Saturday, February 26, 2011

Is Vatican II in Danger? V Reform of the Reform

In 1996—eleven years before Summorum Pontificium, Monsignor M. Francis Mannion, then rector of the Cathedral of the Madeleine in Salt Lake City, a church well noted for the high quality of its liturgical celebrations under his direction, wrote an article for America Magazine in which he analyzed five distinct liturgical movements in the Church in the United States.  One of these schools of thought called for the restoration of the preconciliar rites, a goal at least partially achieved by Summorum Pontificium.  A second school of thought, or liturgical movement, Mannion termed “Reforming the Reform.”  This group was profoundly unhappy with the post-conciliar developments of the liturgy claiming that they went far beyond the reforms explicitly mandated by, the council. (And, by the way, I believe he was right. That is in part what I implied in a previous post when I said that the only people who truly understand the New Rites are those who have objected to them on the basis of their discontinuity with the 1570 Rite.)   Mannion cited a book published by the late Monsignor Klaus Gamber, The Reform of the Roman Liturgy, published in English in 1993 as providing the ammunition the “Reform of the Reform” advocates have used as a basis for their plan to restructure the post-conciliar liturgy.  Gamber admitted that the Council needed to address the issue of the Liturgy as the Roman Rite had become “ossified” and devolved into mere rubricism.  Nevertheless, he believed that the Missal of Paul VI, issued in 1969, had not only gone far beyond the changes mandated by the Council but represented some serious breaks with the Tradition of the Church.  Mannion, in his article, wrote that the Reform of the Reform movement put particular blame for the Novus Ordo of Paul VI on ICEL (The International Committee for English in the Liturgy) and faulted the bishops for abdicating their responsibilities to “specialists and scholars.”  The Reconstitution of ICEL in 2003 by mandate of the Holy See and the subsequent retranslation of the Roman Missal, the translation which will be effective in the United States in Advent of 2011, indicates the strength of the “Reform of the Reform” school even though the new missal does not reach all their objectives.  

The objective of the Restorationist  movement, at least as regards liturgy, is the restoration of the pre-conciliar liturgy as the only liturgy, or at least the preferred form, in the Western Church.  This goal has been partially achieved by Summorum Pontificium in giving a carte blanche to priests to celebrate Mass in the “Extraordinary Form” at their discretion regardless of the pastoral oversight of the bishop or even the preference of the congregation.  What are the objectives of the Reform of the Reform?  Father Brian Harrison, a spokesperson for the Reform of the Reform, suggested in bulletins of Adoremus, the leading American voice of the Reform of the Reform movement, called for the following changes in the liturgy:
1.      The abolition of all other Eucharistic Prayers other than Prayer I—the “canon” of the Mass in the Tridentine Liturgy
2.      The recitation of the Canon in Latin
3.      The restriction of communion to one species for all but the celebrating priest
4.      The priest and people facing the same direction in the liturgy
5.      The use of two scripture readings at Sunday Mass rather than three
6.      The exclusive use of men in liturgical ministries
Other changes often proposed—and often implemented in parishes by pastors sympathetic to the movement—by Reform of the Reform advocates are
1.      The elimination of the sign of peace
2.      The use of black or purple vestments for the funeral liturgy
3.      The restoration of kneeling for holy communion
4.      The administration of holy communion directly on the tongue
5.      The elimination of extraordinary ministers of the Eucharist at the liturgy
6.      The elimination of concelebration of the Liturgy
7.      The use of “Roman” vestments –the “fiddleback” chasuable
8.      The revival of various customs that had been suppressed or fallen into disuse such as the use of the biretta, the maniple, “subdeacons,” etc.  

Slowly but with certainty various elements of the Reform of the Reform have been introduced in many parishes and dioceses.  It is not unusual, for example, to see purple or even black vestments used for a “Requiem” liturgy along with various other accoutrements of the old requiem mass—the candles around the catafalque or the use of the Requiem Aeternum and other chants.  The Swine Flu epidemic gave rationale for suspending the sign of peace and communion from the chalice, but these practices have not been restored in many places even though the crisis passed.  Bishop Slattery of Tulsa wrote a letter to his faithful informing them that henceforward he would—at least in his cathedral—be celebrating the Liturgy ad absidem—that is facing the back wall of the church.  He is not alone in this practice. According to the website of the New Liturgical Movement, one of the voices of what Mannion called The Reform of the Reform—though also an advocate of restoring the pre-conciliar liturgy—the following notice appeared in the bulletin of St. Benedict’s Church in Duluth MN. 
All the Masses at St. Benedict's parish (with the exception of the early Sunday morning Mass) are celebrated in the common posture turned towards the Lord (ad orientem) in the direction of the liturgical east.

We will continue this topic in our next blog, but a clarifying word about “ad orientem.” I hope in the next few weeks perhaps to do an expanded article on the historical issue of “ad orientem” which means “towards the east” and refers to the ancient (but not universal) custom of Christian worshippers—officiants and participants alike—to face eastwards for prayer.  The Sun, a symbol of the Resurrected Christ, rises in the East.  When a church building is “oriented”—that is laid out with the altar at the eastern end—one can say that worship is “ad orientem,” but this term is often used to simply to mean that the priest and congregation stand (or kneel) face the same direction, that is facing the altar and the wall beyond it.  Except in those situations where the church is actually laid out facing eastwards, the correct term is actually ad apsidem (toward the apse or rear wall).  When advocates of the ad apsidem posture use the term “the liturgical east” they create an artificial pole that actually mocks the theological significance of the eastwards position.   

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Is Vatican II in Danger? IV The Liturgical issues

In our last episode of “Is Vatican II I Danger,”  I had mentioned that the collect for the Jews in the restored “extraordinary form”  of the Roman Rite granted for use in the the 2007 motu proprio: Summorum Pontificium, caused a huge amount of anger and hurt in the Jewish community even though the most objectionable phrase, "pro perfidies judaeis was not included."  Theologically the prayer differs substantially from that of the 1970 Missal of Paul VI in as that the Tridentine form, edited by John XXIII and again by Benedict XVI, approved for use implies—indeed states—that the Jewish people are in need of the enlightenment of faith and need to come to an explicit acceptance of Christ as Savior, whereas the prayer of the 1970 missal clearly affirms that the Covenant God made with Israel is still a valid covenant, capable of offering salvation to those who keep it.  This is a very sensitive area and one in which the post Conciliar Document, Dominus Jesus, seems to move away from the Conciliar teaching in Nostra Aetate.     The restored (though edited) Tridentine prayer authorized by Summorum Pontificium is only one of a considerable number of areas in which we see the different theologies that lie beneath the 1570-1970 rite and the post 1970 Rite.  I have long thought that the only people who truly understand the Rite of Paul VI, the so-called Novus Ordo, are those who opposed it.  Despite what we were told at the time, the changes are not “superficial”—there is a significantly different theology of the Eucharist (principally as regards “sacrifice” more than “real presence") in the current rite than in the pre-conciliar rite.  But the differences are not limited to Eucharistic theology.  There are substantially different ecclesiologies, theologies of Orders, soteriology,  missiology, and theologies of the Word in the two rites.  This being said, let me necessarily add that I believe that the Rite of Paul VI, the Novus Ordo, is more faithful to the Biblical and Patristic Traditions in as that it is freed of many of the medieval accretions that “deformed” the liturgical development of the medieval rites from which the Missal of Pius V drew.  The relationship of the Eucharistic Body of Christ to the Ecclesial Body of Christ is much clearer in the New Rite for example.  The interdependency of Word and Sacrament is more clear.  There is a stronger balance of the ex opere operantis with the ex opere operato dimension of the sacramentology.  The priestly role of the faithful as complimentary to the unique priestly role of the ordained and their common origin in the High Priesthood of Christ is more clear.  I could go on but I think the point is made.  But these different theologies are—to an extent—problematic.  I say to an extent because there are—and have always been—significant theological variables among the ancient Rites of the Church as well—the eschatological/soteriological question of purgatory being one significant example.    But in any event, I am skirting the boundaries of history here and I don’t want to cross over into theology as that is indeed dangerous turf.   Suffice it to say that in approving an unrestricted use of the “Extraordinary Form,” two theologies are being allowed to stand in the Western Church and that is bound to lead to some tension—tension that can tear the fabric of the Church if the Pope and  bishops are not extremely careful. 
Perhaps more immediately problematic itself is that Summorum Pontificium  which gave a universal permission for the use of the formerly suppressed Tridentine Rite has also done much to create the impression that the Holy See is backing away from the Council.  This decree is troubling for at least two reasons.  The first, and probably more serious, is that it bypasses the jurisdiction of the local bishop in regulating public worship and providing for the pastoral care of his flock.  Supposedly any priest now can decide which rite—the “ordinary” or the “extraordinary” he will use for liturgical celebration.  The rite was supposedly designed to provide the “extraordinary” rite for groups of the faithful that requested it but the application of this norm is dependent on the evaluation of the priest, not the diocesan authorities.   The second problem is that the rite permitted by the motu proprio is the exact rite which the Council mandated to be reformed but Summorum Pontificium permits it to be used not with the reforming norms mandated by the Council but as issued in 1962—the year the council opened.   If the rite was to be permitted at all, it should have been with the explicit modifications required by the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy.  To permit the 1962 Rite to be used as is, is to ignore the Conciliar decree on the Liturgy. 

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Gregory the Great and the rearrangment of Saint Peter's Basilica.

When Gregory the Great (Gregory I –Gregory VII is also referred to as Gregory the Great just to make a historian’s life difficult) became pope in 590, he determined a renovation of the shrine over the tomb of the Apostle.  He raised the floor level of the Apse four and a half feet and built two flights of stairs to either side of and perpendicular to a level space just before the altar—much like the arrangement of the altar seen here at Santa Maria in Trastevere.  He located his Episcopal chair (since this church was (and is) not a cathedral the chair is technically not the pope’s cathedra) in the traditional spot, against the wall of the apse and directly behind the altar.  In addition to raising the level of the apse and placing his chair and benches for the clergy in what was the traditional Roman position lining the wall of the apse, Gregory wanted to have an altar for the celebration of the Eucharist.  You may remember that in Constantine’s basilica, the marble and porphyry monument encasing the trophy of Gaius —the brick plastered “red wall” that had been built over the tomb of Peter c. 150 AD —which took the traditional place of the altar as the focal point of the basilica.  In raising the level of the floor of the apse almost five feet, Constantine’s monument was all but buried; enough remained above the floor level to become the altar of the basilica.  Thus the altar contained within itself the ancient monument over Peter’s grave. 
A passage below the floor of the apse and following its curve gave access to a recessed chapel directly beneath Gregory’s main altar and in this chapel it was possible to have access to the tomb of the apostle by lowering pieces of cloth to the tomb below and then withdrawing the cloth to keep as a relic.  Although Constantine’s basilica itself is gone—and Gregory’s apse with it—one can still walk this curved passageway today in the “grottoes” beneath the current Saint Peter’s and there enter the chapel, now called the Clementine Chapel after Pope Clement VIII who refurbished it at the very end of the sixteenth century.  Behind the altar there is a grille and through the grille one can see the marble and porphyry monument that Constantine had erected over the tomb of the apostle which served as the altar in Gregory’s day and which lies directly beneath the current papal altar of the new basilica; the altar was consecrated by Clement VIII June 5, 1594.  Until about ten years ago this passage was regularly open to pilgrims, but the series of chapels that line the ancient apse are now usually open only early in the morning when they are used for the dozens of masses visiting priests and Vatican regulars use to say mass.  The chapels have proved too difficult to protect in this age subject to terrorist threats and so they are sealed during the day.     
Gregory was not the only pope to make changes in the basilica.  Over the centuries there was a constant need for repair and addition to the basilica as well as for decoration.  In fact, popes often paid more attention to the decoration than to the maintenance of the fabric which is one of the reasons the basilica eventually would have to come down and be replaced in the sixteenth century.  The rich décor along with immense quantities of gold and silver votive offerings adorned with gems sometimes serve to tempt foes to sack the basilica.  Honorius I (pope 625-638) took the tiles from the Basilica of Maxentius (a secular building, not a worship site) in the Forum to re-roof St. Peters.  In 846 Saracen pirates sacked the basilica and took many valuable items with them.  Gregory IV (827-844) rebuilt the Atrium—the spacious colonnaded courtyard in front of the basilica proper.   In the middle of the eleventh century the building, at that point seven centuries old, was in danger of collapsing and a succession of popes, though largely unsuccessful in raising funds to carry out the work as properly as it should have been done, did what they could to strengthen the structure of the building.  Remember, however, that this was not the principal church of Rome at the time.  The Pope’s Cathedral was (and still is) the Basilica of Saint John Lateran and it was at the Lateran—not the Vatican—where the pope resided and normally carried out ceremonies. 
One ceremony that was carried out in Constantine’s Basilica of Saint Peter was the coronation of Charlemagne on Christmas day in the year 800.  Charlemagne’s family—the Pepinid dynasty—were the traditional protectors of the papacy. In fact they owed their legitimacy to the papacy as they had been “mayors of the palace” to the legitimate kings of the Franks—the Merovingian dynasty—and when the Merovingians proved too weak to protect France, much less the papacy, the Pepinids sought and received the papal blessing to overthrow the Merovingians and replace them.  As the Merovingians had been descended from Clovis—for whose baptismal and coronation anointings the Holy Spirit herself had supposedly sent from heaven a holy oil it would take at least a papal benediction to authorize a new dynasty on the throne.  When Pope Leo III had been threatened with being deposed by his clergy for various immoralities, Charlemagne came to Rome to adjucate the case himself.   When Leo proved his innocence to Charlemange’s satisfaction he then crowned Charlemagne emperor of a revived Roman Empire.  The idea did not catch on at once; the empire would more or less fall apart when upon his death Charlemagne divided his realms among his three sons. However his great great great grandson, Otto of Bavaria would revive it—but that leads us in another direction.  When receiving his crown, Charlemagne knelt on a circle of porphyry about 5 feet in diameter that was set before the altar of the basilica.  Porphyry was (and is) an exceptionally precious stone and its use was reserved for the emperor.  During the central Middle Ages it became a tradition that the emperors would kneel on this stone when being crowned in Rome.  That same stone can be found in the floor of today's basilica just inside the central doors leading from the modern atriun into the basilica proper.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Taking a Look at Constantine's Basilica in the Vatican

Today is the feast of the Chair of Saint Peter--a feast that celebrates the apostle's ministry at Rome and it is a fortunate coincidence that we are looking at the basilica that Constantine built over the tomb of the Apostle two and a half centuries after Peter's martyrdom.  Constantine’s Basilica no longer stands. It was demolished over the course of the sixteenth century to make way for the current St Peter's Basilica.  There are few representations of the original church—one of the more notable is in the Basilica of San Martino ai Monte in Rome.  This fresco was painted sometime probably in the 14th century when the basilica was approximately a thousand years old and had been considerably altered from Constantine’s day.  Notice the tabernacle (the canopy) over the altar with its tall pointed super-structure. While such tabernacles were all but universal in Roman churches, I haven’t come across the description of this one, but it roughly corresponds--not in detail but in general idea--to the still standing tabernacle of the basilica of Saint John Lateran by Arnolfo di Cambio .  We know this is a fresco of the Vatican Basilica because of the pigna (the large bronze pinecone) which stood in the center of the open courtyard in front of the medieval basilica.  It now stands in a courtyard of the part of hte Vatican palace used as the museum. 

While the original basilica no longer stands, we can have an idea of what it looked like by looking at features of several other churches that in various particulars resembled Constantine’s shrine over the tomb of the apostle.   
This next  picture is of the Basilica of Saint Paul fuori le mura (outside the walls) the Constantinian Basilica constructed over the tomb of the Apostle Paul.  Unfortuantley a fire early in the nineteenth century all but destroyed the ancient basilica and this is a 19th century building but built on Constantine’s original plan.  Like Constantine’s Saint Peter’s it is a five aisled basilica with a transverse on the far end from the middle of which extends an apse.  while slightly larger than Old St. Peter's, the proportions are roughly the same.   We see here only the central aisle, the two aisles that flank it on either side are barely visible but the immense width not only makes the flanking aisles a necessity to support the roof, it also gives a spacious feel to the entire nave.

At  the far end of the nave, just before the transverse crossing at the far end, stood a "triumphal arch" on the idea of the arches the emperors had built to mark their victories.   The triumphal arch separating the nave from the apse of the basilica of Santa Praessede in Rome, pictured to the right,  is somewhat typical of such an arch that stood at the head of the aula or nave of the Constantinian Basilica of Saint Peter, separating it from the transverse and the apse beyond.   In the center one can see the Paschal Lamb on the Book of Seven Seals mentioned in the Book of Revelation.  On either side stand the winged figures representing the four evangelists.  Beyond them haloed figures of the apostles and beneath the evangelists and apostles one sees the elders of the Book of Revelation with their golden crowns.   

The ancient basilica of Santa Maria in Trastevere also has a triumphal arch—in fact it has two of them.  The forward one has mosaics of the renaissance period, but the one in front of the apse has a central roundel with a cross and the alpha and omega representing Christ.  On either side of the roundel one can see angels and below them the prophets.  The arch at St. Paul outside the walls which can be seen in the picture of that church illustrating the five aisled nave has a central roundel with Christ in his humanity and the evangelists, two on either side of him.  beneath them are a host of saints in adoration.  Because of the consistency of theme, we can presume that the arch in St. Peter’s was decorated with a depiction of Christ in the center and probably with the evangelists and apostles somewhere in the design.  Of course, remember that in history the word "presume" is a very weak word; while the central figure being Christ is all but certain, we do not know the remainder of the design with any certainty.   

In almost all of the ancient and early medieval churches of Rome the altar is crowned with a tabernacle.  American Catholics think of the tabernacle as being the repository for the Eucharist left over from mass and reserved for the communion of the sick and dying, but classically the tabernacle is the stone canopy over the altar.  Technically a tabernacle is a tented structure.  Before the Council of Trent these stone canopies were hung with draperies that could be closed to conceal the altar—and indeed conceal the mass itself—and this was traditionally done in penitential seasons.  In times of interdict or mourning the altars were ordered to be “veiled” which meant the drapes were to be closed.  In most of the Eastern Rites there was either an icon screen or a curtain hung between the area around the altar and the congregation.  If it is a curtain it is closed for certain portions of the liturgy and/or during certain seasons of the year—again usually penitential times.  If there is a screen as in the Byzantine and several other rites, then the doors in the screen are left open on major feasts and closed at other times—and with a drape behind the doors at the most solemn times.  These drapes suspended from the tabernacle performed the same function.  The liturgical reforms of the sixteenth century Council of Trent did away with them.  Above we have pictures of the tabernacles of two old churches—on the left San Giorgio in Velabro  (7th century) and on the right Santa Maria in Trastevere (4th century).  Old Saint Peter’s also had a tabernacle, though we don’t quite know its design.  In the drawing below it appears as a rather boxy affair with arches beneath the arched canopy rising from the four columns and beneath the round chandelier suspended from the architraves.  Personally I doubt it was this boxed as most tabernacles that survive are more open affairs.  The next episode will be the changes that Gregory the Great made in the Basilica. 


Monday, February 21, 2011

How the Vatican became the the hub of the Catholic World

Well, we have gotten pretty involved this last month in history of the Catholic Church in the United States—and from the number of people checking the blog—especially the American Civil War episodes—that seems to be a pretty popular topic, but I do want to go back and talk more on Rome and the development of what we know today as the Vatican.  January 17th and 18th I did entries on the Tomb of Peter and briefly mentioned the Constantinian Basilica that was erected over the Tomb of Peter c. 325 AD.  (For this blog, since it is a History of the Church blog, I am going to use the conventional AD rather than the modern secular CE (Common Era) which I do prefer for secular history but not ecclesiastical.  After all, for those of us who are Christians, we see the mystery of salvation revealing itself through all history, secular as well as ecclesiastical and every year is Anno Domini. )  Attached to the January 18th blog you can see a graphic of the relationship of the circus of Nero in relationship to the Constantinian Basilica.  Today we will present a graphic with the circus of Nero (where Peter died) the ancient necropolis (where he was buried), The Basilica of Constantine (built over the tomb) and the current Basilica (built over Constantine’s foundations.)
The Emperor Constantine to pay tribute to the Apostles and to consolidate the loyalty of the Christian population of Rome—a fast growing (by this point) majority—decided to build a basilica over the tomb of the Apostle.  We need to remember that this was not the principal Church of the Pope--nor is it his Cathedral today.  Constantine had also built a basilica for Christian worship adjoining the Lateran Palace, his wife's family home, which Consantine had given to the Pope as his residence and it is this Church--the Basilica of Our Savior (more commonly known today as the Basilica of Saint John Lateran) that has served as the Papal Cathedral.  Saint Peter's--and its match on the Via Appia, St. Paul's) were built as funeray churches over the tombs of the respective apostles to be centers for pilgrimages and used for certain feast days while the Pope would normally live and celebrate the Eucharst at the Lateran Basilica.  History never works out the way we plan.
Before we go further, we need to understand the idea of a basilica.  We think of a basilica as a church, but originally it was the design used for a Royal audience hall where the emperor or his delegate received official visitors and delegations as well as sat in judgment on legal cases.  Basilicae were voluminous halls, rectangular in design but of considerable width with an apse or rounded wall on the distant end.  In this semicircular apse created by the curved wall sat the Emperor or presiding official.  Adapted to Christian worship the hall became the place where the faithful gathered, the Imperial throne at the far end became the Bishop’s throne, the curved bench running along the curved apse wall became the bench for the presbyters (priests) and deacons assisting the bishop even as it had held the higher officials of the court when the basilica had been used as a audience hall or judgment chamber.  In front of the Imperial throne (now a bishop’s throne) would be set a wooden table, usually square or even cubic in design, to hold the bread and wine for the Eucharistic Celebration.   This was the common design for Christian worship spaces from the time of Constantine’s legitimizing Christianity (and turning over many of the Imperial basilicae for Christian usage).  Over history the design would change as the rectangular design morphed in the Middle Ages into a cross-shaped design by the addition of transepts between the apse and the rectangular hall (now called a nave).  During the renaissance and baroque period, churches often returned to the rectangular hall model.  And in the modern era, with advances in engineering and building materials new shapes were tried—notably the sort of fan shape popular in the years right after Vatican II.  Some modern churches are also built in circular shapes and it surprises many people to find out this is nothing new.  I can think of three round churches in Rome, all dating from the late classical and early medieval period: Santa Costanza, San Stefano Rotondo, and San Teodoro.  Typical in these churches is an altar in the dead center of the circle which goes to show there is nothing new under the sun.  Similarly, after Vatican II, most Catholic churches restored the altar to the original position which was between the Bishop or presiding presbyter and the people so that the celebrant faced the congregation over the altar.  There is a lot of debate on this point, but the archeology is very clear that this was the normative position in the first six centuries.  We will do a blog or too on the Ad Orientem issue—that is the Eastwards position of the priest at mass—sometime in the future.  Right now I want to get back to Constantine’s basilica.
Constantine planned his construction over the tomb of Peter but this faced numerous difficulties both for the topography and for Roman Law which forbad the tapering with cemeteries.  The necropolis in which Peter was buried (a necropolis—literally “a city for the dead” is a non-Christian burial ground whereas a cemetery refers specifically to a Christian burying ground) held tombs and graves of Christians and non-Christians alike.  It was forbidden by Roman law, indeed it was taboo, to tamper with the graves or tombs of the dead.  Constantine had to be very careful in how he proceeded with his plan to build a basilica.  He could not demolish the necropolis nor even have the remains moved somewhere else.  What he could do—and did do—was he informed the citizenry of his intentions of erecting a basilica for Christian worship on the site.  Those non-Christians who wished to remove the remains of their family members to alternative sites were permitted to do so.  As most (though not all) non-Christian were cremated this was not an inordinate difficulty.  At the same time, many Christians were anxious to purchase the abandoned tombs or gravesites and move the remains of their relatives there.  As it was not unusual (though it sounds strange to us) for the remains of those who had been buried or entombed to later be disinterred—after the flesh had decayed and only the bones remained—and be put into ossuaries—stone boxes that held the bones of the dead—that was not much of a cultural problem for the ancient Romans.

The second problem was that the necropolis was located on a sloping hillside—the Vatican Hill—presenting a challenge to the building of a large basilica that needed a level foundation.  Constantine built a retaining wall around the necropolis and then had the hillside above the necropolis leveled.  The earth that was removed from the hilltop was deposited within the retaining wall burying the necropolis and creating the level ground needed as a foundation for the new basilica.  The buried necropolis thus provided the foundation for the new church.   Constantine slightly altered the shape of this basilica from the traditional aula by adding a transverse crossing at the western end making the basilica not a Latin Cross as some say, but a T shape with the apse crowing the eastern end beyond the transverse.  This same design, though on a much larger sale, can be seen in the basilica of Saint Paul fuori le mura today. (We will do a blog on this basilica in the near future.)   the Transverse was approximately 60 feet across (East to West) and 290 feet long. (North to South) and served as the sanctuary and presbyterium of the Basilica.   The faithful stood in the nave or the aula, leading up to the western transverse.  This aula was a five aisled hall, approximately 300 feet long East to West), two hundred feet wide, (North to South) and one hundred feet high at the center aisle with the two flanking aisles on each side of gradually diminishing height beneath the sloping roof.  At its western end, separating it from the transverse (which was an open space, undivided by aisles) was a “triumphal arch” modeled on the sort of arches the emperors built to celebrate their victories except that this arch was within the building of which it provided an essential element of engineering tying the nave to the transverse.  It was covered with mosaic, most likely with a roundel of Christ in the center and attendant figures flanking.  One sees this arrangement in practically ever ancient church in Rome though the particulars differ.  Christ—either depicted in his humanity or as a Lamb is in the center.  Most often the Apostles are flanking—again either as human figures or as twelve lambs.  Santa Praessede, a church noted for exceptional mosaics from the eighth through the twelfth centuries, has the elders casting down their crowns in homage.    
At the western end, in the apse on the west side of the transverse,  where normally the altar would be located stood the monument that had been built over the tomb of Peter in the middle of the second century, the so called trophy of Gaius.  (See the blog of January 17 2011.)  Constantine enclosed this monument inside a marble and porphyry casing    This monument was surrounded by four spiraled columns that supported crowning arches that created a baldachino or canopy over the altar and from the center of these arches was suspended a chandelier of oil lamps kept perpetually burning over the apostles tomb.  Two other columns of the same design stood in line with the rear two columns of the this canopy connected by architraves or lintels that created a screen marking off this apse from the transverse.  These columns would later be used in the current basilica as decoration and also be the model for Bernini’s baldachino over the altar in the current basilica—but more about that in a future blog. 

The focus on the basilica was not an altar but the marble and porphyry enclosed monument over the tomb of Peter.  It is uncertain what provision was made for an altar.  The traditional basilica arangement with the bishop's chair in the apse and the altar in the center of the apse would not work here because the monument dominated the apse, takingn the place of the altar and blocking any view that the bishop's chair would enjoy behind it. In the fourth century altars often still had the form of a wooden table and it is possible one was brought in and placed before the monument for the Eucharistic celebration.  Gregory the Great would rearrange the sanctuary in the final decade of hte sixth century making an altar its focus, but the emphasis of the Constantinian basilica being the monument over Peter's tomb highlights the fact that this basilica was primarily a pilgrimage church rather than a place for the liturgy.  By the time of Gregory the practice of the Church would have been to integrate the Eucharistic Celebration with the pilgrims's tribute to the Apostle whose grave this basilica marked.    The monument and its canopy of arches rising from the four spiraled columns stood within the semi-circular apse at the western end of the basilica.  Its half-dome too was covered in mosaic depicting Constantine and Saint Peter offering the basilica to the central figure of Christ in Glory.  In our next installment, hopefully tomorrow, we will at photos of a number of the ancient Roman churches and examine some of the elements that they shared with the Constantinian basilica to give you a better idea of the arrangement of Constantine’s church. 
Today's three graphics are (from top to bottom): 1. a graphic depicting the relatinship between the Circus of Nero where Peter died (red); the necropolis where Peter was buried (blue); the Constantinian basilica (yellow) and the current basilica (green); 2. a cross-section of the nave of the Constantinian Basilica with the tranverse and apse beyond; and 3. the arrangement of the altar and apse in the Consantinian basilica a tthe time of Consantine's construction.  It will undergo a serious re-ordering at the time of Gregory I--but that is for the next installment. 

Thursday, February 17, 2011

The Successful Catholic Plot to Kill President Lincoln

Charles P. Chiniquy (1809-1899) was a Catholic priest from Quebec who immigrated to Illinois where he became a famous preacher for advocating temperance, that abstinence from alcoholic beverages. This has never been a particularly favorite theme among Catholics but Chiniquy enjoyed considerable popularity among Catholics and Protestants alike. Temperance was a significant theme among nineteenth-century Evangelical Christians, particularly Baptists and Methodists and even some Presbyterians and Chiniquy’s zeal for the cause of abstinence not only gave him a respect among many Protestants but built a network of personal relationships with Protestant clergy and laity that was unusual for the time. Chiniquy was also used to the relative autonomy the clergy enjoyed in French Canada especially in regard to business matters where it was not uncommon for the secular clergy to engage in commerce—finance, land speculation, investments—often quite successfully and Chiniquy prospered financially as well as pastorally. Unfortunately it was not always clear whether the financial success was personal or on behalf of the Church, and Chiniquy was at one point, in 1856, sued by the Diocese of Chicago—which at that time consisted of the entire State of Illinois. He hired a prominent lawyer from Springfield to defend him—Abraham Lincoln.
No matter the decision of the courts, the Church has its own final word and Chiniquy was excommunicated on a variety of charges. His followers (and modern day advocates) defend his honor; his enemies (including modern scholars) argue serious moral flaws. My research neither exonerates him not faults him and perhaps at some point we can do a further blog on him and examine the issue more closely. Chiniquy left the Church, started his own congregation, and became a noted anti-Catholic lecturer and writer. In 1886 he published a book Fifty Years In the Church of Rome, in which he claimed that the Jesuits, at the behest of Pope Pius IX, were responsible for the assassination of President Lincoln.
In his lectures and publications Chiniquy had long been claiming that Lincoln’s 1856 defense had begun a long and close personal friendship which included visits to the White House and long evenings spent with Lincoln who shared his anxiety that there was a Catholic plot to kill him. Historians don’t take Chiniquy seriously and believe that he used a business relationship to manufacture—after Lincoln’s death—a fantasized friendship with imaginary conversations to promote his lectures and writing. Despite the good will won by the Nursing Sisters of the Civil War Battlefields and the war efforts of Archbishop Hughes, the post-Civil War years were rampant with anti-Catholicism. The Jesuits were particularly feared because they, for the most part, represented the conservative and foreign voice in the Catholic Church in the United States. (While the original foundation of the Society of Jesus in the American Colonies and the new American Republic came out of the Maryland colonists families, many of the late nineteenth century Jesuits were German immigrants or had ties to the German immigrant Catholic community.)
Chiniquy’s conspiracy theories may have been little more than sensationalism but the fact of the matter is that Catholics did play a significan role in the Assassination of President Lincoln. There is debate about John Wilkes Booth’s religion. His father was not a church-goer; his mother was Episcopalian. As a boy, Booth attended Quaker and then Episcopalian schools and was baptized Episcopalian at age 14. His sister, Asia, had converted to Catholicism and there are claims that Booth too had become a Catholic, possibly under her influence, but as far as I can ascertain there is no Church record of his being received into the Catholic Church, his baptism (normal at the time for a Protestant becoming a Catholic), or his Confirmation. If Catholic, he was not the devoted communicant that were Dr. Samuel Mudd or the Surratts.
Mary Jenkins Surratt who ran the boarding house where the conspirators met was from a slaveholding Catholic Southern Maryland family. Like many, if indeed not most, southern Marylanders Mary Surratt and her family were Confederate sympathizers. Maryland Catholics were mostly rural farmers and depended on slave labor whether for the large plantations or the ordinary small farms. John Surratt (Mary's son ) who was one of the conspirators, successfully fled Washington after Lincoln’s murder before he could be arrested and escaped through French Canada to Europe where he served in the armies of the Papal States as a Zouave. He then fled to Alexandria Egypt where he was arrested and brought home to trial. His trial ended in a mistrial when four jurors voted guilty and eight for acquittal.
Probably the Catholic most deeply involved was David Herold who was born in Maryland, the sixth of ten children of Adam and Mary Porter Herold, a clerk in the Washington Naval Yard, Herold attended Jesuit run Gonzaga College High School and then Georgetown College. He worked as a pharmacist. He accompanied Lewis Powell to Secretary of State Seward’s home where Powell attempted to murder Seward the same night that Lincoln was killed. (An attempt was also to have been made that night on Vice-President Andrew Johnson but the assailant, German born George Atzerodt got drunk and backed out of the plot in fear.) Herold later met up with Booth and remained with him until his capture 12 days later. Herold and Booth went to Surrattsville Maryland where Mary Surratt allegedly had left a cache of weapons for them. They then proceeded on Dr. Samuel Mudd’s where Booths broken leg was set.
The final Catholic charged as a co-conspirator, and the most devoutly Catholic among them, was Dr. Samuel Mudd, age 31, who was a physician, tobacco grower, and slave owner in Southern Maryland. He had attended St. John’s College in Frederick and Georgetown College. Dr. Mudd was a not only a southern sympathizer but a member of the Confederate underground in Southern Maryland. It is difficult to ascertain how deeply involved he was in the plot to assassinate Lincoln. He had introduced John Surratt to John Wilkes Booth and he had met with Booth several times in the year preceding the murder. The plot had begun as plot to kidnap the President to force the Union to acknowledge the independence of the Confederacy, and as with the surrender of Lee at Appomattox Courthouse, the plot morphed into an assassination several conspirators distanced themselves or withdrew from the project. Mudd may have been among them. Then again he may not have. This much can be ascertained. Booth arrived at the Mudd home about four in the morning after the President had been shot. (Lincoln was actually still clinging to life at this point.) Mudd set his broken leg and Booth and Herold stayed at the Mudd residence at least until the afternoon. Mudd probably did not know that Lincoln had been shot when Booth arrived (unless, of course, Booth told him) as news could not have travelled to southern Maryland that fast, but he certainly would have discovered the news when he went into town that Saturday, the day after the assassination. It is unclear whether Booth and Herold were still at Mudd’s home when he returned with the news and it is unknown whether if they were still there he helped them in their escape. What is known is that Mudd made no effort to notify authorities until the following day, Easter Sunday, when at Mass he asked his cousin to notify the local Union commander. Mudd was found guilty of being part of the conspiracy and sentenced to life in prison. He was transferred to Fort Jefferson in the Dry Tortugas off the Florida Keys. However, a little over two years later when Yellow Fever broke out in the prison and the prison doctor died, Mudd stepped in with such heroic service that the soldiers in the Fort petitioned President Johnson to pardon him. He was released and returned to southern Maryland where he died of pneumonia at the age of 49 in 1883
Michael O’Laughlen was a boyhood friend of John Wilkes Booth and was deeply involved in the various plots to kidnap Lincoln but claims to have had nothing to do with the conspiracy to assassinate Lincoln. Like Mudd he was condemned to life imprisonment at Fort Jefferson. He was one of the many who succumbed there to the Yellow Fever epidemic of 1867
Mrs Surrat was convicted and sentenced to be hanged for her role in the assassination conspiracy. She was attended at the gallows by the Rev. Bernardin Wiget SJ of Gonzaga College High School David Herold, George Atzerodt, Lewis Powell, were hung at the same time.
The image today is the Presidential Box at Ford's Theatre, site where John Wilkes Booth shot President Abramham Lincoln

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Brava for the Brave Ladies of the American Civil War--the Battlefield Nuns

When the Civil war began with the shelling of Fort Sumter on April 12th 1861, there were Sisters with nursing training and experience—Sisters of Charity, Sisters of Mercy, Sisters of Saint Joseph, Sisters of Mount Carmel, and various other congregations both north and south of the Mason-Dixon Line.   At various points in the war Union and Confederate officers alike asked Church officials for Sisters to nurse the sick and wounded  in army hospitals, barracks, transport ships and hundreds of improvised field hospitals set up along the shifting battle fronts.   
Nuns—or actually Religious Sisters—had advantages that most laywomen, Catholic or Protestant, lacked.  Not having families of their own (other than their respective religious communities) they had a freedom to leave and go where they were needed.  They were used to a Spartan life and the hardships accompanying a military force on the move were no more demanding—and probably much more exciting—than the convent life they were used to.  Many of them, especially those whose communities maintained hospitals,  had professional training and experience in assisting with surgical procedures in addition to post-operative care as well as the care of disease infected patients.  And probably most important they didn’t feel constrained by the societal norms that regulated the lives of Middle Class and Upper Class “ladies.”  They weren’t above getting their hands dirty or bloodied, living in a tent or crowded into a barn or cabin, not being able to change their clothes or bathe for days on end, and dealing with the grit of camp life.  And so Sisters of various congregations—but most notably the Charities—could be seen at Antietam, Natchez, Richmond, Harper’s Ferry, Gettysburg, Frederick, Holly Springs.  And whichever side brought them to the battle, in their work they made no distinction between the Blue and the Grey. 
One of the most noted-by-history nursing sisters was Mary O'Connell  (Sister Anthony) (1814-1897) known as the “Angel of the Battlefield.”  Born in Limerick Ireland  she migrated to the United States where she entered the American Sisters of Charity at Cincinnatti.   During the Civil War she served at Camp Dennison (OH) and at the battlefields or hospitals  of Winchester VA, Cumberland Gap (TN), Richmond (VA), Nashville (TN), Gallipolis (OH), Culpeper Court House (VA), Murfreesboro(TB), Pittsburgh Landing (TN) and Lynchburg (VA).  She later received recognition for her work in the yellow fever epidemic of 1877.

On September 17, 1862 the Maryland authorities petitioned the help of the Sisters of Charity, Mother Seton's origional foundation, at St. Joseph's, Emmitsburg, Maryland after the Battle of Antietam. When the Sisters went to the battlefield, they found wounded of both armies on the ground; many were moved to hospitals. "For six days, the Sisters went from farm to farm, seeking wounded and sick and risking their own lives because of unexploded bombshells" Courage and commitment to duty were a few of the solid characteristics of the Sisters.

Emmitsburg is so close to Gettysburg, that when the war moved to that theatre the first day of July 1863, the sisters could hear the cannon of the battle.  When the fighting ended on the evening of July 3rd  the skies opened and  it began to rain and rained through the night and all the next day. This didn’t daunt Mother Seton’s daughters who came up to the site in wagons and borrowed carriages with nursing supplies and a readiness to care for the wounded.  The scene which greeted them was a hell-on-earth
"Finally we reached the scene of combat. What a frightful spectacle met our gaze! Houses burnt, dead bodies of both Armies strewn her and there, an immense number of slain horses, thousands of bayonets, sabres, wagons, wheels, projectiles of all dimensions, blankets, caps, clothing of every color covered the woods and fields. We were compelled to drive very cautiously to avoid passing over the dead. Our terrified horses drew back or darted forward reeling from one side to the other. The farther we advanced the more harrowing was the scene; we could not restrain our tears" 
Over a hundred field hospitals were established quickly at Gettysburg and the surrounding areas.  What patients could be transported back to Emmitsburg were.  In Gettysburg itself every available building was used . At one point they ran out of supplies. When the Sisters appealed for supplies, they were told that there would be no more. "Is that your final decision?", Sister asked the officer. "Then I shall speak to the President." Before the day ended, supplies were delivered and the soldiers cheered.  The Sisters "knew that they had a sincere friend in Lincoln
Gettysburg, because of its proximity to the Motherhouse at Emmitsburg, saw the most activity by the nuns, but it was not only the Emmitsburg Charities who stepped up to the needs created by the War.   “ By the end of the war, more than 280 Mother Seton's Sisters of Charity from a variety of the diferent congregations that had their roots in Emmitsburg , had nursed both Union and Confederate soldiers in military and local hospitals, on transport boats on the Atlantic coast and on the Mississippi, and at temporary military encampments. Many soldiers forgot about their anti-Catholic feelings because of the Sister's devoted care.”  This last point is very important as much of the anti-Catholic bias was overcome by the gentle and compassionate nursing of the Sisters.  
Among the other Religious Congregations that helped out with battlefield nursing were the sisters of Charity of Nazareth—founded by Mother Catherine Spalding, not by Mother Seton, who maintained four military hospitals in Kentucky during the Civil War
The nursing needs of the Civil War opened a role of independence for women that had not previously existed in our society.   With the exception of Catholic Sisters, relatively few women stepped into the new roles available to them.   For almost a century more, the only women in the United States who took key administrative roles in public institutions—particulalry hospitals and women’s’  colleges were Catholic Religious Sisters.  Religious life was an area where the Catholic Church helped women break through the “glass ceilings” that put men in charge and left the work to women.  That, of course, has changed in the last fifty years as women have been able to enter the professions and sidle up the bar with the old boys. 
The image today is the plaque on a monument to the various Sisters who stepped up to the challenge of nursing the soldiers of both armies during the American War.  Each Sister in the plaque wears the habit of one of the various Congregations who supplied nurses.  This picture is not as clear as one might wish it be, but if you double-click on the photo you should get a larger (and more clear) version.   

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Those Lovely Ladies, the American Nuns (and why is the Vatican so worried?)

I want to find my way back to the topic of the American Civil War so that I can do a blog on the nursing Sisters who played such an important role in winning the confidence of Americans towards the Catholic Church in the middle of the nineteenth century.  Before I treat of the sisters who nursed the wounded and sick soldiers of both the North and the South, however, I really need to give a brief history of the American Sisters of Charity as they played such a major role in this work and so this brings us back to the series “Let’s Hear It For the Ladies” where we have been treating of American Religious women in light of the “Vatican Investigation of American Nuns.”
At the time of our independence from Britain, there were no convents for women Religious in the original thirteen States.  If a woman wanted to pursue a religious vocation, she had to go to Europe and enter a monastery there—as approximately thirty-five colonial Americans had, all from Maryland, in the approximately century and a half between the Catholic settling of Maryland and our Revolution.  It was in 1790 that Bishop John Carroll brought four Carmelite nuns, three Americans and an Englishwoman, from the Netherlands and settled them on an estate in Port Tobacco, Maryland—not far from modern Washington DC.  This was the heart of Catholic Maryland and three of these women were related to each other and to many of the local plantation owning families.  We are not going to focus on this monastery however as they were “nuns”—that is cloistered religious—and we are focusing on “sisters”—that is women religious who are not monastics and enclosed.  (We will do a blog on these women at a later time—I am fascinated by their story.)
With few clergy and no religious women—other than the small monastery of cloistered Carmelite nuns—Bishop Carroll was well used to depending on the laity to take an active and collaborative role in the necessary ministries of the Church.  Meanwhile, a widowed convert to the Catholic Church, Mrs. Elizabeth Ann Seton, had met the Rev. Louis Dubourg, SS, an émigré from the French Revolution.  The Abbé Dubourg was one of those brilliant souls who travels fast through life proving the axiom “still waters run deep.”  In other words, Dubourg razzle-dazzled  his contemporaries with his accomplishments without laying good foundations for his work.  He was better at starting projects than following through on them.    
Seton came from a socially prominent family in upper-crust Manhattan society, but her husband had gone bankrupt shortly before his death and her conversion to Catholicism lost her the support and friendship of most of her relatives and practically all of her social set.  In an effort to support herself and her five children, she had opened a hospital in New York but it failed—in great part due to her being ostracized from New York Society for her becoming a Catholic.  She heard Dubourg preach in New York and was deeply impressed and at his suggestion she moved with her family to Baltimore where Dubourg had established a seminary for Archbishop Carroll.  Mrs. Seton opened a small school and was joined by five other women whom Dubourg thought should be organized into a sisterhood based on the model of the Daughters of Charity, the community founded by Saints Vincent DePaul and Louise de Marillac.  Dubourg guided the small group along the paths of the Vincentian spiritual life and on March 25, 1809, Elizabeth Seton professed her vows—renewable annually on the Vincentian model—to Bishop Carroll.  The Sisters—like their French counterparts—did not adopt the guimpe and veil of nuns but wore the black dress and bonnet typical to widows.  (The French Daughters of Charity had originally worn the highly starched bonnets of serving-women of their day.)  Several months later the Sisters relocated to Emmitsburg Maryland where a benefactor had donated 269 acres for the establishment of a school.  The school, St. Joseph’s, opened the following February and the Sisterhood itself grew remarkably fast despite the hardship and consequent illness and early deaths of some of the Sisters.  By 1814 Mother Seton was able to send sisters to Philadelphia to open an orphan’s home.  In 1817 Sisters went to New York at the invitation of Bishop Connolly to make a foundation and take care of orphans.   In 1829 a foundation was made in Cincinnati.
In 1847 Bishop John Hughes of New York—a bishop noted for his autocracy as you might remember from earlier blogs—insisted that the Sisters of Charity in his diocese become independent of Emmitsburg and he named his sister, Mother Angela Hughes, their superior.  Other bishops followed suit, either breaking the sisters in their various dioceses off from the jurisdiction of groups in other dioceses or, as in the case of the Sisters in New Jersey, recruiting candidates from their own dioceses, sending them to an established group for their formation, and then bringing them home to establish a new Congregation.  Today autonomous congregations of Sisters of Charity in New York, Convent Station NJ, Halifax NS, Cincinnati, and Greensburg PA, all trace their origins back to the Seton heritage. The original community at Emmitsburg, affiliated themselves with the French Daughters of Charity, in 1850, at which time they traded Mother Seton’s widows’ bonnet for the starched cornette of the French Daughters of Charity.  In 1964 that was exchanged for a simple modern habit designed by Christian Dior.  Meanwhile, some of the daughter congregations had traded the bonnet for a more traditional veil. 
Mother Seton was not the only foundress of a congregation of Sisters of Charity.   Only three years after her taking vows, Catherine Spalding, the daughter of a prominent Catholic family from Charles County, Maryland and two friends were encouraged by Father (later Bishop) Jean-Baptiste Marie David, another émigré priest, to form a Sisterhood near Bardstown Kentucky—a Catholic stronghold in the Ohio Valley to which settlers were streaming in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.  Spalding was only nineteen when she undertook this project, but she, like Seton, modeled her Institute on the French Daughters of Charity.  Their original outreach was education, but they soon took on the care of orphans and nursing.  Like Seton’s Charities, the Kentucky women, known as the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth, did not adopts nun’s habits but a plain black dress and bonnet. 
In the midst of an 1829 cholera epidemic, Irish born Bishop John England of Charleston, South Carolina—one of the most progressive prelates in the history of the Catholic Church in the United States—established a congregation of sisters, also based on the Vincentian model, and known originally as the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy. (In the twentieth century they changed their names to the Sisters of Charity of Our Lady of Mercy.) 
The same year as Bishop Ireland established the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy, Father James Nicholas Joubert, like Fathers Dubourg and David, a Sulpician, encouraged an Afro-Caribbean resident of Baltimore, Ms. Elisabeth Lange and a companion, Maria Balas, who were teaching Haitian children in Baltimore to establish a religious community for women of African descent to minister to children of African heritage.  Thus began the Oblate Sisters of Providence.  These sisters too originally wore the black dress and white bonnet common to African-American women servants.  Only later in their history did they adopt a monastic style habit with wimple and veil.  Their original convent was a rented house in Baltimore; their first motherhouse, a row-house so typical of the Baltimore neighborhoods.     Their work traditionally focused on the education of African-American children but they undertook whatever work the Church needed at the time, including domestic service at the Baltimore seminary. 
The Vincentan Rule adopted by the various congregations of American Sisters of Charity was particularly well adapted to American life as it was decidedly and deliberately non-monastic with Vincent dePaul’s   famous admonition to the Sisters: for a monastery, only the houses of the sick, for cell, a rented room, for chapel, the parish hurch, for cloister, the streets of the city, for enclosure, obedience, for grill, the fear of God, for veil, holy modesty.  This gave the sisters a freedom of movement to respond to the needs of their neighbors and it would come in very handy during the American Civil War
The image today is Mother Catherine Spalding, foundress of the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth.