Hooks

May 19, 2011

“When they study our civilization two thousand years from now, there will only be three things that Americans will be known for: the Constitution, baseball and jazz music. They’re the three most beautiful things Americans have ever created.” Ken Burns

This kind of explains why this master of the medium made such great documentarys on The Civil War, Jazz and Baseball.

He missed one thing though: Advertising.

Sure, it’s not always ‘beautiful’, but neither was the Civil War (which lead to the constitution) or Jazz or Baseball, but it can be a really telling artform and the Americans really invented it and it has always fascinated me, not enough to be drawn into it professionally (got close a couple of times) but I’ve always watch on in awe and, all too often, horror.

An ad makes no bones about having an emotional hook. In the US you couldn’t get stronger hooks than family and, by extension, nation and, by extension, military service and the automobile. Each has its dark side — some more obvious than others — but if you can combine those hooks in the US, you’ve got a winner. This arrived in my inbox the other day and it’s right up there:

It wouldn’t work here, but if you’ve spent any time in the States you’ll know that it’ll hook just about anyone in.

Presumably Ken Burns would be quite capable of making a great film about advertising, but that space already has a contender.


Moral credibility

May 15, 2011

For weeks now I’ve been following the saga of Bishop Morris’ offer-you-can’t-refuse ‘retirement’.

Most of the action has been on Catholica — well the ‘action’ that interests me anyhow! — but there’s been a buzz all around the web sphere especially here in Australia, but also internationally.

In fact, my attempts to discuss the matter on Sentire have lead me to the view that my interaction with that ‘place’ is too negative and a waste of time. While I imposed a similar self-exile from CathPews, in Sentire’s defence, I think its host is much more open to an alternative point of view than any other ‘orthodox’ web site I’ve come across. At some stage — often far too long in my case — you have to ‘shake the dust off your sandals’.

Back to +Morris. There’s much that has been written about the situation and circumstances of his demise. Much of it is fuelled by genuine anger at how a good man could be white-anted then shown the door and much has also been fuelled by a pre-existing hostility to ‘Rome’ in the wake of other issues, particularly the way it ‘handled’ clerical child abuse.

So, for the record, here are some more dispassionate observations from Andrew Hamilton’s Eurkea Street article Trust at stake in Toowoomba:

All governance relies on a passive trust on the part of the people if it is to function well. If trust is not given, laws will not be obeyed. When trust is withdrawn, societies stagnate because they lack any sense of the common good. They become polarised, and governments often rule by repression. The officials responsible for day to day governance become demoralised and unenthusiastic.

In Eastern Europe, and now in the Middle East, apparently impregnable regimes can be brought down because trust is lacking.

Traditionally, institutions have encouraged trust by depicting their rulers as strong and benign and as guided by the best of values. But these images, and the trust they engender, have been put under pressure by the development of communication technologies and the lack of control over them. Images have become personalised.

The treatment of Bishop Bill Morris risks further blurring the image of the Catholic Church. The story told of a good man who encouraged his church, who was resolute in dealing with sexual abuse, but was removed in an untransparent process, will confirm many in their distrust of the Catholic Church. They wlll conclude that it has taken the authoritarian option.

I think this erosion of trust — or what I call moral credibility — is something that can’t be measured with surveys, but I suspect it is something that has contributed to the precipitous decline in the church in the west. Unlike people living under oppressive political regimes who eventually find the courage to ‘go out onto the streets’, Catholics just leave and that’s what they’ve been doing in droves in the last few decades.

The Pope doesn’t rule a tribe or a country where it’s members feel that their membership is fundamental to self-identify. Arguably it used to be like that, but now more than ever issues of trust are the most important way the church holds onto its membership.

In two huge issues of trust — the abuse crisis and now the church’s own internal process of justice — the best secular processes are better than the Church’s. There are no ‘streets’ to go out on to in the Catholic Church and people will just not put up with a church that says one thing and does another. According to some in the church, the secular world may be going to hell in a handbasket but it sure as hell recognises hypocrisy when it sees it. The erosion of moral credibility over many years though, has meant that very few people know or care.


Men losing babies

April 4, 2011

I guess it must be nearly 30 years ago now when we had ‘our’ first pregnancy. What a brave new world it was for us!

For me it hadn’t become that real. There was great excitement at what was to come, but no ‘outward signs’ to make it all tangible.

Then, at three months or so, there was the miscarriage.

As a young man I had no idea about its impact. I tried to be sensitive but I just could not prepare myself for how devastating it was for her. In my ignorance and inexperience, all I could do is be way, way more supportive than I thought was needed. In all that, I’m not sure that I ever experienced a very personal sense of loss.

I’m reminded of that time because I stumbled on a Life Matters story this morning: Men Losing Babies.

It very much speaks for itself and I commend it to you.

From the Heartfelt website

From the Heartfelt website featured in the article.


The ring of fire

March 12, 2011

From the preface to How God Acts by Denis Edwards*:

When a natural tragedy brings death and destruction … one of the responses is the question ‘Why is God doing this? The question is asked by both churchgoers and by those who have abandoned church practice. Sometimes it appears in the secular press, along with answer from a range of religious authorities.

All of these answers seem at best inadequate, and some of them can be extremely damaging. They intensify the pain of the sufferers, either by making them feel they are responsible for the suffering or by making them feel that God is punishing them or has in some way targeted them. Such answers can distort the Christian gospel of God. There is little of the good news of the God proclaimed by Jesus. In particular it is essential to ask whether it is appropriate to think of God, the God of Jesus, as deliberately sending disaster to some people while saving others from them. This, of course, raises a fundamental question about how we think of God acting in our world.

There is a new intensity o the problem of evil in our day, however, because of our twenty-first-century scientific worldview. We now know that the evolution of life, with all its abundance and beauty, has been accompanied by terrible costs, not only to human beings, but also to many other species, most of which are now extinct. The costs are built into the system, into the physical processes at work in the geology of our planet, such as the meeting of tectonic plates that give rise not only to mountain ranges and new habitats but also to deadly earth quakes and tsunamis … We know, as no generation has known before us, that these costs are intrinsic to the processes that give rise to life on earth in all its wonderful diversity.

I find it hard to believe in an interventionist God so praying for God to intervene in Japan and ‘help’ the devastation of life and land just doesn’t make sense to me. But I do want to express a ‘connection’ to those people, perhaps a sense of ‘praying with’ rather than ‘praying for’.

So I pray with the people of Japan as they bear the burden of the costs of being part of life and I hope they soon see its abundance and beauty.

I also offer this image** as an Australian symbol of beauty and abundance emerging from the devastation of fire.

bud emerges from burnt gum tree

* How God Acts: Creation, Redemption and Special Divine Action by Denis Edwards
** Photo is sourced from flickr.


Illiud latine dici non potest

March 11, 2011

Thanks to PatrickW on Catholica for this gem from Compass, apparently published in the Summer of 02, which is a comprehensive account of the process coming to fruition this year in the new mass translations. I’ve commented on Catholica, but I think the whole thing is worth having here (for the record).

 


FOR THE LAST five years, a major battle has been taking place over the translation of our liturgical books into English. The result has been that there are now new structures in place, new personnel have been appointed, and new principles of translation are in force. There is also a new Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments in Rome. Everyone is holding their breath to see if the fragile truce will hold and new arrangements can produce something worthwhile for the life and worship of the Church.

 

ICEL
In the English-speaking world, one of the main protagonists is the International Commission on English in the Liturgy (ICEL). It was formed during the Second Vatican Council by the bishops of those countries which used English to help them fulfil the responsibility which the Council was giving them. Some countries preferred to remain as associate members, but eleven countries decided to contribute to the work as members: Australia, Canada, England and Wales, India, Ireland, New Zealand, Pakistan, Scotland, South Africa, United States of America, and, a little later, Philippines.

What did the Council ask of those territorial bodies of bishops that were to become bishops conferences?

Respecting [the] norms and also, where applicable, consulting the bishops of nearby territories of the same language, the [bishops conference] is empowered to decide whether and to what extent the vernacular is to be used. The enactments of the [bishops conference] are to be approved, that is, confirmed by the Holy See. Translations from the Latin text into the mother tongue intended for use in the liturgy must be approved by the [bishops conference]. SC 36

The structures developed quickly and liturgical responsibilities were formalised by the Code of Canon Law in 1983:

  • It is the prerogative of the Apostolic See to regulate the sacred liturgy of the universal Church, to publish liturgical books and review their vernacular translations, and to be watchful that liturgical regulations are everywhere faithfully observed.
  • It pertains to Episcopal Conferences to prepare vernacular translations of liturgical books, with appropriate adaptations as allowed by the books themselves and, with the prior review of the Holy See, to publish these translations. (CCL 838)

Through ICEL, the bishops conferences of those countries which used English were able to collaborate on a common English translation of the liturgical books based on a common literary and linguistic heritage (the difficulties and possibilities of such a project are a separate issue). ICEL was set up and funded by the member countries and was governed by the Episcopal Board comprising a delegated bishop from each country. In the post-Conciliar period, the Vatican encouraged the preparation of a single translation in each language and worked with the different language groups to prepare an enlightened and flexible set of principles for liturgical translation. This charter for translation is known by its French title Comme le prévoit (1969).

Comme le prévoit points out that, as the liturgical text is a medium of spoken communication, a faithful translation cannot be judged on the basis of individual words but on the total context of this specific act of communication. The translator must always keep in mind that the ‘unit of meaning’ is not the individual word but the whole passage.

The prayer of the Church is always the prayer of some actual community, assembled here and now. It is not sufficient that a formula handed down from some other time or region be translated verbatim, even if accurately, for liturgical use. The formula translated must become the genuine prayer of the congregation and in it each of its members should be able to find and express himself or herself. A translation of the liturgy therefore often requires cautious adaptation. (20-21)

After elaborating principles such as these and giving examples, the document concludes:

Texts translated from another language are clearly not sufficient for the celebration of a fully renewed liturgy. The creation of new texts will be necessary. (43)

Things went well enough for twenty years. Serious tensions began to emerge during the 1980s, however, when the eleven bishops conferences approved a revised Order of Christian Funerals and sent it to Rome for the recognitio or review. Rome returned its agreement subject to a list of modifications, effectively having the last say on details of the English translation. Still, the approved rite published in 1989 has a number of modifications to the Latin original and a number of new texts composed in English as had been allowed under Comme le prévoit.

Revised Sacramentary
At this time, a similar comprehensive revision of the Sacramentary (the book used by the priest at the altar) was already being undertaken for the bishops conferences by ICEL. It had begun with the first of two major consultations throughout English-speaking countries in 1982. Work was carried out according to the official norms of Comme le prévoit. Progress reports were published in 1988, 1990 and 1992 generating considerable debate on the revision. Consequently, to ensure that all the bishops were fully aware of what they were being asked to approve, the Sacramentary was issued for vote in eight parts between 1993 and 1996. All bishops conferences approved each part of the Sacramentary by the canonical two-thirds majority—frequently with an overwhelming majority—and the full Sacramentary was made available to conferences in 1998. Each conference submitted it to the Holy See for recognitio. By then, however, following the 1996 appointment of Archbishop Jorge Medina Estévez as Pro-Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, conflict over liturgical translation had become acute.

Rites of Ordination
In 1989 the Holy See promulgated a second Latin editio typica of the rites of ordination and it was published the following year. Rather than slow down the work on the Sacramentary, ICEL, at the request of the bishops conferences, updated the existing 1976 translation incorporating the changes and additions from the revised Latin. This was sent to conferences as an interim translation towards the end of 1993. The Australian Catholic Bishops Conference approved it for interim use and sent it to Rome for its recognitio in 1994.

In September 1997, the translation was rejected by the Holy See. This had never happened before. Thirteen pages of ‘observations’ were attached to the rejection, criticising the existing approved translation as much as the translation of the new elements. The approach to translation was also unprecedented. Archbishop Medina was demanding a literal, word-for-word rendition of the Latin texts, rubrics and introductions, right down to paragraph numbering and indentation. He recommended to the bishops that there be a ‘complete change of translators’.

ICEL began work studying the implications of Rome’s ‘observations’ and preparing a new translation of the Rites of Ordination according to the principles laid down. Sixteen months after the rejection letter, the now Cardinal Medina Estévez sent a further letter to conferences emphasising the urgency of the project, criticising ICEL, and setting an Easter 2000 deadline for the completion of the work. The new literal translation prepared in accordance with the Congregation’s directives was completed on time and, at its Easter 2000 meeting, the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference approved it and sent it to Rome for its recognitio.

Hostility to ICEL
Meanwhile, the direct attack on ICEL intensified. In October 1999, Cardinal Medina wrote a letter to Bishop Maurice Taylor, chair of the Episcopal Board, demanding widespread changes in ICEL’s mandate, structures and personnel. The Cardinal refused to meet with Bishop Taylor or anyone involved with ICEL. ICEL was accused of paraphrasing rather than translating, making alterations without prior authorisation from Rome, limiting the extent to which bishops can obtain corrections or improvements, adding original texts, etc. Committee membership and structures were also criticised. The letter concluded that ICEL in its present form was not in a position to render adequate service to the bishops, the Holy See or the English-speaking faithful. Consequently the Congregation directed the bishops to revise ICEL’s statutes within six months, limiting its work to the strict translation of Roman liturgical texts, giving the bishops a more hands-on role in ICEL’s work, and requiring anyone involved in ICEL to obtain the nihil obstat of the Congregation to assume and maintain their role.

The Vatican was claiming control. Cardinal Medina wrote:

The experience of the years since the Council, as well as a deepening theological reflection, have brought clearly into focus the fact that the constitution, the regulation and the oversight of an international commission for liturgical translation are rightfully the competence of the Holy See to a degree which is not always sufficiently reflected in the statutes which govern such bodies.

In response to Cardinal Medina’s letter, a special meeting of the presidents of bishops conferences was held to discuss the mission and purpose of ICEL. The Episcopal Board also met and a subcommittee of bishops drafted a new charter for the work of translation which was implemented for a two year trial. In accordance with the wishes of the Congregation, ICEL’s secretariat and Advisory Committee did not take part in the process. The executive secretary, Dr John Page, was allowed to continue during this period but applications would be called for the position at the end of the two-year trial.

The new structure redefined roles, replacing the Advisory Committee with a Consultants Committee, disbanding the standing sub-committees in favour of ad hoc committees, and strengthening the role of the Episcopal Board. An executive of the Episcopal Board now meet by teleconference each month. However the bishops tried to retain control of the organisation and therefore of the translation process. The Cardinal continued to insist that the reform did not go far enough.

Liturgiam Authenticam
What we saw in the response on the ordination rite and in the demands made of ICEL proved to be only trial runs for the ‘king hit’ which appeared on 25 April 2001. Without any consultation of bishops conferences, the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments promulgated a new document Liturgiam Authenticam ‘on the use of vernacular languages in the publication of the books of the Roman liturgy’. Presented as the fifth Instruction for the right implementation of the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy of the Second Vatican Council, it is a document for the whole world (not just for English speakers). It replaces Comme le prévoit without even mentioning its existence.

Fidelity to the Latin is the primary criterion.

The translation of the liturgical texts of the Roman liturgy is not so much a work of creative innovation as it is of rendering the original texts faithfully and accurately into the vernacular language… the original text in so far as possible must be translated integrally and in the most exact manner, without omissions or additions in terms of their content, and without paraphrases or glosses. (20)

While the texts must be comprehensible, the sacred style sought for liturgical texts need not adhere to prevailing modes of expression, may be different from usual and everyday speech, and even use a manner of speech considered obsolete in daily usage. Inclusive language is not regarded as an authentic development and the doctrinal mission of the Church will not be subject to externally imposed linguistic norms. Academic style manuals are not considered standards for liturgical translation. ‘A sacral vernacular’ is sought ‘characterised by a vocabulary, syntax and grammar that are proper to divine worship’ (47). Syntax and style, literary and rhetorical genres are to be retained in the translations, as are titles, the ordering of texts, the rubrics, and the system of numbering of the Latin.

The document also deals with the way translations are to be prepared. It says that the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments will in future be more directly involved in preparing translations.

[Its] ‘recognitio’ is not a mere formality, but is rather an exercise of the power of governance, which is absolutely necessary…and modifications—even substantial ones—may be introduced by means of it (80).

It is the Congregation which erects a Commission such as ICEL and which approves or provides its governing statutes. Its work is strictly limited to actual translation and its personnel need to be vetted by the Congregation.

For the good of the faithful, the Holy See reserves to itself the right to prepare translations in any language, and to approve them for liturgical use (104).

Events of 2002
The Congregation maintained the pressure on ICEL and the bishops conferences by setting up its own committee of advice on English language translations called Vox Clara. The 12-member committee made up of bishops from nine countries has met twice under the chairmanship of Sydney Archbishop George Pell. According to its opening press release, one of its aims is ‘to enhance and strengthen effective cooperation with the conferences of bishops.’ The committee is reviewing samples of translated texts from the Missale Romanum. It is also working on a ratio translationis which will apply the principles of a literal translation to the English language, giving a list of English words to be equated with their Latin counterparts.

Next, after long delays, the third edition of the Roman Missal in Latin was published on 22 March 2002. With this finally in place, English-speaking bishops conferences received a letter from the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments refusing to grant its recognitio for the revised Sacramentary which the conferences had approved. The uncompromising two-page rejection letter—the greater part of which was devoted to criticising ICEL—came with seven pages of ‘observations’ on the translation. The tone was patronising. The Vatican authorities accuse the English texts of being ‘superficially attractive by virtue of their emotional impact’, ‘faddish and ill-adapted’, ‘monotonous’, ‘typical of many consumerist societies’ in its ‘desire for constant variety’, ‘sentimental, secularised, flattened and trivialised’, and so forth. The order and arrangement of the texts must follow the Latin. Pastoral introductions are excluded along with any prayers newly composed in English (including those we have been using for 25 years). The Latin grammar with its relative clauses is given a theological status and is deemed essential also in English. The careful use of inclusive language is rejected. In effect the book was being judged according to the principles of Liturgiam Authenticam, a document produced after the fifteen-year revision project was complete, and after the book was approved by bishops conferences and submitted to Rome.

During the month of May, conferences of bishops received another rejection letter from the Congregation. This one concerned the most recent (literal) translation of the Rites of Ordination. Accompanying the rejection letter is a modified version of the English translation of the Rites of Ordination. The letter indicates that the Congregation is ready to grant the recognitio to any conference of bishops that wishes to approve it as it stands. Every page is sprinkled with changes, some of them trivial (‘baptise’ is changed to ‘administer Baptism’, for example), while others appear to be ideological (at several points, sentences such as the following appear: ‘You are taken from among men and appointed on behalf of men for those things that pertain to God’).

Meanwhile changes continued at ICEL. The statutes were further revised and adopted. A new executive of the Episcopal Board was elected under the chairmanship of Bishop Arthur Roche of Leeds. The resignation of Dr John Page from the position of executive secretary was accepted and Rev. Bruce Harbert, 59-year-old English priest of the Archdiocese of Birmingham, was appointed. He is an interesting choice for the position. He is not only on the council of the Association for Latin Liturgy (founded over 30 years ago to promote Latin in Catholic liturgy) but has also been a sharp critic of ICEL’s work, past and present. However, he has worked on one of ICEL’s task forces, is a good Latin scholar and has held a variety of academic posts. ICEL’s work continues in a spirit of hopefulness. The translation of the new General Instruction of the Roman Missal has been sent to bishops conferences and has already been approved by the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference. Work has begun on revising the Roman Missal and other liturgical books according to the new principles of Liturgiam Authenticam.

Bishop Maurice Taylor of Galloway in Scotland who completed his term as ICEL’s chairman felt he could not finish without making a strong statement entitled ‘Truth, Honesty and Justice: the Need for Authenticity’. He said in part:

Many good people connected with ICEL have suffered during this time of transition. The members of ICEL’s Episcopal Board have in effect been judged to be irresponsible in the liturgical texts that they have approved over the years. The bishops of the English-speaking conferences, voting by large majorities to approve the vernacular liturgical texts prepared by ICEL, have been similarly judged. And the labours of all those faithful and dedicated priests, religious, and laypeople who over the years devoted many hours of their lives to the work of ICEL have been called into question. The impression is given, and indeed is seemingly fostered by some, that ICEL is a recalcitrant group of people, uncooperative, even disobedient. This is mistaken and untrue. One is tempted to suspect that, no matter what ICEL does, its work will always be criticised by some because their minds are made up that the mixed commission is incorrigible and unworthy of continued existence.

The final development of 2002 was the retirement of Cardinal Medina Estévez and the appointment of Cardinal Francis Arinze to replace him as prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments. A Nigerian, Arinze is said to be sharp and articulate, and a good communicator. Dubbed a moderate conservative, he is probably a good example of leadership from the African Church, combining firm authority with spiritual charisma. He speaks English well. He is familiar with the corridors of Rome, having led the Pontifical Council for Inter-Religious Dialogue for 17 years. In this position he was able to promote mutual understanding and reconciliation.

After the battles of the last five years, there seems to be a mood of optimism that the work of renewing our liturgical books can once again move forward. Those involved in ICEL and bishops conferences are certainly working within tighter constraints and the scope of possibilities has certainly been reduced. But there is a genuine hope that the bitter and unproductive conflicts are behind us and that constructive work lies ahead.

The first intervention of Cardinal Arinze admittedly was not particularly encouraging. He signed a letter within days of his appointment giving the Congregation’s response to the new ICEL statutes. The letter criticises the statutes because they do not give Rome the right of veto over ICEL personnel, discretionary power over their terms of appointment, and do not acknowledge that it is Rome which establishes and directs commissions such as ICEL.

Issues at Stake
There are two crucial issues at stake in this whole unedifying and sorry saga: what language are we to use in worship and who has the responsibility for determining it.

The emphasis on accurate, exact and literal translation of the Latin is meant to ensure doctrinal fidelity. However our liturgical rites are not academic reference books. Liturgy is the prayer of the people of God. For a liturgical translation, a primary criterion is to find the language which springs spontaneously from the heart to the lips, giving a voice to praying people and lifting the spirit to God in worship. The text is to be proclaimed and heard, sung and prayed by real communities.

By definition, a vernacular is the language in use in a particular place. A living language is constantly evolving (inclusive language is just one example of this). While it is useful to have a stable universal language such as Latin as the basis of the Roman Rite and the touchstone of authentic liturgy, the vernacular functions differently. Translation is a delicate art. Each Latin word cannot just pass over into a corresponding vernacular word. A translation cannot preserve the same variety of terms as the Latin, with the same denotation and connotation, and the same literary and rhetorical features. Different languages do not correspond in this way.

We have also had to learn how to pray in the vernacular. Thirty years ago, it was thought that we would have to keep the language simple and direct if it was to be understood in the hearing. We who speak English have learned through our experience of vernacular worship that greater complexity and richness is both possible and desirable. ICEL liturgical translations have developed and changed accordingly.

The second issue concerns the responsibility for liturgical translation given to bishops conferences by the Second Vatican Council and the Code of Canon Law. It is hard not to see the events of recent years as a battle for control between the Roman Curia and local bishops conferences. The role of the Holy See in granting its recognitio was described in 1969 as ‘the seal and guarantee of unity and harmony’. The involvement of the Holy See is important because it strengthens and expresses the bond of communion between the bishops of the world. The events of recent years, however, have seen Rome assert its right to determine the structures and procedures for translation into the vernacular, the principles and scope of translation work, and even the very words and expressions to be used in English liturgical books. What is left of the responsibility given to bishops conferences which they have so conscientiously discharged in the decades since the Second Vatican Council?

Fr Tom Elich is director of The Liturgical Commission in Brisbane and coordinator of liturgical studies at St Paul’s Theological College. He was a member of several ICEL committees during the 1990s.

 


* Illiud latine dici non potest – You can’t say that in Latin

 


Quietly removed?

March 2, 2011

Kudos to my old mate Jules for pointing out that Catholica no longer appears on the Bishop’s list of links.

Frankly I’m surprised that it ever did.

Mind you, if you do a search on the site it will still come up with references to Catholica and it even points to where the link was before. Damn! The internet is so uncooperative when it comes to the ‘limiting’ of information!

In the string, Jules goes on to helpfully point out that Brian Coyne is fairly philosophical about it:

Thanks for that Cliffy. I wasn’t aware of it. I cannot say that I am surprised in the least. We have been barred from mention in most diocesan newspapers virtually since we started and on CathNews for ages.

I take it as a sign that they see us as something to be afraid of. I’m not going to fall over myself to ring Brian Lucas and ask why the link was taken off. I don’t expect we’d have been gettin a large amount of traffic from any of those sources anyway. It does not bother me in the slightest.

Jules then goes on to give advice to ‘the delusional’ which is as unedifying as it is ironic.

Speaking of irony, if having a link on the Bishop’s site is some sort of measure of ‘True Catholicity’ as Jules clearly implies, where does is that leave the website Jules administers?

Sometimes schadenfreude can come back to bite you!

On the more general question, The Vatican can implore leaders in the Middle East to become more democratic and open, but there is a growing sense that it is a ‘do as I say, not as I do’ message.

In the meantime, Catholica continues to grow.


The way to a man’s heart?

March 1, 2011

I’ve watched many TEDs over the years and they are often really exciting and creative. They are also often quite cerebral — not that there’s anything wrong with that! — this one’s a little different though.


Eschatological compassion?

February 27, 2011

In my ‘In Deepest Charity?’ post, Jules says, in part,

It’s reprehensible to give homosexuals the wrong messages. It would be lying.

I was reminded of this (a theme I’ve often come across on issues like homosexuality) when I read a review by Richard Holloway on Karen Armstrong’s ’12 Steps to a Compassionate Life’.

The first part of the review is interesting enough as it deals with the mythos and the logos, but the bit that brought Jules comment to mind (with my emphasis) was:

The second plank in her platform is that compassion is, as it were, the distilled essence of the world’s great religions. She is an immensely compassionate human being and has recently initiated a charter for compassion in order, as she puts it in the preface to this book, to “restore compassion to the heart of religious and moral life … At a time when religions are widely assumed to be at loggerheads, it would also show that … on this we are all in agreement …”. Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life is both a manifesto and a self-help manual. As a manifesto, it promotes her campaign to place compassion at the heart of religion; as a manual modelled on the 12-step programme of Alcoholics Anonymous, it offers exercises aimed at increasing our own compassion. It would make a brilliant guide for leaders of retreats and workshops on the compassionate life, and as a repository of digested wisdom from the world’s religions I cannot recommend it too highly.

But is she correct in suggesting that, au fond, the essence of the main religions boils down to compassion? It is probably correct where Buddhism is concerned and it is from Buddhism that her best insights and examples come. I think she is on shakier ground when she applies it to Christianity and Islam. Christianity and Islam are redemption religions, not wisdom religions. They exist to secure life in the world to come for their followers and any guidance they offer on living in this world is always with a view to its impact on the next.

This radically compromises the purity of their compassion agenda. Let me offer one example to prove my point. At a meeting of primates of the Anglican communion, I was accused by one archbishop of filling Hell with homosexuals, because I was giving them permission to commit acts that would guarantee them an eternity of punishment, for no sodomite can enter Heaven. My worldly compassion for gay people, my campaign to furnish them with the same sexual rights as straight people, was actually a kind of cruelty. The price of their fleeting pleasures in this world would be an eternity of punishment in the next.

I can think of other examples from other moral spheres where an attempt to act compassionately towards certain categories of sufferers runs counter to Christianity’s doctrinal certainties. The point at issue here is whether Christianity, as it presently understands itself, is a religion whose central value is compassion. If the answer is yes, it can only be what we might describe as eschatological compassion, because the church’s doctrinal certainties and their corresponding prohibitions do not feel like compassion to those who are on their receiving end down here. They say justice delayed is justice denied. The same must be true of compassion.

This is a pretty good illustration of how two people can profess to belong to the same faith and talk past each other every bit as much as an atheist might talk past a theist. The gulf, at times, seems unbridgeable.


Shook erp as, bru

February 23, 2011

A very frustrating discussion

December 14, 2010

Over at Sentire I’ve just tried to engage in a discussion about the all-male priesthood. It’s been exasperating and frustrating, but I just thought I’d publish parts of it here ‘for the record’ even though the threads are a little hard to follow without the normal blog indentation.

How do people of good will conduct these conversations without getting into circular arguments and tension? I really don’t know.

Me
December 13, 2010 at 7:21 am

Well, yes, by all means, let us “discuss” the Church’s teaching, but not in such a way that the matter would be “considered still open to debate, or the Church’s judgment that women are not to be admitted to ordination is considered to have a merely disciplinary force”.

I’m not sure George Orwell himself could come up with a better example of Orwellian double-speak, David. I assume ‘Discuss’ is in quotes because you don’t mean discuss in any conventional sense. In fact you mean ‘agree’. Imagine running a blog ‘discussion’ along those lines!

And Sister Butler’s ‘reasons’ have all the depth of a wading pool. Jesus didn’t choose men? It’s scriptural? Jesus didn’t choose Australians either.

Is there a scriptural reference from Jesus saying that ‘forever and for all time the church must never choose women as priests’? No? Therefore it’s not scriptural in any meaningful or binding sense.

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An Liaig says:
December 13, 2010 at 10:48 am

Oh dear! This form of argument has been used many times by the proponents of women’s ordination but it has a major problem: it equates the fundamental difference of gender with incidental differences such as nationality. Gender is a fundamental character of the human person. It is a property of WHAT you are. It is written into your very DNA. Only baptism has the same (or greater) determinitive force and no non-baptised person can be ordained either. To equate differenceds in gender with differences in nationality (or anything else) is simply silly. If gender is recognised as having a determinative effect on human nature in a way that is unique, then the scriptural argument holds. It is only if you ignore the function of biology that it does not.

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Schütz says:
December 13, 2010 at 11:10 am

Thanks, Doctor. The usual way of making this distinction is (I believe) that a person’s nationality is an “accident” while a person’s sex is “substance”. From another perspective, in one of the blog discussions linked above, Matthew Blecker asks why it is necessary that someone to have a penis to be a priest/pastor. Of course, putting the question this way he is attempting to reduce the “substance” of masculinity to the “accident” of “having a penis”.

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Me:
December 13, 2010 at 2:08 pm

Again, David, if Jesus wanted to make a substantive point about the nature of ministry being inextricably linked to masculinity, surely he would have?

By the standards of his time, Jesus challenged prevailing attitudes to women. Why would it not be more reasonable to continue that tradition?

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Schütz says:
December 13, 2010 at 3:23 pm

It is a matter of following an example, Tony. Take the footwashing, for instance, and Jesus’ admonition that his disciples should do the same. Since this was a case in which jesus washed the feet of the disciples as a metaphor of service, it may be asked whether we “imitate Jesus” by:
1) physically washing other people’s feet?
2) physically washing other people in some way, whether it is their feet or their hands?
3) metaphorically “washing people’s feet” by serving them?

Or agian, when Jesus took bread and wine and blessed them and gave them as his body and blood and said “Do this in rememberance of me”, did he mean:
1) that only wheat bread and fermented wine can be consecrated as his eucharistic body and blood
2) we can use any kind of food for this purpose (eg. rice crackers and rice-wine)
3) the important thing isn’t the bread or the wine but the remembering?

The Church makes certain judgements in this area. Especially in the case of the Eucharist, it judges that the substance of Bread and Wine is significantly important that to use anything else other than wheat bread and fermented grape wine would be to fail to follow the example of Jesus. However, it doesn’t matter if the bread is leavened or unleavened – this is not seen to affect the substance.

So in the case of the Jewish males whom he selected to be his disciples: Because maleness belongs to the substance of a man’s being, whereas race is accidental, maleness is judged to be significant in the example set by Christ. However, there are three fundamental reasons for ordaining males only, and Christ’s selection of only males is just one of them. The other two are the practice of the apostles (who continued to ordain only men, but not only Jews) and the continual unbroken tradition of the Church (who also continued to ordain men of all races).

As for following Jesus’ example in challeng[ing] the prevailing attitudes to women, I think the Church does a fairly good job of this in today’s context of feminism and over sexualisation of women. It is precisely because we “challenge the prevailing attitutdes to women” that we know that we cannot ordain them as priestesses.

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Me:
December 13, 2010 at 4:49 pm

So in the case of the Jewish males whom he selected to be his disciples: Because maleness belongs to the substance of a man’s being, whereas race is accidental, maleness is judged to be significant in the example set by Christ.

Tempted as I am David, I’m not arguing about the substance of ‘maleness’. I’m challenging that the way Jesus chose his disciples indicates a strong linking of priesthood with maleness. It doesn’t.

If, for Jesus, maleness was so fundamental to the nature of the priesthood, it is reasonable to ask ‘where’s the evidence?’. The only evidence for this apparently rock solid rule is speculation about the way he chose some of his followers.

The other two are the practice of the apostles (who continued to ordain only men, but not only Jews) and the continual unbroken tradition of the Church (who also continued to ordain men of all races).

There’s no doubt about the tradition, but there are all sorts of other factors that contribute to that. If the foundation of that tradition is scriptural however, it’s a weak foundation.

If the foundation is tradition, it can be changed. Tradition is something we make.

As for following Jesus’ example in challeng[ing] the prevailing attitudes to women, I think the Church does a fairly good job of this in today’s context of feminism and over sexualisation of women. It is precisely because we “challenge the prevailing attitutdes to women” that we know that we cannot ordain them as priestesses.

Great twist David!

I believe we can challenge the prevailing attitutdes to women in the church and ask, ‘Is this what Jesus really wanted?’.

Schütz says:
December 14, 2010 at 6:44 am

“If, for Jesus, maleness was so fundamental to the nature of the priesthood, it is reasonable to ask ‘where’s the evidence?’”

The evidence is that the apostles continued to ordain only men. Since they exercised the authority of Jesus and carried out his mission, we can take this as the authentic fulfillment of Jesus’ commandment.

Me:
December 14, 2010 at 7:33 am
The evidence is that the apostles continued to ordain only men. Since they exercised the authority of Jesus and carried out his mission, we can take this as the authentic fulfillment of Jesus’ commandment.

What commandment?

It is every bit as reasonable to speculate that the ordination practices of the early church were more to do with culture than commandment.

But, again, let’s assume for the sake of argument that you’re right. They interpreted Christ’s actions as a commandment and we follow in their footsteps to the extent that the church believes it doesn’t have the authority to change.

On what basis then, does the church assume the authority to make a rule that priests must be celibate given the clear action of Jesus appointing Peter?

This side of Orwellian double-speak, David, it doesn’t stack up.

Me:
December 13, 2010 at 12:16 pm

My argument didn’t equate gender with nationality, An Liaig. What it did do is use the same argument that the church uses about gender (Jesus didn’t choose women, therefore we shouldn’t … or should I say, can’t).

It assumes that because Jesus apparently didn’t do some thing, he meant it as a kind of ‘command’ for us, from that day forward, to do the same. It’s a very tenuous form of argument and not a very solid foundation to build such an absolute rule.

The nature of gender and nationality in this context is a red herring.

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Schütz says:
December 13, 2010 at 3:27 pm

Your argument fails in the following example.

Jesus took bread and wine, blessed them etc. and said “Do this in rememberance of me”.

The church sees his example as a command and therefore uses only wheaten bread and fermented grape juice as suitable matter for the eucharist.

However, by your argument, there is no reason why we should not use coke and pizza, since Christ did not specifically tell us not to use coke and pizza.

By his actions, Christ gave sufficient indication of his intentions. Where there is any uncertainty, we look to the apostolic practice for confirmation. Where the Church has continued an apostolic and dominical practice unbroken for 2000 years, we have no authority to change that practice.

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Me:
December 13, 2010 at 4:36 pm

Again, David, ‘by his actions’ Jesus chose married men as his closest followers. Why doesn’t that qualify as ‘significant indication’?

I also suspect that if a world-wide plant epidemic wiped out all traces of wheat and grape (God forbid!) the church would approve other staple foods.

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Schütz says:
December 14, 2010 at 6:42 am

Marriage, like race, is incidental to the nature of the person, not of the substance of the nature. And we do not know that all the apostles were married, only that it is probable that some of them were.

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Me:
December 14, 2010 at 7:39 am

We know that Peter was married, David. So, if the ‘scriptural logic’ of male priesthood follows it must surely mean that we’re doing the opposite of what Christ intended for the priesthood (and the Papacy no less!) by insisting that they’re not married.

I can not see how you can logically assert that what Christ did in one instance is a ‘forever commandment’ and what he did in another is something we have the authority to change.

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Schütz says:
December 14, 2010 at 12:20 pm

I can not see how you can logically assert that what Christ did in one instance is a ‘forever commandment’ and what he did in another is something we have the authority to change.

Let me spell it out:
1) In the matter of ordaining men only to the ministerial priesthood, the Apostles followed the example of our Lord, and the Church ever since without exception has done likewise.
2) By the fact that Christ appointed both married and unmarried, celibate and uncelibate men as apostles, and that the apostles and the Church thereafter have also ordained both celibate and married men, shows that celibacy was not and is not a universal and eternal prerequisite for the Church. But this the Church understands. Even in the Western Latin Rite, married men may be ordained. So I don’t see what your argument is.
3) Finally, as An Liaig and I have both been saying, but you seem to fail to appreciate, marriage is incidental to the person, not of their substance. Maleness is of the substance of a person. The distinction is important. You are not comparing like unto like.

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An Liaig says:
December 13, 2010 at 3:42 pm
Tony,
Your argument involves an equivalence. To say you are using the same argument but simply substituting nationality for gender is to hold that the substitution makes no difference to the substance of the argument. My point was that this is not the case. The argument based on gender, in the context of history and the tradition of the Church, is actually very strong. In the same context, an argument based on nationality would be trite. Your demand for a specific comand about ordination is also meaningless since the Church does not interpret or use scripture in this literalist way. The scriptures form part of the living understanding of the Church and the bishops, in union with Peter, are the appointed overseers of this living tradition. Jesus, in fact, said very little about how to organise and run the Church. What he did was give us his example and his Spirit.

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Me:
December 13, 2010 at 4:25 pm

Your argument involves an equivalence.

Yes it does. The equivalence is, however, how a rule was arrived at not gender and nationality.

The argument based on gender, in the context of history and the tradition of the Church, is actually very strong.

But the foundation — Sister Sara Butler’s first point about scripture — is weak. We are assuming that Jesus said something substantial about the nature of the priesthood and masculinity and, on that basis, make a rule that is set in stone.

Your demand for a specific comand about ordination is also meaningless since the Church does not interpret or use scripture in this literalist way.

Which makes the notion that an all-male priesthood being ‘scriptural’ even weaker.

The scriptures form part of the living understanding of the Church and the bishops, in union with Peter, are the appointed overseers of this living tradition.

They do and this is why the notion that we ‘can’t change’ seems a little self serving. ‘We’ — as in the leaders of the early church — made the rule and ‘we’ can surely unmake it?

Jesus, in fact, said very little about how to organise and run the Church.

Spot on! How we organise and run the Church is up to us. To say we ‘can’t change’ this aspect of how the church organises and runs itself because we don’t have the authority seems to contradict the fact — the scriptural fact, if you will — that Jesus did leave it up to us.

If we used your logic in relation to priestly celibacy we’d see that Jesus chose married men for his closest followers — the first Pope no less! — and, on that basis, clerical celibacy has no ‘scriptural basis’ and to insist that priests be celibate goes against his ‘example and his Spirit’.

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An Liaig says:
December 13, 2010 at 5:18 pm

Tony,
You still fail to see the basic error in your argument. The equivalence in the form of the argument is only valid if there is substantive equivalence in the elements of the argument. This is why the fundamental nature of maleness is important as compared to the incidental nature of nationality or, indeed, celibacy. Maleness and femaleness are constitutive of our humanity. This is why, although the Western Church holds to a tradition of celibacy, it does not teach that it is impossible to ordain a married man. It does teach that it is impossible to ordain a woman. Jesus had many women among his supporters and ,in defiance of tradition, among his intimate friends. However, he did not choose any woman among his leadership group. This is a powerful discrimination which can not be waved away with false comparisons. In the Catholic Church scripture is always, always interpreted in the context of tradition. Tradition is not something that we make – it is something we are given to preserve and pass on. Tradition, in the church’s sense, is not something that is up to us – it is the work of the Spirit in the community.

Me:
December 13, 2010 at 8:47 pm

You still fail to see the basic error in your argument. The equivalence in the form of the argument is only valid if there is substantive equivalence in the elements of the argument.

And the equivalence in my argument was about the nature of how we derive rules from scripture. That is, if you derive a rule that Jesus didn’t ordain women so we can’t, if follows that if Jesus didn’t ordain Africans, we can’t.

The second proposition is silly but I think the same about the first.

This is why the fundamental nature of maleness is important as compared to the incidental nature of nationality or, indeed, celibacy. Maleness and femaleness are constitutive of our humanity.

Yes they are BUT we have no direct evidence (or, I’d suggest, any more than speculation) the Jesus chose men because he was telling us something substantive about maleness and priesthood.

As you say yourself, Jesus really left things like that up to us and, knowing that, we do have the authority to change it.

However, he did not choose any woman among his leadership group. This is a powerful discrimination which can not be waved away with false comparisons.

Nor can we assume things about it which are simply not there. To say that it is ‘powerful discrimination’ is speculative at best.

Tradition is not something that we make – it is something we are given to preserve and pass on. Tradition, in the church’s sense, is not something that is up to us – it is the work of the Spirit in the community.

Working through us!

Schütz says:
December 14, 2010 at 6:47 am

A couple of things:

1) The “fundamental reasons” are not Sister Sara’s, but those cited repeatedly in the magisterial teaching of the Church

2) The Catholic Church does not defend the practice of restricting the priesthood to men only on the basis of “Scripture alone”, but upon the dominical command, the apostolic example and the continual tradition of the Church. I did once belong to an ecclesial community that reduced the “fundamental reasons” to “scripture says”, and they are still arguing about whether or not scripture alone restricts the ministry to men.

Me:
December 14, 2010 at 9:50 am

1) The “fundamental reasons” are not Sister Sara’s, but those cited repeatedly in the magisterial teaching of the Church

Not sure what point your making David. Is Sister arguing something different from the arguments of the Magisterium? If so, please explain.

2) The Catholic Church does not defend the practice of restricting the priesthood to men only on the basis of “Scripture alone”, but upon the dominical command, the apostolic example and the continual tradition of the Church.

Dominical command? Not sure what that is.

Your assertions don’t explain why the Pope contends that the church doesn’t have the authority to change in this case but assumes the authority to change in the case of mandatory celibacy.

I did once belong to an ecclesial community that reduced the “fundamental reasons” to “scripture says”, and they are still arguing about whether or not scripture alone restricts the ministry to men.

You mean they’re having a ‘discussion’ in the accepted meaning of the term? Good on ‘em!

Schütz says:
December 14, 2010 at 11:44 am
A dominical command is a command from the Lord. An apostolic command (which has exactly the same authority) is a command from the apostles.

You keep comparing the rule of celibacy to the rule of a male only priesthood.

Dogmatics 101 would teach you that the former is a discipline (which may be altered according to the wisdom of the Church) and the latter is a dogma (which the Church has no authority to alter). You have demonstrated quite clearly that the Church does not have an unbroken Tradition of mandatory celibacy. We all know that. For that reason (among others, such as marriage not being of the substance of the human person) it is possible for a married man to be ordained. But not a woman, as there has been an unbroken Tradition from Christ and the Apostles of ordaining men only.

Your argumentation demonstrates exactly why so many democratically governed churches have finally capitulated to the demand for the ordination of women. Those who support it, no matter how flimsy or easily disproved their case, will just keep on saying “But wwwwwhyyyyyyy, Mummy?” like a bleating child in a supermarket until they get what they want.

Sorry. That probably wasn’t “nice”. But it’s how I feel at the moment in this “discussion”. It probably shows the wisdom of the Church is saying that this topic is “not to be discussed”. Possibly I should close this combox now…

Me:
December 14, 2010 at 12:01 pm

A dominical command is a command from the Lord. An apostolic command (which has exactly the same authority) is a command from the apostles.

So the rule of male-only priesthood is a ‘Dominical command’? Surely this is where scripture does come in? And if this is so, surely the act of appointing Peter is as much ‘Dominical’ as the male-only ‘command’?

You keep comparing the rule of celibacy to the rule of a male only priesthood.

Let me be clear: I’m not comparing the nature of the rule. The fact that one is a ‘rule’ and another is a ‘discipline’ (or whatever) is not the subject of comparison. It’s the way both were derived.

You have demonstrated quite clearly that the Church does not have an unbroken Tradition of mandatory celibacy. We all know that. For that reason (among others, such as marriage not being of the substance of the human person) it is possible for a married man to be ordained. But not a woman, as there has been an unbroken Tradition from Christ and the Apostles of ordaining men only.

OK, I’ve let this through to the keeper for argument’s sake. What we recognise as priesthood today didn’t occur (according to my reading) for a couple of centuries after the death of Christ. In that time there were accounts of women having leadership positions that make the ‘unbroken male-only’ tradition at least questionable.

Your argumentation demonstrates exactly why so many democratically governed churches have finally capitulated to the demand for the ordination of women. Those who support it, no matter how flimsy or easily disproved their case, will just keep on saying “But wwwwwhyyyyyyy, Mummy?” like a bleating child in a supermarket until they get what they want.

But, so far, you haven’t demonstrated anything like the ‘flimsyness’ of my case. You’ve just said, ‘Daddy says so and what Daddy says goes’.

Sorry. That probably wasn’t “nice”. But it’s how I feel at the moment in this “discussion”. It probably shows the wisdom of the Church is saying that this topic is “not to be discussed”. Possibly I should close this combox now…

Ahem.

Schütz says:
December 14, 2010 at 12:43 pm

So the rule of male-only priesthood is a ‘Dominical command’? Surely this is where scripture does come in?

Only if you limit the Word of God to Scripture and do not also include Tradition as a source for revelation of the Word of God. Again, we do not seek a “written” command in the Tradition on this matter. That is the very meaning of the distinction between Scripture and Tradition. Tradition is unwritten, but nevertheless still the Word of God. Essentially it means this: because we have always ordained men only and never ordained women, and because the Apostles themselves did this, and because Jesus himself did this, this is Tradition and it is a revealed command of the Word of God. If you have trouble with that, you might be a Protestant.

Schütz says:
December 14, 2010 at 12:48 pm

What we recognise as priesthood today didn’t occur (according to my reading) for a couple of centuries after the death of Christ. In that time there were accounts of women having leadership positions that make the ‘unbroken male-only’ tradition at least questionable.

The structures in which the ministerial priesthood were exercised may have looked very different from our structures today, but it is an article of our faith that the ministerial priesthood was established by Christ and that it has only been conferred on adult male human beings. A “leadership position” in the Church does not equate with the ministerial priesthood, although of course those who exercise the priesthood would also probably have some leadership role.

Your position rests on:
1) the idea that the Church, not Jesus (or even the apostles), established the ministerial preisthood
2) equating “leadership positions” with the “ministerial priesthood”
3) asserting that because women had leadership positions in the early Christian community, they therefore must have been ordained ministerial priests.

Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.

Sorry.

——————

And so it goes on.