“The document’s key word is ‘integration.'”

At Rorate Caeli, there is a translation of a new article by Roberto de Mattei. It begins:

In this Holy Week of 2016, the sentiments and pain of Christ’s Passion being renewed is mingled with deep apprehension about the distressing situation the Church is in. The greatest worries regard the impending Apostolic Post-Synod Exhortation Pope Francis signed on March 19th and which will be published just after Easter. According to the Vatican journalist Luigi Accattoli “rumors foresee a text of no striking doctrinal or juridical affirmations, but rather will include many innovative practical choices regarding marriage preparation and couples in irregular situations: not only for the divorced and remarried but also for cohabiters, marriages with a believer and non-believer and for those only civilly-married.” (Corriere della Sera, March 20th 2016)

What will these “innovative practices” be? The document’s key word is “integration”. Those who are in an irregular situation will be “integrated” into the community: they could become catechists, liturgical animators, godparents for Baptism and Confirmation, best men/bridesmaids at weddings and so on; all activities the traditional praxis of the Church to this day has forbidden them owing to their state of public sin. Yet, Alberto Melloni writes in “La Repubblica”, March 19th “on Communion for the divorced and remarried no novelties are expected. Seeing as the problem is to legitimize a praxis (…), not establish it theologically”. The document does not anticipate a “general rule” of access to the Eucharist, but would allow confessors and individual bishops to permit admission to the Sacraments “case by case”. The novelty, Melloni explains, is based on facts not on words, “by giving responsibility and restoring effective powers to bishops, marking, as Cardinal Kasper said, a real “revolution”.

(Emphasis supplied.) Read the whole thing there.

Pentin assesses papal appointments three years in

We note, briefly, that Edward Pentin has, at the National Catholic Register, kicked off a three-part examination of the Holy Father’s various appointments. The first installment deals primarily with Francis’s diocesan appointments throughout the world. A brief selection:

Father Goyret thinks these choices are a consequence of placing at the center what the Pope considers overriding pastoral concerns, rather than safeguarding doctrine. The Pope, he believes, is “neither conservative nor progressive,” stressing he doesn’t like to use such labels for a pope. Nor is he “against traditional theology or doctrine,” he said. “He just skips these categories and wants pastoral and missionary bishops.”

After Benedict XVI paid close attention to sound doctrine, Francis is trying, at some risk, to “find a different way because he believes that evangelization has to change,” Father Goyret said. “He says we’ve been worried too much about sound doctrine, but that does not mean he goes against sound doctrine.”

But even if the Pope’s appointments may be doctrinally solid, the change of emphasis is having other consequences. A senior Church source in Italy told the Register on condition of anonymity that although recent appointments in the country have been “good parish priests,” they don’t have the “personal gravity to be bishop.”

He said many of the new Italian bishops are “great at the fatherly gestures, hugging, kissing babies, but they are not teachers of the faith, they’re not prepared for that.” He added that the bishop has to be “a strong and courageous pastor and be able to govern the Church,” and that failing to appoint those “willing to make hard decisions makes the flock ill provided for.”

(Emphasis supplied.) Read the whole thing there.

We will be following this series with interest, especially when Pentin turns his eye toward the Curial appointments.



The triumph of the Cross

Fr. John Hunwicke has a fascinating post about certain philological aspects of Venantius’s hymn, Pange lingua gloriosi, not to be confused with Aquinas’s hymn, Pange lingua gloriosi. (There is, as you might imagine, a fascinating article in the old Catholic Encyclopedia about both hymns.) Pange lingua is in trochaic tetrameter catalectic meter. And it is about that meter that Fr. Hunwicke makes this point, after explaining some of the low, low origins of the meter, which is especially important during Holy Week:

So how did this frivolous, indeed indecent, metre come to be used for what we might think of as the stateliest and most dogma-laden hymns of our Latin tradition? One possibility: Think Roman Squaddies. Think Roman Squaddies in a happy mood, particularly after a great victory; they have returned to Rome; the Senate has voted a Triumph; and so the troops, heavy with gold and alcohol, are singing in the Triumph Procession as they process behind their general. You may be surprised by this; but they are singing obscene songs insulting the general, probably to avert from him divine jealousy. And Suetonius preserves for us three lines in just this metre which were sung during C Iulius Caesar’s Gallic triumph (interesting that, just as with the Christian hymnographers, three lines seem to make up a stanza):
Gallias Caesar subegit, Nicomedes Caesarem:
Ecce Caesar nunc triumphat qui subegit Gallias;
Nicomedes non triumphat qui subegit Caesarem.

Which is best left untranslated; well, anyway, I am going to leave it untranslated.

(Emphasis supplied.)

In other words, Venantius’s meter is the exact same meter that Caesar’s troops used at his Gallic triumph. This fact cannot have been lost on Venantius when he composed Pange lingua, just as it could not have been lost on Prudentius when he composed the hymn upon which Pange lingua was based. This is, of course, one of those fantastic bits of Romanitas that have been preserved in the Church.

Read the whole thing there.

Worshippers of the machine

Sam Kriss has a delightful takedown of Neil deGrasse Tyson and I F—–g Love Science*. He makes this point:

A decent name for this tendency, for stars and spaceships recast as the instruments of a joyless and pedantic class spite, would be I F—-g Love Science. ‘Science’ here has very little to do with the scientific method itself; it means ontological physicalism, not believing in our Lord Jesus Christ, hating the spectrally stupid, and, more than anything, pretty pictures of nebulae and tree frogs. ‘Science’ comes to metonymically refer to the natural world, the object of science; it’s like describing a crime as ‘the police,’ or the ocean as ‘drinking.’ What ‘I F—–g Love Science’ actually means is ‘I F—–g Love Existing Conditions.’ But because the word ‘science’ still pings about between the limits of a discourse that depends on the exclusion of alternate modes of knowledge, the natural world of I F—–g Love Science is presented as being essentially a series of factual statements. There are no things, there are only truths. The fact that the earth is a sphere is vast and ponderous: you stand on its grinding surface, as that fact carries you on its heavy plod around our nearest star. The fact that the forms of organic life emerge through Darwinian evolution is fractal and distributed, so that little fragments of that fact will bark at you in the street or dart chirping overhead. The fact that there is no God, being a negative statement, is invisible, but you know for certain that it’s out there.

(Emphasis supplied and profanity redacted.) Read the whole thing, of course.

Kriss makes several incisive points in the paragraph we quoted above. First, he is one-hundred-percent correct in identifying a strongly classist element to pop-scientism (perhaps there’s a better phrase for the phenomenon, but for our purposes here, this is the phrase we will use). We admit that this connection had not necessarily occurred to us (perhaps this is a function of some bias on our part), but once Kriss says it, its obvious. Of course there’s a classist element to pop-scientism. We’ll come back to that in a minute or two. Second, he is also correct in noting that the understanding of science in pop-scientism is hugely reductive. For pop-scientism, science is not a way of investigating the world—which is all the scientific method can credibly, though not always coherently, offer—science is a way of being in the world. As Kriss notes, the adherent to pop-scientism, reduces the world to a collection of facts, which process already asks too much of the scientific method, and then declares that the world consists only of those facts.

In reading Kriss’s critique, the Holy Father’s recent social encyclical, Laudato si’, came to mind (as it often does in this context). It seems to us that Laudato si’ contains an extended discussion and critique of the basic assumptions of pop-scientism. Or, to put it another way, pop-scientism seems to be an expression of the mentality that the Holy Father critiques in Laudato si’. Indeed, it seems as though the Holy Father had this phenomenon clearly in mind when he discussed the technocratic, anthropocentric mentality that worships technology—and science, for that matter—as a mode of existing in and in relation to the world. And his critique absolutely knocks the stuffing out of it.  Recall one of our favorite passages from Laudato si’:

The basic problem goes even deeper: it is the way that humanity has taken up technology and its development according to an undifferentiated and one-dimensional paradigm. This paradigm exalts the concept of a subject who, using logical and rational procedures, progressively approaches and gains control over an external object. This subject makes every effort to establish the scientific and experimental method, which in itself is already a technique of possession, mastery and transformation. It is as if the subject were to find itself in the presence of something formless, completely open to manipulation. Men and women have constantly intervened in nature, but for a long time this meant being in tune with and respecting the possibilities offered by the things themselves. It was a matter of receiving what nature itself allowed, as if from its own hand. Now, by contrast, we are the ones to lay our hands on things, attempting to extract everything possible from them while frequently ignoring or forgetting the reality in front of us. Human beings and material objects no longer extend a friendly hand to one another; the relationship has become confrontational. This has made it easy to accept the idea of infinite or unlimited growth, which proves so attractive to economists, financiers and experts in technology. It is based on the lie that there is an infinite supply of the earth’s goods, and this leads to the planet being squeezed dry beyond every limit. It is the false notion that “an infinite quantity of energy and resources are available, that it is possible to renew them quickly, and that the negative effects of the exploitation of the natural order can be easily absorbed”.

It can be said that many problems of today’s world stem from the tendency, at times unconscious, to make the method and aims of science and technology an epistemological paradigm which shapes the lives of individuals and the workings of society. The effects of imposing this model on reality as a whole, human and social, are seen in the deterioration of the environment, but this is just one sign of a reductionism which affects every aspect of human and social life. We have to accept that technological products are not neutral, for they create a framework which ends up conditioning lifestyles and shaping social possibilities along the lines dictated by the interests of certain powerful groups. Decisions which may seem purely instrumental are in reality decisions about the kind of society we want to build.

(Emphasis supplied and footnotes and formatting omitted.)  Pop-scientism is just another expression of this process of mastery over objects; indeed, it is the purest expression of this process. For the person enamored of pop-scientism, nothing could be simpler than to approach an external object and gain mastery over it through the scientific method. Why? Because it is presumed that the scientific method is the only way of approaching something. Better still is when someone else has approached an object through the scientific method. Because of the irrefutable presumption in favor of “science,” pop-scientism simply uses the scientific work of others to reduce external objects to facts, as Kriss noted.

The Holy Father also quite perceptively notes that this anthropocentric, technocratic outlook becomes hermetic and ultimately self-contained:

The specialization which belongs to technology makes it difficult to see the larger picture. The fragmentation of knowledge proves helpful for concrete applications, and yet it often leads to a loss of appreciation for the whole, for the relationships between things, and for the broader horizon, which then becomes irrelevant. This very fact makes it hard to find adequate ways of solving the more complex problems of today’s world, particularly those regarding the environment and the poor; these problems cannot be dealt with from a single perspective or from a single set of interests. A science which would offer solutions to the great issues would necessarily have to take into account the data generated by other fields of knowledge, including philosophy and social ethics; but this is a difficult habit to acquire today. Nor are there genuine ethical horizons to which one can appeal. Life gradually becomes a surrender to situations conditioned by technology, itself viewed as the principal key to the meaning of existence. In the concrete situation confronting us, there are a number of symptoms which point to what is wrong, such as environmental degradation, anxiety, a loss of the purpose of life and of community living. Once more we see that “realities are more important than ideas”.

(Emphasis supplied.) Kriss, it seems, hints toward this myopic specialization in the snippet we quoted above. The pictures of nebulae and tree frogs to which he refers—if humorously—represent in a real sense the fragmentation of knowledge. For pop-scientism, there is to delve into the mysteries of creation, either here on earth or in the universe at large. The broader horizon is, as the Holy Father says, irrelevant. The picture, the back-of-the-envelope summary of this experiment or that project is enough. More than enough, really. It does not matter whether there are connections between tree frogs and nebulae. Still less does it matter whether or not other fields of study could draw connections between the tree frog and the nebula. (We are reminded of a profoundly silly cartoon from the “humor” website The Oatmeal likening various fields of study to searching for a black cat in a dark room.)

And what of class spite? Consider this bit from Laudato si’:

The idea of promoting a different cultural paradigm and employing technology as a mere instrument is nowadays inconceivable. The technological paradigm has become so dominant that it would be difficult to do without its resources and even more difficult to utilize them without being dominated by their internal logic. It has become countercultural to choose a lifestyle whose goals are even partly independent of technology, of its costs and its power to globalize and make us all the same. Technology tends to absorb everything into its ironclad logic, and those who are surrounded with technology “know full well that it moves forward in the final analysis neither for profit nor for the well-being of the human race”, that “in the most radical sense of the term power is its motive – a lordship over all”. As a result, “man seizes hold of the naked elements of both nature and human nature”. Our capacity to make decisions, a more genuine freedom and the space for each one’s alternative creativity are diminished.

(Emphasis supplied.) In a real sense, pop-scientism draws a line in the sand and calls it science. On the right side of the line are people who accept fundamentally the claim that science works endlessly for the progress of humanity. Every capsule summary of research represents a major advancement. Every new gadget, brought about by science, is another step toward some better future. And people who refuse to accept all of the consequences of pop-scientism, even if they ultimately accept most of the claims of mainstream scientists today, are put squarely on the other side of the line. Pop-scientism therefore creates a twofold path to power. On one hand, it offers a cheap and easy way to achieve dominance over external objects and reduce them to mere facts. On the other hand, it offers a cheap and easy way for its adherents to achieve dominance over the countercultural reactionaries who are not as taken with it. This is Kriss’s class spite, we think: wealthy, educated Americans can look down on poorer, less-educated Americans because they have not accepted the basic truths of pop-science. And the condescension is merited, because, as every child knows, science brings progress.

Thus, we see in Laudato si’, three clear aspects of pop-scientism explained in clear, critical terms. If a Catholic wants to push back against the tide of Facebook memes and other notes in the social-media chorus of pop-scientism, as, indeed, a Catholic may well want to do, Laudato si’ is a good place to start.

* NOTE: Given the general purpose of Semiduplex, it never occurred to us that we’d need a profanity policy. However, the issue has come up a bit in recent days. While we see the need for occasional earthy language, it is our view that we ought not to use it or reprint it here unredacted, given the potential for causing scandal or serving as a near occasion of sin for you, dear reader.  

The Christian response to March Madness

At First Things, Valparaiso University professor Gilbert Meilaender argues that colleges serious about their Christian identity ought to skip NCAA tournament play on Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday, and Easter Sunday. This argument is, in and of itself, not especially interesting. However, Meilaender makes an interesting connection:

Fast forward to March 2015: The state of Indiana passed its Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), and the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), in the midst of that year’s March Madness, offered ­obeisance to the great gods of inclusivity and diversity, issuing not-very-veiled threats to remove its headquarters and future events from Indianapolis. Nor was this the first time the NCAA had used its considerable corporate heft to try to shape public opinion on social issues.

Look forward now to March 2016: The tournament’s first full weekend of play, in which sixty-four teams are reduced to (the sweet) sixteen, will take place from Thursday, March 17, to Sunday, March 20. The second weekend of play (March 24–27) will reduce the Sweet Sixteen first to the Elite Eight and then to the Final Four, who will have to wait yet another week before the tourney is finished and a champion crowned. True fans immerse themselves in the entire tourney, of course, but they may have different opinions about which weekend is most exciting. The second full weekend happens to be my own favorite. By that time the remaining sixteen teams are in large part the cream of the crop, and the competition is intense.

But there is a case to be made this year for suggesting that Christians should pass on this weekend—and perhaps on the entire 2016 tourney. Their God, after all, is not the NCAA’s god. And the dates for the games on the second full weekend should concern us. They are March 24 (Maundy Thursday), March 25 (Good Friday), March 26 (Holy Saturday), March 27 (Easter). Could it be that other things—things more earthshaking than March Madness—should occupy our attention in that span of days?

(Emphasis supplied.) We will have to think on this connection a little bit, since it seems that Meilaender’s point is that at least in part because the NCAA weighed into Indiana’s RFRA debate, Christians ought to recognize the holiness of Holy Week by refraining from tournament play.

To that end, we have a couple of observations. First of all, Indiana’s RFRA—indeed, all RFRA-type statutes—are in some regard incompatible with the rights of Christ and Christ’s Church. The State does not have a duty to protect all religions; it has a duty to protect and promote the true religion. Now, Aquinas tells us that permitting other religions’ to persist may well be justifiable, particularly if the evils arising from suppressing the religion outstrip the evils created by the religion itself. For example, no one would suggest that suppressing a benign sect such as Zen Buddhism ought to be a particularly high priority for a rightly ordered state.

But such toleration does not require, nor could it require, adopting a general position that all religion no matter what is supposed to be protected and favored by the state. Such a position would be the inadmissible error of indifferentism. Last summer, The Josias made available a translation of Pius IX’s allocution, Maxima quidem, in which that great pope said,

In addition, they dare to deny any activity of God in men and in the world. And they rashly assert that human reason, without any reference to God, is the only judge of truth and falsehood, good and evil, and that human reason is a law unto itself, and suffices by its own natural power for the care of the good of persons and peoples. But since they perversely dare to derive all truths of religion from the inborn force of human reason, they assign to man a certain basic right, from which he can think and speak about religion as he likes, and give such honor and worship to God as he finds more agreeable to himself.

(Emphasis supplied.) It was this sharp rebuke in Maxima quidem that formed the basis of one of Pius’s definitive condemnations of indifferentism in Syllabus (#15). Thus, while we agree with Meilaender that the NCAA took a stance incompatible with orthodox Christianity, we cannot agree that RFRA is a permissible expression of orthodox Christianity. Indeed, it is not. It is steeped in error.

And this leads us to our second point: does the NCAA’s stance on RFRA actually have anything to do with whether or not Christian schools’ teams should participate in the games scheduled during Holy Week? Let us assume that the NCAA opposed RFRA for the right reason (i.e., that it is a product of erroneous indifferentism) or, less fantastically, that the NCAA supported RFRA; would it make playing basketball on Good Friday any less unseemly?

Link Roundup: March 20, 2016

We wish all of our readers a blessed and fruitful Holy Week as we all prepare ourselves for the Triduum. 

An older entry is up first, but it’s well worth your time. In 2009, Gregory DiPippo went through and chronicled in painstaking detail the 1955 Holy Week reforms of Pius XII. (We link to the last post in the series, since it has a links to the previous posts.) At the time, the 1955 changes represented the first significant changes to the Roman Missal since 1570. (The Roman Breviary had not done so well.) However, with the benefit of hindsight, we can see that Pius’s 1955 reforms were but a prelude to the wholesale revision of the liturgy in the wake of the Second Vatican Council. DiPippo’s series is, therefore, essential reading to understand how Bugnini’s big project began.

At the National Catholic Register, there is an article about the preparations for the celebrations of the 100th anniversary of the Fatima apparitions of Our Lady. It seems to us that the Fatima message is as essential today as then. Probably more so.

An anonymous priest at Rorate Caeli writes a very brief note about the dangers of the Church stooping to adopt modern modes of communication.

Fr. John Hunwicke has a lengthy prediction about the forthcoming post-synodal exhortation, which, in point of fact, differs from ours in an important dimension. Fr. Hunwicke says, “It will not open up a regular public pathway to the admission of such people to the Sacraments without the regularisation of their matrimonial situation through the Nullity system.” (Emphasis in original.) We’ll see.

Fr. Joseph Koczera posts an interesting homily on the gospel account of the resurrection of Lazarus, in which he makes the important point, which we had not consciously recognized until now, that we all can identify with Martha and Mary.

Every day you see one more card

Tomorrow (today, depending on where you are when this is published), March 19, the Feast of St. Joseph, Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary and Patron of the Universal Church, it is widely anticipated that the Holy Father will sign his post-synodal exhortation. It is also widely anticipated that the Holy Father will issue it, if not tomorrow, then in very short order thereafter. It is extraordinary to see how quickly the Catholic blogosphere cycles through things; the Ordinary General Assembly and its Relatio have sort of faded from view, despite regular reports about the likely contents of the post-synodal exhortation. And Laudato si’ passed out of the conscience of Catholic bloggers pretty quickly, too, for that matter. Curious why that’s so.

We would be hugely happy to eat these words, but: whether it is the forum internum compromise brokered by Cardinal Marx in the Germanicus small group, which was ultimately where the final Relatio landed (after, it is alleged, another revolt on the floor by the orthodox bishops), or whether it is the stronger version long championed by Cardinal Kasper, it seems fairly likely that some form of a penitential path to communion for bigamists is in the cards. (Though St. Joseph is a powerful intercessor, it must be noted, and this alone gives us some cause for hope.) This will undoubtedly cause a reaction.

Joseph Shaw, chairman of the Latin Mass Society, has a fairly lengthy, very balanced essay about how to approach the Holy Father’s post-synodal exhortation. A brief preview:

What is significant about a document from Rome is what it changes, not what it says. This is an exegetical principle of the late Michael Davies: when reading a new document, ask What does it allow which was not previously allowed? What does it forbid which was not previously forbidden? The rest is padding. The truth of this principle becomes clear with the assistance of hindsight. What is significant about Paul VI’s Memoriale Domini is that it allowed Communion in the Hand: it is irrelevant that nine tenths of the thing is hymn of praise for Communion on the Tongue, and that it actually says that the existing rules aren’t being changed. That 90% of the document is inert, like the polystyrene padding in a parcel. In exactly the same way, what is significant about Summorum Pontificum is that the Traditional Mass is allowed without permission from bishops. The rhetorical concessions to liberals unhappy about this, slipped in here and there, are of no significance. Getting worked up about them is a complete waste of time.

This is the most important lesson of all. When the document comes out, there will be something for everyone. Neo-conservative bloggers will fill pages with quotations from it about the importance and indissolubility of marriage: guaranteed. Liberal journalists will fill pages of the dead-wood media with quotations from it about the importance of mercy: no question about it. Neither makes any difference. It will all be forgotten within the year. This kind of material can be read in line with any number of different views about what, in practise, should happen to the divorced and remarried. The only thing which is important in the document is what it changes, the bits where the Pope uses his legislative authority to make a concrete difference. There are currently clear rules in Canon Law about the rights and obligations of Catholics living in a public state of sin, and of priests ministering to them. These rules can be changed in a number of different ways. Again, rules and principles of confessional practise can be changed, and rules about who can be a godparent – what it means to be a public sinner – and so on.

(Emphasis in red supplied.) We encourage you to read the whole thing there.