Sunday, April 30, 2006

Critical Mass: The View From Arlington

(Warning: The following, although part of a continuing occasional series, nonetheless employs various ecclesiastical references of an arcane and highly specialized nature, so as to cause an eventual glazing over of the eyes by the average reader. Discretion is advised.)

Today, for the first time since 1970, the form of the Roman Mass identified as "Tridentine"* was licitly and publicly celebrated in the Diocese of Arlington, at Saint Lawrence Parish in Franconia.

It was a full house. The schola "Canticum Novum" was on hand to lead the singing, and the faithful joined in the hymns and chants with fervor. The celebrant, Father Paul de Ladurantaye, gave a moving homily on the gospel parable of the Good Shepherd. He concluded by reminding us that, in the reformed calendar, today was the feast of Pope St Pius V, who codified the Roman Missal for normative use in the Western church in 1570.

But the real tip of the Black Hat goes to the unsung hero of this notable event for traditional Catholics in Northern Virginia. Ed Snider has been dilligently leading one petition drive after another, meeting personally with two bishops of Arlington, over the course of nearly twenty years. Finally, on this auspicious occasion, all that banging of his head against the wall has finally paid off!

There were a few surprises. A seminarian from the Fraternity of St Peter was on hand as master of ceremonies, as well as serving as the tonsured lector for chanting the Epistle. People accustomed to singing the Pater Noster in both English and Latin, were unaware that in the 1962 Missal, only the priest chants it. They still have yet to learn, despite a discreet attempt by one of the acolytes on the side to quell them. I've seen situations, though, where certain practices discontinued by the 1962 Missal, such as the Confetior before Communion, persist without challenge. That didn't happen here. In any case, and in light of such latitude in practice, singing the Lord's Prayer by the assembly doesn't appear to be the worst thing that could happen.

BUT... what surprised me in particular, was avoiding the use of the fixed free-standing altar, in favor of the edifice with the reredos and tabernacle situated behind it, that which would have been the main altar in a previous era. I've seen this practice adopted before, and so I'm sure there's a very creative explanation somewhere. I'd love to hear it.

But here's the thing. One of the conditions of the Indult is, that those for whom it is extended accept the validity of the reformed Roman Missal, also known as the Missal of Paul VI, or by that obnoxious pejorative term, "the Novus Ordo." Assuming it cannot be moved out of the way, the only reason not to use that which is officially the main altar in the sanctuary, in favor of something that would have served that purpose in another era, is that the former is unsuitable for offering sacrifice.

Since a free-standing altar can be used "ad orientem" (facing East, or by the misnomer "with the priest's back to the people"), its suitability cannot be questioned -- except by those who would disparage it as "the Cranmer table," a reference that would bely its sacrificial usage. But if you're going to take that position (and this happens in numerous other situations, so I figure this is nothing new), then it's a very short walk to questioning whether that which takes place upon it is indeed a Sacrifice -- and calling into question the granting of the Indult in the first place. If we're going to placate the legitimate sensibilities of people who are attached to the traditional usage, is this honestly where we wish to make it?

In his book The History and the Future of the Roman Liturgy (original French edition 2001, English edition by Ignatius Press 2005), Denis Crouan writes:
Contrary to what is sometimes supposed, liturgical tradition has always required that the altar be separate from the wall of the church so that it can be in a position of prominence [mis en valeur]. It was not until the medieval period that the custom began of providing the altar wit h a backing or "reredos," thereby making it impossible to walk around it. Then gradually, in parish churches on a smaller scale, the altar was moved twoard the back of the apse and, from the fifteenth century on, a tabernacle was added for the reservation of the Blessed Sacrament.
If the excerpt from Crouan isn't enough to convince anyone, surely what is in effect "the elephant in the sanctuary" looks damned ridiculous!


+ + +

* The Missal codified by Pope Pius V following the end of the Council of Trent (hence the name "Tridentine"), merely standardized practices already in use in Rome and the surrounding dioceses for at least two centuries, much of which developed gradually from earlier forms dating to the time of Pope Gregory the Great in the fifth century -- a lineage which gives rise to a lesser-known but more accurate term, "Gregorian."

Friday, April 28, 2006

Do you supppose this is the real reason Congress wants to change the name?

"Trojan" Horse in the Vatican?

As many people know by now, the use of condoms as a means of preventing the AIDS virus, as a morally acceptable alternative, is currently under review in Rome. According to sources in the Catholic press, a study is underway by the Pontifical Council for Health Pastoral Care. One possible outcome would be a document which gives "provisional" moral license to condom use, albeit within the context of marriage, and given the specific intention to protect the uninfected party. But such a document would still have to pass through the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and ultimately, by the desk of Pope Benedict himself.

It'll never fly, and here's why.

It would surprise many people to know that the Church has been dealing with the issue of artificial contraception from Her very beginning. In his epistle to the Galatians (5:19-26), St Paul warns against the use of "sorcery" (in ancient Greek, "pharmakeia," from which we get the term "pharmacuticals," or drugs). This would have referred to the mixing of potions for a variety of reasons; in this case, the prevention or termination of a pregnancy. Various post-Apostolic and Patristic writings also deal with the issue. Some years ago, the Washington Post reported on the discovery of fossilized remains of a plant that grew in Egypt, from which was created the active ingredient for a spermicide that was popular around the time of Christ. Did it work? Well, let's put it this way; the substance was worth its weight in silver, and the plant used to create it was harvested to the point of extinction. The cover story of the March/April 1994 issue of Archeology magazine goes into more detail.

So, John Allen of the National Catholic Reporter, writing in this week's installment of "The View From Rome," isn't quite on the mark when he says that "the church has never spoken officially on this specific question." She has. Still, the Allen column is worth reading, as it outlines both the Augustinian and Thomistic schools of moral thought that are brought to bear on the issue, as well as an explanation of the "double-effect" principle, and both sides of the fence on its application. Bear in mind, however, that an objectively sinful act is always just that. The subjective issues may or may not mitigate the guilt, particularly in the area of intention, but considering that the virus can easily pass through latex -- adjusted to scale, it has been compared to throwing a basketball through a doorway -- application of the so-called "double effect" is quite a stretch, if only because no good end can be achieved with any assuredness in the first place.

The matter has been under review, primarily due to the public statements of various Cardinals supporting it. Rome must now go to all this trouble, just to shut them all up -- especially Martini. Sandro Magister and others of L'espresso provide the lowdown. (Recommend printing out and reading over the weekend.)

Thursday, April 27, 2006

In search of...

About a month ago, I was contacted by (unless I'm mistaken) a young seminarian, asking to trade links with me. I am unable to find his name/address. If he's out there, and would care to contact me by email directly (manwithblackhat at yahoo dot com), I would be most grateful.

Other than that, MWBH is on a very brief hiatus, as three upcoming essays are researched and prepared. Things should return to what passes for normal by early next week. Stay tuned, and stay in touch.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Wanna bet she drives an SUV?


Dom at Bettnet gives some needed perspective to this issue. When you adjust for inflation and improved gas mileage...

(UPDATE: Dom does the math.)

Mother Where Art Thou?

You gotta hand it to the gal.

Twenty-five years ago, a Franciscan nun armed only with a video camera, a converted garage, and her wits, started what has become the largest Catholic network on the planet. EWTN is a really big deal. Before becoming incapacitated by a stroke which has limited her public access, Mother was smart enough to ensure that her enterprise would never fall into the hands of the Catholic intelligensia, through the appointment of an independent board, albeit under proper jurisdiction of the local bishop.

Now there are reports that the network kept a known pederast on staff: "The Birmingham-based Eternal Word Television Network said the Rev Real Bourque conducted Mass, held weekly Bible study for workers and visitors and gave talks at retreats, but he wasn't allowed on the air or to be around young people after 1995, when executives say they learned of his past."

Sounds like it could have been worse. And for a long time, the conventional wisdom was that this was an effective form of "damage control" which best utilized the faculties of a troubled (or "troubling," as the case may be") priest. Nevertheless, Ann Doyle of says that this has "damaged the credibility and conservative credentials of EWTN."

Oh, did it now? Sorry, Ann, they started edging down that wrong road years before, when they jumped on the Medjugorje bandwagon, among others. Even so, this writer still thinks it's got a good thing going, if you know what few programs aren't worth watching. And that's a real short list. My fave is still "Sunday Night Live" with Father Benedict Groeschel. I try to see him in person whenever I can. Very enlightening, not to mention entertaining.

I still pull out my favorite "Mother Angelica Live" videos from the vault, for old time's sake. (sigh!)

Plug This! It's Better In Latin

This week, we start a new feature at MWBH called "Plug This!"

Recently, I've been getting requests from fellow-St Bloggers to trade links. Now, most of us at St B's have a "favorites" list, but I've eschewed that practice, in favor of a cleaner, more straightforward menu, including a link to the complete "Catholic Blogs Directory." But the Catholic blogosphere has developed beyond an appendage to promoting books and lecture tours (and you know who you are, dahlings!). Obviously the world is ready for this.

Sooooo... every week, I'll be spotlighting a new or different St Blog's member. This does not imply endorsement of everything that is said or linked at the featured site. And the first one is...

+ + +

For those of you who miss the "good old days," whatever days they were for you, as well as for those getting their fashion inventory ready for the coming onslaught of Old Latin Masses, the first stop needs to be "It's Better In Latin." After all, most of the English vocabulary originates in this not-so-dead-after-all language, and using it makes us sound more witty, more intelligent, and better read, than we may actually be in real life. Tell the world how far you'd drive to hear Mass the way God intended it to be, or of your longing for the days when defending your Faith involved the drawing of blood -- preferably someone else's. Say it all, and with style, on teeshirts, coffeemugs, bumper stickers, the works.

In tribute to the days when nuns were nuns and priests were men -- who you gonna call?

Tuesday, April 18, 2006


...because it had to happen sooner or later.

"I read the news today, oh boy..."

• We're just like everybody else. Really. That's the impression that over 200 gay and lesbian parents wanted to give when they brought about 100 children (who are going to be surprised when they find out where babies come from) to the annual White House Easter Egg roll. As part of an effort to show the mainstream that they were... well, mainstream, many of them were distinguished by wearing rainbow-colored leis. Of course, they could have proven a lot more by just showing up like everybody else. That's assuming they really are. Aren't they? (Washington Post)

• Special delivery, eh? Canada Post has a new service in which postage stamps can be customized with personal photographs. One guy sent in a picture of his wife, topless, except for a pair of maple leaves covering her... well, you know. (WP Express)

• Give us Barabbas! A small village in the Philippines, about an hour's drive north of Manila, recreates the crucifixion of Christ every Good Friday. At this year's event, a Scottish TV journalist caused a stir when he signed on to participate, yet backed out at the last minute. But, the show must go on, as "devotees went ahead with the ceremony and were nailed to crosses in front of hundreds of spectators." You have to wonder what hurts more; getting nailed to a cross, or knowing that you go to all that trouble without local Church approval. Not even a plenary indulgence! (The Scotsman) (UPDATE: If you really want to know what this looks like -- mind you, they're not kidding -- click here.)

Monday, April 17, 2006

Post-Triduum Wrap-Up

Inquiring minds want to know...

b-b-b-benny and the jets?

...who was the plainclothes "altar girl" next to the Pope on Good Friday?

A Monday Meandering

I went back home to Ohio, to the house where I grew up, during the early morning hours. I didn't want to wake anyone, but I was dog tired, and remembered the garage was unlocked. So I went in and found a cot between the cars to sack out on.

Shortly thereafter, I heard Mom going into the office cubicle in the corner by the side door. I looked up, to see her stuffing papers into a briefcase. She appeared to be preparing to leave town for some reason. So I popped up and asked what the story was. She said she had to go across into Kentucky, and just got an extension of her credit line "from my husband." That was strange, because she always called him "your father." I thought maybe she'd had enough of something, and was getting ready to bust out of town. I was just getting ready to try and reason with her...

Then I woke up.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Waiting by the Tomb

Today, most of the Christian world is in preparation for the High Feast of the Liturgical Year. Fortunately, I bought most of my Easter foods yesterday.

In generations past, Christians viewed Lent as a season of "the great fast," which is to some extent still observed by Eastern Orthodox Christians. During the season of penitence, they would give up not only meat, but dairy products, which by tradition would include eggs. When the great vigil of the Pasch arrived, they would fill their baskets (some as large as two feet in diameter) with whatever was given up for Lent.

In a past life, I was married to a Byzantine Catholic. I still have a soft spot in my heart for that tradition, which I continued for my own sake as much as my son's. Tonight we will attend Matins and Divine Liturgy of the Resurrection, followed by the blessing of baskets. Mine will be filled with bologna, kielbasa, cheeses, breads, horseradish (reminiscent of the passover seder), salt, butter, colored eggs, and distilled spirits (including a decent bottle of chianti).

And, while I'm at it, I have to do my laundry...

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Is this why my ancestors left France?


I don't know about you, but it reminds me a lot of the Revolution, and the mayhem that followed. By the mid-19th century, I suspect it would have gotten tiresome.


It was on a maundy Thursday, and all in the morning,
They planted a crown of thorns on our heavenly King.
And was not this a woeful thing,
And sweet Jesus we'll call him by name.


Tonight begins the Paschal Triduum, preceded by the "Chrism Mass" in the morning, when all the priests of the diocese are assembled to concelebrate Mass with their bishop, to renew their obedience to him, and to receive the newly-blessed sacred oils.

The evening parishes will celebrate the "Evening Mass of the Lord's Supper," when the "new commandment" is commemorated through the washing of feet.

Well, in some places, anyway. The rubrics stipulate that only men can have their feet washed, so some bishops are side-stepping the issue by allowing parishes the option of a food collection for the poor, in lieu of performing the "mandatum" correctly. I wrote about this in March of last year, in a piece entitled "Clean Livin' and Fancy Footwork." People who really want to know what they're talking about (and from what I've read, that isn't very many) should give it a once-over.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Critical Mass: Preludes II

We have this from Melbourne, Australia: "It now appears certain that the Holy Father has signed a significant document on the Sacred Liturgy, and on the classical Latin liturgy in particular..." This is consistent with other reports, that the Holy Father was preparing a document which would outline his plan for the reform of the Roman liturgy. The manner and detail are not entirely known, but it will most likely call for increased use of Latin as the normative language of the reformed Roman Rite, as well as strongly encouraging the use of Gregorian chant, given its "pride of place" in the Vatican II decree. Statements coming from other officials would have us believe that a renewed stance against novelty is expected.

This is not just about "the Old Mass," although that will be a prominent component. And if certain changes in the curial leadership are any indication, this decree will have more "teeth" than they would have in the previous pontificate. People who read the works of the former Cardinal Ratzinger, without being overly selective, would not be surprised to see the man who is now Benedict XVI take a more holistic approach.

Here at home, a bishops' subcommittee has reviewed hymns and texts currently in use, and has released a scathing critique of the theological content of certain very popular hymns. A compilation of approved hymns is likely, one that would be required for inclusion in any worship aid in use in the dioceses of the USA. There will be more on that at a later time.

Holy Week

Did anybody see ABC's The Ten Commandments last night. I thought it was pretty bad. Fortunately, they'll show the genuine article this weekend, starring the only man who ever did justice to the main character -- Charlton Heston. Check local listings.

In the meantime, many of us in the Catholic blogosphere will be winding down in view of the impending Paschal Triduum. There is one story being followed here, concerning the Holy See's decree on the 1962 Missale Romanum, rumored by some to be scheduled for release tomorrow. But -- we really don't know that, now, do we?

In the meantime, MWBH needs to stay focused:

It was on a Holy Wednesday, and all in the morning
When Judas betrayed our dear heavenly King.
And was not this a woeful thing,
And sweet Jesus, we'll call him by name.

To be continued...

Tuesday, April 11, 2006


That's what we called it growing up. Then I left the Buckeye State for the big-@$$ city, only to learn that people had other names for it. My years of innocence were lost forever. Now, Matthew Campbell and Professor Greg Plumb, of Oklahoma's East Central University, have completed a detailed study of one of the burning issues of today's culture wars.

pop vs soda in the usa

Thankfully, all of Ohio steadfastly refers to the elixir of life as "pop," as does much of the Midwest (except for the Saint Louis region, which has never been explained), while most of the ostensibly more "civilized" Northeast insists on calling it "soda" (a term which my son adopted at an early age, despite all my attempts to dissuade him). That the Deep South would refer to it as "coke" can be understood as a parochial support of one of its greatest exports, as well as an effort to steer vulnerable youth away from the dangers of cocaine.

A more detailed analysis can be found at the research team's "Pop vs Soda" website.

(Thanks, Icarus. This has bothered me for years.)

Monday, April 10, 2006

Critical Mass: Preludes

Ever notice how with the Super Bowl, the pre-game hoopla on television goes for longer hours than the game itself? The possible announcement concerning the 1962 Missale Romanum seems to be setting a similar tone.

Father John Zuhlsdorf provides some thoughtful commentary in his post entitled "Tridentine Signs of the Times," which is well worth reading:

"First and foremost, we know that Pope Benedict has been in the past very favorable to celebrations of the older form of Mass. He has celebrated the older Mass on occasion while still Cardinal. He has written of the older Mass in his liturgical writings...

Pope Benedict has sharply changed the style of papal Masses, the presence of His Excellency Piero Marini... notwithstanding...

A couple things are important to note. First, there has been a large shift of gravity in the Curia. People have been replaced with others having very different and more flexible ideas about liturgy...

Cardinal Arinze recently gave a talk in London that was very hard hitting and rather traditional sounding, suggesting in fact that genuflection before the Blessed Sacrament really ought to be even in Mass... and the tabernacle belongs in the center of our view in churches...

His Holiness is not a harsh man. He hasn’t ever moved abruptly in matters of discipline... in one work on liturgy he wrote years ago, he spoke about the issue of the position of the altar and the
ad orientem Mass...

However, he carefully stated that we must avoid the sort of abrupt changes like those after the Council which caused so many of our present woes..."

(Caution: Does not read well on all browsers. Recommend Firefox over Safari for Mac users.)

From this, we might determine that the Holy Father's agenda transcends the issue of one set of books versus another. This is an important point for those whose attention is focused solely on "the Old Mass" This has to do with restoring the sacred in the liturgy of the Western church, while recognizing that an ecumenical council -- well, happened.

Stay tuned...

(UPDATE: This just in from Catholic News Agency via Shawn Tribe. It's getting warmer...)


A single word graces every coin ever minted by the United States of America. It is the name given to the feminine personification of our land, that which is given form in the New York Harbor -- the lady who would "lift my lamp beside the golden door," beckoning all who would live under her light.

How they get here is something else again.

I've already had to sit in traffic and watch high-school students take the afternoon off, presumedly in protest of national immigration policy. We might suppose they are moved in sympathy to those children of foreign nationals who sit in their classrooms.

It's a good idea to understand what this is, and what this isn't.

We as a nation think little of consuming a disproportionately high percentage of the world's natural resources. (According to the latest studies, for the rest of the world to live as well as we do would require the natural resources of six Planet Earths.) Yet we are astonished that others would stop at nothing to share in it. Be that as it may, the USA has the most liberal immigration policy of any nation in the world. This leader of the free world, this would-be police force of every mess created by a coup d'etat or dictator or restraint of trade (the subject of another essay), also has the least secure borders of any nation in the world.

Knowing the latter is unlikely to satisfy thousands of Mexican nationals in the southwestern states, who are claiming that lands acquired in the early 19th century in the war with Mexico, and a subsequent purchase of additional land, are all part of a region of their homeland known as "Aztlan." It seems they are already in their country; it's the "gringos" who are from out of town.

(It's a little late to complain, ain't it, guys? Besides, you got a good price for the last land grab. Gotta warn ya, the price has gone waaaaay up since then.)

The President recently said "America is a nation of immigrants, and we're also a nation of laws." In fact, the majority of us are not immigrants (as I, for one, would remember such as thing), although we are descended from them. But columnist Michelle Malkin explains that even the Founding Fathers endorsed a strict immigration policy, in a piece last month entitled "Bush's Open Borders Platitudes."

When we think of illegals, we think of those guys who stand near the convenience store, ready to run toward any pickup truck that pulls into the lot, in the hopes of jumping on board for a day's manual labor. In fact, for all we (or the white guys across the street with the cameras with telephoto lenses) know, most of them may have their papers in order, if not their English. Needless to say, this is not a fair portrayal.

(Speaking from my own experience, I have never met a man or woman of Latino origin with whom I could not get along. With Spanish as a virtual second language in the Washington metro area...)

Nor is it fair to assume that most or all of the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants in this country came here illegally at the offset. An example would be the several million domestic and health-care workers of Filipino origin. Typically, one might arrive on a temporary visa, and upon learning that a lifelong dream might be here for the taking, gets a job working for a diplomatic family, either as a nanny or a driver. They will then receive a "diplomatic visa." In the event of termination of their services (often with little cause or prior warning), they are reported to the State Department within thirty days. Roughly half of all Filipinos in the USA live in California, where their ancestors arrived as Pinoy slaves on Spanish galley ships in 1600. It is there that they often find domestic or other service work. If they are lucky, their employer will arrange to sponsor them, particularly if they are nurses or nursing students; the USA has a critical shortage, and those from the Philippines are highly prized. On the other hand, some do in-home health care or other domestic work, payable in cash, or find other means to disappear into the system. Filipinos are very protective of their kababayans, and there is always someone who knows someone. (For the record, "Sal" is on the up and up.)

But these distinctions mean little in the eyes of the law.

It would be different if we made it easy enough for those who come here prepared to make an honest contribution, both to their own betterment, and that of their would-be homeland. But as Sal's compatriots will attest, they do not. Not even for those from a country we colonized for half a century (against their will, as is evident in the 1962 revision of their day of independence, eschewing our understanding of history for their own), and who returned the offense by fighting and dying alongside us against the Japanese in World War II. Reparations for those veterans is only now underway, and progress is sluggish.

But these distinctions mean little in the eyes of those who take to the streets.

They would have us let everyone in, without regard to our own safety. Never mind that of the nineteen hijackers of "9-11," nearly all were undocumented. Our founders never intended America to become the world's free-for-all, knowing that order and discipline were the minimum one could expect from a government of, for, and by the people.

Finally, in saying that "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness," we are applying the natural law with respect to our own raison d'etre for the benefit of mankind, hence implying an entitlement to what we provide within our borders. Our intellectual honesty demands that the "golden door" remain open to all who would enter, within reason. At the same time, that same natural law entitles those already contained therein, to that protection which can only come from a secure border.

In a nutshell, let them in, but watch the gate.

Oh, and for any bishop who can take a few moments from grandstanding to give a hoot, the Catechism of the Catholic Church (2241) has the following to say about immigration:
The more prosperous nations are obliged, to the extent they are able, to welcome the foreigner in search of the security and the means of livelihood which he cannot find in his country of origin. Public authorities should see to it that the natural right is respected that places a guest under the protection of those who receive him.

Political authorities, for the sake of the common good for which they are responsible, may make the exercise of the right to immigrate subject to various juridical conditions, especially with regard to the immigrants' duties toward their country of adoption. Immigrants are obliged to respect with gratitude the material and spiritual heritage of the country that receives them, to obey its laws and to assist in carrying civic burdens.
If it's worth having, it's worth protecting.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Friday, April 07, 2006

Critical Mass: The Calm Before...

Today the Holy Father continued the interdicasterial meeting begun in February, at which time he considered his plans for reorganization of the Curia, reconciliation with the Lefebvrites, and a broadening of permission for celebrating the classical Roman Rite. This meeting was the subject of an earlier post on April 1.

Shawn Tribe has provided updates at 10:08 am, 1:20 pm, 3:00 pm, and (wow, does this guy have a day job?) 3:06 pm today. The Vatican itself is keeping quiet; an announcement is expected as early as Holy Thursday -- probably. (This writer does not expect a free-for-all; a broader application of the 1988 Indult at most, where bishops are not merely encouraged, but expected to be responsive to the aspirations of the traditionalist faithful.)

Shawn also provides an analysis of how the iconoclasts are reacting.

Badly, from what I can gather.

That reminds me; has anyone heard how the dollar's doing against the euro these days?

Who's your daddy now?

The Boston Herald reports that a teacher at a Catholic high school was fired for getting his girlfriend pregnant and fathering the child out of wedlock, which violated their policy of (surprise!) celibacy for singles. The article points out that the parents did not choose abortion or adoption, but chose to keep the child. It also reports that the parish priest would not witness a marriage between the two, citing improper motivation -- in other words, doing it because they felt like they had to.

Growing up in a small town as I did, I'm old enough to remember when a young man would be expected to do "the honorable thing" under these circumstances. That may work for some people, but for a Catholic, marriage is a sacrament, for which there must be a properly formed intention. "Getting caught" isn't one of them.

Still, you have to be impressed at how the couple is handling the whole thing, including accepting the child, as well as both the pastor's and the schoool's decisions. No, I don't endorse how the couple got where they are, since... well, do I have to explain it? And no, I don't blame the school for their policy, since it is a Catholic school, and it's not just religion teachers who have to send the right message.

Personally, I hope he gets a job teaching at a public school. He'll probably find someone who's sympathetic, and he'll probably get paid more. I also think the pastor shouldn't rule out a re-visitation of the issue. Since the faithful have a canonical right to choose their state in life (and that's just the short explanation, okay?), he might not have much of a choice.

Their lives are gonna be hard enough, without everybody else getting righteous all of a sudden.

Within commuting distance of Boston.


(UPDATE: Canonist Edward Peters provides analysis. Thanks, Dom.)

Get thee to a nunnery.


This week's edition of the Arlington Catholic Herald reports on a group of cloistered Dominican nuns building a new monastery near Front Royal, in the Blue Ridge mountain region of Virginia. In other words, God's country. The firm of March-Westin has been commissioned for the project, which is scheduled for move-in before the end of next year.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Does this remind you of anything?

Youth Day 3.1.jpg

This photo is from the "Youth Day" liturgy of the recent Los Angeles Religious Education Congress, the annual shindig of the progressive Catholic intelligensia, under the watchful jurisdiction of His Immenseness Roger Cardinal Mahony. The assembly is obstensibly joining the clergy in extending a "blessing" to someone for something or other.

Beats the hell outa me.

Ah, the smell of testosterone in the morning!

Dom Bettinelli has made an important decision in his life, one that every responsible Catholic gentleman must confront in providing for his family:

"Soon, I will purchase a new grill, a family man’s grill, and upon it much meat will be cooked and feasted upon by my family. And it will be this grill, the Weber Performer Charcoal Grill."

At the basement studio where I lived until recently, I had access to a propane grill. While I'm not the purist that Dom aspires to be (and a tip of the Black Hat is in order), I do find that nothing indoors takes the place of an outdoor grill for cooking meat. After I bought the house, I found a Coleman propane stove for a good price. I needed something more portable. Dom's is a better choice, but I'm thinkin,' where would I put that thing?

The best burgers I ever had were at the old Rosselot homestead (my mom's side), where Grandpa had this huge brick chimney charcoal grill built in the corner of the back yard. With aunts and uncles and nearly four dozen cousins, a gigantic picnic table set out on the lawn, amidst the field of corn and soybeans, it is one of the happy memories of my childhood.

So I think it's only fitting that the St Blog's Parish Picnic be moved over to Dom's place this year.

Sal will make the cassava cake for dessert. I'll bring the potato salad.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

A Day in the Life

When I was a professional sacristan for a large urban parish, I noticed how quickly the rectory became deserted by early Sunday afternoon. It didn't take long on the job to find out why. Father Martin Fox, a parish priest in Piqua, Ohio, is happy to explain.


Washington has its share of "grande dames." I visited with one the night before she died.

Yesterday morning, before dawn, Antonia Morgan passed away in her uptown Washington apartment, following a long illness. She was 91. "Sal" had been her live-in caregiver for over four months, and was up the whole night as Mrs Morgan struggled with her final breaths.

Outside the public eye, it could have been said that Mrs Morgan lived in interesting times. Raised in a educated and distinguished English family, she married an American officer stationed there during World War II. But there was more to her life. It was her daughter, the noted cosmetic surgeon Jean Elizabeth Morgan, who was the subject of the 1991 book by Jonathan Groner, Hilary's Trial: The Elizabeth Morgan Case: A Child's Ordeal in America's Legal System, and the 1992 television movie A Mother's Right: The Elizabeth Morgan Story. The mother was played by Bonnie Bedelia. In an excellent choice of casting, the part of Mrs Morgan was played by Patricia Neal. In 1996, Congress finally vindicated the mother by passing "The Elizabeth Morgan Act."

Mrs Morgan was a formidable, well-bred, and well-educated woman. You read about them now and then, the type for whom time never erases their grace or presence. This was evident in her final hours. When I dropped Sal off at the residence that evening, I went up for a brief visit. While it was obvious that Mrs Morgan was deteriorating, and that she was resigned to the inevitable, she was keen enough to draw my attention to her vast library, and asked me to pull The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations off the shelf. There was something she wanted to show her son when he came later that evening. She went directly to a collection of sayings attributed to King Charles II, and settled on the final listing:

"He had been, he said, an unconscionable time dying; but he hoped that they would excuse it." *

"I'm sure that would make a fitting epitaph," I told her. She understood.

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* from Macaulay's History of England, 1849, I, 4, 437

Monday, April 03, 2006

Monday Morning Musings

• Honestly, now, could any of us have said it better?

Justice Scalia

• A while back, Nihil Obstat took me to task for misspelling Brittany Spears' name. In fact, I spelled it properly; it's "Britney" who spells it wrong. Like anyone who reads this is likely to fall all over the little twerp. Get a life, Nihil!

• Spring quarter started at the Art Institute today. The subject is "Interactive Motion Design," which is essentially an intermediate animation class. This time I learn advanced features of Macromedia Flash, get introduced to Adobe After Effects, and get to mix audio (a subject they had me skip, even though it's assumed you've taken it, so we're gonna wing it, me and the professor, oh boy) as well as video clips. Maybe Paul has some ideas...

• Easter is coming up, and elaborate preparations for the big basket will be underway this time next week. If I can find an online source of how to prepare a traditional Easter basket -- no, not those cheap things you buy at the Piggly-Wiggly; I'm talkin' the real deal here! -- we'll get back to you.

• Oh, and thanks for all the comments in the past week. Keep those cards and letters coming!

Sunday, April 02, 2006

"Let me go to the house of my Father."

I have looked for you.

With those words (or words in Polish to that effect), Pope John Paul II died one year ago today. I published this memorial to him for that occasion:

"Reverend Uncle": An Encomium

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Critical Mass: Any Day Now...?

The past few months have been witness to recurrent rumors, that Pope Benedict XVI will grant a universal permission for the use of the 1962 Missale Romanum, otherwise known as the "Tridentine Mass." MWBH has followed reports from Shawn Tribe of The New Liturgical Movement, and the collective known as Rorate Caeli.

These reports have been circulating at one time or another since 1988, when an attempt to reconcile the schismatic* Society of Saint Pius X, then led by the late Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, fell through. That being said, it is no secret that the former Cardinal Ratzinger has openly expressed a wish for the revival of the classical usage, and despite nary a word about it at the Ordinary Synod on the Eucharist last fall, the man who is now the Successor of Peter has conducted high-level meetings on his own initiative, to see about a reconciliation with the Lefebvrites, as well as a broader use of the "Old Mass."

Here in the Diocese of Arlington, two parishes will begin using the old missal this year, for one occasion every Sunday. This writer speculates that at least two more locations in the diocese could begin using it within the next year or so, especially if a decree such as the above is issued.

The late Michael Davies, a Welsh liturgist and writer, once attended Mass at the Brompton Oratory, where the reformed missal of Paul VI was used, with the original Latin text, at an altar "facing East" (mistakenly referred to as celebrating "with the priest's back to the people"), and the ceremonial trappings associated with the Western tradition. An avid promoter of the classical liturgy, he was heard to say that if the reformed missal were normally employed that way, "there wouldn't be any problems." This writer is inclined to agree, and wishes that such a remedy were forthcoming. While the Holy Father is doing precisely that in solemn celebrations of the liturgy in which he presides, it would appear in much of the West, that the current usage of the Roman rite has become so associated with a casual approach, that a "ressourcement" (a French word meaning "return to the sources") may be in order for the present.

Be that as it may, the magic date everyone is watching is April 7, which is when a meeting to "close the deal" is expected to occur. We've heard it all before, for nearly two decades now, but this is the most credible speculation to date. Stay tuned...

(UPDATE: Father Guy Sylvester, live from the Piazza, is our skeptic of choice.)

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* This term is one to which many traditionalists take exception, citing a statement from a highly-placed cardinal within the Vatican, who has insisted that the SSPX is not "schismatic," and that faithful Catholics may fulfill their obligation by frequenting an SSPX chapel. The position taken in this forum is based upon the following in the 1988 papal decree Ecclesia Dei: "[T]he unlawful episcopal ordination conferred on 30 June last by Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre... was one of disobedience to the Roman Pontiff in a very grave matter and of supreme importance for the unity of the church... which implies in practice the rejection of the Roman primacy - [and] constitutes a schismatic act." (Emphasis added for the rhetorically impaired.) This writer submits that an official pronouncement from the Holy Father trumps a private opinion from one of his princes. With respect to attending Mass at the aforementioned chapels, therefore, it would seem imprudent to use an illicit means to accomplish a licit end.

Spring forward, no foolin'!

Tonight most of the USA sets their clocks ahead for Daylight Saving Time. "It is sometimes asserted that DST was first proposed by Benjamin Franklin in a letter to the editors of the Journal of Paris. However, the article was humorous; Franklin was not proposing DST, but rather that people should get up and go to bed earlier." Personally, that would have been my preference as well. Imagine our sundials being useless for most of the year. It's just unnatural!

Today is also a red-letter day for other reasons: "April Fools' Day began in the 1500s when the Gregorian calendar took over from the Julian. Those who forgot the change and attempted to celebrate New Year's (previously celebrated on the 1st of April) on the wrong date were teased as 'April fools.'" Paul's gonna try and pull another fast one this year. I'm ready for him this time. Probably.

Oh, one more thing. The first of a series of upgrades to MWBH begins with more visible headlines, a setting about which I was finally informed. A tip of the Black Hat (one size larger) to Rick Lugari, one of the "Amateur Catholics." (I'm thinking about going back to past entries, maybe to the beginning of March, and upgrading their titles as well. We'll see.)

This would be a great day to see the cherry blossoms, if it wasn't raining. Maybe Sunday...