Monthly Archives: December 2007

To all my Readers and Friends in Blog-world:

I wish you all a peace filled, rest filled, trust filled, joy filled, and above all Christ filled Christmas.

As usual, I will take a break from blogging during this holiday period to give my attention completely to my family. Don’t do anything controversial or newsworthy for the next week and a bit, will you? I wouldn’t want to miss it.

And for your Christmas meditation, two poems from our local Melbourne somewhat Catholic poet and cartoonist, Michael Luenig (that’s his Mr Curly Angel up above there with the teapot):

What did you get on your Christmas morn?
On the Christmas morn when you were born.
Did you get some milk, did you get some pain,
did you get some hurt that you can’t explain?
Did you get a star from high above?
Did you get the gaze of a mother’s love?
The spark that leaps from eye to eye
and twinkles ’til the day you die?
Oh what did we get on our Christmas morn
on the Christmas morn when we were born…?


Love is born
with a dark and troubled face
when hope is dead
and in the most unlikely place
love is born.
Love is always born.


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Could Past Elder be the Anti-Christ?

Well, I bet that got the attention of at least one reader of this blog…

Seriously, Past Elder–a welcome guest of this blog for the past two years–is really beginning to drive me nuts. And I know I am not the only one. Try as I might, I have not been able to make sense of where he is coming from (or going to, for that matter). Lucian makes more sense in his less sane moments than Past Elder does in his most lucid.

Here is his comment in answer to a query from Joshua in one of the com-boxes below:

Hi Joshua! I take no offence at all that you do not find my actual position in my comment. It isn’t there. I do not come here to advocate for my actual position, I come here to advocate for my former position, Roman Catholicism, which is an entirely different thing than what travels under the name now. [You’ve got to follow him on this one–it is crucial to coming to grips with PE’s discourse]

And there is nothing to be forgiven in your questions; I’m happy to address them. I am not now nor have I ever been associated with SSPX. I am a member of a parish of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod. I came to that last year after professing confessional Lutheranism in the Wisconsin Synod, and having served as an elder there, hence my posting name. [PE’s real name is Terry. (HT to Christine).]

I did not convert from Catholicism to Lutheranism. There was 23 years between leaving the former and converting to the latter, for most of which Lutheranism struck me as a well-intended but misguided effort to be Catholic without being Catholic. [Which sounds about right to me.]

I left the Roman Catholic Church because it became impossible to deny any longer that what it preached since Vatican II was no longer the Catholic Faith [a double negative there–he means that it was impossible to maintain any longer that what it preached was the Catholic faith; I guess I would ask whose preaching is he talking about?]; I left the Roman Catholic faith because if it were the true faith this could not have happened [Ah–I think there is a point here that we could engage], and, despite many efforts to convince myself otherwise over those 23 years, each time I came away clearer than before that it had.

I would not know of this blog except that its author from time to time visits one of the Lutheran blogs I visit regularly. Some months back, I made a point on that blog to clarify a matter of Catholic theology [this is why PE sometimes sounds as if he is still Catholic]. When I do that, I always add a caveat that this may no longer be the position of the RCC, since nearly everything they taught me has been stood on its head [cheap shot; it is a simple matter to determine what the Catholic Church teaches–that’s what the Catechism is for]. Our host appeared and verified what I said as valid [by which he seems to mean that I recognised whatever argument he happened to have been making at that point as the true Catholic faith both before and after Vatican II], and in turn I checked out his blog, and it turned out he had been a Lutheran pastor who converted to the post-conciliar church.

While I can understand the desire of a Lutheran for there to be something like the RCC holds itself to be, it is a flight into the absurd to think the RCC now is that church, or even to think it is any longer the RCC. [Now if you can follow that statement, you are doing really well. He seems to be saying: It is understandable that a Lutheran might desire the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church to exist as a visible society upon the earth, but it is a flight of fancy to think that the institution which calls itself the Catholic Church is actually that church, and anyone who thinks it is is deluded, including the Lutheran who converted to it.]

At least Lutherans who convert to Orthodoxy get Orthodoxy, but to get the pious fraud that is the RCC is really tragic. [Do I understand him rightly? Is he saying that those who convert to Orthodoxy because they want to be in full communion with the one, holy, Catholic and apostolic Church on earth and in heaven actually DO get what they were seeking when they become Orthodox? That would raise the question of why PE does not become Orthodox?].

Ironically, these conversions themselves reinforce my point: they would not have happened to the RCC that once existed [so I would not have become Catholic if it wasn’t for Vatican II?], and these converts do not sound anything like converts did [Is this a case of “They don’t make ’em like they used to”?], which fits since what they have found is neither the RCC nor Roman Catholicism [Neither the “Roman Catholic Church” nor “Roman Catholicism”? He’s really lost me there. Its like saying an strawberry isn’t a strawberry because it doesn’t taste as good as I remember it tasting when I was a kid. No, its more than that, he is actually saying that strawberries–real ones–don’t even exist anymore and anyone who thinks they may be eating them is deluded. And even worse, strawberries never in fact ever existed, because if they did, they wouldn’t have let themselves go downhill to the point of tastelessness that they have now achieved.].

He went on then to have a go at poor old Christine, who knows enough of both Catholicism and Lutheranism to have a valid opinion on this matter:

Christine, for God’s sake …Say the First Mass of Christmas at midnight or any time you wish, it will remain what any Mass of the novus ordo is — a rejection of the Catholic Mass, to assist at which is for a person who believes the Catholic faith a venial sin [Do you get his sleight of hand there? It would be a venial sin, if the Catholic ideas about venial sin were true, which it isn’t, because the Catholic Church and its mass are not the Catholic Church and its mass, which doesn’t matter anyway, because… Oh, I give up. He goes on:].

Now: my “actual” position, what I believe now. I will step out of my usual role and say it — what a person occupying an office bearing the marks of Anti-Christ does for the Nativity of Jesus is beyond irrelevant to the faith of Christ or his Church, which is the best possible construction to put on it. [“The best construction”? Is that what Luther meant when he used that expression in his catechism for the 8th Commandment? That the Catholic Church and its pope are “Anti-Christ”? I know Luther believed that of Alexander VI and Leo X, but Pope Benedict? Pope John Paul II? Pope Paul VI? I could keep going back, but these are guys who have proclaimed Christ and his gospel more clearly and to more people than any other human beings upon earth. Not even the Lutheran Church of Australia maintains any longer that the Pope is the Anti-Christ. Does Missouri? If it does, then what Richard John Neuhaus quotes Pastor John Hannah as saying is really true: LCMS is a fundamentalist sect.]

Over time, I have read some really good fictional characterisations of the devil doing his temptation thing on Eve-like characters. Anne Rice’s “Memnoch the Devil” comes to mind, as does C.S. Lewis’s “Perelandra” (Philip Pullmann is his own fictional tempter). But there are times when Past Elder takes the cake for torturous, convoluted, circular, and finally incomprehensible reasoning that has just enough ring of truth about it to convince the wavering. But I will say this, like Old Nick himself, he is consistent and persistent.

None of this is intended as abuse, PE, and I hope that this will not stop you from visiting this blog, but I do plead with you for once to make your reason for not being Catholic perfectly clear. You have stated it many times, but something is missing in the logic of your argument. Let me see if I have it clear:

1) I used to be a Roman Catholic.
2) I believed what my Roman Catholic teachers taught me to believe.
3) After the Council my Roman Catholic teachers were teaching me to believe things that sounded like the complete opposite of what I had been taught before the Council.
4) I thoroughly investigated it for myself, and realised that it wasn’t just my teachers but the Magisterium of the Catholic Church which had done a complete reversal.
5) I therefore concluded that the institution calling itself the “Catholic Church” wasn’t “the Catholic Church” because it wasn’t the Church I knew before the Council
6) I was taught that the teachings of the true Catholic Church could never change.
7) The teachings of the institution calling itself the Catholic Church had changed, therefore it was not the Catholic Church now.
8) Nor had it ever been the Catholic Church, for if it had been, its teachings would not have changed.
9) So I left the insitution called the Catholic Church.
10) 23 Years later I became a member of the Lutheran Church – Wisconsin Synod.
11) They were wrong too, so I became a member of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod which is the true Church because it holds to the Lutheran Confessions which are true.

Now, forgive me, but I think there are a few links missing in the chain of logic there.

First: What are the particular instances that convinced you that in fact the teaching of the Catholic Church had changed in such a way as to negate what it had taught prior to the Council? (I assume you do not reject the possibility of any change at all in the teaching of the Church?)

Second: Do you believe that the one holy Catholic and apostolic Church exists and if so what do you understand it to be?

Third: Why do you assume that just because there exist in its midst wicked and evil people who distort the teachings of the Church that the Catholic church cannot be what she claims to be?

Fourth: Does not the Church affirm that she is “ecclesia semper purificanda”? Or, in Lutheran parlance, “semper reformanda”? Therefore, far from being the occassion for denying the ecclesiological verity of the Church (something not even Luther did), are not abuses in the Church something we should work actively to correct, rather than reject the Church herself?

Fifth: By what logic have you adopted Lutheranism, and why does Lutheranism seem to answer your questions in a way that Catholicism does not?

Sixth: Has not the teaching and practice of the Lutheran Church changed over time? Does this not, by your reasoning, invalidate it?

Seventh: If those converting to Orthodoxy get Orthodoxy, and those converting to Lutheranism get Lutheranism (as long as they join the LCMS), is the purpose of converting to get the kind of Church you personally would like be in or is the purpose to find the true Church and seek communion with her?

Go, on, PE, you old devil. Tempt me with an answer to these questions.


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Novus Ordo Latin Solemn Mass on the Feast of the Holy Family

I can’t go (because I am cantoring for 9:30am and 11am Masses in the Cathedral and then going to Anglesea to contribute to a session of the Lutheran Student Fellowship annual conference), but you might be able to (if you live in Melbourne):

Solemn Mass in the Modern Form/Use of the Roman Rite (Novus Ordo) “ad orientem”, in Latin with Gregorian Chant at St Brigid’s Catholic Church, Fitzroy North On the last Sunday of each month. Next Mass: Feast of the Holy Family, Sunday, 30 December 2007 at 6pm.

What: On the last Sunday of each month, St Brigid’s Parish offers Mass in a way that more closely follows the teachings of the Second Vatican Council in its document Sacrosanctum Concilium. Solemn Mass in the Modern Form/Use of the one Roman Rite (the Novus Ordo) is celebrated in Latin, with Gregorian chant and in an “ad orientem” posture for the Liturgy of the Eucharist: where Priest and Congregation together face liturgical east toward the Tabernacle.

Why: Many people think that the Second Vatican Council mandated the removal of Latin and Gregorian chant in the Mass and required the Priest to face the people when saying Mass. However, the Second Vatican Council’s Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy (Sacrosanctum Concilium) mandated none of these things. It actually required that Latin and Gregorian Chant remain an essential part of the Mass and envisaged no change to the venerable tradition of the Priest and Congregation together facing the Tabernacle (“Liturgical East” or “ad orientem”).

This initiative of the Parish of St Brigid’s in conjunction with the Glorificamus Society seeks to answer the call of Cardinal Ratzinger, now His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI, for a return to a greater sense of reverence, mystery, beauty and sacredness in the celebration of Holy Mass, by recovering these traditions of Latin, Gregorian chant and ad orientem posture.

When: These Masses are celebrated at 6pm on the last Sunday of each month. The ninth of these Masses will be offered on the Feast of the Holy Family, on Sunday, 30 December 2007 at 6pm.

Where: St Brigid’s Catholic Church, 378 Nicholson Street, Fitzroy North (Melways Map 2C Ref A4). All are most welcome to attend. Mass booklets with full Latin/English translations will be available for those without their own missals for this Form of the Roman Rite.

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In case you felt inclined to become a fantasy writer…

I sometimes fantasize about being a writer. I don’t know if that’s the same thing as being a “fantasy writer”. Probably not. In my fantasy world, I am living in a little Tasmanian Georgian hamlet on the earnings of lucrative royalties while typing up my next blockbuster fantasy novel which will put the Christian story into a mythical narrative that will be irrestible to todays atheistic secularist materialist teenager…

In any case, reading “The End of Magic” by Sarah E. Hinlicky has finally convinced me to give up on this ambition and stick with the version of Lewis’ “true myth” that we have in the Gospels. You simply can’t improve on the incarnation, crucifixion and resurrection for mythic impact.

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Devastation in my hometown!

And you can watch video here.

Well, its been anything BUT a quite week in Pinnaroo, my home town (as Garrison Keillor might have said had he been born in Pinnaroo rather than Lake Woebegone).

These pictures above are of a storm (at first dubbed a “tornado”, but we don’t get those here in Australia – in Pinnaroo they always call anything that is a big wind a “tornado” – they have done ever since I was a boy – but it never is, according to the experts at the Weather Bureau – but they keep hoping) that hit Pinnaroo at 2:40pm yesterday afternoon. My parents were in Adelaide at the time, but my older brother, Ken, got himself into the newspapers (the Adelaide Advertiser and The Australian:

CFS volunteer association president Ken Shultz [they never get it right], who manages an olive grove 40km north of Pinnaroo, said the area was a mess. “We’ve got 80,000 olive trees and we’ve probably lost over half of this year’s crop,” he said.

Thankfully he is just the manager and not the owner of those 80,000 trees, although I am sure that it will have an impact. I hope there was some sort of insurance. (BTW I have a barrel of his olive oil in my shed–very nice it is too!).

Apparently they received about an inch of rain in twenty minutes accompanied by gale force winds and hail. Mum and Dad are half way through building a new home in the town (retiring off the farm) and so returned from the big smoke with some trepidation to see what state their building site might be in, but thankfully, even in its half-built state, the place stood up to the wild weather. Other residents were not so lucky. A few homes are beyond repair and will need to be demolished.

A few tiles were blown of the roof of the Lutheran Church, but the whole roof was blown of the Catholic Church hall. Now there is a story worthy of Lake Woebegone!

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Bishop Anthony Fisher in Rome for WYD talks

You can see a video news report of Bishop Anthony Fisher in Rome for World Youth Day talks at Rome Reports.

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Why am I not Orthodox?

On his blog Conversi Ad Dominum, Fr Fenton asks the question “Why are you not Orthodox?”

I’ve given my reasons before, but I will do so again in the simplest possible manner. I should split this into two sections: A. Why, when I left the Lutheran Church, did I not become Orthodox? B. Why, now that I am Catholic, do I not become Orthodox?

A.1. I am a westerner, not an easterner. I belong to the Latin tradition, not the Greek. When you have run away from home, you need to go back to your home, not back to someone elses!

A.2. I wanted to be Catholic. I couldn’t think of any watertight definition of “Catholic” that did not include communion with the Bishop of Rome.

B.1. The Orthodox Churches simply do not exhibit that universal character which is evident in the Catholic Church. Until I read the comments on Fr Fenton’s blog, I had never heard of the word “phyletism”. But that sums it up. I don’t want to belong to a nationalistic Church.

B.2. I value communion with the Bishop of Rome even more now than I did before. While I have every respect for the Orthodox tradition, I believe this communion to be imperitative for me (and everyone else if they realise it!).


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Someone in Rome got a Round Tuit for Christmas…

Everyone needs a round Tuit. They are useful for getting things done (nb. square ones are useless). Everything gets done once you get a round Tuit.

Seems like someone in the CDF has gotten one for Christmas. They have finally gotten around to putting the full text of the Doctrinal Note on Some Aspects of Evangelization on their website. Ta. This makes it so much easier. In the mean time, a big thank you to the Bishops Conference of England and Wales for their help while we were waiting.


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Bow, bow to the GIRM-Oz

Where’s John L. Allen Jnr when you need him, eh? While the Yanks got a blow by blow account on the net of the goings on at the USCBC meeting in October complete with interviews, background discussion and general gossip, we had to wait for a rather less than inspiring three page roundup of the November 2007 Plenary Meeting of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, completely sans any interesting commentary.

For instance, I would have liked to have been in the press gallery when “that petition” was tabled. I know that at least one Australian bishop had threatened to walk out if that happened. I wonder if he did? And if anyone else joined him in this protest? Alas, until we get something akin to a press gallery at the plenaries, we will never know such juicy details.

But in any case, the report does have some interesting details.

For eg., at Pentecost, the new GIRM (General Instruction on the Roman Missal)–Australian version–will come into force. We are told that this will result in a mere two changes for the Australian layman (and woman etc):

The first change relates to posture. At present when the priest invites the people to pray at the Preparation of the Gifts the congregation remains seated until…the Prayer over the Gifts.

From Pentecost Sunday next year the congregation will be asked to STAND when the priest invites the congregation to pray, “Pray brethren…”.

The second change relates to a Gesture. The Australian edition of the GIRM says: “When approaching to receive Holy Communion, the faithful bow in reverence of the Mystery that they are to receive” (GIRM 160).

The communicant might [might?? Do you mean there is a choice on how we interpret this instruction?] bow just before receiving Holy Communion or perhaps while the person in front of them is receiving Holy Communion. Such a bow can be done simply, without disrupting the flow of the Communion Procession which is a most important ritual act in the celebration of the Mass.

The first change is uncontroversial, but I can see an absolute mine-field of problems involved in the second “change”. That “might” in the commentary says it all. Exactly how “might” one observe the bow and how might one not?

For instance, the US version of GIRM has at this point the following:

When receiving Holy Communion, the communicant bows his or her head before the Sacrament as a gesture of reverence and receives the Body of the Lord from the minister.

From the comment above, it appears that the Australian bishops envisage something more in line with a “profound bow”, ie. stopping still, and bending at the waist toward the Eucharist. A mere “bow of the head” could not be expected to “disrupt the flow of the Communion procession.”

I can just see Elizabeth Harrington having a field day with this one. What about those who “might” decide to genuflect to the sacrament? Is this forbidden? or is it a licit interpretation of how one “might” observe the instruction to “bow”? Or what if one actually “might” want to kneel to receive communion. Will they be chastised for “disrupting the flow of the Communion procession”?

The US version of GIRM actually includes a note to the effect that:

The norm for reception of Holy Communion in the dioceses of the United States is standing. Communicants should not be denied Holy Communion because they kneel. Rather, such instances should be addressed pastorally, by providing the faithful with proper catechesis on the reasons for this norm.

Hmm. While on the one hand, this protects the right of the kneelers to receive communion, it actually seems to deny them the right to kneel. I don’t know what Papa Benny would think of this. A little too reminiscent of the “Black Rubric”, me thinks. And I don’t know if I would like to be on the receiving end of that “pastoral catechesis” solution. Seems like a job for Elizabeth…

Nevertheless, the Australian version of this paragraph is perhaps even a little more worrying, as it goes to the bother of including the “pastoral catechesis” in the GIRM-Oz itself:

In Australia standing is the most common posture for receiving Holy Communion. The customary manner of reception is recommended to be followed by all, [and here comes the “pastoral catechesis”:] so that Communion may truly be a sign of unity among those who share in the same table of the Lord. When approaching to receive Holy Communion, the faithful bow in reverence of the Mystery that they are to receive.

One could point out that communion is “a sign of unity among those who share in the same table of the Lord” precisely because they ARE all sharing in the same table of the Lord, and NOT because they all do the same thing in the communion line like a bunch of robots. That little addition has the fingerprints of Dr Erlich and co. all over it. Nevertheless, it is to be noted that standing is simply acknowledged as “the most common posture” for reception and that the GIRM simply recommends this be followed by all. Well, we are happy with that. Let it be a recommendation, and not a law for the Liturgy Police to get their knickers in a knot over (sometimes I wonder who the real ritualists are in this arguement).

But why all this hoo-hah? The simple thing is to take a look at the original Latin of the GIRM which should clear the whole matter up. Paragraph 160 carries the simple instruction:

Fideles communicant genuflexi vel stantes, prout Conferentia Episcoporum statuerit. Cum autem stantes communicant, commendatur ut debitam reverentiam, ab iisdem normis statuendam, ante susceptionem Sacramenti faciant.

I make that to mean that the Holy See approves either standing or kneeling to receive communion, according to the statutes determined by the Bishops Conference, but if communion is received standing a “debitum reverentiam” (a “reverance which is due to the sacrament by right”) is made before the reception according to the same norms.

Note that no “debitum reverentiam” is required of those who receive communion kneeling–for the simply reason that kneeling to receive is precisely such an act of reverance. So in fact, the “bow” that is required in the new Australian norms should be interpreted as something that is required of those who receive the Eucharist standing (since without such an act of reverence, standing would be an unacceptable posture for reception of communion). Precisely because their action IS a “debitum reverentiam”, those whose practice it is to make a a genuflection before reception or to receive the Eucharist kneeling should not be regarded as failing to observe the instruction of the GIRM-Oz.


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Good News to all (Australian) Men (and Women): ABC to televise Pope Benedict XVI’s celebration of Midnight Mass on Christmas Day

The Australian Catholic Bishop’s Conference announced in a Media Release on Monday that

Pope Benedict XVI’s celebration of Midnight Mass will once again be beamed into homes, hospitals and nursing homes across Australia via an ABC telecast this Christmas Day.

The Mass, from St Peter’s Basilica, will air at 11am (eastern summer time) on ABC Television.

The Holy Father will preside at the Mass which will, as usual, feature the participation of children from around the world.

The ABC’s telecast will feature English-language commentary.

Hurrah! (Note to self: Go to early Mass on Christmas day or set the DVD-recorder!)


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