Sunday, November 22, 2015

Buying One's Way Out of Penance

Rouen Cathedral, The Butter
Tower on right 

Being a medieval historian—and a lover of all things from those magical Middle Ages—I have made a point in my travels of extensively touring the European cathedrals.   I have seen most of the great ones—Paris, Chartres, Cologne, Toledo, Seville, Westminster Abbey, York, Bamberg, Reims—more than once.  The most curious, to my taste, is Aachen and its corresponding church of San Vitale in Ravenna.  The most unique is Cordoba, the current Cathedral of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin, which had been built as a mosque and served as such for over four centuries.  I think the most mystical is Chartres where there is some indescribable ether that seems to rise from the earth and permeate the very stones of the sanctuary. But today I want to focus on the Cathedral of Notre Dame de Rouen in Normandy, or more precisely, on its southwest tower: the “Butter Tower.”
Those of you who have seen the 2009 comedy, Julie and Julia, documenting (in part) the famous chef Julia Child discovering her culinary vocation while married to the cultural attaché at the American embassy, remember the opening scene where Ms. Child has her initial exposure to Sole Meunière, the flaky white fish cooked in vividly rich Normany butter. (Other than the south-west of Ireland, no place on earth produces a quality of butter that surpasses Normandy.)  The restaurant in which Ms. Child discovers French cuisine—and its irreducible component, butter—was La Couronne, a dining establishment established in 1345 and still serving.  Joan of Arc was burned at the stake just yards away from what was an already flourishing restaurant on Wednesday, May 30, 1431.  Bon appétit. 
The connection between Julia Child’s La Couronne and the Rouen Cathedral’s Tour de Buerre is that they are both located in Rouen, the capital of Normandy.  Normandy is rare among the provinces of France in as that it does not produce notable wines.  But where the grape fails, the apple and the cow excel.  The apple gives Cider and the liqueur Calvados.  The cow some of the best cheeses and above all butter.
Through the Middle Ages, the calendar of the Catholic Church was marked by rigid fasts: Septigesima to Easter (70 days), Advent (approximately 28 days), 12 annual ember days, the vigils of approximately 25 feasts ranging from Pentecost, to Saint Martin, to the Birth of John the Baptist to the Holy Cross.   Moreover, on these days not only was meat prohibited but dairy products.   So when Archbishop Robert de Croismare wanted to build this tower for his cathedral he found an ingenious way to finance it.  The citizens of Rouen could receive a dispensation from the fast enabling them to cook with butter in return for financial support for the new tower.  The response was overwhelming.
The new tower was magnificent.  Built in the flamboyant gothic distinct to 15th century France, it appears in certain light to be carved of butter due to the intricately sculpted arches and pinnacles.  
We are tempted to look back on past centuries and romanticize a world of deeply religious people who stand in contrast to our secularized and shallow fellow citizens of our day and place. There were saints and mystics in the fifteenth century and there were many others who liked the creature comforts of good food and drink and soft bedding and elegant clothing.  (Well, given the hygiene habits of the day, elegant might not be exactly the word.)  The fact of the matter is that there are saints and mystics in our day too.  And there are those of us who keep the abstinence with lobster ravioli or Dungeness Crab.  But if you ever go to Rouen, enjoy la Couronne but then hike over to the Cathedral and see the Butter Tower.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Reason 7 Why The New Mass Is an Improvement over the Old Liturgy

As I make my way around to various meetings and conferences, I am always a little leery about where I will end up for Mass.  The other week I was in northern Illinois and “caught” the 10:45 AM Mass at Saint Paul the Apostle Gurnee. I am sure that neither Good Pope John nor the “Fathers of Vatican II,” ever dreamed that the changes in the Liturgy for which they called would have resulted no only in such a radically transformed mode of worship, but such a dynamic and mission-minded Christian community.
Being off-radar these past two weeks have convinced me that I need to focus more and to tie up my various “series” lest they get lost in the pile of postings that are scattered over my hardrive.  One of those series I am close to finishing is the one on the ten reasons why the Liturgical Rites promulgated in the1970 Missal are superior to the rites of the 1570 Missal incorporating the liturgical reforms of the Council of Trent.
I had begun my series on why the liturgical reforms of the Second Vatican Council are an advancement over the rites used prior to the Council in response to an article published on the Neo-Traditional website New Liturgical Movement making the counter claim in the NLM agenda of restoring the pre-conciliar rites as the normative.
So lets get back to the subject of why the current liturgical rites are the best available for the Roman Rite.  I am not saying that the current rites could not be better.  They could be much better.  But they are a vast improvement over the old rites.
And so to reason 7:
The Liturgy introduces us to the life of discipleship as we follow the saints through the Church year. 
This may sound strange because the “Old Mass” had a calendar of saints that rolled on day after day, in season and out of season, piling up two, three and four saints for any given day.  (If you checked out the martyrology for any given day you may find another dozen or so who didn’t make the Missal but who still, under certain circumstances, had an expectation of being commemorated.
The priest “reading the Mass” had to read, in order of importance of the feast assigned to each saint of the day, collect after collect, gathering them under a signal concluding
Per Dominum nostrum Iesum Christum, Filium tuum: qui tecum vivit et regnat in unitate Spiritus Sancti Deus, per omnia saecula saeculorum.
 This complex roll-calling of the Saints is one of the reasons that priests—both to avoid lengthening the daily morning Mass and to escape the liturgical ennui that is a by-product of saying Mass every day—took cover under the choice of saying the “Black Mass” (i.e. the requiem) leaving the saints unmentioned. 
There also are the numerous popes, bishops, virgins, and martyrs rattled off by the priest during Eucharistic Prayer I.    However, since both the (most often multiple) collects and the Eucharistic Prayer were recited sotto voce, the faithful in the pew was left in the dark about which of his heavenly brothers and sisters may be today receiving the honors of the Church.  The absence of homilies at daily (and not infrequently, Sunday) Mass did not help either.  We may have had saints but they didn’t get mentioned from the altar.  And when they did get mentioned it was too often for incredible legends of beheaded bishops walking the streets of Paris or a young virgin martyr suddenly springing a new pair of breasts to replace those the pervert executioner had amputated.  (If you want some omg laughs, read the antiphons for some of he feasts in the pre-conciliar breviary.)   
The calendar of the 1970 Rites has been pared down considerably and Lent and Advent have been designated for very few commemorations in order to allow the focus to remain on the mysteries of the Incarnation and Redemption.  There are norms to allow Saints from the older calendar, from the martyrology, or significant to the local church to still be celebrated but, excluding S N. and companions,  only one saint to the day is to be commemorated.  While many have been removed from the calendar, several hundred remain including more recent saints who have been introduced into the Liturgy in order to inspire contemporary Christians in the choices of discipleship. 
Most important, however, is the shift of place in which the saints have found themselves.  The current rites of the Church make it clear that Chris is our only intercessor at the Throne of Grace.  The saints today stand not above us presenting our prayers to God, but with us—praying with us, strengthening us, inspiriting us, accompanying us.  They are still powerful in their prayers but even stronger in the communion we share that knits us, saint and sinner into the One Body of Christ.  

Thursday, November 5, 2015

That All May Be One

Martin Luther

I saw recently that a joint commission of Bishops and Theologians representing both the Catholic Church in the United States and the Evangelical Lutheran Church In America (ELCA) are forwarding to Rome and to the General Convention of the ELCA) a proposal authorizing Eucharistic sharing between Lutherans and Catholics in recognition of the significant doctrinal agreements that have been reached in the fifty years of Ecumenical dialogue since the Second Vatican Council.
I must admit that I was startled at the proposal.  (“Startled” doesn’t mean that I don’t like it, only that—much like the “Francis Agenda” at the recent Synod on the Family, I am amazed how fast the Church is ready to move in this papacy.)  There are significant issues to be addressed, not the least of which is the Elephant on the Coffee Table of Valid (Apostolic) Orders.  The Catholic Church believes that during the Reformation the Apostolic Succession of the Lutheran hierarchy and ministry was “lost.”   This is a serious question because the authority to preside at the Eucharist, to forgive sins, to confirm, to ordain, and to anoint the sick depend—in Catholic theology—on the minister of the sacrament standing in an unbroken succession of clergy whose ordinations can be traced back to the Apostles.
Now frankly, the Apostolic Succession is a highly complex issue.  Can only bishops ordain priests?  There are historical precedents before the Council of Trent (and I believe there is even one within the century after Trent) where the Catholic Church recognized ordinations conducted by a presbyter (priest).  (Ironically I came across this information about forty years ago in a series of essays by theologians and historians  who were involved in the same Lutheran Catholic dialogue process that is making the recommendation of Eucharistic sharing,)  If priests can validly ordain, then Apostolic Succession has been retained in the Lutheran Church.  Moreover, in some strains of Lutheranism, most notably the Swedish,  the office and ministry of Bishops was maintained in continuity with the pre-Reformation Church.  The argument was made by Catholics that in rejecting the Eucharistic doctrines of the Catholic Church, most notably Transubstantiation and Eucharistic Sacrifice, even those Episcopal Churches in the Lutheran Communion suffered a break in the Apostolic lineage.  But again, things are much more complex.  Recent ecumenical dialogues have established that there is no essential difference between the Catholic formula of Transubstantiation and the Lutheran doctrine of Consubstantiation.   As Catholics are bound to the doctrine of the Real Presence and not essentially to the doctrine of Transubstantiation (which is only one way of explaining the Real Presence) there is quite a bit of room for accord here.  Actually Transubstantiation and Consubstantiation are, at the root, essentially the same when one understands the difference between Thomistic (Scholastic and neo-Scholastic) thought in the Catholic Tradition and the Neo-Platonic or Augustinian philosophy espoused by Luther and the theologians who followed him.  When Luther says that the bread and wine remain bread and wine but Christ is truly Present “in, with, and under” the forms of bread and wine he means what we Catholics mean in saying that whle the “accidents” of bread and wine remain unchanged, their substance is transformed into the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity (and, though we forget to add it, humanity) of Christ.  The physical and chemical properties of bread and wine remain bread and wine. 
While we have come a tremendous distance in a common understanding, I am not hopeful that this proposal will be accepted by Rome.  (I think the ELCA will be all over it like ants at a picnic.)  The highly sensitive issue of Apostolic Orders has not been addressed and a solution has not been found for it.  More important are the unspoken agendas.  Rome, even after Vatican II, can’t seem to move away from an “unconditional surrender” approach to Ecumenism.  With Rome you pretty much have to buy the whole ball of wax and we have some issues here.  We won’t even bring up the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin or purgatory.  Women’s ordination is a stumbling block all of its own.   Katholic Krazies will go berserk about this proposal as the ELCA supports “a woman’s right to choose” as well as Same-Sex marriage.  And of course most of the Krazies just hate ecumenism in general because they get a lot of their energy just from hating. 
In the end it is a huge fuss over nothing.  I see Lutherans and Presbyterians and Episcopalians and even the odd Greek Orthodox coming up the aisle in our Church for Holy Communion every Sunday.  My Methodist sister-in-law even has permission from the local Catholic bishops to receive Holy Communion.  She is at mass with my brother every Sunday.  Used to run the kid’s choir in the parish.  Hardly anyone in town knows that she technically isn’t a Catholic.  And hey—Catholics in the Lutheran Church: I know we aren’t supposed to go to Communion but I’ve seen priests—even fairly uptight ones that like to get all dolled up like Cardinal Burke—kneeling at the Lutheran rail.  Most Catholics don’t have a clue about the prohibition and it wouldn’t stop them if they did.  As in so many ways, the faithful are out in front while the magisterium puts their mitered heads in the sand and the theologians all wriggle and moan like they need a laxative. 
So am I condoning Eucharistic Sharing with Lutherans?  Don’t have to any more than I have to condone the sun coming up in the East.  It is just a fact of life.  Sure the krazies are beside themselves, “goin’ to fight it with everything in me” one writes.  But the words of Jesus remain: ut unum sint.
Now, for another matter.  I am taking a few weeks off while on a secret mission.  keep me in your prayers and I will keep you in mine.  

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Rorate Caeli Is In For A Big (And Distressing) Surprise

The new Archbishop, Don Matteo
celebrating (not the Traditional
Latin) Mass.  

Most of the Katholik Krazy blogs are run by white post-menopausal matrons with too much time and too little understanding of our authentic Tradition and consequently are a bit down at the heels when it comes to any theological élan.  An exception used to be Rorate Caeli which, at one time had contributors who could present some cogent arguments for the neo-Traditionalist position.  Over the past three or four years however Rorate Caeli has retained the superciliousness of its glory days but due to contributors like the Reverend Doctor Richard Cipolla  and Francesca Romana and the increasingly pretentious Professor Peter Kwasniewski of Wyoming Catholic College has let the intellectual ground beneath it give way to the most vapid of neo-Traditionalist mush.    
In light of all this, I got a particular kick out of a Rorate posting by “New Catholic” entitled
New Archbishop of Bologna a friend of the Traditional Mass
Pope Francis named today as new Archbishop of Bologna Matteo Zuppi, up to now Auxiliary Bishop of Rome. He has been mentioned here in Rorate for his visits to Santissima Trinita dei Pellegrini, the Personal Parish of the Traditional Mass in Rome (run by the Fraternity of St. Peter) - for instance, in 2014 - and his discreet attempts to help the Franciscans of the Immaculate.
May God keep him faithful, and may he be a worthy successor of the faithful Cardinal Caffarra in the defense of Christian morality. 
First of all, all due respect to those who have entered the Catholic Church as adults, but you don’t let “new converts” speak authoritatively about all things Catholic.  It takes time to plumb the depths of our doctrine, our practices, and our culture.  It takes time and practice—and integration into the community of those who have been born and raised in Catholicism—to absorb a genuine experience of the faith.  Some of the clerical voices of the neo-trads—such distinguished priests as Father Z or the above referenced Rev. Dr. Cipolla or the English Father Hunwicke are all examples of converts who confuse incense with blowing smoke. They want to teach before they have even learned.  “New Catholic” is no different but this time unfamiliarity with Catholicism left egg all over New Catholic’s face and spattered onto the rest of Rorate.  Despite his having celebrated, as an auxiliary bishop of Rome, the Traditional Latin Mass for the FSSP parish at Santissima Trinita, Archbishop Matteo Zuppi is no friend of neo-traditionalism.   Quite to the contrary.  Don Matteo is a protégé Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, the President of the Holy See’s Pontifical Council For the Family and a leading architect of the recent Synod and pusher of the “Kasper Agenda.”  Moreover Archbishop Zuppi has been life-long member of the left-wing Catholic Movement, the Community of Sant’Egidio.
In my Rome days I regularly attended Mass with the Sant’ Egidio Community.  In the early years when they were still in the Church of Sant’Egidio the Saturday night Eucharists were anything but rubrical.  Reverent, yes; beautiful, yes—but very unique liturgically.  Don Matteo was frequently the presider and very relaxed in his style of presiding over the two-hour plus Mass followed by the communal supper.  When the community outgrew the church of Sant’Egidio and moved into the Basilica of Santa Maria in Trastevere, the community began inviting various bishops and cardinals—invariably of the left wing of the Church—to preside and preach.  I remember often hearing Cardinal Kasper preach and in particular I remember the remarkable homily on the eve of the 2005 Conclave in which Kasper outlined what the Church needed in a “Good Shepherd.” (It was Good Shepherd Sunday) It was clear from his homily that Cardinal Kasper didn’t consider Cardinal Ratzinger as meeting the bill.  Very clear.  At Santa Maria in Trastevere liturgies became more “high church” and for the most part conformed to the Roman Missal  but remained good examples of Vatican II style liturgy with much contemporary music, communion in both kinds, and both men and women active in various lay ministries. 
Sant’Egidio was the main agency behind the Assisi Interfaith meetings which drew Christians, Jews, Buddhists, Muslims, Hindus and others to Assisi in1986 and again in 2002.  The Community also sponsored yearly interfaith “prayers for peace” at various sites around the world.  John Paul II was an enthusiastic supporter of these prayer services and of the Community itself, but Cardinal Ratzinger had serious issues about what he perceived to be common worship with those not of Christian faith.  An interfaith meeting was held in Assisi in 2011 with Pope Benedict present but without a common worship service. 
The Community of Sant’Egidio has also been the principle Catholic voice calling for an end to the Death Penalty in the United States and those other countries which still resort to it.  In addition the Community of Sant’Egidio has maintained ties with dozens of organizations that promote a “peace and justice” agenda.  Both theologically and politically it sits on the far left side of the Catholic spectrum.  So while Archbishop Zuppi may know how to say the TLM he comes from a Church that is thoroughly in the Pope Francis model.  Good Luck, Rorate with men like Zuppi in key sees, the Church is getting tied in closer and closer to Pope Francis’ vision.  Let’s hope he gets to fill a few more sees and leave his stamp on the Church.