Why I Can’t Be a Catholic Conservative

The Catholic Church is essentially conservative because it preserves tradition. Yet, Protestants complain that Catholicism has changed too much from … Continued

The Catholic Church is essentially conservative because it preserves tradition. Yet, Protestants complain that Catholicism has changed too much from the time of the apostles. For those who think these opinions are contradictory, it’s time to revisit the distinction made long ago by the Council of Trent between “reformable” and “unreformable” traditions.

Unfortunately, serious theological discussion in Catholicism these days faces the wrath of Catholic Conservatives. Asserting that the Church is theologically “perfect,” they claim Catholicism must not change anything pragmatically. This closed-mindedness contrasts with Catholicism’s thoughtful evolution through the ages. For Catholic Conservatives, it is all about text without context, because they are more Conservatives than they are Catholics.

What repels me from such persons is not that they lack faith, but that they presume their exclusive claim to righteousness making them eager to dismiss the sincerity of the rest of Catholic America. Destruction is preferred to dialog. I am not just talking about those who set bombs in abortion clinics: some of the weapons are verbal. There is the frequent dismissive snobbery of First Things types who complain about multiculturalism in the liturgy, and the Hrumph! factor of the Catholic League that complains about almost everything. Pius IX’s Syllabus of Errors lives on as a guide to doctrine for these folks, ignoring Pope Benedict’s observation that the II Vatican Council was “anti-Syllabus.”

At the root of conservative close-mindedness is anti-intellectualism. Apparently, Catholic Conservatives believe their God-driven task is to conserve, not Catholicize. (You can see this approach in some blogs at this website.) One commentator just recently admitted to never having read the book in question, and then proceeded to attack the author’s logic. Such judgments made in ignorance, however, are fairly typical. Such persons seem to view theology’s task as that of the three monkeys: Hear no evil; See no evil; Speak no evil. Their thinking is summed up in memorizing catechism answers.

In reality, Catholic theology is an indispensable tool in distinguishing between what is reformable and what is unreformable in the faith. Take, for instance, the issue of condoms. In private conversation with a bishop seeking opinions of what to do about the spread of AIDS, we theologians pointed out that the use of condoms to prevent disease is OK, because it follows the Thomistic principle that morality follows upon intentionality. The pastoral decision in that case was to allow (mostly) women of infected spouses to use condoms, but to guard such use with confidentiality. We stated that conjugal love helps keep a family together and provides loving support to someone seriously sick. You seldom find such nuance among conservatives, who simply rant against condoms.

I have also found some more interested in backing a political party than in serving Catholic teaching. The U.S. invasion and war of occupation of Iraq has been denounced by TWO popes. On March 18, 2003, the Apostolic Delegate indicated that a person ignoring the papal directive for more diplomatic negotiations through the United Nations “assumes a serious responsibility before God, his conscience and history.” Now, in Catholic theology “serious responsibility” translates as “mortal sin.” There is no doubt that the invasion was unjustified: Roma locuta, causa finita est. Yet because the Vatican today has expressed concern about chaos if troop withdrawal is careless, the Catholic Conservatives try to confuse the absolute and clear denunciation of the invasion with papal caution about troop withdrawal. In effect, they are projecting Catholic teaching as a “flip-flop.” It is not! Moreover, since I don’t think they are stupid, I believe they are engaged in intentional deception, placing their McCainish politics ahead of their faith.

Catholic Conservatives like to act like gatekeepers for who is a “real Catholic” (themselves) and who is a “cafeteria Catholic” (everyone else). They seem not to know that the classic case of cafeteria Catholicism came from the conservative National Review, edited by the late William F. Buckley. Reacting to Blessed John XXIII’s encyclical that supported the internationalism of the United Nations, the magazine ran with a cover that proclaimed: “Mater, Sí; Magistra, No.” A clearer case of doctrinal relativism is hard to find. Unfortunately, the Catholic Conservatives have continued to “game’ our faith today, and it’s sad.

NB – One supposes that the editor of a magazine is responsible for its contents, which is what I noted above.

Buckley writing in NR, week of July 29, 1961
[The Encyclical] is called “a venture in triviality”

NR week of August 26, 1961
The quip (from Garry Wills) “Mater sí, Magistra no” is repeated by WFB

Time Magazine’s account: issue of Friday, Aug. 25, 1961

The September 23, 1961 NR featured the exchange with America magazine.

On page 47 of Why I Am a Catholic by Garry Wills.
[Buckley] “repeated the crack ["Mater, Sí; Magistra, No."] to others, who spread it.”

WFB himself in an interview, Oct. 6, 2005:
“I had belated second thoughts about the wisdom of republishing a quip of Garry Wills’s in my “For the Record” column. It was the phrase: “Mater si, Magistra no,” in response to a papal encyclical that got us into lots and lots of trouble with the liberal Catholic press over lots and lots of years….”

About

Anthony M. Stevens-Arroyo Anthony M. Stevens-Arroyo is Professor Emeritus of Puerto Rican and Latino Studies at Brooklyn College and Distinguished Scholar of the City University of New York.
  • Romanista

    I disapproove of your rantings not because they are ”intelligent”, but beacause they misrepresent the faith of the Church as well as the teachings of its leaders and the social reality of the Church. It is deeply sectarian and possibly satanic.

  • Chris

    Well written piece. All the American Catholics who supported the invasion, occupation and dismemberment of Iraq (George Wiegel, front and center among them, I presume) need to take a cold, hard look at their consciences, not to mention the stern outcry and warning that came from the Vatican in 2003.

  • haveityourway

    In general, pro-church catholics are morally conservative, while feeling socially responsible. While they tend to be pro-life and anti most so-called personal choices which they view as immoral, they are equally concerned about social justice, i.e assistance for the poor, affordable health care, adequate pay, etc.Therefore, the liberal vs. conservative label generally does not apply, because what they find in one party, they cannot find in the other. Catholic voters who are equally pro-life and pro-social justice, are presented with a real dilemna at the voting booth.

  • Marc Edward

    Heck Chris, any Christian who supported the war is hardly a Christian. You don’t have to be a deep thinker to know what Jesus thought of war, especially an unprovoked war! Look what we did to the German leadership after WW2 for starting an unprovlked war!Seems pretty obvious that the defenders of traditional values are going to be conservative. What “gets my goat” are the people who strongly condemn those sinners who’s sin are “yucky” (like homosexuality) or just sins these folks aren’t tempted by (oh, look Homosexuality again!).

  • non-zero

    Many believers are unfortunately facing a weakness in their ability to believe this stuff, that weakness is called intelligence.They have to swallow the entire picture whole, there can be no non-zero values in those areas where things might get a little “fuzzy” if they look to closely at it.They must not think, they must believe. If there is contention between yesterday’s faith and today’s faith then they have to think about it .. and they know deep down in their brains this whole thing is just a crock anyway. They want their perfect crock, and those who manage to raise questions that even the dumbest believer might worry about are causing a non-zero number of cracks in the crock.Remember humpty dumpty. Explains a lot doesn’t it?

  • David

    Anthony,Just curious about some of your assertions and would love to find out more detail:1. Which edition of the National Review had the cover you refer to?2. Where specifically does the Church pronounce that “‘serious responsibility’ translates as ‘mortal sin.’”?3. How many abortion clinics have been bombed by Catholics?4. Where are these “rants” by Catholics against condoms? How do you define a rant? What proportion of Catholic commentary supporting the Church’s position on contraception meets such a standard?5. Is it possible to be a conservative Catholic and not be a ranting, abortion clinic bombing, anti-intellectual cretin?

  • JPC

    “They seem not to know that the classic case of cafeteria Catholicism came from the conservative National Review, edited by the late William F. Buckley. Reacting to Blessed John XXIII’s encyclical that supported the internationalism of the United Nations, the magazine ran with a cover that proclaimed: “Mater, Sí; Magistra, No.” A clearer case of doctrinal relativism is hard to find.”It is unfortunate for your argument that this statement is false. The “cover” bit is new to me, but the general falsehood has been circulating for years. If Mr. Stevens-Arroyo has evidence that what he says happened indeed did happen, I’m sure he’ll be forthcoming in providing it.

  • JBrooks

    Arroyo seems to have a limited understanding of Catholic theology. Church teaching on “Just War Theory” is binding on the faithful. But whether a particular war is just or unjust is not up to the Pope. That decision involves subjective judgments that must be left to the consciences of the individual leaders deciding whether or not to go to war. That’s what the Apostolic Delegate meant when he said a leader choosing war “assumes a serious responsibility before God, his conscience and history.” Arroyo’s statement that: “in Catholic theology “serious responsibility” translates as “mortal sin.” is just silly. Whether a leader commits a sin by sending his nation to war depends on whether that leader subjectively believes the war to be just under the critera set forth in the church’s “Just War” teaching. Pope Benedict, when still Cardinal Ratzinger, touched on this in a letter he sent to the American Bishops a few years ago on the question of whether pro-abortion politicians should be denied the Eucharist:”Not all moral issues have the same moral weight as abortion and euthanasia. For example, if a Catholic were to be at odds with the Holy Father on the application of capital punishment or on the decision to wage war, he would not for that reason be considered unworthy to present himself to receive Holy Communion. While the Church exhorts civil authorities to seek peace, not war, and to exercise discretion and mercy in imposing punishment on criminals, it may still be permissible to take up arms to repel an aggressor or to have recourse to capital punishment. There may be a legitimate diversity of opinion even among Catholics about waging war and applying the death penalty, but not however with regard to abortion and euthanasia.”

  • Dan Wegner

    Let’s put away the political categorizations here and get to basics. Arroyo is at best misinformed when he equates Pope Benedict’s reference to the “anti-syllabus” nature of Vatican II to being anti-dogmatic. As if to say that because the syllabus is gone, we can jettison any firm ideas of truth and error, right and wrong. Arroyo also falsely characterizes those who he calls “conservative” as he picks and chooses from among them to assemble a conglomerate phantom adversary. When I look at Arroyo’s adversaries, I see people willing to be labeled as intolerant, religious fanatics for the purpose of preserving a society that has made room for the love and mercy of God toward sinners for most of two millennia. And when we have true cafeteria Catholics like Kerry, Pelosi AND Giuliani acting like Jesus and His Church are here to cater to their particular whims, I can’t exactly see what the author here is trying to accomplish. My guess is that he doesn’t like that some people have taken a serious approach at being disciples of a Jesus that they can neither alter nor minimize by simply thinking “Jesus certainly doesn’t expect me to be (enter inconvenience here).” Jesus went to the cross out of obedience. He set the agenda. We need to quit looking for loopholes and accept the fact that holiness is a pain in the brother ass (as per St Francis).

  • Dan Wegner

    After seeing all the posts while I was writing mine, it’s beginning to seem like keeping columnist like Arroyo intellectually honest is a full time job. I appreciate all those who don’t let men and women like him post their half-truths unchallenged.

  • candide

    Had there been no Catholic Church there would have been no Fascism. Had there been no Christianity there would have been no Holocaust. Had Jesus remained what he was, a Jewish apocalyptic killed for his potential political opposition to Rome there would have been no fraud. All is attributed to St. Paul the arch enemy of God and the Jews.

  • ELC

    “Reacting to Blessed John XXIII’s encyclical that supported the internationalism of the United Nations, the magazine ran with a cover that proclaimed: ‘Mater, Sí; Magistra, No.’That statement is false.

  • Rick

    In reality, Catholic theology is an indispensable tool in distinguishing between what is reformable and what is unreformable in the faith. Take, for instance, the issue of condoms. In private conversation with a bishop seeking opinions of what to do about the spread of AIDS, we theologians pointed out that the use of condoms to prevent disease is OK, because it follows the Thomistic principle that morality follows upon intentionality. *********************************************The church’s teaching on the use of artificial contraception is neither reformable nor anti-intellectual. Read Pope John Paul’s Theology of the Body. Compared to that understanding of what it means to be human, your defense that of the use of condoms to prevent disease is OK sounds like a shallow joke. Your theology seems to be: I’m OK, you’re OK. That’s anti-intellectual.

  • Anonymous 2

    Congratulations Anthony Stevens-Arroyo for calling a spade a spade and refusing to be boxed in by egotistical self-serving prejudices that have no basis in the Christ of the gospels or could possibly be inspoired by the Eucharistic Christ.Thank you, you have written and delivered an invitation for a collective examination of conscience.I will post this on both your conservative and liberal statements.

  • jdb

    The National Review says your claim that Buckley put “Mater, Sí; Magistra, No” on the cover or most anywhere else is an urban legend. I’d suggest producing the cover (or, at the very least, the month and year of the issue).

  • zqll

    I think you messed up your articles on Catholicism, Liberalsim and Conservativism by trying to seem even-handed and please both liberals and conservatives.Also, I don’t know what invading Iraq has to do with your topic. You say that you do not think that the invasion of Iraq was justified. I do. And so do millions of others. In the beginning, the whole leadership of the liberal Democratic Party thought that Iraq should be invaded. On this issue JBrooks at 5:30pm Aug. 8 does a far better job in explaining this position better than I ever could. But I will re-iterate a key point. Our President should be free to make his decisions on what he feels is best for this country and not let himself be influenced by Popes.It is only relatively recent that we laid to rest the fear of an American Catholic President being subservient to the Pope in these type of matters. We don’t need to go there again.

  • Jim Addison

    The narrowly clipped “triviality” quote used is telling. Liberal Catholics have used this same accusation, always sans context, against Buckley and NR for over 40 years (it was the one item published under his editorship Buckley regretted; he did not renounce what was actually written, but bemoaned the grief it caught).”…coming at this particular time in history, parts of it may be considered as trivial.” that’s what was said . . . as Buckley and others noted for decades, for the benefit of anyone interested in the truth, neither he nor the magazine ever criticized the substance of the encyclical.Lest the critics (who have over nearly half a century refused to see the truth of the matter) be unjustly accused of dishonesty, let us admit the probability they were merely dull of wit.

  • Elohist

    To Jim Addison:The original blog by the professor has the facts right: you don’t.Your quote about “parts of it” came from the August 26th edition of NR on Mater et Magistra. Accepting the “substance” of Catholic encyclicals but trivializing “parts” of it defines “Cafeteria Catholic.” Bill Buckley was a cafeteria Catholic. Stevens-Arroyo is right, you are wrong. Get over it.

  • Reasonable not hateful

    Candide:You ACTUALLY blame the Catholic church and Christianity for Fascism and the Holocaust?Then through some kind of illogical gyration you bring Paul into the picture.Get this- people do evil things. They do it for many reasons, chief of which is their sinful nature, greed, and lust of power and materialism. Paul said this- (it sounds like you ignored this passage- “Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of men. If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.”The only thing the Catholic church is guilty of, is not ensuring that more people had access to the Scriptures so they would something like what I have quoted above.Hitler and others that have twisted Christianity for assistance for their power plays – that means that the original meaning of the NT was not examined. They twisted the meanings upside down.Sorry you can’t see that. Your statement(s) are not only faulty, but the process by which you came to the conclusion is also.

  • Kate_Heilbroner

    Bravo, Francis Beckwith!I look forward to reading your new book in Nov.

  • candide

    Christianity is a fraud. Why? Because the real Jesus had nothing to do with the church created out of Paul’s delusions. Jesus’s brother James led the earliest followers of Jesus; they believed he was the True Prophet, not a divine being. He came to purify Judaism and would return. He did not return. These early Jewish Christians were dispersed into Syria by the Roman war of 70AD. Eventually they were declared heretics (imagine the Chutzpah!!!) by the gentile churches which followed Paul. They disappeared but some of their beliefs found its way into Islam. What we call the mainstream Christian church, Catholic and Eastern Orthodox and eventually Protestant, based its beliefs on Paul’s delusions. Paul had never known Jesus and he invented what we call Christianity out of whole cloth.

  • Anonymous

    candide:Had there been no Catholic Church there would have been no Fascism. Had there been no Christianity there would have been no Holocaust. Had Jesus remained what he was, a Jewish apocalyptic killed for his potential political opposition to Rome there would have been no fraud. All is attributed to St. Paul the arch enemy of God and the Jews.August 8, 2008 6:24 PM candide:Christianity is a fraud. Why? Because the real Jesus had nothing to do with the church created out of Paul’s delusions. Jesus’s brother James led the earliest followers of Jesus; they believed he was the True Prophet, not a divine being. He came to purify Judaism and would return. He did not return. These early Jewish Christians were dispersed into Syria by the Roman war of 70AD. Eventually they were declared heretics (imagine the Chutzpah!!!) by the gentile churches which followed Paul. They disappeared but some of their beliefs found its way into Islam. What we call the mainstream Christian church, Catholic and Eastern Orthodox and eventually Protestant, based its beliefs on Paul’s delusions. Paul had never known Jesus and he invented what we call Christianity out of whole cloth.August 9, 2008 5:07 PM^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

  • Anonymous

    CANDIDE has also posted some of the most shocking racist comments about Michelle Obama on this forum.

  • Anonymous

    CANDIDE is a bigot who does not know that Mohammad was an Arab pagan who borrowed from Judaism and Christianity to rneform Arab paganism. Allah was the name of a pagan god worshipped in Mecca long before the birth of Islam. Mohammad got rid of the three daughters of Allah and converted Arab paganism into monotheism. He borrowed from Jewish and Christian Scripture to form the tenets of his new religion. He knew Jews because at least three tribes lived in Mecca in his time and he travelled with them to Syria on business. His first wife had a Coptic Christian slave. He met Christians in Syria.Islam is reformed Arab paganism, which borrowed tenets from Judaism and Christianity and modified them to build a political religion.

  • Anonymous

    With Muslims like CANDIDE, Christianity will always have difficulty in Christian-Muslim dialogue. He/she should live under a rock and keep out of interfaith dialogue meant to bring peace.

  • Anonymous

    CANDIDE is a hate filled, racist MUSLIM. His/her comments are sometimes shocking beyond words.

  • paul c

    Prof. Stevens-Arroyo:Frankly, I think the church and therefore, the catholics that adhere to its teachings, are sexually conservative (sex within marriage only), anti-abortion and anti-death penalty and socially liberal (i.e, society should take care of the truly needy among us and should withstand all forms of prejudice). This is all based on loving your neighbor. Therefore, the Church stands outside the political process so to politicize it as you have done is inappropriate. (Give to God what is Gods’s, Give to Caesar what is Caesars). When it does take a political position, it is not to support a party but a position. For instance, John Paul II took a strong position on the need to preserve human rights (including freedom of religion), that led to the downfall of the Communist party in Russia but he did not attack the communist party directly. So if the American Bishops say they don’t like Abortion, it should be taken as they don’t like abortion not that they support the Republicans because they also don’t like abortion. In the end, it is up to individual Catholic voters to decide which candidates and parties best represent their values.

  • Ryan Haber

    Marc Edward,”Seems pretty obvious that the defenders of traditional values are going to be conservative. What “gets my goat” are the people who strongly condemn those sinners who’s sin are “yucky” (like homosexuality) or just sins these folks aren’t tempted by (oh, look Homosexuality again!).”Well said. That’s almost a perfect definition of self-righteousness: condemning the sins of others, while rationalizing one’s own.We do have to be careful about the assumption that Jesus was a pacificist or that he condemned wars. He never condemned a war (Israel was, in his day, an occupied territory of a foreign oppressor).In Acts 10:1-2, a certain Cornelius is introduced as a centurion who is pious, upright, “God-fearing,” prayerful, and generous with the poor. He is nowhere admonished by St. Peter to give up his arms or quit his post.Mt 8:10 records Jesus commending the faith of a centurion whose servant is sick, without any reference to a command that he should give up his arms or quit his post.More to the point, when asked by some soldiers what they had to do to attain salvation, Jesus told them, “And he said to them, “Rob no one by violence or by false accusation, and be content with your wages.”" (Lk 3:8). Again, without any hint of pacificism as an ideology.There is no reason in the Gospels to think that Jesus liked violence; there is also no reason to think that he opposed war as such on some principle. He lets too many opportunities to preach pacificism go by. In this respect, he stands with the great bulk of humanity throughout history – finding violence bad, but not the very worst thing possible. There are worse things than warfare, like letting a Nazi party continue on without consequences.

  • Ryan Haber

    Professor Stevens-Arroyo,Again you have referred to yourself as a theologian. Your CV and biographies online all show impressive training and writing in sociology and the sociology of religion.But I wonder, upon what basis do you call yourself a theologian? Surely you must be aware of the differences between a sociologist of religion and a theologian?”because it follows the Thomistic principle that morality follows upon intentionality.”Lol. See, again you betray your own lack of actual theological training, which is fine, except that you try to speak theologically and present yourself as a Catholic theologian. Do you know, Professor, the difference between proximal and ulterior intentionality? Ulterior intentionality, the “what one is hoping to accomplish” can corrupt an otherwise good act, but it cannot justify an otherwise evil act: the ends do not justify the means (another Thomistic principle for you). Proximal intentionality, the “what a person must intend by doing the act deliberately, or else one would not do it,” determines whether an act is intrinsically and irredeemably evil, or if it is possibly morally permissible.Example: in flipping a lightswitch, it is impossible to do so deliberately without intending to alter the condition of the circuit controlled by lightswitch – that’s what it’s for. The reason for altering the circuit might be to read by light, to sleep in a dark room, to reveal an intruder or to conceal oneself for an ambush. But the act of switching a lightswitch itself has nothing immoral about it.On the contrary, to deliberately take an innocent life is immoral in itself (because of the intention built into the act, the proximal intention) regardless of the good that one hopes to accomplish.Professor, I give you this little theology lesson because you apparently haven’t had it. It is the constant teaching of the Church (and here as ever, St. Thomas stands with Her) that contraception is immoral in its proximal intention and thus can not ever be permitted for any reason.Are you aware that condoms fail? Even when they do not break, they are a poor guarantee against HIV – so much so, that subsequent to a lawsuit in the late 1990s, the condom manufactures began advertising their wares as a means to “safer sex” rather than to “safe sex.” So you are going to advise a bishop to tell his priests to tell (quietly, so as not to cause a stir) their married couples in confession (privately)that they can use contraception? This, so that the creep who got HIV/AIDS from a prostitute can bring it home to his wife? So he can feel supported? You think that the fear she will undergo by having sexual relations with an HIV+ adulterer, augmented to the existing sense of betrayal, will help strengthen that family? Gimme a break.Now, lest I sound like one of the dreaded condom ranters, let me say that I share your critique generally of self-advertised “Conservative Catholics.”Much better just to stand with Christ, no if’s, and’s, or but’s.

  • Marc Edward

    Howdy RyanPersonally I’ve never taken “acts” seriously. Many of their “acts” defy logic, and sometimes their acts are outright evil – an example would be when they used their powers to strike people dead when the people in question didn’t give all their money to the church.

  • Ryan Haber

    Hey Marc Edward,The difference between prostitution and soldiering is that to sell sexual acts is inherently wrong, whereas acts of violence (as a category) aren’t always. It is important to note that with prostitutes he admonishes them to avoid their sins in the future.Tax collectors and soldiers are in a somewhat different category because while there are all sorts of spiritual/moral dangers involved in their job, the job itself isn’t inherently immoral. When dealing with these people, Jesus gives no such admonish to “stop collecting taxes” or “stop bearing arms.”When our Lord urges us to turn the other cheek, there’s a lot going on there – but for our purposes, the thing that strikes (lol, a pun) me most is that he doesn’t say to turn somebody else’s cheek. If I am being attacked, it is better for me to sacrifice myself rather than to commit violence.But what if someone is being attacked that I am duty-bound to defend? Say, my child?Violence being bad, but not the worst possible thing, is the reason that the Church has spent a lot of time developing just war doctrine – and that doctrine has as one of its first principles that violence and harm should be minimized at every possible point. The same principles that the Church applies to war also apply handily to cases of, for instance, home invasion, or muggings.You’re right, that we do have to be very careful in interpreting how a particular action recorded in the Bible applies to us. People take the case of God’s commandment to slaughter every man, woman, and child Amalekite as why the Bible is a bad book. We Catholics do not conceive the Bible as a moral theology handbook, however, and so realize, generally, hopefully, that one has to parse through things closely to understand (1) what the author intended to write; (2) how God intends us to read.”I personally think Jesus sent us a message when he Peter the “rock” of his church. Peter was about the most flawed and dimwitted of Jesus’s followers (“oh no Lord, all them other apostles might deny you, but you know I’D NEVER DO THAT!!”)”Absolutely! The Catholic Church could have a tagline like “The Catholic Church, 2000 years and 2 billion goons, and still going strong.” That’s why I love it! It’s a place where an ass like me can fit in. The faithlessness, nuttiness, or outright criminality of heaven-knows-how-many-Supreme-Pontiffs alone, not to mention all us basketcases in the pews, and yet we are still here, trying our best to grow in faith, hope, and love, slouching toward Calvary – it’s proof positive that the Holy Spirit is in the Church, and that our Father has His Hand over us!

  • Ryan Haber

    Marc Edward,Having written all that I’ve just written, it seems important to note that:(1) I, along with most of the nation, supported the war at its outset; I kept my view to myself out of deference to the Church’s judgment to the contrary;(2) I, along with many previous supporters, now regret that preference, and have yet again been schooled by Mother Church;(3) I, along with most serious-minded people, and the Church’s highest offices, don’t really see an easy way out of it.Also, as for the moral/spiritual dangers of soldiering, I have several friends and relatives who are currently in/veterans of Iraq/Afghanistan. I am concerned about the spiritual welfare of them all, and not at all pleased with the spiritual/moral catastrophes that at least two have fallen into. The milieu of our military is no longer conducive to upright morals or even to merely civilized conduct, as far as I can tell from them and from (I know, careful here) media reports.

  • L.Kurt Engelhart

    “Why I Can’t Be a Catholic Conservative”A Catholic who is not conservative is a Protestant.

  • L.Kurt Engelhart

    candide: “Christianity is a fraud.”In a sense this is correct, but not charitable to those who saw and used Christianity as a means to bring civilization to Europe. This was generally successful, and those advocates are not to blame for the atrocities that have been commited in Christ’s name. Neither is Jesus responsible for them, though he might have predicted them from his knowledge of his contemporaries. Christianity did not exist at the time of Jesus, assuming that Jesus existed. Christianity is a fable that directs people to a new way of thinking and living. Yes, that way of living is responsible, to some extent for the bad events subsequently in European history, but it is also responsible for the good events. Like the practice of science. Europeans, conditioned by Christianity, were the first in the world to describe the principles of science so they could be practiced systematically. They certainly did not forsee that these principles would come to compete with Christianity as a way of thinking and living. Such are the problems of the evolution of knowledge.

  • Marc Edward

    Howdy RyanSOrry for rambling!

  • paul c

    L.Kurt Engelhart: Why are you so sure that Christianity is a myth without basis ?

  • patricksarsfield

    Folks,”A Catholic who is not conservative is a Protestant.”Two reactions: 2) The truth is that many Catholics (but not I) are liberals. They have accepted the extremist view of the First Amendment that is in vogue, and keep their politics separate from their religion.

  • Jim

    It has been infuriating over the last decade to be forced to choose between candidates or parties who have divided up social teachings with the equivalence of Solomon’s sword. While the Democratic party has chosen to support abortion in almost all cases, the Republican party has attacked all workers rights, environmental rights, shredded the constitutional civil rights, and has given up on diplomacy.It has finally gotten to a point that while I vote, I cannot with good conscience openly support either party. At the same time I feel used by politicos who seem to poison the well for open discussion.I now encourage my friends simply to study issues, pray, vote, and continue to tell their elected representives that they are not given a blank check to do things my friend (the voter) thoroughly objects to simply because we voted for the politician due to the issues on which we agree.My ideal educated Catholic Voter would have two bumper stickers on their cars. “I Vote Pro-Life” and “Who Would Jesus Waterboard”, perhaps then politicians would get the point.

  • SteveCO

    “You ACTUALLY blame the Catholic church and Christianity for Fascism and the Holocaust?”The Church and that Pope certainly aided and abetted the Nazis in the latter’s persecution of Jews. You can call them weak Catholics, a bad Pope, or the Catholic Church’s 500 year stupidity sale.But you can’t deny something that’s part of the historical record. Pick up a damn book.”Then through some kind of illogical gyration you bring Paul into the picture.”It’s always fun to pick on “Saint” Paul, a raging misogynist who hated sex and thought that the ideal state for a man of god was to never have sex with women. Give me a break. He wrote his fantasy crap hundreds of years after this *philosopher* Jesus died. That makes what he wrote about as close to the truth as you are to enlightenment.

  • Anonymous

    It must noted that many fiercely anti-Catholics and anti-Christians posting on this forum are actually Muslims in disguise. You’d notice how they support Muslim bloggers and post pro-Islamic comments. Although mincing no meat when criticizing Christianity they cannot tolerate the slightest criticism about Islam.

  • Mary Cunningham

    Interesting discussion. But I would disagree with Anonymous. IMO the most vitriolic of the anti-Catholic posters here are atheists. Non-American Muslims tend not to be particularly anti-Catholic, not really coming in contact with Catholicism in any part of the Islamic world. They tend to see it us as exotic, although blasphemous in our use of images and ‘idols’. (Sounds like some Presbyterian Protestants, eh?) Muslims angrily cite the Crusades often, of course, naturally forgetting the violent incursions of Islam into the Orthodox world and into the heart of Christian Europe, well, history is really what you forget, isn’t it? I don’t think any Catholic would really *want * to do it, but skim through Susan Jacoby in full rant in some of her early columns. Great example of anti-Catholicism in all its ‘glory’. And there’s nothing Muslim about them. Also ‘Candide’ is a work by Voltaire, one of Europe’s most influential atheists. Candide the poster often uses Yiddish terms, I can’t conceive of a Muslim doing so. No, the angriest and most vicious of the anti-Catholic posters here are atheists. And if they go easy on Islam, it’s because, well, they don’t really care much about it: what they really care about are Catholics, and they hate them. I don’t know if it was covered in the US, but last Sunday in my church, the Brompton Oratory, we offered our Mass in “reparation” for a desecration of the consecrated Host. In July an atheist at the 11 AM High Mass took the host, photographed it next to a condom, and then sent it to an atheist academic in Minnesota, a Prof. Paul Myers, who then drove a rusty nail through it and invited * other* atheists to do the same. No, the angriest of the anti-Catholics in America and Britain are atheists, not Muslims. On this blog and everywhere.

  • dwight

    if you are pro choice you are not a Catholic…

  • Mary Cunningham

    During the years of the Great Famine in Ireland, when one million people died of starvation and disease and the Liberal government–in accordance with its laissez faire principles–in Britian actually *cut* famine relief, Protestant clerics from the Church of Ireland cynically offered starving Irish Catholics food provided they converted. The Catholic Church in Ireland, angrily, told its faithful not to be tempted, it was the Devil’s Choice: your life or your faith. And the Church was right. There was not enough food, the distribution network was poor, and by the time the offer was made (in the third year of the famine) the poor were dying of fever, not starvation. So the Catholic peasantry would have forsworn their faith…and died anyway.In a much, much lesser degree American Catholics are also presented with similar nasty choices: your beliefs on abortion or extended unemployment insurance; your beliefs on gay marriage or guaranteed healthcare; your beliefs on bisexual ‘rights’ or a pre-emptive war. Catholics are socially conservative, and no amount of liberal rhetoric will sway them. Also there has been an exodus of liberals from the Church, the Catholics who remain, by definition, are more conservative. Much of the progress of Catholics in social status during the past few decades (see the Pew survey) has been due to their social conservatism: low divorce rates, later marriage in order to gain the necessary qualifications, stable family life for any children. Yet they also follow the Church’s teaching on good works: the theology of the medieval Europe, the 7 Acts of Mercy: among them to feed the hungry, shelter the homeless, visit prisoners, comfort the dying, bury the dead. American CAtholics probably would be most at home in the Christian Democratic parties of Europe: more conservative than the socialist regard social policy–for example abortion in Europe is limited to 12 weeks–but more liberal in offering protection from the harshness of laissez-faire (what they call Anglo-Saxon) capitalism.

  • patricksarsfield

    Folks,”The Church and that Pope certainly aided and abetted the Nazis in the latter’s persecution of Jews. You can call them weak Catholics, a bad Pope, or the Catholic Church’s 500 year stupidity sale.”WRONG and thoroughly unsupported. Here are the facts:The Pope can be said to have aided the Nazis only in the sense that Roosevelt and Churchill can also be said to have aided the Nazis. Certainly no more than the other religions. What, for example, did American Protestants do to stop the Holocaust? They were well out of harm’s way (unlike the pope who was surrounded by Mussolini’s Fascist State and then by an occupying German Army) but they did not start a public campaign to stop the Holocaust. Yet no one ever accuses American (or European) protestants of being “Hitler’s ministers.” Truth to tell: there was a Second World War going on and the World was preoccupied with that war which killed nine times as many Gentiles as Jews. Roosevelt and Churchill had the air forces that could have interdicted the trains to the ovens, but they chose to fight the war instead. Anti-Semitism or the most effective choice they could have made? And the European Catholic Church did more to avert harm to the Jews than the European Protestants did. Saint Elizabeth Stein, a Carmelite nun and Jewish convert to Catholicism, for example, lost her life in Nazi retribution for the August 1942 public opposition of the Dutch Catholic bishops to the Nazi Expulsion of the Dutch Jews for shipment ot the concentration camps. Because the Dutch Protestants did not join in that opposition, Protestant jewish converts were spared by the Nazis. Pius XII knew what would happen if he took a similar step as the Dutch bishops: Catholics from all over Europe, who had converted from Judaism, would be joining Edith Stein and thousands of her Dutch fellow-converts in the ovens.This canard about Pius XII being a Hitlerite fellow-traveler did not start until Pius XII was dead and could not correct the record. When he was still alive, the things he had done for the Jews were remembered. The Grand Rabbi of Rome during WWII, Israel Zolli, for example, was so grateful to Pius XII for the help he afforded the Jews of Rome that he converted to Catholicism and took Pius’s birth name, Eugenio, as his baptismal name. One of the things that is often overlooked in this story is the fact that the Jews of Italy had the highest survival rate among the European Jewish populations. Four years after Pius’s death, though, the Church’s enemies realized they could start on the grand work of revisionism that goes on to this day. In 1962, as Ion Pacepa (a Romanian spymaster) has attested, the KGB got Rolf Hochuth to put out the slanderous play, The Deputy, and the long-time German Communist Director Ernest Piscator (a collaborator with such noted Communists as Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht) produced it in Berlin at a critical time when the Communists were trying to undercut the remaining strength of the Catholic Church in Europe. The lying has continued to this day, even though notable efforts to correct the record have been made, such as the 1967 book by an Israeli Diplomat Pinchas Lapide, Three Popes and the Jews, showed that far from standing idly by, Pius had ordered the Church’s priests and nuns to help the Jews find sanctuary in Catholic facilities. Per Lapide’s estimate, the Church’s efforts saved 860,000 Jews who otherwise would have gone to the concentration camps. These are the real facts. If anyone can disprove anything I have written, please present evidence and stop this unsupported finger-pointing.

  • Mary Cunningham

    Thomas, I believe you are a genuine mystic, but,well, the rest of us have to live in the world and get by the best we can, and part of helping us find our way in that world–since the great bulk of us don’t have direct revelation–is the Church.Now under the liberal ideology of some of its clergy the Church has lost literally hundreds of thousands of the faithful. One might say: well, so what? They just became Protestants, but the numbers show they became nothing. Just former Catholics. This can’t be a good thing. Yes Love is important and Christ is more important than ‘religion’ but, evenso, man needs a place to worship with other believers, a liturgy that is holy, and the grace to receive the Real Presence. For the above we need the Church. And we need the Church to be strong. In the stewardship of liberal clergy, the opposite has happened. Catholics are lucky to have Benedict XVI, probably the greatest theologian of his era, as pontiff, and maybe we can begin to recover. I hope so. So, you are lucky, Thomas, but most of us are not mystics. We need the help that only a strong-in- the-Lord Church can provide. For that it needs to rediscover the splendour of its philosophy and Mass, not for their own sake, but as instruments of grace for the faithful.God bless you,Mary C.

  • Ryan Haber

    Marc Edward,No, you’ve got it right. This topic was part of my major – Classical History – and one of my classmates did a paper on the Roman tax-farming system. Allow me to show off my otherwise not terribly useful undergraduate degree. ;)Big contracts were given to very powerful, wealthy men, who in turn subcontracted smaller portions to less powerful men, who in turn… and so on. The system didn’t generally cause a great deal of friction with locals, because people always have to pay taxes – what matter to who? The tax collectors, in addition to the set tax, generally charged for the “service” of a receipt, which was of course necessary. That’s how the ancient world, and how more traditional cultures function to this day. In modern societies with regularized civil services, we view it as a bribe, and that view has become increasingly widespread, but generally, just as teachers charged a per diem from their students in public schools in western territories of the US, such charges for receipts were/are considered normal and acceptable means of livelihood in the absence of a regularized civil service.Of course, those charges could become abusive, too. Moreover the Jews had a special animus against the Romans because of their paganism and the Jews’ increasing intent on ethnic/religious purity, and the Romans were particularly brutal, and increasingly so as time went on. In this context, tax collectors were clearly traitors and enemy collaborators. Even worse than the foreign soldiers themselves, and all the moreso for typically having a detachment of those foreign soldiers to assist them in their task.”I don’t see soldiering as inherently immoral, but certainly it’s a career choice fraught with peril… The strain of war drives otherwise good people to do evil things.”Ya, ya. Absolutely right, in my mind.”On the current war, what’s really sad is where you were incorrect – pre-invasion opposition to the war was higher than support.”See, I don’t recall that. I’m not saying it’s inaccurate, but I remember it very differently. I know Congress voted overwhelmingly to support Afghanistan, and I am pretty sure Iraq as well. I can’t imagine they would have done that if they had felt the invasions that unpopular – we all know that our elected officials tend to follow rather than lead.You’re right about not being willing to do what it takes to win. Since Vietnam, our country’s leaders have been acutely aware of public moral as a factor, and the public has been at least vaguely aware that these new wars haven’t the same moral imperative or import as, say, WWII. So we fight by measures and half-measures, which only shows a lack of resolve, and makes a genuine victory all but impossible.I can’t blame or judge anyone for rambling, so no worries here. Lol.

  • Ryan Haber

    Steveco, you wrote:”It’s always fun to pick on “Saint” Paul, a raging misogynist who hated sex and thought that the ideal state for a man of god was to never have sex with women. Give me a break. He wrote his fantasy crap hundreds of years after this *philosopher* Jesus died. That makes what he wrote about as close to the truth as you are to enlightenment.”Without prejudice to the matter of Jesus and who he was, please allow me to correct you on the matter of St. Paul.Firstly, his letters are the oldest writings in the New Testament, dating with great certainty to between AD 45-65. That is, he wrote within a generation of the time of Christ, and not hundreds of years later.Secondly, St. Paul was no more a mysogynist than a mouse. Only a genuinely superficial reading of selected prooftexts can yield such an opinion. Anyone who has read St. Paul’s texts completely. even without much historical context, will simply know that is not the case.You are angry, but that does not make you right.

  • Thomas Baum

    MARY CUNNINGHAMYou wrote, “I believe you are a genuine mystic, but,well, the rest of us have to live in the world and get by the best we can, and part of helping us find our way in that world–since the great bulk of us don’t have direct revelation–is the Church.”I am not sure what a “genuine mystic” is, but if it is someone who has met God then I guess that I am.I also have to live in the world and for that matter so did Jesus and as you know or should know Jesus was just as human as you and I and the rest of humanity.Remember, Jesus emptied Himself to become one of us and the way that I put it is that He gave up His Omni’s. Even after Jesus rose from the dead, He was not Omniscient because if you remember when they asked Him when He was coming back, He said, “I do not know, the angels in heaven do not know, only the Father knows”.Please don’t think that it is any easier for me just because I met God, what it does mean is that I have an awesome responsibility and I would hope that you keep me in your prayers and pray for God’s Will to be done.God is Love and Love is what is important and there are many ways to show one’s love toward God and our fellow brothers and sisters and our fellow brothers and sisters are humanity, past, present and future.You also wrote, “So, you are lucky, Thomas, but most of us are not mystics. We need the help that only a strong-in- the-Lord Church can provide. For that it needs to rediscover the splendour of its philosophy and Mass, not for their own sake, but as instruments of grace for the faithful.”Another thing that God said was, “Remember I have chosen you, you have not chosen Me”, so it was God’s choosing not mine but I have said YES and I also have to live that YES. I don’t know what you think a “mystic” is, I am just a regular person, a sinner who admitted it or for those that have a problem with the word sin, someone who has done wrong and has admitted it.Also remember what Jesus said to Peter, “Simon, thou art Peter and upon this rock, I will build MY CHURCH and the gates of the netherworld SHALL NOT PREVAIL against It. We are all called to be rocks or living stones, not just Peter. And the “gates of the netherworld SHALL NOT PREVAIL against It”, this is the whole mission of the Church, is it not?As far as “splendour of its philosophy and Mass”, I don’t know about its philosophy, I am not a philosopher and for that matter I am not a theologian either but the Mass and its splendor, if people would actually listen to some of the words at Mass and I include the clergy here also, some would, I think, be rather surprised at what is said if only some would let it sink into their hearts.I don’t know if you went to Mass today or not but one of the readings was about the Father’s Will was not to lose any of the little ones, think about this, it says a lot considering that we are ALL His little ones, are we not.God’s Plan is for ALL, please pray for God’s Plan.Take care, be ready.Sincerely, Thomas Paul Moses Baum.

  • Arminius

    Hello, Thomas Baum,One definition of Christian mystic is “the spirituality of the direct experience of God.”. By that definition, at least, you are a mystic. So, then, to a much lesser extent, am I.When I came back to the Church, I did briefly look into mysticism. It does deal with the seeking and union with God. But a side effect commonly found is a turning away from the community. It was that last characteristic that made me reject it for myself.You continue to amaze me, Thomas. I think we are very close in our beliefs in the true core of Christianity. We differ on many of the details, but so what?Keep the posts coming, kind sir.God bless, and yes I will pray for you and for God’s plan.As I said in a poem once,Arminius

  • Bluey

    What a lot of clap trap. Just get on with living as sinful disciples serving our communities and forget all this theorising, theologising, and rubbish.

  • Anonymous

    Arminius:Hello, Thomas Baum,One definition of Christian mystic is “the spirituality of the direct experience of God.”. By that definition, at least, you are a mystic. So, then, to a much lesser extent, am I.When I came back to the Church, I did briefly look into mysticism. It does deal with the seeking and union with God. But a side effect commonly found is a turning away from the community. It was that last characteristic that made me reject it for myself.You continue to amaze me, Thomas. I think we are very close in our beliefs in the true core of Christianity. We differ on many of the details, but so what?Keep the posts coming, kind sir.God bless, and yes I will pray for you and for God’s plan.As I said in a poem once,ArminiusAugust 12, 2008 7:57 PM^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^Your support for pro-abortion views expressed by atheist PAM on the Susan Jacoby’s thread IMHO rules you out as a mystic Arminius.

  • Mary Cunningham

    Dear Thomas Baum,I said you were a mystic, and lucky to have experienced God directly. That means–as you said–*you* didn’t will it, God did. I didn’t say it was easy to live in the world afterwards. It’s not, of that I’m sure. If you experienced directly the Creator’s love for humanity, then were returned to Creation, seeing it, as it were, with different eyes, that would be extremely difficult. Many the great saints who were grantedBut there are very few genuine mystics. What are the rest of us to do? Christ bequeathed us his Church and His presence, the Real Presence, which the faithful can experience during Holy Mass. That is as close as most of us will come to the Godhead. Now God loves *all* His creation, but to those of whom He reveals more of Himself–Catholics–He demands extra. This is why what happens to the Church is important. This is why what happened to all those fallen-away Catholics, those men and women who have lost their faith,andI often wonder about you. In previous years you would have joined a monastery and lived a quiet life of prayer and contemplation. Are thereGod bless you,

  • Thomas Baum

    MARY CUNNINGHAMYou wrote, “I often wonder about you. In previous years you would have joined a monastery and lived a quiet life of prayer and contemplation. Are thereI have no idea but I suppose there are.Also, in one of my dreams that I know was from God, I was told that ‘only I could say it’. This was after I met God the Trinity and met satan and experienced hell and experienced spiritual death but at that point, I had no idea what it was that ‘only I could say’. This was when I ‘dove’ into bible studies wherever I could as in different denominations, no denominations, Jewish, Messianic Jewish whatever I found or the way that I look at it whatever God put in my path.I would like to say something about how I have found the Holy Spirit to work in my life as far as going to bible studies. I remember at one, someone said something that I just knew was right and I pretty much said it back verbatim and the person that said it, didn’t seem to have a clue what I was talking about. This is one of the reasons that I have said that God can speak thru people even tho sometimes they do not even realize it. Also, there are places in the bible were God has spoken thru people saying things that the person didn’t even mean such as when, and I can’t remember who it was, but said something to this effect about Jesus, “It is better that One should die, then that all should die”, think about it!As I have said, God has given me a speaking part, so to speak, and even tho I do not know just how to do it, I am counting on God to see me thru. This is pretty much the reason that I use this computer. Computers, like most modern technology, are neutral – neither good or bad, they can be used for either and like some have said, “Use technology to ‘PROCLAIM THE GOOD NEWS’”.Also, as I have said, it is “GOOD NEWS” not ‘good enough news’, remember when Jesus was born the angels gave two greetings, one was, “This is GOOD NEWS for all people” and the other was, “Peace to men [as in humanity] of good will”, these are two seperate statements and there are some that seem to blend them into one, big difference.I would like to make a comment about the Mass, since I am not a linguist, I really like the Mass in the vernacular. Sometimes during Mass there are prayers that one has heard many, many times and then one day something that is said just rings a bell, so to speak, and if it was said in a language that one does not understand, it would probably just be a pretty sound rather than something really beautiful.Another thing, when Jesus walked this earth, He faced the people and He spoke to them in everyday speech, so the way that I see it when the altar was turned around and the language became the vernacular and the congregation actually participated, this was going back to tradition, as in how Jesus actually related to the people.Jesus spoke to big crowds and He spoke one on one many times and I believe that Mass should be this way. I didn’t know this until not too long ago but did you know that the word ‘obedience’ comes from the same root or something like that as ‘to listen’ rather interesting don’t you think?Thank you so much for asking questions and responding to my posts and as you know we are all in this together.Take care, be ready.Sincerely, Thomas Paul Moses Baum.

  • Arminius

    Hi, Thomas Baum,VERY interesting post you just did.One comment: the priest now facing the congregation. My Episcopal church went through a similar change. The result was stunning – instead of being mere watchers, we are now participants, a real part of the beautiful ceremony, no longer looking at it through the wrong end of a telescope, but being in the middle of it. Really fantastic!I envy you because you know what God wants you to do. I don’t know yet, and there is not much time left. I will continue trying to live the Word.God bless,Arminius

  • paul c

    Thomas Baum:

  • Anonymous

    I learned this is the wrong blog to learn about Catholicism. A real pity.

  • Anonymous

    People who are really seeking the truth about Catholicism should also take the time to read other websites which discuss Catholic spirituality.

  • Anonymous

    Thomas Baum, it would do you much good to discuss your spiritual experience with a few Catholic monks who are in a position to discern spiritual experiences. They would also be able to help you make the best use of your spiritual calling. You could be trained as a spiritual director in a monastery etc.

  • Anonymous

    Thomas Baum, if your experience is genuine and deep as your posts seem to reflect, it would be a pity to waste it by merely posting a few comments on this forum. It should be used for greater good for more people. Discerning the spirit however is a good thing. As Mary Cunningham pointed out, REAL mystics are rare. If you are one of them, then it should become better known to the Catholic Church and she would be able to guide you well to make use of your spiritual gift.

  • patricksarsfield

    Folks,”Another thing, when Jesus walked this earth, He faced the people and He spoke to them in everyday speech, so the way that I see it when the altar was turned around and the language became the vernacular and the congregation actually participated, this was going back to tradition, as in how Jesus actually related to the people.”Perhaps. On the other hand, the priests representing the Jewish people went without the people into the Holy of Holies. So they were definitely not facing the people. The Catholic Church has always had the priest lead the people to God by presenting to the people the body and blood of God during the Mass. The priest (Alter Christus) has always faced the people when he presented them with Communion. At other times during Mass, how he has faced toward or away from the people has differed. For the first twenty two or so years of my life, the priest faced the altar and led us the congregation in our collective prayer to the Almighty. In the last 39 years or so, the priest has faced us and led us in our collective prayer to the Almighty. Both ways work and I’ll leave it up to the Holy See of Rome to work out the rubrics. There are merits to each means of presentation of the Mass. As for Latin or the Vernacular, again, I’ll leave it up to the Holy See and the local bishops. With the help of a missal, we always knew what was going on in the Latin Mass. What’s more, it is not all that odd to go to a religious service in an ancient language. Many Jews do it. In Russia, Serbia and Bulgaria, too, the Orthodox (and some Uniate) services are often done in Church Slavonic rather than the vernacular (Russian, say).

  • Anonymous

    I agree with Thomas Baum. Mass is for people to pray to God in a way they can understand. In His day, Jesus spoke in a language the people He spoke to could understand.

  • Anonymous

    BTW, Latin Mass was discussed as an On Faith Forum question sometime ago.

  • Mary Cunningham

    I remember that blog, the occasion of some of the worst anti-Catholic vitriol I’ve ever read! Every nut in the world dropped in to have a rant.Regarding the vernacular I would firstly say: I’m a Catholic. If the Mass was said in Latin with the scriptures read in Latin I would go. If the Mass was said in Latin with the Scriptures read in English I would go. And if the Mass was said in English with the Scriptures read in Irish, I would still go. That said, I’d only ever known Mass in English and when I first attended a Latin Mass, it seemed as if I was connected somehow with all those Catholics back to the time of Christ, all praising God and calling upon the Holy Spirit to give aid and strength to the faithful. The beauty of it, so ancient and yet so new (I didn’t say that, Augustine did). *Sursum corda*Regarding the priest, his facing the altar with his back to the congregation was also strange at first. Yet rather than completing a circle between the priest and the congregation, self-contained and relating only to each other, the orientation east seemed more to unify us in straining eastward and upwards, towards the altar, the crucifix and the light emanating from the windows behind the altar. East, towards the rising sun, symbolizing the Resurrection and reminding us that at the Final Day Christ will return to the earth from the east, in glory, to judge the living and the dead. Anyway, read somewhere for Catholics certain prayers are performative—they don’t just impart information, but also through them action takes place: efficacious power enters the world to save and transform. Merely reciting them achieves this, as anyone who says the ‘Hail Mary’ can confirm. And on that note, had a friend who was a script writer for a series called “Sharp;s Rifles”, don’t know if it came to the US. Anyway, for the last two episodes, they created a new character as a sidekick to Sharp: Boyle–an Irishman– a wandering mercenary really, a rough sort, but a good (ish) man. The climax of the first show had Sharp the hero, forced to shoot his friend, the two men facing each other. What, asked my atheist English friend, would Boyle say as he faced death? Oh! that was easy—the same prayer the Italian monsignor recited under the window of the dying Pope John Paul. The Hail Mary. (For those who want to know what happened Boyle was saved to fight another episode.)

  • patricksarsfield

    Mary Cunningham,”What, asked my atheist English friend, would Boyle say as he faced death? Oh! that was easy—the same prayer the Italian monsignor recited under the window of the dying Pope John Paul. The Hail Mary.”When I travel to Europe and go to Mass in another language or go to a Spanish Mass in the US, I am comfortable joining myself to that one act that has made all the difference for all of us even though I may not be able to follow every word of the particular Mass. I am part of the Church Universal and want as much to be with my fellow Catholics of France or Italy, etc. as I do to be part of the Church in America. I also like it that I have a home wherever I go.And language can help join us with the Church’s people over the ages. When I pray the Rosary (which I do while swimming; it also helps on the lap counting), I say the OF/HM/GBs in a pattern of Latin, French and English. I say the opening/closing “In the name of the Father” in Greek (it’s the only Greek prayer I remember from my high school Greek classes many years ago) and I add just after and before that Greek prayer the Hebrew prayer called the Sh’ma (“Hear o Israel”) which is the only prayer I know in Hebrew. As you mentioned, in that way “I [am] connected somehow with all those Catholics back to the time of Christ….” We all, in turn, are “joined together in our unending hymn of praise….”

  • Nancoise

    Wow! It is unfortunate that you are publishing such misconceptions and misinformation as many readers will believe you. If you were a Christian following the path of Jesus Christ, you would not be full of hate in your words! There are so many lies in what you dare to publish and which many people will trust! I will pray for you, “Forgive him Father, for he knows not what he does.” I beg you to seek sound spiritual discernment counsel. Your heart is cold and dark. God is light. May you find the light in your heart and soul which will lead you back to the path to God. I pray the WashingtonPost seeks writers with love in their hearts to speak of God and the Catholic Church. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

  • Ryan Haber

    JCF,Of course you exist. You might very well be pro-choice, but that represents a defect in your Catholicism.It is possible (in some sense) to be Catholic and tolerate the killing unborn babies; but the latter attitude represents a defect in the former faith and morals, as surely as tolerating home invasion, arson, or pickpocketing would represent a real gap in one’s life in Christ.Abortion is much a more profoundly important issue than home invasion (I am not here speaking merely of vastly greater numbers) because it involves such a horrific crime against humanity – the walking image and likeness of God, and because of the social complicity in this particular crime. All that granted, one wonders if those who intend to be Catholic, or call Jesus Christ “Lord,” but yet fail on this point (defending the helpless innocent at least theoretically if not practically) really understand what it means to be Catholic, or for Jesus to be Lord.Do you understand what it means that Jesus Christ is the sovereign Lord of the Universe, whether everyone admits that fact or not, JCF? Do you know what it means that he identifies himself with each baby murdered, as well as with the hungry and naked poor?

  • Ryan Haber

    While I was in major seminary, I did a term paper on the language of the liturgy; a good friend of mine did a paper on the posture of the priest during the liturgy. Neither one of us weighed in strongly one way or the other in our conclusion, and we both found a number of points we hadn’t considered.Vis-a-vis language:1) Every culture has always used a loftier linguistic register for worship, until 1969 in the USA and canonically related English-speaking countries (those that use the ICEL standard). This loftier register might have been a whole different language (in Jesus’ day, Hebrew – no longer in daily use at the time – was used certainly in Temple, and probably reading the Torah in synagogues – I don’t know for sure, although the sermons may have been done in the related vernacular language, Aramaic). In other cultures, it is simply a more refined version of the vernacular. Ancient Greek oracles spoke in iambic hexameter and using a more sophisticate vocabulary than is found in grocery lists, for instance. It would be like our English prayers using a somewhat Shakespearean style.2) The Church has given permission for vernacular to be used before. Missionaries to the Slavs noted that while French and Italian speakers could all get the gist of Latin prayers, the Russians and Bulgars were clueless. So in the 9th century, the Church gave permission for the translation of prayers into a language called Slavonic that had faded from common use about a century earlier, but which still sounded a lot like both Russian, Bulgarian, etc. Also, a 14th century Franciscan missionary to the Mongols received permission to translate the Bible and the liturgy into Uighur (Mongolian) under the condition that he do the most refined, elegant translations that he and the language could yield. In the 17th century Jesuits received like permission to translate the liturgy into Chinese with a similar caveat – that Mandarin (then used by the Imperial Court, scholars, and government, but not widely in most of China) be used as elegantly as possible.3) Vernacularization does result in a certain loss of universality, which has led the Church to seek as few vernacularizations as possible. The Vatican’s attitude seems to be now that vernacular is ideal as a teach tool, but maybe not for EVERY Mass. I have a priest mentor who is now a missionary in Togo, translating the Mass into Ewo. His bishop, himself from Togo, is eager to see it done, but does not want the current French usage to be marginalized because it helps, he feels, break/keep down barriers between tribes and regions – because French isn’t anybody’s native language there, it can be everybody’s second/worship language. The same might be said in some way for Latin, Slavonic, etc.Vis-a-vis posture:1) Nobody said the priest faces “away from the people” until the 1950s. It can be argued that, with all the visible distinctions during Mass between the priest and the lay faithful, his facing the altar together with them was the most visibly egalitarian gesture of the Mass – maybe the only one. One might also argue that, with the almost complete eradication of those symbolic distinctions from the Mass as it is often conducted, facing the altar rather than the people might make the overall action more clear – seem less like a talk show or communal pow-wow, as it does in many places, and more like an communal address of God Almighty.2) At no-point has the ad orientem or ad apsidem (facing the altar) positions been prohibited. In fact, Latin text says at several points, as at the Lamb of God, “Facing the people and elevating the sacred species, the priest says…” as if to imply that he need not have been before.3) Many priests, once they grow accustomed to it, prefer ad apsidem/ad orientam rather than versus populo (“facing the people”) because they do not feel like they have to be “on” continuously, but can themselves pray.4) All that said, I had personally started developing a dislike of the New Mass until I started seminary in Western Maryland – where the 1971 Mass of Paul VI was exclusively celebrated, in English (or Spanish) and with priest facing people, and always reverently, whether it was the 30 minute daily Mass, the 60 minute Sunday Mass, or longer ordination Mass, or some other Mass for some other special occasion. Then I saw that the priest facing the people, singing vernacular hymns, etc., were not exclusive of reverence of God Almighty.We many times have a cavalier attitude with God. Just today, this morning, I was checking my conscience – why, if I wouldn’t dream of Sunday Mass in shorts, tee-shirt, and sandals, was I going to daily Mass so dressed? Straight to work afterwards, and that’s work attire at my office. Fine. But still…God wants us to be intimate with Him, but any genuine intimacy acknowledges the reality of the relationship and builds from there. That’s why unchastity damages intimacy so badly – when unmarried people act as if married, they violate so many boundaries and things get messy very quickly. A teacher and a student can be intimate – sharing their lives and work and feelings, etc. – if acknowledge and live the real boundaries of their real relationship, which generally requires, among other things, chastity, respect for each other, obedience and docility on the part of the student, understanding what they cannot be for each other (e.g., another mother, buddies), etc. Parents and children should be intimate, but it will be different than husbands’ and wives’ intimacy.Likewise, we can and should be intimate with God, and the liturgy is meant to effect this intimacy and to help us understand it.But God is still God, and we are still merely creatures in his presence.A real intimacy starts there, and a phony intimacy arrived at by “skipping steps” will only result in contempt and a breakdown in relations, as between people who become friends overquickly and so lose sight of their real relationship.That’s my two cents worth, even if it cost considerably more effort to read. And just for the curious. My job has lots of 10 minute tasks, with 5 or 10 minutes of downtime in between, in which I can write bits at a time into one whopping email.

  • Thomas Baum

    ARMINIUSYou wrote, “I envy you because you know what God wants you to do. I don’t know yet, and there is not much time left. I will continue trying to live the Word.” You shouldn’t envy me because even tho I know what my “job” is that doesn’t mean that I know how to do it. Even tho I usually refer to it as my “job”, I really consider it “Our job” that is God and me.I imagine that you have heard of Thomas Merton, well, I read something somewhere that he said to the effect, “Lord, even tho I might not be doing Your Will, the fact that I want to be doing Your Will, I believe, does in fact, please You”.This might not be the exact quote, but I think that it gets the idea behind it across, something to think about! Sometimes the motives of our heart are as important and sometimes more important than what we do.Hang in there, He hung in there for us, ALL OF US, and He also invited us to, “COME FOLLOW ME”.Take care, be ready.Sincerely, Thomas Paul Moses Baum.

  • Thomas Baum

    PAUL CThank you very much for your post, it means a lot to me. One day all will know that God really does have all of us in mind and that is why He came up with His Plan. I would be the first to say that I do not know exactly what His Plan is but that His Plan is for everyone to be with Him in His Kingdom, the new heavens and the new earth.Take care, be ready.Sincerely, Thomas Paul Moses Baum.

  • paul c

    anon:

  • Thomas Baum

    PATRICKARSFIELDYou wrote, “Perhaps. On the other hand, the priests representing the Jewish people went without the people into the Holy of Holies.”If you remember, when Jesus died on the cross, the curtain to the Holy of Holies was torn in two, was it not?We have access to God and it is not limited to just some. Thank God we can’t sew that curtain back together like some people seem to want to do.You also wrote, ” With the help of a missal, we always knew what was going on in the Latin Mass.”, also in a foreign country if you have a language dictionary you can communicate some. I was an altar boy when I was younger and the Mass was in Latin and even tho I, you could say, participated more in the Mass than the rest of the congregation, I did not know what I was saying, I just knew what the responses were.If you actually talk to some of the people that went to Mass before Vatican II, you will find out that some might have been at the Mass but they were not even trying to follow it, for an example, saying the rosary, is that following the Mass or even trying to follow it?It is just my opinion but I think that what is said during the Mass is more than just pretty sounds but beautiful words that have meaning.The Mass is composed of the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist, not just one but both. And, in my opinion, the Liturgy of the Word is not just limited to the readings and the responsorial but also to the words of the Mass.Take care, be ready.Sincerely, Thomas Paul Moses Baum.

  • Ryan Haber

    Paul C,If I may make a few recommendations for websites addressing Catholic spirituality (esp with us lay-seculars in mind). Here are some of my favorites, targetting different groupswww.catholic.org

  • Thomas Baum

    MARY CUNNINGHAMYou wrote, “Regarding the vernacular I would firstly say: I’m a Catholic. If the Mass was said in Latin with the scriptures read in Latin I would go. If the Mass was said in Latin with the Scriptures read in English I would go. And if the Mass was said in English with the Scriptures read in Irish, I would still go.”A couple of years ago, I was up in Emmitsburg, Md and at one of the Churches on the campus at St. Mary’s, I went to an early morning Mass. I did not know until I was there that the Mass was in Spanish, even if I would have known I would have still gone, and all of it was in Spanish, the Mass itself and the readings.Even tho I did not understand a word of it, the reason that I even had an inkling, so to speak, of what was going on is because of the Mass being in the vernacular, my vernacular being American English, and I have heard it many times.As I said in an earlier post the Mass is both the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist and I believe that the prayers said by both the priests alone and the prayers said between the priests and the congregants are also a part of the Liturgy of the Word.This is just my opinion but I do like to have the chance of actually understanding what I hear.Take care, be ready.Sincerely, Thomas Paul Moses Baum.

  • patricksarsfield

    T. BaumAs to your point about whether people knew what the prayers meant: I don’t need to talk to people who went to Mass pre-Vatican II, I was one of them. I was a choir boy, not an altar boy. I certainly knew what the words of each of the sung parts of the Mass meant. We used missals with translations and I knew what the priest and altar boy were saying. And in high school, I took four years of Latin and certainly reviewed the parts of the Mass and saw how, for example, the words of the Suscipiat parsed out. My brother, an altar boy, used to get the biggest kick out of being able to say the Suscipiat faster than any other altar boy (yes, they did have contests) and he taught me to do it really fast. So I shall never forget it: “Suscipiat Dominus sacrificium de manibus tuis ad laudem et gloriam nominis Sui ad utilitatem quoque nostram totiusque ecclesiae Suae sanctae, Amen.” The first word is the third person singular present subjunctive of suscipio meaning accept; “Dominus” is the nominative singular of the word for Lord and is the subject of the verb; “sacrificium” is in the accusative singlular and is the object of “suscipiat”; “de manibus tuis” is “from your hands” (preposition “de” + the ablative plural of manus tuum); etc (“(ad) for (laudem) the praise (et) and (gloriam) glory (nominis Sui)of His name; (ad)for (utilitatem quoque nostram) both our use (totiusque)and that of all (ecclesiae Sue sanctae)His holy church.”)Do I have a problem with the Mass in English? No, I have been going to Mass in English for 39 years or so, now. This reminds me of the dispute between those who open a boiled egg on the small end and those who open it on the large end of the egg.

  • Thomas Baum

    RYAN HABERYou wrote, “But God is still God, and we are still merely creatures in his presence.”.Yes, God is God, but are we merely creatures or are we made in the Image and Likeness of God?I would say that there is a difference, wouldn’t you?Don’t you think that God becoming One of us means anything?Don’t you think that God taking on the sin and the sins of humanity says something about God and how He cares for us?Remember when Jesus said to think of God the Father as ABBA which means Dad or Daddy, doesn’t this speak volumns about God and how He cares for each and everyone of his children?God did not create us to be robots or puppets on a string and He also did not create us to be afraid of Him.Fear of the Lord is not to be afraid of God but to be in reverence and awe of God and it could be to think that God cares even for me.Back when I believed that Jesus died for everyone except me, I accepted it but you know what, I was wrong, Jesus did not die for everyone except me, He died for everyone including me.This might seem like a minor point to some but it isn’t a minor point to me.If you think that God thinks of us as “merely creatures” then why do you think He has done what He has done?Christianity is about ALL OF HUMANITY getting to the Kingdom, it is not about getting to the “good place” and who cares about the rest, but doesn’t this seem to be what some seem to be settling for?Christianity is just part of God’s Plan which has been and is unfolding before our very eyes. Also, God has had His Plan since before creation and His Plan will come to Fruition.Take care, be ready.Sincerely, Thomas Paul Moses Baum.

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