A veritable banquet of rich and useful reading: @RobertSRoyal and Kwasniewski

This morning I awoke to a veritable banquet of rich and useful reading.

First, I direct your attention to a post at The Catholic Thing by Robert Royal, who never disappoints.  (He also writes about Dante. YAY! US HERE – UK HERE)

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.[2] 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.[3] 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.[4] 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.


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. They are two powerful pieces, no?

    [They are indeed. I get the sense that there is a stirring and awakening.]

  2. Pingback: MONDAY CATHOLICA EXTRA | Big Pulpit

  3. Rich says:

    I appreciate Royal’s comparison of the progressive movement in Rome to radical Protestantism. The whole avoidance of taking ideas to their logical consequences but just letting oneself be moved wherever by the Spirit, smacks too much of the Protestant tendency to interpret Scripture in a certain way just because that’s the way one feels the Spirit is leading one to interpret it.

    I have argued to others that the magisterium of the Catholic Church has always been a nice guarantee of maintaining unity and coherence with regard to what God has revealed to us, whether through Scripture or Tradition, doing away with the constant guesswork associated with discerning whether the Spirit is leading us to interpret Scripture this way or the other. But, now also with the whole validation of God’s word through our having “received” it – as if God’s speaking to us means nothing until we get around to “receiving” any particular teaching – opens the door for us to start having however many denominations or churches or whatever within Catholicism as there are groups of people who agree they have or haven’t yet received whatever teaching(s) – just like what we see in Protestantism. And, while this has already existed in a less formal way for the past 50 or so years – especially as people (and enabling clergy) have attempted to incessantly rationalize their practicing artificial contraception but still being good Catholics – this opens the door for people to more formally push back on whatever teaching of the Church they feel like, as their doing so will be on the basis of what is being put forward as a teaching of the Church itself, namely, that a revelation from God isn’t so until we have “received” it.

    And, while liberals in the Church will attack any who dare speak up against Amoris Laetitia as fostering division and so forth, they care little for the obvious division which comes about by the abovementioned ideas. Which, again, goes to show that division really isn’t a concern of theirs, but only when the seeming potential for such can be used as a tool in their rhetoric in pushing forward this agenda of changing the Church’s teachings in the area of sexual morality.

  4. Mike says:

    It is impossible to ignore the mental and spiritual wreckage that a century of Americanism and two ensuing generations of neo-Catholicism have wrought upon Catholics and upon the Church’s mission to save souls. This is why the filial correction is a spiritual work of mercy. Faithful Catholics just can’t stand silent while Christ’s flock, our brothers and sisters, continue to be bludgeoned with irrational Gnostic nonsense or while the Great Commission to our non-Catholic brethren is deprecated.

    Please God, the dogma is only going to live louder within us.

  5. Uxixu says:

    Perhaps a better analogy is fast food and gourmet food. Fast food can be relatively healthy (though usually is not), but is mostly quick and simple. The Ordinary Form is, rightly or wrongly, mostly focused on brevity and leaves little room for contemplation. It’s all about action… the priest does his part, the congregation does the response, the choir does their thing. Consume and out. A person could live on this and even gain merit, but their taste buds won’t really be challenged. [I’ll stick to my analogy.]

    The Extraordinary Form, in contrast, is far more intricate and all but requires contemplation. You can’t just “wolf it down.” This takes far more time to prepare. If you’re not focused, you may lose the nuance and miss the detail and even come to resent it. It makes great sense as a feast for a large gathering, think full course meal as (four course for Low Mass, seven course for Solemn and 11 course for Pontifical Mass at the Throne), though if anything Low Mass dials this contemplation up to the extreme and could look like some like a full course meal for one or two people. Catholics dined on this for centuries, of course, but in some quarters began to take it for granted. The chefs generally worked long hours and most just wanted it simpler and went along with the new fast food menu.

    Maybe the Mass for Children is like a Happy Meal or something. Life Teen is a snack at Starbucks.

    I’ve long thought that ultimately the normalization of Low Mass made something like the novus ordo inevitable. While Catholics have lived on “fast food” for half a century, getting fatter and less healthy.

  6. Windswept House says:

    The Pope is unlikely to ever respond to crisp, laser-precise reason. He can’t. Otherwise, he would have to give up his methods and agenda for the new road he and his minions (like Kasper and Martin) are building.

  7. chantgirl says:

    The anti-intellectual bent currently in vogue is set aside when needed, though. Notice how the signers of the filial correction are being dismissed as “low level” theologians. Notice that when parishioners point liturgical abuses out to their pastor or liturgy committee, that their comments are disregarded because they are common laymen with no liturgy degrees. On the other hand, EF adherents are frequently dismissed as elitists.

    I just don’t think this generation wants to be told what it can do in the bedroom and it will either twist and distort scripture and tradition to get it, or dismiss scripture and tradition if it can’t be successfully twisted to arrive at their prized conclusion. We are seeing the same playbook with respect to free speech right now. Liberals love free speech and scholarship only if people speak and think the same way they do.

  8. chantgirl says:

    Now that i think about it, we are now seeing liberals in the Church also embrace clericalism and anti-clericalism at the same time depending upon the circumstance.

  9. Jeannine says:

    Remember Chesterton’s Father Brown? He knew that the thief Flambeau, disguised as a priest, was not a real priest because he attacked reason: “It’s bad theology.”

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