Saturday, April 30, 2011

New Ally for Victory: Reverend Know-It-All

You have to love a priest who pays homage to Bullwinkle J. Moose.  And not only to The Moose, but also to Catholic tradition and orthodoxy.  Meet Fr. Richard Simon of Reverend Know-It-All, pastor of St. Lambert Parish in Skokie, Illinois.  Skokie is part of the Archdiocese of Chicago, presided over by Francis Cardinal George, who has forthrightly defended the institution of marriage, earned the wrath of the Lavender Mafia, performed the unpleasant yet highly necessary task of suspending the notorious Fr. Pfleger -- and permits Fr. Simon to have his soap box.  I know dioceses where a priest like the Reverend Know-It-All would quickly be shut down.

One of the things I really like about the Rev. -- and there are plenty of things to like -- is how he captures thoughts and ideas I have had percolating and expresses them simply, forthrightly and with humor.  I have expatiated in this space about the starvation diet of minimalism to which the faithful have been subjected over the last four or five decades (here and here).  But Fr. Simon's commentary on the subject is far better and more succinct.  He starts out by noting the command, repeated half a dozen times in Scripture yet completely forgotten in our times, not to move the boundary stones set up by our ancestors.  Now some excerpts, with my emphases:
CS Lewis says it much more simply in The Screwtape Letters. He points out that we are not spirits trapped in flesh; we are incarnate spirits. What we do with our bodies we do with our souls. That is the reason for all the kneeling and standing, for bread and wine and oil and water and candles and incense and vestments and wood and gold and stone. We are incarnate spirits. We speak the language of matter because that is how God made us. 


Enough of the dark and mysterious churches [said the New Enlightened], the mumbled rosaries, the plaintiff novenas, haunting chants and sentimental hymns. We would be reasonable; we would be spiritual; we would be modern! They thought they were embracing the fullness of human nature, but they were in fact rejecting it because they failed to understand the unbreakable connection between body and soul, even as their bodies ran rampant and their souls withered. They thought they were above the moral restraints of a darker age and could dispense themselves from old restrictions.


The experts of the age of plastic committed the sin of the tower of Babel, “Let us build a tower that reaches to the heavens.” Chaos ensued then and chaos ensues now. The great lights of the sixties believed that removing the communion rails would bring us closer to the Lord. I think it has had the opposite effect. One stands in a line, shuffling slowly, eyes focused on the back of someone’s head waiting for him to move. The celebrant says “Body of Christ” but more often than not, is thinking “next...” There is rarely a sense of waiting on the Lord, there is no sense of a gift lovingly given and humbly received. There is just, “next....” 
This stuff is so good, I'm tempted to reproduce it all here.  But it would be better if you went over there and read the whole thing.  It includes, among other things, a highly informative explanation of the symbolism of communion rails that I bet you have never seen or heard before.

Keep up the good work, Father! 

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

A Warrior for Life Passes from the Scene

I don't know what Phoebe Snow's political affiliation was, or whether she voted for Obama, or what her views were about abortion on demand.  I can't recall ever hearing that she marched or picketed or made speeches or was otherwise active on the political scene.  

But I do know that she sacrificed everything for her little girl.

Phoebe's classic "Poetry Man" reached the top 5 on the pop charts in 1975.  But when Valerie Rose was born that same year with severe brain damage, Phoebe chose to care for her at home rather than put her in an institution.  Through lawsuits, financial distress, and even desertion by her husband, Phoebe kept Valerie with her -- until Valerie's death in 2007.  Under her mother's care, the baby whom nobody expected to survive more than a few years lived to be 31.  "Occasionally I put an album out, but I didn't like to tour, and they didn't get a lot of label support," Phoebe once remarked in an interview. "But you know what? It didn't really matter because I got to stay home more with Valerie, and that time was precious."

Phoebe Snow's name may not have come up much at pro-life rallies, but she was still a giant in the war for life.  She lived it.  For 31 years, she kept her daughter safe from the vultures of "compassion."  With every fiber of her being, Phoebe Snow beat back the assault of the culture of death.  After so many decades of sacrificial love, it is perhaps not surprising that this devoted mother should not long survive the daughter for whom she poured herself out.

I don't know what Phoebe Snow thought about Roe v. Wade.  But I think I can guess.  R.I.P.

Monday, April 25, 2011

As for Me and My House...

...we could care less about the Royal Wedding.

As you can see, my cat, Spike, is not pleased about anything that has the potential to interrupt his beauty sleep.  After all, lying around looking cute all day is hard, hard work.

Sunday, April 24, 2011


Herewith Dum Transissit Sabbatum by the Elizabethan composer John Taverner, and performed by the Tallis Singers.  Thanks to Tribunus for posting this on his always fascinating  Roman Christendom.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Did Archbishop Lefebvre Really Save the Mass of Tradition?

With the beginning of Holy Week, I look ahead with trepidation to the services for the Sacred Triduum.  The liturgical mediocrities (at best) and abuses (at worst) that prevail in my area at all times of the year are especially painful during this week, when the high, the solemn and the majestic are forced to give place to the low, the frivolous and the banal.  At such times, my thoughts turn most to the cause of restoring the traditional liturgy, which seems to move at the speed of mammal evolution; and the line of thought runs inevitably to a man whose career has been a significant factor in this cause.  

A few weeks ago, the Church celebrated the Annunciation.  March 25th was not only the feast of the Annunciation, but also the anniversary of the death of Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, founder of the Society of St. Pius X.  It was the occasion for numerous heartfelt acclamations of the archbishop and calls for his sainthood.  Most of all, there were the repeated claims that it is to Lefebvre that we owe the preservation of what is now known as the Extraordinary Form of the Mass.

Nobody can seriously question my credentials as a lover of Catholic orthodoxy and traditional Catholic worship.  I have declaimed from the rooftops on these subjects.  But when I hear Archbishop Lefebvre extolled as the savior of the usus antiquior, I cannot help asking, from behind unfriendly lines in the liturgical wars, this one simple question: Really?

I don't want to get into the question whether Lefebvre and the bishops he consecrated were legitimately excommunicated.  Two popes thought that they were, and proceeded accordingly; that is good enough for me, and should be good enough for any Catholic.   I don't want to get into the question whether a state of emergency existed in the Church that justified Lefebvre in defying the Pope and violating canon law.  There is no question that the Church has been wracked by a terrible crisis from within over the last century; but it is the Church, not the Lefebvrists, who is the ultimate arbiter of the state-of-emergency issue, and the Church has ruled against Lefebvre.  I also don't want to debate whether the priests of the Society are suspended.  The fact is that they are suspended, and they lack faculties from the bishops who have actual jurisdiction to grant them faculties.   What interests me is the claim that without Lefebvre, the Mass of tradition would now be extinct.

Concerning which, some thoughts:

-- Despite the changes in the liturgy under Pope Paul VI, and whatever may have been the desires of some elements within the Church, the Tridentine Mass  was -- Deo gratias -- not formally abrogated.  In 1984, four years before Lefebvre did the act for which he incurred excommunication, the Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments issued Quattuor abhinc annos, which allowed bishops to authorize celebration of the traditional Mass under certain conditions.  Let no one attribute this document solely to the agitations of the archbishop or his Society: they were far from being the only ones in the whole, entire Church who wanted the preconciliar liturgy, as Summorum pontificum makes clear.  Whatever one might think of this document, or the stinginess of the bishops in authorizing the traditional Mass, Quattuor abhinc annos did prove -- and Summorum pontificum later affirmed -- that the restoration of the older liturgy was never decisively foreclosed.

-- In 1988, Pope John Paul II ordered Archbishop Lefebvre not to consecrate some bishops.  Lefebvre went ahead and did it anyway, after having agreed not to.  The Pope was clearly within his rights.  How could Lefebvre's act be understood other than as it was understood by the Pope himself: a frontal assault on the unity of the Church under Peter?  Can one commit schism in order to combat evils within the Church?  Can one do evil in order that good may prevail?  Aquinas answered that question in the negative.

-- In his motu proprio Ecclesia Dei adflicta, issued two days after Lefebvre's schism, the Pope called for "a wide and generous application" of the directives of Quattuor abhinc annos.  This clearly did not happen.  It could be argued -- not untruthfully -- that this was because a large number of bishops were inimical to the older form of the Mass.  But does this rule out the Lefebvrist movement as a factor?  Could it be that the defiance of Lefebvre and his followers helped to discredit the preconciliar liturgy and its devotees, and served as an excuse to block restoration?  How many priests and bishops who might otherwise have been sympathetic were turned off because of the Lefebvrists?  Might we have had something like Summorum pontificum sooner if Lefebvre had submitted to the Pope's rightful authority?  Indeed, if the cause of restoration had not been given the appearance of association with schism and rebellion, would there have been a need for Summorum pontificum?

-- There is nothing that the "progressive"/"liberal" elements in the Church hate so much as being confronted with a syllable of Latin, or a bar of chant, or a whiff of incense, or any other slight vestige of tradition in the liturgy -- unless it is coming face-to-face with somebody who loves tradition and is determined to do something about it.  Unfortunately, the priests and bishops of the Society are not around to discomfit the progressives.  Instead, they have quit the field of battle, going off to hide in their caves and fortresses, abandoning the parishes and chanceries to the progressives, and leaving the rest of us outgunned and outnumbered.  True, the Society is vocal and does the internet and print version of dropping propaganda leaflets over enemy territory; but did not Napoleon observe that the side that stays within its fortifications is beaten?  The reality is that these priests and bishops, who remain suspended and without faculties, are not in the trenches, and give neither aid and comfort to those they have left overwhelmed in parish and chancery, nor grief to the liberals.  The liberals are in fact perfectly content for the Society to stay right where it is, and to invite the rest of us to go and join it there and stop threatening their hegemony.  This should give the Society pause.

-- In fact, so far from giving the rest of us traditionalists aid and comfort, the Society continues to discredit us by (a) remaining outside the fold, despite the present Holy Father's bending over backward to accommodate them; and (b) continuing, notwithstanding the many concessions made to it, to act as though it is the True Church, and as though it is there to instruct Rome instead of the other way around.  This causes the rest of us who want to see the Mass of tradition restored to be viewed with suspicion.  To be viewed with suspicion by our bishops is particularly painful to those of us who refrain from attending Society chapels precisely to avoid either appearing or becoming disloyal to our bishops, however much they oppose that to which we are devoted.

I submit that there needs to be a serious re-examination by the Lefebvrists and their cloud of supporters of the proposition that Archbishop Lefebvre saved the Tridentine Mass.  This form of the Mass certainly has had its enemies in the Church, and still does; but it also has its devotees, not all of which reside within the confines of the SSPX.  The Lefebvrists need to consider whether their founder's break with the Church, and their own continuing isolation, have not in fact served the forces of modernism they claim to oppose, and delayed for years the restoration of authentic Catholic worship.

Saturday, April 09, 2011

A Curious Thing about Priestesses

Ever notice how the women who want to be Roman Catholic wymynpriestesses never seem to be interested in Latin, Gregorian chant, the Breviarum Romanum or the Extraordinary Form of the Mass?

Thursday, April 07, 2011

A Ringing Endorsement

It's not every day I get new entries for the Victory Endorsements feature on my sidebar.  An insult has to be really juicy before it's worth putting up as an endorsement.  But today is a red-letter day.  I just got the following comment from "Carol" to an expose I put up four years ago: "Edwina Gateley: Pagan Priestess":
Sign me, 'proud to be an ex-catholic,' if you, the above, are any example of what being catholic is all about.

What about'judge not, lest you be judged?' Jesus came to set us free from 'Law' with a new law, a true law: 'love one another.' How many of you judges do what Edwina does. . .work with those society considers the lowest of the low, prostitutes. The hurting. I think you're all too concerned with getting your theology self-righteously perfect. Pls. read about Pharisees, oh you perfect ones.
Sign me,
so glad to be free of religion
Personally, I suspect Carol was proud to be an ex-Catholic long before I ever came along.  No doubt I am being accused of "judging" because this post was written in praise and defense of the judgment of Bishop Thomas Olmsted of the Diocese of Phoenix, who judged that Edwina Gateley was not fit to give a retreat in his diocese in June of 2007.  It's funny how people who profess themselves emancipated from religion nevertheless are always wanting to trot out Bible verses.  If Carol is "so glad to be free of religion," I wonder she has any use for the Bible, or for Jesus, or for principles like "judge not lest ye be judged."

Oh, by the way, Carol, speaking of rash judgment: I want to address your point -- if something as gauzy as your comment can be said to have anything in it as sharp as a point -- about your confidence that I have nothing to do with people society looks down on as the lowest of the low, etc.  As a matter of fact, I am a public defender.  I doubt seriously that the beatings I take on a daily basis in the service of the "lowest of the low" have ever entered into the darkest imaginings of Edwina Gateley.  

And I bet she makes at least three or four times my salary not taking them.

Sunday, April 03, 2011

Color Me Unsympathetic

So Live Nation's attempt to cash in on Charlie Sheen's continuing implosion by getting people to pay to watch his drug-induced rants is off to an inauspicious start.  Sheen's "show" at the Fox Theatre in Detroit ended prematurely amid boos, jeers, and a steady stream of walk-outs.  People who paid anywhere from $49.00 to $84.00 (and God knows how much more from scalpers) are demanding their money back.

Articles on the bombed-out performance quote audience members as saying they expected a comedy show.  Baloney.  Whatever other kinds of expectations these sharks may claim, the fact is, they smelled blood in the water.  Spurred on by Charlie Sheen's prior embarrassing conduct, they paid for front-row seats to his continuing meltdown.  As far as I'm concerned, they can consider the loss of their shekels a down payment on the penance they deserve for exploiting a fellow human being in his affliction and demeaning his dignity -- however complicit Sheen himself might have been in it.

Besides which: these vultures got exactly what they paid for.  They bought their tickets in the hopes that Sheen would behave like a drug-crazed jackass, and that's precisely what they got, however unrealistic their idea of such behavior might be.  The reality of addiction bears no resemblance to a sitcom: scripted and predictable, with every crisis neatly resolving within half an hour.  The reality of addiction is perpetual chaos, frenzy, injustice, selfishness,  manipulation, insecurity, unpredictability, bottomless consumption, and an endless series of catastrophes, one after the other, punctuated by fines and terms of imprisonment.  These people paid to see all this, and now they're not happy; whereas anyone who has ever had to live with a substance abuser could have described it to them for free.

I for one have no sympathy.  In fact, I hope these hyenas don't get their money back, just as I hope Live Nation loses huge on this disgraceful speculation of theirs.