This morning I awoke to a veritable banquet of rich and useful reading.
He begins with brief and laudatory comments about the recent Correctio Filialis. Then he drills in and hits gold.
Pope Francis, Fr. Martin, and Faith without Reason
And there’s an even deeper problem, of which the seven false teachings are examples, [elencated in the Correctio] that’s beginning to characterize wide swaths of the Church.
We’re witnessing a period in which the Church is trying to have Faith without the full benefits of Reason. [In 1998 Pope St. John Paul issued an Encyclical entitled Fides et Ratio. It’s title harked to a homonymous Encyclical of the great Leo XIII. These days we are witnessing concerted attempts to snuff out the Magisterium of Pope John Paul II.] This is odd, in a way, because it’s usually thought that the only Christians who forsake reason are impossible-to-reason-with fundamentalists. In the current moment, we have a progressive group in Rome and beyond that seems to think that Reason in any strong sense distorts or even blocks Faith.
They know the outcomes they want and aren’t about to let the logical contradictions theologians, philosophers, or ordinary believers notice, stop them. [When questioned, they tend to respond with the classics, such as, “Don’t bother us with facts!” or issue explanations amounting to, “Shut up.”]
It’s an old philosophical truth that that once you abandon the principle of non-contradiction, you can prove anything. And here is proof positive.
For example, Father Antonio [“2+2=5”] Spadaro, S.J., of La Civiltà Cattolica has argued [NB:] that, as a good Jesuit, the Holy Father does not take something and explore its logical consequences, but instead looks directly at it and seeks inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Perhaps so (we can’t be sure that anyone really speaks the Holy Father’s mind). [Spadaro, is really into Pier Vittorio Tondelli – he created his own website about him (HERE)]
But behold the confusions this leads to in the Church:
In Amoris Laetitia, as we’ve been told by various interpreters, sexual relations between the divorced/remarried are sometimes the best that can be done in the circumstances. That ceasing sexual relations may harm the family and the good of children.
[… Then he looks at Jesuit “celebrity priest” Fr. James Martin… ]
And is any teaching universally binding and Catholic if someone hasn’t “received” it? [Which is what Martin claims.] Once we go down this path, we’re very close to some form of radical Protestantism.
I do not know whether Pope Francis or Fr. Martin wish such an outcome. I do know that beyond the short radius of their ideas lie consequences they may find unwelcome.
Because neither is a serious theologian nor even a serious thinker, they regard anyone who raises questions about consequences as an irrational enemy (rigid, homophobic, etc.) rather than – as we’ve always had in the Church – someone trying to develop a deep and consistently rational way of understanding what Our Lord asks.
I think Royal is on to something.
But now something completely different and wondrous in its own way. As a matter of fact, I am going to print out the post I am about to name and tuck it into the cover of a book by the same writer.
After absorbing Royal’s piece, go to NLM and take in Peter Kwasniewski’s post, in which he responds to a question raised by his recent book Noble Simplicity [US HERE – UK HERE] which I can’t recommend highly enough.
A questioner raised the idea that perhaps the greatest challenge to a reclamation of Tradition is not, in fact, heterodoxy, but rather doctrinally acceptable but anti-intellectual, amotionally enthusiastic Life Teen stuff. The questioner then raised the “Benedictine–Jesuit divide in terms of liturgy”, in light of St. Augustine and contrast of pride and humility, “objective” and “subjective” spirituality. In a nutshell: For Benedictines, “Salvation comes through conforming yourself to the mediated image” whereas for Jesuits, experience becomes the ground of prayer and rubrics, etc., “put a damper on experience.”
Peter K responds masterfully.
WHY, I must ask, was Peter Kwasniewski not invited to speak at the Summorum Pontificum conference in Rome for the 10th anniversary of the Motu Proprio? People need to ask that question. The organizers of that good conference neglected to include a single Anglophone or American – North or South – speaker or liturgical actor, as far as I could tell, even though in the first talk of the conference we heard that the greatest growth of the use of traditional forms were in the Americas. WHY the blinkered Eurocentrism? But I digress.
Back to it.
Peter makes a good point, which echos what I have been writing for 10 years now, as a matter of fact, I first raised it on 14 September 2007, the very say Summorum Pontificum went into effect.
Now let us consider worship as an action, and religious experience as a pleasure. [Or even “play”, which, like worship, Aquinas describes as something done for its own sake.]Liturgical action, when pursued for its own sake, i.e., in adoration and praise of God, is accompanied by the best religious experience. But if we seek the experience as our goal, we will be denied the experience at its best, which comes only from pursuing something nobler than a mere experience. Hence, the person who will be most delighted in worship is the one whose motto is: “I want to find God” — not the one whose motto is “I want to have an experience of God.” [The deep point of sacred liturgical is to encounter transforming Mystery. Hence, worship must stress the transcendent and not exclude the apophatic elements which are hard and challenging.]
One may draw a parallel here with marriage. [This is good…] If a partner begins with the attitude: “I want an experience of a deep relationship,” the marriage is doomed. If he or she begins with the attitude: “I want to do right by this person, no matter what,” the marriage can flourish. What is vitally important is that the aim be not some experience gained by using another, but simply the other himself or herself: he or she is the aim. It is the same with having children. For a parent to think “I want to have the experience of being a parent/having a child” is a subtle form of selfishness. The parent who thinks instead: “I want to bring a child into the world for his or her own happiness” is focused on the good of the other and willing to sacrifice himself/herself to accomplish it.
The result of this analysis is that we should not set form or objectivity over against experience, as if they are in opposition. Rather, form, or a formal action, will always come with an experience. A higher form will come with a higher experience. A lower form will be accompanied by a lower experience. This, I believe, is exactly what Augustine is saying throughout the Confessions and other works. [This is a more sophisticated way of saying what I write and say in a jocular way: The newer form of Holy Mass and the Traditional form can be likened to the kiddie Mass and the adult Mass, or baby food and grown up food. Before you freak out, consider that baby food is exactly what the young need! It is great for them. They don’t have to “work” to benefit from it. As they get older, children need more and adults need more than that to satisfy. Richer and more complex nourishment requires more and more work to prepare and then to consume and absorb. It’s hard. It is precisely in the hard elements and the work they cause that we have a preparation for the goal. Catholics are now at widely differing stages of readiness to approach the encounter with Mystery which worship should propose, an encounter which is tremendum et fascinans, alluring and terrifying, precisely because the encounter makes us face our fear of death. Hopefully they mature, sense the need for more, and seek it out. Hopefully there will be bishops and priests ready and apt to provide what they sense they need!]
That a lower form will be accompanied by a lower experience is what we see in a phenomenon like like Life Teen. It’s easy to get the immediate emotional experience; it requires so little in the way of form or action. But it is correspondingly shallow and unsatisfying for that reason, and must be repeatedly sought, perhaps with attempts made at intensifying the same experience. In this way it is somewhat like drugs, where people start with small doses and eventually try bigger doses or move to more potent drugs, because they are seeking more of that experience, more of that pleasure. [Eventually, those who have the enthusiastic experience may grow up and need more.]
With traditional worship, it is quite different. At first, the form is lofty and remote, the action difficult for our nature. We may feel dry, at a loss, perplexed, even offended at the lack of consideration for our feelings and (what we think to be) our needs. We are confronted with the otherness, the strangeness of God. [YES!] But if we stick it out, something calls to us in our remoteness from Him. As we dwell with it more, it slowly seizes hold of us and lifts us up to a higher level, to higher perceptions of the truth of what we are doing and Whom we are dealing with. As this worship becomes more connatural, we experience more delight. [And we are dealing properly with timor mortis.] The delight does not grow stale or cloying but, in fact, builds upon itself without limit, because it is of a spiritual or intellectual order (although not separated from the physical domain). At the limit, beyond this life, we enjoy the beatific vision, where the experience and the objective reality, the form, are utterly at one.
Okay, do you see what I mean? A veritable banquet of rich reading today.
Also… BUY THIS BOOK. Don’t hesitate, get a few copies if you can and spread them around. Perhaps start a reading group and invite a few people who are not interested in the Traditional Roman Rite! Reading this might move them towards a desire for richer fare.