Sunday, July 10, 2005

Dignum et Justum Est

Can it be that liturgical reform is on its way? Many have been praying for this, and Adoremus Bulletin has a report that gives hope:

In early June, the Holy See made public the Lineamenta, or working outline, for the tenth world Synod of Bishops that will take place in October 2005.

The topic of the Synod is the Eucharist. The Lineamenta reviews essential teaching on the Eucharist, drawing on the encyclical Ecclesia de Eucharistia, with liberal quotations of the early Church fathers and the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

The Preface explains the reason for selecting the Eucharist as a topic for the Synod so soon after the encyclical. "The Church is undeniably experiencing a certain 'Eucharistic need' based ... on a Eucharistic practice which calls for a renewed attitude of love that is expressed in acts of faith [in Christ]".

The Preface also asks that "all in the Church" be invited to "enter into discussion". Questions for reflection are appended at the end of the document's seven chapters for this purpose. It seems likely that diocesan bishops will arrange means to receive people's responses by the end of this year.

Promising statements they quote include these:

Chapter Four, "The Liturgy of the Eucharist", is a descriptive guide to the Mass. In this chapter's section on "Holy Communion", the document stresses that one does not take Communion, but receives it, "an act symbolizing the Sacrament's meaning: a Gift received with adoration". [§44]

Sections on "Preparation for Communion" [§41] and "Holy Communion" [§ 43] also strongly emphasize the necessary disposition of the communicant before receiving:

41. ... Grave sins required a canonical penance. The insistence by many Church Fathers on the necessity of a worthy reception of communion proves that the call for the forgiveness of sins, even in the epiclesis after the consecration, is not an invitation addressed to those guilty of grave sin to approach the Eucharist without the foreseen penitence. Even though a person can truly participate at Mass without receiving communion, the integrating but non essential part of the sacrifice, full participation in the Body of Christ should only be done by those who are properly disposed....

I have not read the whole document, and will not have the opportunity to do so very soon, but I also noted the following statement:

The Orientation of Prayer

53. The cosmic conception of salvation which “is visited from on high” (Lk 1:78), inspired the apostolic tradition of orientating Christian buildings and the altar towards the East, so as to celebrate the Eucharist facing the Lord, a custom still followed in the Eastern Churches. “It is not a question, as is often claimed, of presiding at the celebration with the back turned to the people, but rather of guiding the people in pilgrimage toward the Kingdom, invoked in prayer until the return of the Lord”.193

In the Roman rite, the separate locations of the ambo and altar provide a natural variation in focus and attention for the liturgical actions done in these places. The same is true in Eucharistic worship outside of Mass; the faithful, upon entering the Church, turn their eyes toward the monstrance, where the Blessed Sacrament is exposed.

This is suggestive of ad orientum posture, but remains a bit mysterious in its precise implications for reform. As is the following, modifying the implication that Communion should be received, not taken:

44. Ancient sources indicate that communion was not taken but received, an act symbolizing the Sacrament’s meaning, that is, a Gift received with adoration. In the Latin rite, where provision is made for communion under two species, Catholic teaching is to be followed.169 In the rites of the Eastern Churches the tradition established in the canons is to be observed.170

There is much to say about this beautiful document -- I am especially happy about the stress laid on the necessary conjunction of adoration and Communion (their supposed incompatibility being the excuse for so many liturgical aberrations). But I have to say that it seems to me that, when it comes to implementation, anything less than crystal clear commandment is going to fall on deaf ears.

As evidence, consider this article on the revision of the bastardized English translation of the Mass that the US Bishops are currently holding up. I am not going to quote this article for fear of throwing all charity to the wind. All I can say is that I am disgusted that our good shepherds -- including ones who are supposed to be 'conservative' -- are still using the term 'pastoral' as an acid to corrode all reverence and piety and hold on to the empty and stultifying inventions of blasphemous hippies. OK, I am going to quote it to show you what I mean:

Just before a vote was taken on the entire proposal, Cardinal George again intervened: . . . "if the translations given us by ICEL, even though perhaps in some ways, marginally perhaps, are more accurate, we make the decision that we would prefer to keep the present translations for pastoral reasons, well that’s a legitimate concern."

I confess it's hard for me to imagine reform without strong disciplinary action from Rome, one that may well result in a lot of well-deserved consternation on this continent -- so be it!

Masculine Modernity

As it happens, the June issue of Crisis -- which half-way into it is phenomenal -- has some excellent observations that might explain what it could mean to call our current social arrangements hyper-masculine (though I maintain that misses the mark for reasons mentioned before). To begin with, there's an article by Anthony Esolen -- probably the finest feature length writer Crisis has right now, and always a joy to read -- on "the Catholic town". Says Esolen,

The ghost of Marley says that in life his spirit never went forth among his fellow men. Nor do we go forth: We go away. We cut our ties. At night we abandon the cities where we work, and in the day we abandon the splotches of houses where we sleep, corrupting at once what used to be a city and what used to be a village or farmland or forest. We divorce at will; we retain the “right” to sever the child from the womb; we are in sexual matters exactly what Scrooge was in financial, acknowledging no duty to our fellow man to keep our habits charitable and clean. My countrymen are perhaps more than any other generation supinely dependent upon others for food, clothing, and shelter, yet in their hearts they repeat the delusion of Satan at the bottom of the world, saying, “I am my own, I am my own.”

Where can we find the wild sprouts of life in this culture of loneliness? The kingdom of God, says Jesus, is like a mustard seed. Think of the small, the local, the boy at Scrooge’s keyhole, singing “God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen.” At one’s feet is the seedling, the dandelion muscling up through the blacktop. At one’s feet is a home, and children, and a neighbor; a stream to love, a patch of grass, a steeple and bell to toll one’s hours, the first and the last.

That is the genius of the much-misunderstood “Catholic social teaching,” our best chance to recover the human—the farm, the village, the city neighborhood—from the cold and gray, the horrible “right” to be one’s own. It is not a political program for massive transfers of wealth. Such a thing would be but a bureau of the Culture of Loneliness, some Department of Church Affairs. “Man is a political animal,” says Aristotle, the philosopher upon whose insights Thomas Aquinas built his teachings regarding the state; but we should remember what he meant by it. “Man,” he says, “is that living creature who may best attain his end—practical and intellectual virtue—in the context of a polis.” And a polis, says he, must be small enough for its people to know everyone in it, if not by sight then by reputation or by family. Such people, to see and hear and jostle against, make claims upon us that are immediate and bodily. That is why we, like Scrooge, want them far away.

Jesus was born in a stable in Bethlehem, not in some legal polygon, some fiction on a map or in a tax code. A truly Catholic social teaching must be incarnational: It begins from the premise that we belong to one another in small and intimate ways. We are Bob Cratchit’s keeper on this street, in this neighborhood, in this town. We hear a lad singing through the door left ajar. We throw snowballs at the neighborhood boys. We see laundry on the line, in all shapes and sizes and colors, and can guess whose caboose fits where. We know the whiff of the neighbor’s favorite cigar. We let the men be men, the women be women, the children be children, that it may be all the more gladsome when men and women and children come together. We laugh in humility, “Well, who would want to be alone, anyway!”

What follows is a truly illuminating picture (based on three actual photographs that reveal the soul of the place) of a town in Pennsylvania that was once Catholic. A beautiful article.

In light of this, it's interesting to ponder the special angle on the evil of abortion highlighted in another article by Erika Bachiochi, a self-professed feminist who once supported abortion because she thought it was good for women:

While some men lament the choices of their wives or girlfriends (husbands and boyfriends, after all, have no legal rights in the abortion decision), other men serve as the catalysts behind such choices. Nearly 40 percent of post-abortive women in one study reported that partners pressured them into having the abortions. Indeed, in her study of the data, Emory University professor Elizabeth Fox-Genovese reports that “the most enthusiastic fans of abortion have been men—at least until they have children of their own.”

So while “pro-choice” feminists hail abortion as the symbol of women’s sexual freedom and equality, the ordinary young woman may find no such liberation when she has sex with her date, thinking, as women are prone to do, that sex will bind the two emotionally. Instead, when he doesn’t share the depth of her feelings and then hands her $400 for the abortion when she becomes pregnant, it’s not only her heart that’s broken. She alone has to live with the possible short-term and long-term medical consequences of the abortion for the rest of her life. For many women, “reproductive freedom” has meant that women continue to negotiate all that comes with reproduction while men enjoy the freedom of sex without consequences.

The victimization felt by such a large majority of women who undergo abortions, though not appreciated or even recognized by today’s “pro-choice” feminist, was acutely foreseen by an earlier generation of feminists. America’s pioneering feminists, who fought for the right to vote and fair treatment in the workplace, were uniformly against abortion because they recognized it as an attack on women as women—those uniquely endowed with the ability to bear children. While these pioneering feminists endured the painstaking fight to change male-dominated political and economic institutions, the “pro-choice” feminists of the 1970s and today instead sought to change the very nature of women, convincing many of them that, if they’re to be equal to men, they must simply become like men.

. . .

we’ve gotten used to not having to change much in our market-driven society to allow women to enter our colleges and workplaces on an equal footing with men. We’re not interested in ensuring women the capacity to act in society—to have a place in society—if they aren’t aping men. We can’t afford to do the much more difficult work of creating environments that welcome women who have children—which, of course, is the great majority of women. Instead, we’ll just continue to tell women what Roe told them a generation before. You choose: your baby or yourself, your baby or your future, your baby or your success; this is a man’s world, and you better become like a man—that is, not pregnant—if you want to succeed.

It’s no surprise that more than 30 years after the second wave—the abortion wave—of the women’s movement, studies show that women are still perplexed about how to combine career and family. Abortion usurped a pioneering feminism that sought to influence society to recognize the distinct dignity of women. In so doing, it forestalled solutions to the question of how women could fulfill their unique role as mothers while participating in the wider society.

Esolen is wonderful at describing the havoc wrecked by modernity on the souls of men and boys; Bachiochi describes in painful detail the damage abortion does to women. Both point to the possibility of a world in which, however imperfectly, the common good is approximated by the willingness to be who one is, which forecolses making choices in fancied isolation. When women are pressured into "aping" men, we get not a magnification of masculinity, but a crowd of amorphous individuals with no purpose -- feminite or masculine -- to render life's struggles meaningful. Let's hope both authors are indicative of an increased awareness of this moral catastrophe.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Dead Air

Sorry for this. I've been on the road, and will be on the road some more. (Mr. Eaton has no such excuse, though!)

At the moment I am perusing one of many tantalizing articles over at Ignatius Insight (on the side-bar). This is another one by Father Schall, exploring an address by then-Cardinal Ratzinger regarding recent developments in left thought. I'm finding it very insightful. A couple of samples:

One of the standard questions hovering about the intellectual world since the crisis of Marxism has been, “Where does the intellectual left go next, especially if it refuses to consider orthodoxy?” The obvious, most likely answer, I think, is that it goes in the direction of ecology and environmentalism insofar as these all-embracing systems provide an apparently plausible, natural justification to reduce the relative importance of man’s individual dignity in the name of a planetary or worldly, if not cosmic, “good.” This postulated inner-worldly transcendent good is proposed in the name of the on-going cycles of nature and of the good of the living “species” within it. This higher “good” becomes the criterion by which we judge how many people we can have in each country or on the earth, how long they can live and under what conditions, what they can or cannot consume, what their relation is to the state. Indeed, it is not the state but the world state which—since it is said to have the exclusive responsibility to look out for the distant future—can control the present in its name. “Progress” is replaced as an ideal by “stability.” This simultaneous relativizing of the dignity of the human person and of the consequent justification for the vast expansion of the state has provided a handy way to replace or rather incorporate the Marxist ideology that formerly justified these inner-worldly goals with a new more comprehensive ideology that explains what is happening in a different manner.

. . .

Ratzinger next comments on what everyone has observed, namely, that liberation theology suddenly fell into disrepute because the world realized that the Marxist systems in fact produced neither redemption nor liberation but tyranny. But Ratzinger adds, in a passage that seems to me very perceptive,

[that] the non-fulfillment of this [Marxist-liberationist] hope brought a great disillusionment with it which is still far from being assimilated. Therefore, it seems probable to me that new forms of the Marxist conception of the world will appear in the future. For the moment, we cannot be but perplexed: the failure of the only scientifically based system for solving human problems could only justify nihilism or, in any case, total relativism.

That is, the results in the West and too often in Marxist countries was not natural law or Christianity but relativism.

See what I mean?

Regarding the London attacks: I am not following things closely enough to comment in detail. Other than revulsion and mourning at the bloodshed, my initial response is to wonder whether Al Quaeda is not showing its weakness here. September 11 was a staggering blow, Madrid was a surgical strike, but these kind of attacks will never do anything but tick Westerners off and incite them to work harder at the eradication of terror groups. Am I right about this?

In any case, I'm with Phil: let's fly the Union Jack!

Site Feed