Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Foundations of the Anglican Church XII

Let’s talk about the rivalry between the Sees of Canterbury and York that I mentioned in the previous post as the contested claims of the two Archbishops will drag the papacy more and more into the internal affairs of the English Church.  
A Celebration of the Holy
Eucharist in York Minster
You may remember from earlier entries that the See of Canterbury was established when Pope Gregory I sent Augustine as a missionary to the peoples of Kent, a southern English kingdom at the request of King Aethelberht in 597.   Gregory was sent as an Archbishop who would not only establish himself at Canterbury, but establish suffragen sees as well.  Augustine did establish suffragen sees at Rochester and London.  The issue of London is a bit tricky because there had been a Christian bishop there back in the days when Britain was a Roman colony.  Whether Augustine revived a lapsed See (which is the more commonly held idea) or simply appointed his disciple Mellitus bishop of a surviving Romano-British See, London became suffragen to Canterbury.  Later other Sees were established such as Dorchester (later moved to Winchester), Selsey (later moved to Chichester), Hereford, Leicester, Lindsey (later Lincoln), Dunwich (later moved to Norwich), Sherborne (later moved to Salisbury), and Worcester.  (These were in the Anglo-Saxon period; a considerable number of other Sees were added later, particularly in the Reforms of HenryVIII and then again in the Victorian era.  Canterbury was the Metropolitan See (an Archbishop’s See with supervisory rights and duties over the suffragens) for the South of England.
Now here is where it gets tricky.  York was a much older See than Canterbury, though it was not an Archbishopric until the eighth century.  Bishops of York were present at the Councils of Arles (314) and Nicea (325).  York is in the north of England where the faith was maintained and strengthened during the Anglo-Saxon invaders by Celtic missionaries from Ireland and Scotland.  Here again there is a dispute.  Did the See of York survive the Anglo-Saxon years or was it revived when Paulinus, a disciple of Augustine of Canterbury, became its bishop in 626?  Paulinus had accompanied Aethelburg, the sister of King Eadbald of Kent, who was sent north to marry King Edwin of Northumbria.  Paulinus was given the mission of converting the Northumbrians to Christianity and he established himself as Bishop at York. Again—there had been a Christian community and bishop in York in Roman days, but by the time of Paulinus and the seventh century, the majority of the population were Anglo-Saxon-Jutes who had migrated from what is today Denmark and northern Germany and were still pagan.  Paulinus had come to convert them.  As Bishop of York he filled an ancient See but there is a dispute as to whether he succeeded to that ancient See or re-founded it.  The question is important because if York had been in continuous existence from Roman days it could claim to be the oldest English See and thus the (arch)bishop could claim to be primate.  If it was refounded, then Canterbury had seniority and better claim to the title of primate of England. 
You may also remember from earlier entries that northern British Christianity differed from Roman and Continental Christianity on many points of ritual and Church calendar.  The melding of the northern and southern English Churches was not an easy task and was only accomplished by the Synod of Whitby in 664.  In fact, while the northern and southern Churches came to agreement on the date of Easter and several other contentious points, there would remain long after Whitby two distinct English Christian traditions, each a little suspicious of the other.  The fact that the northern Churches had their own rites—that of York and of Durham—and the South followed, for the most part, the Sarum rite (with Hereford  and Lincoln maintaining their own rites), one might ask to what extent the English Church ever did meld.  As the northern Church always looked to York for leadership and the southern Church looked to Canterbury, a rivalry grew up between these Sees. York was raised to an Archdiocese in 735 by Pope Gregory III but had only one suffragen See—Durham.  Carlisle would be added to the province in 1133 and Sodor and Man in 1154.  (Again, considerable new dioceses were created for the province of York by Henry VIII and again in the Victorian and early 20th century periods.)  York was always resentful of Canterbury, a much larger and more influential jurisdiction and when Lanfranc of Canterbury demanded that Thomas of Bayeaux submit to the authority of Canterbury before, he, Lanfranc, would consecrated Thomas as Archbishop of York in 1071, not only did Thomas refuse but the clergy of York demanded that no such submission be made. 
Thomas and the York party claimed that Pope Gregory had given Augustine, the first Archbishop of Canterbury, jurisdiction only over the southern kingdom of Kent and not over the entire British Church.  Moreover, York’s claim to being the older See—going back to Roman times—made it senior to Canterbury and if anyone were to have the honor of primacy it would be York.  There was, in fact, no mention of Canterbury being the primatial see in the letters of Gregory the Great, but William the Conqueror, for political reasons, supported Lanfranc’s claim to primacy.
The issue surfaced again when Lanfranc died and Anselm succeeded him.  Anselm demanded to be installed not simply as Metropolitan of Canterbury but as Primate of England.  Thomas of Bayeaux, Archbishop of York, resisted the claim.  They appealed to the Pope.  This, of course, give the Pope another toehold in the English Church but both Anselm and Thomas were more anxious to keep the King—William II Rufus—out of Church issues than to keep out the Pope.  Pope Pascal granted the primacy to Anselm, but only granted it to him personally and not to his successors at Canterbury. 
The dispute broke out again after the deaths of Thomas and Anselm when Thurstan—elected in 1114 to take Thomas’ place as Archbishop of York, refused to swear obedience to Anselm’s successor Ralph d’Escures.  Thurstan was about to appeal to the Pope when Henry I stepped in and forbad an appeal to Rome.  This was an attempt by the king to check growing papal power in England and makes these issues be resolved within the realm to preserve what shreds of autonomy were left to the English Church.  Henry called a council of English bishops to resolve the matter.  Pascal II, however, seized the initiative and wrote Thurstan commanding Ralph to consecrate him (Thurstan) without any such oath of obedience.  Interestingly, even though the letter supported Thurstan’s claims of independence from Canterbury, Thurstan concealed the letter and instead resigned his claims to the See.  Here Thurstan too seems to have wanted to check growing papal interference in the English Church. 
Although Thurstan had resigned his claims to the See, the King, his fellow bishops, and the chapter of his own Cathedral continued to recognize him as the rightful (though unconsecrated) Archbishop.  Thurstand and Ralph both attended the Council of Reims in 1119 where Pope Callixtus II personally consecrated Thurstan.  Henry saw this as  papal interference in the English Church and was so angry he exiled Thurstan, not permitting him to return to England.  Callixtus, for his part, issued a papal bull, Caritatis Bonum, making it clear that York was not subject to Canterbury.  That did not put an end to the question however.   
When Ralph d’Escures died and was succeded by William of Corbeil, Thurstan should—as ranking English bishop—have consecrated him but William refused to have Thurstan as consecrator unless Thurstan acknowledged William as primate.  (One can only wonder what Jesus would have thought about all this arguing over who is the greatest.  It seems that these were not the first prelates to get into this catfight).  In the end William was consecrated by three of his suffragens as Thurstan was not about to concede any rights or honors to his rival.  William went to Rome with claims to the primacy but in 1126 Pope Honorius II decided that the documents William presented were forgeries and York’s independence was upheld.  More in the next posting.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Foundations of the Anglican Church XI

Anselm of Bec
We left off in our last posting by mentioning that the accession of Norman Kings beginning with William the Conqueror and then his son, William Rufus, and grandson, Henry I marked a change in the relationship between the English Church and the See of Rome.  This change had two principle causes—the strong ties that the Normans themselves had with the Roman See even before they took the English throne and the Norman nomination of two successive Italian monks, Lanfranc and then Anselm, as Archbishops of Canterbury.  The shift in power from the Saxon Crown and prelates to Norman Kings and Italian primates anchored the English Church more in the continental tradition which was becoming increasingly papal dominated.   
The period during which first Lanfranc and then Anselm served as Archbishops of Canterbury (1070-1109) is marked by a concern for Church Reform.  This concern was not limited to England—far from it; this is the period of the Gregorian Reformation, named for the Italian monk and Church reformer, Hildebrand, who reigned as Pope Gregory VII. And very much in the tradition of the Gregorian Reform, Lanfranc, and even more Anselm, would struggle to free the Church from Crown control. 
The first issue to arise was a dispute over the refusal of Thomas of Bayeux as Archbishop-Elect of York to swear allegiance to Lanfranc as Primate of the English Church.  Thomas claimed that as an Archbishop himself he did not owe any submission to Canterbury.  The problem was that York had only one suffragen diocese—Durham—and Thomas needed three bishops to himself be consecrated.  As all the other bishops in England were suffragens of Canterbury, Lanfranc held the better hand.  Thomas could not be consecrated without Lanfranc’s authorization permitting two or more of is suffragens to help in the consecration, and Lanfranc would not grant it without Thomas taking an oath of submission to him.  Pope Alexander II told the two fighting prelates to resolve the matter in England.  Now Lanfranc could have used his influence with William the Conqueror to resolve the issue but did not want the Crown to get involved in making decisions for the Church.  This was a significant step away from royal control of the Church—a policy that would more or less guide the English Church over the next four and a half centuries until Thomas Cranmer would surrender the Church’s independence to Henry VIII.  Lanfranc convoked a synod at Winchester in 1071 under the presidency of a Papal Legate and that synod decided in Canterbury’s favor.  The Canterbury-York dispute merits an entry (or two or three) of its own and I don’t want to get sidetracked here, but continue on with a wider view of the tenures of Lanfranc and Anselm at Canterbury.
Both men were Church reformers and anxious to clearly delineate the lines of authority and in particular to assert some measure of independence of the English Church from the English Crown.  To do this they appealed for support to the papacy which was given because it fit the papal policy at the time to free the Church from outside governance.  The papacy itself was fighting for its freedom from the Imperial control of the Hohenstaufen Emperors.  But Lanfranc and Anselm were concerned about internal Church reform and not merely its freedom from outside influence.  Both archbishops tried to enforce celibacy on the secular clergy and to foster reform within the monastic establishments.  Success in either adventure was only relative but still not inconsiderable.  They also wanted to insure that men were chosen for bishops because of their suitability for that office and not because of political influence.  They wanted to protect church property from being seized by powerful landlords and to protect the clergy from coercion by feudal magnates.  Again, any Church reformation at the time needs to be looked at in terms of relative success but the health of the English Church improved in the thirty years these two men served as primates.  The decrease of royal and noble control over the Church was balanced by increased power of prelates and a growing influence of the papacy over the English Church

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Foundations of the Anglican Church X

Ruins of Saint Augustine's Abbey,
Well, back to our saga of the Anglican Church and its relationship to the papacy.  In previous entries we saw how the Church of England has two roots—one in the primitive Christianity brought with the Roman legions and colonists in the second and third centuries, the other in the missionary efforts of Saint Augustine of Canterbury, a Roman monk sent by Pope Gregory the Great in 604 at the invitation of King Aethelberht of Kent’s invitation to Christianize the Anglo-Saxon Kentish people who had settled in England after the withdrawal of those Roman troops in the fifth century.  These two Churches—the older Church which survived mostly in the north and the younger Church which Augustine brought to the south had distinctly different customs and different relationships with the Roman See and its bishop.  The older Church of the north was certainly in communion with the Roman Church but also was quite independent of it.  With its own ancient traditions and under the influence of the Irish missionaries who strengthened it during the period of the Anglo-Saxon invasions it differed in many regards from the Roman Church and its practices.  To a great extent these differences were resolved with the synod of Whitby in 664, but the English Church retained many distinct customs and rites up until the second phase of the English Reformation in 1549.  The Roman Rite was never used in England which until the First (Protestant) Prayer Book of King Edward the Sixth in 1549 followed a variety of rites including those of Sarum, Durham, York, Lincoln, Hereford, and Bangor.  The southern tradition, that of Canterbury, had stronger ties to Rome due to its origins with Augustine and his mission but also followed the uniquely English rites just mentioned.  The ties of Canterbury to Rome were symbolized and strengthened by the sending of the pallium from the pope to each successive Archbishop—a practice that would continue until Matthew Parker’s consecration in 1559 under Elizabeth I. 
During the period of Anglo-Saxon Christianity the great devotion of the Anglo-Saxon peoples to Saint Peter the Apostle built and strengthened ties between Roman and English Christianity.  In order to forge ties to Rome with the northern Church and its more independent tradition, Pope Gregory III named Bishop Ecgbert of York an Archbishop in 735, raising York to metropolitan status and thus dependent on Rome for the archbishop’s pallium, as was Canterbury.  Nevertheless Archbishops of both Canterbury and York as well as the other English bishops were almost always elected independent of papal nomination and only appealed for recognition after their election and consecration.  That would later change and while they would still be elected independently of Rome, their consecration would not occur until after papal confirmation.   One exception where the Pope did appoint an Archbishop of Canterbury was when Archbishop Wighard died in 668 on a visit to Rome to receive his pallium and Pope Vitalian uses the opportunity to selected a Greek, Theodore of Tarsus, as the new Archbishop/primate for the English Church.   
The relationship of the English Church with the papacy was strengthened by William the Conqueror who in 1066 invaded England to claim the throne after the death of Edward the Confessor.  There were two claimants to the English Throne, the Anglo-Saxon Harold Godwinson and the Norman Duke, William the Bastard.   After William defeated Harold and secured the English throne, he replaced the Saxon Archbishop of Canterbury, Stigand (who had supported Harold) with his own candidate, an Italian monk by the name of Lanfranc who had served as Abbot of Saint Étienne in Caen.  Lanfranc was succeeded in 1093 by another Italian, Anselm, abbot of Bec. To be fair, William waited three years from his conquest before sending Stigand into retirement but it was part of the Norman policy after the conquest to replace Saxons with Normans.   The Normans had strong ties to the papacy at this period—the Normans in Italy under Robert Guiscard were protecting Gregory VII from Emperor Henry IV in their dispute over the right of Emperors to invest prelates with the insignia of office.  Ironically William was fighting a variation of the same battle when it came to William of Saint Calais—his sometime rebel bishop of Durham.  That is a story for another time, suffice it to say now that with Normans on English throne and their Italian archbishops ensconced as primates, the relationship between the English Church (the Ecclesia Anglicana) and the papacy grew even stronger.  This is not to say that the Crown and Canterbury acted in concert—far from it.  William and his successors had strong intentions to control the Church in their realms and Lanfranc and Anselm both resisted royal authority and appealed to the Pope to back them up in their disputes with the Crown.  Such reliance on the papacy increased papal influence in England.  Tensions became particularly high under William’s son, William Rufus and Anselm ended up going into exile in 1097 and again in 1105 in disputes with William Rufus and later with William’s son, Henry I.  These conflicts were anticipatory of the debacle between Henry II and Thomas Becket later in the twelfth century but we will come to that matter down the line. Suffice it to say that with the replacement of an Anglo-Saxon hierarchy by a Norman hierarchy after the conquest, the relationship of the English Church to the papacy began to evolve from a relationship of ecclesial communion to the English Church becoming a client dependent on the Roman See.  It would be a long slow process and one with reverses, especially during the Avignon papacy of the fourteenth century, but throughout the one can see throughout the Plantagenet centuries a gradual loss of the ancient autonomy of the Anglican Church and its subjection to more control from Rome.  When the Plantagenets finally lost the Crown to the Tudors, this dependency would be challenged by new views of royal authority.          

Friday, April 26, 2013

Back to the Whys and Wherefores

Sunday Morning at Saint Teresa
of Avila parish, Washington DC
Well, I want to get back to the why’s and wherefores of why I do this blog and then move further back to our look at the history of the Anglican Church in its relationship to the papacy.  I had mentioned in the two previous “Why and Wherefore” entries that I well remember the Church before Vatican II and it was a crucial part of my own spiritual growth—but that precisely because of Vatican II my faith deepened and my understanding of Catholicism was renewed by the Council and the vision of its “Fathers,” the Popes, bishops, and other prelates who took part in the Council and energized its new relationship with the modern world. 
This past Sunday I was in Washington DC and had the opportunity to participate in Mass at Saint Teresa of Avila parish.  Saint Teresa of Avila is an old parish—going back into the late nineteenth century when the “Uniontown” section of Washington began to develop in Anacostia—“East of the River”—and Catholics had to ferry across the Anacostia River to attend Mass at St. Peter’s Capitol Hill.  Cardinal Gibbons, Archbishop of Baltimore (at that time Washington DC was part of the Baltimore Archdiocese) opened the parish of Saint Teresa.  Washington was a segregated city at the time and Saint Teresa’s was left a white parish when African-American Catholic parishioners withdrew to form Our Lady of Perpetual Help parish “just up the hill” from Saint Teresa’s. But all things change in time and as Anacostia became increasingly African-American Saint Teresa of Avila parish lost its white parishioners to suburban flight.  When Father George A. Stallings became pastor in the 80’s he brought incredible new life to the parish introducing Gospel Music and vibrant African-American worship.  Father Stalling’s departure from the Catholic Church to establish an “African-American Catholic Church” and become its presiding Archbishop decimated the parish as the majority of parishioners followed him.  Father Raymond G. East was sent to Saint Teresa’s as its new pastor and in only a short time his dynamic preaching and worship style rebuilt the parish, even winning back many who had followed Archbishop Stalllings into schism.  Monsignor East was pastor from 1989 until 1997 and then was brought back to Saint Teresa’s in 2005.  He is still pastor there today.  And Sunday’s Mass was Saint Teresa of Avila Parish in its full glory with Monsignor East at high energy and the congregation even more revved up “by the sweet Holy Ghost.”  Mass lasts about two and a half hours and is filled with music and dance.  Monsignor East gave a phenomenal homily of 40 breathless minutes opening up the tenth chapter of the Gospel of John and bringing it down to every day realities.  Now you would think that a two and a half hour Mass with a forty minute homily might  be a nightmare, but not at Saint Teresa’s—to the contrary! It is seeing heaven open before you—exactly what the Sacred Liturgy is supposed to do!  The parish has the full complement of active laity: a permanent deacon, religious education coordinators, Eucharistic ministers, lectors, musicians, nurses, both junior and senior ministers of hospitality, dancers.  Everyone has an active role in worship!  Most impressive and to the heart of Saint Teresa’s is that over the doors of the Church when you leave are the words “Servants’ Entrance” reminding us that we go forth from the Eucharist into the world to serve. 
This sort of experience was not available to us before Vatican II.  I remember the old Tridentine Solemn Mass—it was lovely, but then too that last scene of the first act of Tosca is lovely with incense and candles and canopy in procession of the Blessed Sacrament.  What the old liturgy did not do was to bring the scriptures home to daily life and call forth a response in faith.  What the old liturgy did not do was call us into community, into being the Body of Christ.  What the old liturgy did not do was to confront us with the call to service, the “vocation” given to each of us in Baptism.  In traditional Catholicism the clergy were there to minister and the rest of us were there to be ministered to.  And that simply is not the Church which Jesus established. 
I was growing increasingly afraid over the past fifteen or more years that we were sliding back into this pre-conciliar Catholicism, this dead Church with its dead faith.  I saw an increased emphasis—a disturbingly increased emphasis—on a (questionable) “orthodoxy” with little or no concern for the orthopraxis of the Catholic social gospel.  I saw a reviving clericalism, a ghoulish revival of a clerical caste where “Father” was the only one whose opinion mattered.  I saw a return to the triumphalism of the past where “we” had it all and everyone else—from the Archbishop of Canterbury to the Dali Lama to that old Baptist lady down the street was in some benighted ignorance with nothing of worth to contribute and no Eternal Life to which to look forward.  I saw bishops start to drag (deliberate choice of verb) out the princely regalia abandoned by Paul VI and I saw parish priests rooting around the attic for lace albs and old maniples.  Unhappy and twisted souls felt they had a mission to go around from parish to parish registering what they perceived to be “liturgical abuses” for report to Rome or local chanceries.  Voices like “Father Z” and Michael Voris and self-appointed canon law guru Ed Peters had their blogs and their you-tubes to reshape Catholicism in the image and likeness of their own eccentricities.  I realized that one little blog wasn’t going to make a difference but I also knew that if one looks at the history of the Church one would see that the 1950 Cardinal Spellman Catholicism that was being pushed as our authentic apostolic faith did not in fact represent our two thousand years of tradition.  It’s a small effort and it makes little if any difference other than being one voice calling out in the night.  But I must say that the election of Pope Francis has been a breath of fresh air—it is like seeing the end of the storm appearing on the horizon and knowing that the Church is steering back on the gospel track.   And I am happy to hear from time to time from readers who find that it gives them some hope too. 

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

To Announce A Year of the Lord's Favor (continued)

Crucifix, Santiago de
Yesterday in the posting of the letter of Mr. Michael Rogers, SJ, to the Boston Bomber, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, I mentioned the letter which Dom Christian de Chergé, Prior of the Cistercian (Trappist) community of Our Lady of Atlas in Tibhirine Algeria had written to the Islamic terrorist whom he foresaw would one day take his life.  I have always held Dom Christian’s letter is one of the most important spiritual documents of the twentieth century.  I had thought I had posted the story of the Monks of Atlas and Dom Christian’s letter on this blog only to realize yesterday that I hadn’t: so here it is.  You might see a dramatization of the monks’ story in the film: Of God’s and Men.

Asmall monastery of Cistercian monks, the Monastery of Our Lady of Atlas stood in the remote Algerian desert village of Tibhirine. It monks, all French nationals, had come to live in the desert among some of the poorest people in Algeria. They did not come to proselytize but rather to proclaim the Gospel by witnessing to the local Muslim population the good will and dedication to the service of the poor of those who follow the Gospel of Jesus Christ. One of the monks, 82 year-old Brother Luke, was a physician and he provided health care for the locals. Other monks used their various gifts to help the locals as well. The monastery itself employed several locals for various odd jobs that brought some money into the local economy. The monks enjoyed excellent relations with their neighbors but early in the Morning of March 27, 1996 seven monks were abducted by Muslim Fundamentalists. Several others were not discovered by the kidnappers and managed to escape. The monks were held hostage by the Armed Islamic Group, demanding the release of one of their founders, Abdelhak Lavada who had been sentenced to death. The monks were killed on May 21st, their severed heads discovered ten days later. Lavada, who was not directly involved in the monks kidnapping and assassination was released from prison in 2006 under the Algerian president’s “charter for peace and national reconciliation.”
Dom Christian, the prior of the community, had in some way foreseen his fate--as holy people so often do--and written his Testament three years before. It was opened only on the Pentecost Sunday subsequent to his death. I believe that it forms one of the great pieces of spiritual literature of the modern era. 

If it should happen one day—and it could be today—that I become a victim of the terrorism which now seems ready to encompass all the foreigners in Algeria, I would like my community, my Church, my family, to remember that my life was given to God and to this country. To accept that the One Master of all life was not a stranger to this brutal departure. I would like them to pray for me: how worthy would I be found of such an offering?
I would like them to be able to associate this death with so many other equally violent ones allowed to fall into the indifference of anonymity. My life has no more value than any other. Nor any less value. In any case, it has not the innocence of childhood. I have lived long enough to know that I share in the evil which seems, alas, to prevail in the world, and even in that which would strike me blindly. I should like, when the time comes, to have a space of lucidity which would enable me to beg forgiveness of God and of my fellow human beings, and at the same time to forgive with all my heart the one who would strike me down.
I could not desire such a death. It seems to me important to state this. I don’t see, in fact, how I could rejoice if the people I love were indiscriminately accused of my murder. It would be too high a price to pay for what will be called, perhaps, the “grace of martyrdom” to owe this to an Algerian, whoever he may be, especially if he says he is acting in fidelity to what he believes to be Islam.
I know the contempt in which Algerians taken as a whole can be engulfed. I know, too, the caricatures of Islam which encourage a certain idealism. It is too easy to give oneself a good conscience in identifying this religious way with the fundamentalist ideology of its extremists. For me, Algeria and Islam is something different. It is a body and a soul. I have proclaimed it often enough, I think, in view of and in the knowledge of what I have received from it, finding there so often that true strand of the Gospel learned at my mother’s knee, my very first Church, precisely in Algeria, and already respecting believing Muslims.
My death, obviously, will appear to confirm those who hastily judged me naive or idealistic: “Let him tell us now what he thinks of it!” But these must know that my insistent curiosity will then be set free. This is what I shall be able to do, if God wills: Immerse my gaze in that of the Father, to contemplate with Him His children of Islam as He sees them, all shining with the glory of Christ, fruit of His Passion, filled with the Gift of the Spirit whose secret joy will always be to establish communion and to refashion the likeness, playing with the differences.
This life lost, totally mine and totally theirs, I thank God who seems to have wished it entirely for the sake of that JOY in and in spite of everything. In this THANK YOU which is said for everything in my life, from now on, I certainly include you, friends of yesterday and today, and you, O my friends of this place, besides my mother and father, my sisters and brothers and their families, a hundredfold as was promised!
And you too, my last minute friend, who will not know what you are doing, Yes, for you too I say this THANK YOU AND THIS “A-DIEU”-—to commend you to this God in whose face I see yours. And may we find each other, happy “good thieves” in Paradise, if it please God, the Father of us both. . . AMEN!

Monday, April 22, 2013

To Announce A Year of the Lord's Favor ...

Crucifix in the
Abbey Church
of Saint Remi,
We have a new pope and there is, hopefully, a new breeze coming through the Church, a wind--a Holy Spirit driven Wind--that stirs our hearts with a renewed focus on the Gospel and bringing the Gospel to all in need.  Here is a proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ--a message of hope, forgiveness, reconciliation, and peace in the face of the hatred and violence--signs of the evil one--that threaten our world. 
Jesuit scholastic, Michael Rogers, just a few months shy of his upcoming ordination, posted on his Facebook page this letter to Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the surviving Boston Marathon Bomber.  I want to bring it to your attention as an example of contemporary Christian spirituality.   I had wanted to compare it to the letter of Dom Christian de Chergé, the prior of a community of Cistercian (Trappist) monks at Tibhirine in Algergia, who were murdered by Islamic terrorists in 1996.  I thought I had printed Dom Christian’s letter—which I think is among the greatest spiritual documents of the twentieth century—elsewhere in this blog, but I hadn’t.  So I will post that in my next posting.  Mr. Roger’s letter is not, to my mind, of quite the same depth as Dom Christian’s but then Mr. Roger is both younger and was not himself a target of the terrorism.  Mr. Roger’s letter is something far more eloquent than I could have produced and I think it does give us something to think about in terms of how we, as Christians, face the awful questions of violence and terror as well as how we address the role of religion—for good and for evil—in our world.  
Dear Dzhokhar,
You don’t know me, but you tried to kill my family.
You couldn’t have known, but my brother ran bandit in the marathon and trained for months. My sister-in-law was an amazing and supportive wife, as she always is, and was ready to run the last five miles with him. Your bomb was at the finish line that they were trying to cross.
My mother, father and sister were waiting for them at the finish line. You didn’t know it, but my mother thinks that she saw you down there. My sister is only three years younger than you, and you set off a bomb in front of her.
You don’t know me, but you tried to kill some friends of mine.
One of my best and closest friends was working in the store in front of which you or your brother laid down a bomb. That bomb exploded, and gave her the worst day of her life.
I was a high school teacher, and your bomb wounded one of my most promising students with shrapnel.
Dear Dzhokhar, you tried to destroy a community that I left behind for Rome, but from which I draw so much of my strength and identity.
You killed a child who was a part of the community who made me the man I am today. Martin may have grown up to be a BC High boy...and his family is well loved in the community which surrounds that school.
You tried to drive a city which gave me courage in the face of cancer into complete and utter fear. But you tried to do this to a city that knew how to make a 10-year-old unafraid.
Dear Dzhokhar, you may have crossed the threshold of the building in which I lived to compete in an athletic event, but we have never met, and you tried to kill my family, a friend, my students, and destroy my community.
Dear Dzhokhar, you failed. Did you ever think that you would make it out? The U.S. captured Bin Laden and Saddam...there was no chance you would escape. This is not the measure of your success, though. Dear Dzhokhar, you failed because Boston was neither bowed nor afraid. You set off a bomb, and the city gave blood for victims. You escaped initial capture and the city opened its doors to strangers. You were at large and making more bombs, and we gathered in prayer at Garvey Park and the Cathedral. You went on a rampage, and people stayed home in an orderly fashion and opened their homes to the police during the search. Dear Dzhokhar, you failed, because light cast out the darkness, and the man who knew that his boat just didn’t look right wasn’t afraid to call it in to the police.
Dear Dzhokhar, for all of this, I can’t hate you. Today I thought about the fact that you are only 19...you are just a kid. You must have been so afraid today. You were a victim like so many are victims, you were brought something you shouldn’t have been brought into because you likely didn’t and couldn’t know any better.
I am glad that you are going to prison, and I hope that you will have many long years there in Supermax in Colorado. I hope that no one I love will ever be threatened by you again, but I can’t hate you.
I can’t hate you because whatever you brought into Boston was enough hate for a good long while, I won’t and can’t hate any more.
I can’t hate you because I remember being 19, and I thought many things were a good idea that weren’t. I never would have went where you were with that, but I was certainly not an adult at 19.
I can’t hate you because, even though you did unspeakable things...somehow you are still my brother and your death can never be my gain.
I can’t hate you, and not just because I am a Catholic, and a Christian, and because in a couple of months I will be a priest, I am a human and I simply can’t hate you.
Dear Dzhokhar, I still have hope for you.
The rest of your life will be in prison. I have seen men change their lives there. I hope that you won’t be executed, because I know that we can hold you, safely, for the rest of your life.
I can’t say what your story might be there, but I know that I, as a Christian, and you, as a Muslim, believe God to be merciful...so I can’t help but have hope for you.
Dear Dzhokhar, you’re a kid. I can’t hate you, or fear you. I am glad you are in custody, I am glad you can’t hurt anyone else or yourself anymore, but I can’t hate you...and I won't fear you.
Dear Dzhokhar, I will pray for you. Next year, when my friend and my brother cross that finish line on Boylston, your brother’s cause will have lost for good; but I will pray that you will know, somehow still, the love that my brother, sister-in-law, mother, father, sister, friends and students all have given me.
Dear Dzhokhar, I will pray for you. When the first pitch is thrown on Patriots Day at Fenway, I will pray that somehow you will know joy...the joy that makes us fully human and offers the possibility of real repentance...the joy that Red Sox baseball fills me with every year.
Dear Dzhokhar, I will pray for you next year when the first shot is fired in the annual reenactment of the battle of Lexington and Concord, that you will come to know that peace and love are the only ways in which world will ever be changed.
Dear Dzhokhar, I don’t and can’t hate you. I am glad you are in custody, but you are just a kid, and you lost. I will love and pray for you, because somehow your sin was turned for good, and my community and the people I love will only be stronger in the end.
Dear Dzhokhar,

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Still More Whys and Wherefores

To continue the previous topic of why I spend time doing this blog, what I had seen over the past twenty years or so was a Church that had been newly energized for its mission at Vatican II begun to lose its focus on mission and become self-absorbed in its own institutional interests. 
It was fne in its day,
but there is no going
As I wrote in the last entry, I remember well the Catholic Church before Vatican II.  It had a somber beauty and a sense of gravitas, but its mission was stilted.  It was an old grande dame who waited in her splendor for the world to come calling at her gate.  Catholics took comfort in the large urban quasi-cathedrals that served as parish churches for multitudes of working-class faithful, in the legions of nuns in their diverse habits, in cadres of “just dial ‘O’ for O’Malley” knockoffs coming each year out of the seminaries.  That was, of course, the American Church but the American experience reflected the uncritical self-absorption that came right from the top.  There is video of the 1958 funeral of 1958 Pius XII that captures this hubric triumphalism. http://search.yahoo.com/search;_ylt=Ase49h0u9jSVWECsa9hgae2bvZx4?p=funeral+pius+xii&toggle=1&cop=mss&ei=UTF-8&fr=yfp-t-900 
Vatican II brought a fresh sense of energy to the Church—that is to you and me, to the People of God.  We began to understand that mission is something that belongs to each of us, the baptized, not simply to those who are ordained or consecrated by religious vows.  It was an entirely new way of seeing ourselves as Church—not the old hierarchical pyramid with pope and bishops and priests stacked above us and the laity a faceless army of drones whose only duty was to “pay, pray, and obey.”  Now we came to see ourselves as Church, strengthened by God’s Word and gathered around the Lord’s Table—an organic unity of priests and religious and teachers and civil servants and health professionals and laborers and students and homemakers and musicians and business owners and merchants and the developmentally challenged and the widowed and children and the married and the shut-ins and caregivers and first responders and the terminally ill and young adults and the unemployed and the immigrants, all being knit together into the limbs and torso and hands and feet and heart of the Resurrected Christ.   I—and others—began to see that we each and all had responsibility for continuing the work Christ had begun of announcing the Kingdom of God and the advice of Saint Francis was our guideline: preach the Gospel always; use words only when you have to. 
I found in the seventies and eighties priests and sisters and committed lay people that I could work alongside—people whose view of the Church was collaborative.  There is a popular song in contemporary hymnals “Sing a New Church” by Delores Dufner, OSB.  It is sung to the tune of  “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing”

Summoned by the God who made us
Rich in our diversity,
Gathered in the name of Jesus,
Richer still in unity:

     Let us bring the gifts that differ
     And, in splendid, varied ways,
     Sing a new church into being,
     One of faith and love and praise

Radiant risen from the water;
Robed in holiness and light,
Male and female in God’s image
Male and female God’s delight:

Bring the hopes of every nation;
Bring the art of every race.
Weave a song of peace and justice:
Let it sound through time and space.

Draw together at one table
All the human family;
Shape a circle ever wider
And a people ever free.
I realized, of course, that this is no “new Church”—it is the Church described in the Acts of the Apostles and in the Book of Revelation and in the Letters of Saint Paul.  It is the Church as described in the Didache and by Iranaeus and Hippolytus of Rome and Augustine and John Chrysostom.  This is the Church of Scripture and Tradition.
But things began to go awry in the 90’s.  In 1997 Cardinal Roger Mahoney of Los Angeles wrote a pastoral letter outlining his vision for what the Archdiocese of Los Angeles should aim in its worship as a new millennium dawned.  It was a brilliant and exciting vision of a Church alive and dynamic in its praise of Almighty God, reflecting the rich cultural variety of the diverse Catholic population of the Los Angeles region.  He was taken to task almost at once by Mother Angelica, a Poor Clare Abbess whose monastery in Irondale Alabama hosted a religious television network with some influence.  Mother Angelica called Catholics in the Archdiocese to disobedience to the Archbishop’s directives—indeed to open rebellion.  This triggered a fissure—or rather revealed a fissure that was already there—between Catholics who wanted to continue the renewal set forth by the Council and those who wanted to retreat either completely or to some limited extent to the pre-Conciliar Catholicism.  Liturgy was only the neuralgic point.  There were far deeper issues which over the subsequent years came more and more to the surface as the two factions grew not only further apart but openly hostile to one another, each claiming to be the legitimate representation of Catholicism in American life.  I obviously espouse the Conciliar plan.  One of the purposes of this blog is to reveal the historic roots of many of our Catholic practices so that we can see that Vatican II Catholicism is a return to our Catholic Tradition, the tradition outlined in the Churches the Apostles established and Church which the Ancient Fathers describe in their writings.   It will differ in many respects from the Church that those of us who grew up in the forties and the fifties remember—but that Church, especially in its American manifestation, though laden with traditions, was the Church out of sync with the Catholic Tradition handed down from the Apostles.  But more on that in future entries. 

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Whys and Wherefores

Been there, done that, not going back
I do get asked from time to time why I do this blog.  It is time consuming and I have a fairly heavy set of responsibilities as it is.  I do enjoy the research and the thought processes preparing the blog entails.  It keeps me learning new things and finding new perspectives.  But the primary reason that I do it is that I had been finding over the past several years that the understanding of the Church was, for many Catholics, growing more and more narrow because of a lack of historical perspective that was letting them drink the Kool-Aid of the Catholic religious right. 
I am a child of Vatican II.  I was born and mostly raised before the Council.  I remember the Traditional Latin Mass well.  I was an altar server.   Being both the altar boy MC for Solemn Masses and a weird kid, I knew the rubrics and ceremonial in great detail. Moreover, I have had six years of Latin in school (and later became a Latin teacher) and always liked the Latin stuff.  Pius XII was the pope of my childhood and I remember the October night when they broke into the television shows to tell us that he had died.  I remember the meatless Fridays, the Ember Days, the Lenten fast.  When I made my first communion there was nothing to eat or drink ( but water—I am not that old) from midnight.  Nuns were dressed in yards of black serge and heavily veiled.  We had may-crowning every May, Benediction every Wednesday, Stations of the Cross every Friday in Lent.  We stood when Father came in, knelt for Holy Communion, and learned to genuflect on the left knee to kiss the Bishop’s ring. It was Full Monty Catholicism. 
Moreover we were a very religious household.  My Dad was for many years a daily mass-goer as was his father.  Mom went to Mass on Sundays.  We said the rosary after dinner during Lent and whenever else it would strike my parents that we should do so.  We had grace at table.  There was a crucifix in every room but the bathroom.   The Infant of Prague presided over the living room, the Sacred Heart in the foyer.  Various other images and pictures could be found elsewhere around the house. Dad’s sister was a nun, his aunt a Reverend Mother.  Masses were said regularly for deceased relatives.  Candles were lit in Church.  And there were always priest friends in the house.
Maybe it was the priest-friends but ours was not a thoughtless Catholicism.   Religion was discussed and argued.  We had books and magazines about our faith.  My parents belonged to CFM (Christian Family Movement) and several couples would gather monthly in our house with one of the parish priests to study their faith. Dad would ask us at dinner what we had learned in school that day and paid particular attention to religion.  God help the nun who was tinged with Feeneyism.   When priests were over—which was often several times a week—we kids could listen to the conversations and we could ask questions.  Our religion was not something hard and fast, something embalmed or mummified, but something alive and vital.  It certainly wasn’t something somber or joyless.  And it was never above questioning.  You followed the rules—especially Sunday Mass and frequent confession—but you could question anything and anyone.
I remember when Vatican II was announced.  I had no idea what an Ecumenical Council was—who did?  There hadn’t been one in our lifetimes.  We were fascinated by this opening the door to our Protestant neighbors.  (There were, in my family, no Protestant relatives.)   After all these years of cold shoulder, they were now  to be “separated brothers?”   I remember first hearing “A Mighty Fortress” being belted out on the pipe organ in our Church—it was a postlude after Benediction one Wednesday evening and it was Art Smith, a seminarian from our parish at the keyboard.  I knew Luther had composed it; but then I always knew things I wasn’t supposed to know.  I told  you I was a weird kid who had a lot of useless information.  And I knew hearing it that a new day was dawning for me and my Catholic faith.  I have never lost the thrill of that dawn and for me Catholicism represents a continuous dawn.
I began to panic about twenty years ago that the sun that had been so long dawning was now beginning to set.  I could see the slow but steady shutting down of the optimism generated by the Council.  The windows once opened were now being closed and locked.  I was willing to allow the changes to come progressively—not all at once; the slow pace of change made that dawn last.  But now changes were not only coming more slowly, they were being reversed.  I saw things creeping back into the liturgy.  Some priests were refusing to give people communion in the hand.  Others were banning women from serving as lectors or Eucharistic ministers.  Churches where communion had been given under both species were now backtracking on that.  Under the banner of “dignity” the liturgy was being reduced to rubricism in some places.   I was in the diocese of Arlington Virginia at the time and that diocese is particularly weird, or I should say has more than its fair share of abnormal clergy, but there was Father Fessio and Adoremus and there was Mother Angelica and EWTN and there was the Diocese of Lincoln and the Diocese of Peoria and I saw the seeds of this (what one colleague of mine calls) “Mordor Catholicism” starting to propagate like dandelion fluff on a summer breeze. Were we going to lose the Council and the Church of the ordinary folk?
It was at this time that I was offered an editorial position in Rome.  It had nothing whatsoever to do with the Vatican, of course, but it was Rome and it put me into the stream of international Catholicism.  I had lived in Rome before—while doing my graduate work—and was a frequent visitor to the city, but living there deepened my experience of a genuinely Catholic culture that is far richer and more diverse than the ultramontane knock-off Catholicism some people were trying to push as “authentic” Catholicism back in the States.   I saw that the parishes of Rome had altar girls and Eucharistic ministers and women lectors and contemporary music choirs.  I saw that they not only stood for communion but for the consecration at Mass. Italian priests wore regular clothes.  (We always said that if you saw a priest on the street in Rome in a cassock, nine times out of ten he was American, and eight times out of that nine he was an American on vacation in Rome.)  Most of the religious sisters in Rome wear regular clothes. 
Modern religious art is highly valued in Rome—and one of the best collections is in the Vatican museum. 
Coming back Stateside I grew more and more concerned that an unhealthy distortion of Catholicism was being pushed by certain segments of the Church in this country as somehow or other “more Catholic” than mainline Catholicism.  In my work as an academic I have been able to travel extensively and I saw that the Church through most of the world was still alive and vibrant.  I was puzzeled that it was easier to find a Tridentine Mass in Washington DC or New York than it was in Rome and yet this revival of the TLM was allegedly at the desire of the Pope.  I was puzzled to see priests wearing things here (birettas, fiddle-back chasubles, ferraiolos) that you weren’t seeing in Rome.  And prelates in the cappa magna and with the winter cappa of fur—which had been banned by Paul VI—but there were prelates like Cardinal Burke sashaying into TLM’s like the Queen Mother going to the opera.  What was this all about??? 
I don’t make any claim to be any more authentic than anyone else’s blog or that my Catholicism is any  more orthodox than the next Catholic’s.  But I do want to look at our history—both accomplished and in the making—as a voice that sometimes seems to cry in the wilderness to look to draw from the past but to trust the future rather than to build a future on a poorly thought-out appreciation for a distorted past.    More to come. 

Friday, April 19, 2013

The Papal Posse: White Hats, Black Hats, Red Hats continued

Commission member,
Cardinal Sean O'Malley
Well in the past two postings we have looked at the eight Cardinals who make up the papally appointed commission to see what can be done to reform the administrative branch of the Church, the Roman Curia.  So  now, what is there to think of this reform commission?  Rather than look at how the different personalities fit together, I think we first need to frame the analysis correctly.  What most people have picked up on is that given the troubles at the Vatican Bank, the dossiers stolen by the butler and given to journalists, the “rumors” of a gay cabal in the Curial ranks, and other front-burner news items, the commission’s task is to go in and identify the problem people and suggest their replacement.   But in fact, it seems to more keen observers that the task is far more fundamental.  According to Robert Mickens, Vaticanista at the London Tablet, probably the finest English language Catholic paper, Francis was struck, in his Cardinal days, by a book by former San Francisco Archbishop John Quinn, The Reform of the Papacy, the costly call to Christian Unity (Crossroads, 1999).  Quinn who earlier in his life leaned somewhat toward the right, grew very disillusioned with the recentralization of the Church under John Paul II.  He took an early retirement—some say he was pushed into early retirement by an unfriendly papacy—and has spent most of his golden years with a subtle but weighty undermining of the current style of papal authority.  When John Paul II in his 1995 encyclical letter Ut Unum Sint (That All May Be One) asked leaders of all denominations to help him find new ways of exercising the Petrine Ministry, Quinn used the pope’s own words as wedge to force open the door to a historical critique of the Papacy.  In his lectures and writing, Quinn demonstrated how the papal monarchy of the last five centuries is a malformation (I would like to say cancerous malformation but that would be stronger than Quinn’s stated views) of the historic papacy.  Vatican II with its call to collegiality tried to change the way that authority is exercised in the Church, but the re-centralizing of authority in the Roman Curia under John Paul II and Benedict XVI undid that mission to restore proper governance to the bishops.  Now it seems that Francis wants the question investigated anew and what this commission is charged with it not simply looking for unworthy servants in the papal household, but restructuring the governmental apparatus of the Church. 
One person I spoke with said that supposedly Francis picked this particular group of Cardinals because they have each had run-ins with the Curia.  In fact, it would have been difficult for the Holy Father to pick any bishop for this commission who has not had runs with the Curia.  In my years in Rome I saw any number of prelates making their ad limina reports —Bishops, Auxiliary Bishops, Archbishops, Cardinal Archbishops—come out of the various meetings with dicastery officials apoplectic over the way some pezzo grosso monsignor with his ego inflated by his purple belly-band had treated him.  Bishops called in like miscreant schoolboys and berated by some pompous junior grade pansy in a red dress—this is no way to run a Church.  Hopefully this commission will design the sort of reforms that will empower bishops to be the shepherds of their flocks, empower the pope to be first among equals, and give the administrative departments of the Holy See the mission to be of service to the universal Church and not to get wrapped up in egocentric power plays that satisfy their petty egos but hinder the Church’s mission of evangelization.