Measuring History

But the lesson for us moderns is, I hope, clear: phrases plucked from ancient documents, phrases such as “second marriage”, do not necessarily carry the same connotations today that they enjoyed in times past. Caution in reading them, and in reaching conclusions of law based on them, is therefore strongly advised.

Apart from the topic of this article there is a greater lesson here. Before we commit to a controversial position we should follow the old advice of carpenters everywhere, viz., measure twice, cut once.

I'll try to remember this lesson myself.

The Charge of Clericalism

There is a smear campaign currently underway against many young priests in the Catholic Church. However, this attack is not coming from the secular media or from dissenting advocacy groups. Instead, it is an attack from within the Church itself, even from fellow priests. What is the false charge being leveled against many of our younger priests? Clericalism.

Indeed. Often the pejorative use of Pharisaical serves the same purpose.

No Need To Be A Poser

You would think that the one community I’d be okay with joining would be a community of outsiders like me: weird first because we’re Christian, weirder because we’re gay, and weirdest of all, maybe, because we’re those things and also celibate.

But as usual I’m hesitant and scared. As usual, there are some pretty good reasons; and as usual, those reasons aren’t a good excuse for standing on the outside.

I think we all feel this way at times regardless of our particular struggles.

The Gift of Monasticism

Today the need is as great as ever for religious orders and their houses of study to stand as both a refuge of spiritual purity and of intellectual insight as to how best to support the truth of the Catholic faith in an era of secular positivism. There is a great need to return to the foundational understanding of philosophy in particular and classical learning in general in support of theology and the dogmatic truths of the faith while addressing the issues of a technologically advanced age. As in the past, monasteries offer great hope in providing havens of spiritual and scholarly retreat where the Catholic Renaissance of tomorrow could be launched to address the need for advancing orthodox theological explanation and guidance at a time of what fairly may be termed considerable moral and intellectual confusion.

This article reminds me that John Senior is correct. The restoration of Christian Culture will only happen through the restoration of monastic life.

A Strong Critique

Balthasar then continues his assault upon the ancient Church, and its irrelevance for us today. Next he tries a clever maneuver to disarm anyone who would possibly be attached to these “useless” traditions.. He does so by making a reasonable claim, “...every formula that is discovered must be transparent to the event both of then and of today; it is to be made use of to the extend that it permits what was then to become reality today, and left unused to the extent that it impedes this. In the many complicated systems of thought, perhaps only one thing remains vital today: namely, that in them we can discover what other ages knew about encountering the mystery of God. Where this can no longer be discerned, the systems quite deserve to be utterly forgotten.” What systems he is referring to here is never really identified. This sets up a clever rule however to discard whatever the author sees fit to dispose of, under a noble banner indeed.

I mostly agree with this critique of Hans Urs von Balthasar. He states the case a little too strongly at some points. However, I fear that the theology of von Balthasar is very problematic. It's unfortunate because there are a lot of things to like about some of the things he has to say. However, like many theologians from the last century their error starts with their understanding of nature. This misunderstanding harms the rest of their work. The critique of von Balthasar and others like him by strong Thomists rings more and more true each passing day.

JPII: Positive Restoration

I was having a great conversation yesterday about the modern liturgical calendar as compared to the 1962 liturgical calendar. As I was reflecting on this facinating topic I started thinking about the document Sacrosanctum Concilium. If you’ve read this document you know that it called for a reform of the liturgical calendar that privileged the integrity of the ferial days.1

In theory this is a great idea. However, in practice it may not have been a successful or even feasible project. I will grant that when you compare the current liturgical calendar with it’s predecessor the current calendar does attempt to privilege the ferial. The vast number of octaves, feast days, etc., found in the 1962 calendar (which was itself a reform calendar) are significantly reduced in the modern calendar.

At first glance this observation might seem insignificant. However, it has a very real impact on the lived faith of the Church. There is a necessary relationship between the devotional life of the Church and the liturgical calendar. The devotional life is what has historically inculturated the faith in societies and thus incarnated the faith in individuals. It’s been suggested by some that the simplification of the liturgical calendar is one significant cause for the decline of the devotional life in the Church.

I think that Blessed Pope John Paul II recognized the poverty of devotion that crept into the contemporary expression of the faith.2 This may be one reason why he departed from a minimalist approach to the liturgical calendar. He is still known for his penchant for actively seeking out worthy members of the faithful to elevate to the altar by canonization. He has been critiqued for this. Some have suggested that he exercised this papal prerogative too often. Some even refer to Blessed John Paul II as a canonization machine. However, this simply may have been a wise pastoral decision to shift away from this particular directive about the liturgical calendar in Sacrosanctum Concilium.

I’m sure that this suggestion may be difficult to hear. But, it seems to me that it’s a suggestion that’s in keeping with the purpose of our most recent council. Formally, we describe the Second Vatican Council as a “pastoral council.” However, we tend to treat it like a “dogmatic council.”3 But as the last two Pontiffs have taught us, it is fair to bring reasonable and reverent critique to some of the practical directives of the Council.4 Based on the writings and statements of our current Holy Father I expect to see Pope Francis continue this trend of critical reflection upon the documents of the Council.


  1. Ferial days are essentially the liturgical celebrations of the season instead of the special movable and immovable celebrations that occur throughout the year.  ↩

  2. There are a number of actions taken by John Paul II in his pontificate that indicate to me that he had a real interest in restoring a robust devotional life in the Church.  ↩

  3. Even this distinction is controversial. It’s unclear to many what this distinction actually means.  ↩

  4. This could even be applied to conceptual and fundamental aspects of the Council in certain instances. Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI is famous for having reservations about and critiques of certain aspects of Gaudium et Spes and Nostra Aetate and their concrete implementation.  ↩

Podcasts

I'm getting a little down with podcasting. I listen to podcasts, I like podcasts, I've been approached to host a podcast. I think podcasts are an awesome idea. I just don't know how to approach the genre.

I was looking at the top list of podcasts as categorized by Apple and I noticed a trend. The vast majority of the most popular podcasts are about making stuff, making stuff efficiently, and then coping with the emotional drain of making stuff.

If I were to host a podcast it wouldn't be about making stuff. It definitely wouldn't be about coping with life. It certainly wouldn't be about religion as an emotional snuggy. But this seems to be what people like to listen to today.

This problem isn't an easy one to solve.