16 January 2010

Missals, Medjugorje, Nanny States, Homilies & Dissent

1).  In an earlier post you mentioned that the new English translation of the Missal had its problems.  Please elaborate.

First, I must confess that my Latin is nowhere near good enough to critique the translation as a translation.  I bow to the Gods of Latin on the issue of whether or not the Latin text has been accurately rendered into English.  My concern is aesthetic, that is, how the English reads to the native English speaker.  English is not a Romance language, not a language rooted in Latin like French, Italian, and Spanish.  If you want to read what a literal English translation of a well-written Latin text sounds like, try something by St. Augustine.  While working on my prayers books, I used excerpts from St Augustine in some of the meditations.  Re-working the literal English translations into something usable by modern English speakers was a terror.  My fear is that the long, complicated syntactical structure of Latin--when translated literally--will render long, complicated English sentences (e.g., a lot of dependent clauses, delayed or subdued verbal phrases, etc.).  Looking over some of the Missal rendering, this has happened.  My assumption here is that the English text should be readily understood by an audience.   This doesn't mean dumbing down the language to an 8th grade reading level (cf. ICEL), but it does mean we need to pay attention to how English speakers hear and process their native tongue.  No doubt Catholics will get used to the new language and grow in their appreciation for the Mass properly translated.  But it ain't gonna easy.

2).  Any thoughts on Cardinal Schonborn's visit and subsequent comments on Medjugorje?

I'll admit that I was a little surprised by the visit.  And his comments were really very surprising.  The Good Cardinal is a solid Dominican with impeccable orthodox credentials--he edited the Catechism!  This is not to say that support for the Medjugorje phenomenon indicates a dodgy theology.  It's just that the issue is theologically hot right now and for a cardinal of his stature  to be dipping into the boiling controversy seems unusual.  Of course, if the Medjugorje stuff gets Church approval, then he will come away looking rather prophetic, won't he?  I've noted many times before that I have no great issue with Marian apparitions.  Our Blessed Mother is perfectly capable of and free to appear when and if she so desires.  But the Keys to the Kingdom were handed to Peter and it is to Peter that Catholics must turn when we need guidance on what is and is not authentic Catholic teaching.  I've noticed a tendency among some Marian apparition enthusiasts to set these apparitions and their locutions up as a sort of alternative magisterium.  There is no alternative magisterium.

3).  You use the term "Nanny State" a lot.  What does is mean?

Obviously a derogatory term, nanny state refers to the tendency of the state over time to treat free citizens as children in its charge rather than as adults that it serves.  It just so happens that right now in the U.S. the nanny state movers and shakers are on the political left.  But there's nothing special about this.  Historically, right-wing nannies are at least as common as left-wing nannies.  The basic idea is that the state situates itself into the lives of citizens in such a way that the citizens become wards of the state.  The goal is to establish a permanent voting majority for the nanny state party by making it difficult if not impossible for any opposition party to oppose its policies w/o seeming to attack those dependent on the ruling party's largess.  For example, in Europe, there is almost no difference btw left and right parties when it comes to the social welfare state.  Both sides eagerly defend the benefits of what is essentially a socialist culture.  The left promises more services and the right just promises that those same services will be delivered more efficiently.  Those who call for a radical restructuring of the welfare system are marginalized as kooks.  Voters simply will not vote for any politician that promises to reduce the generous benefits that flow from Nanny State.

4).  Some of your homilies are good, but too many of them are way too deep for me.  You should simplify them so average people can understand them.

You are echoing the most common criticism I get about my homilies.  They are too dense for comfortable digestion.  I've taken this criticism to heart over the years and made an effort to streamline my homilies so that the message isn't lost in the rhetoric.  Looking back over my earlier homilies, I can see where this critique is spot on.  Too often I got carried away in having fun with language and image and went way overboard in composing unnecessarily complex homilies.  In my defense, my brain does not work in linear fashion; that is, my thought patterns are elliptical rather than syllogistic.  This makes for good poetry but not good preaching.  My hope is that I have managed to wrangle this temptation into some kind of submission w/o dumbing down content.  One thing I refuse to do is to assume that Catholics are stupid, wanting only pablum and platitudes in their preaching.  It's a fine wire to walk. . .help keep me balanced by commenting frequently!

5).  You and your fans seem to loathe any kind of dissent from Church teaching.  Is there no place in the Church for good faith disagreement?

Of course there is!  You couldn't put Ambrose, Augustine, Aquinas, and Bonaventure in same room and not expect some disagreement.  Catholic orthodoxy is incredibly generous and incredibly broad.  Dissent doesn't mean disagreement.  Dissent is a public declaration that the Church has incorrectly taught a significant tenet of the faith.  IOW, the Church has taught an error.  Dissenters often confuse the unwillingness of the Church to accept their views with an unwillingness on the part of the Church to listen to their views.  The sharpest weapon of the dissenters is "process."  Let's keep this question open in a dialogue until all views are heard.  The thrust of this tactic sounds reasonable until you realize that its real purpose is to keep us all talking until everyone agrees with the dissenter.  Imagine for a moment that the Church decided to ordain women.  Do you think that supporters of women's ordination would agree to keep the question in dialogue?  Of course not.  They would declare the question settled and anyone who suggested that we revisit the issue would be labeled a dissenter!  You already see this sort of thing happening with Church teaching on social justice issues.  It's important to distinguish between doubt and dissent.  There are a few Church teachings that I doubt.  My assumption however is that I simply don't understand the teachings.  I assent to them as conclusions by holding my doubts in suspension.  Dissenters tend to do the exact opposite.  They assume that b/c they have a doubt about a teaching that they are free to reject that teaching.  Cardinal Newman famously noted that a thousand doubts do not make a single dissent.  Basically, don't assume that b/c you are smart that you are smarter than 2,000 years of Church teaching!

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  1. Isn't Cardinal Shoenborn the one who let a painting be put in a museum of Jesus and the apostles having an orgy at the last supper? Right across from the cathedral, if I'm not mistaken? The one he removed only after a flood of complaints?

    Isn't he the one who presided over that disaster of a youth mass a few years ago?

    Now, the University of Dallas also has an art director (professor) who's into blasphemous paintings, and the pope had a wacky liturgist for a while, so I know that things happen. But you add the Cardinal's earlier actions with what appears to be a clear act of defiance towards the local ordinary and I'm having a hard time labeling him as "conservative" or "orthodox", unless that's in comparison to the shenanigans that routinely go on in Austria (which is his see, by the way).

  2. Anonymous8:51 AM

    Dissidents saying that all they want to do is dialog is like zombies saying all we want to do is eat your brains.

  3. Actually, I believe it was "a thousand difficulties do not make a doubt". As I in, "I accept this teaching but have difficulty understanding how it can be true" vs. "I do not believe that this teaching is true."

  4. Anonymous12:17 PM

    Actually, I believe it was "a thousand difficulties do not make a doubt". As I in, "I accept this teaching but have difficulty understanding how it can be true" vs. "I do not believe that this teaching is true."

    I think you have it correct. Like when non-Catholics scour through every word and deed of every obscure medieval pope looking for naughtiness. Scandalous behavior by clegy might make believing the claims of the Church difficult, it doesn't make it impossible. Doubt is an act of the will, not the intellect.

  5. templariidvm1:02 PM

    Can you come out and talk to my parish regarding doubt and dissent??? I would love to hear that preached out here on the left coast of the US.

    Thanks for your blog!

  6. Fr. Philip,

    PLEASE do not 'simplify' your homilies. Continue to abide by the Spirit's impulse, not our individual demands and preferences, in writing your homilies.

    With the current dearth of consistent quality homilies in the Church, I propose that listening to a homily that is "over our heads" on occasion is a small price to pay. People: swallow your pride, offer it up, and read Scripture and the Catechism to update your knowledge if you don't understand the content of a preacher's homily ...

  7. Padre', don't change a thing. As a kid, I spent a lot of time around adults. I didn't always understand what they were talking about, or the meaning of some of the words they used, but it engendered in me a curiousity to learn. I looked up the words I didn't know, learned meanings and proper usage, as well as learnbed to think on concepts I didn't understand. I learned. Keep it up!

  8. Cardinal Schonborn faxes letter to Medjugorje Bishop following private audience.


  9. Re: #5


    Just a question that's been nagging at me for a few days, and I hope you don't think me rude or anything for asking: You comment rather negatively on dissenters' emphasis on "process," basically keeping the question, whatever it is, open until they've won enough people to their side that they can declare victory and close the issue. But isn't that pretty much what we're trying to do with the abortion issue? The legal (NOT moral) right to abortion is effectively settled in this country, but our side is trying to keep it as "unsettled" and open as possible until we have enough power to definitively close it in favor of the unborn. So is the problem with this tactic in and of itself, or with the end goal of its users?
    If you disagree with my assessment, please enlighten me. Thank you, Father - keep up the good work!

  10. Bill, good question...

    Your analogy is somewhat flawed. Decisions made by the Church are not subject to democratic revision. In fact, most dissidents based their public opposition to select Church teachings on appeals to democratic principles that simply do not apply to the Church. Once the process has runs its course and the magisterium pronounces de fide on an issue--it's closed.

    Abortion is not a settled political issue by any stretch. That we are still fighting against it in huge numbers some 35 yrs after it was forced on us by the S.C. tells us that. That all races have equal access to public accommodations is settled. Abortion? No.

  11. Father,

    Point taken. They are two very different contexts, which does throw a bit of a monkey wrench in the analogy.

    And as to abortion being a "settled political issue," I guess that's just my native pessimism showing...

  12. http://medjugorje1.blogspot.com/2013/04/medjugorje-commission-cardinal.html