Rorate Caeli

A Paralyzed Church?

"What does the Pope do all day?", Alberto Melloni, the "progressive" Italian Church historian recently asked.

It seems to be a fairly common question these days, also in the mind of Bernard Tissier de Mallerais, one of the four Bishops consecrated for the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Pius X (FSSPX/SSPX) by Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre and co-consecrated by Bishop Antonio de Castro Mayer in 1988, in an interview with Stephen Heiner (read it here).

Amidst very stern words which cover the current pontificate, the Second Vatican Council, and the "Traditionalist question", Bishop Tissier de Mallerais reflects the malaise which grips the Catholic world: "... he has been the Pope for one year and he has done nothing!"

Update: I would just suggest this interesting article by our contributor Jacob Michael, especially on aspects of then-Professor Ratzinger's "Introduction to Christianity".

Pharisaic Debate

It surely seems that ... incontinence and effeminacy are evil and censurable. ... Knowing that certain of his actions are evil, the incontinent man nevertheless does them because of passion. *

... no reason, however grave, may be put forward by which anything intrinsically against nature may become conformable to nature and morally good. Since, therefore, the conjugal act is destined primarily by nature for the begetting of children, those who in exercising it deliberately frustrate its natural power and purpose sin against nature and commit a deed which is shameful and intrinsically vicious.
Small wonder, therefore, if Holy Writ bears witness that the Divine Majesty regards with greatest detestation this horrible crime and at times has punished it with death. As St. Augustine notes, "Intercourse even with one's legitimate wife is unlawful and wicked where the conception of the offspring is prevented. Onan, the son of Juda, did this and the Lord killed him for it."
Since, therefore, openly departing from the uninterrupted Christian tradition some recently have judged it possible solemnly to declare another doctrine regarding this question, the Catholic Church, to whom God has entrusted the defense of the integrity and purity of morals, standing erect in the midst of the moral ruin which surrounds her, in order that she may preserve the chastity of the nuptial union from being defiled by this foul stain, raises her voice in token of her divine ambassadorship and through Our mouth proclaims anew: any use whatsoever of matrimony exercised in such a way that the act is deliberately frustrated in its natural power to generate life is an offense against the law of God and of nature, and those who indulge in such are branded with the guilt of a grave sin. **
Though it is true that sometimes it is lawful to tolerate a lesser moral evil in order to avoid a greater evil or in order to promote a greater good, it is never lawful, even for the gravest reasons, to do evil that good may come of it —in other words, to intend directly something which of its very nature contradicts the moral order, and which must therefore be judged unworthy of man, even though the intention is to protect or promote the welfare of an individual, of a family or of society in general. ***
If acts are intrinsically evil, a good intention or particular circumstances can diminish their evil, but they cannot remove it. They remain "irremediably" evil acts; per se and in themselves they are not capable of being ordered to God and to the good of the person. "As for acts which are themselves sins (cum iam opera ipsa peccata sunt), Saint Augustine writes, like theft, fornication, blasphemy, who would dare affirm that, by doing them for good motives (causis bonis), they would no longer be sins, or, what is even more absurd, that they would be sins that are justified?".

Consequently, circumstances or intentions can never transform an act intrinsically evil by virtue of its object into an act "subjectively" good or defensible as a choice. ****
* Nicomachean Ethics, Book VII
**Casti Connubii
***Humanæ Vitæ
****Veritatis Splendor
We refuse to join this false discussion, kept alive by the prophets of hypocrisy and false love of this age, who have little esteem for people and souls and none for the Church; and whose sole aim, as mentioned here before, is to have the Church officially proclaim, by whatever means, especially if motivated by a distorted view of charity, that "It IS licit to do evil that good may come of it".

Many of those who earnestly join the debate believe that those who plant the seeds of doubt are honest and charitable. Alas, that is not the case! These "extreme" cases are always used to corrupt moral certitude and blur the clear principles involved in the great moral debates.

There has NEVER been any tergiversation in Catholic doctrine regarding the illicitness of such physical methods, which are onanism pure and simple, whatever are the "extreme" motives which would allegedly justify them. For historical purposes only, it is useful to remember that the great doubt which led to the reaffirmation of this core moral teaching by Paul VI in Humanæ Vitæ was raised by the invention of new methods which altered the female biological cycle itself and that, as such, seemed to be "natural" and "acceptable", and seemed to circumvent the inevitable illicitness of the physical methods.

[By the way, read the notes to par. 63 in Romano Amerio's Iota Unum; there one will notice that the great pharisee, the same pharisee, was publicly trying to destroy this Catholic moral teaching in 1980, before the great sexual disease of this age had even been discovered as an epidemic and before its viral agent and infection process had been discovered... It has never been about disease or charity... Whited sepulchres, indeed!]

The Passion of Spain - new Martyrs recognized

The Holy Father decreed today, in his audience with the Cardinal Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, the pontifical recognition of martyrdom of 2 bishops, 50 priests and friars, and one layman killed by the anti-Catholic Republican forces in the first months of the Spanish Civil War, the period of greatest persecution in modern times.

These are their names:


  3. Priests (Diocesan and Regular):


  43. Religious Brothers (non-ordained):

  55. Layman:

Spain, its past afflictions, and its current anti-Catholic crisis will be discussed here in the next few weeks, in this very special 70th anniversary year of the Passion of Spain.

Church and Loggia

From the blog of L'Espresso's Vaticanist, Sandro Magister:

At the annual "Lodge meeting" of the Grand Lodge of Italy, assembled at the Palacongressi [Convention Hall] of Rimini, from March 31 to April 2, a distinguished presence among the orators was that of the South-Tyrolese [altoatesino] priest Paul Renner, director of the Institute of Religious Sciences of the Diocese of Bolzano since 1984.

During the occasion, the Grand Lodge edited and published a CD with music of Freemason Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. And, in the website of the Grand Lodge, the presentation of the CD is written and signed by Giovanni Carli Ballola, a well-known music critic, but who also is a deacon incardinated in the Diocese of Rome, in [actual] service to a Parish.

Not only that. In the April issue of the "Jesus" magazine, Carli Ballola publishes a Letter to the Editor in which, "as an observant Catholic", he expresses his "conviction that reciprocal incomprehensions and prejudices between the Catholic world and the Masonic environment shall, sooner or later, arrive at honest clarifications".

Carli Ballola writes that he has "very dear friends, estimable in every level" among Masons. And he defines the rituals of the Grand Lodge as "deeply touching for the expressions of inner peace, efforts for moral and material assistence, fraternal love which is expressed in tangible signs such as the triple embrace".

According to him, the God worshipped by the Freemasons "is not deistic or theistic, but rooted upon the Judeo-Christian faith, as it is noticed by the open Bible in the center of the Lodge, left open on the beginning on the Gospel of John".

This is not all, though. In the April 14 issue of Avvenire [the semi-official daily of the Italian Episcopal Conference], among the Letters to the Editor, there is a "signed letter" which, while criticizing the secularism of the current Great Master [of the Grand Lodge of Italy], Gustavo Raffi, affirms that "a considerable amount of Masons live in suffering this separation from the Church." As a comforting [example], he mentions "the precious words by don Renner at his Rimini intervention". And he adds that "Freemasonry works under the light of the Gospel of Saint John, Masons were for centuries exclusively Catholic and many still are."


It has been asked whether there has been any change in the Church's decision in regard to Masonic associations since the new Code of Canon Law does not mention them expressly, unlike the previous code.

This sacred congregation is in a position to reply that this circumstance is due to an editorial criterion which was followed also in the case of other associations likewise unmentioned inasmuch as they are contained in wider categories.

Therefore, the Church's negative judgment in regard to Masonic associations remains unchanged since their principles have always been considered irreconcilable with the doctrine of the Church and, therefore, membership in them remains forbidden. The faithful, who enroll in Masonic associations are in a state of grave sin and may not receive Holy Communion.

It is not within the competence of local ecclesiastical authorities to give a judgment on the nature of Masonic associations which would imply a derogation from what has been decided above, and this in line with the declaration of this sacred congregation issued Feb. 17,1981.

In an audience granted to the undersigned cardinal prefect, the Supreme Pontiff John Paul II approved and ordered the publication of this declaration which had been decided in an ordinary meeting of this sacred congregation.

Rome, from the Office of the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, November 26, 1983

Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Prefect
Father Jerome Hamer, O.P. Titular Archbishop of Lorium, Secretary



The abortion lobby, led by the United Nations, the European Union, and by American and European Foundations, is fighting with all of its diabolical strength to institute abortion on demand in Latin America, the second Land of Mary, Tierra de María.

Every single day, from Colombia to Argentina, from Nicaragua to Brazil, from Peru to Mexico, more efforts of the diabolical forces are revealed. As it happened in the United States, since they cannot prevail through the legislatures and since popular opinion soundly rejects this barbarous practice, they try to force the genocide of the unborn through stealth measures: court rulings (as it happened in America and Canada), "morning-after pills" dispensed as contraceptives, and through ambiguous "health measures" to protect "women's health".

If it is possible, add a prayer to your daily schedule so that the culture of death and of hatred of the unborn shall not prevail in Latin America.




Sancte Michaël Archangele,
defende nos in prælio.
Contra nequitiam
et insidias diaboli
esto præsidium.
Imperet illi Deus,
supplices deprecamur.
Tuque, princeps militiæ caelestis,
Satanam aliosque
spiritus malignos,
qui ad perditionem animarum
pervagantur in mundo,
divina virtute in
infernum detrude.

New interview, no news

Interesting interview of Bishop Fellay, Superior General of the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Pius X (FSSPX/SSPX), as part of the main article of the current edition of the French Catholic weekly Famille Chrétienne (entitled "Lefebvrists: Towards a Reconciliation?").

The interview is not publicly available online, but excerpts have been made available at Le Forum Catholique. There is no new information, except for the last question, translated below:

"What do you make of the beginning of his [Benedict's] pontificate?

"Actions are necessary, words are not the [most] important. I shall be very reserved in my opinion. [...] But I am not disappointed. One sees that Benedict XVI is more circumspect than John Paul II, less spectacular."

IMPORTANT: Instruction on "Homosexuals in seminaries"
Official version reduces power of Superiors

The "Instruction Concerning the Criteria for the Discernment of Vocations with regard to Persons with Homosexual Tendencies in view of their Admission to the Seminary and to Holy Orders", released by the Congregation for Catholic Education last November, was not the most strict of documents. Most importantly, it has been simply rejected, in practice, by most interpreters in an exercise of "creative hermeneutics".

It could at least be said that those Diocesan ordinaries and regular Superiors who wished to follow the letter of the Instruction would now have a new and vigorous instrument to pursue the much-desired cleansing of seminaries.

Alas, a last-minute alteration of a note to the document, whose official version has only recently been published in the Acta Apostolicae Sedis (AAS), the official Register of the Vatican, has considerably limited the power of bishops and other superiors to detect those seminarians who hide their "intrinsically disordered" condition behind behavioral façades, in the name of the seminarian's "right to intimacy". Il Foglio reports the modification in its Tuesday edition:
Relatively to the original [version], released in the end of 2005, the definitive and official version contains an added paragraph to note 19:

"It remains always forbidden to Ordinaries, Superiors, and authorities in general to induce, in any way, the candidates to Orders to manifest their own conscience, since it is not licit to anyone to violate the right that every person has to defend his own intimacy."

Il Foglio also reports that this alteration was especially desired by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, "to avoid the use of psychological and psychoanalytical techniques to discover eventual 'deep-seated homosexual tendencies' present in seminarians". The first version of the document, still available in the Vatican website (and sent to the bishops and superiors in late October/early November) included only this text in note 19 (which refers to the text, "The discernment of a vocation and of the maturity of the candidate is also a serious duty of the rector and of the other persons entrusted with the work of formation in the seminary. Before every ordination, the rector must express his own judgment on whether the qualities required by the Church are present in the candidate."):

[19] Cf. CIC, can. 1051: "The following prescripts regarding the investigation about the qualities required in the one to be ordained are to be observed: ...there is to be a testimonial of the rector of the seminary or house of formation about the qualities required to receive the order, that is, about the sound doctrine of the candidate, his genuine piety, good morals and aptitude to exercise the ministry, as well as, after a properly executed inquiry, about his state of physical and psychic health"
This was the note whose official version, as published in the AAS, includes the new addendum.

A man worthy of remembrance

Exactly 15 years ago today, Bishop Antonio de Castro Mayer died in Campos, Brazil, one month after the death of his greatest ally. Regardless of one's opinion of some events of his life, especially the dramatic events which led to his position of co-consecrator in the Consecrations of 1988, it is a duty of justice to acknowledge his life and deeds.

Very few bishops were as faithful as he was in the implementation of the encyclicals of Pope Pius XII and of the documents of the Second Vatican Council, which he attended. His pastoral letters on the liturgy and on the problems of the modern apostolate (based on Mediator Dei and Humani Generis), on the correct interpretation of the documents of Vatican II (to which he dedicated true masterpieces of what could be currently called "the hermeneutics of continuity"), and on all great matters of his age* are texts of great clarity and doctrinal purity.

He could not, though, in good conscience, accept the new Mass as binding. In September 1969, he sent a heartfelt letter to Pope Paul:

Most Holy Father,

After close examination of the Novus Ordo Missae, which will enter into use on November 30 next, and after having prayed and reflected considerably, I consider that it is my duty, as a Catholic priest and bishop, to lay before Your Holiness my anguish of conscience, and to formulate, with the piety and confidence that a son owes to the Vicar of Christ, the following request.

The Novus Ordo Missae shows, by its omissions, and by the changes that it has brought to the Ordinary of the Mass, as well as by a good number of the general rules that describe the understanding and nature of the new Missal in its essential points, that it does not express, as it ought to do the theology of the Holy Sacrifice as established by the Holy Council of Trent in its XXII session. The teaching of the simple catechism cannot overcome this fact. ...

The pastoral reasons that could, perhaps, be invoked, initially, in favor of the new structure of the Mass, cannot make us forget the doctrinal arguments that point in the opposite direction. Furthermore, they do not seem to be reasonable. The changes that prepared the Novus Ordo have not helped to bring about an increase in the Faith and the piety of the faithful. On the contrary, they remain very disturbed, with a confusion that the Novus Ordo has increased, for it has encouraged the idea that nothing is unchangeable in the Holy Church, not even the Most Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

Moreover, ... the Novus Ordo not only fails to inspire fervor, but to the contrary, diminishes the Faith in central truths of the Catholic life, such as the Real Presence of Jesus in the Most Holy Sacrament, the reality of the propitiatory Sacrifice, the hierarchical Priesthood.

I hereby accomplish an imperious duty of conscience by demanding, humbly and respectfully, that Your Holiness might deign, by a positive act that eliminates every doubt, to authorize us to continue using the Ordo Missae of Saint Pius V, whose effectiveness in bringing about the propagation of Holy Church and an increase in the fervor of priests and faithful has been proven, as Your Holiness reminded us with so much unction.

I am convinced that Your Holiness’ fatherly kindness will bring to an end the perplexities that have risen in my heart of a priest and bishop.

Prostrate at Your Holiness’ feet, in humble obedience and filial piety, I implore your Apostolic Benediction.

+ Antonio de Castro Mayer
Bishop of Campos, Brazil

It is touching to read words of such filial obedience! The letter was never answered, and the Holy See never took any action against him until he reached the age limit, in 1981, and so Dom Antonio, as he was called by his priests and faithful (in the Portuguese tradition), together with his priests, continued to celebrate the Mass and Sacraments according to the Traditional Rites -- though he never forced any of his priests to celebrate the Traditional Mass; they could freely celebrate the new Mass if they wished to do so.

The tragic events and episodes of persecution of Traditionalist priests and faithful in Campos which would follow the resignation of Castro Mayer from the episcopate, upon having reached the age limit, in 1981, are well known.

In 2001-2002, the justice of his efforts would be recognized by the Holy See, which acknowledged the strength of the movement in Campos, as well as the fact that a parallel "church" had never been the intention of those Traditionalists, and established the Apostolic Administration of Saint John Mary Vianney. Though many disagree with the decision of Bishop Licinio Rangel (successor to Castro Mayer in the leadership of the movement and consecrated after the latter's death by one of those co-consecrated by him in 1988) and the priests of Campos, in 2001, to reach a reconciliation with Rome, the Campos situation was peculiar and demanded a peculiar solution, as Cardinal Castrillón Hoyos explained in 2005. This peculiar situation, however, established a precious precedent (God moves in mysterious ways!).

He died in 1991, but his struggle was eventually recognized as just. He lived and died for the faith he received.
*Those who understand Portuguese or Spanish may read some of his writings in the website of the Apostolic Administration (here). Several of his texts are also available in English, including his "Pastoral Letter on the Problems of the Modern Apostolate", first published in the 1950s.

NEWS ANALYSIS: Italian politics and the
Martini challenge to Pope Benedict XVI

At first sight, the intervention of Cardinal Martini weighing in on the wrong side of some of the most important moral discussions of this age would seem irrelevant. It is true that he was the President (Rettore) of the most prestigious Pontifical University, the Gregoriana; and archbishop of the largest Italian diocese, Milan - from which the world received Popes Ratti and Montini in the 20th century - for more than 20 years. But he has been retired since 2002, and, according to most rumors, he was in an extremely weak position in the last conclave.
Therefore, to understand the relevance of the interview Martini gave to the most important Italian newsweekly, L'Espresso, one needs to consider the current political and religious circumstances in Italy.
First, though formatted to look like a "discussion" between a "man of science" (Doctor Ignazio Marino) and a "man of faith" (Cardinal Martini), it is actually an interview: Marino presents his philosophy and questions Martini, who virtually always agrees with him. It is all about Martini's answers, not about Marino's "parallel ideas".

Second, Ignazio Marino is not just any physician: he is a member of the Democratici di Sinistra-DS (the "Leftist Democrats"), the post-Cold War name of the largest Communist Party in the West, the Partito Comunista Italiano (PCI). The Communists are the main leftist components of the "center-left" coalition, the Unione, led by Romano Prodi which has recently won the Italian parliamentary elections. Marino has just been elected to one of the Communist seats in the Senate for the Latium region (Lazio).

So this interview by Marino, who presents himself as a "Catholic" (in the style of the Dossettian "Bologna School" of "Progressive Catholicism"), has the following meaning: the left asks the Church for its opinion, and Martini is chosen as the official spokesman by the Italian "progressive elite", represented by L'Espresso magazine and by the Unione.

It is clear that if Marino were to interview Cardinal Ruini, the Cardinal Vicar of Rome and President of the Italian Episcopal Conference, or Pope Benedict, he would not receive the answers he wants. So the progressive manipulation technique involves picking a specific person who will provide the desired answers; the second step is to wait for an official response by the Church, which will probably not come. Then, the preposterous answers provided by the favored churchman become, if not official opinions, at least acceptable positions in the "rainbow of opinions" which shape the Church.


Now, why is this "semi-official Church position" by a man like Martini so important at this moment? It is far from a coincidence that this interview has been released right after the official results of the elections were announced. Despite the great deterioration in its position in the post-Conciliar age, the Church is still an important player in Italian politics.

A center-left coalition which has barely won its majority in Parliament will force its leader, Romano Prodi, willingly or not, to give in to the most extremist forces inside his coalition if he wishes to remain in power. Ironically, Marino's DS (the "former" Communists) are among the most moderate forces in the Prodi coalition. However, among Italian leftwing politicians, the rage against the Church, against public funds given to the Church, against crucifixes in classrooms and courtrooms, against the Church's opposition to abortion, embryonic manipulation, "fast-track divorce" laws, homosexual civil unions is considerable -- especially as an angry response to a wrong perception of the Church (embodied in its most visible face in Italian politics, Ruini) as the "conservative anchor" of the leaving prime-minister, Silvio Berlusconi.

As prime-minister Rodríguez Zapatero in Spain, Prodi (though in many ways a much more moderate man than the Spaniard) will probably have to feed anti-clericalism to the extremists of his coalition. And this is where Martini's opinions are relevant, and it is why this ecclesiastical has-been is in the cover of this week's L'Espresso.

If the Italian public opinion may be persuaded, by Martini's words and by the official silence from the Vatican and from Ruini regarding those words, that opposition to the Magisterium is an acceptable position for Catholics, then the probable extreme measures which the center-left governing coalition will defend in moral matters will become more palatable to the population at large. And this is why this apparently unimportant intervention may mark a turning point in the Ratzinger pontificate.

See the first post on the supernatural aspects of the "Martini intervention" here.
-Sunday Update.
-Monday: S. Magister has published a translation of the full intervention here; readers will notice that the "prophylactic" discussion was not the main topic of Martini's remarks, which were an attack on the edifice of Catholic Moral Doctrine on issues of life and death; and, as Magister notes, and as we had noticed in this analysis, they are "the first great act of opposition to this pontificate from the upper levels of the Church".

The 500th anniversary of the New St.Peter's


"This day, which was the Saturday in Albis and 18th of the present month of April, we marched in procession to the spot on which we were to place the foundation of the Roman Basilica of Saint Peter, Prince of the Apostles, in the Vatican; having blessed with our own hands the first stone marked with the sign of the Cross, we placed it on that same spot. May the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ grant strength so that what we have begun with fervor may be finished and reach completion for the praise and glory of God."
With such words, Pope Julius II described in a letter to King Henry [VII] of England the events which took place in the site of the old Constantinian Basilica of Saint Peter on a day like today, a Saturday in Albis, in the year of Our Lord of 1506, when the first stone of the new building was placed under what would become one of the four pillars of the Michelangelo Dome, the Veronica Pillar. For more than three months, we have been celebrating with a small seal in this little corner of the web the 500th anniversary of the beginning of the works of the new building of the Patriarchal Basilica of Saint Peter in the Vatican. Julius II may have not been one of the greatest Popes, but he surely was a great man, whose forces, after his accession to the Apostolic Throne, were dedicated almost entirely, in arms, in politics, in the arts, and in everything he did, to the greater glory of God and to the exhaltation of Holy Mother Church.

Rome had housed great churches since the time of Constantine, including the badly damaged Old St. Peter's, but, despite the splendor of the great Christian Basilicas, the most majestic signs of greatness all around -- from the Colosseum to Santa Maria dei Martiri (the Pantheon) to Castel Sant'Angelo (Hadrian's Mausoleum) -- were remnants of the old pagan rulers of the mighty empire. On April 18, 1506, a monument would be born above the tomb of the Prince of the Apostles which would rival and surpass all the great monuments of the Roman past, a monument whose mere sight makes one proclaim: "This is Christendom! This is the work of a regenerated Rome!"

No signs of barbarism, only pure classical beauty, enriched by the symbols of the One True Faith, in mighty architectural splendor.

The interior decoration is, of course, of variable quality -- and indeed it is not an artificial insipid building, as its pale British imitation: it lives and exudes Tradition, it gathers the treasures of Antiquity, the glories of Renaissance purity, and an unapologetic Tridentine splendor.


The Temptation of the Church: reading between the lines

No difficulty can arise that justifies the putting aside of the law of God which forbids all acts intrinsically evil. (Casti Connubii, 61)

Furthermore, an intention is good when it has as its aim the true good of the person in view of his ultimate end. But acts whose object is "not capable of being ordered" to God and "unworthy of the human person" are always and in every case in conflict with that good. Consequently, respect for norms which prohibit such acts and oblige
semper et pro semper, that is, without any exception, not only does not inhibit a good intention, but actually represents its basic expression. (Veritatis Splendor, 82)
Satan did not know at first who the Son of Man truly was, thereby believing it was possible to tempt that man who was special and holy, but who seemed to be, in the end, only a man.

Satan still tries to convince the world and "Catholic dissenters" that it is possible to tempt the Church; that Holy Mother Church* is merely a human organization, with no supernatural component. After having lost the battles of contraception and female ordination, though emboldened by a few apparent victories in the field of the liturgy (with the prevalent anthropocentric perception of contemporary worship), the Satanic hosts have to force their way through with "extreme cases".

And then we come to the Martini discussion with Communist Senator-elect and doctor Ignazio Marino (the full Italian text is available here), a discussion which the malicious and ill-intentioned have even called "fascinating". Apart from some truisms** used to blur the understanding that an immoral law is always iniquitous, it is an interview whose intent is to cause doubt and scandal among the faithful, and to please the always-titillating secular press.

May it be clear: the world does not care about the Church's position on any issue, much less if Catholic couples should use contraceptive devices to "prevent infection"; it could not care less about the fate of our smallest brethren, the embryos. The intention of the forces from Hell is to see the Church proclaim: "It IS licit to do evil that good may come of it".

Similarly, dissenters do not care if "remarried" people receive Holy Communion or not. The intention of the forces from Hell is to see the Church proclaim: "Mortal sin has no consequences whatsoever: there is no such thing as a state of sanctifying Grace".

*"Exactly because he was a man of God, Saint Ignatius was a faithful servant of the Church, which he saw and venerated as Spouse of the Lord and Mother of the Christian faithful." (Benedict XVI, Speech to the members of the Society of Jesus in pilgrimage to the Tomb of Saint Peter, April 22, 2006)

**For instance, "...the law [liberalizing abortion] has contributed to reduce and gradually eliminate [clandestine abortions]", which is obviously the case when abortion is legal and there remains no such thing as a "clandestine abortion".

Happy Birthday, City!

anno MMDCCLIX ab Urbe condita

Verum hæc tantum alias inter caput extulit urbes
quantum lenta solent inter viburna cupressi.

Pertinacious Papist's Moment of Grace

A month or two ago, Dr. Phillip Blosser, aka the Pertinacious Papist, brought forward the issue of proper rubric in the matter of reception of the Eucharist – kneeling vs. standing, and reception in the hand vs on the tongue (Here). These are issues guaranteed to make Catholics with a fondness for congregational spontaneity roll their eyes and sigh heavily – the children are at it again! I thought PP’s best insight came, not in the essays themselves (which are well worth reading), but in the trail of comments that followed. Responding to one reader’s comment, he wrote the following, which I thought deserved to be given greater prominence:
While it's true that personal experience isn't the best philosophical argument, or an argument at all, I don't think one need offer any apologies for attesting that one's experience confirms one's beliefs. On some level, if this were not true, I doubt any of us could become or remain Catholic Christians or even theists.
I can also attest to the power of outward forms in my own experience. There have been many instances. One in particular was a noontime Mass at a Catholic church near Harvard University. This was before I was a Catholic. The church was old, with squeaky ceiling fans (it was summer and hot), and only about thirty people were in the congregation. Among those present in the pews, there were some that seemed to be students, as well as some elderly folk. Immediately behind me were two 'bag ladies' -- obviously poor people off the street. The first thing that emotionally touched me was their voices during the Agnus Dei, bleating like sheep, "Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world, have mercy on us." Even now, years later, I can barely write about this memory without being flooded with the emotion I then felt. It was overpowering. Two bag ladies (who could question their sincerity?) reciting the Agnus Dei ...
Then, bringing up the end of the Communion line was a young African-American woman, probably a student, singing aloud beautifully by herself the Communion Hymn, "Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee," beautifully. (Nobody else was singing: we have to remember Thomas Day's reminder that most Catholics these days can't seem to sing.) And then it happened: when she reached the priest, she dropped to her knees to receive Christ on her tongue.
I was not a Catholic then, as I've said. That came some years later. I had no familiarity yet with these sorts of Catholic controversies about receiving Communion standing, in the hand, or kneeling, on the tongue, and so forth. But something in this gesture spoke a message that a thousand homilies couldn't deliver. It cut through all my defenses like a knife, to the depths of my soul. It was HIM! It was HE whom she was receiving there! And in that moment, without a doubt in my soul, I knew it. In my mind's eye, I had seen it, because it was made accessible to me through the incarnational, sacramental gesture of this young lady.

What happened to PP that day, as he witnessed three ladies simply going about the business of worship at Mass? My answer would be that he experienced a moment of grace. Grace may be given without being apprehended, but we have all, I think, been granted moments in which it is apprehended, for reasons we do not understand, since we often lack even the rudimentary wit to recognize them for what they are.
On the other hand, I’ve talked to people who insist that, at least for them, every moment is a grace-filled moment. They are constantly In Touch. But such has not been my experience. You may have talked to God this morning at breakfast, and He may have told you to spread the orange marmalade instead of the grape jelly on your morning muffin, and He may have advised you to turn down Main Street to avoid the traffic jam on Delaware, and He may have revealed to you that He finds the Veggie Tales ripping good yarns all, but I, apparently, have not achieved a similar degree of intimacy, for He tells me none of these things. In fact, in my experience, moments of grace such as PP’s stand out in wonderful relief against hours and days and even months of ordinary, humdrum, totally uninspired moments, both inside and outside of church. I am convinced that this is so for a great many people, devout Catholics among them.
All I will say with certainty is that I am not bombarded with such moments. How do I know? Here’s my quick test. There is a daily Mass offered at noon at a church hardly five minutes from where I work. Do I go? Yes, once or twice a week. But the majority of days I don’t. Sometimes I go get a haircut. Sometimes I go to the bank. Sometimes I visit my stepdaughter. Sometimes I work through lunch. The gist of it is, I go to noon Mass when I don’t have anything else to do. What an incredible statement for a supposedly devout Catholic to make! Do I simply lack powers of discernment? If every moment is a moment of grace, why do I not rush to daily Mass every day? Why do I not pray a dozen rosaries, instead of one, or none? Nothing prevents me, except my own sense of priorities -- and what does that say about me, and others like me?
Well, for one thing, it says that I am a sinner, that my perceptions are colored, and perhaps blinded, by creaturely predilections, and that I am not nearly as grand and as good as I would like to be, hope to be, and probably think I am. But for another, it bears out the final imprecation of Cardinal Merry de Val’s beautiful litany:
That others may become holier than I, provided that I may become as holy as I should, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
Amid all the exhortations to become saints, to be washed in fountains of Christ’s blood, to be drowned in oceans of mercy, let it be remembered that the most any of us can achieve is to become “as holy as [we] should”. To attempt more than that, it seems to me, is to run the risk of falling into a self-consuming enthusiasm, the ultimate outcome of which is that we become our own gods, for no one is as good as we (or, perhaps, a self-consuming despair, for no one is as bad as we). For most of us, including, I fear, myself, moments of grace will be less constant, more sporadic; and descents of grace will be less like deluges, more like the gentlest of rain drops. I am weak, I am vulnerable, and whatever my pretensions, I am rather stupid. I am eminently qualified to be humble in all things. Where, more appropriately, than in my presumption of access to God’s mercy? St Faustina tells us that Jesus said, the greater the sinner, the greater the claim to His mercy. I get that. I rejoice in it. But sinners great and small must repent, with firm purpose of amendment, before they can stake that claim – no small matter to most of us – and this “fine print” of redemption is sometimes lost sight of. Something indeed has been lost in my understanding of Faustina’s private revelation if I begin to view Christ’s mercy not so much as a gift, which it obviously is, but rather as a kind of limitless Visa card: one view engenders gratitude, and the resolution to be more deserving; the other, irresponsibility, and a careless sense of entitlement.
If outward forms can be inspirations for grace-filled moments, are they not worthy of consideration, especially by those for whom such moments are not often apprehended? Clarity of apprehension, issuing from continuity rather than change, tradition rather than innovation, natural inclination born of growth of understanding, rather than artificial choreography born of an urge to tinker, or to please others: it is in this sense that I would like to consider possible markers of grace-filled moments in the Mass.
Consider the Sunday morning scene at the typical suburban parish in America. Talk about casual dining! Years ago a heroically obedient priest of the old school spoke one Sunday morning with uncharacteristic anger. The typically soft-spoken, “boring” homilist dared criticize those parishioners who received in the hand, and who every week “popped it [the Eucharist] in their mouths like a peanut!” No kneeling, barely a breaking of stride – such carelessness was clearly sickening to him. This priest is now gone -- the better for heaven, the worse for us. Likewise departed is the ability of many of us to even understand why he was so angry.
Should we kneel? It is obvious, to me at least, that the proper stance for the reception of the Eucharist is on one’s knees. The gesture seems so natural and fitting and right that I scarcely know how to defend it. How does one “defend” breathing, or loving one’s children? How many works of art throughout the centuries depict Christ’s followers and disciples kneeling before Him? But there is one group to whom none of this appears to be obvious: the preponderance of American bishops of the late twentieth century. Over the past thirty-five years, they have sanctioned, even demanded, the ripping out of communion rails in hundreds of churches: senseless, arbitrary acts, reminiscent of nothing so much as the careening zeal of protestant radicals, who strove to denude “their” churches, and toss papist bric-a-brac into the flames . As a result of their efforts, kneeling to receive has come to be perceived as forbidden, or at least as a serious breach of decorum.
Which, in a forlorn way, it is. Whether one receives standing or kneeling, self-effacement ought to be a natural part of our attitude. We are not there to draw attention to ourselves. To deliberately kneel to receive, when all others are standing, is to make oneself a distraction, however unintentionally. I find that I cannot do so without feeling that I have put myself in the place of the Pharisee of Luke 18, whose ostentatious observance of the law was so obnoxious to Jesus, especially when contrasted with the unassuming modesty of the publican. So, despite all my inclinations to the contrary, I remain standing. And as I ponder the young lady of PP’s anecdote, I wonder if I am altogether too timid for my own good.
Here’s the irony: by defying the newly-imposed “tradition” of standing to receive, one’s natural piety is muddied by conflicting concerns and distractions at the very moment of reception; by observing the newly imposed “tradition” of standing, one must go against his natural intuition, validated by the practice of centuries, that kneeling is more fitting. Either way, one is not properly focused on the impending reception of Christ our Lord. Why should this be so? Why should what had been viewed for centuries as the most proper and fitting form of reception suddenly become so obnoxious to our leaders that they have seen fit to make it difficult, though not impossible, by doing violence to their own churches? On the USCCB website, only the following:
The Conference of Bishops of the United States has determined that in this country Communion will be received standing and that a bow will be the act of reverence made by those receiving. These norms may require some adjustment on the part of those who have been used to other practices, however the significance of unity in posture and gesture as a symbol of our unity as members of the one body of Christ should be the governing factor in our own actions.
One might think that the “significance of unity” would be duly represented by the procession (which must take place regardless), and, if anything, would be heightened by use of the communion rail. After all, what makes unity of action possible in a body is the subordination of its parts, and kneeling, not standing, is clearly a more appropriate “symbol” of subordination. So what is the attraction of standing? Why do it? I can think of only two explanations that actually explain.
First, as a practical matter, kneeling conflicts with the contemporary ideal of reception of both species. Only slowly and awkwardly can the blood can be distributed to people kneeling at communion rails. The choreography is all wrong!
And second (speaking of choreography), the spectacle of men and women kneeling before a priest, it may be feared, “sends the wrong message” to our non-Catholic brethren. Willingness to defer to error is thus made a virtue. The truly virtuous use of the liturgy, to encourage the faithful to humbly aspire to moments of grace, is thus jettisoned in favor of an “ecumenically correct” use of the liturgy, to assuage the ire of those who worship outside of the Church – a strange sort of zeal, this.
Should we receive in the hand? I will do so on the day that someone proves to me that it is a more appropriate way to express our belief in the real presence than reception on the tongue. Whatever claims of authenticity may be made for it, common sense alone should tell us that our handling of the Eucharist, our oftentimes casual, if not brusque, familiarity with it, threatens to mitigate our belief in the real presence. As we repeatedly grasp it in our hands, pop it into our mouths, drop it, trample it, pick it up, smile uncomprehendingly, and watch others do the same with, well, insouciance, our recognition of the real presence – PP’s delighted “It was HIM!” – can only be coarsened and diminished.
Of course, reception on the tongue is still allowed, technically, as the most appropriate method of reception. In America, though, it seems to me more accurate to say that it has been relegated to the same sort of old-and-in-the-way “pride of place” reserved for Gregorian chant (remember Gregorian chant?), and that only because a host may be placed on a tongue by an EMHC as well as by a priest. Clearly, reception in the hand predominates. After all, cogitates the modern man-child, does assimilation of the divine body of Christ into the body of His sin-corrupted creature have to be so darn icky? The quality of God’s mercy has probably never before been measured in terms of its ickiness.
And so, the one indult which American bishops warmly support has become an instant “tradition”. Designer “tradition” is a rather murky concept, but the end result is clear enough. How many Catholics today, to the extent that they think about it at all, subscribe not to the Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation, but to a fuzzy, protestant notion of symbolic representation?
This is how life goes: things are all in a tangle. Then one day, there drops into this tangle of concupiscence and competing agendas a packet of grace -- the women of PP’s anecdote. By such angelic interventions are we heartened and set right (one wonders if the young communicant was taken aside after the Mass and “properly catechized”). PP’s moment of certainty, in all of its innocent spontaneity – the spontaneity of the child who delights in his sudden recognition of his father in a crowd of strangers -- is an experience toward which we all aspire. But more than experience and aspiration – it is the grace-filled moment by which we are heartened to become “as holy as we should”. For that reason alone, the external forms which contribute to the apprehension of such moments are indispensable. We cannot afford to lose them, whatever our non-Catholic brethren might think. Is it presumptuous to ask of our leaders that they help us in this regard? Not by granting us honorific titles and herding us into the sanctuary, but simply by letting us pray together, not as a corps of fellowshippy robots, but as members of the mystical body and the church militant.
One more time, then, the plaintive cry of the traditionalist loon: (1) discontinue reception under both species – to receive the body and the blood is to receive nothing that is not complete and whole in the host, and is to create an artificial “need” for cadres of EMHCs (the most pathetic sight I will ever see at daily Mass is that of three EMHCs swooping up to the sanctuary to help the priest handle the “extraordinary” needs of a few dozen communicants); (2) discontinue reception in the hand; (3) restore communion rails; (4) place the Eucharist onto the tongues of congregants kneeling at those rails. Unreasonable? How so? Unworkable? Please tell me why. Inhospitable to the zeitgeist? Now we’re getting somewhere.
This, I believe, is the two-fold challenge for those would join Benedict in “reforming the reform”: to adhere tenaciously to -- or reestablish, if necessary – those gestures which most effectively heighten the “outward form” of reverence, and to avoid dissipation of energy in transparent efforts to justify – to make excuses for – gestures which heighten communal self-esteem and, um, expressivity, but which also readily lend themselves to abuse. Pleading that these latter gestures be performed with an itty-bit more awareness hardly qualifies as a lofty goal.
Friends assure me that the tide has indeed turned, and “reverence” is making a comeback. I hope they’re right. But I’ll keep the champagne corked a bit longer – maybe till communion rails make a comeback.

Habemus ad Dominum

Next week, the Italian translation of Father Uwe Michael Lang's famous book, Turning Towards the Lord: Orientation in Liturgical Prayer, with a foreword by then Cardinal Ratzinger, will be presented in Rome at the Augustinianum Institute, next to the Palace of the Holy Office.

The Secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship, Archbishop A. Ranjith Patabendige Don (mentioned in our recent chronology), will make the official presentation of the book. The Italian edition includes a postface by Professor Nicola Bux, who notices "the agreement between Father Lang's argument for the orientation of the celebrant to the East and the Hebrew and Paleo-Christian sources (not only Western, but also of the Middle East and North Africa)."
Father Lang is a member of the London Oratory. The first chapter of the book is available here.

Strong words from Rome to
the Revolutionary Church of the Zapatistas

In the post-Conciliar age, there were few experiments as wild as that of the Iglesia Autóctona ("Autochthonous" or "Native Church"), in the state of Chiapas, in southern Mexico (the old Diocese of Chiapas, since 1964 named Diocese of San Cristóbal de las Casas).

Bishop Samuel Ruiz García was appointed by Pope John XXIII in 1959, a 35-year-old priest at the time, and shaped the Church in that part of the world for more than 40 years (including 22 years during the pontificate of John Paul II), aided by his own view of the Council, which he attended, as a complete rupture with the past.

Ruiz was one of those radical "Nativist" bishops, who inspired the spirit of Medellín (the meeting of Latin American bishops in the troubled year of 1968 in the city of Medellín, Colombia, which established the episcopal bases for Liberation Theology) and took "inculturation" to its ultimate consequences. One of the most crucial aspects of his Iglesia Autóctona was the establishment of permanent deacons, elected by each native tribe, and ordained by him to minister to the community -- with the expectation of, perhaps, being ordained to the priesthood.

The other major aspect of his time as bishop was to link the Church in Chiapas to the several local Marxist-inspired guerrillas, especially the EZLN, the well-known Zapatistas.

Ruiz resigned when he turned 75 and was replaced by Felipe Arizmendi. Soon afterwards, the Vatican received an interesting report: during Ruiz's tenure, 8 (eight) priests had been ordained, compared to 400 permanent deacons, chosen by their tribes. After this, the Vatican suspended, for an indefinite time, the ordination of permanent deacons in the Diocese of San Cristóbal de las Casas.

Last Wednesday, the left-wing Mexican daily La Jornada published a report mentioning that Arizmendi had asked the Vatican to lift the suspension. The Holy See responded:

In a document dated October 26, 2005, signed by its prefect, Cardinal Francis Arinze, the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments presents four reasons to [keep the suspension] of the ordination of native permanent deacons.

First: "It cannot be ignored -- says the text -- that even five years after the departure of His Excellency, Bishop Samuel Ruiz, from San Cristóbal de las Casas, the ideology which promotes the implementation of an Iglesia Autóctona is still latent in the diocese." Second: there is a "basic ideological problem" and no ordinations shall take place until it is solved. Third: "to nurture among the faithful expectations which are contrary to the Magisterium and to Tradition, as is the case of a permanent diaconate directed towards the married priesthood, places the Holy See in a position of being forced to reject the various petitions and pressures, by this way looking intolerant". Fourth: there should not be deacons "by community designation, but by official call by the Church" and they require "a solid intellectual formation, guided by the Holy See".
Arizmendi, named by John Paul II in 2000, seemed disappointed with this Roman response, which he received "with pain and sadness".

One year

There have been many articles regarding the first anniversary of the election of Benedict XVI, most of which filled with wild assessments (which are just as inaccurate now as they were one year ago). The truth is: there is nothing much to say. One will be able to judge this first year of the Ratzinger pontificate only in a few years or, probably, only when the next conclave meets. This first year will then be seen as either an emblematic year for the whole of the pontificate or as a serene prelude to more vigorous years.

For now, the best summary I could find was what Fr. Philippe Baud, a Swiss priest in the Diocese of Lausanne, said in this report: "Many of my interlocutors acknowledge that they do not really know what he [is doing]." Now, that is a common feeling among all sincere observers! And to think that there are already books being published about the first year... A first year whose true meaning is lost to all but Pope Ratzinger himself, the only man who knows what he has in mind.

Benedicto, Summo Pontifici et universali Papæ
pax, vita et salus perpetua.

Liturgical Creed - The Principles of the Anti-Liturgical Heresy


I believe
that the Traditional Rites of East and West contain within themselves so many elements of Apostolic origin that it is impossible to separate these from the elements added by post-Apostolic ecclesiastical tradition.

I believe no man here on earth (Pastor Aeternus, IV, 6) can rightfully determine the complete abrogation, full substitution, or substantial derogation of any received Traditional Rite, of East and West, which contains inextricable Apostolic elements.

I believe Ecclesiastical History continuously proves that the rights of the liturgical rites "established by long and immemorial prescription" have always been respected by the Holy Roman Church, even in ages of great liturgical crises and heresies (Quo Primum; Quod a Nobis).

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost,
as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end.

Please, also read the Principles of the Anti-Liturgical Heresy, an excerpt of Dom Prosper Guéranger's Institutions Liturgiques, one of the most shocking texts I read in my life. I still remember reading it for the first time, quoted in a book by Louis Salleron, and my horror was undescribable: any careless reader is able to see in this mid-19th-century text the unfolding events which led to the collapse of Catholic liturgy in the post-Conciliar age.

Its French original (L'Hérésie Antiliturgiste) is available at Salve Regina. You may find an abridged English translation here, from which we transcribe the essential words:

First Principle:

The first characteristic of the anti-liturgical heresy is hatred of Tradition as found in the formulas used in Divine Worship. One cannot fail to note this special characteristic in all heretics, from Vigilantus to Calvin, and the reason for it is easy to explain.

Every sectarian who wishes to introduce a new doctrine finds himself, unfailingly, face to face with the Liturgy, which is Tradition at its strongest and best, and he cannot rest until he has silenced this voice, until he has torn up these pages which recall the faith of past centuries.

Second Principle:

This, as matter of fact, is the second principle of the anti-liturgical sect: to replace the formulas of the Ecclesiastical teachings [with] readings from the Holy Scripture.

This involves two advantages: first, to silence the voice of Tradition of which sectarians are always afraid. Then, there is the advantage of propagating and supporting their dogmas by means of affirmation and negation. By way of negation, in passing over in silence, through cunning, the texts which express doctrine opposed to errors they wish to propagate; by way of affirmation, by emphasizing truncated passages which show only one side of the truth, hide the other the eyes of the unlearned.

Third Principle:

...having eliminated the ecclesiastical formulas and proclaimed the absolute necessity of making use only of the words of Scripture in divine worship and having seen that Holy Scripture does not always yield itself to all their purposes as they would like, their third principle, we say, is to fabricate and introduce various formulas...

Fourth Principle:

...all the sectarians without exceptions begin with the vindication of the rights of Antiquity. They want to cut Christianity off from all that the errors and passions of man have mixed in; from whatever is “false” and “unworthy of God”. All they want is the primitive, and they pretend to go back to the cradle of Christian institutions.

To this end, they prune, they efface, they cut away; everything falls under their blows, and while one is waiting to see the original purity of the divine cult reappear, one finds himself encumbered with new formulas dating only from the night before, and which are incontestably human, since the one who created them is still alive.

... Their preference for preaching antiquity led only to cutting them off from the entire past.

Fifth Principle:

Since the liturgical reform is being undertaken by the sectarians with the same goal as the reform of dogma, of which it is the consequence, it follows that as Protestants separated from unity in order to believe less, they found themselves led to cut away in the Liturgy all the ceremonies, all the formulas which express mysteries.

They called it superstition, idolatry, everything that did not seem to be merely rational, thus, limiting the expression of faith, obscuring by doubt and even negation all the views, which open on the supernatural world.

... No more sacramentals, blessings, images, relics of Saints, processions, pilgrimages, etc. No more altar, only a table, no more sacrifice as in every religion, but only a meal.

Sixth Principle:

The suppression of the mystical element in the Protestant liturgy was bound to produce, infallibly, the total extinction of that spirit of prayer, which in Catholicism, we call unction.

A heart in revolt can no longer love...

Seventh Principle:

Pretending to treat nobly with God, Protestant liturgy has no need of intermediaries. To invoke the help of the Blessed Virgin, or the protection of Saints, would be, for them, a lack of respect due to the Supreme Being.

Eighth Principle:

Since the liturgical reform had for one of its principal aims the abolition of actions and formulas of mystical signification, it is a logical consequence that its authors had to vindicate the use of the vernacular in divine worship.

This is in the eyes of sectarians a most important item. Worship is not a secret matter, they say. The people, they say, must understand what they sing. Hatred for the Latin language is inborn in the hearts of all the enemies of Rome. They recognize it as the bond among Catholics throughout the universe, as the arsenal of orthodoxy against all the subtleties of the sectarian spirit.

Ninth Principle:

In taking away from the Liturgy the mystery which humbles reason, Protestantism took care not to forget the practical consequence, that is to say, liberation from the fatigue and the burden of the body imposed by the rules of the papist Liturgy.

First of all, no more fasting, no more abstinence, no more genuflections in prayer. For the ministers of the temple, no more daily functions to carry out, no more canonical prayers to recite in the name of the Church.

Such is one of the principal forms of the great Protestant emancipation: to diminish the sum of public and private prayers.

Tenth Principle:

Since Protestantism had to establish a rule in order to distinguish among the papist institutions those which could be the most hostile to its principle, it had to rummage around in the foundations of the Catholic structure to find the corner stone on which everything rests. Its instinct caused it to discover first of all that dogma which is irreconcilable with every innovation: Papal authority. ...The Latin language, the Divine Office, the calendar, the breviary: all were abominations of the great Harlot of Babylon. The Roman Pontiff weighs down reason by his dogmas and the sense by his ritual practices.
Eleventh Principle:

The anti-liturgical heresy needed, in order to establish its reign for good, the destruction in fact and in principle of all priesthood in Christianity. For it felt that where there is a Pontiff, there is an Altar, and where there is an Altar there is a sacrifice and the carrying on of a mysterious ceremonial.

Happy Birthday

Excerpt of the birthday message sent to the Pope by his brother, Canon Georg Ratzinger, published this Sunday in the semi-official Italian Catholic daily, Avvenire:
"May the Lord give you spiritual and intellectual inspiration, and also physical strength, to thus be able to take the right decisions and to find the proper words, and to remain brave and steady on the waves which, according to a secret Divine will, surround the Church, and you with her."

"Oremus pro invicem."
The waves are mighty, indeed...

Allen and the "Consensus" Myth - A Chronology of Events

"Quid est veritas?" ("What is truth?"), we heard Pilate ask Our Lord in the Passion according to Saint John, read last Friday. Maybe I cannot provide an answer to this question (an answer you will find in your Catechism), but it is usually not difficult to see that which is NOT true. Let us examine, for instance, the central account of the conversation John Allen reports he had with two "Vatican Officials" (a term which could cover thousands of people around the world) regarding the supposed "liberalization" of the Traditional Mass:

"Whenever there have been meetings about this among the cardinals, it's not just that there's division," he said. "The overwhelming majority is against it [universal permission to celebrate the old rite]. It's not like it's fifty-fifty." ... "But Benedict is trying to operate on the basis of consensus, and there's just no consensus," he said. Another senior Vatican official said simply, "It is not a theme that is yet mature."
Anyone who has ever been in charge of any operation with two or more subordinates knows it is great to work in consensus -- if possible, with no dissension at all. We can be absolutely sure that Benedict would like nothing better than to have no opposition whatsoever to whatever he wishes to do. However, Benedict knows that this perfect operation does not exist, and it certainly cannot be found at the Vatican. No Vatican official truly knows what Benedict will do, for he will do whatever he is willing to do (and Allen admits this by writing a disclaimer), with no need for consensus -- even though very few are able to know what are his plans.

His many meetings regarding the same issues are not to find consensus, which he does not need to enact any measure, but to guide the Vatican machinery to whatever he has planned to do, particularly in the cases where there is no consensus at all: the need for meetings is greatly reduced when the issue involved is the object of majoritarian consensus among the members of an organization, and that is true in any organization of any size.

So allow me to dismantle this consensus myth by remembering the chronology of some verifiable events regarding the Traditional Mass and reconciliation with the SSPX in the past 12 months. I know some consider the SSPX-reconciliation process and the recognition of the Traditional Roman Liturgy (or Traditional Latin Mass, TLM for lack of a better abbreviation) as separate issues, but that is true only in a "structural" sense: both issues are very much related to each other in a logical level.

Behold the chronology:

May-July 2005: sometime during this period, by provocation of the Pope, certain dicasteries were asked to present their opinions on matters related to "the Traditionalist question", including the current status of the TLM.

August 29, 2005: Papal meeting with Bishop Fellay and Father Schmidberger; also present were Cardinal Castrillón Hoyos and the Papal secretary. Both sides vowed to proceed "gradually and in reasonable time".

September-October 2005: sometime during this period, an internal memo prepared by the Secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship (CDW), Archbishop Domenico Sorrentino, was signed by him and by the Prefect, Cardinal Arinze, and forwarded to some dicasteries. It is not known if the Pope had knowledge of this memo (the "Sorrentino Memo") immediately thereafter.

October 2005: 11th General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops. The theme of the Synod was the Eucharist, which made it the first major worldwide meeting of Bishops to discuss the Holy Mass since the Second Session of Vatican II which approved Sacrosanctum Concilium.

-October 13: In an interview to several journalists, the Prefect of CDW, Cardinal Arinze, affirms that the "Tridentine" Missal "is not a priority, as no one has spoken about it".

-October 15: Cardinal Castrillón speaks on the floor of the Synod on the possibility for the universal usage of the TLM. Almost complete silence meets his intervention (NCR report).

-October 20: The propositions made by the Synod Fathers are made public, in a first leak to the press, with no mention of the TLM.


And with this I interrupt this first part of the chronology of events. Let me emphasize: THERE WAS NO CONSENSUS WHATSOEVER for the Traditional Missal. Actually, there was a clear consensus, by representatives of all episcopal conferences, seconded by the silence of most Curial Synod Fathers, AGAINST ANY concession to Traditionalists.

So, if Benedict wished to solve "the Traditionalist question" through some kind of "consensus", the whole matter would obviously have been dead and buried in October 2005. The "Vatican official" interviewed by Allen is certainly correct: it is not a "fifty-fifty" matter; it is not even a 95-5 matter (against Traditionalists)... It is worse than that.

Let us now see Benedict work against the overwhelming consensus in the second part of this chronology of events.


-October 22: On the eve of the closing of the Synod, the secret "Sorrentino Memo", with the conclusion that the Traditional Liturgy "was abolished", is made public by Vaticanist Andrea Tornielli in Il Giornale.

November 15, 2005: 5-hour-long meeting between Cardinal Castrillón, Bishop Fellay, and Father Schmidberger (some reports mention that the meeting extended into November 16).

November 19, 2005: The Bollettino surprisingly published the dismissal of the only Dicastery secretary removed in the first year of the pontificate. Domenico Sorrentino, author of the "Sorrentino Memo" on the "abolition" of the Traditional Mass, is promoted to Assisi.

December 10, 2005: Archbishop Albert Ranjith P. Don, a known proposer of a "reform of the reform" and sympathetic to Traditionalist claims, is brought from the Nunciature in Jakarta to the Secretariat of CDW.

December 2005-January 2006: Dicasteries are informed that the studies and proposals regarding Traditionalist matters are to be discussed in an early February meeting of the heads of Dicasteries.

February 13, 2006: First meeting of the Pope with the heads of Dicasteries during the Pontificate. The only issue was the "Traditionalist question", both in terms of liturgical law and of possible canonical structures. The Pope guides the discussion, but mostly listens, and asks for specific proposals to be offered in a March 23 meeting (the consistory had not yet been announced) and also in an early April meeting. (More details on this meeting here and here).

March 23, 2006: Pre-consistory meeting with the College of Cardinals. The main issues of the day were "the Question of Abp. Lefebvre and of the liturgical reform willed by the Second Vatican Council". It is known that, as it had happened during the Synod, most cardinals who intervened were opposed to any openness to Traditionalists, though, in view of the obvious willingness of the Pope to discuss this issue, many yielded some aspects. In the end, the general feeling was that the Pope merely wanted a "via libera", the go-ahead, which he achieved at some level. (More details here and here).

March 30, 2006: ACI (Spanish version of the Catholic News Agency) is the first news outlet to mention a possible "liberalization" of the Traditional Missal.

April 6, 2006: Reporting from the assembly of the French Bishops, at Lourdes, the semi-official daily of the Catholic Church in France, La Croix, is the first respectable source to mention the words "Motu Proprio" regarding a document for the "liberalization" of the Missal.

April 7, 2006:
-In Rome: the second meeting of the heads of dicasteries with the Pope. It is important to mention that not a single word of this meeting has actually been made known. It was expected that the Pope would speak more and listen less. Whatever was discussed or decided then is unknown.

-In Lourdes: the General Assembly of the French Episcopal Conference (CEF) published its final conclusions. Regarding the "Traditionalist Question", the bishops recognize that the Pope "has a concern" and that "in the weeks or months ahead, [the pope] shall lay down the directives to facilitate the way to a possible return to full communion" [of the SSPX/FSSPX]. The bishops, with little subtlety, attack the apparent Papal willingness to grant some kind of canonical structure.

So much for a "blogosphere" fever... It is obvious that, whatever he wishes to do, Pope Benedict wishes to do so in a smooth way. But one cannot simply say he wants "consensus", and dismiss all that is related to the issue because a "Vatican Official" said "there is no consensus". The Pope already got his consensus: an almost unanimous consensus from representatives of all bishops of the world meeting in the Synod of Bishops that "the Traditionalist question" was irrelevant to them; and they were clearly AGAINST any concession. This "consensus" did not prevent the developments of the subsequent months.

The consensus myth makes even less sense when we remember who Pope Benedict is: he is not a Cardinal with little Curial experience, arriving from Krakow. He is the man who knows the Curia best; he KNOWS the opinions of all heads of dicasteries and of all cardinals on the matters he wished to discuss. If he had been looking for consensus, he would never have brought up for discussion this delicate matter in the first place.

It is obvious SOMETHING is going to happen, though we do not know what: the French bishops themselves wrote the first offifical document with the admission that something (or some things...) will happen "in the weeks or months ahead". One thing is certain: the Pope will do whatever he believes to be just, regardless of a lack of "consensus". The consensus he wishes to portray is to make known that whatever he does will have been done with his full knowledge of the positions taken by the bishops in the October Synod, by the heads of the Roman Dicasteries, and by the members of the College of Cardinals.
What about Allen? Allen is a fine fellow, but he is more a newsmaker than a news gatherer, in the best "tradition" of contemporary American Church reporters, such as Robert Blair Kaiser. He and his sources wish to influence events or to alter the way future decisions are perceived and interpreted, and that is how his words should be read.
Do not forget to read my general caveat here. (April 18, 1000 GMT): Just to make it clearer, as I have recently written to a curious reader: even though it appears "something" may come, this something may represent nothing. Do not lift your hopes too high. If something is to come, let us be pleasantly surprised.


Osanna, sanctus Deus sabaòth,
superillustrans claritate tua
felices ignes horum malacòth!

L'anima d'ogne bruto e de le piante
di complession potenziata tira
lo raggio e 'l moto de le luci sante;

ma vostra vita sanza mezzo spira
la Somma Beninanza, e la innamora
di sé sì che poi sempre la disira.

E quinci puoi argomentare ancora
vostra resurrezion, se tu ripensi
come l'umana carne fessi allora

che li primi parenti intrambo fensi.

Divina Commedia, Paradiso (c. VII)
Hosanna holy God of Sabaoth,/ abundantly illumining with thy brightness/ the blessed fires of these kingdoms ... The soul of every brute and of each plant,/ The ray and motion of the sacred lights,/ Draw from complexion with meet power endued./ But this our life the Eternal Good inspires/ Immediate, and enamours of itself;/ So that our wishes rest forever here./ And hence thou mayst by inference conclude/ Our resurrection certain, if thy mind/ Consider how the human flesh was framed,/ When both our parents at the first were made. (Transl. H.F.Cary)