Saturday, December 01, 2012


Printed in the U Matuna, the newspaper for the Archdiocese of Agana on 12/2/12.

Allow me to stray a bit this week into an internal Catholic Church matter which I feel could use some clarification: the return of the “Old Mass”, or more specifically some misunderstandings wrought by its return. By “Old Mass” I mean the Traditional Latin Mass (TLM), now formally labeled the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite.

The restoration of the TLM began in 1984 when John Paul II first issued an indult, a special permission, for its usage. In 1988, the Pope again addressed the TLM and appealed for a wider and more generous usage. In 2007, Pope Benedict in the Apostolic Letter, Summorum Pontificum, went beyond the indult, declaring that the TLM  had “never been abrogated” and its celebration needed no indult.

In an accompanying letter to the world’s bishops, the Pope affirmed that there was “no contradiction between the two editions of the Roman Missal” (the TLM and the Mass of Paul VI - the “New Mass”), and that “what earlier generations held as sacred remains sacred and great for us too”. He also called on the bishops to see to it that the TLM, as one of the “riches which have developed through the Church’s faith and prayer”, be given its “proper place”.

All of this is to say that the Pope has declared both forms of the Mass to be equally valid and sacred and one is not to be considered superior to the other. So on to the misunderstandings.

It is not uncommon for those who find the TLM attractive to soon find themselves propagating it with a “born again” zeal. This is particularly true among the youth which is a fast growing demographic at this Mass.

Why the youth find the “Old Mass” new is a matter for another column. The issue we wish to address here is that advocates of the TLM, young or old, should not and cannot speak ill of the “New Mass” (though questioning innovations not prescribed by the Liturgical books is never off-limits).

However, most of the “speaking ill” comes from the other direction in a rather constant chorus of criticisms of the TLM, sometimes from those in high places. Those criticisms consistently center on the two elements of the TLM which most distinguish it from the New Mass: the use of Latin and the “ad orientem” position of the priest, or as critics put it, the priest’s “back to the people”.

We are told that previous generations of Catholics “didn’t get anything out of it” because they didn’t understand Latin, and the priest’s “back to the people” is impugned as a posture of ignorance.

First, let us examine these criticisms on their face. To make either of these accusations is to say that for the better part of 2000 years the infallible Church of God had it WRONG. This a very serious matter even if it is said in jest. But in fact it is normally not said in jest. It is normally said superciliously and often by people who should know better.

Pope Benedict has reaffirmed the sacrality of the TLM, and that includes both the rules governing the actions of the celebrant (rubrics) and the venerable language of its celebration. An attack on either is an attack on the sacred. We may prefer the Mass in the vernacular. We may prefer the priest facing the people. But we don’t get to belittle and impugn the language and rubrics of the ancient Mass. For what was “sacred then is sacred now.”

But beyond that, one does wonder why so many docilely accept these criticisms when there is enormous evidence to the contrary. On Guam, long before the priest turned around and spoke in Chamorro or English, the “Old Mass” was the source of a profound faith, a faith which saw generations of Chamorros through innumerable trials and the incalculable horrors of a World War, and left their faith stronger still!

To accept that our parents or grandparents didn’t get anything out of the “Old Mass” because the priest had his “back to the people” and said the Mass in Latin is an insult to their memory and dangerously doubtful of the power of the Holy Spirit who “blow(s) where it wills” (Jn 3:8)

Speaking only empirically, it is in fact SINCE the celebrant has turned around and the Mass said in local languages that the pews have emptied, the faith has waned, and Catholics have exited, not entered, the “door of faith”.

In fact, it is due to this recent physical, spiritual, and moral exodus from the one, true Church, that the Pope has declared a Year of Faith in the hopes of inspiring a return. And it is this same Pope who has called for the restoration of the ancient Mass. Maybe there’s a connection.

Sunday, November 25, 2012


Printed in the U Matuna, the newspaper for the Archdiocese of Agana, Guam

The Left is all aflutter with the news that on November 6 three states voted to legalize same-sex marriage in popular referendums. The victories are significant because the legalization of same-sex marriage had heretofore been defeated at the ballot box and had only gained ground through the courts and state legislatures.

In response, the Vatican immediately vowed to step up its fight against same-sex marriage and evangelical pastors said the same. The chairman of the USCCB subcommittee on marriage said “it was a sad day for marriage” and urged Catholics “not to give up.”

While we may not “give up”, the reality is that the nation’s march towards same-sex marriage is growing stronger and traditional marriage is fast becoming nothing more than that: a tradition.

So, why are we losing? It comes down to this: we have neutered our own argument.

Traditional marriage advocates argue that children are the central purpose of marriage. In the 2010 California case in which a federal judge overturned a constitutional amendment defining marriage as solely between one man and one woman, the defense argued: “the central purpose of marriage...(is to) promote naturally procreative sexual relationships and to channel them into stable, enduring unions for the sake of producing and raising the next generation.”

The problem is that the argument is hollow, perhaps even a lie. Christians have long since declared technological sovereignty over the womb. At Lambeth in 1930, Anglicans became the first major Christian religion to allow for contraceptive sex, and they were followed by every other major religion, except Catholics, soon thereafter.

The intent was not to remove children as the central purpose of marriage, but the net effect was that it did. Contraception allowed couples to engage in sex at will without the consequences of fertility. The good of the couple became the central purpose of marriage and children became optional.

This is the core argument for same-sex marriage. In the California case, the judge ruled that gender no longer mattered and that marriage was simply a “union of equals”. It’s all about the couple. Children are optional.

In 1965, the Supreme Court joined the Christians in claiming the same by striking down a ban on the sale of contraceptives to married couples in Griswold v Connecticut. One might think it curious that such a ban was still on the books as late as 1965, but it is evidence (whether or not it was enforced) of just how seriously the state, once upon a time, took marriage.

If the state was going to codify, regulate, incentivize, and otherwise protect the institution of marriage, it wanted something in return: children - “the survival of society” as the Supreme Court put it in Skinner v Oklahoma (1944) and Loving v Virginia (1967).

In striking down the ban, the Griswold court joined the bulk of the nation’s Christians in granting a married couple complete sovereignty over their fertility. This sounds rather liberating and quite commonsensical, but bear in mind, this is the exact same argument for same-sex marriage: the couple is sovereign, fertility is optional.

By 1968, the Catholic Church stood alone in defense of “children as the central purpose of marriage”, a position that was hammered home by Paul VI in Humanae Vitae in which the Pope warned married couples that they are “not free to act as they choose in the service of transmitting life as if it were wholly up to them”.

Coming as it did at a time when the western world was already salivating like Pavlov’s dog with the mere thought of returning to the fleshpots of Egypt, the Pope’s words landed like a baseball bat to the face.

In response, six hundred theologians immediately signed a joint statement of dissent. The NCCB was a bit more careful. Issuing “Human Life in Our Day”, the nation’s bishops reaffirmed the message of Humanae Vitae but laid out a path for dissent, and dissent we did.

Whether or not dissent from Catholic teaching on birth control can be considered legitimate is another matter. For our purposes we are only concerned with the net effect of that dissent, which was the same as that which resulted from the decisions at Lambeth and in Griswold: the couple is primary, children are secondary, and we’ll do whatever the blank we want with our bodies, so stay the blank out of our bedrooms.”

Same-sex marriage advocates have only said the same. And no amount of feel-good videos posted on the USCCB’s ForYourMarriage website is going make up for the fact that we have long since declared ourselves to be arbiters of the womb. Our only recourse is to recant, repent, and return - return to the reason we were made male and female in the first place.

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