Reconsidering the comment policy

When we started Semiduplex last fall, we decided not to allow comments, believing that anyone who wanted to say something about one of our posts could take to Twitter, Facebook, or their own blog, or some other new social-media platform that has so far escaped our notice. However, we note today that we have had our six-thousandth page view and over twenty-five hundred unique visitors from all over the world. (Not exactly big-time stuff, we know, but impressive to us.) Since folks have been so kind as to read Semiduplex—and we really do appreciate your time and generosity, dear readers—we wonder if we ought to reconsider the comment policy. And so we are. Thus, we may start enabling comments on selected posts (with some mild moderation controls) in the near future. (We will indicate the posts on which comments are enabled.)

More on the Joint Declaration from Patriarch Sviatoslav

We recently quoted a statement by Patriarch Sviatoslav Shevchuk, leader of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, on the Joint Declaration of the Holy Father and Patriarch Kirill of Moscow. It seems that the full interview—or at least more of the interview—has been translated into English and made available. Of particular note, Patriarch Sviatoslav notes that:

It was officially reported that this document was the joint effort of Metropolitan Hilarion (Alfeyev) from the Orthodox side and Cardinal Koch with the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity from the Catholic side. For a document that was intended to be not theological, but essentially socio-political, it is hard to imagine a weaker team than the one that drafted this text. The mentioned Pontifical Council is competent in theological matters in relations with various Christian Churches and communities, but is no expert in matters of international politics, especially in delicate matters such as Russia’s aggression in Ukraine. Thus, the intended character of the document was beyond their capabilities. This was exploited by the Department of External Affairs of the Russian Orthodox Church, which is, first of all, the instrument of diplomacy and external politics of the Moscow Patriarchate. I would note that, as the Head of our Church, I am an official member of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, nominated already by Pope Benedict. However, no one invited me to express my thoughts and so, essentially, as had already happened previously, they spoke about us without us, without giving us a voice.

(Emphasis supplied.) This is all hugely interesting and very important business, and, for our part, that Patriarch Sviatoslav is so clear and precise the situation.

Update on Catholic Action

Updating our Link Roundup from yesterday, we note that, at The Josias today, “Petrus Hispanus” responds to Gabriel Sanchez. Notably, “Petrus Hispanus” argues,

Leo XIII and St. Pius X favored the strategy of Catholic Action because they came to believe, as a matter of strategy, that still-dominant Catholic majorities in many countries could be rallied under a single party in order to use democracy as a weapon against liberalism. The faithful majorities, it was hoped, would vote liberalism out of existence under the leadership of Catholic Action parties. From this miscalculation, possibly brought on by the success of German Catholics against Bismarck, would ultimately come that spectacle of progressive alignment of Catholic politicians with liberalism that was “Christian democracy.”

All of this, of course, is not to impugn on the many excellent things done by Catholic Action in many countries, or to judge the motives these saintly and venerable Popes had in favoring it. Indeed, under the circumstances they faced, it is difficult to imagine what alternative they had in most cases, seeing as the political links with the ancien régime had almost entirely vanished and a new way of “doing Catholic politics” needed to be implemented seriously, one to which the example of Germany and others gave true practical plausibility.  

(Emphasis supplied.) This is a fascinating debate, which we shall continue to follow with great interest.

A little more on socialism after Iowa

No sooner did we discuss whether a Catholic could support Bernie Sanders due to Sanders’s self-identification as a democratic socialist did Fr. Dwight Longenecker take up the question at Patheos. Ultimately, he argues that a Catholic could vote for a democratic socialist, but that Sanders’s standard-issue positions on abortion and marriage are serious problems for Catholic voters. (He cites a 2002 voter’s guide, which does not appear to have been updated to reflect Cardinal Ratzinger’s 2004 memorandum.) This is, of course, more or less what we said, but we still think that Sanders’s concept of socialism remains, by and large, too murky to make a clear up-or-down decision. As it stands—and notwithstanding Longenecker’s citations to Benedict XVI—it unclear to us what is distinctively socialist about Sanders’s position. Based upon some prepared remarks of his from November, it is far from clear that his concept of socialism is actually socialism as the Church has long understood it. (Cf. 3 Grenier, Thomistic Philosophy, nos. 1150–51.) But, as Paul VI noted, that does not mean that there are not connections between Sanders’s thought and more explicitly (actually?) socialist thinking, with all of its implications.

More on the Holy Innocents

A little while back, we posted about the feast of the Holy Innocents, including some passing remarks to certain changes in the liturgical aspect of the feast. At New Liturgical Movement, again, Gregory DiPippo has a very long, very interesting piece about many aspects of the feast. A brief selection:

Writing about a century later, William Durandus rejects Sicard’s idea that these customs refer to the Innocents descent to the Limbo of the Fathers, since if that were the case, the same would have to be observed with St John the Baptist. He does agree with Amalarius, citing his words very closely, and then explains that “the songs of joy” (i.e. the GloriaTe Deum and Alleluia) are sung if the feast falls on Sunday, and always sung on its octave, “to signify the joy which they will receive on the eighth day, that is, in the resurrection. Although they did go down to (the Limbo of the Fathers), nevertheless they will rise with us in glory; for the octaves of feasts are celebrated in memory of the general resurrection, which they signify.” This is exactly the custom prescribed by the Missal of St Pius V and its late medieval antecedents. Durandus also knows of the custom “in many churches” that the dalmatic and tunicle were not worn, but this is not followed by the Tridentine Missal. (Rationale Divinorum Officiorum VII, 42, 11-12)

Go read the whole thing there. (Or save it to read later.)

More than this

Just in time for Christmas, the Vatican has released the Relatio finalis of the Fourteenth Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, dated October 24, 2015. As with the Relatio Synodi from the 2014 extraordinary general assembly, the vote totals are omitted from the English translation. Someone unfamiliar with the Synod politics and the course of events may not know, for example, that the controversial paragraphs achieved the barest two-thirds majorities, and likely would have failed to achieve those majorities without the personal appointments of the Holy Father.

Here, then, are the relevant paragraphs for the Kasperite proposal, as moderated (slightly? at all?) by the forum internum compromise brokered, allegedly, by Cardinal Marx between Cardinal Müller and Cardinal Kasper, in the Germanicus group. We have previously reported on various translations of these paragraphs, and, for the sake of completeness, we present the Vatican’s translation, two months in the making:

84. The baptized who are divorced and civilly remarried need to be more integrated into Christian communities in a variety of possible ways, while avoiding any chance of scandal. The logic of integration is the key to their pastoral care, a care which might allow them not only to realize that they belong to the Church as the Body of Christ, but also to know that they can have a joyful and fruitful experience in it. They are baptized; they are brothers and sisters; the Holy Spirit pours into their hearts gifts and talents for the good of all. Their participation can be expressed in different ecclesial services which necessarily requires discerning which of the various forms of exclusion, currently practiced in the liturgical, pastoral, educational and institutional framework, can be surpassed. Such persons need to feel not as excommunicated members of the Church, but instead as living members, able to live and grow in the Church and experience her as a mother, who welcomes them always, who takes care of them with affection and encourages them along the path of life and the Gospel. This integration is also needed in the care and Christian upbringing of their children, who ought to be considered most important. That the Christian community cares for these people is not a weakening of her faith and witness in the indissolubility of marriage: to the contrary, in this very way, the Church expresses her charity.

85. Pope Saint John Paul II offered a comprehensive policy, which remains the basis for the evaluation of these situations: “Pastors must know that, for the sake of truth, they are obliged to exercise careful discernment of situations. There is in fact a difference between those who have sincerely tried to save their first marriage and have been unjustly abandoned, and those who through their own grave fault have destroyed a canonically valid marriage” (FC, 84). It is therefore the duty of priests to accompany such people in helping them understand their situation according to the teaching of the Church and the guidelines of the Bishop. Useful in the process is an examination of conscience through moments of reflection and penance. The divorced and remarried should ask themselves: how they have acted towards their children, when the conjugal union entered into crisis; if they made attempts at reconciliation; what is the situation of the abandoned party; what effect does the new relationship have on the rest of the family and the community of the faithful; and what example is being set for young people, who are preparing for marriage. A sincere reflection can strengthen trust in the mercy of God which is not denied anyone.

Moreover, one cannot deny that in some circumstances “imputability and responsibility for an action can be diminished or even nullified” (CCC, 1735) due to several constraints. Accordingly, the judgment of an objective situation should not lead to a judgment on “subjective imputability” (Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, Declaration of 24 June 2000, 2a). Under certain circumstances people find it very difficult to act differently. Therefore, while supporting a general rule, it is necessary to recognize that responsibility with respect to certain actions or decisions is not the same in all cases. Pastoral discernment, while taking into account a person’s properly formed conscience, must take responsibility for these situations. Even the consequences of actions taken are not necessarily the same in all cases.

86. The path of accompaniment and discernment guides the faithful to an awareness of their situation before God. Conversation with the priest, in the internal forum, contributes to the formation of a correct judgment on what hinders the possibility of a fuller participation in the life of Church and Church practice which can foster it and make it grow. Given that gradualness is not in the law itself (cf. FC 34), this discernment can never prescind from the Gospel demands of truth and charity as proposed by the Church. This occurs when the following conditions are present: humility, discretion and love for the Church and her teaching, in a sincere search for God’s will and a desire to make a more perfect response to it.

(Emphasis supplied.)

He won the war after losing every battle

Yesterday, we published Ottaviani, Döpfner, and Article 33 § 1 of the Ordo Concilii, a note on the selective quotation of the Second Vatican Council’s rules of procedure by progressives during the debate over the schema De Fontibus Revelationis. In short, Cardinal Döpfner, archbishop of Munich, used a selective quotation of one of the rules governing debate to argue that no presumption existed in favor of the official schemata. What happened next is that the debate over De Fontibus Revelationis became so acrimonious that the schema was withdrawn and a commission formed to draft a new schema, which eventually became Dei Verbum. Today, Thomas L. McDonald has a piece at the National Catholic Register celebrating fifty years of Dei Verbum, including Fr. Joseph Ratzinger’s role in the withdrawal of De Fontibus Revelationis. McDonald sees the disastrous debate over De Fontibus Revelationis as a shining moment in the history of the Council, apparently. McDonald notes,

When you look at the history of the Second Vatican Council, the debate about divine revelation pops out as the central conflict of the entire process. It spanned all four years of the Council, and the arguments about its content and meaning threw the divisions between the Curial conservatives and the central European progressives into stark relief.

The Curia submitted a schema (working document) called “On the Sources of Revelation.” It dealt with the central issue of revelation and was greeted with intense disapproval from many of the bishops and their periti (advisers). One 35-year-old periti named Father Joseph Ratzinger was brought into the debate by Cardinal Josef Frings of Cologne, and he disapproved of the schema.


Father Ratzinger would later write, “The text was written in a spirit of condemnation and negation which, in contrast with the great positive initiative of the liturgy schema, had a frigid and even offensive tone to many of the Fathers.” Its approach to revelation merely repeated the standard theological manuals many bishops had used in seminary, and the former professors of some of these Council Fathers had written it! This very problem was what the Council had been called to correct, and here they were being asked to rubber-stamp the dry old formulas of the past 50 years.

This vocal rejection of the prepared text led to one of the most dramatic moments of the first session of the Council. In order to set aside the schema on revelation, its opponents needed two-thirds of the vote. The result was 1,368 voting to withdraw the text and 813 voting to keep it: 100 short of the two-thirds needed. It was clear, however, that the will of the Council Fathers was to reject the schema and begin again. Thus, Pope John XXIII set it aside on the following day, creating a commission composed of progressives and conservatives and led by Cardinals Alfredo Ottovani and Augustin Bea. It was a decisive moment in the Council, and the document that emerged from this conflict would come to be considered one of the most important of the entire Council.

(Emphasis supplied.) This is, of course, the progressive narrative. Beginning with the description of the pitched battle between reactionaries in the Curia and the progressive European bishops. Cardinal Ottaviani rammed through neo-Scholastic schemata through his Commissio de Doctrina Fidei et Morum. Only when everything was laid out at the Council was it clear how unsatisfactory Ottaviani’s schemata were, and eventually the Council produced something really, really good.

But McDonald is not quite correct on the particulars. The vote was not exactly “to set aside the schema on revelation,” as he suggests. It was more confusing than that. And these events show clearly that the progressives derailed discussion on De Fontibus Revelationis in order to achieve their broader goals. Dei Verbum might be, as McDonald suggests, a crowning achievement of the Council, but it is only so because the progressives wrecked the Council’s procedures because they did not like De Fontibus Revelationis.

On November 20, 1962, after the disastrous debate in general terms, Archbishop Pericle Felici, the general secretary of the Council, made a stunning announcement,

Post exhaustam disceptationem in universum, circa schema de fontibus revelationis, progrediendum esset ad disceptationem de singulis schematis capitibus. Sed, quia adsunt Patres qui id existimant opportunum non esse, consilio praesidentiae visum est omnium Patrum conciliarium suffragium exquirere. Proinde Patrum conciliarium suffragationi subiicitur dubium quod sequitur: «An disceptatio de schemate constitutionis dogmaticae de fontibus revelationis interrumpenda sit». Qui stat pro interruptione signet in schedula Placet. Qui, e contra, vult continuationem, signet Non placet.

Repeto dubium quod est maximi ponderis. Audiant bene omnes. Dubium hoc est: «An disceptatio de schemate constitutionis dogmaticae de fontibus revelationis interrumpenda sit». Qui stat pro interruptione signet in schedula Placet, qui, e contra, vult continuationem, signet Non placet.

(Acta Synodalia I.3.220.) (Emphasis supplied.) The English version read by Archbishop John Krol, a Council sub-secretary for English speakers, shortly after Felici’s statement was as follows:

Having completed the discussion in general on the schema of the fonts of Revelation, it is in order to proceed to the discussion of the individual chapters of the schema. However, since some of the Fathers consider it inopportune to proceed with the discussion of the present schema, the Council of Presidency has decided to seek an expression of the desire of the Council Fathers in this matter. Wherefore, the following question is being submitted to your vote. The question is: “Should the discussion on the schema, on the dogmatic Constitution de fontibus revelationis be discontinued, terminated?” Those favoring discontinuance, should so signify by marking their ballot in the Placet square. Those opposed to the discontinuance, should so indicate by marking the ballot in the Non placet square.

I repeat. The question is: “Should the discussion of the present schema be discontinued?” Those favoring discontinuance, mark their ballots in the Placet square. Those opposed to the discontinuance, mark their ballots in the Non placet square.

(Acta Synodalia I.3.221–22.) (Emphasis supplied.) Cardinal Döpfner got his way! The Council would hold some kind of vote to express its desire whether or not to continue discussing De Fontibus Revelationis. Not whether to set aside De Fontibus Revelationis. And it was not clear that the Council’s vote would be binding in any way. But Ottaviani’s argument—that the Council was supposed to debate the official schema—was plainly rejected by this action.

In a particularly confusing (or shrewd, we suppose) move, the question was phrased in terms of discontinuation, so, in order to vote to continue discussing De Fontibus Revelationis, a Council father had to vote Non placet. To support the official schema, a Council father had to vote “nay.” Confusing enough. But under article 39 § 1, a two-thirds majority was required. So, if a third of the Council fathers voted Non placet—i.e., to continue discussion on De Fontibus Revelationis—the discussion would continue. In other words, while the formulation of the question favored discontinuation, the rules of the Council permitted a minority of Council fathers to force continuation of the debate. And that’s just what happened. But Pope John personally settled the question, establishing an ad hoc commission to rewrite De Fontibus Revelationis. (Acta Synodalia I.3.259.)

Far from being, as McDonald would have it, a moment when the Council fathers rejected musty neo-Scholasticism in favor of openness or whatever, the battle over De Fontibus Revelationis shows that a committed group of progressives can derail any debate that doesn’t suit them. Henri de Lubac’s Vatican Council Notebooks show that the German bishops were opposed to the deeply Catholic schemata prepared under Ottaviani’s leadership. Karl Rahner, assisted by others, including Joseph Ratzinger, had prepared new drafts upon arriving in Rome. Döpfner’s suggestion of an up-or-down vote on schemata as a whole—unprecedented and based upon a selective quotation of the Ordo Concilii—was taken up by the Council leadership. And when it was put to the Council, the question was phrased in a confusing manner that favored termination of the debate: Council fathers had to vote Non placet continue discussion of De Fontibus Revelationis. Under the Ordo Concilii, two-thirds of the Council fathers had to vote to terminate the debate, and when they failed to achieve the necessary majority, the Pope personally intervened to give them what they wanted.

Maybe it is as McDonald suggests: Dei Verbum returned to an earlier, purer understanding of divine revelation and scripture. And maybe it is true that the neo-Scholastic tendency was a reactionary response to the problems presented by Modernist exegesis. (Though it was a poor response, if so, since the history of the Church shows that the Modernists were not routed in the wake of Vatican I and Pascendi; if anything, they learned how to go along to get along until they could seize power.) But all of that is sort of beside the point: the battle over De Fontibus Revelationis was not an instance where the Council realized how rigid Cardinal Ottaviani and his gang of fanatics were; it is an instance where the progressives complained and obstructed until they got their way.

And, again, this is a lesson that every Catholic—indeed, every person in an organization with traditions—needs to commit to memory.

A point of correction

In “Preces meae non sunt dignae,” we referred to the Dies irae as “a splendid old hymn.” It has been brought to our attention—by a source we respect very much and have quoted here from time to time—that this is not quite correct. The Dies irae is a sequence historically used in the Requiem. (This is, of course, why your copies of the Mozart and Verdi Requiems have settings of the Dies irae, for example.) It was dropped from its venerable position in the Mass in the Bugnini revisions, though, which is why it got transported over to the Liturgia Horarum as an optional hymn for the thirty-fourth week of Tempus Per Annum, according to the same source.

We regret the error, not least on account of who pointed it out.

An addendum and a digression about the Novus Ordo

An addendum…

In our previous post, “Staying too long at the dance,” we said,

But it seems to us that, while certainly withdrawal into safe circles is the only reasonable response to the situation—and by this we mean (1) finding and building relationships with solid bishops and priests, (2) focusing ever more intensely on traditional devotions to Our Lord really present in the Eucharist and Our Lady’s Rosary, and (3) deepening one’s understanding of the doctrine of the Church—so too is hope.

(Emphasis supplied.) We wanted to expand upon this briefly in the context of various “options” floating around.

In particular, Rod Dreher has pushed, in various forms, his so-called Benedict Option for a while now. The nut of the idea is this: orthodox Christians are essentially and irrevocably at odds with the liberal, secular culture now dominant in the United States, and in order to preserve one’s faith and one’s family from the onslaught of that culture, it is advisable to form stable communities around religious institutions, like churches or monasteries. The idea is that the storm has to blow over sooner or later and that, when it does, these islands of the faith will be available and ready to re-evangelize the United States. (For our part, we think there are some problems with the idea, not the least of which is who decides when the storm has blown over. Also, small communities don’t always maintain a good sense of balance and perspective, to put it decorously.) There has been some serious criticism of Dreher’s basic idea and some criticism that’s less well articulated. Dreher has advanced other ideas, like Leah Libresco’s “be active in your parish” suggestion.

We do not mean by our comment in “Staying too long at the dance” to suggest that traditionally minded Catholics ought to come up with a Benedict Option-type solution (an Athanasius Option? a Lefebvre Option?) As unwieldy as the Benedict Option seems to be in practice, a similar plan for traditionally minded Catholics seems even less workable. Neither did we mean to suggest taking the Benedict Option to the next level, pulling a Hans Castorp, and retreating to a mountain refuge to pray and debate doctrine while the Church is shaken by paroxysms not seen since the Council. (Another friend wrote to us as we were drafting this comment to point this flaw in our original post out, which we attribute to more than serendipity.) All of those options tend to discount the very real value that action—motivated by an orthodox will—can have on the situation in the Church and society more broadly.

As every priest reminds us sooner or later, we are all members of the Body of Christ, His Church, and we are often called upon to help Christ by acting in accordance with his will, as best as we can discern it. That is, while we ought to hope that God will save his people once again as he has done over and over again from the beginning of time, as the Psalmist always hoped, we need to remember that we might be the divine intervention for the Church and for society we are hoping for. It is not insignificant to us that the readings in the 1960 Breviary right now are from the books of Maccabees. Thus, while it is important to, as we said, form networks of solid bishops and priests (recalling one’s obligations to one’s pastor and one’s ordinary), to renew our attachment to traditional devotions, and to deepen our knowledge of the faith, it is also important to put this orthodoxy into action. This can take many forms in many places, and those forms are often dictated by circumstances.

However, if, after considering the circumstances, a strategic retreat seems like the best option for oneself and one’s family, then it may be appropriate to consider some Option or another. Our point is that beating a retreat as a policy is bound to result in disaster. It did after the Council and it will here, too, if we’re not careful. We did not mean to suggest in our original comments that beating a retreat was the reasonable response in all cases or, indeed, in many cases.

A digression…

While we are on the subject, a digression about the Novus Ordo. Some fairly prominent commentators on the Synod have taken the opportunity to remind us, once more, that they really, really do not like the Novus Ordo Mass (the Missal of Bl. Paul VI or the Forma Ordinaria or what-have-you). Some make vague noises about the liceity of the Novus Ordo and some make vaguer noises about its validity. One of our friends has noted how unhelpful this attitude is at the moment. We tend to agree. The current debate is over basic Gospel truths, and it seems to us that anyone who is willing to stand up for those basic Gospel truths is one of the good guys regardless of their liturgical orientation. Now, we think it is unlikely that a priest is going to process in to “Hear I Am, Lord,” amid felt banners and dancers, ad lib a little and there with the Collect, say Eucharistic Prayer II, ad libbing a little more with the preface or whatever, and then preach a barn-burning sermon against adultery and in defense of Our Lord really present in the Eucharist. But he could. And it seems to us to be shortsighted to discount that priest entirely because his Mass is a mess redolent of John Paul’s worst ceremonies. But, as we noted, we digress.