Thursday, July 24, 2014

Preparing for Disaster: Apollo 11

This is fascinating: President Nixon was prepared if Apollo 11 failed and the astronauts didn't make it home from the Moon. tells the story.

The entire world was captivated by NASA's Apollo 11 moon landing 45 years ago this week, but at the time, the mission's success was far from certain. In fact, then President Richard Nixon even had a speech ready should Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin die on the moon.

In preparation for possible catastrophe, presidential speechwriter William Safire prepared a statement for President Nixon. Although the speech remained undelivered, given the success of
Apollo 11, its existence underscores some of the concerns regarding the hazards of space travel.
"All involved knew that the risks of an accident on any flight to the moon, especially the first attempt, were high," historian John Logsdon, professor emeritus at George Washington University, told via email. "Once Armstrong and Aldrin landed, there was particular attention [paid] to the possibility that they might not be able to launch from the moon's surface." . . .
If the lunar module failed to launch from the surface, death for the two stranded astronauts could come from either slow starvation or from what Safire termed "deliberately 'closed down communications,' the euphemism for suicide."

The tragic situation would require Nixon to first contact the widows to express his condolences before addressing the nation in the prepared speech.

According to Roger Bruns' 2001 book "Almost History" (Hyperion, 2000), the closing words of the speech echoed British poet Rupert Brooke's words on World War I, a salute to the fallen whose bodies were left on foreign soil. Brooke's poem, "The Soldier," includes the words "there's some corner of a foreign field/That is for ever England," while Nixon states "there is some corner of another world that is forever mankind."

As it mourned the lost astronauts, the speech also spoke to the idea that others would follow in their footsteps, visiting the lunar surface and returning home to Earth.

Public communications would then be closed down, and a clergyman would commend the astronauts' souls to the deep, much like a naval burial at sea.

You can see the typed text of the prepared speech here.

Here's the poem by Rupert Brooke, "The Soldier" that Safire's speech alluded to:

If I should die, think only this of me:
That there's some corner of a foreign field
That is forever England. There shall be
In that rich earth a richer dust concealed;
A dust whom England bore, shaped, made aware,
Gave, once, her flowers to love, her ways to roam;
A body of England's, breathing English air,
Washed by the rivers, blest by suns of home.
And think, this heart, all evil shed away,
A pulse in the eternal mind, no less
Gives somewhere back the thoughts by England given;
Her sights and sounds; dreams happy as her day;
And laughter, learnt of friends; and gentleness,
In hearts at peace, under an English heaven.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Literary Criticism: Plato vs. Aristotle

From The Wall Street Journal, Barton Swaim reviews James Seaton's Literary Criticism from Plato to Postmodernism:

James Seaton, in his short but deeply perceptive book "Literary Criticism From Plato to Postmodernism," contends that the theorists who dominate literature departments can trace their intellectual heritage to a surprising source: Plato. This is surprising because literary theorists usually consider Plato the father of "logocentrism"—supposedly a "Western" tendency to see words as fixed to unchanging ideals rather than as arbitrary symbols. Yet Mr. Seaton argues that the academics who dominate literature departments today—disciples of a dizzying array of "postmodernist" philosophies, from New Historicism to feminist theory—are Platonists to the core. Plato sought to align human life and government strictly to the ideals of reason and justice; postmodern theorists, writes Mr. Seaton, "seek a society in which theoretical reason will rule, unconstrained by the customs or 'prejudices' of the past conveyed so seductively by novels, plays, and poems."

Plato actually expressed two contradictory views of imaginative writing, as Mr. Seaton explains. The Plato of "The Republic" distrusted poets because, of course, they lied. Homer said things happened that didn't happen. The Plato of the "Symposium," by contrast, allowed that poets can be and often are inspired by the gods. What else can explain their seemingly magical power to delight and inveigle? This idea was picked up by the Neoplatonists, particularly the third-century Greek philosopher Plotinus, and much later was employed by Philip Sidney (1554-1586) and other Renaissance writers to defend poetry on the grounds that it offered some form of metaphysical knowledge. In more indirect ways, the Romantic poets of the 19th century ( Wordsworth and Shelley especially) and the more strident proponents of literary modernism ( Pound, Joyce, Woolf ) embraced the notion that imaginative writing could get us closer to some higher or truer reality.

Aristotle to the rescue!--

The second half of Mr. Seaton's book deals with what he calls the "humanistic alternative" of Aristotle, who rejected Plato's thought on poetry. In the "Poetics," Aristotle formulated what proved to be immensely influential definitions of poetic devices, but "the significance of the 'Poetics' for the humanistic tradition," writes Mr. Seaton, "does not derive from the universal applicability of the 'rules' it supposedly establishes but rather in the approach to literature it exemplifies." That humanistic approach, he argues, "turns to works of literature for insight into human life, not for authoritative knowledge about ultimate reality."

The humanist critic, in other words, takes literature for what it is: neither divine revelation nor an intrinsically worthless "text" that merely expresses cultural biases or furthers oppressive social arrangements. The humanist critic begins with the literary work, not with political or philosophical views; he doesn't mistake art for life or aesthetic criteria for political ones; and he explains to literate, engaged people (not merely to specialists) how important works of literature illuminate moral and political questions. Mr. Seaton examines the criticism of (among others) Samuel Johnson, Alexander Pope, Henry James, Lionel Trilling, Edmund Wilson and Cleanth Brooks—in each case distinguishing what these great critics did with poems and books from what their academic successors do with them now.

More about the book, including a sample and the table of contents, from Cambridge University Press:

This book offers a history of literary criticism from Plato to the present, arguing that this history can best be seen as a dialogue among three traditions – the Platonic, Neoplatonic, and the humanistic, originated by Aristotle. There are many histories of literary criticism, but this is the first to clarify our understanding of the many seemingly incommensurable approaches employed over the centuries by reference to the three traditions. Making its case by careful analyses of individual critics, the book argues for the relevance of the humanistic tradition in the twenty-first century and beyond.
  • Provides a brief, readable overview of the history of literary criticism in the West, with substantial sections on Plato, Neoplatonism, Aristotle, Neoclassicism, the Romantics, the New Critics, and postmodernism 
  • Illustrates the continuing significance of critics often overlooked by the contemporary academy, including figures such as Edmund Wilson, Lionel Trilling, and Ralph Ellison 
  • Argues the case for humanistic literary criticism in contrast to the cultural studies dominant today
Table of contents:

1. Plato and Neoplatonism
2. Romanticism and modernism
3. Theory and cultural studies
4. Aristotle and the humanistic tradition
5. Edmund Wilson and Lionel Trilling
6. Democracy, popular culture, and Ralph Ellison
7. Literary criticism, the humanities, and liberal education.

Looks fascinating; when I received my MA, fortunately for me, those gender, Marxist, imperialist etc, interpretative styles weren't "forced" upon us. We could read and interpret literature based upon language, structure, and authorial intent. Since the MA and the MFA students interacted so much, I think that had an effect on the way we read and responded to literature. I enjoyed explicating the meaning within the text, not imposing a meaning outside the text.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Book Review: Blessed John Henry Newman in Fiction

Ignatius Press has a sale on this summer as always and I bought two books last week: Meriol Trevor's Shadows and Light: A Novel and Evelyn Waugh's A Bitter Trial, which I'll read and review soon. Meriol Trevor wrote a great two part biography of John Henry Cardinal Newman, so she had great preparation for this novel, which Ignatius reissued in 2012. I added it to my reading list then.

This is excellent historical fiction--since Trevor knows Newman's life so very well--with the requisite mix of fictional and historical figures. The protagonist, Clem (Clemency) is the daughter of a rather jaded Anglican clergyman. She knows Mary Newman and thus meets John Henry, Jemima, Harriet, and Mrs. Newman--she keeps hoping she'll meet Frank because he looks so handsome in his portrait!

When her father dies, Clem movies in with her relatives to help take care of their daughter. She meets one of their cousins, suspected as ne'er-do-well rich dandy, Augustine--and he guesses her secret and offers her an escape from her hopeless predicament. As Clem and Augustine grow closer together, John Henry Newman begins to move further away from his life and career in Oxford. Trevor's plot brings Newman and Clem together often enough for us to see his progress in the Oxford Movement--from Keble's "National Apostacy" sermon to Newman's life in Littlemore after Tract 90 raises such a controversy--as he moves closer to joining the Catholic Church.

Clem moves closer to becoming a Catholic herself through her marriage to Augustine and her travels in Europe: in fact, it is the anti-Catholic bigotry she encounters in England that drives her to defend the Church (and her husband's Catholic faith). She discovers more and more how misunderstood her husband is: his family has never known his drive and will, but Clem at last sees his charity, faithfulness, and loyalty.

The novel continues through great historical upheavals like the loss of the Papal States, the Restoration of the Hierarchy and anti-Catholic riots, the growth of industry and transportation--and the unfolding of Newman's life as a Catholic, enduring so many failures, including the Achilli trial, the Irish University, the Rambler crisis, reaching its high point with the Apologia pro Vita Sua and the Cardinalate. Clem and Augustine live in Birmingham, so they see his struggles and help him as much as they can, defending him from attacks and misunderstandings. Leonie Caldecott in her foreword notes that Trevor tried as often as she could to use Newman's own words from letters and other writings, for Newman's dialogue--this adds verisimilitude to the novel.

This a wonderfully readable book--with strong supporting characters and a warm and interesting protagonist. I highly recommend it as good historical fiction and a good introduction to the life of Blessed John Henry Newman.

Monday, July 21, 2014

The Spanish Mozart, ReDISCovered

Among our collection of CDs. my husband found a disc of string quartets by the Basque composer Juan Arriaga--the Spanish Mozart, so called because he was born on the same date as Mozart (January 27), was a child prodigy, and died too young (19!; ten days before his twentieth birthday). As I recall, I bought it at Wichita's east side Border's bookstore (cheap). ClassicsToday reviewed the performance:

Sadly, it doesn’t take much room to sketch out the short life of little-known Basque composer Juan Crisóstomo Jacobo Antonio Arriaga y Balzola. He was born in 1806, wrote an octet at age 11, composed his first opera when he was 13, entered the Paris Conservatory at age 15, and had the three works heard here published when he was 18. He died in 1826 at age 20.

The promise that he showed as a composer did not go completely unnoticed during his lifetime (Bellini championed his music), but very little of his music endures in the modern era. Aside from these quartets and a symphony recorded by Charles Mackerras for Hyperion, his work is largely lost to the sands of time. But these lovely quartets, given fresh and impassioned readings by the New Vlach Quartet, should make us aware of what he could have achieved if only he had lived longer. They are sparkling, emotionally mature, and beautifully shaped works that fully explore the nuances of each voice within the quartet. (The balance of sound is spread equally between the four players as well, and Avenira has done a fine job of creating a vibrant atmosphere.) Bravo to the New Vlach Quartet, and to Avenira, for this release. This is truly a treat, and I can only wish there could be more.

We have found the music and the performances of these quartets to be melodic, playful, charming, and beautiful. Arriaga was born in Bilboa on January 27, 1806 and went to study in Paris when he was 16 years old. He composed these quartets that same year and they were published in 1824. Perhaps Arriaga studied too hard at the Paris Conservatoire because he became ill -- exhaustion and tuberculosis or some other lung problem causing his death. He was buried (like Mozart) in an unmarked grave, but in the Montmartre cemetery.

One way that he is not like Mozart is in his surviving output, which as the review above notes, is small. Mozart had already written three operas by the time he was 14 and by age 20 had written his five violin concertos, several symphonies, his church sonatas, piano concertos, etc. It is very sad that Arriaga did not have the opportunity to compose more music--these three works certainly show that he had much to give. More about Arriaga here.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Blessed John Henry Newman's Prayer for a Happy Death

Every Sunday is an Easter celebration--the Paschal Mystery is re-presented on the Altars in every Catholic church throughout the world. The Passion, Death and Resurrection of Jesus Our Savior is made real to us again and we receive His Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity in Holy Communion---yet we fear death. Death came to Stratford Caldecott this week, and he was preparing for it--death came to the passengers on the Malaysian jet shot down in eastern Ukraine, and only God knows how those men, women, and children were prepared for it.

Blessed John Henry Newman composed this prayer for a happy death:

O my Lord and Saviour, support me in my last hour by the strong arms of Thy sacraments, and the fragrance of Thy consolations. Let Thy absolving words be said over me, and the holy oil sign and seal me; and let Thine own body be my food, and Thy blood my sprinkling; and let Thy Mother Mary come to me, and my angel whisper peace to me, and Thy glorious saints and my own dear patrons smile on me, that in and through them all I may die as I desire to live, in Thy Church, in Thy faith, and in Thy love. Amen.
My Jesus, mercy.

Father Zuhlsdorf posted on our need to prepare for death in the aftermath of Malaysia Flight 17, offering other advice and considerations, including this prayer for deliverance from an unprovided  death:

Hear us, O God of our salvation! and issue not the decree for the completion of our days before Thou forgivest us our sins; and because penance avails not in hell, and there is no room there for amendment, therefore do we humbly pray and beseech Thee here on earth, that, giving us time to pray for pardon, Thou wouldst grant us also forgiveness of our sins. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Take away, merciful Lord, all errors from Thy faithful people, avert from them the sudden destruction of the wasting pestilence; that those whose wanderings Thou dost justly chastise, Thou wouldst vouchsafe in Thy tender pity to cherish when corrected. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Antiphon: Sin no longer, O my soul! Think upon the sudden change from sin to endless woe. There, in hell, penance is not accepted, and tears profit not. Turn, then, whilst thou hast time; cry out and say: Have mercy upon me, O my God!

Antiphon: In the midst of life we are in death: whom, then, O Lord, shall we seek to be our helper, save Thee, O Lord! although Thou art indeed angry with us because of sins? O Holy Lord, holy and strong, holy and merciful Saviour! deliver us not ever to a bitter death.

V. – Lest, overtaken by the day of death, we seek time for penance, and be not able to find it.
R. – Hearken! O Lord! and have mercy on us; for we have sinned against Thee.

We beseech Thee, Almighty God, receive in Thy fatherly pity Thy people flying to Thee from Thine anger; that they who fear to be chastised by the rod of Thy Majesty in the suddenness of death, may be made worthy to rejoice in Thy gracious pardon. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
We beseech Thee, Almighty God, graciously to incline Thine ear to the assembly of Thy Church, and let Thy mercy prevent Thine anger in our behalf; for if Thou shouldst mark iniquities, no creature shall be able to stand before Thee: but in that marvellous charity, through which Thou didst create us, pardon us sinners, and destroy not the work of Thine own hands by sudden death. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

O God! in Whose sight every heart trembles and every conscience is awed; show forth Thy mercy upon us Thy suppliants, that we, who trust not in the excellence of our own merit, may never know Thy judgments in the suddenness of our death, but may receive Thy pardon. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Most merciful Lord Jesus! by Thine agony and bloody sweat, and by Thy death, deliver me, I beseech Thee, from a sudden and unprovided death. O most gentle Lord Jesus! by Thy cruel and ignominious scourging and crowning with thorns, by Thy cross and most bitter Passion, and by Thy goodness, I humbly pray Thee, let me not die unprepared and pass from this life without the Holy Sacraments. Jesus, my best Beloved, my Lord! by all Thy labours and sorrows, by Thy precious Blood, and by Thy most holy Wounds, and by those last words spoken on the cross by Thee: “Deus meus, Deus meus, ut quid dereliquisti me?? – “My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me?” and again: “Pater, in manus tuas commendo spiritum meum,” – “Father, into Thy hands I commend my spirit,” most ardently I pray Thee, save me from a sudden death. Thy hands, O Redeemer! have wholly made and formed me: ah! suffer not death to take me unawares; give me, I beseech Thee, time for penance; vouchsafe that I may pass from this life happily in Thy grace, that I may love Thee with my whole heart, and praise and bless Thee forever and ever.

Our Father…
Hail Mary…
Glory Be To The Father…

St. Joseph, patron of a happy death, pray for us. AMEN!

Saturday, July 19, 2014

G.K. Chesterton's "The Thing: Why I Am a Catholic"

Our Wichita chapter of the American Chesterton Society is reading The Thing: Why I am a Catholic from Volume III of the Ignatius Press editions of G.K. Chesterton's Collected Works. As the publisher describes the volume, it is:
A collection of five powerful essays by Chesterton in defense of Catholicism and the Catholic Church. Unique because most of his writings do not deal specifically with religion or the Catholic Church. However, here he directly addresses the teachings of the Church and objections to them. It also includes his inspiring and moving commentary on the Stations of the Cross, along with the drawings of the stations he used for his meditations. Another essay explains why he converted to Catholicism.
As with all of his writings, these are just as germane today as they were in his time. Today's reader can revel in the same delight GKC's contemporaries felt, for he always presented the Church's best face to an antagonistic and indifferent world. The introduction and footnotes are written by another convert and author, James J. Thompson, Jr.
Last night we discussed chapters 20, 21, and 22--and in August we look forward to discussing chapters 23, 24, and 25--meeting on Friday, August 22 at Eighth Day Books, since August 15 is the Feast of the Assumption of Our Lady. As Dale Ahlquist describes the collection of essays in The Thing, Chesterton is writing to a Catholic audience:
The essays in this collection were originally written for Catholic publications and are somewhat different from his other journalism because here Chesterton is writing for a specifically Catholic audience. And yet his vigorous defense of the Catholic faith seems to invite all comers. But as for addressing Catholics, there is one passage that is strikingly relevant to modern Catholics who seem intent on “reforming” things in the Church, whether it be the liturgy, the moral teachings, or the fundamental doctrines of the faith: “In the matter of reforming things, as distinct from deforming them,” says Chesterton, there are two kinds of reformers. “Let us say, for the sake of simplicity, a fence or gate erected across a road. The more modern type of reformer goes gaily up to it and says, ‘I don’t see the use of this; let us clear it away.’ To which the more intelligent type of reformer will do well to answer: ‘If you don’t see the use of it, I certainly won’t let you clear it away. Go away and think. Then, when you can come back and tell me that you do see the use of it, I may allow you to destroy it.’”

The modern reformer is especially guilty of trying to do away with things he does not understand rather than trying to understand them. Reformers throughout history have done away with elements of the Catholic Church only to find that they soon need to replace them. But the replacement is always an inferior version, as psychotherapy, for instance, has proved to be a disastrous replacement for the Confessional. And so Chesterton defends the Catholic things that both Catholics and non-Catholics may not understand. They may be simple things, but as Chesterton says, “The mind must be enlarged to see the simple things — or even to see the self-evident things.” One of Chesterton’s greatest gifts is to explain to us what we already know but have never been able to explain.

Chesterton says that all the revolts against the Church, from even before the Reformation until now, tell the same strange story. Every great heretic has always exhibited three remarkable characteristics in combination. First, he picks out some mystical idea from the Church’s balance of mystical ideas. Second, he uses that one mystical idea against all the other mystical ideas. Third, he seems generally to have no notion that his own favorite mystical idea is a mystical idea, as mysterious or dubious or dogmatic as any of the Church’s other mystical ideas that he rejects. Thus Calvinists are obsessed only with the Sovereignty of God, Lutherans with the Grace of God, Methodists with the sin of man, Baptists with the Bible, Quakers with simplicity. The list goes on, it even includes religious and political movements outside of Christianity. Muslims are obsessed with the Oneness of God, Communists with the equality of men, Feminists with the equality of men and women, Materialists with creation apart from the Creator, Spiritualists with the rejection of materialism, and so on. In every case, these sects have taken one of the Church’s mystical ideas and exalted it above the rest, even against the rest. They have lost all the moderating and balancing measures of the Thing, the Catholic Faith.

The chapters we discussed last night included a comparison between Bunyan's allegory in Pilgrim's Progress and Dante's in The Divine Comedy; the Protestant superstition of Anti-Catholicism, and the common but mistaken notion that Catholics have no intellectual freedom in the Church: "On Two Allegories", "The Protestant Superstition", and "On Courage and Independence", respectively. If you are in Wichita, come next month to our discussion of "The Nordic Hindoo", "A Spiritualist Looks Back" and "The Roots of Sanity". Refreshments are served!

Friday, July 18, 2014

144 Years Ago Today: "Pastor Aeternus" Proclaimed

On July 18, 1870, the Doctrine of Papal Infallibility was declared at the First Vatican Council in the First Dogmatic Constitution on the Church of Christ. Pastor Aeternus actually made four doctrinal statements about the Office of the Pope: 1. St. Peter's primacy over the Church conferred by Jesus; 2. The permanence of that primacy in the pontiffs succeeding St. Peter; 3. The power and authority of the pontiffs in teaching dogma and morals, discipline, and governance of the Church; and what everyone remembers, 4. Papal infallibility:

Therefore, faithfully adhering to the tradition received from the beginning of the christian faith, to the glory of God our savior, for the exaltation of the Catholic religion and for the salvation of the christian people, with the approval of the Sacred Council, we teach and define as a divinely revealed dogma that when the Roman Pontiff speaks EX CATHEDRA, that is, when, in the exercise of his office as shepherd and teacher of all Christians, in virtue of his supreme apostolic authority, he defines a doctrine concerning faith or morals to be held by the whole Church, he possesses, by the divine assistance promised to him in blessed Peter, that infallibility which the divine Redeemer willed his Church to enjoy in defining doctrine concerning faith or morals. Therefore, such definitions of the Roman Pontiff are of themselves, and not by the consent of the Church, irreformable.

Father Juan Velez explained Blessed John Henry Newman's reactions to the definition in this article for ZENIT in 2010:

[In his Letter to the Duke of Norfolk] Cardinal Newman repeated the teaching of the constitution "Pastor Aeternus" of Vatican Council I, which asks Catholics for obedience to the Pope only in matters of faith and morals, and in matters of discipline and ecclesiastical government. Cardinal Newman explained that by obeying the Pope in such matters, the moral conscience is neither eliminated nor substituted by the Pope's authority.

Papal infallibility

As Vatican I asserted, the Pope's authority extends only to matters of doctrine and morals. We are obliged to believe, for example, what he teaches about the Holy Eucharist or marriage. His teaching does not extend on how to organize the water supply of a city, raise taxes, run elections, etc.

Cardinal Newman explained to his fellow Englishmen, who out of prejudice considered the teaching of the Pope's infallibility as a threat to English government or sense of pride, that this doctrine does not make Catholics puppets: did the Pope speak against Conscience in the true sense of the word, he would commit a suicidal act. He would be cutting the ground from under his feet. His very mission is to proclaim the moral law, and to protect and strengthen that "Light which enlighteneth every man that cometh into the world." On the law of conscience and its sacredness are founded both his authority in theory and his power in fact…I am considering here the Papacy in its office and its duties, and in reference to those who acknowledge its claims.

Cardinal Newman pointed out that so many types of acts by a Pope, such as the excommunication of a person in error or the Pope's blessing of the Spanish Armada, are not a matter of exercising his pontifical authority in an infallible manner, which would bind the faithful in conscience. Cardinal Newman wrote that Catholics are not bound by the Pope's personal character or private acts, but by his formal teaching (although it should be pointed out that, in the case of a person excommunicated, that is a canonical act that is indeed binding, whether or not it is infallible).

Difficult cases

If a scholar were to disagree with a doctrinal or moral teaching of the Church he should submit his judgment to the Church's teaching out of humility and obedience. Here too Cardinal Newman offered advice and good example. A theologian or for that matter a pastor should not create unrest among the faithful, much less confusion. Such a person should have the humility to admit that his opinion is likely mistaken, especially if the magisterium has already pronounced on the matter.

Upon being received in the Church Cardinal Newman accepted all its teachings, including the ones he did not fully understand. As the declaration of papal infallibility drew near, Cardinal Newman accepted this teaching, even if he thought that despite its truth it was not an opportune moment to make it. The English hierarchy had only just been restored in England in 1850, and there was a lot of prejudice against Catholics in England. In that country the so-called Ultramontane Catholics who advocated a temporal power by the Pope were making matters worse. In sum, Cardinal Newman thought this was not the best time for such a declaration, but he submitted to it.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Henry VIII's Church and Female Bishops/Priests

When Henry VIII separated the Catholic Church in England from the universal Catholic Church, he set himself as the new authority for Catholics in England--the Supreme Head and Governor of the Church. (I read once that even Archbishop Thomas Cranmer recognized that claiming to be the "Head" of the Church was a little much--Jesus Christ is the Head of His Church). Henry created and all his successors save one maintained control over the worship, prayer, doctrine, and discipline of the Church of England. When the monarch represented the State, this ecclesial power was centered on the king or queen.

Through the English Civil War and the Glorious Revolution, the concentration of power in the monarch was distributed to Parliament, representing the people, and control of the Church of England transferred to Parliament--and thus to the political party forming the government as the majority in Parliament and the Prime Minister. The Church of England (the CofE), being part of the State, does not lead the State, but the State--representing the people--leads the Church of England. This change in authority is crucial because it means that the CofE is not leading the people into what Jesus teaches through his Church, but that the people influence the CofE to accept what they want--and British society today wants women priests and bishops because it values equal access to power and influence above everything else.

Henry VIII would never have imagined women ordained to the priesthood or the episcopate, but he set in motion the Church's decision this week to ordain women bishops, because he placed the State above the unity of the Jesus Christ's Church on earth. For the sake of his dynasty's succession he contributed to the division of the Church, already riven on the Continent by Martin Luther and other reformers. This, when he had sought the title of Defender of the Faith by protesting against Luther's teaching against the Catholic doctrine of the Sacraments--including Holy Orders and the Eucharist, two Sacraments completely intertwined. According to the Church's doctrine, which Henry defended in Assertio Septem Sacramentorum and seemed to continue to uphold throughout his reign condemning those who denied the Real Presence to death by being burned alive, only a sacramentally ordained priest, with the valid and licit Form and Matter, can celebrate the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Henry not only continued to defend the Real Presence of Jesus in Holy Communion; he demanded an unmarried priesthood and episcopate (Cromwell had to hide his wife from Henry--and Elizabeth I made the same demands); he did nothing to end the ordination of secular, non-order priests (he eliminated the orders when he dissolved the monasteries AND the friaries.)

So Henry set up the succession, with his heirs leading the Church that would destroy nearly all the Seven Sacraments he had defended, leaving only Baptism--but there is a great range of opinion on what Baptism really is within the CofE, with even the denial of the Holy Trinity which is at the core of its sacramental grace countenanced as something "indifferent" to Christian doctrine and worship. Although Henry's authority in the CofE kept it from making greater "progress" into Lutheranism or Protestantism, to some extent, Edward VI and Elizabeth I, with the help of Thomas Cranmer's Book of Common Prayer and Thirty-nine Articles, brought it firmly into the Protestant doctrine of salvation and sanctification. And Parliamentary conflict between Puritans and Elizabeth and then the Stuart monarchs James I and Charles I culminating not just in the Civil War and Interregnum but even more decisively in the Glorious Revolution, consolidated the Protestantism of the CofE.

Father Dwight Longenecker notes on his blog that we've been living in a dream when we hoped that the CofE was a via media between Catholicism and Protestantism, and that there was a real hope for full, true and corporate reunion. Blessed John Henry Newman woke up from that dream in September and October of 1845 and joined the Catholic Church that October 9th--but he and his Oxford Movement companions had indeed dreamed the dream:

On July 14 1833 John Keble preached his famous sermon on National Apostacy–which is regarded by historians as the beginning of the Oxford Movement. (You can read the sermon here) In one of those nice historical co-indidences (sic) (if you believe in such things) the Church of England General Synod’s vote in favor of women bishops took place on the 181st anniversary of Keble’s sermon.

The essential point of the Oxford Movement–coming just a decade or so after Catholic Emancipation
[actually, just three (3) years after!]–was that the Church of England was not, at it’s (sic) core, a Protestant Church, but the ancient Catholic Church reformed. The men of the Oxford Movement were called “tractarians” after the series of leaflets or tracts written and published by John Henry Newman and his friends. In tracts and sermons the Tractarians tried to re-weave into the three hundred year old Protestant Church of England a new Catholic strand. (Read more about Newman here) The success of the Anglo-Catholic movement was a witness to their work. Not only in theology, but in literature and liturgy, in art and architecture, in music and academic studies there was a flourishing revival of a Catholic sentiment and spirituality.

It was, however, simply an additional Anglican costume. Already within the Church of England there were two strands: the old Protestant liberal strand of religion which was firmly attached to the principles of the Enlightenment, bonded with the political establishment and which was upper class, educated and elitist. The Methodist movement of the eighteenth century grafted onto the historic Protestant, rationalist liberalism a new kind of Evangelical, Calvinist fervor. Now, a century after the Wesleys (and also springing from Oxford) the Tractarians added a Catholic strand which came to be called Anglo-Catholicism.

For the next 180 years (1833 – 2014) members of the Church of England were able to perpetuate the Tractarian myth–the nineteenth century invention that the Church of England was, in fact, the ancient Catholic Church in England–but properly reformed. . . .

Read the rest of his article there

Individual Anglo-Catholics have been "poping" since the CofE condemnation of Newman's Tract 90. One by one, or family by family, they came into the Catholic Church. Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI showed the true path to a more corporate reunion between Anglicans and Catholics: the Personal Ordinariate. The Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham is reaching out to those who because of this Anglican decision and the previous decision to ordain women as priests, are beginning to see that the via media is a church of paper and that the Catholic Church is "the one true fold of Christ". If they want the truth, they need to follow Blessed John Henry Newman, the late Father Ray Ryland, Father Dwight Longenecker, and those who are making up the Ordinariates in Great Britain, North America and Australia now. 

May God bless them and protect them along the way--we need to pray for them. Our Lady of Walsingham, pray for them; Blessed John Henry Newman, pray for them; Blessed Dominic Barberi, pray for them. Amen.

Ending the Terror: The Carmelites of Compiegne

From my article on the Carmelites of Compiegne of OSV's The Catholic Answer Magazine last year:

Their deaths were orderly, calm and holy. Each Carmelite paused before their prioress and asked permission to fulfill her vow.

They sang together, chanting the
Salve Regina, the Te Deum and Veni, Sancte Spiritus on their way to the guillotine, and then intoned the psalm Laudate Dominum, omnes gentes (“Praise the Lord, all peoples”); each stroke of the guillotine silenced another voice until at last the prioress walked up the steps to die. The usually cheering mob was unusually silent.

Read the rest here.

Last month, the Royal Opera at Covent Garden in London performed Poulenc's Dialogues of the Carmelites and Tim Wong told the true story of the Carmelites on his blog for The Telegraph:

Forty people had their heads chopped off on 17 July 1794, 16 of whom were Carmelite nuns from the small city of Compiègne in Northern France. The Order of the Carmelites itself dates back to the 12th century, and has a strong tradition of Marian devotion. Their spiritual focus of the Order is contemplation.

Enlightenment intellectuals argued that such a passive activity as contemplation served no practical purpose for society. By the time of the French Revolution, both the monarchy and the Church came under attack – for their power and wealth in the face of a starving and angry nation.

It was a time of unprecedented upheaval in daily life, where all things Christian were swept away. The seven-day week was scrapped in favour of a ten-day one. A prostitute "Goddess of Reason" was installed in Notre Dame to perform lewd songs. The remains of past French Kings were dug up from the Royal Basilica at Saint-Denis and thrown into a common pit. In September 1792 alone 225 priests and bishops were slaughtered.

It’s perhaps no surprise, against this backdrop, that 16 Carmelite nuns were declared "enemies of the people". Poulenc’s opera broadly follows what actually happened – but there are some significant differences. . . .

Poulenc’s central character in Dialogues des Carmélites, the fictional Blanche de la Force, is modelled on Mother Marie – one of the two or three who escaped. Mother Marie resembles Blanche not only in age (she was in her thirties) but also in her aristocratic background: she was the illegitimate orphaned daughter of the Prince of Conti, who was considered to be a legitimate descendant of the monarch (a "prince du sang"). Both Blanche and Mother Marie's music is often cast in C major – forthright, pure, depicting innocence. Poulenc seems to imply that there's an unspoken affinity between these two characters.

Mother Marie was away when the sisters were arrested: William Bush informs us that she was in Paris sorting out a pension left by her father. Upon hearing the arrest she fled the capital with Madame Lidoine’s 78-year old mother and settled in Franche Comté for good. There was no record of her pleading with the chaplain to be allowed to join her sisters. Neither did her brother plead with her to return to the family – a key scene in the opera . It was in fact Sister Constance’s brother who turned up to ask the young nun to abandon her Order, which request she declined.

That was the climax of the Reign of Terror, for 10 days after the nun’s execution the regime was overthrown and Robespierre himself died on the guillotine. The sisters of Compiègne were beatified in 1906. Perhaps one day they will be declared saints. Certainly, in the eyes of many Catholics, they already are.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Chesterton, Duffy, Dawson, and Lewis: 50 Best Books of the 20th Century

Intercollegiate Review re-published their list of "The Fifty Best Books of the 20th Century" on their blog and I'm glad to see that several of my favorites made the list:

The turn of the century is a time to take stock of the path we have followed, the better to discern where we ought to be going. Historical discernment requires coming to judgment about what has been noble, good, and beneficial in our time, but also about what has been base, bad, and harmful. In the life of the mind, what has our century produced that deserves admiration? What has it produced that deserves only contempt?

Earlier this year, the Modern Library published a list styled The Hundred Best Nonfiction Books of the Twentieth Century. A list of significant books can make a compelling statement about how we are to understand an age. In judging the quality of a book, one necessarily judges the perception and the profundity which the book displays, as well as the character of the book’s influence.

Yet many were dissatisfied with the several “Best” lists published in the past year, finding them biased, too contemporary, or simply careless. So the Intercollegiate Review (IR) set out to assemble its own critically serious roster of the Best—and the Worst—Books of the Century. To assist us in this task, we relied on the advice of a group of exceptional academics from a variety of disciplines.

To make the task more manageable, our lists include only nonfiction books originally published in English, and so certain giants of the century such as Alexander Solzhenitsyn will not be found here, on two counts. We left the definition of “Best” up to our consultants, but we defined “Worst” for them as books which were widely celebrated in their day but which upon reflection can be seen as foolish, wrong-headed, or even pernicious.

There was broad agreement about a majority of titles, but there were also fierce disagreements. Several titles appeared on both “Best” and “Worst” lists. We have tried to be faithful to the contributions of our consultants, but the responsibility for final composition of the list lay with the editors of the IR.

Among their choices:

C. S. Lewis, The Abolition of Man (1947)--Number 2 on their top five list!
Preferable to Lewis’s other remarkable books simply because of the title, which reveals the true intent of liberalism.

G. K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy (1908)
The master of paradox demonstrates that nothing is more “original” and “new” than Christian tradition.

Christopher Dawson, Religion and the Rise of Western Culture (1950)
An essential work of European history that shows how the rise of Christianity altered civilization in the West. Credits the Roman Catholic Church with keeping civilization alive after the fall of Rome and during the barbarian invasions.

Eamon Duffy, The Stripping of the Altars (1992)
Revisionist history as it was meant to be written: as a correction to centuries of Whig historiography. Demonstrates that the brute force of the state can destroy even the most beloved institutions. What do you know . . . Belloc was right.

and a book I have not read, but certainly should:

Herbert Butterfield, The Whig Interpretation of History (1931)
Every day, in every way, things are getting better and better? No, and Butterfield provides the intellectually mature antidote to that premise of liberal historiography.

Check out the rest of the list here. How many have you read? Do you think they chose the right books?