Friday, 16 September 2011

Please do as I say!

Our separated brethren the Roman Catholics are now expected to abstain from flesh meat on Fridays again. See here. Of course if you do eat meat, according to the clarification of the Bishops' Conference, you are not actually sinning - unless I am quite mistaken. Just seems a tad relativistic, inconsistent and ill-defined to me; and are we to take it all seriously? The discipline fell into abeyance because those who claim to possess apostolic authority did away with the obligation. It's like Liturgy, Canon Law...well any legislative matter in the Roman Communion. It doesn't matter which institutions have stood the test of time and have the backing of centuries of adherence (not to mention Divine Law); it's all about what the latest pope has said on a whim. How can modern day Roman Catholics reconcile the claims of Summorum Pontificum with previous liturgical legislation from the 1960s? To which authority does one ultimately render obeisance? Who decides? The pope? Didn't the pope wreck everything in the first place, or is it fitting to place the blame with his curial underlings who, by some art, did all the bad stuff under his nose?

This is evidence of that gross tendency in the contemporary Roman church to centralise everything. It's pathetic really, the last desperate power grab of a frail old queen who still clings to a fundamentally obsolete (and wrong) notion of Papal Supremacy. ''Ohhh, please do as I say! I'm the pope, and I hold the keys of the Kingdom!'' I rejoice that so few Romans take the modern Roman church seriously.


  1. Calling Pope Benedict "a frail old queen"? Them's fighting words.

    Your consistent and nigh-total lack of Christian charity makes your witness to the Faith look repellent and repulsive. You are drawing flies and maggots, not souls, to your cause.

  2. Patricii!

    You are quite right to say that Friday abstinence from flesh meat fell into abeyance when the obligation was removed. At that time - the 1960's I presume - freedom was the the most important value.

    Recently I noticed in a local parish Newsletter a clarification on the new translation of the Confiteor. It said that the new version ".. by my fault, my fault, my grievous fault.." was not a return to the "old concept of sin". When I asked the Parish Priest why he had placed this in the Parish Newsletter he was unable to explain and referred me to a Redemptorist website from which he had cut and pasted the passage. He then told me that many of his parishioners had said how much they liked what he had written. Yet, since he is a school-teacher, he tried to encourage me by saying that he liked the fact that I had come to challenge him about it.

    I wonder what he thinks the "old concept of sin" is. Perhaps it is part of this "make your own mind up" "let Catholics be adults with an adult faith" and "the Church should not be treating the faithful like children". It seems to me that the Bishops and priests have by and large abandoned their sacred duty of teaching what the Church teaches in matters of faith and morals.

    I recall asking a priest at school, who had a B.Ed. from Strawberry Hill (rather than a nice M.A. from St. Benet's Hall) about the concept of the "fear of God". I posed the question in this way: What does the Church teach about the fear of God. He got rather upset, as was his wont, and replied "oh we don't talk like that any more [ie: we do not tell boys at a Catholic School what the Church teaches]."

    It is therefore no wonder that youngsters lapse from the Faith as soon as they can. The teaching of the Church is never presented to them and never explained.

    I would suggest that Pope Benedict is trying to turn the Barque of Peter back towards the centre of Catholicism after the turbulence of the 1960's and the collapse in the 1970's. I support his efforts and see that he is laying down firm foundations for his successors.

    One may not like Summorum Pontificum and one may be disappointed with the privileged place the 1962 MR now has in the Roman Liturgy however, despite all of that the Pope is shaking off the dust from the old books and the Church in its clerical form is having to acknowledge the old books.

    So pray for the Pope and pray that more Catholics will grow to know and appreciate the old books and come to a better understanding of their faith and the "old concepts" which are the constant teaching of the Church.

    In caritate Xp.,


  3. Fasting as a discipline really no longer exists in the West. This latest foolishness just reinforces the point.

  4. I wonder what proportion of nominal and church-going RCs in England & Wales will actually follow the bishops' suggestion/sort-of-directive?

  5. "frail old queen". Cruel to be kind, eh? I think all of us sans those on ventilators or feeding tubes figured out Pope Benedict's fabulousness by now.

    As soon as I got away from the lay-brothers and priests, meatless Fridays was the first thing to disappear forever. The Order wouldn't serve meat to the boys, but we could eat what we brought. Dumb dead letters, like most pointless school customs.

    Look, if you want Pope Benedict's "ratings" to go way down, just pray for what the Rorate Caeli club is praying for -- corporate reunion with the SSPX! Watch most Catholics, plus the secular media, scorch Pope Benedict if he even hands a pen to Msgr. Fellay. The SSPX are the closest thing that Catholicism has to a Wahhabi-Taliban wing. It's important to remember that the SSPX's la-la land bigoted and religious revanchist reconstruction of pre-Vatican II Catholicism is just as plastic as Summorum Pontificum. Nothing about postmodern Catholicism is "genuine". Pope Benedict might as well go out with a showstopper, since the See is all a stage anyway.

  6. JM,

    Your response suggests that Rome needs to pay more attention to a positive media profile. Do you think the atheists and agnostics who run the secular media, Le Monde, The Times of London, the Financial Times, Der Speigal etc etc are the people that the Pope needs to be pleasing. Hardly, these are the enemies of the Church: they do not understand the role of the Church in the World and they attack the Church at every occasion. For them religion has, perhaps, useful functions: humanitarian relief, provision of Hospitals in the Third World and a form of social control for those stupid enough to actually believe the Teachings of the Church. Other than that they see the Church as a wealthy organisation that wields influence and power in Her own interests.

    So let the secular media scorch the Church.

    I wonder about your term "corporate reunion". Does this suggest that you believe that the SSPX are in schism and are therefore a separate "corporate" body. My understanding is that they are NOT in schism and are part of the Church, although in an uneasy relationship. But quite frankly, many members of the Society of Jesus and the Order of Preachers are in an uneasy relationship with Rome as well.

    You argue that "Nothing about PostModern Catholiciism is "genuine". What ever does this mean? Is this a Counsel of Despair. Does that mean the Church today is no longer, anywhere, in anything, the true Church founded by DNJC?

    Please clarify.


    In caritate Xp.,

    Bryan Dunne

  7. When bishops consecrate bishops, two conditions must be present. First, there must be apostolic succession. Second, there must be the approval of the Pope as the vicar of Christ and successor of St. Peter. Msgr. Lefebvre satisfied the first but not the second condition. He, and his newly consecrated bishops, were excommunicated by John Paul II for disobeying the ecclesiastical authority of the Church. The SSPX bishops are schismatics, as they affirm the depositum fidei but reject papal governance and the Holy See.

    Put another way, there is little ecclesiastical difference in the eyes of Rome between the Church of Greece and the SSPX. In both cases, the orders are valid, the Mass/Divine Liturgy is valid but illicit, and the sacraments that must be licensed by an ordinary are invalid and illicit. A SSPX wedding is invalid or at best irregular in the eyes of Rome, because no ordinary in union with Rome has ever authorized a SSPX priest to wed. So are the routine confessions of a SSPX priest, save emergencies. The SSPX has long argued that its confessions are valid because their priests are validly ordained. Still, a priest receives the licence to absolve through his ordinary or superior, and not ipso facto. As with the Econe consecrations, the sui generis validity of a sacrament and consensual union with the Church are both needed for validity and liceity.

    While Rome has permitted a wide degree of latitude over issues of post-conciliar liturgy (especially under Benedict), the ethical, moral, philosophical, and theological expositions of Vatican II must still be given assent. In that manner the SSPX is not only in sacramental schism but also "broken" from the Church because of their refusal to assent to certain documents of a dogmatic council.

    The bigotry of the SSPX is most distressing. Not all, but many in the SSPX, hold classically anti-Semitic views. Some in the SSPX hold the Protocols of the Elders of Zion as a sourcebook. Other clergy openly perpetuate anti-Semitic falsehoods, such as the idea that Jews run international finance or have infiltrated and destroyed the Church through Vatican II. Richard Williamson's brazen denial of the Holocaust is another reminder of the dystopic hate found in the SSPX. If the SSPX merely rejected the notion that the Church must respect secular democracy and pluralist cultures (Dignitatis Humanae), then I would respectfully disagree with their views. SSPX anti-Semitism is not acceptable and not welcome in the modern Church.

    For this reason I cannot at all support an integration of the SSPX's ecclesial structure into the Church in toto. At the very least, the order should be dissolved, SSPX bishops stripped of their episcopal authority, and SSPX priests dispersed either to diocesan ministry or trad orders in union with Rome. SSPX reconciliation with the church should be individual, and not merely though a single agreement between the SSPX bishops and Rome.

    The secular media must report on the SSPX's hatreds. SSPX bigotry cannot and should not be denied either by the institutional Church or individual Catholics in order to facilitate reunion. If Rome cannot face up to the ethical-moral cancer in the SSPX ranks, then indeed the secular sphere must do so.

    I apologize for the length of this post. I do not apologize for my adamant opposition to the inclusion of the SSPX as a "new order" in the Roman Church. I don't know why I care, since I'm rapidly shuffling off the religion coil anyway.

    sortacatholic (quite happily Judaeophilic. My ideal companion will definitely be a Chosen Person, for sure!)

  8. Bryan,

    I suspect ‘JM’ is only following what Rome itself taught in describing the SSPX as being in a state of schism with the Roman church.

    Pius XII, the great hero of Traddieland and beloved by Lefebvrists, actually changed the penalty in Canon Law for the illicit consecration of bishops without papal mandate. Before Pius XII the 1917 code had suspension as a penalty. Following decrees in the early 1950s Pius issued an Encyclical Epistle, Ad Apostolorum Principis, (AAS 50 (1958) pp. 601 – 614) dated 29 June 1958 that lambasts the idea of anyone consecrating bishops without the authority of the Roman pontiff. Describing in no uncertain terms the evil and schismatic natures of such consecrations he reserves to the Holy See in a special way excommunication for all those involved in such acts. This teaching found its way into the 1983 code.

    Following the actions of Lefebvre and Casto-Meyer in 1988 John Paul II cration without express mandate from the pope John Paul II in his Motu proprio, Ecclesia Dei adflicta, (AAS 80 (1988) pp 1495 -1498) pointing out that the schismatic nature of this act ‘actum schismaticum3efficit’ and confirming the excommunication of the co-consecrators and the four consecrands. Further on John Paul again, e.g. ‘Huius autem schismatici actus’ makes it abundantly clear that he as pontiff considers the SSPX to be in schism and then again warns of anyone following Lefebvre and the SSPX lest the grave penalty of excommunication fall on them too. The preamble to the motu proprio describes it as establishing norms for the faithful to return to full communion with Rome.

  9. One suspects that Rome really did expect people to cease supporting the SXPX back in 1988 but when they actually saw an increase in support Rome had to take a different line. Now it is not so much as a different line but a 180° contradiction. Excommunications lifted and now the SSPX is flavour of the month.

    Traddieland, or whatever one wants to term it, is a construct – as ‘JM’ rightly observes - a fabrication of fantasy that has no historical basis and in reality is an utter waste of time as far a liturgical orthopraxis is concerned.

  10. The current next-to-non-observance of fasting in the West illustrates one of the fundamental root causes of the Roman Catholic heresy: its legalism.

    For those of us in the Church, Orthodoxy requires a ferocious fasting regime. I question whether anyone has ever kept it fully according to its spirit; few, if any, of us who do not reside within the larger well-established monasteries manage to keep it according to its letter. The regime represents an unattainable ideal; but I would argue that that is precisely as it should be. I utterly repudiate those Orthodox who call for a mitigation of the rules.

    It is entirely proper that one should come to the end of a fasting period such as Lent with a feeling of failure. What matters is that one should have endeavoured to have made the maximum effort.

    Popery, on the other hand, views all this in a diametrically opposed way; for our Roman Catholic “separated brethren”, what matters is adherence to the law. They appear to have forgotten that we “are not under the law, but under grace.” For them, the question is not “what is the maximum I can do?” It is, rather, “what is the minimum I have to do in order to fulfil the law?” When it becomes apparent that a law is being widely flouted, the response of Rome is to change the law, to make it more lenient. The mentality is “After all, the law must be observed!”

    As to the question of the validity/legality of Lefebvrist “sacraments”, I can only comment that Roman Catholicism has had no valid sacraments for the approximate one thousand years of its existence—that is, since it separated from the Church.

  11. Lector Orientalis:As to the question of the validity/legality of Lefebvrist “sacraments”, I can only comment that Roman Catholicism has had no valid sacraments for the approximate one thousand years of its existence—that is, since it separated from the Church.

    The questions I always ask in response: "Who is the current patriarch of Rome? Has the seat been vacant since the 11th century? Is the papal throne merely being warmed until an Orthodox patriarch can sit on it?"

    The East/West split was not in 1054 and Photios, but really the Council of Trullo in the 8th century. There, the East (broadly) affirmed synodism. While the Pope at the time rejected Trullo, the aftermath of that council planted the seeds of the Roman theo-political doctrine of papal supremacy.

    Still, divisions between schools is even more pronounced in other traditions, such as Buddhism. One might easily argue that Theravada and Mahayana are widely separate philosophies connected by only a relatively few strands. Although the Orthodox frequently anathematize Rome out of the eternal fear of forced integration with the Holy See (the larger and more powerful tradition), the theological difference between the two traditions is very small in practice. Fasting is disciplinary in nature, not theological.

    sortacatholic (plumbing the depths of knowledge from his personal postchristian nuclear winter)

  12. Rubricarie,

    Thank you for supplying those references. I obviously accept that JPII did write in those terms. Paul VI was harsh as well demanding in a letter to Archbishop Lefebrve that the SSPX give up all their seminaries and churches and that he return to proper filial obedience.

    The case is now altered and the SSPX is clearly trying to end the "imperfect union" with Rome. Rome, I suspect, is keen as well since it cannot be far off that the SSPX will be beginning to consider that it needs to consecrate another batch of Bishops to continue their work. So as Rome is realistic it is better for all sides to try to accommodate the SSPX before more Bishops are consecrated.

    JM @ 05.03

    Regrettably one finds a seam of anti-Semitism in most Traddie groups. I think it is a great pity that Bishop Williamson got distracted from preaching the Gospel by pontificating on the Gas Chambers. He has admitted that he was relying on one or two authors including Zundel.

    The danger, of course, is that the SSPX will split, with Fellay taking some back to Rome and Williamson remaining where he is. Regrettably the participation of the Campos Bishop in NO Masses is not a good sign for what happens when Traddie Bishops come back to full submission to Rome.

  13. Lector Orientalis,

    Non-observance of fasting in the West is due to legalism?

    This discussion was about abstinence from flesh-meat on Fridays. The relaxation of the rule - ie either abstain or do some other penance was the very opposite of legalism.

    If one spends time at Fontgombault or a Cistercian or Trappist or Carthusian Monastery one will see no lack of fasting.

    The Orthodox Church in Russia under Communism and under Putin serves her political Masters dutifully, but are they serving God by maintaining beautiful liturgies and fasting and keeping silent about the brutality and corruption of the mafia that runs Russia.

    Like it or not Rome is not beholden to the Yanks or the Italian Government or the EU or the UN and does condemn injustice and tyranny.

    I will pass over the Serbian, Roumanian and other captive Churches of the East.

  14. Bryan,

    The non-observance of fasting is a result of human weakness, but the relaxation of the rule is due to legalism. Because Catholics tend to talk about sin in forensic categories, and because Catholics have historically dealt with fasting "discipline," as JM put it in his post, within the framework of sin, the fact that fasting rules have been relaxed themselves to sleep are evidence of the legalism behind the mindset.

    It should not be difficult to see why. First, it is obvious that the Roman Church has never held that not fasting was itself sinful, but rather that to disobey the rules laid down by Rome was a sin against the authority of the Church. Nevertheless, it was considered sin. I have on my shelf a four volume manual entitled "Moral and Pastoral Theology" by Fr. Henry Davis, S.J. (Imprimatur of Apb Thomas of Birminham 1934), which devotes an entire chapter to fasting and abstinence and figuring out when the violation of such rules are merely venial sins and when they become mortal sins. The problem with this framework is that it really does not make sense. If fasting is of such importance that the violation of the fast can result in culpability for mortal sin, how can it be that the Church can grant a dispensation, not forgiveness but a dispensation, from the fast? If the Church can give a dispensation from the fast, such that eating corn beef in a St. Patrick's Day in Lent in New York City is OK because the Abp of NY said it was OK, then it certainly seems that the Church is choosing to send people to hell by throwing up artificial rules that must be obeyed on pain of mortal sin (unlike, say, murder, which the Church says is a sin for reasons other than the fact that the Church declares it to be so). The relaxation of fasting in the mid 20th Century is a recognition that the possibility of eternal damnation for eating a hot dog on Friday was an absurdity. However, note that the mindset had not changed. It was adherence to the idea that violating the fast is sinful that necessitated the relaxation of the fast. The notion that the fasting rules remain what they were, without being backed up by the possibility of mortal sin, it seems, could not be contemplated.


  15. Cont...

    Naturally, things have changed--a bit. The current CCC describes fasting as a "penitential" act. While this leads to less absurdity than the former paradigm, it still is forensic in mindset. Penances, according to Catholic theology, are sufferings to be borne as a means of satisfying God's justice after having been forgiven of sin according to God's mercy. They are the "temporal punishment due for sin." The idea that fasting is a private penitential act has led to the weirdness that we have now wherein the fast is no more than a recommended diet that may be observed to replaced with some other penitential act. I suppose under this scheme, one could eat whatever one wanted during Lent and still observe the fast if one were to flagellate oneself regularly instead. Leaving aside the reality that the ability to pick and choose how one "fasts" is ripe for abuse, thanks to man's capacity for self-delusion, the underlying premise has still not changed. It seems that even under the new rules, not fasting would still be a sin if the non-faster also neglected to impose upon himself some other penance.

    The Orthodox simply do not view fasting this way. Nobody sins by not fasting. Fasting is not a discipline, it is not a penance, but it is an ascetic practice designed to tame the passions which distract us from God. It is one of many such practices--like prostrations during Lent and like standing for three hours at a time during All-night Vigil. While individuals, with the guidance of their spiritual fathers, discern how much of the fast they can undertake based upon their particular circumstances, the full rule is always there as an aspiration; and because fasting is a corporate, ecclesial act, not an individual one, the rule itself is not modified and cannot be "dispensed" with. We look at fasting through the lens of ascesis, not sin, with all of the forensic aspects of the word that are associated with that word (especially in the West). This is why we see legalism in the way Catholics approach fasting.

  16. There is almost no meat in a hot dog - just mechanically recovered slurry - so that does not count.

  17. Patriarchates are human inventions. They represent administrative systems that the Church has seen fit to employ at different times and in different places. The First Council of Nicæa, for instance, envisaged an arrangement whereby each civil province of the Roman Empire was to have a metropolitan bishop at the capital city of the province. This structure was later refined such that groups of metropolia within the Empire were to be administered under a pentarchy of five patriarchates. There is no reason why some future Œcumenical Council may not decide that the Church ought to be administered according to a different pattern. Nonetheless, any rights or privileges that one bishop might have, or have had, over another were, and remain, strictly honorary. They extend to such matters as the order of dignity that bishops have when celebrating together, or which of them has, or had, the right to convene or preside at a local synod. All bishops are equal in authority; and one bishop may not interfere in the jurisdiction of another bishop’s diocese.

    I daresay that the Church has not appointed a Patriarch of Rome in recent centuries for the same practical political reasons that Rome has not appointed its own Patriarch of Moscow. Rome has, on the other hand, managed to set up her own rival “patriarchs” in such places as Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem; in fact, in some of those cities, several parallel papist patriarchates exist.

    I have always been most careful not to assert that the mutual anathemas of 1054 were the ‘cut-off point’ between East and West. The departure of the Roman Patriarchate from the Church was a gradual process; it is impossible to assign any particular date to it. Undoubtedly, serious differences between East and West were thrown up in the eighth century. On the other hand, indications of ecclesiastical communion between them exist well after 1054. What is certain is that the West has not subscribed to Orthodoxy for many centuries; it is, therefore, not unreasonable to state that Roman Catholicism separated from the Church approximately one thousand years ago.

    To make some artificial distinction between fasting and “abstinence” is, itself, legalism; no Father of the Church ever made such a distinction. Any ‘day of fasting’ always involves a restriction in the variety of food that may be eaten, in addition to any restriction in the number of times that one may eat during the course of the day in question. The amount of food eaten at any particular meal-time has never been restricted by the Canons of the Church.

    I highly commend Han on the eloquence of his exposition; but I question whether “Nobody sins by not fasting” or whether “Fasting is not a discipline” (I fully agree that fasting is not a penance). Orthodoxy has a very dynamic concept of sin. One of the Greek words for ‘sin’ (I forget which one exactly) may be translated as ‘falling short of the mark’. It is the result of our fallen nature that every one of us sins at every moment of our lives, whether that sin be “witting or unwitting”. Han later describes fasting as “an ascetic practice”; surely—by definition—asceticism is synonymous with self-discipline?

  18. ' It is the result of our fallen nature that every one of us sins at every moment of our lives, whether that sin be “witting or unwitting” '

    Lector Orientalis,

    Can you supply an authority for what you have written above please.



    PS: is the Greek word you were thinking of "hamartia"?

  19. L.O.--
    I agree that our concept of sin is a bit different from that of the Latins. Nevertheless, I thought that for the purposes of this comment thread, it would be more useful to talk about "sin" in the way Roman Catholics have traditionally thought about it (e.g. the distinction between mortal and venial sins), rather than get into a debate about the nature of sin itself. Similarly, by discipline, I was using the word in the spirit that JM used it--viz. something as distinguished from "theology"; in other words, something that the Church puts forth as a matter of custom, law or habit rather than something promulgated because doctrine compels it.

    Two examples come to mind off the top of my head. First, the second petition in the Litany of Fervent Supplication during the Panikhida: "Again we pray for the repose of the soul of the departed servant of God [name], and that he may be forgiven every transgression both voluntary and involuntary."
    Second, the prayer of St. John Chrysostom customarily said before Holy Communion: "I believe, O Lord, and I confess that Thou art truly the Christ, the Son of the living God, who camest into the world to save sinners, of whom I am first. I believe also that this is truly Thine own most pure Body, and that this is truly Thine own precious Blood. Therefore I pray Thee: Have mercy on me and forgive my transgressions both voluntary and involuntary, of word and of deed, committed in knowledge or in ignorance, and make me worthy to partake without condemnation of Thy most pure Mysteries, for the remission of my sins, and unto life everlasting. Amen."