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Wednesday, July 30, 2003
Commentary on the Burbling Church
It's my belief that men are in a fallen condition and that, even after baptism, the effects of their prior state remain in the form of disordered passions, faulty reasoning, and a general disinclination toward sanctity. Therefore, a Catholic pastorage which tailors its witness to a lowest common-denominator faithfulness will see that common-denominator sink lower, and lower, and ever lower, until all Catholic life becomes utterly two-dimensional, a notional dot on a hypothetical plane, incapable of being seen by one's neighbors or even one's self. Just about every week, my Diocesan newspaper does its best to confirm my opinion by printing something that tries to talk down the high truths of the Church to the level of an Everyman who is, apparently, conceived of as a kind of illiterate Unitarian whose spiritual aspirations are limited to being attentive all the way through the opening prayer at a Kiwanis lunch. The result is the presentation of Catholicism as a pallid, nonsensical thing, an ecclesiastical Marienbad of Silliness where people can languish in tepid baths of utter bafflement, breathe deep the maudlin airs of bourgeois self-conceit, and nourish a febrile sentimentality with whole-grain nothingness. It bothers me. It bothers me because I dislike mediocrity with a special vehemence, since it's a fault to which I am particularly prone. It bothers me since I know people who have left the Church because, frankly, they've come to the incorrect opinion that banality is all the Church can offer a man who seeks his God and Lord. It bothers me that great saints and churchmen are likely being stifled in their cribs, so to speak, by a smothering blanket of burbling thrown over their eyes and ears through the well-intentioned arrogance of an elite that thinks its arcani disciplina can't be shared with the common herd of communicants. Ignorance is strength, you know, so long as it makes everyone else weak. Rather than continue speaking to the newsprint, disturbing my wife and my dog by shouting paragraph numbers from Lamentabili Sane, I'm going to run written commentary on these painfully-obtuse items, a commentary on the Burbling Church.
The first installment is a response to an article by Sister Genevieve Glen, OSB, entitled "Pilate's Question: What is Truth?" It was distributed by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops / Catholic News Service and was run in my newspaper and, so far as I can tell from a brief internet search, published in the Texas Catholic ("The Oldest Catholic Newspaper in Texas"), the The Catholic Review and by the Archdiocese of Seattle and the Diocese of Albany. Sister Glen has written several books about Catholicism, and while I wouldn't doubt they're very learned and edifying, this particular column fit right in with the general trend I've noted above. Sister Glen's opinions are in blue. My commentary is in black. The entire text of Sister's article can be found here.
Most of us probably would begin by saying something like, "Well, a truth is something that states a fact." . . . This kind of truth describes a statement that matches objective reality. It can often, though not always, be tested and proven . . . Religious truths expand this category. They describe the match between a statement and a reality in which we believe but which we cannot necessarily test or prove by some observable measure.
Well, I'd be more comfortable if we were definitely describing religious truths as facts. Now, I realize that religious truths may be facts which aren't susceptible to scientific proof, or that they might not be as susceptible to scientific proof as we might wish, but still I think we're OK describing them as being facts which are as real as the ones we have proven with a lot of scientific evidence. Science itself has a lot of room for facts like that. There was a time when scientists were positive that there had to be black holes, but couldn't prove it by pointing to an actual black hole. And sometimes scientists knew only part of a fact, like the ones who thought water ran downhill because it was "seeking its natural place" in the order of the created universe.
We shouldn't forget that sometimes our religious knowledge is as certain as any kind of secular knowledge you want to name. Take the life of Jesus Christ, for example. He lived. He really, actually did. We know it because the Gospels record His life. Can't believe the Evangelists? Say they had a bias that caused them to invent the Christ of the Gospels so they could get themselves killed witnessing to Him? That's OK too, since non-Christian writers of Jesus' day also confirm His life. We have as much reason to believe Jesus lived on earth during the first century A.D. as we do to believe that Hannibal crossed the Alps and fought the Romans. People who don't believe a man named Jesus lived in the first century A.D. and became the focus of a religious movement we call "Christianity" are as reasonable as people who won't believe in Alexander the Great because they've never met him and the histories of his life are all part of a conspiracy by Alexander the Great fans.
It is true that sometimes our religious knowledge is like those black holes which "must" exist and just haven't been identified or explained to a skeptic's satisfaction. As Fulton Sheen once observed, it's a queer mind that thinks the existence of natural laws proves there's no such thing as a natural lawmaker. "The same Holy mother Church holds and teaches that God, the source and end of all things, can be known with certainty from the consideration of created things, by the natural power of human reason : ever since the creation of the world, his invisible nature has been clearly perceived in the things that have been made." Vatican Council I, Dogmatic Constitution on the Catholic Faith Chapter 2, Section 1. If you're not comfortable thinking in terms of the Magisterium, try Psalm 34:8: "O taste and see that the LORD is good," or Romans 1:20 "For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse." Are those verses just be "statements" about what St. Paul and King David believed but couldn't prove? St. Paul and King David didn't think so. Were they crazy? Or just dumb?
It's also true that sometimes our religious knowledge is partial, like the idea about water that coincides with (but doesn't relate) the whole story in all its detail. People once read Genesis quite literally to require 144 hours for the creation of the universe. (They had forgotten that the early Church fathers didn't require that at all). Now we know that God probably didn't take 144 hours to create the universe, but the truth of Genesis that God did, in fact, create it still remains a challenge for your ordinary God-denying scientist -- "So, Professor, isn't it odd that Genesis records God saying "let there be light," and by the way what caused the Big Bang?" And other times our knowledge is a special gift that goes way beyond what reason can show us or science prove to us. The Trinity is like that, a divine "family secret" that's given only for love's sake. But all of these things are still real, actual, hard facts.
I hope Sister realizes that there aren't any faithful people in Heaven. At least, not any people who still need their faith, however faithfulness was essential to their getting to Heaven. In Heaven, we will see God directly and actually as He is, and have as much proof of His existence as we could possibly ever need or want. The Second Coming is going to be the most wonderful thing in human history, but since "now we see through a glass, darkly" (1 Cor. 13:12) I can say that with respect to doubts, questions and disbelief the parousia's going to resemble the scene in Annie Hall where Alvy and a self-appointed expert end up arguing about Marshall McLuhan's theories while waiting in a theater lobby:
MAN IN LINE: Wait a minute, why can't I give my opinion? It's a free country!
Of course, life is like that, just like it -- only it's going to take awhile before the Ultimate Author steps out and explains to all the skeptics, doubters, and unbelievers that they know nothing and that their tenures and publications were merely tributes to human folly. We are really, truly, honest-to-golly going to know everything it's possible for us to know because God will always be right there with us, in person, face-to-face, showing us reality, forever and ever. St. Paul says right after his comments about seeing now darkly, but "then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known." (1 Cor. 13).
Given all that, I don't know what to make of Sister's claim that religious truths are statements that "match" what "we believe" about reality but can't "prove." I think that if it means anything, it means that religious truths aren't really true. "Jesus is God" is a religious statement. If we go around saying that it matches a reality that "we believe," but which we can't prove by anything we learn, observe, or experience, our statement's really more of a suggestion. If we think about our faith that way, the Gospel testimonies of the Resurrection and the Ascension, like the Old Testament prophecies of Jesus, can't add anything to our faith. If, when we say "Jesus is God" we mean that we believe it but can't prove it, then everyone who says "Jesus is God" is saying the same thing -- including the prophets and the evangelists, whose testimonies are just more statements that matched what they believed but couldn't prove.
St. Thomas the Apostle might have a problem with that, since Jesus stood before him and invited Thomas to put his fingers right straight into Jesus' sacred wounds. (John 20:17) At least five hundred other Christians would have the same problem, since they personally saw Jesus after his Resurrection. (1 Cor. 15:6) Insulated from their experiences by two millennia, we might be tempted to call these accounts "statements" that "match" what we believe but can't prove, but should we give in to that temptation? It can't be "turtles all the way down" --- somewhere, sometime, someone's either got to be describing real facts or imagining things. The antiquity of accounts about Jesus isn't any reason to discount them; no one claims the statement, "Teddy Roosevelt charged up San Juan Hill," can't be proved just because none of the Rough Riders are alive to tell us so. We can observe the truth of that statement by looking at the credible historical records which record the Rough Riders' charge and the name of their commanding officer So why shouldn't we give the Gospels the same weight? Why should we think that the Gospels are just "statements" that match we "believe" but can't prove?
Belief in God and the Catholic Church results from human reason firing on all cylinders -- which means, I might add, with the aid of grace and revelation. We weren't given reason so that we could puzzle our way into Heaven like scientists trying to find out about dinosaurs. But that doesn't mean our reason has no role to play in bringing us to faith or keeping us there. "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind. Luke 10:27 (KJV). Why would God give us reason, and order us to use it, if by it we couldn't know anything real about Him or His world? Faith and reason aren't things that operate like booster stages on rockets, with reason burning "just so long" and then dropping away as faith fires up to take us to our destination. Reason and faith are like two blast nozzles on the same stage of the rocket, each contributing its unique load of thrust as the whole hurtles along the course. We'll stop having faith in Heaven, but we'll keep on burning an exhaustible load of reason, observation, and revelation.
For example, if I say "God exists," I can back my words up with a certain amount of logic, and I can appeal to the authority of Scripture, but I can't actually produce evidence to convince a determined atheist.
Yes indeed -- that's the difference between thinking of the Catholic faith as a description of reality and thinking of it as a mutual truth-commitment to a set of statements we believe but can't really prove. If the Catholic faith actually describes reality, then whether our determined atheist is so blinded by his passions that he won't accept the teleological and causal arguments for God's existence has nothing to do with whether those arguments (which depend on scientifically-demonstrable facts, by the way) are true. It just means our atheist is, to use St. Paul's phrase "without excuse," no matter how much he keeps insisting that he actually has an excuse. But if the statement "God exists" is a communal truth-commitment that may correspond to a reality we can't prove, then we really do need our atheist to agree in order for the statement to be a meaningful connection between him and us. If we admit that our statements about what we believe can't have a meaningful connection with people who reject them, isn't that the same thing as admitting our faith can't be true until everyone approves of it?
What we call "the truths of our faith," then, are statements about reality as we believe it to be, on the authority of the community and tradition to which we have given our allegiance.
I think that when you locate all religious certainty in the authority of a community, what you call "truths of our faith" becomes the heresy of Traditionalism: According to traditionalism, human reason is of itself radically unable to know with certainty any truth or, at least, the fundamental truths of the metaphysical, moral, and religious order. Hence our first act of knowledge must be an act of faith, based on the authority of revelation. This revelation is transmitted to us through society, and its truth is guaranteed by tradition. . . See, e.g., Catholic Encyclopedia, Traditionalism, available here. The problem with Traditionalism, as the Catholic Encyclopedia points out, is that in order for an authority to actually be an authority, it has to be competent, legitimate, and valid. Otherwise it's no more of an "authority" than my puppy, Auggie. I don't believe Auggie when he insists on a divine right to two sausage treats if he comes when called. Why? Because he's not a competent, legitimate, and valid source of information about what his rights are. (If he were, then I'd also be sitting on the floor while he watched TV on the couch). If, as you're say, authority and tradition are our only source of truth, then how can we know that the Church is a valid, competent and legitimate authority about what tradition is or should be? Unless we say that the Church's identity can be known by observation and reason, as well as grace, and that the knowledge conferred thereby is true knowledge of reality, we have only two possible answers.
The first answer is that the Church is a competent, valid, and legitimate religious authority because she says so. But John Ankerberg and Bob Jones also exercise religious authority and they also say that the Catholic Church's claim to authority is a fraud. So the first answer is not really much of an answer at all: The only way to identify John Paul II, and not Bob Jones, as a valid religious authority is to use some sort of "supra-authority" that can judge between them, and the same problems would still attend the task of identifying that "supra authority" as well. (This gives an apparent edge to people like John Ankerberg and Bob Jones, who claim that they have no authority, they're just telling you what God says in the Bible. That's an unintended sleight-of-hand on their part, since they really do believe that their teaching comes straight from Scripture without any human involvement. But McLuhan was right -- the medium is the message -- and so no one notices that Protestant confessions contradict each other on all kinds of vital matters because no one tries to join eight Protestant churches simultaneously).
The second possible answer is that the Catholic Church is a "religious authority" for some reason that doesn't involve observeable reality. In other words, we could just say that the Church is a religious authority because we've decided she should be. Sister suggests as much when she locates the Church's authority in our "allegiance" rather than in the structure of the universe. Locating the origin of authority (as distinct from the means of exercising authority) in popular allegiance is called positivism. The American legal establishment's fascination with positivism is what got us Roe v. Wade. No one wanted to obey the old laws which said we can't kill babies, and so no one thought those old laws had an enduring authority to which our personal "allegiance" was actually irrelevant. So Justice Brennan (a Catholic) and six of his Supreme Court brethren made some "statements about reality as we believe it to be" regarding unborn babies not being people, and ten thousand abortion clinics opened their doors "on the authority of the community and tradition to which we have given our allegiance." (Justice Byron White, an Episcopalian, and Justice William Rehnquist, a Lutheran, dissented in Roe). Positivism grounds authority on a democratic consensus ("Crucify him! Crucify him!") or the will of the stronger ("What is truth?"). Positivism is an outward lamb of legal process and civil order that inwardly rages with every dark and terrible lust known to man. Ground authority on "allegiance"? Not if my life depended on it, which actually it might since there's a family story that my great-great grandmother was a Jew.
It sounds like a paradox to modern people, but any authority worthy of the name depends on only one person's assent -- God's. Jesus was pretty direct when He spoke to Pilate about that: "Pilate therefore said to him, ‘You will not speak to me? Do you not know that I have power to release you, and power to crucify you?' Jesus answered him, ‘You would have no power over me unless it had been given you from above . . .'" John 19:10-11 (RSV). For the Catholic Church, John Ankerberg, Bob Jones, or the Third Reich to have real authority, God would have had to confer it on them: "Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God." Romans 13:1 (RSV). Is this a formula for dictatorship? Do we have to obey Hitler, revive prima nocte, or outlaw interracial dating? No, because God grants authority for His purposes, not ours, and we must always "obey God rather than men." Acts 5:29 (RSV). Yes, this opens up a whole can of worms about when to obey human authority and when to obey divine teaching. But it looks like our Lord wanted that can opened: "Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's." Mark 12:17(RSV). That was a kindness, really -- it sure beats the alternative, which is mindlessly worshiping Caesar and ignoring God altogether. I'd rather have that can of worms than have to ground my salvation on the confused marriage of popular consensus and ipse dixit offered by Sister's definition of ecclesiastical authority.
I'm wondering if Sister's way of thinking has anything to do with the phenomenon of young Catholics who go through year upon tedious year of CCD and become Protestants the minute they start getting serious about religion. First off, it's hard to think of God's existence as just a mutual truth statement you accept from a community you like a lot while simultaneously believing He is strong, terrible, and wonderful enough to make immutable laws that dictate the terms of your own happiness. It would be much easier to think that He's an easygoing sort who's more eager for your approval of His marginalized and unverifiable set of "faith statements." It would therefore, be much easier to sink into worldly chaos and spiritual misery that is far more terrible, and far more real in experience, than all those "faith statements" which might or might not have been true in the first place. Imagine the grateful shock which such a mis-educated Catholic must experience when a Protestant enters his personal abyss of suffering and insists (a) that the Bible is really, actually true; (b) because it's really, actually, written by God Himself; and (c) there is a way to be really and truly happy which involves rejecting everything the Catholic Church teaches. It would be pretty hard for our imaginary Catholic not to accept that without reservation -- and, come to think of it, why shouldn't he accept it? It's not as though Sister's Catholicism is offering something more likely to bring him happiness, or bring him closer to the truth.
We human beings have an ingrained habit of putting our way of seeing reality into words, including religious words, that bind us together and that can be handed on from one generation to the next. As our perception of reality deepens with our experience of life, the words may take on a richer and more subtle reality, which we may express in additional statements.
This whopper, like the one right before it, shows us how Sister's confusing the process of belief with the truth of a belief results in an approach to religion that is entirely subjective, even solipsistic. Of course it's true that human beings often address themselves to observable facts which provide motives of credibility, good reasons for believing something which can finally be accepted by the supernatural grace of faith. So Aristotle looked at the universe and came to the true conclusion that God exists. But he didn't come to the conclusion that this God is a Triune God who became man and died for the salvation of mankind, because that takes (a) revelation, which he didn't have, and (b) supernatural faith, which he wasn't granted. That process of reasoning and response to grace and revelation is what all human beings go through in order to believe that Jesus as God, that the Catholic Church is His Church, that His mother was immaculately conceived, and so on. But collapsing a description about whether, or how, the Catholic faith is true into a description of the human process of knowing and believing the Catholic faith has the Church making up a plastic God who's not really worth knowing. If God is really who the Church says He is, then the reality He created can't become "richer and more subtle." God created the solar system, for example, just as He created it. His act of creation doesn't become "richer and more subtle" just because Bellarmine's happened to read Galileo's Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief Systems of the World. If God is who the Church says He is, then He doesn't develop, becoming richer and more subtle as the generations pass. What can and does develop is the richness and subtlety of our understanding of God and the reality He's actually created.
That's an important difference. It's the difference between God as a subject and God as an object, between a God we invent and a God we can marry. If men are looking for salvation, then they don't want give allegiance to truth-statements -- they want to find and know the truth Himself. They don't want communal fellowship -- they want saving admission into a heavenly company. They don't want ideas which match their opinions about reality -- they want the real indwelling of an actual divinity. Such men may very well get truth, salvation, and divine indwelling by means of their journeying, communities, and faith statements. But to tell such men that there's no difference between the means and the end is to cripple them, or incline them to leave the Catholic Church. The Catholic Church has nothing to offer men who seek a horizontal existence of progressive erudition and comfortable fellowship. She can only feed men who want God Himself. Suggesting otherwise either encourages men to become unworthy of themselves, or to believe that the Church is unworthy of their time.
For example, believers in the first Christian centuries grappled with ways to express their understanding of Jesus Christ because their biblically based beliefs were questioned by new believers whose way of thinking was set out in the categories of Greek philosophy rather than the categories of biblical story theology. One result of centuries of such grappling is the Nicene Creed . . .
Now I think this is very odd indeed. Sister started off with defining faith in a way that based virtually every truth -- from the color of the sky to the existence of God -- on the authority of a community. One would, therefore, anticipate Sister's view of these controversies as the early Christians' involvement with their community's authority when new believers began questioning the community's beliefs. But Sister doesn't say that. Instead, she veers off in another direction, telling us that the real struggle had to do with the early Christians' "biblically-based beliefs." How is it that our Catholic beliefs are based on the authority of a human community, but the early Christians' beliefs were based on something else, namely the Bible? Maybe the Protestants and the skeptics have their finger on the answer when they say the Catholic Church abandoned the Bible's simple perspicacity for the "traditions of men" which, as Sister's already told us, are just statements that the Catholic Church orders us to believe without any proof whatsoever. Have we stopped believing in the Bible, then? If we have, that's yet another reason to reject the Church in favor of something, um, more definite, like the breath of the Holy Spirit in Scripture.
It might come as a shock to Sister that what her readership would call "biblically-based beliefs" -- beliefs held in tandem with a number of writings bound together in a single book whose divine authorship isn't questioned -- were unknown to these "early Christians." They had lots of writings, of course. They had the Old Testament, the Gospel of Luke, St. Paul's letters to the Corinthians, the Shepherd of Hermas, the Didache, the Protovangelium of James . . . . . There were lots of holy books circulating around the Mediterranean world during the first three centuries of Christian history. Some of them, like the Shepherd of Hermas and the Protovangelium, were read in Church just like the Gospels. Others, like the two alleged Gospels of Thomas, the Death of Pilate, and the Dance of Jesus, weren't so popular, although they also had their proponents among "early Christians." The earliest list of "biblical" books is the Muratorian Canon which dates from about 170 A.D. It includes the Gospels, of course, but leaves out 1 & 2 Peter, the letter of James, and Paul's letter to the Hebrews. It also says there is an ongoing argument about whether the Apocalypse of St. John is Scripture. Eusebius, a bishop who lived about the time of Nicea, gives his own account of the "biblical" books which are, or are not, regarded as "biblical." He lists the Gospels and tells us that opinion is divided on whether the "so-called epistle of James and that of Jude, also the second epistle of Peter, and those that are called the second and third of John, whether they belong to the evangelist or to another person of the same name," are Scripture. He lists the Apocalypse of St. John as a disputed book, saying the list of Scriptural books should include "if it really seem[s] proper, the Apocalypse of John" but that "among the rejected writings must be reckoned . . . as I said, the Apocalypse of John, if it seem proper, which some, as I said, reject, but which others class with the accepted books." Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History, Book III, Chapter 25.
No bishop arrived at Nicea carrying a King James Version or New American Bible under his arm. That's why the bishop's didn't claim the Church's authority rested on "the Bible." In the Creed they wrote for all Christians they said that the Church of Jesus Christ is "one, holy, catholic, and apostolic" -- "biblically-based" didn't even make the list. How could it, when parts of what we know as the Bible were rejected by some and accepted by others? The "early Christians," like today's Catholics, had something called Holy Tradition and Apostolic Succession:
In order that the full and living Gospel might always be preserved in the Church the apostles left bishops as their successors. They gave them their own position of teaching authority. Indeed, the apostolic preaching, which is expressed in a special way in the inspired books, was to be preserved in a continuous line of succession until the end of time. This living transmission, accomplished in the Holy Spirit, is called Tradition, since it is distinct from Sacred Scripture, though closely connected to it. Through Tradition . . . Sacred Scripture is the speech of God as it is put down in writing under the breath of the Holy Spirit." "And [Holy] Tradition transmits in its entirety the Word of God which has been entrusted to the apostles by Christ the Lord and the Holy Spirit. It transmits it to the successors of the apostles so that, enlightened by the Spirit of truth, they may faithfully preserve, expound and spread it abroad by their preaching." As a result the Church, to whom the transmission and interpretation of Revelation is entrusted, "does not derive her certainty about all revealed truths from the holy Scriptures alone. Both Scripture and Tradition must be accepted and honoured with equal sentiments of devotion and reverence. Catechism of the Catholic Church, ¶¶ 78-81.
That's how the bishops at Nicea could teach authoritatively about the Holy Trinity and the divinity of Jesus Christ even though they didn't have what we today would call "biblically-based" Christianity. The dichotomy Sister's created between "bible believing" and "Church believing" doesn't actually exist. God gave us three things to guide our Christian walk -- apostolic succession, holy tradition, and sacred scripture. All three were given, and a faith community based solely on the Bible is only one-third of a church. If we are to think that the Church is a shifting and uncertain guide to the truth, while the private use of Scripture will always point us in the right direction, then let us think so only after the Protestant world has told us in one voice that abortion is actually a sin.
Another question that comes to mind is why Sister begins in first gear with faith being statements "about reality as we believe it to be," and then lead-foots it right past Tradition and Apostolic Succession to finally screech into the theological parking lot of sola scriptura's "biblically-based" theology? Perhaps sola scriptura and the idea of "reality as we believe it to be" might not be two opposed ideas, but only two points on the same line. Certainly they're congenial to the idea that ecclesiastical "authority" is an agreeable fellowship produced by our private judgment ("allegiance") about "reality as we believe it to be." Sacred Tradition and Apostolic Succession, on the other hand, make authority absolute and absolutely necessary. They make authority uncontrollable and undebatable in a way that just doesn't arise from a text's vulnerability to private interpretation and subjective judgment. Once you've heard Pius IX say, "I am Tradition," you'll be forever looking over your shoulder when you want to talk about the changing reality of God.
However, the creed's words condense subtle, sophisticated thought which the words might no longer communicate clearly to 21st-century believers — people no longer immersed in the Greek world.
Well, I'm sure the Orthodox will be surprised to know that they can't understand the Nicene Creed because most of them aren't Greek, and even the ones who are Greek aren't as "immersed" in the Greek world of Athanasius as Athanasius himself was. (Some Greeks even watch television, and hide over-the-counter allergy medicines under their chitons. It's true! I've seen it happen!). Contrary to Sister's suggestion, condensing subtle and sophisticated thoughts into words is rather the point of creeds. It's true that the condensation tends to reduce the fund of ineffability available to the heterodox, but some believe that price is worth paying in order to preserve the faith of the Apostles. And I'm not sure, anyway, about the tacit suggestion that the Nicene Creed ought to be traded in for a new Creed that's more relevant, more sensitive, to the needs of 21st-Century Christians who just can't relate to Aristotle, Plato, St. Athanasius, St. Gregory Nazianzen and St. John Chrysostom. The old "incomprehensible" Creed seems to be holding its own: "We believe in God, the Father Almighty, creator of Heaven and earth, of all that is seen and unseen." Now I admit that the Nicene formula doesn't embrace Sister's subtle and sophisticated thoughts about how we're actually making a statement about ‘God, who is as we believe Him to be, creator of a reality which becomes richer and more subtle . . . .' But then I'm an awful ultramontanist, and so I don't find that to be a serious flaw in the creed for which Catholics have lived, bled, and died for seventeen centuries.
Therefore, resources such as the Catechism of the Catholic Church elaborate on the creed's words in ways that both introduce us to the riches of our tradition and connect with our contemporary understanding.
Are we sure about that? We've already seen that the Nicene Creed doesn't clearly communicate with men who don't live in the Greek world of Athanasius. I'm reliably informed that neither John Paul II nor Christoph Cardinal Schönborn are Greeks; that the Pope was raised in 20th--Century Poland and the Cardinal in 20th-Century Austria; and, that neither of them was seen at the Council at Nicea carrying an New American Bible. So how can we be sure that John Paul II and Cardinal Schönborn understand a single darn thing about the Nicene Creed? The more so, since God and His reality might have changed in the intervening seventeen centuries, becoming more subtle and rich than the God addressed at Nicea. How can we be sure their Catechism is worth reading? Maybe it's just a statement of reality as they believe it to be?
As maturing believers, we use tools like the catechism to expand our understanding of the truths of faith that we share.
I'll bet ten dollars there's a resume on file at ICEL.
In that sense, we both have the truths as we first received them and yet go on discovering facets of these truths all our lives. The popularity of adult religious study programs and publications shows how valuable we find this discovery process.
I can go with this, I suppose, except for all that other stuff about how our maturing faith is actually a manifestation of our ipse dixits about an ever-changing reality. If that's what goes on at religious study programs, then it seems to me the only text worth reading in them is "FRONT TOWARD ENEMY."
The true measure of its success, though, is how faithfully we live what we believe. What we receive as truth shapes how we see reality and therefore how we act.
And that's exactly why I'm writing this, to warn the others.
When Pilate questioned Jesus about truth, Jesus did not answer directly. Certainly the truth Pilate sought, if he was serious, was far too large for a couple of quick sentences uttered at a moment of crisis.
But Jesus had answered Pilate directly: "My kingship is not of this world; if my kingship were of this world, my servants would fight, that I might not be handed over to the Jews; but my kingship is not from the world. . . . You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I have come into the world, to bear witness to the truth. Every one who is of the truth hears my voice." John 18:36-37 (RSV). That sounds pretty complete and direct to me. I suppose Jesus could have used no more breath, time, or energy to say: "Well, you can't tell it by looking at me, but I am a logos which right now matches reality as some believe it to be. But I can also change, becoming richer and subtler so long as you can immerse yourself in the Greek world of Aeschylus and Euripides." But I don't think that answer would have troubled Pilate as much as the one Jesus did give him. (See John 19:8).
As faith deepens, we too come to recognize that "truth" is somehow more than a matter of statements that match and define reality. Reality at its fullest escapes even the best of our words.
As the Godfather said, "Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in!" For just a minute there I thought Sister was going to peck at her shell of solipsistic traditionalism and linguistic skepticism until she broke through to the reality-which-is. Alas, her neck sore, she stops pecking and leaves reality-which-is to a realm of ineffable, uncommunicable mystery that lies just on the other side of the white wall.
Good poets and faithful theologians alike know that their words open doors into the reality we call God and into God's work in the world, but do not capture them.
Yes, but good heresiarchs know that too. Ever read Serguis' letters to Honorius? The imprecision and conventionality of language is an icy bridge, not a drivers' license.
The mystery in which we "live and move and have our being," as St. Paul called it, both shapes and escapes even the most brilliant of the concepts we use to describe truth.
The "mystery" St. Paul refers to is actually a God-Man who has a name. It's Emmanuel, which means "God with us," and not "the mystery which no one can understand at all." Likewise, the Triune God has a name. It is "I AM WHO AM," and not "I AM A STATEMENT THAT MATCHES REALITY AS YOU BELIEVE IT TO BE." When you swaddle religious truth up in literary deconstructionism, or literary constructionism, or whatever kind of structionism is popular in the faculty lounge this year, you inevitably reduce God from the aspect of a Person to the aspect of a Concept. A concept can be played with, hypothesized about, even obeyed and respected -- but only a Person can be lived for, loved, and died for. "No one, I say, will die for his own calculations; he dies for realities. This is why a literary religion is so little to be depended upon; it looks well in fair weather, but its doctrines are opinions, and, when called to suffer for them, it slips them between its folios, or burns them at its hearth." John Cardinal Newman, Secular Knowledge not a Principal of Action.
The path into the heart of mystery passes through the imagination, that all-important human faculty for putting the world together in a coherent whole; mind, heart and soul all have room to breathe in the facets of what we might call "imaginative truth."
"Room to breathe in facets" -- make that twenty dollars. The human ability to imagine is one of the greatest potential obstacles to true faith. Remember that antiquated doctrine called the Fall? I won't repeat Frank Sheed's discussion of imaginary obstacles to belief in his wonderful Theology and Sanity, but I'd urge anyone who hasn't read it to do so. "Imagination" and "truth" don't go hand in hand; imagination can serve truth, but equalizing the two and coming up with a special kind of truth ("imaginative truth") is like inventing a scanner-refrigerator-cuisinart -- it may do some things some of the time, but will do none of them very well.
"Imaginative" does not mean "imaginary."
How can you tell the difference? Maybe you're just imagining things as you believe them to be? Or perhaps you're just believing things as you imagine them to be? Maybe Harvey's actually ghost-writing your column?
It is that dimension of genuine truth to which we gain access not only by conceptual words but also by the biblical poetry of speech and silence, statement and song, bread and wine, oil and water, gestures of prayer and peace, postures of proclamation and adoration that make up our liturgical worship.
The only real problem I have with this is that it doesn't, well, mean anything. What is "genuine truth" for Sister except "statements about reality as we believe it to be," but which we "can't prove" and which can only be accepted "on the authority of the community and tradition" to which we have, for whatever reason, "given our allegiance."? Gestures, postures, talking, singing, oil, bread, wine, water, whatever. They're just statements of the same sort, and even the very "real reality" to which they might point (if, of course, we choose to accept their directive power on the authority of a community we like very much and pay no attention to the fact that we can't understand them because they were all part of the "Greek world" inhabited by Homer) is a mysterious nimbus of ineffability that escapes even "the most brilliant of the concepts we use to describe truth." If this is religion, then give me science, neo-fascism, Star Trek fandom -- anything that more closely resembles a world where truths are supposed to be true no matter what anyone happens to think about them.
Ultimately, Jesus did answer Pilate indirectly. Jesus, God's invincible love for all humanity — enfleshed among us — redefined all reality by his life, death and resurrection. He himself, he said, is the Truth — the truth of God and the truth of humanity undistorted by sin.
Well now, are we sure about that? "Jesus," "God," "death," "resurrection," "sin" and so forth are just unproveable statements about things "as we believe them to be," that we accept only as a result of our allegiance to a human community but which can change their meaning and become somehow richer and subtler in their ability show us that whatever we think we believe is in essence an unknowable, ineffable, inexplicable quiddity. You know, the interesting thing about mystics, the real ones like St. Catherine or Ann Catherine Emmerich, is how vivid their writings are. You don't read Sister Faustina saying "I had, well something to do with a sort-of intuition about someone who is, well, sort of wonderful" and you don't read Julian of Norwich saying "I saw a kind of imagining about an indescribable thing and it escaped me utterly. I'm so happy!" Contact with God is supposed to enlighten men, not introduce them into a permanent state of blessed sensory-deprivation that makes all talk about truth into nonsensical "allegiance-babble."
As we grow in our relationship with God in Christ through study, through sacraments and prayer, through a life patterned on the Gospel, we grow in our knowledge of this living Truth, who is a person.
Same point about saying that the "living Truth is a person." It's just a statement, you know, which can change and leave behind the antiquated paradigms of Greek philosophy . . . .
This Truth grounds all other expressions of the truth, whether conceptual or imaginative.
That Truth being the ineffable mystery of unknowable somethingness that can't be proved but which we make statements about on the authority of the church as we like it right now, and great will be the fall of it. See Matthew 7:27.
We will never fully possess this Truth, though.
Not so. "The life of the blessed [in Heaven] consists in the full and perfect possession of the fruits of the redemption accomplished by Christ." Catechism of the Catholic Church ¶ 1026. "Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; that they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me." John 17:20-23. "This perfect life with the Most Holy Trinity - this communion of life and love with the Trinity, with the Virgin Mary, the angels and all the blessed - is called "heaven." Heaven is the ultimate end and fulfillment of the deepest human longings, the state of supreme, definitive happiness. To live in heaven is "to be with Christ." The elect live "in Christ," but they retain, or rather find, their true identity, their own name. For life is to be with Christ; where Christ is, there is life, there is the kingdom." Catechism of the Catholic Church, ¶¶ 1024-25.
It would be fine and right for Sister to have said that we can't know all of God as He knows Himself, but that's not what she's saying, because "that they may be one, even as we are one," is just a statement that matches reality as we believe it to be on the authority of the community we like right now. For her, truth is an ineffable unknowable "somethingness" that escapes our understanding because we have this bad language habit and Heaven doesn't fully resemble either Mount Olympus or Mount Athos. Try feeding that into Pascal's Wager and see what looks like the more attractive decision.
On the contrary, our greatest hope is that this Truth will one day fully possess us.
But if we can't know the Truth, then how will we know we're possessed by it? Thank God I wasn't raised a Catholic. If I'd had this stuff spooned into me through thirteen years of parochial school and CCD classes, I'd either be thumping a Bible or tapping on a syringe. Pilate got the straight stuff from Jesus and still asked "What is truth." Is anyone who gets taught this pablum going to be less likely to ask the same question? Or have the same reaction as Pilate? I doubt it.
Transmitted by SecretAgentMan 12:08 Hours [+]
Thursday, July 24, 2003
Edification and Kneeling, Part III (The Conclusion)
Herewith the concluding installment on "Edification and Kneeling." It also contains the footnotes to the first two installments. I wanted to be sure I footnoted everything, so that guys like BF from Texas can prolong their enjoyment by perusing the linked sources . . . .
The Politics of Kneeling
All individual decisions have a political dimension, because no individual decision leaves the community untouched. Most of my "legal" arguments were addressed in my first post on this issue, and in subsequent correspondence with "Joe" and others. In the preceding part of this "essay" I've tried to explain the root of those legal arguments, the reasons for the continuing legitimacy of kneeling as preserved by the CDWDS. I have had hard words for them, and for the Bishops, but that is largely because I believe the Catholic life is a strong life which can stand hard words when they are warranted. (Certainly my Bishop and his Diocesan Newspaper believe this!) But the above is necessary, I think, to explain that an argument for continued kneeling under GIRM §160(2) & §43 is not a mere lawyerly quibble that indulges a taste for anachronism, or a shallow contrarianism masquerading as conservatism. Authentic conservatism does not believe so much in the treasures of the past as it does the possibility of treasure, and that conviction has sadly abandoned the authors and advocates of the GIRM's American adaptations. Kneeling and private prayer are not penitential customs or invitations to liturgical anarchy. They are holy customs, sacred ways, for they are intimately and communally Christological. One would rest easier under the new adaptations if one knew this was understood, and cherished, but gladly abandoned for a greater way to achieve the same goodness. (Cf. Matthew 19:21-22). Instead, one sees only a pungent campaign which combines the spiteful ahistoricism of Baptists with the glib badgering of animal-rights activists. It is a frightening thing to behold. But the failures of the community don't relieve the proponents of kneeling from answering some hard questions about their place in that community. I should like to try answering those questions, as raised by Shawn, in this part of my essay.
Lex orandi, lex credendi, "what is prayed is what is believed." Proponents of kneeling have a problem which, regrettably, is analogous to a feature of the debate between Traditional proponents of the Mass of St. Pius V and the Novus Ordo. It is the idea that one custom or practice is inherently more reverent than its alternative, an idea which inevitably suggests that those who lack the "right" custom are less reverent themselves. Witness my exchange with Shawn, via my email and his blogged reply:
SecretAgentMan: I am put in mind of what Julia told Winston in 1984 -- so long as you keep the little rules, you can break all the big ones. That seems to be the Diocesan Paper's editorial priority as well -- who cares if you put your fourteen-year-old daugher on the pill, so long as you keep her from kneeling to receive communion! And isn't it doubly-odd to imagine a fourteen-year-old girl who kneels to receive communion being on the pill to avoid getting pregnant by her fifteen-year-old boyfriends?
I was wrong, of course, and Shawn is right. If liturgical custom could cure sin, then grace is no more grace. But at the risk of seeming vain, there is a sense (not expressed in the exchange above) in which I may be right and Shawn may miss the mark. If Shawn were to match my intemperate outburst with his own and say that the merits of the new custom are irrelevant to the good life, then he would be saying that liturgy itself is meaningless. Even the sinner's hypocrisy is a tribute to virtue, to the permeability of our nature to custom, and to custom's ability to point us back to our true home. I would, in that case, submit that a pregnant teenaged girl who kneels before her God in the Eucharist both receives and gives a sign that is hidden from a halter-topped single girl who carries her unborn child with a bold confidence, escorted by singing acolytes, to claim "her sacrament." We learn what we are taught, and we are more frequently (and, usually, better) taught by customs than by dogmas. Within a mutual commitment to objective truth and enduring human reality, is there a way to avoid claiming superiority in reverence, preeminence in faith, upon "mere" differences in custom?
The answer, I believe, is "not always, but sometimes," and the difference is told less by debates about the merits of a particular custom than by a thorough understanding of the limits of human knowledge. The idea that custom is a wise and powerful teacher itself rests on the proposition that we must live realities which we do not explicitly or fully know. Custom is a form of government, and Washington's observation applies: It is like fire, a dangerous servant and a terrible master. Societies which are exclusively dominated by custom are stagnant and hostile to individual maturity, but societies which have no folkways are chaotic and characterized by extreme alienation. If customs were machines we would always know what to do with them, when to use them, what parts to change or when to paint them a different color. But customs are living things which have their root in a twilight, dreamy realm where rationality dozes under the ever-watchful gaze of truth. There are, of course, customs which are knowably, objectively wrong because they contravene such truth as can be known outside the ineffable mystery. Yet their number is, I think, far smaller than we imagine because our own culture induces us to make arguments about the "fittingness" of a custom in objective terms which are ultimately inappropriate. Many "Traditionalist" arguments about the Novus Ordo, with their unbearably strained attempts to go from culture into theology, fall into this category.
I don't believe I've followed my Traditionalist cousins in "Edification and Kneeling" because, first, I'm writing an adversarial brief for the preservation of what is primarily a cultural element in the liturgy. Assertive statements and critiques are part of that method, not necessarily a sign that culture is being used interchangeably with theology. Second, I have never made an argument that men are dogmatically (or even theologically) required to kneel to receive communion, or during the reception of others' communion. I hope I have fairly demonstrated that the USCC's liturgical/theological "authoritativeness" on this issue is purely de jure and is not to be confused with any significant degree of knowledge or cultural competence. But I would gladly submit all of us to the judgment of St. John Chrysostom, a Catholic who both lived and understood the Mass. The USCC can take great comfort in Chrysostom's Divine Liturgy, and the worshipful respect given to it by the faithful throughout millenia, because it clearly rules against granting a dogmatic place to kneeling in any part of the Mass. But however helpful Chrysostom's example may be, it cannot be the USCC's final and only answer to our questions unless the USCC is willing to commit the same fault which might (wrongly, I hope) be alleged against my own arguments, namely elevating culture into dogma.
If culture isn't identical to theology, then we shouldn't anchor our discussion solely to the binary presuppositions of theological discourse. That might be the largest flaw in the USCC's position, which discusses kneeling as though its place were mathematically dictated by dogmatic principles of eucharistic and ecclesiastical theology and as though any custom worthy of the name can be created by institutional decrees on behalf of theories invented by liturgical "working groups." Customs, after all, both express and experience truths and, therefore, customs represent something besides themselves. Perhaps we could give a limited place to Plato's criticism of art, laying its pejorative conclusions to one side while adopting its tolerance of at least some representational license. No column which looks straight can really be straight all the way to the top; any culture will have aspects that appear "inauthentic" or even "dangerous" to those who are unaware of the other cultural priorities and conventions which successfully keep oddity from becoming sacrilege. Seen in this aspect, our judgment of customs and cultures should, within a broad but discernable range of practice, become less confident, less dogmatic. The resulting openness was one of the central themes of Sacrosanctum Concilium itself, which is why my Bishop's invocation of the decree's provisions about accepting culture sounds so hollow in defense of his attempt to create one out of whole cloth. (But then, this is the United States, where we haven't had anything resembling a culture for a hundred years or more, so perhaps I can find some sympathy for his lese majeste).
This need not lead us to believe that all culture is equally wonderful and beneficent unless it can be condemned with quotations from Ott. Even allowing for a tolerable range of practice, the refusal to dogmatize culture exposes culture to being objectively praised, worried over, or criticized. That process is, after all, one of the ways in which culture changes. I do indeed submit that people who kneel for communion and engage in private prayer after receiving the Lord experience at least an opportunity for an awareness of the eucharistic mystery than those who don't. Conversely, there would be little point in the new GIRM adaptations unless they were thought of in a similar superior fashion. The difference is that neither my position nor my views of culture allow me to dogmatize my opinions into the basis for judgments about the spiritual lives of Catholics who practice another (admittedly established) culture. That is why Shawn so rightly took me to task for my outburst about teenaged girls who kneel to receive communion. It is also why I require that the same judgment be uttered against Bishops who issue ipso facto pronouncements of heresy and schism against kneeling Catholics. (If I am wrong to do a thing, I claim the criminal's privilege and insist that everyone else who does it be wrong themselves). We know enough to say that neither kneeling nor standing to receive the Eucharist is objectively disordered and an insufficient witness to eucharistic truth. We may know enough to say that one is better than another, or at least we may know enough to express our opinions with that degree of certainty which nonetheless accepts dispute and reproof. But we don't know enough to say that one custom makes a shipwreck of the faith while the other rides safe in the Barque of Peter. When it comes to certainty about the morality of culture, there are worlds of difference between prima nocte and kneeling in imitation of Christ in Gethsemane.
It is a sign of the uncertainty and instability, I dare say the individualism, of our age that such thoughts might be thought to call the whole idea of culture into question. If I say that culture can be evaluated in a non-binary framework, and that opposite practices can be wholesome alike, then haven't I just explained why culture is a synonym for anarchy? No, because if a habit or practice is to acquire the beneficial status of "culture" which I give, for example, to kneeling it must achieve things which are inconsistent with anarchy. First, it must represent an experience of truth. That fact alone ties it into a necessary relationship with all our experiences of truth and, hence, with truth itself. Second, it must represent an expression of some truth. That fact alone identifies culture with a communal relationship in which individual preference is not sovereign. A man may prefer to retain his shoes upon entering a Japanese home, or to eat his couscous from an individual bowl, but he may not without breaking the bonds of community woven by the culture in which he finds himself. Culture's connection to community and truth commands our deep respect, while its connection to human contingency makes its expression of truth and community vulnerable to criticism and growth. That is not anarchy. It's not neat, bureaucratically-divinized uniformity, but it's not anarchy.
"But," I anticipate the objection, "we need a consistent liturgical culture in the United States." Why? Especially if the "inconsistency" between two parishes, or two dioceses, lies in each following the Mass as Catholics have done for decades, if not centuries. It was once thought that a consistency of culture was a paramount benefit of the Catholic faith, and that where such culture did not exist, Catholicism was absent. Hence Cum data fuerit and its aftermath, and hence Sacrosanctum Concilium and its recognition that authentic Catholicism does not require -- and, depending on the circumstances, may be harmed by -- a uniform liturgical culture. If we must have such a culture, then John Paul II was in error when he wrote: "[I]t is necessary that all the pastors and the other faithful have a new awareness, not only of the lawfulness but also of the richness for the Church of a diversity of charisms, traditions of spirituality and apostolate, which also constitutes the beauty of unity in variety: of that blended "harmony" which the earthly Church raises up to Heaven under the impulse of the Holy Spirit." It is not "advisable," nor is it "preferable." It is necessary. Section 43 of the US-GIRM itself does not insist on that kind of uniformity with respect to "communion processions," or standing after the Agnus Dei, nor does Rome insist on it with respect to kneeling to receive communion under §160(2); I don't see how it can be maintained that diversity on such matters between and within Dioceses is somehow tolerable while diversity between parishes (or between most parishes and one parish) is somehow disastrous.
Still, if culture is a shared experience and expression, there is some level at which it must be uniformly followed. I think that, in this case, that level is the parish, and I agree with Shawn that "[T]o deliberately go against the manner whereby the particular church administers the sacrament viz standing or kneeling is a sign of hidden pride and manifested spiritual immaturity." I would add "likely" before "sign," simply because some people are dull enough, or scrupulous enough, to contravene a custom for other reasons. Why the parish? Because it is the lowest level at which one has a visible locus of Christ's authority in the person of the priest. Catholics can't have communities without priests, not real ones, anyhow. It's in our DNA, if you will, and so the parish is the natural ne plus ultra of John Paul's "blended ‘harmony' which the earthly Church raises up to Heaven under the impulse of the Holy Spirit." All this, I think, is recognized implicitly by the CDWDS' refusal to allow the Bishops to enforce their decrees on the individual level of a parishioner who receives communion.
 Bishops' Committee on the Liturgy Bulletin, "Postures and Gestures at Mass." The full text can be found here. (hereafter "Postures and Gestures at Mass").
 General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM) § 83. The full text can be found here.
 Tertullian, On Prayer, Chapter XXIII. The text can be found here.
 Eusebius, History of the Church, Book V, Chapter V. The text can be found here..
 Council of Nicea, Canon XX The text may be found here.
 Adrian Fortescue, The Mass: A Study of the Roman Liturgy, p. 375 (Albany: Preserving Christian Publications, 1999)
 Fortescue, The Mass, pp. 93-97.
 Divine Liturgy of the Holy Apostle and Evangelist Mark. The text can be found here.
 Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom (emphasis supplied). The entire text can be found here.
 See, e.g, Catholic Encyclopedia, Genuflexion (New York: Knights of Columbus, 1913). The full text can be found here.
 Psalm 2:10-12 (KJV).
 "Postures and Gestures at Mass."
 Job 38:3-7 (KJV)
 Catholic Encyclopedia, "Humility." (New York: Knights of Columbus, 1913). The on-line version of the article can be found here.
 See, e.g., Summa II(II) art. 161, q. 4.
 Summa II(II) a. 162 qq. 6-7.
 Psalm 8:3-9 (KJV)
 Deitrich von Hildebrand, Transformation in Christ
 Nicholas Cardinal Wiseman, Pastoral Letter, 1849, quoted in Stang, Pastoral Theology, p. 127 (New York: Benzinger Brothers, 1897).
 Reproductions may be found in Weitzmann, The Icon, Plates 24 & 28 (New York: George Braziller, 1978).
 See Catholic Encyclopedia, Genuflexion.
 Bertrand de Jouvenel, Sovereignty (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1984).
 "Postures and Gestures at Mass" (emphasis supplied).
 Canon XIX, Council of Orange. It may be found in Denzinger, or on line here. The interpolations are mine, but I believe they accurately convey the Council's points. For comparison, see the Catechism 1996-2005.
 "Postures and Gestures at Mass."
 Pope Pius XII, Mediator Dei ¶¶ 74, 81, 99 & 118 (1947). The full text can be found here.
 "Postures and Gestures at Mass."
 Canons of the Council of Orange, loc cit.
 "Postures and Gestures at Mass."
 John Paul II, Redemptor Hominis, § 20 (1979) The full text can be found here.
 Pope Paul VI, Apostolic Constitution Paenitemini (1966). The full text can be found here.
 "Postures and Gestures at Mass."
 Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments, Protocol #1322/02/L, 1 July 2002. The text may be found here.
 USCC, Bishops' Committee on the Liturgy Handout, More about GIRM, printed in The Prairie Catholic of the Diocese of New Ulm, Minnesota. The solicismic word "my" was omitted between "individual act of" and "faith and piety," but the meaning remains unchanged. The text can be found here.
 See, e.g. Catholic Encyclopedia, "Individualism," (New York: Knights of Columbus, 1913). The full text can be found here.
 Catholic Bishops Deal with New Phenomenon: An Older America. The text can be found here.
 Life Issues Forum "Living the Real Thing" by Theresa Notare. The text can be found here.
 "Empowered by the Spirit: Campus Ministry Faces the Future" A Pastoral Letter on Campus Ministry Issued by the National Conference of Catholic Bishops November 15, 1985 The text can be found here.
 Life Issues Forum "The Essential Equation" by Theresa Notare. The text can be found here.The text can be found here.
 Light and Shadows: Our Nation 25 Years After Roe v. Wade, A Statement of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops The text can be found here.
 The Continuing Importance of Humanae Vitae by Most Rev. James T. McHugh.The text can be found here.
 This particular statement does not appear to be available on line. I am indebted to Mr. David Curtin of Catholic Insight for the information and the quote. Mr. Curtin's article, Standing Up for Kneeling may be found here.
BCL Newsletter, July 2, 2002. The full text can be found here.
 John Paul II, Veritatis Splendor, ¶¶ 32-33 (1993). The full text can be found here.
 John Paul II, Pastores Dabo Vobis, ¶ 7 (1992). The full text can be found here.
 John Paul II, Id., ¶ 8.
 This, of course, is an allusion to Yeats' Second Coming.
 Pius XII, Mystici Corporis ¶¶ 61-63 (1943). The full text can be found here.
 Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy Sacrosanctum Concilium, ¶ 10 (1963). The full text can be found here.
 Dogmatic Constitution on the Church Lumen Gentium, ¶ 42 (1964). The full text can be found here.
 Decree on the Ministry and Life of Priests Presbyterorum Ordinis, ¶¶ 5-6 (1965). The full text can be found here.
 Jacques Maritain, The Peasant of the Garonne: An Old Layman Questions Himself About the Present Time, pp. 218-19 (New York: Holt, Rienhart & Winston, 1968). Emphases are original.
 Ludwig Ott, Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma (St. Louis: B. Herder Publishers, 1962).
 Had the USCC bothered to actually make a case against the dreaded "privatization of the Mass" through personal prayer, and offered a thoughtful critique of the custom which recognized its fundamental solidarity as to the ends of Catholicism but which also pointed out the custom's unintended shortcomings in the current condition, a civil and familial discourse might have ensued leading to an organic development (or at least a quasi-organic development) of something approaching culture. It chose instead to cultivate its unique liturgical flower in the usual hot-house environment of carefully-selected "lay people," the predictable run of academics and scholars, and liturgically-correct clerics, and then hurl its Eucharistic Anathema from the Sinai of 3211 North 4th Street NE, Washington, DC 20017-1194 against any Catholic who dared kneel before the Golden Calf of "Privatizing Tridentine Spirituality." Only people who have lifetime job security think and act this way, and it's a tragedy of modern life that they're not only the same people who are most likely to indulge in that sort of behavior but also the same people whose effectiveness cannot generally survive the indulgence. That is, in fact, a good one-sentence history of the SSPX from both sides.
 A decree of the Holy See demanding clerical celibacy of eastern Catholics in the United States, issued in 1929 and resulting in the schism of many thousands of Ruthenian Christians in the United States. The circumstances surrounding the decree and schism are complex, and it would be inaccurate to characterize the schsim purely as a revolt against "cultural imperialism" without deeper theological causes. But its inclusion here is not amiss, either -- Cum Data Fuerit began a period of time in which almost anything that was not distinctively Roman in origin (like the iconostasis) was looked at as tantamount to ecclesiastical sedition.
 John Paul II, Ecclesia Dei Adflicta ¶ 5 (1988). The full text is available here.
 This is proven by the fact that I had previously read (and published here) my opinion that Tertullian recorded a majority practice by Christians kneeling at Sunday Mass. I am indebted to Mr. E. Hamilton for pointing out my error, which is fairly common among the unschooled, of confusing "Sabbath / sabbato" when used by Church Fathers with "Sunday." If you read the quotation I provided with "Sabbath" instead of "Saturday" you'll see the inducement to my error. Fortunately, Mr. Hamilton was kind enough to read my blog and provide criticism, which may be found here.
Transmitted by SecretAgentMan 09:31 Hours [+]
Wednesday, July 23, 2003
So how come they don't do this in our churches?
Here in the United States of We Are Church, we get to attend "cutoff masses," "cargo shorts" masses, and "bathroom flipflop masses." But over there, at the Vatican,
it's a total class act.
Transmitted by SecretAgentMan 18:12 Hours [+]
Kneeling & Edification, Continued
This is the second part of a three-part reply to I. Shawn McElhinney at Rerum Novarum about kneeling and its place in the Novus Ordo generally, and under the recent American adaptations to the GIRM (US-GIRM). It deals with kneeling and private prayer during communion and after one has received communion. Much of this is mooted by the CDWDS' recent ruling (see below "I told ya so . . . .") but for what it's worth I'll post it here and conclude tomorrow with some thoughts on culture and kneeling in individual Catholic parish communities.
Kneeling and Private Prayer
Hand and hand with the eradication of kneeling is a campaign against private prayer at Mass. Opining that before the Second Vatican Council there was "little sense of liturgical prayer" among the faithful, who were supposedly reduced to ineffectually trying to follow the Mass"with a prayer book containing a translation of the Latin . . . or listen[ing] to a choir," he has determined to eradicate the "privatization of holy Communion" in order to "highlight the more communitarian character" of receiving the Lord. He is gratified that the Second Vatican Council instituted the communion hymn, because "folks are less likely to retreat into private prayer upon returning to their place after receiving holy Communion," but is still disturbed that "for the most part, the time after the reception of Communion has remained a period of private prayer." Accordingly, he commands that there be no private prayer after communion except during the vague, ever-variable, and awkward "period of silence" discussed in my correspondence with "Joe." (He also says, true to my speculation about the USCC's theorizing, that we may not kneel during that period because sitting is the proper posture for reflecting on Jesus' eucharistic glory). In order to obliterate private prayer immediately after Communion, our Bishop suggests the following communion procession:
In most parishes, people approach a Communion minister starting with the front pews and proceeding to the front of the Church, but there is no procession as such. To emphasize the procession aspect, consideration might be given to a different approach. A cross bearer and two candle bearers (acolytes) might proceed from the altar to the back of the Church as the priest celebrant receives Communion. The cross bearer and acolytes then might lead initial communicants to Eucharistic ministers stationed in the front of the Church. This means that those in the rear of the Church would receive first and those in the front last.
Everyone, of course, is to remain standing and singing until the last person communes. The USCC, of course, heartily endorses this crusade against private prayer and the alternative focus on the corporate conception of Christ's body to be expressed in the communion procession:
For some, however, the singing of this hymn is perceived as an intrusion on their own prayer, their private thanksgiving after Communion. In fact, however, this hymn is prayer, the corporate thanksgiving prayer . . . Over and over again the . . . [GIRM instructions] emphasize this fundamental concept of the unity of the baptized, stressing that when we . . . participate in the Eucharistic celebration we come, not as individuals, but as united members of Christ's body . . .[The GIRM] says of the Communion Song that its function is to express outwardly . . . union . . . unity . . . and to highlight the "communitarian" character of the Communion Procession. . . . It is difficult for some of us to embrace this emphasis on Mass [sic] as the action of a community rather than an individual act of [ ] faith and piety, but it is important that we make every effort to do so. . . . We are the Body of Christ, moving forward to receive the Christ who makes us one with himself and with one another. Our procession should move with dignity; our bearing should be that of those who know they have been redeemed by Christ and are coming to receive their God!". . . If you are the body and members of Christ, then it is your sacrament that is placed on the table of the Lord; it is your sacrament that you receive.
I venture to say that the Bishops are so strident on these points because they see them as an effective way to combat individualism, the glorification of a free subjectivism in all aspects of life.
The USCC finds "individualism," at the root of our society's evils. According to USCC publications, individualism promotes our society's disrespect and neglect of the aged;  the decline in stable family life and the rise of sexual immorality and cohabitation; the denial of the truth of sin and redemption in favor of false psychological theories of personalism, and;  serves as a growth medium for the Culture of Death through the subjectivization of individual ethics that devalues other human beings. "Unlimited individualism" has undermined government's responsibility to protect life" causing violence against all persons, born and unborn, spread through our society like a cancer."  Individualism thwarts the spread of the Gospel in Western society, because one cannot achieve a solid faith and disciplined Christian in a society "that is premised on individualism, sexual permissiveness, lack of personal responsibility for one's actions, material comfort and hedonism. Such is the prevailing atmosphere of the Western world." A supposed identity of moral individualism and kneeling at communion appears in episcopal publications. In 1991 the National Bulletin on Liturgy, a publication by the Canadian Bishops, claimed that kneeling is inappropriate at Mass because it is "an act of adoration and individual piety," whereas "the Eucharistic Prayer is the action of the Church offering the prayer and sacrifice of praise to God."  In its own recent pronouncements on the issue, the United States' Bishops' Committee on Liturgy says that kneeling gives the "appearance of individualism" in addition to the appearance of "division" caused by allegedly disobeying the Church's instructions on the liturgy. Concerns over "individualism" are well placed, and have been since Pope Leo XIII inveighed against it during the springtime of the modern industrialized world. But is it really that simple? Are modern men to be healed by a paradigm that says they may not go to meet God as individuals, but only as part of a uniformly-regimented whole?
The scourge of individualism is not produced merely by an individual's awareness of himself, nor by the tension between that awareness and his membership in a community. In Veritatis Splendor, the Holy Father diagnoses individualism, finding in it a disordered freedom that simultaneously promises the empowerment of the individual's conscience and encourages him to indulge in a profound skepticism about, and eventual denial of, a universe of truth in which he can have a meaningful place. In his Apostolic Exhortation Pastores Debo Vobis, the Holy Father describes the sad and impoverished dimensions of an individualist's life:
We should take note also of a desperate defense of personal subjectivity which tends to close it off in individualism, rendering it incapable of true human relationships. As a result, many -- especially children and young people -- seek to compensate for this loneliness with substitutes of various kinds, in more or less acute forms of hedonism or flight from responsibility. Prisoners of the fleeting moment, they seek to "consume" the strongest and most gratifying individual experiences at the level of immediate emotions and sensations, inevitably finding themselves indifferent and "paralyzed" as it were when they come face to face with the summons to embark upon a life project which includes a spiritual and religious dimension and a commitment to solidarity.
Individualism isn't the fact of individuality. It is a "distorted sense of freedom. . . Instead of being understood as obedience to objective and universal truth, freedom is lived out as a blind acquiescence to instinctive forces and to an individual's will to power. Individualism naturally erodes internal consent to ethical principles" and results widespread indifference and . . . a life which, even in its more significant moments and more decisive choices . . . lived as if God did not exist. In other words, individualism is a false understanding of true individuality, a fraudulent sense of sufficiency that makes men deaf to the falconer, creating an ever-widening gyre of anarchy wherein the best are unsure of truth and the worst give themselves up to their own lusts.
Individualism is not an exterior illness, a visible separation from a whole. It is a spiritual affliction, an inward, invisible denial of a real moral universe. Supporters of abortion rights and the Culture of Death are thoroughly suffused with individualism, but this does not keep them from engaging in "communal" events like rallies, clubs and associations, etc., etc. The men and women who try to compensate for the loneliness of their individualism are slaves to intellectual and physical fashions, the ever-changing yet ever-same priorities of a consumptive and hedonistic society. They are constantly changing their "lifestyles" in response to the merest variation in the cultural winds which blow about them. This mass of activity is also rife with individualism, even though it is played out in a communal environment that stresses conformity to style, adherence to popular idiom, with a rigor that might be envied by an abbot. In the proper sense of the term, Nazism was an individualistic movement, lived as "blind acquiescence" to the "instinctive forces" of race and a national "will to power." Its pretense of a scientific foundation, and of "moral" objectivity and order, nonetheless bound its adherents to a life which . . . [was] lived as if God did not exist. Individualism is not mere anarchy, and it may dominate what appears to be a highly-organized and "objective" social movement. Considered strictly, therefore, neither visible signs of community nor visible signs of individuality have much (if anything) to do with the existence or influence of individualism.
The Church has, therefore, never recognized the Manichean antagonism between "community" and "individual" which suffuses the Bishops' horror at "privatizing" the Mass. In Catholicism, the relationship of individual and community is not hostile, but reciprocal:
In a natural body the principle of unity unites the parts in such a manner that each lacks its own individual subsistence; on the contrary, in the Mystical Body [of Christ] the mutual union, though intrinsic, links the members by a bond which leaves to each the complete enjoyment of his own personality Moreover . . . in every physical, living body, all the different members are ultimately destined to the good of the whole alone; while . . . every moral association . . . is . . . directed to the advancement of all in general and of each single member in particular; for they are persons. And thus -- to return to Our theme -- as the Son of the Eternal Father came down from heaven for the salvation of us all, He likewise established the body of the Church and enriched it with the divine Spirit to ensure that immortal souls should attain eternal happiness according to the words of the Apostle: "All things are yours; and you are Christ's: and Christ is God's." For the Church exists both for the good of the faithful and for the glory of God and of Jesus Christ whom He sent.
A Catholic's individuality is not a nail in the flesh of Christ. It is a necessary, constituent part of Christ's Body, the Church, for all the members of that body mutually depend on one another's unique existence: "And the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you. Nay, much more those members of the body, which seem to be more feeble, are necessary. And those members of the body, which we think to be less honourable, upon these we bestow more abundant honour; and our uncomely parts have more abundant comeliness." 1 Cor. 12:21-23 (KJV). The metaphor can be continued to the level of the smallest and most feeble members -- one cell of the eye cannot say to the other "I have no need of thee." It is quite true that this beautiful arrangement is contradicted by a denial of human solidarity through individual subjectivity and separatism. But it is equally contradicted by false conceptions of solidarity in which the entire body tells its members "we are all the same," thus denying the body's real God-tempered dependence on the unique, individual life of each of its members.
This is precisely what the Bishops are unintentionally doing when they foster, both within and without the liturgy, the idea that the Mass has nothing to do with the individual, and everything to do with the collective. Their new GIRM policies are explained in terms which leave no doubt that the individual is inauthentic, the only real experience of Christ is found in uniform participation in a collective identity: "The Mass [is] the action of a community rather than an individual act of [ ] faith and piety . . . We are the Body of Christ, moving forward to receive the Christ who makes us one . . . with one another . . . [w]hen we . . . participate in the Eucharistic celebration we come, not as individuals, but as united members of Christ's body . . . who must not be allowed to "privatize the Mass" by "retreat[ing] . . . into private prayer" upon receiving the Lord's body and blood. Indeed, these explanations leave one unable to understand why even the "period of silence" the Bishops are presently willing to allow us can be thought good, or even tolerable. If "retreat[ing] into private prayer" impermissibly engages in the "privatization of holy Communion" and denies the Mass' true nature as "the action of a community rather than an individual," surely it makes no difference when this baneful intrusion of "individualism" occurs during the Mass. There can be no harmony between the Bishops' condemnation of individualized participation in the Mass and their praise of its collective character, because they have accepted a false opposition of "individual vs. community" as a token for the very real opposition of "individualism vs. solidarity." In essence, they're simplistically attempting to combat "individualism" by ignoring or even erasing the individualized actions which make it possible. That will never work, especially when it's tried within a larger frame that abhors "penitential" activity that might humiliate man's consciousness by forcing him to realize his utter dependence on the "fearful God."
The "active participation" of the faithful sought by the Second Vatican Council was never intended to erect this false antagonism between "privatization" understood as an individual experience of the Eucharist and "the Mass" understood as a sheer collective act which cannot abide private eucharistic encounters with God. To the contrary, the Council's documents reveal that the reciprocal nature of communion and individuality is essential to the Mass, the Church, and the salvation of man:
[T]he liturgy is the summit toward which the activity of the Church is directed; at the same time it is the font from which all her power flows. For the aim and object of apostolic works is that all who are made sons of God by faith and baptism should come together to praise God in the midst of His Church, to take part in the sacrifice, and to eat the Lord's supper.
One is tempted to highlight all the occasions in which words like "individual," "each," and "each one," are used, and likewise the passages which show the impossibility of living the Mass without private, individualized concern and experience. But that would suggest another fictive dichotomy between the individual and the community. What is needed is a thorough understanding that the individual lives embraced by and made part of the Body of Christ must be allowed their "private" dimension so that they may fulfill the "public" manifestation of God With Us.
Perhaps Jacques Maritain put his finger on it in his collection of essays published at the close of the Second Vatican Council:
[Contemplating the Council's decrees on "active participation"] one understands a bit better why the liturgical life is a normally necessary aid for those who set out toward the perfection of charity. Because in the Church, and in an infintely more real sense than in all other ‘societies' worthy of the name, is verified the principle that the common good is a good common to the whole and to the parts; or in other words, the common good flows back finally on to the parts, who are human persons. It is by virtue of the work accomplished in common in the liturgical celebration, and the sanctification that flows back from it to each of those who have truly participated, that the Christians who endeavor to advance toward sanctity are made better able to move forward. What they have done during the celebration, they have done as members of the whole. What they receive, they receive ultimately as persons. . . .
The Mass must not be "privatized." But that is not to say private prayer after the reception of communion indulges an impermissible subjectification. To the contrary, private prayer after the reception of communion is a necessary means for each Christian to realize both what he has done as a member and what he has thereby received as a person. To be sure, the "communitarian" elements of the Mass are indispensible to its existence at the summit of Catholic life; if we dispensed with them, our worship would lose its connection to the Church and the Body of Christ. But we cannot go to the other extreme; if we condemn individual eucharistic piety as "private" subjectification hostile to the Body of Christ, we make our worship into a simple ceremony. It only remains to allude to my earlier discussion of kneeling, to connect this individual moment with that particularly-expressive posture.
It is a deeply-seated habit in human culture to redress imbalance, even if it is attempted only by another, and countervailing, gout of excess. I believe that the exclusive "communitarian" focus of our Bishops may very well lead to actual individualism, creating uncontainable pressures among the faithful to seek a private, intimate eucharistic unity with Jesus Christ which will erupt in endless sentimental tinkering on a diocesan, parish, or even intra-parish level. The first swell of that pressure is, ironically, present in the USCC's breathless invocation of communal glory that contradictorily invites the body of individuals to claim ownership of the Blessed Sacrament: We are the Body of Christ, moving forward to receive the Christ who makes us one with himself and with one another. Our procession should move with dignity; our bearing should be that of those who know they have been redeemed by Christ and are coming to receive their God!". . . If you are the body and members of Christ, then it is your sacrament that is placed on the table of the Lord; it is your sacrament that you receive. We have already seen Bishop X invent his own fillip, the "communal/communion procession" with candles, altar servers, cross-bearers, and its easy but ambiguous symbolism of making the first go last and the last go first to receive from "eucharistic ministers." Are elderly or infirm people who sit in the front pew because they can't easily walk to communion last in the kingdom of God? Or is their going last to communion a sign that they are first in God's kingdom, acknowledging that those who sit in the front pews really are holier than thou? Who can say? Who should care? It is, after all, more important to understand it is "your sacrament that is placed on the table of the Lord; it is your sacrament that you receive" -- under the iron guidance of your bishops and liturgists, of course, whose sentimental innovations will express the General Will, your true individuality, through the collective enforcement of whatever new "style" fits the year, the season, or the day. The USCC's war over the false dichotomy of "individual vs. community" may well create a real dichotomy of "human vs. divine," as men proclaim their de facto ownership of the Sacrament with increasingly-frequent changes and innovations, making the liturgy a moveable cultural feast, because they are chasing that ever-illusive intimacy which can so easily be gained in only a few minutes of the forbidden "privatization" which they have all been taught to abhor. We haven't seen enough yet to assure all and sundry that this will happen, but we have already seen more than enough to worry greatly about it.
Transmitted by SecretAgentMan 08:02 Hours [+]
Tuesday, July 22, 2003
How sweet it is . . . .
Dear Shawn and "Joe" and a few others,
I'm sorry to do this, but you already know I'm an insufferably obnoxious sort of person, and you charitably bear with me. So like the obnoxious blowhard I am, I just have to say this about kneeling to receive communion, and about kneeling and praying after communion:
Told ya so, told ya so, told ya told ya told ya so . . . . .
Transmitted by SecretAgentMan 19:00 Hours [+]
Edification and Kneeling: Part I
Herewith a three-part installment called "Edification and Kneeling." Happy reading, Shawn -- and to my good buddy BF, just picture me sitting on top of a giant keyboard, falling fast, waving my ten-gallon and yelling "yeeee haaaawwww . . . "
I have written about the legalisms of kneeling, both to receive communion and during communion itself, because they impact on the edification of kneeling. There are two dimensions to that question, namely the propriety of kneeling considered objectively as a witnessing act, and the propriety of kneeling considered contextually as a political act. Now I hasten to add that by "political act" I don't mean to refer to the limited and vulgar ideas of "politics" most commonly used in our discourse, but to the higher and perfectly-normal aspects of rightly ordering life in a human community. The legalisms (I use the word specifically in homage to Shawn's wise observation that "legality" is not identical to "propriety") of kneeling relate to both questions in different ways. They provide a reference point for the CDWDS' dealings with the USCC through its pre-GIRM correspondence and the July, 2002 protocol, both of which are protective of kneeling as a witnessing act. Most significantly, however, they relate to the nature of kneeling as a political act, because they oblige our thinking about the proper response to kneeling (and the status of "kneelers") within local worshiping communities. I will address these topics in turn, discussing the nature of kneeling as a witnessing act, then discussing its place with respect to the bishops' campaign against private prayer after communion, and then offering some thoughts on the cultural and political ramifications of continued kneeling under the recent adaptations to the GIRM.
Kneeling as Witness
In the correspondence below I have set out several of my main arguments about the witnessing aspect of kneeling in abbreviated form. At the risk of tedious repetition, I am going to repeat them in the larger context of my discussion with Shawn. As far as I'm aware, the USCC has given only a handful of publicized statements about the Bishops' idea that standing is the only proper posture for communion, one of them being the Bishops' Committee on the Liturgy ("BCL") bulletin entitled "Postures and Gestures at Mass":
The posture of kneeling signified penance in the early Church: the awareness of sin casts us to the ground! So thoroughly was kneeling identified with penance that the early Christians were forbidden to kneel on Sundays and during the Easter Season when the prevailing spirit of the liturgy was that of joy and thanksgiving. In the Middle Ages kneeling came to signify the homage of a vassal to his lord, and more recently this posture has come to signify adoration. It is for this reason that the bishops of this country have chosen the posture of kneeling for the Eucharistic Prayer, after the Sanctus.
As noted in my correspondence with "Joe," the USCC says kneeling is a "recent" posture which is so rooted in a consciousness of ignominy, worthlessness and subservience that it cannot coexist with an authentic Catholic understanding of the Mass as a witness to the redemptive work of Jesus Christ:
Standing . . . from the earliest days of the Church, has been understood as the stance of those who are risen with Christ and seek the things that are above. When we stand for prayer we assume our full stature before God, not in pride, but in humble gratitude for the marvelous thing God has done in creating and redeeming each one of us. By Baptism we have been given a share in the life of God, and the posture of standing is an acknowledgment of this wonderful gift. We stand for the Gospel, the pinnacle of revelation, the words and deeds of the Lord, and the bishops of the United States have chosen standing as the posture to be observed in this country for the reception of Communion, the sacrament which unites us in the most profound way possible with Christ who, now gloriously risen from the dead, is the cause of our salvation.
When one compares this theological history to the Mass described by the GRIM, one is immediately struck by the entirely-nonsensical relationship between them. If kneeling is a "penitential posture," then why aren't we kneeling during the Confiteor (a/k/a "Act of Penitence"):
I confess to almighty God,
According to the USCC's reasoning, when we pray this awful confession and beg God's mercy in the Kyrie which immediately follows it, we ought to be kneeling because "the awareness of sin casts us to the ground!" But we're forbidden to kneel then -- we're commanded to stand and therefore, according to the USCC, "assume our full stature before God." Likewise, we're told that the Fraction and the Agnus Dei "signif[y] that the many faithful are made one body (1 Cor 10:17) by receiving Communion from the one Bread of Life which is Christ, who died and rose for the salvation of the world." According to the Bulletin, that makes it a time for standing to convey "humble gratitude for the marvelous thing God has done in creating and redeeming each one of us." But for some inexplicable reason, we're commanded to be on our knees in a penitential posture during the Fraction and the Agnus Dei. If the USCC is correct about the meaning of these postures, why are we kneeling when we ought to be standing, and standing when we ought to be kneeling?
Perhaps the reason for this nonsense is that the USCC's invented distinction between "penance" and "adoration" is challenged both factually and theologically. The Bulletin says history gives us a clear and unanimous record that the early Christians never knelt at Mass because postures of self-abasement are exclusively penitential. Now I don't pretend to be a liturgical scholar, but I do know that Tertullian, a Church Father who lived between 160 A.D. and 240 A.D. and whose writings are still found in the Liturgy of the Hours, tells us that postures of self-abasement were encouraged, even commanded, for Christians at prayer:
XXIII. Also in the matter of bending the knee the prayer experiences variety of observance by (the action of) a certain few who on Saturday abstain from kneeling. As this dissension is even now on trial before the churches, the Lord will give his grace, that they may either yield, or else establish their judgement without offence to others. We however, as we have received
Tertullian notes the belief that postures like kneeling or prostration are postures of humility ("solicitude") which are incompatible with exultant celebrations of the Eucharist on Sundays or during Pentecost -- but not with the celebration of the Eucharist per se, since kneeling at Mass is commanded on other days. Moreover, if the early Christians all thought kneeling was "thoroughly . . . identified with penance", why did they kneel for all sorts of prayers which had nothing to do with an "awareness of sin" which "casts us to the ground"? Eusebius, for example, chronicles an early miracle during which Christian legionaries of the Emperor Marcus Aurelius' ( r. 161 A.D. - 180 A.D.) "kneeled on the ground, as is our custom in prayer, and engaged in supplications to God" for a miraculous rainfall to quench the army's thirst -- God not only sent rain, but a lightning storm which destroyed the enemy. And even before that, in the Book of Acts we see St. Paul kneeling twice in prayer, once with the elders of the Church at Ephesus (Acts 20:36) and again before leaving Tyre (Acts 21:5). St. Peter knelt in prayer to bring Tabitha back to life (Acts 9:40). The rich man, who had "observed all" the commandments from "his youth," still knelt to ask our Lord what he must do to be saved (Mark 10:17). St. Stephen knelt in the moment of his martyrdom. (Acts. 7:60). And of course our Lord Himself knelt to pray (Luke 22:41), and there are some theological considerations which bid us to disagree with the USCC's suggestion that He did so because an "awareness of sin cast" Him to the ground.
The USCC's account does wander into proximity with the facts through a vague recognition that eventually, centuries after the first Mass, liturgical law required the faithful to stand at Mass on Sundays or during the Easter season. I believe the first of these was Canon XX of the First Council of Nicea (325 A.D.):
Forasmuch as there are certain persons who kneel on the Lord's Day and in the days of Pentecost, therefore, to the intent that all things may be uniformly observed everywhere (in every parish), it seems good to the holy Synod that prayer be made to God standing.
The reason for this tide in favor of standing is indeed alluded to by the USCC -- a number of Fathers, from Tertullian to Augustine to Cassian, note that standing was depictive of the resurrection and therefore a more appropriate posture for communion. Indeed, standing is the posture of the liturgies of the east, such as the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom. But this is not, I submit, in any way supportive of the USCC's simplistic diktat that authentic Christianity regards "penitential" postures as wholly inappropriate to the reception of communion. In his classic study of the Mass, Fr. Adrian Fortescue tells us that, "People generally received holy communion standing, as they still do in the east. . . . But it seems that on fast-days and stational days, when they prayed kneeling, they made their Communion kneeling too." The USCC's claim of a consistency with the "early Church" is obliterated by its own requirement of standing at all Masses, not just Masses "on the Lord's Day and in the days of Pentecost." More to the point, and directly contrary to the USCC's mythical history, the presence of "penitential" postures was never considered "inappropriate" to the reception of communion even on the Lord's Day or in the days of Pentecost.
There is, for example, an ancient eastern liturgy called the Divine Liturgy of the Holy Apostle and Evangelist Mark. The oldest written version of the liturgy dates to the 12th or 13th centuries, but it is much, much older than that, dating at least to the time of Nicea as its attribution to St. Mark suggests. In that liturgy, we find the following rubric for the end of the faithful's reception of holy communion: "After the service is completed, the Deacon says: - XXI. Stand for prayer."  What were these ancient Christian communicants doing before the deacon uttered his command? I don't maintain that they were kneeling, because this is an eastern liturgy and that tradition prefers the standing posture. Instead, the eastern tradition favors bowing before and during communion. The bows, both the profound bow (of the whole body, from the waist) and simple bow (a full inclination of the head) are the postures in which eastern liturgies recognize the dependence of men prone to sin on the greatness and mercy of God. The present and most predominant eastern liturgy, the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom, is full of the kind of "penitential self-abasement" which the USCC finds so inauthentic, but which is and has always been a central aspect of the eastern tradition which "seemed good" to the Holy Synod of Nicea. In that liturgy, the catechumens are sent out with the following prayer and bows:
Deacon: Bow your heads unto the Lord, ye catechumens.
The emphasis on this element of man's dependence on God's great goodness and mercy becomes even more intense during the liturgy and instructions for Holy Communion (the instructions are in italics):
Deacon: Bow your heads unto the Lord.
From this I think it's fairly clear that in the eastern tradition, bowing has the same significance which kneeling or genuflecting has with us. In fact I don't think it would be going too far to analogize the "simple" bow of the head with genuflexion and the "profound bow" at the waist with kneeling proper. Kneeling and bowing are both witnesses to the wholesome truth sung by the Psalmist:
Be wise now therefore, O ye kings: be instructed, ye judges of the earth.
It was this same utter astonishment at God's omnipotence, His healing power, so above our merits and yet given so graciously to even the lowest and meanest of us, which caused the woman with an affliction of blood to humble herself before Jesus: "But the woman fearing and trembling, knowing what was done in her, came and fell down before him, and told him all the truth. And he said unto her, Daughter, thy faith hath made thee whole; go in peace, and be whole of thy plague." (Mark 5:33-34 KJV). It is what will see us through to the end of our earthly race: "Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure." Phillipians 2:12-13 (KJV). It is the magnificat in small, repeated in each liturgy by each Christian. That's what bowing meant to the "early Christians," and they never went to Mass without doing it -- on Sundays or even on Sundays during Easter time.
Eastern Christians don't give profound and simple bows because an "awareness of sin" sends them into contortions. They do it because they have a deep awareness of the relationship between man and God that is seriously at odds with the theology the USCC uses to justify standing in the Mass:
Standing . . . [is for] those who are risen with Christ and seek the things that are above. When we stand . . . we assume our full stature before God . . . in humble gratitude for the marvelous thing God has done in creating and redeeming each one of us. . . . . we have been given a share in the life of God, and the posture of standing is an acknowledgment of this wonderful gift . . . 
St. John Chrysostom and the billion or so Byzantines who have come after him would agree with this encomium, as should we all. But none of us should be comfortable with dashing down this heady wine of revelation neat, without the moderating water of acknowledging our own weakness and fallibility: "O Master, look down from heaven upon those who have bowed their heads unto thee, for they have not bowed down unto flesh and blood, but unto thee, the fearful God." Of course everyone should realize that it is the wonderful God-Man who comes to us in the Mass -- "Jesus, most amiable," Jesus, lover of us." But no one ought to forget that He is wonderful in no small way because He is also the God who thundered from the whirlwind:
Gird up now thy loins like a man; for I will demand of thee, and answer thou me.
"Eternal Father, strong to save . . . ." If Jesus were not the divine friend and lover of our souls, He would not save us. But if He were not also the God of Job, the Holy One upon a Throne of lightnings and thunderings and voices (Revelation 4:5), then He could not save us. So the eastern Christians approach communion: With fear of God, with faith and love..
The theological act embodied by these gestures and postures may be called humiliation, the "process of being humbled or acquiring humility":
The word humility signifies lowliness or submissiveness an it is derived from the Latin humilitas or, as St. Thomas says, from humus, i.e. the earth which is beneath us. As applied to persons and things it means that which is abject, ignoble, or of poor condition, as we ordinarily say, not worth much. . . . Humility in a higher and ethical sense is that by which a man has a modest estimate of his own worth, and submits himself to others. According to this meaning no man can humiliate another, but only himself, and this he can do properly only when aided by Divine grace.
Humility is an aspect of temperance, the ability of men to enjoy good only insofar as God's will permits it to them. Its specific role is to suppress immoderate and unjust hope which lays claim to things which do not belong to us at all, or which are not permitted to us in a given situation. Adam and Eve took the fruit from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil because they had abandoned their humility, they believed they had a right to something which was not theirs. Adam and Eve had committed the sin of pride, the sin of conceiving of themselves as beings whose life and good was independent of God's will. Humility is the virtue opposed to pride  which is the overweening and excessive love of one's own goodness which drives men into a "contempt of God" and "aversion from God and His commandments." Pride is not only a sin in itself, it is the essence all sin because it achieves the intellectual, emotional, and willful separation of man from God without which no other sin could occur.
Not surprisingly, the Catechism of the Catholic Church ("CCC") lavishly praises the benefits and inherent goodness of humility:
Faith is impossible without humility: "Humility makes us recognize that "no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him," that is, "to little children." CCC ¶ 2779
This precious virtue will likely make no sense to us if we think God is sitting on some sort of cosmic teeter-totter that can make Him great only when we decide to make ourselves small. We do not practice humility because it makes God great. We practice humility because we want always to see things as He wants us to see them. If we love God, we will want to see the things He has made as they really are, including ourselves:
When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained;
Humility is the true awareness of anyone who knows and loves the Lord. Elizabeth was humble when she asked, ""And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?" Mary was likewise humble when she replied. "My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour. For he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden; for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed. For he that is mighty hath done to me great things; and holy is his name." (Luke 1:43, 46-49 KJV) Humiliation, therefore, is the essential act of self-knowledge by which a soul recognizes God and remains close to Him:
It is in humility that we attain to an exact consideration of the metaphysical situation of man. Humility presents in specifically sharp relief that general aspect of all Christian morality—the unreserved recognition of the metaphysical situation of man, the attitude of throwing all illusions overboard and granting to the whole of reality the response that is due to it. Thus, it has been said justly: "Humility is Truth." Correspondingly, the soul of pride is falsehood, for pride means a refusal to recognize our metaphysical situation.
So our Lord Jesus Christ, our Divine Teacher, "though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped . . . [and] humbled himself and became obedient unto death," (Phillipians 2:6-8 RSV), "kneeled down, and prayed, saying, Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done." (Luke 22:41 KJV).
The USCC is wrong to tell us that kneeling is just a "sinner's posture." It is the posture of anyone who prays what our Lord prayed in Gethsemene, "not my will, but thine, be done." Kneeling is meet for penance because it expresses humility, but the humility expressed thereby is not confined to a personal experience of sin and guilt. Humility, like the prayer it enables, is necessary for saints and sinners alike: The USCC's pejorative description of kneeling makes as much sense as characterizing prayer as a "penitential" act which has no place in a celebration of the Resurrection. Kneeling has always symbolized not merely penance, but the necessary, wonderful humiliation of a soul which has thrown aside its vanity and realized its true significance relative to God. One cannot have this humiliating experience without being immediately conscious of the divine love which reaches out to the humble soul. The two experiences have long (if not always) been linked with kneeling in Western Catholicism, as attested by Cardinal Wiseman's 1849 circular letter instituting the Forty Hours' Devotion:
But now it is that you will practise that angelic worship, lost and unknown out of the Catholic Church -- the worship of pure adoration. For beyond her pale men may praise God or address Him, or perform other religious acts, but they cannot know nor make that special homage which His presence, as we possess it, inspires; when, without spoken, or sound uttered, or act performed, the soul sinks prostrate, and annihilates itself before Him, casts all its powers, and gifts, and brightest ornaments, as worthless oblations, before His altar, and subjects its entire being as a victim to His sole adorable will. When first, then, you approach the place where He is solemnly worshiped, as you humbly bend your knees and bow your heads, let this deep and silent adoration be your first act. Speak not in words, forget all selfish thoughts, repress even all eager longings of your hearts, and receive the benediction of your mighty Lord in solemn stillness; while you, reputing yourselves but dust and ashes at his feet, a nothingness before Him, tender Him the homage of loyal vassals, humbled as the clay, before the potter, as the creature before its God. Then raise up your eyes, those keen eyes of faith, which, through the veil of sacramental elements, see, as John did, ‘in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks, one like to the son of man' (Apoc. i. 13); yea, the adorable Jesus, the King of your souls, and there feast long your sight upon that sacred humanity which love hath given Him, and with it kindred and brotherhood, and ties of tenderest affection with you. And now speak to Him, but with outpoured souls, with the unrestrained familiarity of warmest friendship face to face -- no longer with the awful Lord, like Moses or Elias on Horeb, but with them, and Peter, and John on Tabor where you see Him radiant with His own light, but mild and inviting love.
Kneeling means in the West what bows amidst warnings of "the fearful God" mean in the east. There is no hostility between the postures, and (I submit) no reasonable way to rank one before the other in terms of "authenticity." In the Louvre, and in St. Catherine's monastery on Sinai, rest two icons of the Transfiguration. They show our Lord in wonderful converse with Moses and Elijah; the apostles Peter, James and John are kneeling before them.  I am aware of no tradition which says the Apostles were cast to the ground from an awareness of their guilty sins. To the contrary, Scripture tells us the Apostles were afraid before the glory and power of the transfigured Lord. (Mark 9:6, Matthew 17:6). Their fear, their humiliation was natural, and its truthfulness brought God's constant response to a humble man: "And Jesus came and touched them, and said, Arise, and be not afraid." (Matthew 17:7 - KJV). That interchange of a creature's self-abasement and his God's loving mercy is what kneeling means, and has always meant, both within and without an individual consciousness of guilty sin.
To read the Bishops' condemnation of kneeling in adoration as a merely-recent invention, a fabrication of ignorant medieval men aping the political culture of their betters, is to shudder. The Bishops' distasteful mentioning of "vassalage" and "lordship," their appeal to the widespread (and often anti-Catholic) prejudice that the "middle" ages were "dark" ages, their insistence that Christian worship must remain unstained by anything smacking of subjugation, takes more from Henry Lea or Peter Fonda than Adrian Fortescue. Yes, Cardinal Wiseman uses the language of "homage" and "vassal" which the USCC finds so horribly "medieval." But why should the Cardinal (or we) not use that language? Are we not our Lord's vassals? Are we not to pay Him homage? Does not the Holy Spirit command us to call Him Lord? Tertullian, Eusebius, and the Evangelists all tell of Christians kneeling long before the fall of Rome and the institution of feudalism. So Cardinal Ratzinger's essay also proves -- kneeling is not a secular posture adapted for liturgical use. Indeed, the eastern posture of bowing was redemptively borrowed from secular pagan culture: Men bowed before God-kings like Thuthmose IV, Xerxes, and Alexander long before the birth of Christ, but kneeling is uniquely Christian. The Bishops of the United States may know only a religion which gets its culture from the Zeitgeist, but that is not the inevitable pattern for all the ages of man. In the coronation rite of the Kings of France, the Bishop who placed the crown intoned, "By this crown you become a sharer in our ministry" and the Bishop who crowned King Henry I of England proclaimed "you are the servant of the servants of God and not their master; you are the protectore and not the owner of your people."  If vassals knelt in the middle ages and men knelt before God, the posture was no more "oppressively and inauthentically secular" than our current custom of standing for the entrance of both priest and president. What difference should it make to us (or our Bishops) that kneeling was once a political gesture that had been borrowed from Christianity? I can't see why it should make any difference at all, unless we're trying to tread lightly around a Zeitgeist of egalitarianism and an "I'm OK / You're OK" soteriology.
In that regard, I must say there's something vaguely disturbing about the Bishops' condemnation of a humiliating communion posture, particularly in their universal order that everyone must stand because, apparently, holy communion is a time when we should affirm our "OK-ness" before God: Standing . . . [is for] those who are risen with Christ and seek the things that are above. When we stand . . . we assume our full stature before God . . . in humble gratitude for the marvelous thing God has done in . . . redeeming each one of us. . . . . we have been given a share in the life of God, and the posture of standing is an acknowledgment of this wonderful gift . . .  The gratitude mentioned may be humble, but little else about the new posture, which allows only a simple (not profound) bow and no public expressions of fear, dependence, and awe, seems to convey the actual attitude. Reading the Bulletin's description of a congregation glorying (humbly) in a divine life of which they are already sure, without any concomitant plea to the mercy of the "fearful God," reminds one of the Council of Orange:
Canon XIX. [We teach that] a man can be saved only when God shows mercy. Human nature, even though it remained in that sound state in which it was created, could by no means save itself, without the [unmerited] assistance of the Creator; hence since man cannot safeguard his salvation without the [merciful] grace of God, which is [an undeserved] gift, how will he be able to restore what he has lost without the grace of God?
We do not expect communion because we are good in God; we beg for it because we want God to make and keep us good. "Then came she and worshiped him, saying, Lord, help me. But he answered and said, It is not meet to take the children's bread, and to cast it to dogs. And she said, Truth, Lord: yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their masters' table. Then Jesus answered and said unto her, O woman, great is thy faith: be it unto thee even as thou wilt. And her daughter was made whole from that very hour." (Matthew 15:25-28 (KJV)). It is not fashionable to speak this way about our religion, because it is not fashionable to speak this way in our culture. For some, a natural vanity makes hearing such things a repugnant experience, and for others a natural compassion confuses all humiliation with the world's degradation of its children. But if we stop humiliating ourselves, we will eventually abandon God. Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word and I shall be healed. Thus says the Mass, and this is (I submit) an indispensable disposition to communion. Even our Bishops, for all their preaching on the corporate glory of communicants, cannot bring themselves to abandon it altogether: "The bishops of this country have determined that the sign which we will give before Communion is to be a [simple] bow . . ." The expression of this attitude through kneeling is uniquely Western, and nothing in the teaching of the Church makes "Western" something to be reviled and jettisoned.
Something very wonderful happens when we humiliate ourselves before our God in the Mass, even when we have a "penitential" disposition. As Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger noted in his essay, "Kneeling is not only a Christian gesture, but a christological one." The spirit of humiliation expressed by kneeling is two fold. It recognizes our sins, but it also recognizes our humble smallness before God and, thereby, our openness to receiving His divine presence:
The first [purpose of the Mass] is to give glory to the Heavenly Father. From His birth to His death Jesus Christ burned with zeal for the divine glory; and the offering of His blood upon the cross rose to heaven in an odor of sweetness. To perpetuate this praise, the members of the Mystical Body are united with their divine Head in the eucharistic sacrifice, and with Him, together with the Angels and Archangels, they sing immortal praise to God and give all honor and glory to the Father Almighty.
To adopt Cardinal Ratzinger's phrase, the unity we enjoy with Christ in the Mass is not merely Christian, but christological. Through unity with Jesus Christ, the divine victim, our High Priest, we are ourselves made living sacrifices to the Glory of God. The reception of holy communion is not, therefore, a simple glorying in which men "assume our full stature before God" in gratitude "for the marvelous thing God has done in . . . redeeming each one of us . . . unite[d] in the most profound way possible with Christ . . . The reception of holy communion is an offering akin to that made by our Lord in Gethsemane, a complete and total offering of oneself as priest and victim as He did, when He "kneeled down, and prayed, saying, Father . . . not my will, but thine, be done." (Luke 22:41 KJV).
How odd, then, to see this mystery obscured by a posture which assumes that the "full stature" of such a royal priesthood is one of confident gratitude for a redemption which is, in truth, not yet sealed for any of us ("[h]uman nature, even . . . in that sound state in which it was created, could by no means save itself, without the [unmerited] assistance of the Creator . . . man cannot safeguard his salvation without the [merciful] grace of God, which is [an undeserved] gift . . . .), and centers that gratitude -- not on the eucharistic sacrifice of Jesus Christ, but on our Baptismal initiation into the priesthood of His believers: Standing is a sign of respect and honor . . .[t]his posture . . . [is] the stance of those who are risen with Christ and seek the things that are above.. . . By Baptism we have been given a share in the life of God, and the posture of standing is an acknowledgment of this wonderful gift."  Our Lord commanded that we take up our Cross, not merely our baptism, and follow Him. (Mark 8:34). The Mass should not be arranged to suggest otherwise:
The Church lives by the Eucharist . . . the stupendous content and meaning of which have often been expressed in the Church's magisterium from the most distant times down to our own days. . . . it is not permissible for us, in thought, life or action, to take away from this truly most holy sacrament its full magnitude and its essential meaning. It is at one and the same time a sacrifice-sacrament, a communion-sacrament, and a presence-sacrament. And, although it is true that the Eucharist always was and must continue to be the most profound revelation of the human brotherhood of Christ's disciples and confessors, it cannot be treated merely as an "occasion" for manifesting this brotherhood. When celebrating the sacrament of the body and blood of the Lord, the full magnitude of the divine mystery must be respected . . . in this sacramental sign He entrusts Himself to us with limitless trust, as if not taking into consideration our human weakness, our unworthiness, the force of habit, routine, or even the possibility of insult. Every member of the Church, especially bishops and priests, must be vigilant in seeing that this sacrament of love shall be at the center of the life of the People of God, so that through all the manifestations of worship due to it Christ shall be given back "love for love" and truly become "the life of our souls." Nor can we, on the other hand, ever forget the following words of St. Paul: "Let a man examine himself, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup."
In his encyclical's discussion of penance, the Holy Father also refers to the Apostolic Constitution of Paul VI, Paenitemini, in which we again find that the humiliation expressed by kneeling is indeed identified with penance, although not in our Bishop's myopically-exclusive conception of individualized atonement for specific personal sin:
"The kingdom of God announced by Christ can be entered only by a "change of heart" ("metanoia"), that is to say through that intimate and total change and renewal of the entire man—of all his opinions, judgments and decisions—which takes place in him in the light of the sanctity and charity of God, the sanctity and charity which was manifested to us in the Son and communicated fully. . . .
The Eucharistic acceptance of the Cross is a humiliating act, a penitential offering of ourselves in saving unity with Jesus Christ for ourselves, the Church, and the world. It is a (no doubt unintended) act of clerical arrogance for the Bishops to suggest that our share in the priesthood of Jesus Christ is "baptismal" only, and to adopt a posture expressly intended to teach us so. ("Each posture we assume at Mass underlines and reinforces the meaning of the action in which we are taking part at that moment in our worship."
For these reasons which I have poorly expressed, and for others which I'm sure I am ignorant about, the CDWDS' insisted on altering §160(2) of the GIRM to preserve the practice of kneeling, and instructed the Bishops that the practice of kneeling for Holy Communion has in its favor a centuries-old tradition, and it is a particularly expressive sign of adoration, completely appropriate in light of the true, real and substantial presence of Our Lord Jesus Christ under the consecrated species." Kneeling before the real presence isn't "completely appropriate" because the CDWDS said so. The CDWDS said so because kneeling is, in all fact and truth, completely appropriate. I would like to turn at this point to another, even more disturbing, aspect of Bishop X's liturgical directives with respect to kneeling and its role in private prayer after receiving communion.
Transmitted by SecretAgentMan 15:21 Hours [+]
Part II, "Edification and Kneeling," Coming Soon!
It's taking (and ending up) longer than I thought. Also, the publisher of my forthcoming review of John Cornwell's Hitler's Pope has sent me the proofs and footnotes, and given me until today or tomorrow to correct anything. So either today, or tomorrow, I will train my guns on Shawn one last time.
But for now, more reader comments on this riveting series, again from BF in Texas, who wants to know: Is there an alarm-clock feature on the blogosphere? Can you set this thing to wake me up when you find a new topic? If you and Shawn were in-country in Iraq, would you be trading letters about the sorry state of the latrines and general disarray of the breakfast cereals in the mess tent?
If Shawn and I were in-country in Iraq, we'd be trading letters about the interesting and debatable parallels between Novus Ordo and Traditionalist Catholics with Sunni and Shia Muslims. We'd also be trading letters about my frustration with our lack of progress in forcibly converting the country to Christianity -- Shawn would be pointing out the impracticality of the plan given existing force structure and logistics, and quoting Dignitatis Humanae at me in calm, measured prose . . .
Transmitted by SecretAgentMan 08:20 Hours [+]
Monday, July 21, 2003
Readers Abuzz Over Kneeling Debate!!
The mail about my kneeling debate with Shawn keeps pouring in, folks! Here's one from BF in Texas: Your blogging is simply unreadable. I tried, but I cannot remain interested in this protracted non-debate on kneeling. Sorry. I know it must fascinate you and Shawn. Don't worry, BF, we'll keep on writing about this subject -- Ad Astra per Aspera! (Actually, folks, this is why we ought to have friends. When we make ourselves into obnoxious bores, we'll at least know we're doing it, and an unexamined life isn't worth living!).
Transmitted by SecretAgentMan 07:31 Hours [+]
Friday, July 18, 2003
Not the Most Fun Quiz You Can Take
The Dante's Inferno Test has sent you to Purgatory!
Take the Dante's Divine Comedy Inferno Test
Transmitted by SecretAgentMan 15:43 Hours [+]
Gee, and I thought my infallibility would last forever!
Here I was, smugly enjoying the silence after my last blog on kneeling, not recalling that Rerum Novarum isn't cowed -- Shawn's just holding his fire until I post "Edification and Kneeling." As much as I want to preserve the illusion of irrefutability, I can say I'll have "E&K" done this weekend. Then Shawn can shred my blunders at his leisure. As to the other matter, I will agree that we simultaneously stole each other's Mojo from the fathers at Trent. Any "proof" he may have to the contrary is as phony as the stuff on Iraqi plutonium I cooked up for my buddies at MI6!
Transmitted by SecretAgentMan 11:38 Hours [+]
Thursday, July 17, 2003
More Correspondence on Kneeling
My correspondent's words in blue, mine in black (or sometimes brown).
[Y]ou are inaccurate . . . to say that [the Bishop's directive] objectively "denies Catholics the opportunity" for intimate converse with Jesus. In fact, what it does is delay and abbreviate that "intimate converse" in an awkward way. Perhaps you have not yet witnessed a Mass celebrated under the new directive, but the moment of "intimate converse" now begins (yes, it happens) *after* the priest sits down. Its length is contingent on the sensibility of the individual priest, and the whole thing is awkward precisely because nothing else is occuring at that moment in the liturgy. And because, almost without exception, *no one* chooses to kneel rather than sit.
As anyone may infer from my thoughts on the matter, I haven't attended a "Bp. X Mass," and so I will take my correspondent's word on this -- is the period of private prayer after the singing stops as generously long as it is at "St. Bede's"? I asked this question via email and got the following answer:
I doubt anyone can say for certain whether the period of silence is as long as at "St. Bede's," because the new directive leaves that up to the individual priest. I have been to "directive Masses" with very long periods of silence . . . The one consistent thing at these Masses (thus far) has been a general feeling of awkwardness--it is always in the air during the period of silence, regardless of how long the silence lasts. People just don't know what to expect.
Thanks, Joe, I appreciate the information. In reply, I want to take a look at the larger climate. First, the posture of kneeling has been soundly thrashed up by the USCC and Bishop X in a host of bulletins, editorials, comments, etc. For example:
The posture of kneeling signified penance in the early Church: the awareness of sin casts us to the ground! So thoroughly was kneeling identified with penance that the early Christians were forbidden to kneel on Sundays and during the Easter Season when the prevailing spirit of the liturgy was that of joy and thanksgiving. In the Middle Ages kneeling came to signify the homage of a vassal to his lord, and more recently this posture has come to signify adoration. It is for this reason that the bishops of this country have chosen the posture of kneeling for the Eucharistic Prayer, after the Sanctus.
I'll go into the utter poverty, the sheer "history is bunkness," of this statement in "Edification and Kneeling," which is forthcoming. At first reading the Bishops' statement doesn't sound too awful -- until you think about it. The Bishops are telling us that kneeling always means bad things, depressing things, awful things, like sin and worthlessness before God. Kneeling is soooo depressing and self-accusatory that the early Christians (the good ones, you know, whose every move should be immitated by us, we ourselves, God's people, the Church) were forbidden to do it whenever the occasion called for joy and thanksgiving. Kneeling is joyless. Kneeling isn't thanksgiving. In fact, kneeling is soooo joyless and humiliating that it was the posture of preference during those brutal, dumb, and generally-icky Middle Ages when men had to abase themselves in a vile serfdom to their tyrannical lords. Only "more recently" have some culturally-inane Catholics identified kneeling with adoration, and that's why we kneel during the Eucharistic Prayer: According to the Bishops, we don't kneel at Mass because kneeling really, truly expresses any sense of joy, thanksgiving, or adoration, but because kneeling has been nonsensically identified with those things by some people. Kneeling is a liturgical quirk, a cultural hiccup, kept hanging around in the GIRM because some of the old goats who get to Mass in pristine-condition Ford Fairlanes might be unduly traumatized if it were removed altogether.
Kneeling, according to the USCC is eucharistically uncouth. The correct posture, the saintly posture, the posture of Heaven, is standing:
Standing is a sign of respect and honor, so we stand as the celebrant who represents Christ enters and leaves the assembly. This posture, from the earliest days of the Church, has been understood as the stance of those who are risen with Christ and seek the things that are above. When we stand for prayer we assume our full stature before God, not in pride, but in humble gratitude for the marvelous thing God has done in creating and redeeming each one of us. By Baptism we have been given a share in the life of God, and the posture of standing is an acknowledgment of this wonderful gift. We stand for the Gospel, the pinnacle of revelation, the words and deeds of the Lord, and the bishops of the United States have chosen standing as the posture to be observed in this country for the reception of Communion, the sacrament which unites us in the most profound way possible with Christ who, now gloriously risen from the dead, is the cause of our salvation.
"And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain." 1 Cor. 15:14 (KJV). Is your faith in vain, friend? Then you'd better stand, because only standing can witness to the Resurrection! Standing is the posture of gratitude for the marvels of redemption, the wonderful gift of Christ, and the Gospel which is the pinnacle of revelation! From the earliest days of the Church, standing was good because Catholics are made good by God -- kneeling apparently came later, when men learned to crawl in shame and servitude because of their own misdeeds.
Now who would want to kneel if all that's true? Who should want to kneel? No one, that's who. I certainly don't want to ignore the Resurrection and its affect on my life. I certainly don't want to fail in gratitude to God, the cause of my salvation, and I doubt any other Catholic would want to display such ignorant thanklessness either. Especially since, as we already know from Bishop X's public statements, kneeling to receive communion "clearly will be demonstrating dissent from the mind of the Church. Rather than reverence, the [posture's] emphasis will be refusal to embrace particular law approved by the Vatican." If kneeling is cause for excommunication when receiving communion, certainly its Resurrection-free uncouthness is inappropriate for anyone who has received communion. Except, of course, for old Cletus and Rae Ann: They can kneel if they're too set in their pre-Vatican II ways to witness the Risen Christ, "and the times of this ignorance God winked at," etc., etc.. The GIRM is so condemnatory of kneeling that it offers an alternative posture for "silence" after the communion procession (a posture which, I predict, will be mandatory within a few years) -- sitting. Sitting, you see, is USCC's posture for "listening and meditation." Id. Surely good Catholics would want to listen in gratitude to God after communion, to joyfully mediate on His glories? Since kneeling doesn't express gratitude or joy, listening or contemplation, there's really no good reason for kneeling after everyone finishes singing "On Eagle's Wings." It's really much better to sit, although a "pastoral concern" for the old goats should allow Cletus and Rae Ann their knee-popping archaisms until we can all witness to the Risen Lord the way everyone did in 250 A.D.
So the USCC has erected a liturgical culture which is hostile to kneeling in any setting other than the Eucharistic Prayer (and, if the USCC is taken at its word, even to kneeling then, as well). As you say, "almost without exception, *no one* chooses to kneel rather than sit. This culture is being assiduously developed (in our Diocese, at least) among priests, "liturgists," lay ministers, parish leaders, and so on through episcopal circulars, bombastic editorials in the Diocesan Newspaper, preaching and "proper catechesis," etc. Within this culture, our Bishop has opted to create what you yourself admit is an "awkward" arrangement, a constant feeling of tension and uncertainty. People are just sitting there, watching the priest just sit there, and while everyone is watching everyone else just sitting there, it's been 1.5 hours since everyone left home. Some of them have to get to Cracker Barrell to meet Aunt June, others need to let the dog out, still others would like to plunge themselves into a few minutes of deep prayer. Ten thousand pressures are crowding into the nave (sorry, "worship environment"), and they'll keep crowding in, becoming more and more insistent, because there's no stability in this period of supposed privacy. It may end in ten minutes. It may end in two. Last week's no guide to this week, because Fr. was particularly moved by the Gospel message and his cousin's death then, but has his grief under control now and hasn't found the meat of this particular reading yet. No one in the congregation knows that, nor could know it. So meditation is encouraged to become anticipation, anticipation encouraged to become agitation . . . . . We all know that God often regards conquering distractions to prayer more than the prayer itself. That's no reason for to foster distraction, to create an environment prone to distract. The Mass ought to be a "safe place," as safe as possible anyway, for people to discover why they don't want to be distracted. Being filled with the Trinity is probably the best time to make that discovery. But instead, we all have to stand, and read our hymnals, and sing, and then sit, and watch Fr., and worry about whether we have time for a Memorare or St. Therese's prayer after communion before he's had enough meditation (or thinks we have) and stands up to begin the announcements.
You don't have to make it a crime to own guns in order to ban them. You just have to put people through enough awkward crap that they lose the desire to own guns. "Oh, you can own a gun, you just have to waive your Fourth Amendment rights and agree that the police can search your house whenever they want, as many times as they want . . ." That's what's happening here. "Oh, you can pray privately, you just have to do it at the tail end of a 1.5 hour Mass for a variable amount of time during which you have to watch your priest to see when he feels you've had enough prayer." I don't need to ask whether this directive is designed to ban private prayer from our liturgy (although I think it is, and will explain why in "Edification and Kneeling"). I only need to ask: Given an institutional preference for large changes made by moderate stages, how would the GIRM look if it were intended to do that? It would look as it looks now. So I stand by my earlier criticism, that Bishop X's directive is shoving and will shove private prayer out of the Mass for good and all. No matter how many protestations we might hear about "early days" and "figuring it out together," the new directive can't have any other result because people are people, and no one's going to put a huge digital "countdown clock" above the crucifix so we can tell how much time we have to meditate and pray after we can finally sit (not kneel) down.
You wrote, "I can only conclude that a "violation" of whatever "norm" §160(2) may be said to represent is not the kind of transgression which brought St. Paul's fiery condemnation on the Corinthians' heresies and scandals -- unless, of course, you want to say that the Pope condemns heresies and schisms in encyclicals but winks at them in the Curia." My point, taken in the context of my message, was not to say that those who kneel are necessarily creating "faction and division" on the order of the Corinthians. My point was that those who choose to kneel to receive against the clear objection/directive of their pastor *are* creating "faction and division" on the order of the Corinthians.
Same thing. The CDWDS has said kneeling to receive is "completely appropriate" in light of the real presence of God. Joe, that opinion binds Bishop X. He can't have another authoritative opinion, or say that it's not completely appropriate to kneel to receive communion. If he can have another authoritative opinion, then he can also have alternative opinions on any other decision a Roman congregation might make -- like the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith's ("CDF") condemnation of in vitro fertilization or its insistence on the salvific uniqueness of the Church in Dominus Iesus. That goes for all the bishops in the USCC. For that matter, it goes for everyone in the Church. Bishop X can't declare the CDWDS' protocol "non-operative" any more than a Catholic gynecologist can declare the CDF's ruling on in vitro fertilization "non-operative." If none of us can have authoritative opinions contrary to the Curia's, then the Bishops can't have an authoritative opinion that kneeling to receive isn't "completely appropriate." If he must hold an authoritative opinion that kneeling to receive is "completely appropriate," he can't have an intention cognizable in law to contradict his own authoritative opinion. At best, he can utter personal, precatory opinions about what the CDWDS ought to have said, and I'm not obliged to obey those -- especially when they involve me in disagreeing with one of the highest authorities in the Church. In fact, given these aspects of the situation, I should think fans of the Bishop's directive ought to be very cautious before throwing the topic of "faction and division on the order of Corinthians" out for discussion.
As far as the pope's remark commending priests who celebrate "according to the liturgical norm" goes, I'm convinced that most pastors who ignore Bishop X's misinformed directive on the other matter *are* at least being faithful to the norm by providing an appropriate exception in the spirit of the law. As long as their motives are clearly loving rather than divisive, and the exception made is as small as the one in this diocese, I can't see how they can seriously create "faction and division."
OK, I could ask for an agreement stronger than that, but I'm not greedy. :))
But Fr. Irascible, I'm told, has informed his parish that Fr. Vianney is a "heretic" for disobeying the bishop's norm. I'll concede that it's possible Fr. Vianney is creating schism in a broad sense, at least between he and his fellow priests, across the diocese.
Whoa! WHOA! Note the dynamics here -- Fr. Vianney isn't preaching homilies about "heretical" parishes where the Bishop's opinions are implemented. He's just being -- as you say -- "faithful to the norm by providing an appropriate exception in the spirit of the law." So how does he end up a schismatic? I don't want to overblow the comparison, I realize this is hyperbole, but there's still some truth in it -- was Athanasius responsible for schism "in a broad sense" because his actions provoked Eusebius into rages and denunciations? Schism isn't division. Schism isn't bad feelings. Schism is disobedience to lawful ecclesiastical authority and as I've spend hours and hours typing about it, no ecclesiastical authority is being disobeyed when parishes don't follow Bishop X's personal opinions about what ruling the CDWDS should have made regarding § 160(2) of the GIRM, or his personal opinions about what rule he ought to make (but has not yet made) under ¶ 43 of the GIRM.
But I think it's downright criminal to suggest that an entire parish must stop lovingly following its custom merely to appease those malcontents who cannot even walk the streets in good conscience with the knowledge that some "dissent" in good conscience from their bishop's instruction on the matter.
There's no dissent involved, as I've explained. Anyhow, If I follow you, I appreciate the thought and find it very charitable.
After all, such people need only journey to the Archdiocese of Fredonia to see that his opinion is not the "norm" in the U.S.
More and more people are already going to Fredonia, I'm sorry to say. I don't know why the decision's been made to push for this step even though it pressures faithful Catholics into driving to Fredonia, when IMHO the pressure ought to be on unfaithful Catholics to drive to the nearest Methodist Church, where they can contracept, listen to women preach from the pulpit, and dissent from Church teaching to their heart's content. But then, as I've said, if I were the Bishop of Long Island I'd excommunicate Susan Molinari in a public ceremony that would outdo the "candle smashing scene" in Beckett. Maybe I shouldn't be a bishop. (Haw!) But I'd settle for (and recommend) that there be no pressure rather than the lopsided silly pressures we have now.
Shawn is *not* necessarily wrong. Have you considered that this new norm, due to the mess of the compromise, in effect allows Catholics who dissent to receive communion? This seems to me a most realistic and logical conclusion, regardless of whether Rome clarifies it.
Slowly I turn, step by step . . . . . there's no dissent. Dissent is when the Church authoritatively teaches a binding thing, and a Catholic refuses to conform himself to it. Now who's dissenting? Am I dissenting from Bishop X when I kneel to receive communion? You can say I am, because I know what he would prefer I do and won't do it. But is Bishop X dissenting from Rome? You can say he is, because he knows what Rome's said about kneeling to receive and yet says the opposite to every Catholic with a zip code in his Diocese. Am I disobedient to Bishop X's wishes to stand and sing during communion? You can say I am, because I know again that's what he wants and don't do it. But is Bishop X disobedient to Rome when he won't promulgate a directive that makes his wishes binding? You can say he is, because he won't follow the law he's supposedly enforcing. In the presence of conflicting instructions from equally-competent authority, there's no such thing as the "dissent" Catholics like to villify.
Yes, but this is where the present debate must stop focusing on lying bishops and start acknowledging the serious effects consciously causing another to sin. The point, with regard to our immortal souls, is not that laymen are "compelled" to follow a bishop or priest's directive. The point is whether we "should" respect a bishop/priest, acting in a way that doesn't cause him to sin, *even* when he misrepresents his authority. I think we should.
Yo, Joe. I'm not saying the Bishop is lying. I've never said it, and I won't say it. I don't know what kind of sin he could be committing. Silliness isn't a sin. Incomprehension of the law isn't a sin. Wishing people would do something and being upset when they don't isn't a sin. Not realizing that your own Diocesan Newspaper is treading on calumny, suspicion, and detraction isn't a sin -- especially not when your incomprehension of the law encourages you to think it's not calumny, suspicion, or detraction at all. Sin has no physical dimension, so being thick about things isn't sinful. It's upsetting and distasteful because his thickness is making a good number of people suffer needlessly. But that's the kind of meekness Catholics can put up with. (God knows, we do it all the time).
CDWDS doesn't direct or even *urge* you to receive kneeling in defiance of your pastor or even bishop. Again, it does NOT state that it's "completely appropriate" to receive against the wishes of a pastor. That's too pat.
Joe, it says kneeling is "completely appropriate." Let me say that again -- Completely. Appropriate. Am I defying my Bishop, or is my Bishop defying Rome?
What the CDWDS actually says is that a pastor *cannot refuse* communion because kneeling is "completely appropriate" WITHIN ITS TRADITION.
Eh? I quoted the whole protocol below, and where is this "actual statement." You're confusing the circumstance of the CDWDS' ruling with its language. In law (sorry, you know me), that's called "parol evidence" and it's admissible only when the terms of the document are ambiguous and require an interpretive course of dealings to be correctly understood. The only time "tradition" gets mentioned is as follows: the practice of kneeling for Holy Communion has in its favor a centuries-old tradition,
it is a particularly expressive sign of adoration, completely appropriate in light of the true, real and substantial presence of Our Lord Jesus Christ under the consecrated species.
We're Catholics, and as we keep telling the sola scriptura bunch, it's not "either/or" it's "also/and." Kneeling is a centuries-old tradition AND a physical posture that's completely appropriate when receiving communion because Our Lord is truly present. Since His presence isn't contingent on tradition, the propriety of kneeling isn't either.
That tradition is not practiced or encouraged in every parish, as the CDWDS knows. But too many people seem to believe the CDWDS is encouraging them to kneel regardless of the consideration of others.
See above about "tradition" and the CDWDS protocol. I don't know what the CDWDS is encouraging, except disciplinary chaos. But I do know the CDWDS says it's completely appropriate for me to kneel to receive communion and no one else can disagree with that and still talk about "factions and divisions" a'la the Corinthians.
As you say very concisely in your post, the USCCB and the CDWDS share the blame (the CDWDS the greater portion) for these contradictions. Our bishop is to blame for misrepresenting (consciously or unconsciously) his authority on these matters.
There's lots of blame to go around, yes. And I'm sure the misrepresentation is unintentional -- unfortunately, it's fatal nonetheless. I can believe in perfect good faith that I've filed my case on time with the Clerk of the Court, but that won't change the statute of limitations or the calendar, and my day-late filing is DOA.
I'm not sure this allusion [sic] [with Ordinatio Sacerdotalis is apt. Isn't there a difference between doctrine and this sort of liturgical issue? There is a clear teaching on women's ordination. But, as you know, there is no uniform teaching on communion posture anymore. So there's really no comparison.
The only comparison is that I'm not obliged to accept an episcopal interpretation of Church teaching or discipline which is directly, clearly, and obviously contrary to the words of the Church's teaching or disciplinary documents. That's all.
Also, there is nothing in the GIRM which prohibits Bishop X from making us stand and kneel when we do. He has still asked us to kneel "after the Agnus Dei" at some point.
When he asks, I can consider and then decide. When he orders I must obey. He's asked, I've considered, and I've decided. When and if he ever orders I'll have a new set of issues to confront.
[W]here in Canon Law is a bishop required to do otherwise? What requires a bishop, in enforcing a "norm" in an area of liturgy in which there is no uniform teaching, to inform the laity of his reasons? If there is no uniform teaching, what justifies dissent?
I would follow St. Thomas and argue that all governmental directives, in order to bind their subjects, must be promulgated and made from proper authority. My Sheriff can *order* me to let him into my house to look around, but he'd *better* have a warrant if his order is to be legal. My bishop can *order* me to stand during communion, but he'd better promulgate a proper directive under section 43 before I have to comply. Now it might be that my Sheriff *could* get a warrant, but chooses instead to rely on his personal theory about the divine right of kings -- his action is still not legal even though it could be if he abandoned his wrongheaded ideas and did what the law said he can do. It might be that the Bishop *could* issue a proper directive under Section 43, and chooses instead to rely on his personal theory about the GIRM demanding that we all stand -- his action is likewise still not legal even though it could be if he abandoned his wrongheaded ideas and did what the law says he can do. I think the plain fact of the matter is that he wants to insulate himself from personal responsibility for the turmoil that's being caused, and so he's taken "don't blame me, blame the Church" approach.
You win the Donatist debate.
You're damn right I win the Donatist debate. Joe, I like you. You're OK, so don't take this too personally. But I am damn sick and tired of this "bad Catholic, wolves in the flock of Christ" bulls%$# that's being used IN PREFERENCE to a simple, proper procedure allowed by the GIRM with regard to standing after the Agnus Dei and some encouraging, loving preaching about how I will improve my spiritual life by standing through communion done in the style of an honest, God-fearing man who really thinks I am a good Catholic son of his even if he thinks I have some problems in that area. The crap being pulled recently is dysfunctional in the worst "Daddy's Gonna Beat Baby Good" sense of the word. It forms one of my strongest motives for resistance to this standing business -- something which has to be achieved, which is desired to be achieved, by misrepresentations, abusiveness, suspicion, gossip, calumny, and divisive bullying is likely not edifying to the Church.
But, let me ask, what authorizes you or anyone to interpret the GIRM over the bishop's head? The fact that he did not more clearly source/cite his authority? He's not required to do so, far as I know.
Nothing authorizes me to interpret the GIRM "over my bishop's head" except the same thing that requires me to love God with all my mind. I can read English, Joe. The GIRM isn't in code. It says what it says. It says (at most) that I'm supposed to be kneeling after the Agnus Dei unless Bishop X issues a separate, distinct directive under Section 43 on his own authority. He hasn't done that. He's said that he isn't doing that, because the GIRM already requires me to stand after the Agnus Dei. His statement that he isn't issuing a directive is competent, descriptive, and fits the facts. But his depiction of the GIRM as a document which requires standing throughout communion is incompetent, non-descriptive, and directly contrary to the consonents and vowels in the GIRM. So if anything, I'm taking Bishop X at his own word, not going over his head.
Transmitted by SecretAgentMan 17:44 Hours [+]
I was afraid I was going to be one of the other decades!
what decade does your personality live in?
quiz brought to you by lady interference, ltd
Transmitted by SecretAgentMan 14:59 Hours [+]
A Wonderful, Wonderful Blog
I'm so glad that blogging has renewed my internet acquaintance with Lover of Christian Art (a/k/a "LoCA" from the ould Catholic Converts' Message Board). I haven't checked, but it has to be him (or her) at this blog. Go and feast on the harvest of beautiful art which has grown in Christian soil, and you'll see the charming truth behind Sebastian Flyte's answers to his skeptical friend in Brideshead Revisited:
"But my dear Sebastian, you can't seriously believe it all.'
Transmitted by SecretAgentMan 14:50 Hours [+]
From Our "Catholicism Can't Co-Exist with the Modern World" File. . .
. . . comes this heartening story about a funeral in New Mexico: Priest gives great funeral homily, gets sued by relatives. The Diocese of Santa Fe is denying everything. That figures, since it's a homily that could be given for a few bishops, including a certain former bishop of Santa Fe.
Transmitted by SecretAgentMan 08:07 Hours [+]
Tuesday, July 15, 2003
More Reader Comments
Comments in blue, replies in black.
What still isn't clear to me, from your recent blog post, is whether you actually agree with Shawn's main proposition--that people should follow the local customs on posture for the time being--or whether you advocate following one's own personal sensibility regardless of venue.
In my parish, it's not uncommon to kneel, and everyone kneels after the Agnus Dei and continues kneeling until the priest sits. I know a priest who is furious over the idea of kneeling to receive, and if I were in his Church I wouldn't dream of it. I'm trying to be worshipful and reverent, not disgust people and send them into rages. Perhaps it's my style of writing, but I find that it's difficult for me to convey the fact that I'm not saying kneeling is inherently morally superior to standing. I'm only saying that there's great value in it; that it's definitely allowed when receiving communion under §160(2) and the CDWDS' protocol; and, that it's currently allowed after the Agnus Dei due to the problems I've pointed out with the Bishop's non-use of §43. Given that argument, and as I indicate below, I don't think I can consistently argue that one must always kneel or that, even if one is a "kneeler," he should do so whenever and wherever without regard to the sensibilities of one's brothers, sisters, and fathers in the faith.
As far as I know, there is not yet a single document from the CDWDS which advocates the latter. Nor will there ever be. There is, however, the following passage from Ecclesia de Eucharista which seems relevant to the issue of kneeling to receive communion in defiance of the liturgical norm:
Grrrrrr! In view of the CDWDS' protocol, the appropriate posture to receive communion is standing unless the communicant chooses to kneel.
"I consider it my duty, therefore to appeal urgently that the liturgical norms for the celebration of the Eucharist be observed with great fidelity. These norms are a concrete expression of the authentically ecclesial nature of the Eucharist; this is their deepest meaning. Liturgy is never anyone's private property, be it of the celebrant or of the community in which the mysteries are celebrated. The Apostle Paul had to address fiery words to the community of Corinth because of grave shortcomings in their celebration of the Eucharist resulting in divisions (schismata) and the emergence of factions (haireseis) (cf. 1 Cor 11:17-34). Our time, too, calls for a renewed awareness and appreciation of liturgical norms as a reflection of, and a witness to, the one universal Church made present in every celebration of the Eucharist. Priests who faithfully celebrate Mass according to the liturgical norms, and communities which conform to those norms, quietly but eloquently demonstrate their love for the Church. Precisely to bring out more clearly this deeper meaning of liturgical norms, I have asked the competent offices of the Roman Curia to prepare a more specific document, including prescriptions of a juridical nature, on this very important subject." (Ecclesia de Eucharista, Chapter 5, verse 52)
First, this was written by the Pope whose Congregation for the Doctrine of Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments says that kneeling to receive communion is completely appropriate. Second, the USCCB began with the position that kneeling is "not a licit posture for receiving holy Communion in the dioceses of the United States of America unless the bishop of a particular diocese has derogated from this norm in an individual and extraordinary circumstance." Third, the CDWDS demanded that US-GIRM §160(2) be written to allow communion to Catholics who kneel, saying that the USCCB must "introduce a clause that would protect those faithful who will inevitably be led by their own sensibilities to kneel, from imprudent action by priests, deacons or lay ministers in particular, or from being refused holy Communion for such a reason as happens on occasion." That's as reported by the National Catholic Register in this story. I may have an obligation to be as Catholic as the Pope, but I'm under no obligation to depart from his decisions in the cause of being "more Catholic" than he is. The Holy Father has exercised his sovereign ordinary jurisdiction over my Bishop and all the bishops in the United States to insist that I be allowed to kneel when receiving communion. I can only conclude that a "violation" of whatever "norm" §160(2) may be said to represent is not the kind of transgression which brought St. Paul's fiery condemnation on the Corinthians' heresies and scandals -- unless, of course, you want to say that the Pope condemns heresies and schisms in encyclicals but winks at them in the Curia.
Let's look at something else from Ecclesia de Eucharistia. It adumbrates some of my later comments on "Edification and Kneeling" but it's worth looking at while we're on the subject of traducing the nature of the Mass:
The mystery of the Eucharist sacrifice, presence, banquet does not allow for reduction or exploitation; it must be experienced and lived in its integrity, both in its celebration and in the intimate converse with Jesus which takes place after receiving communion or in a prayerful moment of Eucharistic adoration apart from Mass. These are times when the Church is firmly built up and it becomes clear what she truly is: one, holy, catholic and apostolic; the people, temple and family of God; the body and bride of Christ, enlivened by the Holy Spirit; the universal sacrament of salvation and a hierarchically structured communion.
Now our Bishop has decreed that we're to stand and sing continuously after the Agnus Dei. In other words, his directive denies Catholics the opportunity for intimate converse with Jesus which takes place after receiving communion. Standing and singing "Gather Us In" is by no stretch of the imagination "intimate converse with the Lord." It is public, uniform, and conducted according to the will of whatever "music director" or "liturgist" is picking out the communion song for this week. If anything in this whole mess is worthy of a "fiery condemnation," the campaign to eradicate this tender intimacy is certainly among the top four or five candidates.
Transmitted by SecretAgentMan 18:58 Hours [+]
Readers Weigh In
I'm getting emails from friends who've been in this kneeling/standing dispute with me. I thought I'd reply in public, after removing the personal information. My correspondent's words are in blue, mine in black or brown.
The new posting on your blog is very cogent.
Thank you. I fool a lot of people that way. :))
If you get the time, I could benefit from your clarification on the following points. Let me know if you think I've understood anything incorrectly.
You wrote "the US-GIRM is, by reasonable extension, a Vatican-approved grant of localized authority to direct liturgical action." Yes, that's precisely how the majority of our fellow Catholics understand it. If one argues otherwise, then doesn't his argument boil down to a simple affirmation of anarchy in the Church today?
First, I was summarizing Shawn's point about the US-GIRM. But I think that's not an unfair characterization of what the US-GIRM actually is, so you have a really good question. I think "anarchy" is too strong a word, especially with respect to this issue. What we have, taking the case most favorably to the Bishop's authority, are two confused sovereigns (the Bishop and the CDWDS) who have promulgated conflicting laws within a moral regime which allows subjects to determine which law has the strongest claim to their obedience. That's bad government, but bad government isn't anarchy.
In my humble opinion, the USCCB and the CDWDS created this situation because they didn't orient their actions around a crucial fact. The Mass is Heaven on earth, and therefore it is a unified dogmatic event. We forbid non-Catholics from receiving the Blessed Sacrament precisely for that reason, and everything else connected with the Mass is intensely dogmatic, because the Mass is the most intensely-true experience of God any human being can have in this life. It's not the place or time for doodling by liturgical dilletants and soi disant theologians. And the CDWDS is more indictable on that count than the USCCB.
Think about it. Some USCCB committee members rustle through their undergraduate notes and come up with the idea that kneeling is an oppressive medieval intrusion into the liturgy that must be jettisoned under Sacrosanctum Concilium. The idea of mandatory standing is retailed to the CDWDS, which reacts in horror at the idea, but only demands that US-GIRM § 160(2) be written to say that the "norm" for receiving communion in the United States is standing unless a Catholic wants to kneel to receive. That kind of pass-the-buck babbling may serve just fine to save the CDWDS' Cardinals a lot of irritating transatlantic correspondence and get them home in time for their antipasti, but it's not decent. I mean that. It's not kind. It's not fair. It casts a burden onto the consciences of laymen which Cardinals and Bishops ought to be carrying for us. The Church is a divine and perfect society, hierarchically organized. So let the hierarchy do its job and organize rather than adopting a "sola rubrica" GIRM under which every man has to be his own liturgist. They've thrown Catholic laymen to the wolves of doubt, suspicion, and hostility by making us do the job Christ reserved for them. Shame on them.
Good government makes clear laws and enforces them. There are only three decent solutions to the "§160(2) problem"
(1) Revoke §160(2) altogether. Let individuals continue to decide how to receive our Lord in the Mass, but let them decide in an environment which doesn't falsely call their catholicity into doubt no matter what they choose to do. This is called liberty, and good government can allow liberty.
That's your choices. Anything else is a recipe for disorder, which is what we have.
. . . . And to what purpose would one affirm and practice such anarchy? Simply to
justify when his posture at Mass contradicts everyone else's?
I am not "affirming anarchy." I think disorder is bad. I think misrule is bad. But that's what we have under §160(2) of the GIRM. So I'm making the best of the mess that bad government has handed to me (and being publicly villified by the Diocesan Newspaper for so doing).
. . . . If his conviction is not motivated by personal preference, on the other hand, then doesn't consistency dictate that he justify and defend someone at a Tridentine Mass who stands at the communion rail with his hand out?
As I understand it, the binding rubrics for the Mass of St. Pius V require kneeling for all those so able. If they said "the norm for receiving communion in the Mass of St. Pius V is kneeling, but communicants who stand should not be denied communion," then I would indeed defend someone who stood to receive communion at a Mass of St. Pius V.
You wrote, "[Denial of communion to those who stand on grounds of scandal or schism is] what Shawn's argument must prove, if it proves anything, but that's also exactly the opposite of the conclusion reached by every authority which has considered the matter." Isn't any assumption that the US-GIRM lacks authority on matters of posture just as equally the opposite of current hierarchical consensus?
That's my point: With respect to kneeling to receive, there is no current hierarchical consensus. The current hierarchical consensus, insofar as it may be said to exist, is that the US-GIRM cannot forbid me from kneeling to receive communion because kneeling is a "completely appropriate" thing which unfaithful Catholics do at Mass. That's not a consensus. It's a bad joke.
With respect to kneeling during communion, I still maintain that my Bishop hasn't issued the instruction required of him by § 43. He is instead wrongly insisting that § 43 means nothing, because the entire US-GIRM already requires standing and has done so since 1974. When and if the Bishop exercises his authority under §43, that will only create the the same problem we have now with respect to §160(2) -- kneeling during communion will be a completly appropriate thing which unfaithful Catholics do at Mass.
You wrote "then surely my bishop is right when he says that those who kneel to receive communion "clearly will be demonstrating dissent from the mind of the Church." That's right. More accurately, it demonstrates dissent from the particular bishop's mind or from the mind of a particular parish that does its own thing. Just as kneeling at a Byzantine Mass would demonstrate dissent from or ignorance of the mind of that particular rite.
No that's not right. Re-read the whole essay, or at least the whole sentence: "Consider, if (as Shawn argues) the norms requiring standing are binding instructions, validly issued by the bishops' power to enact laws for the good of the Church, a power whose legitimate exercise in the present case must be obeyed as a de fide teaching of the Church, then surely my bishop is right when he says that those who kneel to receive communion "clearly will be demonstrating dissent from the mind of the Church." Anyone who publicly dissents from the mind of the Church, and does so in the very act of receiving Communion in a disobedient way, ought to be denied communion. The Catholics who showed up in Australia a year or so ago with "gay pride" ribbons were denied communion, and rightly so. But Catholics who kneel aren't denied communion. Therefore, Catholics who kneel must not be publicly dissenting from the mind of the Church or receiving communion in a disobedient way. Just because my authorities have enacted bad and contradictory legislation doesn't mean I have to invent a consistent rationale for them and behave as though they made laws they never made. They know what they're doing -- the USCCB wants to be trendy and American, and the CDWDS wants to preserve some ancient Catholicism, and so a silly compromise was struck between the two priorities that says Shawn can't be right, because if he were then my priest would deny me communion.
I don't know what your point about "dissent from a particular bishop's mind" means. My Bishop hasn't promulgated a new Rite of the Mass for our "Local Church," and instead looks to the US-GIRM and its accompanying interpretative authority for his intentions on the matter. Therefore my particular bishop's mind says what §160(2) and the CDWDS say -- the norm is to receive standing, unless I want to receive kneeling. That's my bishop's mind on the subject, I am acting consistently with it, and I am under no obligation to conform to my own hypothetical estimation of the liturgy my Bishop might wish into existence without reference to the US-GIRM or the CDWDS. Your comparison to the Byzantine Rite is likewise inapt, if my memory serves, because standing is required without exception from all who are capable of standing. If we ever get that kind of rule, I will obey it. Until we do, I shall do what is permitted to me under the US-GIRM.
Our consciences are not bound to obey the local bishop's precepts (or whatever they are), and dissenting from them is not the same as schism from Rome.<
Well that's the problem I have with our Bishop telling people that dissenting from his local precepts and wishes (since he actually hasn't promulgated a precept under § 43) is the same thing as schism, public dissent from the mind of the Church and the orders of the Vatican. That's disingenuous, because the Vatican has said no such thing about kneeling -- what the Vatican has said about kneeling is exactly the opposite of what my bishop has said about it. It's also a recklessly false statement in that my bishop's mind is not the mind of the Church by definition. If it were, he'd have no need of a college of bishops or the Pope to infallibly teach anything or to govern his own Diocese.
But, when such behavior is consciously enacted against the bishop's wishes, I don't see how one can deny that this is a form of "dissent."
The proponents of standing are clinging to that word, and I think the reason they're doing so is that it means something in the broader context of Catholicism which it definitely doesn't mean in the smaller context of kneeling to receive communion or during Mass. In the broader context of Catholicism, "dissent" is what Rosemary Reuther does. It is heresy and schism. It is heresy and schism because there are clear, consistent, authoritative teachings and decisions of the Church which Rosemary Reuther disobeys and ridicules. Read my essay again -- that simply isn't the case with kneeling to receive communion or kneeling during communion. There are no clear instructions, there is no clear teaching, and therefore there is no Reutheresque dissent from the Church. When the Holy Office gets around to saying that womens' ordination is "completely appropriate," then, yes, I'm a dissenter just like Rosemary Reuther. Until then, I will thank all and sundry to stop talking as though this were a dogmatic argument, when in fact it is an argument about disciplinary unclarity.
Certainly you agree that dissent, if not liceity, is moveable? Is it not at all possible to dissent from the authority of one's bishop in the absence of clarification from Rome?
Yes, but not in this case. There has been a clarification from Rome -- kneeling to receive communion is "completely appropriate" and no one may charge me with dissent from the Church because I do it.
You wrote The CDWDS has said it is a "fact" that "the practice of kneeling for Holy Communion . . . is a particularly expressive sign of adoration, completely appropriate in light of the true, real and substantial presence of Our Lord Jesus Christ under the consecrated species. Those who kneel are not schismatic, not scandalous, and may be properly disposed to receive Holy Communion -- hardly terms which characterize actions which are supposedly proximate to scandal, heresy, or otherwise repugnant to the sense of the faithful. Whoa there! Cardinal Ratzinger's defense of "centuries-old tradition" is *thoroughly* general.
Yes, but made specific to the question by its incorporation into the CDWDS' ruling about kneeling to receive communion. Cardinal Ratzinger wasn't the fellow who said that kneeling to receive is "completely apprpriate in light of the . . . presence of Our Lord Jesus Christ." The CDWDS said it, and said it during a specific interpretation of and ruling on §160(2).
The CDWDS has NOT yet clarified whether kneeling for communion is "completely appropriate" *against* the wishes of a pastor who prescribes otherwise via the authority of his bishop and the GIRM.
Yes it has. The Bishop to whom the CDWDS' protocol was written had priests who were refusing to distribute communion to kneeling Catholics. If refusing communion to kneeling Catholics isn't an express indication of the Bishop's or pastor's wishes about kneeling to receive communion, I don't know what is. And the CDWDS said this was "pastoral abuse" because kneeling to receive communion is "completely appropriate." End of story on the weight anyone must give the "wishes" of a pastor and his bishop about kneeling to receive communion. Now everyone is also, by the terms of my argument, free to stand. And I think they ought to if that's the practice of the parish. They also ought to kneel, if that's the practice of the parish.
With respect to kneeling after the Agnus Dei, the CDWDS has not made an express ruling. But for the reasons I explained, in our Diocese there's no present issue about that. Even if there were one, I don't see how the CDWDS can label kneeling after the Agnus Dei "pastoral abuse" without contradicting itself on kneeling to receive. Remember, the CDWDS didn't predicate its favorable opinion about kneeling on the act of reception, but on the presence of Christ Himself in the Blessed Sacrament. That presence is still going on after the Agnus Dei.
If Cardinal Ratzinger made a similar statement about the appropriate nature of *standing* for communion, would you likewise encourage communicants to stand at Tridentine masses?!
If it were incorporated into a specific CDWDS ruling that people can stand at Tridentine masses (which would be rather odd, given Quo Primum), then yes.
You wrote "What about kneeling during Communion? Well, remember that my bishop isn't voicing his personal preference. He's telling us that his instructions are merely obeying the US-GIRM's requirement that the congregation stand after the Agnus Dei. This is patently false: Query: Is it the case that the . . .the Institutio Generalis Missalis Romani, [the US-GIRM] intends to prohibit the faithful from kneeling after the Agnus Dei and following reception of Communion? Response: Negative." C'mon, man, I thought you [ ] liked accuracy? Once again, this letter from the CDWDS is not the end of the story. It does not even necessarily contradict Bishop X's actions: To say that the US-GIRM is not "intended" to prohibit us from kneeling is NOT the same thing as saying a bishop cannot lawfully *use* it to prohibit kneeling in a locality which wishes to enforce the majority custom in a blanket fashion under the US-GIRM.
If the Bishop says he's not enacting a personal ruling, but is instead only following what the US-GIRM has mandated for all Masses since 1974, then he's entirely contradicted by the CDWDS' response to Bishop Bruskewitz. The US-GIRM is not written to require standing after the Agnus Dei, and when my Bishop says otherwise, he's not relying on any authority granted to him by the US-GIRM.
I said repeatedly in my essay that if my Bishop wants to promulgate a requirement for standing after the Agnus Dei under § 43 of the US-GIRM, then he may do so. (Although its contrast with the CDWDS' protocol on §160(2) would create an echo of the same problem that exists regarding kneeling to receive communion). But since my Bishop has not done so, and since his extant statements on the matter show that he is acting without regard to his actual authority to do so, I think some specificity is required in order to actually enact the precept.
Is further Roman clarification on this matter not both warranted and expected at this very moment?
It's warranted. But I'm not expecting it. Sloppy administrators tend to stay sloppy.
I think the real question at hand is this: If a bishop tells me he is obeying the US-GIRM, who am I to contradict him in the absence of higher clarification and then to read vague statements of the CDWDS about the "intent" of the law as authorizing my own personal provisional dissent from Bishop X?
Well, suppose your bishop told you he was ordaining women to the priesthood in obedience to Ordinatio Sacerdotalis. Would you nod your head and let these ladies give you the Sacraments because your bishop says he's following Ordinatio Sacerdotalis? Of course not. Why not? Because no one in the Church is above the law of the Church, including the Bishop. He can't make up the moral obligations of Catholics by sheer ipse dixit, not unless Catholicism is what Lorraine Boettner and John Ankerberg say it is. If you trust the Bishop's statement, and have no reason in conscience to dispute it, then by all means you may do what he says. But if his statements are in clear conflict with ecclesiastical and theological reality, then surely no one is obliged to go along with him.
The CDWDS has not been vague. It has said specifically that the US-GIRM doesn't require standing after the Agnus Dei. Heck, §43 itself, the locus of my Bishop's authority to require standing after the Agnus Dei, specifically requires kneeling unless he exercises his authority to determine otherwise. My Bishop simply cannot say that the US-GIRM has always required standing, without reference to §43, and expect anyone to think he's actually made a ruling under §43. It's not a matter of "dissent" from what we imagine that other people want, intend, or think. It's a matter of determining whether there's a valid promulgated rule in the first place. There isn't one. Saying that is no more "dissent" than saying the Church hasn't proclaimed Mary Co-Redemptrix even though my Bishop might want that title to be proclaimed.
Certainly *I* am lightyears behind Bishop X on the path to sainthood. Are you?
Oh, stop it. Just stop it. Why do proponents of standing have to turn this debate into a contest of piety? There were at one time Catholics who came to think that a man's authority rested on his personal holiness. They were called Donatists, and today they're usually Protestants who run around saying there's no such thing as the papacy because Pope So-and-So had an illegitimate child and Pope Such-and-Such obtained his office by simony. Against them, the Church has always taught that the sacraments are the sacraments regardless of the personal holiness of the human minister. So it is with the Sacraments, and so it is with law about the Sacraments. They are what they are because of what they are, not because of the personal holiness of their minister. Suppose my Bishop actually did promulgate a precept about standing after the Agnus Dei, and suppose he were caught in a woman's embrace shortly thereafter. I can imagine the scorn which would attend my arguing that his adultery releives me of the obligation to obey him. It would be deserved scorn, because the binding force of such a precept doesn't depend on my Bishop's spiritual proximity to God.
So no, I'm not more saintly than the Bishop. In fact, I am such a sinner and have such unbelief that I can't imagine anyone who isn't further along on the road to sainthood than I am. That doesn't make me wrong about the present status of posture under the US-GIRM. Would I become right if I miraculously healed someone? No. The law is what it says it is. It's got nothing to do with who loves the Church more, or who loves God more, etc. BTW, that's the kind of thinking that has the Diocesan Newspaper engaging in the public villification of Catholics who kneel. If it's not right, then it must be impious. I leave that kind of thinking to the Baptists, and I wish everyone else would too.
Transmitted by SecretAgentMan 14:12 Hours [+]
Monday, July 14, 2003
Rerum Novarum versus SecretAgentMan: Round II
As anyone without better things to do knows, the Dossier and Shawn McElhinney's blog, Rerum Novarum, are involved in a battle over my Bishop's recent directive that I should not kneel to receive communion, and that I should not kneel after the Agnus Dei in the Mass. Shawn has posted a five-part criticism of my views, which had been expressed in an email to a friend of mine; Parts I through IV of Shawn's response can be found here,, while Part V can be found here. There is also an addendum regarding an unclarity in my original email, which hadn't adequately explained that my bishop forbids kneeling to receive communion and kneeling after the Agnus Dei, which can be found here. My thanks to Shawn for his interest and valuable critique. As usual, he has put his finger on the central issues -- law and piety -- by quoting several good sources on the topic and offering trenchant observations. I will reply in two parts, as indicated by Shawn's own position regarding the two-fold nature of the issue:
The CDWDS merely said that it was not forbidden to kneel. That does not mean that kneeling is therefore something that should be encouraged. As St. Paul noted once "[a]ll things are lawful but not all things are expedient. All things are lawful but not all things edify" (1 Cor. 10:23). In the liturgical context one could paraphrase this as "all that is lawful is not expedient. All that is lawful does not edify."
I think that for my part, some amplification ought to be made of Shawn's wise recourse to St. Paul, for the Apostle to the Gentiles doesn't regard "edification" as a mere notion of Christian aesthetics. Edification is directly connected to an appreciative witness of God as the being who creates all other truths, goodnesses, and beauties. For this reason he urges Christians to go beyond the confines of "taste" and immerse themselves in things which edify: "[W]hatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things." Phillipians 4:8 (KJV).
To say that a thing is "lawful but not edifying" means that a Christian should have as little to do with it as possible. Now Shawn's replies may sound confusing to some, since they mix law and goodness within a refined sensibility that is foreign to the manichean interpretation most Americans impose upon the idea of "legality." Americans insist that "legality" must directly correspond to "goodness." We don't easily appreciate St. Paul's (or Shawn's) enthusiastic embrace of goodness at all times and in all ways, without limiting ourselves to laws -- even to laws which are in themselves good and just. Even when we appreciate the tension, our manichean habits tempt us to reject "law" as being an obstacle to "goodness." We generally maintain only two opinions about law -- first, that by rendering to Caesar we render to God; or, second, that by rendering to Caesar we abandon God. The verse leads us to arguments about civil authority which are not germane. But we are still concerned with authority, and so for the general benefit I thought it might be helpful to point out that Shawn's not being formally contradictory when he argues that while kneeling may be lawful, it is so only in the barest possible sense; and since kneeling cannot, in the present environment, edify the Body of Christ or the individual who kneels, it should not be done no matter how lawful it might be. But I take issue with his argument, which I fear formally distinguishes goodness and legality while at the same time substantially arguing that legality determines goodness. My reply is in two parts, titled "The Legalism of Kneeling" and "Edification and Kneeling."
I begin by repeating selections of Shawn's arguments and sources to give what I believe is an accurate summary of his position on the legality of kneeling. I'm not trying to ignore the finer points, but I think that readers would appreciate a synopsis of Shawn's arguments continuously presented rather than left as they were originally posted, a kind of running commentary on each of my own earlier points. That's fine and accepted Internet style of course (I use it myself), but as the arguments become more engaged it can be extremely difficult to follow. Essentially, Shawn makes three arguments.
First, he says, let's have none of SecretAgentMan's quibbling about what "norm" means in US-GIRM ¶ 160(2) (standing to receive Communion) and what it must therefore mean in episcopal decisions made under US-GIRM ¶ 43 (standing during Communion). Norms are normative. They are not suggestions, but directions which should be followed unless an objective circumstance justifies a departure:
. . . A "norm" means in essence "standard procedure" if you will. (Or what is authorized to be used.) Much as receiving water baptism is a norm for one who wants to be saved. Norms of course can admit of exceptions but one of the problems we have today is people trying to elevate exceptions into the rule. . . . A norm is something that people are expected to do. . . . A norm is an expectation. It is set down to be followed and should be barring unusual or extraordinary circumstances. (For example, someone in a wheelchair would not have to stand for communion if that was standard protocol.)
Shawn then explains that the Second Vatican Council intended a new accommodation between the Church's expression of catholicity in (i) worldwide uniformity (represented by the tight hand of, say, St. Pius V in Quo Primum) and (ii) pastoral solicitude for the particularities of nations, times, and cultures (represented by the protection of other rites even in Quo Primum, or by the "Agatha Christie Indult" for the Sarum Rite granted by Paul VI). Referring to the first priority as involving "macro" issues, and the second as involving "micro" issues, he contends that the US-GIRM is, by reasonable extension, a Vatican-approved grant of localized authority to direct liturgical action:
I think it is important to recognize what the liturgical intentions of the Vatican have been since the Second Vatican Council. In essence there are two threads here that need to be considered. The first is the Holy See retaining control of the liturgical celebration following in the footsteps of the liturgical reform after the Council of Trent. The second is to return the liturgy to the regulation of the local ordinary where it properly belongs. The former is properly understood as of a macro nature, the latter of a much more micro one. . . .
Shawn has found a disputational axe in the proposition that norms are binding on whoever is objectively able to comply with them. By showing how the Church recognizes the bishops' authority to promulgate local laws regarding the liturgy, Shawn swings the axe over his head in a wide and terrible arc. In his third argument he brings the sharp blade crashing down with tremendous force by invoking an element of Catholic thought hallowed in the epistle of St. Ignatius to the Smyrneans -- let nothing be done without the bishop:
. . . [C]ommunion posture is not remotely in the same category [of immovable teaching such as Humanae Vitae] in that liceity is a movable feast in this regard to some extent. It [communion posture] falls under the realm of regulating the application of the divine law - a principle explicitly recognized by the Council of Trent. To quote from Session XXI which dealt with the Doctrine on the Most Holy Eucharist:
This makes me mad. I've quoted that same selection in my minor skirmishing with "RadTrads" who quarrel with the legitimacy of the Novus Ordo itself. Shawn's not only swinging the timber-axe of obedience at my argument, but he's borrowed the axe from my own damn toolshed! Does Shawn strike home? Can SecretAgentMan survive without bitterly quoting Deitrich von Hildebrand on theological positivism?
I think I can. In fact, I think I heard a big "whooooshhhhhh . . . . . " as the axe-head slashed just past my ear, heading in the vicinity of Shawn's toes. I realize he's making a subtle argument about law and edification, but his juxtaposed authorities (or, perhaps, the ones I juxtaposed for him, but I think I've been fair about it) prove too much. Consider, if (as Shawn argues) the norms requiring standing are binding instructions, validly issued by the bishops' power to enact laws for the good of the Church, a power whose legitimate exercise in the present case must be obeyed as a de fide teaching of the Church, then surely my bishop is right when he says that those who kneel to receive communion "clearly will be demonstrating dissent from the mind of the Church." And if my bishop is right to say that kneeling is a public declaration of "dissent from the mind of the Church" and disobedience to the Bishop of Rome, then those who kneel are schismatic and heretical. "Heresy is the obstinate denial or doubt, after baptism, of a truth which must be believed by divine and catholic faith. . . . Schism is the withdrawal of submission to the Supreme Pontiff or from communion with the members of the Church subject to him." (Catechism of the Catholic Church, ¶¶ 4-5) While the correct posture for communion is not of itself a "truth which must be believed by divine and catholic faith," the idea that the Bishops and the Holy Father may require a certain posture is, as Shawn points out, such a truth. Given this, it seems unlikely that anyone who kneels should be given communion, since communion must be refused in "cases presenting a danger of grave scandal to other believers arising out of the person's . . . schism, publicly professed or declared." (Code of Canon Law, Canon 751, § 2 (1983) (Washington: Canon Law Society of America, 1983)).
That's what Shawn's argument must prove, if it proves anything, but that's also exactly the opposite of the conclusion reached by every authority which has considered the matter. Communicants who kneel are not to be denied communion, because kneeling to receive communion (and, by reasonable extension, kneeling during communion) is "completely appropriate in light of the true, real and substantial presence of Our Lord Jesus Christ under the consecrated species." (Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments, Protocol # 1322/02/L, 1 July 2002. This apparent contradiction between the terms of Shawn's argument and its conclusion results from a crucial flaw, namely Shawn's insufficient accounting for the contradictory positions which our liturgical "macro" and "micro" authorities have taken on the issue of kneeling. Because of those different positions, Shawn cannot, as he seems to have done, restrict the question of kneeling under the US-GIRM to the simple confines of an individual's response to a licit exercise of episcopal authority.
I agree with him that our question involves "macro" and "micro" spheres of authority. But I think he would agree with me that distinguishing between "macro" and "micro" spheres of authority admits of "macro" and "micro" authorities and that, by the very nature of their competence, these authorities impose "macro" and "micro" instructions and obligations. Let's spend some time looking at our "macro" authority, the authority to whom my bishop's ability to make norms about posture must always refer:
Therefore, relying on the clear testimonies of Sacred Scripture, and adhering to the eloquent and manifest decisions not only of Our predecessors, the Roman Pontiffs, but also of the general Councils, We renew the definition of the Ecumenical Councils of Florence, by which all the faithful of Christ most believe ‘that the Apostolic See and the Roman Pontiff hold primacy over the whole world, and that the Pontiff of Rome himself is the successor of the blessed Peter, the chief of the apostles, and is the true vicar of Christ and head of the whole Church and faith, and teacher of all Christians; and that to him was handed down in blessed Peter, by our Lord Jesus Christ, full power to feed, rule, and guide the universal Church, just as is also contained in the records of the ecumenical Councils and in the sacred canons.'"
We are accustomed to thinking of Vatican I as "the Council that taught papal infallibility." A reference to the Council's decrees might at first glance seem ill-placed in our discussion, which does not involve infallibility or matters of faith and morals. But papal infallibility is not the whole of the Council's teaching. The Council also taught the age-old truth that the Holy Father has immediate, ordinary, episcopal authority "not only in things which pertain to faith and morals, but also in those which pertain to discipline and government of the Church spread over the whole world."
The Holy Father exercises this jurisdiction in various ways. He exercises it personally, when he issues orders, preaches in encyclical letters, and when he acts through the various Congregations which are established within the Church at his pleasure -- like the CDWDS. (Cf. Codex Iuris Canonici Cans. 360, "The Supreme Pontiff usually conducts the business of the universal Church by means of the Roman Curia . . . it consists of . . . congregations, tribunals, and other institutions . . ."). The CDWDS, exercising the authority of the Holy Father himself, has explained that kneeling cannot be forbidden by the US-GIRM:
Roma locuta est; causa finita est. "The supervision of the sacred liturgy depends solely on the authority of the Church which resides in the Apostolic See and, in accord with the law, with the diocesan bishop. It is for the Apostolic See to [set the] order [of] the sacred liturgy of the universal church . . . and to see that liturgical ordinances are faithful observed everywhere." Codex Iuris Canonici, Can. 838 §§ 1 & 2. The CDWDS has said it is a "fact" that "the practice of kneeling for Holy Communion . . . is a particularly expressive sign of adoration, completely appropriate in light of the true, real and substantial presence of Our Lord Jesus Christ under the consecrated species. Those who kneel are not schismatic, not scandalous, and may be properly disposed to receive Holy Communion -- hardly terms which characterize actions which are supposedly proximate to scandal, heresy, or otherwise repugnant to the sense of the faithful. As Vatican I repeated, with respect to these decisions "the pastors and the faithful of whatever right and dignity, both as separate individuals and all together, are bound by the duty of hierarchical subordination and true obedience." Moreover, inasmuch as the process of denying Communion to those who kneel is "pastoral abuse," the Diocesan campaign now afoot to deter Catholics from kneeling by less confrontational means than a priest's direct refusal of communion is, at the very least, a hypocritical and vicious attempt to get Catholics to do to themselves what the Bishop is prohibited from doing to them.
By the express ruling of the CDWDS above -- and also, it should be added, by the necessity of Vatican's approval for US-GIRM § 160(2) in the first place -- my "micro authority" is forbidden from making any law against kneeling to receive communion that binds my conscience. If he could make such a law, then my kneeling would be direct disobedience to it, and that is hardly something which US-GIRM § 160(2) or the CDWDS would condone. Is this a bad thing? Of course it's a bad thing when "micro" authorities pretend that they can ignore "macro" authorities. Of course it's a bad thing when "macro" authorities give initiative with one hand and restrict it with the other. And it's a bad thing when the same "micro" and "macro" authorities blithely proceed as though there's no conflict at all. But I'm not a "macro" authority or a "micro" authority. I'm a "micro layman." My Pope (through the CDWDS) says my kneeling to receive is completely appropriate. My Bishop (through a local newspaper I help fund) says that people who kneel to receive are schismatic. The Lieutenant commands, "Steer 180 degrees," and the Captain shouts, "Belay that order!" Would we court-martial the helmsman? Would we even think that the helmsman's obedience to the Captain is conduct prejudicial to the service? Would it matter if all the other swabbies agreed with the Lieutenant? The answer is "no" on all three counts, and the answer is "no" to Shawn's argument that kneeling is a quasi-demi-illicit traducing of episcopal authority.
What about kneeling during Communion? Well, remember that my bishop isn't voicing his personal preference. He's telling us that his instructions are merely obeying the US-GIRM's requirement that the congregation stand after the Agnus Dei. This is patently false:
Query: Is it the case that the . . . the Institutio Generalis Missalis Romani, [the US-GIRM] intends to prohibit the faithful from kneeling after the Agnus Dei and following reception of Communion?
Even US-GIRM § 43 explicitly rejects my Bishop's interpretation, stating that "[t]he faithful kneel after the Agnus Dei unless the Diocesan Bishop determines otherwise." (A footnote directs the reader to Sacrosanctum Concilium of which more later). Clearly the US-GIRM grants my Bishop the authority to impose his personal preference upon the parishes of our Diocese, but my Bishop's insistence that his personal preference is not involved means that he does not intend to use the authority granted to him under §43. What is the moral position of a layman (or priest) who receives an episcopal instruction that explicitly says it's intended to exercise a non-existent authority? The Bishop has no authority whatsoever to impose standing during communion "in obedience" to the GIRM, because the GIRM does not in any way require the faithful to stand during communion. Now if he said, clearly and unequivocally, that while the GIRM "defaults" to kneeling during Communion it also grants him a personal, episcopal authority to decide that standing is better, and that he was intending to exercise that authority for our Diocese alone, his instructions would have some validity in law and require our serious attention. But as long as my Bishop says his instructions are given to bring our parishes into conformity with the GIRM, no one is obliged to take him any more seriously than if he announced his intention to ordain women in order to bring us into line with Ordinatio Sacerdotalis.
Suppose my bishop grasped political nettle and admitted that the US-GIRM actually requires us to kneel after the Agnus Dei unless he decides otherwise. Suppose he admitted that while Catholics in the West have knelt during Communion since the days of the Sacramentarium Gregorianum, he has -- as Sacrosanctum Concilium requires -- "carefully and prudently consider[ed] which elements from the traditions and culture of individual peoples might appropriately be admitted into divine worship." (Id. ¶ 40(1)) Suppose he publicly concludes that our own 200-year-history of kneeling during Communion is culturally inauthentic, and that the actual culture of Midwestern farmers and factory workers urges us to acknowledge the divine presence by standing and singing "We Are Church." (Actually, it's the State University fight song, but that's another essay). Suppose he really did what the US-GIRM permits him to do and told us that while every other Catholic in the world may kneel before God in the Mass, we must stand and sing. What then? Are we then obliged to abandon our culture for the sake of our Bishop's vision of our culture?
To answer this question, let's look at what the Bishop's directive would be. Would it be an exercise of his episcopal authority to "enact those laws which he considers for the good of his dioceses . . . [regarding] the conduct of divine worship"? (Catholic Encyclopedic Dictionary, Donald Attwater General Editor, tenth edition, pg. 62)?
285. Definition. -- Law is an ordinance of the reason for the common good promulgated by him who has authority in the community.
Clearly, the present rule of affairs in our Diocese is not "law" because it does not meet criteria (d), (e) (f) -- my Bishop has not made or promulgated the decision authorized by US-GIRM § 43, he has only promulgated his own false interpretation of the GIRM. But we speak here of a proper decision duly promulgated by my Bishop. Would it be a law? Arguably not, because its existence would be personal to him not binding on any successor, and "a rule that binds only during the lifetime of the lawgiver . . . is not strictly a law, because not enduring." Id. But I shan't quibble with that argument, because the same point is raised by the next best thing to a law, namely a "precept," which is a "command obliging in conscience" given to individuals identified by voluntary membership in a specific community or a jurisdictional area of the Church ruled by, for example, a Bishop. Id. ¶¶ 515-517.
So if my Bishop actually did what US-GIRM § 43 let him do, and announced his personal precept / law for all of us to stand during communion, where would that leave kneeling folk like me? Certainly, it would not leave us in the position of disobedient sinners:
288. Collision of Laws. -- Not infrequently it happens that opposite laws seem to call for fulfillment at the same time, as when in case of unjust attack it seems that one is bound to defend oneself and bound not to injure the other party. Hence arises a conflict of obligations and rights. But the difficulty is only apparent; for, since God is a just and wise lawgiver, He does not intend either that one should be held to impossibilities, or that a superior obligation should yield to one that is inferior. Hence, the rule in such cases of apparent collision of laws is: (a) if a person can recognize which of the two obligations is superior, he is bound to follow that one; (b) if he is unable to discover after careful examination which obligation has the greater claim, and must decide at once, he may decide for the law whose observance seems to him safer; or, if he sees no difference as regards safety, he may decide for either as he wishes. If the decision is wrong, the error is involuntary, and hence not imputable as sin.
With respect to this theology, my bishop has been handed a serious problem by the drafters of US-GIRM § 43. You see, if § 43 had been written to say, "[t]he faithful kneel after the Agnus Dei unless the Diocesan Bishop determines otherwise by flipping a coin, or some other capricious whimsy," then my Bishop's decision (while invalid for other reasons) couldn't conflict with the CDWDS' teaching about kneeling, because the CDWDS only speaks about the kneeling at the moment of reception.
But by predicating my Bishop's ability to opt for standing on Sacrosanctum Concilium, the US-GIRM has required him to go beyond capricious whimsy and advance his ideas about a proper Catholic response to the presence of God:
21. In order that the Christian people may more certainly derive an abundance of graces from the sacred liturgy, holy Mother Church desires to undertake with great care a general restoration of the liturgy itself. For the liturgy is made up of immutable elements divinely instituted, and of elements subject to change. These not only may but ought to be changed with the passage of time if they have suffered from the intrusion of anything out of harmony with the inner nature of the liturgy or have become unsuited to it. . . .
Both under the express terms of the US-GIRM, and the general reservation of authority to the Holy See in ecclesiastical law which finds its relevant expression in Sacrosanctum Concilium, my Bishop can't just opt for standing because his John Paul II Euro came up "heads." He can require standing only by simultaneously advancing the idea that kneeling is an "intrusion" of something "out of harmony with the inner nature of the liturgy" and which has become "unsuited to it," so that the "good of the Church genuinely and certainly requires" it to be replaced by an element "from the traditions and culture of individual peoples" which can be "appropriately be admitted into divine worship." Id.
Of course, my Bishop makes no such argument. While explaining why the US-GIRM supposedly requires standing after the Agnus Dei, he opines that kneeling is a "penitent" posture that is unsuited to the public adoration of God in the Mass. According to him, the US-GIRM isn't adapting the Mass to congenially suit our culture. The GIRM is actually restoring our witness by stripping away medieval "intrusions" which are "out of harmony with the inner nature of the liturgy." Arguably, that's not the kind of cultural adaptation allowed by the US-GIRM or ¶ 40 of Sacrosanctum Concilium. It's really more within the role reserved to the Apostolic See: "The supervision of the sacred liturgy depends solely on the authority of the Church which resides in the Apostolic See . . . It is for the Apostolic See to [set the] order [of] the sacred liturgy of the universal church . . .." Codex Iuris Canonici, Can. 838 §§ 1 & 2. But in any event, a precept requiring standing under § 43 of the US-GIRM is necessarily involved with theology and culture, as both the US-GIRM and Sacrosanctum Concilium make plain. Neither theology nor culture exists in a vacuum, nor are they independent of one another. Theology and culture form and are formed by one another, and cultural actions have unavoidable theological components and undeniable evangelical implications. Significant cultural statements are always theological statements, which is one of the reasons why God created an entire Old Testament culture so that His people would not have other gods before Him. All of which brings us back to the "macro managing" of the CDWDS.
The CDWDS has its own testimony about kneeling, and it directly conflicts with my Bishop's: In fact, as His Eminence, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger has recently emphasized, the practice of kneeling for Holy Communion has in its favor a centuries-old tradition, and it is a particularly expressive sign of adoration, completely appropriate in light of the true, real and substantial presence of Our Lord Jesus Christ under the consecrated species. Ibid. I believe the CDWDS here refers approvingly to Cardinal Ratzinger's book The Spirit of the Liturgy which discusses the supra-cultural aspects of kneeling before God:
There are groups, of no small influence, who are trying to talk us out of kneeling. "It doesn't suit our culture", they say (which culture?) "It's not right for a grown man to do this -- he should face God on his feet". Or again: "It's not appropriate for redeemed man -- he has been set free by Christ and doesn't need to kneel any more". . . .
The passage is quoted at length because Cardinal Ratzinger is actually elevating kneeling above culture, making a Thomistic argument about the nature of the human body and its inherent ability to express spiritual and metaphysical realities. Because of this inherent expressiveness, a liturgy without kneeling "would be sick at the core," just as if it were a liturgy that abuses the expressiveness of human speech to deny or misrepresent some element of divine truth.
If an episcopal precept existed which required me to stand while Our Lord is actually, physically present before me, then obedience would be required. Obedience, however, isn't limited to external assent: The element that differentiates [obedience] adequately from other good habits is found in the last part of the definition already given. Stress is put upon the fact that one not only does what is actually enjoined, but does it with a mind to formally fall in with the will of the commander. Catholic Encyclopedia, "Obedience" (New York: Knights of Columbus, 1913). The CDWDS' approval of kneeling doesn't depend on the communicant's act of receiving, but on God's act of becoming present under the species of bread and wine. So, again, there are two commanders, two authorities, saying different things. My "micro commander" says I should have a mind to formally fall in with the idea that kneeling after the Agnus Dei is an inauthentic bit of pseudo-culture that is an inappropriate response to God's presence. My "macro commander" says I should have a mind to formally fall in with the idea that kneeling whenever God is present in the Mass is "completely appropriate" and, if the CDWDS' amplification by way of reference to Cardinal Ratzinger is accepted, even a completely-required response from a created human being to the presence of God. My "micro commander" says that my ability to kneel is, in effect, a cultural style which can be altered and adjusted to suit his own views on what would be a proper evangelical proclamation of God's presence. My "macro commander" says that my ability to kneel is, in effect, a God-willed part of my nature as a created being whose perfect observance commends kneeling when I adore Him. The witnesses are inconsistent; whose will should I formally fall in with?
This juxtaposition of conflicting law and authority is not an ipse dixit thrown up by my own argument. It results from the terms of the debate set by the US-GIRM itself. That kneeling is an ontological/theological matter, and not merely (or even primarily) a cultural issue, is borne out by § 160(2) of the US-GIRM itself, which says that Catholics who want to kneel to receive communion "should be addressed pastorally, by providing the faithful with proper catechesis on the reasons for this norm." The highlighted phrase is revealing in light of what "catechesis" means:
Quite early on, the name catechesis was given to the totality of the Church's efforts to make disciples, to help men believe that Jesus is the Son of God so that believing they might have life in his name, and to educate and instruct them in this life, thus building up the body of Christ. Catechesis is an education in the faith . . . which includes especially the teaching of Christian doctrine imparted, generally speaking, in an organic and systematic way, with a view to initiating the hearers into the fullness of Christian life.
If someone who kneels should be given proper catechesis in order to stop kneeling, and if we understand that proper catechesis is an education in the faith with a view to living the fullness of Christian life, it follows that the Bishops believe kneeling before a consecrated Host is ignorance of the faith and a detraction from the fullness of Christian life The CDWDS, together with Cardinal Ratzinger, say that disregarding the necessity of kneeling before God is "sick at the core." If I follow my "micro commander," I must witness to a theology which regards kneeling as a cultural response to a truth of Christian life which has been rendered inauthentic by changes in that culture. But if I follow my "macro commander," I must witness to a theology which regards kneeling as an ontologically-authentic response by a creature to his creator, a response rooted in the created reality of the human body and which therefore transcends culture. Whose theology should I formally fall in with and express?
"[T]he difficulty," as McHugh, Callan and O'Farrell say, "is only apparent . . . the rule in such cases of apparent collision of laws is: (a) if a person can recognize which of the two obligations is superior, he is bound to follow that one." ( McHugh, Callan, O'Farrell, Moral Theology, Vol. I, ¶ 288 (New York: B. Herder, 1958)). The theological obligations imposed by the CDWDS' statements are superior to those of my bishop in their own terms, in their source, and in their claims. Even if I were in doubt about whose authority in this matter were to be followed, surely it is the safer course to accept one's nature as a created being than to hinge one's response to God's presence on a bishop's idea of culture. Even if there were no difference as to the safety of these views (a point I willingly concede), and my bishop had his own "counter-Thomist" theology about posture and adoration, I may still decide for either as I wish, and that seems to me the strongest argument for my ability to (respectfully) disregard my Bishop's decision about kneeling after the Agnus Dei when and if he ever gets around to making one in lieu of obeying a false interpretation of the GIRM.
Coming soon . . . . "Edification and Kneeling"
Transmitted by SecretAgentMan 11:10 Hours [+]
Sunday, July 13, 2003
Pope Kisses Mosque Good-Bye. Good for him!
Transmitted by SecretAgentMan 21:24 Hours [+]
Heinrich Rommen's Right!
There is no way out. The state as a moral entity, political authority without regard to its historical form equipped with the indubitable right to demand moral obedience, and not simply shrewd external conformity, the rights of man, all these problems of political philosophy can find a satisfactory solution only from the standpoint of theism. If the rights of man and the duties of authority, and the duties of man and the rights of authority, do not ultimately originate in a transcendent God who is perfect Intellect, infinite Goodness, omnipotent Will, gracious and just Providence, then there is no escape from anarchy or from tyranny. So invincible is this argument that from time immemorial philosophers have deduced a proof of the existence of God from the nature of man as a political and legal being, from the existence of the state and of the law.
-- Heinrich Rommen, The State in Catholic Thought
Transmitted by SecretAgentMan 01:44 Hours [+]
Thursday, July 10, 2003
When the medium is the message . . . .
From an ABC News story about newly-appointed Archbishop O'Malley of Boston comes this stunning question: "In [Rev. Richard] McBrien's view, John Paul and his advisers have severely limited the field, naming only bishops ‘known for their uncritical loyalty to the Holy See and their complete predictability.' ‘Is there a shortage of talent in the U.S. priesthood?' McBrien asks." You know you can stop reading right there, because it can't get any sillier than that.
Transmitted by SecretAgentMan 14:16 Hours [+]
I recently acquired an amazing book, Treasury of Prayer by Fr. Lawrence G. Lovasik. To read about Fr. Lovasik, you can go to his autobiography at the Catholic Authors' website. (That site is a very worthwhile place. It has biographies and autobiographies of the men and women who've bequeathed literary treasures to the Church such as Antonia White, Sigrid Undset, Robert Hugh Benson, Graham Greene, Evelyn Waugh and many others). Treasury of Prayer is aptly named; it's full of breathtaking and inspiring prayers from older days, when men seemed less abashed at the prospect of being overwhelmed with headlong, eloquent, and innocent love for Jesus, His Church, her Sacraments and His Saints. (The book's imprimatur was granted in 1952; the very idea that a book of Catholic prayers might require an imprimatur shows you how old it is). There are hundreds of prayers here -- aspirations, novenas, litanies, morning prayers, day prayers, evening prayers. There are prayers for the sacraments, particularly for the Eucharist and Reconciliation.
Fr. Lovasik's Treasury doesn't have any of those ponderous meditations that cumber older prayerbooks like tangles of overgrown hedges. The prayers he chose for the Treasury are as fresh and vivid as the day they were first offered to God. Included, for example, is a love-hymn by St. Teresa of the Child Jesus (a/k/a St. Therese of Lisieux), a perfect prayer for someone who's received the Eucharist:
Jesus, now You fill my heart to overflowing. My dear Saviour, repose in my heart, for it belongs to You. Only self-surrender places me in Your arms and lets me feed on the Bread of Love reserved for Your chosen ones.
How many of us care enough, are brave enough, to bare ourselves so completely to anyone, let alone to our very own omniscient and divine lover? This is why Catholics love books of prayers. We always have, and always will, because the Lord has made us very wise about such things.
Christians of a certain culture hoot derisively at our affection for "meaningless, pre-packaged formulas that bounce off the ceiling" because they're not "free, open, and truly from the heart." If such Christians lived by their own standards, they'd burn their hymn-books and allow only impromptu whistling to accompany their worship. Complaints like these demand ignorance of a truth all lovers instinctively know: There's no shame in humbly joining another's words to one's own overwhelming, inarticulate desires. Our books of prayers are no different from the hymnals, organs or (may God give them grace to abjure it) electric-guitars and drumsets which can be variously found in Reformed churches. Like the hymns of old, the prayers of the saints help us bring our own deep longings into a more conscious, recognizable form. They make our faith visible to ourselves. They affirm the "venerable communion" that flows through all our loves for Him, both across time and within time. Like hand-holds left by earlier climbers to the same summit, the prayers of great lovers help us climb above our present state. They show us who we really are, and who we could more completely be.
Prayerbooks like Fr. Lovasik's should be found in every home, purse, briefcase, and glove-box. These gems of devotion may be prayed intensely, or read queitly as poetic essays on the glory and mystery of our lives in God's love -- that too, is prayer. There's no point to having such a book except faith in God and His Church, and so allowing one into your life is itself an act of faith in Him who makes us who we really are, and who we could more completely be. If you wish to acquire Fr. Lovasik's collection, you can do so at Roman Catholic Books. (I'm not too fond of all their offerings, but they've got the right stuff in this one) or from St. Joan of Arc Books.
Transmitted by SecretAgentMan 09:19 Hours [+]
Wednesday, July 09, 2003
Mark Shea says add me to your daily blogger? You mean I gotta come up with something all shiny and brilliant every single day? Man, that's gonna be tough -- sometimes it takes me an hour to realize that you gotta go counterclockwise to get mayonnaise! I will do my best. Gee, thanks Mark! Thanks a whole bunch!
Transmitted by SecretAgentMan 13:50 Hours [+]
Tuesday, July 08, 2003
Here are two questions about Sola Scriptura and my answer, "posing" as a Reformed Christian.
My question rests in how Sola Scriptura could have possibly functioned during the 17-18 centuries before printing became widespread (and affordable) and before the great majority of people in the world were literate? Why would God establish a infallible rule of faith inaccessable to most people?
Because it wasn't inaccessible. We don't think literacy is a sacrament. What is more important than the ability to read is the ability to understand and live the word in faith. That understanding was alive in the middle ages, although it was often obscured or persecuted by the Catholic hierarchy. I hope I've answered your question. Now, if you want me to explain why hinging salvation on other people's summaries and estimates of what Scripture says doesn't require submission to a Magisterium that Dare Not Speak Its Name, this will take more time.
Further, before the Scriptures were compiled (and parts of it written for that matter) to what Scriptures were Christians to turn for this infallible rule of faith?
The infallible rule of faith is in Scripture, but the existence of the rule isn't confined to Scripture. For example, it exists in a certain sense outside of Scripture, in the lives of people who live that rule and preach it to others. The infallible rule of faith was entirely committed to Scripture by the end of the Apostolic age so that all Christians would have access to it (or to summaries and estimates of it, see above). Nothing prevented God from speaking about Christ before He was born, and in a somewhat similar (but not at all identical) way the Apostles spoke the Gospel before Scripture was canonically complete. I hope I've answered your question. Now, if you want me to distinguish this from an infallible Magisterium of Nine Sacred Scribes cooperating with the Holy Spirit to hand on the Gospel through the custody of a Magisterium that Dare Not Speak Its Name, this will take even more time.
Transmitted by SecretAgentMan 13:33 Hours [+]
SecretAgentMan Begins Blogging
For several months now, acquaintances and friends have been telling me I should have a blogspot. I. Shawn McElhinney was even kind enough to set this one up for me, since all I can do is type, and typing has no relationship to using a computer. They've been very kind in urging me to do this, especially since they've refrained from telling me all the reasons for their entreaties, which (I'm sure) include these: "Don't clog up our message board!" "Stop emailing me!" "Not again!" and "Go play in the street!" Since I'm a little slow on the uptake, the usual geologic age has passed between their suggestion and my response. But my Ice Age of contemplation has ended, my neanderthal ideas are venturing out into a new and brighter dawn, and I feel confident enough to display my attempts at flint-knapping to public view. So I am blogging. What my kind friends don't realize, however, is that I take so much pleasure in discourse that I will no doubt continue to clog their message boards and pester them with jarringly-irrelevant emails. It has to be, unfortunately: How else can they publish a multi-volume edition of my Collected Works if I reduce my output of verbiage?
Transmitted by SecretAgentMan 07:18 Hours [+]
Rerum Novarum vs SecretAgentMan:
I recently sent an email to a good friend about a Diocese whose bishop has banned kneeling to receive communion. He's also decided to ban kneeling during communion -- after communing, all parishioners are to stand and sing hymns. This is to be done, he says, because allowing private prayer after communion "privatizes" the Mass and contradicts its essential nature as a communal celebration. He also contends that the GIRM (both in its 1974 version and as recently amended) requires standing during communion. The Diocese's newspaper has been running editorials and carefully-selected letters to the editor castigating Catholics who kneel to receive communion as manifesting "open dissent from the mind of the Church," of disobeying a direct command from the Vatican, and who are therefore rejecting unity in obedience to a successor of the Apostles, i.e. rejecting Catholicism itself.
My email set out some of my thoughts on the matter, and was also sent to the redoubtable I. Shawn McElhinney who brilliantly blogs at Rerum Novarum. Shawn has great insights into, and deep knowledge of, the peculiarities of Catholicism's manner of self-government. Don't let my hearty and confident (or bombastic and pompous, take your pick) tone in this post and others fool you. This issue is really tearing at me and, I suspect, others who could use the benefit of Shawn's counsel. By stating my arguments as forcefully as I can, and with as much sang froid as I can, I hope to gain not only an education but avoid tedious public displays of my own hand-wringing on the matter. Fortunately, Shawn and some of my other correspondents are marshaling replies by blog and email. I will offer my responses presently, but for the record here's the original email (sent to a friend) in all its gory details:
Bishop X is wrong when he says the GIRM requires standing during communion, and wrong when he says that to the Diocese in the Diocesan Paper. In view of ¶ 43 of the 2000 US-GIRM, I don't understand how that mistake could be made. Even the 1974 US-GIRM was interpreted by the Vatican to make standing during communion optional: "Thus it [standing] is a matter of option, not obligation." Notitiae 10 (1974) 407. Bishop Bruskewitz posed our question about the new GIRM adaptations to the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments:
Query: Is it the case that the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, by no. 43 of the Institutio Generalis Missalis Romani, [the new 2000 GIRM] intends to prohibit the faithful from kneeling after the Agnus Dei and following reception of Communion?
No one can truly say that the GIRM requires, or that it is even intended to require, the faithful to stand during communion. What the GIRM intends to do, at best, is to consign standing during communion to the personal preference of the Bishop. That makes the relevance of "obedience" very hazy and uncertain, since Catholics aren't under a moral obligation to conform themselves to the personal preferences of their Bishop. We don't have to drive the same car he does, like the same television shows he does, etc. Certainly posture during Holy Communion is a much more serious matter, but that only means the USCCB's amendments aren't treating the subject as seriously as it deserves, and who owes obedience in that context? Appeals to the Bishop's authority as "chief liturgist" is self-referential silliness, in my view, since "liturgists" are simply administrative functionaries whose purpose is to facilitate the observation of the rite per the GIRM. In light of ¶ 43 of the US-GIRM, saying the Bishop is "chief liturgist" is merely saying he's chiefly responsible for determining his personal preference about posture for communion.
I'm not sure I can agree with your statement that kneeling to receive communion is "illicit." Recall that the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments ("CDWDS") is the body with final authority over the GIRM and its US adaptations. Even in light of ¶ 43 of the US-GIRM, Bishop X's authority to prefer one posture over another is subject to the CDWDS' ruling. The CDWDS has vigorously condemned the practice (which has occurred in this Diocese) of refusing communion to kneeling Catholics. In its condemnation, the Congregation said:
In fact, as His Eminence, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger has recently emphasized, the practice of kneeling for Holy Communion has in its favor a centuries-old tradition, and it is a particularly expressive sign of adoration, completely appropriate in light of the true, real and substantial presence of Our Lord Jesus Christ under the consecrated species.
How can kneeling be "completely appropriate" and "illicit"? Given the fact that Bishop X's actions under ¶ 43 (as well as the USCCB's actions under ¶ 160) are nothing more than the exercise of personal or local preferences under an authority which itself expressly requires bishops to recognize kneeling as "completely appropriate," I think the word "illicit" is well-nigh calumny, although I know you don't intend it that way.
I also think that ¶ 160 doesn't lay down any rule at all. It says that the "norm" for the reception of communion is standing. What is a "norm"? It is a thing which may be frequent, or required, or both. It is the "norm" for drivers in the United States to exceed the speed limit, but it is not the "norm" that they be required to do so. It is the "norm" for Catholics to avoid contraception, but as all the polls tell us, eschewing contraception is not the "norm" among American Catholics. Is the word a perception, or a command? As the CDWDS has already said, it is not a command. Therefore it is a perception. I don't have to obey the Bishops' perceptions of what Catholics do at Mass any more than I have to obey their perceptions of where Catholics eat breakfast after Mass. In contrast, any custom of more than thirty years' duration among the faithful capable of receiving a law, which is approved by a competent legislator can then have the force of law. Codex Iuris Canonici, Can. 23-27. Catholics were kneeling at Mass before 1973, and the CDWDS has approved the custom as "completely appropriate" for the celebration of Mass. I'm not a canon lawyer by any means, nor a "liturgist," but I am a betting man and I'd wager on kneeling being a custom with the force of law before I put money on ¶ 160's "norm" really meaning "a command binding on pain of (even venial) sin."
I must say I've been astounded by the Diocesan Paper's public campaign encouraging Catholics in this Diocese to regard their kneeling brothers and sisters as schismatics, heretics, and betrayers of the faith. Calumny, detraction, and suspicion are not things one expects to find in a Diocesan newspaper. The Diocesan Paper has in fact claimed that kneeling Catholics are disobeying the direct instructions of the Vatican. That is calumnious. The Diocesan Paper has in fact claimed that kneeling Catholics are disregarding the personal preference of the Bishop, and doing so in a climate (which its own pages have intentionally created) where that can only bring obloquy and odium to them. That is detracting. The Diocesan Paper has in fact claimed that Catholics kneel because we have unworthy motives of rebellion and antipathy for Catholicism. That is suspicion. I'm sure this scandalous cruelty stems (like all cruelty) from what are thought to be the highest and purest motives, and that the editors would be upset to think they're intentionally driving Catholics out of their parishes in tears (which has, in fact, happened) and provoking animosity and spitefulness between Catholics and their priests (which has, in fact, occurred). But that doesn't make it right, or even sane.
If a campaign to encourage perceptions of schism, heresy, and betrayal is warranted, then surely it is warranted regarding a host of subjects about which the Diocsean Paper has remained oddly and timidly silent. There are Catholic politicians in this Diocese who support abortion on demand and receive communion regularly. There are Catholics in this Diocese who regularly commune despite having divorced and remarried without recourse to the Church's annulment tribunal. There are Catholics in this Diocese who use contraception and provide it to their children, and there are Catholics in this Diocese who openly condone homosexuality. As far as one can tell from the Diocesan Paper's silence, a Catholic who does these things need not fear for his reputation, because he uses a politically-correct posture to "eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord's body." (1 Cor. 11:29). I am put in mind of what Julia told Winston in 1984 -- so long as you keep the little rules, you can break all the big ones. That seems to be the Diocesan Paper's editorial priority as well -- who cares if you put your fourteen-year-old daugher on the pill, so long as you keep her from kneeling to receive communion! And isn't it doubly-odd to imagine a fourteen-year-old girl who kneels to receive communion being on the pill to avoid getting pregnant by her fifteen-year-old boyfriends? If you ask me, there's a question far more worthy of the Diocesan Paper's resources than its present affection for twine-and-chewing-gum arguments about the heresy of people who want to immitate St. Padre Pio and kneel whenever God appears.
Transmitted by SecretAgentMan 06:52 Hours [+]