Wednesday, August 20, 2014

This Is Traditional Catholicism?

Mark Shea had a very interesting post today [HERE] concerning an article from The Remnant Newspaper, an ultra orthodox traditional newspaper whose main goal seems to be to warn "faithful Catholics" about the "dangers" of the "Post Vatican II Church."  Mark quotes from Karl Keating regarding an article from the Remnant which tries to prove that Pope Benedict XVI is still pope and therefore, we don't have to listen to Pope Francis because he is not the real pope.  

Quoting Karl Keating:
In the current issue of “The Remnant” there is another article that never should have seen print. It is an article that will lead many readers into confusion and may lead some right out of the Church.
And it’s an article that suggests that “The Remnant” is heading over a cliff.
The article is titled “In a Papal ‘Diarchy’ Which Half Is Infallible?” The writer is Robert J. Siscoe. His topic is a study by Stefano Violi, a professor of canon law, who argues that Pope Benedict did not intend to renounce the whole papal office but only its administrative aspects. Benedict’s intent “was essentially to split the papacy in two, thereby transforming the papal monarchy into a papal diarchy.”
Siscoe quotes Italian journalist Vittorio Messori’s take on Violi’s argument: “Benedict did not intend to renounce the munus petrinus, or the office, or the duties. . . . The Pope intended to renounce only the ministerium, which is the exercise and concrete administration of that office.”
After all, Benedict explained that he was tired and no longer felt he had the strength to fulfill his papal duties well.
Siscoe says that, if Violi “is correct, Pope Benedict did not intend to fully renounce the papal office, but only a portion of the exercise thereof. . . . This novel act of Pope Benedict would explain why he has retained the papal coat of arms, continues to wear the white cassock, and, rather than returning to his pre-papal name Cardinal Ratzinger, has chosen the title ‘His Holiness Benedict XVI, Pope Emeritus.’”
Siscoe then quotes another Italian journalist, Antonio Socci, who says: “Ratzinger dresses like a pope because ‘he is’ pope.”
The consequence of all this, speculates Siscoe, is that Benedict “retains the charism of infallibility.” Such a charism can’t be divided between two men. Thus, if Benedict still has it, Francis doesn’t have it. This allows Siscoe and his colleagues at “The Remnant” to get around what for them has been an awkward situation: the recent canonizations.
Siscoe asks, “How could God have permitted the canonization of John XXIII and John Paul II (whose public sins against the First Commandment are too many to list) when so many theologians have held that the canonization of saints is protected by infallibility?”
Not to worry, folks. If Francis doesn’t have the charism of infallibility, one can argue that his canonizations of John XXIII and John Paul II didn’t “take.” They aren’t to be counted as saints but simply as two dead popes.
Of course, there are difficulties with the theory that “The Remnant” is pushing:
1. No theologian ever asserted that the papal office could be cut in two in this way.
2. No cardinal in the conclave understood himself to be giving only half the papal office to Francis.
3. If Benedict felt too tired to perform administrative duties and wanted to relieve himself of them and only of them, the logical thing would have been for him to devolve more of those duties onto the curia–which is precisely what the curia is for. There was no need for a “half pope.”
4. Benedict attended the canonization ceremony. He clearly endorsed what Francis was doing. He must have known that Francis had the charism of infallibility.
5. If the charism of infallibility lies with Benedict, what happens when he dies? If Francis doesn’t have the charism now, he won’t inherit it automatically on Benedict’s death. Will there have to be another conclave, to hand over to him (or to some other cardinal) the powers that Benedict retained?
The position argued by Siscoe and endorsed by “The Remnant” is madness. The chief reason it’s being pushed is that the staff members of that newspaper didn’t and don’t approve of John Paul II, against whom they wrote for years.
Their antipathy to that pope is leading them into theological nonsense, and it will lead some of their readers, and perhaps some of them, into further error.
As Karl Keating says, "That way lies madness."

Here is a really great Youtube from Tim Haines of Vericast, a Catholic internet media company which comes right here from Brooklyn, about the dangers of Traditionalism. I highly suggest listening to this. Speaking as one who was deeply into this movement, I can say that Tim Haines is completely on target.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Karl Rahner Was Right - Part 1: The Changing Face of Catholicism

There is an interesting psychological phenomenon that was identified in 1972 called "Groupthink". Wikipedia [HERE] gives us the definition:
Groupthink is a psychological phenomenon that occurs within a group of people, in which the desire for harmony or conformity in the group results in an irrational or dysfunctional decision-making outcome. Group members try to minimize conflict and reach a consensus decision without critical evaluation of alternative viewpoints, by actively suppressing dissenting viewpoints, and by isolating themselves from outside influences.
Social Psychologist Irving Janis is responsible for identifying groupthink.  Janis gave eight symptoms of groupthink, as follows:
Type I: Over estimations of the group — its power and morality
  • Illusions of invulnerability creating excessive optimism and encouraging risk taking.
  • Unquestioned belief in the morality of the group, causing members to ignore the consequences of their actions.
Type II: Closed-mindedness
  • Rationalizing warnings that might challenge the group's assumptions.
  • Stereotyping those who are opposed to the group as weak, evil, biased, spiteful, impotent, or stupid.
Type III: Pressures toward uniformity
  • Self-censorship of ideas that deviate from the apparent group consensus.
  • Illusions of unanimity among group members, silence is viewed as agreement.
  • Direct pressure to conform placed on any member who questions the group, couched in terms of "disloyalty"
  • Mindguards— self-appointed members who shield the group from dissenting information.
Having been part of the Catholic Traditionalist movement for several years, I saw this type of mindset up close, and was very much a part of it. There is very little independent thinking among Catholic traditionalists.  They are all in total agreement on who and what they consider the main enemies of the Catholic Church to be, which is basically anything and anyone in authority since the end of the Second Vatican Council. They are all in agreement that the Second Vatican Council is the source of all evil, and anyone who supports this Council is an enemy of the True Church.  They are also in total agreement that the only legitimate Mass is the Traditional Latin Mass. The Novus Ordo Mass is a protestant fake which must and will eventually be destroyed.

Karl Rahner and Joseph Ratzinger
at Vatican II
Further, they feel the fathers of the Second Vatican Council were all evil modernists whose real goal was to destroy the Catholic Church. One of these men who stands out front and center is theologian Karl Rahner, a German Jesuit priest who lived from 1904 to 1984.  Father Rahner attended the Second Vatican Council as a Peritus (expert theologian) and was one of the most influential men at the Council.  Many mainstream Catholics (whom Traditionalists refer to as "Neo Catholics") consider Father Rahner to be, arguably, the most important Catholic theologian of the 20th Century. Traditionalists, however, consider him an evil man whose ideas were resolutely anti-Catholic.

The effect of groupthink among Catholic Traditionalists was seen very clearly in a recent blog post by Father John Zuholsdorf.  Father Z linked to an article from Rorate Caeli, a very militant traditional Catholic blog [HERE] and entitled his post, "ACTION ITEM! Must read piece about how wrong Rahner was."

Father Z does not tell us in his post the subject matter of the Rorate piece. All he tells us is this:
At Rorate there is an anonymous piece (how I wish they would use names) which is a fine, concise exposition of a key problem with the thought of the late Jesuit Father Karl Rahner. The piece doesn’t really move the question anywhere or explain why Rahner is wrong. It isn’t an argument, but it is one of the best summaries I have seen.
Father Z then links to a speech given by Pope Benedict XVI supposedly proving how wrong Father Rahner was, but we still don't know the subject matter.

So I went to the Rorate article, which you can read HERE.  The title is, "Rahner's Un-Roman Epoch of the Church."  We are told:
The Canadian television station Salt and Light has decided to use the account of a third epoch in the history of the Church developed by the famous theologian Karl Rahner, S.J. (1904-1984) as a way of describing the current pontificate. As Fr. Thomas Rosica, C.S.B., director of Salt and Light and top English-language officer of the Holy See Press Office, puts it in an interview with America:
I really believe, with the coming of Pope Francis, that this is that third epoch that Karl Rahner talked about in “The Three Great Epochs of the Church.” In our recent Salt and Light documentary on Pope Francis, we start off the whole story with Rahner’s now-epic essay in which he speaks about the three great epochs of church history. (h/t: DJ)
Rorate gives us a link to Father Rahner's essay which is entitled, "Towards A Fundamental Theological Interpretation of Vatican II." You can read this essay HERE, which I highly recommend. In this essay, Father Rahner says the history of the church can be divided into three epochs, or ages. Rorate actually does a fairly good job summarizing the essence of Father Rahner's arguments:
Rahner's idea of three epochs of the Church has antecedents (for example in Joachim of Fiore), but Rahner's version is unique. He sees the first age as having been the very short period of Jewish Christianity before the decision of the Apostle's not to impose circumcision on the gentiles. Rahner argues that the decision not to impose the Jewish law on gentile Christians brings about a radically different form of Christianity, a form appropriate to Graeco-Roman culture. This form, the second epoch of the Church, brought about far reaching changes in moral doctrine, liturgy, etc.
He then argues that with Vatican II, a new age is begins [sic], and that the changes that will have to be worked out for this third age will perhaps be every bit as great as those from the first to the second. In this third age, the Church becomes truly a world Church.
Rorate Caeli most definitely does not agree with this argument. Their chief criticism against Father Rahner is the following:
[Rahner] asks how Christianity will change in other parts of the world if it is not seen as tied to Graeco-Roman-Jewish notions of law, morality, ceremony etc. Will African tribesmen have to accept monagamy, or will their form of Christianity include polygamy? "Must the Eucharist even in Alaska be celebrated with grape wine?" He leaves these questions open, but his idea is that one will have to perform a "reduction or return to the final and fundamental substance" of Christianity in order for it to be then adapted to each culture.
Rorate speaks of a "reduction or return to the final and fundamental substance" of Christianity as if that was a bad thing.  But this is exactly what the Church did in Acts 15 at the Council of Jerusalem.  Up to this point, the Church had a Jewish culture, observing all of the Jewish laws and customs, including circumcision.  Circumcision and obedience to the Law, e.g. observance of the seventh day Sabbath, were the identifying signs of God's covenant with Abraham, and as such, could never be abrogated in the Jewish mind.

However, the Church was now open to Gentiles and the question was raised as to whether Gentiles should be subject to Jewish laws and customs.  St. Peter addressed the Council in verses 6-11:
“Brothers, you know that some time ago God made a choice among you that the Gentiles might hear from my lips the message of the gospel and believe. God, who knows the heart, showed that he accepted them by giving the Holy Spirit to them, just as he did to us.  He did not discriminate between us and them, for he purified their hearts by faith.  Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of Gentiles a yoke that neither we nor our ancestors have been able to bear?  No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are.”
The apostle James gave the answer to this dilemma (verses 19-21):
19 “It is my judgment, therefore, that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God. 20 Instead we should write to them, telling them to abstain from food polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from the meat of strangled animals and from blood. 21 For the law of Moses has been preached in every city from the earliest times and is read in the synagogues on every Sabbath.”
Circumcision as the sign of a follower of the True God had been abolished. This is what Rahner describes as the end of the first epoch of the church, which he describes as "Jewish Christianity." By eliminating the requirement of circumcision, the Church performed a "reduction or return to the final and fundamental substance of Christianity in order for it to be then adapted" to the Gentile culture. Is there little doubt that had Rorate Caeli been around at that time that the writers of this blog would have soundly condemned these actions by the early Church?

As Rahner explains, this period of Jewish Christianity was followed by "a distinct cultural region, namely that of Hellenism and of European culture and civilization."  Rahner says that this is exactly what is happening now in the church as we go from a period of European Christianity to World Christianity, no longer embracing just one culture but all cultures.

If anyone doubts the truth of just how dramatically changed is the face of Catholicism, here is an excerpt from a 2012 article from American Magazine [HERE] written by Brother Seán D. Sammon, former Superior General of the Marist Brothers:
John L. Allen, Jr., points out that at the beginning of the 20th century the cultural and ethnic profile of the Roman Catholic Church was not significantly different from what it had been about the time of the Council of Trent. Approximately 200 million of the world’s 266 million Catholics lived in Europe and North America; the remaining 66 million, about 25 percent, were scattered across the rest of the planet.
By the end of the 20th century only 300 million of the world’s 1.1 billion Catholics were European and North American, approximately 33 percent. The overwhelming majority, 750 million people, lived in Asia, Africa and Latin America. Baring some unexpected development, by the year 2023, only one Catholic in five will be non-Hispanic Caucasian. This shift in a century is the most rapid and sweeping demographic transformation ever to occur in the long history of the Roman Catholic Church.
There can be no doubt for most of her 2000 years, European culture drove the Church. Our music, our artwork, and even our liturgy are all very European at their roots.  Even the official language of the Church - Latin - is European.  When the Church went out to evangelize the rest of the world, she did so by imposing European culture.  This is what Father Rahner wrote in his essay:
It is, of course, already open to misunderstanding, inasmuch as the Church was always a world Church "in potency" and that potency could only be actualized in the course of an extensive historical process whose origins go back to the beginning of European colonialism and the modern world-mission of the Church in the sixteenth century. Even today that actualization is not yet at its term. 
But one can consider the official activity of the Church in a macroscopic way and see clearly that despite the implied contradiction to its essence, the actual concrete activity of the Church in its relation to the world outside of Europe was in fact (if you will pardon the expression) the activity of an export firm which exported a European religion as a commodity it did not really want to change but sent throughout the world together with the rest of the culture and civilization it considered superior.
Karl Rahner is telling us that for almost two millenia the Church had been Euro-centric, and even when doing missionary work, the Church's message was wrapped in its "superior" European culture. And Holy Mother Church made it clear that when it came to liturgy and other Church traditions, she expected people to reject their own cultures and conform to "superior" Europe.

Father Rahner goes on to explain that the Second Vatican Council was the first Church council that was not based solely on western culture but truly world-wide:
For the first time a world-wide Council with a world-wide episcopate came into existence and functioned independently. In point of fact, the importance of the non-western part of the total episcopate may still have been relatively modest. The repercussions of the conciliar process on the extraconciliar life of the Church may still be very limited, as the subsequent synods of bishops in Rome show. But this does not alter the fact that at the Council a Church appeared and became active that was no longer the Church of the West with its American spheres of influence and its export to Asia and Africa. Under the appearance of an obvious and gradual development, something like a qualitative leap took place here, even though this world Church's new essence is masked to a considerable extent not only potentially but actually by characteristics of the old Western Church.
Others who attended the council corroborate Karl Rahner's view.  One example is Cardinal Franz König, archbishop of Vienna and attendee of Vatican II, who wrote the following:
I will never forget the opening day of the Council. As the relatively young Archbishop of Vienna, I proceeded with two and a half thousand other bishops down the Scala Regio towards the entrance of St Peter’s. As I looked around me I realised for the first time that the Church was a global Church, an impression that has remained indelibly impressed on my mind.
Just looking at the numbers of Vatican II compared with other councils tells the story.  The highest number of bishops at the Council of Trent was 255 in 1563.  That was even less than the attendance at the First Council of Nicea, which had 318.  The First Vatican Council in 1870 had 737 bishops at its opening session. In contrast, there were 2600 bishops along with theologians and expert consultants and representatives of other faiths who attended Vatican II.

Bishops at Vatican II
Nothing like the Second Vatican Council had ever before been seen in the Church.  As Brother Seán D. Sammon wrote:
Rahner argued that the council initiated by Pope John XXIII was fundamentally different in makeup than any that had occurred before, and surely different than Vatican I where the Asian and African episcopate was made up of missionary bishops of European and North American origin.

At Vatican II, however, these same regions were represented, in the main, by delegates indigenous to Africa and Asia. And they did not come to Rome as uncertain visitors. At Vatican II, we witnessed a gathering of the world’s bishops not as an advisory body for the pope, but rather with him serving as the final teaching and decision-making body in the Catholic Church. For the first time in history, a worldwide council with a truly worldwide episcopate came into existence; one of the oldest globalized institutions in the world was finally taking on a face that matched its complexity and diversity.
Following is a list of continents and countries represented by bishops who attended Vatican II:
  • 1089 bishops from Europe
  • 489 bishops from South America
  • 404 bishops from North America
  • 374 bishops from Asia
  • 296 bishops from Africa
  • 84 bishops from Central America
  • 75 bishops from Oceania, which included Papua New Guinea, The Solomon Islands, New Zealand and Australia
As a further illustration of the changing face of Catholicism, here is a chart from Wikipedia showing the make-up of the 1939 papal conclave which elected Pope Pius XII.  Even though this was on the eve of WWII, all 62 cardinals were present.  As you can see, 55 of the 62 cardinals were European.


Latin America2
North America4
NEW POPEPIUS XII (1939–1958)

In contrast, here is a chart from Wikipedia showing the make-up of the 2013 papal conclave which elected Pope Francis:

Papal Conclave of 2013[35]

Cardinal-electors by continent
  Rest of Europe
  North America
  South America
Total Electors115
According to Wikipedia:
There were 207 cardinals on the day the papacy fell vacant. Cardinals aged 80 years or older before the day the papacy fell vacant are ineligible to participate, leaving 117 electors. Two of them were the first cardinal-electors from their churches to participate in a papal conclave: Maronite Patriarch Bechara Boutros al-Rahi and Syro-Malankara Major-Archbishop Baselios Cleemis, the first bishop from the Syro-Malankara Church to be created cardinal.
It is obvious from these examples that Catholicism outside of Europe is growing dramatically. Out of the 115 cardinal electors in 2013, 60 were from from Europe.  That is only 5 more European cardinals than were present in 1939, but there were 53 more non-European cardinals than in 1939.  Vatican II, inspired by the Holy Spirit, recognized the growing presence of the Church in non-European cultures, which is why this Council is of such great importance.

None other than one of the most respected theologians of the 20th Century, Avery Cardinal Dulles, gave a speech in which he fully supported Karl Rahner.  Cardinal Dulles entitled his speech, "The Emerging World Church:  A Theological Reflection" [HERE].  Again, I would highly recommend that you read this entire essay.  It is not long and well worth the read.

This essay is in complete contradiction to the arguments of Rorate Caeli and Father Z.

From Cardinal Dulles:
The emergence of the world Church . . . marks the end of the period when Catholicism as a whole could be equated with its expression in the forms of Graeco-Roman, Mediterranean, or European culture. We are witnessing the birth of a new multicultural Catholicism in which all the regional churches may be expected to interact, mutually criticizing and enriching one another. 
Since World War II this Eurocentric Christianity has been in general disrepute. The synthesis has never been very convincing even in Europe, where Orthodox, Protestant, and Catholic Christians disagreed about what kind of culture should be paired with Christian faith. In Asia and Africa the identification of Christianity with European culture has been increasingly perceived as a form of cultural imperialism, and has provoked hostile reactions. Even in the West many Christians today regard the synthesis model, in all the forms here mentioned, as a misguided effort to link Christianity with a dying culture.
. . .
When the Bible, dogmas, sacraments and ecclesiastical structures are branded as culture-bound, the sources of continuity and communion in the Church are weakened. The idea of a visible world Church is undercut, and its place is taken by an invisible fellowship of an elite who have undergone intellectual, moral, and religious conversion within their own cultures and religions. 
Cardinal Dulles further wrote the following, invoking the words of the documents from the Second Vatican Council to prove his point:
Christianity is not exclusively linked to any one culture. According to the gospels, Jesus himself challenged the cultural and racial exclusiveness of the Jewish religious authorities. Paul advanced the process of cultural weaning by insisting that circumcision should not be obligatory for pagan converts to Christianity. Vatican II encapsulates this theme for the contemporary Church:
. . . the Church, sent to all peoples of every time and place, is not bound exclusively and indissolubly to any race or nation, nor to any particular way of life or any customary pattern of living, ancient or recent. Faithful to her own tradition and at the same time conscious of her universal mission, she can enter into communion with various cultural modes, to her own enrichment and theirs too.
Cardinal Dulles also supports Rahner's contentions that Vatican II was the first true world council of the church:
Even though the indigenous hierarchies of Asia and Africa played a relatively minor role in comparison with their European counterparts, the Catholic Church at Vatican II exhibited greater geographic and ethnic inclusiveness than ever before in its history.
Cardinal Dulles further supports Rahner when he says that missionary activity from 1500 to 1900 was Christianity exported in European form:
The novelty of the present situation can be illustrated by contrast with the period from 1500 to 1900, the great epoch of missionary expansion. In that period Christianity, though it was disseminated to all parts of the globe, remained an essentially European phenomenon, exported in European form. Christians of other continents took European names, used European languages in their worship, studied the religious history of the West, and learned their theology from European textbooks.
Since it is quite apparent that the majority of Catholics are no longer a part of the dying European culture but are as varied as the world itself, why are Rorate Caeli, Father Z and the traditionalist mindset in general so resistant to the message that we must move beyond our European identity to a world identity? And how does this affect the celebration of the Mass, which was a product of the European culture that predominated the Church for much of her history?

I will take up these questions in Part 2.


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