This class was originally “Traditional Latin Mass 4” but it [happily] got derailed into a Question and Answer regarding unity within the Church. Mass podclasses will continue next week.
Prior to the current and lively discussion on the actual validity of Pope Benedict XVI’s resignation from the Papacy, there was (and is) a group of Catholics called sedevacantists who believe that the Chair of Peter has been empty for nearly 50 years, due to putatively-changed doctrine. “Sedes” (pronounced sed-ayz) as they are nicknamed in the traditional world, believe that the last valid Pope was Pope Pius XII. Some even deny the validity of his papacy and some even deny the validity his predecessors, going back centuries. Sedevacantism is Latin for “empty chair,” in reference to the Roman Chair of Peter. They have very good arguments for their positions, many of which I can not counter. (For those unfamiliar with this debate, yes—there are actually Catholics who make me look like an ultra-liberal!)
In any case, I have a good friend looking at the sedevacantists. Here is an email I wrote to him to discourage him from joining them. It was only after I hit “send” that I decided it was worth a blog-post, published with his permission, but no names of course:
You write “I simply don’t know what to do at this point.” My answer: Nothing. There’s an old phrase in Canon Law that is: impossibile non tenetur which means one is not held to the impossible in the Catholic life. In other words, God has not made life to be an intellectual riddle that is impossible to solve except for being solved by a few sedevacantists with their big book of old Pope quotes. I fully understand the difference between God’s positive will and His permissive will for this current Church crisis. But both types of providence still fall under God’s sovereignty. If that were not the case, then the only people to be saved would be sedevacantists because they have figured out God’s post V2 code.
It’s all intellectual for them, and really, it’s all intellectual for your quotes to me this past week. Yeah, they are pretty air-tight. So maybe they are totally correct. But sedes are so miserable and mean, that even if they were correct, I’m pretty sure I would not want to go to heaven with them. If only the miserable and mean who have finally cracked the intellectual code of Pope Paul IV and the 1917 code of canon law are going to heaven, then we are all held to the impossible by God and we are essentially nothing more than 5–point Calvinists (who the sedes all remind me of.) Also, remember the sedes don’t really have charity (just try to counter me on this!) and if faith without charity means nothing for salvation (1 Cor 13) then no one is going to heaven…in which case every single person is in an impossible situation…and Satan has beat us all into despair via a mind game.
You will never beat Satan at mind games in quoting canon law. I believe sedes are following Satan because Satan can quote Councils and Popes as well as Satan quoted Scripture to Jesus in the desert. But Satan quoted Scripture without obedience and charity. As Calvinists live Sola Scriptura without obedience or charity, so also sedes are Sola Conciliar without obedience or charity.
Every family that goes sede is because the man gets wrapped up into endless syllogisms. I have never met a sede family where the woman, in total love, has a deep understanding of the Church. It is always the mind games of very, very intellectual men who is led by some spirit to lead their whole family into sedevacantism. And their arguments are usually air-tight. But again, Satan can quote Scripture and Popes perfectly.
Be very, very careful to not look at only all your endless arguments but to do St. Ignatius of Loyola’s discernment of spirits. More or less, St. Ignatius teaches that the one gift of the Holy Ghost that Satan can not simulate is peace. Peace is deeper than a feeling. If you are called to lead your family to sedevacantism, you will have an overwhelming peace of the Holy Ghost. (And remember that numerous Popes have set St. Ignatius’ discernment of spirits as the gold standard of retreats and decision making.)
But you will never have peace in sedevacantism, as evidenced by the fact you have never met a peaceful sedevacantist. They are all so jumpy. I used to think they acted neurotic, but now I see that from a secular point of view (not theological) they all act mildly psychotic. There is no peace there. Have you ever met a joyful, peaceful, inspiring sedevacantist?
If you say “No, but that doesn’t matter in the face of all their arguments” then you are left with this:
We are all then called to this Catholic-Calvinism or Sola Conciliar Catholicism of anger, where God has (in His permissive will) wired the universe as a horrible riddle where only loveless sedes are saved and where the average Catholic (who can not read hundreds of pages of 14th century Popes every week to figure out the truth) has a goal of SALVATION HELD TO THE IMPOSSIBLE.
Sounds like a pretty good pathway to despair made perfectly by Satan, if you ask me.
Ten years ago this week, Pope Benedict XVi issued an apostolic letter called Summorum Pontificum that decreed that all Roman Catholic priests could offer “the extraordinary form of the Roman Rite,” also known as “the Traditional Latin Mass” that preceded Vatican II. In fact, Pope John Paul II had encouraged bishops to allow their priests to do this, but Pope Benedict went a step further in saying that priests did not need permission from their bishop to do the old Mass in private. Restrictions were to be loosened for this Mass offered in public, too. The Roman Catholic priest was also given permission to give the old absolution in Latin for penitents, extreme unction for the dying and early-Church blessings for anyone who asked. The priest can now live on the old calendar for both the Mass and the Roman Breviary (a system of 150 Psalms a week slightly changed from the 6th century onwards.)
It is very interesting that Summorum Pontificum was issued on 7/7/7, or in European dating, 7/7/7. Three is the superlative in Biblical terms for anything in heaven or on earth, so three sevens means “covenant to the utmost.” Interestingly enough, we have seven sacraments. But this number goes even deeper into tradition: In Hebrew, to “seven” someone is to covenant them, to enter into a life-for-a-life relationship. This is done by “cutting a covenant” as the Hebrew for “covenant” takes the verb “to cut.” For example, God first “cut a covenant” with Abraham by cutting apart two animals and two birds (Gen 15) and passing through them. He would turn this violence on Himself 2000 years later on the Cross and in the Holy Mass, for “the priest sunders with unbloody cut the body and blood of the Lord, using his voice as a sword.”—St. Gregory Nazienzen. This is not Calvinism or even the Father turning against the Son. It is the Divine Word as God offering his sacred humanity in body and in blood through the pain and love of the cross to each one of us. Some priests before Vatican II used to go off to Mass saying that they were going to do “holy violence to God.” Why? Because Jesus gives His body and blood to us from the most unkind cuts of Calvary, perpetuated in the Mass. Was it any accident that the most ancient form of the Roman Mass was re-opened (albeit never fully abrogated) on the 7th day of the 7th month of 2007? God establishes a worldwide covenant with His people.
Strangely, Pope Benedict never offered the extraordinary form in public. On the other hand, Pope Benedict XVI called the ordinary form “a banal, on-the-spot-fabrication.” How then, did he expect the old rites and new rites to be streamlined together in a single parish? Pope Benedict proposed “the hermeneutic of continuity.” The hermeneutic of continuity holds that there is to be no rupture in liturgy (or doctrine) before the Council or after the Council. I believe that this was the number one goal of his papacy and Summorum Pontificum. Has it worked?
At least one bishop this year has repealed Summorum Pontficum by stating that “Masses are not to be celebrated using the Extraordinary Form without my permission” as seen in this article. The new Mass is rarely permitted by bishops to be celebrated according to even post-Vatican-II rules. If you think this is an exaggeration, consider the 2004 document signed by Pope John Paul II and written by Cardinal Arinze, titled Redemptionis Sacramentum. In this document, it is clear that the new Mass can be done ad orientem (facing the altar.) Latin is permitted (yes, in the Mass of Vatican II) and pastors were encouraged to effect an enormous reduction of Extraordinary “Ministers” of Holy Communion. Pastors were permitted to eradicate reception of Holy Communion in the hand. Free-floating chalices were to be retracted anytime the Most Precious Blood of Jesus could be spilled. All of this is in Redemptionis Sacramentum, an official post-Vatican II document giving guidelines for the Mass of Paul VI.
But ad orientem worship was prohibited this past year as a clamp-down against Cardinal Sarah’s call for ad orientem Novus Ordo Masses (an echo of his African predecessor, Cardinal Arinze who wrote RS.) The few priests who try to do the new Mass according to its own rules are sent to the boondocks of their diocese. Priests who preach the truth of the Gospel are more and more frequently going into exile like this courageous priest from San Diego.
On this one point I agree with the theology of Bergoglio more than the theology of Ratzinger: There is no hermeneutic of continuity after Vatican II. The former has not said so specifically, but that is clearly his message in every conference, every week. Ratizinger’s envisioned “hermeneutic of continuity” was that the traditional doctrine, life and liturgy of Catholics would eventually make peace with, say, the progressive Cardinals of Northern Europe. Benedict tried to win them to his mild form of orthodoxy. How did they respond? They did something so mysterious that Dutch radio reported “that Ratzinger resigned because of” Cardinal Danneels and his friends. Benedict apparently denies this: 1 However, he looks strangely tired in every picture I see of him. Is he just old? Perhaps, but he actually looks disoriented, which I think is suspicious. Before he gave up the battle, his eyes seemed to say: “I am for peace, but when I speak, they are for war.”—Psalm 119/120.
I believe that the primary driver for the spiritual attack against Pope Benedict was indeed his decree of Summorum Pontificum. Why? Neither Pope Benedict nor his earthly enemies know this, but demons know that Summorum Pontificum is the priest’s main link back to a Mass that the Council of Trent calls “Apostolic.” This would mean that Benedict somewhat-naively re-released the single greatest weapon of spiritual warfare for the good guys. 2
Even if I am wrong about my above speculations, most people agree that the days of feigned peace between traditional liturgy and wacky doctrines are long gone. Many men in power are now promoting a Hegelian dialectic where the “spirit” changes with human authority. The new Mass is no longer controlled through the lens of Church History, but through a nominalism condemned in Pope Benedict’s 2006 Regensburg address against Islam. Nominalism means authority can function in a manner willy-nilly: For example, the Vatican may or may not be currently in the works of fabricating an “Ecumenical Rite of Mass” for joint worship with Protestants. Or, consider how random it is that priests in Rome are being admonished to abandon daily Mass in favor of group concelebration.
Nominalism is the name of the game in the implementation of the new Mass. But is it only the implementation? Archbishop Bugnini said that he wrote the new Mass so that every parish be different in its celebration from the neighboring parish. See how wave-after-wave of semi-conservative young priests coming through the rank and file of America’s seminaries (with the promethean task of “doing the new Mass the right way”) always end up subsumed into the squishy pastoral-goo of parish life that has bled between 15 million and 20 million Catholics in the West following Vatican II. Sheep without shepherds. Soft-will-to power attracts few manly men to worship. (But go see a Traditional Latin Mass parish and you will find at least one military family, if not many.)
The few young priests who shield their conscience in choosing the 1962 sacraments (as allowed by Summorum Pontificum) face a harsher punishment: Just two weeks ago, a bishop asked his own priest (who I know very well!) to leave the priesthood and be “laicized.” Look: Bishops don’t even ask priests caught in homosexual relationships to be “laicized.” This is additional proof that there is something more than natural attack (read: preternatural attack) coming against Summorum Pontificium and the 1962 sacraments.
CS Lewis once wrote, “We all want progress, but if you’re on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road; in that case, the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive.” The combination of Summorum Pontificum and the sad state of Rome-today ironically work towards the same goal: Priests will have to choose either a Mass that was designed with ambiguity (and is thus susceptible to a Hegelian dialectic of theology and Nietzsche’s will-to-power under the prelate-flavor of the day…) or choose a Mass that goes back to the fourth century, nearly unchanged, nearly unchange-able. Yes, it is becoming clear that the new Mass will never follow the rules of Redemptionis Sacramentum in even putatively-conservative dioceses of the world (except maybe Lincoln and Arlington?) In any case, it seems that Summorum Pontificum is currently the West’s only spelunking rope in a dark cave back to the light of what the Council of Trent calls “an Apostolic Mass.”
Summorum Pontificum colliding with the current circus maximus of Rome actually creates a fork in the road where there is no more grey zone, no more sitting on the fence. Finally, America’s smiley seminarians will have to man-up and choose either the living tradition of Divine Revelation or an ecumenical concelebration ad absurdum. The latter is possible, considering that progressive prelates are tolerant of everything except the hermeneutic of continuity. If I am right on this, then this means that Summorum Pontificum is currently the only road back to tradition. It is a road fraught with thorns and priestly betrayal. Such is the glory of the cross.
“There is absolutely no doubt regarding the validity of my resignation from the Petrine ministry,”—Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, expressed in a letter to the Italian website Vatican Insider. ↩
The so-called “extraordinary form” of the Mass was ordinary in the early Church, for the Notre Dame publication The Liturgy Revived: A Doctrinal Commentary on the Conciliar Constitution on the Liturgy, shows that although this Mass was first in Greek, the translation of the Roman Canon was done carefully over 120 years, culminating sometime between 350 and 382 with the current Roman Canon. (Notice how long a liturgical translation should take: Over 100 years!) The Roman Canon was used, not the prayer of St. Hippolytus which was injected into the new Eucharistic Prayer II in the 1960s. In fact, the prayer of St. Hippolytus was simply a personal prayer, not a liturgical one. Why we were taught that this was an ancient liturgy in seminary is beyond me. The truth is that Hippolytus’ prayer was probably injected into the puny Eucharistic Prayer II in an Italian coffeeshop in one night following Vatican II. This is no substitute for the Roman Canon, because what is known by the past two Popes as “the extraordinary form of the Roman Rite” was known as “ordinary” for about 250+ Popes. How is this an unruptured hermeneutic of continuity? Unless, of course, Pope Benedict meant it as a theological sleight of hand in favor of the Traditional Latin Mass, since the Mass is by its very nature “extraordinary”! But I highly doubt it. ↩
Covered in this podcast is a wide range of Catholic issues, from the first Pentecost to the charismatic movement today, to St. Maximilian Kolbe. We’ll especially consider Mary’s role against demons and the syllabus of errors in modern times.
Special thanks again to the Benedictine Nuns of Mary Queen of Apostles for allowing me to use their music as the bumpers to my iTunes sermons and podcasts.
This sermon considers the Ascension in light of the Old Testament.
aka Good Shepherd Sunday
This sermon recognizes the wolves that have caused the current crisis in the Catholic Church. In this sermon, I also describe the shepherds that God may be currently raising in order to shepherd the Church, as Christ and the early Apostles led and guarded the Church. This Sunday is appropriately called “Good Shepherd Sunday,” due to the Gospel from St. John chapter 10.
Today is the eclipsed feast day of St. Catherine of Siena in the old calendar. In line with today’s sermon, it is worth noting the seven things that God the Father told St. Catherine of Siena would restore the Catholic Church in times of crisis:
- Fiery Desire
- Endure much
- Cast the light of your patience into the darkness of perverse men.
- Don’t fear the world’s persecutions.
How can the Catholic Church be so dirty and yet “the Bride of Christ without blemish” at the same time? This is a sermon on Ecclesiology, which is defined as the study of the Church. The most difficult topic to explain in Ecclesiology is how the Church can be both human and divine at the same time.
The Mother of God appeared to a young Spanish prioress in the 16th century in Quito, Ecuador, asking her to suffer for the Catholic Church’s tribulations of the the 20th century. This is a Vatican-approved apparition of the Blessed Mother where Mother Mary actually told Ven. Mariana exactly what would happen to every sacrament. But Epiphany is all about the light that shines when the darkness is actually darkest. Where Christ has gone, so also will His Church follow. Bumper song credit: O Lux et Decus Hispaniae. (Oh light and glory of the Spanish peoples.)
Although Colorado’s Supermax is the federal prison that is featured on all the TLC shows, Colorado’s death row for our homegrown felons is actually on the Eastern Plains. For my second assignment as a priest, I was sent to a parish containing within her bounds that very Correctional Facility.
Upon arrival, I had a plan to reach not just the Catholics, but all the semi-professed Christians at the prison. I would hold a Bible Study called “What the First Christians Believed,” but not write “By Fr. Dave Nix” on the flyer. It was an immediate success. Many people from all denominations arrived. Great discussion ensued for the first two weeks. However, one non-dom felon with too much time on his hands (imagine that in America’s prisons) had learned…Hebrew. By week three, he jumped on my smallest inference to the Catholic faith, attempting to debate the meaning of New Testament Greek words transliterated into his Hebrew purview. By our fourth meeting at that enormous prison, a fight broke out between the Catholics and the Protestants. The guard arrived to protect me. No punches were thrown, but my cover was blown. As if the cassock hadn’t given it away, they now knew: I was a Catholic.
Numbers dwindled. Within three weeks, I was sitting in my Bible Study room with one man…a single black man from Brooklyn who was getting released in two weeks. That evening, we gazed across the hallway through the classroom windows to see another large room, filled with Muslims doing prostrations. Depressed, I asked him “Why do you think Islam is the number one growing religion in the world?” The man must have learned a lot in his prison sentence; He answered: “Because there you get what you see. No games with God. No loopholes.”
Rewind a few years earlier in seminary. I was saying to my friends that, as a priest, I would not have girls on the altar as acolytes. A formator overheard me and chimed in: “You wouldn’t want to be less generous than the Church.” Ok. I went away feeling corrected and, um, ungenerous.
But it hit me a bit later that the common ground between the two above stories is this: Is the mind of God found in the tradition of the Church or in the Church’s loopholes? Imagine that your 15 year old son or daughter had a curfew of 9pm, and “on very rare occasions” you allow her to come home at 11pm. What if she came home every night at 11pm and midnight? We would rightly conclude that there was something wrong with her sense of fatherhood.
Now consider that the Church has held a great many things sacred for many centuries, and how now dispensations are overruling. We must remember God’s words: “For I the Lord do not change.”—Malachi 3:6. Consider how, under great pressure from progressive bishops, Pope Paul VI hesitantly allowed communion in the hand to occasionally replace communion on the tongue in circumstances that almost seem to read “safe, rare and legal.” St. John Paul II was put under similar pressure to allow altar girls to occasionally join the army of boys on the altar. Dispensation…now become norm.
Did you know that the 1917 Code of Canon Law said that it is “forbidden” to marry a non-Catholic? The 1983 Code of Canon Law similarly says it is “prohibited” to marry a non-Catholic. Both codes refer to the dangers to salvation to the Catholic party (cf. Pope Pius XI’s Castii Conubii.) I’m not against the Church occasionally granting dispensations to a Catholic to marry a non-Catholic, but when was the last time you heard of a Tribunal reminding the couple that such norms are in place for the salvation of their eternal souls? Was the Apostle Paul’s admonition to be “equally yoked” purely the Revelation of an arbitrary Father? Or, is there any chance Our Father’s original plan was the most generous?
Liturgists (including Chief Liturgists) also need to consider whether rubrics be capricious…or from a reasonable God. For example, Vatican II reads that the Mass should be offered normally in Latin, but that the vernacular language may also be allowed. Which is the rule and which is the exception? Or, consider how Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI notes that even in apostolic times there was no precedent for the priest to face the people during the sacrifice of the Mass. Nowadays, however, that small loophole to the 2000 year-old Catholic (and Orthodox) norm has covered the globe. This was all for the sake of filling the parishes. Has it worked?
A point of dogma needs to be made: It is not just pious devotion, but it is actually the dogma of the Catholic Church that the Holy Spirit is the soul of the Church. Thus, in order to understand the generosity of the Fatherhood of God, we must consider the mind of the Church through tradition, through 2000 years, not just modern loopholes.
I think I could summarize Jesus’ message to the Pharisees in one sentence: “Stop playing games with God.” Jesus’ main message to the Pharisees was not to abolish the law (See Mt 5:17) nor overturn the necessity of the commandments for salvation (See Mt 19:17) nor even end liturgical sacrifice (1 Cor 5:7-8.) Living in a country with so many Protestant overtones, we nowadays tend to picture a Jesus who, being a bit of a flippant religious-cowboy, wanted to end the Jewish hierarchy. Even this is not true (See Mt 23:3.) Jesus admits that the Pharisees still remain on the “chair of Moses,” but “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness” (23:23). In other words, “Stop looking for the loopholes, and start living for God. He does not play human games based in human tradition.”
I believe there is a key to attract men to the Catholic Church. It’s to stop playing games with dispensations in the name of being “pastoral.” I’m not saying a system of hard-core rules is key to making disciples of all nations. Nor am I promoting those ultra-conservative men who talk to their wives like they talk to their daughters (both like slaves.) But think about what that man from Brooklyn recognized in those 20 young black men prostrating at the prison. He saw that these men were attracted to a way of life that was concrete. These Muslim men—most of whom grew up without fathers—suddenly found a solid and clear-thinking system of religion that did not require a PhD in theology to tell you the rules didn’t apply to you if you know how to play this or that theological game. No, those inner-city men had had enough childish games in their adolescence to land them in prison. Now, they had something clear-thinking, something the male mind longs for, even if it sunk its teeth into something as sick and violent as Islam.
If a religion without a loving Father (Islam) has attracted men without fathers, how much more will the plan of a loving Father change our nation if we can be clear-thinking and clear speaking? We don’t want to make Kouachi-brothers of a new militant-Catholic-bent, but see my point: How much more do Catholic men contain a capacity for reaching the inner-cities of America if we can become unafraid of a full Catholic vocabulary? The maternally-run suburbs of America could use some good men, too. We as Catholics have the unique ability to reveal both the mercy of God and the expectations of God to a hurting and very confused nation. The peace in the womb doesn’t begin with women. It begins with men exercising self-control and protecting the women in their lives. It is peace that Jesus seeks to give us, but not as the world gives it.
Most young Catholic men secretly long for coaches, priests and mentors who will actually believe in them as sons. Young men long to see their dads (biological and spiritual) keep the high bar, not found in the confessional of priests who tell the penitent that because his masturbation “is an addiction, it is not done with full consent.” That’s a copout of responsibility for one’s penitents. No man ever wanted to live within a “dispensation” of weakness. Rather, most young men actually respond to a tough coach who believes in them. They want to be told that they can reach the high bar of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. They want to give their lives away with other brothers.
In July of 2007, Pope Benedict wrote Summorum Pontificum to again promote the Extraordinary Form of the Mass. He had a very interesting line in there: “What earlier generations held as sacred, remains sacred and great for us too, and it cannot be all of a sudden entirely forbidden or even considered harmful.” This is an important sentence because it shows that God, as Father, does not change His mind for His family, based on the fads and whims of the time. “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”—Hebrews 13:8.
Mass attendance statistics are pretty good proof that our hearts resonate with something “eternal” more than “pastoral.” Why? Because there is protection and freedom in God’s eternal order found in the liturgy. There is protection in the house rules, the unfolding of the Universe, the beauty of the Church, the two-parent Family. Rules without relationship leads to rebellion. But relationship without rules leads to a surrender without content—indeed, a surrender that is short-lived.
To be sure, the Gospel is ever ancient and ever new, with new creativities of evangelization growing out of every century of the Church that were surprising and unexpected. But as GK Chesterton wrote: “The more I considered Christianity, the more I found that while it had established a rule and order, the chief aim of that order was to give room for good things to run wild.”
This was originally published under the title Why Pastoral Dispensations Lose Catholic Men.
This is a talk I gave tonight on the Cardinals confrontation of Pope Francis’ Amoris Laetitia. It is canonical, not prophetic. It is based on public revelation, not private revelation.