Ego quos amo, arguo, et castigo. Æmulare ergo, et pœnitentiam age.
Friday, March 30, 2007
Interesting for medievalists
I finally got round to buying a second-hand copy of the classic Europe in the Late Middle Ages, edd. Hay, Highfield and Smalley. I went for the cheapest hardback edition to be seen on the wondrous ABE, which as it happened was held by a book-seller in Abingdon. The lovely book arrived in my pigeon-hole this morning, inscribed on the fly-leaf... R.R. Davies!!!
(If you're a British medievalist, that's exciting. Honest.)
Appealing to a wider audience: one of the essays I was marking described the inquisition as a 'medieval secret police.' Now I get that none of them are very fond of the inquisition, but really, just how secret is it when a Dominican walks into town, preaches a sermon against heresy, and then starts hearing confessions?
This is from Glasgow Necropolis (tour courtesy of The Glaswegian), and though less pious than the Polish ones is rather good. An actor's grave - you'll need to enlarge it to read the verse (and possible to see the proscenium arch properly):
A lovely film - Ushpizin, a story set among Orthodox Jews in Jerusalem. I randomly saw it on DVD, and highly recommend it. The writer and star is an actor called Shuli Rand who became Orthodox in 1996 and spent five years studying the Torah before returning to acting. The film was apparently tricky to make, as the law had to be kept throughout. It's particularly nice to see a well-made film which takes religion remotely seriously - particularly when in the midst of marking essays by some rather anti-clerical students!
Probably not to any sanctuary near you, if your church is in the diocese of a Scottish or English&Welsh bishop. Still. Another heart-warming rumour. It was too good to be true that Ratzinger was elected - I still get a little high from recalling the days after the end of the conclave - so maybe this and the motu proprio rumours are too good to be true in the same way.
Having followed a path strangely reminiscent of another priest-sacking related to a certain prominent US Catholic family, the Fessio story takes an original turn.
Father Joseph Fessio will become a “designated theologian in residence” who will maintain a room on campus, assume teaching responsibilities and make further plans for student study abroad, Fessio and university officials said. “I’m back and I’m glad,” Fessio said. But Fessio said he was never given a reason why he was asked to resign Wednesday, other than administrative differences. Asked what he thought of not being told, the 66-year-old priest quipped: “That may be one of our differences.”
I would tell you where it is, but what I think it is called appears to be three places in Poland and none of them in the right one, so perhaps I need to think again. It's a fairly typical rural cemetery in Mazovia. I liked the colours (this was October) and the silver Jesus was an extra treat. If you want to appreciate my fine camera work in all its pixelated glory, click on the pictures to make them BIG.
That must be a line from a film, so if someone were to come up with a picture to go with this post . . .
You disgust me. You are so totally and utterly out of touch with the real world that it is no surprise to me that the Christian faith is fizzling out to nothing in the United Kingdom. Perhaps when we have managed to turn all our children gay the problem of religious bigotry affecting our laws will no longer be an issue.
Find out who wrote this, to whome and on what occasion, by going to this page.
Why do people never demonstrate how it is that others are out of touch? In what way? Exactly?
Skimming the papers last weekend I read a comment that politics in Poland is now about emotion, about being shocked/disgusted/worried (usually negative emotions, it seems!). It is at least partly true of the rhetoric of politicians, and is true almost without exception of the newspaper comment forums. The pathetic amount of any actual information in the press doesn't help to raise the level of discussion. Freedom of the press? They should all be censored for lack of content.
California Catholic Daily News writer “runs into” His Eminence at the March 1-3 Religious Education Congress. Their conversation follows.
Hi, Cardinal Mahony, I’m with California Catholic.
Yes, I just want to ask you, how is it that last year we had Father Timothy Radcliffe asking people to go see Brokeback Mountain and read gay novels and make gay friends, and you were sitting right there. Why would a priest be allowed to say that right on the stage here in the arena during his keynote speech?
Well, why are you asking me? Ask him.
Well, don’t you have anything to say about him telling Catholics to do those things?
Well, ask him.
Why don’t you ask him? You were right there on the stage with him. It’s terrible that he did that. It’s terrible that a priest would come into this religious education congress and tell people to go see a homosexual movie. Why would you invite somebody to speak that would say that to the faithful?
Do you know how many speakers we have here?
Yes, I’m aware of it.
Etc. The Cardinal doesn't come out too well, but what's this about Radcliffe? I thought the Dominicans were quite sound, relatively speaking.
On Holy Thursday Vatican to publish document restoring the Tridentine Mass
Well, you can imagine I was rather hopeful when I saw an almost full-page article in a major national daily with that headline. I can't find it online, though the paper version is lying here at my right elbow. It gives ANSA as its source, and I can't find anything there, though perhaps someone else will succeed. This priest (sadly links to the SSPX but not the FSSP. But he's a diocesan priest. Which just goes to show how much more easy-going the Polish bishops are on various kinds of crap.) is keen on it too, but he goes by onet.pl, which also cites ANSA. Nothing on Magister's blog. But a Telegraph blog sums it up. Though two weeks ago.
Fr. Fessio has been sacked from Ave Maria in Florida and asked to clear his desk. According to 'whispers in the loggia' he was removed because of an argument with Nick Healy over ad orientem. I sometimes wonder if ad orientem and its opposite have a quasi-sacramental significance signifying what they effect and effecting what they signify.
Thank-you to the nice person who sent me a nice book which arrived today!
I am so damn clever. Some time ago I had a metaphysics exam, for which I had to prepare, among others, a question on the difference between existential and essentialist Thomism is. Ya what? (my previous scrap of philosophical education was rather a la Great Books.) Well, I googled and looked and read (the library was too stressful to use much, being womaned by a terrifying elderly sister, but providence led me to a couple of useful things in second-hand-book shops), and eventually, following a footnote on a hunch, started working my way through Thomas's commentary on De Trinitate, q.V a.3. Am no great Latinist, so this was taking some time, and indeed I failed to get to the meat of the question before the exam,which I scraped through ignominously (sp?). However I have been completely cluelessly terribly interested in the matter since, because it seemed to me to be about more than an answer for a daft exam or some academic debate. Little things kept teasingly hinting that there was indeed something interesting involved. Hee hee, there is! This is aboutis. And not only was my hunch right (that article talks about something that allegedly divides the two schools, though whether I'd have worked out the exact answer is another question) but this lovely lovely book has De Esse et essentia in, and the introduction has about two sentences that make complete sense on this front and have saved me a lot of faffing, and I am so excited that I had to write this post that is utterly pointless except as a demonstration of my happy gratitude for this nice present to a poor unemployed procrastinator from a nice person.
The guidelines on what is wrong and what is right (there are discussions on whether "why" would not unnecessarily complicate a simple matter) are in preparation. A source says they will provide clear, easily-grasped first principles that will help children form independent, tolerant life views embracing change and diversity, enabling them to participate responsibly as forward-looking citizens of an inclusive and caring democracy. Multicultural.
Literature that helps teachers to help children free their minds from medieval prejudices is already finding its way into classrooms. King & King isabout a prince who rejects three princesses to "marry" their brother. The book not only shows children that intergender relationships are not best for everyone, but also that hereditary monarchy necessarily creates prejudice against rich and unfairly privileged feudal oppressors who experience a same sex attraction, since the oppressed people would be forced by their difficult life conditions to repress their natural openness to diversity. Fear of the public disorder and even civil war that might ensue on the death of a childless monarch would lead ordinary people to pressure their king to produce an heir, with worrying consequences for the level of tolerance in society at large. Children will thus see the damaging effects of the taboos, and even legal restrictions, on adoption by same-sex couples found in traditional societies and surviving in some countries to the present day.
"The island of Britain, situated on almost the utmost border of the earth, stretches out from the south-west towards the north pole, and is eight hundred miles long and two hundred broad, except where the headlands of sundry promontories stretch farther into the sea. It is poised, so it is said, in the divine balance which supports the whole world."
- St Gildas the Wise
Late yesterday evening I was telephoned by an aged Catholic philosopher exhorting me to email my Member of Parliament and ask him to vote against the motion before Parliament this evening endorsing the replacement of Britain’s Trident submarines. I was unable to comply. When I was a child I was a fervent unilateralist. I remember arguing the point in the playground in my primary school during the 1983 election campaign. (My main frustration was finding someone who was willing to argue the issue with me). After the 1987 election I abandoned unilateralism along with Mr Kinnock.
Almost exactly two months later I was baptised into the Catholic Faith. I subsequently became convinced that the use of Nuclear Weapons was always immoral because they can only be used indiscriminately. I was troubled by the argument presented in the Catechism of Catholic Doctrine written by Herbert McCabe O.P. that if Nuclear Weapons can never be used then it is immoral to implicitly threaten to use them by possessing them in the first place. I thus returned to my former unilateralism after a brief diversion into multilateralism.
However, in more recent years I became convinced, ironically by the same philosopher who rang me last night, that there are circumstances in which Nuclear Weapons might indeed be used. For example, they might indeed be used against a fleet all of whose crew are by definition combatants. This would mean that it is not necessary to rid ourselves of such weapons altogether because they can be used in at least some circumstances.
However, the weapons are maintained principally as a deterrent and it is clear that in many of the circumstances in which it is envisaged an enemy power might fear the weapons might be used their use would be intrinsically immoral. This would seem to count in favour of unilateralism as the ‘enemy fleet’ example is practically irrelevant as this is not a realistic scenario and the real purpose of the weapons is to pose an immoral threat. While it is reasonable for a government to reserve the strategic privilege of refusing to say in what circumstances it might use Nuclear Weapons, this principle does not seem broad enough to cover the implicit threat to e.g. annihilate Moscow.
However, the greater indeterminacy of the threat to the United Kingdom in the present era of Islamic terrorism, Nuclear proliferation and a resurgent China might, it seems, expand the application of this principle to justify a Nuclear deterrent after all in 2007. If this argument works (and I’m not sure) then, it seems to me at least, that many of the ancillary issues about renewal and proliferation fall away. If we have a justification for the possession by the United Kingdom of an independent Nuclear deterrent then, if it is to be truly independent and truly a deterrent, it needs to be as near to top of the range as we can afford.
Britain is a great power. Perhaps it is the second or third most powerful state on earth. The abandonment or downgrading of our nuclear deterrent would probably end this and reduce our ability to preserve the balance of power within the UN Security Council, which at present is undoubtedly favourable to us. Nature abhors a vacuum. If Britain looses its position in the second rank of global power it will be taken by another power. Many many things about my country grieve me sorely but I shudder to think of the inheritance of its global position by any of the other likely candidates.
Nor, I suspect, is it only patriotism which causes me to regret that Britain is only the second greatest power on Earth. Despite its many splendid qualities the USA's tenure of global hegemony has too often been characterised by power without responsibility. Perhaps this is only to be expected given the unfortunate circumstances in which the USA was founded, but it can hardly be denied that the nineteenth century compares favourably with the twentieth. To adapt a famous remark of Churchill's: Britain is the worst country imaginable to have ruling the world, apart from all the others anyone has ever thought of.
Many congratulations to the Preeces over at Catholic and Loving It, who had a little girl, 6lb 5oz, after a very short first labour. Can't wait to hear her name! May the Holy Family watch over them all.
I am just coming to the end of Volume I of Jean-Pierre Torrell's 'Saint Thomas Aquinas' (a work I should have read years ago). Above all, what I find striking and shocking about the work is the demythologising modernism it implies on the part of its author. It is devoid of colour or anecdote because such tales from St Thomas's hagiographers overwhelmingly entail the miraculous and such tales are, we are told, at best 'palimpsests'. Statements like this bear witness to how appallingly far gone unorthodoxy is in so much of the visible Church. It also shows how desperately needed is Boeciana and my forthcoming work on the theory of history! Don’t watch this space too attentively.... St Bede, pray for us!
Fr. Richard John Neuhaus on the Pitstick/Oakes controversy
There has been intense interest in the exchanges between Alyssa Lyra Pitstick and Fr. Edward Oakes on the theology of Hans von Balthasar and the meaning of heresy, which will conclude, at least for the time being, in the March issue of First Things. Although a few readers of this site have grown impatient. As one puts it quite succinctly, “I don’t give a d— about Balthasar or what Catholics think is heresy.” Well, you can’t please all of the people all of the time.
The work of Balthasar is without doubt one of the most impressive theological projects of the past hundred years. Anyone not interested in Balthasar is not interested in theology. Or in much else–for he wrote very suggestively about culture, literature, the role of classical Greece in contemporary philosophy, the possibilities of historical change, and the strange relationships between the beautiful, the good, and the true. So not to be interested in Balthasar is not to be interested in the questions that are the reason for the existence of First Things.
In his contribution here earlier this week, Fr. Oakes concluded by quoting Pope Benedict, who urged theologians to study Balthasar with an eye to his thought’s “efficacious application” in the Christian tradition. Benedict, as usual, is very careful in his choice of words. The statement cited by Fr. Oakes is hardly an endorsement of Balthasar tout court. Dr. Pitstick, too, is obviously interested in the efficacious application of Balthasar’s thought, and in guarding against applications that are not efficacious.
In talking with people and looking over the large and lively correspondence in the March issue of First Things, I am struck by the oddity that many people assume that Oakes is on the liberal side of this exchange and Pitstick on the conservative side. Now Dr. Pitstick is undoubtedly conservative in the sense that she is defending what she views as the mainstream of the received tradition, especially on the meaning of Christ’s descent into hell. But note also that it is Fr. Oakes who is regularly invoking what authoritative figures such as John Paul II and Benedict XVI have had to say about their personal and intellectual respect for Balthasar. Dr. Pitstick is in a venerable tradition of theological inquiry when she is not intimidated by ad hoc tributes, even when they are offered by popes. In fact, her contributions to First Things and her book, Light in Darkness, which will be out at the end of this month and develops her argument more fully, exemplifies the task of the theologian as described in the 1990 instruction from Cardinal Ratzinger’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, “The Ecclesial Vocation of the Theologian.”
She is–as the instruction says theologians should– helping the Magisterium of the Church to clarify a hotly disputed question of doctrine. A very distinguished and indisputably orthodox theologian of my acquaintance said after reading an advance copy of her book that he didn’t know whether to be more impressed by Balthasar’s scholarship or by Pitstick’s critique of his scholarship. For a young woman with a newly minted doctorate, Dr. Pitstick has done a very daring–some would say impertinent–thing in taking on a figure so venerated as Hans Urs von Balthasar. Agree or disagree with her, she is a first-rate theological talent, and that should not be overlooked in these exchanges.
I have just come across this piece by George Weigel on the possible imminent collapse of Anglicanism. There is much to what he says. However, he follows the irritating practice found among a good many foreign Catholics of talking as if the 'Church of England' exists. He refers to 'Becket’s chair'. Either Becket's chair is in Westminster or it does not exist. I'm not sure whether the prerogatives of Canterbury were transferred to Westminster by Bl. Pius IX or merely suppressed but they have certainly never been exercised by the post 1559 excommunicate laymen of Canterbury. As the CDF doctrinal commentary to Ad Tuendam Fidem makes clear " the declaration of Pope Leo XIII in the Apostolic Letter Apostolicae Curae on the invalidity of Anglican ordinations" is to be "held definitively" with "full and irrevocable assent". In Dominus Jesus17 the consequences of this are made clear "the ecclesial communities which have not preserved the valid Episcopate and the genuine and integral substance of the Eucharistic mystery, are not Churches in the proper sense". Thus 'reunion' with the 'Church of England' is strictly speaking impossible because the 'Church of England' does not exist. This is why the Church accepts that Anglicans who marry in a registry office or in violation of the rules of their own 'Church' (like C.S.Lewis) can do so validly, because the human organisation to which they belong has no authority to legislate in regard to marriage or any other sacrament.
Consequently, in order to have 'reunion' with the Anglicans we would have to ordain all their 'bishops', 'priests' and 'deacons' and confirm all their laity while they were still in a state of personal schism (this would be a grave sin) and then end the schism by receiving them into communion. If we did it the other way round and absolved them all of the corporate ban of excommunication and received them into the Catholic Church and then ordained and confirmed them reunion on a personal level would have already been accomplished and they would have already accepted that the 'Church of England' never existed. All this talk of corporate 'reunion' is a source of scandal because it implies the impossible and leads the faithful into error concerning the infallible judgement of Leo XIII, who wrote…
" …strictly adhering, in this matter, to the decrees of the pontiffs, our predecessors, and confirming them most fully, and, as it were, renewing them by our authority, of our own initiative and certain knowledge, we pronounce and declare that ordinations carried out according to the Anglican rite have been, and are, absolutely null and utterly void."
Adding for good measure
"We decree that these letters and all things contained therein shall not be liable at any time to be impugned or objected to by reason of fault or any other defect whatsoever of subreption or obreption of our intention, but are and shall be always valid and in force and shall be inviolably observed both juridically and otherwise, by all of whatsoever degree and preeminence, declaring null and void anything which, in these matters, may happen to be contrariwise attempted, whether wittingly or unwittingly, by any person whatsoever, by whatsoever authority or pretext, all things to the contrary notwithstanding."
For anyone who seeks further material for salutary meditation on these matters I recommend the 1987 article "Recent Thought On Anglican Orders " by Brian W. Harrison.
St Non is St Davis's Mum. Like lots of feisty British Dark Age female Saints she seems to have had a difficult time of it but came out on top. Next to the ruins of her pre-Reformation shrine and her Holy Well (which sprang up as she gave birth to St David in a thunderstorm) is a very fine Catholic chapel of Our Lady and St Non. Well worth a visit. It is a short distance from the tiny city of St David's in Pembrokeshire. Sadly its beautiful Cathedral is still in the hands of the looters. Today is also my Mum's Birthday so please say a Hail Mary for her and ask for the intercession of St Non if you have a spare moment. Thanks!
Slayer of the winter, art thou here again? O welcome, thou that's bring'st the summer nigh! The bitter wind makes not thy victory vain, Nor will we mock thee for thy faint blue sky. Welcome, O March! whose kindly days and dry Make April ready for the throstle's song, Thou first redresser of the winter's wrong!
Yea, welcome March! and though I die ere June, Yet for the hope of life I give thee praise, Striving to swell the burden of the tune That even now I hear thy brown birds raise, Unmindful of the past or coming days; Who sing: 'Oh joy! a new year is begun: What happiness to look upon the sun!'
Ah, what begetteth all this storm of bliss But death himself, who crying solemnly, E'en from the heart of sweet Forgetfulness, Bids us 'Rejoice, lest pleasureless ye die, Within a little time must ye go by. Stretch forth your open hands, and while ye live Take all the gifts that Death and Life may give.'
Very encouraging interview with Archbishop Malcom Ranjith the secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship on the prospects for a 'universal indult' and a reform of the reform. It is refreshing to see the frankness with which he states that the Missal of 1970 was contrary to the will of the Council.
"The post-conciliar reform of the liturgy has not been able to achieve the expected goals of spiritual and missionary renewal in the Church so that today we could be truly happy about it. Undoubtedly there have been positive results too; but the negative effects seem to have been greater, causing much disorientation in our ranks. The churches have become empty, liturgical free-wheeling has become the order of the day, and the true meaning and significance of that which is celebrated has been obscured. One has to, then, begin wondering if the reform process had in fact been handled correctly. Thus, we need to take a good look at what had happened, pray and reflect about its causes and with the help of the Lord move on to make the necessary corrections."