It falls like tears, like wasted years

At Rorate Caeli, there is a very lengthy, very interesting piece about the probability of a unified date for Easter. The author’s assessment: nil. In short, the Church of Rome has long insisted upon the Gregorian calendar for the date for Easter, and the Orthodox churches have long insisted on the Julian calendar. While there have been favorable noises from both the Holy Father and the Ecumenical Patriarch about a unified date for Easter, the Moscow Patriarchate, which does not take orders from the Ecumenical Patriarch, to put it mildly, prefers the retention of the status quo. And if Moscow doesn’t go along, the proposal will be dead in the water in Constantinople—dead in the Bosphorus, as it were. Read the whole thing there.

We add briefly that the talk of a unified Easter seemed to come out of nowhere, and that the mentions we saw were awfully enthusiastic. While ecumenical dialogue is one of the great loves of the Church after Vatican II, it should be noted that very few results are actually achieved. Certainly, enthusiastic joint statements, lengthy joint declarations about shared beliefs and stumbling blocks to full communion, and the like are regularly produced, but, as far as results in the ut unum sint sense, well, that’s another story. And the Rorate Caeli piece shows why: ecumenical dialogue involves not only the Church and her doctrine but also the other institution and its doctrine. In this case, the Orthodox have a long, complex history about their calendar preferences. And a surge of ecumenical enthusiasm is not likely to overcome those preferences.

I was shocked to find what was allowed

Recently, a sharp Catholic woman of our acquaintance inquired whether St. Alphonsus Liguori had held that a parent with the care of children was dispensed from the obligation to hear Mass. Others noted that the great Doctor Zelantissimus addresses the subject in Theologia Moralis III.3.3.5 where he holds, essentially, that mothers who do not have a safe place to leave their infants or who cannot bring their children to church without causing a notable disturbance, are excused from attending Mass. Of course, if there’s a parent with whom the children may safely be left while the other attends Mass, one imagines that the relaxation tightens back up pretty quickly.

This subject has been on our mind over the past few days, given the exchange between Tommy Tighe at Aleteia and Steve Skojec at One Peter Five. Tighe makes the points, not wholly novel, that (1) he knows his kids are messy and distracting and (2) the woman who rebuked him was being un-Christian and thereby missed an opportunity to improve the state of her own soul by rising above the distraction. Or something. He also suggested that, well, he didn’t know what was in that woman’s life that led her to rebuke him. (Maybe she’s infertile! Maybe they’re each other’s crosses to bear! Or something.) Skojec, perhaps predictably, was having none of this, and responded point by point to Tighe. He also updated his post, moderating the snark a little bit, but standing by the substance of his argument. But the thrust of the discussion is this: how do parents deal with potentially loud, usually messy children at Church? (Especially in Forma Extraordinaria parishes, where there are certain norms of conduct that are usually a little more stringent than what’s going on at the “contemporary choir” Mass.)

This is not the first go-round on this debate, either, though this may be the first time that Tighe and Skojec have been the disputants. (We don’t know, though. We are more familiar with Skojec’s commentary on other issues in the Church and we had not heard of Tighe before now. Perhaps we ought to pay more attention.)

And the easy answer, of course, would be to point to St. Alphonsus and say, well, if you can’t leave the children at home safely and if you’re pretty sure that they’re going to cause a major disturbance, then you are excused from hearing Mass. Of course, parents who can watch children in shifts can surely safely leave their children at home. But, as the Holy Father and the Synod of Bishops have reminded us repeatedly in recent months, there are all manner of families that have suffered injuries and no longer have both parents living under the same roof. And, even then, the inquiry is not as straightforward as one might first imagine. That is, whether one can more safely leave children at home than in Alphonsus’s time and whether children are less likely to raise a ruckus than in Alphonsus’s time are open questions—though we suspect, with respect to the latter question, that toddlers’ ruckuses are probably pretty comparable across the years.

But, we wonder to what extent do we owe it to each other to help out? (Cf. Gal. 5:14.) When our acquaintance raised the issue, our first thought was that it would be nice if suitable men and women without children offered to help out. (Suitability is obviously an important criterion in all this, and that cannot be understated.) For example, if a couple without children at home habitually attended the vigil Mass on Saturday night, it would be awfully nice of them to offer to watch their neighbor’s toddler while he heard Mass on Sunday morning. Or vice versa, if an unmarried woman without children habitually heard Mass on Sunday mornings but rarely made plans for Saturday evenings that would conflict with the vigil Mass, she might offer to watch the neighbor’s children while their mother heard the vigil Mass. There are any number of permutations to the arrangement. Such an offer may well obtain graces for the men and women who help out or serve as penitential offerings, in addition to potentially obtaining the Jubilee Indulgence attached by the Holy Father to all the physical and corporal works of mercy during the Year of Mercy.

But more than that, it seems to us that this sort of cooperative childcare arrangement, which, for all we know, happens in almost every parish in Christendom (except, seemingly, our own), is exactly the sort of thing that helps build the sort of community that Rod Dreher has talked about at staggering length in recent years. You know, the so-called Benedict Option. While we disagree with Dreher about some of the particulars of his idea, not the least of which is the fact that you need a priest willing to play along, we certainly do not dispute the basic contention that Christians need to form tighter-knit communities to deal effectively with an increasingly hostile culture. This goes double for traditionally minded Catholics who are usually, to quote Magazine’s 1978 single, shot by both sides. But it seems to us that a sense that the world has moved into another, more aggressive phase in its doomed campaign against Christ and Christ’s Church is probably not the sort of thing that really knits a community together. But a tradition of charity, especially when it takes the form of looking after each other’s children, seems like the sort of thing that just might do the trick.

Of course, justice, whether it’s distributive or commutative, consists of giving each person his due. (E.g., ST IIa IIae q.58 a.1 obj. 1 & co.; q.61 a.2 co.) By those lights, maybe the arrangement we have discussed above isn’t justice—that is, maybe we don’t owe each other this sort of cooperation, though certainly one could find precedents for it throughout the life of the Church and the life of Christendom before things went off the rails—but if it’s charity, it seems like the sort of charity that seems like it would serve the common good of the community tremendously. And, even if one isn’t interested in forming a tight-knit community of Christians in any given setting, it’s the sort of charity that may well make common life a little smoother. Instead of getting shirty with the parent of a rambunctious brood or making comments in a stage whisper about those ill-bred children, it may well be good for the life of the parish to offer politely to sit with the children at home next week while the parent hears Mass. (And to provide one’s references!)


If you called your dad, he could stop it all

At the Catholic Herald, Damian Thompson has a very interesting piece about Father Benedict, the cloistered monk of the Mater Ecclesiae monastery in Rome, who is world famous for his great personal devotion to St. Celestine V. We have said—and said and said—that Benedict is the most interesting man in the Church today. Thompson offers a question-and-answer format. A couple of examples:

1. Why did Benedict XVI resign? This is regarded by many commentators as the greatest mystery in recent Church history. Not by me, however. The simple answer to the question is that the Pope felt that, at his age and with his health beginning to give way, he wasn’t up to the job. This isn’t a complete answer, because there are things we can’t know. If you’re looking for a “final straw”, then you can take your pick between the VatiLeaks affair, the machinations of Benedict’s enemies and the pope’s creeping awareness that he was losing his powers of concentration. Maybe he had a fit of despair brought on by the realisation that he’d inherited the papacy too late to implement long-term reforms while firefighting paedophile and financial scandals. If Ratzinger had become pope at 75, these challenges would have been less terrifying. He didn’t because St John Paul II insisted on holding office while incapacitated – the first pontiff to do so for a very long time. Perhaps this persuaded Benedict to take the plunge. I doubt that we shall ever know, so let’s move on.

2) Would Benedict have resigned if he knew Francis would succeed him? Purely hypothetical but interesting. Benedict must have known there was a chance that Cardinal Bergoglio would succeed him. My guess is that when the Argentinian emerged on the balcony the Pope Emeritus was dismayed but concluded that God works in mysterious ways. A more interesting, albeit even more hypothetical, question is whether Benedict would have resigned if he’d known Francis would call a synod that threw open the question of whether divorced and remarried Catholics should receive Communion.

(Emphasis in original.) For longtime observers of Church politics—especially the politics surrounding the Vatileaks I scandal, the Holy Father’s election, and the 2014-2015 Synod—the piece may not contain any bombshells. However, as a source to point people to, the piece is hard to beat.

For our part, the most interesting thing about the Pope Emeritus’s retirement is that he has, seemingly, maintained his silence on matters of pressing concern to the Church. In particular, Benedict is unlikely to have missed the fact that there are those who seek to dismantle many of the accomplishments of John Paul’s reign—accomplishments that he played no small part in, especially from 1981, when he became prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. When the Kasperites and their friends in the Synod secretariat go on about what Familiaris consortio meant or didn’t mean, they apparently forget that John Paul promulgated the exhortation at almost the same time that he named Ratzinger prefect (November 1981). It is likely that the exhortation came up in conversation between John Paul and his closest doctrinal collaborator. And, certainly, the subsequent skirmishes over communion for bigamists involved Ratzinger intimately.

Were we in the Pope Emeritus’s shoes, we would scarcely be able to resist taking to the air to correct certain misstatements and misquotations. But, of course, that is probably why we are not in the Pope Emeritus’s shoes.

Should I be fractured by your lack of devotion?

We have read at Rorate Caeli—and elsewhere, we think—that the next Synod of Bishops is to take up the question of married Latin-rite clergy. (Among other questions.) Rorate tells us that Sandro Magister reports that a dearth of priests in some parts of South America, and Germany’s age-old obsession with innovation in the direction of, say, the liberal Lutherans, will be the thin end (thin ends?) of the wedge this time. But of course.

And Fr. John Hunwicke tells us what’s really at issue here:

Be in no doubt: the call for Married Priests is but a surrogate and a tactical preliminary for the real battle: the struggle for the admission of women to Holy Order.

Women Priests; and Abortion; and Dissolution of the bonds between Sexuality, Matrimony and Fertility; are the unholy and inglorious Triad with which the Enemy at this particular historical moment plots the de radicibus destruction of the whole state of Christ’s Church militant here in Earth. People who can’t see that are a major part of the problem.

Believe me, I know. I’ve spent most of my life as an Anglican; and we refugees from Old Mother Damnable know exactly how these things are managed. The tools include Gradualism (give people time to get used to the idea: if you spring things on them too abruptly they might discover that they have principles). And Dialogue (“We just want our voices, our experiences to be heard; why can’t we all just talk?”). 

At the heart of it is getting the whole jigsaw complete except for just that one last piece … which now so easily and so naturally slips into its allotted slot.

(Emphasis and colors in original.) The problem, of course, with this plan is Ordinatio sacerdotalis, which has generally been seen as an infallible pronouncement. But have no fear: the infallibility of Ordinatio sacerdotalis, as Cardinal Ratzinger pointed out in his doctrinal commentary on the Profession of Faith required by Ad tuendam Fidem, stems from the fact that the limitation of ordination to men has been set forth infallibly by the Church’s ordinary and universal Magisterium, not an exercise of the pope’s extraordinary Magisterium (as governed by Pastor aeternus). Ah, they’ll say, John Paul never proclaimed it as a dogma! Even Ratzinger said so! It’s up for debate!

This, of course, is in keeping with what Raymond Cardinal Burke has identified, correctly, as part of the obliteration of John Paul’s pontificate. Remember that the tendentious misquotation (or partial quotation) of John Paul’s Familiaris consortio is one of the key pillars of the Kasperites’ argument. In a recent interview with The Wanderer, Cardinal Burke observed:

I was truly disheartened that the final report stopped short of presenting the full teaching of Familiaris Consortio in the matter. First of all, the truth as presented by St. John Paul II in Familiaris Consortio was misrepresented in the Synod’s document as was the truth as illustrated and underlined in the Pontifical Council’s document. That in itself discouraged me very much, especially in consideration of the fact that it was done at the level of a Synod of Bishops.

At the same time, I was also disturbed because I knew this would be used by individuals like Fr. Spadaro and others to say that the Church has changed her teaching in this regard, which, in fact, is simply not true.

I really believe that the whole teaching in Familiaris Consortio should have been addressed through the final document of the Synod. During my experience of the 2014 Extraordinary Synod of Bishops, it was as if Pope John Paul II never existed. If one studies the Synod’s final document, the richness of the magisterial teaching of Familiaris Consortio, which is such a beautiful document, is not there.

(Emphasis and some formatting supplied.) And, really, that seems to be what the last few years have been—a forgetting, one way or another, of John Paul’s pontificate.

Obviously, John Paul’s teachings are hugely inconvenient to the progressives—especially his teachings about birth control, priestly ordination, and divorce and remarriage, to say nothing of his Rotal jurisprudence (which most progressives probably don’t know too well)—but orthodoxy usually is. The desire to obliterate John Paul’s memory, while raising him to the altars and recalling the extraordinary scenes that accompanied him wherever he went, seems to go beyond that, however.

What was it about John Paul, then, that provokes such a desire to forget him?

Further dialogue with the Anglicans in the shadow of schism?

Edward Pentin also has a very interesting piece about the Anglican conference in Canterbury. He begins,

The Anglican Communion stands on the verge of formal schism this week, as its leaders began meeting today to discuss the issue of homosexuality and other matters in Canterbury, England.

The five-day meeting, called by Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, is seen as a last-ditch attempt to keep the ecclesial community together following a long-running dispute over homosexuality and deeper differences over how Anglicans should interact with today’s largely secular, post-Christian society.

(Emphasis supplied.) We, of course, are interested in this as the Anglican church is an interesting topic. Not being Anglican or a member of one of the Ordinariates, we would not however say we have a rooting interest one way or the other. Except with respect to this point:

The Vatican, meanwhile, is watching events in Canterbury closely. It argues that, for dialogue between Rome and Canterbury to effectively continue, the Anglican Communion must stay as one, but it recognizes that its dispersed authority model makes that an almost impossible task. It is perplexed at Anglicans’ wish to allow local and regional bishops to decide on doctrinal matters without seemingly having a sense of what is owed to the communion as a whole, but recognizes that Welby is not, as he has said himself, an “Anglican pope.”

(Emphasis supplied.) Wait, what?

We were under the impression that the Anglicans drew a bold line through, not under, further dialogue with Rome when they went forward with making some women bishops. One can get into Apostolicae curae and whether Anglican orders were ever valid—the good and holy Pope Leo XIII reached his own conclusion, notwithstanding contrary views—but it’s not really necessary now. Whatever you’d have to do about women presbyters (and Rome’s answer is simple but perhaps hard to sell to the female ministers), you’d have to do about women bishops and the presbyters they ordained, man or woman.

Which is, of course, to say that whether there is one Anglican communion or a Canterbury Group and a GAFCON, the question is not whether Rome can conduct dialogue with all Anglicans. It can’t. The question is whether Rome can conduct fruitful dialogue with some Anglican jurisdictions. And that’s a harder question to answer, as it seems that the GAFCON jurisdictions take the protestant and reformed bits of the Anglican identity somewhat more seriously than the Canterbury side of the line of scrimmage. On the other hand, it is good to see that Rome is taking the Anglican crisis seriously, since the Anglican crisis could expose some of the potential fault lines within the Church. But one doubts that that is the message that they’re taking away from all this.

Obviously, it would be good if the Anglicans returned to full communion with Peter, but dialogue is a two-way street.

A fresh shipment of tea leaves

The Holy Father has a new book out tomorrow—a lengthy interview or series of interviews with Andrea Tornielli called The Name of God Is Mercy—and Edward Pentin has some extracts at the National Catholic Register. We found this passage particularly interesting, largely because almost no one talks about John Paul I these days:

The Holy Father also remembers being touched by the writings of his predecessor Pope John Paul I, Albino Luciani. “There is the homily when Albino Luciani said he had been chosen because the Lord preferred that certain things not be engraved in bronze or marble but in the dust, so that if the writing had remained, it would have been clear that the merit was all and only God’s. He, the bishop and future Pope John Paul I, called himself ‘dust’.”

“I have to say that when I speak of this, I always think of what Peter told Jesus on the Sunday of his resurrection, when he met him on his own, a meeting hinted at in the Gospel of Luke. What might Peter have said to the Messiah upon his resurrection from the tomb? Might he have said that he felt like a sinner? He must have thought of his betrayal, of what had happened a few days earlier when he pretended three times not to recognise Jesus in the courtyard of the High Priest’s house. He must have thought of his bitter and public tears.”

“If Peter did all of that, if the gospels describe his sin and denials to us, and if despite all this Jesus said [to him], ‘tend my sheep’ (John 21), I don’t think we should be surprised if his successors describe themselves as sinners. It is nothing new.”

(Quotation marks in original.) However, we suspect, since the anticipation is that the Holy Father will issue his post-Synodal exhortation sometime this year, that The Name of God Is Mercy will be read and re-read for hints, if one needs or even wants further hints, on the Holy Father’s inclination on the Kasperite proposal. It is our understanding, however, that the interviews took place prior to the Ordinary General Assembly in October 2015, so we wonder if the book has been tweaked or edited to reflect any shifts in the Holy Father’s thinking since then.

Vespers at Hampton Court Palace on Feb. 9

Late last week, the Catholic Herald reported that vespers will be sung in the Chapel Royal at Cardinal Wolsey’s great Hampton Court Palace for the first time since the English reformation. From the Herald,

On Tuesday February 9 Cardinal Vincent Nichols will celebrate Vespers in King Henry VIII’s chapel.

The Vespers, at Hampton Court Palace’s Chapel Royal, will be celebrated in the Latin Rite and the Anglican Bishop of London will deliver a sermon.

The service will be dedicated to St John the Baptist, as the Chapel Royal was built by Cardinal Wolsey on the site of a chapel of the Knights of St John Hospitaller, dedicated to that saint.

The music will be performed by Harry Christophers and his ensembles The Sixteen and Genesis Sixteen.

Before Vespers is celebrated, Cardinal Nichols and the Bishop of London will host a discussion on the bonds between their churches and the dialogue they have had over the centuries.

(Emphasis supplied.)

We suspect that the point of this service is not to sing vespers in a Catholic rite at the Chapel Royal, but to provide an edifying and pleasant liturgical framework for a Catholic-Anglican prayer service in the aftermath of the meeting of Anglican primates this month. Had we been asked, we might have suggested bringing in some Benedictines from Farnborough to sing vespers according to the traditional Benedictine rite, which would be, for the most part, very familiar to Henry VIII, Cardinal Wolsey, and the rest of the men and women who made Hampton Court Palace so famous. It would also be a nice way of nodding to the long, rich history of the Benedictines in England.