January 11, 2018

From a thread on Facebook, re Holy Week repertoire; names redacted to protect privacy.

A: I wouldn’t do the Reproaches as they are Anti-Semitic, given that they blame it on the Jews.
B: [mildly demurring statement]
A. It says “I led you out of Egypt. . . I fed you with manna. . .I gave you water from the rock. . .and you did this to Me.” Sounds like it is addressed to the Jews. NOT COOL!
Me: Huh? Sorry, they did it. Historical fact. But they couldn’t have done it without the Romans. That’s so both the Jew and the Gentile could be saved; they’re both symbolically responsible. But you know who the real Christ-killers are? A. B. And me. Especially me.
A: You are right; but I’m talking about the text of the Reproaches, which places the blame on the Jews, and we know where THAT sort of thinking led.
Me: No, we don’t know that. I’ve always understood the Jews as the proto-Church, and the Church as the new Israel. So yes, God led ME out of Egypt. If a few sin-deranged folks want to persecute Jews for having done the best favor for their fellow man that anyone has done, that’s on them, not on the traditions established by God’s Holy Church. It’s bad enough that we’re chucking parts of the faith to save the feelz of Christians; must we do so for those who aren’t Christian as well?


CCG at St. Johns

December 5, 2016

This isn’t a review; it’s a reaction. I know better than to talk about my colleagues’ music. Most of it was very fine, some wasn’t.

First reaction: The Syndicate for the New Arts, the group that put on last night’s concert. Wow, just wow. Virtuosi, the lot of them. They did my work The Great Hunger, and never have I heard such a fierce, tight, balls-to-the-wall performance of it as Aram Mun, Henry Jenkins and Caitlin Mehrtens gave it. Yes, fierce… and these aren’t instruments you normally associate with that term. Unbelieveably fast and accurate, but well-thought-out and phrased too,  Of course, somebody had to slam a big wooden door right in the middle of it. Everything else on the program got the same careful treatment. Surprisingly large audience for a Sunday night.

Then there was the venue. St.John’s is supposedly the oldest standing religious building in NE Ohio, having been finished in 1838. Acoustically, it’s quite nice: tall enough for some bloom, small enough to not be echo-y. But it’s a wreck. I don’t know if they actually have services there anymore. It’s still owned by the diocese, they have a vicar (female of course), there are flags inside, and ’82 Hymnal and Book of Common Prayer, but there was nothing in any of the literature or signage suggesting that they actually did church there. And it’s sad. Every wall in the place is peeling and in need of paint. The 1928 Austin 2 manual organ is missing most of its key ivory. A square piano (original equipment?) sits forlorn in the corner. The cover was off the heating baseboards (the main heat produced a F drone and was fortunately turned off before the concert started). The stained glass behind the altar was missing a section. The cheeriest spot in the whole building was the bathroom! The place has had a history of “activism”, with Russell Means running the Cleveland American indian Center out of the basement in  the 70s, and the Metropolitan Community Church using the space when they could find no other. Now they have a yoga center attached.  So perhaps it’s a physical metaphor for the decline of ECUSA into spiritual irrelevance.

But this is sacred space. If it can’t be beautiful, it at least should not be ugly. Even as a concert space, it should not be ugly. It would be a simple and inexpensive thing to paint the inside. Somebody, in some ECUSA church in town, could organize a group of volunteers and have it done in a day or two. And there’d be white to balance the dreary dark pews that seen to be an Anglican dogma. But as-is, it felt like listening to a concert in Berlin in late 1945. “The acoustics aren’t so good since the roof was blown off, but at least the bombs aren’t coming down anymore. And we can listen to Mendelssohn again.”

Extra Ecclesiam Nulla Salus

February 7, 2015

Miss Barnhardt has held forth on the question of salvation, and while it is interesting as always, it really isn’t one of her more successful ventures,  as a logical case. (This probably won’t be any better.) Indeed, after starting with the headline “There is no salvation outside the Catholic Church”, she ends up with a doctrinally-correct example of somebody who IS saved outside of the Catholic Church.

The problem is in equivocation of terms: what is the Church?

There is One, and it is the Church of Jesus Christ. Not the Church of Ann Barnhardt, Jeffrey Quick, or Pope Francis.  Not even the Church of St. Peter, though since Jesus put him in charge, it has a unique claim over all others. And who is in the Church of  Jesus? Whoever Jesus says is there. Who is that? We don’t know. We have a pretty good idea what is needed, through the Magisterium. And we do know that “Unless you eat of the flesh of the Son of Man…you have no life in you” (John 6:53), which should give pause to followers of any denomination that does not accept the Real Presence, which is most of them. But we can’t say that any earthly church is coterminous with the Church of Jesus. There are “Catholics” (like Ann’s catechist who believes that reincarnation is possible) who are probably not part of the Church. And Native Americans who never got to hear the Gospel (OK, Mormons, I’ll throw you a bone and say they lived after 421 AD.) who are part of that Church. We could compare this to the Bokononist theology of Kurt Vonnegut’s Cat’s Cradle. The Church is a karass, a group assembled by God to do His Will. The churches are false karasses, or granfalloons: groups which think they exist to do God’s will, but don’t really.

Now, there’s a thing called “mere Christianity”, the core beliefs, the stuff in the Nicene Creed. Is that enough to get you into Heaven? I’d like to think so. But how much false-doctrine BS is God willing to put up with? I don’t know, and am not anxious to personally find out. It’s a doctrine that if you’ve been part of the one true earthly church of Christ, with the fullness of truth, and go off to a sect of lesser truth, your chances of salvation go down radically. (Lumen gentium, 14) But my saintly Lutheran grandmother? I can’t imagine her NOT being saved, if justice exists.  I don’t know why one would NOT be part of the Church founded on the rock of Peter, and I certainly wouldn’t take my chances anywhere else. But if an invincibly ignorant person can get in via the Natural Law, the chances of a heretic Christian have to be better. They’ll be set straight soon enough.

The Catholic Church doesn’t even teach Extra (Catholicam) Ecclesiam Nulla Salus in the strict sense. They call it “Feeneyism” after Fr. Leonard Feeney, who spent the first part of his career as a poet (he wrote the texts of most of Theodore Chanler’s art songs) and the last as head of a schismatic community. In between, he got into trouble by converting too many (for the parents/donors)  Episcopalian Harvard students to Catholicism and telling them to drop out of school, and compounded it by disobedience (always a bad move for a priest).I suspect that the main problem with Feeneyism is lese majeste; it’s in effect telling the King of Kings who is in His Church.

Note: one of the two Feeneyite communities is on the SPLC “hate group” list because they want to convert Jews, which is apparently anti-Semitic. Any time the Stupid Preposterous Lie Center disses somebody, they rise in my estimation. But Feeney made statements which at least nibble at the edges of anti-Semitism. Also, Fr. Feeney’s most vocal opponent was a Harvard student named Robert Kennedy, for what that’s worth.

Open letter to Glenn Beck

February 4, 2015

Dear Mr. Beck,

I have never turned any of your broadcasts off in anger, until today, at 11:25 or so.

You were discussing the latest atrocity by the Califake, and the necessity for an Islamic Reformation. And you said (as nearly as I can quote from memory), “What if there had never been a Martin Luther time? We’d be back in the Crusades.”, thus equating Catholicism with radical Islam, and in the process insulting a large swath of your listeners.

There’s so much wrong with this that I scarcely know where to start. But let’s start with those Crusades. Do you think they were a BAD thing? Yes, bad things happened during them (and some Crusaders were excommunicated for those bad things.). But would you say that 4 centuries of Muslim aggression demanded a response, or not? Anyway, they were long over by the time of the Reformation. Constantinople had fallen 64 years before the 95 Theses, and if there was a final “we lost the Crusades” point, that was it. But of course, Muslim aggression didn’t end there. Hungary fell within Luther’s lifetime. There was the great Catholic naval victory at Lepanto in 1571 … during which the Protestant Dutch were cheering on the Turks, saying  Liever Turks dan Paaps (“Rather Turkish than Papist”) Luther himself denounced the Crusades, on the grounds that “to fight against the Turk is the same thing as resisting God, who visits our sin upon us with this rod.” He saw Catholics and Moslems as morally equivalent, much like America-hating progressives today. And there was the Battle of Vienna, where the siege was lifted by the Catholic Polish king Jan Sobieski. In short, those Crusades and after-crusades battles kept Europe Christian.

And how was that Catholic Church? Evil, and becoming more evil? Actually, the eve of the Reformation was a high point in Church history. Yes, there were abuses; there had always been abuses. But popular piety and the stability of the Church had never been higher. It’s even been argued that the energized laity contributed to the Reformation, by wanting “more”, Anyway, there was the Counter-reformation and the Council of Trent, which itself was no big deal (arguably, Vatican II was more radical in practice). They clarified some doctrines in contrast to Protestantism, curbed some abuses, simplified and unified the liturgy, ordered Gregorian chant to be bowdlerized. What made the Counter-Reformation a big deal was the saints that it inspired to New Evangelization, 16th-century style….saints frequently at loggerheads with the hierarchy.

Did the Church, in combination with the secular arm, do things that we consider barbaric? Sure. EVERYONE did.  The Calvinists and Lutherans were just as enthusisatic about witch-burning and Jew-killing as Catholics were (and it was a Jesuit, Friedrich Spee, who was one of the first to speak out against the witch trials).  What about punishment and religious freedom?  There’s “bloody Mary” and Foxe’s Book of Martyrs. But then came Elizabeth, and Catholicism was considered high treason…the punishment for which was drawing and quartering. Tell me, Glenn, if you can: between that and burning a guy alive in a cage, which is worse? Tough call, isn’t it?

OK, look: you got excited and said something stupid. We all have done that. But we generally only say stupid things if we’re carrying around stupid assumptions. And the stupid assumption of most Protestant supporters of Islamic reformation is that the Reformation was a good thing, and the Catholic Church was a bad thing. Thus, an Islamic reformation will replace a bad thing with a good thing.

On the contrary, this is the Islamic Reformation. What was the Christian Reformation about? It was about getting rid of “doctrines of men” and returning to the pure state of the first-century church as enshrined in a holy book compiled several centuries later. Isn’t that what radical Islam is about? Doing what Mohammed did, obeying the Koran to the letter, bringing back the glory days? If an Islamic Reformation were about everyone interpreting the Koran for themselves, and letting everyone do their own thing, it might be worthwhile…for us. Several centuries from now, we’d have an Islam split into 40,000 pieces, claiming that Mohammed didn’t really mean all that violent and anti-woman stuff (and the Koran was a forgery from several centuries later anyway), and where a few people went to the mosque to drink coffee and talk about being nice.  But that’s not the Islamic Reformation we have in front of us, and it’s not the kind of religion that will effectively counter it.

Return to The Parish Formerly Known As St. Denis

August 3, 2014

This weekend I found myself back in Lexington MI for a class reunion, and had to make provisions for Mass. I reported on St. Denis back in 2011.  I found, sadly, that they had undergone a parish blending last year with the Port Sanilac parish (St. Mary) and Croswell parish (St. Patrick), and are now know as Ave Maria Parish. The big issue, for me, is that instead of walking to 8AM Mass, I’d have to drive 8 miles  to Port Sanilac. Working around the reunion and needing to take my dad grocery shopping, the so-called vigil mass seemed like the best idea.

It’s always a bad sign when they begin with “the Battle Hymn of the Church of Nice”, All are Welcome. Ordinary by Dan Schutte, Alstott Psalms. The upside of this was that all the notes were in the missalette. Hymns were traditional, and all verses were sung. They had a relatively competent cantrix, though she stumbled somewhat in the Psalm. And the Pax was cut short by the intro to the Agnus, a commendable procedure. All this could be worse, in a country church in the summer.

The homily was…disturbing. The priest (new old guy. maybe the former priest of one of the other churches, not Fr. Schikora) used the Gospel (feeding of the 5000) for a lauchpad for a talk on the Eucharist. OK, good idea, but he was stuck in Community Meal and never brought up the sacrificial aspect. Then he encouraged universal Eucharistic participation, saying that it’s never been easier since all you need to do is fast for an hour and be free of serious sin.  Well, what’s “serious” sin, and how do you get free of it?  Is blowing off Mass a serious sin? (The Church has always thought so). No mention of Confession and absolution. So, let’s say somebody is working on Spouse #2 or 3, or is contracepting, or is a Chreaster.  They didn’t KILL anyone; should they receive? I had to fight back and impulse to just walk out, and invoke The Peoples’ Canon 915.  Of course there was the usual bevy of Extra Ordinary Ministers being extra and ordinary.

It’s always a privilege to assist at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.  Sometimes it’s more difficult than at other times, and this was one of those times. The liturgy is improving, but what if you improve liturgy and lose sound doctrine?



The liturgy according to Forrest Gump

January 24, 2014

“Mama always said life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.”

I was thinking this morning (always a dangerous thing) and I realized that the Catholic Church was like a box of chocolates. Here are all these graces and teachings, something for everyone. And they are all covered in chocolate, which is the liturgy, and is tasty all by itself.

Now, some people don’t like certain chocolates. Creams seem to be the big culprit. That’s fine, leave the creams for me; I love them.  And there are people who might not choose creams, but find them OK because they’re covered in chocolate.  They won’t spit them out or anything; they’ll shrug and say, “Better luck next time”. But other people have to know. Some manufacturers have a little candy missal on the boxtop: the lemon creams are here, the caramels there. Catechesis is always good. Other folks want to crack the chocolates open, stick their finger in there and see. This degrades the experience for all concerned. But the chocolates still taste good, even if they’re ugly and germy. You can do that when it’s just your box; notsomuch when you’re sharing it with others.

Now, it seems to me that when you deliturgize the liturgy, when you remove all the elements of mystery, it’s like removing the chocolate from the box of chocolates. Yes, you can see exactly what the centers are.  You can take some, and leave the rest alone.  Maybe everyone will leave those alone. And you’ll never experience a really good cream, that would change your opinion of creams, because “creams are ucky” and you don’t take them  And in that depression over there are a group of loose nuts, who aren’t bound together by chocolate anymore. More importantly, it is by definition not a box of chocolates anymore, it’s a box of mixed candies. That could be a good thing, but it’s not the same thing. The chocolate, which unified all these disparate flavors and made palatable the ones we weren’t so fond of, is gone.

How we got here, per David Carlin

November 20, 2013

I had to wait for an oil change this morning, so I got aways into David Carlin’s Decline and Fall of the Catholic Church in America.  Of what I read, the most striking chapters were 5-7, which don’t deal with the Church at all, but were the most lucid explanation I have ever seen for how we got to the ’60s, and to our present received truths. Carlin takes sort of a Great Books approach to the debacle, books which held ideas which escaped from academia and entered society in a debased form. Those books and movements are:

1. Cultural relativism ( Ruth Benedict, Patterns of Culture ; Margaret Mead, Coming of Age in Samoa.)

2. Ethical emotivism (A. J. Ayers / Charles Stephenson); antinomianism

3. Suspicion of authority (The Authoritarian Personality, via Erich Fromm, and the Milgram experiment)

I was shocked to realize that most of the intellectual baggage that I’d carried for most of my life, and which many whom I know still carry, had an identifiable pedigree. I might have cracked Mead once. I know that Ayers was discussed in my Intro to Philosophy class in 1977 or 78, but between senioritis and the silliness of Ayers’ proposition, it really hadn’t stuck with me.  Of course I knew of the Milgram experiment, but had never realized the fallacy of equivocation at the heart of it.  Yet the grandchildren of all these works had a profound influence on me (and even the children; Wilhelm Reich’s work can be seen as #3 seasoned with #1).

The point of cultural relativism was that if a moral code worked for a given society, it was just as successful as any other moral code, and that there was no universal set of morals. Indeed, as a young neo-pagan, I believed that other societies’ moral codes might be superior, if they allowed for sufficient amounts of free sex.  And cultural relativism plays into the odd notion that refusing to pay for a strange  American woman’s birth control is a War on Women, but the fate of women in Islamic states is not really a moral issue, because it works for them (at least, if they aren’t women).

In the Ayers/Stephenson formulation, all moral statements are merely statements of feelings, with a persuasive element thrown in. Ultimately, this means “x is right because I want it to be.” Kant said that autonomous morality must be guided/generated by reason, but that implies a reasoning populace, which is not the populace we have.  I was a thoroughgoing Kantian, both as a Wiccan and (insofar as I was one) an Objectivist, but came to the realization that autonomous morality through reason would always be subverted and betrayed by autonomous morality through emotion.  One major problem with this movement is that it makes all discussion of “rights” fundamentally useless. “Rights” are a moral formulation; if one’s rights are determined by one’s morality, and one’s morality by one’s desires, then “I have a right to this” is indistinguishable from “I want this.”, which means that anyone can pull any ‘right” out of their ass  and think it carries as much weight as any other right.

In the theory of the authoritarian personality, there is no model of proper authority. Thus, good is seen as being as far away from the authoritarian mindset as possible: instead of ethnocentrism, forced multiculturalism; for sexual repression, loss of sexual control; for religious dogma, irreligion. Anti-Semitism is also an aspect of the authoritarian personality; ironic, since it is currently most virulent in the Left, which must then be authoritarian.  This was the element that struck me most forcefully. I had never understood the virulent hatred of the Right by the Left, and the portrayal of all non-Leftists as fascists. Under this paradigm, it became quite logical: they literally think we are crazy, mentally disturbed.

There is in Carlin an assumption that it takes 25-30 years for an idea to percolate into common acceptance.  These works all came out in the 30s and 40s.  He mentions Russell Kirk’s The Conservative Mind (1953) and the founding of National Review (1955) which (though he doesn’t mention this)  flowered into the election of Ronald Reagan by 1980.  Following the pattern, Atlas Shrugged would have set up the establishment of the Libertarian Party in the early 70s. The big LP “coming out” and distribution of the ideas of Rothbard can be defined as the Ed Clark campaign of 1980… which means we would see a popular acceptance of a gutter libertarianism ca. 2005-10, And so it seems to be happening. Now, what is the Big Idea of 1990 which is ready to bite us in the behind or to save us? And how can we, who seek to preserve Western Civilization, unteach the lessons of the last 50 years?