Tuesday, August 13, 2002

Sometimes, late at night...

...I dream of being Canadian, so I could get away with stuff like this!
Mr Bettinelli is obviously not old enough...

...to remember "duck and cover."
Old enough to know better...

When I was a little boy, the Mass was in Latin.

I was shorter than the adults, of course, and strained to see the mystery beyond the rail, into the Holy of Holies. The boys who were not much older than myself knew their lines all too well. "I will go to the altar of God, to God who gives joy to my youth."

Even before I entered fifth-grade, and was thus eligible to train for altar service, I knew the responses, following them in my missal. Like the other adults in the assembly, I would join in the responses with the altar servers. When the priest prepared the Gifts at the altar, then turned to us and said, "Orate fratres..." ("Pray brethren, that my sacrifice and yours may be acceptable to God, the Father Almighty") all of us knew to respond to him: "Suscipiat Dominus sacrificium de manibus tuis..." ("May the Lord receive this Sacrifice from your hands, to the praise and glory of His Name, for our welfare, and that of all His Holy Church.").

At the time just prior to our Communion, the priest turned to us with the Sacred Species and said "Ecce Agnus Dei..." ("Behold the Lamb of God, behold Him who takes away the sins of the world"), all of us knew to respond, three times: "Domine, non sum dignus.." ("Lord, I am not worthy that Thou shouldst enter under my roof; but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.") Why would we not respond in this way? It was our Communion, not that of the priest.

I remember these things very well, both at the Low Mass and the High Mass. It made no difference.

In recent years, with the official reform of the liturgical books of the Roman church, Catholics of traditional sensibility have been able to avail themselves of an "indult" -- that is, an indulgence, or exception -- which allows a local bishop to permit the celebration of Mass according to the Missale Romanum of 1962. The Pontifical Commission of Ecclesia Dei (named for the decree which granted the broad use of the classical missal) was established to implement the terms of this indult.

In his own weblog, "Diary of a Byzantinesque Latin," Shawn Tribe discusses the modifications to the 1962 Missal which are approved by the Commission. He goes on to elaborate a defense of said modifications.

This discussion has also been augmented by the writings of our mutual friend and colleague Pete Vere.

The subject in question has brought about a number of detractors. Many of them are concerned with maintaining the purity of the ancient ritual, and the tradition for which it stands. Shawn's defense of "organic development" is quite sound (including those cases involving the modifications particular to monastic usage) but does not completely silence those who take exception. In their responses, they are not content to object to the modifications approved for official use in 1965 (after the Second Vatican Council ended). They go back to the revisions of the Holy Week Ritual in the mid-1950s by Pope Pius XII. This included, among other things, moving the Easter Vigil from Saturday morning to Saturday night. The result would be more like... oh, a vigil, perhaps?

Inevitably, someone would have to bring up the role in the reform of the liturgy by one Archbishop Annabale Bugnini. The most ardent of traditionalists cite his influence over events, dating back to the Holy Week revisions, using this event as the prelude to the liturgical anarchy that followed. These parties go so far as to point out the undue influence over Pius XII on such matters, even citing Bugnini's alleged ties to Freemasonry. Some go farther still, to the promotion of the "dialogue Mass" by Pius XI in 1940. I have even heard one young man blame Bugnini for liturgical mischief dating back to the mid-1920s (which would be about the time that a previous pontiff introduced the Feast of Christ the King on the last Sunday in October, an innovation left curiously unscathed by the antediluvians in question).

I remember Shawn from the days we both shared a place on e-mail discussion groups devoted to the Old Latin Mass. I was kicked off more than one of them, for the unspeakable crime of having an original thought, and daring to express it to the point of (gasp!) defending it. Many of the virtual angry mob that called for my removal were not even born in 1962. Those of such ilk include the ones who, were I to attempt to respond to the priest from the pews as I did when I was young, would greet me with indignant stares. All of them, no doubt, insist on maintaining the "purity" of the ancient ritual as codified in 1962. None of them, it seems, have a problem with an additional use of the "Confiteor," or confession of sin, immediately before the communion of the faithful, even though this was removed in the 1962 missal.

It is a curious phenomenon among some very devout Catholics, the tendency to play "more-traditional-than-thou." The players fail to appreciate the period between 1958 and 1962, as a time of great transition in Catholic worship, by those who only then learned of the convening of an ecumenical Council, and who could not have predicted the effect it could have had on the Church. They also fail to explain, how a Pope who stood up to the threat of Hitler's takeover of Rome, and whose hobbies included weight-lifting and driving high-performance automobiles along the Italian countryside, could be so easily cowed by a single curial official.

And please, don't tell me it was because Bugnini was a Mason. Those guys in the funny hats can't even scare me!

"Maureen" writes concerning two recent subjects:

"I will freely admit I don't always agree with you, but I find myself concurring with your assessment of what should be advocated by a group truly interested in reform for the Church. I especially agree with the points you make concerning personal reform, and a new relationship between laity and clergy in an effort to combat clericalism.  The biggest problem I have with VOTF is not so much the slant of the board, but the emphasis on lay power which apparently alienated even sympathetic priests. I don't believe there will ever be any real reform without including the rank and file priesthood.
"I do miss the VOTF message board, but I don't miss the self righteous condemnation demonstrated by some of the conservatives. I wish more of the conservatives would have taken the time to write the type of thoughtful, challenging posts which Chicago Catholic and yourself wrote. On the other hand, a lot of the liberal posts were also short on thought provoking input, and I don't miss them too much either. 
"I wish more people had understood the importance of your point concerning personal conversion. It strikes me that the reason people aren't getting it is because they mistake personal conversion with complete acceptance of a particular agenda. Maybe my clients have rubbed off on me and I truly am nuts, but my own acceptance of Catholicism is based on the Church's Sacramental Reality. I have seen what a profound effect Sacramental Grace can have in people's lives (my own included) and have decided to put up with a lot of things I don't particularly agree with in order to partake in that Sacramental Reality. I think this is a perfectly sensible attitude, but I can't say many of my liberal leaning friends understand it, and neither do my conservative friends who see me as liberal because I freely admit I have problems with some Catholic teaching. Oh well.
"A last thought. The Lord of the Rings started me on a wonderfully magical journey which has lasted over thirty years, and added immensely to my enjoyment of life. Gandalf wasn't just a hero of mine, in some respects I became Gandalf. Tolkien's treatment of Gandalf as an ethical and caring Wizard has been the model I have used for my own journey as a fairly gifted psychic. Gandalf spoke volumes to me at a time in my life when I wasn't listening to or for Christ, and the thought of actually practicing my Catholicism was a non issue. I frequently thank God for JRR Tolkien and his wonderful character of Gandalf. Since the movie came out last December it's been fun for me to talk with all kinds of people who have been inspired or effected by one or more of the characters in The Lord of the Rings. I suspect something magical was happening at Oxford during the thirties and forties, and for readers of Tolkien and CS Lewis the magic is still powerful. Enough of this. I miss reading your posts..."

On a related note, those who have met me know that I have a beard. I started growing it when I looked in the mirror on New Year's Day of 1992, and simply decided to stop shaving. I would shave it off for one reason, and one only: to play the part of C S Lewis in a theatre production of Shadowlands.

If only, if only...

Monday, August 12, 2002

This is why I get homesick...

...for the Buckeye State.
About last night...

We were all at the Surf Club in Hyattsville MD, dancing to the sounds of Rosie "The Zydeco Sweetheart" Ledet.

That's me! Just above right of center. Honest.

Sunday, August 11, 2002

VOTF Watch

"VOTF is presently evaluating the messageboard to determine how best to improve it. You are welcome to view the board during this time. Admin"

Naturally, anything that would be remotely critical of VOTF has been removed. See for yourself.

Saturday, August 10, 2002

VOTF: The Real Deal!

(Composed while on the road...)

Chris Hart has posted this letter from Deal Hudson of Crisis Magazine, which, as promised earlier, "gives the low-down with the VOTF." Hudson's account is, for the most part, an accurate portrayal of what occured at the VOTF message board. Any monitor of that board who says otherwise is either a liar or a fool. Probably both.

I know. @#$%&!, I was THERE!!!

The report could have gone farther, though, showing the connection between the philosophy of SIECUS, and that of the National Man-Boy Love Association (NAMBLA), an organization supported in its early years by one Father Paul Shanley. VOTF could have hired Shanley to speak, and cut down on the overhead.

I will add one other provision as well. Mr Hudson, if you're reading this, not all the board monitors wanted to squelch orthodox opinion. At least one, who shall remain nameless, put their participation on the line to ensure that our voices could be heard. However, that brave soul was ultimately overruled by the status-quo. (I was there for that, too.)

So, Dr Muller... now that you got to pose for TIME Magazine before handing over the top job to someone else, what's next?

A trip to Disney World?

(Speaking the Truth in Love -- that's me, folks!)

Friday, August 09, 2002

A poem I heard as a child...

...came to me as the weekend approaches. Lately I've been thinking about the future. Then I remembered this work by Tolkein:

Roads Go Ever Ever On

Roads go ever ever on,
Over rock and under tree,
By caves where never sun has shone,
By streams that never find the sea;
Over snow by winter sown,
And through the merry flowers of June,
Over grass and over stone,
And under mountains in the moon.

Roads go ever ever on
Under cloud and under star,
Yet feet that wandering have gone
Turn at last to home afar.
Eyes that fire and sword have seen
And horror in the halls of stone
Look at last on meadows green
And trees and hills they long have knows.

I invite readers to contact me, with their thoughts on why this work would occur to me at such a time. Unless otherwise requested, select passages will be viewed here in the coming week.

And now, on to the weekend...
There but for the grace of God goes...

...any blogger who is keeping his day job.
So, what's the Deal here?

Chris Hart reports that Deal Hudson of Crisis Magazine is about to give us the low-down with the VOTF. Wonder what they could have learned that some of us didn't while slugging it out in the trenches of the VOTF message board for two months. Hmmm...

Meanwhile, upon hearing reports of the latest statement by Governor Keating, Deal wants to know: "Can anybody tell me why withholding money from your parish is a 'mortal sin?' That's a new one to me!" Well, Deal, you have these six precepts of the Church, see? One of them says something about supporting your local Church. It's right there in the Catechism.

Now that we've established that, let's take another look. Are Catholics obliged to give when they are uncertain as to where the money is going? Are they obliged when it is not "the Church" that is being supported by their weekly giving? Ahhh, there's the rub!

For my part, I've been selective about my charitable giving for some time now. A percentage of my annual income goes to the direct support of my parish school. Over the years, I have also given to a select number of Catholic colleges, and at least one order of priests.

Any bishop who has a problem with this can kiss my ring!
"Tonight, tonight, won't be just any night..."

Those who follow the activity in the night sky are preparing for a special weekend of stargazing. Those who follow the traditions of the Church calendar will not be surprised, as the eve of the feast of Saint Lawrence (that is, the night before August 10) is considered the ideal for the viewing of shooting stars. The skies in the Middle Atlantic region will be mostly clear tonight. My spot is picked out just northwest of Baltimore.

For those who miss it, the Perseid Meteor Shower peaks on Sunday and Monday. Close enough.
Why Al Gore Should Never Become President

Because dissing The Boss is downright un-American.
Reform Nation!: An Update

Domenico Bettinelli and Steve Schultz make a note. That's two, so far. Thanks guys.

Thursday, August 08, 2002

Reform Nation!: A Blueprint

(For those of you who missed it the first time...)

Mark Shea wonders who is going to take up the banner for reform, with respect to the recent scandals in the Church.

A reader suggests the Springfield, Illinois-based group known as Roman Catholic Faithful. Mark has reason for pause with respect to RCF. While very effective in exposing some problems, they have made some critical errors in judgment in the past, which could ultimately impede their credibility. Mark has more to say on this point.

Another suggestion is Catholics for Authentic Reform, a group of well-known and highly respected "conservative" Catholic leaders, most of whom are based on the East Coast. So far, they have managed to assemble their names on a website, and issue statements on the matters in question. Other than that...

Personally, I think Philip Lawler, editor of Catholic World Report, has the right attitude. He demonstrates as much both here and here. Others of similar caliber can be found among the contributors of the new book Shaken by Scandals: Catholics Speak Out About Priests' Sexual Abuse, pubished by Charis (a division of Servant Publications), and edited by Paul Thigpen.

The last thing we need is another collection of Catholic celebrities on a letterhead, throwing fancy-pants black-tie dinners and preaching to the choir.

What we do need, is what VOTF should have been in the first damn place. Such an organization should:

• openly declare loyalty to the Holy Father and the Magisterium (which is not equivalent to approving every dumb-ass move Cardinal Law ever made, okay, people?),

• advocate reform of the individual as prerequisite to (not a replacement for) that of the institution,

• demand full restitution -- spiritual, theraputic, monetary, or otherwise -- for victims of clerical sexual abuse,

• call for any bishop who either committed an act of sexual abuse with a minor, or enabled those who did, to humbly submit his resignation to the Holy See, as a matter of personal honor (whether or not it should be accepted being another matter),

• implement the full consultative role of the laity (as opposed to a governing role, as there is none) in the life of the Church, as called for in Vatican II's Gaudium et spes, and the Code of Canon Law,

• come to terms with the issue of clericalism, and develop a new paradigm in clergy/laity relationships (and if you have to ask what that means, that's part of the problem), and finally...

under no circumstances, put me in charge! (I nominate Philip Lawler. See above.)

Wednesday, August 07, 2002

Reform Nation!: A Blueprint

Mark Shea wonders who is going to take up the banner for reform, with respect to the recent scandals in the Church.

A reader suggests the Springfield, Illinois-based group known as Roman Catholic Faithful. Mark has reason for pause with respect to RCF. While very effective in exposing some problems, they have made some critical errors in judgment in the past, which could ultimately impede their credibility. Mark has more to say on this point.

Another suggestion is Catholics for Authentic Reform, a group of well-known and highly respected "conservative" Catholic leaders, most of whom are based on the East Coast. So far, they have managed to assemble their names on a website, and issue statements on the matters in question. Other than that...

Personally, I think Philip Lawler, editor of Catholic World Report, has the right attitude. He demonstrates as much both here and here. Others of similar caliber can be found among the contributors of the new book Shaken by Scandals: Catholics Speak Out About Priests' Sexual Abuse, pubished by Charis (a division of Servant Publications), and edited by Paul Thigpen.

The last thing we need is another collection of Catholic celebrities on a letterhead, throwing fancy-pants black-tie dinners and preaching to the choir.

What we do need, is what VOTF should have been in the first damn place. Such an organization should:

• openly declare loyalty to the Holy Father and the Magisterium (which is not equivalent to approving every dumb-ass move Cardinal Law ever made, okay, people?),

• advocate reform of the individual as prerequisite to (not a replacement for) that of the institution,

• demand full restitution -- spiritual, theraputic, monetary, or otherwise -- for victims of clerical sexual abuse,

• call for any bishop who either committed an act of sexual abuse with a minor, or enabled those who did, to humbly submit his resignation to the Holy See, as a matter of personal honor (whether or not it should be accepted being another matter),

• implement the full consultative role of the laity (as opposed to a governing role, as there is none) in the life of the Church, as called for in Vatican II's Gaudium et spes, and the Code of Canon Law,

• come to terms with the issue of clericalism, and develop a new paradigm in clergy/laity relationships (and if you have to ask what that means, that's part of the problem), and finally...

under no circumstances, put me in charge! (I nominate Philip Lawler. See above.)
Me and Thee

Mike Hardy is leaving for vacation, but not before taking exception to his exclusion from Martin Roth's "Semi-Definitive List of Christian Blogs" entitled blogs4God. Mr Hardy contends that such exclusion stems from the fact that he is... well, you know.

He could be right. But I'm not on that list either, and I'm not even... well, you know.
A Good Catholic Family Man

Every Monday afternoon, I sit in a room with a dozen other sets of parents, accompanied by their troubled children. Sitting next to me is my own, a sixteen-year-old boy who has become a man without warning. To the other side of him is his mother. Each child is there for substance abuse problems.

Paul was a charming, intelligent boy. He still is, in fact, even as his gifts are clouded in a haze of anger and medication, both perscribed and otherwise. His downward spiral began in the sixth grade, with the suicide death of a friend. Several months later, his mother called. Paul had to be committed to a psychiatric ward. I knew nothing of his problem. I was only consulted on the matter when it came time to pay the bills.

Two and a half years ago, Paul and I became estranged. He stopped visiting me every other weekend, saying how his mother could go to the judge and have my custody rights taken away from me. (Where would he get an idea like that?) I threw up my hands, and began the painful task of letting go. This once-straight-A student could barely pass his subjects. Not that it mattered to him. Too much pressure, and that was bad for him. Then came drugs, alcohol, staying out all night -- with a mother too proud to admit her limitations, and a father kept in the dark.

When Paul's mother finally gave up, and placed the matter in the hands of the court, I was finally brought in to "do my share of the load." I convinced her that charging Paul with a felony for "borrowing" her car was counterproductive. I agreed to take Paul to his AA meetings twice a week, even if it meant driving to another part of town just to take him a few miles, then sit and twiddle my thumbs until he was finished. In return, I get to send his mother a check every month. Other than that, I get blown off half the time, until another ride, or another check, is needed.

The terms of our custody agreement called for renegotiation within five years. I made two pleas to take Paul during his tenure in high school. I was dismissed out of hand by both of them. He started going out on "dates" in the fifth grade, over my strenuous objections. He should be nurtured in the manly rites of passage by his father, I told his mother. She insisted that she knew more about bringing him to manhood than, say, the man in his life.

I have waited in the wings ever since.

Barely a week goes by, when I don't find myself reading in a Catholic periodical, from the wisdom of some sanctimonious button-down twerp, talking about how "the family is under attack." His task complete, he retreats to his safe suburban home, to his docile wife and ten or twelve obedient children.

He doesn't know the half of it. Come next Monday, I'll sit in that room again, feeling more like Ozzy Osbourne than Ozzie Nelson. No matter what I do, it is safe to assume that the Knights of Columbus will never nominate me as "Family Man of the Year." After all, they need someone who can set the proper example, who can serve as an inspiration to others.

Saint Joseph, inspire me.
Personal Message to Dave Pawlak

My good man, I can assure you that I have nothing to hide.
Epistles to the "Enemy": II

This is the second of two essays that were posted on the message board of the VOTF, provided here in response to Mike Hardy of Enemy of the Church? (Anybody know what's up with this guy? I have days like that too, you know?)

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June 5 2002 (Memorial of Saint Boniface)

Greetings in Christ!

In the Old Testament, the Israelite leader Joshua admonished his people, in dissuading them from their errant ways:

"[I]f you be unwilling to serve the LORD, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell; but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD." (Joshua 24:15)

One might easily confuse this with what has already been called a "litmus test."

Closer to the present, there has been a call in this forum for some clarification, regarding the position of VOTF on the traditional teaching of the Church. I will not simply repeat the demands of others for an answer. Rather, I would elaborate on the question itself, in the hopes of demonstrating its relevance.

First, in defense of the VOTF leadership, they may be genuinely concerned with alienating those who would otherwise support them. This is best expressed, I believe, in the following:

"As far as I can see (and all this is there for you to see, too), Voice of the Faithful accepts the teachings of the Church. It's animating principle isn't about the teachings of the Church. It's not about abortion, it's not about ordaining women; it's not about the Trinity, the Assumption, or the virgin birth. Its about the behavior of its clerical leadership, about accountability, about rightful, legitimate 'voice' for the non-ordained, about matters of administration of temporal affairs in the Church, about criminal acts perhaps facilitated and surely covered up. VOTF leadership seems to understand quite well that taking positions on matters of theology and doctrine can only get in the way of its goals.

"Now I grant you that people who sign on to this board (like you and me) may have all kinds of crazy and heretical ideas. But it is only fair to attribute to VOTF only what the documents, positions, and official announcements of the VOTF say. Frankly, I cannot blame the organization for not responding to incessant queries about its orthodoxy. It stands for what it says it stands for."

The above appears reasonable enough. There are those whose difficulty with some Church beliefs, or whose leaving the Church altogether, may be due in large part to those unfortunate actions which gave rise to VOTF being started in the first place. "We who are strong in faith should be patient with the scruples of those whose faith is weak; we must not be selfish. Each should please his neighbor so as to do him good by building up his spirit. Thus, in accord with Scripture, Christ did not please himself: 'The reproaches they uttered against you fell on me.'"(Romans 15:1-3) When I read the very sad accounts in this forum, of those who have been injured by church authority figures, or whose resolve has otherwise been weakened, I can see myself in their shoes. I tell myself, that could be me. I am tempted to reach out to those people, maybe cut a few corners if necessary.

On the other hand, the history of the Church is filled with saints who were rejected by those around them. Many of us would look to Francis of Assisi as a model of one who called for change in the Church. Few of us know the cost to him. In founding his "little band of brothers," he gave up all his material wealth, his family inheritance, and most if not all of his friends. In the final years of his life, Francis was ousted from the order he himself founded, at the hands of his successor. He died in the company of a few loyal followers. His successor ultimately left the priesthood and the Church.

It is all well and good to espouse the "centrist" position. But is the place between two extremes a definitive center, or a vacuum? Either could be the case, and there is a difference. Whatever our disagreements, we can all say together, "priests molesting young boys is a bad thing." But what happens with the inevitable question: "What is to be done?" One side will call for married priests or woman priests, the other for a return to the Old Latin Mass -- each prepared to state at length (as their respective partisans have already done elsewhere) why theirs is the remedy for all concerned. It is at that point, that chaos rears its ugly head, and "the best laid plans of mice and men" to build a coalition, turn out to be for naught.

I have discussed before how the scandal of clerical sexual abuse cannot be looked upon in isolation from the other scandals in the Church -- false teaching, irreverent worship, and so on (Whose Voice? Which Faithful?? What Vision???, see entry from previous day). To insist upon isolating the problem, for the reasons already given, may ultimately doom an otherwise well-intentioned effort to failure.

Francis of Assisi, by the way, started out as a layman, and was eventually made a deacon, but was never a priest. Whatever his state in life, he is considered one of the great reformers of the Church. And yet, by the standards that many of us employ in facing the issues of the Church today, he could also be branded a pathetic loser who was unable to gain a consensus.

"First of all, VOTF is a grass roots organization. It is not hierarchial in nature."

"Where does one get the impression that Jim Muller has been made the focus of VOTF. Certainly not from Jim, a most humble man."

"Well, gee, just offhand I'd say maybe because instead of posting here himself [Dr Muller], someone... posted for him! That looks rather like there's a hierarchy in VOTF on the face of it, doesn't it? As in 'I'll have my girl call your girl...'

"Grass roots." "Hierarchy." If we are going to keep falling back on these words, we have to agree on what they mean.

"Grass roots: NOUN 1. People or society at a local level rather than at the center of major political activity. Often used with [i]the[/i]. 2. The groundwork or source of something."

"Hierarchy: NOUN 1. A body of persons having authority. 2a. Categorization of a group of people according to ability or status. b. The group so categorized. 3. A series in which each element is graded or ranked: put honesty first in her hierarchy of values. 4a. A body of clergy organized into successive ranks or grades with each level subordinate to the one above. b. Religious rule by a group of ranked clergy. 5. One of the divisions of angels."

(American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition, Online)

We see that the VOTF has officers -- a president, a vice-president, a secretary, a treasurer, and what appears to be an officer "at-large." It has a "steering committee" of dozens of members. It has individuals identified as "media contacts." They have a collection of local chapters, the number of which is growing steadily. While the VOTF has not had centuries to develop an organization as complex as the Roman Curia, it has in a few months set up more than one level of organization, with a clear system of leaders and followers. We have a word to describe this phenomenon -- "hierarchy." It is not a bad word, but one that denotes those in authority over others. But like any sort of title or position, that authority can be abused. Were it not, none of us would be participants in a forum such as this.

It is bad enough that bishops hide behind the prestige of their titles to justify abhorrent behavior, or delay in the restitution for the damage caused by such. Shall those of us who claim to oppose such behavior appear to emulate it (as in refusing to give a straight answer to a question) without expecting an occasional reality check? There is nothing audacious or ad hominem in pointing any of this out. It is a big part of the hard work, in building up one another, as in the Body of Christ. The nature of VOTF, and the manner in which the organization would operate, is very much germaine to what it might hope to accomplish. It has up to now offered little more in a solution, than a schematic of a secular democratic government. (Dare we call this a "hierarchy"?)

If one is going to maintain a "centrist" position, it helps to know the view from both ends, not just the one where one feels the most comfortable.

"Up to this point [the VOTF] has neither disclaimed nor endorsed particular 'teachings of the Church.' It believes in the Catholic Church and works toward the vision of the Catholic Church in the future as it can be, having incorporated into it the viable voice of the laity....To some extent, you are asking the cat to chase its own tail here. VOTF's banner is keep the faith, change the Church. The faith that is kept is Catholic."

This begs the question; how are we supposed to "believe" something without having to "endorse" it? It is not "asking the cat to chase its own tail" to raise that question. Quite the opposite, in fact.

"This is a message board, not a press conference. VOTF has clearly stated its mission, which arose from the horrors of recently disclosed events and the response from church leadership. VOTF is NOT trying to be Vatican III. Your raising issues for comment and thought of the message board community is appropriate; however, your pounding the shoe on the table demanding responses from VOTF leadership is not."

But what is it trying to be? The primary characteristic of a leader, is that he has a follower. The leaders of VOTF have invited individuals like myself to follow them. What manner of leadership am I being invited to follow? Where are those leaders taking me? By claiming to represent "the faithful," it is more than fair to call issues of belief into question -- as if to ask, "To whom, or to what, are you claiming to be faithful?" This can be done without having to be confused with Nikita Kruschev.

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And so, for the reasons stated above, I would now, in this forum, personally address those identified as the officers of The Voice of the Faithful:

I respectfully submit that your best interests would be served, in choosing whether The Voice of the Faithful is to go on the record, in declaring its support of the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church, and loyalty to the Holy Father and the Magisterium.

To do so is not to approve or acquiesce to the behavior of any of her office-holders. In two thousand years, it never has been.

Neither is it a claim to one's personal success in leading a totally virtuous life (or I am in bigger trouble than most of you). It implies, ultimately, a recognition of being a sinner, and aspiring to virtue, in spite of oneself. It is not about any one of us; it is about a belief, a way of life.

In addition, it is not enough simply to make general references to "Vatican II." The latest ecumenical council (not the only one we ever had, nor the most important) has been cited by many who do not read its documents, to justify all manner of agenda that was never intended by the Council Fathers. Those who were present at its proceedings have said as much.

Also, there is no cause for concern, that those who challenge "particular 'teachings of the Church'" would be further alienated by such a declaration. By affiliating themselves with a body that officially believes differently than they do, they have freely assumed this status, although with great personal difficulty. As such, they would certainly be counted among the members of VOTF in working toward a common goal, while struggling with their own journey of faith, as all of us do.

Finally, with a public declaration, people who are identified in your material as "conservatives" or on the "right" may be able to lend their support with greater enthusiasm. For my own part, I realize that not everyone has laid this down as a condition for participating. But for me to use leave time from my place of employment, and travel at my own expense to attend a national meeting, it is perfectly reasonable to ask outright exactly who you are, and where you stand.

Otherwise, I can serve you just as well from here, at this workstation -- you know, out here in the "grass roots."

You, the officers of The Voice of the Faithful, are not being judged. You are being asked a question. Please answer the question, at your earliest convenience.


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I should say in closing, that these two essays were among the most widely read on the VOTF message board. Ironically, while several individuals connected to the top leadership did respond favorably to either or both, not one elected officer responded to either essay, whether by private e-mail, or on the message board.

Tuesday, August 06, 2002

The Boss Man Cometh!

Time Magazine did a cover piece recently, on the comeback of Jerseyite and lapsed Catholic (okay, so nobody's perfect!) Bruce Springsteen -- including the announcement of his newest album The Rising. This work was inspired by the events of September 11. He includes his inspiring work, My City of Ruins, written in the wake of the tragedy. Personally, I prefer his acoustic-guitar-and-harmonica version from the VH1 tribute album last fall. Or was it MTV? I dunno, it's still rock-and-roll to me.

Me, I'm still working out my chops on the harp. Stay tuned...
Dog Bites Tail

John McGuinness bites the bullet on the whole scandal-in-the-Church thing:

"The current scandals were caused by abusing priests, and bishops' failure to effectively deal with them, not by those who oppose you on your pet issue."

Here's a brain-teaser for ya, John. Why did the priests abuse the children, and why did their bishops fail to deal with them? Got an answer for that one? How about... oh, a loss of virtue. You know, the kind that is usually accompanied by that list of things you write off as "BS."

But don't feel bad. You're not the only one who blew off the symptoms of the larger problem. That's why we get to bitch about it now.

Any questions?
Epistles to the "Enemy": I

Mike Hardy of Enemy of the Church? is curious as to my motives for participation in the message board of the self-proclaimed reform group Voice of the Faithful. He shall have his answer in two parts, the first of which is today.

What follows is the first of two essays that were posted on that board, with copies sent to the officers and media contacts of the VOTF. Keep in mind that this was written two and a half months ago:

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Though all the winds of doctrine
were let loose to play upon the earth,
so Truth be in the field,
we do ingloriously, by licensing and prohibiting,
to misdoubt her strength.
Let her and Falsehood grapple;
who ever knew Truth put to the worse,
in a free and open encounter?

(from Milton's Areopagitica, 1644)

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May 23 2002 (Whit Thursday)

Greetings in Christ!

I wish to extend my gratitude to the leadership of Voice of the Faithful (VOTF), for the willingness to resurrect this bulletin board. It is not necessary to allow one person to ruin this experience for others. To that end, I am pleased that measures are put into place to permit this vehicle of discourse to continue.

My thanks to Terry McKiernan of the VOTF Steering Committee, for his kind words in response to my post to him, which forms the basis for what appears below. The demands on his time (which I understand include leading a related effort called "Parish Voice") are such that he is apparently unable to respond to my concerns at any length. I trust he will forgive me if I avail myself of this medium, and bring those concerns to the larger body. Copies of this post are being sent to him, and to each of the officers of VOTF.

I pledge to engage the matter at hand, within the limits of prudence and charity -- Deo volente -- following the example of the Saints. I will take on all who challenge me in this forum, as time allows, and in the manner in which I see fit. (When replying to me, please do not feel obliged to include the entire text of my post. Simply delete the non-relevant portions, and comment on what remains. The habits of a few of us are already making for very tedious reading.)

Most important, in presenting my case here, nothing that I say can possibly be construed, as making light of the tragedy that has befallen the victims of such heinous and sinful acts.

Our Lady, Seat of Wisdom, pray for me....

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I have been reading with much interest the news of the scandals in Boston, and the response by members of the local faithful to establish VOTF. I have reviewed the working paper entitled "The Problem and Our Vision." Of particular interest is their call to represent those views of both the so-called "left" and the so-called "right." Further, and if I understand correctly, they have also called for a more "democratic" form of church governance.

The first thing that concerns me, is their comparison of the Church to a political entity, both by the above, and by such terminology as "left," right," "liberal," "moderate," "conservative," and "democratic." The Church is not some political or ideological institution. When the Scriptures refer to Her as "the Body of Christ," that is not some quaint metaphor, but a reference to Her essential nature as an organic reality. The Church is a Bride being prepared for Her Bridegroom, manifesting Herself as a communion of souls on pilgrimage to Heaven. The Church is a Body -- with Christ, not a committee, as the Head.

I submit that the leadership of VOTF must understand the above, and render such understanding in their proposals, if they are to effect any change. The evidence for my claim can be found in the pages of the Scriptures themselves, and in two millennia of the history of the Church.

Compare this to their curious model of choice -- a mere two centuries of secular government.

Have any of the VOTF leadership taken the time to review an honest presentation of Church history? To do so is to discover that every reform of the Church not only involved the laity, but demanded personal reform -- that is, repentance of one's sins, recourse to the Mass and the Sacraments, and through their graces, amending one's life. (Some of you will please forgive me if that sounds too quaint.) It required faithfulness to the teachings of the Church, and to that teaching authority found in the Magisterium. It required reverence toward the priestly office, even when those who bore it lost respect for it themselves. It required loyalty to the Chair of Peter, irrespective of the strength or weakness of the man sitting in that Chair at the time.

This point has not been lost, even within the ranks of the secular press:

"In studying the long history of Catholicism, one realizes that as bad as things are, they have been worse before. And yet the Church survives because the life of faith, in a man or in a people, is an unpredictable thing. As Monsignor Albacete recently told me, 'If, in addition to all the terrible things we have learned, if tomorrow it was revealed that the pope had a harem, that all the cardinals had made money on Enron stock and were involved in Internet porno, then the situation of the Church today would be similar to the situation of the Church in the late twelfth century ... when Francis of Assisi first kissed a leper.' Saints, not bishops, will remake the face of the Church, and the making of saints is God's work. It would be wonderful indeed if every bishop were a saint. But the current crisis could have been avoided if the bishops had merely remembered they were human beings." (Michael Sean Winters, The New Republic, May 6 2002, URL:

I find any attempt to understand what I have presented above, to be conspicuously lacking, in the "vision" of an organization that presumes to appeal to those to whom it refers as "conservatives." What is it they intend to "conserve"?

The VOTF would dare call upon us to "keep the faith, change the church." What is their basis for that demand? The Second Vatican Council was first and foremost a call to holiness, a call to conversion, but we have already seen a great deal of change. How well have we handled that change? Do the recent scandals provide us with an answer? Is it the Church that needs changing, or is it us? And, finally, the bottom line: Is there a problem with too little change, or not enough saints?

Do we examine ourselves, as much as we examine others? If we did, would we be surprised at what we might find?

I will give you an example. There was a recent "Mass for healing" in Wellesley, Massachusetts, that was reported in the Catholic press, which included laypeople bestowing ashes on the foreheads of congregants at the beginning of the Mass. This occured at a time other than on Ash Wednesday. I would suggest that this was a confusing misappropriation of symbols, and sets a bad precedent, both inside and outside the sanctuary.

Why is this of any significance? Consider the centrality of the liturgy in Catholic life. Consider also, that by such misappropriation, we become accustomed to making things mean what we want them to mean. Now, extend such an attitude in other areas of the life of the Church -- like telling parents of a victim of sexual abuse to accept a monetary settlement for "the good of the Church." Such things have happened.

And now, a little reality check...

"Regulation of the sacred liturgy depends solely on the authority of the Church, that is, on the Apostolic See, and, as laws may determine, on the bishop.... Therefore no other person, not even a priest, may add, remove, or change anything in the liturgy on his own authority." (Vatican II, Sanctosacrum Concilium, 22)

That's right, everybody. Vatican II said it, and you read it here -- perhaps for the first time!!!

The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass (yes, we are still allowed to call it that), as handed down and regulated by the Church, has a power of its own, beyond a particular time, place, or private group setting. When we celebrate Mass, we do so, in the words of the Roman Canon, "in union with the whole Church" -- not just with our personal faith community, and not just for our particular cause or ideology. For we are not only composed of those here on Earth (the Church Militant), but those who came before us -- be they in Purgatory (the Church Suffering), or among the Saints in Heaven (the Church Triumphant).

The attitude that concerns me can be found in other areas as well. Many of us have very little trouble voting for persons in public office, who are committed to "a woman's right to choose" the killing of an unborn child. If such public figures are Catholic, it does not affect us adversely to see them appearing with the local bishop at fundraisers, gladhanding in front of the camera. We can rationalize their public stance as "just a personal opinion," or "separation of church and state" (a term mentioned nowhere in the Bill of Rights). Yet we are shocked when the same bishop does not behave in a manner consistent with what he proclaims from the pulpit. Why?

Father Joseph Wilson, a priest of the Diocese of Brooklyn, has put the need to emphasize the big picture very bluntly: "As the Bishops of our country make their way to Dallas for their June meeting, the eyes of the country will be on them because of the sexual abuse scandal. How selective we are in our scandals. As horrific as the abuse situation is, it is but one of several areas of crisis, and those who are expressing astonishment at the response of the bishops to the abuse scandal should stop and think carefully about their response to the rest of the crises. It will become quickly clear that the sterling virtue of the bishops is their consistency."

They are not alone. And the good Father does not stop there: http://www.cruxnews.com/wilson/052102.html

To those who would take exception to such mobilization as that which oversees this forum, I would remind them that the Church recognizes that the faithful have a right -- indeed, the duty -- to voice their concerns to the sacred pastors of the Church. (http://www.voiceofthefaithful.org/canonlaw&laity.html) This is not some hare-brained post-conciliar concept: "There being an imminent danger for the faith, prelates must be questioned, even publicly, by their subjects. Thus, Saint Paul, who was a subject of Saint Peter, questioned him publicly on account of an imminent danger of scandal in a matter of Faith. And, as the Glosa of Saint Augustine puts it (Ad Galatas 2,14), 'Saint Peter himself gave the example to those who govern so that if sometime they stray from the right way, they will not reject a correction as unworthy even if it comes from their subjects'." (Saint Thomas Aquinas, from the Summa Theologica) Indeed, no less a figure than John Henry Cardinal Newman said of the laity: "The Church would look foolish without them."

That having been said, there is a right way to go about this, and the leadership of VOTF, for reasons already stated above, leave more questions than answers in their "working paper." Saint Catherine of Siena, in her stern letters to the Pope exiled in Avignon, was not above referring to the clerics around him as "wolves and sellers of the divine grace." But those same letters make no mistake as to where her devotion and loyalty rests. The leaders of VOTF do not appear to advocate wholesale abandonment of Church teaching outright. On the other hand, their apparent naivete concerning the nature of the Church make them easy prey for those who do. Thus would be the cause of their downfall.

There is a solution, and it begins from within. I submit to all present that the leadership of VOTF must recognize this in time for their national meeting this July, if that meeting is to accomplish anthing. Those who read this who wish to start now, may wish to avail themselves of a handy guide published on the Internet, entitled "How Not to Lose Your Faith During the Present Crisis." It is put together by an Indiana writer named Michael Dubruiel. It can be found here:


If the title does not appear upon opening, kindly scroll down the weblog until you reach the entry for Monday, May 06, 2002. On the way down the page, you will discover that Dubruiel has co-authored a well-timed book entitled From Scandal to Hope with Father Benedict Groeschel. It will be published by Our Sunday Visitor in June 2002. Father Groeschel is familiar to viewers of EWTN. The order he founded, the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal, dedicate their lives to work among the urban poor, and the call to personal reform. A licensed clinical psychologist, Groeschel has had this to say concerning the current crisis:

"Does this shake your faith in the Church? I hope so, because ultimately your faith should not be in the Church, ultimately. Ultimately our faith is in Jesus Christ, and we accept the Church. We support the Church. We belong to the Church because Christ established the Church.

"Somebody who belongs to the Church as a big organization, as a great philanthropic thing or the great social catalyst or whatever else you want to think, they're going to be badly shaken. They may get out.

"But we belong to the Church as the crucified body of Jesus Christ. If the Church is the body of Christ, don't be surprised that it's crucified. Don't be surprised that it's dragged through the streets and spat upon and wounded and crowned with thorns. That's what’s going on right now.

"The Church is the body of Christ, and when you love the Church, you should love it as the body of Christ.

"Our dear Holy Father on Good Friday wrote this: 'In the acute pain of the suffering servant, we hear already the triumphant cry of the risen Lord.' Christ on the cross is the King of the new people, ransom from the burden of sin and death, however twisted and confused the course of history may appear. We know that by walking in the footsteps of the crucified we shall attain to that goal. Amid the conflicts of a world dominated by selfishness and hatred, we as believers are called to proclaim the victory of love. Today, Good Friday, we testify to the victory of Christ crucified.

"Not so long ago, the Catholic Church seemed to be very triumphant. I lived through those days at the end of the council. The Church seemed to be very powerful, and I’ve lived to see the mystical body of Christ crucified, betrayed, attacked, abandoned by the frightened apostles. And we’re all part of it. We're all part of it. Don't ever exempt yourself. I reproach myself every day that unwittingly I went along and stupidly I got involved in things that ultimately did not serve the Church or Christ so well.

"Turn to Christ."

(from the weblog of Michael Dubruiel at http://michaeldubruiel.blogspot.com/)

Read the book. He gets better.

To those who would use the recent troubles to dissent from or attack Church teaching and practice, I dare you to come down from the safety of your ivory towers, where you flourish unchallenged, and present your views here, in a setting which (we can only hope) is a level playing field. But be advised of what I mean by a LEVEL playing field.

If you come across a building or a fence that you wish to tear down, it is only reasonable to first determine why it is there to begin with. Gilbert K Chesterton, the English Catholic writer of the early 20th century, used examples such as this to refer to tradition as "the democracy of the dead." In the standard criterion of a debate, the onus is not upon the status quo, but upon the challenger. To operate otherwise, is an injustice to those who would be fully informed for their journey of faith. Whether they realize it or not, people have a right to know what it is to which they are objecting.

Our Lord lost most of his followers when he told them what they didn't want to hear (John 6:35-69). The problem, then, is less the existence of debate in the Church, than that it is not an honest one. What kind of debate will we contend with here?

You may ask at this point, who am I?

I am nobody important, nor do I intend to be. The easiest thing in the world is to dismiss the likes of me, in favor of the agenda fostered by the outspoken among so-called "reform" groups, seeking what they imagine to be "power." Nor will my life be less complete without a spread in a major newsmagazine.

You may also ask, am I a victim of clerical sexual abuse?

No, nor do I have to be. I was once, as a young man, placed in danger of such a tragedy occuring. But that is a story for another time.

I can assure you that, should I be dismissed, my life will go on as it has, and do very well without ever attending a VOTF event. For that life does not revolve around the ideological harangues which seem to preoccupy certain incumbents of parish church committees. Amidst the excitement and the hum-drum, the joys and the sorrows, I am a sinner. I remain within the Church for one reason and one only -- because, if I have any hopes of spending eternity in heaven after this short time on earth, I have nowhere else to go. She is my Mother, my Teacher, my Guide. If She is sick, and fallen into ruin, I will tend to Her. I will assist in binding Her wounds, polishing the jewels in Her crown, and preparing Her once again for the Bridegroom.

This I will do, in the comings and goings of my daily life. This I will do, with or without the affiliation of those who aspire to be the "voice of the faithful."

I look forward to hearing from all of you. Oremus pro invicem.


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Why Do I Remain In The Church?

Because it is the only chance to escape from oneself, from this curse of one's importance, of one's own gravity, from the role which is identified with my own person, so that if I lost my role I would end up falling in love with my person: to escape from all this without becoming estranged from man, because God has become man, not in a vacuum but in the community of the Church. I do not doubt for a moment that God's incarnation is intended for all men and that he is sufficiently God in order to reach all whom he will. But he has set up, in the middle of the history of humanity with all its terrors and hells, a marriage bed, splendid and untouchable -- it is portrayed in the Song of Songs -- and even the endless problems of the Church cannot create a fog so thick that it cannot from time to time be penetrated by the light of love which shines from the saints: a love which is naive, which cannot be taken over and built into any program.

There are vocations in which men are called into the sphere of the fire. They always demand the whole person. Those who have said "no" remain marked. They burn, but they become cynical and destructive, they smell each other out and hold together. It makes no matter whether they officially leave the Church or remain within her. Anyone with some facility for discerning spirits can recognize them.

It is up to me, up to us, to see that the Church comes closer to that which in reality she is.

(Hans Urs von Balthasar, from Elucidations)

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One of my favorite bands...

...does a children's album.
VOTF Watch: "The Lord loves a cheerful (???) giver."

Chris Hart offers this analysis regarding the shut-down of the message board of the Voice of the Faithful. My own sources suggest he could be right, that they could be driven by money, and the power that goes with it. But if what I have read of recent events is correct, that could be a double-edged sword. Perhaps some charitable organizations should be wary of the long-term consequences, of doing business with those who have other intentions.

Oh, one other thing, Chris. In this particular line of endeavor, one million dollars is not a lot of money. Where's the next million gonna come from? Stay tuned...

Monday, August 05, 2002

Rod Dreher's Cajun Moment

(In case of problems with the link, scroll down to the bottom of entries for Sunday August 4, to the one entitled "The Glorious Boudin Ball.")
Monday's Mailbag

Today, I will begin with letters I have received. The first is from "Agnes," who writes about my July 18 piece entitled Twelve years ago today...:

"There are few things like complete personal rejection that are capable of making you feel so helplessly rotten and wounded. When I went through the break-up of a long-term relationship (five years) I came to believe that focusing on it, even through sympathetic therapy, was not helpful because it only magnified my anger and disgust at my boyfriend's perfidy, and I have distrusted therapy of any kind for any reason ever since (probably an overreaction). So I am not surprised that support groups failed you.

"My coping mechanism was to infiltrate the lives of my friends, and my path to healing, as it were, really started one sad and lonely Friday night when I called one of my former roommates for sympathy. Before I could launch into my endless woe is me loop, she apologized for not having been in touch, but she had been spending all of her time with her family after her brother, her super achieving, super sweet and generous baby brother, died in a military aircraft accident. I spent hours listening to her express a grief that dwarfed mine in every way imaginable... So complicated, so unfair... but time to start letting go of the pure victim's sorrow that was sustaining me less and less well every day, and to move on. There were so many other people who were so much more deserving of what I could give.

"I went to church the entire time... I was so grateful for the routine that I often went two or three times a week... Even though I felt desperate, I tried to live a chaste life. I did volunteer work assisting families of critically sick and injured people. I took my dog for long walks.

"I hope you continue to heal..."

The other is from "Miriam," and concerns my August 1 piece entitled My Charismatic Moment:

"I must tell you how moved I was after reading your post 'My Charismatic Moment.' I completely understand what you mean and have had several instances of discernment myself (particularly during my teenage years) that, in retrospect, I feel saved me from some untold danger. I have always felt it was the presence of the Holy Spirit. I have no other explanation. Like you, I suffered depression in high school and off and on for most of my life. Like you, July 18 is a sad day for me as my father passed away that day, and though it has been 17 years, the memories are very fresh. I enjoy reading what you write as you are so honest in your revelations about yourself. That is so rare nowadays. Anyway, thank-you for sharing. Your contributions are meaningful to many of us out here in cyberland..."

Well... not everybody. "Peter" takes exception to the same piece:

"Am I to understand that my sister was abused because the Holy Spirit chose not to give her the gift of discernment? Or maybe that my parents did not do a good job as catechists? Please, some compassion for those who are victims through no fault of their own, and certainly not because God or their parents failed to protect them."

This reader seems to wonder why some people suffer, while others do not. That is the mystery, really; one that is in God's hands, requiring our faith that all will be done according to His Will. Granted, it is not as easy in practice as it is in theory. I took great care to acknowledge as much in my piece:

"The young men listed as victims would have been young boys the same time as me. Their emotional state at the time was much like my own. I remembered 'Tom,' and his attempt to become familiar with me. What could have happened? Had it been for the worst, what spared me? I was no more astute than those other boys. Why was I spared and not them?"
By asking the questions, "Peter," I admit to not having the answers. To put my own experience in the proper perspective, I added the following:

"I can never pretend to share the fate of those who fell victim to a sexual predator. Nor can I pretend that my own experience did not happen."
I am at a loss as to how much clearer I can be.

Sunday, August 04, 2002

Suppose they had a dialogue and nobody came?

According to Amy Welborn, the following was posted to the message board of the Voice of the Faithful at 4:44 am, Sat Aug 3):

"The board has been hit with what David Alexander calls 'The Haffner Wars.' David has recruited members of his blogspot websites to register and post on our messageboard. Many of these posts are caustically sarcastic, discourteous, and opposed to a speaker at the VOTF conference.

"The whole thread for one of David's topics, has been moved to the delete board. Posts in regard to this messageboard decision will not be accepted. Inquiries to admin. about this thread will not be answered. The board may go on view only for an extended period of time. The possibility of shutting the board down is being seriously considered."

It's amazing how much one man can accomplish when he's over an hour's drive from his computer. I've been out of town much of the weekend. I don't remember any recruitment drive on my part, although I know Mark Shea has been encouraging his readers to join the discussion at the VOTF board (Way to go, Mark. You da man, you da man...). I have no control over the behavior of others. Considering how I was treated by a few of my detractors in that forum (select quotations available upon request), it appears the board monitors didn't have much control either. Besides, much of the "discourteous" behavior started only when the discussion was being censored.

Of course, the board monitors eventually "had no choice" but to close down what was becoming a level playing field, with a flow of information and scope of opinion beyond their control. Pete Vere offers an astute analysis.

Other voices in the blogosphere are commenting as well; Kathy Shaidle (posted 10:43 am, Fri Aug 2), Mike Hardy (Hey, Mike, what's with all the second guessing? You want the real deal on this, you know where to find me!), and Steve Schultz ("Some voices not welcome..." posted Sat Aug 3).

The people in charge of the forum cannot lie about what happened. During much of the time in question, they had an audience far greater and far more attentive than they could have imagined or regulated. Some "voices" stay silent, and thus speak volumes. And the Truth always has the last word.

Thus says the Book of Proverbs: "He that troubleth his own house shall inherit the wind..."

Now, if you'll excuse me, I hear a fais-do-do in the distance, and I have to go find my dancin' shoes!

Friday, August 02, 2002

Rounding third, and headed for home...

...but not before we check the movie schedule. This weekend's pick will be either Signs or K-19: The Widowmaker. Come Sunday evening, saddle up the horses, we're goin' dancin'! Eh toi!!!
"You'll come and find the place where I am lying, and kneel and say an 'Ave' there for me..."

For all you Dominicans and other lovers of the Rosary out there, we get this letter from Sandra:

"Yes, the rosary was once prayed with versicles--in the 15th C when it was getting invented. And there was an attempt to revive this as the 'Scriptural Rosary' in the 1960s. But the rosary as we have it with those mysteries, is the one that survived out of scores of proposed forms. There's an interesting recent book on this, STORIES OF THE ROSE by Anne Winston-Allen, based on her doctoral thesis with lots of illustrations of the old prayer sheets."

A click on the title/author links to the book in question at Amazon.com, complete with eighteen sample pages. Thanks, Sandra.
Caring and Sharing in Action

Yesterday's account entitled My Charismatic Moment, was posted today on the message board of the Boston-based Voice of the Faithful. It warranted this response, from some doddering old fool identified only as "grandpaw7":

"I suppose that by "would-be 'reformers'" David means VOTF, though I am always inclined to question the propriety of speaking by innuendo instead of saying what you really mean. Was it the Holy Spirit who told David that these reformers were blissfully ignoring God? Where does he come by this inside information? Could it be that the Holy Spirit has blessed David with psychic powers? Or could it be that David is just blowing smoke?

"I have a healthy skepticism toward those who claim the Holy Spirit singled them out for special treatment to the exclusion of thousands of others. To say the Holy Spirit came to David's rescue is to say the Holy Spirit abandoned thousands of others to a different fate. I view it as part of the great mystery, as part of the ineffability of God, something we cannot explain by saying God singled me out for special treatment."

Nowhere did I claim to know why I was singled out to be spared any worse fate than another. And yet, in their excessive zeal to censor any posts critical of either their agenda or various policy decisions, the vanguards of compassion currently in charge of the VOTF discussion group, have absolutely no problem tolerating such callous remarks, in the face of a young man's traumatic experiences. (As this is written, the old coot is still defending his position.)

Now I know how Norma McCorvey must have felt.
Nailed by Nihil!

The following correction was graciously provided by nihil obstat. It was corrected. (To answer your question, nihil, I guess it was missing because somebody... well, drank it.)

Thursday, August 01, 2002

My Charismatic Moment

It was about thirty years ago. I was a senior in high school back in Cincinnati, and very fortunate to be enrolled in the advanced-placement "Humanities" class. There were about fifty of us, juniors and seniors, the best and the brightest, in a course that combined the study of religion, language arts, and social studies.

It also meant attending, once again, a retreat at the Jesuit Renewal Center outside the city. Having already fulfilled such a requirement in my junior year, I had some idea of what to expect.

One of those expectations was an older priest, to whom I will refer here as "Tom Overbeck." "Call me Tom," he told the boys the previous year. As monitor for my group session then, he loved to "relate" to the guys with rather crude talk about girls -- "Right now you must be saying to yourself, wouldn't you like to *** her?" -- as if to make some point regarding interpersonal relations.

There he was once again, during my senior year, as monitor for my small group, which included about eight young men and women.

I was in the beginnings of what I now know, to be a long bout of chronic depression, one that would last for most of my senior year. This was in the days when "Snap out of it!" was the counsel of choice for parents and physicians alike. There was physical and emotional abuse at home, as my father was coming to grips with his diagnosis of multiple sclerosis. I had (at the risk of sounding cliché) very low self-esteem, and held little hope for my future place in the world. These factors obviously rendered me vulnerable. After one of those sessions, "Tom" came over to me, and gave me a big hug. You know, the kind that make you really uncomfortable after about twenty seconds. He asked why I was having so much trouble opening up in the group. Failing to give him a satisfactory answer, he invited me to visit him in his room later that evening to explore this issue further.

I didn't take him up on his offer. But that wasn't the end of it.

At the close of the retreat -- which was predominated by experimental liturgies, staying up until all hours, and young Jesuits complaining about their vow of celibacy -- all of us gathered in a circle. There we were; the students, the retreat staff, the faculty who served as "chaperones." We were reminded that, once we re-entered the world, we would meet others who would not appreciate the gravity of the experience we shared at that place. We were then counseled not to feel obliged to go into too much detail with those who might not understand, even our own parents.

I was reading about the scandals of clerical sexual abuse twenty years later, in the early 1990s. The young men listed as victims would have been young boys the same time as me. Their emotional state at the time was much like my own. I remembered "Tom," and his attempt to become familiar with me. What could have happened? Had it been for the worst, what spared me? I was no more astute than those other boys. Why was I spared and not them?

My answer came, not from a priest, or even a Catholic, but from an Protestant evangelical who was active in the charismatic movement. He told me that what I experienced was the gift of discernment. The Holy Spirit was warning me that there was danger present.

For all their faults, my parents had succeeded as my first Catechists, if only for that perilous moment. In all my wanderings, both in the world and in the Faith, I have remained a Catholic of the "old school" at heart. I can never pretend to share the fate of those who fell victim to a sexual predator. Nor can I pretend that my own experience did not happen.

For all the hoopla about "reforming" the Church, I am perfectly safe in maintaining, that neither a loosening of Church teaching or discipline, nor the onset of lay supervision (never mind one occasionally looking the other way), will necessarily provide for a cure. It must come from a Higher Place -- one that certain would-be "reformers" would blissfully ignore, in their mad dash for what they imagine to be power. My experience proves that they do so to their peril. None of them, for all their credentials and attention in the press, could ever convince me otherwise. I was there for the Feast of Fools thirty years ago. None of their solutions would have saved me then. They will not save our children now.
Aves Revisited

According to John da Diesole of Disputations, I believe that "the older form of the Rosary -- where different clausulae were recited for each Ave, rather than the 'second half' of the 'Hail Mary' ('Holy Mary, Mother of God,....') -- is worth restoring."

Well, that wasn't exactly what I said. I was referring to another method, that of each Hail Mary preceeded by it own versicle and response. I'll give you an example, from the first bead of the First Joyful Mystery:

V: The angel Gabriel was sent by God to a virgin;
R: and the virgin's name was Mary.
Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee...

The Hail Mary would continue in its conventional form, including the ending: "Holy Mary, Mother of God..."

Then on to the second bead:

V: "Rejoice, so highly favored!
R: The Lord is with you."
Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee...

And so on.

More information on this form of the rosary can be found both here and here.
Ignorance is... Wedded Bliss?

Gregory Popcak appears to be astonished at the farce that marriage preparation has become, and gives an excellent accounting of both problem and solution. Why don't people take a closer look at this aspect of the problem? Well, Greg, it's easier to make scapegoats of everybody who ever petitioned for an annulment. That way, we can avoid dealing with the root of the problem, especially if we are among those primarily responsible (Your Excellency, are you listening?).

It's the old "pick on the little guy" approach, Greg. Surely you must have noticed.
This just in...

The Divine Miss Emily gets a better offer.
Aves Reconsidered

John da Fiesole of Disputations relates Flos Carmeli's comments, on what some might consider the "dreariness" of the rosary.

Many of us who attended Catholic schools up until the 1960s, remember the Angelus, and how we learned it. At noon, the church bells would sound and all activity on the playground would stop. We would pray to ourselves the versicle and response:

"The angel of the Lord declared unto Mary / and she was conceived of the Holy Spirit. Hail Mary, full of grace..." There were two verses with responses after that one.

But consider how the rosary was once prayed, in a manner like that, for all 150 "Aves." A verse and response for each, memorized by Everyman, to contemplate the entire saga of redemption. This is one devotion that was dumbed down years ago. I propose bringing it back. One of my projects on the drawing board, is a labyrinth that comprises the entire fifteen decade rosary. On each "bead" is the appropriate versicle and response.


Tuesday, July 30, 2002

"I love it when a plan comes together." (Revisited)

Miss Stimpson (God forbid this flower of Catholic womanhood should ever be addressed as "Ms"!) comes back at Victor Lams of Et Cetera with a five-point plan for the reform of the Church.

Either is preferable to "traveling to Boston for a pep rally." But the dear lady seriously underestimates the movement of those who "quit their jobs, pack up their house, leave their friends and move to Steubenville." The counrtyside to the west of that fair city has become the seeding ground for a Catholic agrarian movement, comprised mostly of homeschooling families. This is particularly the case in the next county over, Harrison, one of the poorest per capita in Ohio. You can count on one hand the number of traffic lights. And the greatest sign of urban encroachment to date, is the plan to build a Kroger supermarket just outside of Cadiz, the county seat.

But the greatest sign of hope is a little town known as, appropriately enough, Hopedale. There was this woman who was found to have breast cancer. Living on the products from a small farm, combined with a subsistance income, she and her husband were without health insurance. The town held a spaghetti dinner at the local firehouse, with a silent auction and who-knows-what-all, to raise enough money for her treatment. These kind folk did the same once again, for a mother and daughter with identical brain tumors. I was there.

I'm not making this up, Miss Emmy. Wanna go for a drive?
Nineteen Fifty-Seven

According to a friend, these were comments actually overheard during the year in question:

"I'll tell you one thing, if things keep going the way they are, it's going to be impossible to buy a week's groceries for $20." 

"Have you seen the new cars coming out next year? It won't be long before $2000 will only buy a used one." 

"If cigarettes keep going up in price, I'm going to quit. A quarter a pack is ridiculous." 

"Did you hear the post office is thinking about charging a dime just to mail a letter?" 

"If they raise the minimum wage to $1, nobody will be able to hire outside help at the store." 

"When I first started driving, who would have thought gas would someday cost 29 cents a gallon. Guess we'd be better off leaving the car in the garage." 

"Kids today are impossible. Those duck tail hair cuts make it impossible to stay groomed. Next thing you know, boys will be wearing their hair as long the girls." 

"I'm afraid to send my kids to the movies any more. Ever since they let Clark Gable get by with saying 'damn' in 'Gone With The Wind,' it seems every new movie has either 'hell' or 'damn' in it." 

"I read the other day where some scientist thinks it's possible to put a man on the moon by the end of the century. They even have some fellows they call 'astronauts' preparing for it down in Texas." 

"Did you see where some baseball player just signed a contract for $75,000 a year just to play ball? It wouldn't surprise me if someday they'll be making more than the president." 

"I never thought I'd see the day all our kitchen appliances would be electric. They are even making electric typewriters now." 

"It's too bad things are so tough nowadays. I see where a few married women are having to work to make ends meet." 

"It won't be long before young couples are going to have to hire someone to watch their kids so they can both work." 

"Marriage doesn't mean a thing any more; those Hollywood stars seem to be getting divorced at the drop of a hat." 

"I'm just afraid the Volkswagen car is going to open the door to a whole lot of foreign business." 

"Thank goodness I won't live to see the day when the Government takes half our income in taxes. I sometimes wonder if we are electing the best people to congress." 

"The drive-in restaurant is convenient in nice weather, but I seriously doubt they will ever catch on." 

"There is no sense going to Lincoln or Omaha anymore for a weekend. It costs nearly $15 a night to stay in a hotel." 

"No one can afford to be sick any more; $35 a day in the hospital is too rich for my blood." 

"If they think I'll pay 50 cents for a hair cut, forget it."

Looking back:

• some girls now want their hair as short as that of the boys,

• drive-in restaurants never really did catch on, and

• a one-day stay in a hospital still costs me only $35 -- after insurance.
Crashing Through Windows

Rod Dreher of the National Review learns the lesson that Macintosh users have known for years. They can make it look like a Mac, walk like a Mac, and talk like a Mac. Ultimately, however, a Windows platform still sits on a DOS.
Somewhere over the Internet...

...is a web page with hundreds of "guy walks into a bar" jokes. Until then, this collection from Mark Shea will suffice.

Monday, July 29, 2002

"I love it when a plan comes together."

(-- Colonel Hannibal Smith, from the television series The A Team)

This nine-point plan to combat the current scandals in the Church can be measured up to any nine-day novena on the books. After all, none of them include the use of a shotgun or a pick-up truck. Lock and load, boys!
Prime Time

The Liturgy of the Hours (also known as The Divine Office) is one of the official prayers of the Church -- the other being the Mass itself -- that lives up to the Scripture verse: "Seven times a day shall I praise Thee." Once the domain of priests and monastics, the modern era has extended its use to the rest of us.

Sursum Corda gives an overview of the LOTH, and a summary of its contemporary use by the laity.

John DaFiesole of Disputations laments the suppression of the Office of Prime, the prayer of the "first hour." He makes his case in a first, a second, a third, and a fourth entry.

Subsequently, Father Tucker of Dappled Things explains the reasoning behind its supression.

Disputations also proposes a "Microbreviary" -- that is, an abbreviated form of the Hours for common use.

I propose two alternatives that are already in print. One can eventually be memorized for the entire day. "Daily Devotions" appears in a section of the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer. This can be found online by going to this page, and scrolling down to a place just after page 136, to where it says "Daily Devotions for Families and Individuals." It is also found in the back of a handy little black date book produced by Morehouse Publications. I've been using this type of date book for the last several years.

There is another more comprehensive alternative, published monthly as Magnificat. This little booklet combines for each day, a simplified version of morning and evening prayer, with the Mass texts for that day. Included are reflections from the writings of the Saints and others, plus general articles on the spiritual life. Also available is a leatherette cover with ribbon markers.

With so many of the official English translations of liturgical texts in a state of flux, this is the one to get.

Magnificat: the breviary for the rest of us!
"Monday morning, it was all I hoped it would be..."

...especially since I got a seat on the Metro this morning. It's the only good thing about spending August in DC.

Anyway, my best friend and I went to see a movie, Lilo and Stitch. Pretty good stuff. Then we planted a tree -- my first since my Boy Scouting days.

Sunday was a hot one. But I went to see Zydeco Crayz anyway. To my astonishment, my son elected to join me. So my friends got to meet him. He had a few observations about the zydeco scene in general. But since most of them had to do with me, they cannot be printed here. Sorry.

Sunday, July 28, 2002

Random Thoughts During the Interlude

Amidst the merriment that comes from being around friends and others, there are the quiet moments. They often occur to me after Mass on Sunday morning, or elsewhere when the music stops.

During one of them, I thought of a dear friend of mine, who is going through a difficult period. We have become very close, and with the changes to our lives, come the inevitable tensions that arise when paths are at risk of diverging. I remembered that friend at Mass today, in the hopes that all would be well.

I thought of my friend Lou, who died of cancer earlier this month. As the reality sets in, I realize just how much of a gap he left behind. I keep thinking of the things I wanted to ask him.

Imagine Christ losing most of his following (Gospel of John, chapter 6) when He lost most of his followers, because He told them what they didn't want to hear. Imagine Him then on the cross, after most of His dearest friends deserted Him outright. If we love someone, we must sooner or later deal with losing them. All of us, both in entering this world in the beginning, and leaving this world at the end, face that passageway alone. In such moments, "God alone suffices."

Friday, July 26, 2002

This weekend...

...I'll be up to my usual no good, starting at a place by the Bay in Baltimore. Then there's more zydeco on Sunday, both in the afternoon and in the evening. In between, I think I'll go see a movie. But (sigh!) which one?
"Even a stopped clock is right twice a day."

Father Jim Tucker of Dappled Things discovers (much to his astonishment I'm sure) that Notre Dame theologian Father Richard McBrien is right about something after all. Reading the piece referred to by "Don Jim," I ask myself, why can't McBrien be this insightful when he's on CNN, and spare us the usual ideological harangues?
Better Living Through Chemistry

As one of 20 million Americans who suffers from some form of depression, I read with some interest the discovery by Mr Popcak, of a University of Connecticut study which shows that "the class of mood enhancing drugs called selective-seratonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI) that include prozac may not actually do any more than taking a placebo."

Well, Greg, I tried Prozac for three weeks. I'm willing to bet a sizable amount of money, that a placebo wouldn't give me the jitters, as if I drank ten cups of coffee a day.

I'm not prepared to state that medication is the answer for everybody. But for those of us (I'd say... oh, roughly twenty percent) who put off such solutions for years while we tried damn near everything else, there is hope through modern medicine.
More enthusiasm!

John Mallon gives us his two-part account, written ten years ago, about the co-existence of traditionalists versus charismatics at Franciscan University of Steubenville. It is defiinitely worth reading for all you Steubenville-watchers out there. As for you, John, if you really want to know about someone who's "without a clue," look no further than here.

Thursday, July 25, 2002

VOTF Watch

"Show me the money!"

...and guitars. The enthusiasm over... well, enthusiasm, continues.
Somebody out there...

...had the audacity to take my comments on the charismatic movement at face value, rather than read all kinds of things into them. Nice to know I'm in good company with the likes of Msgr Knox. (Lest anyone get the wrong impression, I was not a student at Steubenville, though I have a number of friends in the area -- even now.)
True Confessions...

...from Kathy Shaidle in Toronto.
Keep those cards and letters coming!

In the face of adversity, the MWBH Mailroom is bulging with fan mail. Here's a piece from a student at Notre Dame:

Dear Mr. Man With Black Hat,

Have enjoyed your blog, though one thing did come to mind recently. In terms of Latin Masses, one mass per month means Steubenville is light-years ahead of U Notre Dame, which is where I go to school (I hope to be an architect and build churches that look like real churches, not Mormon ice-cream cones or flight hangars). While we have a fine traditional choral program with wonderful Latin motets and incense and a pipe-organ, we only have a real, honest-to-goodness Latin mass once every YEAR! Odd the way it's worked out.

Also, regarding occasionally accompanying the mass with a guitar, it may not be incompatible with Latin, chants and a traditional mass. One just has to watch where one's going. While it's rather obscure, there's a long history of Latin ecclesial choral works accompanied by stringed instruments, including...yes...guitars. One can find lute and mandolins accompanying Venetian polychoral works and even the occasional guitar for liturgical settings of psalms from 16th century Mexico. It actually sounds pretty good, which astonished me.

Of course, the strings are partially covered up by recorders, shawms, sackbutts--fear not, it's a sort of mediaeval trombone--and continuo, but it's still there. However, the music has, unlike most contemporary "hymns," the advantage of a) being old b) being polyphonic c) having sackbutts--I love saying that word--and d) most importantly, *not* being written by Marty Haugen.

Ah, yes. Fascinating commentary on the liturgical use of guitar and other instruments. I'm not above using a pennywhistle and a bodhran (an Irish drum made from a pigskin stretched over a sieve) when I'm on the job. I go for doin' the Celtic thing. Mr Schultz, are you taking notes?

The reader had one more question:

And why are you The Man With Black Hat? Is that like Zorro?

No, sir. It's more like Johnny Cash, "The Man in Black." Listen to his song about why the country music artist wears that color. You get the idea.

Now then, we have another one, from fellow St Blog parishioner Mr Dave Pawlak:

I grew up around charismatic prayer groups in the '70's, as my mother went to them. I read about some of the things going on the the 80's (by then, my mom had moved on to becoming more active in her own parish), and I "re-entered" the movement in the mid-90's, when I joined a prayer group which had a charismatic aspect to it. So I do know something about the movement.

Do I have reservations about the Charismatic Movement? Definitely. I've run across people who think you're not a complete Christian unless you've received the gift of tongues, despite what St. Paul said about the matter. Some boast about their particular "gift" (which makes me wonder). And there is a tendency to attract some rather mentally unstable people, or at least people who have a tendency to take things to extremes. They've flitted from Charismatic Renewal to questionable apparitions to Integrist Traditionalism (check out http://www.DailyCatholic.org for an example of the latter).

OTOH, I think that the younger folks in the Movement have more balance. They've learned from the errors of their forebears (by and large), and want the emphasis on Catholic rather than Charismatic. That means not equating prayer meetings with Mass, nor mixing the two together; no apologies or downplay regarding hard doctrine and belief; and a realization that the Movement is not the be-all and end-all --- that it is simply one spirituality among others. And many of the older folks (including my own mother) have credited the Movement with helping them become better Catholics. They may no longer attend prayer groups, but they've moved on into other things as faithful members of Christ's Body.

One last thing on gifts: One evening, at prayer group, my mother was asked to pray with a troubled young woman. As Mom was sitting with her, she silently prayed, and wondered what was wrong with this woman, why she had so many troubles. Suddenly, Mom looked up and said, "All because your mother died and you had to raise your brothers and sisters......". She knew nothing of this woman's past. But it was true. Scared my mother no end, since she didn't ask for this.

I'm sure Mr Pawlak will agree that no discussion on this matter would be complete without our friend Mr Pete Vere writing on "The Trentecostal Experience."

Thanks for writing, everyone. Keep 'em coming.