The Vanity of Protestant Biblical Archeology

It occurred to me how paltry Old Testament archeology is. Think of all of the artifacts, people, structures, cities, dynasties covered in the books of the Old Testament, and virtually no trace. Compared to Egypt, Mesopotamia, even Phoenicia, there’s meager physical and extra-Biblical documentary evidence for Israel’s existence.

Most notably, think of the Temple: not a stone upon a stone. The Ark of the Covenant, Urim and Thummim, and some other artifacts disappeared already with the Babylonian Captivity. The brazen serpent on a pole was destroyed by King Josias (Josiah) because it had become an object of idolatry. And now “evangelical” Protestants and some Jewish sects pore over ever square inch of the Holy Land trying to turn up artifacts–any artifact–of the Old Testament. How do we explain this absence? Continue reading

The God of Faithful Dependability

And now I get to be a cranky trad. Pope Francis recently said that Easter reveals God as a “God of Surprises.” On the one hand, our redemption by means of Christ’s Passion and Resurrection truly is surprising. On the other hand, Our Lord explicitly told His disciples that He would die and rise again before He did it (St. Luke 24:6-8):

(6) He is not here, but is risen. Remember how he spoke unto you, when he was in Galilee, (7) Saying: The Son of man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again. (9) And they remembered his words.
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Easter Vigil and Cranky Trads

The Easter Vigil, celebrated at the proper time since 1955 (i.e. in the evening, not the morning, of Holy Saturday), seems to cause otherwise astute people to say nonsensical things. These folks seem to think that all liturgical reforms during the 20th century were wrong, therefore the Easter Vigil Mass should be offered in the morning. Here’s an example of their reasoning:

“Evelyn Waugh had some pungent complaints about this, noting, quite reasonably, that the evening service is not really compatible with the orientation toward the dawn of Easter.”*

Think about that. An “orientation toward the dawn of Easter” better suits a Mass said on the morning *of Holy Saturday* instead of a Mass said during the night that ends *with the dawn of Easter.* Why didn’t the Church just abolish Holy Saturday altogether and up and anticipate Easter Sunday on Holy Saturday and have done with it?

*https://semiduplex.com/2018/04/02/a-question-about-holy-saturday/

Papal Biographies: The Door Stops of the Kingdom

” . . . and he shall open, and none shall shut: and he shall shut, and none shall open.” Isaiah 22:22

I own several papal biographies, yet I’ve never read them. I seriously question how many Catholics have ever read any of the full-length papal biographies. Maybe I underestimate the zeal of others’ papal personality cult, but I just doubt that anyone can read more than two pages of George Weigel* without suddenly deciding that it’s the perfect time to clean the grout out from between their bathroom tiles. I can’t really compare George Weigel to any other Catholic “talking heads” because he’s usually the author I compare other “talking heads” to when I’m criticizing them.

So how does he earn a living writing papal biographies? I’m guessing that it works like this. Through the buzz for his first papal biography, Weigel established that he was a supporter of Pope St. John Paul II. So a few tens of thousands of people identified Weigel as “one of the good guys.” Then, when he produces yet another book about everybody’s favorite “good guy” from the past 50 years (Pope St. John Paul II), the book becomes a very heavy, awkward stocking stuffer. The recipient thanks the giver for this fetishistic acknowledgment of their shared appreciation for the right team of good guys. Then the book goes on the shelf to proclaim the household’s allegiance to said team.

That, or maybe it just becomes a sturdy door stop.

*This post is inspired by this Catholic Kulchur review: https://catholickulchur.com/2017/07/30/george-weigel-letting-the-cat-out-of-the-bag/

Many a Truth Was Spoken in Unfairness

A joke: What do lay people who pray the Divine Office do when they aren’t praying the Divine Office? They’re mentioning to others that they pray the Divine Office.

Why did I post this? I saw a comment on another blog where someone was complaining about the Divine Mercy devotion. Apparently some pushy “church lady” type came through the pews of the church and forced  a Divine Mercy pamphlet upon the commenter while he (or she) was trying to pray the Divine Office. Continue reading

LARPing in the Last Days of Franco

One accusation against Catholic traditionalism is that it’s a bunch of LARPing — Live Action Role-Playing. Live Action Role-Playing means that self-identifying traditional Catholics adopt a number of signifiers of another time and place that they identify as more authentically Catholic than their own culture. They use these signifiers to escape into a fantasy world where they imagine themselves as Crusader knights, or latter-day Chestertons and Bellocs, etc.

What sorts of signifiers? For traditionalist priests, this is easy — maniples, Roman-style (aka “fiddleback”) chasubles, birettas, saturnos, etc. The sorts of things Pope Francis calls seminarians “women” for wanting to wear.* For lay people, you’ll get guys growing out their beards, wearing fedoras, sometimes capes, smoking pipes, speaking Latin (immo, conantes Latine loqui), and generally sticking out like sore thumbs. Women wearing mantillas that would make a Castilian Infanta blush. With groups like the American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family, Property (TFP), we see bagpipers, capes, flags, and assorted mediaevalia. Across the spectrum, you get a lot of identification with selected historical eras in Catholicism, typically European Catholicism. You’ll get your French Legitimists, your Habsburg restorationists, your Jacobites, your Papal Zouaves, your Carlists, and even your Neo-Confederates.** Basically, anything Charles Coulombe promotes falls under the accusation of LARPing.

My concern is not to assess the merits of the accusation, or to ascertain to what extent self-identifying traditional Catholics actually display any of the signifiers above. Rather, if you’re interested in either the accusation or the alleged phenomenon of traditional Catholic LARPing, I invite you to consider a noteworthy early instance that Dr. Robert Hickson recently documented over at the website of Saint Benedict Center. I refer you to his article “The Slow Fruitfulness of His Mercy: L. Brent Bozell, Jr.” (http://catholicism.org/slow-fruitfulness-heart-mercy-l-brent-bozell-jr.html).

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We Weren’t Born Yesterday, and Neither Were Our Vices

Over at the Rad Trad*, I read the following quotation from a Fr. Butler (presumably deceased — RIP). He was complaining about modern customs that leave many people too psychologically damaged for the monastic life:

“Opposed to the supernatural values of poverty, virginity and obedience in religious life, are the modern tendencies towards material acquisitions, sexual promiscuity, and the revolt against authority. This is the Age of Selfishness. Artificiality of custom and pettiness of concern cramp the natural generosity of youth.”

I get so sick and tired of reading things like this. When in history has anyone ever written, “People nowadays are all so normal, well-adjusted, chaste, happy in poverty, and obedient to superiors. What an age to be alive!” When? Seems like everyone observes the sins known from the Fall onward and opines that it must not have been that way before. The medieval aristocracy strikes me as a class naturally prone to “material acquisitions, sexual promiscuity, and the revolt against authority.” Oh, and dueling over slights to honor, and blood-feuds, and dynastic wars fought over hereditary claims to rule countries they might never have visited before. And yet some will tell you that that was the heyday of monasticism.

*http://theradtrad.blogspot.com/2017/02/bits-of-butler.html

Twilight of the Idols, Part I: A Riddle

“For there shall arise false Christs and false prophets, and shall show great signs and wonders, insomuch as to deceive (if possible) even the elect.” Mat. 24:24

The purpose of this piece is to expose the prejudice that some Catholics exhibit when considering the life and the work of a specific Protestant author. Here, the prejudice is in the Protestant author’s favor. I intend to point out why this prejudice is incorrect. Let’s start:

Catholic missionaries evangelized the region around Nagasaki, Japan, in the late 1500s and early 1600s. Then the Japanese government turned against the Catholics, martyred the priests, and forced the Church underground. After Japan began to open up to the Western world in the 1800s, a Catholic priest arrived. A group of wary local women approached him and asked three questions (I paraphrase):

1.) Do you venerate the Blessed Virgin Mary?
2.) Do you obey the Pope of Rome?
3.) Do you have a wife?

The priest answered Yes to first two questions and No to the last one. The women then went away. Sometime later, the men of their village returned to the priest, revealing that they were “Kakure Kirishitan,” the secret Christians of Japan.* Continue reading