30 January 2015

Some Symptoms of Modernism

  1. You refer to yourself as a "thinking Catholic".
  2. You are proud of your dissent from traditional doctrine.
  3. You believe that God is a verb.
  4. You see the sacraments as communal celebrations of important life-moments.
  5. You believe that the purpose of Reconciliation is to bring about healing within community.
  6. You do not believe in an afterlife apart from the memory and impact left behind in the lives you touched.
  7. You think that the Church as community should compose a fifth Gospel, for the needs of today.
  8. You believe that mass isn't about what you receive, but about what you bring.
  9. You find devotion to Mary distasteful or even offensive.
  10. You believe that Jesus's mission was to call us to Justice.
  11. You believe that the value of Christianity is in its "meaningfulness", not its truth.
  12. You distinguish between the Jesuses of the different gospels, because each was constructed for the needs of a particular community.
  13. You emphasize that the ascension, the resurrection, and pentecost were all merely symbols of one single historical event, in which the disciples of Jesus, after his death, realized that his mission lived on in their hearts.
  14. You love Pope Paul VI, but despise Humanae Vitae.
  15. John XXIII is your favorite pope of all time.
  16. You insist that Gaudium et Spes made unity a co-equal and primary end of marriage together with procreation.
  17. Nostra Aetate is your favorite Vatican II document.
  18. You have never actually read Nostra Aetate.
  19. You have no real notion of the popes prior to Pius XII.
  20. You are convinced that Pius XII was an ultra-reactionary authoritarian.
  21. You use the term "theopraxis" to describe the right approach to Christianity.
  22. For you, Charity is a bad word, because Charity does not remove structures of oppression.
  23. You have great disdain for "Creedal Christianity".
  24. You do not believe in personal sin.
  25. You believe very strongly in "social sin".
  26. For you, God is the experience of transcendence lurking in the hearts of every human being, which is unlocked by the experience of community and transformation.
  27. You are a huge fan of Paul Ricoeur.
  28. You reject the Virgin Birth, because you don't find it "necessary" for your faith.
  29. You are convinced that Jesus had no more awareness of his own divinity than you or I do.
  30. For you, Jesus's divinity consisted in showing humanity that God exists as solidarity with the oppressed and resistance against unjust social structures.
  31. You insist frequently on a "contextual" approach to Scripture, based on "modern scholarship".
  32. You revere the works of Hans Küng.
  33. You were catechized using Richard McBrien.
  34. You believe that the enduring core of Jesus's message was to have compassion.
  35. You feel personally called to be a prophetic voice within the Church.
  36. You despise bishops as a rule, but in particular cases approve of them.
  37. You find the idea of placing Catholicism above other religions offensive.
  38. In your book, Ratzinger is an evil name.
  39. You believe that Vatican II "changed everything".
  40. The notion that people could still prefer the old mass is incomprehensible to you.
  41. You believe that the Church must grow with humanity, and keep up with the times.
  42. You regularly expect the Church to "change its teachings".
  43. You have a degree in theology from a Jesuit university.
  44. You believe that Confirmation exists so that young people can choose their religion for themselves, and as a marker of their adulthood as Catholics.
  45. Your favorite worship songs include "All are Welcome" and "Gather Us In".
  46. If you believe in an afterlife, you are convinced that everyone but Nazis ends up in heaven.
  47. You consider people who accept the Church's teaching on sexuality to be "extreme conservatives".
  48. You are awed by the mystical profundity of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin.
  49. You believe your fundamental option is with God.
  50. You believe that eating pizza with friends can be "Church" for you.
  51. You often tell others that Faith can never grow without Doubt.
  52. You insist that God does not want us to place our love in things beyond this world, but within it.
  53. You believe that the Fourth Gospel was constructed by the Johannine Community as an allegorical representation of its spiritual struggles.
  54. You believe that almost the entire Old Testament is factually false.
  55. You have told people that, if Jesus were to come back today, he would despise the Catholic Church.
  56. You loathe prelates who wear ornate liturgical vestments.
  57. You believe the Church should recognize the freedom of belief of its members, without trying to exclude anyone for their ideas.
  58. You place conscience above everything else in the moral life.
  59. You support womanpriests.
  60. You are Church.
  61. You believe that the most important thing about Good Friday is emphasizing that Catholics should not be anti-semitic.
  62. You insist on being a prophetic voice in the Church, by calling it to embrace mainstream secular norms.
  63. You have no use for the saints.

29 January 2015

Another Update on the Josias

Today we were very fortunate to be referenced by Fr. Hunwicke.  We also acquired a new "About" page, to replace the old one, which was taken down a couple of weeks ago.  This one has the advantage of presenting the purpose of the site with more clarity and less bombast.  It also lists the editors (Edmund Waldstein, O.Cist has been added) and contributors.

The Pope and the Guillotine

For the few who see this post, I would like to advertise that The Josias has made available a translation of the heretofore untranslated Quare Lacrymae, Pope Pius VI's response to the execution of Louis XVI during the French Revolution.  The text is worth looking at, and I hope to see more new translations posted to The Josias in coming months.

Click here to read.

17 January 2015

Spoils of Egypt

1.  There are many thinkers who are in various ways very close and very distant from Catholicism in recent philosophy.  One reads Nietzsche, for example, and Nietzsche's thought is excellent for clarifying certain metaphysical problems in modern thought.  Heidegger makes a wonderful critique of modern epistemology and, to some extent, technological life.  Wittgenstein shows negatively the inadequacy of logical atomism.  Foucault perfects Nietzschean genealogy.

2.  All of these are very useful.  At the present moment one can take them and use them in either of two distant ways.  One tendency is to take them as a new foundation for theological reflection.  Thus we have the phenomenological anthropocentric Christianity of the Christian (and Catholic) Heideggerians, and the work of the 20th century Christian Existentialists, and the various "genitive" and cultural theologies.  And on the other hand we have the genealogical work of scholars like Cornelio Fabro and Joseph Ratzinger, who, while maintaining an authentically Catholic outlook in their principles and in every particular, attempt to use insights from these traditions to understand the present state of liberalism and the trajectory of modern secular thought's decay, and to bolster the response of Catholic thought to the present age.

3.  When one encounters too many thinkers of the first variety, one is sometimes tempted to throw out these secular writers as trash, on account of their fundamental errors.  Certainly they are not fitting masters from which to receive a basic orientation or instruction in the first principles of philosophy or theology.  They are not the right people to use when framing one's outlook as a Christian, or understanding the proper method for philosophical procedure.

4.  But (is it strange to say?) it would be a terrible loss never to read Nietzsche or Heidegger.  Not because Heidegger's Seinsfrage is the right theme for philosophy, or because we should hope for the advent of the Übermensch, but because in their discussion of various particular themes they speak with an alacrity and beauty difficult to outdo.  Among apostates and pagans there is wisdom too!  We should take the spoils of Egypt with us in our flight to the Promised Land—not to make idols of them in the desert, not to be turned by them to despair and wish for the land of our captors, but to put them to good use, to melt them down and purify them, and use them to adorn the temple of the true God.

5.  This was true for the Fathers.  It is true for us today as well.

14 January 2015

Beginning the Search for Freedom

1.  I want to be liberated from this or that heteronomous authority, circumstance, difficulty.

2.  I place all frustration with my present life in things outside myself.

3.  It occurs to me: what if the difficulties you experience are not a result of something heteronomous but autonomous?

4.  I encounter that question common among critiques of libertarianism (philosophical and political): "Freedom for what?"

5.  Freedom for the good, it seems.  Freedom to do what is good, to possess the good.

6.  What impinges on this freedom seems to be more personal defects (habitual lack of goodness) than heteronomous authorities, circumstances, difficulties.

7.  These outward things have some relation still to my inward failures.

8.  What is the relation?

9.  How do I liberate myself from myself?  How does a rope bind itself when it is frayed?

10.  One seems to tie oneself in knots trying to solve this problem.

Sources of Knowledge and the Basis of Faith

All knowledge is imprinted on the mind by the thing that is known, either directly or indirectly.
  • DIRECTLY – through EXPERIENCE, using our SENSES
  • INDIRECTLY – through the report of someone else who has had their own experience.

Indirect knowledge forces us to weigh the EVIDENCE for what is being told to us.
Two main factors contribute to the Evidence of indirect knowledge:
  • Reliability of the Source of Information
  • Coherence of the Information with what is already Known

Knowledge can be distinguished also based on whether it is acquired naturally or supernaturally.
  • NATURALLY – through the use of merely natural abilities (senses, experience, reasoning)
  • SUPERNATURALLY – through the help of grace, which enables us to know something incapable of being discovered through experience

This allows us to make the following fourfold division of knowledge:

Naturally Acquired Knowledge
  • DIRECT – Experience
  • INDIRECT – Reading, Lectures, School, TV, etc.

Supernaturally Acquired Knowledge
  • DIRECT – Visions, including the Vision of God in Heaven, Prophetic Knowledge, Private Revelations
  • INDIRECT – Reports of Visions, Prophecies, Revelations, etc.

In the case of indirectly acquired supernatural knowledge, the problem of evidence is somewhat trickier than normal.  Naturally speaking, we can still fall back on the same tests of evidence that we normally use: assessing the reliability of the source of our information and weighing the coherence of the information presented with what is already known.  However, ultimately, indirectly acquired supernatural knowledge is believed because of a choice, a desire to believe.  This desire is supplied by grace.

Therefore, the act of believing what has been made known to us naturally about what has been revealed supernaturally is itself a supernatural act.  We call this act FAITH.

Confusion, Anxiety, Laziness

1.  For the past month or so I have suffered from a crippling combination of anxiety, confusion, and laziness.  Lack of sufficient desire or conviction to set myself to any substantial task, lack of confidence in my own merits being equal to any task I consider, lack of adequate hope for the completion of any task, and therefore lack of the expenditure of any effort.  It's all very bleak.

2.  One of the odd effects of teaching is that one is forced to explain things to one's students.  Today I set myself the task of providing a systematic foundation for the understanding of necessity of the existence of the Church for human happiness.  That sounds like a mammoth task, but it isn't really: one simply lays out the basics of human nature, human perfection, points to wisdom and divine friendship, and then the ways in which the Church acts to provide for humanity what it cannot provide for itself.

3.  Once we have completed this task, we will perform a cursory examination of the Apostolic Church, using the Acts of the Apostles and some passages from the New Testament Epistles.

11 January 2015

Random Thoughts

A few random thoughts:

1. St. Pius X was a modernizer (in one sense of the word) and a reformer. You've heard otherwise? The facts disagree with what you've been told.

2. Parishes suffer because their pastors make no effort to catechize the faithful outside of oblique doctrinal points in the Sunday homily. The old practice of having weekly catechism for adults should be restored.

3. Probably part of the reason pastors no longer try to catechize their flocks is because they often have no understanding of the faith, and are incapable of trying to explain it.

4. Pastors probably have no understanding of the faith, because they were not taught it in a clear way. They were not taught it clearly because of the faddishness of academic theology, which is (forgive me) frequently modernist, and pastorally useless.

5. Modernist theology is pastorally useless, because one of the essential points of modernism in all its forms is that faith is unnecessary.

6. When the modernists try to make theology useful, they make it humanly useful. Thus all of the "theologies of the genitive" (theology of the body, theology of workers, theology of play, theology of gender, etc.), which, as Gherardini says, tacitly re-orient theology so that it is anthropocentric. Anthropocentric theology! The apex of fallen man's absurdity.

7. One way people frequently talk about the "anthropological turn" without immediately revealing their absurdity, is to say that they are making theology "accessible" or "relevant". "Accessible" because we live in an age where people only care about things which somehow tap into their emotional lives; relevant because we live in an age of egoists. Therapeutic spirituality is the order of the day.

8. The question of Lefebvre's canonical status and the rectitude of his rebellion against the orders of Paul VI and JPII is a messy one. Less messy are the points he makes about the post-Conciliar collapse. When one reads him in his "Open Letter to Confused Catholics", it's hard to deny that he speaks the truth. When one reads his justifications for maintaining the Econe seminary and administering the sacraments after his suspension, he sounds too much like Luther.

9. This is not to say that he was a bad man. He lived in horrendously destructive times (as do we presently, it seems more and more), and it may be that some day he is canonized as the Athanasius he thought himself to be. This seems possible to me. In the meanwhile, this question seems unfruitful to me.

10. It is a mistake to "reject" Vatican II. Hostility to the council itself is an error, since it is impossible to deny that it was an ecumenical council of the Holy Catholic Church. The degree of authority (i.e. "Is this document intended as a definition of the faith or a meditation on present affairs?) and enduring prudential relevance ("Does the situation which this document was meant to address exist today?) of many of its pronouncements can be called into question. If one has difficulties reading the work of the council, they should be expressed that way.

11. Additionally, it is worth noting that hostility to Vatican II is extremely inexpedient. It's a sure way to raise the hackles of many catholics who might otherwise be receptive to those elements of the tradition which have been neglected over the past half-century.

12. Because the Roman Pontiff is charged with confirming his brothers and sisters in the Faith, it is deeply scandalous when he fails to do so, when he neglects the faith, or downplays its significance, or favors those who deviate from it or reject it outright, while showing hostility to those who attempt to uphold it. Many are so resolute not to be scandalized by the holy father that they make him the fount of doctrine, instead of the one responsible for confirming us in what has been handed down. They make him the divine legislator, instead of the chief preacher of the law of grace. Papal positivism.

13. The effect of this positivism is that it turns the faith which stems from Christ, which was inspired in the Apostles by the Holy Spirit, into a kind of spiritual policy. The pope creates the policy, and the people accept or dissent from it as they see fit. If they dissent from it, they do so in a spirit of progressivism, campaigning for the changes they see as necessary. Modernism again.

14. If the faith is meant to serve man and his emotional needs and personal spirituality, then of course it should be a policy. Of course it should be updated to suit the changing moods of the populus ecclesiae from one day to the next. Anthropocentrism again.

15. One never cries "be merciful!" to an referee when he makes a call that is displeasing or disadvantageous. When the game is taken seriously, its rules are treated with gravity and respect. Widespread failure to take the law of God seriously—no, even worse, widespread inability to conceive of the need to treat the divine law with gravity—is a sign of widespread idolatry.

16. The idol which has taken the place of God, which justifies the effacement of divine law, is human sensibility. We worship our feelings, and dare not offend them. Surely God must bow before the sensitivities of men. Surely he would understand our needs, and see that they supersede anything he might will for us.

17. New evangelical strategies reflect this. One often hears it in the form of that noxious line attributed to St. Francis: "Preach Christ always; if necessary use words." This line has a proper sense, which is good. But its ordinary understanding is that the primary way the Gospel is communicated is by being a nice and good person. No, preaching requires words.

18. The silence of Catholics is inspired by the silence of their Pastors, and in the midst of this silence: the faith is not handed down (or not adequately), divine things are not discussed, God is forgotten, and what is not forgotten, what is discussed, what is handed on, becomes increasingly the object of our attentions, our desires, our ultimate aspirations.

19. So it is: we begin by attempting to make the faith relevant and accessible and modern; we end, two generations later, by eliminating faith altogether.

20. The road to apostasy begins with phenomenology and guitars.

10 January 2015

Brief Catechesis on the Marks of the Church

Why is the Church called "one, holy, catholic, and apostolic"?

The Church is ONE, because:

  • It has one head and founder, who is Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
  • It is governed under one Pope, who is the Vicar of Christ on Earth.
  • It has one Faith, which is shared by all members.
  • Members of the Church are all initiated through the same Baptism.

The Church is HOLY because:

  • It is the means established by God for the sanctification of the whole world.
  • It is holy because of the holiness of its Saints, which all members of the Church are called to share.
  • It is holy because the Sacrifice of Christ, which we offer in the Mass, makes the members of the Church holy.
  • It is holy because it is guaranteed never, ultimately, to fail in its mission.

The Church is CATHOLIC because:

  • It is intended for all people, and the invitation extended by Christ through the Church is universal.
  • It is the same Church throughout the world: local and geographical differences do not divide the Church.

The Church is APOSTOLIC in two main ways:

  • In its GOVERNMENT, because it is governed by bishops, who are the successors of the original 12 Apostles, under Peter, their head, whose successor is the Bishop of Rome (aka the Pope).
  • In its TRADITIONS, because the Faith and the Sacraments preached by the Church are the same Faith, the same Sacraments preached by the Apostles, and received by them from Christ.