that “the use of the vernacular... may frequently be of great advantage to the people” [O come on. As though the only thing amiss with the Mass of Paul VI is that it is celebrated in the vernacular. Such is the very least of its problems].

4) Catholics would not say that Pope Benedict XVI’s Summorum Pontificum went against Vatican II if they knew that Sacrosanctum Concilium 36 teaches that “the use of the Latin language is to be preserved in the Latin rite”. [His Grace fails to notice the disorientating confusion inherent in Sacrosanctum Concilium, which in one and the same paragraph mandates the retention of Latin but at the same time permits the vernacular! Furthermore, those bishops, clergy and laity who object to the Church’s traditional liturgy do so not for the language wherein it is celebrated, but for reasons of ecclesiology. Surely his Grace is aware of the enormous ecclesiological cleavage between Tradition and the Revolution, yet he chooses to reduce it to a simple matter of linguistic preference. I am not impressed.]

Looking back at the ages of the saints, such as St Francis, St Clare and St Dominic, it’s tempting to think: “Wouldn’t it have been wonderful to have lived during that golden age, when the Church was young and creative?” [And where are the saints of the ’sixties? Ah, silly me, here they come:]

It is time for us to wake up to the fact that during and after the Council, giants have walked among us: Blessed John XXIII, Blessed Mother Teresa, Servant of God Pope John Paul II, Servant of God Pope Paul VI, Cardinal Henri de Lubac, Fr Karl Rahner SJ, Fr. Hans Urs von Balthasar, Brother Roger of Taizé, Archbishop Oscar Romero, Chiara Lubich, Dietrich Von Hildebrand, Pope Benedict XVI, and many more [this is a motley crew, and no mistake. I can understand the inclusion of John XXIII, Benedict XVI, Dietrich Von Hildebrand, (to an extent) John Paul II, and even Paul VI, Mother Teresa and Cardinal de Lubac, but Rahner?? Von Balthasar?? Chiara Lubich??? Brother Roger of Taizé???? In the immortal words of Alcuin, Quid Ingeld cum Christo? It reminds me of the evil spirit in Acts 19:15 saying to the sons of Sceva “Jesus I know, and Paul I know, but who are you?”].

I suspect that future generations will look back and say: “Oh, to have lived in times so blessed by the Holy Spirit!” [Did the Israelites look back on their forty years’ wandering in the desert with wistful yearning? I think not. Nor will Catholics of a future age look back with nostalgia upon the wretched time that bishop O’Donoghue seems to think was so wonderful. Blessed by the Holy Ghost, you say? Let us not blaspheme Him by attributing the greatest cataclysm to strike the Church since the Reformation to His holy inspiration now please]

So is the council, as the good bishop avers, a “Magna Carta of the Holy Spirit”? Let the reader decide.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Anno Domini MMIX

It is likely that blogging will be light in January, for on Saturday Melancholicus will remove himself to the left coast of the USA, there to visit his sweetheart whom he has not seen in the flesh for many months.

He shall do his best to get near a computer some time over the next three weeks so as to keep his regular readers—all eight of you!—informed of developments in the God-forsaken half-catholic wasteland that is the archdiocese of Seattle, or indeed anywhere else on earth that might claim his passing interest.

Melancholicus was once a seminarist, and 2009 was to be the year of his ordination. Almighty God hath disposed otherwise, however, and so the state of life to be embraced this year will not be holy orders at all but holy matrimony.

We would both be grateful, gentle reader, for your prayers.

Infelix ego, Melancholicus, peccator