Evangelii Gaudium and the Culture War

“Being a Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction.”

—Benedict XVI, quoted by Francis in Evangelii Gaudium, 7

The Year of faith has just ended with the proclamation “Christ is the center of the history of humanity and also the center of the history of every individual.”  And today Pope Francis has released his first Apostolic Exhortation in which he encourages us to create the conditions in which all men may find Christ in an “event,” a personal encounter capable of bringing a “new horizon and a decisive direction.”  Both Benedict and Francis have invested much in this event of the encounter with Christ, and have proposed it as the way that supersedes all ethical choices and lofty ideas.  This is the new evangelization.

With this post I would like to examine a specific problem regarding the reception of Pope Francis’ teaching.  Unfortunately, some have already pigeonholed Pope Francis as a liberal and are poised to parse his every word in that light.  I would suggest his teaching ought to be approached not simply through an assessment of “lofty ideas,” but as an encounter—a personal opportunity in the here and now to accept a transformative grace.   It is too soon for me to write anything in depth about the Apostolic Exhortation, but not too soon to suggest a manner of reception that will prove to be fruitful.  And for that we need to avoid a serious pitfall. Continue reading

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The Postconciliar Moment

I wrote the following article shortly after the beginning of the new year.  At the time I was not sure what I wanted to do with it, but now, in the light of the negative responses to the Holy Father’s abdication, I think it is time for me to put it out.

Rather than revise it in the light of the recent events,  I am just going to leave it the way it is. It is long, but it provides significant research into crypto-traditionalism and why it is a pernicious problem that needs to be called out.

NB:  The links to the endnotes are not functioning at the moment.  I will try to fix them.

The Postconciliar Moment

The Year of Faith provides a backdrop for recent developments regarding the hoped for regularization of the Society of St Pius X (SSPX) and the ongoing controversy concerning the Second Vatican Council.  Not only have questions been raised about the doctrinal value of the Council itself, but also of what position Pope Benedict has taken on the matter of the Council’s continuity with Tradition.  I contend that those who denigrate the Council because they find major parts of it to be in rupture with Tradition do so along ideological linesand are therefore compelled either to publicly disagree with the Holy Father or to cherry-pick from his teaching.

Year of Faith

This Year of Faith, celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of the inauguration of the Second Vatican Council and the twentieth of the publication of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, might be characterized as the postconciliar moment.  We are beneficiaries of both the patrimony of the conciliar texts and a very problematic postconciliar implementation of them.  We have witnessed extremes of all kinds, but mostly those of the progressive wing.  All the while, the postconciliar popes have been patiently and consistently working to restore the interpretation of the Second Vatican Council to both Tradition and legitimate progress.  In a particular way, Pope Benedict has made it his task to bring about a reconciliation with our past, without, however, backing away from the legitimate aspirations of the Council indicated in its actual texts.[1]

I believe the Year of Faith may be the postconciliar moment for two reasons:  First, we are witnessing a very definite shift from progressivism to traditionalism.  This has been occurring for some time, but is now plainly evident.  Progressivism is slowly growing out of fashion and the trend, at least in some circles, is moving definitely toward traditionalism. Continue reading

Book by Father Angelo in Publication

Soon to be released by the Academy of the Immaculate.  A great read in preparation for the Year of Faith:

The well-documented, clear exposition of the issue by Father Angelo is among the best available in any language. It is a must read for anyone concerned with current controversies in the Church and with the efforts of Pope Benedict to resolve these bitter conflicts: those stemming from a one-sided love of tradition, and those stemming from a naïve confidence in modernity and secularism. In both cases, the ultimate response to each is Mary, Spouse of the Holy Spirit and Mother of the Church, prophetic voice of Vatican II and profile of its pastoral vision for the Church.

—FROM THE PREFACE: FR. PETER DAMIAN FEHLNER, S.T.D. LIFELONG PROFESSOR OF DOGMATIC THEOLOGY

Fr. Angelo Geiger has done us all an immense service by carefully differentiating between “traditionalism” and the Catholic Tradition with a capital T. The use of the 1962 Roman Missal is one thing. The baggage that all too often accompanies its celebration is quite another. Surely both the Missals of Blessed John XXIII and of the Servant of God Paul VI are expressions of Catholic faith and my fond hope for many years has been that these two forms of the Roman Rite will eventually coalesce. What Fr. Angelo does, however, is to expose the agenda of many of the most avid promoters of the 1962 Missal. In fact not a few of those would really like to retreat to even earlier editions of the Tridentine Missal so as to avoid the Holy Week reform of the Venerable Pius XII. If so, how far back must we go? I believe the point is we must go forward under the guidance of the Holy Spirit and trust in the leadership of the Successor of St. Peter.

—MSGR. ARTHUR B. CALKINS, S.T.D., MARIOLOGIST, FORMER OFFICIAL OF THE PONTIFICAL COMMISSION ECCLESIA DEI

Fr. Geiger has written a badly needed volume indispensable for troubled souls bewildered by false accusations that Vatican II represented a “hermeneutics of rupture” with Catholic Tradition.

With theological discernment, he refutes the polemics of modernists, gnostic intellectual elites, pseudo-charismatics, and especially “traditionalists”. All these disturbers of ecclesial peace and unity assume to speak with the prophetic voice of the Church while undermining the Petrine ministry which alone has doctrinal authority to settle disputes affecting faith and morals. Real renewal of the Church demands fidelity to the Marian and Petrine principles of the Church heralded by its great Saints.

—JAMES LIKOUDIS PRESIDENT EMERITUS, CATHOLICS UNITED FOR THE FAITH (CUF)

Fr. Geiger has written a beautifully clear and comprehensive defense of the providential inspiration behind the Second Vatican Council, faithfully following the hermeneutics of continuity and reform proposed by Pope Benedict XVI. It is of great value to anyone who wishes to deepen their understanding of the critical responses to the Council from both the modernist and the traditionalist ends of the spectrum.

—ROY SCHOEMAN, AUTHOR OF SAVLATION IS FROM THE JEWS

A Year of Faith or a Year of Doubt?

This is the last installment of a series that I originally planned to be just two posts, but has turned out to be four.  I link to them, not in the order that I posted them, but in the order of their logical development.   First, there is a bit of background about my own experience and formation with the Extraordinary Form of the Mass and what I mean by the term “traditionalism,” and why I think a discussion of it is important (“Traditionalism and Liturgy”).  Second, is a an explanation of the stated motives of Pope Benedict XVI for having promulgated the Motu Proprio, Summorum Pontificum and what he means by the “reform of the reform” (“The Spirit of Summorum Pontificum”). The third installment is an examination of what the current debate over the “hermeneutic of continuity” is all about and why a statement of Pope Benedict has been used speciously as a pretext to question the continuity of Vatican II with Tradition (“Traditionalist Sleight of Hand”).  And lastly, here I wish to illustrate the current problem of sympathy for traditionalism by means of the contrast between traditionalist incursions and the responses to them from the Vatican over the last several years.

On October 11, 2011, Pope Benedict promulgated an apostolic letter, Porta Fidei, “the Door of Faith” in which he announced “A Year of Faith” to begin in exactly one year on October 11, 2012, the fiftieth anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council, and the twentieth anniversary of the publication of The Catechism of the Catholic Church. Pope Benedict tells us that he is following in the footsteps of his predecessor, the Servant of God Pope Paul VI, who in 1967 announced a year of faith to commemorate the nineteenth centenary of the martyrdoms of Saints Peter and Paul.

I believe that this announcement is both providential and calculated.  The Holy Father is taking opportunity of the providence of God in the arrival of these anniversaries to address a mounting “orthodox” contempt for the Second Vatican Council—a traditionalist sleight of hand that proposes to dissect the Council and analyze it according to contingent opinions about Tradition and then invoke Pope Benedict as the one who mandated the exercise.  For a growing number of traditional Catholics, in spite of fifty years of papal teaching, the problems of our times within the Church were not occasioned by disintegration of modernity hitting the Church at the time of the Council.  On the contrary, they tell us, the Council itself has been the cause of a great anti-dogmatic revolution.  And Pope Benedict is on their side, they say!

Continue reading