Sunday, October 14, 2007


Introductory Letter on the Twentieth Sunday of Pentacost

The Daily Post is a publication committed to the transmission of the Catholic Faith. Our motivation in publishing this journal is primarily that we believe by a diligent application of scholarship, a careful exposition of concepts, and a generous reception of constructive criticism we may provide our readers with a frank commentary in theological matters.

In the tradition of the academic journal we purpose to present a pointed, regularly-published periodical that offers much-need doctrinal and spiritual clarification in our thoroughly hedonistic culture. Therefore, this journal's proposed objective is to be a forum for the introduction and presentation of Catholic theological principles, the practical application of these principles to the social and political spheres, and for the scrutiny of new theological research and the critique of existing research. These objectives will most often be manifested in the publication of original research articles, review articles, and book reviews.

We resolve to provide facts; justifiable empirically, logically, or according to revelation. These facts will be presented with as little colouring as our frail nature allows. If we have a prejudice it is a prejudice for truth and our hermeneutic is constructed on a Catholic idealistic model. It is our desire that any opinions offered by this publication are presented as speculative, but that they are also theoretically sound. Nevertheless, we remain faithful to the direction and authority of the holy Roman Pontiff, Benedict XVI, and the Magisterium. As members of this 'fullest and most vital form of Christianity' we aim to 'support, defend, and advance the efforts of the teaching Church'.

We remain faithful to the documents promulgated by the Second Council of the Vatican (1962-65), inaugurated by Blessed John XXIII and executed by Pope Paul VI. These documents which epitomise the mind of the Council Fathers must be accepted as bearing the mandate of an œcumenical council. This necessarily must be so, for 'it must be stated that Vatican II is upheld by the same authority as Vatican I and the Council of Trent, namely, the Pope and the College of Bishops in communion with him, and that also with regard to its contents, Vatican II is in the strictest continuity with both previous councils and incorporates their texts word for word in decisive points' (Ratzinger, Joseph Cardinal, and Vittorio Messori. The Ratzinger Report. 1 ed. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1985.).

However, we also (according to the directives and wishes of the Holy Father) apply to these documents a hermeneutic of continuity. I would like to excerpt our Holy Father's address to the Roman Curia on 22 December 2005, at some length regarding this hermeneutic.
What has been the result of the Council? Was it well received? What, in the acceptance of the Council, was good and what was inadequate or mistaken? What still remains to be done? No one can deny that in vast areas of the Church the implementation of the Council has been somewhat difficult, even without wishing to apply to what occurred in these years the description that S. Basil, the great Doctor of the Church, made of the Church's situation after the Council of Nicea: he compares her situation to a naval battle in the darkness of the storm, saying among other things: 'The raucous shouting of those who through disagreement rise up against one another, the incomprehensible chatter, the confused din of uninterrupted clamouring, has now filled almost the whole of the Church, falsifying through excess or failure the right doctrine of the faith…'.

We do not want to apply precisely this dramatic description to the situation of the post-conciliar period, yet something from all that occurred is nevertheless reflected in it. The question arises: Why has the implementation of the Council, in large parts of the Church, thus far been so difficult?

Well, it all depends on the correct interpretation of the Council or - as we would say today - on its proper hermeneutics, the correct key to its interpretation and application. The problems in its implementation arose from the fact that two contrary hermeneutics came face to face and quarrelled with each other. One caused confusion, the other, silently but more and more visibly, bore and is bearing fruit.

On the one hand, there is an interpretation that I would call 'a hermeneutic of discontinuity and rupture'; it has frequently availed itself of the sympathies of the mass media, and also one trend of modern theology. On the other, there is the 'hermeneutic of reform', of renewal in the continuity of the one subject-Church which the Lord has given to us. She is a subject which increases in time and develops, yet always remaining the same, the one subject of the journeying People of God.

The hermeneutic of discontinuity risks ending in a split between the pre-conciliar Church and the post-conciliar Church. It asserts that the texts of the Council as such do not yet express the true spirit of the Council. It claims that they are the result of compromises in which, to reach unanimity, it was found necessary to keep and reconfirm many old things that are now pointless. However, the true spirit of the Council is not to be found in these compromises but instead in the impulses toward the new that are contained in the texts.

These innovations alone were supposed to represent the true spirit of the Council, and starting from and in conformity with them, it would be possible to move ahead. Precisely because the texts would only imperfectly reflect the true spirit of the Council and its newness, it would be necessary to go courageously beyond the texts and make room for the newness in which the Council's deepest intention would be expressed, even if it were still vague.

In a word: it would be necessary not to follow the texts of the Council but its spirit. In this way, obviously, a vast margin was left open for the question on how this spirit should subsequently be defined and room was consequently made for every whim.
The nature of a Council as such is therefore basically misunderstood. In this way, it is considered as a sort of constituent that eliminates an old constitution and creates a new one. However, the Constituent Assembly needs a mandator and then confirmation by the mandator, in other words, the people the constitution must serve. The Fathers had no such mandate and no one had ever given them one; nor could anyone have given them one because the essential constitution of the Church comes from the Lord and was given to us so that we might attain eternal life and, starting from this perspective, be able to illuminate life in time and time itself.

Through the Sacrament they have received, Bishops are stewards of the Lord's gift. They are 'stewards of the mysteries of God' (I Cor 4: 1); as such, they must be found to be 'faithful' and 'wise' (cf. Lk 12: 41-48). This requires them to administer the Lord's gift in the right way, so that it is not left concealed in some hiding place but bears fruit, and the Lord may end by saying to the administrator: 'Since you were dependable in a small matter I will put you in charge of larger affairs' (cf. Mt 25: 14-30; Lk 19: 11-27).

These Gospel parables express the dynamic of fidelity required in the Lord's service; and through them it becomes clear that, as in a Council, the dynamic and fidelity must converge.

The hermeneutic of discontinuity is countered by the hermeneutic of reform, as it was presented first by Pope John XXIII in his Speech inaugurating the Council on 11 October 1962 and later by Pope Paul VI in his Discourse for the Council's conclusion on 7 December 1965.

Here I shall cite only John XXIII's well-known words, which unequivocally express this hermeneutic when he says that the Council wishes 'to transmit the doctrine, pure and integral, without any attenuation or distortion'. And he continues: 'Our duty is not only to guard this precious treasure, as if we were concerned only with antiquity, but to dedicate ourselves with an earnest will and without fear to that work which our era demands of us…'. It is necessary that 'adherence to all the teaching of the Church in its entirety and preciseness…' be presented in 'faithful and perfect conformity to the authentic doctrine, which, however, should be studied and expounded through the methods of research and through the literary forms of modern thought. The substance of the ancient doctrine of the deposit of faith is one thing, and the way in which it is presented is another…', retaining the same meaning and message (The Documents of Vatican II, Walter M. Abbott, S.J., p. 715).

And it is with such a method of interpretation that we approach the Second Council of the Vatican's documents and legislation.

Concurrently, it is necessary that I convey that this journal and its contributors pledge their patronage and support to the licit celebration of the Missale Romanum 1962, a revision of the classical Roman rite that was promulgated by Blessed Pope John XXIII. We profess that for fostering a true consciousness in liturgical matters, it is also important that the proscription against the Missale Romanum 1962 should be lifted. We declare that there has never been anything like this in history; in restricting this rite we are despising and proscribing the Church's whole past. (Ratzinger, Joseph Cardinal. The Spirit of the Liturgy. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2000.)

We also recognize that the rite in question, in its breathtaking Latin text, has also enthused a host of inestimable achievements in the arts — not only mystical works, but works by poets, philosophers, musicians, architects, painters and sculptors in all countries and epochs. Thus, this rite belongs to universal culture as well as to churchmen and formal Christians.

As a consequence, with the publication of Summorum Pontificum liberalising the celebration of the Missale Romanum 1962 by His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI, I shall be dedicating considerable energies to the circulation and transmission of this document as well as purposing to uphold the textual integrity and authoritative interpretation of the said document. A liturgical column is in development that will focus on various aspects of the pre-conciliar liturgy, including its value as an forma extraordinaria of the Roman rite.

Those of us, here at Fides Qvaerens Intellectvm, who have a compulsive habit of writing at the slightest provocation (second only to the neurotic use of Latin in everyday speech and the intimate desire to conquer large parts of Europe and re-establish the States of the Church) have a singular admiration for the theological method of H.H. Pope Benedict XVI and we frequently quote him as an authority in all matters, especially regarding his prolific work as the then-Cardinal Ratzinger.

In 1998 Cardinal Ratzinger heralded the communities established as an effect of the motu proprio Ecclesia Dei as deserving of gratitude and thanks for 'a great number of priestly and religious vocations who, zealously, joyfully and deeply united with the Pope, have given their service to the Gospel in our present era of history'.

He further stated that:
It is good to recall here what Cardinal Newman observed, that the Church, throughout her history, has never abolished nor forbidden orthodox liturgical forms, which would be quite alien to the Spirit of the Church. An orthodox liturgy, that is to say, one which expresses the true faith, is never a compilation made according to the pragmatic criteria of different ceremonies, handled in a positivist and arbitrary way, one way today and another way tomorrow.
In whatever way we promote the continued use of the forma extraordinaria, nevertheless, editorials that defend the validity of the forma ordinaria, i.e. Missale Romanum: Novus Ordo Missæ 1969 will also be furnisht. For an orthodox liturgy is never one which is merely a 'pragmatic criteria of different ceremonies' it is orthodox because it is right (ortho-) in doctrine and therefore commendable to God. We defend the Pauline rite, because it is necessary that fidelity to the holy Roman Church Catholic be upheld and the primacy of the holy Roman Pontiff be defended and maintained. We also staunchly support the 'Reform of the Reform' of this Missal.

It is fidelity to that authority which causes us to adhere rigidly to the schemata for lay organizations provided by Pope John Paul II. We emphasise the following principles:
  • The first and fundamental call of every Christian to holiness.
  • The responsibility of professing the Catholic faith as loyal sons and daughters of the Church.
  • The witness to a strong and authentic communion with the Pope - the Vicar of Christ on earth - and with the local bishop.
  • Conforming to and participating in the Church's apostolic goals, especially the 'new evangelisation'.
  • The commitment to authentic human development in keeping with the God-given dignity of every human person, especially those who are most vulnerable.
In a world that is becoming ever more homocentric and hedonistic the unshakeable stability of Christ's truth must be demonstrated. We must engage in this new apostolic mission, i.e. this 'new evangelisation'. These tenets, these very articles of our creed are powerless to shift in the sands of uncertainty that tumble aimlessly in this riotous atmosphere of eternal questioning. They have their foundation in the rock of Peter and there source in the infinity and eternity of God.

This apostolic mission to preach the gospel of our Lord would seem a simple matter of reaching out to non-Catholics, but we must also educate our own. With the virtual collapse of Catholic education and poor catechesis in parishes we must plant the seed of truth in those who (by no fault of their own) were not cared for and nurtured by their irresponsible keeper. It is a matter most sorrowful that in the heathen cultural landscape with which we current suffer, it is the face of the principal instructor of Christian Truth, the holy Roman Church Catholic, that has been plastered with vulgarities and graffiti. We have earnestly endeavoured to proffer our service in cleansing Our Lord's face. We have presented what little clean linen have to wipe away the sweat, blood, and grime. We have tried to rescind the violence done by a simple act of charity. We have, furthermore, offered our limited draught to wet his parched lips. We have deigned to submit our souls to this purpose and by that submission bring about a greater vitality and revitalisation to the Church. For it is that heavenly drink - ambrosia - that resides within the earthen jar of our body. We must sacrifice our very persons to 'fill up those things that are wanting of the sufferings of Christ, in [our] flesh, for his body, which is the church'. It is for the Church that we suffer, that we toil and that we work, for the Church is His body and can we do any less for him who did everything for us? Like Gedeon (Gideon) and his three-hundred men we must sound the trumpet of the Word of God, but also break our earthen pitchers, that the ambrosia of our perfected souls, may stream forth like the burning flame of a lamp. That burning fire of God's love! Breaking our pitchers is the equivalent of mortifying the flesh by acts of sacrifice for the person of Christ, embodied by the Church. And the lamps that we hold out blind and confound our enemy, for it is by the light of virtue that we shall conquer Satan.

Perhaps some readers will think us pretentious for engaging in this analysis of the world. We do not pretend to be experts, nor can we expect that we will create a very large ripple to offset the torrent of opposition. But all of those who contribute to this cause have received the fulfilment of baptism in the reception of the Holy Ghost in Confirmation. Thus we, in the phrase of Mr. Roth, are clad in the armour of God and anointed with gladiatorial oil , that the grasp of the enemy may slip in his feverish attempts to snag our immortal spirits. Let us be thrown into the arena and let us triumph over man and beast alike. We are not academicians or clerics, with neither degrees nor orders, but we do look forward to presenting what we know, nothing more and nothing less. Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen once wrote to the effect that only two classes of people found the Christ Child; the shepherds and the Wise Men; the simple and the learned; those who knew that they knew nothing, and those who knew that they did not know everything'.

Chesterton once spoke of an optimist being a person who loved the world transcendentally and because his optimism was irrational and baseless, it was all the better for it. To love something regardless of its accidents is to love it essentially. It is to love it enough to care for it, cleanse it, and heal its wounds. To love it enough to reform it, that it may not be sullied by sin. We love Christ and His Church without condition and because we see in His Church, which is His body, the very substance all that is good, but also (regrettably) see in its features profane corruptions we are willing to roll up our sleeves and labour towards renewal. It is with such an initiative that the second spring may become a reality.

We must exercise prudence and justice. We must pass judgment and chastise, but we must do so with eyes cast down and on bended knee. We must restrain sanctimonious pontificating and humble ourselves by living and not merely professing Christ. He is the way, the truth, and the life. It is by desire that we will find the way, by love of God that we will take His hand, and by humility that we will be led like little children into the fold. We must have patience and we must be charitable, but we must also discern between the exercise of caritatis severitas and caritatis suavitatis - severe and gentle charity.

Because we are frail creatures, who suffer from a feebleness of mind and body, we do not even suppose that we are in all things accurate. Thus, we extol and suggest anonymous peer-review, by outside scholars. We ask that charity be exercised and that all cynical humour be reserved for Mr. John R. Roth, who does so in a rather attractive manner, without sacrificing Christian tenets.

It is with these thoughts clearly expressed and elaborated that I conclude and I ask that my readers pray for this venture that it may further glorify the Almighty.

PHOTO: Dr. Richard Polt/ The Classic Typewriter Page