Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Our Whackadoodle and Friends: Not Catholic, Just Bizarre

Plenty of Room for Diversity in
the Church--but not all diversity
is legit  
 My last posting was a commentary on an article write by “a notable traditional Catholic Scholar” who affects the nom de plume of Benedict Constable. Le Seigneur Constable, to my reading, overplays his hand a bit in his wish to ban biological women (as differentiated from the more frilly-garbed transgendered clerical ones) from service at the altar.  I did point out that his ecclesiology, though perhaps having some credibility before Mystici Corporis (and certainly not since Lumen Gentium/Gaudium et Spes) is not in line with the current teaching of the Church, and his theology of the Sacrament of Orders is highly deficient even by pre-conciliar standards.  This is not to mention serious flaws in his Christian Anthropology and Christology.  But as I suggested, the even more basic problem is not with his theology but with his psycho-sexual self-understanding.   The gentleman displays some obvious discomfort of sharing space with women.  There could be multiple reasons for this; I won’t presume to guess which ones.  But what interests me in this posting is the reaction to his article and a subsequent one “Male-Female Symbolism in Liturgical Roles: Not Bizarre, Just Catholic.” 
Frankly, the sequel article made me somewhat uncomfortable in as that it reminded me of—though it was nowhere as beguilingly salacious as—a talk given years ago by Archbishop (later, when he was given one of the most undeserved red hats in the history of the Church, Cardinal) Stafford of Denver.  As I recall, the talk was reported in the National Catholic Reporter (aka Fishwrap, a name given it by the Krazies but one which I won’t dispute.  NCR to my mind is simply an latter-day ecclesial version of the William Randolph Hearst school of Yellow Journalism.  But that would be another series of posts) and quoted Stafford comparing the priest’s kissing of the altar at Mass with a husband performing cunnilingus (there is a word I never thought I would use in this blog) as foreplay to matrimonial lovemaking.  Now I have always been somewhat charmed by the adage that I once heard in a sermon that sacramentally a husband making love with his wife is to the sacrament of Matrimony what the priest celebrating the Eucharist with the people entrusted to his care is to the sacrament of Holy Orders.  I mean each act is somewhat at the center of the particular sacrament.  Nevertheless, after reading Stafford’s analogy I must admit that it was months before I felt it safe to go to Mass again and these twenty-some years later that image is still stuck, rather distastefully (if you will pardon the entendre) in my mind.  Symbols are most effective when they are employed without explanation or commentary.  And in any case, I am not sure that the various sexual symbolisms of either Cardinal Stafford or our dear Benedict Constable are inherent in the Eucharist or are the results of a somewhat overactive half Jungian/half Freudian imagination.  Maybe Mr. Constable is not alone and I too have my sexual hang-ups—most of us do to some extent or other—but when I go to Church I want to go to Church and not to some piece of theatre that is fraught with sexual undertones (if your are female) and overtones (if you are male.) (See, I do believe that the sexes are not the same.)  Let what operates in the subconscious remain in the subconscious; I am not one who wants to make Mass an occasion of sin for those whose hormones still rage. 
All that being said, what I really want to do in this blog, is to show how what the Right Honorable and Somewhat Pretentious Mr. Constable, a “noteworthy traditional Catholic Scholar,” says and what his audience hears are two very different things and while what the noted scholar writes can be amusing—perhaps even erotically so—what his audience is taking from it portends the ever widening cracks within the unity of the Church. 
Our dear Professor Kwasniewski, whom I think has been remiss in remaining in the wilds of Wyoming far too long, grasps the problem that I mentioned in my previous post—that B.C. sees lay liturgical ministers filling in for insufficient clergy rather than exercising their baptismal dignity—only Kwasniewski doesn’t see this as a problem.  But then, the good Cowboy Philosopher studied philosophy and not theology so what can one expect.    He writes:
Celeste, the way to reconcile your point and Constable's is simply to observe that whenever laymen are doing the readings, they are substituting for clerics. That's all they're doing. (The same goes for altar servers, who should, ideally, be instituted acolytes.) If we didn't have a huge shortage of clerics and if we had a better pastoral plan for the use of instituted lectors and acolytes, we wouldn't need to be always tapping on laymen's shoulders and having them fill in.
That being said, laymen are, as such, symbolically configurable to Christ the High Priest, in a way that laywomen are not -- and that makes a huge different for liturgy, which is a language of symbols.
His “clerical error” is repeated by one Romulus Charles Lewis.
If you are bringing up female competence and spunk and devotion, I can only agree that you are not getting the explanations. Our Lord is the Bridegroom. Women cannot stand as symbols of this. Because the only indispensable person in the celebration of Mass is the a priest, other persons active in the sanctuary are there only as additional hands and feet -- extensions of his body, so to speak. (The Italian word for altar boy is "chierichetto" -- a little cleric). Female servers at Mass obscure and de-signify the maleness of the priest-celebrant.
I love the name Romulus, don’t you?  Why didn’t my parents think of naming me Romulus.  Or Benedict.  Or Euston. Or Archibald.   Great names, all.    Raised by wolves, Romulus was; maybe that was the reason the name was chosen. 
And then there is Jared Clark.  That is another great name. Jared.  I also life Geoffrey, but only if it is Geoff and not Jeff.  Vulgar Americanization, Jeffrey. 
I am aware that this practice is currently licit, and I'm not actually all that concerned with appearances. It's not the bad result that women lectors and altar girls lead some to think priestesses are a real possibility (I am not a consequentialist; if that were the core of my objection, I'd just be calling for better catechesis), but that it goes against the nature of the sanctuary, wherein all liturgical action is priestly. The fact that sanctuary=priestly seems strange is one of the biggest problems in the Church today.
If taking a small step towards correcting this error by requiring a seminarian, or a non-seminarian instituted lector, or another man to read the readings would be seen as sexist....oh well. Still not a consequentialist :P
WHAT DOES IT TAKE TO GET PEOPLE TO READ LUMEN GENTIUM!!! And Sacroscanctum Concilium.  Lectors and acolytes (much less ordinary readers and Extraordinary Ministers of the Eucharist, and Altar Servers et al.) are not standing in for ordained clergy!!!  They are there by right and duty of Baptism!!! Baptism is the most important of the Seven Sacraments and yet perhaps the least appreciated.  
But then there are the ‘oi polloi, the great unwashed who act not so much out of (bad) theology as about a rejection of everything connected with the Second Vatican Council for the sake of rejecting everything connected with the Second Vatican Council. And so, one Michael Dowd writes: 
Yes, on no female lectors. And no female altar servers, either. And no communion in the hand. And forget about communion under two specials (drop the cup). And turn the priest around to lead, not face the people. Do these all these things and we are off to a good start to celebrating Mass as it should be. : God is there, we need to show proper respect which leads to love. That's what the show is all about folks!
OK, no theology here.  Keep moving on.  Nothing to see.  Just put all the toys back in the toy box and let the nursery look like the night Tinkerbelle came and led the children off to a magical fantasyland.  Pure “restorationism” without a hint of theology.  I can deal with those whose faulty theology leads them to bad liturgical practice, but when it is just this sort of thoughtless demand that the Church be refashioned to their particular taste I cannot help but think of the adage of Aristophanes:
Youth ages, immaturity is outgrown, ignorance can be educated, and drunkenness sobered, but stupid lasts forever.’
And speaking of that sort of vacuous a-theological rhetoric we have one Augustine Thomas (sounds like another Anglophile wannabe) who just dismisses Conciliar Catholicism as a perfidious devolution into an insultingly negative caricature of Protestantism   
Most Catholics who even still bother to go to church have been Protestantized in their beliefs of what the Mass, or should I say the "worship service", is.
And then, in a classic example of the fire hydrant pissing on the dog, Augustine Thomas goes on to say that it is the Vatican II crowd that are given to wildly illogical and inherent falsification of the truth:
Don't expect reason from Novus Ordo Catholics. 

They're like leftists. They don't trade in logic. They use any deception or dishonesty necessary to lead the majority astray and then use that majority to silence the opposition, no matter how wrong they are.
Mr. Thomas gives no data to support his thesis that contemporary Catholics have been “Protestantized” in their beliefs and again without any examples goes on claim that supporters of the Reforms of Vatican II resort to deception and dishonesty in advancing reform.  Give examples.  Back up your claim with evidence.  I would hardly dismiss so cavalierly the scholarship of generations of theologians and historians like Chenu and Jungmann and Dix and Bea and Congar and Bouyer and Schillebeeckx and the other brains behind Vatican II. 
But there is one “lwhite”  (perhaps Lily White) who redefines “orthodoxy” and attacks the work of John Saward to strike at two of the theological architects of the   Council, Hans Urs von Balthasar  and Henri de Lubac, both of whom were made Cardinals in their old age by John Paul II, hardly a devotee of Modernism. 
Fr. John Saward, called the "Balthasar of the English-speaking world" is not someone who is a trusted source for Catholic orthodoxy. Balthasar's writings are full of heresies and should be avoided by faithful Catholics.
It was Hans Urs Von Balthasar's writings that became the primary source of confusion in Catholic philosophy and theology. He carried further Henri de Lubac's infection of Modernism into the Church who introduced the principle of self-contradiction into the very heart of truth.

So what we have following Benedict Constable’s just bizarre, not Catholic argument against women reading in the liturgy or taking any other active role that requires their presence in the area surrounding the altar, are two diverse camps.  One camp, typified by Constable himself, rejects the ecclesiology put forth in the Second Vatican Council which recognizes the priestly character of the baptized (distinct from the priestly character unique to those ordained to the presbyterate or episcopate) and empowers every baptized individual, regardless of sex, to liturgical ministries not reserved to the ordained.   The other camp, without any theological rationale, have simply rejected the Conciliar and post-Conciliar developments in the Church out of hand and are equating authentic Catholicism with a return to the pre-Conciliar status quo.
Both these stances are not only warning signs of trouble to come but are dangerous in themselves as they represent an increasing polarizing splintering of the faith, and it will ultimately become impossible for Conciliar and non-Conciliar Catholics to remain united in the same Church.  This is not to say that there is no room for legitimate diversity in the Church.  The Eastern Church not only has a different discipline regarding celibacy, for example, and different liturgical traditions, but also differs from the Western Church on significant doctrines such as purgatory and original sin.  There is, however, a mutual respect for the varying rites and an agreement to let charity trump doctrinal disagreements and permit a certain unresolved ambiguity of belief.  What we see between the Conciliar and non-Conciliar Catholics is not merely a divergence of theological models, but a rejection of authority whether it be the authority of the reigning pope, the authority of his predecessors who approved the various liturgical changes, or the authority of the Council which established the theological framework against which the non-Conciliar Catholics are rebelling.  
Years ago I was at a seminar conducted by the Reverend Martin Marty, a Lutheran and distinguished Church historian.  I recall Dr. Marty saying that the Roman (Catholic) Church has shown itself through the centuries willing to tolerate a huge amount of doctrinal diversion but it is never willing, for a moment, to tolerate a challenge to its authority.  As a historian myself I have come to see that.  Ultimately the non-Conciliar Catholics, whether they be Bishop Fellay and his Society of Saint Pius X or the more home spun variety such as Benedict Constable and Augustine Thomas and Michael Dowd and Jared and Romulus and all the rest will have to submit to the authority of the Council and the Conciliar Popes or they will find themselves on the wrong side of the Church Door.   


  1. Thanks for your posts on history and please continue them and not waste time on the Katholic Krazies... in reality they are very few in number, of no real influence and are just sad people with various mental health issues.

  2. I take your point, Peter and perhaps I need to do a posting on why I offer this sort of smorgasbord of contemporary issues, the past, and the relish tray of krazies. One reason is there are connections, important connections, where a lot of contemporary issues are misunderstood or abused for lack of historical information. Another reason is that much of the agenda being proposed as "authentic" Catholicism is not our tradition at all but the fruit of the 19th century post-French Revolution Romantic revival. And finally--though not without considerable influence is that my readership doubles and triples for posts on contemporary issues and even quadruples when I deal with the krazies. There is always that danger of pandering Fox News Style to one's audience and I must admit that I get too much pleasure out of it,but I will try to do proportionately more strict history than the other stuff. I guess one other reason is that the strict history does require huge amounts of research that I have to spread over a longer period of time. 18th century Anglicanism has been a bitch for that.

  3. I value the range of writing that you post. I learn something from the history and from the contemporary issues. Please keep up the diverse range. May I put in a request for you to finish your top ten reasons for the Vatican II liturgy?

    1. I second that request, Julie B-G ... and was about to make the same plea.

  4. I like the variety, including the history, but were it not for you, I would not know what these folks are saying. Every now and then, in one's local parish, some one will echo the Krazies thoughts without thinking anything except "it must be holier", and I like to be able to respond intelligently. So, thanks for all of it.

  5. Consolamini,

    I have just stumbled upon your blog a few days ago, and only got around to reading a bit of it now, but this is such a joy, vindication, and happiness to have found. In my time in the church, I have found that I agree with older priests, theologians, and women religious than I have with younger ones, because they seem to have a capacity for nuance and a certain willingness to think critically about the church, it's history, and the historical/eccelsiological/societal underpinnings of its self-understanding, modes of thinking, and so forth. By contrast, many of the seminarians and young priests of the Catholic Church in America are sadly lacking in both the ability to think and also in the willingness to see goodness in the secular world and shortcomings of the church. They are mesmerized, I can relate by firsthand experienced for several years, by their own airbrushed, glorified version of the 1950's era in American Catholicism, and that has led to the breeding of a new-traditionalism that threatens to divide the church more than many are willing to grant. While such sentiments are shared by perhaps a lonely 1% of rank-and-file Catholics (who are so bizarre we don't need them), the neo-traditionalist movement in the seminaries is vastly overrepresented, and encompasses a good third of the population in some major East Coast seminaries. It's sad and unfortunate, because there is a growing rift and chasm between the overall "spiritual-eccelsiological landscape," if you will, of a newly minted (or shat out, perhaps?) priest and the average Millennial or Generation Xer from which they emerged.

    In short, please keep doing what your doing. My initial review of this blog is that of a rather rare and desperately needed clearing house for intellectually rigorous, spiritually sound, and scholastically-synthetic ecclesiology of the Church in the postmodern world. While the malcontent groupies flock to their freakolope blogs in the aptly-name Krazy Katholic Kraposphere, this is truly a gem.

    If it pleases you, know that you've gained at least one viewer in the college-aged bracket who considers the material and its sources written here to be invaluable. Thanks for much for existing, in other words! I look forward to appropriating your insights here into my own journey of faith in the church and leading others to God as I consider them critically and enthusiastically.

    God bless,

    1. "mesmerized....by their own airbrushed, glorified version of the 1950's era"

      What an apt description! Which means that one can analogize the Krazies to folks who watch Leave it to Beaver reruns and who believe there were women were intended by God to wear dresses and high heels while doing housework.

  6. Per your comments on the eroticization of the liturgy. It was no less than John Paul II who, in an apostolic letter (Mulieris dignitatem) described the Eucharist as "the Sacrament of the Bridegroom and the Bride." The extended implications of this description must, I think, include real, albeit metaphorical, sexual imagery. While I would not go so far as that unnecessarily graphic comment of Stafford, it seems to me that a kiss -- pace Freud -- in this instance is indeed a kiss. More apposite is the comparison one can make between the words of consecration and marital vows.