The Catholic Calendar Script

One of the more popular features of this site is the Anglican Calendar Script, which announces the current liturgical event (Sunday, saint’s day, etc.) according to the traditional Anglican liturgical scheme.  I’ve gotten requests to expand it to include other liturgical calendars (TEC, RCC, etc.)

Well, it looks like another has risen to the challenge.  For you Roman Catholics who want something similar, the Hectorville (South Australia) Parish Music Ministry has taken the Anglican script and modified it for the Roman Catholic calendar.  This is very much a "work in progress" so take a look at it, try it and give your feedback to its author.

One major reason why I never took a run at doing this for the Catholic liturgical year is that the whole business of "ordinary time," starting after Epiphany and leaping over Lent, Easter and Pentecost to land in the North American summer (Australian winter,) makes programming a lot more complicated than it is for its traditional Anglican counterpart.  So kudos to the brave soul at Hectorville Parish who has taken on this task!

The Latin Mass and the Nature of Worship

Pope Benedict XVI has certainly been "on a roll" lately with his pronouncements.

For one thing, he reminded everyone that it is the considered opinion of the Roman Catholic Church that many–if not most–non-Catholic Christian churches cannot be properly called a church.  This kind of thing is not new; I dealt with this a long time ago in the piece We May Not Be a Church After All.  Protestant churches just need to deal with this, both as they relate to the Roman Catholic Church and to prevent a repeat of its mistakes in their own organisations.

But a more visible change coming from the current Pontiff is encapsulated in his pronouncement Summorum Pontificum, which makes it easier for parishes to celebrate the traditional Latin Mass.  Many non-Catholics are mystified by this move, so perhaps we can explore these issues in a more informed way than we see in some places.

First, some history: the ritual (or more properly the liturgy) of the Mass that the Pope is opening up is the so-called "Tridentine" Mass, which was formalised at the Council of Trent.  From then until 1970 this Mass was the rite by which it was celebrated in the Roman Catholic Church. Until the Second Vatican Council it was necessary to celebrate this Mass in Latin; after that time it could be celebrated in the vernacular.

In 1970 the Tridentine Mass was replaced with the Novus Ordo Missae, the "new order" of the Mass.  This Mass was made obligatory; it was not permitted to celebrate the Tridentine after that.  (I recreate how that actually impacted Catholics and others in my book The Ten Weeks; a more technical treatment of the whole transition can be found here.)  Since that time–and especially under John Paul II and Benedict XVI–there has been a loosening of the restrictions on celebrating the Tridentine Mass, and the current pronouncement is yet another step in this process.

But, you ask, why would anyone–other than Latin students–want to celebrate the Mass in Latin?  It’s hard for anyone who has not been a part of Roman Catholicism to understand the appeal of this church to start with.  But the whole Latin Mass business is tied up in a larger issue: whether our corporate worship is primarily for the purpose of affirming us as a Christian community or for directing worshipers toward God.  The tug of war between the two has been going on for a long time, and the revival of the Latin Mass is yet another movement of the rope.

Although Pentecostals and Charismatics make a big deal of the times when the Israelites worshiped corporately (thus the endless repetition of 2 Chr 7:14,) the truth is that most of the worship surrounding the temple in Jerusalem was sacrificial in nature, thus very "vertical" in nature.  (It was also largely liturgical in nature, contrary to popular opinion.)  It was done to rectify man’s relationship with God.  On the other hand, by the time Our Lord walked on the earth, between trips to the Temple Jews worshiped in synagogues, which had more of a "horizontal" component, i.e., an act of the community in addition to turning focus towards God.

The New Testament church carried over many habits from the synagogue, even with that "sacred pledge" (to use Bossuet’s expressive phrase) of the Eucharist, which was a community meal.  (The results of that practice were uninspiring, which led to its abandonment.)  However, as time passed, and the role of the Church assumed more parallels with Temple Judaism, the worship moved to a more "vertical" mode, a trend encouraged both by having the Eucharist as the normal setting for Christian worship and celebrating it in a language many worshipers didn’t understand.

One major result of the Reformation was an abrupt reversal of this trend.  How abrupt the jolt was depends on the church; it ranged from a relatively mild change of course (Anglicanism) to a complete redefinition of the church (Anabaptism.)  In Roman Catholicism itself, the "vertical" model of worship was enshrined for centuries, until the liturgical reforms of the 1960’s.  Part of the rationale of these reforms was to put a more "horizontal" (community) emphasis on the Mass, which would complement a fuller role of the laity in the church.  In addition to changing language and liturgy, the priest was now to stand behind the altar and face the people, rather than having his back to the altar and facing God.  This one change does more to symbolise the intent of the reforms than even the language change.

The result of this has been that, for the last forty years, we have had a more "horizontal/community" emphasis in the celebration of the Mass.  Unfortunately, in the hands of people who have more faith in faith than in God, the results of this can be pretty sappy.  We are now seeing another reversal of trend with people who want their worship to be more God-directed.  This can be seen in much of the "praise and worship" movement, although how successful this really is is a matter of debate.  In Roman Catholicism, this manifests itself in part with a desire for the "Tridentine" Mass, and it is to these people that the current Pope is appealing to.

There are many things about the Roman Catholic Church that I find unacceptable, the concept of the Mass as a sacrifice being one and their view of the role of the church being another.  But the idea that our worship of God be more directed towards him and not towards each other is appealing.  If we would actually implement this on a meaningful basis, and direct our attention upward, then our life with those around us would be greater reflection of the ideal that Jesus Christ has set before us.

To Unite Oneself with Jesus Christ (A Holy Week Reflection)

…I pray that all those whom I have tried to help…may rise beyond it. I shall not say only beyond my thoughts, which are nothing, but beyond all that may be presented to them by the ministry of man. And in listening only to what God tells them in their hearts concerning this prayer, I trust that they will unite themselves to it with faith. For that is truly what is called praying to Jesus Christ and in Jesus Christ; that we unite ourselves in spirit with Jesus Christ praying, and unite ourselves, as much as we can, to the entire effect of this prayer. The effect of this prayer is that, being united to Jesus Christ God and Man and through Him to God His Father, we unite ourselves in Them with all the faithful, and with all men, to be as much as it is in us to be, but one soul and one heart.

In order to accomplish this work of unity, we must no longer see ourselves except in Jesus Christ, and we must believe that there may not fall upon us the least light of faith, the smallest spark of the love of God, that is not drawn from the immense love that the eternal Father has for His Son. This very Son, our Saviour, being in us, the love with which the Father loves Him, extends also over us by an effusion of His kindness: For it is toward this union that the entire prayer of Jesus Christ bursts forth.

It is in this spirit that we can and must end all our prayers, with the Church, Through Our Lord Jesus Christ. For, not being obliged to ask God for the effects of His love, we really ask for them through Jesus Christ, if we believe with a firm and lively faith that God loves us through an effusion of the love which He has for His Son. This is the entire foundation of piety and of Christian confidence. I say that it is the foundation for believing that the immense love that the eternal Father has for His Son as God, makes Him love the Soul, the saintly Soul, which is so narrowly and substantially united to Him, as well as the sacred and blessed Body which it animates; that is to say, His entire humanity. And the love which He has for this Person, Who is Jesus Christ God and Man, shows that He also loves all the members who live in Him and of His vivifying Spirit.

Let us believe then, that Jesus Christ is loved through a gratuitous and engaging love as we are also loved. As Saint Augustine says: The same grace which has made Jesus Christ our Head., has made us all His members.

We are made Christians through a continuation of the same grace, which has made the Christ. Every time that we say: Through Our Lord Jesus Christ, and we must say it every time that we pray, whether in fact or intention, there being no other name through which our prayers may be heard (Act. iv. 12), every time then that we say it, we must believe and know that we are saved through grace, only through Jesus Christ and through His merits: not that we are without merit, but because our merits are His gifts, and the grace of Jesus Christ is the great prize, because it is the merit of a God, and, consequently, infinite.

It is thus that we must pray through Jesus Christ Our Lord, and the Church, which does so constantly, unites Herself through that, to the entire effect of the divine prayer which we have just listened to. If the Church celebrates the grace and glory of the holy apostles, who are the shepherds of the flock, She recognizes the effect of the prayer that Jesus Christ has said particularly for them. But the saints, who are profound in glory, have not been less understood in the sight and in the intention of Jesus Christ, even though He did not mention them by name. Who can doubt that He saw all those that His Father had given Him throughout the centuries, and for whom He was going to be immolated with a particular love?

Let us enter, therefore, with Jesus Christ and in Jesus Christ, into the construction of the entire body of the Church, and rendering thanks with Her through Jesus Christ, for all those who are complete, let us ask for the completion of the entire body of Jesus Christ, and all the society of the saints. Let us ask, at the same time, with confidence, that we may find ourselves placed in the ranks of the blessed, never doubting that this grace will be extended to us, if we persevere in asking for it through mercy and grace; that is, through the merit of the blood which has been shed for us, and of which we have the sacred pledge in the Eucharist.

After this prayer, let us go with Jesus Christ to the sacrifice, and let us advance with Him to the two mountains; that is, to the Mount of Olives, and to that of Calvary. Let us go, I say, to these two mountains, and let us pass from one to the other: from that of the Mount of Olives, which is the one of agony, to that of Calvary, which is that of death; from the Mount of Olives, which is that of combat, to that of Calvary, where, in dying, one triumphs with Jesus Christ; from the Mount of Olives, which is the mountain of resignation, to that of Calvary, which is the mountain of actual sacrifice; and, finally, from the one where we say: Not my will but Thine be done, to the one where we say: Into Thy hands I commend my spirit (Luke xxii. 42; xxiii. 46); that is, from the one where we prepare ourselves for all things, to the one where we die to everything with Jesus Christ, to Whom be rendered honor and glory, with the Father, and the Holy Spirit, for ever and ever. Amen.

Conclusion to Meditations on the Gospel by Jaques Benigne Bossuet

The Preferential Option of the Poor

One of the most militant expressions of left-wing Christianity was and is Liberation Theology, that creation of Latin American Roman Catholicism that brought Marx into the Church for so many years.  One of the enduring slogans of that movement was "the preferential option for the poor," which means that the Church acts in such a way that the poor have an advantage in the result.  Although one thinks first of Marx’s dictum in the Critique of the Gotha Programme "from each according to his ability, to each according to his need," the truth is that the Gospels are tilted strongly in the direction of the lower reaches of society, to say nothing of James:

“My Brothers, are you really trying to combine faith in Jesus Christ, our glorified Lord, with the worship of rank? Suppose a man should enter your Synagogue, with gold rings and in grand clothes, and suppose a poor man should come in also, in shabby clothes, And you are deferential to the man who is wearing grand clothes, and say–“There is a good seat for you here,” but to the poor man–“You must stand; or sit down there by my footstool,” Is not that to make distinctions among yourselves, and show yourselves prejudiced judges? Listen, my dear Brothers. Has not God chosen those who are poor in the things of this world to be rich through their faith, and to possess the Kingdom which he has promised to those who love him? But you–you insult the poor man! Is not it the rich who oppress you? Is not it they who drag you into law-courts? Is not it they who malign that honorable Name which has been bestowed upon you?” (James 2:1-7)

In listening to the aftermath the recent Anglican Primates Meeting in Tanzania, one hears the "noise of the renegades" (a good Chinese Communist phrase,) i.e., the liberals in the Episcopal Church, whining about the "spirit of inclusiveness" and "discussion of justice and morality" that has been checked by the African and other conservative Global South primates.  For them, inclusion of homosexuals in the hierarchy of the church and same-sex blessings and marriage is an issue on par with racial equality (something many black people in the U.S. find offensive) and the many other causes liberals espouse.

But let’s think about the passage from James.  The Lord’s brother (that’s right, Roman Catholics) makes an assumption: "…suppose a poor man should come in also…"  In the church that James led, that was a regular occurance.  But in the modern Episcoal Church–along with the other Main Line churches–that is an exceptional event in the general scheme of things.  TEC remains a largely white, upscale church, wondering how to fix the problem but seemingly unable to do so.  The poor go elsewhere.  In the meanwhile the homosexuals, an upscale group in their own right, remain a tempting target for TEC, thus all of the moves towards accomodating them.

On the other hand, had Presiding Bishop Jefferts-Schiori lifted up her eyes and look around her at the Primates’ meeting, she would have seen prelates whose churches have quite a few poor people–millions of them, in fact.  Many of the divisions that plague the Anglican Communion–to say nothing of Christianity in general–stem from disparities such as this.  In spite of the TEC blunders on, attacking the Global South for their lack of social concern when in fact TEC’s "social concern" is badly misplaced.

It is our core contention that any church whose membership’s average per capita income is above the average for the country it’s in is not really serious about social justice.  Its social justice is mere paternalism whose main purpose is to assuage guilt about its superior economic status, not to really fix the problems in front of it.  Supporting groups of like elevated status like the homosexuals only shows how far removed from real social justice these people have strayed.  This doesn’t only apply to churches; it also works in the secular realm as well.

To put it in terms Liberation Theology people would understand, the church that isn’t the "preferential option of the poor" cannot have the "preferential option for the poor."  Until TEC recognises this simple fact, everything they do along these lines, from their enthusiasm for the Millennium Development Goals to the money-favouring they spread around the Communion–will be a farce.

Charismatic Anglicans: The Missing Link

When many people hear of the Charismatic Renewal, they roll their eyes and pray that the conversation goes another way.  It is amazing that a movement that had such a wide impact in its day is not only forgotten but gleefully so.  There are a few holdouts out there–the Charismatic Episcopal Church is the main reminder, but there are pockets in the AMiA and even the TEC if one looks hard (and fast at the rate things are going) enough.

It is our opinion that the Charismatic Renewal was the great missed opportunity of North American Christianity in the twentieth century.  Had it succeeded, it could have stopped liberalism dead in its tracks and brought the disparate Christian groups and "traditions" (we hate that word but don’t know a good alternative to it) together in a more positive way than the sappy "ecumenical movement" could or can do.

But it didn’t do these things.  It did a lot to fuel an exodus out of the "Main Line" (the capitalisation is deliberate) and Roman Catholic churches into many places–in some cases classical Pentecostal churches, but more frequently conservative Evangelical churches and even more independent Charismatic churches.  It left these churches in the control of others: the Main Line churches in the hands of the liberals, the Roman Catholic church in the hands of John Paul II.

How did this result take place?  One problem was the lack of support from the hierarchy of their respective churches.  Their idea of renewing the church from within was ground to powder from above.  But another part of the problem was a lack of effective leadership, as we discuss elsewhere. Many of the leaders of the Renewal were inexperienced and basically not up to the job.

The one group of people with the experienced leadership that could have helped were the classical Pentecostals, but they (with a few exceptions) did not do so.  Part of the problem was a turf battle; after years of carrying the standard of the baptism in the Holy Spirit with the evidence of speaking in tongues, they looked askance at those who not only had found it without them but weren’t planning to join their churches after receiving it.

But another, more serious problem, was doctrinal.  Pentecostals had a very definite sequence of events in mind for the believer.  You first got saved, then you were sanctified (whether this was an event or a process was a matter of dispute) and then baptised in the Holy Spirit with the evidence of speaking in tongues.  Charismatics were unwilling to accept the Pentecostals’ rigid idea of holiness, leading one very prominent Pentecostal preacher to tell his denomination that there could be only one standard of holiness, not one in the North, one in the South, etc.  (We deal with what this could mean in At the Inlet.)  Moreover many Charismatics, although speaking in tongues, could not bring themselves to rigidly link tongues with the baptism in the Holy Spirit.

The Charismatics’ "open-ended" approach to tongues has led to much of the silliness that surrounds the subject today.  Many consider the whole thing as a "tradition" or a "spirituality" on par with meditation or whatever happends to be trendy at the moment.  They ignore the central role of Holy Spirit baptism had at the founding of the church or throughout the book of Acts.

Beyond that, however, the Charismatics’ greatest mistake surrounding the baptism in the Holy Spirit–the "missing link," if you please–is their overlooking of the importance of sanctification preceding the baptism.  Coming out of the Holiness-Wesleyan stream, Pentecostal pioneers knew that personal holiness had to be in place before the baptism in the Holy Spirit.  The alternative is chaos, which is pretty much what we had in the 1960’s and 1970’s.  Pentecostals’ concept of holiness in rigidly legalistic terms has come in for justified criticism–to which many Pentecostals have responded by chucking the whole holiness business altogther–but the idea is correct.

And this leads us to the centre of our contention: as shocking as it will sound to some, the whole modern Pentecostal-Charismatic movement is the end game of the English Reformation from a purely doctrinal standpoint, if not an institutional or liturgical one.  This deserves an explanation, and with God’s help we’ll give one.

Reformed theology made inheriting eternal life a simple matter: you had faith in God (an act which God caused,) your name was written in the Lamb’s Book of Life, and that was it.  There was no need for penance or the church, but there was no need for spiritual growth or having to do anything, good, bad or indifferent.  The logical end to this is a butt-sitting religion where people can pompously proclaim they’re going to heaven without any further action on their part.  Mercifully many members of Reformed churches have not "connected the dots" in this way, and they are a blessing to themselves, the people around them and to God himself.

But, when things get across the Channel, there’s Article XVI.  The whole idea that people can fall way ("backslide," to use the traditional terminology) implies movement.  If people can move back in their relationship with God, they can move forward.  This turns the Christian life from a static to a dynamic business.  It puts movement into one’s relationship with God.  It also puts movement into one’s life to serve God and to do the work that he left us here to do.  The "fuel" behind this, from Jewel to Wesley, is sanctification, personal holiness that enables the believer to “… lay aside everything that hinders us, and the sin that clings about us, and run with patient endurance the race that lies before us…” (Hebrews 12:1b)  Sanctification as the work of the Holy Spirit means that God interacts in a positive with us after we are reborn in him.

And this leads us to the baptism in the Holy Spirit.  It is more than a tradition; it is rooted in the early church from the day it started.  But, as explained in LifeBuilders Essentials, it is not a principally emotional experience either.  It is the "fuel" to empower the believer to share one’s faith with others in whatever way that God has directed an individual to do so.  Once again the idea is the same: progress for the individual in one’s walk with God, and progress for the church as it seeks to fulfil it’s God-given mission.  This is why, after barely a century on the earth, so many Christians consider themselves to be Pentecostal or Charismatic, and show the gifts and manifestations that go with that.  But in the process many were saved through the exercise of the same power, so the movement that is seen to be demonstrative is also evangelistic.

So where does this leave Anglicans?  Like the Charismatic Renewal, Anglicanism is one of those great missed opportunities in Christianity.  As we explained in Taming the Rowdies, the Church of England started off with everything: state support, Protestant doctrine (with the seeds of fixing the Reformation) and a rich liturgical worship.  Unfortunately the whole thing got caught up in both the doctrinal tug-of-war between Reformed and Catholic and in the socio-economic conflicts of seventeenth-century England.  The result was that the truly comprehensive, scriptural Anglicanism of Elizabeth I died with Laud and Charles I.  Ever since too much of Anglicanism has felt duty-bound to present a "nice" religion that didn’t offend people or create controversy, and in North America that meant one whose primary appeal was to the upper reaches of society.

But that wasn’t the original idea.  And there’s no reason why Anglicans can’t be the leaders in the sweep towards the new Pentecost that they, in one way, initiated.  There’s no reason why liturgical worship cannot be Spirit-led (it has been done.)  And there’s no reason why the religion whose foundational doctrinal statement implies the important of forward movement cannot emphasise personal holiness instead of losing itself in aesthetics or social niceties.

But one major obstacle to the last point is the emergence of the business of "Affirming Catholicism," and it is to this we will turn next.

Anglo-Catholicism and the Role of the Church

As the orthodox Anglican alternatives to the TEC grow in strength, it has become pretty clear that the #1 division–in addition to the proliferation of purple shirts–that looms is the Anglo/Catholic vs. Evangelical divide.  A little history needs to be told to put this in perspective.

When Parliament passed the Act of Supremacy, the control of the Roman Catholic church in England and Wales passed from the Pope to the Crown.  As long as Henry VIII was alive, that was the biggest change (other than the dissolution of the monasteries) that took place.  It was under Edward VI that the move towards a more "Protestant" church began and, following the last attempt to reverse the Act under Mary, was completed by Elizabeth I.  (There’s that female headship again!)

As we documented in Taming the Rowdies, the question for the next century and a half was just how Protestant the church would be.  After the unpleasant adventure that was Oliver Cromwell, the country decided that it had had enough of such questions and the Church of England slept through most of the eighteenth century, shaken only by Wesley and his friends who were taking Protestant Christianity away from its Augustinian obsession and into a new era of revival.

The nineteenth century saw things go in two different directions.

The first was towards Evangelicalism, with laymen such as Wilberforce and prelates such as J.C. Ryle.  Under these the Church of England was seen as a church with an outreach to lost souls, along with social action such as the abolition of slavery.  In many ways the Global South provinces were born in this movement, which explains why many of them tend towards the "Protestant" side of Anglicanism.

The second was the Oxford Movement, with men such as Newman and Manning.  The appeal of this was a combination of aesthetic (a strong component in the TEC’s growth after World War II and its ability to hold on as well as it has) and a desire for unity.  One of the great weaknesses of Anglicanism is that its status as a creature of the English monarchy has pretty much restricted it to the Anglophone world, which has limited it culturally and spiritually.  Reaching across the English Channel broadens this, but most of its leaders were forced to "swim the Tiber" as many Anglo-Catholics have since.

Both of these streams have flowed into the Anglican/Episcopal river ever since.  Liberalism is a rude interruption in this "discussion" (a favourite liberal term) but without the liberals resolving this question becomes more earnest.

The strongest argument for Anglo-Catholicism is that the objective is to repair the breach caused by the Act of Supremacy and contribute towards the reuniting of the church.  But we need to answer one crucial question: what kind of church are we moving towards?

Anglo-Catholics will point out that they are simply moving from one liturgical church to another.  They will also point out that many distinctively "Catholic" practices such as devotions to the Blessed Virgin Mary and of course the transubstantiated Eucharist (the "sacred pledge," as Bossuet put it) have long roots in Christian practice.  What they will not point out is that Roman Catholicism’s concept of the church changes the entire nature of Christianity.

As we saw in We May Not Be a Church After All, Roman Catholicism makes two key claims.  The first is that it is the true church.  The second is that it, as the church, it is a formal intermediary between man and God.  To go to heaven, therefore, one must not only have a relationship with the Saviour, but with the only church he allegedly founded.  Although Roman Catholic teaching allows for ignorance to factor into whether a person outside of the Catholic church is barred from eternal life, basically the church teaches that, if a person has any reason to believe that the Roman Catholic church is the true church, it will cost them their eternity if they do not join it.

This has several important implications that need to be understood.

The first is that the church can basically decide who enters into eternal life and who doesn’t.  Fortunately the Catholic church has a great deal of canon law which restricts the ability of its priests and bishops to excercise that authority, but the basic power remains.

The second is that, just as the church can define the eternal destiny of its adherents, it can also redefine the means by which they get there.  Anglo-Catholics point with pride with the conservative direction the Vatican has taken since 1978, but, like the Cold War, it could have gone another way.  (Another example of Boomer triumphalism that needs to be muted!)

The third is that the strength of the Roman Catholic liturgy depends upon the strength of the church, and not the other way around.  In Anglo-Catholic and Orthodox settings, the "smells and bells" and correct performance of the liturgy are central to projecting the strength of the church, which is why changes in same are a real disaster.  Roman Catholic Mass can be a very breezy, informal (and rushed) production, complete with rotten music, but the "sacred mystery" is the same as it would be at the Vatican because the church said it was so.

We find it hard to believe that most Anglo-Catholics would seriously consider union with Rome under these conditions.  It would have certainly sidetracked my own "swim of the Tiber" many years ago if I had fully grasped it, but then again Catholicism under Paul VI was a "wild West" kind of affair; that has certainly changed in the intervening years.

So this is something that Anglo-Catholics needs to consider.  It is a topic we have reviewed before.  But the Evangelicals have issues of their own, and we will discuss these in a future post.

Catholic vs. Episcopal Liturgical Changes: The Difference

Dr. Peter Toon’s article on Virtue Online about the difference between the changes wrought by the Catholic and Episcopal churches in the 1960’s and 1970’s is essentially correct but needs some expansion, particularly on the Catholic side of things.

The years preceding Vatican II were interesting ones in Catholic thought because there were two trends going on, both of which were centred in France.

The first was the very liberal trend which Anglicans are all too familiar with. The best known representative of this was Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, whose writings were extensively supressed during his lifetime.

The second was a trend back towards a stronger Biblical/Patristic emphasis. The Biblical trend was exemplified by the École Biblique de Jerusalem, headed up by Roland de Vaux. It was given a serious boost by the 1943 encyclical Divino Afflante Spiritu, which encouraged Bilbical studies and allowed Catholic Biblical translations to be done from the original Greek, Aramaic and Hebrew rather than strictly the Latin. The Patristic emphasis was the work of scholars such as Jean Danielou and Henri de Lubac.

A driving force behind the latter case was to construct a more “authentic” Catholicism from Roman Empire Christianity, peeling away many of the trappings that the Church had accumulated, especially in the Counter-Reformation. In this respect the idea was the same as Thomas Cramner’s, something that many traditional Catholics didn’t miss.

In the wake of Vatican II, the process that resulted in the Novus Ordo Missae in 1970 was the result of extensive studies of liturgies in use in Roman times from Hippolytus forward, both Eastern and Western. One reason why they ended up with four canons is to reflect the diversity of liturgical practice of the Patristic era (another was to break monotony in liturgical use, the same idea as the A/B/C reading cycle.) An excellent reference on this is Cipriano Vagaggini’s book The Canon of the Mass and Liturgical Reform (Staten Island: Alba House, 1967.)

The implementation of these reforms is something that has never sat well with very traditional Catholics. In addition to the vernacular problem–something Anglicans find mystifying–the “new” Mass, along with the whole Vatican II paradigm, gives more emphasis to the “horizontal” relationship of the faith community, as opposed to the focus on the “vertical” relationship between man and God that was the hallmark of pre-Vatican II Catholicism.

Having said all of that, we get to Toon’s point about the difference between the two liturgical reforms.

In a way, both of these reforms can be seen as a race between the two trends noted above: the liberal trend and the Biblical/Patristic trend. In the Catholic case, the leftward lurch of much of the church after Vatican II hadn’t gone far enough for the first trend to really make an impact on the new liturgy; that trend had to content itself with “after the fact” alterations in translation. (We noted elsewhere that this process could have gone another way under different circumstances.)

In the Episcopal case, the second trend was accomplished in prayer books such as the 1662 and 1928 ones, and the thinking of the upper reaches of the church had embraced the first trend enough to end up with the 1979 “prayer book.”

Traditional Catholics would argue from the above that Episcopal history is proof that, once you revert to a more Biblical/Patristic emphasis and deny the value of subsequent tradition, you will end up with liberalism. In saying this they are thinking of the concept of church in purely Catholic terms. As we set forth a long time ago, the whole Catholic concept of the church is one of the church as a formal mediator between man and God, thus giving it the right to dictate the terms and conditions of that relationship. Once you break the continuity of the institution, either literally or through a major change in theology, those terms and conditions are subject to change.

This is in fact that “affirming Catholics” and other liberal types in the Episcopal church would have us to believe; since they have changed the church, our approach to God (or gods) must be different. But in both Catholic and Protestant contexts there is a better way.

In the Catholic context, the church has had a strong enough intellectual tradition to recognise that the tradition they have now is built on what they had before. For Protestants, the emphasis on the primacy of Scripture forces us to avoid things that contradict the teachings of the Word of God in either form (book or Saviour.) In both cases there is a recognition that there is a point at which what one believes can put one (either an individual or a church) outside of the boundaries of Christianity.

And the Episcopal Church certainly has exceeded that boundary.

The Holy Father Looks for the Best

Back in 2004, we wrote an article entitled Think Before You Convert. In it we went through the pros and cons of Anglicanism vs. Roman Catholicism. We also said the following:

One thing that gets kicked around in Anglican circles is the idea of an “Anglican Rite” within Roman Catholicism. From a Roman Catholic viewpoint, this doesn’t make a lot of sense, and if I were in their shoes, I wouldn’t pursue it for the following reasons:

  • The Maronite and Byzantine Rites came from Eastern Churches with independent apostolic succession. Anglicanism, like the Confederacy, seceded from Roman Catholicism. That’s why they don’t really accept the apostolic succession of Anglican orders. (what that has to do with apostolic succession is hard to understand.)
  • The Episcopal Church has shown a real talent in shedding membership. Why go to the trouble of setting up another rite when you can just wait and pick up the pieces on your own terms?
  • The existence of a married clergy in any “Anglican Rite” would create serious problems with the rest of the church.

Now it looks like the Roman Catholic Church is shifting from a purely defensive strategy to a more offensive one by starting a programme to actively recruit Anglicans who are unhappy with the way the Communion is going.

Given the high level of Anglo-Catholicism out there, this is a sensible strategy for the Catholic Church. In addition to liberals and women in ministry at home, many of the conservative protagonists in the Communion outside North America and Europe have a decidedly Protestant bent to them, especially the Africans. Picking up Anglicans in the U.S. has one more advantage: they tend to be at the top of the socio-economic ladder, which would be a boost for the offering.

But our warning remains: think before you convert!

Roman Catholicism and Mark Foley: Maybe It Is Better to Wait to Convert

One of our more viewed pieces is Think Before You Convert, an overview of the pros and cons of Anglicans who are thinking about “swimming the Tiber” and becoming Roman Catholics.

It looks like we have yet another reason to think about it, because now we see that Rep. Mark Foley’s Maltese priest at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Lake Worth did some things with the future Member of Congress that he can’t remember because of the drug-induced stupor he was in. He also did some things that he does remember, like teaching Foley some things “wrong about sex” and undoing the fly of another boy in the parish.

From a personal standpoint, such problems are too close to home because the two Catholic parishes I regularly attended in South Florida–St. Edward’s in Palm Beach and St. Thomas More in Boynton Beach–flank Sacred Heart in Lake Worth. (Click here for my reminiscence about my time at St. Thomas More.) I will say that I never had any bad experiences of this kind in either parish. But I was seventeen when I converted, and since my parish priests all looked up to me, that puts things in a different perspective. Perhaps that delay was the best thing of all.
It is the sacred duty of any man or woman who is called priest or minister to behave in a way that is reflective of the call from God that he or she has on her life. I have become hard to shock in my old age, but I find this kind of thing impossible to stomach, especially when it happened so close to home and during the time I lived “where the animals are tame and the people run wild.”

So What are You Going to do About It?

Earlier this year, my wife and I got a call from an old friend who was passing through town. He wanted to meet with us, so we met him at a restaurant. He came with his wife and daughter.

Things were pleasant enough until he decided to do what he liked to do best: spring “the controversial topic” on us. In this case, his topic was that he didn’t like the fact that a minister we supported entered into a “protocol” of common agreement with a group of Roman Catholics. It didn’t matter that he had never read this protocol, nor did he understand that it was not with the Catholic Church directly. It was evil, we were wrong in supporting anyone who did like this, and we should cease and desist at once.

Needless to say, we were not happy with this assault, especially in view of the fact that we were paying for his dinner. He went on in a classically Protestant anti-Catholic vein for some time. I tired of this and finally confronted him with the question: “What are you going to do about it?” i.e., winning Catholics to Christ.

His answer? He was transporting his family to a small island, renting a plot of land (at a below market rate) out on a point where his daughter could pursue her equestrian interests, and minister to the largely Catholic population from there. Needless to say, we were underwhelmed by this idea.

Visitors to this site know that the raw anti-Catholicism exhibited by our friend isn’t what I do. Having actually been there–and I resent being told about Roman Catholicism by those who haven’t–I certainly disagree with many things the Roman Catholic Church teaches and does, especially as it relates to the nature of the church. And I actually have read this “protocol” and have made a response to it. But the whole idea that people cannot be Christians and Catholics at the same time flies in the face of experience, if nothing else. For me, my years as a Roman Catholic were the spiritual experience of a lifetime, and the main reason why I left was because the Church was unwilling to cultivate the seed she had planted in me.

But there is another issue here: the issue of action. My friend had strong beliefs on the subject, and was more than willing to try to make my wife and I feel guilty about what what we were doing. But the key issue is this: since he thinks that Roman Catholics are going to hell, what was he planning to do to prevent it? The obvious answer was to put in motion a plan to win them. And this guy is an effective soul winner when he puts his mind to it. But to make the results of such an effort really count, you need to target a mission field on the one end and to have a place to disciple people you win on the other. And, looking at his proposed plan, he had neither. That’s why we were underwhelmed.

There are a lot of people out there that are full of talk. (Maybe you’re thinking this site is one of them!) This is true in all fields of endeavour. In this case it’s a ministry, but we have seen this in business and certainly in politics. But when the time comes for an effective plan of action, a lot of the big talkers are nowhere to be found. And many of those who do have a plan of action and are getting results are too busy working their plan to make assaults on the rest of us like our friend did.

So when you see someone come along with a lot of great sounding “good bull” (to use an old Aggie expression) just ask them the question: So what are you going to do about it? The answer will separate those who really “have the goods” from those who simply like to hear the sound of their own voice.