Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Pope Paul VI On Vatican II

THE CATHOLIC KNIGHT: The pope who concluded the Second Vatican Council had the following to say about it. All Catholics should take note...
"In view of the pastoral nature of the Council, it avoided any extraordinary statements of dogmas endowed with the note of infallibility, but it still provided its teaching with the authority of the Ordinary Magisterium which must be accepted with docility according to the mind of the Council concerning the nature and aims of each document."
-- Pope Paul VI
General Audience, 12 January 1966
What does this mean? It means that in spite of whatever you've heard, the Second Vatican Council may not be fully infallible -- not according to the pope, and not according to the bishops who participated. It was indeed an ecumenical council, and it was perfectly legitimate.  However, the council can choose when, and when not, to exercise the chrism of infallibility. It just so happened that the bishops of Vatican II chose not to exercise it at all, and this is confirmed in the statement made by Pope Paul VI recorded above. It means that while the documents produced by Vatican II may contain some infallible statements, especially related to matters already defined by previous councils, they do not enjoy the exact same indisputable status as the documents produced by Vatican I and the Council of Trent.

That being said, Vatican II should not be interpreted in a vacuum. Everything contained in the conciliar documents must be interpreted in the context of historic Church tradition, and with the understanding that they can in no way counter or reverse the fully infallible documents produced by Vatican I and the Council of Trent.  It also means the conciliar documents can be debated to a certain degree by the bishops who hold to different opinions of them.  Most importantly, it means they are subject to further definition and clarification by the Holy Father, who can most certainly make these judgements ex cathedra, and therefore infallibly.

So what does this mean for the average Catholic? It means the Church has not changed. Vatican II helped to clarify some pastoral issues that were already being debated in the Church, but it in no way changed the Church. The Catholic Church today is still under the exact same doctrines and teachings as it was before the Second Vatican Council. This is important, because many Catholic parishes today operate as if Vatican II changed everything, when in fact, it did not. If you want to know what the teachings of the Church are today, simply pull out a catechism from the 1950s, and there you will find all the teachings of the modern post-conciliar Church. It's the same today as it was yesterday. Sadly, that might be difficult to see with the quality of catechism publications provided in this post-conciliar world. That's why I keep a hardbound 1950's illustrated catechism in my home to teach my children. So to prevent confusion, it would be prudent for all Catholics to do likewise.  You can acquire one such catechism here, though I'm sure there are many on the market if you know where to look.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Catholic Liturgy - What We Lost, And Why We Need It Back

THE CATHOLIC KNIGHT: The above videos are extreme examples of just how bad it can get. History will not write well of the Catholic Church during this era, and most of it will center around the Church's failure (in the western rite) to uphold the sacred liturgical traditions passed down through the centuries. In most places around the western world, especially in the English-speaking nations, the Roman liturgy has become nothing short of a free-for-all for any type of innovation and invention imaginable. However, these extreme cases do not happen all by themselves. They are the product of a cascade of events, spanning years of liturgical abuse, which usually starts out quite subtle.

The United States is particularly prone to liturgical abuse. Why? It began in the most subtle way with our particular English translation of the Novus Ordo missal. Ours is probably one of the worst English translations in the world. The text of the liturgy is so paraphrased in the American English version, that it's virtually a commentary on the mass, rather then the mass itself. So poor is the American English translation, that the Vatican was prompted to call it "defective" and revoke permission for the American bishops to continue using it. So the American English translation of the mass is set to expire some time in 2010, soon to be replaced by a more accurate rendering of the original Novus Ordo liturgy.

The defunct American English translation in many ways emulates the Episcopalian liturgy of the Episcopal Church USA. Yes, that's right. When you see an Episcopalian liturgy, and compare it to the current American English translation of the Novus Ordo, the resemblances are striking. When the American bishops decided to go this way, they may have unwittingly sent a signal to the laity that we should imitate the Protestants in even our most sacred celebrations. So when the Protestants went "hippy" in their own services, many U.S. Catholics quickly followed suit. It wasn't long before all sorts of hippy, New Age and folk practices ended up a part of so many Catholic masses around the nation. While most parishes are not so extreme, a good number of them still engage in innovation and liturgical abuse, even if it's subtle. Sometimes it might be as simple as the priest adding words to the liturgy ad lib. His intentions may be sincere, but his actions are still inappropriate. Sometimes it amounts to nothing more than a simple abandonment of traditional Catholic customs. Maybe in your parish the tabernacle is off to the side, or maybe there are no alter rails for kneeling. Maybe in your parish, the priest never uses incense, or maybe the alter servers never use bells. Maybe your parish prefers contemporary pop music to traditional sacred chant. These subtle changes are exactly what Cardinal Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI) warned us about in the videos above. Liturgical innovation and abuse can start very small, in a seemingly harmless way, but it has a way of "one thing leading to another."

We Catholics must be diligent to rediscover and zealously protect our Catholic liturgical heritage. We must be charitable toward those who oppose us, but at the same time we must also be stubborn. It is not hard to request that some traditional practices be brought back into our sacred liturgy, and when appropriate, we should seek to help make that a reality in whatever way possible. Can you sing? Offer to start a Gregorian chant choir in your parish. Don't know how to chant? There are plenty of resources available to learn on the Internet. Do you think we should bring the bells back into the liturgy, and use more incense? Volunteer to become an alter server and make your desires known. Do you think the tabernacle should be at the front and center of the chapel? Get on the parish council and start lobbying for it. Don't like some of the things going on in the mass? Respectfully and charitably explain your concerns to the priest - on a regular basis if necessary.  

Let's face it, the innovators and modernists have gone to a lot of trouble to bring about the liturgical abuse now common in English-speaking Catholic parishes. They spent the greater part of the 1960s, 70s, and 80s, getting on our parish council boards, becoming "liturgical coordinators," and taking over the choirs. There aren't going to be any positive changes back toward historic tradition, if tradition-minded Catholics don't do anything about it. It's time we start taking our parishes back; one-by-one.

Are You Shy About Wearing the Chapel Veil?

THE CATHOLIC KNIGHT: Since first posting on the subject of the chapel veil, 'The Catholic Knight' has received many emails from modest women who have expressed their desire to keep the Biblical custom, but simultaneously feel apprehension, embarrassment, or worry about the potentially negative reaction they may get from fellow parishioners. The common thread in all of these emails seems to center around not wanting to draw attention to one's self.

This is very commendable, because by not wanting to draw attention to one's self, the woman who veils demonstrates that she fully understands the purpose of what the veil is all about. A more recent email inspired me to post on this topic directly.

First and foremost, if you're a woman who fits the description above, know that you're not alone. Your desire to "not cause a scene" is commendable and demonstrates that you fully understand the purpose of the veil to begin with. That means of all people, you are probably the most ready to keep the custom.

Second, we often tend to associate the chapel veil with the pretty lace mantillas made popular in recent times by Traditional Catholics in the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite. Many of the beautiful veils are white, or some other stunning color, which do grab attention, especially if nobody else is veiled. Certainly there is nothing wrong with wearing such a lovely prayer cloth, but at the same time, it is not necessary either.

Third, to properly veil, women must understand the reason behind the chapel veil, and this can be found in 1st Corinthians 11. To review let me just outline some highlights of this custom...
  • The chapel veil (head covering for women) is a Christian custom that comes to us from the Scriptures (1st Corinthians 11).  Saint Paul outlined a deep theological purpose for keeping the custom that transcends all local and cultural reasons.  Therefore all Christian women are Scripturally encouraged, by Saint Paul himself, to keep the custom. 
  • The chapel veil was part of the code of canon law for centuries within the Catholic Church.  Under this canon, women were compelled to wear a head covering whether they wanted to or not.  The Church eventually decided that this custom had no place in canon law, and so it simply deleted that particular canon.  The Church DID NOT remove or reverse the custom itself.  It simply deleted the canon.  This made it so women could not be disciplined for refusing to wear the veil.  There is much debate as to whether this canon should have ever been part of the code to begin with.  As the Biblical instruction should be enough.
  • The chapel veil is a voluntary custom, but that doesn't mean it's optional.  By this I mean Christian women cannot ever be compelled to keep the custom against their will, but at the same time this does not mean it's okay for women (or anyone for that matter) to "pick and choose" which apostolic customs to keep and which to ignore.  The word "Catholic" means universal, complete and whole.  To be Catholic is to accept ALL of the customs of Christianity, not picking and choosing customs, as if Christianity where a salad bar.  The term "Cafeteria Catholic" is an oxymoron.  If one approaches Christianity with a "cafeteria" (pick and choose) mentality, one cannot be "Catholic" by the very definition of the word.  Catholic women should keep this in mind.  Refusing to wear a veil (head covering) in no way harms one's status in the Church, because women can no longer be disciplined for refusing to veil, now that the code of canon law no longer requires it.  However, it does reflect a mentality which "might" become potentially harmful to one's Catholic faith eventually. If one chooses to "pick and choose" on such a little thing as the chapel veil, it's not a far step from "picking and choosing" on other more important issues, such as artificial birth control, modest dress, gossip, complaining, mass attendance, regular confession, etc. etc. etc...  Please don't misunderstand, the chapel veil in no way "protects" women from these other issues, it's just that refusing to keep one apostolic custom, "could perhaps" lead to ignoring other more important customs.  Both men and women should consider this carefully.
  • The exact same Biblical regulation that commands women to cover their heads during prayer, is equally compelling upon men as well.  Don't think for one second that men are getting out of anything.  The same Scripture that commands the chapel veil for women also commands that men keep their heads uncovered during prayer.  That can sometimes be a burden to some men accustomed to wearing ball caps and hats all of the time.  The custom remains in place for men, even when prayer is done outdoors in the hot sun.  Men must remove their hats for prayer, even when the sun beats down on them, and even if their self conscience about their hair -- or lack thereof.  The clergy teach us by example.  A bishop always removes his mitre during various points of prayer in the mass.  A priest always removes his biretta before mass, (if he has one), and always puts it back on at the end of mass, just before leaving.
  • Christian veiling (head covering) is not the same as Muslim veiling (head covering) by any stretch of the imagination.  Those who make such accusations are ignorant of both faiths.  In Islam women are commanded to veil in the presence of men.  In Christianity women are only commanded to veil in the presence of the Lord.  Nowhere in the Bible can any command be found instructing women to veil in the presence of men.  It's just not in there.  Nor is there anything in the 2,000 years of Christian history and tradition in which women are instructed to veil in the presence of men.  That's because the presence of men has absolutely NOTHING to do with a Christian woman's veil.  The whole thing centers around God and God alone.  Men have nothing to do with it.  So Christian veiling and Muslim veiling have virtually nothing in common.
  • Nothing about the Biblical instruction to veil commands women to call attention to themselves either.  In today's western world, especially in English-speaking countries, the practice of the chapel veil has virtually disappeared from everyday Catholic life.  Only in the traditionalist communities does one still see the practice alive and well.  However, it doesn't have to be that way, and it shouldn't.  Many modest women, who want to keep the custom, are self conscious about what might happen if they attempt it.  This is truly a sad situation, but understandable.
There is more than one way to veil.  Keeping the custom doesn't have to mean drawing attention to one's self, and there are so many ways a woman can do it inconspicuously. Here are some suggestions...

Sit in the back of the Church, instead of the middle or front. Almost nobody will notice you there, and the only way you can draw attention is if people actually turn around to look at you. That is not likely to happen. So the back of the church is a good place to start.

The most simple way to keep the custom is with a hat.  Below we have an example of a simple beret.  It's cute and fashionable, but at the same time doesn't stand out much.  In this case below, the beret actually matches this woman's outfit quite nicely.  Many people would probably be unaware she is even keeping the apostolic custom of 1st Corinthians 11....

Another way to keep this custom is with a simple scarf or shawl. It doesn't have to be brightly colored or ornate.  In fact, it's probably better if it's not.  This can be worn around the neck or over the shoulders when entering the church, inconspicuously, as you seat yourself in the back of the church quietly, outside of most people's view.  This young woman below gives us an example with a warm shawl she wore on a cold day.  Thin light weight shawls could similarly be used on warm days...

Then, when upon kneeling for prayer, or when mass begins, the scarf or shawl can simply be lifted up over the head without anyone noticing...

After mass is over, while the priest is recessing back down the isle, the scarf or shawl can be dropped back down over the shoulders before everybody leaves. Thus the woman who does it this way can exit the chapel the same way she came in, with most people being completely unaware of her keeping the Biblical custom.

There is only one time when there would be an exception, and that is during communion. When for a brief time you would be at the front of the church instead of the back. However, when this happens, everyone's eyes are supposed to be downcast and contemplating the real presence of the Lord. If there are people in the pew staring at you, than SHAME ON THEM, not you. You didn't do anything to attract their attention, they are supposed to be contemplating the Lord. The only person who is supposed to look at you is the priest, or the Eucharistic minister, and those people are supposed to be knowledgeable of the veiling custom and not judgemental about it.  Again, you've done nothing to attract attention to yourself.

In almost every case where woman have actually kept the custom, they report to me that they were surprised how little reaction they got all together. They were expecting more, either positive or negative, and what they got was nothing -- literally nothing. It's as if the vast majority of people there didn't care, and most of them didn't even notice. If you're shy, or self conscious about keeping the Biblical custom of veiling, you may want to keep this in mind. Chances are you're far more conscious of it than those around you.

There have been rare cases (very rare) when veiled women have been confronted by other women who disapprove of this practice. If by rare happenstance this happens to you, know that you've done absolutely nothing wrong, and the woman confronting you is acting in an uncharitable, and dare I say unchristian, sort of way. There are people like this. They're called feminists, and they've embraced a philosophy and mindset that opposes the church on so many levels. Often these very same women advocate artificial birth control, believe women should become priests, and think of the male Catholic hierarchy in a negative way. They'll sight all sorts of erroneous reasons why women should no longer veil. If you should find yourself in this rare and unlikely circumstance, here is the proper response...
  1. Smile
  2. Then say: "You know, I would never try to force my own personal views on another parishioner."
  3. Then tell her: "And it's really none of your business how I choose to reverence the Lord."
  4. End with; "God bless you."
  5. Then walk away.
If you handle it this way, you can be assured that your reward in heaven will be great.  You've just received a bit of persecution for reverencing the Lord, and you handled it with charity and civility.  Meanwhile, the feminist woman who harassed you will be looking very foolish at this point.

If on the EXTREMELY RARE chance that a man actually confronts you over wearing the veil, and I've never heard of this happening, the way to deal with it is virtually identical....
  1. Smile.
  2. Tell him: "You know, I would never try to force you to wear a hat during mass."
  3. Then say: "And it's really none of your business how I choose to reverence the Lord."
  4. End with: "God bless you."
  5. Then walk away.
I only outline these responses to be thorough. In all reality you will probably never be confronted with ANY of these situations. Of course there are always those who might have honest and sincere questions about the chapel veil, simply because they don't know anything about it.  You are far more likely to run across someone like this. If anyone asks you for a reason why you wear the chapel veil, simply cite 1st Corinthians 11 and leave it at that.  If someone sincerely wants more details, direct them to this website.

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