Disneyland

Brits who have visited the United States are usually familiar with the “I’m Irish!” phenomenon. The bewildered Brit is usually told this by a very American seeming person on the strength of a grainy black and white photograph of a great-grandfather who may or may not have been wearing a green item of clothing. This flimsy evidence is then used to justify a bewildering series of observances involving plastic leprechauns, green lager and corned beef that seem to have almost nothing to do with the fair Hibernia of actual experience. Of course, the Irish (particularly in the Republic) do tend to connive at this phenomenon, however disparaging they may be in private, as it pays serious financial and geo-political dividends.

Even more irritating for an English Catholic is the expression of admiration by American Catholics for the ‘wonderful’ Anglicans. Who are apparently ‘so English’ despite the fact that the English people (Catholic, Non-Conformist, godless and even many of the Anglicans themselves) have always held the absurd Anglican confection in contempt as a cultural substitute for Christian faith invented for the political, financial and sexual convenience of Caesar. As Tolkien put it “a pathetic and shadowy medley of half-remembered traditions and mutilated beliefs”.

One of the very few positive aspects of the “I’m Irish!” and ‘wonderful Anglican’ phenomena is that they prepare you psychologically for the even more ludicrous phenomenon of the American ‘Greek Catholic’. Usually we are talking here about ‘Ruthenians’ although the individuals in question often have no idea that the churches they frequent are, or were once supposed to be, Ruthenian. In this case there is seldom even the pretence of any ancestral or cultural connection to Eastern Europe. Mention of Uzhgorod or Mukachevo is met with blank stares. The best one can hope for is a nervous defensive supressed grimace from someone (perhaps a cleric) with a vague sense that he is supposed to have something to do with these places. Often, ironically, these ‘Greek Catholics’ actually are Irish (or at least of Irish descent). Often too one finds they are former Protestants who the eviscerated post conciliar liturgy and a residual desire to be their own magisterium has sent on a trip to Disneyland invent-your-own Byzantium.

Any ‘real’ familiarity the plastic-Byzantine may have with Byzantine tradition begins and ends with the schismatic ‘tradition’ of the ‘Orthodox’. They have read a few books by Kalistos Ware and are now ready to tell you all about what ‘we Byzantines’ do in ‘the East’. The music is terrible. A friend said to me in shock after visiting an American Greek Catholic church “I didn’t realise it was possible to do the Divine Liturgy badly”. Even more terribly they have attempted to create a Novus Ordo Divine Liturgy where the first third of the rite is abbreviated into a single paragraph and the veneration of the Gospel is thrown in as a coda to its proclamation.

The most dreadful thing of all for those who know and love actual Greek Catholics and actual Greek Catholicism is the veneration for and identification with the schismatics. Real Greek Catholics have preserved the flame of Byzantine tradition through centuries of persecution. Often their parents and grandparents have been imprisoned, tortured and killed by Communist and Tsarist authorities inspired and encouraged by the ‘Orthodox’, often too they have had to fight physically to retake their stolen churches from the schismatic Soviet stooges. Imprisoned Greek Catholic clergy were frequently offered their freedom and great advancement if they would only conform themselves to the schism. These are the descendants of the converts of Cyril and Methodius and of the people of Volodymyr, of the Romans who have lived and endured for centuries under Muslim domination in the Middle East. To now be told by some Anglophone colonials in fancy dress that they fall short because they insufficiently resemble Muscovite upstarts and Hellenic nationalists is impertinence and vulgarity that beggars belief.

Perhaps this vindicates the traditional disapproval for promiscuity of rite. There are many reasons why this may be best avoided but this obscene invention and appropriation (not to say desecration) of tradition is not the least of them.

Is there any remedy? Yes! Fasting, history lessons, penitential pilgrimages to Uzhgorod, the repudiation of all Agonyclite tendencies, singing lessons!, the restoration of the Filioque to the Creed (if they are Ruthenians), learning Old Slavonic, shredding their awful gender inclusive bowdlerised translation of the Liturgy, zeal for the true faith, horror of schism!

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I can’t find the bit in Pastor Aeternus or Lumen Gentium where it says that our Lord gave to St Peter the power to make paradigm shifts in the gospel from time to time.

I remain convinced that when the Church has triumphantly risen from its present ashes (unless our Lord’s return happens before then!), one of the most mind-boggling points of fact will be the death of the Catholic school. We shall look back and wonder how such a thing ever happened, not just about how heretics infiltrated everything, but also the simple fact of how even supposedly orthodox schools didn’t take theology seriously enough as the queen of the sciences. How, for instance, do supposedly orthodox high schools hire intellectually unqualified, even if morally fit, teachers for theology classes?

As St. Thomas writes, theology is the greatest of the speculative sciences, given its greater certitude than any other inquiry, being built upon Divine truth and not fallible human reason, as well as the fact that it treats of higher matters in pertaining to truths beyond human reason. And as a practical science it is likewise the noblest, given that it pertains to a greater end that all the others, namely eternal bliss, which everything else is subject to. This is not something to be trifled with, even if he/she be a “good person”!

As I was shaking off sleep this morning, the first of the year in the city of man, an image came to my mind of a dragon’s mouth, open, black, evil, and drawing living men inside itself. The dragon’s head was raised above the globe of the earth, whence it could bend down and consume any man or city on the world’s surface. And it seemed to me that the dragon was not sitting upon the earth, but rather was coiled around it like a great serpent, as some sailors swear that monsters of the deep will coil themselves around a sailing ship at sea. And even as such serpents are said to crack a ship in two by tightening their coils ever more, so it seemed to me that the serpent with the dragon’s head that I saw coiled around the earth might by tightening itself a little crack the earth in two, and that those who dwelt upon it would fall I knew not where.

And as I pondered on the image, some words came to my mind, spoken a long, very long, life-time ago by a holy pope when first he sat upon the throne of Peter and looked out across the world:

We find extinguished among the majority of men all respect for the eternal God, and no regard paid in the manifestations of public and private life to the supreme Will – indeed, every effort and every artifice is used to destroy utterly the memory and knowledge of God. When all this is considered there is good reason to fear lest this great perversity may be as it were a foretaste, and perhaps the beginning of those evils which are reserved for the last days; and that there may be already in the world the ‘son of perdition’ of whom the Apostle speaks.

 

(For those who don’t know, clerihews are named after Edmund Clerihew Bentley, a school-boy friend of Gilbert Chesterton. Sitting next to Chesterton one day in a dull Chemistry class, he picked up his pen and in an inspired moment wrote these lines: ‘Sir Humphrey Davy/ detested gravy./ He lived in the odium/ of having discovered sodium’. Thus was born a new literary genre.)

 

JP II

We (with hindsight) love you.

You knew that a wedding ring

Wasn’t a bit of bling.

 

Papa Ratzinger

Was fond of cats; linger

He didn’t, but made himself ex

In a manner that was bound to perplex.

 

Pope Jorge Bergoglio

Caused no small imbroglio.

Did he enter the Church to destroy ‘er?

And who exactly was his employer?

 

 

 

 

The Second Vatican Council’s Dogmatic Constitution on the Church Lumen Gentium asserts towards the beginning of its chapter on the Laity (30-38) that “the laity, by their very vocation, seek the kingdom of God by engaging in temporal affairs and by ordering them according to the plan of God.” Of course, the question of the precise manner in which the laity are to order temporal affairs according to the plan of God has become a matter of confusion and acrimonious debate since the promulgation of Vatican II’s Declaration on Religious Liberty which has been taken by many to require the elimination of divine revelation as a source of public policy and public law. However, Lumen Gentium itself  in the documents it cites as illustrative of its doctrine on the laity would seem to afford a highly traditional, indeed intergalist, answer to this question.

In section 38 the Constitution teaches:

Because of the very economy of salvation the faithful should learn how to distinguish carefully between those rights and duties which are theirs as members of the Church, and those which they have as members of human society. Let them strive to reconcile the two, remembering that in every temporal affair they must be guided by a Christian conscience, since even in secular business there is no human activity which can be withdrawn from God’s dominion. In our own time, however, it is most urgent that this distinction and also this harmony should shine forth more clearly than ever in the lives of the faithful, so that the mission of the Church may correspond more fully to the special conditions of the world today. For it must be admitted that the temporal sphere is governed by its own principles, since it is rightly concerned with the interests of this world. But that ominous doctrine which attempts to build a society with no regard whatever for religion, and which attacks and destroys the religious liberty of its citizens, is rightly to be rejected.

At this point there is a footnote (116 in the Latin text) which reads:

Cf. LEO XIII, Epist. Encycl. Immortale Dei, 1 nov. 1885: ASS 18 (1885), p. 166ss. IDEM, Litt. Encycl. Sapientiae christianae, 10 ian. 1890: ASS 22 (1889-90), p. 397ss. PIUS XII, Alloc. Alla vostra filiale, 23 mart. 1958: AAS 50 (1958), p. 220: “la legittima sana laicità dello Stato”.

These three texts are very interesting. The first is from Leo XIII’s Immortale Dei (On the Christian Constitution of States.

13. The Almighty, therefore, has given the charge of the human race to two powers, the ecclesiastical and the civil, the one being set over divine, and the other over human, things. Each in its kind is supreme, each has fixed limits within which it is contained, limits which are defined by the nature and special object of the province of each, so that there is, we may say, an orbit traced out within which the action of each is brought into play by its own native right. But, inasmuch as each of these two powers has authority over the same subjects, and as it might come to pass that one and the same thing-related differently, but still remaining one and the same thing-might belong to the jurisdiction and determination of both, therefore God, who foresees all things, and who is the author of these two powers, has marked out the course of each in right correlation to the other. “For the powers that are, are ordained of God.”! Were this not so, deplorable contentions and conflicts would often arise, and, not infrequently, men, like travellers at the meeting of two roads, would hesitate in anxiety and doubt, not knowing what course to follow. Two powers would be commanding contrary things, and it would be a dereliction of duty to disobey either of the two.

14. But it would be most repugnant to them to think thus of the wisdom and goodness of God. Even in physical things, albeit of a lower order, the Almighty has so combined the forces and springs of nature with tempered action and wondrous harmony that no one of them clashes with any other, and all of them most fitly and aptly work together for the great purpose of the universe. There must, accordingly, exist between these two powers a certain orderly connection, which may be compared to the union of the soul and body in man. The nature and scope of that connection can be determined only, as We have laid down, by having regard to the nature of each power, and by taking account of the relative excellence and nobleness of their purpose. One of the two has for its proximate and chief object the well-being of this mortal life; the other, the everlasting joys of heaven. Whatever, therefore in things human is of a sacred character, whatever belongs either of its own nature or by reason of the end to which it is referred, to the salvation of souls, or to the worship of God, is subject to the power and judgment of the Church. Whatever is to be ranged under the civil and political order is rightly subject to the civil authority. Jesus Christ has Himself given command that what is Caesar’s is to be rendered to Caesar, and that what belongs to God is to be rendered to God.

The second is from the same pope’s Sapientiae Christianae (On the Duties of Christian Citizens).

30. The Church alike and the State, doubtless, both possess individual sovereignty; hence, in the carrying out of public affairs, neither obeys the other within the limits to which each is restricted by its constitution. It does not hence follow, however, that Church and State are in any manner severed, and still less antagonistic, Nature, in fact, has given us not only physical existence, but moral life likewise. Hence, from the tranquillity of public order, which is the immediate purpose of civil society, man expects to derive his well-being, and still more the sheltering care necessary to his moral life, which consists exclusively in the knowledge and practice of virtue. He wishes, moreover, at the same time, as in duty bound, to find in the Church the aids necessary to his religious perfection, in the knowledge and practice of the true religion; of that religion which is the queen of virtues, because in binding these to God it completes them all and perfects them. Therefore, they who are engaged in framing constitutions and in enacting laws should bear in mind the moral and religious nature of man, and take care to help him, but in a right and orderly way, to gain perfection, neither enjoining nor forbidding anything save what is reasonably consistent with civil as well as with religious requirements. On this very account, the Church cannot stand by, indifferent as to the import and significance of laws enacted by the State; not insofar, indeed, as they refer to the State, but in so far as, passing beyond their due limits, they trench upon the rights of the Church.

31. From God has the duty been assigned to the Church not only to interpose resistance, if at any time the State rule should run counter to religion, but, further, to make a strong endeavour that the power of the Gospel may pervade the law and institutions of the nations. And inasmuch as the destiny of the State depends mainly on the disposition of those who are at the head of affairs, it follows that the Church cannot give countenance or favour to those whom she knows to be imbued with a spirit of hostility to her; who refuse openly to respect her rights; who make it their aim and purpose to tear asunder the alliance that should, by the very nature of things, connect the interests of religion with those of the State. On the contrary, she is (as she is bound to be) the upholder of those who are themselves imbued with the right way of thinking as to the relations between Church and State, and who strive to make them work in perfect accord for the common good. These precepts contain the abiding principle by which every Catholic should shape his conduct in regard to public life. In short, where the Church does not forbid taking part in public affairs, it is fit and proper to give support to men of acknowledged worth, and who pledge themselves to deserve well in the Catholic cause, and on no account may it be allowed to prefer to them any such individuals as are hostile to religion.

The last reference is to the closing paragraph of an allocution of Pius XII in 1958.

There exist, in Italy, those who are agitated, because they fear that Christianity takes from Caesar what is Caesar’s. As if giving Caesar what belongs to him was not a command of Jesus; as if the legitimate sound secularity of the state [la legittima sana laicità dello Stato] was not one of the principles of Catholic doctrine; as if it did not belong to the Church’s tradition the continuous effort to keep distinct, but still, always according to the right principles, united the two Powers; as if, instead, the mixture between the sacred and the profane was not the most strongly verified in history, when a portion of the faithful separated from the Church.

These are pretty straightforward, indeed Mediaeval, accounts of the proper relations between the temporal and spiritual powers. Chapter IV of Lumen Gentium even concludes with the famous quote from the second century Epistle to Diognetus “Christians must be to the world what the soul is to the body.” In the context of the chapter as a whole this soul-body language can only be legitimately interpreted in Leonine (i.e. Augustinian and Thomistic) terms. For, as 24 Theses remind us,

This rational soul is united to the body in such a manner that it is the only substantial form of the body.  By virtue of his soul a man is a man, an animal, a living thing, a body, a substance and a being. Therefore the soul gives man every essential degree of perfection; moreover, it gives the body a share in the act of being whereby it itself exists.

Which translated into political terms means “kingdoms without justice are but criminal gangs” and “there is no justice save in that republic whose founder and ruler is Christ”. As Leo XIII himself puts it earlier in the second of his encyclicals quoted buy Lumen Gentium Chapter IV,

What applies to individual men applies equally to society – domestic alike and civil. Nature did not form society in order that man should seek in it his last end, but in order that in it and through it he should find suitable aids whereby to attain to his own perfection. If, then, a political government strives after external advantages only, and the achievement of a cultured and prosperous life; if, in administering public affairs, it is wont to put God aside, and show no solicitude for the upholding of moral law, it deflects woefully from its right course and from the injunctions of nature; nor should it be accounted as a society or a community of men, but only as the deceitful imitation or appearance of a society.

I suppose the conservative modernists and the liberals would just look at these footnotes, shrug, and say with Fr Rhonheimer “you have to say these things to get it through”. Yet, for those with a stubborn loyalty to the actual teaching of the Church (rather than the presumed destination of ‘the god who is history’), it is consoling to see that Lumen Gentium too when taken at its word “leaves untouched traditional Catholic doctrine on the moral duty of men and societies toward the true religion and toward the one Church of Christ.”

Clement VI

Denzinger 550  The Satisfaction of Christ, the Treasure of the Church,

[From the Bull of jubilee, “Unigenitus Dei Filius,” Jan. 25, 1343]

The only begotten Son of God . . . “made unto us from God, wisdom, justice, sanctification and redemption” [1 Cor. 3], “neither by the blood of goats or of calves, but by His own blood entered once into the holies having obtained eternal redemption” [Heb. 9:12]. “For not with corruptible things as gold or silver, but with the precious blood of His very (Son) as of a lamb unspotted and unstained He has redeemed us” [cf.1 Pet. 1:18-19], who innocent, immolated on the altar of the Cross is known to have poured out not a little drop of blood, which however on account of union with the Word would have been sufficient for the redemption of the whole human race, but copiously as a kind of flowing stream, so that “from the soles of His feet even to the top of His Head no soundness was found in Him” [ Is. 1:6]. Therefore, how great a treasure did the good Father acquire from this for the Church militant, so that the mercy of so great an effusion was not rendered useless, vain or superfluous, wishing to lay up treasures for His sons, so that thus the Church is an infinite treasure to men, so that they who use it, become the friends of God [ Wis. 7:14].

551 Indeed this treasure . . . through blessed Peter, the keeper of the keys of heaven and his successors, his vicars on earth, He has committed to be dispensed for the good of the faithful, both from proper and reasonable causes, now for the whole, now for partial remission of temporal punishment due to sins, in general as in particular (according as they know to be expedient with God), to be applied mercifully to those who truly repentant have confessed.

552 Indeed, to the mass of this treasure the merits of the Blessed Mother of God and of all the elect from the first just even to the last, are known to give their help; concerning the consumption or the diminution of this there should be no fear at any time, because of the infinite merits of Christ (as was mentioned before) as well as for the reason that the more are brought to justification by its application, the greater is the increase of the merits themselves.