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On Memorial Day, Monday, May 31, I read a fascinating essay on Ann Barnhardt’s site called ‘Here Rests in Honored Glory’, part of the epitaph on the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington Cemetery.

The full epitaph reads:


I assume Ann Barnhardt, who is Catholic and formerly owned Barnhardt Capital Management, wrote it, but she introduces it as follows (emphases in purple mine):

(This has been a very popular piece since it was originally written over a decade ago, and explains to a culture so stripped of any sense of reverence, respect or even decorum why it is that liturgy should be masculine, solemn, reverent, and especially BEAUTIFUL, in the only terms that can still, just barely, be understood: the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery. I have received many emails over the years mostly from men, but also a few women, who reported having a change of heart about the “fancy vestments” or “hyper-formal and distant” rubrics of the Traditional Mass after reading this piece. It is so sad that today’s infiltrated and fallen culture considers masculinity and beauty to be in opposition to each other. Nothing could be farther from the truth.)

I would never imagine linking the changing of the guard at this tomb to Latin Mass, but Barnhardt’s essay makes a compelling case:

The Tomb of the Unknowns is also extremely instructive, and believe it or not, it instructs us about . . . the Mass. The reason the Tomb of the Unknowns instructs us today about the Mass is because the Tomb of the Unknowns rubrics are highly informed by the rubrics of the Mass, which were themselves informed by military rubrics, which were informed by even older liturgical rubrics. Military ceremonials and the Ceremonials of the Church are intertwined. Only since the Asteroid hit in the 1960s has the masculinity and, if I may use the term, militant aesthetic been utterly purged, in an attempt by the infiltrators to destroy the Church Militant from within by concealing its very nature from itself – MILITANCY. And so I am reminded of a quote I once heard:

It is important for Christians to know their own history, because if you know your own history, no one else can tell you who you are.

And that is precisely what has happened, and continues to happen. The enemies and infiltrators desperately want all knowledge of WHO and WHAT the Church truly is suppressed and forgotten so that they can lyingly “tell you who you are”. And if you have no knowledge of your own history, you will have no way to discern what is truth and what is lies, and you can thus be conned into believing that you are what you are not, and deceived into believing that you are not what you in actuality are.

She includes a video of the changing of the guard:

The essay discusses the frightful Novus Ordo Mass, the product of Vatican II:

After watching the ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknowns above, I want you to imagine the guards walking about casually, maybe wearing a partial uniform jacket, but with jeans and sandals. Imagine the guards walking out and introducing themselves, “Hi, my name is Lieutenant Jones, but you can call me Lieutenant Jake, or just Jake.” Then the guard might say something like, “Isn’t it a beautiful day today? It sure was rainy yesterday. I had to wear a rain jacket. I’m so glad you all could make it to my shift today. I’m going to be guarding the tomb for the next few hours, and I know that it can sure get BOOOORING! That’s why I have asked a local band to come in and play some awesome new music for you guys, because I want this to be A FUN EXPERIENCE for all of us! And, of course, GO RAVENS!”

If this happened, you would be shocked and disgusted, right? Do you understand that what I have just described is a watered-down comparison of what has happened to the Holy and August Sacrifice of the Mass? The Mass went from being even more reverent than the rubrics of the Tomb Guard to what I just described above – and many times even worse than what I described above. And this happened for many people within a span of several WEEKS in late 1969 into early 1970.

She is not wrong with the rapidity and shock of change, although I remember the Mass in English (I was a Catholic then) from 1965. One Sunday it was in Latin, the next in English. The priest said that would be the end of Latin Mass. My mother was floored, my father silent. I was disappointed because by that point, even though I was a child, I could recite parts of the Mass in Latin.

The essay cites parallels between the changing of the guard ceremony and what a priest praying the Tridentine Rite does at the altar:

The soldiers are in full dress uniform, meticulously turned-out and maintained. They are not in combat gear that soldiers would use to walk a patrol in Afghanistan. The Tomb guards are doing something DIFFERENT, and thus their uniforms reflect that.

Really, what the ceremonies surrounding the Tomb are is the highest form of ART. It is living ART, not consisting of a mere two-dimensional representation, not consisting of inanimate objects, but ART consisting of human beings in action. The uniforms, the gait, the precise rubrics, words, gestures and movements – these all combine into a perpetual work of art that not only moves and inspires the people who witness it, but also accomplishes the goal of making tangible a RESPECT for and a REMEMBRANCE of all of the fallen unknown soldiers. The Tomb Guards walk their patrol whether anyone is there to see them do it or not. It isn’t a show. It is a service. It is a rite …

-In the Tridentine Mass, the priest observes “custody of the eyes”, never looking around and NEVER looking out at the people. Like the guards, priests are supposed to keep their eyes on exactly what they are doing without distraction. The Guards at the Tomb wear mirrored sunglasses to block out all eye contact. Priests are supposed to keep their eyes DOWN or CLOSED, with a couple of exceptions such as just before the consecration when they are to look up to Heaven. This is like the Guards’ rubric of looking from side-to-side very deliberately when inspecting the rifle and the relieving officer. Did you catch that?

Priests are also supposed to walk with a very deliberate gaitslow, measured and reverent in exactly the same way the Tomb Guards walk in a slow, deliberate, reverent gait.

Priests are only supposed to say very specific words – no improvisation, no modifications. The Guards are the same way. They have a very strict announcement that they make at the changing, and they have very strict words that they say when telling people to be quiet and observe reverent silence (there is a YouTube video of that happening, look it up.) There is no chatting or extemporaneous speech. In the Church, the command is “Say the black, do the red,” in reference to the layout of the Roman Missal with the words of prayer in black and the instructions for the intensely precise rubrics, down to every gesture, in red.

By contrast, the Novus Ordo Mass is an abomination:

most Novus Ordo priests wander around the sanctuary with their backs turned to the Tabernacle while they put on their “performance.” This would be analogous to the Tomb of the Unknowns itself at Arlington being moved “out of the way” and instead a stage being erected upon which the Guards would perform. It makes you sick to think of that happening at Arlington – but that is largely what has happened to the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

-There is even an analogue in the Changing of the Guard ceremony to the Consecration of the Host in the Mass. Did you hear it when you watched the video above? It comes at the 2:36 mark. A rifle is fired, its report thus commemorating the moment of death of the Unknowns. In the Mass, the moment of consecration and transubstantiation are the report of Christ’s words spoken by the priest:

(This is My Body.)

If you are fortunate, you can still find a church with a bell tower which rings the bell at the consecration of the Host and again at the consecration of the Chalice. This enabled everyone within earshot – oftentimes miles away – of pausing and saying a prayer as Our Lord came down upon the Altar, uniting themselves to the Mass.

Finally, the words engraved on the Tomb of the Unknowns:


This is analogous to the words of the Mass:

(Behold the Lamb of God, behold Him who takes away the sins of the world.)

The essay concludes:

The point is this: if we all know and understand and FEEL the power of the excellent, excellent ceremonial rubrics of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers, if we understand the power of “living art”, and we understand how important the concepts of reverence, solemnity, precision, dignity and beauty in movement and action are in the context of the Tomb, why, oh why, do we continue to tolerate the lack of reverence, the lack of solemnity, the absence of liturgical precision and dignity and the resulting UGLINESS that has been unleashed on the Holy Sacrifice of the Masswhich is not just a mere memorial of Calvary, but is Calvary Itself, made supernaturally present, and Our Resurrected Lord physically substantially present?

The Tomb of the Unknowns merits the excellent, beautiful, solemn, reverent, disciplined ceremony of the Guards.

Our Lord, Crucified, Risen and physically substantially present to us in the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar deserves INFINITELY MORE excellence, beauty, solemnity, reverence, discipline and dignity in His Mass.

I could not agree more.

Even as an Anglican, I went to a Latin Mass in Cannes one Sunday evening several years ago. The priest travelled in from Nice. The church was full. It was a beautiful reminder of my childhood church experiences.

I would highly recommend any Catholic seeking out at least one Latin Mass in person during his or her lifetime. They won’t regret it.

In the meantime, here are two on YouTube: Easter Vigil and Easter Day 2021.

On July 6, 2016, I wrote about the high church Anglican quiz ‘How “spikey” are YOU?’

One of my readers, Boetie, a Catholic living in Germany, sent in a thoughtful comment by way of response. He has kindly given me permission to use it as a guest post on the differences between Catholic and Anglican worship.

What he says closely parallels my own experience in the early 1980s and caused me to convert to the Episcopal Church and continue worshipping in the UK as an Anglican. I should emphasise that my conversion came through low church, which also had quite a lot of ritual, rather than high church. That said, I have occasionally enjoyed the freedom and the opportunity to revisit ancient traditions and vestments.

Without further ado, Boetie discusses his results and his own worship journey:

I came out “top of the flame” – not that I was in the least surprised, though. But this liturgical and at the same time humorous approach is what first attracted me to the Anglican Church in her High Church / Anglo-Catholic tradition ever since I was an 11 or 12 year old lad from Germany coming to Britain for the first time in the very early 1970s. Quite visibly the Anglican Church had not been through the devastations Vatican II had brought about in my own church (I’m a “Roman”:-)). Sadly, the Anglican Church has more than made up leeway since.

But for the first time in my life I saw priests who looked like priests with their dog collars and their cassocks/soutanes, who spoke like priests and who acted like priests. Our own RC priests at the time had opted for the “social worker” chic, loathed to be addressed as “Father” and were delighted when you told them: “I would never have guessed you were a priest”.

And, of course, in England I gained an insight into what “liturgy” meant – while in Germany they had already come up with that brilliant idea of happy-clappy services with do-gooder homilies. I had never heard e.g. an “Angelus” prayer in my home parish – the first in my life was in an Anglican church in Hertfordshire.

So, for many years in my youth, the Anglican Church shaped my own Catholic faith.

I noticed differences though, even at an early age.

Right from day one I was impressed by the style of hearty hymn singing – as opposed to many RC churches where people often can’t be bothered and where the singing is lacklustre. Also, I found traditional Anglican services solemn but ultimately more serene than traditional RC Masses. And the difference of the quality of style and language was stunning: introducing the vernacular after Vatican II into RC services didn’t work well: e.g. in Germany it was modern day German while in the Anglican Church the wonderful traditional English had been retained. (Doing away with Prayer Book English I regard as a a major flaw in today’s Anglican worship.) Not least of all, to this day I appreciate the humour that is never far from the surface with High Church priests – which makes it a pleasure to listen to their sermons and homilies.

The demise of the Anglican Church (namely the CofE) I find deeply saddening and I wonder whether the Catholic faith in her Anglican tradition will have a future within the Anglican Communion or whether in the long run it will be just “catholic” in name and maybe ritual but no longer in essence – with lesbians and feminists in fiddleback chasubles and birettas swinging the thurible – during a same sex marriage.

But I do not want to end on a sombre note. If you appreciate the type of humour of the quiz I am sure you will also like the cartoon figure of “Father Jolly” created years ago by the American Anglican priest Fr. Tom Janikowski during his formative years in the seminary. He is now Rector of Trinity Anglican Church in Rock Island, Illinois (an ACNA parish). Unfortunately there are only few of his cartoons on the net: the first 4 pictures here:

Here is another one:

Should you come across more in the vein of that quiz – please let us know in your blog. I am sure I’d be not the only one to appreciate this.

You can bet I will, brother!

Thank you very much, Boetie, for your excellent contribution and for the witty (and realistic) Father Jolly cartoons.

It would be edifying if others sharing the same experience as Boetie’s and mine would kindly comment below.

Those who enjoyed the first two Father Brown series must be delighted that the third — with 15 instead of ten episodes — is now airing on BBC1.

Although it’s great to see it once again, one year on, I still have mixed thoughts.

The acting is superb and Mark Williams plays the lead brilliantly. The stories, by and large, are very good and still take place in 1953. G K Chesterton wrote his Father Brown stories in the 1920s; the television series either loosely adapts these or airs original scripts in postwar England.

The show’s creators chose a rural setting to better capture the 1950s. The programme is faithful to the era in the settings and clothes. The nostalgia it evokes is part of its appeal.

Italian-Roman chasuble However, although Father Brown has a Jesuit as an advisor, the chasuble that Mark Williams wears did not appear until Vatican II in the early 1960s. What Catholic priests wore in 1953 and for the rest of the decade is called a Roman chasuble, popularly known as a fiddleback, as seen on the left, courtesy of Traditional Ecclesiastical Tailoring.

Another quibble is that the modern rite of the Mass is mistakenly used in episode 6 of the new series. ‘The Upcott Fraternity’ has a brief scene of the seminarians at Mass. Surely, it would not have taken the actors much time to learn a line or two of ecclesiastical Latin.

Surely the Jesuit advisor could have helped on these two points; perhaps the show’s creators did not ask him.

Furthermore, the series has a Midsomer Murders feel to it; all the deaths take place in the general vicinity.  One wonders how many more people can die.

Finally, whilst the programme is generally acceptable for children to see, the third series has two episodes thus far which have content perhaps better suited to mature audiences. ‘The Upcott Fraternity’ and ‘The Lair of the Libertines’ will certainly provoke some uncomfortable questions from little ones.

The latter episode lives up to its name. The men and women at an exclusive hotel tell Father Brown they wish to find happiness through pleasure. One man says that he is looking for happiness all the time and never finds it. Father Brown replies that if a person seeks happiness he will never find it. True happiness comes to us but occasionally and is ephemeral.

American and South American viewers will no doubt be able to see the latest series on PBS and the Film & Arts channel later this year.

Lectionary lectionaryorgBible-believing mainline Protestants aren’t the only ones unnerved by the Lectionary. So are traditionalist Catholics.

It’s a bit odd that we are so dissatisfied, considering that it has been around for at least 40 years. We seem to find it less appealing as time goes by.

It’s not that we’re not interested in the Bible — far from it. However, we have seen too many edits — ellipses (…) — in the passages read. What are we missing? Why are we missing it?

Some Protestants will say, ‘Who cares?’ Yet, it was thanks to the Catholics that mainline churches even use the Lectionary. Not many people know that.

Yesterday’s post reiterated that the late Cardinal Bugnini came up with the idea for the Lectionary in the run-up to Vatican II.

Readers might wish to note that (emphases mine):

Archbishop Bugnini was ‘a revolutionary more clever than the others, he who killed the Catholic liturgy before disappearing from the official scene’.  (Suspecting Bugnini of being a Freemason, Paul VI sent him to a post in Iran, where he died in 1982.)

All the same, here we are in the 21st century stuck with the Lectionary.

A few weeks ago, the Revd Ray Blake, a Catholic priest in Brighton (England), featured a post on it. What follows are excerpts from his post, his readers’ comments on its structure and how the Lectionary paints a picture of God and His Son which is much different to that which had endured for centuries.

These are not necessarily in sequence but I have arranged them to present a clearer picture of the dilemma of the Lectionary. First, Fr Blake:

The rupture that concerns me, is not a liturgical one but a theological [one], it is the change in “the face of God” that it represents.

The image of God presented to and by the great saints, which had existed for at least 1,500 years was altered.

Scripture is inspired but previous generations would also have believed so was the Lectionary, the choice of readings.

There are subsidiary issues about the editing of scripture but what concerns me is that I am not presented with the same image of God as say St Francis or Sr Ignatius of Loyola.

Part of his aforementioned main post reads as follows:

Certainly the OF [Ordinary Form — Novus Ordo, or New Massanother Bugnini inspiration] Lectionary gives us a broader selection of readings, including the Old Testament and extracts from the Gospels other than mainly Matthew and chunks of John. In many ways the modern Lectionary is superior, as a logical academic presentation of scripture the older form is obviously inferior.  I don’t know quite how the older Lectionary emerged, presumably like most organic forms, by a process of evolution and to meet pastoral needs, it was tried a tested in the crucible of sacred history down the centuries.

What is more significant and worthy of serious discussion is the rupture that I would suggest the newer Lectionary has introduced into the Church’s presentation of the image of God. The pre-Concilliar image of God is different from the post-Concilliar image. Revelation is both Scripture and Tradition, it is within the Liturgy that Revelation is presented: by changing the Lectionary have we broken with something very important?

In his preceding post on the subject, Fr Blake pointed to the distorted view of Christian love which we have nowadays — unconditional and ever-accepting, at all times. He wrote, in part:

The Gospel today has Peter asking how often he should forgive his brother; I wonder whether he is asking in some general way, or specifically whether Andrew, his brother and fellow Apostle, has been particularly annoying and Peter is asking explicitly about their relationship.

Jesus answers by telling a story about an irascible master who is going to sell a debtor and his family into slavery, who then relents after much pleading but then hearing about the mistreatment of another servant has him handed over to the torturers. Jesus’ message to Peter is forgive your brother because you yourself have been forgiven a great deal

Though Jesus tells Peter to forgive, he also tells the Apostles to “preach repentance”, “teaching”, “bring back a brother who errs” and to “correct error”; forgiveness and teaching seem to go hand in hand. The Fathers, the Saints too seemed to be by today’s standards violent, even abusive in their teaching of the faith, in their refutation of heresy and their denunciation of sacrilegious behaviour.

Against this we have to set love but then “love” seems to have been reformed to something passionless, and reduced to variation of tolerance. Has there been a feminisation or even lavenderisation, certainly a de-Christianisation of “love”.

One of Blake’s readers noted that the Latin Mass — Extraordinary Form, or Tridentine (from the Council of Trent) — would have had Luke 11:14-28 as the assigned reading. In it our Lord casts out demons. Well, today’s Catholics cannot hear that at Mass. Much too disturbing, binary and clearly pointing to good versus evil. Or so thought Bugnini no doubt and, later, the Catholic and Protestant Lectionary editors who brought the whole thing to fruition.

Someone else observed that the passage from Luke about demons is split three ways into weekly reading:

The passage has been used elsewhere, albeit split over at least three locations: Thurs in week 3 of Lent (11:14-23), and Fri & Sat in week 27 of Ordinary Time (11:15-26; 11:27-28). Luke 11:27-28 is also an option for the Gospel reading in the Common of the BVM.

What that means is that anyone who does not attend Mass daily will never hear it in its entirety.

And what are two verses of it — read as a Gospel option for a Marian feast — compared to the whole story?

BJC summed it up nicely for both Catholics and Protestants:

I think many of those passages/prayers in the new lectionary have been truncated to emphasise “love” not sin and those other off limits words like hell, punishment and repentance

It’s a mistake because if you emphasise love to the degree we have its hardly surprising when people stop regarding even obvious things like adultery and pornography as sins. Everything becomes so mushy mushy its difficult to comprehend words like punishment and hell and therefore “sin” itself falls by the wayside.

As regards the Church Fathers and saints for sure by today’s standards they would be regarded as fundamentalists and intolerant. It just emphasises how far we’ve fallen.

To further the confusion, it seems as if today’s Catholics use the three-year Lectionary for Sundays and another two-year one for weekday readings.

Back now to Blake’s more recent post the following day. Part of the problem is not the readings, per se, notes George, but the manner of preaching about them. This appears contradictory, however, it indicates a problem with the priests’ sermons making sense of Scripture for the listener:

Many traditional priests (not all) seem to follow a different preaching plan than Novus Ordo priests. Many traditional priests, using instructions that came out of Trent, and through the work of Charles Borromeo and others, preach on matters of faith and morals with a regular plan and with a regular frequency, irrespective of the readings for that day. Many traditional priests will offer a sermon and never once reference the readings of that day. In contrast, many Novus Ordo priests will rarely preach outside of the messages within the day’s readings. When you compound this phenomenon with the seeming dearth of the toughest scripture passages in the new lectionary, you find many NO priests failing to cover throughout the year the fullness of Catholic faith and morals in their sermons.

Deacon Nathan Allen brought up an excellent point about the suitability of the person receiving Communion. This still holds true today in confessional Protestant denominations yet is rarely taught in the post-Vatican II Catholic faith:

Despite having much more of the Bible read to us, there are some passages that were cut out, and they seem to be those that ask us to examine our consciences regarding sin. For example, one obvious passage which was read in the usus antiquior on Corpus Christi is completely absent from the NO lectionary, and even from the Liturgy of the Hours: 1 Cor 11:29: “Whoever eats this bread or drinks of the cup of the Lord unworthily will be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord.” For my part, I think that verse should be solemnly chanted (better than most ‘communion songs’) as the people queue up for communion.

That’s a powerful New Testament verse and the deacon is correct in saying that it cannot be emphasised enough. Still adhering to it — in addition to traditionalist Catholics — are devout Anglicans as well as confessional Lutherans and Calvinists (see Dr R Scott Clark’s explanation of this passage). Yet, I never heard of it in my Catholic preparation for either First Holy Communion (1960s) or Confirmation (1970s).

Wasn’t it all easier when each denomination — Catholics included — had one year of readings in one prayer book? In the days of the Tridentine (Latin) Mass, everyone had the same set of prayers and readings. One could prepare at home by reading the Scripture for that Sunday or feast day. I know. I still have some early missals. And I have several copies of the Book of Common Prayer (BCP). Thankfully, the Anglicans haven’t yet fully restricted its use, although Lectionary readings might override what is in the BCP, depending on who is taking that particular service.

Blake wrote later on:

The change in the selection of texts is the really drastic change, it is this that has brought about a difference in our understanding of God.

John Fisher thought that the idea of repetition of Bible readings was to reinforce them, not cause people to turn off:

The coverage of Bible readings is BETTER dealt with in the Liturgical Hours….not Mass.
It is through repetiton we are taught and learn.
In the Old Mass I actually learn and assimilate. In the new Mass I feel overwhelmed and confused.
In the Old Mass I read and hear the readings. In the New Mass I only hear and am usually most annoyed by nasally women and men!

People who read the lessons aloud really do need training in enunciation, pitch, inflection and projection, even when aided by a microphone. Our Anglican parish is doing significantly better in that regard; they understand what they are reading. However, I know a Catholic reader who doesn’t really take the responsibility seriously: ‘So I started on the wrong page. Big deal.’

Blake hinted at heretics operating behind the Lectionary:

It is not a matter of “better or worst” that is a personal judgement, “authentic” might be a better word. The ancient Lectionary is has come into being in the crucible of sacred history, it has been the foundation of the Church, it hammers away at a pretty basic message. The modern Lectionary has been chosen by a committee at an identifable point in history, and [I] suspect reflects that period’s image of God.

Marcion [a heretic] was accused of editing scripture with a pen knife, I can’t help thinking this has been done with the modern Lectionary.

But, enough of the Lectionary for now. What about the practical results of it on today’s Catholic — and, for that matter, mainline Protestant? Blake’s reader Jacobi said:

… One obvious reason is the false ecumenism which infected Vatican II resulting in the LCD Catholicism-lite we have today, and the other, as has been mentioned here, is to air-brush out sin. The latter objective has been largely achieved as is seen in any Catholic church with 100% attendance at Communion and near zero at Confession.

The answer always lies in the middle, but Hell does exist and people go there. Also those who wish to air-brush sin out are in effect saying that Jesus Christ was just another deluded religious bigot who died needlessly on a cross.

As to Bugnini’s original intent, Joseph Shaw offered this:

I don’t know of a full-length study of the EF lectionary, or of the reform. Bugnini’s treatment of the latter is terse and unhelpful. He does say that they rejected the idea of keeping the old lectionary as one of the three years’ cycle, because if they did this ‘there would be major differences between that cycle and the others’ (Reform of the Liturgy, p416), that pretty well vindicates Fr Blake’s instinct!

Because the OF lectionary is so large, it is often possible for its defenders to say ‘Oh no this or that passage has not been excluded, it is on Wednesday of week XX in year Z’, but that is a bit beside the point. We know Bugnini wanted [to] minimise ‘negative’ elements, and exiling a passage to a weekday in the middle of the summer, once every three years, is as good as putting it in the shredder. The smaller selection of readings in the EF become really familiar in time, they really give a flavour to the whole liturgical experience.

And that is where we are today. Yes, the Lectionary might have been finalised nearly two decades after Bugnini first came up with the idea and was no longer involved in it. However, his legacy is long lasting.

Our local Anglican clergy take a detour from the Lectionary now and then, not skipping a verse in what they choose to read. Long may they continue to do so. May others follow their example.


j0181253A number of Catholics and Protestants still recall the bolt of lightning hitting St Peter’s Basilica a few weeks ago when Pope Francis was elected.

The Pope’s behaviour since then continues to perplex the faithful. He has shunned most of the papal wardrobe, including small but significant attire, such as the pallium, a simple stole which symbolises Christ as the Good Shepherd carrying a lamb on His shoulders. It transpires that Pope Francis will eschew living in the papal apartments, choosing instead to live at the Santa Marta residence with the cardinals.

Late last week I wrote about the controversy his Maundy Thursday Mass created.

Today’s post presents a simple summary of the beginnings of Vatican II in the 1950s and why this history gives traditional Catholics cause for alarm.

Let us first recall that Pope St Pius X formally declared Modernism a heresy in 1907 (read here and here).

Nonetheless, less than 50 years later (emphases mine):

After the Second World War, a few Modernists assumed control of the new Commission for Reform of the Liturgy.  They strongly influenced Pope Pius XII and John XXIII.  The top three in the group were Father Annibale Bugnini (later to become Archbishop, then Cardinal), Cardinal Lercaro and Cardinal Montini, the future Pope Paul VI.  During Paul VI’s time as Pope, Archbishop Bugnini was the chief  architect of the New Mass, or Novus Ordo.  He devised it during Vatican II (1962-1965) and it was made official in 1969.  Archbishop Bugnini described the new liturgy as ‘a major conquest of the Catholic Church’.  And how!  The Novus Ordo is still said today — one cannot escape it.  Fr Bonneterre concludes that Archbishop Bugnini was ‘a revolutionary more clever than the others, he who killed the Catholic liturgy before disappearing from the official scene’.  (Suspecting Bugnini of being a Freemason, Paul VI sent him to a post in Iran, where he died in 1982.)

Lest we think it all ended with Paul VI, it should be noted that three other future Popes also had prominent roles to play in Vatican II: the future John Paul I, John Paul II and Benedict XVI.  Father Joseph Ratzinger, as Pope Benedict was known at the time, was a theological consultant.  He later headed the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith

When I was growing up, the priests and nuns told us that Vatican II was inspired by the Holy Spirit. I’m not sure all of them believed that, but it was so opposed by most in the pews that it needed a few coats of gloss so the kiddies would accept it:

Personally, I don’t think that Popes John XXIII and Paul VI – or more properly, Cardinal Bugnini and modernist theologians – were divinely inspired in carrying out the Vatican II brief.  It’s interesting that most Catholic priests say that all the horrendous developments afterward — nuns dressing like office workers, the decline in Mass attendance, a new Missal every few years, pedestrian priests’ vestments and guitar music —  came ‘post-Vatican II’.  ‘Churchmouse, what you are describing was not part of the Second Vatican Council.  So, you are wrong.  Those all came about afterward.’ 

This means that Vatican II was so bad that priests disassociate its other developments!  In defending it they therefore must deny its outcome: the natural progression from the mysterium tremendum to the downright pedestrian.

Cardinal Bugnini was also responsible for introducing the Lectionary, which I’ll cover in another post. He also introduced the expression ‘Ordinary Time’ for designating the Sundays after Pentecost.

Therefore, to my Protestant friends wondering why I’m wasting time on the papacy, a large number of denominations do use the Lectionary. This was part of the spirit of ecumenism which influenced Catholic and Protestant theologians and clergy in the early 1970s.

I would also posit that Vatican II gave Protestants greater licence in establishing suburban congregations in shopping malls. Back in 2009, I borrowed a few telling comments from one of Damian Thompson’s posts for the Telegraph:

Benedict Carter, Nov. 30, 3:35 p.m.: … Going to Mass was the highlight of the week and the whole world of Catholicism was in our home constantly… And for this New Mass, with its centre of gravity NOT Christ above the individual soul (a vertical relationship) but the Collective (a horizontal relationship), there was needed a new physical orientation: priest and people face each other; the Tabernacle to which I knelt and prayed as a small boy thrust out of sight into some alcove chapel. All barriers (altar rails) ‘denying’ the Collective its rightful dignity were removed so that the Sanctuary became the whole Church (no more holy place); new Churches built to more represent an ampitheatre where the Collective can gather round each other rather than the Churches of all our forefathers that were built in one dimension – vertically, a line from the faithful to the priest and deacons to God in His Tabernacle.

Pascal, Nov. 30, 8:55 p.m.: … I agree with all the trad arguments but we don’t have that kind of intellectual body of faithful anymore. Most never experienced the old Mass and it would be very hard for them to switch back to the older form ..

On the Side of the Angels, Nov. 30, 10:48 p.m.: … there is simply no training in how to celebrate an ordinary form mass; so clerics invariably do as little as possible , or what they think is right, or what they think might add a little pizzazz to the rituals…

…and it’s not on !!!

Fr Jonathan, Nov. 30, 10:58 p.m.: I think you are right in saying how little real training there is in celebrating the Mass. Perhaps following an era of excessive adherence to every detail … produced a backlash.
But even if that’s a reason it’s no good at all as an excuse. Since the Mass is the most important thing we can ever do, the right way of doing it surely should be an essential part of the training of priests. For the good of everyone the Mass – in whatever form or rite – should be celebrated with due dignity and decorum.
And if proper training is not given, what does that suggest except that it’s not really important?

Now, on to the papacy, beginning with Benedict XVI’s abdication earlier this year. What follows is the risk that many see, although Professor Alberto Melloni attempted to put it into perspective for the Toronto Star:

The move immediately weakened the power of the office: if a pope can resign, maybe he can be pushed out, too. The radical step reminded everyone that a pope is a man and not “some demigod,” said Melloni, a leading church analyst with the University of Modena.

The Catholic Church is awash in nouvelle théologie, as never before.

On Good Friday 2013, The Preacher of the Pontifical Household, Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa, OFMCap, preached on a story of Franz Kafka’s, An Imperial Message. Rorate Caeli has more (much more at the link, emphases in the original):

Here is the main excerpt:

… We must do everything possible so that the Church may never look like that complicated and cluttered castle described by Kafka, and the message may come out of it as free and joyous as when the messenger began his run. We know what the impediments are that can restrain the messenger: dividing walls, starting with those that separate the various Christian churches from one another, the excess of bureaucracy, the residue of past ceremonials, laws and disputes, now only debris …

As happens with certain old buildings. Over the centuries, to adapt to the needs of the moment, they become filled with partitions, staircases, rooms and closets. The time comes when we realize that all these adjustments no longer meet the current needs, but rather are an obstacle, so we must have the courage to knock them down and return the building to the simplicity and linearity of its origins. This was the mission that was received one day by a man who prayed before the Crucifix of San Damiano: “Go, Francis, and repair my Church”.

In the comments section, Rorate Caeli readers were rightly unhappy (emphases mine):

John Fisher: Papa Cantalamessa is seeking to influence the pope! What an impertinent ignoramous! This is the agenda of Bugnini. You would think living amongst the ruins of ancient Rome he would grasp many old building are just simple ruins with all the beauty and ORIGINAL beauty destroyed by barbarians.
In his Encyclical Mediator Dei (1947), Pope Pius XII warned against those who attempt to subvert the Faith under the pretext of a return to primitive practice: such persons represent “a wicked movement that tends to paralyze the sanctifying and salutary action by which the liturgy leads the children of adoption on the path to their Heavenly Father.”
In the same document, the Pope went on to further explain that “the desire to restore everything indiscriminately to its ancient condition is neither wise nor praiseworthy. It would be wrong, for example, to want the altar restored to its ancient form of a table . . . and pictures and statues excluded from our churches . . . This attitude is an attempt to revive the ‘archeologism’ to which the pseudo-synod of Pistoia gave rise; it seeks also to reintroduce the many pernicious errors which led to that synod and resulted from it and which the Church . . . has rightly condemned.”

Benedict Carter: … Indeed, it appears that the capacity of intelligent men to see basic cause and effect has been somehow negated by some kind of shadow that can only be demonic …

The original Franciscans soon degenerated into the “Spirituals”, the Fraticelli, the radicals who took up arms and had to be destroyed by force of arms. Theirs is a radical call to compassion which un-directed soon becomes revolutionary

Justice & Peace, the “preferential option for the poor”, “compassion”, are now the law of the Church, not the Salvation of Souls …

Tenebrae: It is bizarre that a Catholic preacher should take as his key text a book by the bleak existentialist Frank Kafka. Presumably no text in Holy Scripture existed that met the “destruction agenda.” I find this sermon terrifying. It is a manifesto for destruction of the spiritual and temporal legacy of the church. And as well already know from the legacy of Vatican 2 it will not work.
The metaphor of a building is flawed. The church is more like a living tree than a building. Severe pruning will not turn a mighty ancient oak back to a sapling it will simply disfigure or even kill the tree.

Ora et Labora: This is what we’ll see pretty soon during Papal Masses, I mean, if this is how Francis celebrates the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass for children, for the young people who will attend the WYD [World Youth Day], and for the Church in general the Papal Masses won’t be much different.
MISA DE NIÑOS 2011 – 3.wmv:

Francis calls the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass a meal (“esta comida”) and in minute 14:12 to minute 14:17 the deacon says having celebrated the party of Jesus we can go in peace (“habiendo celebrado la fiesta de Jesus podemos ir en paz”) …

Alsaticus: Fr Cantalamessa has always been a sort of liberal : he just wore his wojtylian/ratzingerian mask well and was cunning enough to fool two popes, sorry, “bishops of Rome”.
Now he is removing the mask : plain and simple.
all is nearly a quote of Hans Urs von Balthazar’s pamphlet “Rasez les bastions” (1952) in English : “Razing the Bastions : on the Church in This Age” which is often seen as a sort of draft for the “spirit of the Council”.

Fr von Balthasar left the … Society of Jesus in 1950.

Hilltop: I carry the point further to speculate if we are not seeing Cantalamessa picking up on Pope Francis’ gentle but obvious iconoclasms to date? No mozetta, intentionally limited use of the Stole, intentionally limited use of the pallium, intentionally limited use of the mitre, no red slippers, intentionally limited use of the pectoral cross, “call me Francis”,”call me Jorge”, “no Papal apartment for me, thanks”, “no need for all Cardinals to swear allegiance” … I recite the above not as an accuser but as an observer. If we have an iconoclast in our present Holy Father, or if we have in our present Holy Father a Pope who permits iconoclasm in others, we might as well recognize the signs so that we may be aware.

Prof. Basto: … And today, in Pope Francis’ quick and radical ignoring of the rubrics and abandonment of liturgical and extraliturgical ceremony, we see a radicalized version of the Spirit of Vatican II.

As for Fr. Cantalamessa, the John Paul II appointed, Benedict XVI maintained, Preacher of the Pontifical Household, he has always been an arch-liberal.

And his Good Friday homily is nothing but a rallying cry, asking the Pope to implement a radical vision of the “Spirit of Vatican II” by means of a total Rupture with the past.

The very meaning of the order given to St. Francis “Go and rebuild my Church” is distorted and perverted. It is made to sound like an order (directed to Pope Francis) for a refoundation of the Church on a completely new basis, a re-edification of the Church as if in a “New Pentecost”. It is the radicalism of the Vatican II age, of the sixties and seventies all over again.

And, in reality, this call, under the pretext of restoring the primitive, linear aspect, of the ecclesiastical edifice, is nothing but a call for the DEMOLITION OF THE CHURCH

And that is only in the first twenty days of his Pontificate. Today is the 20th day of Pope Francis’ Pontificate, including the date of the election. He has not yet even taken posession of his Cathedra at the Lateran, and yet so many symbols and ceremonies have already been changed and simplified …

Finally, as expected, few are surprised by the calls from Occupy-type Catholics about selling the Church’s goods ‘for the poor’. Two points here. One, throughout the centuries the faithful contributed hard-earned money for the Church’s treasures. So, they are Catholics’ heritage through the centuries — regardless of whether you agree or disagree with Catholicism’s premise and distortions. Two, aren’t the Occupy Catholics — perhaps including the Pope himself — saying the same as Judas did when Martha and Lazarus’s sister Mary poured precious spikenard on our Lord’s feet?

The Catholic Church’s possessions have been used for the glory of God for centuries. Storefront worshippers will disagree with this premise, but, human nature being what it is, there was a time when many — especially illiterates — came to God through the aethereal atmosphere that the Church offered to everyone, bringing them that much closer to Heaven once a week.

The Catholic Church is in crisis. Pope Francis’s ‘reform’ involves something which is not entirely his heritage or legacy to give away or abolish. It belongs to all Catholics. He is but its guardian.

Would that he concentrated more on saving souls instead of managing what increasingly appears to be an NGO.

Tomorrow: Catholics say Bugnini’s Lectionary has changed perception of God

Pope Francis created a storm in Catholic circles when he conducted the customary Maundy Thursday foot washing ceremony in a young offender’s institution.

The Italian newspaper La Repubblica reported (H/T: Rorate Caeli):

Pope Francis, who often prefers to call himself “bishop of Rome” for the little ones, those who suffer, and the poor, will celebrate today the rite of the washing of the feet in the juvenile penitentiary of Casal del Marmo. Among the twelve young inmates whose feet he will wash will also be a girl, perhaps two. “In Buenos Aires, Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio also admitted girls to the rite. And we proposed today a female presence. In the Vatican, after some resistance, they accepted it,” said Father Gaetano Greco, the chaplain of the facility, where the Pontiff will arrive this afternoon.

The National Catholic Register added:

The Vatican said the jailed teens were not all Catholic while reports say among the among those who had their feet washed were two teenage girls, one Italian and another from Serbia.

Going back to the New Testament, before the Last Supper, the Apostles were arguing among themselves as to who was the greatest when Jesus broke the moment by bringing water and a towel with which to wash their dusty feet. In other words, the Apostles were so self-absorbed and prideful that none had thought to perform basic hygiene before breaking bread. So, yes, there was a practical reason for His washing their feet as well as the strong signal that they put their personal pride away. Jesus thereby mandated humble service to one another. (‘Mandate’ is the operative word behind ‘Maundy’, as in Maundy Thursday.)

However, note that Jesus did not just wash anyone’s feet; He washed those of His twelve closest friends, even though He knew one would soon betray Him. The remaining eleven would evangelise and die confessing His name. This is why Maundy Thursday is considered as the formal institution of the priesthood as well as Holy Communion.

Today, where the foot washing is done in the same spirit in a Catholic or Protestant service, the celebrant washes the feet of deacons, other clergy and/or people who have given generously of their time for the church.

No well-known clergyman — until now — has gone into a prison to wash the feet of unbelievers, especially someone who has never been a Christian.

Nor do they kiss that person’s feet.

Yet, here is the elevated Jesuit Pope kissing the young prisoners’ feet, among them a Muslim’s:

Blogger Fr Ray Blake explains that some traditions have different practices. The clergy wash each others feet and laypeople and religious communities wash each others. The head person performs the act:

From a Russian friend I understand the Patriarch of Moscow washes the feet of twelve Moscow bishops, which seems entirely appropriate, the Apostles were after all bishops. It was also appropriate that formally the Bishop of Rome should wash the feet of twelve priests of his diocese.

In my mother’s homeland, that bit of Northern Italy that became Yugoslavia, it was the custom of my grandfather, and the heads of most households, to wash the feet of his family and farm workers, the practice I understand continued even under Tito’s Communism. In England before the Reformation the monarch used to wash the feet of the poor, and in at least one Benedictine Abbey I know Mother Abbess washes the feet of the whole community in the Chapter house, in the Liturgy the chants are sung but the priest washes no-one’s feet. Formerly it seems it was a ritual for those in authority to exercise with their subordinates.

This is a different context to going into a prison to wash random prisoners’ feet, people who might have no interest in or knowledge of Christ.

Is the Pope’s ‘example’ not a case of casting pearls before swine?

Many Catholics have pointed out that Holy Week is the most important time the Church year, culminating in Easter. The services during that week are for the faithful in remembering Christ’s Passion.

Where Vatican II, its aftermath and clergy-led innovations are concerned, one of Fr Blake’s readers wrote:

My frustration is, why so much leniency for lawbreaking *innovations* yet heavyhanded episcopal smackdowns for daring to go back to previously approved liturgical forms (like the 1955 Roman rite—or, sadly, in too many cases still, the now-legal 1962 rite, or even legitimate things like celebrating the Novus Ordo ad orientem or using altar rails)? It’s perplexing and depressing.

Furthermore, it is difficult for Catholics to find a Latin Mass in their local area. Most would have to spend the better part of a Sunday driving to and back from one. And most priests refuse to celebrate it, despite Benedict XVI’s instruction to do so.  Our local priest at the time put his foot down, even when I offered to donate money to have a priest brought in to celebrate what is now known as the Extraordinary Form: ‘I will not have a Latin Mass in this church!’ There is something strange in that sentiment, even though most Catholic priests and bishops in Britain share it.

This same priest was also fond of saying, ‘Holy Mother Church must be obeyed at all costs!’

Hmm. It will be interesting to see how all this turns out for the Church’s faithful. The Pope twists and perverts — let’s be honest — the rites of the Last Supper and priesthood on Maundy Thursday. Yet, despite his predecessor’s (Benedict XVI’s) efforts and instructions, there are few Latin Masses for the faithful who wish to hear them. How sad.

I am grateful for having become a Protestant all those years ago. At least my church offers the 1662 Book of Common Prayer service at least once a month.

Prayers for the Catholic remnant as they navigate their way in the dark.

Tomorrow: More on Vatican II from Cardinal Bugnini to Pope Francis

Dog collarAfter I read the anecdote on Baroness Doherty’s Madonna House, I happened upon another article on the same Catholic site, this time concerning exit interviews for departing Catholics.

I thought that the article from 2011 by the Revd William J Byron S.J. — a Jesuit — would be riveting reading. However, Catholics severing their ties with Holy Mother Church would find little to surprise them in the comments.

It’s interesting that Fr Byron’s spur for the survey came via a captain of industry (page 1 of the essay):

Ever since Larry Bossidy, a former C.E.O. of Allied Signal and the Honeywell Corporation, raised the question of conducting interviews with lapsed Catholics, I have been giving it a lot of thought. Mr. Bossidy is a devout Catholic and the co-author (with Ram Charan) of a bestselling book, Execution, which Bossidy likes to explain is about effective management in business, not about capital punishment. He addressed a meeting of the National Leadership Roundtable on Church Management a couple of years ago and pointed out that if businesses were losing customers at the rate the Catholic Church in the United States is losing members, someone would surely be conducting exit interviews. His observation was prompted by data on declining church attendance released by the Pew Research Center.

Byron puzzled over this and featured the topic in a column he writes. Catholics and ex-Catholics did not hold back. Many wondered why the Vatican hasn’t seen any problem with the Church and liturgy post-Vatican II.

It amazes me — an ex-Catholic — that a priest wouldn’t wonder why people are leaving. The answers are many and, sadly, painfully obvious. At least to laymen.

One retired military man was blunt with Byron:

I only go to Mass to punch my ‘stay-out-of-hell-for-another-week’ card. I don’t celebrate the Mass; I endure it.

I know what he means only too well. Vatican II and its aftermath carry the Devil’s signature.

Sadly, Byron — a member of the most legendary and powerful religious order of all time — feigns helplessness at feeding back to the Vatican the negative information he has informally collected:

I just wish I could improve the organizational acoustics in the church so that leaders could hear what the people of God want to say.

Really? Hmm. I wonder.

I wonder because a book of his came out around the same time as his survey article. What do you think it is about? A book on the Gospel? A book on understanding the Mass? An introduction to the Catholic Church?


It is called Next-Generation Leadership: A Toolkit for Teens, Twenties & Thirties, Who Want to be Successful Leaders (University of Scranton Press).

For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.  (Matthew 6:21)

Below are a few facts about Pope Francis:

He was quite the imp in primary school. Martha Rabino is five years younger than Jorge Bergoglio but recalls that he used to visit one of his schoolteachers, Sister Rosa, who died recently at the age of 101. Sister Rosa, according to Sister Martha Rabino, told Bergoglio that he was ‘a devil’ and asked him whether he got any better. Sister Martha, incidentally, taught Argentina’s President Christina Fernandez (Mrs Kirchner) catechism many years ago.

He had his first — and only — crush, it would seem, at the age of 12. His young ‘girlfriend’ was the same age. Her parents put an end to their puppy love, but not before he drew the girl a picture of the house they would live in once they were married. He said that if she wouldn’t be his girlfriend, he would become a priest.

He is known for his austere style of living, declining to reside in the Cardinal’s mansion. Instead, he lived in a small flat in downtown Buenos Aires, cooked for himself and relied on public transport. He is no stranger to the slums and has a keen interest in the poor.

– He loves Argentina and believes that Great Britain has usurped the Falkland Islands.

He chose his name in memory of St Francis of Assisi rather than St Francis Xavier, one of the seven original Jesuits who journeyed to the Far East as a missionary in the Middle Ages.

– His sister believes he will have a life of ‘infinite loneliness’ in the Vatican and confirms he did not want the post.

President Christina Fernandez has asked the Pope to intervene in the Falklands dispute, after residents overwhelmingly voted — 99% — to remain British.

On Tuesday morning, March 19, 2013, I watched the Pope’s installation Mass on BBC1. In 2005, I watched Pope Benedict XVI’s, which was glorious. Pope Francis’s was quite different and left me uneasy. I took several pages of notes which contain many exclamation marks.

Jon Sopel, who normally presents political programmes, led the panel of Archbishop Peter Smith of the Roman Catholic diocese of Southwark (London), Joanna Moorhead of Faith Today and Dr Eamon Duffy, prominent papal historian.

They made little mention of Pope Benedict, who, by the way, did not attend the Mass. The only time his name came up was when the panel discussed the paedophilia scandals. The Archbishop thought that it was time to stop talking about the issue, a sentiment I have read from other Catholics lately. It seems to be a new meme. That said, the Archbishop said that the scandals would continue to come to light.

Let’s not forget that this was John Paul II’s mess which he refused to clean up and left Benedict XVI to do it. John Paul II thought many of these incidents were fiction based on Communist propaganda techniques used against Catholic clergy behind the Iron Curtain in the old days.

I find it disappointing that the media gave John Paul II a pass on everything because he looked so good on television. He should have; he was a stage actor before becoming a priest.

Still, the question remains — and many Protestant ministers have blogged on it — where is the church discipline? There has been some, but the stories which reach the press are those where secret or quiet deals have taken place where these priests — and now a cardinal — are still allowed to exercise their office.

Now on to highlights of the Mass and the BBC’s commentators.

– Pope Francis’s ring is recycled. Normally, these are made new for each Pope from gold and a precious stone. Francis’s does not appear to have a jewel and is silver-plated.

– Pope Francis will not be wearing the traditional red slippers nor will he continue with Benedict XVI’s penchant for the traditional fur-trimmed red cape. Francis reportedly said, ‘Carnival time is over‘. I’m not so sure that Benedict intended his revivals of traditions as a circus but rather as reverence for papal history.

– Francis’s papal vestments for Mass are off-white with black and gold trim.  They looked very austere and depressing. The use of black is no doubt a nod to the Jesuits, whose colour is black. His pallium — a papal stole with a collar, to represent the Good Shepherd with a lamb around His neck — has a long black tip. The Black Pope?

This AFP graphic based on information from the Vatican illustrates the differences between Francis and Benedict with regard to their attire. N.B.: If there is a large gap after the image, please scroll down to continue reading the post. Apologies for the formatting problems!

Pope attire 2013 AFP photo_1363680589061-3-0

Before Mass, the cameras showed Francis going to visit St Peter’s tomb underneath the eponymous basilica. Afterward, on the steps of St Peter’s, he was presented with his aforementioned pallium, which was made by the Sisters of St Agnes, traditional weavers of this papal vestment.

After the pallium placement, Francis sat down and rubbed his nostris with his right thumb and forefinger. Errgh. He would go on to shake cardinals’ hands and celebrate the Mass using his right hand.

He next received his ‘recycled’ (the BBC’s words) papal ring.

Whereas the liturgical music used for Benedict’s first papal Mass was glorious, Francis’s sounded as if it was from the usual Vatican II Mass Catholics hear every week. The choirs sounded flat; the only singing ‘star’ was the soloist choirboy who sang between the first two readings. Well done, that lad!

By contrast, Benedict’s 2005 Mass was so uplifting that when I went to the supermarket later, one of the clerks — a Muslim lady — told me that she watched the whole Mass and was very moved by it. She said, ‘I was only going to watch a few minutes of it out of curiosity. Instead, I watched all of it before coming to work. It was beautiful. I was transfixed.’ I pray that God watches over her and brings her to life in Christ.

What follows are what I could derive from the Scripture passages, none of which had a clear specification. My apologies if I got these wrong vis à vis my notes.

The first reading featured verses from II Samuel 7, among them:

13 He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. 

The second reading was taken from Romans 4:

16 That is why it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his offspring—not only to the adherent of the law but also to the one who shares the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all, 17 as it is written, “I have made you the father of many nations”—in the presence of the God in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist. 18 In hope he believed against hope, that he should become the father of many nations, as he had been told, “So shall your offspring be.” 19 He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was as good as dead (since he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah’s womb. 20 No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, 21 fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised.

The Gospel reading came from Matthew 1 and specifically concerned St Joseph as March 19 is his feast day — a public holiday in Rome:

19 And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. 20 But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”

Afterward, Pope Francis delivered his first Vatican homily. As it was the feast of St Joseph, he began by exhorting those in attendance to emulate his example. Francis spoke of Joseph’s obedience to God in his role as protector of Mary and Jesus. He added that this can be extended to the Church. Francis said that Joseph carried out this responsibility ‘discreetly’ and with humility, even when he found his duty ‘hard to understand’. Yet, Joseph was present in fidelity and ‘loving care’ through times good and bad. Francis emphasised that Joseph was open to God’s presence, not his own wishes.

That was a good message which spoke to everyone — the ordained, heads of state, Catholic religious and laity. It also gave an indication as to how Francis would exercise his responsibilities as Pope — discreetly and humbly.

Then, Francis discoursed on the Catholic responsibility to the world’s poor and urged heads of states and governments to ensure the poor had more. He banged home the message that we all had to DO SOMETHING about poverty.  Yet, Jesus Himself told us that poverty was intractable. Many non-Catholics press the Catholic Church to start selling off the Vatican’s ‘riches’. It is possible that Francis will consider this. Unfortunately, such a gesture would not cure poverty. The proceeds would be spent within a couple of hours and probably only buy every poor person one small meal.

His next action point was environmentalism: ‘We are called to protect all creation!’ This reminded me of the big Gaia movement in South America which revolves around the Earth mother, Pachamama, and has enticed left-wing governments and Catholic religious towards new rights for nature and Pantheism (a heresy, for those who don’t know).

Therefore, two-thirds of the homily was directed towards the developing world, particularly South America.

Francis’s homily was also an excellent example of nouvelle théologie, where dogma changes with the world. Benedict XVI also espoused this way of thinking, saying that the Church is communitarian and that we must avoid strict biblical interpretations which would fossilise the Church or place Christ in ‘yesterday’.

This is Modernism, which St Pius X — the last Pope to be canonised — declared a heresy in 1907 (read here, here and here).

Francis’s homily had no mention of Christ’s sacrifice for us on the Cross, no mention of God’s grace, no mention about spreading the Gospel — by which I mean the Good News, not wealth redistribution or environmentalism.

This is why I felt so queasy afterward. It was not helped when Archbishop Smith said (only somewhat paraphrased) of Francis’s redistribution and environmentalism:

That’s the Gospel we will be judged on now.

To which Joanna Moorhead added (again, only somewhat paraphrased):

The environment is a very unifying message for the Church.

You don’t have to be Catholic or Christian to be part of these movements. During Francis’s first weekend as Pope, the BBC broadcast Comic Relief, a charity effort featuring top British entertainers, while France’s TF1 showed the annual benefit concert by Les Enfoirés, a pop group whose proceeds go to the charitable organisation Les Restos du Coeur (Restaurants of the Heart), where the poor are guaranteed a hot meal, a kind word and a smile as often as they need it.

It would not surprise me if Francis really were the last Pope, although perhaps not in the apocalyptic ways which St Malachy imagined. Archbishop Smith and Eamon Duffy both said afterward that Francis would attempt to reform the Curia and decentralise the administrative authority, devolving it to bishops. The Archbishop reminded us that the first bishops in the Church were elected by their congregations.

More urgent than that, however, is their need for the Gospel. It matters not how many Masses Catholic clergy and the Pope celebrate. For them and for too many Catholics, Jesus Christ is but a backdrop, overshadowed by the world.

On Tuesday, March 12, 2013, the conclave to elect the successor to Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI will have begun.

A few Reformed blogs have treated the Pope’s abdication lightly, when the Catholic Church is in real danger. It is not a stretch of the imagination that, should it find itself in chaos, the rest of Christianity will also be in danger.

With today’s ignorance about the Christian faith — including here in England, even among people over 50 who had to take Religious Education in school — it is quite possible that we will all be tarred with the same atheistic brush of ‘conservative, reactionary perverts and theonomists’.

So, I would suggest that we pray that Benedict XVI can retire in peace and be left alone. We do not know what is really happening inside the Vatican other than that ‘another spirit is moving through’ it — to borrow Martin Luther’s stinging words to Zwingli over the latter’s doubt of the Real Presence in Holy Communion. And that spirit is a form of darkness.

However, there is a cautionary historical story here. Benedict XVI, like the Popes before him going back to John XXIII, advocated teachings which go against Holy Scripture, among them (emphases mine):

Changing with the times: ‘In the era of liberalism that preceded the First World War, the Catholic Church was looked upon as a fossilized organization, stubbornly opposed to all modern achievements‘ … ’Whoever wants to attach himself solely to the literal interpretation of the Scriptures or to the forms of the Church of the Fathers imprisons Christ in “yesterday”.

This ties in with the ideas behind la nouvelle théologie: dogma changes over time and old tenets of the faith, even scriptural teachings, can be discarded.

Indeed, Benedict XVI helped to develop the changes which emanated from Vatican II:

Ratzinger became a professor at the University of Bonn in 1959; his inaugural lecture was on “The God of Faith and the God of Philosophy”. In 1963, he moved to the University of Münster.

During this period, Ratzinger participated in the Second Vatican Council (1962–65). Ratzinger served as a peritus (theological consultant) to Cardinal Frings of Cologne. He was viewed during the time of the Council as a reformer, cooperating with theologians like Hans Küng and Edward Schillebeeckx. Ratzinger became an admirer of Karl Rahner, a well-known academic theologian of the Nouvelle Théologie and a proponent of church reform.

My mother, a devout Catholic, read everything going on the Catholic Church, especially when the subject concerned Vatican II. By the 1970s, Ratzinger and Küng were household names in our home. My mother sought out the nuns at my school to voice her opinion that the outcomes of Vatican II would ruin the Church. They attempted to reassure her that these particular changes were necessary and not to worry!

Well, we know what happened. Over the past four decades, the Catholic Church has been hemorrhaging laity and vocations whilst accumulating sacerdotal scandals and internal discord.

There was nothing ‘conservative’ about Benedict XVI, then or now. There are times, as was true with the now-retired Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams that, amidst all the Modernist and worldly teaching, a glimmer of faith and brilliance occasionally emerged. The latest case in point was Benedict XVI’s final message on February 28, 2013.

The cautionary point is that Benedict XVI reaped what he sowed. Although none of us has eyes into each other’s souls, I would like to think that since his ascent to the papacy he has at least partially repented of Modernism as he saw the maelstrom of unbelief, corruption and immorality around him. The latest news before he ended his tenure was that a cabal of militant homosexual bishops is lobbying the Church for change. Their ability to do so would have to rely on Vatican insiders — other clergy — allowing that to happen. Of course, the fallout from the sex scandals has not gone away, either.

Vatican II really does have nouvelle théologie written all over it and the relativism it brought to all aspects of Catholic life has caused a number of lay members — including my friends and I — to leave. A few of us became Protestants, however, most left the Christian faith full stop.

A couple of years ago, we got together to talk about the pre-Vatican II and post-Vatican II Church. In the pre-Vatican II Church we agreed that we knew where we stood, that the Catholic faith was important to us largely because of the mysterium tremendum in Latin Mass and clear teaching (even if erroneous) which we learned at a young age.  Of the post-Vatican II changes, we thought that Mass had lost that mysterium tremendum, the priest wanted to get people in and out as soon as possible and that there was little guidance from the pulpit in matters of faith.

What is truly unfortunate, however, is that those who left Christianity said that they had little reason to believe that Jesus was active in their lives. Christ seems distant to them. Salvation doesn’t worry them; it doesn’t even enter their minds.

That distance and abstraction are part and parcel of nouvelle théologie:

the Incarnation of the Word (Jesus) was but a mere blip in the evolution of the universe. According to new theology, time moves on and our link to Jesus becomes more abstract. New theology ignores His sacrifice on the Cross, His glorious Resurrection and His promise of salvation.

God is not personally involved in our lives or our world; rather, God is an abstract ‘universal cosmic Centre’. This notion contradicts Holy Scripture from beginning to end.

we can be saved only through pantheism — Gaia — and ‘uniting’ ourselves with the universe.

As is often said in marketing, there is a big ‘So what?’ problem with the post-Vatican II Church. There is no compelling reason to align oneself with watery or, just as bad, extra-scriptural theology.

The other factor which I find troubling is the huge emphasis that Pope John Paul II (during whose tenure I left the Catholic Church) placed on Mary, making her co-redemptrix. For more information, see my Christianity / Apologetics page under the heading Mariolatry.

Then there is the difficulty of the Catholic doctrine of Christ’s specific designation of Peter as ‘the rock’ on which He would build His Church (Matthew 16). Yet, when one reads the Bible, Peter has a smaller role to play. This is no doubt one of the reasons why Catholic clergy had, until relatively recently, discouraged lay people from reading Holy Scripture, because if the faithful had begun to read and study it, who knows what contradictions with ‘tradition’ they might find?

John MacArthur explains:

Paul wrote Romans in the year 56, made no reference to Peter If Peter was the pastor of the church in Rome, why doesn’t he refer to Peter? And he greets a whole bunch of people in chapter 16, he just keeps greeting one after another after another after another, it would be pretty serious to overlook Peter. When Paul was later imprisoned in Rome in the year 60 to 62, he wrote four letters and he included in those letters all who came to him, never mentions Peter. In his last letter, 2 Timothy, written in the year 64 or about that, he gives greeting to ten people in Rome, not Peter..not Peter. By the way, Peter was never called to the Gentiles anyway. Galatians 2:7 and 8, you might want to look at that for just a minute. Galatians 2:7 and 8, he says, “I had been entrusted…Paul says…with the gospel to the uncircumcised, to the Gentiles, just as Peter had been to the circumcised.” Peter was never called to pastor a Gentile congregation

By the way … you might think at least Peter would be the head of the Jerusalem church, but he’s not. According to Galatians chapter 2 and Acts chapter 15, the head of the Jerusalem church was James…not Peter at all. There’s no indication whatsoever that Peter had anything to do with the city of Rome.

In 1 Corinthians chapter 1, the Apostle Paul addresses the factions in the Corinthian church, he says, “Some of you say I am of Paul, I am of Apollos, I am of Cephas, or Peter, I of Christ.”He doesn’t make any great thing of him at all. In fact, he makes it very clear that none of these people are particularly significant. They’re not the ones who deserve the credit for the work of God. Go over to chapter 3. “What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed. I planted, Apollos watered, God was causing the growth.” It’s a very low key way to treat yourself. He doesn’t give any elevation to anybody.

Furthermore, Paul went to Rome to preach and in Romans 15:20 he says, “I aspired to preach the gospel not where Christ was already named.” If Peter had been there and planted a church, then that would not be true. He didn’t go where somebody else had been. If Peter was already the Bishop of Rome, why would Paul want to go there and strengthen and establish that church?

In 1 Peter, let’s hear from Peter himself. First Peter chapter 1, [‘]Peter an Apostle of Jesus Christ[‘], that’s all, an Apostle of Jesus Christ. He introduces himself as nothing more than that, not THE Apostle, not the head of the church. First Peter 5, “I exhort the elders among you as your fellow elder.” As your fellow elder. I’m just one of you. I’m just a partaker of the glory to be revealed. Shepherd the flock of God. “Exercise oversight, not under compulsion but voluntarily, according to the will of God, not for money but with eagerness. Not as…here it comes, verse 3…lording it over those allotted to your charge.” Boy, there’s a direct hit at the papacy. We’re just fellow elders. Don’t ever lord it over. Peter himself actually taught against the priesthood of which, of course, the papacy is the highest place. First Peter 2:5 he says, “You are living stones, you are built up a spiritual house for a holy priesthood.” This is what we know as the priesthood of believers. Down in verse 9, “You are a chosen race. You are a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession.” There’s no priesthood but the priesthood of believers.

And by the way, Peter completely disappears after Acts 15, completely. But in spite of all of this, the Roman Catholic Church affirms that Peter was the first Pope, the head over the whole Church and the author of Papal Succession. Where do they get it? They get it from three passages completely misrepresented. Matthew 16, and this one you know, Jesus said, “I say to you, you’re Peter and on this rock I’ll build My church.” You are Peter and upon this rock I will build My church. It’s a play on words. He’s not saying you are Peter and upon you I’ll build My church. You are Peter, Petros…Petros,small stone, and upon this Petra, rock bed, I will build My church. What rock bed? The rock bed of the reality of Christ. Simon Peter in verse 16, “Thou art the Christ the Son of the living God. And Jesus says, “Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood didn’t reveal this to you, My Father who is in heaven. I say you are a small stone, but it’s on the rock bed of who I am that I will build My church.” How could that be perverted, the language is crystal clear?

Then there is the matter of St Malachy’s Prophecy of the Popes. I do not know if it is true, but, if so, and if the translation has been properly interpreted, the next Pope will be the last. His name, according to Malachy, is Petrus Romanus.  Then again, the reliability of our interpretation of these predictions could be akin to the way some invoke Nostradamus whenever there is a disaster or mass tragedy.

Does Malachy’s foreseen ‘apocalypse’ during Petrus Romanus’s tenure mean that referred to in Revelation or one of the Catholic Church?

Is it possible that the Catholic Church could move to another leadership model?

Would the papacy transfer from Rome to another city?

No one knows. Personally, I do not think it means the end of the Catholic Church, although its polity could change. Perhaps it will become more biblical in doctrine. Pray that it does.

To that end, thanks to commenters on John MacArthur’s Grace to You blog, I ran across a few useful New Testament verses for Catholic consideration:

Justification by grace through faith

8 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God;

9 not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.  (Ephesians 2:8-9)

Examining teachings against the truth of Scripture

10 The brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea, and when they arrived, they went into the synagogue of the Jews.

11 Now these were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so. (Acts 17:10-11)

On venerating Mary

27 While Jesus was saying these things, one of the women in the crowd raised her voice and said to Him, “Blessed is the womb that bore You and the breasts at which You nursed.”

28 But He said, “On the contrary, blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it.” (Luke 11:27-28)

Pray that the Pope Emeritus, the Curia and the next Pope embrace the fullness of Holy Scripture and pass it on to the faithful.

Hammer sickle and cross Edo Edi Essum forum_nationstates_netIn reading a post on Dr Gregory Jackson’s Ichabod, I ran across two related links elsewhere which deeply concerned me for reasons explained below.

Long march through the Church

Dr Jackson’s post featured an interview from the Harvard Gazette with  Francis Schüssler Fiorenza, a professor of Roman Catholic theological studies at the Divinity School. If you click on the link with  Fiorenza’s name, you’ll see his biography which lists such details as (emphases mine):

His writings on political theology engage recent theories of justice, especially those of John Rawls and Jürgen Habermas, and have dealt with issues of work and welfare.

He was awarded the Henry Luce III Fellowship for 2005-06 for research in the history of twentieth-century Roman Catholic theology, namely, the direction known as la nouvelle théologie.

Habermas studied under Max Horkheimer and Theodor Adorno, two professors of the prominent Frankfurt School, whose ideas have spread worldwide. His speciality is the concept of modernity, developing the ideas of Max Weber (also Frankfurt School) about rationalisation which

refers to the replacement of traditions, values, and emotions as motivators for behavior in society with rational, calculated ones. For example, the implementation of bureaucracies in government is a kind of rationalization, as is the construction of high-efficiency living spaces in architecture and urban planning.

Fiorenza says the Vatican is in flux. No news there. However, he did say that since the end of the Second World War in Germany and the United States, the percentage of Catholics marrying other Catholics declined from 9 in 10 marriages to 2 in 10 at present.  That means that 80% are marrying Protestants (best case scenario), those of other world faiths or no faith at all.

From this Fiorenza concludes:

that type of switch is leading to a type of religious pluralism that the church is not used to. … So I think the question of religious pluralism is going to be really important, especially if you get a pope from Asia, where you have more awareness of other world religions.

His use of ‘awareness’ points to advocacy of a one-world religion. He could have said ‘openness’ but certain elitists do not want people to really understand the big picture.

Catholic and Protestants face similar issues

Catholics face the following issues:

a seemingly conservative Pope has just abdicated.

two recent Popes, if not more (I’d go back to John XXIII), have latched on to Modernist theology (kissing Korans, allowing paedophile scandals) whilst reinforcing tradition (the Rosary and Latin Mass).

– bishops and priests are more interested in a Modernist philosophy of ‘action’ in the socio-political sphere rather than preaching the Gospel of grace and salvation.

– laity have left the Church, not for Protestantism, but altogether.

That said, the last two points also pertain to mainline Protestants not just in the United States (Episcopalians, Lutherans [ELCA] and Presbyterians [PCUSA]) but also in countries with ‘established’ (national) churches, e.g. England (Anglican), Scotland (Presbyterian) and Germany (Lutheran).

We can trace how we got here from there by going back to the mid-19th century and into the early 20th. Protestant and Catholic theology were both affected. Faithful theologians were doing battle within their own denominations against ideas from the Enlightenment and/or Marxism, neither of which has a place in religious dogma. These are but a few who defended the faith against the heresy of Modernism:

Charles Porterfield Krauth (Lutheran).

Pius X (Catholic, later canonised) — read here and here.

John Gresham Machen (Presbyterian) — read posts under his name on Christianity / Apologetics.

Why nouvelle théologie matters — a personal perspective

After reading Fiorenza’s Harvard University biography, I did a search on nouvelle théologie. What I read shocked me.

Unknowingly, I’d adopted and believed most (not all) of it since my days in Catholic high school — in fact, from the mid-1970s to the mid-2000s. That’s over three decades. Furthermore, I was going to church regularly the whole time!

Thankfully, the Lord moved me out of that darkness into a scriptural Christianity. I’m still learning.

How is it that I’d never heard of nouvelle théologie yet was in thrall to much of it for 30 years?

A good resource page which summarises and discusses it is ‘Where is the New Theology leading us?’ (translated from the French) by a Dominican priest, the Revd Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, O.P.

Again, although the essay is written from a Catholic perspective, new theology also has a stranglehold on mainline Protestant denominations. Therefore, I recommend this treatise to all my readers.

New theology’s main points include the following:

it refutes the Councils of Trent and Orange. The latter council is important to Protestants because, from it, the Calvinists derived their doctrine of Original Sin and Total Depravity.

Adam was not a man but a collective. This refutes the aforementioned councils and, worse, contradicts references to Adam in the New Testament. Luke’s Gospel traces Jesus’s lineage back to Adam (Luke 3:38). St Paul referred to Adam several times in his epistles, teaching that mankind has two heads: Adam and Christ.

the Incarnation of the Word (Jesus) was but a mere blip in the evolution of the universe. According to new theology, time moves on and our link to Jesus becomes more abstract. New theology ignores His sacrifice on the Cross, His glorious Resurrection and His promise of salvation.

sin is purely a personal issue; Original Sin is irrelevant and God doesn’t place much importance on it. This also refutes the aforementioned Councils. It also ignores God’s banishment of Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden for their sin.

it is rationalist (see definition at the beginning of this post) in that it advocates for dogma which evolves with time and the world. This is why we see the push for homosexual bishops and same-sex marriage. It also accounts for the (quasi-)atheistic clergy in our pulpits who cannot preach the Gospel.

God is not personally involved in our lives or our world; rather, God is an abstract ‘universal cosmic Centre’. This notion contradicts Holy Scripture from beginning to end.

we can be saved only through pantheism — Gaia — and ‘uniting’ ourselves with the universe.

a general convergence of world religions will bring about a universal faith which will satisfy humanity.

faith can save only if the Church ‘progresses’ in step with the world.

Christians must discard dogmas which are now irrelevant; it is unhealthy to consider doctrine as being true for all time.

there is no such thing as the Real Presence (much less transubstantiation) in Holy Communion; Christ was present only during His lifetime on Earth.

it distorts Thomas Aquinas’s ideas, twisting them into something the philosopher and theologian would never have considered.

But, wait — there’s more

Whilst reading these false teachings, I thought of the anonymous Catholic Agent AA-1025 who was a priest in the 1930s and already posited ideas we would see come to fruition during Vatican II.

There is also the Protestant side of the story, featuring Walter Rauschenbusch — a pietistic Lutheran and the father of the American social gospel. He had close associations with a member of the Fabians — the Revd Harry Ward. John D Rockefeller brought the two together and helped them to establish the Federal Council of Churches, which has since evolved to the World Council of Churches and has close links to the United Nations, also a Fabian creation.

As to the Popes, the preface to an audio lecture about new theology and Vatican II says:

Pope John Paul II and Cardinal Ratzinger, now Benedict XVI, are products of the New Theology, and pledge first allegiance to this new system, rather than to the traditional anti-Modernism of Pope Saint Pius X.

Back now to Fr Garrigou-Lagrange, who wrote:

Some will no doubt say that we exaggerate, but even a small error regarding first ideas and first principles has incalculable consequences which are not foreseen by those who have likewise been fooled. The consequences of the new views, some of which we have already reviewed, have gone well beyond the forecasts of the authors we have cited. It is not difficult to see these consequences in certain typewritten papers, which have been sent (some since 1934) to clergy, seminaries, and Catholic intellectuals; one finds in them the most singular assertions and negations on original sin and the Real Presence.

At times, in these same circulated papers, before such novelties are proposed, the reader is conditioned by being told: This will appear crazy at first, however, if you look at it closely, it is not illogical. And many end up believing it. Those with superficial intelligence will adopt it, and the dictum, “A doctrine which is not current, is no longer true” will be out walking. Some are tempted to conclude: “It seems that the doctrine of the eternal pains of hell is no longer current, and so it is no longer true.” It is said in the Gospel that one day charity will be frozen in many hearts and they will be seduced by error.

It is a strict obligation of conscience for traditional theologians to respond. Otherwise, they gravely neglect their duty, and they will be made to account for this before God.

And the following quote, which is very true, although I would disagree on ‘average’ souls. I consider my own as average, but I do remember discussing assigned high school reading material (e.g. Teilhard de Chardin) with one of my classmates who has always had a highly developed intellectual mind. She had to explain it all to me and, even then, I didn’t understand it but thought I should accept it, anyway (stupid!):

A professor of theology wrote to me:

“In effect, the very notion of the truth has been put into debate, and without fully realizing it, thus revisiting modernism in thought as in action. The writings that you have spoken to me about are much read in France. It is true that they exercise a huge influence on the average type of soul. They have little effect on serious people. It is necessary to write for those who have the sincere desire to be enlightened.”

And the problem lies in ‘the sincere desire to be enlightened’, which goes all the way back to original sin when the serpent seduced Eve into heightened knowledge (Genesis 3:1-5):

1Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the LORD God had made.

 He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” 2And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, 3but God said,  ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.'” 4  But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. 5For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

Christians must reject such a carnal urge, not least because a lifetime of enlightenment and scholarship lies in the Holy Bible and long-established confessions of faith. May we read, study and understand them then pass that eternal truth on to others.

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