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).
Mulieri quoque dixit: multiplicabo aerumnas tuas et conceptus tuos: in dolore paries filios . . .
“To the woman also He said: I will multiply thy sorrows, and thy conceptions: in sorrow shalt though bring forth children . . .” (Gen. 3:16)
As long as we’re on earth, we’ll have problems. That’s one of the penalties for Original Sin that God did not see fit to remove when He sent His Son into the world. Since Utopia is not an option, it seems to me that we should strive to have the right problems. Some problems are totally appropriate for a person to have. To give a vivid example, puberty is a time when hormones run riot. While chastity and purity are necessary virtues, a young man who does not struggle with lust would be odd. It’s healthy at that time in life to have physical urges that force the soul to grow and mature if you’re ever going to restrain these urges.
Likewise, a soldier who is never tempted by anger, or a businessman who is never tempted by greed, might be a very virtuous person. Or, he might not have the necessary appetites — and aptitudes — for those professions.
These considerations bring me to the topic of this piece: Malthusianism. Continue reading
“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
The traditional version is cooler than the “modern” Novus Ordo version they now read at Christmas Mass, which doesn’t specify the number of years since the creation of the world and Noah’s Flood. I guess that would sound too “fundamentalist,” so down the memory hole. Boo!
ANNO a creatióne mundi,
quando in princípio Deus creávit cœlum et terram, quínquies millésimo centésimo nonagésimo nono:
A dilúvio autem, anno bis millésimo nongentésimo quinquagésimo séptimo:
A nativitáte Abrahæ, anno bis millésimo quintodécimo:
A Moyse et egréssu pópuli Israel de Ægypto, anno millésimo quingentésimo décimo:
Ab unctióne David in Regem, anno millésimo trigésimo secúndo;
Hebdómada sexagésima quinta, juxta Daniélis prophetíam:
Olympíade centésima nonagésima quarta:
Ab urbe Roma cóndita, anno septingentésimo quinquagésimo secúndo:
Anno Impérii Octaviáni Augústi quadragésimo secúndo,
toto Orbe in pace compósito, sexta mundi ætáte, –
Jesus Christus ætérnus Deus, æterníque Patris Fílius, mundum volens advéntu suo piíssimo consecráre,
de Spíritu Sancto concéptus, novémque post conceptiónem decúrsis ménsibus,
[HERE ALL KNEEL]
in Béthlehem Judæ náscitur ex María Vírgine factus Homo.
Natívitas Dómini nostri Jesu Christi secúndum carnem.
Here in the Driftless Area, it’s still Dec. 24, so a Christmas Eve post is in order. Prior to the calendar reforms of Pope Pius XII (I think; maybe St. John XXIII?), the Christmas Vigil was a day of abstinence from meat, just like Fridays and Lenten weekdays. In America at least, it became traditional to eat oyster stew on Christmas Eve. Just like Friday fish fries, Christmas Eve oyster stew seems to have spread beyond Catholic circles to the culture at large. I remember eating oyster stew on Christmas Eve when I was a child. My mother and I had oyster stew tonight.
I propose that there is a mystical connection between Our Lady’s Immaculate Conception and Christ’s cleansing of the Temple as told in the Gospel of St. John. Unlike in the Synoptic Gospels, in St. John’s Gospel the cleansing of the Temple occurs at the beginning of Our Lord’s public ministry, not long after the Wedding at Cana.* Here’s the aftermath of Our Lord knocking over the tables (2:18-22; emphasis added):
“18 The Jews, therefore, answered, and said to Him: What sign dost thou shew unto us, seeing thou dost these things? 19 Jesus answered, and said to them: Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up. 20 The Jews then said: Six and forty years was this temple in building; and wilt thou raise it up in three days? 21 But He spoke of the temple of His body. 22 When therefore He was risen again from the dead, His disciples remembered, that He had said this, and they believed the scripture, and the word that Jesus had said.”
I propose that there’s a hidden meaning to the number 46 years that explains its presence in the text. Like the Temple of Herod, Our Lord’s Body was, at this point, 46 years in the making. For that was the number of years from the Immaculate Conception to the beginning of Our Lord’s public ministry. Continue reading
Our Lady is patroness of the United States under her title “conceived without sin.” Did you know that the greatest river in the United States, the Mississippi River, is also named the River of the Immaculate Conception? That’s the name that Jesuit missionary and explorer Pére Jacques Marquette, S.J., gave the river when he discovered it. Pére Marquette (1637-1675) addressed the following beautiful prayer to Our Lady, conceived without sin:
“Hail daughter of God the Father, hail Mother of God the Son, hail spouse of God the Holy Ghost, hail temple of all the Persons of the Trinity, by your holy virginity and your Immaculate Conception, make clean my heart and my song.” (http://catholicism.org/pere-marquettes-prayer-to-the-immaculate-conception.html) Continue reading
Today, November 30, is the feast day of St. Andrew the Apostle. St. Andrew is the patron saint of the church of the town where I live. This is fitting, as the town was founded by a Scotsman and St. Andrew is the patron saint of Scotland. Here are two photographs of the statue of St. Andrew outside of the local church:
The nave of the church is fittingly shaped like a ship (“nave” means “ship”); St. Andrew was a fisherman and is a patron saint of fishermen. Here’s a close up of the coat-of-arms beneath the statue:
There’s a strong tendency among traditionally-minded Catholics to characterize the Middle Ages as a golden age (a golden calf, I almost wrote) when everyone was a great Catholic and the sorts of horrible, outrageous things we see today never, ever happened.
It’s a bunch of rubbish, but it colors a lot of “our” thinking. I recently read an article in which the author cited Aquinas as an example of a natural law thinker who focused on humans qua humans, not qua this or that nationality or ethnicity. The author’s goal was to score a hit against tribalism.
Well and good — to my knowledge, Aquinas doesn’t attempt any taxonomy of nationalities. But then the works of St. Thomas Aquinas aren’t really a mirror of the world in which he lived. Here are some things about the Middle Ages you won’t learn if the only thing you know about the Middle Ages is Aquinas. These facts reveal a world in which tribal/ethnic/national/dynastic identity was very strong and often helped determine the course of history: Continue reading
Tribalism has been a major point of discussion during this election season in the United States, so I thought I might make some remarks on the topic of American Catholic parochialism. I define this as the tendency of some self-identifying Catholics in the United States to interpret American history in light of the specific experience of American Catholics.
I’ll very briefly give two examples: 1.) the entire complex of historical interpretations propagated by E. Michael Jones et al. in “Culture Wars,” Fidelity Press, etc., and 2.) the “Catholic Confederate” meme. That’s the apparently persistent tendency of self-identifying Catholics (often chest-thumping trads) on the Internet who pledge their allegiance to the heritage of the Southern Confederacy on the grounds that the Confederacy was somehow more congenial to Catholic principles.*
Having given those examples, let me ask a question that has been around since America’s Founding, possibly since the foundation of Jamestown: can a Catholic be a good American? By “good American,” I mean an American citizen fulfilling his proper duties under natural, divine, and human law to the commonwealth of the state where he lives and to the federal republic as a whole. I give two answers: