Friday, August 30, 2002

"And I can't help but wonder where I'm bound..."

Johnstown, a small city an hour's drive east of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, has been known primarily for one thing, and that is the terrible "Johnstown Flood" of 1889. During the centennial year, they introduced an "Ethnic Heritage Festival" on Labor Day weekend, in the Cambria City neighborhood. The following year, it was combined with the "National Folk Festival." Sponsored by the National Council for the Traditional Arts, the annual National event is held in one location for three years, then moves on to another, leaving a local event in its wake. The result has been the Johnstown FolkFest, which I have usually attended since its inception. This year will be no exception. My friend and I are going to go see Terrance Simien and the Mallet Playboys, one of the first zydeco bands I ever encountered. In addition, there's also a big favorite of my son Paul, that band of non-electric mauraders from Austin, Texas, The Asylum Street Spankers. And while we're at it, we'll catch some of the local action, including blues, swing, gospel, and ethnic cooking.
In Search of Belloc

Mark Cameron sets the record straight on a poem attributed to the English writer Hillaire Belloc, one that has become popular among many traditional Catholics. It seems that he never wrote the following:

"Wherever the Catholic sun doth shine,
there's music, and laughter, and good red wine.
At least I've always found it so,
Benedicamus Domino"

He really should have, though.
Imprimatur by Martin Roth

Well, boys and girls, it's official. I'm now among the "blogs4God," having been included on Mr Roth's "Semi-Definitive" list. Find me under "journals."

Thursday, August 29, 2002

Memo to Father Thomas Doyle

In today's Boston Globe, you tell us a little of yourself, and the role you played in combatting clerical sexual abuse:

"I was ordained a priest in 1970. I became the canon lawyer at the Vatican Embassy in Washington in 1981. I believed in the good of the church in 1984, when two colleagues - a priest-psychiatrist and a civil attorney - collaborated with me on a 100-page document advising the bishops on steps to take to halt the damage caused by pedophile priests. Our report was ignored... Most of my early confidence in the hierarchical system has been shattered by my experiences with sexual abuse victims. Why, many ask, do you stay? Fundamental to my motivation is a belief that the church really is the body of Christ and not a string of fiefdoms belonging to bishops. I believe that in Christ's view, the most important people are the disenfranchised and rejected, not bishops and cardinals. I learned about faith, courage, and persistence from the victims-turned-survivors. The awareness spurred on by the survivors has awakened the laity. The most visible show of concern is an organization known as Voice of the Faithful."

You won't get an argument on the last sentence there, Father. They've certainly been visible. Let's keep reading, though...

"Voice of the Faithful's existence is solidly justified in the Code of Canon Law, Roman Catholic theology, and the documents of the Second Vatican Council. This notwithstanding, the lay group's simple agenda apparently is a threat to some bishops as well as to some self-described orthodox Catholics. However, the bishops and others who have been so critical and judgmental have betrayed true orthodoxy by failing to engage in dialogue or discussion with Voice of the Faithful. They simply decided that its agenda was against the interests of their own power."

Whoa, back up the truck, Padre!!!

First of all, if VOTF's existence is "solidly justified in the Code..." and whatever, so is that of any "self-described orthodox Catholics," especially if the latter are correct in pointing out how the former has misled people up to this time.

"Voice of the Faithful is a movement of lay people who are authentic, thinking members of the Catholic Church. They are disgusted by the abuse scandal and the bishops' failure to protect our youth. It took an avalanche of negative publicity caused by a couple of thousand lawsuits for these bishops and the self-styled guardians of orthodoxy to wake up and smell the spiritual stench. This mess started in 1984, but it was not until 2002 that the real awakening happened. That's a 17-year delayed reaction, spurred not by their own consciences but by the courts and the secular media."

Soooo... Your solution is to call on the advice of Debra Haffner, a former president of SEICUS and former Planned Parenthood official, as well as Anthony Massimini, who flat-out lies about the Church's teachings on human sexuality and the role of women in the Church. (Go ahead, make me prove it. I dare ya...) Maybe it's not YOUR solution, but it's the one upon which VOTF has relied so far.

You still wanna call that "authentic"?

"The arguments against Voice of the Faithful are a smokescreen. The real issue is power. Voice of the Faithful is a reaction to the horror of sexual abuse and the betrayal of trust that came with it. It has nothing to do with dissent on women's ordination, birth control, or letting priests marry."

Wanna look again? They could have stopped at their outrage over "bishops breaking the most basic rules of moral conduct time and time again." But they didn't, Father. VOTF has indeed been a platform for promoting "dissent on women's ordination, birth control, or letting priests marry." It is a matter of public record, to be found among the "recommended reading" on their own website.

Repeating this is not a "smokescreen." It is the Truth.

That is why some of those "self-described orthodox Catholics" to which you refer (and I suspect you would have labeled Catherine of Siena no differently), have been busy trying to reason with VOTF leaders. Why? Maybe it's because we too are reacting to "the horror of sexual abuse and the betrayal of trust that came with it." Maybe we too believe that "the church really is the body of Christ and not a string of fiefdoms belonging to bishops." (Is there an echo on the Internet?)

We've had conference calls. We've had e-mail exchanges. By the grace of God, and a sense of genuine humility among a few of them, they've been starting to listen.

"What's at stake is way beyond the mind games and wordy debates over authentic orthodoxy."

And what would that be?

"Orthodoxy" is from the Greek, meaning "right belief." Are you suggesting that "right belief" would not have prevented the grave sin of sodomizing young boys? Isn't that what YOU claimed to be about in your 1984 report?

You know where to find me.
Vas you effer in Zinzinnati???

Mark Sullivan takes pains to point out that, since Sam Adams is brewed in Cincinnati, there is no point to be gained against anti-Catholicism by boycotting the Boston Brewing Company.

Take heart, Mark. Cincinnati is, to this day, the motherland of German Catholicism, and the home of a number of fine breweries. My kid brother kept a stash of Schoenling's Little Kings Cream Ale throughout his college years. I should also mention that the "Queen City of the West" is home to my favorite hard cider, Hard Core, one of the few made without preservatives (although they stopped making the dark variety, but not before I started hoarding supplies).

By now, Mr Vere is fuming -- no doubt in preparation for extolling the natural superiority of Canadian brews. Go ahead, sonny boy. Do your worst!
Hands Across The Pew

Father Robert Johansen wants to know what we all make of this:

"In my parish, we have introduced, in the past couple of weeks, the practice of inviting the congregation to stand up and greet/introduce themselves to their neighbors in the pews before Mass begins... The way it works is this: the cantor stands up at the cantor's lectern and says something like: 'Welcome to St. Joseph Catholic Church. As we begin our celebration, let us rise and take a moment to greet Christ in one another.' After a minute or so of this, the cantor then announces the opening hymn and the processional begins... I should point out that this practice was not introduced at my behest. I'm just the associate here..."

Uh-huh. And I'm just the Pope. I can't get my bishops to listen. We all seem so powerless these days, don't we?

My territorial parish is like this (which is why I left for a REAL one). I could have my nose right in the missal, and the pastor would shove his hand right in my face. Oh yeah, now THERE'S a way to build bridges!

From what I've been reading so far, the following should come as a shocking bit of news to some of you at St Blog's:

This is not a matter of likes or dislikes. There is a centuries-long tradition of silent preparation before Mass, one that is reinforced in the newly-revised General Instruction of the Roman Missal. Our "community" is built around the Eucharist, not the back-slapping of boneheads who wouldn't cross their freshly-manicured lawns to do you a favor.

We have created an artificial suburban culture, producing the mentality that an artificial act of "fellowship" will somehow turn into something real. At the former parish I mentioned, it was all I could do for the pastor or the staff to return a damn phone call. I'm glad I never needed the Last Rites.

Wednesday, August 28, 2002

"The (Olympic) torch has been passed..."

The Washington Post reports today that the Baltimore-Washington area has lost its bid to host the 2012 Summer Olympics.

"Chairman Charles H. Moore said that his team today discussed substantively for the first time their concern that the IOC might harbor resentment toward Washington on political grounds, including talk of a possible U.S. invasion of Iraq and Congress's 1999 questioning of IOC then-president Juan Antonio Samaranch and other officials over the Salt Lake City Olympic bribery scandal."

Thank God!

Of course, DC Mayor Anthony Williams "could not conceal his disappointment."

Yo! Your Honor! Have you ever tried to get across this God-forsaken town of yours? Hell, you probably haven't had to open your own car door since you got that job! There's no direct route across town, mister. At some point you've gotta get off one interstate and get on another, after going through a couple of lights and maybe some unexpected dumb-ass roadblock. (Example: The easiest thing in the world to do would be to build a direct exit ramp from the Anacostia Freeway westbound to Pennsylvania Avenue westbound. But do we do that? Noooooooo!!!)

And you wanna bring the Olympics here? As it currently stands, they already couldn't pave enough of the mid-Atlantic to accommodate the traffic.

Then there's the price of housing! My God, man, we can't all inherit Marion Berry's old cash cow! Some of us have to decide whether to move to West Virginia and spend two hours on a train just to have a front lawn. You think it'll get any cheaper once the Big Games move in? And please don't tell me about job opportunities. There are already plenty of low-paying service jobs that citizens of African and Latin American descent have to shuffle to, one after the other, before they each go home to their over-priced slum-lord's dream that's gonna be torn down in the next two years for yet another set of "luxury apartment homes." (My goodness, where are all our maids going to live?)

You got bigger fish to fry, old man. First, get on the damn ballot. You may be the best mayor this city has had in years (which isn't saying a lot, but it's saying something).

Then fire all of Berry's distant relatives/old drinking buddies/drug contacts/horse-betting agents still languishing on the payroll. (Save some time; look into the Division of Motor Vehicles first.)

Then, after you get re-elected (and as one who's never voted Democratic, even I think you've got a shot), try and make the inner city livable for the average human being.

You'll get more than a Gold Medal, Your Honor. You'll make history.

It's not the end of the world. Just ask Tony Kornheiser.
Inquiring minds want to know...

John Augustine (aka Amphibious Goat) wants to know: "Can anyone explain to me why St. John tends to look like a girl in Western Catholic art?"

Well, any male youth with no facial hair might look a bit effeminate next to a bunch of old grizzly-bearded guys. Tradition holds that John was a very young man at the time of Christ -- which might occur to those who also know that John was the last surviving apostle.
Everyone else at St Blog's was doing it, so...

I was once told that my spirituality was Benedictine, and my theology was Dominican. One out of two ain't bad.

what's your order?

Tuesday, August 27, 2002

VOTF Watch: A Meeting of Minds

I was on a conference call last Sunday night. Victor Lams of et cetera has saved me the trouble of going into detail. My fifteen-minutes of fame continues to be stretched to the limit. Thanks to HMS Blog for posting this summary.
The Diocese of Arlington: Knee-Deep in Orthodoxy

This story was already common knowledge to many Catholics in Northern Virginia, due in part to not every Catholic in Manassas living in a constant state of denial, as well as a report by the Illinois-based Roman Catholic Faithful. It was only a matter of time before the Washington Post would decide there was a story in all of this:

"The Rev. James A. Verrecchia, once regarded by his fellow priests as the 'golden boy' of the Arlington Diocese, no longer serves as the All Saints pastor. Nancy Lambert, a nurse and mother of four whose religious beliefs seemed to deepen as she entered her late thirties, can no longer be found in her regular pew. And her husband, Jim, a gourmet food salesman, isn't around anymore to help out at parish fund-raising suppers... When the trio abruptly stopped coming to All Saints in early 2000, parishioners were never told why. Verrecchia, church officials said, was taking an open-ended 'leave of absence.' Some who worked at the church or lived near the Lamberts suspected the reason. Others found out on the parish grapevine, and were angry and dispirited by what they heard: Their beloved priest had left his vocation after 17 years to marry Nancy Lambert, who was pregnant with their child... Not surprisingly, given the intimate nature of the scandal, diocesan officials have preferred to keep as many details about events at All Saints, including their own response to them, hidden in a shroud of secrecy..."

All for "the good of the Church," no doubt.

Thursday, August 22, 2002

Coming Attractions

I'll be out tomorrow (Friday), and traveling for much of the weekend. I've been known to stop in at public libraries along the way, and check in on the blogosphere. But in real life, there is dancing to be done. We have zydeco on Friday, and salsa on Saturday. While I'm at it, I hope to pack a laptop along, and write about "What I Did On My Summer Vacation(s)." Till then, please check out the swimming pool full of nuns doing the Macarena.

Thought I was making it up, huh?
Things For Which We Never Have Enough Time... the Nation's capital.
I Was A "Charity Case"

Karl Schudt thinks he has it bad.

Today he reminisces about the Adrian Dominicans who shaped him in his formative years. He laments what has become of them.

Like most of the Catholic schoolchildren in Archdiocese of Cincinnati, I was educated in grade school by the Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati, founded 150 years ago this year, when seven sisters left Mother Seton's original Emmitsburg location for "the Queen City of the West." I have come across a few scenes from their recent sesquicentennial convention. I direct your attention to the scene in the lower right hand corner. I thought liturgical dance was bad enough; did we ever think it could come to THIS???
Steubenville, Ohio: Den of Iniquity

(Emily, why didn't you tell us?)
HMS Blog: The Soap Opera Continues

Victor Lams of et cetera gives a brief account of life at Heart Mind and Strength. Between playing Yente for Miss Stimpson, and making Miss Bonnaci just a little nervous, it is clear that these people have way too much time on their hands.

(Still keeping my day job, by the way.)
It's the other way around, Mark!

Mark Sullivan of Ad Orientem appears to endorse the judgement of Rod Dreher, in quoting from his piece in the Wall Street Journal:

"It is hard to judge John Paul, because we don't know what he's had to fight behind the scenes. Still, I find it impossible any longer to give him the benefit of every doubt, as is the custom of many papal loyalists. John Paul must bear partial responsibility for the catastrophe that has befallen us."

Mr Dreher should be advised (to say nothing of Mark), that there are only 99 Swiss Guards. Even if there were more, it is unlikely that they could go jackbooting all over the world, knocking down chancery doors, just to get every errant bishop to listen to the Holy Father. As it is, he has been overheard to say that they do not, despite his pleas. And it has long been conventional wisdom, among some within the halls of the Vatican, that the church in North America is at least partially in a state of schism.

Personally, I'd like to see about two-thirds of the USA bishops turn in their mitres, those who have either committed or enabled the recently disclosed scandals. Then again, what would I do next? Beats the hell outa me!

To look into Church history of the last century, is to learn of those who did not believe that even Pius X himself did enough to quiet the Modernist heresy.

Mr Dreher comes off as a good guy, so I think a total stranger like myself could at least reason with him.

The Church doesn't need a bunch of armchair pundits. The Church needs us.

Viva il Papa! JP2, you da man, you da man!!!

Wednesday, August 21, 2002

What's that, you say? No "comments" section?

Oh yes, mon ami. I have such provisions here. It's in the blue box to the right. "You talkin' to me?"
Vic Meets Chick the infamous anti-Catholic tracts are transformed to extol the merits of hot dogs and beer. Chesterton and Belloc would be most pleased. And amused.
(Another) Memo to James Post, President of VOTF:

You really should stop talking to the press for awhile.

At least until you figure out what position to take, without having to back away from it later. Witness this priceless gem from today's edition of the Boston Globe:

"The letter is intended to be a response to the smear campaign that has begun to take shape," Post said. "People in our organization felt it was important to make clear that we are not a dissident group."

First, let's take a stroll over to our friend Mister Dictionary, shall we?


Verb: To stain or attempt to destroy the reputation of; vilify: political enemies who smeared. Noun: Vilification or slander, a vilifying or slanderous remark.


Noun: Oral communication of false statements injurious to a person's reputation, a false and malicious statement or report about someone.

My colleague Pete Vere is mincing no words on some disturbing parallels here:

"I still maintain they're following the same procedure as the bishops in handling abuse, with the so-called apology being the equivalent to what happened in Dallas... They say they want conservatives to come back to the table, it was just a big misunderstanding, etc... Yeah right. I will believe it when I see concrete action."

I'll be a little kinder.

You see, Mr Post, we don't have to make anything up about you guys. All we have to do, is show what's already on the internet to the whole world, and start connecting a few dots. There's no slander involved in telling the truth. There's hardly any sport in it either. It's as easy as holding up a mirror to someone. Like you guys think you can do with the bishops, capeesh?

So stop calling a press conference every time you don't like what you see.

Call us first. You know where to find us.

(Update: Mr Post, I'll make this easy for you. Start with Domenico Bettinelli. It's a local call.)
Two Months Later

I began this site on June 21 of this year.

Since then, I've made some new friends, and probably a few enemies I don't know about yet.

I didn't expect to comment on as many things Catholic as I have, but it seems there's a lot in the news for it, and I've done a little too much reading on the subject over the years, so... what the hell!

My archiving is a mess, so I have to put the whole kit-and-kaboodle (sp?) on one page until I figure out how things work, but at least the new color scheme is more readable. I have been corrected by nihil obstat on two occasions (Thanks, Charlie, if that's your name.), but have yet to be acknowledged by the alleged "Semi-Definitive List of Christian Blogs" known as blogs4God. (Oh, yes, they know about me alright.)

I have it on good authority that I've become a focal point for observation of the Boston-based group known as Voice of the Faithful, which shows you how desparate some people are for information.

I have received letters, from a few of you who have appreciated my stories. It seems that my anecdotes have been of some consolation. When the time comes, I have even more to share.

I'm far from a definitive source of news and commentary -- just "a song and dance man who is keeping his day job."

Gotta go. They're watching me. Stay tuned...

Tuesday, August 20, 2002

Memo to James Post, President of VOTF:

Regarding your statement of August 19 on being a "centrist" organization, be advised that nature abhors a vacuum. If the "center" is not more clearly defined, it will be defined for you. Recent decisions of your leadership, from which you have had to distance yourself (albeit not wholeheartedly), reflect an inability with regard to such definition.

It may be advisable at this point, to expand the range of expertise of which your leadership must avail itself.

You know where to find us.

(Update: An expansion on this matter is provided by Summa Contra Mundum.)

Friday, August 16, 2002

Contrary Mary Revisited

Tim Drake, who knows when his chain is being yanked, responds to my comment regarding the statue of the Blessed Mother at the new LA Cathedral (see previous day's entry):

"I will concede, however, that he does have a point regarding the lips. I grant that they may very well be the lips of one from the Holy Land. However, I'd have to part company with the hairdo and the androgynous look of Mary. I find it very uninspiring."


Maybe it's just our different tastes in women, Tim. Not to engage in impure thoughts (easily confused with being "inspiring"), but my preference in representations of the female, tends toward those with a discernable chest. Compare the example in question with the typical statue of Our Lady of Grace purchased at any Catholic supply store.

(And don't ask me to defend the hairdo; too artificially treated to be pure African.)

Thursday, August 15, 2002

Memo to Emily Stimpson:

Most girls would simply have their parents throw her a fancy-pants coming out party and call it a night. But not you, ohhhhhh no!
"Mary, Mary, quite contrary..."

All of St Blog's is a-buzz over the statue of the Blessed Mother that appears in front of the new Cathedral in Los Angeles. Now, let me be quite clear that I am no defender of the iconoclasm affecting the sacred art of the Church today. But it appears that at least some of the disappointment over her appearance, stems from her not being blond-haired, blue-eyed, Caucasian, and/or chest-less.

I will concede that she should have been depicted with a veil. On the other hand, I have observed that some ethnic groups do not require collagen in order to have full lips. This would include some of those originating in what we refer to as "The Holy Land."

Maybe a few of us simply need to get out of the house more often.
Chicken Little was wrong.

Mike Hardy is back, with a slice of life and living from Southern Arkansas.

Wednesday, August 14, 2002

The Score So Far: Rome, One; Dallas, Zero!

"VATICAN, Aug 14, 02 ( -- The Vatican will not grant approval to the norms adopted by the US bishops' conference for the discipline of sexual offenders, informed sources have told"
"Seems a good blog but hard for me to read..."

Will somebody find Gerard Serafin and tell him I changed the color scheme of my weblog? That way, he can think of another reason it's so hard to read.

Hell, sometimes it's all I can do to read it.
As long as we're dappling, Father...

...a few random thoughts on a recent subject in the hallowed halls of St Blog's.

Don Jim (Father Jim Tucker) has made some careful and thoughtful reflections on the liturgy -- Gregorian Chant and the Synagogue (I've got more on that for you, Father, so stay tuned...), Low Mass mentality, and How Harmonious a Coexistence? The discussion concerning the state of Catholic worship is taking place elsewhere as well, as is already reported.

But for a few of you Vanguards of the Sacred...

Let me see if I've got this straight. The priest stands at the sedilia for the beginning of Mass, the Scriptures are read in English (so we can understand the Word of God. What a concept!), a practice of "bidding prayers" is returned from established ancient usage, and an additional Gospel account attached as an historical afterthought is removed. So all of a sudden, we've got a completely different missal! Is that what some of you are trying to tell me?

For the innovations I have mentioned, the 1962 missal currently benefitting from an indult can be used without any trouble, simply allowing for a few amendments, as called for by no less than an ecumenical council. None of you break into a sweat when there's an additional "Confiteor deo omnipotenti..." before Communion, so what gives?

If this were the Byzantine Rite, a few petitions would be left out, an antiphon might be omitted, some silent parts of the priest might be spoken aloud or chanted on any given Sunday (depending on the diocese in some cases), and all would switch from the vernacular to Slavonic and back again -- AND NO ONE WOULD GIVE A RAT'S BEHIND!!! Certain things stay fixed, certain things stay loose. Everything is understood. Tradition is not just talked about as an organic thing, it's treated that way. This preoccupation with "one way or the highway" seems to be uniquely Roman.

That being the supposed modus operandi, let us take a look at that Garden of Catholic Orthodoxy, that is known in polite company as the Diocese of Arlington. We can find considerable variation in liturgical practice -- not so much in a manner that is codified, as much as the personal whim of the priest. Of course, we do say all the right words at the right time, don't we? Apparently, on the night He was betrayed, Our Lord didn't say "Do this..." but "Say these words." The liturgy, then, is less an action performed, so much as a series of words and texts to be gotten through (otherwise known as "minimalism").

Makes sense so far, huh?

I imagine most altar servers, even in this neck of the woods (boys only; girls need not apply), wouldn't know what to do with a thurible if you shoved one in their hands. And yet, I've seen young men astutely trained for their positions. They attend the priest at the altar, as if they belong there. Then one day the pastor leaves, and is replaced by some aging demogouge, who shows everybody who's boss by rearranging furniture in the sanctuary (in a manner not unlike deck chairs on the Titanic). Then he tells the servers that they must now stand at least fifteen feet away for most of the Mass.

This, we may surmise, is so they cannot get in his way if he decides to show off what a caring and sharing kind of guy he is.

I see boys at the "Old Mass" go through intricate motions and recite prayers in a foreign language from memory. But in Northern Virginia, where we just LOVE to brag about the abundance of vocations, God forbid we give these fellows credit for the sense God gave a duck!!! Will somebody tell me what difference it would make if we HAD altar girls?

Soooo... after rearranging all the little piss-ant things, and alienating the prerequisite number of people along the way, Father Fabulous moves on to the next assignment. He takes his little fan club (and sometimes his hired staff, or paid choristers) with him. He is replaced by yet another furniture-mover. In a region that is growing quickly, with a sense of community very difficult to establish (hey, weren't we talking about "community" just the other day?), we don't have parishes, so much as a system of personality cults. What difference does it make where you live? That's not your parish down the street. You must be mistaken. The message from these guys in charge is more audacious than saying, "It's my parish." As far as they're concerned, "I am the parish."

It is quite possible to celebrate the Mass according to the reformed missal (we don't use misnomers and prejoratives like "Tridentine" and "Novus Ordo" in this neighborhood, so deal with it!), in such a manner and in some parts of the Mass, as to render almost indistinguishable the difference between the classical and reformed missals. It doesn't take much. Just an appreciation of the sacred, a sense of our heritage, and a priest who has enough sense to know that it's about the Sacred Mystery, and NOT ABOUT HIM!

Maybe then we'll have altar servers who know how to serve at... oh, the altar, perhaps. Who knows? Maybe they'll think there's something to this job. Maybe they'll go out on a limb, and discern that God is calling them to be priests.

Quite a stretch, huh?

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... 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...

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:

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. ( 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

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.