Sunday, November 29, 2009

The Heritage Missal

Melancholicus satisfied his first Sunday obligation of the new liturgical year at the parish of St. Charles Borromeo in Tacoma, Washington. The church itself is nothing to write home about (it is an unbeautiful modern edifice dating from the late 1950s), but the resident clergy are orthodox, the liturgy is generally tasteful, and the preaching is good. One particular difference Melancholicus has noticed between churches over here and in Ireland is that there are generally no hymnals or liturgy-books in the pews of Irish churches, whereas in the United States these things abound. Whether such is a good thing is quite another matter; studying the printed materials provided in each pew (the “Gather” hymnal and suchlike), Melancholicus is less than impressed, and has often wished that American Catholics cared more for the modern equivalent of Low Mass (Irish style). This because the fare to be found in these books seldom rises above the level of tawdry mediocrity, and the pathetic little ditties often employed in American churches in lieu of sacred music serve only to make one cringe.

Since last week the pews have been filled with brand-spanking-new copies of a paperback volume called “Heritage Missal”. This is published afresh for each liturgical year, and contains the Mass ordinary and the propers, including readings, for each day. This in itself is a useful function, as it obviates the need for those wretched missalettes which litter the floors and porches of churches in Ireland. But because the propers are set out day by day according to the civil calendar, the missal is good for one year only, is out of date the following year, and must be replaced by the next current edition. Accordingly, there is an annual turnover of these cheap paperback missals, which no doubt generates tremendous revenue for the publisher. Hence the reason it is re-issued every year. One can only conclude that the American Church has too much money if it can afford to fritter it away on such disposable resources.

The “Heritage Missal”—which Melancholicus can only declare is a misnomer, since there’s precious little heritage in it—is published by an organisation named OCP, or Oregon Catholic Press. This organisation makes a tidy profit churning out these throwaway missals year after year; every church Melancholicus has visited in Tacoma has sported them. A visit to the OCP website reveals that this organisation is a vehicle of the liturgical revolution. OCP publishes the musical compositions of people such as Michael Joncas, Dan Schutte, David Haas, Paul Inwood, Marty Haugen et al—a veritable Who’s Who of songsters that Traditional Catholics love to hate (not without reason). Wikipedia gives us the sobering information that the products of OCP are used in two-thirds of all Catholic churches in the U.S. The result of this near monopoly is a tyranny of the mediocre, since the “Heritage Missal” contains not only the Mass propers, but all the music composed for those propers by third-rate artistes. Thus we get jolly little ditties pitched at grade school level; weak paraphrases of the psalms; jarring modern ‘hymns’ with a pop beat; anthropocentric ‘feel-good’ clap-trap, and other obscenities. There is the occasional kernel of wheat among the chaff; last Sunday’s Mass featured the traditional Advent hymn Creator Alme Siderum in a decent English translation, and to the same melody familiar to users of the Liber Usualis, but overall, the musical contents of the “Heritage Missal” must be judged inadequate for the holy sacrifice of the Mass.

This is tremendously frustrating for those faithful who abhor the triumph of bad taste, not only because of the poor quality of these compositions in themselves, but because of their perpetuity; by printing an annual missal in which such musical settings are included, OCP maintains a stranglehold on Catholic liturgy in the U.S. At present, there is small hope that the depressed state of the liturgy will be relieved; the domination of musical arrangements by the mafia of the mediocre is too firmly entrenched. The forthcoming revised translation of the Roman Missal may have some impact, but owing to the looseness of contemporary liturgical law, in which musical compositions need not follow the authorized text of the Mass verbatim, there is no reason why the same old ’seventies folk-songs (together with ’seventies ICEL) will not continue to irritate Mass-goers yearning for a little solemnity for a generation or more to come.

We might ask: who owns OCP? Is it a private concern? Is it answerable to the bishops? In either case, there must be some way of compelling it to forget about the spirit of Vatican II and conform instead to the principles of the Benedictine reform. If OCP is a private concern, perhaps the dioceses of the United States could cease purchasing its products, and turn instead to a more orthodox, Catholic-minded publisher who would be only too delighted to assist in the reform of the reform, and make a good living in the process. But if it is an organ of the conciliar church, it will doubtless continue to exercise its baleful influence long after Joncas, Haugen, Haas, Inwood et al are all dead.

Small wonder hardly anybody joins in the singing at Mass; most are probably as embarrassed by it as Melancholicus.

The spirit of Vatican II rages against the dying of the light. We might have landed the troops in Normandy (liturgically speaking), but there is a long and bitter fight ahead of us before we stand finally at the gates of Berlin. In the meantime, OCP will continue to churn out volume after volume of the so-called “Heritage Missal” until either legitimate authority or market forces compel them to stop. At present there is no indication that either source of relief will be forthcoming.

The prospects are gloomy.

Cranmerian obtusity

There’s nothing so driven and so single-minded than a blogger with an agenda.

In this instance the blogger is Adrian Hilton, a Tory across the water who blogs under the pseudonym of Archbishop Cranmer.

Despite Irish history, Melancholicus is a bit of an anglophile, and he must admit to rather enjoying Mr. Hilton’s blog; its self-description as an “august blog of intelligent and erudite comment upon matters religio-political” is no idle boast. Mr. Hilton is indeed intelligent and erudite, and is possessed of a formidable and persuasive eloquence.

But at times Mr. Hilton can be remarkably, vindictively—almost pathologically—anti-Catholic. Melancholicus does not object to such anti-Catholicism in itself (since Mr. Hilton is a convinced Protestant and clearly believes in the truth of that religion) but his conspiratorial superstition is irritating coming from a man of such intellectual prowess. One might have hoped Mr. Hilton would be above the hysteria of sixteenth-century polemics, as its effect, sadly, is to undermine his considerable authority as a political commentator.

Occasionally, this anti-Catholicism descends to the level of farce. While Melancholicus shares Mr. Hilton’s attitude towards the European Union’s increasingly oppressive centralization—at least in general—the latter’s urgent warnings against a secretive and sinister cosy relationship between the EU and the Roman Catholic Church are so divorced from reality as to be laughable. Such nonsense lands him squarely in Dan Brown territory and cannot be taken seriously.

More recently (27 November), Mr. Hilton posted on the difficult subject of the recently-released Report of the Commission of Investigation into the Catholic Archdiocese of Dublin. His scathing criticism of the culture that allowed depravity to flourish unchecked is well merited. But Mr. Hilton cannot content himself with denouncing clerical turpitude or episcopal negligence; he must attack Catholic theology (witness the sarcastic reference to the sacrament of penance) in general, and the Church’s discipline of celibacy in particular.

Here he allows his anti-Romanism to run wild, taking his reason with it. For in order to denounce the Roman Church in the matter of clerical sexual abuse, he must perforce denounce the discipline of celibacy; and in order to denounce celibacy, he must portray it as a source of innumerable evils, even to the extent of perverting the sexual identity of one who embraces that state.

The last two sentences in particular are such crazy nonsense one might say they constitute calumny in their sweeping generality:

While the novice, priest, bishop, and cardinal have vowed and aspire to be asexual, in reality they cannot deny their human nature, and so adopt the masculinity of the hermaphrodite. And as their public face is that of purity and holiness in deeply-fulfilling celibacy, the private paradox is confused, constrained and yearning deeply to express itself. And if it cannot be with a woman, as St Paul observed, it will be predatory upon the malakoi - the ‘soft’ or ‘effeminate’ prepubescent ‘pet’.

What sort of a mind can produce such verbal ordure? If Melancholicus may here quote the venerable Fr. Hunwicke, “Ee, for an apparently intelligent man, that’s a bloody silly thing to say”.

Since when are the clergy required to “aspire to be asexual”? Mr. Hilton had better consult his Oxford dictionary, since he clearly (deliberately?) minsunderstands the term. We shall pass over the peculiar intrusion of the hermaphrodite and proceed to the last sentence, in which Mr. Hilton goes so far as to put words into the mouth of St Paul. Was the apostle really the sort of determinist that Mr. Hilton implies? Here Mr. Hilton has shorn sin of its voluntary character, which in effect means it is no sin at all, for if a man MUST act in a certain manner without the freedom of will to choose otherwise, how is he guilty of sin? Perhaps this is just the fatalism of Mr. Hilton’s Protestantism asserting itself against his reason and common sense. Mr. Hilton also has some special insight into the interior lives of Roman Catholic clergy denied to the rest of us; Melancholicus wonders how the man can blithely assert “the private paradox is confused, constrained and yearning deeply to express itself” as though he were privy to the inner psychology of countless individuals he has never met. Of course every person must express himself; but here Mr. Hilton means a specifically genital sexual expression, without which, apparently, a man is warped to the extent of becoming a danger to all around him—especially the children.

Mr. Hilton’s post has attracted considerable attention (74 comments at the time of writing) but not one commentator—not even the Roman Catholics among them—has seen fit to rebut the harmful notion that lacking an outlet for genital expression must necessarily result in the corruption of one’s moral and sexual identity, at least among the generality of men; that celibacy is of itself a source of homosexuality or pederasty.

Mr. Hilton expresses horror and outrage that the number of criminal clerics should be as high as FORTY-SIX (capitalization as in the original). He is right to express such outrage. But if his views on the harmful effects of celibacy were true, one would expect to find a much higher number involved in such acts; well over a thousand secular and religious priests have ministered in the archdiocese of Dublin since 1975.

So what is Melancholicus’ interest here? It is not to play down the horrible reality behind the disclosures of the Murphy Report; these things must be published and faced by the Irish Church, especially by those who enabled and facilitated the abuse. Nor is it to defend the discipline of the Church. Celibacy is not a doctrine, and is not de fide. It is a discipline, which might be emended or revoked at any time without prejudice to the deposit of faith.

Rather, Mr. Hilton must be confronted where he makes erroneous and unwarranted claims about human nature, particularly where he implies that the sexual appetite is so imperious that it simply must be exercised lest it twist an abstinent soul into a child-molesting monster. What an incredible insult, not only to the majority of Roman clergy who are innocent of such crimes, but to any person living in the world who has not yet found a suitable partner for marriage. Mr. Hilton must also surely be aware that marriage is no panacea for sexual corruption. A sexual deviant will be no less a deviant in wedlock than in the single state. This is so obvious as to need no demonstration; a brief perusal of the newspapers on any day of the week will bear it out.

The clergy of the Church of England have been permitted to take wives since 1549. Other Protestant denominations likewise boast a married clergy. Rabbis are married. So are Imams. On the basis of Mr. Hilton’s logic, one should expect to find no incidence of sex crimes among Protestants, Jews and Muslims. Melancholicus thinks Mr. Hilton would shrink from such a claim, yet it is the logical conclusion to his thesis.

Or are the Romish clergy necessarily wicked because they are Romish? Whores of Babylon, and all that?

I wonder.

More clerical turpitude

This time it’s the Dublin diocese. There’s no end to it, is there?

Go here for the ugly details.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Farewell to a shitten shepherd

fee, fie, foe, fum!Meet Willie Walsh, the smiling, welcoming, thoughtful, paternal and ever-so-inclusive bishop of Killaloe.

He is your friend—unless, of course, you happen to be an orthodox Catholic (or, for that matter, one of his priests). But if you’re a just an ordinary “I’m ok, you’re ok” kind of Joe, with no fixed opinions about anything and a relaxed laissez faire attitude to Church doctrine, he’ll like you. If you’re an ethnic or sexual minority, he’ll positively gush over you. Just as long as you’re not one of those rigid, hidebound types that like services in Latin and think that good clean gay love is an evil thing, you should get along with him just fine.

It is less than a month since Melancholicus announced an end to blogging on Infelix Ego, but whenever a member of the Irish hierarchy opens his mouth in order to spew forth drivel, nonsense and general heretical ordure, the occasion just cries out for comment.

Mercifully, this barley-water prelate turns 75 in January and will tender his resignation to the Holy See. Doubtless his resignation will be accepted at once, since bishop Walsh has so far shown himself to be rather less than indispensable as a pastor of souls. By his retirement, bishop Walsh will have been steward of the diocese of Killaloe for fifteen years. Fifteen very long years. Let us take stock of his tenure and examine how he has arrested the decline in the fortunes of his diocese, how he has encouraged vocations, how he has revitalized catechetics in the schools, how he has restored the sacred liturgy, how he has injected a renewed vigour to the Catholic religion by expelling the secular ideological cockle that had been sown therein by enemies of the faith, and how he has reversed the stagnation and apathy brought on by three decades of gross mismanagement at the hands of the conciliar church.

Oh, wait.

He did none of those things, did he?

Bishop Walsh is the very type of the conciliar prelate. His words reveal him as that lamentable sort who yearns to turn the holy Catholic Church—of which he is a bishop—into a carbon copy of the Episcopal Church, replete with clerical divorce, lesbian priestesses, theological lassitude, blessing of same-sex unions, and a focus on the temporal which excludes any consideration of the hereafter—in other words, a sort of pseudo-religious social club in which the spirit of contemporary political correctness can flourish, where preaching the Truth is replaced by a convivial consensus-finding chat over tea and biscuits and in which nothing really matters at all so long as no-one ever says anything that might be construed as offensive.

Will the good bishop leave the diocese of Killaloe in better shape than he found it? That may be doubted. There were no “priestless parishes” in Killaloe when he took office in 1995. By 2004, there were five such parishes. God knows how many there are today, but Melancholicus would be surprised indeed if there were fewer than that. There are actually sufficient priests, between secular and religious, to staff the Killaloe diocese adequately, but bishop Walsh does not want the trouble of them. Priests, you see, get in the way of “lay ministry”, which is the current fad of the hour; apparently, the laity are unable to realize their “true vocation” or their “potential” with all those priests about. Sunday Mass: who needs it? Much better to have Sister Julia from the local Mercy convent or Mrs. Moriarty from down the road kit themselves out in quasi-sacerdotal attire and concelebrate a priestless communion service in lieu of the Holy Sacrifice—at least this sort of thing is what the empurpled princes of the conciliar church are anxious to promote.

What of vocations? Here Melancholicus cannot speak with authority since despite extensive trawling he has been unable to locate any statistical source on the number or quality of students for the Killaloe diocese in 1995 vis-à-vis 2009, but given that episcopal orthodoxy equals plentiful vocations whereas episcopal heterodoxy equals few or no vocations (which state has been observed so often as to require neither proof nor demonstration), he would be surprised in the extreme to discover that Killaloe is not one of the most consistently under-performing dioceses in the whole of Ireland. If any of his Irish readers is able to furnish him with the relevant facts and figures, by all means please comment!

What of the liturgy? Melancholicus is perhaps fortunate at never having attended a Mass celebrated within the borders of bishop Walsh’s diocese, save for a single offering of the Traditional Latin rite at Kilbaha in 2001. But the fact that, in a recent interview with the Irish Independent, the good bishop dismissed the entire liturgical heritage of the Church before 1969 with the remark that he had ever received “only one request” for the liturgy in Latin (whether traditional or novel was not specified) surely suggests he is unconcerned with theological precision, with beauty in worship, and with the shockingly irreverent manner in which the vernacular liturgy is so often handled; and that, Summorum Pontificum notwithstanding, he just can’t bother his arse.

Finally, has he brought an end to the apathy, the stagnation and the decline that has bedevilled Catholic dioceses generally since the revolution of the ’sixties? Has he taken pains to shake off the aura of the high-powered company director which has unaccountably attached itself to the modern episcopate, and begun to adopt the attitude of a genuine pastor of souls? Alas, not a bit of it. This scandalous newsletter, in which the new executive style is talked up in management-speak replete with countless buzzwords, says all that needs to be said on this score. All the clichéd bromides are there; all the tired formulae of yesterday, rehearsed as though this were something new and exciting. Melancholicus is already bored, so he shall not attempt to make a list. Souls eager for spiritual torment can follow the link if they have a mind to.

But don’t take my word for it, gentle reader; let Google assemble a litany of the fellow’s crimes and posturings and show us—via the Indo alone!—how far astray this successor of the Apostles has actually gone. True, there is wheat mixed in with the chaff. But the discerning reader will surely agree that there is an awful lot of chaff.

It is hardly necessary to add that, so far, none of his brother bishops have taken the trouble—publicly, at least—to encourage the faithful by explaining how their colleague’s secular liberal wish-list is at odds not only with the Tradition of the Church, but with the integrity of the faith itself. There is not a peep of a correction to be found on the website of the Irish Bishops’ Conference. Suppose that bishop Walsh had uttered something egregious from the liberal point of view; suppose that—mirabile dictu—he were to denounce homosexuals as “notorious sinners” and to describe their bedroom antics as “grotesque”. Need we rehearse what would happen then? His brother bishops would be falling over themselves in their haste to distance themselves from his remarks and to smother them with the face of welcoming, inclusive tolerance that the conciliar church considers the supreme virtue. Not hard to be politically correct, is it? Much harder to be a Christian. There is still time for one or more of the Irish bishops to practice a little discreet fraternal correction. But Melancholicus won’t be holding his breath.

The patron of the Killaloe diocese is St. Flannán, who (I am confident) would not see eye-to-eye with his Wishy-Washy successor on multiple matters. That being so, it behooves us (and especially the unfortunate Catholics of that wretched diocese) to pray fervently that when Wishy Washy’s vacant seat is filled again, the new incumbent will be an appointment worthy of such high office, that he will, and that he will not sow confusion and indifference among the flock or court the admiration of the media like his predecessor. The first task of the new bishop will be to begin repairing the damage wrought by this shitten shepherd.