Friday, May 30, 2008
Melancholicus’ life had been rather static, changeless and wholly unfulfilling since his departure from the seminary, and despite the fact that he makes a reasonable amount of money, life seemed to him to be going nowhere. And so he started this blog to give vent to his bitterness and frustration. A mere four days after first posting to Infelix Ego, very much by chance, he met the woman to whom he is now engaged, although he never dared imagine at the time that it would come to this!
Almighty God does indeed work, as they say, in mysterious ways, and he often gives their hearts desire to those who love Him when they least expect it.
Owing to the fact that Melancholicus is an Irishman resident in Ireland, and his fiancee an American resident in the U.S., someone must be prepared to uproot themselves and move permanently to the country of the other, if any attempt at married life is to be possible at all.
Accordingly, the wedding shall take place in Ireland (in this church, Deo volente), but our conjugal life shall be transacted in the bride’s home town in the state of Washington. And so Melancholicus shall move to Tacoma, attempt to adjust to permanent residency in the U.S. and try to find a reasonably well-paying job (easier said than done in these times of economic uncertainty) to support his wife and, ultimately, whatever children it may please God to grant us.
He will also have, for the first time in his life, to obtain a mortgage and buy a house, which prospect he finds perfectly terrifying, although he is looking forward finally to the challenge of being paterfamilias in his own domain.
Speaking of children, these will of course be brought up in the knowledge and reverence of Catholic Tradition, which shall include attendance at the Traditional Mass, and they shall be as strangers to the rite known commonly as Novus Ordo.
All this shall not take place for at least another year, since we are not due to tie the knot until July 2009. In the meantime, however, Melancholicus shall continue posting to Infelix Ego on matters of religious and political interest, and on whatever subjects succeed in claiming his passing interest, for as long as time and workload permit him.
For this, to quote Churchill, is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.
And let us say once again with the psalmist, A Domino factum est istud, et mirabile in oculis nostris!
THE thoughts of His Heart are from generation to generation: To deliver their souls from death, and feed them in famine. Ps. Rejoice in the Lord, O ye just: praise becometh the upright.
O GOD, Who in the Heart of Thy Son, wounded by our sins, dost mercifully bestow on us infinite treasures of love: grant, we beseech Thee, that whilst we render It the devout homage of our affection, we may also fulfil our duty of worthy satisfaction. Through the same Our Lord.
Melancholicus has a strong devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and so is all the more abashed to have forgotten this holy feast. On this day it is customary for devout souls to make an act of reparation to the Sacred Heart in atonement for all their sins, negligences and offences, and for those of the whole world. It is praiseworthy that this act be accompanied by confession of sins, hearing of holy Mass, and reception of holy communion.
An Act of Reparation to the Sacred Heart (Iesu dulcissime)
Most sweet Jesus, whose overflowing charity for men is requited by so much forgetfulness, negligence and contempt, behold us prostrate before Thee, eager to repair by a special act of homage the cruel indifference and injuries to which Thy loving Heart is everywhere subject.
Mindful, alas! that we ourselves have had a share in such great indignities, which we now deplore from the depths of our hearts, we humbly ask Thy pardon and declare our readiness to atone by voluntary expiation, not only for our own personal offenses, but also for the sins of those, who, straying far from the path of salvation, refuse in their obstinate infidelity to follow Thee, their Shepherd and Leader, or, renouncing the promises of their baptism, have cast off the sweet yoke of Thy law.
We are now resolved to expiate each and every deplorable outrage committed against Thee; we are now determined to make amends for the manifold offenses against Christian modesty in unbecoming dress and behavior, for all the foul seductions laid to ensnare the feet of the innocent, for the frequent violations of Sundays and holydays, and the shocking blasphemies uttered against Thee and Thy Saints. We wish also to make amends for the insults to which Thy Vicar on earth and Thy priests are subjected, for the profanation, by conscious neglect or terrible acts of sacrilege, of the very Sacrament of Thy Divine Love; and lastly for the public crimes of nations who resist the rights and teaching authority of the Church which Thou hast founded.
Would that we were able to wash away such abominations with our blood. We now offer, in reparation for these violations of Thy divine honor, the satisfaction Thou once made to Thy Eternal Father on the Cross and which Thou continuest to renew daily on our Altars; we offer it in union with the acts of atonement of Thy Virgin Mother and all the Saints and of the pious faithful on earth; and we sincerely promise to make recompense, as far as we can with the help of Thy grace, for all neglect of Thy great love and for the sins we and others have committed in the past. Henceforth, we will live a life of unswerving faith, of purity of conduct, of perfect observance of the precepts of the Gospel and especially that of charity. We promise to the best of our power to prevent others from offending Thee and to bring as many as possible to follow Thee.
O loving Jesus, through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mother, our model in reparation, deign to receive the voluntary offering we make of this act of expiation; and by the crowning gift of perseverance keep us faithful unto death in our duty and the allegiance we owe to Thee, so that we may all one day come to that happy home, where with the Father and the Holy Spirit Thou livest and reignest, God, forever and ever. Amen.
Amen indeed! They don’t come more Catholic than that now, do they? This act of reparation is also indulgenced, being listed in the new Enchiridion Indulgentiarum of Pope Paul VI. Publicly making this act on the feast of the Sacred Heart merits a plenary indulgence (subject to the usual conditions, of course). On other days, or in private recitation, the indulgence is partial.
Finally, before we close, it would be an impiety to discourse upon the Sacred Heart of Jesus without at least an honourable mention of St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, the apostle of devotion thereto.
Wednesday, May 14, 2008
The reason for this is another trip to Tacoma to visit his sweetheart, during which time it is hardly likely he will have regular access to computers and such ... Melancholicus is sure there is no need for him to elaborate further.
Blogging will commence again in late May or early June — depending on workload and how long it takes him to recover from his jetlag.
In the meantime, gentle reader, please say a prayer for your humble host, that he might have a safe and pleasant journey, and that he might not have to endure again the bizarre (and rather frightening) interrogation by U.S. immigration at Sea/Tac to which he was subjected in March.
With grateful thanks,
Infelix ego, Melancholicus, peccator.
Tony Blair, the ultimate cafeteria Catholic and former prime minister of the UK, is currently in Jerusalem, ’mediating’ between the Israelis and the Palestinians, or at least trying to.
While listening to the Today programme on BBC Radio 4 this morning, Melancholicus was sure he heard the presenter say that Mr. Blair was trying to organise the Palestinians into “a viable nuclear state”.
Yes, yes, we know what he really meant, but what an unfortunate choice of words! With a vest like that, the Palestinians could give the world the mother of all suicide bombers.
Surely Melancholicus must have misheard.
Tuesday, May 13, 2008
— Mark Antony (William Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, Act III, scene 2)
Melancholicus occasionally relieves the tedium of his day job by listening to his music library on iTunes, that marvellous piece of software brought to us by those good people at Apple. One of the best features of iTunes is the iTunes store, where one can acquire one’s favourite releases with a simple click of the mouse; no more weary pilgrimages to HMV on Grafton street, with the concomitant headache of trying to find parking in Dublin city centre. There is of course a fee for this service; no such thing as a free lunch.
One of the best features of the iTunes store is that one can purchase audiobooks, and Melancholicus has over the past few months acquired a number of these — Aesop’s fables, Claire Tomalin’s biography of Samuel Pepys, Cyril Robinson’s History of Greece, Chesterton’s Orthodoxy, Milton’s Paradise Lost, Capote’s In Cold Blood, various Shakespeare plays, the New International Version of the Bible, and others too numerous to mention.
Browsing about yesterday for something new, he came across a book on the Reformation, listened to the free sample, thought “this sounds interesting!” and decided to buy it. And so he downloaded the work to his iPod.
Melancholicus wasn’t listening to his new audiobook for very long before he became aware of a definite and unmistakable bias in its author’s approach to his subject. The fellow’s name is G. L. Mosse; Melancholicus googled him and found — O dear! — that Mosse, who died in 1999, was a Jew. Not only that, but a left-winger. And a homosexual. All of which combine to render him no friend, to say the very least, of the Catholic Church.
So Melancholicus was bitten, having paid the princely sum of €14.95 for an erroneous book, a work which — if the Church were functioning normally with all her faculties intact — ought to be on the Index.
If Melancholicus had known what he was getting, he would never have bought the thing in the first place. It’s always a good idea to google the names of authors with whom one is unfamiliar before paying good money for their works. Paying first and googling later is like shutting the stable door ... anyway, you get the picture.
Mosse’s Reformation is interesting enough for readers who know their history, since it is a clear and succinct restatement of the protestant myth. Readers unfamiliar with the sixteenth century, however, should be on their guard. Mosse does not present his public with an accurate account of what precisely an indulgence is, whether through ignorance or malice — I suppose it would be a charitable conclusion to blame his ignorance, but as the doctrine of the Church on indulgences is not excessively complicated and it should not have been difficult for one with Mosse’s intellectual prowess to grasp correctly, I fear that malice may in fact have been the motivating factor. Hence he fails to distinguish between the right use of indulgences and the abuse thereof and, with the protestant revolutionaries, ends by throwing out the baby with the bath water.
Mosse’s Luther is likewise not an historical figure, but an exercise in hagiography. Instead of a well-rounded presentation of Luther the man, what we are given instead is a two-dimensional cardboard saint, a character that has stepped right out of pious protestant legend. Mosse’s Luther is a towering scholar, a fearless crusader for truth, a thoroughly admirable man of unimpeachable honesty and goodwill. The real Luther was much more complicated than Mosse would have us believe, and his more audacious acts and statements are glossed over, explained away, or altogether omitted as being piis auribus offensivum. He does not whitewash the corrupt venality of the Renaissance popes, so why should he whitewash Luther? He is supposed to be an historian after all — not a homilist.
This is as far as Melancholicus has penetrated into this work, for he can only tolerate it in small doses, but he would be surprised if it did not continue in much the same vein in which it began. One might wonder why Mosse should evince such enthusiasm for Luther and for the Reformation generally, since as a Jew he ought to have been disinterested and impartial, if not actually repulsed by Luther’s rabid anti-semitism. The reason, of course, is that Mosse was not a religious man at all, but a rationalist; and whatever one may think of Martin Luther, the movement he initiated or protestant Christianity generally, there is no denying that the sixteenth-century revolt against the Church ushered in a new age of unbelief, for if one can refuse to hear the teaching of the pope of Rome, preferring the Bible interpreted according to one’s own private authority, one can end by constructing for oneself a view of reality which owes nothing to Scripture, or Tradition, or authority, and everything — including even the existence of God — to one’s own tastes and fancies. In inaugurating the Reformation, and in letting the cat out of the bag with private Biblical interpretation, Luther is the father of rationalism, despite his insistence that faith must crush all reason and understanding. The Reformation makes the first step on the road to atheism. The so-called Enlightenment, with its scepticism and naturalism, makes the second. And modernism completes the journey, as a glance at the remains of the Catholic Church in our time is sufficient to show.
From Catholic World News:
Saudis again weigh building Catholic church
Riyadh, May. 12, 2008 (CWNews.com) - The Vatican has renewed talks with Saudi Arabian leaders about the possible construction of a Catholic church in that country, Vatican Radio reports.
Vatican officials have confirmed that in November 2007, when King Abdullah became the first reigning Saudi monarch to visit the Vatican, he was pressed by Pope Benedict about the possibility of allowing a parish for the estimated 800,000 Catholics -- mostly foreign laborers -- who now live in Saudi Arabia. Although Saudi law does not allow public worship for followers of any faith other than Islam, King Abdullah reportedly signaled his willingness to consider building a Catholic parish church.
In March an influential Saudi leader -- the president of the Middle East Center for Strategic Studies, Anwatr al Oshqi -- announced that the government had decided against proceeding with plans for a Catholic church. That announcement was unofficial, but because it was broadcast by a television station controlled by the Saudi royal family, it was widely interpreted as an authoritative signal that the matter was closed. But Vatican Radio now reports that the conversations continue several weeks later.
How does one say “we’ll let you know” in Arabic?
There is no way that Saudi Arabia — the home of Wahhabi extremism — will ever permit the construction of a Catholic church within the borders of the same country which contains the centre of the universe. When all is said and done, no outward expression of any religion other than Mohammedanism is permitted in that country. There are no churches. Christians are forbidden to gather for common prayer, even in private homes. The importing of Bibles, missals, and prayer books of any description is outlawed. It is unlawful to use a rosary, or to have one in one’s possession. One may not wear a cross, crucifix, miraculous medal, scapular or anything of that nature in Saudi Arabia. The Islamist ethos of that country is all pervasive, and non-Muslims cannot help but know their place in such a society.
However, if God wills that a church to His honour and glory be constructed in that unbelieving land, so shall it be. It will probably be a humble edifice, devoid of steeple, cross, bells and the like — and probably devoid of windows also — and who knows how long it will last before being firebombed or blasted to smithereens by jihadi fanatics?
We await the outcome of this one. But Melancholicus will not be holding his breath.
The person in question recently published remarks on his blog which can be construed as running contrary to the teachings of the Church on the subject of same-sex attraction. His post generated a storm of controversy, as the number of comments (nearly 500 at the last count), and their heated content, will testify.
A subsequent post contained remarks on — I shit you not — the gender realignment of children which, if intended seriously, can only identify their author as a kook. But Melancholicus feels this latter post must surely have been written to bait the fellow’s already infuriated readership rather than advance shocking deviancies, so he will say no more about that.
It is always a sad and unfortunate affair whenever a previously sound and orthodox writer goes off the rails, and begins publishing opinions which cannot be reconciled with profession of the Catholic faith.
While Melancholicus was dismayed at the fall of the person in question, he was disturbed most of all by the uncharitable nature of the criticisms and the personal attacks this person received in his commbox. The spite and fury wherewith the fellow’s readers turned on him is truly lamentable; they would have done better to say an Ave for his erring soul rather than savage him after the manner of a rottweiler. Harsh criticism always has the effect of hardening a man in his position. Did not St. Francis de Sales remind us that we would catch more flies with a spoonful of honey than with a barrelful of vinegar?
To their credit, some of the commentators were likewise disturbed by the rage evident in their peers. One remarked sardonically, “These Christians, how they love one another!” One of the cheapest remarks was (on a different blog dealing with the same issue) “...when he started linking to Rod Dreher a few weeks later, I knew all I needed to know”.
So what if he links to Rod Dreher? Is it not his blog, to link to whomsoever he chooses? And poor Rod Dreher needs prayers, not derision.
Rod Dreher is now a pariah among Catholics since he left the Roman communion in favour of Eastern Orthodoxy in 2006. His departure was likewise accompanied by shrill cries of condemnation and horror. Having read Mr. Dreher’s account of his reasons for leaving the Church, Melancholicus is saddened and feels for the man. He would feel keenly for any man in a similar situation. Melancholicus has a peculiar empathy for those who leave the Church under such circumstances, since not so long ago, he was on the verge of leaving the Church himself, and for reasons not entirely dissimilar to those of Mr. Dreher (as well as a certain imbalance of mind owing to personal circumstances, which may have rendered any such departure, had it occurred, material rather than strictly formal).
Now our erstwhile popular Catholic blogger has not left the Church, as far as we know. But who knows, really, how life is treating him these days, or what his personal circumstances are?
Accordingly, Melancholicus would ask the readers of blogs to show some restraint whenever they come up against a post they don’t like. Melancholicus has read a great many blog posts that annoyed him, provoked him, infuriated him, and not a few peddling blatant untruths, but he has always resisted the temptation to shout back in anger at the author. We don’t know what goes on in people’s lives, and if we knew first-hand the excruciating personal difficulties our neighbour may be wrestling with, we might be abashed and inclined to be more circumspect in our response to his postings.
Men are possessed of a radical freedom, a freedom even to reject the sovereign good in eternity. A man may choose the true and the good — or he may choose otherwise. Thanks to the darkness of the intellect as a result of original sin, a man may have a hard time discerning the true and the good, and may often arrive at mistaken conclusions, often influenced in his thinking by other factors and external pressures. God Himself does not compel adherence to the truth, so why should the readers of a blog expect unfailing adherence to truth as a matter of course? No private person is infallible. Even popes have in their day uttered nonsense incompatible with the teachings of the Magisterium.
So Melancholicus will not condemn the unfortunate blogger, not because he is sympathy with the fellow’s views (he most certainly isn’t), but because he chooses to reserve condemnation for those who truly merit it — bishops, theologians, Jesuits, the unelected and unaccountable European Commission, idealistic socialist twits, and those mad Moslems.
Friday, May 09, 2008
The DVD provides a thorough explanation and demonstration of the traditional Latin Mass (the “extraordinary form”, as they now call it), with an introduction by the cardinal prefect of the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei and a spiritual commentary on the Mass by Fr. Calvin Goodwin FSSP.
Here is a trailer for the DVD, which features Fr. Gregory Pendergraft FSSP as the celebrant and Fr. Joseph Lee FSSP as the server. The trailer is narrated by deacon Matthew Goddard, of whom Melancholicus is a former classmate.
Simply beautiful, and what a nostalgia trip for your humble host!
Saturday, May 03, 2008
In the aftermath of his departure from seminary in the summer of 2005, he moved back to his mother’s house in Wicklow for a bit, to relax and unwind and attempt to gather his scattered wits.
It was not the best choice for a quiet life, for not only did Melancholicus have to adjust to sharing the house with a boisterous, half-grown collie pup, but his mother was having a patio laid in the back garden, and the gentleman hired for this work was nothing short of a cowboy.
The two of us were at our wits’ end trying to cope with the unreliability of this person, and with the tremendous mess he left behind him in the back garden. In the end he was dismissed, and my mother found an able young man who was not only able to finish the job and clear up the mess, but who offered advice and suggestions as to what should be done next, and carried out some landscaping work also. Today there are twin flower beds, a garden seat between them, and a little wall along the border of the lawn, all of which are his handiwork.
This young man was a hard, conscientious worker, and an honest man, who charged no more than his due. His obvious good will and good character impressed us all.
Recently, my mother was thinking of having some further work done in the garden now that the good weather has returned. Naturally, her first thought was to turn to the same young man who had been so helpful three years previously.
Unable to find him at his old number, she called various tradesmen in an attempt to locate him, and in the process discovered that the young man was dead.
He had committed suicide in June 2007.
This news was a shock to us all. We did not know the young man well, but he was a man of obvious talent and virtue, and ought to have had his whole life ahead of him. He can hardly have been more than about 25 years of age.
We do not know the reason why, and it is useless to speculate. We cannot guess what really goes on in people’s lives. Since he did not know the young man’s family, Melancholicus does not feel that it is proper to divulge his name. Nevertheless, he wishes to ask his readers to say in their charity a Pater, Ave and Gloria for the repose of the young man’s soul.
Do not be troubled by his anonymity, for almighty God knows for whom you pray.
To lay violent hands upon oneself is, objectively speaking, a grievous sin, one that merits eternal separation from God. But for such a sin to be mortal, it must be done with full knowledge of its gravity and with full consent of the will. It is now generally recognised that suicidal acts proceed from grave anguish and such disturbance of mind that the possibility of full knowledge and consent is exceedingly remote. Of old, the Church refused an ecclesiastical funeral to suicides, who likewise could not be interred in consecrated ground. Happily, these restrictions have now been charitably rescinded, and we must never consider it a futile exercise to pray and have Masses said for the soul of one who has taken his own life.
There was a lady in nineteenth-century France whose husband had killed himself by leaping from a bridge. In despair over the prospects for his eternal destiny, she resolved to visit the holy Curé of Ars, St. Jean Vianney. Arriving in the village, she went to the parish church, where the Curé was hearing confessions. When she saw the vast crowds in the church and the lengthy queues of those waiting to go to confession, she despaired of ever being able to meet the Curé and tell him about her husband. So she knelt down to say a quick prayer, intending to depart again immediately. While she knelt in prayer, the door of the confessional opened, and the Curé emerged, coming straight towards her. To her amazement — for they had never previously met and he could not have known who she was — he came over to her and said, “Do not be afraid, my child. Between the bridge and the water there is room for the grace of God.”
Between the bridge and the water there is room for the grace of God.
What merciful graces God gives to His faithful through His holy saints! Melancholicus has always taken much comfort from this story. How merciful is God, how great His love. Melancholicus does not know whether the young man was a Catholic, a Protestant, or of no religion at all. But at this point, it doesn’t matter. In your kindness, gentle reader, please pray for his soul.
May God reward you.
Thursday, May 01, 2008
The purpose of this trip was work-related and of academic nature, hence his visit was to the pontifical university rather than to the seminary, although since both institutions share the same campus it was an easy thing to visit them together.
Arriving early in the morning and with time to spare before the conference he was attending began, Melancholicus decided to kill some time by browsing in the campus bookshop. As might be expected, he was drawn to the liturgy/theology/spirituality section particularly, which he found a more painful experience even than Cathedral Books.
This is the very bookshop that stocks the textbooks used in their studies by Ireland’s future priests. Melancholicus marvelled at all the modernist pap on display with a horrified yet fascinated mien, in much the same fashion as he might view a train wreck. There was little in the way of Catholic reading; he does not remember seeing St. Thomas, or even a commentary thereon. The liturgy section was full of those ubiquitous Sunday Missals (Novus Ordo, of course) and copies of The Divine Office (Pauline, of course), as well as the inevitable do-it-yourself liturgy manuals, but there was nary a whit to do with the ‘extraordinary’ form. As far as Maynooth campus bookshop is concerned, there might never have been a motu proprio. There was the usual heretical boilerplate by the likes of Hans Küng, Geoffrey Robinson, and even Richard Dawkins (!); there were loads of airy-fairy and dissenting Columba titles; there were at least some Church documents, but no solid encyclicals (Pascendi, as one might imagine, was not stocked). The spirituality in evidence was that of Anthony De Mello and Henri Nouwen rather than that of the saints. All in all a great disappointment, but no less than Melancholicus would have expected for an institution in such an advanced state of meltdown as the national seminary.
After the morning sessions of the conference had concluded, Melancholicus and his fellow delegates were treated to lunch in the historic surroundings of Pugin Hall, which formerly was the seminary refectory but now functions as a mere college eaterie; even members of the general public can walk in if they so wish. Any clerical students actually dining in Pugin Hall during your blogger’s visit would have been so carefully disguised in mufti as to be indistinguishable from the lay students—clerical dress being strictly proscribed by the college authorities for reasons of their own.
While walking through the cloister after leaving the refectory, Melancholicus paused to view the paintings and photographs hanging on the walls, paintings of prelates past and present (the most recent being that of his eminence Desmond Cardinal Connell, sometime archbishop of Dublin (quite a handsome portrait even if the blue background is a little too strong) and class photos of each year’s ordination class, in some instances going back decades. He noted that the number of faces in each class photo significantly decreased as one drew nearer to the present day, a testimony to the gravity of the damage inflicted by implementation of the conciliar revolution on priestly vocations in this as well as every other western country.
Melancholicus did not stay long at each photo, though occasionally he would see a face he knew, a priest now working in such and such a parish in the Dublin diocese, or a priest now fallen away from his vocation. He thought, in some bitterness, about how all these men had been betrayed and brainwashed by the revolutionaries that had been supposed to educate them in religion and prepare them for the Catholic priesthood, how they had been given serpents instead of fish and stones instead of bread, even to the extent that their heads are now filled with nonsense incompatible with the Christian faith and their apostolate weakened correspondingly.
In somewhat grim and pensive mood, Melancholicus was then arrested by a photo of another priest he recognised — Monsignor Míceál Ledwith, sometime president of St. Patrick’s college, and once tipped for appointment to an episcopal See. He was aghast that the college authorities have not seen fit to remove Ledwith’s photo, but have left it on public display in the cloister, as though Ledwith were a priest in good standing whose reputation is beyond reproach. Not many people know that Monsignor Ledwith (whose departure from office was accompanied by dark rumours of sexual impropriety with seminarians) is now living in Washington state, and teaches—wait for it!—at the New Age neo-pagan Ramtha School of Enlightenment run by JZ Knight. I’m not kidding — the reader who cares for such things will find Ledwith’s bio on the Ramtha website here, as well as links to his bizarre writings and broadcasts—things with such wondrous titles as The Great Questions in the Hamburger Universe and What The Bleep Do We Know!?. Kooky stuff, and no mistake. The recent history of the Church contains innumerable examples of clerics who went barmy, abandoned their priesthood and devoted themselves to left-wing politics or to some dotty ideology, but Ledwith has to be the weirdest of them all.
Before the afternoon session of the conference began, Melancholicus attempted to view the interior of the stunningly beautiful college chapel (Pugin, of course), but the doors were locked, so he was unable to do so. So he then headed away from the seminary, back to the north campus, passing by this curious-looking statute. It is a carving—in a very modern style, much at odds with the architecture of the seminary—of the late holy father, John Paul II, enfolding two children in his embrace and looking very unfortunately like a shell-toting insect in the process. Speaking of beetles—or should that be beatles?—some wag apparently christened the statue “John Paul, George and Ringo” when it was first unveiled, an amusing epithet which much outrages the John-Paul-The-Great piety of the humourless neo-orthodox, and the name has since stuck. Melancholicus was in the company of a northern protestant at the time, so he didn’t mind sharing a good laugh at it with his companion. And then it was back to the conference for the rest of the day’s deliberations.
And thus it was, this once proud seminary, which was once filled to its 800-man capacity, producing sufficient priests not only for all the dioceses of Ireland but for the foreign missions as well, now barely hanging on and laicised practically to the point of being closed altogether. Melancholicus was once considering going to Maynooth, back in the late 1990s when he was discerning a possible vocation to the priesthood in the Dublin archdiocese and before he had discovered the FSSP. But reading an alarming exposé of the wickedness, turpitude and heterodoxy of the seminary published in The Brandsma Review by a clerical student (who had to remain anonymous for obvious reasons), as well as viewing that jaw-droppingly astounding True Lives documentary on RTÉ about the lives of three seminarists, each of whom clearly had problems—and one of them was later ordained!—quickly convinced him of the wisdom of pursuing his vocation elsewhere. Talk about an advertisement for the clerical life!
Melancholicus has not heard any fresh news from inside Maynooth for many years, so he is unable to say whether the dire situation which obtained there at the turn of the century has been in any way ameliorated. Time will tell, but so far there is little sign of any improvement.
Because this kind of thing happens all the time. From Catholic World News:
Japanese bishops appeal to Vatican in clash with NeoCatechumenate
Vatican, Apr. 30, 2008 (CWNews.com) - A delegation of bishops from Japan visited the Vatican this week, hoping to resolve a conflict with the NeoCatechumenal Way, which operates a seminary in Japan, the UCA News service reports.
The visit by four Japanese bishops was the third such trip to Rome. "We hate to come so often but we had to give the serious nature of the problem that needs to be resolved", Archbishop Okada of Tokyo, president of the bishops' conference, told UCA News.
The archbishop said that the NeoCatechumenate had caused "sharp painful division and strife within the Church in Japan." He characterized the lay movement as a group engaged in "powerful sect-like activity" that was damaging the unity of the small Catholic community in Japan.
The Neo-Catechumenal Way is one of the so-called “new ecclesial movements” that, like fungus on damp and rotting vegetation, have mushroomed within the Church since the ’sixties and ’seventies.
These movements are generally hailed by both clergy and laity alike as evidence of “life” and “vitality” and “the movement of the spirit” in the post-conciliar Church. In the eyes of the apologists for aggiornamento, the new ecclesial movements are among the greatest fruits of the council, and a clear sign of the renewal of the Church that has proceeded from it. Pope John Paul II was a veritable embodiment of this view, as his frequent praise and endorsements of such groups as the Neo-catechumenate and Focolare testify. However, the support of the late pontiff for these movements was based on his own private view of them as a wonderful manifestation of renewal; this not being a doctrine of either faith or morals taught always and everywhere by the Church but instead a matter of individual opinion, no Catholic is bound to accept the late Holy Father’s views on the matter.
Melancholicus is at one with the conciliar apologists and with John Paul II in regarding these movements as indeed a fruit of the council. But rather than viewing them as the first flowers of the new springtime, Melancholicus considers them as symptoms of post-conciliar decline; they are weeds rather than vines in the vineyard of the Lord. Many of these movements are characterised by a spirit of independence from the rest of the Church. Some are bedevilled by scandal, corruption and rank disobedience. The mentality of a sect is in many instances observable in their adherents. Their fidelity to core Catholic doctrines is questionable. The leaders of such groups, far from being persons of undoubted sanctity, often display attitudes and behaviours that befit more the leaders of a cult. In such situations, loyalty to the group and to its leader becomes much more important than loyalty to the Church, or fidelity to the teachings of the Magisterium.
The Neo-Catechumenal Way displays all these warning signs, at least to those with eyes to see and ears to hear. That they have clashed with the Japanese bishops is not at all surprising, given their behaviour elsewhere and on past occasions. That the Japanese bishops have had to make four such trips to Rome in an attempt to rein in this out-of-control sect is more than a little disquieting. It is high time now for the Holy See to revoke the favour so ill-advisedly and precipitously granted by John Paul II to this rogue splinter group and demand that it fall into line with the teachings of the Church and be obedient to the local bishops.
Otherwise the time might be right for its suppression.
O men of Galilee, why gaze ye in astonishment at the sky? Alleluia. Just as ye have seen him ascend into heaven, so, in like manner, shall he return, alleluia, alleluia, alleluia. Ps. All nations, clap your hands; shout unto God with a voice of joy.
Grant, we beseech Thee, Almighty God, that we, who believe Thine Only Begotten Son our Redeemer, to have ascended on this day into heaven, may ourselves also dwell in mind amongst heavenly things. Through the same Our Lord.
In the words of the Apostles’ Creed, He ascended into heaven, And sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Almighty.
Meditating on the mystery of our Lord’s Ascension reminds Melancholicus of a little paperback he once bought in a second-hand bookshop when he was in the first flush of his reversion to the Christian religion in 1997. This book was called A New Look at the Apostles’ Creed, and was edited by one Gerhard Rein. It was a translation of a work published originally in German, and featured contributions by such allegedly great theologians as Hans Conzelmann, Jurgen Moltmann, Gunther Bornkamm, Gerhard Ebeling and Karl Rahner. At the time, Melancholicus was young and very green, knew almost nothing of his catechism, was aware of this grave deficiency and was consequently reading everything that he could lay hands on pertaining to the Christian religion. He had as yet no idea of the controversies convulsing the Church as a result of modernism, rationalism and the fallout from Vatican II but, as the reader may have guessed, he was soon to find out.
This book first appeared in — yes, you’ve guessed it — the 1960s. Its very title is sufficient to alert the discerning reader to the kinds of heresies he may expect to find between its covers. Now while the youthful Melancholicus had no philosophical training and did not know anything about heresy, rationalism, naturalism etc., he at least had a brain and was able to spot principles and conclusions which were incompatible with the mysteries of faith. For in returning to the religion of his boyhood, Melancholicus was not looking for some pious myth or metaphor for mere intellectual consideration. No, he was seeking God, and he believed that God is transcendent and omnipotent, existing independently of the created order and, most importantly, existing independently of the mind of man. He also believed that the Lord Jesus is the Son of God, the second person of the Most Holy Trinity, and that consequently there is nothing inherently incredible about such things as the Lord’s Resurrection and Ascension, or His real presence in the eucharist.
Hence, in reading the discourse of these erudite theological giants on the doctrines enshrined in the Apostles’ Creed, he was first of all struck by how boring their writing was. He was also struck by the fact that these learned gentlemen seemed actually to be embarrassed by the supernatural content of religion, and that they sought to explain it away so as not to ‘offend’ the mentality of the great twentieth-century man who had at long last finally come of age, shaking off the shackles of obscurantism and superstition. Melancholicus was perplexed (and, if the truth be told, mildly outraged) by this attitude, but most of all he was amused at the spectacle of these purportedly great theologians fretting over the mysteries of faith and twisting themselves into knots in order not to have to affirm as supernatural any article of the Apostles’ Creed.
Was the earnest and simple faith of the young Melancholicus shaken in any way by this discovery? Not a bit of it. On the contrary, he quickly concluded that these theological giants were in reality theological pygmies, that their alleged scholarship and intellectual prowess was profoundly overrated, that their theories violated Christian doctrine and were not substantiated by anything more than their own prejudices and presuppositions, that as a consequence nothing they had to say was ever worth listening to, and not least that their writings were deeply, deeply boring — and so he laid the book aside and has never since returned to it except last year to consign it to a bag of paper and cardboard waste destined for recycling.
The problem with rationalising the mysteries of faith is, however, so glaring and so obvious that it doesn’t require specialised theological training or a turgid German brain to recognize it for what it is. It is so clear a child can spot it, much like the little boy who pointed out, correctly, that the Emperor had no clothes. Did these supposedly profound thinkers really believe — in their heart of hearts and brain of brains — that emptying the Christian religion of its credal content would make it either ‘relevant’ or ‘appealing’ to the thoroughly secularised modern mentality, instead of having precisely the opposite effect? Or does their approach not betray a certain obtusity, even stupidity, on their part? Were these learned gentlemen so intellectually advanced that they had no idea how the rest of us common folk think?
These great theologians are — or I should say were, since they’re nearly all dead; now they know whether there be a God or no — clearly upset that the Christian religion contains dogmas, for they would like it to teach only ethics. It is a fact, however, that the ethics of the Christian religion proceed from its dogmas as the consequence from the principle. These learned and scholarly heavyweights have failed to grasp this simple truth, but millions of ordinary people who were once Christians have understood it all too well. As a result, they are no longer Christians. Our erudite theological superiors are always banging on about the importance of “human experience”, whatever that means. Well, have they learned any lessons at all from the experience of the last forty years?
Take the dogmatic and credal content out of Christianity, and one is left with a hollow shell, a kind of pious agnosticism or Christian buddhism. But Christianity is not buddhism, nor was it ever meant to be, so the miserable leavings after the great theologians have done their work can satisfy no one, neither the Christian nor the buddhist, for the rationalised ‘religion’ invented by the scholars is neither one thing nor the other. As a result, no one is interested in this castle in the clouds at all, except maybe for the handful of towering intellectuals whose brainchild it is. But, like the seed in our Lord’s parable, having no roots it withers away.
The baffled incredulity of Anton Vogtle in his chapter on the Lord’s Ascension, in which he earnestly tries to convince his readers that the Ascension cannot be believed by ‘modern man’, deserves no more than our contempt, and its author deserves no more than to be utterly forgotten.
On this day, Thursday 1st of May 2008, the feast of the Ascension of the Lord, Melancholicus finally passed the Irish driving test. Not before time, this being his fifth attempt.
This means he can now exchage his provisional licence (the green one) for a full driving licence (the red one). He has already removed the learner plates from his car, informed his insurance company of the happy event, and once he obtains his full licence he will be able to drive freely on motorways without having to worry about being stopped by the police.
He is most grateful to those who prayed for a happy outcome in this matter, and not least to almighty God, who this year has showered His blessings so abundantly on this undeserving sinner that Melancholicus feels that some special work undertaken in gratitude to God is now in order.
Deo gratias, alleluia. Such a weight has been lifted from these groaning shoulders.